Friday, March 31, 2006


America's Technology Future at Risk

A new report, America's Technology Future at Risk.pdf, by Clyde Prestowitz, shows how U.S. trade in high tech goods has fallen in recent years.

Here's the telecom-specific picture:

The problem, of course, is bad policy.

Thanks to Jim Baller for the pointer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Ride offered from Boston to F2C

Tim Shepard, the fellow who wrote the famous MIT thesis proving
that mesh networking works, writes
I'll be driving down to Silver Spring on Sunday, planning to arrive
late afternoon or early evening.

I'll drive back to Boston Tuesday night, arriving Boston
early Wednesday AM.

If you want to ride with Tim, contact him at shep at alum dot mit dot edu.

Technorati Tags: , ,


Ride offered: NYC to F2C

Need a ride from New York to F2C?

Dean Landsman writes:
I can offer two or even three people a ride to Silver Spring on Sunday. My first thought is to offer this to those who might be more in need of transportation (or assistance), or, otherwise, just to be helpful and to have a ride down with people with whom for sure there will be common interest and good conversation. I've got a roomy Honda Accord and would feel it was a better and more efficient use of fuel to drive with other F2Cers than to go it alone.

Anyone who needs a ride can contact me via e-mail -- deanland at gmail dot com

My plan is to leave Sunday at about noon, and take an easy, casual drive down to Silver Spring.

NB: this is only for the ride down, as my return plans are still up in the air.

Looking forward to the meeting. If F2C this year is only half as good as last year, it will still be light years better than most meetings, any year!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, March 27, 2006


More on red-zone, green-zone

Jarno Rajahalme writes to comment on the red-zone, green-zone idea:

Just a quick note on the parallels of the green/red idea and the reality of corporate intranets today. Corporate intranets are exactly like the green zone: IM departments are pre-screening all SW allowed to run on computers connected etc. Access to the "red" zone is provided through the firewalls, but is subject to policing and control from the "green" zone operators. New applications cannot be readily utilized - for that we will need to use separate machines, connected only to the "red" network.
Interesting! There used to be a truism that new apps first appeared at work, then in the home. Now the opposite is true. This is one reason why. Jarno continues
For corporations this kind-of works. However, I would NOT trust telecom operators (or ISPs for that matter) to operate the "public green zone". With corporation there is no notion of extorting revenue from me, but the make our working environment functional and corporate assets protected. There is no such shared interest between myself and network operators!

Cellular operators have long dreamed of such "walled gardens", but IMO people want access to their web mail accounts, their instant messaging, their chat, not the ones restricted to/by the operator they happen to buy their cellular service from.
Jarno is talking about one sense of Freedom to Connect -- the ability to use existing apps from any provider. Long term, the ability to launch new apps on a network -- and, most importantly, connect with customers for those new apps -- is even more important. I am disheartened by the cellular operator story -- with many cellular operators to choose from, you might think people would demand one that took a non-walled-garden approach. But there aren't any.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Isenberg v. Zittrain on Voice of America

Adam Phillips at The Voice of America has done an interesting story, written, streamed and podcast , on Jonathan Zittrain's red-zone, green-zone idea.

Sample quote from Zittrain:

It is, to me, astounding," he says "to find ourselves with this collective instrumentality where one person or a handful of people, somewhere in the world, maybe for fun or maybe for money, maybe because they want fame, can write some interesting new software that does something new, make it available over the internet, and if it turns out to be popular, before they even know it, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of people could be running the software in a matter of days.
Sample quote from Isenberg:

The problem is the people in the red zone are very different than the people in the green zone. The edgy 'internauts' who are out there exploring what might be illegal or dangerous might actually not provide a good market test for Mr. and Mrs. Generic Vanilla internet user.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Zittrain's Green Zone Theory (from SMART Letter #99)

[The words below appeared in False Choice -- SMART Letter #99 -- David I]

A Word to the SMART
By David S. Isenberg

As a Fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet and
Society, it has been my privilege and pleasure to
associate with Professor Jonathan Zittrain. Recently he
has advanced a proposal to put a metaphorical wall down
the middle of the Internet to divide a Green Zone, where
only certified-safe programs are allowed, from a Red
Zone, where anything goes. While I think Zittrain is a
smart guy and a delightful friend, I am suspicious of
this proposal. (a) I don't think it could work. (b) I
am afraid that we'd lose much of what is good about the
Internet in trying it. (Notice that Baghdad's Green
Zone is not especially safe and it is nothing
like the real Iraq.)


by David S. Isenberg
[This was my VON Magazine column, March 2006]

Is the Internet experiment in danger of being shut down?
Oxford Internet Institute professor Jonathan Zittrain
believes that a backlash is building against the
Internet's ability to support wide-ranging innovation.
Such a backlash would be motivated by Internet-
threatened interests, like music publishers and law
enforcers, driven by an alliance of regulators,
technologists and telephone companies. This alliance
would tell the story that while the Internet is a
critical utility that hundreds of millions of people
depend upon for banking, shopping and communications,
it is also, simultaneously, a cesspool of worms, viruses,
spyware, identity theft, intellectual property theft and
fraud. Zittrain points out that the Internet's ability
to support innovation of every kind, which he calls its
generativity, also supports the development and
propagation of malware and misuse. He posits that the
occurrence of a network-halting, computer-destroying
incident, a digital Pearl Harbor, would bring an
irresistible call to severely constrain the Internet,
and a fearful public would be supportive.

Zittrain understands that the Internet's generativity
has been part of its success. He believes that its
generativity should be preserved, and offers a novel way
of doing it. Zittrain proposes to preserve the Internet
in all its wildness, danger and opportunity by creating
another, parallel Internet that would be controlled,
secure, tame and predictable. The wild "red" Internet
and the tame "green" Internet would coexist within the
same end-user computer, where a software switch would
toggle between the two. He says that the computer user
could switch back and forth, "to ensure that valuable or
sensitive data was created and stored in the 'green'
mode, leaving 'red' mode for experimentation and play."

Zittrain sees problems with this, but thinks they're
workable. He says that Internet service providers might
charge more for a red connection, presuming that red
will be subject to more volume and abuse. He observes
that we will need a way of certifying green
applications, perhaps an "Underwriters Lab" for
software. And he sees a danger that the green machine,
"might be so restrictively conceived that most users
would find it unpalatable."

I see even more problems. Some of the Internet's value
lies beyond its generativity. There's huge value in the
ability to try out new ideas quickly and cheaply on
target markets, with real customers using real
applications. Suppose an innovator had an idea that
might appeal to typical green customers but could only
try the idea out on red users. Or, suppose the
gatekeepers of green charged too much to test new, red
ideas. The market test baby might go down the drain
unnoticed in the red bathwater.

Also, I'm reminded of the CIA's practice of "air-gap"
security. In the 1990s, the CIA kept its computers off
the Internet in fear that outsiders might steal or
corrupt its data. As a result, CIA employees could not
email non-CIA employees, nor could they access facts
from daily newspapers, the stock market and other
sources. So they got accounts from Earthlink and AOL.
They used them for work, too. In a red-green scheme,
what happens when, inevitably, the user needs red
information in a green context?

There's another path between the Scylla of an Internet
where innovation is illegal and the Charybdis of an
Internet where innovation and problems are red-walled
against everyday use. This is the creation of green
applications on an otherwise red Internet. It's
happening today. My email client silently shuffles spam
into a junk mailbox and warns me about incoming viruses.
My iTunes music player has light digital rights
management that puts some controls on copying. My
browser suppresses pop-up ads and lets me manage cookies
if I want to endure that hassle to shield my privacy.
These programs – and others – will get better, smarter
and easier to use securely over time, thanks to the
generativity of the Internet exactly as it exists today.

I'm afraid that control-freak incumbents will exploit
this red-green thing in an Internet crisis to wall off
the generativity that made today's wild and crazy
Internet great. I think the Internet experiment is just

You can read Zittrain's original article on the Red-
Zone, Green-Zone concept here and a truncated one that
Zittrain is not completely comfortable with here.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,


SMART Letter #99 is out

I published "False Choice -- SMART Letter #99" last Wednesday. At some point, I'll reproduce it in the SMART Letter Archives (SMART Letter #96-98 too) but for now, I will simply blog its main points in the next posting or two. To get The SMART Letter on time, it is best to join the SMART List.

Technorati Tags:


Tom Evslin retells the Stupid Network story

Tom Evslin, who, unbeknownst to me at the time, was my best friend in AT&T's Carpetland, blogged me flatteringly yesterday. He wrote:
Over one weekend in May of 1997 David Isenberg, who then worked at AT&T Labs Research (nee Bell labs), wrote a paper called The Rise of The Stupid Network which explained (and still explains) with breathtaking simplicity why the Internet is superior to the “intelligent networks” favored by traditional telcos and was about to crater the value of these expensive networks. The paper is especially relevant now . . . It is just about as current as the weekend it was written.
Then he writes:
OK, you ask, why is a stupid network better than an intelligent one?
Then he explains why.

Tom Evslin will be at F2C: Freedom to Connect. About that, he writes:
I won’t agree with everyone there; neither will you: but this is the place where the right communication issues get discussed by people who mostly know what they’re talking about.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, March 23, 2006


F2C: Freedom to Connect is gathering momentum!

At this point some 155 people are coming to F2C: Freedom to Connect! At 200 we sell out. If you're thinking of coming, register now.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


BarCamp WashDC is gathering momentum!

Kudos to Daniel Berninger for taking the lead on BarCamp WashDC! It will begin right after F2C: Freedom to Connect ends, around 5:00 PM on Tuesday, April 4, with drinks and dinner in or near Silver Spring MD. BarCamp WashDC continues on April 5 in a K Street conference room. (It'll be our own little K Street Project!)

So far, 5 (and maybe six) people are coming.

Technorati Tags: , ,


Frank Paynter on F2C: Freedom to Connect

Frank Paynter is doing his homework on F2C: Freedom to Connect. His thoughtful blog posting here brings many threads together to illustrate the depth and complexity of the issue. Frank writes

I feel a little bit like I'm riding a pendulum of indecision. Some really smart people argue persuasively for the stupid network, while some really straightforward analysis suggests that building in intelligence can improve throughput, improve utilization of bandwidth, improve application performance and so forth.
Thanks Frank! I look forward to your presence and participation at F2C: Freedom to Connect, April 3 & 4 in Washington DC!

Technorati Tags: , , ,


ISP-Planet on F2C: Freedom to Connect

Alex Goldman, writing in ISP-Planet, says
One way of describing what [F2C: Freedom to Connect] is about is by citing the words of a famous person. . . Doc Searls. He wrote an article in Linux Journal titled Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes. That's a problem the ISP industry faces every day . . . Being an ISP [is] about delivering the freedom to connect in the face of powerful interests that want to rebuild the monopoly. Isenberg warns that in a telco-topia future, the Bells will buy out cable, and the monopoly will return, more powerful than ever.
Thanks Alex! (Alex Goldman and Doc Searls will be at F2C: Freedom to Connect, April 3 & 4 in Washington DC.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Pro Choice

If abortion were the issue, laws would drastically curtail mercury emissions from coal plants, because mercury is known to cause miscarriages, still births and birth defects. The only thing missing from Bush Administration policy permitting mercury emissions is choice -- the mother gets no choice on environmental mercury-induced abortions. Once again, Stephanie "Minimum Security" McMillan nails the real issue.

Cartoon published with permission of 'toonist -- Thanks, Stephanie!


Quote of Note: Jamin Raskin

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. you did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

Constitutional Law Professor Jamin Raskin, at a March 1 Maryland State Senate hearing, quoted here.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, March 20, 2006


Quote of Note: John Sununu (R-NH)

“Thankfully, advances in technology have eliminated any real claims of harmful interference by existing licensees in [the TV] spectrum band.”

Senator John Sununu, quoted here.

Technorati Tags: ,


Unlicensed Use of TV Whitespace

There are two bills before the Senate, both introduced on the same day (Feb. 17, 2006), that would, if they became law, make the spectrum of unused TV channels available for use by unlicensed devices, much as we use Wi-Fi today. I thought there was only one bill when I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago -- I was wrong. The two bills are S. 2332, introduced by Ted Stevens, D-AK, and S. 2327, a bipartisan effort of George Allen, R-VA, Barbara Boxer, D-CA, John Kerry, D-MA, and John Sununu, R-NH.

Both bills would permit unlicensed, non-exclusive use of unassigned, non-licensed television broadcast channels. Both direct the FCC to complete Docket ET-04-186 (.pdf), entitled, "Unlicensed Operation in the TV Broadcast Bands and Additional Spectrum for Unlicensed Devices Below 900 MHz in the 3 GHz Band, dated May 25, 2004. ET-04-186 has been dormant since Kevin Martin became FCC Chairman.

The Allen, Boxer, Kerry, Sununu bill is the simpler of the two. The Stevens bill addresses somewhat less spectrum and has language to protect incumbent TV licensees in adjacent spectrum, to address interference complaints and to subject unlicensed devices operating in TV spectrum to technical certification.

I was puzzled by FCC Chairman Martin's foot dragging in this matter, so I tried to track down his comments on spectrum reform and found this contorted statement that seems to address the problem by FUD, citing completely irrelevant matters.

Elsewhere, Martin said, "At bottom, the Commission is a creature of Congress," so maybe S. 2327 and S. 2332 are exactly the right medicine.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Lessig on F2C: Freedom to Connect

Lawrence Lessig, writing in LessigBlog says:
This year’s Freedom to Connect (F2C) conference (April 3&4, Washington DC) promises to be quite a show. The battle over network neutrality is coming to a head. And this conference, hosted by Pulvermedia and David Isenberg, will be a focal point in that debate.
Thanks Larry!

Technorati Tags: ,


Bar Camp, Wash DC, Announcement (Release 0.9)

Announcing BarCamp WashDC . . .

After F2C: Freedom to Connect, we're probably, like almost certainly, doing Bar Camp.

When F2C ends, at 5:00 PM on April 4, I strongly suspect that a bunch of like-minded people will self-organize to go out to dinner, probably at a nearby restaurant (watch this blog and the BarCamp WashDC wiki). This begins Bar Camp Washington DC. Bar Camp will continue on Wednesday, April 5 -- Daniel Berninger is checking out a room for 45 people (with tables, chairs, whiteboards and Wi-Fi) that we can use to see if it is suitable.

Note: BarCamp WashDC immediately follows F2C: Freedom to Connect, held April 3 & 4, but there's no need to attend F2C to be a full participant in BarCamp WashDC!

One suggestion: Go to Capitol Hill to talk to our congressional representatives!
Other suggestions? Leave a comment or edit this page.

Technorati Tags: ,

Saturday, March 18, 2006


"So they can see how wrong they were . . . "

Just after the "Fall" of Baghdad in 2003, right wingnut Cal Thomas (4/16/03) said,
"All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent."

Thomas gets his wish. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) honors the war's "pollyanna pundits," by remembering their words. Sometimes "reality" is embarrassing.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Skype Journal endorsed F2C: Freedom to Connect!

Stuart Henshall writes
. . . what goes down at Freedom to Connect could well affect the future of the Internet and have broad implications for how we communicate . . . Who wants to go for Skype Journal? Let me know.
Indeed. If you want to go, let Stuart know. A friend of Skype Journal is a friend of F2C.

Technorati Tags: , ,


Tim O'Reilly on F2C: Freedom to Connect

Yesterday, Tim O'Reilly blogged:
. . . like previous David Isenberg conferences, [F2C: Freedom to Connect] will be small, highly interactive, and with a stellar cast of speakers. If you care about the future of the Internet, this will be a very worthwhile event. It's a good opportunity to get the voice of of the internet community heard in Washington.
Thanks Tim!

A comment on Tim's article by "adamsj" says
why on earth gather all those people in Washington, DC, and not have a co-ordinated day of lobbying? If you go to Washington to talk federal politics and don't pay a call on your representative or senator, it's not an optimal trip.
My reply: We're not quite ready to "announce officially" but it is very likely, almost certain, we're going to have a "Bar Camp" (Tim approves, btw) immediately following F2C, from dinner Tues 4/4 thru Wednesday 4/5. If Bar Campers, or some subset, want to go to the Hill, that would be a most excellent way to self-organize!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, March 16, 2006


$200 Billion Telecom Ripoff. Summarized!

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University has published a great summary of Bruce Kushkick's $200 Billion Broadband Scandal book. According to Kushnick, the reason the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in broadband-per-capita is that the Bells promised broadband, but then lied, cheated and stole instead of delivering it!

Kushnick writes:
By 2006, according to telecommunication companies’ own documents, 86 million customers in the United States should have received 45 Mbps service . . . the merger(s) of the phone companies that control the phone networks decreased competition. Instead of deploying the high-speed fiber-optic lines they promised, they were content to collect profits, tinker with existing copper connections instead of rewiring, and roll out inferior DSL services.
Worth. Reading.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Reading this via RSS reader?

People who access via RSS reader might not be aware that in the upper right corner of there's a special rate, only $395, to attend F2C: Freedom to Connect, the Internet Freedom conference, April 3 & 4, Washington DC. This special rate EXPIRES TODAY AT MIDNIGHT.

F2C: Freedom to Connect features Reed Hundt, Michael K. Powell, James Q. Crowe, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), FCC commissioner Michael Copps, Google's lead biz-dev person Chris Sacca (e.g., responsible for Google's SF Wi-Fi bid), and a cast of dozens. Plus awesome musician Joe Craven (featured in Grateful Dawg, the Jerry Garcia, David Grisman movie), catering by Whole Foods, a screaming network by Atlantech (the folks who did the Downtown Silver Spring Wi-Fi cloud), an evening reception with open bar and Cuban buffet, and much, much more.

If you miss the special that expires tonight, you can still get a deal if you register using Priority Code FOBDL2 through Friday (April 17, 2006) midnight.

As always, if you feel you really need to be there and the price of admission is the big barrier, write to me and make your case!

David I

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Comcast seems to be continuing discrimination against Vonage.

An anonymous comment today points out that Vonage-Comcast complaints continue, dramatic data here. Paddy Link, the Comcast PR person who told me No, No, No, it is a Vonage Problem has not been back to me with any backup of that claim. She said that Vonage admitted it, but could point to NO VONAGE STATEMENTS to confirm her claim. She said she'd get specifics from Comcast, but nobody from Comcast has presented specifics to me to date.

In the absence of specific explanation to the contrary, it sure looks like Deliberate Discrimination to me.

David Weinberger points out that Shaw, a Canadian Cableco is purposely degrading Vonage packets too. Only Shaw has the stones to offer its readers un-degraded service for a $10/month de-degrading fee.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Quote of Note: Tom Bush

"Freedom and security are polar opposites, and I am not willing to give up my freedom for the sake of terrorists."

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Bush, quoted here, an F-18 pilot and civilian aviator, testifying at FAA hearing on 1/18/06 about making the Washington DC temporary Air Defense Identification Zone permanent.

Thanks to Declan and Dave for the link.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, March 10, 2006


Update 1.1 on Comcast-Vonage

I got more email this morning from Paddy Link, the Wexler and Walker Public Policy person representing Comcast who was my source for the denial that Comcast was responsible for Vonage voice quality problems. She wrote:
This is posted in the Help Forum: The rumors in the blogs are completely untrue. Comcast does not block access to Vonage's -- or any other provider's -- Internet traffic. We have been working with Vonage to investigate this situation, and they indicated to us that the problem was an isolated peering issue on their end, which had nothing to do with Comcast, and they are addressing it. We are certain that the problem is not an issue on our end. Comcast does not block access to Internet traffic or Web sites.
She did not provide any specific pointers to these claims, so I went to, clicked the HELP tab, typed "vonage" in the search box and got this:

I asked Ms. Link for specifics by return email several hours ago but didn't get any yet. If she replies, I'll track her leads and report on what I find.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Update on Comcast-Vonage

Paddy Link, of Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates, tells me that she represents Comcast, and that the problem I describe here and here has been resolved. According to her, it is a Vonage issue, and Vonage admits it and is working on a fix. Hmmmm. OK. Wonder if the Vonage Forum agrees. (I am too busy right now to hit Vonage Forum with the diligence required. I did want to put this out ASAP, because if she's right, the record must be corrected.)

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


OneWebDay kickoff parties around the world

Susan Crawford announces a series of OneWebDay kickoff parties to build enthusiasm in various cities and get people thinking about local projects for the very first OneWebDay on September 22, 2006.

San Francisco, March 9, (see OneWebDay SF event wiki page) DAY AFTER TOMORROW!
New York City Tuesday March 14, 7:00 PM at UnionBar
Wellington NZ event is Mar. 23 (see OneWebDay Wellington Event wiki page)
Portland OR April 8
London, April 19
Boston, May 9

We're working on scheduling events in LA, Chicago and Austin.

We're looking for Internet activist contacts in Miami.

Actually we're looking for contacts all around the world! Anybody want to sponsor a OneWebDay kickoff event in Sweden? China? Canada? Brazil? Uganda? El Salvador? India? Japan?

You don't have to be a programming genius or a network neutrality nut to get involved in OneWebDay! If you get email, or shop online, that's enough!

Technorati Tags: , ,


Wi-Fi on Steroids Bill Introduced! (no NOT Wi-Max)

Imagine the creativity and innovation burst if we could use of unused TV spectrum much the way we use Wi-Fi today. We could party like it was 1998 again!

Last month five of the 22 senators on the Commerce Committee, which is responsible for telecom legislation, including its Chairman, Ted Stevens (D-AK), introduced a bill that'd let us do that! The other co-sponsors, two Ds and 2 R's, are Senators George Allen (R-VA), John Sununu (R-NH), John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

It's called the American Broadband for Communities Act. According to Stevens' Website,
The Act frees up spectrum not being used by broadcasters for unlicensed wireless devices which would provide communities with wireless broadband and home networking services . . . Some studies have indicated that there is more than 150 MHz of spectrum in Anchorage, Alaska, and Honolulu, Hawaii, that could be used by unlicensed devices for wireless services. Even in large cities like Boston and Chicago it is estimated that nearly 50 MHz of spectrum goes unused.

The bill would allow manufacturers to design unlicensed devices to be operated in the broadcast spectrum not being used by broadcasters. These unlicensed devices would make it easier for companies to offer broadband services to consumers. The devices would be designed to sense their environment and identify what spectrum is in use and would only use portions of the broadcast spectrum not being used by broadcasters.
According to email from the New America Foundation, which is doing some of the best work in this area,
In 2004, the FCC initiated a rulemaking (Docket 04-186) to open up these white spaces to wireless broadband devices, subject to strict rules to avoid interference with TV reception. The proceeding has stalled since the departure of Chairman Michael Powell. The newly introduced legislation would break this regulatory impasse.

The new FCC Chairman has a lot on his mind these days, like how to make the big companies even bigger. He can't be bothered by piddly problems like innovation.Therefore, according to StevensWeb, the Act
. . . also directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) craft technical requirements for unlicensed devices in the broadcast band that would protect broadcast stations, a proceeding it has already initiated. In addition, the legislation urges the FCC to further establish an interference complaint resolution process for broadcasters.
I am going to write to every one of the other members of the Senate Commerce Committee, except for knuckle-draggers like Ensign and DeMint, and tell them how important this bill is.

My hat is off to Michael Calabrese and J. H. Snider at the New America Foundation for several years of persistent, deep, courageous work on spectrum issues. I don't know what went on in the crafting of this particular sausage, but my suspicion is it wouldn't have been introduced without Michael and Jim's efforts.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, March 06, 2006


What They're Saying about F2C: Freedom to Connect

Tim O'Reilly, Lawrence Lessig, Howard Rheingold, Jeff Jarvis, Cynthia Brumfield, Tim Bray, Jamais Cascio, Frank Paynter, Susan Crawford, Mary Godwin, and David Weinberger, writing in Joho the Blog, Body Electric, Sandhill Trek, WorldChanging, Ongoing, IP & Democracy, BuzzMachine, SmartMobs, and O'Reilly Radar are talking about F2C: Freedom to Connect, April 3 & 4 in Washington DC . . .

" . . . shouldn't be missed . . . "
" . . . the best place to go to meet dangerous ideas about network economics and society . . . "
" . . . no other event in Washington will come as close to setting the agenda . . . "
" . . . not if the telcos and cablecos have their way with Congress . . . "
" . . . a "should have known, how did I miss it?" bit of waking-up . . ."
" . . . Freedom to Connect will emphasize the rights of users . . . "
" . . . I am going. I am speaking. See you there? . . . "
" . . . I'd suggest you join us at the Freedom 2 Connect gathering . . . "
" . . . so do me a favour, and go sign up. See you when the cherry trees bloom! . . .

See for all the details.


Duopoly? Don't bet the farm!

Commenting on the proposed SBC/AT&T-BellSouth merger, the WSJ says
For consumer groups and others, the concern is that customers still could be left with just two choices for such services -- a cable behemoth versus a telecommunications one. "It demonstrates that more than ever the two dominant communications competitive spaces will be represented by cable and phone companies, and it increases the weightiness of policy issues, because fewer companies can have an exponentially more dramatic impact on the whole country," said Michael K. Powell, who stepped down as FCC chairman last year.
[Article behind paywall?]

Don't be so sure the Duopoly will last! Here's one clue: the first draft of the Barton BITS Bill prohibited telcos from buying cablecos. The second draft didn't.

I've blogged about this, and my April VON Magazine column, in press but not yet available, goes deeper.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Is this a Violation of Military Justice Code?

From DOD Directive 1344.10, August 2, 2004:
While on active duty, however, members are prohibited from engaging in certain political activities. The following DoD policy shall apply:
4.1.1. A member on active duty may:
*snip* Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings, rallies, or conventions as a spectator when not in uniform.

4.1.2. A member on active duty shall not:
*snip* Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform).

So what is happening here, where "more than 250 Republicans gathered in Fort Collins on Friday night for the Larimer County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner," according to the local paper? Imagine marines in uniform at a Dean rally or a meeting of the Sierra Club . . . do you think that'd be OK with the current regime?

[source, source]

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, March 05, 2006


New Additions to Blogroll

I don't often add names to my (fairly short) blogroll. I've just added a handful of new friends, people whose judgement I've come to trust, people whose work I read regularly. I've added Jim Baller, Cynthia Brumfield (and Mitch Shapiro), Drew Clark, Rebecca MacKinnon and Martin Varsavsky. I am proud and delighted to have such great friends!


AT&T To Buy Bell South, hmmm

This WSJ Article says,
AT&T [that is, SBC -- David I] Nears $65 Billion Deal To Buy BellSouth
March 5, 2006 12:24 a.m.

AT&T Inc. is nearing the acquisition of BellSouth Corp. for roughly $65 billion, people familiar with the situation said Saturday evening. A deal could be announced as early as Monday, these people said.

Final terms of the deal could not be learned Saturday evening, but these people said AT&T Inc. would pay a premium for BellSouth shares of at least 15%, valuing the company at $36 per share at least, up from its trading price Friday of $31.46. That would push the total equity value of the deal to at least $65 billion, plus the assumption of an additional $17 billion of BellSouth debt.

Spokespeople for BellSouth and AT&T declined to comment.


What's that song about the New Boss and the Old Boss? FCC Chair Kevin Martin, in a triumph of re-definition, is already on record as favoring, "strong global carriers that will vigorously compete both internationally and domestically." [link.doc] Clearly SBC-AT&T has shown itself capable of "competing" by this move. After all, isn't a merger the result of successful competition by the victor?

Thanks to Andrew Rasiej for the heads up!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Quote of Note: Hans Haram

"Used to be when I fished around these parts you could just go out in a small boat and trawl for fish off the stern . . . but it is different now . . . fishermen have been using large, heavy nets . . . dragged along the bottom for two hours . . . fishermen catch more fish in a shorter time [but] they kill the water life -- the stuff fish feed on. So every year the fish are driven farther out to sea and every year the fishermen follow them out. In this way, the nets are bad."

Hans Haram, an employee of Sam Cahoon's Harborside Fish Market of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which closed in 1966, quoted in an article originally published in The Falmouth Enterprise in 1945 and reprinted February 21, 2006.

Technorati Tags: , ,


More on Comcast/Vonage issue

Some months ago, I forget the source, I was part of a discussion about how an ISP could discriminate against VOIP. One way, somebody said, was to increase the jitter, the variation in arrival time, of packets. (VOIP telephony packets must arrive fairly close together to keep delay low voice quality high.) Somebody else said that the disruption would be more voice-specific if it were on the upstream side only; this would not affect downloads, web surfing, or other "consumption" activities.

Anyhow, it looks like this Comcast-Vonage problem is on the upstream side. On this page of the Vonage Forum, "shidokan" reports:
I have used vonage for over 6 months without a problem. Now, I am having the same problems that other michigan user report, I can call out, but my voice is choppy and can not be understood. I have read the posts about the vonage says it is comcast, and comcast says there is nothing wrong.

"JPElectron writes:
From home [with Comcast Internet] ...
- logging in and navigating webiste very slow/unusable
- calling my cell phone (in the same area code as my vonage number) audio quality is "digital" it breaks up mid-word (incomming caller audio is fine, just my outgoing audio was bad)
MOS score = 3.9 (yellow)

On this page, "suaveric" writes
Ugh, I've been hit with the problem. I'm in Chicago and no one can understand a word I'm saying. Although I still do hear everyone as clear as day. I called Comcast up 30 minutes ago and their suggestion was to upgrade me to 6MB down (up from 4). They thought that might fix the problem. Well, it didn't. At least, not yet.

On this page, "raudi77" writes
I spoke with both Comcast and Vonage at length today regarding service issues (Parties I am speaking with complain about "choppy" voice quality; ongoing disconnection problems).

Comcast's position, per a Customer Service manager/supervisor: "Vonage is using our lines and they are not allowed to do so. If you have service problems take it up with them."

Vonage's position, per an Advanced Tech Support Agent: "Comcast is toying with the packetization and/or bandwidth in order to disrupt Vonage service" She had me run a couple of Tracert's and forward her the info via email.

Seems pretty suggestive to me what's going on . . .

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, March 03, 2006


Is Comcast impairing Vonage?

On the one hand, the big telcos are chanting the mantram, "We shall not block, impair or degrade any content, service or application." On the other hand, they're saying, "There's no problem. We don't need a law until there's a problem."

Well, now. Mitch Shapiro over at IP & Democracy, points to Russell Shaw's post that says
I have been noticing a growing number of posts in which many Vonage users and Vonage Forum Members have been complaining about the quality of Vonage calls over Comcast broadband connections . . . something has happened. Two weeks ago, a Vonage Forum Member named rdstoll began a Vonage Forum thread called Comcast vs. Vonage. The last time I checked, this thread had 116 posts and nearly 7,000 page views. That's an exceptionally high number . . . many of these complaints are from Vonage users and Forum Members who have been around for awhile, and are more used to giving problem-solving advice in the Forum then venting about it . . . "

Comcast, of course, offers its own POTS-over-Cable telephone service. Could it be that they're trying to introduce a little motivation to switch? One commentator on Shaw's post says
It's definitely not just Vonage. Skype has become impossible to use on Comcast 3-4 month ago . . . My friend in the area with a much slower DSL connection has perfect VOIP quaility.

Comcast could do us all a favor now by getting really blatant. I hope the FCC and Congress are watching!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Protect your F2C: SMART Letter #98

SMART Letter #98 - March 1, 2006
Some Rights Reserved by Creative Commons License - "Uncommon Carrier" -- -- 1-888-isen-com
********* at *********
*F2C: Freedom to Connect, Apr 3 & 4,*


Quote of Note: Kevin Werbach
A Word to the SMART
F2C: Freedom to Connect, April 3 & 4
[special $395 price for SMART People!]
The Google Scenario
Barton's Bad Bill
Celebrate OneWebDay, Sept 22!
Creative Commons License Notice, Administrivia

Quote of Note: Kevin Werbach
"Be afraid. Be very afraid"

A Word to the SMART
By David S. Isenberg

It has been A. Very. Long. Time. Just over a year, since SMART Letter #97. My apologies! I've missed doing the SMART Letter, especially the correspondence that comes back from my SMART friends all over the globe.

I am writing now for 3 reasons:
1. I made a New Years Resolution that I would re-start the SMART Letter.
2. VON Magazine, for good business reasons, switched to image format on-line. This means that the text of my last three columns is not searchable or quotable. Please find these three columns below. Here's a complete list of my VON Mag columns since 2003.
3. The Internet is now under attack like never before. The U.S. Supreme Court's Brand X Decision, the FCC DSL ruling that came immediately after Brand X, and FCC decisions deregulating fiber to the home have cast an unprecedented and dark storm cloud over Internet Freedom.

So I have organized the second F2C: Freedom to Connect meeting, to be held April 3 & 4 in Washington, DC.

Register with Priority Code SMART for special $395 rate.
This special code expires at midnight on March 15.
The list price is $1195 after March 31. Please come.

***** IMPORTANT: Come to F2C: Freedom to Connect *****
If for the 'net you deeply care,
*********** 'tis your calling to be there! ***********

I am co-producing F2C with and partnering with Tim O'Reilly, Free Press, and numerous others because this year it is critical that we bring all the voices that care about Internet Freedom together to understand our common interest in the surrounding issues.
F2C: Freedom to Connect speakers include:
Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA)
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps
Level3 CEO James Q. Crowe
Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt
Google Biz-Dev Leader Chris Sacca
UPDATE: Former FCC Chair Michael K. Powell will also join us [3Mar06]
More details here.

If you're SMART, I WANT YOU THERE. If you can't afford
the $395, write to me and make your case!

See you on April 3.
David I

David S. Isenberg's "Edge-Centric" Column in VON Magazine,
December 2005

The future could belong to Google, so long as it sticks to its motto, "Don't be evil."

I worked at Mattel in 1983 when it fielded a PC based on its Intellivision video game platform. Its design price was $1800. Eighteen months later it hit the stores at $1800. Meanwhile Coleco fielded a similar PC for $900. Whoops!

We had all heard of Moore's Law, but this was the first time its consequences actually touched our lives. As we digested the bad news, somebody said, "Holy smoke, if this continues, hardware will be more or less free!"

A second holy-smoke moment followed close on the first one's heels. "How does anybody make money on software?" we asked. Arguably, only one guy figured out the answer to that.

Today's evident technology trends indicate that the price for raw Internet connectivity might be more or less free. Who will be today's Microsoft? Perhaps Google.

Subhead: Five Alternate Scenarios

Unlike computers, networks are regulated; regulatory initiatives shape the marketplace. There are three usefully distinct regulatory scenarios for Internet connectivity. In one, "Telco-topia," market entry is limited to duopoly, perhaps augmented by network access technologies so crippled that they'll always be also-rans, such as Broadband over Powerline and today's wireless options. In a second scenario, "New Entry," regulation supports new entrants and holds established companies in check; this is the thrust of Rick Whitt and Vint Cerf's proposed Horizontal Leap Forward model legislation based on layers, and it underlies the Powell FCC's focus on multi-modal competition. A third scenario, "Structural Separation," is approached in countries where broadband is densest and fastest; here the low layers of the network are heavily regulated to be open and inexpensive, while brutal competition rages in the network's upper layers.

There's a fourth scenario, "Customer Owned Networks," where technology advances so far so fast that it end-runs all attempts at regulation. Technology improvements make it so easy to set up networks that customers do it themselves.

Subhead: Google World

The fifth scenario is a free market scenario in which some company figures out how to make money running a network business despite (or maybe because of) the fact that raw IP connectivity is becoming free. Google is my candidate.

Google has apps like its search engine that we can't live without. Others, like Blogger, Gmail, Google News and Google Maps, we simply use frequently. All of them are free. Each of them informs its personalized advertising business, its money machine. Google Internet service could also be free. It, too, would pay its own way by informing G-Ads. G-Net could tell G-Ads about things only an ISP would know, like where you are and what you do on the Internet beyond the Google family. To get good data, Google would have to run an open, application-neutral network. G-Net would have an added benefit -- it would be a pre-emptive defense against other Internet operators who might try to charge Google for use of their network (see my VON Magazine column Disconnectivity, April 2005, for more on this).

It would not be the first time a company offered a freebie to get customers. Grocery stores don't charge for parking. Gas stations don't charge for bathroom use. Telcos don't charge for directories.

Google's size scares some people. The information it collects scares others. I think these fears are unwarranted as long as Google makes good on its public pledge, "Don't Be Evil." To Google CEO Eric Schmidt the pledge means that Google should follow newspaper ethics by maintaining a clear prohibition against its advertising side interfering with its applications. Schmidt explains, just as a reporter should ideally write fearlessly about a bad-acting business even if that business advertises in the reporter's paper, so should the Google applications themselves never discriminate on the basis of what the advertising side of Google "knows."

Like all scenarios, the Google scenario may never happen. Blogger Doc Searls points out that Google is now a monoculture, thus a single failure could bring it down. Or perhaps its size will make it hard to manage well. Or maybe a high-visibility subpoena will blow the public's faith in "Don't Be Evil." But the Google scenario is at least as plausible as the other four.

David S. Isenberg's "Edge-Centric" Column in VON Magazine,
January, 2006

As Telecom competition fades away, fiendish moves are afoot to restrict Internet connectivity.

Damn those customers, anyway. They always want more and better services for lower prices. There ought to be a law.

Soon there will be a law. By the time you read this, a bad telecom bill will be on its way towards a vote in the U.S. House and Senate.

If the bill is similar to the one introduced by Chairman Barton of the House Commerce Committee last November, it gives network providers overwhelming motivation to restrict, constrict and interfere with the Internet connectivity they provide. It does this by allowing a network operator to provide partitioned telephony and TV offerings along with its Internet connection service. Just as increased scarcity causes increased prices, so will a telco want to constrain its customers from using its Internet to make VOIP phone calls over the raw Internet connection. A cableco will want to constrain its customers from finding video entertainment out there on the Internet.

The predilection towards restriction will expand as telcos begin to offer video entertainment and cablecos start doing telephony. Telco and cableco alike will whittle at the customer's basic Internet connectivity so it won't disrupt voice and video revenues.

The call has gone out for "network neutrality" provisions that would prohibit the most blatant kinds of network impairments. Vint Cerf, as good a candidate for "Father of the Internet" as anybody, wrote a letter to the Telecom Subcommittee that said, "Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of [telephony and video] and to potentially interfere with other [services] would . . . not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need." He's right about that! But then he writes, "As we move to a broadband environment and eliminate century-old non-
discrimination requirements, a lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive." Though I agree with Vint on most matters and trust the purity of his motives, I'm skeptical about this assertion.

I don't think there is an Internet neutrality rule that is both lightweight and enforceable when the network operator also provides telephony and video entertainment that are isolated from the basic Internet connection. The two "enshrined" services come with well-known business models and predictable cash flows. The Internet service is self-
competitive. It lets the customer get those same services either "for free" or by paying fees to other providers. Any network operator that was not sorely tempted to impair its Internet service or skimp on throughput to make it harder to use certain applications would be a network operator that did not know its own self-interest.

A rule that put the network operator in a self-competitive bind would be neither lightweight nor enforceable. It would be the subject of hundreds of pages of hair-splitting FCC regulations. Compliance by network operators would be subject to slow-rolling, litigation, and weakening by FCC interpretation. Attempts to strengthen the FCC's enforcement powers would be castrated by the K Street boys. It would be a replay of the 1996 Telecom Act at its worst.

The theory underlying the 1996 Telecom Act was that competition would be an effective substitute for regulation. But today the competitive local exchange carriers have almost entirely disappeared, the incumbents stay out of each others' residential markets so assiduously it smacks of collusion, and the cablecos wink-wink compete with the telcos. Residential Internet users choose between frying pan and fire. Telecom competition has joined the Oxymoron Club, alongside phrases like, "Fight for peace."

The Powell FCC, at least, worked towards intermodal competition, where new spectrum regulations would open the Internet connectivity marketplace to entire new sectors of wireless carrier and new technologies like broadband over powerlines. Chairman Powell, at least, had the wisdom to forbear from most regulation of Internet service providers and Internet applications, even if they threatened telcos with Skype-like disruption.

But the Martin FCC acts as if market consolidation is a good thing. Chairman Martin thinks newly-merged bigcos like Verizon and AT&T will accelerate 911 service and broadband deployment. In fact, current FCC 911 policy is a huge barrier to new VOIP telcos, and US broadband deployment appears to be slowing even as it surges in the rest of the world.

As competition fades, the last thing we need is more incentives to constrict Internet connectivity. How could we incent open Internet connectivity? Watch this space.

David S. Isenberg's "Edge-Centric" Column in VON Magazine,
February, 2006

Rejoice! The Internet now has its own day of celebration, September 22.

The Internet gets its own special day of celebration on Friday, September 22, 2006. That day is called OneWebDay. It will fall on September 22 every year hereafter. It is a day for those of us who depend upon the Internet to appreciate its very existence, whether we keep a blog or a website, run an online business or an enterprise that depends on the Internet, or even if we simply use Internet applications in our daily lives. It is a day to unite the interests of Internet users and telecommunications carriers, Google and Microsoft, Verizon and Boingo, music sharers and the RIAA. It is a day, like many other special days, to put aside daily concerns and appreciate what we usually take for granted.

OneWebDay began in the mind of Susan Crawford, a Professor of Internet Law at Cardozo Law School in New York City. She describes OneWebDay as a day to, "treasure a resource that has changed our lives." She says that OneWebDay is to, "celebrate the health and diversity of the Internet, and to remind people they need to work to maintain the values that have made the Internet a gift." The idea for OneWebDay came to Professor Crawford on the train home from Washington, DC after a contentious negotiation on an FCC matter. She was juggling the conflict in her head, trying to figure out how to bring the opposing parties to common ground. Then, she says, "I looked around at the other people on her train and wondered if they appreciated how spectacular the Internet is," and the idea of an Internet holiday came to her as an, "Aha!"

"Spectacular," is how Crawford describes her early Internet experience. "I had a sensation that the back of the computer had fallen off and I was suddenly able to see new worlds. I realized that distance and time no longer separate people on the Internet. Conflicting values can coexist. A new kind of citizenship is possible, not just for techies and policy people but for everybody."

How will we celebrate OneWebDay? I am on the Board of OneWebDay, so you'd think I would know, but I don't. I have never helped to create a new holiday before. Susan Crawford likens OneWebDay to Earth Day; on Earth Day, there are no universal ceremonies or rituals. People decide what to do to celebrate it. Schoolchildren make posters, others organize groups to clean up their neighborhood park, still others have tree-planting ceremonies, environmental teach-ins and bicycle rides. Toyota offers fifteen Earth Day scholarships to Canadian high school students. Disney features Earth Day on its website. Organizations from the American Chemical Society to the Zion Lutheran Church are involved.

So, to celebrate OneWebDay, we expect a wide range of activities. We hope everybody who cares about the Internet will find a way to celebrate OneWebDay that is consistent with their views and interests. I'm looking forward to involvement from AOL to Zhone, and everybody in between. I'd like to see the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fox News involved. I'd like to see groups organize to put up free hotspots in their local parks and business districts. I'm hoping to see workshops where kids learn how to put their pictures on line. I'd like to see groups organize to make a Wikipedia entry for their neighborhood. I'm hoping there will be online art collaborations, web design workshops in libraries, and a collection of pictures that capture life on line on our special day.

There's even a hand signal for OneWebDay. You hold your little finger with your thumb to form an O, the remaining three fingers form a W, and, if it is your right hand, from the side your whole hand looks like a lower case D. Yes, it is corny. The OneWebDay team takes the idea seriously, but not too seriously.

Susan Crawford reminds us that, like Earth Day, OneWebDay is inherently global. She sees as a global clearinghouse for worldwide projects, as a central place to aggregate blogs and tags and wikis to help OneWebDay celebrants around the world find each other.

OneWebDay is missing one big thing. Your idea. Visit to share your ideas for how to make OneWebDay a success worthy of the Internet itself. We'll see you on line on OneWebDay, September 22, 2006!


Redistribution or reuse of this document, or any part of
it, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. To view a copy of this
license, visit or send a letter
to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford,
California 94305, USA. Attribution must include the
following three lines:
Copyright 2006 by David S. Isenberg
Some Rights Reserved under Creative Commons License -- -- 1-888-isen-com


[To join The SMART List, to leave The SMART List or to
change your email address, go to
If you are an existing SMART List member, your
EMAIL ADDRESS is at the top of this document, and
your PASSWORD is set initially to 123456]

[for past SMART Letters, see ]

[Policy on reader contributions: Write to me. If you're
writing to me for inclusion in the SMART Letter, *please*
say so, but I'll exercise my judgment in ascertaining
your intent. I'll probably edit your writing for brevity
and clarity. If you ask for anonymity you'll get it,
and I'll protect my sources as vigorously as any

David S. Isenberg, LLC 888-isen-com 203-661-4798
-- The brains behind the Stupid Network --

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?