Tales of the Sausage Factory

Doing Kojo Nnamdi Show This Tuesday — and other opportunities to see me.

For those interested, I’ll be appearing on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Tuesday, January 26 (tomorrow). I’ll be on for a discussion of the future of cable with Greg Sandoval and Derek Thompson. Should be fun and interesting, as I hope to talk about things like our set-top box petition, the SOC Waiver, and how all this ties in with TV Everywhere, overt-the-top video, Comcast/NBCU, and the general “cable digital transition” as more systems convert to all-digital. Should be fun — if you are the sort of person who reads this blog.

UPDATE: You can listen to the Kojo show here.

As long as I’m doing the self-promotion thing, I’ll mention three other events where I’ll be speaking.

February 16: The Administrative Law Review event on Regulatory Change Under The Obama Administration at the Washington College of Law at American University.

March 15: Law Seminars International Telecom Conference in Seattle.

June 10: Pike & Fisher’s Broadband Policy Summit VI, where I shall square off against the ever popular Scott Cleland on everyone’s favorite topic “Who are the Internet Gatekeepers and Should They Be Regulated?” [I know, big suspense on which of us will say “Google” an which of us will go on about ISPs, switching costs, and all that other stuff.]

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Can users shape traffic better than ISPs? Some Lessons From The Electric Industry.

A dialog between David Weinberg and Seth Finkelstein on David’s blog raises an interesting question. Dave W argues (as do I) that a network provider is the last person who should engage in such practices, because of the inherent potentials for mischief and the possible conflicts of interest. Seth Finkelstein argues that, as a practical matter in the real world, only the ISP can effectively make a determination on traffic shaping that maximizes the use of the network for everyone, protects time sensitive applications, and prevents a “tragedy of the commons” from a handful of users absorbing all the bandwidth.

David Isenberg (in the comments and in this blog entry) makes the case that we don’t need traffic shaping, just more capacity or, in the alternative, neutral means to reduce packet flow such as throttling all traffic equally or going to metered pricing. Others (including myself) have argued that the problems of “bandwidth hogs” are exaggerated, or that users dissatisfied with the “best efforts” environment of the internet should stick with the network optimized for voice (the phone network) or the network optimized for video (cable, broadcast television) rather than “break” the internet to better accommodate these applications. Neither of these answers, however, is popular in regulatory circles. Further, it is a legitimate argument that we should allow ISPs to choose what product to offer customers. If an ISP wants to offer services optimized for VOIP by retaining the power to shape traffic, why shouldn’t it bring that service to market? This inevitably leads to a debate on market power, availability of choice, switching costs, captive customers etc., etc.

So lets shake things up with something new. I will — for the sake of argument here — accept the proposition that we “need” traffic shaping (like I “need” “scare quotes” so that people will not “quote” me out of context or argue on trivialities). But accepting the need for traffic shaping does not mean ceding all power to the broadband access provider. To the contrary, I argue that we will achieve far better results by giving subscribers the ability to shape their own traffic.

Madness you say? “Tragedy Of The Commons” and all that. Maybe, but the electric industry tells a somewhat different tale. As described in this NYT story, a fair number of folks are taking advantage of pilot projects that allow people to shape their power usage in the same way I propose allowing them to shape their Internet use. Such programs may save $70 Billion in the next few years. Why not see if they can have serious impact on the supposed exaflood of internet traffic that supposedly justifies traffic shaping? Especially when contrasted with the pur privatization model, that gave us the Enron scandal and the California black outs in 2001?

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Responds With Fear and Trembling to My Scolding on Tardiness and Releases Two Additional Items

[Assume aspect of guiding light, hero, and all around object of devotion, Stephen Colbert]

Obviously stung by my scathing critique of the FCC’s failure to release the promised Notice of Inquiry on broadband industry practices, the FCC has now issued the promised NOI (technically, it issued a few hours before my post went live, but I know Stephen would want me to count it as a “kill”).

As an obvious additional attempt to curry my favor, the FCC has released two additional items that address long standing criticisms by myself and others, that the FCC’s annual “Broadband is Bustin’ Out All Over!” Report (aka the Section 706 Report on Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Services to All Americans) dramaticly overstates the status of broadband competition in the country. In addition to the annual Notice of Inquiry, the FCC has also released this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on how to improve the data collection and reporting process.

[End Colbert channeling]
More details below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Look what the FCC Found in the Basement!

In response to a Freedom of Information Act Request filed by the Georgetown Institute for Public Representation Communications Law Projects and my employer Media Access Project, the FCC has now posted a collection of 42 final and draft reports relating to media ownership (no Hitchker’s Guide jokes please. Anyone who thinks these studies are definitive answers to anything needs to find their towel and get a life).

A very preliminary bit of analysis below….

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