SMART Letter #70
Knowing the Cows from the Grass
April 17, 2002

            SMART Letter #70 -- April 17, 2002
           Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg
   -- "a hole in the ground" -- -- 1-888-isen-com

>  Quote of Note: Francois Menard defines Broadband
>  Knowing the Cows from the Grass
>  Smart Remarks from SMART People:
>    + Stephen Kamman on Athiests and Libertarians
>    + George Gilder on the Techno-Left
>    + Jock Gill on
>    + Vint Cerf on the separation of TCP and IP
>    + Andrew Odlyzko on Flat-Rate Local Calling
>  Conferences on my Calendar
>  Copyright Notice, Administrivia
Quote of Note: Francois Menard defines Broadband:

  "Broadband is defined by the ability of the end-user
   to change transmission equipment at the pace of 
   technology improvements."

Knowing the Cows from the Grass
by David S. Isenberg

When Isenberg edits what Isenberg writes, sometimes really 
bad bloopers get by.  In SMART Letter # 69 "former" and 
"latter" were mixed up as follows: "separate content from 
connectivity by technology and by law -- run the former as 
a common good (and engine of wealth creation) and the 
latter as a marketplace."  That's like saying the cows are 
green and the grass goes Moo.  My damn fool editor didn't 
catch it [and neither did the idiot writer -- ed.].  

Writer and editor jointly tender thanks to seven SMART 
readers who told us about this faux pas.  We hope that 
nobody thought what we wrote was what we meant.  But 
because it is incredibly important to keep content and 
conduit separate, especially these days, let us restate:

There is a scenario in which fundamental connectivity -- 
rights of way, poles, conduits, wires, fibers, and even the 
electromagnetic spectrum -- could be treated as common 
goods.  This is an extreme view, but that's what scenarios 
are supposed to be.  The opposite (extreme) scenario would 
have totally deregulated connectivity, with poles from 
eight companies cluttering up both sides of the street, 
with digging for new conduit everywhere, with enough 
electromagnetic radiation to fry an egg without an antenna.  

Once we have the extremes staked out, we can follow my 
statistics teacher's dictum: "Interpolation is better than 
extrapolation."  Indeed, we are living at neither extreme.  
Today we tend to see more symptoms of a single integrated 
infrastructure -- a more regulated world.  If we were going 
the other way, we'd tend to see more multi-party, 
competitive situations, which would be requisite to a free 

There are good reasons for a free marketplace.  So are 
there good reasons for a common infrastructure.  We love 
open competition, but we don't want to thread our way among 
competitive telephone poles as we drive down the street.  
And we'd like multiple wireless connections, but we don't 
want to play the game of out-amplify-thy-neighbor, and we 
have other means for frying eggs.  

Most importantly, while we like multiple infrastructures 
because they provide redundancy (and, at least 
theoretically, a marketplace), we also like low unit costs 
that common shared infrastructure brings.  (Imagine a road 
system only for Chevys, with another freeway system 
alongside it only for Toyotas, and a third set of roadways 
exclusively for DaimlerChryslers.  Each road would have 
less traffic (and road-car synergies could be exploited to 
optimize each separate system!) but the road budget might 
become larger than the gross national product, an engine of 

Fortunately, there is some degree of shared infrastructure.  
A single telephone pole can carry wires for electricity and 
telephone service, cable for TV and fiber for infinite-
speed, zero-latency Internet connectivity.  The same pole 
could also support some wireless access points.  A single 
slice of spectrum can carry multiple independent signals 
from multiple independent sources.  And a single fiber 
could carry all the communications services a household (or 
a nation) might need.  It's the shared common 
infrastructure, stupid.

Sharing common infrastructures requires rules, and 
conventions for following them.  These conventions need not 
be burdensome -- for example, we stop at red lights.  
Regulation as such is not a problem.  Wise regulation, that 
is, regulation that does not confuse conduit and content.

Wise regulation does not confuse conduit and content the 
way the FCC's sorry Notice of Proposed Rulemaking NPRM 02-
33 does (see  
I would say it is an evil NPRM, but it is too confused to 
be evil.  It speaks of broadband as if it were a platform, 
as if the connectivity were the application.  It reads as 
if the cows and the grass are green and go Moo and give 
milk and need mowing.  

If so-called "broadband" becomes a vertically integrated 
platform, the engines of innovation will grind to a halt.  
Communications will be powered by grotesque monopolous 
monsters.  There's nothing wrong with monopolies -- 
monopolies that do not abuse their customers, that is.  
Remember, the Bell System was a huge success -- for most of 
its life, the United States had the best telephone system 
in the world.  If we are to have monopolies, let's go in 
with our eyes open.  And let's make sure that we keep 
conduit separate from content.

Smart Remarks from SMART People

Stephen Kamman on Athiests and Libertarians

  "There are no atheists in a foxhole, and there are no 
   libertarians in a recession."

Stephen Kamman, Telecom Equipment Analyst, CIBC World 

George Gilder on the Techno-Left

[Speaking of regulations and marketplaces, George Gilder 
responded to SMART Letter #69 via email as follows:]

  "The serious issue, which I think blinds Silicon Valley 
   and you a bit as well, is inviting government into the 
   fray.  My understanding of government is that is almost 
   always support the past -- the leviathan RBOCs and long 
   distance players with their armies of lobbyists and 
   pols.  You can get Washington to support some research 
   project or procurement . . . but keep them out
   of any further regulation or subsidy of local loop 
   players, or attempt [to] force RBOC and cable equal 
   access and other interventions.

  "All your disparagement of supposed free market 
   absolutism concords fully with the constant refrain of 
   the techno-left as it demands quixotic government local 
   loop homestead acts and the like and ignores the fact 
   that the current markets are anything but free.  Only 
   technology can blast them open for Narad, Soma, Terabeam 
   and the rest."

[Gilder is right to observe that current markets are 
anything but free.  Why, then, does Gilder want to "keep 
[government] out of any further regulation."  Does he like 
government regulation the way it is?  Maybe keeping things 
the way they are is what being a Conservative is all about.  
He's also right that someday (decades? centuries?) 
technology will triumph.  In the here and now (years to 
centuries) government policy matters.  -- David I]

Jock Gill on

[Jock Gill responds to SMART Letter #69:]

  "I agree with your: 'The Democrats aren't any better 
   friends of the new network than the other party.'  In 
   fact, I think we should ask ALL politicians what their 
   'network-of-the-future' platform plank is.  

  "It is an error to suggest Democrats dot com speaks for 
   all Democrats.  Nobody does.  The Democrats are infamous 
   for their multiple voices, which too often do not sing 
   in harmony. Democrats dot com addresses what it calls 
   'Aggressive Progressives'.

  "I find it particularly wondrous that you assert that I 
   support Hollings and/or Dingell in their repressive 
   legislation [aimed at saving] failed business models via 
   legislation.  Please let me know how you reached a 
   conclusion 180 degrees from the truth.  Since I do not 
   mention this in my essay, nor did you ever ask me my 
   position on this legislation, I have no idea of how you 
   came to your conclusion.  I do have plenty of email to 
   friends in DC voicing my strong opposition."  

[What is a Democrat but somebody who buys the policies of 
the Democratic Party?  I'm pleased that Jock disavows the 
destructive dealings of his own party members.  I'm tickled 
that he wants us to expect his party to speak with multiple 
discordant voices.  Forget the old names, the political 
parties have degenerated into the "Fuzzy Message Party" 
(the FMP) and the "Win at any Cost Party" (the WAAC).  This 
may be a foxhole, but I'm still an atheist.  -- David I]

[Vint Cerf responded to clarify the history of TCP and IP 
that SMART Letter #69 got partly right:]

  "We actually started with TCP (IP didn't exist except 
   combined with TCP) in the first draft of the design in 
   1972/74. After a couple of iterations we realized we 
   needed to separate IP and TCP and did so around 1977/78. 
   Part of the reason was precisely that some applications 
   cared a lot more about low delay than high reliability 
   and sequenced delivery. 

  "You are quite right that we did NOT want to build into 
   the network any deep assumptions about applications 
   fearing our limited vision would constrain the network 
   in decades to come as new possibilities at the edges 
Andrew Odlyzko on Flat-Rate Local Calling

[Andrew Odlyzko wrote in to barber a few wild-haired points 
in SMART Letter #69:]

  "You write:
      'Then U.S. government policy made a sharp distinction 
       between basic and enhanced telecom services; early 
       ISPs were helped immeasurably because Internet 
       access was classified as an enhanced service.  
       That's benign, but it is not neglect.  Also, the 
       United States has a policy of unmeasured local 
       telecom service -- the absence of per-minute charges 
       was another positive policy that enhanced and 
       advanced United States Internet leadership.'

  "The first part was indeed a great policy decision.  
   However, the last part is more than a little misleading.  
   Flat rates for residential local calling were not the 
   result of a 'positive policy,' but an accidental 
   byproduct of the competition between the Bell System and 
   the independent phone companies a century ago.  I cover 
   this in 'The history of communications and its 
   implications for the Internet,'  

  "At that time there were no 'responsible' experts in 
   industry or government that had anything kind to say 
   about flat rates.  But the public wanted them, and 
   because of the competition, was able to get them.  It's 
   a fascinating piece of history that is all too little 


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.  MIDnet is a small non-profit 
organization that promotes networking in the Midwest 
thought grants, meetings like this one, and other means.  
GPN, the Great Plains Network, is the meeting's co-sponsor.  
GPN operates a regional internetwork and provides 
connectivity to Internet2.  For more info, see

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                       203-661-4798 
     -- The brains behind the Stupid Network --