Saturday, October 30, 2004


Costume ideas for Halloween

Here are some scary (but easy to make) costumes -- I think I'm going as a Florida Electronic Voting Machine.


Transcript of Bin Laden Tape

Here's the transcript. Most interesting, especially given the Daily News spin See Tape as Boost for Prez:
We found no difficulties in dealing with the Bush administration, because of the similarities of that administration and the regimes in our countries, half of which are run by the military and half of which are run by monarchs. And our experience is vast with them.

And those two kinds are full of arrogance and taking money illegally.

The resemblance started when [former President George H.W.] Bush, the father, visited the area, when some of our own were impressed by America and were hoping that the visits would affect and influence our countries.

Then, what happened was that he was impressed by the monarchies and the military regimes, and he was jealous of them staying in power for tens of years, embezzling the public money without any accountability. And he moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act, under the disguise of fighting terrorism. And Bush, the father, found it good to install his children as governors and leaders.
October still has another day and a half to surprise us.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


NY Times puts Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant in "how-to-book" ghetto

Talk about re-framing! Here's the story.


How much damage could 380 tons of explosives do?

Mitch Ratcliffe observes that the IRA used 900 pounds, less than half a ton, of explosives to make 22 bombs that killed 9 and injured 130. Mitch calculates that the Al QaQaa screw-up could result in 19,000 deaths and 95,000 other casualties. Read Mitch's full report here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Quote of Note: George W. Bush

"A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief."

George W. Bush, quoted here.


If you liked Jon Stewart on Crossfire . . .

. . . you'll like this too!

Thanks Larry!

If you have not seen the Jon Stewart piece, watch it first, then come back here.


Jazz and Technology in Japan

My brother Daniel has been doing business in Japan for the better part of two decades and he's getting to know Tokyo pretty well. In his recent newsletter, Dan reports
When I have a rare free evening or weekend in Japan, I crawl around back alleys looking for some good music . . . the Blue Note in Tokyo [has] some great shows, not cheap . . . [and I drown] in smoke in a dozen other less respectable dives (e.g. Manhattan in Asagaya) . . . [Local jazz fans] are starting to relax.  Although it is still not the norm to see feet tapping and head nodding and other far out (hah) forms of exhibitionism, for the first time in my experience there was not a person sitting at the normally straight-laced Blue Note - Big Chief Bo Dillis and the Wild Magnolias had everyone on their feet (including yours truly of course) . . . [Despite Japan's devotion to planning] there is some great improvisation.  I heard the local jazz group Sleepwalker twice, once at the high end JZBrat, and the other at the low end Room - at the Room they improvised for at least 2 hours, and no one could sit still.   Most of the time they played one piece (as far as I could tell) that went on and on. But the Room is that kind of place . . .

So what does this say about doing business in Japan? . . . Well, for one, it is possible to have fun too.  For another, Japan is not only what it seems to be.   There are strong underground currents, that move in different directions.  There are lots of contradictions. There are huge differences between Japan at night and Japan at day. Japan can be as raucus and rambunctious in the dark hours as it can be laced up and up tight in the light.  And for a third, Japan is constantly changing, absorbing foreign culture while continually inventing and disseminating its own. (remember: Japan is a huge exporter of culture).
The current newsletter is chock full of intriguing tidbits like
As of 30-Aug-2004, Japan had 1,601,432 FTTH lines in service, according to the country's Ministry of Home Management, Public Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, up from 960,926 FTTH users at the start of 2004 . . . DSL users in Japan numbered 12,549.066.
Visible light communications . . . for the transmission of information using light that is visible to the human eye is rapidly approaching the practical application stage thanks to the increasingly higher performances and expanding applications of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). This Japan-original technology will be unveiled at CEATEC JAPAN 2004.
DoCoMo Inc said it will offer a roaming service to enable airborne passengers to access its Mzone wireless local-area-network service in a tie-up with Connexion by Boeing, an Internet access service unit of U.S. aircraft maker Boeing Co, starting on Oct 22.
Trust, but verify. Dan's small print says:
Triangle Technologies Ltd. makes no claims concerning the validity or exactness of the information provided herein, and will not be held liable for any use, interpretation, or other implementation of said information.
In this blog, the above goes without saying.

If you want to know more, email newsletter at triangletech dot com. Because Dan's my brother I am a bit biased. But I ignore that -- when his newsletter hits my inbox I read it anyway.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Motorola Canopy unlicensed wireless -- nice write-up by Steve Stroh

Motorola Canopy is a delightfully simple, stupid, first-mile wireless product that I have used happily for over three years. Steve Stroh has interviewed several of the senior managers of Motorola's Canopy team and done a very nice summary of Canopy's progress and prospects in the latest issue of Stroh's FOCUS on Broadband Wireless Internet Access (subscription required -- and worth it).

Stroh explains
[Canopy's] primary design goals are to operate reliably in license-exempt spectrum, relatively simple construction and resulting low price (depending on volume, potentially as low as $200/unit), and be easy to deploy, including the option of user self-installation. Canopy has been well received by Broadband Wireless Internet Access (BWIA) Service Providers (SPs) because it does operate reliably in license-exempt spectrum using a robust modulation technique (Binary Frequency Shift Keying - BFSK; essentially "digital" Frequency Modulation - FM) and a relatively wide channel (33 MHz). Canopy systems are available for the 5.2 GHz (Canopy is one of the few outdoor systems for this band; a challenge because of very low allowable transmit power), 5.3, and 5.8 GHz bands, as well as new systems released earlier in 2004 for the 2.4 GHz and 902-928 MHz license-exempt bands.
He goes on to recount how Canopy ran into trouble with Motorola's licensed-band strategy, how it was almost killed, how its division was almost sold -- a fascinating glimpse into the corporate life of a potentially disruptive technology -- and how it has finally been accepted as a member of the Motorola product family. According to Motorola, Canopy now runs at up to 7 megabits per second with latencies as low as 5 milliseconds. And I can attest personally, from first-hand experience, that it is so easy to set up that even I can do it.

Stroh goes on to reveal Canopy's WiMax migration strategy, pointing out that its Canopy experience with clean outdoor-oriented packaging and deployment gives it a distinct advantage over other newer WiMax entrants.

A very nice write-up of a worthy product.

Monday, October 25, 2004


Funny? True.

And what are **you** doing on November 2?

Reprinted by permission of Jen "slowpoke" Sorensen.


Broadband over Power Lines: Going Nowhere Fast

Utilities take pass on offering broadband
Most firms skeptical of providing service over power lines

By Peter J. Howe, [Boston] Globe Staff | October 25, 2004
The nation's top telecommunications regulators are convinced that electric-power lines are finally ready to become a revolutionary new way for Americans to get high-speed Internet access, unleashing competition for cable and phone giants. But the utility companies that would actually deploy the services remain overwhelmingly skeptical.

Of the nearly 160 investor-owned utilities in the United States, dozens have tried out ''broadband over power line" systems. Only one -- Cinergy Corp. in Cincinnati -- has moved ahead with a significant commercial rollout, so far attracting barely 1,500 subscribers. Dozens of utilities that ran trials of the service in the last three years took a pass on making a business venture of it.

Locally, Western Massachusetts Electric Co. is starting up a 25-home trial in Agawam of a hybrid system that carries Net traffic on medium-voltage lines and uses wireless gear for the last-mile connection to homes. But the state's two dominant electric utilities are both steering clear.
Wouldn't it be cheaper to go straight to fiber? The utilities could deliver fiber in the same sheath as electricity. What's wrong with this picture?


If it's funny, it must be true

Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?
A. George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

(Thanks to Jim Warren for this.)


Fiber Optics: Not Just for Telecommunications Anymore

More photos like this here. Thanks, Steve!


Exceedingly cool tool!

Try this!!! (Thanks, danah)


VON Conference: Andy Oram's thoughtful review

Andy Oram has written a carefully considered review of the VON conference in Boston last week, with a lot of attention to Michael Powell's speech.

(I am sorry I could not be there, but VON and Telecosm conflicted this year, as they often do. Both Jeff Pulver and George Gilder are friends and I kept both meetings on my calendar, but George tipped the balance by assigning me a duty -- refereeing a discussion among Roxane Googin, Tom Hazlett and himself -- so I answered that call. Now I am reading reviews of the event I couldn't attend.)

Oram's review is nice work -- but there are a couple places where I don't think Andy went quite deep enough.

In one place, Oram recounts Powell's Four Freedoms:

And he says
Powell explained these principles, which add up to a restatement of the end-to-end principle, and underlined his support for it by saying, "IP doesn't work if the person who owns the infrastructure can control the user's freedom of access." Competition thus means much more to Powell than low price or even greater chances for innovation; it means precisely the kind of open commons in communications that Lessig has called for.
Perceptive. Well put. But Oram fails to note that these "freedoms" are weaker than an unfunded mandate. They are voluntary! Powell stumps for them, but he thinks the industry will toe the line just because. What will my ISP do when it needs to choose between voluntary support of the "freedoms" or making money? Duh.

Also, when Oram quotes Powell saying that, "IP doesn't work if the person who owns the infrastructure can control the user's freedom of access," Oram fails to note that "common carrier" is not a phrase in Powell's vocabulary, nor is "market dominance test." Powell seems to believe that market forces will do regulation's job. Even when there's no marketplace and no magic in the dominant player's heavy hand. And even with Googin's Paradox afoot.

On the other side of the coin, Oram notes
. . . competitors of the Bells, such as AT&T, have just about thrown up their hands and given up trying to get access to the last mile. While Powell insists he doesn't want to reinforce a monopoly, he has essentially sealed the monopolies in local phone lines and cable TV that emerged in the late 1990s.
Exception, please! Chairman Mike has worked harder than any FCC chairman ever to foster new wireless technologies, and appropriate wireless regulation. He genuinely believes that new wireless technologies will break the telco-cableco duopoly.

In invoking AT&T as a Bell competitor, Oram seems to miss the larger idea of disruptive technology. Let's be realistic; AT&T will not get it. They are not a "Bell competitor." The future will belong to other, newer entities. In similar fashion, Oram acks the wireless option with a nod to the cellcos. But cellcos are old-tech; they will bring new wireless technology to market only under duress. Newcos will bring new tech to market first.

Despite the above, Oram makes numerous valid points throughout, e.g., where he says
The adoption of VoIP by incumbents such as Qwest and Verizon mark a historic conversion comparable to the Emperor Constantine's embrace of Christianity.
But Christianity had been around for 300 years. It wasn't an upstart cult anymore. It had already become so institutionalized that its founder might not have recognized it.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


U.S. Chamber of Commerce Study in Telecom Reform

Lobbying over the next Telecom Act is cranking up. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hired the esteemed Tom Hazlett and others to write this report. The summary recommendations are
1. Phase out mandatory network sharing rules and, more immediately, end regulated wholesale rates set at theoretical costs.
2. Make 438 MHz of prime radio spectrum available for commercial wireless operators.
3. Exempt high-speed cable modem and digital subscriber lines from common carrier regulations.
4. Exempt Internet services from state telephone service regulations.
5. Raise funds for universal service directly from general tax revenues, rather than from hidden costs that penalize telecommunications competition and the growth of network services.
6. Distribute universal service funds directly to targeted consumers.
I'm in favor of 4, 5 and 6! #2 is completely wrong-headed; what are they going to do next, privatize oxygen? (At least there should be an equivalent chunk of unlicensed spectrum made available -- without mediation! -- to citizens.) Proposals #1 and #3 should be subject to a market dominance test, as MCI's Richard Whitt proposes here.

Oh well, what'd I expect? They're not calling themselves the U.S. Chamber of Citizens.


Chairman Mike: We're citizens, not consumers

Doc Searls goes off on FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell -- justifiably! -- for Powell's VON speech the other day, where he says stuff like
To realize the innovation dream that IP communications promises, however, we must ensure that a willing provider can reach a willing consumer over the broadband connection. Ensuring that consumers can obtain and use the content, applications, and devices they choose is critical to unlocking the vast potential of the Internet.
Provider? Consumer? What is this, TV with a "buy" button? It's not the Internet that I know. Doc observes:
Excuse me, dude, but I'm not just a fucking "consumer" and I don't just want fucking "access." Me and my friends here want to want to blow up the whole fucking system you're protecting. You're a nice guy and all, and have some nice things to say, but you're fucking in the way. Please step aside . . . Freedom of "access" is bullshit. Freedom to speak, produce, write, perform and do business is what it's about. Maintaining the old one2many plumbing mentality is a shame and a sham. And worse, delusional."
Hear, hear! Chairman Powell is a very smart guy who is hip to the technology -- and some aspects of the marketplace -- in ways that no other FCC Commissioner has ever been before.

You know the the one about crossing the chasm in small steps, right? There he gooooooooooooes . . .


Quote of Note: John Stewart

"Imagine being criticized for going on 'Crossfire' and expressing an opinion . . . "

John Stewart, quoted here.


New reality-based blog

The new Personal Democracy blog has some of my most favorite people in the world as contributors -- David Weinberger, Jerry Michalski, Cory Doctorow, and Halley Suitt to name just four.


Excuse me for being "Reality-Based"

The startling New York Times article, "Without a Doubt" seems to have it right. There's the faith-based community, and then there's the reality-based rest of us. Consider this report, funded by those dangerous reality radicals, the Rockefeller Brothers, which says in part:
Only three in ten Bush supporters believe that the majority of people in the world oppose the US going to war with Iraq, while an overwhelming majority of Kerry supporters have this view. A majority of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would like to see Bush reelected, while a large majority of Kerry supporters believe the opposite. Bush supporters also lean toward overestimating support in Islamic countries for US-led efforts to fight terrorism, while Kerry supporters do not.
See Jay Rosen's PressThink post, entitled, "Too much reality?"

What happens when us reality types get too inconvenient for the faith-based power structure? Huh?

Vote for reality on November 2.

Friday, October 22, 2004


Getting the next billion people on line

Clearly, when humans get better telecommunications they get access to more customers, more suppliers, better information and -- perhaps most importantly -- new ideas.

Question: How does the next billion humans get on line? To discuss this question (the answer will be in the doing) Dan Berninger organized "The Next Billion roundtable" at Harvard University last Monday. (Nice job, Dan!) It was sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and, and it was well blogged by David Weinberger (here, here, here and here), by Judith Meskill here, and by several others.

My own take-aways are:
1) Tom Evslin has the right idea -- a stand-alone connectivity box, the analog of a village phone. I am consistently impressed with Tom's grounded insights and his entrepreneurial humanitarianism.
2) I was delighted to meet Ory Okolloh, a Berkman student, a Kenyan, an articulate questioner with an infectious smile and a worthwhile blog. Ory's excellent perspective on Next Billion day is here. I was also pleased to meet Richard Whitt, author of "A Horizontal Leap Forward" which puts forth model legislation for the next telecom act, notable because the proposed law is structured much like Internet architecture.
3) I was gratified that the two people who I think know the most about connecting the under-developed world were there. Monique Maddy had the best idea for a village phone that I've ever heard of -- when the population is illiterate, you must have voice, and when teledensities are so low that the probability of having a face to face conversation is approximately zero -- and she actually implemented such phones until conflicting goals of her two types of investors (VCs and NGOs) came to a head. And Iqbal Quadir, who founded Grameen Phone, which implemented the village phone idea in Bangladesh and, in a year when B2B and B2C were flying around coined the term B3B for the bottom three billion, the planet's poorest humans. I felt privileged to be in the room with these two.
4) The person with the biggest chance of helping bring most of the next billion on line said almost nothing. Jeffery Paine President of UTStarCom, which sells mostly in China, sat quietly and left early. I was disappointed. Nobody else was there who represented China. The next billion online will almost certainly be 50% (or more) Chinese -- why'd we miss this opportunity?

Monday, October 18, 2004


Two Republican-Oriented Newspapers Refuse to Back Bush

Capitol Hill Blue reports: "Two Republican-Oriented Newspapers Refuse to Back Bush"
Oct 18, 2004
In a break with tradition, The Tampa Tribune, a Republican standard-bearer for decades, refused Sunday to endorse anyone for president for the first time since 1964.

The Tribune became the second GOP-oriented daily to balk at endorsing the Republican incumbent. The Winston Salem Journal also refused to endorse either candidate.

The Tribune has solidly supported every Republican presidential nominee since 1952, except for Barry Goldwater, but withheld its endorsement this year, calling the decision 'achingly difficult' and blaming shortcomings of both candidates.

Editors instead published an unusual full-page editorial with harsh criticism of the war in Iraq and President Bush's economic policies.

'President Bush told us that he was 'a uniter, not a divider,' but shortly after taking office, his administration took a sharp right turn that has divided this country,' the editorial said. The newspaper said it was 'deeply disappointed' with Bush on federal spending, the budget deficit and the recession."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


David P. Reed wins WTN Communications Technology Award!

Congratulations, David!

Reed won in fast company. Two of the other nominees were Carver Mead and Niklas Zennstrom. Zennstrom's most recently founded company, Skype, won the Corporate CommTech Award, and deservedly so. Both Reed and Skype have irrevocably changed the field of communications technology.

I've been an advisor to WTN since before it was launched. Thanks to the persistence and dogged determination of WTN Founder Jim Clark, it is turning into something real; witness the recently announced expansion of the X-Prize, now known as the WTN X-Prize.

The four WTN Summits so far have been among the best meetings it has been my pleasure to participate in. At the most recent WTN meeting last week, the conversation I was in with George Gilder, David Reed, Steve Jurvetson, Kelly Larabee (Skype's U.S. agent) and a handful of other articulate practitioners of communications was worth the trip all by itself.


Another view of how the "Japanese Miracle" happened

Benjamin Kowarsch [benjamin at] lives in Japan but is not "of Japan", which gives him unique standing when he writes:
I read your latest Japan article on your blog.

You make it sound like NTT wasn't the ugly misbehaving 800 pound gorilla monopolist they are. In fact you are talking about an NTT that you simply won't find in Japan.

But I can see how this happened. No Japanese analyst would lean themselves out of the window as far as making any even slightly negative comment about NTT if they go on record.

The phenomenon of broadband uptake has all to do with renegade samurai and it has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with any of the institutions or people you mentioned in your article.

Yahoo BB came to the party far too late for Masayoshi Son to lay any claim to having started the revolution. That honour goes to a company called Tokyo Metallic Cable Co, whose bankrupt assets made it possible for Masayoshi to get into the broadband business as late and quickly as he did.

As for NTT, they denied Tokyo Metallic access to their exchanges and Tokyo Metallic had to fight NTT in court for years to force the access that they were by law entitled to get. NTT did all the nasty and dirty things that any 800 pound gorilla in the US would do to keep their position in the market. This nastiness eventually drove Tokyo Metallic into bankruptcy and they had to sell out to Yahoo.

This was a very ugly piece of Japanese business history and there was absolutely none of the harmony and compliance with well meant policies and directives from above you describe in your article. What was really going on over here was a war of atrocities.

If anything, the broadband revolution in Japan was another accident. It was not planned to happen. And certainly the strategy council you mentioned was nothing but a paper tiger, they had zero to do with the progress that Metallic was fighting for. In court. Neither did NTT accidentally act against its own interest. They were forced to. By Court. But not without putting up a fight that led to the bankruptcy of their challenger.

Perhaps one more thing to add ...

In Japan, everything is about pretense "tatemae" and the hidden reality "honne". If the Japanese government really wanted to deregulate the market over here, then why would they not follow through with the Argentinian model they pretended to embark on?

At first, they seemed to be doing the right thing by splitting NTT into two companies, NTT East and NTT West. But then they made sure the two wouldn't get into each other's way. The result: One regional telecom monopoly in the East and another one in the West. No competition between them. Not smart.

The Argentinian example was different. The winner of the Argentinian PTT assets in the North of the country was bound by the terms of the license to rebuild the missing half of the network in the South and compete head on with the winner of the Southern assets. Likewise, the winner in the South was bound to do the same in the North. The result: Two equally strong nation wide telecom companies in Argentina today. Very smart!

The reality is that the Japanese government has no real intention to deregulate. All they are trying to do is not getting entangled into another WTO complaint that they might lose.

I'm afraid to say so, but we will have to continue to rely on renegade samurai for progress over here.
I am uniquely unqualified to comment. Comments from anybody who knows more than I do about recent Japanese tele-history?


Ordering pizza: Would you like privacy on that?

Look at this!


The Oil Thing is a lot bigger than "higher prices at the pump".

Jim Kunstler holds forth a sage and scary scenario:
Both candidates seem to be telling the public that if only we take care of this terror thing, then everybody from sea to shining sea can just kick back and enjoy the scenery on cruise control. The truth, I think, is that within the President's next term, whoever he is, the American dream of a drive-in utopia complete with Nascar and round-the-clock tabloid entertainment is going to seize up in its own engine block. The American public will explode in violence and grievance when that happens because they will not be properly prepared. They will have had no leadership.

What the public certainly doesn't understand about the world energy situation is that we don't have to run out of oil and gas for life to turn upside down in this country. All you have to do is squeeze the supply and tweak the price and all the systems and sub-systems we depend on will de-stabilize -- and nature is going to do that, not politics. The world's demand for oil and gas is exceeding the world's supply at the critical point when global production passes its all-time peak. All-time as in forever.

The public has been induced to believe that they'll be rescued by hybrid cars and wind power. But the only thing that will really rescue the nation from a long period of chaos and destitution is a comprehensive re-organization of the way we live. We're going to have to give up suburbia, WalMart, and industrial agriculture. We will have to live locally in a way that does not require us to drive cars all the time. We have to grow more of our own food closer to home. We have to prepare for useful vocations.


Four Things America Agrees On - posts Four Things America Agrees On:
1. Open and Honest Government
2. Protecting America's Health
3. Responsible Military Power
4. Defending the U.S. Constitution
You got a problem with these? If so, you are in a relatively small minority, as polling data on each of the above OutragedModerate pages indicates.

Once again, Dr. Weinberger tipped me off on this site.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


The Free Market for Flu Shots says:
"One man in the flu shot line Monday at Publix in the Garden Shops at Boca told a tale of trying to pay a doctor to get a flu shot for his mother. “I offered the doctor $1,000,” the man, who did not want his name used, said. “He called me back and told me he would do it for $2,500. I asked him if he was crazy.”
At 36,000 deaths a year the risk of no flu shot is approximately the risk of taking a few drinks and driving too fast without a seat belt.


Honky Tonkers for Truth sing "I'm Taking my Country Back"

Listen to this!
. . .

sung from the heart with an over-the-top twang.

Thanks to Mike O'Dell c/o David Weinberger


Even with enough vaccine, flu is ten times more dangerous than terrorism

Back in 1998, my wife and I went out to dinner with the extended family -- Grandpop, Aunt & Uncle, miscellaneous cousins and their kids. Somebody had the sniffles, and two days later my wife and I were back at home with a raging case of the flu. The next morning we got the call. My uncle had died . . . of the same flu. Most of the rest of the family was sick too. We were too sick to go to the funeral.

Ever since then, I've gotten a flu shot every year. Until now. I have just spent the afternoon calling all over the region to find a flu shot. Nothing. The town has cancelled all of their vaccination clinics this year, and none of the walk-in clinics or hospitals are giving flu shots.

Screw terrorism. Flu is ten times more dangerous. In 2002, with adequate vaccine supplies, there were still 36,000 flu deaths in the U.S. Towers are falling. Where are Wolfie and Condi when we need them?

I'm pissed. Here's the letter I've sent to my Elected Representatives:
I am absolutely outraged by the flu vaccine crisis.
Since when did you lawmakers outsource
our national health to the U.K.? The excess
deaths this winter will make September 11, 2001
look like a day at the beach.
Action. Now. Please.
How many extra people will die thanks to this year's vaccine mismanagement?


Woah! Verizon's fiber service is six times faster than cable

This New York Times article, Phone Line Alchemy: Copper Into Fiber, by Ken Belson, October 11, 2004 says:
Verizon and the other regional Bell companies are losing customers by the millions as people drop their old phone lines in favor of cellphones, e-mail and ever cheaper phone services from cable companies.
To battle back, the phone companies are trying to outdo their archrivals, the cable companies, by installing a network of fiber optic lines to reach tens of millions of American homes - lines able to carry not only phone calls but television programming and Internet connections at six times the speed of cable company lines.
Six times, woah, six freakin' times!!! They should hire the Dell dude for commercials, to get across the idea of "smoking something."

(If the telcos wanted to, they could do 600 times faster for about the same price.)

(Cable itself is poised to run 600 times faster than cable. Like dude? Moore's Law?)

(Oh, right, I forgot that without scarcity there'll be nothing to sell.)

(Senior policy people at the FCC believe that wireless technology (which can run hundreds of times faster than cable) will help "discipline" the telcos.)

(Of course, if the telcos are using PON (passive optical network) technology, they'll need a total network change-over to "impose discipline" -- that is, to make any one connection run at market speeds.)

(Guess what? They're using PON.)

(Woah . . . six times . . . wow . . . lemme have another hit of that doob . . .ah, good stuff . . . six whoooole times . . . ahhhhhh . . . . )

Thanks, Jeff Jarvis.


Will Indymedia server-siezure incident set precedent?

This article in the Register says:
" . . . the procedure ought to send shivers down the spine of every publishing organisation on the Internet. It is clearly perfectly possible for their operations to be crippled without warning, without their being told what it is they've done, and without explanation. Depending on whether the authorities (under the international MLAT [Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty -- di] regime this could be many, many authorities) want something you've got or just want to stop you doing something, the crippling could be pretty extensive and pretty long term. If they want you to stop doing something then they'll quite likely want your backups as well . . .
The law around these MLATs is still young and due process is still being shaped. MLATs do seem to be proliferating. No globalization without representation!


An uninformed electorate is a modern invention

Britt Blaser writes heart-stopping first-hand tales of the Viet Nam war. This post (still informed by his Viet Nam experience) goes in a surprising direction:
"An uninformed electorate is a modern invention . . . At our nation's birth, most voters were smarter, tougher, better informed and more patriotic than you and me.

There's no such standard today. If I can sit on the receiving end of $500 million of advertising and find my way to a voting booth, I qualify. "

Monday, October 11, 2004


What if the UN married the Internet?

Bruce Sterling observes:
The UN has cumbersome rules, no popular participation, and can't get anything useful done about the darkly rising tide of stateless terror and military adventurism. The UN was invented  to "unite nations" rather than people. The Internet unites people, but it's politically illegitimate. Vigilante lawfare outfits like RIAA and MPAA can torment users and ISPs at will.
He continues:
Logically, there ought to be some inventive way to cross-breed the grass-rootsy cheapness, energy and immediacy of the Net with the magisterial though cumbersome, crotchety, crooked and opaque United Nations.
The World Summit on the Information Society is the weirdest global summit on the globe. The sponsor of WSIS is the International Telecommunications Union, an outfit that formally belongs to the UN, but it is fifty years older. Today the terms "Union," "International" and "Telecommunications" are all archaic, so the ITU needs a raison d'etre. The ITU's idea of a summit looks nothing much like normal, formal UN summits, except for the customary big hall and swarms of translators. In the WSIS summit in Geneva in December 2003, diplomats abandoned their podiums to go mix it up with hardware vendors. That behavior is unheard of.  Odder yet, civil society groups (normally kept at a nice safe distance at summits, shrieking and sucking tear gas) were cordially brought right into the mix. At WSIS, the NGOS were finally treated as what they are: connectors, network brokers, and means of access.
I used to think that the ITU represented the worst of the telcos, but Bruce Sterling has this annoying habit of radically reframing some of the issues I most take for granted . . . if you're curious, or maybe even a little bit pissed off at the above, I suggest you give Sterling's essay a fair shake before dismissing it.

[Comments especially welcome, because I am not quite sure what to make of Sterling's call to participate myself -- David I]

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Dylan Goes Electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival

Here's the story:
"Dylan told Kooper he wanted to bring the 'Rolling Stone' sound on-stage. Three members of the Butterfield Band were recruited: guitarist Mike Bloomfield, drummer Sam Lay, and bassist Jerome Arnold. At a party in Newport, Dylan completed his band with pianist Barry Goldberg. In a Newport mansion, Dylan rehearsed this instant group until dawn. They kept their plan secret until they walked onstage, Dylan, in a matador-outlaw orange shirt and black leather, carrying an electric guitar. From the moment the group swung into a rocking electric version of 'Maggie's Farm,' the Newport audience registered hostility. As the group finished 'Farm,' there was some reserved applause and a flurry of boos. Someone shouted: 'Bring back Cousin Emmy!' The microphones and speakers were all out of balance, and the sound was poor and lopsided. For even the most ardent fan of the new music, the performance was unpersuasive. As Dylan led his band into 'Rolling Stone,' the audience grew shriller: 'Play folk music! ... Sell out! ... This is a folk festival! ... Get rid of that band!' Dylan began 'It Takes a Train to Cry,' and the applause diminished as the heckling increased. Dylan and the group disappeared offstage, and there was a long, clumsy silence. Peter Yarrow urged Bob to return and gave him his acoustic guitar. As Bob returned on the stage alone, he discovered he didn't have the right harmonica. 'What are you doing to me?' Dylan demanded of Yarrow. To shouts for 'Tambourine Man,' Dylan said: 'OK, I'll do that one for you.' The older song had a palliative effect and won strong applause. Then Dylan did 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue,' singing adieu to Newport, good-bye to the folk-purist audience."


We all live in a yaller submarine

My new Mac has sent me pawing through my CD collection to rip the ones I want to keep.

Tonight I am reveling in "Beatle Country" recorded by the Charles River Valley Boys in 1966. Today we get Beatle musak and Beatle ads, but those were different times. In '65 Dylan had pissed off the folkies by going electric at Newport. Genre-bending was radical stuff.

The Charles River Valley Boys came out of the Boston folk scene. They brought virtuosity and an authentic bluegrass sound, but also a playful experimental attitude. "Beatle Country" is a timeless classic. The high lonesome bluegrass harmonies in "Baby's in Black" belong there. The playfulness of "Yaller Submarine" sound like just what Lennon and McCartney had in mind. And the mandolin intro to "Norwegian Wood" is a natural. The album is a gem.

Looks like Amazon is still selling it, too.
David I


Japan's Broadband Miracle

This is my most recent column for VON Magazine, Sept/Oct 2004, 2(5)
David I

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 lower!

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.


In Japan, one Gigabit/sec for $40 a month

This article in the International Herald Tribune reports
Softbank, the second-largest provider of high-speed Internet access in Japan, said Monday that Yahoo Japan and Softbank BB would start offering a new optical fiber-based broadband service. Softbank will provide the service at speeds of up to one gigabyte per second and charge users ¥4,200, or $38, a month, the company said in a statement.
Surely this is a typo -- the word here has to be Gigabit.
Softbank and NTT, the nation's former state monopoly for domestic telephone services, are competing to become Japan's largest provider of high-speed Internet access . . . NTT last week said that it would cut its basic monthly fee by ¥50 in order to compete with Softbank and KDDI, Japan's second-largest mobile phone company.
I note -- with a sour taste in my mouth -- that the same technology is available to service providers in the United States.

Friday, October 01, 2004


The Missing Topic in the Debate


Oil and energy were in short supply according to last night's transcript of the Bush-Kerry debate. Kerry mentioned oil (in passing) a couple of times, but the word did not pass the other debater's lips. The theme was Foreign Policy and Homeland Security; clearly energy policy has nothing to do with the theme. And it is (still) a complete by-golly-gee coincidence that Iraq has the largest known oil reserve after Saudi Arabia.

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