Tales of the Sausage Factory

Susan Crawford and the Spirit of Cincinatus

Susan Crawford is now back blogging again, looking forward to teaching next semester at Michigan Law and getting back into the blogging game. Because those of us in public policy land cannot imagine anyone ever wanting to do anything else, and because the folks on the right have wanted to claim a kill for their “anti-Czar Campaign,” a number of folks want to claim she was pushed to leave. I would ignore this on the right, but it has a distressing tendency to get picked up and believed on the left as well.

I’ve known Susan for over 10 years now, and consider her a friend, so I am hardly impartial. But I personally believe that Susan always meant to stay a year for the transition — no more no less — just as she told her Dean and everyone else at the beginning of this process. Because Susan is an example of a breed long thought vanished from America — one moved by the spirit of Cincinatus.

In ancient Rome, it was the custom in times of crisis for the Senate to appoint a supreme leader, a dictator (this being the origin of the term), who would wield absolute power for the duration of the crisis, then step down afterward. According to legend, in a time of crisis, the Senate elected the retired Consul Cincinatus to act as dictator, and dispatched messengers with the news. The messengers found Cincinatus plowing on his farm. When he heard that Rome needed him, he left his plow and returned with the messengers to take up his duties in Rome. When the crisis passed, he gave up his position and returned to his plow — picking up precisely where he left off.

Public policy is not a quiet way to make a living. It involves long hours on things ranging from the mind-numbingly complex to the even more mind-numbingly complex. People do not play well with one another. There is little understanding of the work, little credit for doing a good job, and plenty of people who will tell you to your face (and even more who will say behind your back) how they could do a better job. Some folks do it for money, and there are no lack of examples of folk who have done well for themselves after a stint in policyland. Some do it for ideology, or for the fun of it (I confess to falling into the later category myself; much as I often find the work wearing and difficult, I find it enormously engaging and intellectually challenging).

But a handful do it because they are asked, and because they understand that they can do something that will benefit people and their country by devoting some portion of their lives to a process they do not find enjoyable or potentially profitable. They serve as genuine public servants, acting where they believe they can do good, returning to what they really want to do with their lives when their service is complete.

Susan Crawford has enjoyed a very successful career as a law school professor and as the founder of One Web Day. She agreed to join the ICANN Board when asked not because she got anything out of it (other than a great deal of work and little thanks), but because she believed she could make a difference for the better. She did not seek it out, but did not decline when asked, because she knew that her talents were needed. Similarly, when the Obama people came calling, she agreed to help with the transition and to get the ball rolling. This she did splendidly and selflessly. Work done, in the best spirit of Cincinatus, she returned to her normal life.

As I say, those of us who live in Policyland — including the wags, talking heads, bloggers and hosts of others who follow the doings in Policyland with the same fervor as football fans prepping for the Bowl Season — may have a difficult time grasping this. In our modern age, the false wisdom of cynicism has far more appeal than the belief that someone would come for a year, do what she felt was her duty, then simply leave. But knowing Susan, I believe it. So I am grateful she set aside her life for a year, grateful for what she did, and glad to see her back where she wants to be. My one regret is that the spirit of Cincinatus, which was once the ideal to which citizens of this country aspired, has passed so into obscurity that we cannot recognize it when we see it.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

What Next For The FCC? Beats the Heck Out of Me — So I'll Just Describe the Terrain.

A favorite Washington sport has become trying to out think the Obama transition team. I occasionally get asked about this or that possible pick, or what I think the FCC is likely to do on this or that, issue. I do not have a friggin’ clue.

Certainly I’m happy with some moves. I wildly applauded the appointment of Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach to the FCC transition team, and am equally happy to see them joined by Dale Hatfield. Similarly, the policy review team has a number of names I recognize as strong thinkers who both understand the policy issues and have a good idea where the bodies are buried here in DC. But none of this tells me anything specific about what the Obama Administration or the FCC might do.

Nor do I put much stock in the daily news articles suggesting this or that candidate is in the running for Chairman. The Obama team has demonstrated a capacity to hold information tight to the chest. Nor do I wish to push any particular candidate. As I like to point out, when the Communist Party wanted to destroy someone back in the Red Scare days, they would praise them in their official publications. I expect that any candidate I favor will be the target of serious opposition from incumbents who would find my approach and priorities less than pleasing.

Mind you, I still think it is important for folks in the media reform and progressive communities to make their preferences known — especially on policy issues and what we think priorities ought to be. It is very nice that the Obama folks appear predisposed to agree on many issues such as network neutrality and media consolidation. But whoever gets appointed to the FCC (or other critical posts) will face a veritable army of folks all armed with excellent reasons why their issue of choice needs to go to the top of the priority list and how this exactly fits with Obama’s stated goals. Anyone who thinks that electing the right people means we can go home and let them figure it out for themselves needs to seriously think again.

But I can describe one thing with some certainty, the terrain at the FCC. Or, more accurately, I can describe the uncertainty around that terrain and how it will likely effect policy. In addition to the power to designate the Chairman, Obama may be looking at appointing no commissioners (very unlikely), one commissioner (reasonably likely), two commissioners (also likely), or three commissioners (unlikely). This uncertainty makes it very hard to predict what happens with the FCC next year. To add to the lack of clarity, the DTV transition occurring in February will pretty much suck up all the attention for the first two months — possibly more if it goes really badly. Add to this the significant turn over in both the House and the Senate Commerce Committees, with accompanying likely changes in staff, and you have a cloud of uncertainty powerful enough to obscure any crystal ball.

I explore these possible scenarios below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Obama FCC Transition Team Now Includes Totally AWESOME Additions!!!!

Good news right before Sabbath kicks in. According to this article, Obama’s FCC transition team will now include Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach!!!

These are not just people who “get it.” These are people who “got it” waaaaayyyyyy ahead of the curve. They are also so totally not captured by any interest — but are also sufficiently “mainstream” that they will not be marginalized as radical left-wing progressive cooks. (Defensive? Me? How dare you suggest it!)

Gotta shut down now before sunset, so can’t wax nearly as enthusiastic as I would like. Suffice it to say t makes a very pleasant way to close out the week.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Happy OneWeb Day!

Well, a big thanks to Susan Crawford for coming up with the idea of Oneweb Day. Of course, I’m a shade more pessimistic that it will stay OneWeb, but I can still keep hoping and at least appreciate it while it’s here.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Verizon/NARAL Flap And Lessons for NARAL (and all the rest of you advocacy orgs out there)

It seems like every time I go away, something fun happens on Net Neutrality. I go on vacation and AT&T accidentally censors Pearl Jam. I go away for Sukkot and Verizon makes a major faux-pas by blocking NARAL’s text messaging campaign.

As one might expect, faster than you can say “crap, it’s a Democratic Congress these days,” Verizon went into immediate damage control. It reversed its decision and issued a statement that this was all a big mistake based on an antiquated policy that Verizon had now fixed. Heck, I even believe Verizon that this was an accident. Unlike Comcast or AT&T, Verizon has no prior history of such censorship (although they apparently did play ball with NSA when it came to spying on American citizens). But I make my usual point that I don’t want my free speech dependent on the good will of megacorps, enforced with non-stop vigilance and the ability to raise a great virtual cry every time wrongdoing occurs. The First Amendment is too damn important to depend on getting a front page story because somebody directly blocks access, even if it is an accident. I want my freedom to communicate protected as a matter of right, not as a matter of grace and political pressure.

No, I shall let my more eloquent colleagues like Susan Crawford and Tim Karr make the usual arguments. Instead, I direct my comments to NARAL and other organizations on both the left and the right with potentially “controversial” messages.

Scan this list of organizations, businesses and individuals that are part of the Savetheinternet.com coalition. Are you on it? I don’t see NARAL, or NOW, or a whole bunch of other orgs (left or right) that should care about this stuff — preferably before they get bit in the butt on it. And it’s not just Savetheinternet.com. It’s also about stopping big media and corporate censorship by opposing further media consolidation. Think NARAL will be able to buy ads in the Wall St. Journal after Rupert Murdoch buys it? Heck, the good folks over at the United Church of Christ can’t even get their church advertisements shown on major networks because they might possibly in two frames hint that they accept gays and therefore (by implication) support gay marriage. So you would think that folks with so much to lose, on both the right and the left, would jump on this campaign.

But sadly, they don’t. It is the unfortunate truth that far too many organizations that should support these campaigns “do not play well with others.” They fret about “expending their political capital.” They distrust working with others where they cannot “Control their name and message.” They refuse to participate in coalitions or causes with certain others including people on the same side, because of accumulated bad blood that began with an incident so long ago no one even remembers what it is about. But most fundamentally, they don’t see how issues of network neutrality and media concentration impact them or their core issues.

Hopefully, the recent Verizon/NARAL flap will serve as a wake up call not merely to NARAL, but Second Amendment Sisters, GLAD, and anyone else with a potentially controversial message. YOU NEED TO CARE ABOUT THIS STUFF! Really. Yes, I know you’re busy on a gajillion other things, you hate half the people listed on Savetheinternet.com list, whatever. If you don’t get your rear ends in gear and start dealing with Network Neutrality and media concentration, then it won’t matter what your actual issue or message is, because no one else will freakin’ hear it, see it, or care about it. Because your ability to get your message out and communicate directly with your membership will depend entirely on hoping you can suck up to/brow beat/bribe a handful of megacorps into letting you communicate with your members and the rest of the world, because you will have no legal right to force them to do so.

If that’s the world you want to live in, then keep doing as your doing. Decide that you “don’t have the resources to get involved,” that this “really isn’t your issue” and you don’t want to “dilute your name or spread yourself too thin.” I’m not sure exactly what you’ll do with all your horded “political capital” when you can’t actually get your message out, but clearly that’s not a concern of yours.

Or you can take two whole minutes and sign up on Savetheinternet.com to join the campaign.

Your choice. But if any members of any of these orgs are reading this, you might want to ask your home offices why they can’t take two minutes to fire up the old web browser and go to Savetheinternet.com to join the campaign.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Assessing the 700 MHz Order Part II: “C” Does Not stand For “Crap;” Why the Wireless Carterfone Condition Is A Big Win.

Few things in the last few days have generated more discussion and overall pessimism in the Order than the C Block “wireless Carterfone” or “network attachment” conditions. “A tease,” says Art Brodsky. “Crippled by loopholes,” opines Susan Crawford.

“Not so fast!” Says yr hmbl obdnt blogger. In point of fact, there is a a hell of a lot here to like in the C Block conditions. Not just for trying to get actual devices attached, but in terms of FCC precedent and broader spectrum policy. This is an “Eyes on the Prize” moment, similar to the preliminary decisions that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. We did not win the grand prize, but we got a lot good precedent for future spectrum reform.

Further, as I explain below, I do not think the conditions the FCC imposed here are meaningless. To the contrary, I think the rules are about as aggressive as possible to draft (as I worked hard with Commissioner Adelstein and his staff to think of anything I could possibly add to them). But at the end of the day, what matters is the political will. If the next FCC (which will be the FCC that enforces this) wants to give these license conditions meaning, it has the tools to do so. If a future FCC wants to make this meaningless, then there is nothing we can do no matter how well we draft things.

And I will add that if anyone has some better ideas on what to put in as rules, they should certainly file Petitions for Reconsideration

My analysis of why the C Block conditions do matter below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

AT&T Net Neutrality Condition: Win, Lose or Draw?

Unsurprisingly, in an area as complex as this, opinion has split on what the merger conditions mean. Some, like Tim Karr and Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu, and Matt Stoller hail the conditions as an important victory. Others, such as Cardozo Law Professor and ICANN Director Susan Crawford, Jeff Pulver, and Dave Burstein think AT&T has cleverly played us for dupes by giving us conditions with loopholes that render the conditions meaningless. While others, like Dave Isenberg, strike a middle ground. Others, pointing out that the conditions only last two years,

What do I think? As I observed in July, when we got got some conditions out of the Adelphia transaction, evaluating wether you won or not in opposing a merger is a tricky business. But I reject the idea we got taken for a ride. To the contrary, anybody who thought this merger was going to provide the answer to the net neutrality issue, or eliminate the need for national legislation, does ot understand what was going on or what we were trying to accomplish.

And no, this doesn’t make a bad merger good. I certainly would have preferred seeing the FCC reject the merger. But given broad hints from Dingell that he never wanted the Ds to go that far, and given the fact that McDowell could have decided to come off the bench in June if the merger was still pending (since the Ds could not get a majority to vote to refer the matter to an Admin Law Judge), I don’t think a rejection was realistic to expect.

More detailed analysis below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Blog Tagged by Susan Crawford

On Live Journal, we’d call this a meme. I usually don’t play, but how can I resist an invitation from Susan Crawford? In addition to running a fantastic and informative blog of her own, Susan is a member of the Board of Directors at ICANN and on the faculty of Cardozo Law School (Official motto: “With This Many Jews, How Did We Rank So Low In U.S. News & World Report? Goyishe Kop!”)

In any event, Susan has tagged me with the following meme:

“Post five things most people don’t know about you, and then tag five more people.”

I tag Sascha Meinrath, Esme Vos, David Isenberg, Tim Karr and Art Brodsky. My answers below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

I'm Speaking Tomorrow (9/13/06) On the Hill

We’ve been down a few days for technical problems. Sorry and welcome back.

Tomorrow (9/13/06), I’ll be speaking at an event sponsored by Americans for a Secure Internet on what to do about ICANN, the Internet Governance Forum and upcomming meeting in Athens, and what’s wrong with making the rest of the world dance “the macarena” or lose their ccTLD. (Although you can get more recent information from the Internet Governance Project, or ICANNWATCH, or Susan Crawford’s bog but none of them reference the macarena!)

The event is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the House Rayburn Building B-340. I append the information from the flyer below. Here are a few links to my other ICANN blog entries:
Tiering, It’s Not Just for Telcos Anymore
My Take on WSIS and DNS
The Verisign Lawsuit: More Than Just Sitefinder
If ICANN Regulated Cars (real old)
______________________________________________________
AMERICAN FOR A SECURE INTERNET

Buffet Lunch and Panel Discussion

Does the U.N. Want to Govern the Internet?

Hosted by Americans for a Secure Internet

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

12:30-2 PM

Rayburn B-340

Last November, the Congress passed a Joint Resolution affirming that the current structure of Internet management—with U.S. oversight—was working well and should be maintained without interference from the United Nations.

But the UN is not so easily dissuaded. They’re meeting in Athens at the end of October to plan an array of new initiatives that could clash with ICANN’s management of the Internet.

Join Americans for a Secure Internet for a lunch buffet and panel discussion on Wednesday, September 13, to learn how changes to current Internet governance could compromise the integrity of its infrastructure, and the continued growth of eCommerce.

Topics include:

* The U.N.’s IGF and its plan for a prolonged campaign to gain control of the Internet and remove America from its dominant position
* How the IGF’s proposals create real barriers to eCommerce by turning the Internet over to a collection of foreign governments, including those that practice massive censorship like China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia
* How the Internet needs a “manager” and not a “governor”—and the difference between the two
* The current ICANN arrangement and how it allows for distributed control of the Internet
* The threat to technical development and improvement of the Internet by trapping its management inside a multitude of new agencies and programs

Get to know these issues that will be discussed at the IGF meeting and the potential effects. All Congressional staff involved in technology and eCommerce issues should attend.

Panelists include:

Ambassador David Gross
Ambassador, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Harold Feld
Senior Vice President
Media Access Project

Brian Cute
Vice President, Government Relations
VeriSign

Steve DelBianco (moderator)
Executive Director
NetChoice

RSVP
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Melissa Moskal at mailto:mmoskal@actonline.org or 202.420.7484.

About ASI
Americans for a Secure Internet is a coalition of trade associations, public policy think tanks, businesses and individuals who share a deep concern about the future of Internet security. Visit www.protectingthenet.org for more information.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Susan Crawford's Five Good Question

Susan Crawford, a law Professor at Cardozo and a Board Member of ICANN supportive of Net Neutrality, asks and answers five good questions about Network Neutrality. Chris Yoo, a law professor at Vanderbilt and opposed to Net Neutrality, gives his answers (along with Susan’s) here. Harold Feld, not a law professor anywhere, gives his answers below.

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