Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Podcast worth listening to . . . Sam Whitmore brings us delicious sips from the firehose archive of the Grateful Dead. His selections tend to come from the folkier, more lyrical side of the band's corpus. Licensed by ASCAP, so says Sam.

I've just discovered it, enjoying every minute.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Souter Home to be Seized by Eminent Domain

Says here
[Supreme Court] Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."
Thanks, BoingBoing. I'm investing in this.

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Brand X: Worse than I thought

Susan Crawford says
In BrandX, Justice Thomas [says] that everything a user does online is an "information service" being offered by the access provider. DNS, email (even if some other provider is making it available), applications, you name it -- they're all included in this package. And the FCC can make rules about these information services under its broad "ancillary jurisdiction."

This is very very big. This means that even though information services like IM and email don't have to pay tariffs or interconnect with others, they may (potentially) have to pay into the universal service fund, be subject to CALEA, provide enhanced 911 services, provide access to the disabled, and be subject to general consumer protection rules -- all the subjects of the FCC's IP-enabled services NPRM. I've blogged about this a good deal, and now it's coming true: the FCC is now squarely in charge of all internet-protocol enabled services.

The implications of all this are staggering. This is the real news from today. After the DC Circuit's ruling in the broadcast flag case, people may have thought that the FCC's "ancillary jurisdiction" was in trouble. No longer -- the FCC has been given an enormous jurisdictional surge in power.

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Attacks on Muni Nets? Fuggedaboudit. Attacks on Muni Everything.

This Alternet article says Muni Power Companies are next.
A little-discussed section of the Bush energy bill will drive public utilities out of business, letting oil giants like Halliburton control your electricity.
One of the least-discussed provisions in the Bush energy bill that has passed the House and is now fast-tracked in the Senate is PUHCA repeal. "Pooka repeal," you say, "what's that?"

The Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUHCA) is a cornerstone New Deal financial reform signed into law in 1935 . . . Both the House and Senate versions of the energy bill now contain the PUHCA repeal provision . . . Supporters of PUHCA point out that for 50 years, we have had reliable, cheap electric power that has allowed strong economic growth, and that no PUHCA-regulated energy holding company has ever gone bankrupt.
One to watch.

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The Heat Is On

Just as Lessig turned the bad Eldred Supreme Court decision into a springboard for Creative Commons, maybe we can turn Brand X into a trampoline for the U.S. leap into broadband.

Lemons? Lemonade!!! C'mon now, everybody squeeze!

A column in today's Washington Post says
Mick Jagger said it best: 'The summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy."

The streets run through U.S. cities and towns, where the heat is on local governments to provide free or low-cost Internet access.
[Senate Bill 1294 is] a Senate bill introduced last Thursday by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). The Community Broadband Act of 2005 (.pdf) says "no state can prohibit a municipality from offering broadband to its citizens."

[House Bill 2726 was introduced] by Rep. Pete Sessions [R-SBC -- David I]. The Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005 (.pdf) -- almost surely destined for shorthand treatment as "PRITA" -- says state and local governments can't offer Internet service if a private provider already does.

Shall we say, "Pistols at dawn?"
Maybe they'll both be deadly shots.

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Ballot Battle of Lafayette (LA) on July 16

Following the Brand X decision, the future of U.S. networks weighs more heavily on municipal network initiatives.

As Lafayette, Louisiana's muni FTTH proposal approaches it's July 16th referendum on the necessary $125 million bond issue, the following organizations have stepped up to support the plan, including,
The Realtors Association of Acadiana
Downtown Development Authority
Downtown Lafayette Unlimited
The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce
Lafayette Economic Development Authority
Rebuild Lafayette North Committee
Acadiana Home Builders Association
parish executive committees of both Democratic and Republican parties,
The Louisiana Municipal Association
and several others . . . [source]

LafayetteProFiber Blog observes that there are 600,000 fiber connected offices and homes [mostly offices, I'm sure -- David I] in the US and Lafayette alone will add up to 60,000.

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Quotes of Note on Brand X

"After all is said and done,... and the smoke of agency expertise blown away, it remains perfectly clear that someone who sells cable-modem service is 'offering' telecommunications."Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion

"Today's decision makes the climb much steeper."FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, commenting on case.

Both quotes from this.
(You might recall that in 1999, in AT&T v Iowa, Scalia also said, "It would be gross understatement to say that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is not a model of clarity. It is in many important respects a model of ambiguity or indeed even self-contradiction.")

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More on Brand X decision

Ben Scott, of Free Press, said this:
The Brand X decision is not only absurd on its face, it is an insult to the American ideals of competitive markets, equal opportunity, and the free flow of information. This short-sighted decision to eliminate common carrier requirements on broadband networks essentially grants the incumbent cable giants the prerogative to stifle all competitive access to their wires. If the telephone companies receive similar exemptions — as is expected — the cozy duopoly of cable and DSL that controls more than 95 percent of the broadband market will be entrenched for a generation. There will be no competitive broadband carriers. There will be no independent ISPs. The thriving new market for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) may be badly destabilized. The owners of the wires will likely determine what content is and is not appropriate to travel over their networks.

Without guarantees of nondiscriminatory access, Internet services provided by anyone other than the incumbent wireline giants will be under threat. Not just the so-called last-mile connections into consumer households will be affected. The decision also impacts the "middle-mile" networks that connect our major cities. The booming market for wireless broadband depends upon these middle-mile pipes for backhaul connection to the wider Internet.

The hundreds of communities across the country that have built their own Community Internet services must also be interconnected. Common carriage rules guaranteed that competitive broadband providers serving rural areas and low-income urban neighborhoods would not become isolated islands. After Brand X, this guarantee will be replaced by the whims of the cable and telco cartels . . .
Seems that the alternative to common carriage has always been robber-barons. Is this the future of cablecos and telcos?

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Brand X Commentary

Catherine Yang, writing in Business Week, writes:

Good for Cable, Bad for AmericaThe Supreme Court's ruling that cable-modem networks
aren't "common carriers" will put the U.S. further behind
the leaders in broadband . . .

. . . what's good for Comcast (CMCSA ) and Verizon (VZ ), among other cable and phone companies, isn't necessarily good for the nation. Ranked No. 16 in the world in consumer broadband penetration -- down from No. 3 five years ago -- the U.S. has followed policies in direct contrast to higher-ranking countries, such as Japan, Korea, and Sweden. Instead of fostering stiff competition that leads to the low prices and innovation that lure consumers, the U.S. is allowing the huge cable and phone companies to shut out competitors that provide services -- Internet, phone, or TV -- delivered via those broadband networks.

"The U.S. puts incumbent business interests first," claims Martin Thunman, CEO of PacketFront, a fiber network company in Stockholm . . .

. . . "This decision provides...a framework for broadband that can be applied to all providers," says FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin in a statement.
[I was afraid of that, but it seems to be where the Martin FCC is going -- David I]
. . . Instead of the vibrant choice of offerings available to residents of Vasteras, Sweden, 50 kilometers from Stockholm -- who get 60 different Web access, phone, and TV services from 20 different providers over the local utility's high-speed network -- U.S. consumers may end up with only the menus offered by their local phone and cable companies.

And that's hardly the rich feast needed to catapult the U.S. back into the ranks of the world's broadband leaders.

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Monday, June 27, 2005


Two bad decisions from Supreme Court

The Brand X decision seems, on first analysis, to negate the idea of Common Carriage in telecommunications. Now when telcos say, "level playing field" there will be no doubt that they mean, "as slanted away from the customer as the cablecos."

The Grokster decision seems, on first analysis, to reverse Betamax, so that even if there are "substantial non-infringing uses," of a service, in addition, the service must not show "unlawful intent." Whatever that is.

The consequences of Brand X will be more profound. Now the last thread of network neutrality hangs on the re-regulation of spectrum. Unfortunately, in this zeitgeist, I do not expect this thread to get much stronger. Perhaps dial-up Internet service will be the only nondiscriminatory service left.

Predictions of consequences (assuming the main points of these first analyses stand):

Grokster will mean that business models for recordings and other information goods will develop faster in other countries. Fortunately, we'll be able to see these apps develop, and have a chance of catching up (or riding along), except where advanced broadband is required (which will be hampered by Brand X consequences).

Brand X will slow the growth of U.S. broadband services even further; we will long for the day when U.S. ranked *only* 16th in broadband per capita among nations. Unfortunately, the CapEx will already have been exed, e.g., on Verizon's FIOS and Cablevision's captive "level" response, and, once we've understood the hole we've dug, it will take a long time to climb out of it.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005


Check out the photography!

Great stuff, especially if you like trains. It's by Xeni's uncle.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Riverbend on The Green Zone

Riverbend's most recent post says
The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun . . . A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.
The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time.

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Monday, June 20, 2005



My June 20 column for VON Magazine (to appear about Aug 1) is a story of Callback, the technology/business practice that preceded VOIP in punching holes in the telco profit balloon.

In researching the column, I quickly ran across the name of Gene Retske, a good historian (and up-to-his-eyeballs participant) in the Callback movement. Gene kindly sent me a copy of his 1995 book, The International CallBack Book, An Insider’s View, available here, very informative!

There is no doubt, without Callback, the introduction of VOIP would have been harder. Callback paved the way by showing incumbent telcos that they had to live with uninvited competitors . . .

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Sunday, June 19, 2005


Eyewitness Account of Nagasaki A-bomb Results

I followed an inconspicuous line item at to this four-part eyewitness account of the nuclear devastation of Nagasaki, written in 1945 by George Weller, who snuck into Nagasaki by rowboat just weeks after the A-Bomb exploded. Weller's story, suppressed by U.S. military censors until just now, is currently serialized in the Mainichi Daily.

Uncannily, the author compares Nagasaki to the site of a more recent but less devastating attack:
Nagasaki is an island roughly resembling Manhattan in size and shape, running in north and south direction with ocean inlets on both sides, what would be the New Jersey and Manhattan sides of the Hudson river are lined with huge-war plants owned by the Mitsubishi and Kawanami families . . . Proceeding up the Nagasaki harbor, which is lined with docks on both sides like the Hudson, one perceives the shores narrowing toward a bottleneck.
The bomb, orders of magnitude smaller than "modern" nuclear weapons, left a two mile radius of destruction.
. . . what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki . . .Several children, some burned and others unburned but with patches of hair falling out, are sitting with their mothers. Yesterday Japanese photographers took many pictures with them. About one in five is heavily bandaged, but none of showing signs of pain . . . Some adults are in pain as they lie on mats. They moan softly. One woman caring for her husband, shows eyes dim with tears. It is a piteous scene and your official guide studies your face covertly to see if you are moved.
The rest of the story here.

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Friday, June 17, 2005


Muni Wireless Conference Announced

Esme Vos, the moving force of, has just announced her first conference, Sept 26 & 27th in San Francisco. She writes:
I’ve been covering the municipal wireless arena for over two years now. In that time, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to do successful muni wireless deployments, and developed so many wonderful relationships, that I felt it was time to start bringing the community together.
It is clear from my visit this week to Wi-Fi Planet and from my experience last week at The New York City Council's hearing on "Affordable Broadband for All New Yorkers" that the time is ripe for this.

I wish it didn't conflict with the most excellent NGN conference, being held this year in Washington, DC, where it is certain to add policy issues to its usual tech-heavy agenda. It is too early to know my own schedule, but if I can go to both, I'll probably split my time.

I also wish Esme had called it, "MuniBroadband." She has branding issues, of course; she does business as But I wish that the name of the conference did not rule out wired forms, or hybrid-fiber-wireless municipal networking on its face.

Nevertheless, Esme's conference is likely to become the focal point for a movement that is gathering huge momentum.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Legal analysis of FCC's VOIP-911 Order

Susan Crawford's excellent, clear, readable analysis of the FCC's 911-on-VOIP order (.pdf) makes obvious that the FCC action's main intent is to keep the ILECs in control and raises prohibitive barriers to just about anybody doing VOIP.

Plus it raises such complex technical issues that it's simply not implementable. (However, if you were a potential investor in a VOIP startup, enforcability-shmorsability, the order would be causing second thoughts and chilly-willies.)

Plus it says nothing about prohibiting potentially discriminatory ILEC behavior. As gateways to PSAPs, ILECs can charge anything they want, set any terms they want, refuse to work with anybody they find distasteful, etc., etc.

Plus the order -- as top-down an order as there ever was -- gives lie to Martin's position that the FCC will "Let-market-forces-decide."

This is the first important order from the Martin FCC. It does not evidence a single clue. How could Martin let his first important act as Chairman be such a bad one? I hope this is not a portent of things to come.

Comments by David Weinberger here. Another good critical analysis by Jeff Pulver here.

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Bob Barr, my right-wing hero, to speak in CT!

Former congressman Bob Barr will be in Westport, Connecticut on Sunday, June 26 to speak against the USA PATRIOT Act. I'll publish details when I get them.

I first heard Bob Barr speak at a Computers Freedom and Privacy meeting about five years ago, way back in the innocent days before the U.S. Government had the September 11 tragedy to exploit. Barr gave an eloquent defense of privacy, with an exhortation for the government to stay out of our private lives.

Barr was one of the "Impeach Clinton" extremists, but my guess is that if events were to produce another blue dress in another circumstance, he'd be just as adamant if the DNA belonged to a right-wing Republican.

Barr has become an ACLU consultant because he believes in the U.S. Constitution and hates the USA PATRIOT act. He's not your typical ends-justify-means, shape-the-facts-to-fit ideologue. He'll be worth hearing on June 26th in Westport CT. Stay tuned.

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ETSI under investigation

I'm shocked, shocked . . .
The European Commission has confirmed a story in the Financial Times, saying it is investigating the EU's main telecoms standards body to determine if it is favouring particular companies' technology.
Update: In comments, below, Tony Rutkowski muses
One wonders what would be found if other telecom standards bodies were subject to the same level of scrutiny.
Exactly! I certainly don't think ETSI is unique.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Is snarkiness genetic?

Maybe it is learned. Or it evolved. Or it is a product of Intelligent Design. Whatever. I got it from my father -- here's some 1976 vintage high snark from my dad.

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Chairman LPF Martin

LPF stands for Level Playing Field, of course. I have not seen the transcript of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's Tuesday, June 7 appearance at SuperComm, but the reporting characterizes it as underwhelming. The Register's quotations from Chairman Martin read like this:
"Establishing a regulatory environment that is conducive for . . . creating a level playing field for the various service provides out there" will be one of the "top priorities for the Commission going forward," he said during a question and answer session. And later, "I think the Commission needs to do all it can . . . to create a level playing field." And later, "I hope that people say I was fair in trying to address these issues - that we did try to make some progress in creating a level playing field."
I'm still looking for a clue why Martin thinks the U.S. has "the best communications system in the world." (.doc)

Martin had some things to say about the Bush "affordable broadband to everybody by 2007" Plan. He said,
"Broadband technology has a real impact in almost every aspect of consumers' lives,"
"It has a real impact on people in the way they can educate themselves and the way they are able to work."
"It really has an impact on everything that will touch a consumer's life."
"It has a real, positive impact directly on consumers."

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The FCC Consumer Advisory Committee

Update: My bad. I completely missed the fact that my friend Gene Crick, the executive director of the Texas ISP Association, the Executive Director of the TeleCommunity Resource Center, Exec Dir of Metro Austin Interactive Network, Exec Dir of Electronic Frontiers - Texas --- and spiritual advisor to Bob Cannon's Cybertelecom list -- is on the CAC! So there are at least four Netizen organizations on the CAC, all represented by one person. (see comments!)

Update 2: Brett Glass writes

It amazes me that this long list does not contain even one wireless Internet service provider (WISP).

It amazes me, too, that so many communications service provider sectors are completely unrepresented. But it amazes me more how few "consumers" are on the CAC.

Also -- Chairman Martin, are you listening? -- how about a CITIZEN'S advisory committee? You know, to talk about the Bill of Rights and all that? There are many amazing things about the FCC; one of the most amazing is how the word "consumer" has completely replaced the word "citizen" in FCC-speak.

The FCC Consumer Advisory Committee doesn't seem to have anybody on it who represents Netizens, except for possibly NY Wireless.

The first Consumer Advisory Committee meeting is tomorrow, Friday, June 10, from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. It will be netcast. (The agenda (.doc -- will the FCC ever learn .html?) looks like a snoozefest.)

Bruce Kushnik and his Teletruth organization has come out swinging about the membership of the CAC. While I think that Bruce is mostly on target (if a bit loose), I went to primary sources to look at CAC membership myself. Here's what I find:

1. It has 55 members! (How is it ever going to get anything done?)

2. At least 19 of its members represent the blind and the deaf!

3. At least 14 members represent big telcos, cellcos, cablecos and industry organizations.

4. There's possibly one CLEC, San Carlos Apache Telecommunications Utility(?). No ISPs. No municipalities. No Internet organizations, except for possibly the Center for Democracy and Technology.

4. While the FCC says that 15 members represent the consumers, I'm finding it hard to identify more than nine (though I admit I don't know all the groups (and don't have time for the in depth research required)).

5. There are at least two well-known sock-puppet (aka astroturf) organizations, the Alliance for Public Technology and the Telecommunications Research and Action Center, both associated with Issue Dynamics, an organization that prides itself in building centrally conceived and planned "grassroots" "movements".

6. The Chair of the CAC is from "Call for Action," a "consumer" group entirely funded by broadcasters.

Draw your own conclusions! (Please consider adding them to this via comments, below.) Here's the FCC's original list of 35 members (.doc) announced March 8, 2005:
1. AARP, Debra Berlyn;
2. Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians, John F. Stensgar;
3. Alliance for Public Technology, Daniel Phythyon;
4. Benton Foundation, Charles Benton;
5. Brugger Consulting, David Brugger;
6. Call For Action, Shirley L. Rooker (CAC Chairperson);
7. Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Carolyn Brandon;
8. Community Broadcasters Association, Louis A. Zanoni;
9. Community Technology Foundation of California, Laura Efurd;
10. Consumer Electronics Association, Julie M. Kearney;
11. Consumers First, Inc., Jim Conran;
12. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Action Network, Claude Stout;
13. Florida Public Service Commission, Commissioner Charles Davidson (CAC Vice Chairperson);
14. Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunications Technology, Helena Mitchell;
15. Hamilton Telephone Company, d/b/a Hamilton Relay Service, Dixie Ziegler;
16. Ideal Group, Inc., Steve Jacobs;
17. Inclusive Technologies, Jim Tobias;
18. International Association of Audio Information Services, George (Mike) Duke;
19. Rebecca Ladew (representing the interests of users of speech-to-speech technology);
20. League for the Hard of Hearing, Joseph Gordon;
21. Media Access Group WGBH, Larry Goldberg;
22. National Association of Broadcasters, Marsha MacBride;
23. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Commissioner Ron Jones;
24. National Association of State Relay Administration, Brenda Kelly-Frey;
25. National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, Joy M. Ragsdale;
26. National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Loretta P. Polk;
27. National Captioning Institute, Joel Snyder;
28. Nextel Communications, Inc., Kent Y. Nakamura;
29. NYC Wireless, Laura Forlano;
30. Mark Pranger (individual with expertise in telecommunications law and policy);
31. Sprint Corporation, Brent Burpee;
32. Time Warner, Inc., Tom Wlodkowski;
33. T-Mobile, Thomas Sugrue;
34. Verizon Communications, Richard T. Ellis, and
35. Linda Oliver West (individual representing the interests of the Native American community and other consumers concerned with telecommunications services in rural America).

And here's the FCC's list of 20 additional members (.doc) announced May 26, 2005:

1. Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Janice Schacter;
2. Association for Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, Tamara Closs;
3. Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, Deborah Buck;
4. AT&T, Michael F. DelCasino;
5. BellSouth, John A. Ruscilli;
6. Center for Democracy and Technology, John Morris;
7. Communications Services for the Deaf, Ann Marie Mickelson;
8. Communications Works of the Deaf, Greg Frohriep;
9. Democracy Now! Publications, Denis Moynihan;
10. James J. Elekes (individual representing the interests of the blind or visually impaired community);
11. EAD & Associates, LLC, Elizabeth Davis;
12. Mission Consulting, Judy Viera;
13. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Cheryl Moose;
14. Ron Bibler (individual with expertise in telecommunications relay and captioned telephone services);
15. San Carlos Apache Telecommunications Utility, Vernon R. James;
16. State of Hawaii, Division of Consumer Advocacy, John Cole;
17. TCS Associates, Dana Marlow;
18. Telecommunications Research and Action Center, John Breyault;
19. TeleCommunity Resource Center, Gene Crick; and
20. Wayne Caswell (individual with expertise in deployment of broadband).

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Another side of James Howard Kunstler

I've been reading, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, who has provided some vivid and ugly scenarios for civilization's (and especially the United States') readjustment to an age of scarcer fossil fuel. The book is gripping and plausible, but Kunstler has turned off some of the best scientists I know by getting several of his big facts wrong. I'm talking about Ivy League professors of energy and environment doing Nobel Prize quality work; Kunstler's fast-and-loose approach does not play well with this set.

For example (my own example), Kunstler says that Hubbert's Peak occurs when exactly half of the oil is produced. In The Long Emergency he says it at least twice. This is wrong; Hubbert's Peak is a peak in the annual rate of production! There might well be more than half of the oil left when Hubbert's Peak occurs, but it will be produced slower (because it is in smaller fields, because it is locked in oil shale, because it is under the ocean, because there's a war being fought on top of it, etc.).

Vivid scenarios are useful, but it is important to get the facts right.

It is also important to choose your enemies carefully. Kunstler has picked a stupid fight with Amory Lovins. Big mistake. If Lovins and Kunstler step back, they'll see they have the same enemy.

We all have strengths and weaknesses; Kunstler's book, The Long Emergency , and Kunstler's blog, Clusterfuck Nation, are very well worth reading! Kunstler should still be an ally of those who care about the future of the planet and a must-read for those who think about the near future.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Must Read: Climate Change is Real

Globalization, it's not "just business" anymore.

The National Academies of Sciences of the U.S., India, China, Russia, Brazil and 6 other major nations released a statement yesterday, on the occasion of the Bush-Blair summit, saying that there's strong evidence from direct measurements that global climate change is real. And it is likely -- they use this word advisedly and literally -- that most of it is due to human activities. And it's going to get worse, even if we stopped using fossil fuel (etc.) today.

Here's the short, sharp statement.

The key quote:
The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.
No, the U.S. does not need to understand the problem better before taking prompt action. (Yes, we should also continue to understand the problem better.)

Update: A Bone to Pick

Even the erudite authors of the statement seem to be in denial of some of the known facts. The statement says
. . . over the next 25 years, world primary energy demand is estimated to increase by almost 60%. Fossil fuels . . . are projected to provide 85% of this demand.
I assume that these are credible projections. But there's no mention of fossil fuel supply at a time when the most credible scientists say oil and natural gas is reaching a production peak.

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More on Bush/Martin broadband policy

Dave Burstein, of DSL Prime, joins the skeptics. In the latest issue, he writes
One item I hope is not puffery is George Bush's campaign promise that the U.S. will have "affordable broadband" for all by 2007. But Martin's proposal to "establish a regulatory environment that's conducive" is not enough by itself. Current deployment promises will only reach about half the homes unserved when Bush made that call. An amorphous "broadband policy" will do little; a concrete action plan with teeth, probably backed up with satellite, will be necessary to offer service to all. But "affordable" I believe even less likely, by any standard that includes poor families. Common sense rejects the claim by E., a Bell spokesman, that "affordability is in the eye of the beholder." Forty years of universal service policy have tried to keep phone rates between $10 and $20 in today's dollars, and phone service is even more crucial. From the huge increase in demand when prices go to $15-20 (Italy, France, Japan, adjusted for included phone calls), the market is telling us price is still an obstacle for many.  "So, what's affordable?" E. asks, to which I replied my readers are as qualified to judge as I am. Can poor families afford $29.95 a month? Too many kids go to bed hungry as it is.

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Quote of Note: Merle Haggard

"Son, Muskogee is the only place I DON'T smoke it,"

Merle Haggard, 1974, quoted here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Walls and Gardens

AOL and Apple are showing signs of getting it, but the Cellcos, Hollywood, and, uh, Apple, still see "value" in walls.

Kevin Werbach points out this NY Times story on the fate of AOL within the Time Warner mothership, where one AOL executive says,
"My biggest problem is the walled garden," said Mr. Kelly, who runs all of AOL's Web properties in addition to ad sales. "The world can't see the good stuff we do every day."
Kevin hits the bull's eye with this comment:
This is AOL, the company that virtually defined the model of keeping information off the public Internet and available only to its subscribers. It now realizes, at least to some extent, the positive network effects of openness, which companies such as Google and Yahoo! are tapping into. Now, if only the broadband and wireless companies who are rushing to build new walled gardens could get the same message....
The cellcos are NOT getting it. In an extraordinary WSJ column [subscription required, but try this] Walt Mossberg says,
In the U.S., the wireless phone carriers have used their ownership of networks to sharply restrict what technologies can actually reach users. I call these cellphone companies the new Soviet ministries, because they are reminiscent of the Communist bureaucracies in Russia that stood athwart the free market for decades. Like the real Soviet ministries, these technology middlemen too often believe they can decide better than the market what goods consumers need . . . U.S. carriers are exercising far too much control over the flow of new technologies into users' hands . . . [for example,] unidentified cellphone carriers are reported to have balked at allowing customers to buy a new phone, jointly designed by Motorola and Apple Computer, that would let users synchronize and play back music from Apple's iTunes computer program. One possible reason: They want to sell music themselves . . . Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he was wary of producing an Apple cellphone because, instead of selling it directly to the public, he would have to offer it through what he called the "four orifices" -- the four big U.S. cellphone carriers.
Mossberg goes on to discuss the cellcos' crippled Bluetooth implementations, etc., etc.

Mossberg and Jobs are right, of course. Then again, neither the WSJ nor Apple are paragons of openness.

Especially Apple. Wired News reports that Apple's recent announcement that the Macintosh is switching to Intel CPUs is based on orders from Hollywood! It says
But why would Apple [switch to Intel processors]? Because Apple wants Intel's new Pentium D chips. Released just few days ago, the dual-core chips include a hardware copy protection scheme that prevents "unauthorized copying and distribution of copyrighted materials from the motherboard," according to PC World. Apple -- or rather, Hollywood -- wants the Pentium D to secure an online movie store (iFlicks if you will), that will allow consumers to buy or rent new movies on demand, over the internet.
I don't think we can blame Steve Jobs directly for playing both sides of this game. What we're seeing is the "magic hand," the gnarled clenched fist of greed, of Internet-age competition. We're seeing competition with insufficient regulation.

Mr. Martin, tear down these walls!

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The Untold Story: Global Climate

According to this story,
One academic thesis completed in 2000 compared climate coverage in major U.S. and British newspapers and found that the issue received about three times as much play in the United Kingdom. Britain’s Guardian, to pick an obviously liberal example, accorded three times more coverage to the climate story than the Washington Post, more than twice that of the New York Times, and nearly five times that of the Los Angeles Times.
The story continues
What we know about the climate comes from the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history ­the findings of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the United Nations as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC’s conclusions, that the burning of fossil fuels is indeed causing significant shifts in the earth’s climate, have been corroborated by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. D. James Baker, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, echoed many scientists when he said, “There is a better scientific consensus on this than on any other issue I know ­except maybe Newton’s second law of dynamics.”
It is so easy to forget Climate Change. It is a slow story, and here in the U.S. it's not held under our noses every day. I propose that when we talk about the Creative Commons and the Internet as a Commons and Common Carriers, let's remember. Our atmosphere and our oceans and our lands are the Mother of All Commons.

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Monday, June 06, 2005


Calling George Lucas back from the dark side

Ted Shelton at IP Inferno writes an Open Letter to George Lucas:
According to a recent article in Forbes ("Special Report: Star Wars") the Star Wars media empire has earned $20 billion since the original film in 1977. According to Forbes, here is the breakdown (inflation adjusted dollars):

$5.67 billion through movie theater
$9 billion for Star Wars toys
$1.5 billion for video games
$700 million for publishing

and just $2.8 Billion for video and DVD distribution.

So here is the question which you should be asking yourself. If you released full digital copies of all of the Star Wars films -- with no DRM -- allowing anyone to duplicate and distribute to their hearts contents... would sales in the toys, video games, and publishing categories increase by enough to offset the loss in sales from video and DVD?

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Friday, June 03, 2005


Consulting his Higher Father

Wow, they let this (quicktime) on Leno!?!

[Thanks, Steve.]

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Thursday, June 02, 2005


Lessig battles a whole nother kind of exploiter

This time it is not the RIAA, the MPAA and the crowd that would turn intellect into property. It is the story of Boychoir School, where, this article alleges, sexual abuse of its students was part of the institutional culture. Lessig himself was a star student, and deeply involved. Now he's working on the lawsuit.

Before I became aware of this piece of history, my respect, admiration and support for Lessig was just about as high as it could get for a mortal. Now it is deeper, too.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Proposed EU Constitution is 265 Pages

The U.S. Congress might vote for telephone book sized legislation without reading it, but that's no reason why ordinary people should.

You can read the whole draft EU Constitution here (pdf) but why would you want to? I tried. It is full of all kinds of technical jargon (e.g., "principle of loyal cooperation") you'd need a lawyer to decipher.

There's lots of good-sounding phrases in it, to be sure, but then there are zingers like
These objectives shall be pursued by appropriate means, depending on the extent to which the relevant competences are attributed to the Union in the Constitution.
Oh yeah? Whazzat sposta mean?

Even the U.S. Constitution, succinct and readable as it is, has been twisted all out of shape over the last two centuries. (e.g., What about, "Congress shall have the power . . . to declare war," is so difficult to understand in 2005?)

If the EU Constitution were voted in as presently worded, it wouldn't survive a decade when tens of thousands of lawyers in thousands of jurisdictions speaking hundreds of languages working for dozens of governments get their hands on it.

The people of France and Holland are right to send their reps back to the drawing board. Suggestion: make them write it in longhand. Five pages, max. Then hire an editor.

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