Tales of the Sausage Factory

Open Access Gains Another Convert, AT&T Denies Poisition Change

A brief update on my recent post that AT&T recently conceded it might consider bidding on an open access license. Unsurprisingly, Frontline Wireless — the party pushing for the “E Block” public safety/open access network — filed a copy with the Commission stating that this proves that an E Block auction would attract bidders and that the business model is workable. In response, according to today’s (6/29) Communications Daily an AT&T spokesperson said: “Our position has not changed. As we’ve stated on the record at the FCC, mandated ‘open access’ conditions on licenses in the 700 MHz band should be rejected. We need to see the specific rules the FCC adopts for auction before determining our level of participation.”

The carefull reader will note that these statements are not inconsistent. Of course AT&T would prefer not to have open access, and — at the drop of a hat — will explain why open access is an unworkable awful idea and you should ignore all the evidence from Europe or from the U.S. until we abolished open access in 2005. But there is a huge difference between “we hate open access and think it’s a bad idea” and “we absolutely refuse to bid on a license with an open access condition and nobody else with any money would bid either.” Given that the most potent argument against open access from a political perspective is “don’t mess with the revenue” (as evidenced by the recent Op Ed in the Washington Post by two CTIA lobbyists wearing their “think tank” hats), proof that folks other than Frontline will even show up to bid (and folks with deep pockets at that) on an open access license is rather significant.

Meanwhile, open access for the 700 MHz auction continues to attract new supporters from different sectors of the industry. Northop Grumman, rather a heavy-weight in the equipment manufacture and public saftey/defense contracting world, filed this document supporting open access and explaining that yes, you really can construct a secure public safety network that shares spectrum with an open access commercial network. So much for “it will never work, it’s too hard, lets stick to what we’ve always done.”

In addition, the Frontline cover letter on the submission that introduced the “Well Connected” post with the AT&T interview stated that Citibank had made a presentation to the Commission “last week” explaining that open access is a workable business model. Annoyingly, I can find no record of this presentation in the record for Docket 06-150, but I may just be missing it (it is a pretty big docket). (UPDATE: My thanks to Susan Crawford for pointing me to the appropriate ex parte filing.)

But assuming that Frontline accurately describes a presentation that took place, we now have:

1) A statement by a major financial investor that open access is an attractive and workable model from a business perspective;

2) A statement by a major equipment manufacturer and network operator that commercial open access — even in the more complicated universe of a dual use public safety network — is technologically feasible;

3) A statement by a major incumbent that it would at least “look at” bidding on an open access license if the Commission adopts such a rule;

4) Statements by wireless equipment and wireless application providers that there is a desperate need for open access in the wireless world and in the provision of broadband services generally;

5) Over 250,000 individuals saying the status quo sucks and we want open networks and new providers.

On the other side, we have the entire incumbent industry and its usual cheer leading section chanting that everything is vibrantly competitive, we live in the best of all possible worlds, everything works perfectly and competitively, and even thinking “open access” too loudly will scare away bidders and reduce revenue to a fraction of the expected $10-15 billion. And besides, open access can’t possibly work either on the business side or the technical side.

And all the while, the clock ticks away, as everyone scrambles to get this done before the end of the summer.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Back From Vacation And FCC Auction Still Going On . . . .

As I guessed, the FCC AWS Spectrum Acution continues apace. My two weeks off proving an insufficient time for the wonkiest and most expensive of online multiplayer games — spectrum auctions.

You can track the “action” (as we must call it) here. A quick flip through the current standings yields some interesting patterns so far. The DBS Wireless partnership, Wireless DBS LLC, started with some strong positions on regional licenses. Over time, they have been forced out by Spectrum Co (the Comcast/TW/Sprint group), AWS Wireless (the Salmesi “wild card”) and traditional cell phone cos. Dolan family (Cablevision) took a position in the NYC market (its home base) but also appears to have been knocked out.

A look at the overall stats in round 29 shows that T-Mobile, unsurprisingly, has the lead bid on the most licenses — 129. Spectrum Co comes in nest with 96. After that, there is a significant drop off in the number and nature of licenses held, with traditional cellular companies Cingular and Cricket holding 43 each. Interestingly, AWS is next, with 38. There follows a list of smaller fry with diminishing numbers of licenses in less desirable territories. Of the cable players aside from Comcast/TW, only Cable One (Washington Post) continues to have a presence with 24 licenses.

Unless something dramatic happens, the auction is unlikely to yield a drisuptive player/new competitor (unless one counts Spectrum Co).

More after I unpack and look at the stats.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

This week's Candorville a MUST READ

Candorville started in the Washington Post last year, and it is an amazingly funny progessive comic strip. This week (April 3) features Bell mergers, Bellsouth’s disgraceful efforts to shut down the New Orleans muni wireless network, Bellsouth’s efforts to get the LA legislature to pass antimuni bills, and today why we need network neutrality.

Must send fan letter to Darrin Bell. He can say in four panels what it took me a whole essay to say.

Stay tuned . . . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

AofA Technology: Monster Cells

As many of y’all know, I wrote Acts of the Apostles, (a nanotech thriller about (among other things) Iraqi bioweapons programs)during the years 1995-99.

As the book was science fiction, it contains a lot of stuff that I just made up. Since then it’s been fun to collect instances where the real world has caught up with Acts.

Here’s a link to an article in the Washington Post that describes an effort by Craig Venter(!!) to create an artificial cell that’s in many ways similar to the “monster cell” of AofA.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Sudan, The Wall, and Why I Hate the International Criminal Court

O.K., this is a bit off the beaten tack for me, but it plays off what I read this morning. And side note to John, can we get some different catagories in our drop down menues? Everything I write is “general.”

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General Exception

Nanotech hiring.. philosophers?

An article in the Washington Post provides a general overview of nanotech. The one interesting fact that caught me eye: nanotech companies and researchers are hiring sociologists, philosophers, and ethicists, in attempt to get ahead of the curve on public opinion.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Fileswapping: A coda

just a brief coda on my predictions for file swapping. According to The Washington Post, fileswapping is up again in October and November after declining steadily from June to September. I note that coincides somewhat with the college year, if new students get oriented in August/Sept., get a taste of broadband, and start fileswapping. that last is just speculatiuon on my part.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Fileswapping- Wither To in '04

The inevitable end of year/start of year column of rehash and predictions. No doubt I’ll regret this column next December, but if you’re interested in my predictions for the future of file sharing in 2004, read on.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: I Am Now on the Sh–list of the Wall St. J. Editorial Board. Go me!

Well, actually my boss, Andrew Jay schwartzman, and my organization, Media Access Project. But since MAP has only three attorneys and one admin staffer, I think I’m entitled to crow a bit.

The WSJ is a pay site, so I can’t provide a link. And copyright prevents me from reprinting the editorial — which appeared in the print addition of the WSJ on Dec. 30, 2003.

But to see my more detailed comments, see below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales From the Sausage Factory: Saddam and Howard Dean

I seem to be the only one in America who fails to see the link between the capture of Saddam Hussein this week and the 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary. Or so says an op ed in today’s Washington Post. On the other hand, I do see this as a classic example of media group think.

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