SMART Letter #68
Packet Relay Radio to the Rescue
March 17, 2002

!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*() ------------------------------------------------------------ SMART Letter #68 -- March 17, 2002 Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg -- "No taste for accounting" -- -- 1-888-isen-com ------------------------------------------------------------ !@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*() CONTENTS > Nine States Have Barriers to Publicly Owned Telecom > Quote of Note: Bill Gates on 802.11 > Packet Relay Radio to the Rescue! > Quote of Note: Michael Swaine on the DMCA > Quote of Note: Steve Talbot on Evil > Quote of Note: Fred Knight on IP PBXes > Conferences on my Calendar > Copyright Notice, Administrivia ------- NINE STATES HAVE BARRIERS TO PUBLICLY OWNED TELECOM by David S. Isenberg Communications technologies continue to improve despite the telecom recession. As the gap widens between what is possible and what is deployed, the threat to established business models grows accordingly. The Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) and their allies in the publishing/entertainment industry and other sectors must fight harder and harder to preserve the technological underpinnings of their old business. The Tauzin-Dingell DSL non-competition bill is an example of such a hold-back-the-future battle. Fortunately, it is likely to die in the U.S. Senate. Senator Hollings, chairman of the Senate's Commerce Committee, vividly described the bill's purpose in a Senate speech on February 25, 2002: "Hailed as a way to enhance competition, it eliminates it. Touted as a way to enhance broadband communications, it merely allows the Bell companies to extend their local monopoly into broadband." Despite the anticipated death of Tauzin-Dingell, the network of the future has few friends in government. Hollings is no gigabit guru; he is opposed to Tauzin- Dingell because he is a friend of AT&T (the *cable* non- competition company) and to the konstipated kontent krowd. Meanwhile, the ILEC teleban is regrouping in regulatory and legislative caves of several state governments. Having killed off the Competitive Local Exchange (CLEC) business, it is going after the next threat -- forward looking public entities, such as municipal utility districts and publicly owned power companies, that see how important an advanced communications infrastructure is to their local economies. Today there are nine states with significant barriers to publicly owned telecommunications, up from four in 1998 (see SMART Letter #12, October 10, 1998). Here's the current Hall of Shame of states with legal barriers to publicly owned telecom: + Arkansas prohibits municipal entities from providing local exchange services. (Ark. Code 23-17-409) + Florida imposes various taxes to increase the prices of telecommunications services (as distinguished from other services) sold by public entities. (Florida Statutes 125.421, 166.047, 196.012, 199.183 and 212.08) + Missouri bars municipalities and municipal electric utilities from selling or leasing telecommunications services or telecommunications facilities, except services for internal uses; services for educational, emergency and health care uses; and "Internet-type" services. (Revised Statutes of Missouri 392.410(7) + Minnesota requires municipalities to obtain a super- majority of 65% of the voters before providing telecommunications services. (Minn Stat. Ann 237.19) + Nevada prohibits municipalities larger than 25,000 from providing "telecommunications services," as defined by federal law. (Nevada Statutes 268.086) + Tennessee bans municipal provision of paging and security service and allows provisions of cable, two-way video, video programming, Internet and other "like" services only upon satisfying various anti-competitive public disclosure, hearing and voting requirements that a private provider would not have to meet. (Tennessee Code Ann. 7-52-601 et seq.) + Texas bars municipalities and municipal electric utilities from offering telecommunications services to the public either directly or indirectly through a private telecommunications provider. (Texas Utilities Code. 54.201 et seq.) + Virginia prohibits all localities except the Town of Abingdon (the home of a prominent member of Congress) from offering telecommunications services of facilities, but allows localities to sell the telecommunications infrastructure that they had in place on September 1, 1998, and also allows localities to sell or lease "dark fiber" subject to several onerous conditions. (Virginia Code 15.2-1500) [Note: Overturned in District Court, May 16, 2001] + Utah Enacted H.B. 149 during the 2001 session establishing many onerous conditions . . . upon any municipality seeking to provide telecommunications or cable services. Enacted 3/13/2001 Be alert for a teleban attack on your city or state's right to own and run its own infrastructure. [Source: American Public Power Association, provided to the SMART Letter by Eileen deArmon, Director of Marketing, World Wide Packets.] ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Bill Gates on 802.11 "Let me be clear: Microsoft expects 802.11 and its supersets to be present in most places that people spend time. In corporate offices it will be pervasive. In campuses, hotels, convention centers, airports, shopping centers; virtually everywhere this 11 megabit and up capability will be there." Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, Oct 23 2001 [If Bill says that 802.11 is the future, he is right by definition, but 802.11 could be heading for problems, as per the article below. -- David I] ------- PACKET RELAY RADIO TO THE RESCUE! by David S. Isenberg Imagine this telephone company advertisement: "DSL all the network connectivity you'll ever need." It's a joke, right? Technologically speaking, fiber wins. It is the end game. But fiber access has two problems: big-capital economics and telco-shaped policy. Fiber is the direct route to shipping the most bits per second per dollar, but initial construction costs present huge barriers. The current capital crunch may have brought new fiber construction to a standstill. And there are bigger problems fiber cables are enough like copper twisted-pair that telephone companies can use 100 years of legal and regulatory know-how to exclude and impede competition based on routing and stringing cables Meanwhile, the need for high bit-rate connections remains. The longer we have to wait to get fiber, the more attractive less optimal solutions, including wireless ones, become. At present, unlicensed wireless access such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE)'s 802.11b, also known as WiFi delivers speeds measured in megabits. While 802.11b is slower than fiber and much more complicated, it nonetheless provides easier access than fiber because: (a) it is unlicensed, therefore difficult for incumbent communications companies to control; and (b) you can buy it off-the-shelf, plug it in, and use it today. But 802.11b may be short-lived, worries wireless pioneer Dewayne Hendricks, who heads the Dandin Group Ltd. Hendricks is concerned that as 802.11b gets popular, its very popularity will make it harder to use. The 2.5GHz band could become so crowded that nobody will want to go there. Densely spaced 802.11b transmitters will make it more difficult for receivers to distinguish desired signals from undesired ones. Hendricks fears that people will respond by trying to amplify (or otherwise boost) the 802.11b signal. Indeed, such hardware hacks already abound. Hendricks points out that 802.11b equipment is certified to operate without a license, but only on a whole-system basis. Virtually every 802.11b hardware hack is illegal, he says. And this is only part of the destruction-by- popularity story. Other devices like portable phones, Bluetooth devices, and (soon to come) radio-driven lighting operate in the same 2.5GHz frequency band. Hendricks thinks that 802.11b is a train-wreck in the making. Furthermore, he says, there is nothing to prevent 802.11a (also unlicensed, operating at 5+ GHz) from following a similar trajectory. As currently conceived, unlicensed spectrum could devolve into a hobbyist's playground. Independent network architect David P. Reed agrees, but he believes impending problems with unlicensed spectrum are tractable, given sufficiently advanced technology. Reed believes that the key issue is scalability. He points to Tim Shepard's 1995 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) thesis, now famous among high bit-rate connectivity fans, as support for Reed's insight that unlicensed data radios need only one additional property to become sufficiently scaleable to serve the general public packet relay. Shepard's thesis demonstrated mathematically that a wireless packet-relay architecture could support tele- densities as thick as those found in Manhattan. A packet-relay radio contains a radio and a router. Only some of the packets it receives have reached their intended destinations the rest are forwarded to other packet-relay radios. Each packet-relay unit has some knowledge of its neighbors. Together, the aggregate of radios forms an ad hoc, self-organizing, multi-hop mesh network. In principle, service providers need only build access points within this mesh to, for example, connect to the Internet. Wireless packet-relay networks solve the problem of multiple, powerful, overlapping transmitters. A network of weak transmitters (with routers attached) can send a packet a long way without unnecessarily trampling on the spectral commons. Multiple hops replace additional amplification. Packet-relay radio networks have some other nice properties, too. They solve the line-of-sight problem that restricts single-hop 802.11b transmissions. Multiple hops can get around a large building or over a hill. In addition, packet relay does not have the problems of large, capital-intensive buildouts, because customers own most of the infrastructure. When you want to connect to a packet- relay network, you go down to Radios-R-Us, bring home a unit, and plug it in. When you connect, you beef up the network infrastructure adding redundant routing and increasing the potential throughput of the entire network. Economists call this "increasing returns." Reed calls it "architected cooperation." Wireless packet-relay access remains an active sector, despite today's telecom recession. A few of the companies focusing on multihop architectures that use unlicensed spectrum include: Ember Corp. -- Flarion Technologies -- MeshNetworks Inc. -- Nokia RoofTop -- SkyPilot Network Inc. -- www Speedcom Wireless Corp. -- UltraDevices Inc. -- [Disclosure: I'm on the UltraDevices advisory board.] [Steve Stroh, perpetrator of Steve Stroh's Focus On Broadband Wireless Internet Access, counts some 17 equipment providers in this space. -- David I] Will wireless packet-relay networks replace fiber access? [Not likely.] One can envision scenarios in which packet relay and fiber access grow together. For example, there may be a need for fiber in neighborhoods to support backhaul from packet-relay networks to Internet exchanges. Then packet-relay networks would form an infrastructure to support the discovery of bandwidth-hungry applications. In later stages, the demand for bandwidth could grow so fast that an infrastructure of radios would be relatively expensive, compared to fiber access. At that point, communities (or entrepreneurs or forward-looking utilities) would build out fiber, because the need for cost-effective, high bit-rate connections would be stronger than ever. [The above article originally appeared in Light Reading, March 11, 2002] ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Michael Swaine on the DMCA "The shameful legacy of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act: + Compact discs that can't be played in computers or even some CD players + A visiting Russian programmer put in prison for giving a technical talk + A magazine sued successfully for publishing a link to a Web site + A US professor threatened when he tried to publish the results of his research + E-book licenses prohibiting the reader from reading the book out loud + Click-on licenses making it a violation even to criticize the contents of the work Michael Swaine, "Down with the DMCA!" in webreview, February 4, 2002 [The effects of the DCMA accumulate too slowly to be "news" but they are too important to be left post hoc to historians, so us frogs need to keep reminding ourselves that the water's still getting hotter. -- David I] ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Steve Talbot on Evil "I was raised a traditionalist conservative, and one of the rock-solid virtues of that mindset was a vivid awareness that the line between good and evil runs through every individual heart. This, of course, was why one distrusted all schemes for salvation-by- government and favored the notion of checks and balances. No excess of power should be vested in any one place, because no group of people can claim fully to have healed their own hearts of that fundamental schism. "When we begin to believe that we've fingered the true locus of evil "over there" rather than "in here" -- when the battle between "us" and "them" is equated with the battle between good and evil -- then we have placed ourselves above all evil. This is to make gods of ourselves. "Yes, we must resist evil in the world -- resist it for all we are worth. We must strive to represent the good against the evil. This endless, internal striving -- never wholly successful, never finished once for all -- is, in fact, the decisive thing. But when the evil turns out, after all, to be over there, the striving is no longer necessary. It becomes *nothing but* a matter of dialing in the coordinates and calling down the bombs. "This is how disastrous moral reversal occurs. To focus on the evil over there is to forget its strategic alliance with the evil in oneself, and to forget the evil in oneself is to turn one's own good -- now untethered from modesty and rendered tyrannical -- into a magnified power for evil. If we follow this path of arrogance, the destruction we call down upon the world may be unparalleled. " Stephen L. Talbott, Editor of NETFUTURE: Technology and Human Responsibility, in NETFUTURE, Issue #129, March 12, 2002 ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Fred Knight on IP PBXes "The buzz at VoiceCon [2002] . . . was about IP telephony . . . None - and I mean NONE -- of the PBX vendors have a next-gen, circuit-switched, TDM product in the pipeline. They are all betting their futures - and their customers' - on packetized voice." Fred Knight, editor of Business Communications Review, in BCR eWeekly, Issue 12, March 5, 2002. [At least something's going right :-) -- David I] ------- CONFERENCES ON MY CALENDAR March 17-22, 2002. San Jose CA. The Cisco Powered Network Operations Symposium. I'll be speaking on March 19, focusing on the distinction between connectivity and services. The symposium is not exactly open -- your company must be part of the Cisco Powered Network program, see More information on the symposium is at April 8-11, 2002. Seattle. VON (Voice on the Net). On April 10, at 9:35AM, I'll be leading a panel on "Financing Disruption" that was inspired by SMART Letters #64 and #65. The panel will feature CIBC analyst Stephen Kamman, an extremely rare public appearance by Roxane Googin, some other SMART People as I confirm their participation, and yours truly. My bottom line is that voice is a diminishingly tiny deal on The Stupid Network, but it still accounts for a disproportionate share of revenues. Come for the Googin-Kamman show, but stay to get the latest on SIP, the technology that will disrupt telco voice whether or not we get Fiber-to-the-X. More info at April 18, 2002. Sioux Falls SD. MIDnet/GPN Spring Networking Conference. If you've never been to Sioux Falls, you're in for a middle-American data-networking treat. Sioux Falls is a major node on the network, home to Citibank's credit card operations, to LodgeNet, the second largest U.S. provider of entertainment and information services to hotels and motels, and to Northwestern Corporation, a multi-glomerate as solid as the midwest that (far as I can tell) doesn't use fancy accounting and still makes honest money. I'm not quite sure what I am stepping into here -- today MIDnet looks like a Verio company. SMART People can find more information at May 21-23, 2002. Boston. Connectivity 2002. A celebration of networks so abundant that they will carry everything effortlessly. For more information see or contact Daniel Berninger, 631.547.0800. ------- COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com ------- [There are two ways to join the SMART List, which gets you the SMART Letter by email, weeks before it goes up on the web site. The PREFERRED METHOD is to click on and supply the info as indicated. The alternative method is to send a brief, PERSONAL statement to (put "SMART" in the Subject field) saying who you are, what you do, maybe who you work for, maybe how you see your work connecting to mine, and why you are interested in joining the SMART List.] [to quit the SMART List, send a brief "unsubscribe" message to] [for past SMART Letters, see] [Policy on reader contributions: Write to me. I won't quote you without your explicitly stated permission. If you're writing to me for inclusion in the SMART Letter, *please* say so. I'll probably edit your writing for brevity and clarity. If you ask for anonymity, you'll get it. ] ** David S. Isenberg, inc. 888-isen-com 908-654-0772 ** -- The brains behind the Stupid Network -- **