Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Product that makes me feel stupid

My Nokia N800 shows lots of potential, but it needs major hacking to get it to do simple things. If it frustrates *me*, it is just is not ready for the mass market.

Case in point:

I wanted to turn on the N800's lock mechanism, so it would need a password if it had been sitting idle. I go to Control Panel > Device Lock > Change Lock Code and enter my desired code.

Incorrect code.

So I ask myself, did I already set up a lock code when I was playing with it out of the box? I wrack my brain, but can't remember. So I try every string I usually use, but each time,the result is the same:

Incorrect code.

In frustration, I cruise the Nokia N800 Web site to find that the default Nokia lock code for Nokia products is 1234.

I put in 1234. Incorrect code.

I cycle through all my phone numbers with and without area codes, my social security number, my credit card numbers, each 4-digit group of each credit card number, then each octet, my drivers license number, my drivers license number parsed in different ways, my wife's birthday, our anniversary, my weight, my ZIP code, my previous four ZIP codes . . .

Incorrect code.

How could I be so stupid?

So finally I call Nokia support. Tier 1 sends me to Tier 2, who tells me that the default code is 12345.

And that's the answer. Duh.

In hindsight, the Nokia N800 user guide, spells it out clearly on Page 15. RTFM.

Double duh.

OK so I actually *am* an idiot for not reading TFM. (My techie friends' heads are nodding in vigorous agreement.) But if I am too stupid to figure it out, for sure my non-tech friends won't stand for it.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007


F2C: Freedom to Connect, the latest

There's less than a week to F2C: Freedom to Connect! Two great Internet activists, Malcolm Matson and John Wilson, are coming from the UK. Bruce Sterling and his bloggin' wife, Jasmina Tesanovic, are coming in from Godknowswhere, Europe. Lots of Vermontniks will be there to support (or question) their Gov, and people are flying in from California, Oregon and Washington.

The price takes a huge jump at close of business tomorrow, from $650 to $1195. So if you're coming, please register now.

More late additions to the program: Peter Swire, Adam Thierer and Allison Fine.

Other surprises, even miracles, are in the works. Come.

(As always, the policy is that if you feel you should be in the room but the price is a barrier, write to me --soon-- and let's lower it.)

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Friday, February 23, 2007


Trib gets it wrong, kinda

Jon Van's a good telecom reporter with a nose for what's going on, so maybe the Trib's editors put the telco spin on Van's story today, entitled, "Videos have Net bursting at the seams."

This "bursting at the seams" spin is not supported in the body of the article.

But the subtitle, "As Web's capacity nears its limits, debate rages over what to do next," and a one sentence Paragraph #3, " But no one disagrees that the Web's capacity is being pushed to its limits," reinforce the mis-directing spin.

Actually, if you read the body of the article, Andrew Odlyzko disagrees, John Ryan a SVP at Level 3 disagrees, and I disagree. We're all quoted further down the page.

Even Qwest CTO Pieter Poll, quoted in Paragraph #4, can be read to disagree. He says he doesn't see "anything catastrophic near-term."

The spin of these leading sentences is only supported by a Deloitte partner. Deloitte was hired by the Bells to write the report that the story hinges on. And it is supported by Walter McCormick, head of Bell-funded USTA. They want people to believe, "2007 may be the year of the tipping point where growth in capacity cannot cope with use." But NOBODY in the article, save the Deloitte guy and McCormick (and maybe the Trib's editor) seems to believe in a 2007 capacity crunch.

I talked to Jon Van for 45 minutes or so. I explained that Odlyzko's research shows Internet core traffic has been growing quite predictably for years at about 100% per year, and any capacity crunch at the core could have been anticipated long ago . . . and ameliorated, if there were a will to do so. I am certain he understood the point. I made sure he talked to Odlyzko, and he did. Good man.

I also talked to Van about how the telcos were spinning the capacity issue to construct a case for network neutrality. Apparently Odlyzko did too. The text of the article makes it clear that Jon Van got it.

But the casual reader skimming the headlines will get the telco message. Seems that's what the Trib's editors intended.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007


Why do people still have dial-up?

Scott Wallsten of the Bell-funded Progress and Freedom Foundation claims that people who still have dial-up as their primary Internet connection like dial up better than broadband.

So I asked my brother in law, the one person I know who still dials up, why he doesn't switch to broadband. He told me, "What? I'm supposed to wait around all day for the cable guy to show up? If I take a day off, I won't make my rent. I have a second job on Saturdays, so that's out too."

Wallsten-think: He works a marginal job because he likes having a marginal job. He can't take a day off to wait for the cable guy because he likes working six days a week. And he doesn't get broadband because he likes dial-up (more than he dislikes missing the rent).

When Wallsten sees US infant mortality, twenty eighth in the world (even Cuba is better), I wonder if he thinks, "Those mothers like having their kids die."

Wallsten's got a Ph.D. in economics.

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Monday, February 19, 2007


Why "All lines are full" at Verizon

Bruce Kushnick put the Verizon Capital Expenditure numbers on Cybertelecom yesterday:

2000 -- $12,119,000,000
2001 -- $11,480,000,000
2002 -- $8,004,000,000
2003 -- $6,820,000,000
2004 -- $7,118,000,000
2005 -- $8,267,000,000
2006 -- $10,259,000,000

One can interpret this Rorschach test in any of a number of ways, but the fact is that Internet traffic continued to double every year while Verizon cut capex. Now, Bruce claims, the numbers show illegal cross-subsidization of FIOS by local service revenues.

Me, I dunno, but I got an hour and a half of, "Our lines are full, call back later," from Verizon bait-and-switch customer service last weekend, and I'm still hoppin' mad.

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Benefits of Competition My Ass

Here's a little nugget from today's Washington Post. The headline from the story should be, "Verizon Competes, Rates Climb."
Bills for thousands of Montgomery County cable viewers will increase by 4 percent starting March 1, when Comcast Corp., suburban Maryland's largest cable television provider, raises rates throughout the Washington region.

Montgomery leaders had hoped that competition from a new provider, Verizon Communications Inc., would help lower prices. But Comcast said recently that cable bills would climb . . . The announcement comes after the county fined Comcast twice in the past six months for failing to meet benchmarks for customer service.
The Montgomery and Prince George's county councils signed off in November on agreements to allow Verizon to begin offering fiber-optic television service. Company officials hailed the "benefits of choice" for customers, including less expensive service.

Verizon has since raised its rates for new customers by 7.6 percent. And RCN, the third company that offers cable television service in Montgomery, raised its base price last month by 15 percent.

So much for the idea that "competition will bring down rates," said Montgomery County Council President Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County), who has long clashed with the industry over regulation. "That clearly hasn't happened."
Are you listening Kevin Martin?

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Saturday, February 17, 2007


Quote of Note: Deborah Platt Majoras

"What I found were too many sound bites, too much talking past one another and not enough acknowledgement that [Network Neutrality] is a tough issue that poses risks."

Deborah Platt Majoras, FTC Chair, quoted here, at the beginning of the FTC so-called workshop that perpetuated the problems that she identified.

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Quote of Note: Deborah Platt Majoras

"What I found were too many sound bites, too much talking past one another and not enough acknowledgement that [Network Neutrality] is a tough issue that poses risks."

Deborah Platt Majoras, FTC Chair, at FTC Workshop on Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy, quoted here, at the beginning of the FTC so-called workshop that perpetuated the problems that she identified.

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Friday, February 16, 2007


Unrepresented at FTC Broadband Workshop

The main mission of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is protecting "consumers" against anti-competitive practices. So it makes first-blush sense for the FTC to get involved in Network Neutrality, since we pro-Neutrality advocates are wary of the telco-cableco means, motive and opportunity to impair competition. The caricature is that the end user wants Google but the telco gives us Yahoo. Or we want Skype but the telco makes it easier to use telco voice.

Would the FTC be just the agency to keep Net Discrimination at bay? Where's the evidence? The Microsoft anti-trust trial was a joke. Plus the FTC has been absent since the 1996 Act let telco land line services into each others' territories, but they didn't go there, wink wink. And then there's the Rambus case where Rambus was blatantly sleazy and the FTC response was watery-bland (thanks, Andy Oram, but why'd your Rambus post disappear from the O'Reilly eTel site?).

At its FTC Workshop on Broadband Connectivity this week the FTC proved in real time that it was incapable of its mission. Its choice of speakers and the way it ran its so-called workshop made it clear. I was so infuriated I was ready to commit civil disobedience. (Not that FCC kabuki protects us better, but it does not make my blood boil the way this event did.)

The FTC chose two-handed academic speakers. The opening academics, John Peha and William Lehr, said that discrimination was bad . . . and good. Their presentation made it seem as if the Internet were simply a truck, or a series of tubes, or a basket of apples. They did not talk about a place for participation and citizenship, a place one could love. They did not represent the Internet that I understand. The FTC allowed no Yochai Benklers, no David Reeds, no Susan Crawfords, no Cory Doctorows, no academics save Tim Wu, who represented my 'net.

The FTC chosen Netheads were inside-beltway players. They were well-known, non-threatening. Gigi Sohn often holds the entire center and left at right-wing think tank events, and I am still trying to figure out why. Harold Feld projects an appearance that is anything but buttoned down, that might speak louder to some than his amazingly cogent, well-constructed arguments. The other Netheads -- Alan Davidson from Google, Chris Libertelli from Skype, Jeannine Kenney from Consumers Union, Gary Bachula from Internet 2 and Tim Wu of Columbia University -- were "faired and balanced" by a raft of industry flacks who were paid to say what their bosses told them to say regardless of how obviously false it was.

[UPDATE: I **do** know why Gigi is often chosen to represent "the public good" at so many inside-beltway events. She's good, she has a strong command of the issues and a public-spirited way of constructing them. What I **don't** understand is why she's chosen as the sole representative of the non-telco view so often. Apologies, Gigi, and to anybody else who may have read the above and inferred that I don't hold Gigi Sohn in high regard! I do.]

Only Harold Feld said anything about the Internet and democracy, only Harold Feld said anything about the Internet and freedom, only Harold Feld represented the Internet I understand.* Among the Googles and Amazons, nobody represented "the unborn," the Internet companies in their infancy, the Internet ideas that might become next year's great companies, the next big thing that might never happen if the telcos decide who gets the good service and who doesn't. (Chris Libertelli meant it when he said the 'net shouldn't become Cable TV, but not many heard it as he meant it.)

Nobody represented Teletruth, where my friend Bruce Kushnick has devoted two decades to work that the FTC should have been doing. There was not enough room on the schedule. Yet there was room on the schedule for two speakers from Bell-funded Progress and Freedom foundation, for Bell-funded Hands Off the Internet, for Bell-funded CTIA, for Cable-funded NCTA, and for the Bell-funded Phoenix Center. And Verizon. And Comcast.

One surprise. Ron Youkubaitis of Data Foundry, a seat-of-the-pants Internet entrepreneur from Texas who built a business of archiving Usenet content since before user-generated content was fashionable, ran out the clock on the under-represented issue of end-user privacy. I could have listened to him for another hour. He was a refreshing "experience break" from the overly-derivitive lawyers and lobbyists.

The format was a "workshop" in name only. It was set up so discussion was limited and nobody -- not panelist, not audience -- could challenge Industry falsehoods. (I hope Simon Wilkie's spontaneous outburst of laughter at USTA Walter McCormick, when he said the telecom market was wide open, went on the record. Probably not.) In session after session, the moderator would collect a stack of written questions, then paraphrase one or two, or ask his or her own questions. McCormick's absurd assertions and PFF Scott Wallsten's equally blatant claims, for example, that dial-up Internet customers liked dial-up better than broadband, went largely unchallenged.

I came away thinking that the FTC, as currently constituted should never, never, never, never, never get responsibility for protecting the consumer from anti-competitive broadband practices. Regulate mattress tags but keep your FTCking hands off my Internet.

Gigi Sohn's take here.

* I skipped out on the last two sessions to catch my train.

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New policy on comments

At the FTC Broadband competition hearing last Tuesday and Wednesday, I had the delightful experience of meeting several members of "Hands Off the Internet," that remarkably civic-minded "coalition of Internet users," like AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent and the National Association of Manufacturers that fights against evils like Network Neutrality. HOTI Co-Chairman Chris Wolf and two other Hands-Off employees were there.

I am usually happy to meet somebody who comments on my blog, so I shook hands all around and asked them which one of them commented on my blog using the name "HandsOff." They all used that name, they said. And Chris Wolf added that he approves all blog comments before they go out.

Hmmm. A team effort. With a top-down filter . . .

So I'm adopting a new policy w/r/t comments on

If comments are corporate or organizational messages, or if I have reason to suspect that they're something besides the individual voice of an unbeholden commentator, and they're not labeled clearly as representing that organization, then I'll label them as I see fit or reject them.

Usually publications charge for ads. I won't do that. But I'm not going to have a bunch of astroturf messages masquerading as personal opinions, not on my blog!

If you're saying what you believe, and you're saying it clean, welcome to! But (a) if it feels slimy, ad hominem or intellectually dishonest to me, or (b) if it is an engineered message from an entity with an organizational agenda or their paid agents, I just might reject or repurpose it.

If you're representing an organization, I INSIST that you clearly identify the organization AND the fact that your voice is its voice. If you do not, I consider this tantamount to fraud. If you're representing yourself, while I recognize the benefits of anonymous speech and do not rule out anonymous contributions, it'll help if you sign your real name and include contact information.

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Doc Searls & David Weinberger at F2C 2006

When Doc Searls and David Weinberger did their F2C: Freedom to Connect 2006 presentation, they turned around to read the chat screen . . .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Price goes up Thursday for F2C: Freedom to Connect

F2C: Freedom to Connect, the conference, approaches. It will be held March 5 & 6 in Washington, DC. F2C features futurist Bruce Sterling, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, Yale Professor Yochai Benkler, FCC Commissioner Adelstein, Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt, Future FCC Chair Susan P. Crawford(!), and a cast of dozens, great speakers all. Get the up-to-the-minute details here.

On Thursday at close of business, the price goes from $450 to $650, so register early and often!

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Internet at Omni Shoreham Sucks

I'm in Washington DC for the FTC hearing on broadband competition. Hotwire gave me the Omni Shoreham hotel . . . the pre-sales info it divulged said it was a four-star hotel with Internet access.

The Internet access at the Omni Shoreham sucks worse than any hotel I've been at in the last year.

I spent the first hour and a half -- from 10PM to 11:30 PM, grrr -- on hold with the Omni Shoreham's connection provider. The nice technician on the other end kept saying, "My, its busy tonight!" Uh. Duh. Ever think of getting a fatter pipe?

No. More. Omni. Shoreham. Ever. Until they publicly declare they've fixed their Internet connection.

I should mention one other hotel on my "Connection Sucks, Never Stay There" list. The Boulder Broker Inn in Boulder CO. I stayed there last year and had to dial up! I had occasion to check in a couple weeks ago to see if they've fixed their problem, and the nice woman at the Boulder Broker Inn said they still had a problem.

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Monday, February 12, 2007


Would NN Tie the Telcos' Hands? No!

Thomas, in a comment on a post in this blog, A non-remedy for Net Neutrality Violations, asks, "Wouldn’t net neutrality tie the hands of ISPs to deal with the coming video revolution. . . ?"

Answer: No. ISPs -- Internet Service Providers like Yahoo and Earthlink -- would be advantaged by NN. They welcome it. They would have access to the same dumb pipes that Google has access to, and this access would be entirely non-discriminatory under Network Neutrality.

Maybe Thomas is confusing ISPs with Internet Access Providers, the dumb pipe (Internet access) owners. Would *they* have their hands tied by NN?

Answer: No. The dumb pipe guys own two key assets. The first is the right-of-way. The second is the existing wire or fiber to homes and businesses. Once these two are in place, over 90% of the buildout expense is taken care of. With wire, 30 Mbit/s DSL is doable today, you just re-equip the endpoints. With cable, DOCSIS 3.0 promises 100 Mbit/s. With fiber, there is no upper limit, Verizon FIOS is already in trials at 100 Mbit/s, and FIOS is not even an optimal architecture.

Video here we come!

Transmission capability, the ability to jam bits down a fiber, a wire or through the air, is growing faster than Moore's Law, i.e., doubling about every 12 months. Sometimes this is called Gilder's Law. One gig, ten gig, 100 gig . . . the FTTH trajectory is clear. No hands are tied.

If the telcos would follow Gilder's Law, they'd be providing pipes that were twice as fast every year, for exactly the same money. That is, capex in year N+1 would be level, while speed would double. Or, capex in year N+1 would be halved while speed stays the same. And if speed stays the same, if customers are not getting rate cuts, we're being ripped off.

All of the above assumes neutral pipes, which has been the case, with a few exceptions, since the beginning of communications networks.

The telcos and the cablecos are in the catbird seat. They have the wires, they have the rights of way. All they need to do is light them faster and faster as technology improves.

Let's not confuse their damaging desire for the increased profits of Net Discrimination with innovation. Or their envy of Google's market cap for lack of incentive. They don't need no stinkin Net Discrimination to provide fat enough pipes to handle the video revolution.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007


New Yorker Cartoon: doing the right thing, NOT

There have been two great New Yorker cartoons in the last couple of issues.

In one, a naked king is walking through his palace and one guard says to the other, "There are enormous challenges facing this country." Brilliant. And, ahem, timely.

In another, Death, the guy with the scythe and black hooded robe, is sitting on a desert island after having cut down the one palm tree. See Jared Diamond.

I want to put these on my Web site, but, of course, I want to do the right thing too. So I go to the New Yorker web site, establish an "account," and try to license the first one. $200. Two hundred bucks??? C'mon, New Yorker, a non-commercial Web site? A blog? $20 tops.

Why for $20 a toon, I'd do it every month or so. But $200? No way.

Actually, there's a fair use argument to be made. According to Wikipedia, the four-factor fair use test is:
1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Re: 1. I clearly do not mean to expropriate the works for my own commercial benefit
and re: 4. I doubt the market for cartoons or magazines will suffer from my use of these cartoons.

So I could make the case, but why try? The New Yorker has made itself quite clear.

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Verizon Baits and tries to Switch

Verizon belongs in the Customer Service Hall of Shame. Or maybe its execs belong in jail . . . assuming using monopolistic market power coercively is illegal (IANAL) . . . for what happened to me yesterday.

Regular readers of know that I have Verizon FIOS on one line, and Verizon DSL on a completely separate account on a second line. This is to preserve physical redundancy, as I laid out in my incredibly important (and unjustifiably unknown) essay, "Buy as Many Nines as You Need," the essay so ignored that BCR forgot to list it in its table of contents.

I got a bill insert offering DSL at $19.99 a month in my last Verizon phone bill. That very same phone bill charged me 37.95 for DSL. So I figured it'd be a simple matter to calling and switch to the lower price.

But when I got through to an agent, she transferred me to another agent whose only job was to upsell me to FIOS. When I told that agent I did not want FIOS, but simply wanted the $19.99 DSL, that agent, without a wasted word, transferred me to a third queue that announced, "We're sorry, all lines are full. Please hang up try your call again later." Click.

All lines are full??? We're the phone company and all lines are full.

In other words, Verizon under-provisioned its queue to deliberately discourage people in FIOS territory from ordering DSL service.

In other words, buy FIOS right now today, but for DSL you gotta go to Helen Wait.

I called again. This time I asked to *cancel* my DSL service. I learned I could only cancel my DSL service between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM Monday through Friday. I told the agent I worked during those hours and reminded him this was a residential service request. The agent asked, "Would you mind waiting on hold?" Of course not, why else would I call Verizon. The post-transfer announcement said, "We're sorry, all lines are full. Please hang up try your call again later." Click.

Third call. My first words, "May I please speak to your supervisor." Wait . . . wait . . . wait . . . Mister Rosselli. Who explained that the agent that answered this call could indeed "downgrade" my DSL to the $19.99 flavor. After verifying that Mr. Rosselli was not going to transfer me to the, "All lines are full," queue, I agreed and Ms. Simmons did, indeed "downgrade" my service.

Time spent, about 1.5 hours. Verizon did everything it could to keep me on the high-priced plan or get me to buy an even more expensive spread. If I were jill-soccer-mom or joe-six-pack, I almost certainly would not have had the sticktuitiveness to stick to it. Call M-F, 8AM-6PM. Imagine a store clerk or a mechanic taking a half hour break to downgrade their DSL. Can you spell L.O.C.K.I.N.?

The $19.99 DSL bill insert was clearly the "bait" in Verizon's bait and switch plan. The fact that I got what I wanted on the third call . . . "One minute while we look up your account records" . . . was a thin beard indeed.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007


Quote of Note: Richard M. Nixon

"Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

President Richard M. Nixon, May 19, 1977. [link]

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Friday, February 09, 2007


Customer service kudos!

Product kudos too!

I've loved my Shure E3c ear bud type earphones ever since I bought them just under two years ago. (They cost about $200 at a high end store in some airport.) They're great on planes, with sound isolation as good as Bose active canceling headsets, and maybe even better high frequency attenuation. They work fine with my iPod and my Mac's audio. Sometimes I wear them just as ear plugs.

About a week ago, one ear died. I filled out the easy-to-find, easy-to-fill-out repair contact form on the Shure Web site and stuffed it in a padded envelope with the phones. There were a couple weeks left on the two-year warranty. Today a brand new pair of E3cs arrived, no charge.

Short. Sweet. Satisfied.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007


A non-remedy for Net Neutrality Violations

One of the motives behind the pro-Network Neutrality movement is the fear of anti-competitive behavior. "Suppose," they say, "Bellco-X has its own VOIP offering, wouldn't it want to block Skype?" And in fact, the most blatant NN violation was of just that flavor, to wit, Madison River blocked Vonage.

Some say that anti-competitive behavior is the mission of the FTC, so why not let the FTC enforce Network Neutrality? In fact, there will be an FTC workshop on this very issue, February 13 and 14 in Washington DC. I'll be there.

But can you name one FTC decision in the last 25 years that has been more than a too-little, too-late wrist-slap? Can you point to any recent FTC action with any deterrence value whatsoever?

Andy Oram looks at the case of Rambus, an egregious violator of fair trade practices, caught red-handed in anti-competitive subterfuge. Oram exclaims,

But what's happening to Rambus? Nothing. Nobody has brought any kind of action, save for a tame FTC injunction (based on a recommendation submitted by Rambus itself) to act more ethically in the future.
As one FTC Commissioner noted, after seven years of litigation, "the market may have moved on." May have? And Oram concludes that where Net Neutrality is concerned, it is likely that the FTC, "will work too slowly to provide a remedy for dynamic industries, and that the punishment for corporate misbehavior will barely exceed a reasonable cost of doing business."
Remember the FTC's Microsoft "remedy"? [Neither do I.]

The coming FTC workshop could be a hoot . . . or a snooze. We shall see!

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7th Grader on Network Neutrality

Sarah Fiordaliso is a seventh-grader at Sweet Home [NY? OR? other? -- David I] Middle School. Her powerful, articulate letter, excerpted below, explains why we need Network Neutrality as well as anything I've seen. It appears in New Moon magazine's January/February issue titled "Letter to Congress."

Imagine this: your best friend moves away. Luckily, she keeps an online journal, so every day you sit down at your computer to read it. Today, her journal takes a long time to load. You tap your feet, glance through the newspaper lying on the computer desk, and click on your browser's "refresh" button several times. The page still won't load. Frustrated, you decide to come back and try later. But the same thing happens. You notice that Google still loads quickly, so you know your Internet connection isn't broken.

This could be every girl's experience if we didn't have something called network neutrality. Network neutrality is the equality that all Web sites share . . . Congress is debating whether we need a law that protects network neutrality. If Congress doesn't pass the law, Web sites of big companies that can afford to pay more would probably load faster than your friend's blog or New Moon's homepage.
Network neutrality is especially important to girls, since the Internet is one of the best places to use your freedom of speech. For example, if you've written a story, it's hard to find someone to publish it. Publishers, not writers, have control over what people read. But if you post something on the Internet, YOU have control. Taking away network neutrality silences girls' voices. The Internet is a place for all of us. Let's keep it that way.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Thanks to Tim Karr at for the pointer.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Quote of Note: J. Scott Christianson

"The Missouri Senate is considering one of the best-written pieces of legislation to come before it in some time: Senate Bill 284, the Missouri Video Franchise Bill. It should be a good bill, considering how much money AT&T spent to write it."

J. Scott Christianson, in Columbia (MO) Tribune Op-Ed, February 6, 2007.

Thanks to Tim Karr for the link!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Join FON, get a free router

Remember the good old days of 1999? When we were just getting used to the idea that the Web made stuff so easy that lots of things could be free? Ha ha ha, two gigabits of email storage free? Photosharing free? International phone calls free? New York Times columnists free? AOL service free? Copyright music free? Whodathunkit.

Now, as the price of a terabyte disk drive falls below $500, Martin Varsavsky, the founder of FON, invites us to party like it's 1999. He invites all who want to synch up with FON to get a free FON router, just click here.

FON is free to you everywhere in the world if you sign up as a Linus. On the other hand, if you hate free, you can still sign up as a Bill and dream of the money other folks will pay you for access to your hotspot. (Alternatively, if you REALLY LOVE free, you can bypass FON and go straight to WiFi Liberator.)

Even if you have no FON router yourself, you can use any FON hotspot you find for a mere fraction of the price many hotels and airports charge. (Can you believe it cost me 29.95 Euros a day in the Mercure Hotel in Munich to use the Wi-Fi a couple weeks ago? Can you believe I paid?)

Sorry, "mere fraction" is the best I can do, even though I am a Compensated FON Advisory Board Member -- I've heard two bucks and three bucks a day -- even four or five -- bandied about. I'm not BizDev, and I'm not privy to all the great deals FON is doing, so I am not sure where FON stands at the moment. In any case, I've advised FON (and FON has advised me) that it'll be lots less than 30 Euro!

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Put "Minimum Security" in the papers

Today the most accurate news is told by comedians, so when a truth teller gets a chance to put her comics in the paper, it is an important opportunity! Minimum Security comic strip perpetrator Stephanie McMillan writes,
"Minimum Security is now syndicated at, the comics website of United Media . . . If the cartoons get a lot of hits on during 2007, then it will help United get them into daily city papers in 2008. So if you like Minimum Security, I'd really appreciate it if you'd link to it on, bookmark it, and pass it to your friends . . . "
Here's a Stephanie McMillan cartoon now, posted with her permission:


The Hill: Special Focus on Telecom

The Hill today has a special focus on telecom policy, with these articles:

Internet freedom at risk
By Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)

We can be the world leader in communications technology
By Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)

Communications issues still need Congress’s attention
By Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

Affordable broadband for everyone
By Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.)

‘Net neutrality’ — no one even knows what that means
By Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)

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Monday, February 05, 2007


FCC Fudges its Broadband Report -- but finally gets one thing right!

UPDATE: Harold Feld weighs in on the same FCC report here.

The FCC has just released its report, High-Speed Services for Internet Access: Status as of June 30, 2006 [.pdf]. All the usual problems with FCC data are built in (the wimpy definition of broadband as over 200 kbit/s, the use of zip codes as the unit of analysis, the inclusion of satellite-only zip codes as having broadband service, the counting of competitors as if a 250 line ISP is equal to a grownup Bell, et cetera).

The big shock is this:

U.S. terrestrial broadband Internet connectivity only grew 27% between June 05 and June 06! The FCC report claims it is 54%, but that's just wrong.

The FCC would have us believe that U.S. Broadband connectivity grew 54% between June 05 and June 06 (from 42 to 65 million lines) because, in a giant data-fudge, the FCC is lumping 11 million cellular data (mobile broadband) accounts with its other broadband Internet access methods.

Mobile broadband is entirely different than terrestrial forms of Internet access. It is

(a) extremely non-neutral; many Internet applications are forbidden or blocked,

(b) the largest providers impose covert throughput limits,

(c) it violates the FCC's own guidelines, because end-users are NOT free to access content, run applications, or attach devices of their own choosing(!!) -- see (a) above,

(d) it does not provide a rich environment for innovation or end-user generated content equivalent to landline broadband Internet access, and

(e) most U.S. citizens with mobile broadband probably already have terrestrial broadband Internet connectivity, so it is likely that including mobile Internet access is a form of double counting.

The OECD numbers show that the annual growth of U.S. broadband Internet penetration was 53% in 2001-2002. This slowed over successive years to 40%, 33% and 30% for 02-03, 03-04 and 04-05. Without the FCC's bogus inclusion of mobile broadband, the growth rate of 27% is right in line.

How does 27% growth stack up to the rest of the world? I do not have the 05-06 figures, but in 2004, OECD countries Greece, Turkey, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic Mexico and Ireland all had growth rates above 100%. These, without exception, reflect the law of small numbers.

Looking at the second tier, OECD countries with growth between 27% and 100% in 2004-2005, we find Australia, Hungary, New Zealand, Germany, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Italy, Iceland, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark. The law of small numbers no longer applies; six of these have higher overall broadband Internet access penetration than the U.S. -- AND they are growing faster.

At 27%, the U.S. has approximately the 26th fastest growing number of broadband Internet access lines. Even including mobile data access, like the FCC report does, 54% growth rate is only the world's 10th fastest growth. In other words, even counting mobile data, the U.S. is tied with Luxembourg's 2004-2005 growth rate.

The FCC data have another weakness that is not generally noted. This FCC gives a lot of lip service to facilities based competition, but when it comes to counting so-called competitors in a given zip code, there's no distinction whether the so-called competitor provides its own wires or re-sells somebody else's. So when the FCC says over 75% of zip codes have four or more providers, we do not actually know what that means.

Meanwhile, the FCC has quietly dropped Kevin Martin's 2005 claim that the U.S. leads the world in total number of broadband connections. As I noted on July 8, 2005, China was scheduled to blow the doors off the U.S. by 2007. Apparently it already has.

The bottom line, we need to go beyond industry-supplied, FCC-massaged data. It is time for an end-user-in study of U.S. Internet facilities and competition. It should probably be part of the 2010 census. Census agents should determine, for a representative sample of households, how many forms of Internet connectivity they have, how many competitors they're aware of, what competing service they could actually buy and install and use, how many resellers of ILEC service there are, how many DSL providers use ILEC lines, et cetera. This is the only way we will get accurate, non-double-counted numbers about the competition that is actually available to the end user in the U.S.

What is right about the FCC Report: They've dropped the consumer-consumer-consumer language that used to pervade the FCC. (Information is non-rival, nothing is consumed. In fact, as information disseminates, there's more of it! ) The word "consumer" does not appear once in the report! Instead, the more accurate "end user" occurs 19 times. There are seven uses of the word "customer," and three uses of "household" as a noun. This is a huge improvement! Maybe someday the FCC will also use "citizen" (zero uses) or, better yet, "our bosses."

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Sunday, February 04, 2007


Pix from Congressional Internet Caucus NN Session

Here are a couple of pix of the Net Neutrality session of the Congressional Internet Caucus annual meeting last Wednesday.

Rob Atkinson (chair) with Dave Farber and Tim Wu.

Here's David Reed and Christopher Yoo.

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Friday, February 02, 2007


Subscribe to Cook Report on Internet, Go to VON free

According to Gordon Cook, he and Jeff Pulver have teamed up to lose money. The winner is you. If you buy a one year subscription to The Cook Report on Internet [click here] you get a full, all-access pass to Spring VON.

UPDATE: According to Gordon's comment below, a limited number of these will be available. We do not know what that means. Let's just say the offer is in effect now and could be revoked without notice at any time at the discretion of Jeff or Gordon, as I understand it. And I reserve the same rights for my offer below, too. (Put another way, if you don't get all legalistic on us, we'll stay all good faith with you, and when it's over it's over.)

Hey, I like this money losing thing. If you sign up for Gordon's Report, and you register for F2C: Freedom to Connect, I'll give you $50 back too. This is not a retroactive offer, and it is not good for special deals or comps. It is strictly for people who sign up for F2C at the open, prevailing rate and subscribe to The Cook Report on Internet after the time of this posting. Sign up for F2C at the regular rate, and email me with Subject: Cook Discount. Then once Gordon confirms, I'll reimburse you.

The big idea here is to support Gordon Cook's newsletter. Gordon stays on top of the issues. He's first off the lip of the breaking wave. He knows what's shaking and who's pulling the strings to make it shake. Each issue is voluminous, and sometimes it takes a little digging to find the pony. But it is a worthy, intellectually honest look at the biggest, newest, deepest Internet issues. If you care about the Internet and don't know Gordon's work, do yourself three favors,
(a) Get Gordons Report for a year,
(b) Go to VON free,
(c) Get a discount to F2C: Freedom to Connect!

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I knew it all along (yawn)

Gordon Cook just found a piece of mine from December 2001 (remember 2001?) where I laid out a scenario in which

" . . . the open, end-to-end Internet is gradually whittled away by a multi-front campaign employing massive lobbying, scare tactics, endless litigation and other techniques available to the big telcos. The idea that telecom facilities are Common Carriers (i.e., open to all comers under public and equitable terms) is replaced by a regime of Private Commercial Arrangements in which big players are selectively advantaged and small, innovative players are squeezed out . . . the telcos and their allies in government and industry use the new technology to keep the lid on potentially disruptive communications technology, to ensure that innovation within and around the communications network is predictable and approved . . . "
This, my friends, is not prescience on my part. Instead, it is testimony to the power of scenario thinking.

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Martin Geddes on F2C: Freedom to Connect

I disagree with Martin Geddes on many issues. For example, Martin believes in something called Telco 2.0, which implies that the carriers have a chance. I, on the other hand, don't think they do. So far, witness BT and NTT, Martin is a leg up. Furthermore, the carriers hire him. In other words, he is smarter than I am.

This makes Martin's extended, frank, no-holds-barred, completely unasked-for endorsement of F2C: Freedom to Connect in Telepocalypse yesterday more than just another testimonial. When somebody like that, who I aspire to be peers with, endorses my work like he did, I feel . . . proud. It means that F2C: Freedom to Connect actually accomplishes what I mean it to do.

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Making external innovation inevitable

Now envision this: A container full of life in a nutrient broth, bubbling, growing, multiplying. The mustachioed, tuxedoed, top-hatted Monopoly guy is squeezing its lid shut, growling, "Mine! Mine! Gotta keep it inside! Can't let my stuff escape!"

Gary Bolles observes that non-carrier, non-device-maker mobile applications were bubbling at Demo07, including:
Carriers won't get this. The only mainstream device maker -- including Apple -- that seems to get it is Nokia. And even Nokia is falling tragically short. I just got a shiny new N800 in the mail, way cool, very open, but if **I** can't use it for something out of the box (and I can't, I am still studying the durn thing, and there's only 24 hours in a day) then it is not mainstream. Then OpenMoko's on the horizon, but pleeeease show me one that comes ready to use for something and ready for one-button new app installs!

Some of the mobile apps Gary lists might have staying power, but there's many a slip twixt cup and lip. Without a truly easy-to-use platform, they're all pipe dreams. Meanwhile the container's bulging, and the Monopoly guy's squeezing harder.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007


Speed Matters! Verizon's FIOS screams!

The easiest connection speed test I've ever used is at, sponsored by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union for telco workers. The test is a bit obscured by a confusing web design, with pointers to principles, links to white papers, et cetera.

The button, "TEST YOUR SPEED NOW" is on the right side of the home page, right under "Browse Document Library," and "Join the Movement." It is rendered blandly. It is big enough, but so bland it is hard to see. (Note to CWA: tell the painters' union to make it bright red next time!)

Once you see it, it's simple. You push the button, enter your ZIP code and email, and voila! My results, depicted below, are astoundingly good. Nominally my FIOS is 15 mbit/s down and 5 mbit/s up. The test shows 14.3 down and 4.4 up. (I've had worse at other times of the day, but hey, it's 2PM on a weekday right now.) I am impressed. (My uploads are 3x faster than Japan's prevailing upload speed! Woo hoo!)

I have DSL too. (Also from Verizon.) And it, too, is as-advertised. I get 1.524 mbit/s downloads and .373 mbit/s uploads.

There are only two moderately negative things I have observed about FIOS. (1) The PON architecture, especially the asymmetry, embody built-in assumptions that the telco is boss. (2) Much more on the practical side, often there are often noticeable (or longer) delays at the beginning of a download that appear to be due to slow DNS lookups.

On the whole, though, if you can't move to Japan, get FIOS.

And even if FIOS doesn't pass your house, you can still take the connection speed test at!

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F2C -- More good words!

"Don't miss F2C . . . F2C aims not to lobby or position or spin or score political brownie points. It aims to illuminate and educate. . . admittedly quirky . . . and free-spirited . . . if folks really want to know where broadband policy is headed, they should start with F2C."
Cynthia Brumfield, F2C 2006 participant, in IP Democracy.
"F2C is the absolutely unbuttoned-down deep thought conference of telecommunications. You'll find movers and shakers here (some ducked down in hiding); you'll find thinkers; and you'll find those who have been and those who will be the guiding forces in telecommunications. There's no way you'll agree with everything that's said and plenty of ways to make your opinion known whether you're on the formal program or not."
Tom Evslin, speaker at F2C 2007, in Fractals of Change.
"I had never before experienced a conversation taking place on this level or at this pace . . . most participants were actively contributing. It was exciting; it was overwhelming; it was nearly pure energy. I loved it!"
Mary Godwin, F2C 2006 participant, in her Body Electric blog
F2C: Freedom to Connect will be March 5 & 6 in the Washington DC area. Register here.

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