Thursday, December 30, 2004


Atlantic Tsunami

The Atlantic Ocean basin is geologically stable, so it can't happen here, right?

Wrong. According to this paper by geologists Steven Ward and Simon Day,

Geological evidence suggests that during a future eruption, Cumbre Vieja Volcano on the Island of La Palma [in the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean near Africa] may experience a catastrophic failure of its west flank, dropping 150 to 500 km3 of rock into the sea. Using a geologically reasonable estimate of landslide motion, we model tsunami waves produced by such a collapse. Waves generated by the run-out of a 500 km3 (150 km3) slide block at 100 m/s could transit the entire Atlantic Basin and arrive on the coasts of the Americas with 10-25 m (3-8 m) height.

Here's the tsunami that Ward and Day model:

Doc Searls and Howard Greenstein point to this, which says
The western flank of Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma

in the Canaries is going to slide into the Atlantic one of these days: a
diagonal fracture has already separated it from the main body of the
volcano, and only friction still keeps it attached. "When it goes, it will
likely collapse in about 90 seconds," said Professor Bill McGuire, director
of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre at University College London.
And when it goes, probably during an eruption, the splash will create a
mega-tsunami that races across the Atlantic and drowns the facing coastlines.

What'd Santayana say?



It seems to me somehow more important this year to say who I've chosen to give to.

My newest: Doctors Without Borders for tsunami relief. A worthy organization even in times of relative stability. The American incarnation of this international presence is chaired by Richard Rockefeller, a doctor with an unusually encompassing view of his profession, a leukemia patient, a practicing Buddhist, and a Rockefeller.

I also give to the American Civil Liberties Union to protect my rights embodied in the U.S. Constitution and to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to protect those same rights in the technosphere.

I am a regular donor to The Woods Hole Research Center, one of the foremost policy-oriented environmental research organizations. When you hear about the global carbon budget or dwindling rain forests or the melting of the polar ice caps, WHRC research helped us to become aware of these issues, their magnitude and their importance.

I give to the Marine Biological Laboratory in memory of my father and to the Woods Hole School (which is in custody of the Woods Hole Community Association, Box 327, Woods Hole MA 02543, no Web site) in memory of my mother -- my parents did their most meaningful work in these institutions. And I give to the Woods Hole Public Radio Station and to the 300 Committee, which buys land in and near Woods Hole for open space. I grew up in Woods Hole and consider it home.

I am so incredibly fortunate, and mostly it is an accident. To adapt a quote from a great movie, "I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that [these gestures] don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."


No word from the neighbors

Our next door neighbors went to Thailand for a beach resort Christmas. Every time I look at their house I grow more anxious. The couple and their two boys moved in just a few months ago. We've grown to like them quite a bit. But we don't know anybody who knows them.
Yesterday I checked their mailbox. "Maybe somebody is picking up their mail," I thought. "Somebody who's in touch with them." My wife thought otherwise, that they'd asked the post office to hold their mail. Today as soon as the postman came, I rushed next door. There was no mail, and so no way to find out whether they're OK.

I hope they come home soon!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Red Herring: A decade behind

Red Herring just published its top ten trends for 2005. Trend #2 was The Death of Distance. Red Herring must not have a sense of smell; Distance is so dead its corpse stinks.

The Death of Distance first appeared in The Economist about a decade ago. In that decade we've seen international telephony prices fall from dollars per minute to Skype-free, while we think nothing, nothing, nothing of accessing a website halfway around the world. Minutes are dead.
Area codes mean nothing. Country codes are fading. Ad hoc addressing is king -- Skype me at david_isenberg, Y!Chat me at the same address.

There are no ahas in the other nine trends either.

#1. The death of magazines. Aha!


Looking forward to the Consumer Electronics Show?

CES, held in early January every year in Las Vegas, is the largest trade show in the world. So along comes my buddy, apocalyptacist James Kunstler, with this description of Las Vegas:
The city is a pathological hypertrophic suburbanoid anomaly in the middle of a desert wasteland, analogous to a deadly tumor growing in a remote part of a person's body, say the colon. The tumor of Las Vegas was established for the same reason that a tumor occurs in a body: exposure to toxins and broken DNA. In the case of Las Vegas, the main toxin has been a half-century of cheap energy. The broken DNA is present in the animating principle behind the gambling mecca, the idea that it is possible to get something for nothing. If anything, the destiny of Las Vegas is to dry up and blow away, sooner rather than later. Here's why:
And the why he lays out is not "over the top" at all; a half a century of bubbliciously cheap energy, leading to cheap water in deserts, leading to . . .


Intro to Smart Antennas

This makes the subject of Smart Antennas simple and accessible, without blurring key concepts or dumbing anything down (not to my dumb blurry mind, anyway). Here's the first page:
For an intuitive grasp of how an adaptive antenna system works, close your eyes and converse with someone as they move about the room. You will notice that you can determine their location without seeing them because of the following:

* You hear the speaker's signals through your two ears, your acoustic sensors.
* The voice arrives at each ear at a different time.
* Your brain, a specialized signal processor, does a large number of calculations to correlate information and compute the location of the speaker.
* Your brain also adds the strength of the signals from each ear together, so you perceive sound in one chosen direction as being twice as loud as everything else.

Adaptive antenna systems do the same thing, using antennas instead of ears. As a result, 8, 10, or 12 ears can be employed to help fine-tune and turn up signal information. Also, because antennas both listen and talk, an adaptive antenna system can send signals back in the same direction from which they came. This means that the antenna system cannot only hear 8 or 10 or 12 times louder but talk back more loudly and directly as well.

Going a step further, if additional speakers joined in, your internal signal processor could also tune out unwanted noise (interference) and alternately focus on one conversation at a time. Thus, advanced adaptive array systems have a similar ability to differentiate between desired and undesired signals.


All tragedy is local

Our next-door neighbors here in Connecticut went to a beach resort in Thailand -- near Phuket, but lesser known -- for the holidays. They have two boys, Age 5 and 8. Often the five year old would ring our doorbell and ask to play with our cats. I find myself looking over at their house more and more every day, looking for a light, for tracks in the snow, for some sign that they're home.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


My nomination for "PressThink's Idea of the Year"

Jay Rosen presents PressThink's Top Ten Ideas for 2004. An excellent list! However, he refuses to declare a winner.

My favorite: "He said, she said, we said."
Runner up: "The pajamahadeen."

There. I said. What about you?


"intellectual property" v. culture

Wired news reports:
Eyes on the Prize, the landmark documentary on the civil rights movement, is no longer broadcast or sold new in the United States. It's illegal.

The 14-part series highlights key events in black Americans' struggle for equality and is considered an essential resource by educators and historians, but the filmmakers no longer have clearance rights to much of the archival footage used in the documentary. It cannot be rebroadcast on PBS (where it originally aired) or any other channels, and cannot be released on DVD until the rights are cleared again and paid for.

"It's a scenario from hell," said Jon Else, series producer and cinematographer for Eyes on the Prize, and now director of the documentary program at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. "(Licensing agreements) are short because it's all we can afford. The funding for documentaries in this country (is) abysmal."

This is an inversion of the clause in the U.S. Constitution that says
Congress shall have the power . . . [t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries . . .
Here we have not the Congress, but the copyright owners "securing for limited times . . . the exclusive Right."

As Techdirt comments:
The end result is that people end up having completed, historically significant documentaries that no one can watch because it breaks the law.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


The act you've known for all these years . . .

Click on a face, see who it is, here. Nice work!

UPDATE: BoingBoing points to this Fark piece . . .

. . . but who are all these people?

Friday, December 24, 2004


Fast access from anywhere: a right

From Techweb:

What does wireless broadband have in common with water and solid waste management? Like the first two items, wireless broadband is becoming a municipal utility as dozens of cities have started the process of creating public wireless networks.

The city of Cerritos, California started the trend early in the year and, by year-end, dozens of U.S. cities had jumped on the bandwagon. Their reasons varied widely. Cerritos, for example, had no DSL or cable coverage from private vendors. Other cities, such as Philadelphia, placed more emphasis on using wireless to project a progressive and business-friendly image.

Not surprisingly, this trend has drawn the wrath of private-sector broadband providers . . .

Perhaps the most important part of this trend, and the most subtle, is the growing recognition that fast access from virtually anywhere is becoming something close to a right in the U.S. That can only bode well for the future of information technology.
Repeat: Fast access from anywhere is becoming a right.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Merry Xmas(sm)

This cartoon printed with permission of The Artist:


Quote of Note: Barack Obama

"One party seems to be defending a moribund status quo and the other is defending an oligarchy. It's not a very attractive choice."

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D, Il) in Newsweek, January 3, 2005, p. 77


Lessons from cell phone policy

Back in the Reagan era, U.S. policy was to "let the market decide" which mobile radio technology was best . . . This CNN article says
An estimated 57 percent of the U.S. population chats on wireless phones -- not much greater than the percentage of wireless phone users in much poorer Jamaica, where 54 percent of the people have mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

By comparison, in Hong Kong there are 105.75 mobile subscribers for every 100 inhabitants. In Taiwan, there are 110.

Why? The reasons range from credit checks to network quality to coverage areas.

Wireless networks elsewhere are simply better than those in the United States, said Albert Lin, an analyst at American Technology Research.

"For a long time, the U.S. had way too many networks being supported by not enough investment," he said. "The quality of U.S. networks is only now coming close to the quality you would see in major European and Asian markets."

Not that the European model was perfect: Companies there paid $125 billion for licenses to operate "third-generation" mobile networks that enable European users to zap videos and data by phone. The result: Mountains of debt, but a chance to sell phones packed with features James Bond would love.
Hmmm. Too many networks, not enough investment. The same thing seems to be happening in U.S. broadband policy. The United States, the FCC, the telcos, etc., are making a big deal out of multimodal competition. (The telcos want to keep other people off the poles, outa their fiber, and offa their twisted pairs, so they support the idea -- idea -- of cable plus wireless plus broadband-over-powerline plus . . . This might be good for the telcos, but will it put the U.S. behind the rest of the developed world for the next 20 years?


Consciousness and Inclusion

It was a delight to hear from former Bell Labs colleague, Tom Anderson, who sent me this long, wise letter, which I've tried to shorten without blunting its wisdom.

I have enjoyed reading your smart letters over the years but have not actually emailed any comments until now.  Although I'm sure some would disagree, I was glad to see your commentary regarding the war in Iraq in your SMART Letter #95.  I couldn't agree with you more. 
The general assumption in a stupid network is that the intelligence is at the edge.  We would hope that this intelligent edge includes the people actually using the network edge devices.   Thus, my first reaction to commentary on the war with Iraq is, "how could these people be so stupid."  However, upon further reflection, I realize that intelligence has little to do with this situation.  The architects of the Iraq war are intelligent people.  The issue has more to do with their level of consciousness.
When we are born, we are conscious of our primary care giver - our mother or father.  These care givers meet our survival needs for food, water, rest time, love, ...   As babies, we are not conscious of the world outside the sphere of these care givers.  As a baby, we are not aware of others until they come into our narrow sphere of consciousness, when they pinch our cheeks or pat our heads.  As we grow older, our sphere of consciousness increases.  We first associate with "our" family, then "our" school, then "our" team, "our" town, "our" state, "our" country, ...   As we grow up, we learn to differentiate between what is, "me", what is "mine" and what is "other".   Thus our sphere or level of consciousness continues to expand, taking in a broader world that we label as "mine".  As we grow, we learn what is "mine" and all that is outside of "mine" is the "other."   We care much less about the "other" as they may be our enemy, our competitor, the "other" side ... they are not like us and certainly not as good as "we" are, not as smart as we are, not as human as we are.  At any level of consciousness, there is "mine or us" and "them" or the "other".  At higher levels of consciousness, the set of others gets smaller and smaller.    At higher levels of consciousness, we associate with and empathize with the larger environment.


It is important to note that religious traditions have always embraced inclusivism in theory.  For example, Christ said, "love thy neighbor as thy self".  The question is, who exactly is your neighbor.  For the modernist, the neighbor is the guy next door (as long as he cheers for the same baseball team and drinks the same beer) or the person in the next pew at church - people within our level of consciousness - people we call our own.  For the homonoeticus, the neighbor is the man in China, or India, or Iraq struggling to make a living and support their family - just like us.  The homonoeticus takes Christ's charge to "love thy neighbor" seriously where all of mankind are our neighbors.  This is really a movement toward unity consciousness.
As we grow and evolve as human beings, our consciousness naturally increases.  Unfortunately, we have a current administration that is deeply rooted in a modernist and limited sphere of consciousness.  Consider the Iraq conflict.  It would be very hard to convince the 10s, maybe 100s of thousands of Iraq's killed by the US in the past 1½ years that our president is somehow Pro-Life.  Exactly whose life are we talking about?  How can we, as a nation, justify the deaths of so many in Iraq when Iraq:
Had no weapons of mass destruction,
Did not participate in 9/11 and
Was not affiliated with Al Queada?
Exactly what did these people do to deserve this fate?  And how can we justify spending over $200B in doing this when there are so many positive causes that go unfunded (and in the process, creating one of the largest deficits in the history of the US)?   It is also interesting to note that the US government keeps track of each to the 1200+ US deaths in Iraq, but does not count the Iraq deaths.  If they are not counted, how can they count??  This is an excellent example of the modernist "radical ignorance of the other" way of thinking. Each of these Iraqis were living, breathing people, with mothers and fathers.  They were children and parents alike. They, however, did not seem to matter to an administration which was operating with a primitive, survival mode consciousness.
Indeed, the primary message of this administration is one of fear of the "other" ... "we must kill all of the terrorists" ... "you're either for us or against us".  To a very large extent, the Bush administration has justified its actions based on "fear" - a fear of survival, representing a rather low level of consciousness - the consciousness of an infant struggling to survive.
Intuitively, we all know that "killing all the terrorists" is not a practical solution - especially when whole nations are defined to be terrorists.  For each one you kill, you create, by that very action, logarithmically more terrorists with a new cause.  On 9/11, 3000 people were killed by the terrorists.  This event evoked great emotion from the 300,000,000 people in the US who vowed - "We Will Not Forget".  But how can we expect the 20,000,000 people of Iraq to forget the 100,000 or so deaths by actions of the US??  We lost two buildings in 9/11, Iraq lost their entire infrastructure with a reign of bombs.  How can they not forget??  Our actions of "force" have created a large pool of new terrorists ... and that is not so easy to fix.  Contrary to Bush's cry that we must "kill all of the terrorists" - unless he intends genocide on the scale of Hitler ... his pitch makes no sense.
Alternatively, an inclusivism perspective is strikingly different.  When a couple comes into therapy, the therapist would never recommend that the wife hire a hit man to kill the spouse because he was a "bad guy".  Rather, the therapist would counsel the couple to "see the other's point of view" and to consider how their own behavior affects the situation.  Unfortunately, for the 100,000 Iraq's who died, Bush and Hussein never made it to therapy - though many of the world powers tried.  Certainly, given $200B, there were many, many other ways to deal with Iraq without killing people.
It is important to note that all of the major cultural revolutions in the last 50 years came about without dropping bombs.  The fall of the Berlin wall and communism occurred without a shot, the fall of apartidism in South Africa, the civil rights movement in the US, ....   These were transitions made as a result of an elevation in the group consciousness of those affected.  For example, in the USSR, they figured out that the "other" (the western world) was doing well and they decided that they must  "include" some of these "other" philosophies in the governing of their own domain.
The failure of this administration is a failure in consciousness.  They have drawn clear and fortified boundaries between "us" and "them" ... where "them" seems to be the 49% of the US and the rest of the world.  The administration then contends that the evil "other" must be killed.  This radical ignorance of the other takes no consideration of the bigger picture, the causes of discontent, the solutions to world issues. 

The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of endpoints.  Thus, the network is most valuable and most powerful when it is inclusive of all - taking in all endpoints regardless of the color of the IAD, the manufacturer of IP Phone, the "preferences" of the hand held device.  We should do well to apply the network principles that we know so well to our politics.
Thomas W. Anderson

It certainly seems like a reasonable analysis to me. Lately I've noted that (e.g.) China and Iraq are closer to where I am now than Illinois was 100 years ago. Today we don't think of the people in Illinois as "other" -- for the most part, "their" interests are "our" interests. Maybe some day we'll feel the same about the rest of the world's peoples.

Note: I told Tom about Reed's Law, and he agrees that the value of networks can grow faster than N^2.


Fiber-to-the-Node comes to Norwalk

Intellectually I know that the telco can do better, but I'd be happy to get Internet access that's ten or twenty times faster than my cable or DSL.

It looks like it is happening just down the road from me, in Norwalk, Connecticut. This article says that the technical field trials have been successful, and that real service begins in Norwalk, one of six test markets for SBC's FTTN services, in 2005. No mention of prices.


Framework Convention for Internet Governance

Susan Crawford points to this recent call for the creation of a Framework Convention on Internet Governance.

A "framework convention" defines the playing field on which the international conversation will be held.
It defines the terms and conditions of the discussion. It lays out a framework to discuss, e.g.,
Who will decide?
In whose interests will the decisions be?
Will "Internet Governance" cover access and other layer 1 and 2 issues?
Will "Internet Governance" cover spam, copyright, and other application-layer issues?
Will "Internet Governance" be organized according to layers at all?

It will be a long process, and I am not especially optimistic about its success or about who that success might benefit.

However, it is good work, worthy work, and should proceed. It is a discussion worth having.
If it takes a decade or longer, that might be the right amount of time.

The most famous framework convention, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, deals with our planet's environment, the ultimate Commons. It was written in 1992, and it is the parent document of the Kyoto Treaty.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Quote of Note: Craig Mathias in CommsDesign

" . . . the antenna is like the tires on a car — the only part of the complex machine that actually touches the medium. As you driving enthusiasts already know, improving the tires can make the car feel like an entirely different vehicle altogether. The same is true in radio."



Sure looks like Bush officially approved torture

This FBI memo, dated May 22, 2004, made made public as the result of an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, says
We are aware that prior to a revision in policy last week, an Executive Order signed by President Bush authorized the following techniques among others sleep "management," use of MWDs (military working dogs), "stress positions" such as half squats, "environmental manipulation" such as the use of loud music, sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc
Excuse me while I vomit . . .

Now I will write an even bigger check to the ACLU.


Telecom "Reform," ILEC style

UPDATE: If you're wondering who "The Heartland Institute" is, look here and here.
Check out the Heartland Institute's Telecom Reform Conference, held last week in Chicago. According to the blurb,
Other conferences take place in the political hothouse of Washington, DC, where lobbyists and bureaucrats outnumber elected officials and real digital entrepreneurs . . .
Of the 26 speakers on the program, six are elected officials, but 16 are lobbyists and NONE are "real digital entrepreneurs." (I count a lobbyist as somebody whos main job is to shape opinion and legislation without being a legislator.) Check out the list and see if you agree with me.

The Friday agenda reads like chapter headings from the recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on telecom deregulation:Panel: Economic Benefits of Deregulation
Panel: Discriminatory Telecom Taxes
Panel: Obsolescence of Telecom Regulation
Panel: Reform of Universal Service
Then, for those who could stay for Saturday's session, there wasPanel: Municipally Owned Broadbandincluding panelists, Joseph L. "Risky for Taxpayers, No Boon to Economic Development" Bast, Phil "Limits High-Speed Access" Montgomery, and Ron "those systems are not profitable" Rizzuto and no spokes-folks to speak in favor of muni networks.

The last item on the agenda,Panel: Competition in Telecom Marketfeatured James L. "limiting mandatory unbundling rules" Gattuso, Diane S. "regulation stymies competition" Katz and Paul "SBC General Council" Mancini, but nobody who represented independent ISPs.

The Heartland Institute doesn't seem to be especially friendly to cablecos or mobile operators, either, even though they point out that these are the major sources of "free market" competition. It is obvious from the panel names that the Heartland Institute is the man from I.L.E.C.

"Real digital entrepreneurs," my back office.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Keep your city safe for Private Telecom Industry!

Get the model legislation that protects your cities from the evils of municipally owned networks.

"All you have to do as an incumbent-friendly legislator," according to MuniWireless, "is to insert the name of your state, introduce it as a bill and voila! You will ensure that your state will forever lag behind every other state (and country) in broadband deployment."

Friday, December 17, 2004


Perilous Times on LessigBlog

Catch the action at Lessig's blog where Geof Stone is guestblogging. Stone is the author of In Perilous Times, an examination of six times in the deep U.S. historical past when the government has seen fit to curtail civil liberties.

Stone gives historical perspective on The Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798, and he examines why governments suppress dissent in wartime, then he looks at some specifics of The Civil War, and World War I.

Is any of this relevant to the USA today? Stone poses specific questions, but offers no answers. Well worth reading!

Thursday, December 16, 2004


A Starting Point for the Next Telecom Act

The below was my column in the November/December issue of VON Magazine:

A Starting Point for the Next Telecom Act

How can the IP Communications Industry avoid regulatory disaster?

I’m surprised that The Telecommunications Act of 1996 wasn’t called the “6991 fo Tca Snoitacinummocelet,” because everything else about it was written as if its authors were looking in the rear view mirror. The hairpin turn looming in the windshield, the Internet, was ignored. The Federal Communications Commission was put in the driver’s seat, charged with stepping on the accelerator by writing rules to implement the Act and tromping on the brake to enforce them.

The FCC’s Official Mission is to “ensure that the American people have available–at reasonable costs and without discrimination–rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services; whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.” I do not see anything about Janet Jackson’s anatomy, Howard Stern’s subject matter or Rupert Murdoch’s empire in that mission. I don’t see where the broadcast flag (and mandatory mechanisms that device makers must build in to implement it) fits. The FCC suffers from such mission creep that my VON Magazine co-columnist Bob Frankston calls it the Federal Speech Commission.

Layers vs. Chaos

If we adopt a layered view that is consistent with Internet architecture, the FCC Mission’s phrase, “radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable,” refers to four transmission media and one application, television, which can be carried over any of the other four. Looking again, maybe there are two applications, television and radio, which can be carried over wire, satellite, cable and, uh, radio. Can it be that the application called telephony is not in the FCC’s Official Mission? Can it be that other forms of physical connectivity besides radio, wire, satellite and cable, are outside the FCC’s mission? Fiber, for example, is not wire and not cable. Very confusing.

Internally the FCC is matrix management mayhem, a bundle of bumbling bureaus with a caboodle of conflicting charters. For example, suppose your Inter-net telephony bill from your cable TV provider is unfairly high; would you contact the FCC’s Media Bureau, the Enforcement Bureau, the Wireline Competition Bureau or the Consumer (and Government) Affairs Bureau? Myself, I have friends in the FCC I can ask, but Jack Nascar and Jill Securitymom might be justifiably confused.

The logical thing would be to haul that jalopy to the junkyard and start over. Of course it’ll never happen. But even FCC Chairman Michael Powell has moments of sublime reverie where he imagines telecom regulation without the FCC. Recently he fantasized that service providers would voluntarily preserve their customers’ Freedom to Access Content, Freedom to Attach Devices, Freedom to Use Applications and Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information. Nice, but if your service provider needs to decide between making money and these voluntary “freedoms” it certainly won’t agonize very long.

Layered Regulations for Layered Architecture

Richard Whitt, Senior Director of Global Policy and Planning at MCI, outlines an approach that is more consistent with the Internet “any application over any network” architecture in an MCI essay called “A Horizontal Leap Forward.” He proposes a new section of the Telecom Act for Congress to pass, which would apply to all communications that use the Internet Protocol. This new section would regulate DSL, Cable, Wireless and other physical access platforms according to a minimal set of principles. All physical access providers would be regulated by the same FCC entity. They would have consistent regulatory obligations to provide interconnection, Universal Service, emergency connectivity (e.g., 911), wiretapping for law enforcement purposes, and access for people with disabilities. There would be a “market power” test to determine whether a monopolistic provider must offer wholesale network elements to weaker competitors.

Meanwhile, most applications (such as Voice over IP, instant messaging, email, e-commerce, etc.) would fall outside of the FCC’s purview. They should–there’s no need to regulate applications that aren’t tied to specific networks.

This simpler, more consistent regulatory schema would give providers of Internet connectivity a huge advantage–instead of lawyers they could hire innovators and engineers. The complex mess of older telecom law would become less and less relevant as applications that are tied to special purpose networks wane. Older sections of the law and vertically integrated networks would ride into the sunset together. The FCC would get back to basics.

Whitt’s proposal is not perfect; I disagree with some of the specifics. Nor is it likely to move through Washington, DC’s sausage factory in its ideal form. There is too much at stake for incumbents to sit on the sidelines–beef, pork and other ingredients will surely be added. But the current abomination must go, and Whitt’s layered approach provides a robust, principled, consistent and forward-looking starting point.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Morford misses a big one

Mark Morford writes:
It's getting more confusing by the minute, isn't it? I mean, Canada now has legal medical pot and legal gay marriage and universal health care and no known terrorist enemies and a relatively successful multiparty political system. They also have, according to U.N.'s Human Development Index, one of the highest qualities of life in the world. All coupled with a dramatically reduced rate of gun violence and far better gun-control legislation than the U.S., despite having the exact same per capita rate of gun ownership and gun-sport enthusiasm.
Morford misses a mightily manifest fact: Canada is #3 in per-capita broadband penetration and the Good Old USA (USA! USA!) is 15th. For every two U.S. Citizens who are always-on, Canada has three.

We beg of thee, President St. Bush, renounce the Internet of always-on pot smoking Canadian hippies, sodomites, Saddamites, speakers of Quebecois Francais, practitioners of socialized medicine and breech-loaders who abhor torture and children maimed by left-over land mines. We beseech thee to provide meager connectivity for dial-up beer-drinking patriotic semi-automatic born-again overweight father-knows-best heteros who won't wait in line to gas up their SUVs for the football game.


U.S. Falls from #3 to #7 in Business InfoTech

This just in, Booz Allen Hamilton does an annual survey of how well businesses use information technology on a country-by-country basis. The U.S. fell from #3 to #7 in the most recent survey.

I am dismayed by news like this and the preceding blog entry. Being a U.S. citizen these days feels a lot like when I was an AT&T employee in the mid-90s . . .


U.S. 15th in Broadband per Capita

In 2003, the ITU published a study that showed that the U.S. had fallen to 11th in broadband connections per capita. It was a shocking decline; in 2000, Business Week said that the U.S. was the third most connected nation.

(Note that we're not even talking about speed of connection, if you spell it DSL, it's broadband.)

Hmmm!!! Last year I naively projected the 2001-2002 change linearly into 2003. By this method, I predicted that the U.S. would fall to #15 with 9.49 connections per 100 people. Now the newest ITU study is out, and it shows -- surprise! -- the U.S. has fallen to #15 at 9.29 connections per 100. Here's the most relevant picture (from Page A-32 -- note: The document is NOT on line, you have to buy it).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Winnick gets away with Global Double Crossing

You might not have noticed. USA Today put it on page 3B. The Washington Post ran it on 2E. The Financial Times gave it three paragraphs.

Master story teller Gary Winnick, the spinner of the fantasy that was to have been the Network di tutti Networks, the diadem of the Telecosm, had worked out an agreement with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) staffers to pay a US$1 million fine for his hollow-swapping double bookkeeping. But in a closed-door decision, all three of the SEC's Republican commissioners voted against their staff and against investors who had believed the fairy tale by absolving Winnick of legal responsibility in the crashing bankruptcy of Global Crossing.

Not that it would have mattered much. Winnick made about US$800 million at the Global Crossing game.

The SEC commissioners rationalized that Winnick was non-executive chairman. But he was the founder, the spokesman, and the largest shareholder.

Want to build an air castle, sucker investors and get rich? Green light is on at the SEC.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


The Next U.S. Telecom Act -- Pennsylvania as Ugly Indicator

Network World columnist Scott Bradner sees the recently passed Pennsylvania law, which requires cities to ask permission from telcos before deploying their own networks, as an ugly indicator of things to come in his recent column.

What system of government puts companies ahead of elected officials? Reasoned comments invited.


Cablevision controls its network

In SMART Letter #95, I write about how Continental Cablevision blocked my Port 25, then magnanimously offered to let me pay $70 a month more to unblock it. Scott Berry writes of another Cablevision experience in the same vein:
I've lately been visiting the Darknet quite a bit. I tried downloading various things using Bittorrent. (Of course, I only download LEGAL material.) Within several days, I noticed a significant degradation.

After some amount of research, the problem became clear. I had been (gasp) CAPPED. Uplink speeds went from about 800 K to under 100K. Downlink was unaffected except when I was torrenting, in which case it slowed to a crawl. After contacting Cablevision, I got a callback from one of their "security" guys. Comments about using "excessive" bandwidth. Exceeding "limits" on "acceptable" use. Several obligatory questions about whether I was filesharing, what programs was I running, who had access to the computer. I played dumb ("I think I had a virus, now removed, maybe that was sending lots of stuff out"; "perhaps my son was doing something behind my back"; etc.). Eventually they reset my modem. But I'm sure I'm now on their "list". A troublemaker again, in a way not experienced since I was in High School. I feel like such a criminal. :-)

The amazing thing was that despite repeated questioning, they refused to tell me what acceptable limits were, or what constitutes excessive bandwidth. Or in fact what I could do to avoid a repetition in the future. The whole experience was remarkably Orwellian.

What little I gleaned (combined with copious research in chat rooms) revealed a way to avoid the problem. Seems that if I don't upload at TOO great a speed, and not for TOO long at a time, I can avoid the "CAPPER". So now I have written a macro I run each time I use bit torrent--it automatically shuts down the program every 55 minutes, and then restarts it after 10 minutes of "idle" time. Haven't had a problem since, but my fingers remain rigorously crossed.
Let's see. Which of FCC Chairman Powell's Four Freedoms does this violate: It significantly limits Scott's Freedom to Access Content, it crimps Scott's Freedom to Use Applications, and it violates Scott's Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information. Three out of four ain't bad. Boy, it's a good thing these babies are voluntary -- you can see the industry snap to compliance.


SMART Letter #95 is up

Table of Contents:
Gratitude, Continued
SMART List Sub/Unsub/Change Procedure
WTF: The
meeting that was named by acclaim
MAC: Switching from Windows
DSL: Switching from Cable
WAR: Failure of Empathy on Small Planet
Read "Switching -- SMART Letter #95" here.

Monday, December 06, 2004


U.S. (?) Cable & DSL numbers, Q3 2004

View this with fixed width font, please.
(Anybody know how to do tables in Blogger?)

Here are some recent DSL and cable connectivity numbers from
David Burstein's DSL Prime newsletter, December 6, 2004.
I have to presume these are U.S. numbers. (Funny how some
people report numbers on the Global Internet as if the
United States were the default unit if record.)

DSL end of Q3 2004 subs added Q3
SBC 4,679,000 402,000
Verizon 3,253,000 309,000
Bell South 1,872,000 134,000
Qwest 956,000 103,000
Covad 524,900 10,555
Sprint 432,000 49,000
ALLTEL 216,885 22,351
Cinci Bell 123,000 6,000
Century Tel 120,869 12,049

Total DSL* 12,177,654 1,047,955

Comcast 6,554,000 549,000
Time Warner 3,716,000 168,000
Cox 2,430,555 184,446
Charter 1,819,900 108,500
Adelphia 1,253,407 85,605
Cablevision 1,259,024 79,984
Bright House 700,000 25,000
Mediacom 350,000 23,000
Insight 311,500 37,600
RCN 215,000 5,000
Cable One 165,600 13,300

Totl Cable* 18,774,986 1,279,435

Grand Total 30,952,640 2,327,390

*Totals here are totals for companies reported.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Denial is so much easier than this

Report from Fallujah. Says here:
I need another heart and eyes to bear it because my own are not enough to bear what I saw. Nothing justifies what was done to this city. I didn't see a house or mosque that wasn't destroyed.

Rather than burying full bodies, residents of Fallujah are burying legs and
arms, and sometimes just skeletons as dogs had eaten the rest of the body.

The Americans didn't let us in the places where everyone said there was napalm used . . . nobody is allowed to go there.

You know, it is only getting worse here. Every day is worse than the last day. Today will be better than tomorrow. Right now is better than the next hour. This is our life in Iraq now.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Using technology to make better meetings

This is a profound observation by Liz Lawley, blogging at Many-to-Many:
When I was at [meeting x], the only way audience members could ask questions or make comments was to queue up in front a microphone in the middle aisle and wait patiently for a turn. It’s hard to describe how nerve-racking this is for someone who’s new to that community. You’re standing in the middle of a big room, with the audience and the speakers staring at you, trying to listen to what’s being said while being intensely aware of your position.

This is where a formally acknowledged/sanctioned backchannel can really shine, I think. It allows members of an audience (whether the group is as small as a faculty meeting or as large as a conference presentation) to ask a question and have the question itself—not the questioner—be the subject of focus.
At WTF, and some other meetings I have helped organize, we use a publicly viewable screen that everybody with a WiFi PC can post to. It keeps the distracting hand-waving to a minimum, and creates a direct route to information, e.g., "This link (book, person, idea) is really important to the topic at hand). Manuel Kiessling (with the help of Greg Elin and others) have done the software, now in Release 3.0 to make this possible. My hat is off to them -- it is a magnificent, easy to use, machine-independent tool that has an immediate beneficial effect on meetings that use it. It is the best back-channel I've used. And I am proud I had a small role in helping out.


Families bicker over home PC

"Mom, it's my turn to use the PC," is a cry heard throughout the land.

According to this, 90% of families bicker over who gets to use the PC.

Solution: more home networking and more PCs.

[In my house, it's, "When are you going to stop looking at that &%!!*# PC?']

Thanks, Dana.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


WiFi on Commuter Trains? Wi-Not

Here in Connecticut, Interstate 95 is so crowded that nobody goes there anymore. Suppose you could get 1% of the cars off the road by making train travel more productive? Betcha a lot of today's drivers would opt for the train if trains had WiFi.

This article in the Gotham Gazette reports that Swedish employees are so productive on WiFi trains that they're starting to think of train time as part of the paid work day:
Sorting through a plethora of new emails on the way to work, accessing the company intranet, or using new Internet-based technologies to make discounted international phone calls, all heighten productivity - so much so that in Sweden, a group has begun advocating for employers to consider commuter rail time as work hours, since employees conduct such a large amount of work during their ride.
Is this likely to happen? No way, not on Connecticut's trains. Not until they fix the heat, the air conditioning, the bathrooms and the mechanical breakdowns, anyway. But I can tell you this: if I had an independent franchise, I'd sell monthly WiFi passes and I'd be making money in Year 2, no doubt about it. And I'd be taking cars off the road. And I'd be making the U.S. work force more competitive in the world marketplace.

Woah. Making too much sense. Never happen. After all, we've got countries to invade, innocents to bomb, Chinese imports to consume, an atmosphere to pollute. Honk, honk, outa my way, a55hole.
Thanks to Jock Gill and David Parish for the link.


10 Gigabits per second -- for free!

Ok, of course it won't exactly, precisely be free, somebody has to pay for it, but by analogy, today's transistors ARE free from the perpective of 20 years ago, and if we're talking incremental cost over 1 Gbit, then 10 Gbits mighty swell be free. Says here
The multimillionaire founder of IT company Giga, Finn Helmer, has urged the Danish government to provide 10 gigabit/s Internet connections to every household in the country - free of charge

"My idea is an attempt at bringing Denmark to the forefront. From the very second that we sign a bill into law putting 10 Gigabit/s in every Danish home, we'll be on the lips of the entire world," Finn Helmer told IT magazine eDanmark . . . We need a free information marketplace, in the same way that we have free motorways."
Jeff Hoel, who pointed this out to me (thanks, Jeff), writes:
Is Helmer nuts or not? (Up to now, I had sort of assumed the
sweet spot was between 100 Mb/s and 1 Gb/s.)

I'd like to know more about the plan. Is it point-to-point? How much
of the cost per home, $2137-$2672, is optronics? Is the optronics
standards-based and available off-the-shelf from multiple vendors?
Does it do IP TV? Is it capable of open access? What kind of backbone
does it take to support 10 Gb/s home links?
Anybody know how to get ahold of Finn Helmer?

Also thanks to Om Malik, who comes up first when you Google "Finn Helmer" in English, so he probably broke the story that alerted Jeff Hoel.


Most important document since U.S. election

The November 3 Theses

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


U.S. FTTH Report: Good news, bad news

Get the whole report here, only $2995.

Japan, with about half the U.S. population, has about 10 times as many FTTH installations . Also, while it is a steep growth curve, note that there's a gumbo of FTTH architectures, some forward looking and some not, represented.


The real situation in Baghdad and Fallujah

Riverbend's posts are infrequent but she's such a good writer that they are worth waiting for. I won't quote, you have to read it for yourself. Comparatively, CNN's got nothing. The real deal is here.


Susan Crawford, live from Wonkville

Susan Crawford is one of the smartest wonks in Wonkville. She writes from the Capetown WSIS meeting (to plan the Tunis round of the World Summit on the Information Society, to be held November 16-18, 2005).

She deftly translates WSISese, e.g., "developing nations' concerns about involvement in Internet governance," into geek-speak, "translation: ITU has convinced developing nations that ICANN is leaving them out."

She observes that the tension between ICANN and the ITU is much larger than which organization gets to make the rules, and she adds, "Whatever "rules for the internet" means. "

She concludes:
200 years from now, this entire battle will be described in one sentence. Choose one:

a. At the beginning of the 21st century, the world realized that facilitation of openness for the internet (including many choices of rules, devices, regulatory regimes, and end-user applications) would best encourage worldwide economic growth.

b. At the beginning of the 21st century, the governments of the world folded "internet" policy issues into an international telecommunications regime run by the UN. This medium is no longer in wide use.
It is the tired old battle between the "more suits and fewer beards" faction and wide-eyed, wild-haired innovation that *gasp* might not have a proven business model yet.

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