Thursday, March 31, 2005


Chat today at F2C: Freedom to Connect

Today we are using IRC. You need to use an IRC chat client.


In other words, fire up your IRC Client,
select freenode,
then type
/join #f2c

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


New Chat URL for F2C:Freedom to Connect!


Group Chat (backchannel) for F2C: Freedom to Connect

Pick any login name -- resemblances to real names or well-known nicknames MUCH appreciated!


Audio Stream for F2C: Freedom to Connect

Listen here!

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Florida bid for Hall of Shame

The Palm Beach Post reports
Under the [three bills pending before the Florida Legislature], if the phone or cable companies don't offer a proposal, the cities can go ahead with their own, but only after doing a feasibility study and asking residents to vote on the project at least once — twice if bonds would be used to finance it.

That would take anywhere from two to four years, one group says.

"No city would look at that process and say, 'Yeah! We're going to go down that road,' " said Barry Moline, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, which represents cities that own utilities.

The proposal also would bar cities that are offering the service as of May 1 from adding any more customers . . .

Moline and Craig Conn, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities, say the bill handicaps smaller, rural cities and towns, as well as poorer sections of large cities, where the major telecommunications companies don't offer high-speed Internet service.

"If the communities were being adequately served in the first place, then there's no impetus by the government entities to go and do this," Conn said.
Best law money can buy.


Texas bids to enter Telecom Hall of Shame

Jim Baller has just posted the latest members and nominees for the Telecom Hall of Shame. After a bunch of Texas activists, including Austin Wireless friends like Jon Lebkowsky, Rich MacKinnon and Adina Levin, got the Texas House Committee on Regulated Industries to nix restrictions on muni networks, even worse restrictions were added on the floor of the House. As the bill stands today, no municipality may introduce wireless services, free or paid, after September 1, 2006, unless that municipality has jumped through seventeen flaming hoops held by indicted telecom executives. If it passes, there's a chance that Texas will change its state motto to, "The Kilobyte State.'

UPDATE: Today reports
[Representative] Crownover['s] "anti-dark-fiber" amendment [to the Texas Telecom Suppression Bill] prevents cities from selling access to this unused fiber at wholesale prices to internet service providers, creating a competitive, free market for cheap, high speed internet access . . . The Crownover amendment has one purpose -- to prevent the development of a competitive market in high-speed internet service, and to permanently extend the incumbent monopolies on phone and cable service into the internet age.
Doesn't the Texas legislature realize that the beneficiaries of better telecom include every other sector of its economy?Can't it figure out that if the information industry can get better, faster, cheaper connectivity in other states, it'll pull up stakes and move?

Meanwhile, one Texas legislator seems to get it. The Austin American Statesman reports that Senator Troy Fraser said
"It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that the incumbent telephone companies are not interested in competition and are only interested in raising revenue by increasing rates on the consumer and maintaining subsidies at their current levels."
And Esme Vos writes
This bill does nothing except protect the stranglehold that large incumbent telcos have on the market for broadband services.
Why do "we the people" let yesterday's telcos write tomorrow's laws?


Peripheral Visionaries -- Free Admission for, with whom I have had a long and productive association, is sponsoring a conference enticingly entitled Peripheral Visionaries in Washington, DC on May 4, 2005. Looks like it will be excellent. Friends of can register for free until April 10. Use priority code "f2c".

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


F2C has a 20 Megabit Link!

There's an excellent small ISP -- Atlantech -- about 1200 feet away with rooftop-to-rooftop line of sight and with a cooperative CEO, Ed Fineran. Ed said to me, "How much bandwidth do you *want*?" And he said, "The only way I'll lend Atlantech's name to this is if the network *screams*."

So I got two 5.2 GHz Canopy Backhaul units from Motorola, thanks to Tom Freeburg and Ken Magrow, and put them on the roof at Atlantech and AFI Silver (thanks Dewayne Hendricks, John Summers, and Steve Henson).

We did the drop down into the room where F2C will be, where we'll have a custom DHCP server (thanks Dewayne) connected to two load-sharing Cisco Aeronet 1200 WiFi access points (thanks Tim Cook).

This link will provide (a) streaming audio, (b) high-speed interactivity for everybody in the room, (c) a back channel so in-room participants and remote participants will be able to contribute to a group chat (thanks Greg Elin and Manuel Kiessling).

Your wifi-enabled laptop will be an important interactive tool during F2C: bring it.

And if you can't come to F2C: Freedom to Connect, maybe you can listen to the Webcast and participate in the audio.
Be there or b**2.


Why Brand X Case is Important

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments for the Brand X case on March 29. (F2C: Freedom to Connect is March 30 & 31)

Justices Take Up Future of Net Access
from the L.A. Times, March 21, 2005
# A high-court case could affect how consumers get voice and video
[and email, Web browsing, games and other services -- David I]
over high-speed connections.
By James S. Granelli, Times Staff Writer

Jim Pickrell's business — providing Internet service to about 350 residential, government and business customers — may be doomed. But he's not giving up without a fight.

While keeping two dozen servers running and stuffing billing statements into envelopes, the owner and only full-time employee of Brand X Internet Services in Santa Monica also is leading a legal attack on the cable TV industry and federal regulators.

The Brand X challenge has ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming what experts call one of the most important telecommunications cases before the high court in recent years.

Brand X and other Internet service providers, including giant EarthLink Inc., want access to cable TV companies' high-speed connections to serve customers, the way they do over local phone lines.

The Internet companies say access rights are crucial to their survival. Customers are increasingly abandoning slow dial-up connections in favor of high-speed service, which in a majority of cases is sold by cable operators.

The ISPs also contend that a loss to the cable industry would clear the way for approval of a stalled Federal Communications Commission rule giving phone carriers the same right to deny access to Internet service providers. That would leave customers with only cable and phone monopolies to provide Internet service.

The Brand X case reaches even further, experts say. A court decision could affect how customers get other key services, especially voice and video, over their high-speed connections, as well as what competition they'll have and what prices they'll pay.

"I don't know of any telecom case that is so wide-ranging as this one," said Jeff Pulver of Inc.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Changing the world

Steve Smith writes:
When I am in Toronto, I usually stay at the Sheraton Centre . . . About a year ago, they wifi enabled the lounge . . . 3 weeks ago I watched a guy watch espn headline video over his browser. The ironic thing was he was sitting 15 feet from the TV screen . . .
This morning . . . I heard a distinctive "ring ring" sound that any Skype user would recognize. What followed was a 25 minute long conversation in Hebrew. I asked a collegue of the guy, "Skype?", nod of head yes, "To Israel?", nod of head yes, "it's changing the world", nod of head yes. 25 minutes, and no landline, wireless, or international carrier got a penny.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


EFF auctioning second pass to F2C: Freedom to Connect

Congratulations to John Biddle, the winner of the first EFF seat at F2C!

Now EFF has a second F2C seat at auction.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Bruce Sterling moves to Pasadena . . .

and writes . . .
[When I got to Pasadena] I suddenly realized that I can thrive with something like 8% of my former possessions. Not that I've lost them . . . they've all been digitized. They got eaten by my laptop.

There's an Apple Store a block away, where Mr. Jobs is selling iPods like Amy sells waffle-cones when it hits 105 degrees. So, where're all my records and CDs? They're inside the laptop. DVD player? Laptop. Newspapers? I read Google News in the morning. Where're my magazines? I read Metropolis Online, I write stories for Where's my TV? I got no TV: Compared to Web surfing on broadband wireless, watching a TV show is like watching ice melt. I tried real hard to sit down and watch a television dramatic episode recently – it felt like watching Vaudeville, with a trained dog act and a guy juggling plates. TV is dying right in front of us. It's become a medium for the brainwashed, the poor, and the semiliterate. Where's my fax machine? Laptop. Mailbox? Laptop. Filing cabinet? Laptop. Working desk? Laptop. Bank? Laptop. Place of business? Laptop. Most people I deal with have no idea I'm here in California. They'd never think to ask me. Why should they? They send e-mail, they get what they want, game over.


Connectivity Days in Washington DC

Bob Frankston, writing to the DewayneNet Technology List, and at SATN, says:
Later this month (March 2005 for visitors from the future) we
will see two important cases presented to the Supreme Court (of
the US) [on March 29] followed by David Isenberg's

Freedom to Connect [March 30 & 31].

Of the two cases the better known is
MGM vs Grokster.
Is file sharing a criminal act?
It would be tragic if the special interests of a
relatively small industry (even if very loud) were to be used to
thwart basic technologies even as the same kinds of technology
are being used by NASA to share the bounty of its expeditions.

Also on the same day, March 29, 2005, the court will hear the
Brand X" case. At issue is the question of the degree to which
Cable TV companies can limit our choices. They have become
communications carriers essentially no different from phone
companies. It's not just about choosing your ISP
(Internet Service Provider) -- Comcast vs AOL. The services,
such as Email, are not really part of the Internet itself --
they are built on top of it. What you need is an access
provider -- you can build they services yourself.
It's if you had to buy an expensive flavoring in order
to get water delivered to your house.

The question is whether the Internet is just another television
station. Connectivity, as in the opportunity to communicate, is a
fundamental right. Any unnecessary limitations are in direct
violation of the US Constitution's guarantee of free speech.
Unnecessary is not the same as inconvenient -- if there is a way
to avoid compromising free speech then one must take that course.


David Isenberg's "Freedom to Connect" starts the very next day,
March 30th. There is already enough to talk about but the timing
of these cases will add to what already promises to be a very
exciting event but I hesitate to suggest you attend since I'm
overwhelmed just looking at the program and the list of
participants. I hope David doesn't learn from the CableCos and
Telcos because he could stretch the conference out for a whole
month and charge a high "value" price obfuscated by the
complexity a myriad of tiny twisted charges.

See you there.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


Benjamin Barber shakes things up

When we presented our statement, Benjamin Barber, the author of _Jihad versus McWorld_ , shook things up by offering criticism of the statement's (indeed *our*) cyber-optimistic attitude. George Soros, who I had a word with after our flight from Madrid to JFK (on his private jet? No.) remarked that Barber's criticism "opened things up," and he wished he could have stayed to hear the resulting discussion.

Ethan Zuckerman blogged
[Barber's] argument, as I understood it, is that the very architecture of the Internet has social "bugs" that we failed to address. He asserts:

  • The internet is horizontal and privatized, which means that it's highly segmented. Most people talk to people like themselves, and as a result, debates are often infantile and puerile.

  • There's no source of authority on the net, so it's hard to tell gossip from fact and lies from truth.

  • The fact that the Internet is unregulated means that it's a monopolistic enterprise, dominated by corporate interests, notably media, hardware and software monopolies.

  • One third of the net's search engine hits are for pornography

  • Virtual relationships are different - and not as important - as real ones.
  • And Ethan observed
    this strikes me as an overview that focuses on fear, rather than on hope.
    Exactly. Barber was serving up cyber-pessimism as antidote to our optimism. Ethan continues
    What's so wonderful and complicated about the 'net is that it includes fearsome monopolies and creative open source developers, porn and poetry, self-referential circle jerks and genuine dialogue across cultures and between borders. My interest is in focusing on the positive - especially on the dialogue - but it's irresponsible to deny the negatives. But I don't think it's surprising that a group of people talking about the value of keeping the Internet open and accessible despite the threat of terrorists using it would focus on the positives, not the negatives.
    John Perry Barlow also blogged the exchange, writing
    [Our statement] has just been strongly and rather surprisingly rebuked by my friend Benjamin Barber who laid out the usual older, indigerate stuff about how the Internet is nothing but the handmaiden of big media, scarcely better than television.
    Indigerate, as in illiterate or intolerant, I presume. Afterwards, Barlow and Barber continued the discussion:

    I actually agree that Barber names several critical dangerous tendancies. There's lots to be pessimistic about. But until Barber's dangers lock in, that is, as long as there's hope, I choose to be an optimist. If you can't be optimistic about the Internet as infrastructure for the human spirit, what else is there?

    I wish we had another day for the cyber-pessimists (and there were a few others in the room) to talk to the cyber-optimists. If both sides brought the right attitude to the table, it could have been a learning experience for all. Barlow called our statement
    So predictable as to be the equivalent of silence
    Such a discussion might have provided the unpredictable element that Barlow was looking for.


    Movers of Madrid

    These three guys convened the team that brought this statement to life.

    Joi Ito, Marko Ahtisaari, Martin Varsavsky.


    Ethan, George, David & Mark

    Ethan Zuckerman makes a point at the Club of Madrid International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security

    while George Soros, David Weinberger and Mark Rotenberg listen.

    Thursday, March 10, 2005


    The Internet and Democracy: Closely Aligned

    Madrid, March 10, 2005: We have crafted a document for the Club of Madrid called Strengthening the Open Internet for a Safer World. Worth reading, if I say so myself.

    It was a profound and delightful experience working with the document's authorship team that Joi Ito, Martin Varsavsky and Marko Ahtisaari have assembled to think about this most important issue. The team includes Dan Gillmor, Ethan Zuckerman, Andrew McLaughlin, John Perry Barlow, Desiree Miloshevic, Mark Rotenberg, David Weinberger, Rebecca MacKinnon, Paul Vixie, David Smith and a dozen other deep thinking, deeply experienced people with whom I feel honored to be associated.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005


    F2C Update: Barlow joins F2C Program!

    The F2C program is nearing its final form. John Perry Barlow will speak on "The Ignorant Network." (I wonder where he got that idea?) Other recent additions to the program include Esme Vos from MuniWireless, Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project and Jay Stanley of the ACLU.

    UPDATE: Dewayne Hendricks will join the "Building Connected Communities" panel.

    Food during the day: I have hired the caterer at the local Whole Foods. I'm also negotiating with the theater to crank up the popcorn machine for PM breaks.

    Dinner plans for F2C: After the last session Wednesday, around 5:30 PM, we will file out the back door to enter Eggspectations via the kitchen. We have the place all night. Open bar til ten, then buy your own til 11. We'll hear from Barlow, Crawford and Cerf in the course of the evening. And there are plenty of nooks to hear from each other, too.

    Network: Thanks to Atlantech Online (a nearby ISP), Motorola and Cisco, we're likely to have 20 megabits at AFI Silver by conference time. I went to work on it last week, made some progress but failed to establish a link. Yet. Stay tuned. I'm a practice what you preach kinda guy, and I want more bandwidth than we can imagine using and right-now latencies.

    Bring your 802.11 laptops. The back-channel will be integral to the meeting!

    More soon.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005


    "Qwest Customer Service" not an oxymoron anymore?

    You know the one about, "Your appointment with our technician is scheduled between 8:45 AM on July 4, 1776 and noon on the day after Hell freezes over. Will somebody be home at that time?" And if you answer yes, the tel-rep says, "Are you delighted with the excellent service we've provided today?"

    Finally an ILEC gets it. Jonathan Weber, writing in New West, recounts this Qwest experience:
    I needed to get another phone line for my house. The network drop, however, only supported two lines, so running a third meant a whole new physical wire from the street to the opposite side of the house - a distance of about 300 feet. It will have to be buried in a trench come spring. Total charge, including the inside jack? $100. Total cost of the third line, including voicemail and all custom-calling features (though not long distance)? $25. Total time spent on hold with customer service reps? Zero. Number to call for scheduling/ problems? The service tech's cellphone . . . Clearly Qwest knows that if it wants anyone to order landlines anymore it had better make it cheap and convenient. At my house, at least, telecom competition is working.
    Imagine calling the service tech directly on his//her cell phone, the way the non-telco world does it.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005


    FCC: Funny, Curiouser and Curiouser

    If you're a felon, you can't own a radio station license. Theoretically.

    Steve Labaton, of the New York Times, writes of a case where the FCC agreed to allow sale of a radio station even though its licensee was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. The FCC agreed, that is, until somebody turned on the light and the cockroaches went scurrying into the cracks.

    The convicted felon was a powerful Oklahoma Democrat, but until the lights went on, only the FCC Democrats, Copps and Adelstein, seemed upset. Powell and Martin were ho hum, business as usual. (Abernathy?) Until the lights went on, that is.

    From the NYT article,
    "The commission for decades has had a policy that if you are disqualified from holding a license, then you don't have a license to sell. That's Telecom 101," said Harry F. Cole, a partner at the law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth who has practiced for 30 years before the commission, frequently on broadcast issues. "Here you have a case of a guy who lied and lied as a government official. You have to smack yourself in the head and ask, 'Why did they let him get away with this transfer?' "
    Could it be that the Republicans were acting on principle -- that the FCC has no duty to enforce the public interest obligations of licensees? Not. If public interest were the guiding principle, wherefore Stern? Wherefore boobiegate? (Public interest is the beard for Stern and boobie, anyhow.)

    Maybe, as the NYT paraphrase of the FCC staff letter granting license transfer says,
    "there were reasonable exceptions to the policy and Mr. Stipe should be permitted to sell the stations, because the misconduct did not involve other executives at the companies, the companies had "an unblemished record of compliance with the commission rules" and Mr. Stipe was in failing health.
    So, let's see. If I run somebody over, I should keep my driver's license because (a) other people I work with didn't run anybody over and (b) My health is failing. Huh? Who hired these FCC staffers?

    An extended quote, to keep the public record from becoming privatized (old NYT articles become pay-per-view):

    . . . the [FCC] has revoked licenses for a variety of other crimes, from sexual abuse of a minor to fraud to dealing in illegal narcotics. The character guidelines also make clear that truthfulness is a central element of the rules.

    The agency's decision to permit the sale was disclosed in a letter on Jan. 18 to lawyers for the four radio stations. They were being sold for $2.2 million by companies controlled by Gene Stipe, who for many years was among the most powerful Democrats in Oklahoma.

    He stepped down in 2003 after 53 years in the state legislature - at the time he was the longest serving member of any state legislature in the country - as investigators focused on his role in a scheme to launder money given to the congressional campaign of a friend.

    Mr. Stipe then pleaded guilty to three criminal counts, acknowledging his role in an illegal scheme to funnel more than $245,000 into the failed campaign of Walter Roberts for a seat in the House of Representatives. Mr. Stipe was sentenced to five years' probation and six months' house arrest.

    The commission's chairman, Michael K. Powell, appeared to ratify the staff decision earlier this week, when one of his senior aides told Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a lawyer who was critical of the deal, that Mr. Powell would not seek a review of the decision by the full commission, Mr. Schwartzman said in a filing with the commission.

    Mr. Schwartzman, a lawyer who heads the Media Access Project, an organization that has been critical of efforts to deregulate the industry, said he had stumbled onto the deal during a Google search on a separate issue and was immediately outraged by its implications.

    "This involves somebody who has pleaded guilty to tampering with an election in the service area of these stations and is a clear demonstration of how the democratic process has been corrupted by this man," he said. "I cannot imagine a more powerful case for loss of license and a weaker case for enriching him."

    Mr. Schwartzman then tried to get the commission to reconsider the staff's decision. He was told there would not be the three votes from among the five commissioners that would be needed for the commission to intervene.

    But after The New York Times called officials at the commission about the matter on Wednesday and Thursday, Mr. Powell abruptly reversed course. On Friday, commission officials said the full commission had agreed to order a review of the case.

    Mr. Powell has announced his intention to leave the agency next month. Kevin J. Martin, the leading contender to replace Mr. Powell, also indicated to officials that he would not vote to review the matter, but he changed his mind after Mr. Powell did, officials said.

    The decision also followed sharp questions about the staff's opinion by Jonathan S. Adelstein, one of the Democratic commissioners, who was supported in his effort by a second Democratic member, Michael J. Copps.

    "This deal demands a lot more scrutiny than it's gotten, and I now expect that it will get the review that it deserves," Mr. Adelstein said. "Lying to the government raises serious questions about a broadcaster's character under our longstanding policy. I've raised concerns with my colleagues that letting a convicted perjurer profit from the sale of these stations may be a dangerous departure from our past precedent."
    Read the whole NYT article before it disappears behind the Great Wall of Privatization.

    The above is a non-issue if you trust the public airways to felons. But if you don't, consider:
    1. The FCC now proposes that its commissioners be allowed to meet in secret, but only in the public interest, of course. There are even proposals floating around for three FCC commissioners, or one. Staff letters, such as the one that Andrew Schwartzman found revealing the scandalous behavior below, might become unnecessary. Dirty deals would be harder to find.
    2. The branch of the Spectrum Policy Task Force report that calls for privatized spectrum envisions no mechanism for public review of such ownership; indeed, under a private ownership regime, the mob, or al qaeda, or the trilateral commission, or robots from space inhabiting Earthling brains, could own and trade spectrum in the unregulated marketplace.

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