Tales of the Sausage Factory

Google Is NOT Getting Into The Network Business, The Further Adventures of T. Googlii

Unsurprisingly, the telecom world is all abuzz over the news that Google will build a bunch of Gigabit test-beds. I am perfectly happy to see Google want to drop big bucks into fiber test beds. I expect this will have impact on the broadband market in lots of ways, and Google will learn a lot of cool things that will help it make lots of money at its core business — organizing information and selling that service in lots of different ways to people who value it for different reasons. But Google no more wants to be a wireline network operator than it wanted to be a wireless network operator back when it was willing to bid on C Block in the 700 MHz Auction.

So what does Google want? As I noted then: “Google does not want to be a network operator, but it wants to be a network architect.” Oh, it may end up running networks. Google has a history of stepping up to do things that further its core business when no one else wants to step up, as witnessed most recently by their submitting a bid to serve as the database manager for the broadcast white spaces devices. But what it actually wants to do is modify the behavior of the platforms on which it rides to better suit its needs. Happily, since those needs coincide with my needs, I don’t mind a bit.

How does that play out here, and why do I compare Google to a protozoa? See below . . . .

Read More »

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

An Appreciation For Commissioner Adelstein

Like everyone else in the telecom world, I’m pleased and relieved the Senate finally confirmed Julius Genachowski and reconfirmed Robert McDowell. But I need to echo Commissioner Copps’ sentiments that seeing Commissioner Adelstein go makes this particular bit of good news hard to take.

Long time readers know I’ve been a huge fan of Adelstein. I should add that I have equally been a huge fan of his staff, particularly Rudy Brioche and Renee Crittendon, with whom I’ve done a lot of work over the years.

What I have always admired about Adelstein is that he has been a Populist in the best sense of the word, and in the finest tradition of rural America. i.e., someone who actually cares about people and takes the time to listen to them and fight for their issues. Over the years, Adelstein has always tried to make the time to come to events where he can hear directly from people — whether at industry trade shows or a modest gathering of community wireless activists. He has always tried to make sure that everyone has the opportunity for meaningful access to both new media and old. He has spoken passionately about the need to make sure that the benefits of broadband are accessible to everyone. He has been a friend to PEG and leased access as means for independent programmers to bring independent viewpoints to cable and because of his appreciation for the importance of local programming. Side by side with Commissioner Copps, he toured the country and rallied opposition against any relaxation of media ownership rules. He pushed harder than anyone for the Commission to take on the problem of Payolla, and repeatedly called for more ways to get independent musicians and local talent on the air.

I will miss Adelstein’s energy and friendly spirit at the Commission. On the positive side, he is certainly the right man to run the broadband program at RUS. Adelstein has always been at his most enthusiastic when looking to see how new technologies can improve people’s lives, particularly in rural America. I look forward to seeing what he can do with $2.5 Bn to revolutionize broadband access in rural communities. Hopefully, the Senate Agriculture Committee will move quickly to hold a hearing and speed him through the confirmation process.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The 700 MHz Auction Pre-Show: Live from the AT&T/Aloha Bowl!

The pre-game show for the 700 MHz auction has definitely gone into full swing. Lets ignore for the moment the purely regulatory shenanigans such as Verizon’s war of litigation and regulatory maneuver. Let’s pause for a moment to consider some of the player training and pre-game jockeying for position. Notably, today’s big announcement that AT&T will buy Aloha Partners 700 MHz licenses.

“Whoa!” I hear you cry. “How did Aloha Partners (or anyone else) get 700 MHz licenses? I thought the auction wasn’t until January!” Well, for reasons I will address below, the FCC actually auctioned some of these licenses back in 2002 and 2003. Aloha Partners won a fair number of them dirt cheap (since at the time no one knew if the broadcasters would ever finish the digital transition and get off the spectrum), and then began a steady stream of acquisitions, culminating in the purchase last month of Lin TV’s 700 MHz licenses, giving them a total of 270 licenses overall and healthy coverage in the major markets of the southwest, south, east coast, and portions of the midwest. (You can see and old map of the major coverage areas here.)

And now, in what has become the all too familiar paradigm for the telecom world, AT&T has turned around and swallowed Aloha Partners 700 MHz licenses. What does this mean? What impact for the auction? For other deals? Will this impact the regulatory end game?

My speculations are even wilder-ass than usual, given the utter lack of real data. But if you’re up for a walk through the entrails with me, see below . . . .

Read More »

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tonight, a Dramatic Conclusion for the AT&T/BellSouth Telenovella!

In the dramatic penultimate episode of the telecom world’s favorite Telenovella Death Star Reborn: The AT&T-BellSouth Merger, the forces of Network Neutrality and competition win a dramatic victory!

AT&T has submitted a new 20-page letter outlining the conditions it will accept for the merger. Unlike the previous concessions in October, which amounted to little more than a joke and a promotional offer, this set of conditions is quite thorough. The breadth and scope of the conditions leaves me positively breatheless. To mangle Woody Gutherie for a moment:
You shall be neutral, in all your networks
From the first tier backbone, to the retail last mile,
from special access, to the U-N-Es
You shall not leverage market power!

I need a couple of different posts to really cover the implications. But here are the headlines:

1) Network neutrality is required in its fullest form. AT&T cannot prioritize or degrade service based on third party payments or affiliation anywhere between the peering point and the residential “last mile.” So not only has the definition of network neutrality been solidified consistent with that advocated by Save Our Internet and others, but it has been extended from the last mile to the vertically integrated backbone.

2) Residential fixed WiMax is included in the definition of “last mile.” This is the first time net neutrality has ever been applied to a wireless network.

3) AT&T must divest the 2.5 GHz spectrum it would acquire from BellSouth. This addresses a concern raised by Media Access Project and others that AT&T/BS would have an overwhelming spectrum advanatage against other wireless players.

4) AT&T has an agressive build out schedule to provide DSL at 768 KBPS for $19.95/month throughout its coverage area.

5) AT&T agrees to numerous conditions that amount to a return to tariffs and price caps for telecom and DSL resellers and special access (commercial) customers. AT&T can no longer lock competing local exchange carriers (CLECs) or DSL resellers in non-disclosure agreements.

Bonus: AT&T agrees to “repatriate” 3,000 jobs BellSouth had shipped overseas and locate at least five hundred of these “repatriated” jobs in New Orleans.

In tomorrow’s concluding episode, expect the FCC to release the final Order on Friday December 29 and the deal to close immediately thereafter.

Roll credits. Special thanks to Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, for their amazing tenacity and skill. Free Press, Consumers Union, CFA, and the rest of the public interest community that fought like Hell. The tens of thousands of people who filled comments. And Commissioner Robert McDowell, for his amazing act of ethical fortitude.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

And Suddenly, the Universe Changed

Well, it’s been busy in the Senate today. While all the Senators were locked down by police on a mistaken report of gunfire, they took the time to confirm Robert McDowell for the FCC. For the first time since Michael Powell left in March 2005, the FCC is now back to 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

Over the last year, several controversial items have accumulated that the 2-2 Commission could not agree upon. For example, the long-awaited proceeding on media ownership rules, wherein the FCC will again try to relax or eliminate most ownership limits.

Critically, McDowell’s appointment strengthens Martin’s hand to approve the Comcast/Time Warner/Adelphia merger without significant conditions (whereas just yesterday I was hoping Martin would have to persuade the Democrats to agree to an order). The critical question — does Martin want to approve the merger without conditions? As I have written before, Martin has shown himself willing to stand up to the cable industry in the name of competition. For example, Martin co-authored an Op Ed with Senator McCain supporting imposing a la carte on cable.

So, what will Kevin Martin do? He has a free hand for the first time in his history as Chairman. Once again, I urge you all to help Martin make the right decision by following this link to file a comment urging the FCC to deny the Adelphia Transaction, or impose significant conditions.

As for the rest of the media ownership rules, the AT&T/BellSouth merger, and everything else in the media & telecom world

Stay tuned . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Did I really see that?

On November 29th, 2005, Washington DC experienced a sighting more fantastic than naturalists finding a flock of ivory billed woodpeckers doing figure eights over the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Kevin Martin, Chairman of the FCC, stated that a previous FCC report “relied on problematic assumptions and presented incorrect and incomplete analysis.” And he said it about a report on the CABLE industry! The people for whom the FCC lies so often that the Government Accounting Office has twice warned Congress “don’t trust the FCC about cable.”

Oh my stars. Just when I think Kevin Martin can’t impress me anymore he goes and tells the world the FCC issued a bad report last time. I just know I’m in for disappointment once he gets around to ownership, but I’ll take the crumbs I can get.

Why am I so giddy over this, especially when I haven’t taken a stand on the actual substance of Martin’s discussion (a la carte cable programming) and I’m not thrilled with the notion of “family friendly” cable progrmaming tiers? See below . . .

Read More »

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register