Tales of the Sausage Factory

Less Than One Week Until Freedom2Connect! Last Chance to Get Discount Price.

One of my favorite conferences is Dave Isenberg’s Freedom 2 Connect. On a purely selfish level, F2C is within walking distance of my house at the extremely cool AFI Silver Theater. But more importantly, F2C brings many, many cool and knowledgeable people to discuss real important stuff of interest to pretty much anyone who reads this blog.

This year, I will actually be on the program to discuss the broadband stimulus and what it means from a policy perspective. If that were not enough (and, let’s face it, it isn’t), there will also be a keynote by NYT Columnist Tom Friedman, lots of cool panels by interesting people (I leave it to you to follow the link lest I offend someone by missing them) and lots of very cool and informative hallway conversation.

Sadly, because the conference is held one week early, we will miss Sea Chanty night at the nearby Royal Mile Pub.

Register before Friday and get $200 off the door price.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Google Non-Story On Network Neutrality — And Once Again Why Citizen Movements Are Citizen Driven.

Both Dave Isenberg and Tim Karr have already cast a rather skeptical eye over the Wall St. Journal story claiming that Google is in secret negotiations to get “fast lane” treatment for its content in violation of Network Neutrality principles. I’ll therefore limit myself to a few additional points. I’ll not along the way that one of the nice things about having a blog is that I can point to stuff I said a long time ago for the inevitable accusation that I am simply an apologist for the Great Google Overlords.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Cleland's “Common Sense.”

“You keep saying that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
–Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I suppose it’s just overkill for me to pounce on Cleland’s over-the-top (even for him) blog post purporting to make the “common sense case” against our complaint against Comcast and Petition for Declaratory Ruling. After all, Dave Isenberg and others have already taken this on. But (a) it helps to restate the facts and focus on the issues, and (b) it gives me a chance to quote Angels by Within Temptation, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THAT SONG (In fact, if y’all haven’t done so, scurry to your favorite place to buy music online and download this and their other stuff. I’ll wait . . . .)

Cleland’s claims can be divided into two: whether Comcast’s behavior was “reasonable network management” and whether the FCC Policy statement is enforceable. I shall address each (and get to the music quote) below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Time Warner May Pilot Metered Pricing With Easy Consumer Monitoring Tools. Good for now, but bad for ecommerce in the long run.

As reported by Broadband Reports and now confirmed elsewhere, a Time Warner internal memo indicates Time Warner will pilot a program where it has an explicit bandwidth cap, and users that exceed the cap will pay additional explicit fees — rather like what happens now with your standard cell phone package where you buy a bundle of minutes and then pay for any overages. The pilot will include a website to allow customers to track their usage, moderate their behavior, or buy additional capacity if they wish.

I agree with Dave Isenberg that this is the best way for Time Warner to handle its network capacity constraints and address the supposed 5% of users gobbling 50% of the bandwidth. We can expect some heavy users to move to other networks without caps, but also expect that users that use much less capacity and frustrated by congestion caused by heavy use by others to prefer plans like Time Warner’s because it should produce a less congested pipe overall.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that I was just musing about this the other day, giving me a chance to do another Stephen Colbert I CALLED IT!!! dance.

O.K., shameless gloating over. Analysis below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Atkins & Weiser “Third Way” Paper, Isenberg Responds, and My Own Response

A few months back, Robert Atkins and Phil Weiser wrote this paper called a A “Third Way” on Network Neutrality. I recommend reaing the paper, but to summarize: The paper asserts that the NN debate has polarized between the telcos & cable cos, who want an unlimited right to control traffic, and the pro-net neutrality advocates, who want all packets treated equally by the network operator. Atkins & Weiser see this polarization as obscruing the fact that both sides of the debate raise legitimate concerns about market abuse and investment in networks on the one hand, and about government intrusiveness into network management on the other.

Atkins & Weiser therefore recommend an approach they believe addresses both sets of legitimate concerns. Congress should permit network operators to have considerable discretion with tiering — including favoring content based on origin as well as by nature of service. However, to protect consumers from abuses of market power, network operators must (A) fully disclose which packets are favored and why. In this way, consumers can ascertain readily if their lousy connection with mediastreamerA and great connection with mediastreamerB is a consequence of mediastreamerA having a bad service or their ISP cutting a deal with mediastreamerB; (B) Congress should affirm the FCC’s responsibility to monitor the broadband ISP market for anticompetitive abuses and permit the FCC to resolve any abusive practice that may emerge either by adjuidcation or by rule; and (C) the government should provide other incentives — such as tax credits or subsidies — to facilitate broadband deployment.

Recently Dave Isenberg wrote a a strong critique of the paper. Isenberg chastises Atkins and Weiser for falling into what I shall characterize as the attractive trap of the apparently “reasonable compromise.” Isenberg argues that, on the one hand, Atkins and Weiser lack vision. They fail to appreciation of the revolutionary aspects of the internet and the damage to the power of the internet as a disruptive technology if broadband network providers can exercise the kind of control over content and services that Atkins & Weiser would permit under traditional antitrust analysis. On the other hand, Isenberg maintains that Atkins & Weiser fail to appreciate the “Realpolitik” problems of relying on the FCC for enforcement instead of enacting a prophylactic, self-executing rule. Given the potential for agency capture and the length of time it will take the agency to act, a rule which does nothing but set up the FCC as a watch dog with discretion is worse than useless. Only by prohibitting tiering and requiring network neutrality can save the power of the internet as a disruptive technology capable of challenging the core businesses (such as video and voice) of the network providers themselves.

About a month ago, Phil Weiser and I debated this point over on the Public Knowledge policy blog. You can see our back and forth here: Phil’s first post, my response, Phil’s reply to me (with my reply in the comments), and Phil’s final summation.

As folks might imagine, I tend to side with Dave Isenberg on this one, although I recommend the Atkins & Weiser paper to folks interested in alternative views. Atkins and Weiser are no industry shills or ideological Neocons refusing to recognize the potential dangers. And, as I have always said, anyone who wants to formulate real policy rather than foster religious ideology needs to consider other views and recognize where someone else has a valid point. I don’t agree with Atkins & Weiser (for reasons I’ve covered at length in the links and elsewhere), but I’m glad to have considered what they had to say.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Two good conferences

I want to flag two important conferences in the next few weeks where I’ll be attending.

First, the Second National Summit for Community Wireless Networking. The last of these was in August 2004, and was excellent. For anyone interested in any aspect of community wireless broadband, whether it is the future of CWN as a movement or simply the nuts and bolts of setting one up in your neighborhood, this conference should be on your “must attend” list. The Summit is scheduled for March 31-April 2 at Lynnewood University in St. Charles, MO (easily accessible from St. Louis Int’l Airport). I’ll be speaking and generally making a nuisance of myself.

The second, much closer to home, is Dave Isenberg’s Freedom 2 Connect 2006. Again, last year’s was excellent, and it has the advantage (to me, at least) of being half a mile from my house. Dave has drawn together some of the top thinkers and respected pioneers in internet development to discuss the future of the internet in a world where the “freedom to connect” is no longer guaranteed. Speakers include such luminaries as Muniwireless.com founder Esme Vos, net personalities and pioneers Om Malik & Doc Searls, political heavyweights such as Congressman Rick Boucher and former FCC Commissioners Michael Powell and Reed Hundt, etc., etc.
Sadly, yr hmbl obdnt is not quite “A List” enough yet to make the schedule, but it will still be a good conference and I expect I will manage to make my presence known (those who know me understand I am not generally a quiet person).

Stay tuned . . .

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