Tuesday, May 30, 2006


F2C: The Radio Show

Colin Rhinesmith and I (mostly Colin) have produced an hour-long radio show, suitable for NPR, called Four Voices from last April's F2C: Freedom to Connect, featuring excerpts from the F2C presentations of Congressman Rick Boucher, Google's Chris Sacca and former FCC Chairmen Powell and Hundt.

Here's the part that I think people will find most amusing: Powell and Hundt are so far apart on several key issues that they've never had a conversation. They've never even appeared at the same conference, to the knowledge of anybody I know. (Readers, here's your chance to show you're smarter than us writers!) Colin has cleverly chosen two segments each from Powell and Hundt where they address the same issues as if they're in conversation. I think it's brilliant.

Musical segues by F2C musician in residence, the awesome Joe Craven -- thanks, Joe!

[the "Four Voices" page at prx] [audio stream (free prx registration required)]
[prx -- the Public Radio Exchange -- home]

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Monday, May 29, 2006


Another anti-Network Neutrality Distortion

Former representative Dick Armey's Freedom Works wants you to sign a letter to your representatives in Congress asking them to "strip network neutrality provisions out" of current telecom legislation. They cite net neutrality supporters like middle-of-the-road Hillary Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, calling them "ultra-liberal" but completely IGNORE the fact that Network Neutrality has garnered support of the Christian Coalition, the Gun Owners of America, the Republican House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, and hundreds of other mainstream American individuals and organizations.

The letter Armey wants you to sign says,
The government has no more right to tell a cable or phone company how to manage the pipes that offer their clients Internet service than they do to tell a hardware store what kind of tools they can sell.
This is a deliberately misleading analogy. It is a distortion of the truth.

A hardware store does not have the right to sell tools to people with blue eyes but not to people with brown eyes. The government regulates that. A hardware store does not have the right to sell hammers that shatter or nails that don't fasten. The government regulates that. A hardware store has to have a license to do business. It has to pay taxes. It has to have enough parking for its customers. It has to be operated in a safe manner. It has to be honest. It has to have a sign that conforms to local sign ordinances. The government regulates all that.

Telephone companies are different than hardware stores. They're regulated in different ways than hardware stores. And the government, that is, we the people, the citizens, certainly DOES have a right to regulate telephone companies. Because with hardware stores, two hardware stores can set up right next to each other, and I can order by mail order when neither store doesn't have what I want.

But with a telco, in sharp contrast, I can't just go down the street to get a different kind of service. For example, if I want a telco that doesn't send my call detail records to the NSA without probable cause, there's only one to choose from: Qwest. What am I going to do, move my house to Colorado? No. I want my government to regulate the telco to prohibit it from spying on me without probable cause. And I want the government to regulate telcos to preserve my right to go anywhere on the Internet I want to go.

I met Dick Armey a couple months ago. We were standing around before a PFF meeting on telecom, and I introduced myself. He cordially told me about his "Freedom Works" organization that was for less government and more business. I asked him what he thought the role of government should be in roads and sewers, and he mumbled something and turned to his friends and began talking about last night's football game. As a result of his failure to engage on the issue he said he was working on, and his rudeness, and his distortionist analogy above, my respect for him is not high.

If you sign Dick Armey's letter please don't tell me you did.

If you want to help preserve Internet Freedom, go to savetheinternet.com and sign the letter there.

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Friday, May 26, 2006


Fear of Fear Itself

Scene from the "shooting" in the Rayburn House Office Building. This would not happen in the Executive Branch. Source: Wonkette.


Cartoonist Jen "Slowpoke" Sorensen joins fight for Network Neutrality

Thanks Jen! Current Slowpoke strip here. Archives here. Jen's blog post on Network Neutrality here.

Reminder: You can get the latest news on the fight to keep the Internet open, sign the Internet Freedom petition and contact your Senators and Representative at SaveTheInternet.com.

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More astroturf

Bell astroturf Hands Off the Internet has a blog. Sort of . . . no comments allowed, 'zackly the kind of one-way "community" the telcos would foster if they could decide what went on "their" Internet.

The HOTI blog says that at the PDF conference a couple of weeks ago, Susan Crawford and Tim Karr (the Network Neutrality proponants) "failed to articulate what would happen" in the absence of network neutrality laws [.mp3 of that session]. What part of,
. . . we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? [link]
. . . does HOTI think needs more explanation?

Clearly HOTI, the telcos and the cablecos do not appreciate that the Internet gains its strength from two key properties, (1) innovation without permission and (2) ability to find and define new markets via fast, real-world market tests. The absence of Network Neutrality would screw both of these up.

The name of their blog should be Hands Off My Pipes, HOMP.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006


Victory for Net Neutrality: Battle but not War

Today's House Judiciary Committee vote 20-13 on the Sensenbrenner-Conyers Network Neutrality Bill was a huge victory. Such a vote would have been inconceivable a month or six weeks ago. My hat is off to the folks at the Save The Internet Coalition! Such great work!!! My hat is off.

It was a bipartisan victory, with six Republicans and 14 Democrats voting Aye. All the No votes came from Republicans. One cowardly Democrat, Representative Delahunt from my home turf, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, voted "present."

This is but one battle in a long war. There will be a bigger fight when this bill and the Barton-Rush COPE bill come to the House floor. Then there's the Stevens bill in the Senate with no Network Neutrality language whatsoever.

Then, if Barton-Rush passes in the House and Stevens passes in the Senate, the bills go to Conference Committee, which, technically, is to iron out differences between House and Senate versions, but in actuality can decide independently major items of the reworked bill. I don't quite understand it all, but once the conference committee works it over, the re-vote on the House and Senate floors is all but assured. The safest course is to keep at least one of the telecom bills from coming to the floor.

One thing is now clear! Network Neutrality is not geeky and hard to understand anymore. It is about Internet Freedom.

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The telcos have yet another astroturf organization named TV4US running a plastic-roots campaign for national video entertainment franchising. TV4US has some interesting members, e.g., the Asian Women in Business, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese American Citizens League and the Latino Coalition. Why do these groups care so much about "cable competition"?

Apparently TV4US has been doing a telephone campaign . . . but I can't figure out where the bang for the buck is in that either. Maybe if you just throw your money around . . .

The cablecos -- the NCTA, actually, which is a bona fide industry association, not an astroturf group -- has an amusing site called phoneybaloney.net that makes fun of other Bell astroturf efforts like Consumers for Cable Choice, the Internet Innovation Alliance and the Phoenix Center. Of course, the site is silent on Network Neutrality . . . the cablecos don't like NN either.

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Twelve true things about Network Neutrality

Ben Scott (Free Press), Mark Cooper (Consumer Federation of America) and Jeannine Kenney (Consumers Union) have written an excellent, comprehensive report [.pdf] on the issues surrounding network neutrality. They identify twelve facts that the telco-cableco lobby is twisting or lying about. These are:

FACT #1: Network Neutrality protections have existed for the entire history of the Internet.

FACT #2: Network discrimination through a "tiered Internet" will severely curtail consumer choice.

FACT #3: Network discrimination will undermine innovation, investment and competition.

FACT #4: Network discrimination will fundamentally alter the consumer's online experience by creating fast and slow lanes for Internet content.

FACT #5: No one gets a "free ride" on the Internet.

FACT #6: Phone companies have received billions of dollars in public subsidies and private incentives to support network build-out.

FACT #7: There is little competition in the broadband market.

FACT #8: Consumers will bear the costs for network infrastructure regardless if there is Network Neutrality.

FACT #9: Investing in increased bandwidth is the most efficient way to solve increased network congestion problems.

FACT #10: Network owners have explicitly stated their intent to build business models based on discrimination.

FACT #11: The COPE Act will not deter discrimination, but it will tie the hands of the FCC from preventing it.

FACT #12: Supporters of Network Neutrality represent a broad, nonpartisan coalition that joins right and left, commercial and noncommercial interests.
I think there's a 13th fact worth mentioning: "The telcos say, "Trust us," but the record shows we shouldn't. They've (a) failed to field any new Internet apps, (b) stolen $200 billion in return for a an unkept promise to provide high-speed services, and (c) now they're spying on us illegally. We shouldn't trust them with our Internet.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Hamlet tries to decide which fancy British car

Thanks, Schmeezla!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


UserFriendly.Org toons for Network Neutrality!

May 21: "The site "userfriendly.org" has not paid its Special Access Fee. We are redirecting you . . . " [Link]

May 14: "Yet another telecom subsidy act . . . " [Link]

Thanks, Arachnid.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Harold Feld debunks The Cartoon

Harold really gets under the astroturf of the telecom industry's cartoon.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Comment worth noting

Kevin D. comments on my post, Telcos: "Trust us." He writes:
Ah, did you forget that we're engaged in a war on terror. It's believed that there are terrorist cells and sympathizers within U.S. borders. Collecting phone numbers and contact other phone numbers isn't a problem. Are you calling terrorists? Then what's the problem? Calls aren't being listened to, the government doesn't know what you're talking about.

How many lives could have been saved had the NSA, in cooperation with phone companies, been tracking the calling habits of the 9/11 hijackers?

We're at war, sir. I'm willing to allow the U.S. government to look at who I'm calling because I have nothing to hide.

However, I'm sure you'll blame the Bush Administration for not doing enough should we be attacked again. Completely forgetting that you denounced efforts to do just that.

I deeply honor Kevin D's right to make this comment. My hat is off to Kevin D. and all who value Free Speech and all the other civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.

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Chicago "Free the Internet" Demonstration next week

On May 24, Chicago Media Action is organizing a big pro-Internet demonstration called, "AT&T: Bringing us to Tiers," 4PM, intersection of -- appropriately enough -- Congress and Federal. More info here.

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Quote of Note: John Waclawsky

"IMS is part of a huge 3G gamble by the mobile telephony operators around the world, with assistance from traditional telephony vendors, to obtain control of the vast new Internet medium and monetize it . . . IMS will let broadband industry vendors and operators put a control layer and a cash register over the Internet and creatively charge for it. It is this monetization of the Internet that makes IMS extremely appealing to all communications operators and all but guarantees that it, and its numerous derivatives, are likely to spread."
John Waclawsky, a member of the Mobile Wireless Group of Cisco Systems, writing in Business Communications Review, June 15, 2005, link.

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Only the telcos know?

At F2C: Freedom to Connect in April, Mike Powell said that we should be careful about playing the regulatory game, because the telcos were professionals and they'd take us to the cleaners. Now the [Portland] Oregonian says, "Congress simply isn't wise enough or prescient enough to make the right choices." I guess we should simply let the telcos decide, right?

Wrong. The telcos changed the law last summer by dint of a decade of effort in the courts and the FCC. There used to be network neutrality, and now there isn't. It is a lie to say that Network Neutrality is a new law. It is the same old law that let the Internet become the success it is today.

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Cartoonist Tom Briscoe joins Internet Freedom fight!

Cartoonist Tom Briscoe writes:
Thanks to the tip from Scott Kurtz, a Robert Reich commentary and your information, I'm planning to follow this issue. And my senators have already been notified!
Great little toon. Good man, Briscoe!

Sunday, May 14, 2006


The Planet Below is not one of my Preferred Customers

Thanks to cartoonist Scott Kurtz for this. [link]


Cartoonist Scott Kurtz joins Network Neutrality fight

Sunday afternoon, 2:30 PM. Phone rings.

"I didn't expect to speak to you in person. I wanted to thank you for helping me to understand Network Neutrality! I make my living on the Internet, and I depend on Network Neutrality" he said. (Yesss!) We talked about the situation in Congress, about the SaveTheInternet Coalition and some ideas that might be 'tooned up.

Scott Kurtz' website, PVP, is here, including his recent realization of how important NN is. He writes:
I want to encourage everyone who reads PvP to learn as much as possible about the concept of Network Neutrality and about the new Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE) which is widely anticipated as being passed by congress. And I want to encourage you to act (see the bottom of this article for links on how you can act) . . . The basic shorthand of the situation is this: the internet currently benefits from network neutrality. The telecom companies, Internet service providers and cable companies can not discriminate against any data, traffic or programs running on their network. Everyone gets a fair shake and no preferential treatment. End users can reach all websites without interference from their provider. It allows the playing field to be level and encourages innovation. It's what allows the little guy to make his dreams reality . . . But the telecom companies, and some in congress, want to change this. the new COPE act cuts out net neutrality . . .

Scott concludes
It's scary, especially for those of us running an online business.

Good man, Scott! Welcome.

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Your Private Information. Delivered.

New slogan of AT&T? [Link]

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Quote of Note: Bruce Schneier

"It's bad civic hygiene to build an infrastructure that can be used to facilitate a police state."

Bruce Schneier, quoted here.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006


Quote of Note: Herbert J. Stern

"Mr. Nacchio made inquiry as to whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request . . . When he learned that no such authority had been granted, and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process . . . [he] issued instructions to refuse to comply."

Herbert J. Stern, former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio's lawyer, regarding NSA's request for Qwest to participate in warrantless spying on American citizens, quoted here.

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REM joins Network Neutrality effort

Suppose musicians had to pay a vig to the telcos for each download or stream.
It'd hurt the big record companies and famous musicians, but it might
deny access to small, struggling musicians and indy labels entirely.
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
[link to REM net-neutrality page]

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Telcos: "Trust us"

The telcos say, "Trust us. There's nothing wrong with the Internet. We don't need Network Neutrality laws to ensure that we don't block, impede, or degrade content, applications, or services, because you can trust us."

Then the telcos (except for Qwest) turn over our private telephone call data to the NSA. Without a law, a warrant or a court order. Trust us indeed.

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Contest: How many lies can you spot?

Here's a pseudo-underground cartoon bought and paid for by AT&T, Cingular, BellSouth and their allies to discredit genuine network neutrality efforts by concerned citizens like me.

How many out-and-out falsehoods can you spot?

How many pro-telco spins (that aren't exactly false, but shade that way) can you spot?

How many whole sentences in this cartoon are undebatably true?

The Top Four Lies are a gimme.
Identify additional lies, spins and (perhaps) true statements by commenting on this article.

The winners will receive a lifetime of unblocked, unimpaired, undegraded and non-discriminatory Internet access.

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Friday, May 12, 2006


Howard Dean is a wired-in guy

I was shocked to read that Howard Dean was on the Board of Directors of an organization that was against Internet Freedom and part of a Bell astroturf campaign. I kind of know Jim Dean -- Howard's brother, who lives near me and occasionally attends our local Fairfield County DFA meetings -- so I wrote to a bunch of my friends who are activists and asked them to write to Jim to ask that Howard either get the organization to change its position or quit his BoD position.

Not 30 minutes after I shot off the first salvo, I got this from Dr. Dean via Kim Hynes (another local friend who ran for State Rep in 2002 as one of the original Dean Dozen):

From: Howard Dean
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2006 10:09 AM
This is really helpful, I had no idea [the organization] . . . had taken this position. We will deal with this as soon as I find out more. If they have truly endorsed this position on the Net, I will either get them to change their position or I will resign. Feel free to use this as you see fit. Thanks, Howard Dean

Woohoo. This is how the Internet ought to work! And how responsive our leaders should be. (I'll grant that Dr. Dean had no idea that the organization he was director of copped the position it did. Now that he knows, he's promised to act. In public. And we're watching. And he knows we are.)

Thanks Kim! Thanks Jim! Thanks Howard! And thanks to "The Black Commentator" for the astute reporting and analysis that drew the issue to my attention (hence Dr. Dean's) in the first place.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006


Osama in Rocky Mountains?

Perhaps Osama is holed up in a mountainous tribal region where even the telephone companies are not controlled by federal authorities? I've got it! Bush can't find Osama because Qwest won't cooperate!

Thanks to USA Today, we now know that Qwest is the one major US telco that has refused to cooperate with warrantless NSA spying. Leslie Cauley has the major detailed scoop. She writes,
One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.

Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.
Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.
Elsewhere in the article, intrepid reporter Cauley discovers:

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

The three telecommunications companies [AT&T, Verizon & BellSouth] are working under contract with the NSA . . . The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States." . . . [but] . . . Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006



So "Long black veil" has this lyric, "The slayer who ran looked a lot like me."

PeggyO has this great roots-of-bluegrass show on KFJC that I audio hijack every week and listen to en route to-from Harvard. Night before last I was struck by this lyric from the song, "Old Slewfoot," about a bear:
He was big around the middle and broad across the rump,
Running 90 miles an hour, doing 30 feet a jump.
He's never been cornered and he's never been treed
and some folks said he looked a lot like me.

I can't get it out of my haid.

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Financial Sector Needs Net Neutrality

If the telcos offer a high-security tier of service, then banks MUST use it or face liability if there's a security incident, writes Philip Corwin in the April 21 issue of American Banker [link, two-week trial subscription required]. Corwin writes:
Those payments [for premium-tier service -- David I] may become both a competitive and legal necessity. The security of Internet access to financial institutions customer information is encompassed by the “Safeguards Rule” of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act; and failing to provide the highest level of security could become a liability factor for online data breaches. Those that do pay may find they cannot pass these new costs directly along to customers for whom “free” is an essential element of online financial services. And those that decline to pay will face growing customer dissatisfaction as their transactions are shunted to the Internet’s increasingly congested, low-priority slow lanes.

Corwin is urging the banks to support Network Neutrality legislation.

Indeed, any entity that's a customer of the telcos and depends on the Internet to do business should support non-discrimination! This includes hospitals, catalog sales companies, airlines, newspapers . . . just about any company that does business on the Internet.
Corwin continues:

A major ISP could designate a single diversified financial services company as its exclusive preferred partner and deny the same quality of connectivity to its competitors.
Does it scare you that there might be one company, or two if you're lucky, standing between you and your friends, your news, your financial transactions, your health care, your travel and the stuff you buy? I'm scared.

Network Neutrality is hard to define and hard to implement. Yes. So is Democracy. So is Freedom of Religion, Interstate Commerce and Eminent Domain. But how is a different argument than whether we should or not. We. Should.

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What's driving the next telecom law

[This article appears in today's issue of the Berkman Center's monthly publication, "The Filter"]

What’s Driving the Next Telecom Law
-- by David S. Isenberg

The COPE (Communications, Promotion, and Enhancement) bill in the House of Representatives, and a similar, but more detailed Senate telecommunications bill are racing towards enactment by summer. The likely new law is propelled by the nation’s big telephone companies’ perceived business need to deliver video entertainment along with voice telephony and Internet services. The triple-application formula fits the old telco/cableco business model, i.e., collecting fees for delivering established applications and using these fees to subsidize the delivery network. This old model is threatened because today’s Internet can support voice and video, and infinitely more, delivered from its edges by third-party application providers. Indeed, third parties like Skype and Vonage are breaking out all over and rudimentary video services are popping up like dandelions. National TV franchising will replace thousands of local city-by-city agreements to ease telco entry into video services. This will institutionalize the voice, video and Internet service bundle so only big players, "rational competitors," as cablecos and telcos like to call themselves, can participate.

Telephone companies have been weakened by the onslaught of new technology. The number of dial-up lines, which are the foundation of their business, has been falling since 2001. In 2003, the number shrunk by 4%, and the trend is accelerating. Meanwhile, telcos have not figured out how to make money selling simple Internet connectivity, so they need de jure preservation by Congress.

Until this decade, law has treated the telephone network as a public accommodation, meaning that non-discriminatory access to the network, known as network neutrality in the current policy debate, was assured. On the Internet, though, non-discriminatory access leads straight to the erosion of the telco/cableco business model by third parties that would not behave as "rational competitors." This is why telephone companies are fighting fiercely against non-discriminatory access. Recently they have been successful in the courts and the FCC, and the current House bill contains ineffectual, hard-to-enforce non- discrimination provisions. The Internet succeeded largely due to non-discriminatory access. That is what permitted third parties to create (and find markets for) e-mail, the Web, e-commerce, chat, online music, blogging, and virtual-world gaming. With it, there’d be more of the same tomorrow. An Internet that is made discriminatory to save the telcos is likely to remind us of Bruce Springsteen’s song, "57 Channels (and Nothing On)." The problem we should be solving is not how to change the Internet to save the telcos, but how to have a growing and innovative Internet without them.

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Net Neutrality: an international issue

Ethan Zuckerman puts an international spin on network neutrality in the May 2006 issue of Inc. Magazine. [The article is not on the Web yet, if ever.] Ethan writes, in part,

[Network Neutrality] is under assault. Foreign countries have led the charge. Saudi Arabia blocks content that runs counter to the clerics' interpretation of Islam. China bars its citizens' access to sites created by, among others, practitioners of Falun Gong. [Apparently China also blocks pulver.com and pulvermedia.com -- David I] What results is the fragmentation of the Internet. The network we've grown accustomed to over the past decade is, in a very real sense, becoming multiple Internets, because the Internet you encounter from within China is different than the Internet you encounter in the United States . . .

Ethan's article is on some network somewhere, but not the one your connection connects to. Here's hoping this is the exception, not the rule.

Meanwhile, find the May edition of Inc at a news stand near you -- Ethan's article is on Page 29. You should be able to read it before the news stand attendant notices you're konsuming kontent.

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Gun Owners for Network Neutrality

Craig Fields, director of Internet operations for Gun Owners of America, writes
"The concept of Network Neutrality has unfortunately been misunderstood by many conservatives, libertarians, and other champions of the free market. That’s too bad, because the free market essence of the Internet is exactly what would be lost without Network Neutrality.

"The large telecoms, some politicians and a number of conservative pundits have characterized the push for Network Neutrality as a left-wing attempt to stifle innovation and put government bureaucrats in control of the Internet. Well, it’s not.

"One of the most telling points is that what the coalition is trying to get codified is what we have had all along as the Internet was developed. In all of those years, Network Neutrality was policy… until August of 2005, when the FCC changed the rules. How can this policy stifle innovation and competition when the Internet has been a roaring success in those areas for decades?

"The real problem is that we are under a distorted market from the get-go. Government is setting the rules. The result has been a government-supported oligopoly. We are lucky that those controlling physical access to the Internet have been forced to give every purchaser of bandwidth equal access – it doesn’t matter whether Gun Owners or the Brady Center is purchasing a T-1: all T-1 purchasers pay the same for the same level of service.

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Unintended Consequences for ILECs

Here's some breakthrough thinking! Daniel Berninger points out that state law (in general) requires that the ILECs must be common carriers as a condition of using our public rights of way. He uses Maryland as an example:
. . . [in] the Maryland Code section covering public utility companies[,] Title 1-101 defines a telephone company as “a public service company that owns telephone lines to receive or transmit telephone communications.”
and, he points out
the Maryland Constitution Article 12 titled “Public Works” noting among other things that “the Directors of all said Public Works guard the public interest, and prevent the establishment of tolls which shall discriminate against the interest of the citizens or products of this State.”
and he says
The non-neutral private network deployments associated with the Bell company broadband offers look like the non-common carrier networks of the cable companies.
and he implies that the ILECs might be liable for pole attachment fees, plus franchise fees for even non-TV services when those services are privatized and offered on a discriminatory, non-common-carriage basis. And they might be giving up important immunities against litigation. This might well nullify the expected ILEC investment incentives.

Berninger observes:
Ed Whitacre and Ivan Seidenberg might regret their push to remove government oversight.
Complex, tightly-coupled systems. Several regulatory tweaks that could resonate in unexpected places. Here's hoping that Ed and Ivan go, "Hmmmmm."

Nice work, Daniel.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006


OneWebDay on BoingBoing

Xeni publishes OneWebDay story, including tonight's Boston bash, and Thursday's imbroglio in Chicag(li)o.

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[eTel] Podcast of Dr. Seuss explains Network Neutrality"

Doug Kaye and/or Phil Windley at IT Conversations has published the audio of my O'Reilly eTel poem, the one that begins:

When Ed Whitacre, the head of AT&T
Says, "They're not gonna 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.

Cause when Whitacre says "free" he's not talking about beer,
It's our Freedom of Speech that's at stake here . . .

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Monday, May 08, 2006


How to increase broadband competition

Susan Crawford, seeking to learn from Korea and Japan, identifies three routes towards broadband competition:

(1) "local loop unbundling," which means requiring the incumbent to physically open its facilities to new entrants, who then find new ways to provide services to end-customers; (2) "wholesale access," which means requiring the incumbent to sell a wholesale broadband access product to all comers; and (3) encouraging other kinds of broadband access ("facilities-based competition"), which means helping new entrants have their own networks without having to deal with the incumbents at all.

3) Facilities based competition: Still waiting for that mythical third wire, or perhaps some unused, unlicensed TV spectrum, but not holding my breath. (Broadband over powerline? It is such an encumbered technology that it is its own barrier to entry.)

2) Wholesale access: Been there, tried that, but the Bells wouldn't unbundled elements be sold at prices that'd let others play, litigating, legislating and lobbying until the last vestiges of wholesale access dribbled down the drain with the baby. Susan C says that unbundled elements a la 1996 Telecom Act was a local loop unbundling play, but I think it was an attempt at wholesale access.

1) Real local loop unbundling, a la Japan and Korea. Where it has been honestly implemented, it works. But, as Susan C points out,
It's not easy: you have to find a way to give the incumbent enough of a return on its last-mile investments so that maintenance/upgrading continues, and you have to find a way to make that price low enough so that new market entrants are willing to take the plunge.
To summarize from the Bell view:
(3) If competitors arise, we can crush 'em or buy 'em. Except for cities, but if Earthlink can build muni networks, we can too and co-opt the whole movement.
(2) Wholesale access: we dodged that bullet and took away the gun.
(1) Our public relations efforts, especially the one about "owning our own networks," has effectively taken real unbundling out of the dialog. Even the acronym for Wire and Cable Company (WACCO) sounds whacko.

For completeness, there are at least two other possibilities:

4) Trust the incumbents. That's the current strategy. No further dignification needed.

5) Find new network architectures that do not have the barrier of high fixed costs. Mesh networks.

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Friday, May 05, 2006



Goss suddenly resigns from CIA just when he was starting to kick some serious oss. Says here:
Last week, Ken Silverstein of the Harper's magazine blog reported that, according to sources, the FBI was scrutinizing a former lawmaker "who now holds a powerful intelligence post."
I thought DHS made the FBI and the CIA into lovey-lovey share-share homeland security peas in a pod, not the rival agencies they once were. Joshua Micah Marshall has more than the usual juicy details.

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Two Different Questions

There are two very different epistemologies in the debate over the future of the Internet.

One question is, "How do we change access provisioning so the Internet survives."

The other is, "How do we change the Internet so telcos (and cablecos) survive."

As you read the various arguments, ask yourself which question is being answered.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Tim Wu and Cory Doctorow on Network Neutrality

At the heart of the Network Neutrality debate is the issue of discrimination, an a priori decision that this traffic, or that content, or some source/destination is better than another. In the 1960s the hot political issue involved another kind of discrimination. What can we learn?

Tim's article in Slate says (in part),
In trying to figure out who's right, let's forget about the Internet and look at KFC. The fast-food chain discriminates. It has an exclusive deal with Pepsi, and that seems fine to pretty much everyone. Now, let's think about the nation's highways. How would you feel if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special "rush-hour" lane for GM cars only?
Cory Doctorow over at bOING bOING replies
I agree with net-neutralists . . . [but] . . . I remain skeptical of the idea that this is a problem with a regulatory solution. The FCC is slow, often captured, and breathtakingly dumb about technology (this is the agency that passed the initial Broadcast Flag rule, after all). Asking them to write a set of rules describing "neutrality" and then enforce them seems like a recipe for trouble to me.
Cory's right. The regulatory solution, especially an FCC regulatory solution, is going to be trouble. But he's wrong if he implies we should not try (for regulatory solutions, for economic solutions, for technological solutions).

Imagine how we'd feel if we saw the 1960s kind of discrimination and said, "Wow, a regulatory solution, like bussing, is going to be a disaster, so let's not try." Imagine if, not seeing an uncomplicated solution, we did not do anything about 1960-style discrimination. Bussing indeed failed. But if we had not tried would we still have white-only water fountains? And see white-only TV and a white-only Congress? No, Cory, we HAVE to do this, even if the only outcome imaginable is a messy, unworkable one. The struggle is the victory.

Wow, I've never disagreed with Cory before.

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Network Neutrality Reality

A podcast of my Berkman Lunch Talk yesterday, "Network Neutrality Reality: What's Driving the Next Telecom Act" is available: MP3 here, powerpoints here. In my talk I try to give perspective on why the telcos want a law in the first place (because cable tv entry fits the business model they know) and how net neutrality hangs in the balance.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006


ISOC Trustee Election Results

The ISOC vote is in. The new Trustees are Baoping Yan and Bill St. Arnaud! If I were not running, these are EXACTLY who I would have voted for. Even as I did run, I felt these were the most worthy Trustees among the candidates. My friends at ISOC encouraged me to run to bring a broader perspective to the Board, and so I would have. But ISOC has spoken. My hearty congratulations to the new Trustees. I can only imagine what they'll face in the next three years, and I wish them strength, clarity and wisdom.

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Talk Today at Berkman Center

My Berkman talk today is called "Network Neutrality Reality: What's driving the next telecom act." 12:30 PM at Berkman Center, 1587 Mass Ave, Cambridge, Mass.

More info at
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu including webcast and IRC info.

If you'd like to come in person, rsvp to
egeorge@cyber.law.harvard.edu or call her on 617.495.7547 as soon as practical.

Else, see you on the Webcast.

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