Tales of the Sausage Factory

Big Congratulations To Copps on Being Named Acting

No surprise, but good to see it finally happen officially. According to this article, Commissioner Copps has been named as acting Chair, pending appointment of the official chair (presumed to be Julius Genachowski).

I expect Acting-Chairman Copps will be heavily focused on the DTV transition for the next few weeks. Indeed, I think that if they do not push off the analog switch off date, the smartest thing would be to keep Copps in as Acting until after the transition. We have only a few weeks to go, and the idea of piling on the inevitable confusion of a new Chairman — even one as familiar with the agency as Genachowski — on top of the mad scramble of the DTV transition is probably not a good idea.

In any event, I’m extremely pleased with the FCC in Copps’ extremely capable hands however long it lasts.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast Not On Notice? They Were Told Point Blank!

It is a rather trite cliche that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But in law, where concepts such as precedent and law matter a great deal, there’s an even bigger problem: Those who do not learn from history are likely to miss the obvious.

As we all know, Comcast has invested a lot of time in arguing that they lacked notice that the FCC would enforce the principles of the policy statement via a complaint against them. “How could we possibly have known?” Comcast has asked, winning sympathetic nods from a variety of folks. “Policy statements aren’t enforceable! How can you possibly punish us for something we didn’t know we might be held accountable for, all our public statements to the contrary?”

Well, let us suppose that Comcast was told two years ago today that the FCC would entertain complaints if Comcast blocked or degraded traffic. Would that make a difference? If the FCC had said directly to Comcast: “If in the future evidence arises that any company is willfully blocking or degrading Internet content, affected parties may file a complaint with the Commission.” I would think we could all agree that this constituted “notice,” yes? Perhaps not notice of whether or not the behavior at issue constituted blocking or degrading — that is, after all, what the Commission determines in a complaint. But certainly if the FCC had told Comcast directly, to its face, no ifs and or buts, the above quoted line, I would hope we could all agree that Comcast had received reasonable notice that parties could bring complaints to the Commission, asking the Commission to determine whether the parties had behaved in an inappropriate manner.

Because — Surprise! — exactly two years ago today, that is exactly what the FCC told Comcast.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Quick 700 MHz Updates

First, we at PISC have sent a letter to the FCC asking the FCC to sever the D Block issues, announce the winners of the rest of the auction, and thoroughly investigate the allegations around Cyren Call and its pre-auction discussion with Frontline. (Martin has apparently already circulated something that severs D Block, so they can announce results as soon as the other Commissioners vote and the wireless bureau finishes the necessary housekeeping.)

Perhaps more importantly for the long run, we ask that the FCC take a hard look at whether to try to fix the public/private partnership or possibly do something else. The FCC has a lot of options here. And with the auction clearing over $19 Billion and the statutory requirement to start an auction before January 28, 2008 fulfilled, the money pressure and time pressure are off. We have time to have a public process and do it right.

Second, here is Kevin Martin’s official statement explaining why the auction was a huge success (and, by implication, why he did a bang up job getting this done). Martin, sensitive to the grumblings from folks who say that different rules could have gotten more revenue, included this handy chart showing that, on a pure revenue basis, the 700 MHz auction is the most successful FCC auction ever.

(In the reading the tea leaves department, I note that the chart subtracts out the D Block bid. And indication the FCC won’t just pass off the D Block to the lone low bidder? Maybe, but no surprise if that turns out to be the case.)

You can find Tate’s statement here. I have not seen official statements from any of the other offices.

Stay tuned . . . .

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

My Thoughts Exactly

Looks like Clinton and Obama are stepping up

To my delight, and, I’ll admit it, surprise, it looks like both senators will vote no on cloture in the FISA vote today.

I’ll look forward to posting a proper thank-you after the vote.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Latest on COPE and Latest Video

From what I have heard and seen on the House Whip Schedule, the vote on COPE will likely take place this Friday (6/9). On Wednesday June 7, the House Rules Committee will determine what, if any, amendments members may offer. For example, they may or may not allow Markey to offer his Network Neutrality Act of 2006, or allow Sensenbrenner to offer the version of the Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act that passed the Judiciary Committee as an amendment. After that, the package goes to the floor for debate and a vote.

The smart money expects passage of COPE because the House Republican leadership backs it and enough Dems will defect to provide a comfortable margin. OTOH, public pressure keeps pushing members to change their position to support NN. Not that smart money or conventional wisdom believes in democracy anymore, but I am hopeful we can hand them another surprise.

Meanwhile, Moby has prepared this video that tells you how you can call your representative and tell him or her to support net neutrality.

Remember, don’t make Moby cry! Support Net Neutrality and help spank the telcos!

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The adventures of Fair Use Person?

To my surprise and delight, the good folks at Duke Law have produced this comic book to explain the law of fair use and how expanding copyrights is producing lots of “collateral damage” in the free speech department. Back when I was in law school I had an idea for an entire series of comic books dramatizing the law school curriculum. Happily for the world, I can’t even draw stick figures as well as Jim Snider did in his Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Quick Reaction to AT&T-BellSouth Merger

Not really a surprise. The government has made clear it will accept the vicious cycle of “the previous merger you approved means I now have to merge.”

Sadly, because the regulators till think of these primarily as monopoly voice markets, and long ago gave up hope the Bells will compete with each other, they don’t worry about the increased size of the national footprint as an indicator of market power in any of the relevant service markets. If anything, it’s regarded as a plus because under the logic of “convergence,” this makes AT&T a better video competitior to Comcast, TW and other incumbent cable companies, while doing no “damage” in voice markets.

The complexity of interelated markets, the nature of market power on “upstream” internet content and service providers, and question of what the mature market looks like aludes them.

Oddly, I am at a conference on municipal broadband right now. Soon, cities may be the only competitors. I hope they will realize that they need interconnection and net neutrality to make a real go of it. Or so I will try to persuade them tomorrow.

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Inventing the Future

Them's Fitin' Words, Craig

When I first heard about the $100 laptop project, I didn’t get it. Sure, I saw the value in having one laptop per child worldwide – I’m not stupid or mean – but I didn’t see why it wouldn’t just happen on its own. Prices are falling all the time. To make this project happen, it didn’t require a world-class engineering team, it required a team of world-class shoppers, I thought. My mother-in-law should run this project. I even argued with Alan Kay about it, to the point where folks had to come take him away before I was able to understand why so much effort needed to be poured into this right now.

I was wrong, and Alan was absolutely right. (Big surprise, no?) I have been convinced by these dismissive remarks by Intel Chairman Craig Barret.

More links: UN, tech and good discussion, historical background, interview.

Posted in General, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Scaling to the Enterprise (Part 2 of 4)

2. HOW MUCH USE CAN THE APPLICATION SUPPORT?
(See part 1.)

The architecture of Croquet is very different from that of, for example, J2EE applications. In a client-server application, one server or server “farm” must process each and every interaction initiated by the thousands or millions of users. The only thing processed on the end-user’s computer may be as little as the HTML formatting of the text and image results. Every single other computation must be handled on the big-iron servers. To double the number of users, the capacity of the servers must be doubled. It should be no surprise, then, that so much effort goes into trying to squeeze out each available computing cycle in such architectures.

When an application has state — that is, when results depend on previous results rather than simply generating static files — client-server does MUCH worse. The amount of storage required can go up much faster. In some cases the application state depends on the number of possible connections between users or between applications. The storage (and certain kinds of search-like operations) increases as the square of the number of users or applications (N^2, c.f. Metcalfe’s law). But we are particularly interested in allowing students and faculty to form their own ad-hoc groups among which to communicate and solve problems. A client-server architecture hosting such “group forming” applications would grow exponentially to the number of users (2^N, c.f. Reed’s 3rd law). With only a few users, this architecture would not work at all, no matter how (finitely) fast the servers, or what language the application is written in. (See Reed’s discussion for a surprisingly accessible treatment of value, saturation, and other issues.)

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