Tales of the Sausage Factory

Incumbents Bring Tea Party Tactics To Title II Reclasification Fight.

I have never accused the incumbents of being overly subtle, especially when they feel threatened. But this new 14-page letter from the major cable and telco trade associations — as well as from the three biggest ILECs and Time Warner Cable (Comast shows unusual, perhaps merger inspired, diplomacy by sitting this one out) — hits a new low on the “Lack ‘O Subtlety Meter.” Given that the only one actively pushing reclassification these days has been yr hmbl obdn’t blogger, I should take this as a tribute to my personal skill. But it seems more likely an extension of the “shock and awe” tactics used by the incumbents to try to derail NN from the beginning.

Of course, this goes well beyond network neutrality. As AT&T’s previous lengthy exercises trying to justify Universal Service Fund reform under Title I (as well as AT&T’s less-than-direct acknowledgment that eliminating the phone network in favor of an IP-based network would eliminate interconnection requirements and complicate public safety access) attest, the question of FCC authority over broadband and what it can or can’t do under Title I impacts every area of the National Broadband Plan agenda.

Most of the argument in the letter is pretty standard, boiling down to “the universe is great under Title I dereg, don’t mess it up,” “Title II will impose horrible regulation, kill investment, destroy jobs, strangle puppies, etc.” with an additional “the FCC has no basis to change classification because nothing important has changed since the FCC reclassified last time.” Two things, however, require attention. Sadly, they mark the introduction by major players into the realm of “Tea Party” tactics similar to the Death Panels and mud slinging that have infected the health care debate and the financial reform debate.

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 . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Martin Gets the Ball Rolling On “Blocking” Investigation: What Does It Mean And What Happens Next?

As always, I am impressed with the ability of so many people to hate whatever Kevin Martin does, and for so many different reasons! At CES, Martin announced that the FCC would investigate allegations of blocking content and determine whether they violated the FCC’s four broadband principles. Comcast pledged to cooperate in any investigation (although, unsurprisingly, Comcast representatives — along with supposed object of Martin’s affection AT&T and other big telcos and cablecos — said at CES they would restructure or eliminate FCC altogether).

As I said in my PK blog post, while details remain unclear, I am “cautiously optimistic” that this will be a good thing. But it did not take long for the folks in the “Martin is a bastard 24/7 crwd” to express themselves. DSL reports doubted this would go anywhere, while the “why ya gotta hate on cable” crowd at Techdirt opined that Martin would never investigate if it were a telco rather than a cable co.

So we flash forward to yesterday, when new developments began to percolate out of the FCC. Of significance:

1) The FCC issued a public notice asking for comment on our Petition for Declaratory Ruling that Comcast’s “network management practice” of messing with BitTorrent uploads violated the FCC’s “Broadband Policy Statement,” which includes a principle that network operators may not block or degrade content or applications. In a separate public notice (but as part of the same proceeding), the FCC also seeks comment on the Vuze Petition for Rulemaking on how broadband access providers handle and shape IP traffic generally. (Copy of Vuze Petition here, copy of our Petition here).

2) Separately, the FCC issued a separate public notice seeking comment on a Petition filed by Public Knowledge and the usual suspects asking the FCC to declare that wireless carriers cannot deny short codes or block text messaging. This goes after Verizon’s high profile “oopsie” of denying a request by NARAL for a short code. Although, as we pointed out in the Petition, the more likely and pernicious problem is with plain old anticompetitive blocking, such as denying a short code to VOIP provider Rebtel.com and denying applications to major banks offering competing services.

3) Comcast confirmed that the FCC has lanched a formal inquiry into whether it violated the FCC’s broadband policy statement. Comcast reiterated that it will fully cooperate with the FCC, and expects any investigation to show that Comcast did not block content and has engaged in legitimate network management practices.

Not bad for a commitment made a week ago. But what does it mean and where will it go from here? Analysis below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

700 MHz Appendix: A List of All My Posts on The 700 MHz Auction Proceeding

Well, it’s been a fun couple of months. I expect we will see more action on the actual implimentation of 700 MHz Auction, new developments, and so forth. But I’m rather hoping to ratchet 700 MHz back from overwhelming white-whale-type obsession to just one more spectrum item amidst the spectrum and non-spectrum stuf I cover. For example, the M2Z application has taken a serious turn for the interesting.

So, preserved for posterity, and because it makes my life easier than going through the archives, I list every TotSF 700 MHz Auction post to date.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

National Day of Outrage on COPE/Stevens Bill

As mentioned in the comments on my previous entry, a number of groups are planning on holding a National Day of Outrage against the continued assault by the telco and cable interests against our information infrastructure and free speech rights.

I want to highlight this and encourage folks to click through to the link above to find out how you can participate. Even if it’s just sending one more email or making one more phone call to your Senator or Representative on this issue, it makes a difference to work it together to highlight the issue on May 24.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Debunking some Telco Disinformation.

Given the success of recent pro-net neutrality videos, it comes as no surprise that the telcos have launched their own. You can watch their cartoon on the Hands Off the Internet website (direct link here).

As one might expect from an org primarily funded by cable and telco groups, it contains a few exagerations, misstatements, obfuscations, and the occassional outright lie. My friends at Mediacitizen have written this rebuttal. Savetheinternet.org has also posted a page on the telco anti-NN cartoon, with a link to this point by point response.

But, for those readers seeking more indepth analysis of just how much nonesense the “dontreghulate.org” cartoon dishes out — combined with the trademark snarkiness you’ve come to expect here at “Tales of the Sausage Factory” — please read below. Takes me back to my old days watching Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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Inventing the Future

What politician will claim, “I destroyed the Internet?”

I admit I haven’t thought through the implications of the FCC’s recent orders about the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, but I’m pretty damn sure that our leaders haven’t thought it through.

The idea is to create the biggest unfunded mandate in history by forcing all Internet service providers to retool their systems to make it easier for the feds to monitor communications. The cost to universities alone is said to be at least $7B. I don’t know what this does to municipal and home grown mesh network systems. I suppose that the intent is to make it too expensive for anyone but a TelCo to operate anything other than restrictive high-level services. The prophetic David Reed laid out the the issues five years ago, saying it much better than I can.

To this I would add an uneasiness as to what steps a person must now apply, or is allowed to apply, to protect “intellectual property.” We are required to take practical precautions to keep our freedom of privacy else we loose it. If we wreck the Internet in a rush to destroy any practical means of protecting privacy, then who in the end will be allowed to actually claim the priviledge of privacy? Only those large institutions who can afford to run their own government-approved private networks?

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

DSL Item Released — coulda been worse

After pushing the FCC’s open meeting off for a day and then delaying another hour and half to reach a compromise, Martin got his DSL reclassification order by a uninamous Commission. Instead of the complete deregulation proposed by Powell, the Commission will take steps to protect “network neutrality” and will take steps to protect various other “social” policies (including, unfortunately for us civil libertarian folks, the ability of the FBI to read your email).

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: ALERT! NEBRASKA PROPOSES TOTAL BAN ON MUNI SYSTEMS

The incumbents go for speed over finese in this latest round. LB 157, just introduced in the NE legislature, proposes a flat out ban on municipal systems. Critically, this has been designated “emergency legislation” so that it can move through the legislature swiftly and with minimal debate. Apparently, the idea that citizens might have a say in their own governance is an “emergency” in Nebraska — at least if you are a legislator who is also a wholly owned subsidiary of the Telco and Cable lobby.

Here’s hoping the people of Nebraska find out what’s going on soon enough to act!

stay tuned . . . .

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