Tales of the Sausage Factory

Celebrate 100th Anniversary Of the Kingsbury Commitment With A Telecom Steel Cage Death Match and A Copy of Our Home Game!

Tomorrow, Thursday December 19, marks the 100th Anniversary of the “Kingsbury Commitment.” As just about no one outside the wonky world of telecom policy knows, the “Kingsbury Commitment” was the resolution of the anti-trust case between American Telephone & Telegraph (as AT&T was known then) and the Department of Justice wherein AT&T agreed to provide phone service to everyone (either directly or by providing interconnection to other local monopoly providers) and interconnect with its rivals in exchange for natural monopoly in most of its markets. You can see the text here.

 

 

Put another way, tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of when we mandated interconnection and universal phone service as the fundamental values/defining responsibilities of the phone system. For those following my endless blather about the “transformation of the phone system” the Kingsbury Commitment provides the cornerstone of those 5 Fundamental Values I’m always going on about (see exciting white paper here).

 

With a Steel Cage Policy Deathmatch and with release of copies of our home game!

 

See details below . . .

 

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

What the DoJ Documents Tell Us About the Comcast/NBCU Merger

In all the hoo ha about the Comcast/NBCU Merger, few folks troubled to read the Department of Justice Competitive Impact StatementComplaint, andConsent Decree. That’s rather unfortunate, as these documents sets forth a straightforward case under the antitrust laws for program access conditions for online competitors and for network neutrality. Here’s the short version:  Comcast pre-merger makes almost 30 times more money from providing cable service than from programming revenues. Even adding all of NBCU’s revenue, Comcast will still make more than twice as much from selling cable service ($34 billion) as from programming ($16.9 billion). Anyone who can do basic arithmetic would therefore conclude that yes, Comcast’s incentive to protect its cable business from erosion by online distributors (or even from traditional rivals) outweighs the potential gain from increasing programming distribution. As an added bonus, for those ideologically committed to believing otherwise, turns out Comcast’s own documents agree with the simple arithmetic and not the fun theoretical models their experts submitted. Which is why (among other reasons) DoJ continued oversight is not merely something extra. It really matters.

Lets break this out some below …

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Posted in Cable, Life In The Sausage Factory, Media Ownership, Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Genachowski Hits The Legal Reset Button — “Title II Lite”

Genachowski has announced his proposed response to the Comcast case. This is precisely the result Comcast and the other carriers feared since the DC Circuit panel signaled at oral argument they would slam the FCC.  In my latest “5 Minutes With Harold Feld,” I give a short (at least, as short as I can) explanation of what this “Third Way” (also referred to as “Title II Lite”) means and what happens next from a process perspective. Some additional analysis, laughing at Wall St. analysts, and reference to a Dilbert from 1992 below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Issues Excellent Wireless Microphone Order — Perhaps NAB Will Rely Less on Scare Tactics and Celebrity Letters Now.

Time to clear up a little piece of unfinished business for which I and this humble blog can claim some modest responsibility. The FCC finally issued it’s long awaited Order on wireless microphones stemming from this blog post and the subsequent complaint/Petition for Rulemaking by the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (to which a special shout out to the folks at New America Wireless Future is due, given the fantastic amount of work they did on assembling evidence and helping draft the document).

As one can tell from this FCC press release describing the details, we pretty much got what we wanted — although not entirely and not in the way we expected. But, as I noted in this press statement in my role as Legal Director of Public Knowledge, we’re very happy with how things turned out. Briefly:
(a) all wireless mic users are now granted legal status, this is done pursuant to the FCC’s Part 15 rules for unlicensed rather than the “license by rule” that we suggested, but my only regret about that is I didn’t think of it when we filed.
(b) Everyone using wireless microphones needs to clear out of the 700 MHz band by Jun 12, 2010 — one year after the DTV transition and 15 months after the original date proposed by the FCC. Given how the Broadway people have been telling the FCC for months how they are off the 700 MHz band, this should not be too much of a hardship — especially for those who had no right to be there in the first place.
(c) The FCC will invest a boatload of its own resources, and gin up the FCC 2.0 machinery, to get the word out to folks and help consumers, churches, etc. handle the transition.
(d) The FCC will require that wireless microphones have signs and labels going forward to make sure that people understand the difference between licensed users and unlicensed users.

In addition, the FCC is having a further notice of proposed rulemaking that will:
1) Set the rules for the new Part 15 unlicensed wireless microphones.
2) Will examine whether to expand the class of Part 74 Subpart H eligible licensees to see if they should expand the class to give interference protection to some set of users — which would include who gets to be in the database of licensed services protected from operation of TV white spaces devices.

Yeah, that kicks the can down the road rather than saying flat out “anyone who was using a wireless microphone illegally is not entitled to protection against the TV white spaces devices, which went through the legal process and got approved.” But I can most definitely live with that. For one thing, I am confident that in an evidence-driven FCC which places consumer interests first, as demonstrated by this Order with its unprecedented investment of FCC resources for outreach (which we had not even dreamed of requesting except in the most general way of offering to help), will focus on the real question of whether or not there is interference and if so how to strike the appropriate balance between allowing new technologies and protecting existing users. Hopefully, this will inspire white spaces opponents to focus on engineering rather than trying to use scare tactics and celebrity “star power”.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Scott Cleland Needs To Work Harder On Ad Hominems. Or, better yet, skip them entirely.

I happen to like Scott Cleland as a person, and I recognize he’s got job to do, but certain kinds of ad hominem attacks are just lazy — and stupid. I’m referring here to Cleland’s to attempts at “gotcha” posts in recent days. One directed against my employer Public Knowledge, the other directed against fellow traveler Free Press.

First, in the flap over Google Voice and blocking, Cleland accused PK of having a double standard — demanding AT&T not use “self-help” on blocking traffic stimulator sites while turning a blind eye to GV doing the same thing. I can understand Scott missing my quote the week earlier in Communications Daily condemning the practice (and suggesting that if they claim the right to block calls then networks can refuse to complete GV originating calls), Communications Daily is a paid subscription and not available online. But how did Cleland miss my initial post on the subject in which I said the FCC should investigate if Google really were blocking calls? (I’ll cut Cleland slack for not predicting my subsequent upping the urgency when Speakeasy’s decision to block these sites indicated that more VOIP providers are going to push this route.)

Now, Cleland has gone after Free Press by claiming that FP does not disclose its funders. As FP puts its annual reports and 990s online, this is a pretty stupid claim. Mind you, while I approve of disclosure, I’m always a big fan for answering substance. I get equally annoyed at my colleagues for acting as if the fact that someone once worked for a telco or takes money from some industry source automatically discredits them without looking at the merits of the argument. But claiming folks are hiding something when they put the information in a fairly accessible place on their webpage is just silly.

I anticipate that the response from Scott (and, inevitably, Brett — whose customers must be used to long ques for service given how much time he spends commenting on my blogs) will boil down to “well, under my definition of what I say your argument is, you are really hypocrite.” Happily, having now raised child up to age 11, and having grown up on Usenet in the 1980’s, I am familiar with this invitation to a meaningless debate whose purpose is to allow the other side to declare victory by continually redefining terms and reserving the right to be the ultimate judge of my conduct. I decline. Likewise, I decline the inevitable “Hah, your declining just proves I am right — you lying hypocrite loser” (I swear I can just write a Brett-bot. Heck, I would think he was a bot if I hadn’t met him). The beauty of the internet is that folks are free to draw their own conclusions.

Which is why skipping the silly ad hominems is probably the best route entirely. But if one does engage in such tactics (and folks on the pro-NN side are sadly just as guilty on occasion), at least try to avoid attacks so easily proven to be factually wrong.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Will Genachowski Help Obama Find A Heart, Brain and Courage To Face Glenn Beck and His Army of Flying Monkeys Flinging Poo?

There are several rather astounding things about the current campaign of Glenn Beck against various Administration appointees. Most astounding, however, has been the Obama Administration reaction to date: quick capitulation in the face of relatively small pressure. Indeed, one of the reasons there was so little initial defense of Van Jones in progressive circles was because most of us were unaware of the attack until the Van Jone’s “resignation.” As compared to previous campaigns in the Clinton years or Bush years to oust various officials, pressure to fire Van Jones had not even approached noticeable, let alone “scary.” Indeed, I am sufficiently cynical wrt the DLC/Rahm Emmanuel faction of the Ds that I cannot help but wonder if the Beck-led anti-Jones campaign was merely a convenient excuse for pushing out a smart and effective progressive.

But whatever the reason, the Van Jones firing proved a major strategic blunder. It infuriated the Netroots and younger civil rights constituencies, who felt betrayed, and it emboldened Beck and his following to seek new “kills.” It also demonstrated the truth of Feld’s Rule of Political Power: “Your political power is directly related to your perceived ability to cause pain.” Within a week, Beck was claiming another kill in the form of Yosi Seargant at National Endowment for the Arts, prompting talk of an unstoppable McCarthy-esque crusade (or campaign of freedom, depending on your political perspective).

Among the latest targets of Beck and his followers is Mark Lloyd. I’ve known Mark for some years and consider him friend, so I am hardly the most impartial of defenders here. Besides, my Public Knowledge colleague Art Brodsky and others have written strong personal defenses of Mark and debunked the charges against him as well or better than I could. Nor is my purpose here merely to fulfill my Biblical obligation not to suffer “a tale bearer among thy people, nor stand by the blood of thy neighbor” (Lev. 19:16) by re-iterating the defense of Mark Lloyd.

Rather, I note this is a splendid opportunity for Genachowski to save Obama’s tuchus by showing that you do much better standing up for your own people than caving (one of the few lessons Obama could stand to learn from Bush). Whether the Van Jones “resignation” came from heartless political infighting from the DLC faction, brainless failure to consider the natural consequences, or simply lack of political courage, Genachowski has the opportunity to give the Administration a heart and a brain and — what it appears to need most these days — courage. Because, as the far too lengthy an wonky analysis below shows, this ain’t the 1990s anymore, and the best overall political strategy is to take a page from the Bush Administration and stand firmly with the base by telling these guys to bugger off.

More below . . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged | 26 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Washington Needs To Hear From More Venture Capitalists (and pay less attention to Wall St. Analysts) on Telecom.

Reprinting below a piece I just posted over at the Public Knowledge Policy blog.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

CellAntenna Scam Continues To Gain Momentum — Bummer.

Regular readers may recall that I find CellAntenna’s continuing effort to leverage the problem of contraband cell phones to get the law changed so that they can sell cell phone jammers legally in this country not merely obnoxious and offensive, but downright dangerous. CellAntenna has proven real good at persuading state prison wardens that this technology solves their problems, despite the statements of frequency coordinators and public safety orgs that this is a real bad idea. The mainstream media, as is all too common these days, has generally acted like mindless cheer leaders without troubling to dig into whether cell phone jamming will actually work or not. The only decent in depth coverage was this Wired piece by Vince Beiser. For one thing, Beiser notes that prisoners can beat the jammers with a few sheets of aluminum foil.

I’ve blogged in a little more in-depth on this over here at Public Knowledge. We also (with additional sign ons from a number of other orgs) sent this letter to the Senate Commerce Committee in advance of tomorrow’s hearing so that at least someone is on record opposing this scam. Finally, for those of you who prefer the short, pithy medium of me staring into a camera and yakking about this, I give you my latest Five Minutes With Harold Feld The Prison Problem: Cell Phone Jamming and Shrimp Scampi.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Weekly Five Minutes of Fame — I Explain the National Broadband Plan In Five Minutes.

We are starting a new feature at Public Knowledge called “Five Minutes With Harold Feld,” wherein I will take insanely boring complicated wonkery and make it mildly less boring. This week, I explain the National Broadband Plan and the comments PK filed last night.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory, The Stimulus Package (ARRA) | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

So How's That Time Warner Bandwidth Cap Working Out?

Reposting a recent blog entry of mine from the Public Knowledge blog. As Time Warner expands out its usage cap pilot from Beaumont, TX to somewhat more populated and user-intensive communities, users are starting to notice and complain. Hopefully, with the FCC getting the ball rolling on the National Broadband Plan mandated by the broadband stimulus package, we will start to probe into the whole bandwidth cap issue a little more deeply.

More below . . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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