Tales of the Sausage Factory

Proposed Wireless NN Rule “No Block, But Not No Lock?”

An interesting tidbit from Washington Post Reporter Celia Kang’s interview with Ruth Milkman, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau Chief. Of interest, Milkman states that the application of network neutrality to wireless would still allow cellular companies to lock cell phones to wireless providers.

How are the proposed rules different from conditions on the C block during the 700 MHZ auction? There, net neutrality rules were put in place that allow any device to attach to the network and prevent Verizon Wireless, who won the spectrum, from blocking Web content.

The difference between what we are thinking about in the general NPRM (notice of proposed rule-making) and the C Block is that we are not proposing a no-locking rule. So I guess it’s no block but not no-lock. If consumers can get an unlocked device and not harm the network, the consumer ought to be able to attach that device to a network. Does a service provider have to unlock the device it provides to the consumer? The draft doesn’t go that extra step.

This is an interesting twist on the application of the third principle of the 2005 Internet Policy Statement:

To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.

(emphasis in original). This is generally taken as the application of the “Carterfone” principle (and the Internet Policy Statement cites the Carterfone decision in case anyone misses this point). This is the decision that held that AT&T could not refuse to allow you to connect any device, like and answering machine or a phone you owned or a dial-up modem, to the phone network.

Milkman is right that the freedom to connect to a network is not necessarily the same thing as the freedom to move a device that comes locked from one network to another. In the old days, it wasn’t necessary to say it that way because there weren’t other networks to attach your device. The question was whether somebody other than Ma Bell could make something and attach it to the phone network. By the time we got to multiple wireline networks serving the same neighborhood, the consumer electronics market was so well developed that the idea of trying to lock particular laptops or wireless routers to specific network providers did not make much sense. Indeed, even in the never ending fight over set-top boxes and cablecard, the fight is over the ability to attach to an MVPD network, not the ability to unlock a device and move it from one MVPD network to another.

Most of us have always assumed that network neutrality applied to wireless would include both “no blocking” of content and applications and “no locking” devices to networks. But I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way. And, of course, this does not stop the FCC from dealing with handset exclusivity separately.

Still, it comes as a bit of a surprise. Nice to have the heads up, and tip ‘o the hat to Celia for doing this series of interviews with important folks at the FCC.

Stay tuned . . . .

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

Inventing the Future

True and False

The world as we know it is a fictionalized version.

Today’s papers carry the obituary of Hubert Van Es. Apparently, after shooting the famous photo of the last helicopter out of Saigon, this van-dyke wearing Dutch photojournalist was a fixture in the Hong Kong press-club bar for the next 30 years, complete with Hawaiian shirt and floppy press-corp hat, cursing away in accented English. It seems the most clichéd of what we consider fiction really does capture something true. But what of the things we consider fact? The photo of the throngs lined up to board the helicopter is remembered as being on the roof of the US embassy. According to the Washington Post obituary, an editor mis-captioned what was actually an apartment building. But dig some more and it is said that the building was the home of the CIA station chief and his officers, and that the people turned away were employed by the US. So reality is close to the truth. Maybe close enough, maybe correct in a way but not precisely accurate.

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Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Tagged | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Good Article in WASHPO by Cecilia Kang on Rural Broadband

While I was sorry to see the Business Section drop out of the Washington Post, I am glad if that contributed to this piece by Cecilia Kang getting on the front page.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Fairness Doctrine Vote Proves Conservative Noise Machine Still Strong As Ox But Twice As Dumb.

Conservatives take joy where they can these days, so no surprise they are busy patting themselves on the back for attaching to the DC Voting Rights Bill an amendment to prevent the FCC from reviving the “Fairness Doctrine.” It makes an interesting case study on a number of levels. First, how does the conservative echo chamber still manage to get a Democratic Senate to vote for an item pushed by conservative talk radio 87-11? Were the situation reversed, and liberal Senators wanted to attach some piece of useless legislation promoted by Air America, such as a ban on banging your head against the wall until you fall unconscious, conservatives would take joy in crushing it just to show the bleeding heart Liberal wussies who rules the roost.

Of course, some of it may be the piece of legislative jujitsu pulled off by Senator Durbin, which modified the amendment to reenforce the overall regulatory power of the FCC to promote diversity. All in all, this makes an excellent case study on how Rush and his crew are leading the GOP back to glory while the Ds stay focused on being effective.

Details below . . .

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Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Cablevision’s WiFi Roll Out — A Wireless Plan B?

As I discussed in the context of the Sprint/Clearwire/Etc. spectrum menage (and discussed a bit more with Gordon Cook on his blog), the reality of the post-700 MHz auction world makes it necessary for cable operators to have some kind of wireless strategy if they want to meet the potential next generation competitive threat from either AT&T and Verizon or possibly from newly en-spectrumed DISHTV. At the same time, cable operators are desperate to avoid the downdrag on the their stock that would come from a heavy investment in wireless licenses and further nvestment in infrastructure — especially when analysts don’t give them a prayer of taking on the wireless carriers in what has become a reasonably mature market. How to resolve this difficult dilemma?

Those cable systems with the combination of resources and forethought to address this have opted for different solutions. Comcast, Time Warner and Brighthouse –through their new partnership with Sprint/Clearwire etc. — have flopped back to the old cable standard of joint ventures and strategic investment. (Anyone else remember @Home Network?) Cox went out and won its own set of licenses covering its cable service area, as did Charter parent Vulcan Enterprises (as have a few lesser systems, such as Washington Post owned CableOne, which captured a bunch of licenses in the AWS auction).

Cablevision tried twice to acquire its own set of licenses: first in the AWS Auction in 2006, and again in the 700 Mhz Auction. Both times Cablevision went home empty-handed, outbid by the wireless giants. With no new spectrum on the horizon, and apparently no invite into the Sprint/Clearwire Happy House ‘o WiMax partnership, Cablevision found itself in need of a spectrum “Plan B.” Happily for Cablevision, there is also such a thing as “unlicensed spectrum” which — as I and other boosters of the competitive power of open spectrum continually point out — is available to everyone and cheap to deploy (relative to building a licensed network from scratch).

Hence the recent Cablevision announcement that it will deploy a wifi network in conjunction with its cable network. As a Plan B, it has some real advantages over using licensed spectrum, as well as some potential disadvantages. But given Cablevision’s unique deployment situation — it is primarily located in New York City and Long Island which gives it incredible population density for its relatiely small footprint — this fall back position may work for it where it would not work for other cable companies.

A bit more analysis below . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

700 MHz Update: FCC Severs D Block, Refers Cyren Call Allegations To Inspector General.

The FCC can certainly move fast when it wants to — and when it has had a few weeks to get used to the idea. The FCC just released a public notice that it will “de-link” the D Block from Auction 73, and will release the names of the winners as soon as the Commission collects the payments (ten days after it issues the official notice that the auction is over and that parties now need to file “long forms” and pay up).

Also of importance, Chairman Martin has referred the question of whether Cyren Call made all manner of demands of Frontline, and did this break any rules to the Office of the Inspector General. This extremely important detail was buried in this somewhat less than stellar Washington Post article about our letter to the FCC calling for an investigation. I say “less than stellar” because, in addition to “burying the lead” big time, the reporters did not trouble themselves to contact me despite that fact that (a) I broke this story in the first place (only narrowly beating out Dow Jones’ Cory Boles); (b) I drafted the friggin’ letter. I therefore recommend this far superior article in eWeek (i.e., it mentions me and links to the relevant blog entry — a clear mark of superior journalistic skills).

A bit more analysis below . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Defending Peter Nickles

This won’t matter to most of you, but a former colleague of mine from Covington and Burling got attacked on the front page of the Washington Post today and I feel an urge to respond.

More below . . . .

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

Econoklastic

The Best Senator Money Can Buy

The mainstream media is finally picking up on the real story behind Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) push for immunity for the big telecom companies for cooperating with the Bush administration in illegally surveilling the communications of U.S. citizens: the huge spike in telco contributions to Rockefeller in 2007, particularly from AT&T and Verizon executives. According to today’s Washington Post, AT&T and Verizon have given $47,350 in 2007, up from $5,000 in 2006 and $7,000 in 2005.

AT&T attributes the increase to Rockefeller being a senior Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee up for reelection in 2008. However, the contributions from all other major telecoms companies belie this excuse: $4,000 in 2005, $4,900 in 2006, and $5,250 in 2007. The rest of the telecoms industry raised their contributions to Rockefeller by 7.14% in 2007; AT&T and Verizon increased their contributions by 847%.

I’d say the difference has more to do with Rockefeller chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee and shepherding legislation which would free AT&T and Verizon from roughly 40 pending lawsuits which charge the telcos with violating the privacy rights of U.S. citizens by cooperating with the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance programme.

The story of the AT&T and Verizon contributions was broken by Ryan Singel on Wired’s Threat Level blog.

This is one more example of why progressives need to treat the Democratic Congress with the same skeptical eye that they did the Republicans. Rockefeller has sold out to the telcos and progressives should respond by refusing to support his reelection. It’s better to see real enemies in office than false friends who can be bought to betray you; it would be even better to see real progressives in primary challenges to Democrats who are bought by corporate interests.

Posted in Econoklastic, General | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Whiny Techies or Dishonest Salesmen?

I cannot help but add a coda onto my latest article. Steven Pearlstein, econ columnist for the Washington Post, has written this piece on the recent complaints wrt to Comcast. To quote Mr. Pearlstein:

The latest rallying cry is “network neutrality.” This campaign started out with the legitimate goal of making sure that consumers could continue to access whichever services or content they want, rather than having to take those offered by the cable and phone company duopolists. But lately the campaign seems to have morphed into a broader demand that all consumers should be able to pay the same monthly fee for using the Internet, no matter how much bandwidth they use or how much their movie downloads and video chats are slowing service to everyone else in the neighborhood.

Perhaps this is the kind of economic illiteracy we should expect from people who get their information from “The Daily Show” and the Daily Kos. But isn’t it time for the rest of us to move on and acknowledge that the days of the online free lunch are over?

As you may imagine from my recent post, my complaint is not with charging more for more bandwidth, but for dishonestly promising me an “always on all you can eat” connection, then cutting me off when I use it all the time for all I can eat. I sent Mr. Pearlstein the following reply, reproduced below….

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Cheney assumes presidency tomorrow

When President Reagan was shot, Vice President Bush Sr took over for a short time. That was the only time the VP had ever assumed the power of a living president before or since — until the current administration.

Tomorrow will be the second time that Cheney has done this. (Washington Post story)

Posted in I Fear These Things, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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