Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Mashups we want

Here's an idea I had for Mashup Camp:

A mashup that lets people add cellular dead zones (not-spots) to a Google Map? I know several places where I lose service predictably every time I drive there. Cellcos have this info but they are keeping it from us. If it were as easy as clicking on a map to add a not-spot (and maybe x-ing your carrier in a check box) it could present some damning data. It could become a reference tool for people shopping for new mobile service.

Here's the inspiration for the above.
Have an idea for a Mashup? Add it here.

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Act Now: Internet Freedom Under Fire

Free Press has an on-line petition (on steroids) here. Go. Sign. Now.

If big media companies are allowed to limit the fastest services to those who can pay their toll, upstart Web services, consumers, bloggers and new media makers alike all could be cut off from digital revolution.
Go. Sign. Now.

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Quote of Note: Condoleeza Rice

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming. It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the Hamas electoral victory in Palestine, quoted here.

Hmmm. I wonder if she's read this one.

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Book: The $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, by Bruce Kushnick

My friend Bruce Kushnick is a man on a mission. In The $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, he writes

. . . in the early 1990's . . . every Bell company . . . made commitments to rewire America, state by state. Fiber optic wires would replace the 100-year old copper wiring. The push caused techno-frenzy of major proportions. By 2006, 86 million households should have had a service capable of 45 Mbps in both directions . . . In order to pay for these upgrades, in state after state, the public service commissions and state legislatures acquiesced to the Bells' promises by removing the constraints on the Bells' profits as well as gave other financial perks . . . The phone companies collected over $200 billion in higher phone rates and tax perks, about $2000 per household.

The manipulations, deceptions and broken promises are documented in detail in New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts. Book synopsis here.

Buy the book (ebook only) here, $20.00 cheap.
Contact Bruce at 718-238-7191 or here.

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Monday, January 30, 2006


Google Image Search in China and /China

Tiananmen image search in China
Tiananmen image search in the rest of the world
Do click on both of these.
[Thanks to Sid Karin on Farber's List and Dewayne's List.]

Updata: Here's Google-China when you simply capitalize the T in the Tiananmen image search! Now it looks like what the rest of the world sees. Is Google superficially providing governmennt compliance, while letting us discover work-arounds? How many synonyms are there for each forbidden word? I council patience with Google. This could get interesting.
[Thanks to Sam Smith on Farber's List.]

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Sunday, January 29, 2006


Fishing is the wrong metaphor

Fishing expedition, indeed! "Poisoning the ocean," would be more apt.

A New York Times editorial last week, about U.S. Government invasions of privacy, is inaptly titled "Fishing in Cyberspace." Elsewhere in the NYT, Bob Herbert writes
"Whatever its stated goals, the N.S.A. seems to be operating the greatest fishing expedition in the history of the world."
Danny Weitzner asks whether Google's recent subpoenas are a "Fishing expedition or a new kind of intrusion."

In fact, a Technorati search for "fishing expedition" yields 2471 hits, and 36 of the first 40 defame fishing, as if it were clumsy groping in an unfamiliar unlit space. We must read to Hit #25 before we get the idea that the metaphor is flawed. The original source observes
Let's clarify the terminology.

Searching the Google records of millions of Americans is like fishing in a pond posted with "No Fishing Permitted" signs, using a stolen pole and tainted bait.
When I go on a fishing expedition, I either know where to go, when to go, and how to do it, or I go with somebody who does. My friend John Christian, who I went to third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade with, spent his adulthood, while I was frittering my time away at CalTech and Bell Labs, in worthy pursuit of the noble striped bass. When he puts the stern of his boat between the boulders in the crashing Cuttyhunk surf and says, "Cast it into the beach and retrive as slowly as you can," he's not groping. I got a twenty pounder on the first cast. He put me onto so many big bass that morning we stopped measuring. Then my elbow gave out and we quit early. The right metaphor for fishing with Johnny is more like, "Probable cause." Maybe even "arrest," or "conviction," or "sentencing." Definitely warranted.

I visited the north shore of the Dominican Republic in the 1970s. I snorkeled among coral reefs bleached and barren. The beach people had discovered that for a few pennies they could buy a gallon of bleach, dump it into the water, and, minutes later, pick up the dead fish that came to the surface. It took them a year or two to understand that this "fishing" technique killed the reef and wrecked the fishing, probably for decades, maybe centuries.

Poisoning the ocean is the right metaphor for today's illegal, unconstitutional, chilling activities.

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Friday, January 27, 2006


My O'Reilly Etel Talk

With apologies to Dr. Seuss
(a talk at O’Reilly Etel by David S. Isenberg January 26, 2006)

When Ed Whitacre, the head of AT&T, says,
“They’re not going to use my pipes for free”
he’s not talking about Them, he’s talking about Me.
He’s talking about Us, it should be plain to see.

When Whitaker says “free” he’s not talking about beer.
It’s our Freedom of Speech that’s at stake here.
Whitaker wants to privatize our right to express.
And he’s even got some laws in front of the US Congress,
Bad laws.
Laws that would make everybody with a public hotspot register with the FCC.
Laws that would let the telephone companies discriminate
Information that is dangerous from info that is safe
But who are they to decide?
The Free Internet gives *us* that right.

Now the law has a flaw, or so they say
So the telcos send our data to NSA
As if we’re all Osama and we might get away

Freedom to connect,
it’s like every other right.
We’ve got to fight,
Or they’ll come and take it from us
in the middle of the night.

The Bells want to split the Net in two,
Keep one part the same and give it to you.
A sliver of bandwidth that stays the same,
Even as Moore’s Law continues to change the game,
Until “our Internet” is a rutted dirt road,
And their piece is a turnpike with heavy, heavy tolls.

Google and Yahoo and Microsoft and Skype,
They’re already successful, they can make deals for those pipes.
But when I want to publish stuff in my blog
It will not be OK for you to once again pay.
We already pay for our Internet connection.
We don’t need to subsidize a dying industry’s obsession!
If looking at my blog cost you an extra dime
You’d probably find another way to spend your time.

More importantly, when you hackers field a fragile new app
You don’t want it blocked by Ed Whitacre’s crap,
Cause when Whitacre says, “They’re not going to use my pipes for free”
He’s not talking about Them, he’s talking about Me.
He’s talking about Us, that should be plain to see.

Freedom to connect,
it’s like every other right.
We’ve got to fight,
Or they’ll come and take it from us
in the middle of the night.

Internet freedom is Freedom of Speech.
You don’t need it if you’re just engaging in pleasantries.
But you do if you want an educated pesantry.
If kleptocrats are stealing, it’s important to know it.
If the mendocrats are lying it’s important to show it.
If you’ve got a whistle, you can’t ask their permission to blow it.

Today Information is struggling to be free
So we can protect what’s left of Democracy.
Us little guys, we’ve got pieces of information
About who’s been holding back our once-and-future nation
From broadband penetration.
This information will never be on TV,
Another reason the Internet has to be free.

When you sit there at your keyboard
and you struggle with the bugs,
You know creation is a process
not much different than love.
It is fragile as a flower in the morning dew
So you don’t want big brother fucking with you.

If they fuck with you, you’ve gotta stand up and say.
Give me a Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.
The author of this saying is our own Tim Bray.
Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

I’m taking my bad poetry to Washington DC.
I’d like everybody in this room to come with me.
April 3 and 4 in Washington DC,
Freedom-to-Connect will be The Place to be
If you want the Internet to stay free.
I’m partnering with Pulver, and I’d like to get Tim,
And I’d like to get you, and her and him.

In another revolution, Ben Franklin said,
“We must hang together or assuredly
we shall all hang separately.”
This statement is still true.
I trust you see its importance to you.
The Name of the Conference is Freedom to Connect.
April 3 and 4 in Washington DC,
Freedom-to-Connect is The place to be.
April 3 and 4 in Washington DC
We’ll take it home to Congress and the FCC.

Freedom to connect,
it’s like every other right.
We’ve got to fight,
Or they’ll come and take it from us
in the middle of the night.

So let’s finish with the words of Tim Bray,
Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

When we write to our congressman, what do we say?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

And when Whitaker says “Pay again” what do we say?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

And when BellSouth blocks our cities from doing WiFi?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

And when the telcos own your statehouse, what do you say?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

And when China blocks it bloggers, what do we say?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

And when the NSA spies on us what do we say?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

And when the FCC shuts down your ISP?
(audience) Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way.

Thank you. I hope to see you in Washington DC,
April 3 and 4.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Blogged without comment (speechless)

From Farber's IP List [source]:

From: Tim Finin [mailto:finin@cs.umbc.edu]
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2006 9:13 PM
To: dave@farber.net
Subject: More on Hayden on NSA program

I was puzzled when I heard this exchange on the radio.
General Hayden was clearly denying that "probable cause" was
the standard for what is allowed in the fourth amendment.
But the Constitution seems to say otherwise. It turns out that
there's a trick involved, so pay close attention.

Here's the exchange:

Q: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on
the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by
which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my
understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the
Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to
be able to do a search that does not violate an American's
right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually
protects all of us against unreasonable search and
seizure. That's what it says.

Q: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

Q: But does it not say probable ...

HAYDEN: No. The amendment says unreasonable search and
seizure... Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if
there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of
the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the
Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth
Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a
lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised
to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an
issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is
"reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are
lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable."

And here is the fourth amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The trick is this -- "probable cause" is only needed to get
a warrant for a search, so if you forgo asking for a
warrant to be issued, you are home free. Slam dunk. This
Law stuff is pretty neat.

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What You Might See on Your Screen Tomorrow

[source] Thanks, Head Lemur

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Would somebody please help this poor fellow out?

Richard writes this comment on Internet: Freedom or Privilege:
Obviously you do not know what freedom of speech is. You have freedom of speech but this does not give you the right to infringe on the freedoms and right of others. Freedom of speech only applies to the government and not individuals. It applies to the relationship to government and the people; that the government can not prohibit political speech. Private individuals should have the right to set any policy of speech on their private property; thus since the internet, I.E. the pipes are private property the owner has every rights to set limitation at will.
# posted by Richard : 1/24/2006 2:49 PM

Maybe I don't know what Freedom of Speech is. Maybe the "pipes" are private property owned by the telcos. Maybe connecting to the Internet (or even making a phone call) is a privilege. What do the readers of isen.blog think?

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Monday, January 23, 2006


Internet: Freedom or Privilege?

[I wrote this as an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor, but why wait for a gatekeeper who is laboring under the influence of scarce column inches? -- David I]

The battle for Internet freedom has been joined. Recently a Google spokesman
responded to assertions that Internet companies, “would not use our pipes for free,” by BellSouth, Verizon and the new AT&T, saying, “Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier. We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations." The battle is bigger than Google versus the telcos. It is about whether Internet access is a freedom, like freedom of the press, or a privilege that may be granted or withheld.

The Internet’s astounding growth in usefulness, in number of users, and in traffic quantity is due, precisely, to, “
the freedom to use this connection without limitations.” Its success comes from Internet users’ ability to send and receive virtually any string of 1s and 0s. For the last decade, no gatekeeper has stood between the user and the Internet to slow (or speed) the 1s and 0s based on their source, destination or meaning –the Internet treats each bit the same as every other. As a result, anybody could try out a new idea, however harebrained, without crossing a ponderous permission barrier. A hobbyist collecting Pez dispensers could develop the idea to become Ebay. A couple of Stanford students could start Google and build a better search engine. Two guys in Europe could assemble a handful of programmers to invent Skype and threaten the trillion-dollar annual global tel-economy.

Behind the obvious usefulness of Google, Ebay, Skype and other Internet applications we use every day, there are thousands of invisible Internet flops. The experimental process that the Internet enables lets users discover the applications and content they want. The good stuff floats to the top. Gatekeepers would interfere. They wound never know as much about what users want as users themselves. If each fragile Internet experiment had to be authorized to, “use our pipes,” if each young innovator had to pay for the privilege, many such experiments, even today’s great successes, might never have had a chance. The Internet’s blindness to content, even though this blindness also allows malware, spam and objectionable material, has led it to overwhelm gated systems like Compuserve and Prodigy; today it even threatens the telephone companies.

Telephone companies are fighting back. They have declared their intent to know what travels on their networks and charge discriminatorily based on this knowledge. They have pushed US courts and the FCC to decide that the Internet is an information service but not essential infrastructure, so gatekeepers can decide who has privilege to use their network. They have shaped FCC proceedings to burden innovators with emergency dialing and wiretapping requirements that, in a Kafka-esque turn, have not yet been specified but must, nevertheless, be met on schedule. They have shaped legislation before the US Congress that would protect telephone company Internet systems with special carve-outs for voice and video services, but burden innovators with federal registration, connection by private commercial arrangement or the threat of banishment to left-over, unregulated, spare capacity.

The legislation in Congress turns on two words, Network Neutrality. Network Neutrality means that the network does not discriminate among different types of traffic based on the traffic’s source, destination or content. In committee hearings, telephone companies claimed that they would not slow traffic that does not pay, only that they would speed traffic that does, but this is simply marketing language for the same discrimination. There were strong Network Neutrality words in draft telecom legislation before the U.S. House Commerce Committee, but these were removed in a second draft, because, according to Chairman Barton, “Nobody I talked to liked the first draft.” The bill’s third draft is now in renewed negotiations.

At issue: Is Internet access a freedom or a privilege? Just as Freedom of Speech means that, with very few limitations, nobody has the right to tell somebody else what to say, so should Internet freedom mean that gatekeepers should not control Internet applications or content. This is essential not just as a matter of freedom, but also as a matter of commerce, because the Internet’s success is directly due to its content-blindness. If the United States fails to understand this, U.S. Internet leadership will follow U.S. leadership in agriculture, in steel, in autos, and in consumer electronics to other countries that do.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006


Pip rips CES

Pip Coburn thinks the world's largest trade show is missing its mark. He writes:
. . . [CES] is a gathering of 150,000 Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives—think a gigantic Star Trek convention—most of whom are looking to sell something or other to someone else. This is the definition of an industry trade show. The problem is that the six billion people they really really really want to sell to aren't in Vegas . . . they have other things to do, like search for their remote controls.
So why does CES not work? CES doesn't work because—unlike the telco execs exhibiting to each other at CeBit—the actual consumers of consumer electronics, that is most Earthlings, don't care if the digerati are gathering in Vegas to tell them their theories of what to do next—since those Earthlings aren't observing the digerati watching each other.
My experience this year: CES is a fine place to do business. If you know who you want to talk to, all you need to do is make an appointment -- beforehand. But it is way too big for serendipity. I only saw two people I wanted to see but hadn't planned on seeing. I missed several others who I learned were there after the event. I'm afraid that CES is getting so big that nobody goes there anymore. And the "consumers" -- the C of CES -- as Pip points out, they're not there.

Disclosure: I'm a Research Fellow at Coburn Ventures.

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Friday, January 20, 2006


Writing on the wall

" . . . you have seen [explosions] in the capitals of the European nations who are in this aggressive coalition. The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with God's permission . . . "

Osama bin Laden, in Full Text of the Bin Laden Tape, New York Times, 1/19/06

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*do* do this at home, kids

Here are step-by-step instructions for setting up an Asterisk PBX at home! Thanks, Tom Mandel!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Google Not Dancing to Bell Tune

Says here:
Google's Barry Schnitt told [Networking Pipeline's Paul Kapustka] in an email: "Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier. We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations."
Hooray for Google!

ISP Planet's Alex Goldman writes that this is a Fight the Bells will Lose. If Microsoft and Ebay and Yahoo and Earthlink and all the other content providers stand up with Google, and get their customers to stand with them, he's right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Dan Gillmor, Welcome to Berkman!

Noted technology journalist and citizen's media advocate, Dan Gillmor, now a Berkman Fellow, records everyday life on his first day at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society here. Welcome, Dan!

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Monday, January 16, 2006


Quote of Note: Al Gore

" . . . any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens."

Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, today, quoted here.

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In memory of Dr. Martin Luther King

Al Gore, in a speech punctuated by multiple standing ovations, said today
On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder . . .

Reading Gore's speech this evening is the best way to honor and remember Dr. King that I can think of.

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Webcast: Rubin "Hurricane" Carter at Berkman

Professor Charles Nesson writes:
On Thursday, January 19, [at 7:30 PM Boston time] Kevin Wallen, Rubin *Hurricane* Carter and Courtney Kazembe will be speaking at Harvard Law School about a restorative justice initiative in the prisons in Jamaica. They are working with the government of Jamaica to create a program of restorative justice that addresses the problems that often arises when inmates are paroled. Where old enmities are unresolved, new violence often breaks out when the parolee gets home. The program seeks to constructively bring unresolved enmities to the surface and deal with them before parole. Kevin Wallen heads this project and Courtney Kazembe represents a very controversial inmate who is their test case. Kevin Wallen also works with inmates on a program of personal restoration and rehabilitation for inmates that has seen some remarkable success, even with individuals who will never be paroled. Much of this process started when Hurricane Carter visited Jamaica and asked to visit the prisons to speak to inmates.
The webcast will be findable from here or here. I'm watching it!

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It ain't me babe, no, no, no, it ain't me babe

Amazing how the Internet collapses name space. Suddenly all the David Isenbergs of the world are just a mouse click away.

One of the more notable David Isenbergs, a military analyst, has a January 6 piece on TomPaine.com called The Imperious President. The article observes,
. . . the NSA is a military agency. Thus we have the military executing actions that violate U.S. civilian laws. Ironically, when we see illicit actions like this taking place in other countries, we usually call it a police state.
I wonder how long it'll take for "David Isenberg" to produce a positive hit on the airport watch list. I'll be pissed, but I'll also be proud to be confused with such an observant, articulate fellow.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006


Lessig: The Internet owes its existence to regulation

Lawrence Lessig, writing on his blog, says
when the Internet first reached beyond research facilities to the masses, it did so on regulated lines — telephone lines. Had the telephone companies been free of the “heavy hand” of government regulation, it’s quite clear what they would have done — they would have killed it, just as they did when Paul Baran first proposed the idea in 1964. It was precisely because they were not free to kill it, because the “heavy hand[ed]” regulation required them to act neutrally, that the Internet was able to happen, and then flourish.
Verizon’s entry-level broadband is $14.95 for 786 kbs. That about $20 per megabit. In FRANCE, for $36/m, you get 20 megabits/s — or about $1.80 per megabit.

How did France get it so good? By following the rules the US passed in 1996, but that telecoms never really followed (and cable companies didn’t have to follow): “strict unbundling.” That’s the same in Japan — fierce competition induced by “heavy handed” regulation producing a faster, cheaper Internet. Now of course, no one is pushing “open access” anymore. Net neutrality is a thin and light substitute for the strategy that has worked in France and Japan. But it is regulation, no doubt.

Broadband is infrastructure — like highways, if not railroads. If you rely upon “markets” alone to provide infrastructure, you’ll get less of it, and at a higher price.

Lessig's blog posting points to a narrative he wrote of a briefing he gave to US House of Representatives staff on "open access." He writes:

There is deep confusion about the idea of "regulation" within our political culture and about its relationship to innovation and the Internet. The fashion is to say that regulation harms innovation . . . This attitude is profoundly mistaken. It betrays an extraordinary ignorance about the history of the Internet, and this ignorance threatens to undermine the innovation that the Internet has made possible. Innovation has always depended upon a certain kind of regulation; the greatest examples of innovation in our recent past evince this reliance. And unless we begin to see the relationship between this type of rule and the innovation it promotes, we are likely to kill the promise of the Internet.

The Internet would not be the success it is today were it not for the FCC's "Computer II" idea of Basic Service, which guaranteed that dial-up access to ISPs would be non-discriminatory. If we want the future to arrive in the US in timely fashion, we will follow the lead of Japan and Canada and France and twenty-some other systems of telecom regulation, and make sure that conduit knows not what content is carried.

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This is magnificent!

From today's New York Times:

Hey, Baby Bells: Information Still Wants to Be Free

Published: January 15, 2006

AT the top of my wish list for next year's Consumer Electronics Show is this: the introduction of broadband service across the country that is as up to date as that 103-inch flat-screen monitor just introduced by Panasonic. The digital lifestyle I see portrayed so alluringly in ads is not possible when the Internet plumbing in our homes is as pitiful as it is. The broadband carriers that we have today provide service that attains negative perfection: low speeds at high prices.

It gets worse. Now these same carriers - led by Verizon Communications and BellSouth - want to create entirely new categories of fees that risk destroying the anyone-can-publish culture of the Internet. And they are lobbying for legislative protection of their meddling with the Internet content that runs through their pipes. These are not good ideas.

Slow broadband seems to be our cursed lot. Until we get an upgrade - or rather an upgrade to an upgrade - the only Americans who will enjoy truly fast and inexpensive service will be those who leave the country. In California, Comcast cable broadband provides top download speeds of 6 megabits a second for a little more than $50 a month. That falls well short, however, of Verizon's 15-megabit fiber-based service offered on the East Coast at about the same price. But what about the 100-megabit service in Japan for $25 month? And better, much better: Stockholm's one-gigabit service - that is, 1,000 megabits, or more than 1,300 times faster than Verizon's entry-level DSL service - for less than 100 euros, or $120, a month.

One-gigabit service is not in the offing in the United States. What the network carriers seem most determined to sell is a premium form of Internet service . . .

Go read the rest right now. Then ask why the United States is falling behind so far so fast.

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Alito on a more restrictive Internet

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, in his Senate confirmateion hearing before the Judiciary Committee, answering a question about Internet pornography, said
"I think that the problem of protecting children from pornography on the Internet illustrates the fact that, although the task of the court is to apply principles that are in the constitution and not make up its own principles, [it has to] apply those to different factual situations when the world changes.

"And in particular, in the First Amendment context, when the means of communications change, the job of applying the principles that have been worked out, and I think in this area worked out with a great deal of effort, over a period of time in the pre-Internet world to the world of the Internet is a real difficult problem.

"Congress and the judiciary have been struggling with it. Constitutional law, as you know, draws a distinction between obscenity, which has no First Amendment protection, but which is subject to a strict definition, and pornography which is not obscenity but is sexually-related materials.

"With respect to minors, the Supreme court has said it is permissible to regulate the sale of pornography to them and has greater authority than it does with respect to distribution of pornography to adults.

"In the pre-Internet world, the job of preventing minors from purchasing pornography was a lot simpler. If they wanted to get it, I guess they would have to go to a store someplace and buy it.

"On the Internet, of course, it is readily available from any computer terminal, and a lot of minors today are a lot more sophisticated in the use of computers than their parents. The ability of parents to monitor and supervise what they are doing is greatly impaired by this difference in computer aptitude.

"I can't say much more than that, but it is a difficult question. And I think there needs to be additional effort in this area, probably by all branches of government, so that the law fully takes into account the differences regarding communication over the Internet and access to materials over the Internet by minors."
It sounds like new laws, new executive rulings and new court decisions would restrict Internet content in an Alito future.

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Friday, January 13, 2006


Passing strange

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from somebody at a big company that was worried about whether open source communications (especially Asterisk) would disrupt its established Cathedral-style business. The caller wanted somebody who was not an open source zealot, but could give a level-headed assessment of the impact of open source on the company's business. This is just the kind of thing I like doing and do well. When I told the nice caller that when I gave my valuable advice to a commercial enterprise, I usually did it for a fee, the tone of the conversation changed. The caller would get back to me.

This morning I woke up singing, "The ways of man are passing strange, he buys his freedom and he counts his change." But I couldn't figure out whether I was singing about myself or that company.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Picture > 1k Words

Speaking of mashups . . .
[Source] Thanks to Joshua Micah Marshall for the pointer.


Mashup Camp

David Berlind of ZDNet gave an engaging lunch talk at Berkman yesterday. He introduced me to the idea (announced way back in December) of Mashup Camp, to be held in February in California. What a cool idea! (What's a mashup? It is a merging of different, complementary web services, a remix in programming space. Packagemapper, frexample, looks like a useful mashup!)

A whole lot of great folks will be there, like Pete Kaminski, Doc Searls, Kaliya Hamlin and Mary Hodder. Unlike some other "camps," you don't need an invitation. You just need to wanna do the mash.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


FBI Agent's Cell Phone Records For Sale

Locatecell.com seems to have a good thing going. According to this Chicago Sun Times story:
To test the service, the FBI paid Locatecell.com $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.

Representatives of Data Find Solutions Inc., the Tennessee-based operator of Locatecell.com, could not be reached for comment.

Frank Bochte, a spokesman for the FBI in Chicago, said he was aware of the Web site.

"Not only in Chicago, but nationwide, the FBI notified its field offices of this potential threat to the security of our agents, and especially our undercover agents," Bochte said.

Funny how the FBI's first reaction is to go on the defensive.
Funny how this is a big surprise to the FBI.
The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to Locatecell.com to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter's company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number.

Locatecell.com e-mailed a list of 78 telephone numbers this reporter called on his cell phone between Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. The list included calls to law enforcement sources, story subjects and other Sun-Times reporters and editors.

Cheating spouse? Disloyal employees? Need to find out what your competition is doing? Hey, no problem. Telecom services are just information services these days.

Fortunately friend Chris Hoofnagle, of Electronic Privacy Information Center, is on the case.

Thanks to Steve Crandall, who spotted this story first!

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Alito Hearing Haiku

The National Journal has summarized the first day of the advise and consent re Samuel Alito's U.S. Supreme Court nomination. Each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee gets a haiku. Some examples:
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI):
Before I'd Vote "Yay"
You Gotta Tell Me How You'd Deal
With The NSA

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ):
Presumption? Yay
Please Don't Tell 'Em How You'll Vote
Mimic John Roberts

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK):
Crossword senator
Demands pro-life justices
Sooner, not later

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
You're Extreme. You're mean.
And you were selected to
Placate the right wing

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Sunday, January 08, 2006


Telecom Hearings in Senate Commerce Committee

If you're looking for the direct effect of the Internet on democracy, the webcasts of these U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearings are a good find. (I watched the webcast of the House telecom hearing last November 9. It was almost as good as being there.)

Here's the Commerce Committee's telecom schedule:
  • Thursday, January 19 10:00 AM -- Decency
  • Thursday, January 19 2:30 PM -- Internet Pornography
  • Tuesday, January 24 10:00 AM -- Video Franchising
  • Tuesday, January 24 2:30 PM -- Video Content
  • Thursday, January 26 10:00 AM -- Competition and Convergence
  • Tuesday, January 31 10:00 AM -- Broadcast and Audio Flag
  • Tuesday, February 7 10:00 AM -- Net Neutrality
  • Tuesday, February 14 10:00 AM -- Municipal Networks
  • Wednesday, February 15 10:00 AM -- FCC Activities and Policy
  • Tuesday, February 28 10:00 AM -- USF Contributions
  • Tuesday, February 28 2:30 PM -- USF Distributions
  • Thursday, March 2 10:00 AM -- Wireless Issues/Spectrum Reform
  • Tuesday, March 7 10:00 AM -- Rural Telecommunications
  • Tuesday, March 14 10:00 AM -- Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • Tuesday, March 14 2:30 PM -- Wall Street and Telecommunications

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Friday, January 06, 2006


Public Meeting on Illegal Wiretapping

Andy Oram reports in depth on last Wednesday's important meeting:
The 300+ seats were filled to capacity last night for an ACLU emergency meeting on wiretapping, held in Lexington, Massachusetts. It has been years since an event made me so angry--and even longer since an event made me so inspired.

The moderator was Congressman Ed Markey, and the two speakers were Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Carol Rose, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLU-MA). All of them were extraordinarily eloquent and to the point, having learned over the years how to explain complex legal and technical points in precise and constructive ways.

As far as I know, this is the first open meeting concerning the scandal that's rocking the country. There were many local touches, such as being called a "Town Meeting" in an old New England tradition, and some corny references to Lexington as the cradle of American democracy. But Markey promised that many more such meetings will take place around the country.

Here's hoping it is a watershed.

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Quote of Note: Jeffery Citron

"They want to charge us for the bandwidth the customer has already paid for. The customer has to pay twice. That's crazy."

Jeffery Citron, CEO Vonage, Quoted in today's Wall Street Journal, in article entitled, Phone Companies Set Off A Battle Over Internet Fees: Content Providers May Face Charges for Fast Access; Billing the Consumer Twice? (paid subscription required)

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Wi-Fi is the Killer App at CES

Bank account killer, that is. This is a real screen shot from the Sands Convention Center. For those who can't see the fine print, Wi-Fi here is $9.95 a half hour, $39.95 for four hours, $399.95 for two days and $899.95 for the whole show.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Too much throughput?

Om Malik asks how real is the need for speed. He observes
. . . as we increase the speed, the real impact of the speed on what we do with it is marginal. Can your eyes tell the difference between a web-page loading in one second or 0.27 seconds. I guess not. . . . Sure at 30 Mbps you can download DVD quality The Bourne Identity in 11 minutes, but its still going to take you 2 hours to watch it.
But Bill St. Arnaud (in private email, quoted here by permission) counters
Internet applications can be broadly categorized into three types :
1. Human to human communications- voice, video conferencing, etc
2. Human to computer communications- web, streaming, video on demand
3. Computer to computer communications - P2P, file transfer, etc

The telcos, given their legacy, have always seen the world in terms of human to human communications and base their network design assumptions on that model. That is why they can never understand why you need more than a 1 Mbs - and high QoS is essential -the human eyeball and ear drum are very poor network interface devices as they have no buffering capability .
The Internet today is dominated by human to computer communications, but will that be true for the Internet of tomorrow? Many would argue that the Internet of the future will be dominated by computer to computer communications. Computer to computer communications are not constrained by having "low speed" humans in the loop . . . computer to computer applications now dominate the research network environment to such a degree that we building global terabit networks dedicated to single computer to computer applications . . . Time will only tell if these are very specialized niche applications, or an indicator of future networking trends.
This argument parallels the one that claimed that when we had affordable video-speed networks voice would be free. The implication is that when networks let machines affordably interact at machine speeds, human-machine interaction will be free. The crumbling incumbents are still fighting the former battle.

Myself, I await the day when the net is as fast as my computer's backplane, so there is no distinction between my computer and all the other computers out there on the 'net.

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