Thursday, August 30, 2007


Structural Separation in Europe

From the FT [link]:

EU drops a broadband bombshell
By Sarah Laitner in Brussels and Philip Stafford in London
Published: August 30 2007 01:46 | Last updated: August 30 2007 01:46

Britain is sometimes embroiled in bruising battles in Brussels. But it finds itself singled out by the European Union’s telecoms chief as a model pupil in the drive to boost broadband competition.

Viviane Reding, the EU media commissioner, this week cited the decision to split the networks and services division of BT of the UK as a potential template for [European] former state-run telecoms operators . . . BT agreed in 2005 with national regulator Ofcom to create an independent unit responsible for giving rivals access to its networks. The division, which BT still owns, is obliged to treat competitors on the same basis as its own services.
[Thanks to Jim Baller for this pointer!]

Meanwhile in the U.S. Comcast apparently blocks Bittorrent and lies about it, AT&T promises $10 DSL and fails to deliver (and then says it's fixed the problem, but it hasn't), AT&T repeatedly blocks political speech it doesn't like and lies about it, and Verizon has stopped maintaining its copper and takes many days to complete residential line repairs. To such companies competition means, "I'm the biggest sonofabitch, so c'mon little stuff compete with me."

Can we trust these companies not to, "block, impair or degrade content, applications or services"?
The evidence is clear -- we can't.

The European model presents a very clear guide. If it is simply illegal for Internet access providers to have a financial interest in the content, services and applications carried by their network, they won't have any motive to discriminate.

The European discussion is advancing. We in the United States should start the discussion on our side of the pond as well. But as long as we focus on legislating telco/cableco behavior and ignore the structures that motivate the undesired behavior, we can expect our telcos and cablecos to lie, cheat and steal so they can pursue what they think of as, "Business as Usual."

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Amazing voyage

Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad, aboard Schooner Anne on a 1000 day voyage to nowhere, blogging every day.

Today is Day 129 and they're smack in the middle of the South Atlantic. Their goal is to remain self-sustaining, that is, to not take on any new supplies for the duration.

Thanks to Suchit Nanda for this pointer.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


No AG, No Recess!

Alberto Gonzales has resigned but the black prisons, the torture, the torn scraps of the Geneva accords, the illegal surveillance, the perverted civil rights division of Justice, the Rovicised Executive Branch, the shredded remains of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the mockery of all that once was the ideal of United States governance remain.

Congress should only confirm an Attorney General who will put the Rule of Law above myopic Chenian greed. Bush, of course, would never nominate somebody like that -- instead he he'd much rather make a recess appointment. Congress should anticipate this and NOT CALL A RECESS until January 20, 2009.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007


My Email is on the Blink!

UPDATE: Seeeeeems to be fixed. (Fingers crossed.) What actually happened seemed completely orthogonal to what the nice Earthlink reps said would happen, but hey, email seems to be working again, and for several hours now.

If you've been trying to email me, please try again! Feel free to call or IM.

Earthlink , my ISP, has been having problems for two or three days. The absolutely clueless Earthlink representative says that your messages to me, and my messages to you, are "on the server." He also says that the problem is, "Updating the servers." And he says, "It is intermittent." He seems to have no more information.

The smoke is coming out of my ears.
My apologies.
David I

Friday, August 10, 2007


More evidence the FTC is toothless

There have been proposals that the FTC is the right organization to ensure a neutral (open, fair, competitive, etc.)Internet.

In November 2006, Zango, which stealth-downloaded lureware, spyware and adware onto some 70 million computers without the computer owners' consent, were ordered by the FTC to stop that stuff.

But in a blog post dated July 31, 2007, harvard spyware researcher Ben Edelman demonstrates that Zango continues business as usual.

So if you're counting on the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the law -- even against slimeball spyware companies that no politician could possibly support -- count again!

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Thursday, August 09, 2007


AT&T Censors Pearl Jam . . . and?

So AT&T has this music portal called The Blue Room, and during a recent Pearl Jam performance they censored lyrics that said, "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush find yourself another home." According to Information Week [link], AT&T spokesman Michael Coe admitted that AT&T employs censors, which he calls, "Web Monitors," saying,
"They are told only to edit for excessive profanity, not really for the songs, but the banter going on between band members or band members and the audience, as well as any nudity that can arise."
Apparently a Web Monitor got over-enthusiastic and bleeped the Bush lyrics.

Gigi Sohn and Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge [link] and Tim Karr at Free Press [link] say that the incident demonstrates AT&T's hypocrisy for saying (in a Network Neutrality context) that it won't block content. AT&T spokesman Coe said that the bleepage had . . .
". . . nothing to do with Net Neutrality . . . The Blue Room is not a revenue generating site for us. It is a free site."
In other words, to AT&T, Network Neutrality wasn't violated because there was no discriminatory charging. It was a free site, so NN couldn't have been violated.

AT&T completely fails to get that Network Neutrality is about freedom of speech. To AT&T, it is all about economic efficiency, that is, about charging according to a customer's willingness to pay.

Netheads don't see it that way. Their fear is that another party will control their speech on line. And they are afraid of discriminatory charges that would raise barriers to innovation.

The two parties frame the problem differently, so they are talking past each other.

To me, the alleged incident was NOT a violation of NN, but not for the reason AT&T cites. The locus of censorship was not AT&T's Internet access lines. It occurred at the application level, at a Web site that could have been run by anybody. But it was censorship by a big company with exclusive rights to Webcast this event. And it angered Pearl Jam, which said, "What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it's about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band."

The incident holds a lesson for the enforcement of NN! If you put somebody in charge of blocking content, even, as in this case, "excessive profanity . . . as well as any nudity that can arise," the locus of control shifts from the viewer to the Web Monitor. And the Web Monitor's charter is certain to expand, because the Web Monitor works for somebody other than the band and the viewer.

AT&T Spokesman Michael Coe said, "Our policy is not to edit or censor performances." But at the same time, is turning private records over to the U.S. government, the ultimate editor-censor. And it has announced it will deploy "anti-piracy technology" to police its network for the RIAA and MPAA. No press story I saw picked up this point. If it's differentially classifying content, it will be editing and censoring.
In the current incident, one man's excessive profanity was another man's constitutionally protected petition for redress. But even if the content classification were completely automatic, there still would be violations of free speech -- for example, how is an automatic classifier going to know when copyrighted material is subject to fair use? It won't. Once the network does any content selection whatsoever, mistakes will happen, the classifier's charter will creep, and larger principles will be overlooked. See my previous blog post, Treating Different Types of Communications Differently.

We Netheads must understand that to the telcos and cablecos, its all about the money. Talking to them about First Amendment Rights don't mean squat. To them, its all about the money. As long as it is in their interests to discriminate -- to charge what the market will bear on each transaction -- discrimination will create barriers to free speech and innovation. Because to them, it is all about the money. When they're charging on a transaction basis, i.e., using their network to go after application level transactions, we'll be fighting discrimination, no matter what they say, no matter what the law is. Because it is all about the money. The only way out of this mess is to make it illegal for access providers to have a financial interest in what they carry. Because to them, NN is a change to their business model, so we might as well be explicit about where they can -- and can't -- get their money.

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