Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Why all the risky U.S. behavior? Peak oil, says Mardle

Australian Earl Mardle lays out at least six risky behaviors that the U.S. is doing, and brings in some thinking about why some extremely well connected Brits (like Margaret Thatcher's son) are working hard to foment a coup in Equitorial Guinea (which could soon be Africa's third largest oil producer). Answer: Hubbert's Peak.

Mardle makes some plausible speculations about what actually went on at Cheney's secret energy task force. Of course Cheney & friends knew about the coming peak of global oil production! Mardle observes:
The concept that there is no longer a tap we can open a bit more every time we need more oil, is never addressed for a moment in mainstream media, but [were someone to suggest] that the available amounts of oil are now shrinking, and will never again reach current levels; that will start a major panic . . . imagine you are the President and your energy task force comes to tell you the effect of oil at a realistic price and the fact that within your term of office, oil production will fall, not rise, and keep on falling forever. The age of business growth is over, the security implications for the west in being dependent on a resource that is in the hands of people who are not necessarily well disposed, and in some cases outright hostile, and you have, in the words of Apollo 13, a problem.
Mardle connects a lot of dots! But I take exception to what he appears to conclude: that the current U.S. actions somehow increase the energy security of the U.S. oil supply! There are lots of things that the U.S. could do -- politically feasible things with the right kind of leadership (e.g., a crash conservation program) -- that would be more effective national security moves. But Cheney's men were hammer men, and no solution was acceptable to them that did not put pounding nails front and center.

Monday, August 30, 2004


Business Week says U.S. Falling Behind in Broadband

According to this article:
. . . the U.S. is becoming something of a broadband backwater . . . Many Americans may think that the U.S. is making progress because the number of broadband Net links continues to climb, but that misses the bigger picture.

The U.S. has steadily fallen behind other nations, both in terms of the share of the population with broadband and the speed of those connections. Consider this: In 2000 the U.S. ranked third in broadband penetration among the nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. Last year it dropped to 10th place. [Lower! Below #15 according to my calculations -- David I] That's behind recognized leaders such as Japan and Korea, as well as countries like Belgium and Canada. "It's ridiculous that the U.S., of all places, is so far behind in this key measure of economic development," says Tim Johnson, publisher of London's Point Topic, which analyzes world broadband trends.


Bye Bye Bluetooth

The Dewayne-Net Technology Letter points to this article, which says:
Ericsson is pulling the plug on its technology licensing unit, the wholly-owned subsidiary which invented Bluetooth wireless technology and became the driving force behind the company's Bluetooth initiative.
Johan Akesson, vice president of marketing for Ericsson Technology Platform . . . said "We will no longer develop new hardware or new IPs based on the Bluetooth specification . . . Even though large volumes are manufactured, we've found that the long-term business case for Ericsson Technology Licensing is not strong enough."
Akesson also says,
"Ericsson is not pulling back from Bluetooth."
No layoffs are planned, said Akesson. "Most of them will find new jobs within Ericsson."
Right. Declare victory and bring the troops home.

Just last week I got my very first Bluetooth device -- a Mac Powerbook G4 :-(

Thursday, August 26, 2004


You read it here first!

Several astute readers of isen.blog have written to point out yesterday's Wall Street Journal article, Heavy Toll: Phone Industry Faces Upheaval As Ways of Calling Change Fast" (paid subscription required). One way or another, they note that I've been writing for years about what the WSJ has just now breathlessly discovered. Among other things, the article says
Across the nation, the business models that have worked for decades for Verizon and other phone giants are showing signs of unraveling . . . "Our industry and our business is going to change more in the next five years than it has during the last 20 combined," says Duane Ackerman, the chairman and chief executive of BellSouth Corp.
It is mostly right about the current trend, but woefully short on identifying or explaining the underlying dynamics.

Here's another read-it-here-first: the most recent oil crisis, which has been triggered by strong demand from China at a time when global oil production is peaking -- you read about *that* here first too, see my SMART Letter #66 from January 16, 2002. The war in Iraq might be a secondary stimulus, but the long term trend is clear --we are at the beginning of the end of the age of oil.

In telecom, I expect we will see continued struggles of the Bells and their suppliers. There is no "turning the corner" without significant political repression aimed at keeping users separated from technology.

In oil, I expect we will see it down in the $30s again in the near future, and if that happens, I'll be a buyer, because it will surely be temporary. And I 'spect there's hundred dollar a barrel oil in the not-too-distant too. If you have not read Kenneth Deffeyes' book _Hubbert's Peak_ yet, you may not understand.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Lessig Blog asks: What should the Telecom Act of 2006 look like?

Tim Wu, guestblogging at Lessig's Blog, puts forward six principles that he thinks should guide the Telecom Act of (hypothetically) 2006:
1. Codification of the right to use the the applications and network attachments of one's choice (otherwise known as Network Neutrality or Network Freedom).
2. Total and final destruction of the vertical regulatory classifications (Title II for common carriers, Title III for wireless, Title IV for cable), replacement with a simple horizontal model.
3. Full and clear preemption of most state and local regulation -- ideally, with limited exceptions.
4. Directed spectrum reform -- of virtually any kind.
5. Any VoIP rules that don't kill VoIP.
6. Abandonment of '96 Act "Unbundled Network Element" approach to telephony competition -- the litigation costs just aren't worth it.
I think this is a constructive first step, and a good conversation starter. So let the conversation begin!

My main beef is that the Six Principles are sadly missing a prolog. What and who should the network be for? It needs a "we hold these truths to be evident" clause. I would propose that it should say something like:
Because communication is inherently valuable and essential to all human beings, the Internet should be designed, coded, and regulated to optimize its connectivity and usefulness to all humans everywhere. Governments should make no law, and coders should write no code that negates, countervenes or diminishes this central value.

Such a prolog informs the reader of the Six Principles e.g., *who* has the right laid out in Principle #1.

A couple other points:
Re #4: Spectrum reform of any kind? Really???
Re #5: One person might think that Regulation X would kill VOIP, while another might think that the very same regulation would make VOIP safe, or make it more acceptable, or something.
Re #6: Abandoning the UNE strategy is one way to go, but putting real teeth in it, e.g., the government will step in if you don't (the way Japan successfully unbundled) is another way to go.

To sum up my first impressions: Tim Wu's attempt is valiant and important, but naive and incomplete. (My first reactions to it, above, are equally naive and incomplete.) We needs a lot more work to create a viable guide to the next telecom act!

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Kudos for Telepocalypse

Koranteng gushes::
[Telepocalypse author Martin Geddes'] writing is so lucid and the analysis so trenchant that I encourage everyone I know to simply 'follow him around', read everything he writes and revise their business plans, investments etc accordingly. Read all his opinion pieces and come back buzzing with insight at the opportunities and pitfalls in this wonderfull networked world we live in.
I couldn't have said it better myself.


3-D printing!

It used to be called "stereo-lithography." But now is is simply 3-D printing. Download a digital description of the object -- a toy, an engine part, an atomy :-) . . . and push the print button. Out comes a model of the object!

There are other pictures of "printed" objects here.

And a bunch of FAQs here, including,
Q: How much? A: $25,900 (and up).

There are several companies doing this, including Z Corp, Stratasys and Solid-Scape.

Thanks to Bruce Sterling (who else?) for all this. Here's another pic from the 3-D printer:

Sterling comments, "Hey Guess What, We Just Ate the Industrial Revolution."

Friday, August 13, 2004


Tom Tomorrow on intelligence and stupidity . . .

Tom Tomorrow blogs:
They say the US is polarized like never before--well, I swear, sometimes it seems to me that the only real polarization is between smart people and stupid people. And by 'stupid,' I don't mean unintelligent--there are plenty of stupid people with advanced degrees and high paying jobs in this world. No, by 'stupid,' I mean people who are apparently incapable of comprehending one of the basic truisms of human history: politicians do not always tell the truth. The smart people understood from the start that this war was predicated upon a pile of bullshit so deep, you'd need one of those special pressurized deep sea diving bells to find your way to the bottom.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


More on Softbank's plan to disrupt Mobile Telecom in Japan

Ben Miller, a Tokyo-based telecom observer for The Yankee Group writes:
Softbank's recent announcement of plans to increase the number of Yahoo! BB brand public-access hot spots . . . to 5,000 by March 2005 [means that it] aims to become the largest hot spot network in Japan overtaking its major competitors - NTT West's 1600 "FLETS Spot" hot spots, NTT East's several hundred "M FLETS" offerings, and NTT Communication's 800 "Hotspot" locations.
My brother Daniel points out that J-COM also has an extensive hotspot network under construction. [J-COM founder Frank Seiji Sanda is a friend to both of us.]

Miller goes on to describe Yahoo!BB's pricing:
Yahoo! BB ADSL-VoIP customers can access the hot spots for free if they have the in-home wireless LAN option, or for an additional US$3 per month if they do not. [Non-subscribers pay] US$15 per month. NTT Communications also charges US$15 per month, while BizPortal charges US$10 per week or US$5 per day . . .
Miller quotes Masayoshi Son's declaration to disrupt:
[Son says,] "The level of cellphone charges, expensive by international standards, will surely fall if we are allowed in. Japan's broadband telecommunications services became the cheapest and fastest in the world after we began our ADSL business. We are determined to light a fire under the three existing carriers, so they will review their tariffs and services."
Here in the U.S., telecom execs have taken to parroting airline execs who say that "prices are driven by my stupidest competitor." Is Son-san stupid? Like a fox.

[Ben Miller points out that the document that I've quoted above are part of an expensive Broadband Markets newsletter.]

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Quote of Note

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
George W. Bush, Thursday, August 5, 2004, cited here.

UPDATE: You can hear the heart-felt sincerity in George's voice here(.mp3). (thanks Joi)


Will Son-san's next move take the fat out of Japanese mobile telephony?

In researching my column on "The Japanese Miracle" for VON Magazine, I got this extraordinarily specific and intriguing prediction from Tom Kobayashi, of Triangle Technology. [Note, while reading the below, remember that Yahoo!BB has a simple, low cost, capacious and upgradable network that can run on anybody's dark fiber] :
. . . let me predict what will happen next. The next generation broadband "tsunami" is VOIP, scaled-up FTTH and mobile BB. The government policy is already in place. Who would drive this BB "tsunami?" Mr. Son again. Softbank has acquired Japan Telecom that has strong enterprise customer base. Now he has obtained the major infrastructure to compete against incumbents. He will expand VOIP services to enterprise customers with a scaled-up ADSL services using the Japan Telecom infrastructure. As you know, Softbank is planning on entering cell phone business (actual deployment in 2006) and requested the government to allocate a band of 2.1GHz to Softbank. There have been oppositions from the incumbents, but I don't think the government can turn down Softbank's request. Son will make full use of his BB infrastructure to provide basically VOIP for the mobile phone as well. When he gets the frequency allocation, he will announce a revolutionarily low monthly charge. This will trigger a price war in the mobile phone industry. And the next thing he will do is to enter FTTH business aggressively. To that end, there will be another acquisition (Poweredcom? Usen?). In any case, Japan's BB tsunami continues and will become more interesting.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


The Corporate Intellectual Property State

David P. Reed writes:
The modern idea of making every experience into "intellectual property" is more pernicious [than nazism or communism]. In communism or nazism, the state controls everything. That is totalitarianism. At least we can hold a single entity accountable.

In the corporate intellectual property state, a collection of abstract persons own all experience -- those "persons" are temporary sovereigns, but have limited liability and cannot be held accountable. They have unbounded lifetimes, and even in extremis often have the power to change the terms of their existence (viz. the S&Ls). Their beneficiaries under the law are a small subset of individual human persons, whose children inherit their rights to benefit. Most other human persons are born into a world where their very life experience must be purchased from the default owner, which is not them.

The danger arises from a passive (and stupid) acceptance of the meme that an idea (rather than a particular expression of it in tangible form) is a separable unit of property that has objective existence independent of the person experiencing it or using it. This is a philosophical error, but our acceptance of it in the courts is incredibly dangerous:

If I go to a football game, and write about my experience there, do I own my own writings? The current copyright law is heading in the direction that the license grant to experience the game does not include the right to write about it, that being a translation or "copy" of the experience.
Just to be clear, David is talking about laws like the DMCA, the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, End User Licence Agreements (EULAs) that don't let you reverse engineer (or even disparage) products that they cover, the proposed INDUCE act, the broadcast flag (which turns the FCC into a device designer), and the like.


More on the "Japanese Miracle"

Well, my VON Magazine article on the Japanese Miracle in Broadband won't be out for a couple of months (durn paper pubs!), but I've had some noteworthy correspondence about the topic!

Nobuo Ikeda writes:
Yahoo! BB built its long-haul network with Gigabit Ethernet [over NTT dark fiber]. When they told the plan in 2001, it was ridiculed by NTT and its competitors who used NTT's leased line (ATM Megalink) that was most expensive in the world. However, to their surprise, Gigabit Ethernet worked. NTT didn't pay much attention to the wholesale price of dark fiber, because they hadn't expected other parties would use it. After Yahoo! BB entered, NTT asked MPHPT to revise the price, but it was too late.

Ikeda continues:
The "liquidation" of [NTT's] PSTN will be a very painful process. I recommend Japanese government to buy the PSTN from NTT and exit. In the US, it's a good idea that [distressed asset buy-out firm] KKR buy AT&T and liquidate its PSTN.
Hmmmm!!! KKR, are you listening?

UPDATE: Nobuo Ikeda writes to say that The Washington Post has actually reported that KKR is indeed considering buying out AT&T. Ikeda adds, "You shoud recommend your old bosses that this is a very good idea. PSTN is a typical target of LBO because it exploits the wasted cash flow of such a 'cash cow'." [Sorry, Ikeda-san. If any of my old bosses are still there, certainly they will not listen to me.]

My brother Daniel, who has spent much of the last two decades doing business with Japanese technology companies as Triangle Technologies, writes:
. . . in Japan, service deployment is MUCH smoother than in the US, fewer glitches, much better customer service and support, and there is truth in advertising. So when a service provider is ready to launch a service that has real value, diffusion is usually very rapid. If you look at diffusion curves for a variety of such services (e.g. i-Mode, sha-Mail (picture mail), ADSL, VOIP etc.) you see a very sharp hockey stick curve. Remember that Japan is a very dense society, relatively homogeneous and when things catch on they really catch on. Service providers understand this, so in general spend a lot more time building an infrastructure to support large scale deployment. I sometimes call this the "Kevin Costner" theory of market development - if you build it, they will come.


Accolades for Knight Ridder!

One (and unfortunately, it seems, only one) major U.S. newspaper company remembered its mission after September 11! Joshua Micah Marshall says "do not miss" this important article in American Journalism Review, which points out that while even the New York Times was printing headlines like,
  • "U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts,"
Knight Ridder's stories were titled,

Apparently the real intelligence was at the edge! Warren Strobel, one of Knight Ridder's reporters on the story, said,
People at the Times were mainly talking to senior administration officials, who were mostly pushing the administration line. We were mostly talking to the lower-level people or dissidents, who didn't necessarily repeat the party line.
Knight Ridder paid a price for this independence.
. . . The White House turned up the pressure, Strobel says, and "tried to freeze us out of briefings." [The other Knight Ridder reporter on the case, Jonathan] Landay adds: "I think this administration may have a fairly punitive policy when it comes to journalists who get in their face. And if you talk to some White House reporters, there is a fear of losing access."
Landay and Strobel won a Raymond Clapper Memorial Award for their courage -- but what's that? A Pulitzer wouldn't be a bad idea. But maybe we need a Nobel Prize for Journalism! Or maybe Landay and Strobel should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other mainstream rags who continue to comfort the comfortable. "Toothless dog gums Bushy-boy," is not news.

UPDATE: Scatt Oddams writes in to say:

"Yo, Davey baby, Matt Wuerker is all over the toothless press story.
He told me to lay this toon on you:"

[Scatt Oddams is the cartoon critic in residence at isen.blog. He gets hot under the collar if I don't tell you this every time he contributes something! You can reach Scatt at oddams at isen dot com -- David I]

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


References for "The Japanese Miracle"

Japan's broadband per capita has gone from a rank of 13 worldwide (2002) to 8 (2003) and probably higher by now. Meanwhile, the U.S. has fallen from 11 (2002) to 13 (2003) and probably lower by now.

I just finished writing an article for VON Magazine on this, but it will not be out until September. But I wanted to document the references right now, before I loose 'em.

The 2002 ITU data to support this observation are here, and the 2003 data can be gleaned from this.

Adam Peake was extremely useful in helping me get started -- thanks, Adam!!! Adam's excellent article comparing the communications revolution in the U.K., Korea and Japan appears here and his further notes are here.

Adam also points to an insightful article by Nobuo Ikeda, entitled Three Lessons Americans Can Learn from Japan's Success in Broadband. Ikeda also recommends his article, The Unbundling of Network Elements Japan's Experience.

The Japanese usage counts from MHPHT, updated every month -- and only a month or two late -- are here.

Here are my naive projections from the 2002 ITU data (assuming that the 2001-2002 growth rate holds for 2002-2003 and 2003-2004). Note that I do not use these data directly in my soon-to-be-published article, but instead rely on the 2003 ITU data.

[Anybody know how to do a table in Blogger?]
S. Korea;24%;1;2;8
Hong Kong;38%;2;5;11
United States;46%;11;15;15


Ron Reagan in Esquire

This boy can write:
. . . Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify [the Abu Ghraib] barbarism . . . I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, "but not this time." There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the "Orwellian language" flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son's misadventure in Iraq . . .

UPDATE: Nancy Reagan Refuses to Campaign for Bush
The widow of former President, and Republican icon, Ronald Reagan has told the GOP she wants nothing to do with their upcoming national convention or the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush. Nancy Reagan turned down numerous invitations to appear at the Republican National Convention and has warned the Bush campaign she will not tolerate any use of her or her late husbands words or images in the President’s re-election effort. “Mrs. Reagan will not campaign for President Bush’s re-election and neither will most members of the President’s family,” says a source close to the former First Lady.
Thanks to Micha for this link!

Monday, August 02, 2004


Life-long Republican reacts to Fahrenheit 9/11

My good friend Elliot Cook writes:
Yesterday [we] gave in and went to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Battery Park Cinema . . .

I had read a spectrum of reviews. I carefully listened and watched for fabricated facts - I could spot none. There were certainly LOTS of unabashedly cunning contextual shifts - juxtaposed hypocrisies/contradictions - that are the basis of the humor: if one gets past how scary it all is, the humor is not unsubstantial.
Afterwards, we walked a bit south on Battery Park . . . as the sun set beyond the Statue of Liberty. It was all a bit much for me.

For one who grew up a Republican, worked in a Republican administration, the last 4 years have been, well, disturbing.

"Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me . . ." It will be interesting (read scary) as we see where we come out.

If you've not seen Fahrenheit, you'll probably find it worth the time.

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