Tales of the Sausage Factory

An Open Letter To Blair Levin On The Subject of National Broadband Public Notices

Dear Blair:

I surrender! I admit defeat. I cry “uncle.” You win. Despite my earlier doubts, I am now prepared to say the National Broadband Plan process is the most open, transparent, comprehensive, bestest and wonderfullest proceeding ever in the entire history of the FCC since passage of the Communications Act of 1934! Just please, please PLEASE no more public notices. [break off into uncontrolled sobbing]

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Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory, The Stimulus Package (ARRA) | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Brief Nod To Cox For Raising Its Bandwidth Caps

I need some sort of icon or whatever for “while I don’t necessarily like what you’re doing, I like the way you’re doing it.” Last week, that went to Speakeasy for giving excellent notice on its unfortunate decision to block certain phone numbers. This week, my “Tip of My Hat While Wagging My Finger” (yes, the reference Stephen Colbert is obvious) goes Cox Cable and their decision to increase the size of their bandwidth caps (new terms of service here).

I am not happy with bandwidth caps, but don’t have a position yet on regulating them unless they are so obviously limited that they appear designed to protect video revenues and fall into the antitrust/competition zone. I recognize there are advantages and disadvantages to metered pricing. In the short term, it can help bridge the gap where demand for capacity rapidly outpaces available capacity. In the longer term, it works to reduce use and innovation which has negative implications for our economy and overall digital future. It’s also not that clear that there is a good linkage to bandwidth caps and actual capacity limits, and whether bandwidth caps discourage investment in capacity by making it easier and cheaper to cap use rather than build capacity.

Still, if one must have bandwidth caps, then they need periodic review and should get upgraded as “average” use grows and as network operators make needed upgrades. So while I’m not thrilled that Cox has bandwidth caps in the first place, I’m pleased they have now upgraded them. Hopefully Comcast, which has had the same bandwidth capacity cap for a year now, will soon follow suite and upgrade its 250 GB cap.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

I Called It! w00t! w00t!

As I predicted, we got our patooties totally whupped in the 2008 Weblog Awards by the very professional and extremely good Ars Technica.

As always, I find inspiration and comfort through our master, teacher, guiding light, and source of all truthiness, Stephen Colbert. Colbert himself once faced a similar crushing defeat at the hands of a certain “musician,” but found triumph in having predicted his own defeat. I will let Stephen speak for me here.

Later, in an act of unbelievable selfless graciousness, Colbert healed the nation by forgiving Manilow and letting Manilow place the Emmy in joint custody.

I want to Michael Thompson, Matt Lasar, Nate Anderson, and all my other friends over at Ars that any time they want to share the Weblog 2008 Best Technology Blog Award with me, I will be equally gracious.

Stay tuned . . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

McCain Tech Policy — A First Reaction

When you show up as the butt of a joke on the Colbert Report, you should know you’re in trouble. And when, by merry coincidence, Stephen Colbert does a piece on your self-professed computer illiteracy the night before you release your long awaited technology policy, you are in real trouble. Especially after your campaign gets repeatedly nailed in debates in tech policy fora (such as my employer’s Innovation ’08) for not even having a tech policy, when Barak Obama had a fully developed tech policy and functioning advisory team way back in the beginning of the primary, and after former FCC Chairman and campaign surrogate Michael Powell goes into virtual seclusion for a month to develop your tech plan, you know it had better be Goddamn Frickin’ Awesome. Even if you have already signaled it is going to be an extension of the same “the market solves all our problems and even thinking about regulation angers the terrible market gods, scares away the happy competition fairies, and brings a plague of liberal command and control locust ‘oer the land” nonsense that marked Powell’s FCC tenure and has plunged our telecommunications sector — nay, our entire economy — into the crapper, it should at least be a well written and engaging song of praise to the gods of the market place.

No such luck. It reads like some crotchety technophobe knocked over the bumper sticker rack at an Ayn Rand Reading Revival and tried to rearrange them so it made a policy. Half of it isn’t even particularly tech specific. For example, I don’t find it a coincidence that the first six bullet points are just variations on McCain’s standard “I hate taxes” theme. They could have easily have applied to his agriculture policy, if you substituted “no new taxes on wireless services” for “no new taxes on sorghum.” Nor am I aware of a serious mass movement to tax wireless services (or sorghum).

As for the rest, well, see below. . . .

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Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Back In the NCMR: Pappa Bear Comes To Town!

So here I am at the 2008 National Conference on Media Reform, and I have the most exciting news: the FOX NEWS TEAM IS HERE for Bill O’Reilly. (No doubt he is in town to endorse Al Franken in his bid for the Senate.)

Woo hoooo!!!! Talk about your status symbols. We have really made the big time if Poppa Bear himself has come to town to pay his respects. As for me, it’s as if the Goodfeathers had fallen into a catnip truck then accidentally wandered into a cat show.

I understand that some folks, however, may be nervous talking to the good folks at Fox News. Here is my advice: keep confusing O’Reilly with Stephen Colbert.

So for example:
Fox News: Can we interview you for O’Reilly Factor.
Person: Great! I’ve always wanted to be on the Colbert Show!
FN: That’s not us. This is Bill O’Reilly.
Person: Oh yeah. I saw him on the Colbert Show once.
FN: Anyway —
Person: Do you think O’Reilly can get me on Colbert?
FN: No. Now —
Person: Because Stephen Colbert is just a god, you know. A. Total. God. O’REilly should definitely try to get on Colbert again. You know, for the Colbert bump.
FN: We want to talk to you about —
Person: Did you know Stephen Colbert was just given the distinguished “Understandable Vanity Award by the Princeton University Class of ’08 (Go Tigers!). Did O’Reilly ever go to college?
(Persist until FN people quit in disgust.)
Person: Wait! Come back! Does this mean O’Reilly won’t introduce me to Stephen Colbert?

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Media Ownership, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Anti-Shame League holds its annual bash

In the spring of 1980 in Boston there was a murder trial of a notorious pair of thugs, ghetto low-lifes who had raped, murdered and robbed a young nurse in her own home. At the trial, the prosecutor asked one of the murderers about a certain boombox, proved to be the nurse’s, that was in the man’s possession when he was arrested. The exchange went something like this:

Prosecutor: You took that boombox from her apartment.
Murderer: Yeah.
Prosecutor: But when you were arrested, you said that it was your boombox.
Murderer: It is mine.

Now that is what the absence of shame looks like.

For a more recent example of brazen shamelessness, we have the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association.

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Time Warner May Pilot Metered Pricing With Easy Consumer Monitoring Tools. Good for now, but bad for ecommerce in the long run.

As reported by Broadband Reports and now confirmed elsewhere, a Time Warner internal memo indicates Time Warner will pilot a program where it has an explicit bandwidth cap, and users that exceed the cap will pay additional explicit fees — rather like what happens now with your standard cell phone package where you buy a bundle of minutes and then pay for any overages. The pilot will include a website to allow customers to track their usage, moderate their behavior, or buy additional capacity if they wish.

I agree with Dave Isenberg that this is the best way for Time Warner to handle its network capacity constraints and address the supposed 5% of users gobbling 50% of the bandwidth. We can expect some heavy users to move to other networks without caps, but also expect that users that use much less capacity and frustrated by congestion caused by heavy use by others to prefer plans like Time Warner’s because it should produce a less congested pipe overall.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that I was just musing about this the other day, giving me a chance to do another Stephen Colbert I CALLED IT!!! dance.

O.K., shameless gloating over. Analysis below . . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

I Can't Take Credit For It, But I Did Think of It First….

Every now and then, my hobbies and my professional life intersect. Indeed, my involvement in this blog comes from the chance meeting of myself and John Sundman at a science fiction convention in Boston called Arisia some years back. He was on a panel right before me, so I saw him in action and he stuck around and saw me. Curiously we both had the same reaction “Hey, that guy is the only one on the panel who makes sense or seems to know what he’s talking about. I should talk to him after the panel.”

So I was thrilled and delighted beyond measure to see that The Harry Potter Alliance, an organization that tries to organize Harry Potter fans for social/political causes, has joined with StopBigMedia.com to create the “Rock Against Voldemedia” campaign at PotterWatch. (We will also savor the irony that Kevin Martin looks amazingly like Harry Potter, but without the scar.)

No shocker that, as I have remarked on occasion, I am a huge Potter fan. So I wish I could pretend I had something to do with fortuitous and felicitous combination of my interests. Alas, however, I can’t. All the credit goes to the folks at Free Press and the Harry Potter Alliance.

I can, however, take credit for having made the connection between the media ownership fight and Harry Potter when Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix came out in 2003 and the media ownership issue was hot. I even wrote an op ed on the subject (which, alas, never saw print). But I did include it in a footnote in an article I wrote with Cheryl Leanza (footnote 37 for them what cares, although I recommend reading the entire article).

So while I can’t take credit for any activism, I can follow in the footsteps of our Glorious Leader, Stephen Colbert, and give a great big I CALLED IT!!!!

Lets hope my prognostications for the 700 MHz auction come off as well.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Media Ownership, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Cable Ownership Limits: This Is The Jonathan Adelstein I know

OK, first, as our Great Hero and the real Favorite Son of South Carolina, Stephen Colbert would say: Martin as a true set of huevos grande. On Tuesday, when it looked like he was going down in flames, I opined that Martin wouldn’t risk touching cable again with a ten foot pole and wondered whether he would be relegated to the status of a “lame duck” Chairman. Boy was I wrong. Not only did fight his way back from a total loss to a partial win against the massed might of the cable lobby, but he has emerged determined to go on for another round in bringing cable market power to heel, and this time with no distractions about a la carte.

This time, it’s a vote on the proposed cable ownership limit. Under Martin’s proposal, a cable company may control no more than 30% of the total number of cable, satellite, or other “multichannel video programming distributor” (MVPD) subscribers. As usual, we in the media reform/diversity community have been pushing this for years and, as usual, the cable industry insists it is totally unnecessary, ilegal, fattening, and will mean that the terrorsts win.

So I take a moment to appluad Kevin Martin for his continued courage and willingness to do the right thing on cable, even while making a huge mistake on broadcast ownership. But perhaps more importantly, Jonathan Adelstein has jumped on this puppy and run with it. After the bitter disappointment of this past week’s cable vote, it is a much needed shot in the arm to see Adelstein back in his usual form as a defender of diversity and an opponent of market power. Not to take anything away from Michael Copps, mind, who as usual has a track record of opposing consolidation in cable and has worked with Martin on a host of issues limiting cable market power. I’m just saying that seeing Adelstein act decisively on this one restores my faith that while we may have disagreed on 70/70 (and as usual when these things happen, I’m the one whose right), it was an honest disagreement and not something more nefarious. So while I remain disappointed, I am no longer dismaly disillusioned or dismayed.

More below . . . .

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Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Look Who's Talking 700 MHz: Edwards, Bloggers, and Moveon, Oh my!

[Channeling Our Great Master, Stephen Colbert]
In an obvious attempt to curry favor and win the valuable “Tales of the Sausage Factory” endorsement, John Edwards released a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin the day after I announced I was scoping out his campaign. The Edwards letter endorsed three key policy positions of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition: open access, network neutrality, and — my all time favorite and beloved of intensly geeky issues no one else gets — anonymous bidding.

That’s right! The Edwards campaign is actually cluefull enough and willing enough to get “into the weeds” to the point of endorsing anonymous bidding. Of course, the Edwards letter does not actually mention “ToTSF” or even PISC by name, but I’m sure that was just an oversight from the amazing speed with which they rushed to endorse the PISC positions after hearing that I was “checking them out.”

So, for all you folks from the Edwards campaign no doubt hanging on these words, all I can say is — well done! A tremendous Tip of the Hat to all of you. Still, in fairness to the other candidates (both Republicans and Democrats), I will need to wait to see whether they chose to endorse the PISC proposals before giving an official ToTSF endorsement.

[End Colbert]

Of course, Edwards isn’t the only one to start talking about the 700 MHz auction and what it means to our broadband future. For who else is talking about PISC proposals and the impact it appears to be having on Washington, see below . . . .

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