SMART Letter #96 - January 25, 2005
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Announcing F2C: Freedom to Connect
Why Freedom to Connect?
Freedom to Connect: Underlying Assumptions
Limits of F2C: Confessions of a Customer
The Four Internet Freedoms of (Former) Chairman Powell
Japan's Broadband Miracle
Conferences on my Calendar
Creative Commons License Notice, Administrivia
ANNOUNCING F2C: FREEDOM TO CONNECT
MARCH 30-31, WASHINGTON, DC
Register at http://tinyurl.com/43ywh
F2C: Freedom to Connect is an isen.com production
WHY FREEDOM TO CONNECT?
Overregulation! Investment incentives! Fair
competition! Network neutrality! Unbundled network
elements! Spectrum licensing! Multimodal
Words like these put a network-centric frame around
the telecommunications policy debate. Like the
phrase "last mile," they put the customer last. The
issues they address are important, to be sure, but
they emphasize the service provider viewpoint, not
the issues of network users. F2C: Freedom to
Connect will bring a more user-centered frame to the
hotly contested and rapidly changing
Appropriately, Lee Rainie, founding Director of the
Pew Internet & American Life Project will open F2C:
Freedom to Connect with a keynote addressing who the
users of the new network are, how they use it, what
concerns them and how they see their future.
The need to communicate is primary, like the need to
breathe, eat, sleep, reproduce, socialize and learn.
Perhaps human access to communications networks is
best framed as a right. But what kind of right?
We propose to call this right, "Freedom to Connect."
We propose that it might be seen in the same terms
as the First Amendment Freedoms of the U.S.
Constitution. When we examine Freedom of Speech,
Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion and
Freedom of Assembly, each of them is related to the
others and depends on the others but stands
distinct. Freedom to Connect, too, leans on the
other four but holds meaning not inherent in the
others. Unlike the others, Freedom to Connect does
not yet have a body of law and practice surrounding
it. There is nothing yet like a Digital Bill of
Rights. Freedom to Connect is the place to start.
[Please note: this is a work in progress. The
agenda is represented in good faith as of 1/24/05,
but it is subject to change as F2C: Freedom to
F2C: Freedom to Connect presents four world-class
practitioners at the union of Freedom to Connect
and, respectively, Freedom of Speech, the Press,
Assembly and Religion. These are:
+ Freedom of Speech: Jeff Jarvis, Creative Director
of Advance.net and blogger at buzzmachine.com.
+ Freedom of the Press: Dan Gillmor, founder of
Grassroots Media, Inc., and author of _We the
+ Freedom of Assembly: Scott Heiferman, founder,
+ Freedom of Religion: A.K.M. Adam, the blogging
Reverend at akma.disseminary.org
Technology improvements over the last decades demand
a rethinking of telecommunications from first
principles. For example, suddenly gigabit Ethernet
is built into high end PCs; enough capacity to serve
the conventional telephony needs of a 100,000-person
city. If gigabit connections were available to
match these gigabit interfaces a new spectrum of
life-changing new applications could be brought to
market. Meanwhile the voice revenues of the
incumbent telephone companies might well evaporate.
In the face of such changes, who will provide the
Several speakers will discuss providing the new
network. Jim Baller, an attorney working with
cities to provide municipal fiber and wireless
networks, will deliver a keynote. Jim Snider,
Senior Research Fellow at New America Foundation,
will lead a panel on community wireless networks.
Cynthia deLorenzi, of Patriot.net and Jack Baron, of
Paetec Communications, will explain how small
commercial ISPs and CLECs, respectively, survive in
today's environment and what must change if they are
What does Freedom to Connect mean for network
governance? Vint Cerf, Senior VP of Internet
Architecture and Engineering at MCI, will explain
MCI's proposed amendment to the Telecom Acts of 1934
and 1996 as the after dinner keynote on Wednesday
evening. The proposal, entitled A Horizontal Leap
Forward, describes the MCI proposal for how a legal
framework could be aligned with the design
principles of the Internet.
Additional panels will explore network governance
that furthers Freedom to Connect. Rick Whitt, MCI's
Vice President for Federal Law and Policy, will
debate the MCI layers proposal with worthy
advocates, tbd. Susan Crawford will lead a panel on
network neutrality versus the existing marketplace.
Jeff Chester will convene a panel to consider the
role of cable operators, with special reference to
the Brand X Supreme Court case, which will just have
been hotly argued on March 23.
Freedom to Connect is global. Farooq Hussain,
Principal at Network Conceptions, LLC, an Internet
pioneer, will lead a panel on how growing pains of
international networks could threaten our Freedom to
Connect. Dan Berninger will report on a proposed
international treaty guaranteeing Freedom to Connect
worldwide. Other participants will report on
network initiatives in Europe, Asia and Canada.
When all is said and done, David Weinberger will
have a bit more to say with the wrap-up keynote.
Additional speakers, especially those addressing
attacks on Freedom to Connect, and new applications
based on Freedom to Connect, are encouraged to
Sponsors of F2C: Freedom to Connect to date include:
MCI, Sun Microsystems, Paetec Communications, The
Center for Digital Democracy and The New America
Foundation. Additional sponsors welcome!
FREEDOM TO CONNECT: UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS
Here are some of the assumptions that have guided my
thinking on Freedom to Connect:
(a) As the value of a network moves to the network's
edge, any associated rights to communicate should be
tied to what that edge affords, i.e., basic
connectivity not tied to any network centered
capabilities or applications beyond transmission,
framing and the addressing of packets. In other
words, rights to communicate should not be expressed
as, e.g., the right to make a telephone call or the
right to watch a TV show, but rather as a more
general, non-application-specific right.
(b) If some connectivity is good, then more
connectivity is better.
(c) If a connection that does one thing is good,
then a connection that can do many things is better,
and a connection that provides for the creation of
new, previously unimagined applications is best.
(d) Affordability is more than a matter of degree;
it is intimately tied to the Freedom to Connect. It
is written that Freedom of the Press is only for
those with presses. But Freedom to Connect is
potentially available to everybody; the main
economic limit is the need for sustainable networks
and "business" models (or operating models if
operating the network does not turn out to be a
viable business) that will improve as new technology
THE LIMITS OF FREEDOM TO CONNECT
Confessions of a Customer
by David S. Isenberg
Recently, Verizon blacklisted whole ranges of IP
addresses in Europe, denying mail delivery to their
U.S. customers. The problem, Verizon said, was that
spammers were using some of these IP addresses.
This might be framed in several ways, one of which
is as an attack on customers' Freedom to Connect.
One might suggest that if you don't like Verizon's
policy, you can opt out! That is, thanks to the End-
to-End property of the Internet, Verizon's customers
can use Verizon as an access provider only and get
their email services from other providers.
Here's a true story. I am a Verizon DSL customer.
I do this. I connect to the Internet via Verizon
DSL, but Earthlink runs my incoming mail server and
Fastmail runs my outgoing server.
However, I am not your average DSL customer. Other
people might not know that alternative mail services
are possible. Setting up alternative mail services
could be intimidating and non-transparent. Thank
goodness I have network-savvy friends to help me
understand things like POP and SMTP.
One could perhaps use a right-to-vote as an analogy
to explore this further. During the 2004 campaign,
there were reports from Philadelphia of men in suits
and official looking cars appearing in poor
neighborhoods telling people that if they voted they
might be arrested for overdue child support or
unpaid traffic tickets. If true, were these men
violating peoples' right to vote? Perhaps you could
say they weren't. Almost certainly they were wrong
in a technical sense; there probably were not
"outstanding warrant inspectors" at the polls. Lets
assume that the reported vague threats were simply
vague threats. Were these men violating peoples'
right to vote?
Back to Verizon. The main reason I went to Verizon
was that Cablevision (Optimum Online) began limiting
my ability to send email. First it somehow capped
the number of emails I could send in a certain time
period. I am not sure exactly how the cap worked,
but I could only send 150 SMART Letters at a time
(from my list of about 3000) before the cap kicked
in. This could be viewed -- in isolation -- as
reasonable, e.g., to control spam sent by zombies in
peoples' Windows PCs.
Then I switched my Cablevision-connected client to
the Fastmail SMTP server. For a while this worked,
then it didn't. Cablevision was blocking Port 25.
People smarter than I pointed out that I could use
Fastmail with other ports. Sure, but maybe
Cablevision would block those ports too. And
Cablevision itself offered a workaround, pay $109
instead of $45 for the "business service" and Port
25 comes unblocked. I asked the service rep what
else the $109 bought me and he said, "That's about
Was Cablevision violating my Freedom to Connect? I
am "free" to find workarounds if I know enough to
hack them. I am still "free" to connect at $109 if I
can afford it. I am still "free" to use other ports
besides Port 25 to send out email -- until these are
also blocked. And I am still "free" to switch from
one of two (count 'em, two) providers to the other.
Again, please permit me an analogy. This is kind of
like telling the protesters they are "free" to speak
over there in some isolated barbed wire cage where
nobody is likely to hear or notice what they are
What happens to my "Freedom to Connect" when both
providers clamp down on it in the same ways, and
there is no third provider?
Borrowing liberally from Pastor Niemoller, first
they came to limit my email server, but I was not a
heavy email user so I did nothing, then they came
for Port 25, but I didn't need to use Port 25, so I
did nothing, then . . . and soon I realized that the
Internet had become a walled garden where the only
content I could see was Cablevision-approved
content, and the only sites I could access were
Verizon-approved sites . . .
"These examples are just hypothetical, of course.
It can't happen here," said the frog in the pot of
THE FOUR INTERNET FREEDOMS
Outgoing FCC Chairman Powell, inspired by the High
Tech Broadband Coalition, has proposed four freedoms
for Internet customers. These are:
* Freedom to access content
* Freedom to run applications
* Freedom to attach devices
* Freedom to obtain service plan information
These freedoms are voluntary, and Powell is leaving
the FCC. If my connection provider faces a decision
to either make money or support these freedoms, how
long do you think it will take to make the decision?
JAPAN'S BROADBAND MIRACLE
by David S. Isenberg
[This was my September-October 2004 column for VON
Magazine, http://vonmag.com ]
The almost-famous fact that the United States ranks
eleventh in national broadband penetration is now
wrong. The datum comes from a 2002 International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) study. The U.S.
growth rate, 46% from 2001 to 2002, paled next to
Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Iceland, Netherlands,
Austria, and Denmark, which all showed triple-digit
growth. The latest ITU summary, from 2003, shows the
U.S. falling to thirteenth. A naive linear
projection to 2004 puts the U.S. at fifteenth -- or
Clearly, technology's rising tide does not lift all
nations at the same rate. Technology advances are
more or less equally available in every country.
Other factors, such as policy, culture and
economics, determine the rate at which end users
gain access to technology's benefits. A rise in
national rank is a good indicator that a country is
getting these other factors right.
Japan was the ITU's star of 2003, rising from
thirteenth most wired in 2002 to eighth, overtaking
more countries than any other highly wired nation.
Even more amazingly, Japan's communications
revolution didn't begin until 2001. In January 2001,
Japan had only sixteen thousand DSL customers, and
no fiber to the home (FTTH). There was some cable
modem service, but in Japan, cable TV only serves
twenty-some percent of the population.
Japan's Blistering Growth
Today, Japan's blistering broadband growth
continues. The most recent report from Japan's
MPHPT, the national telecom regulator, shows that in
the year ending June 2004, Japan gained 5.2 million
new DSL, cable modem and FTTH customers, for 15.6
million total customers. Today 100 megabit per
second FTTH is Japan's fastest growing service --
with 1.4 million customers in June 2004 -- and
Japan's DSL typically runs at ten times U.S. rates.
In raw numbers, Japan has less than half as many
people as the U.S. (126 million vs. 275 million),
yet it has 6 broadband customers for every ten in
the U.S. (14 million vs. 27 million).
Suggested Subhead: What Japan Did Right
So what is Japan doing right? One of my mottos is,
"Where there's a will, there's right of way."
Japan's will came from two factors, Korea's success
and Japan's decade-plus recession. Japan saw its
neighbor Korea's unprecedented broadband rollout
make Korea the most wired nation on the planet. Part
of Japan's motivation was, I believe, pure rivalry;
Japan simply wanted to best its neighbor. But also,
Korea's recovery from the 1997 Asian economic crisis
was extraordinarily rapid, robust and coterminous
with the 1998 start of its broadband rollout; I
think Japan saw a national broadband effort as the
least painful way out of its own economic malaise.
Japanese telecom authorities began pushing DSL in
1997, according to Adam Peake, a telecom strategist
based in Japan. But, Peake says, NTT resisted until
late 2000, when Japanese regulators rebuked NTT and
mandated, "unbundling and co-location that required
NTT to offer easy access to its premises and
facilities at low rates and with short provisioning
periods." NTT's local exchange companies expressed
shame and obeyed, offering line sharing at mandated
prices, about US$1.50 per month for unbundled copper
loop and 3.5 US cents per meter per month for
unbundled fiber. In part, this is culture; no U.S.
ILEC would ever be this compliant. But in part it
reflects NTT's effort to please its majority
shareholder -- the Japanese government.
Another strategist, Nobuo Ikeda, says that these
unbundling and co-location policies were necessary
but not sufficient. He points to the role of
Yahoo!BB, a Japanese DSL effort driven by Softbank
head Masayoshi Son. Both Son and NTT President Jun-
ichiro Miyazu sat on Japan's IT Strategy Council;
one can infer that Son spoke persuasively to Miyazu.
Soon DSL cost US$18 a month, the lowest price in the
world, and energetic youths in Yahoo!BB uniforms
were giving away DSL modems in Tokyo's subways.
Suddenly Japan had millions of DSL customers. Ikeda
points out that NTT unintentionally acted against
itself; it set prices too low and it allowed
Yahoo!BB's VOIP service to bypass NTT's switched
network. This is necessary; incumbent telcos must
shrink as the communications revolution advances. If
NTT erred, it was a fortunate error for Japan!
What can the U.S. learn from Japan's four short
successful years? Clearly, effective unbundling and
co-location policies played a big role. But equally
clearly, NTT got out of the way, albeit against its
own short-term self-interest. U.S. telcos would
never do this. Instead, U.S. policy makers must
exert even stronger will. Or we can wait for market
forces that might prove to be mythical as the U.S.
continues to fall behind.
CONFERENCES ON MY CALENDAR
March 30-31, 2005, Washington, DC. Freedom to Connect.
The SMART Letter, but face to face, live, in real time.
Be there. http://freedom-to-connect.net
Register at http://tinyurl.com/43ywh
May 18-19, 2005, London. Access to Broadband Campaign;
Next Generation Networks and Services. Watch
http://www.liquidzope.com/abc for announcement.
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Copyright 2004 by David S. Isenberg
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