Thursday, November 29, 2007


Disgusting Behavior by my Congressman

The video below, where "my" congressman, Chris Shays repeatedly tells one of the four Blackwater Fallujah Widows attempting to testify before Congress, "Don't interrupt," shows a callous, almost psychopathic . . . hey, watch it yourself and tell me if you'd vote for this guy . . .

There are several other Chris Shays videos here, including one where he uses his so-called Congressional oversight authority to praise Blackwater's CEO repeatedly for doing a heckofa "perfect job." Watch them all for a well-rounded picture.

Jim Himes is running against Chris Shays. I support Jim enthusiastically because I've worked with him on several elections and I've gotten to know him. He's the co-chair of the town democratic party. He lives in my neighborhood. He has a quiet, considered style of leadership that I find absolutely inspiring.

In addition to my first-hand personal reasons for supporting Jim Himes (I've donated money and a bit of time), the videos here have presented some very powerful reasons for opposing his Bush-apologist, mercenary-loving opponent, Chris Shays.

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Crawford on Verizon Announcement

Susan Crawford articulates the skepticism about the Verizon Wireless announcement yesterday that many of us feel when she writes:

. . . the issues surrounding internet access via wireless handsets (and any other modality) remain. The fact is that granting network providers the right to exclude (or degrade) unwanted uses of their systems will very likely interfere with unanticipated, as-yet-unborn, and socially valuable developments. The default rule that grants that right is still in place, and can only be removed by legislation. It’s undeniable that network owners will tend to systematically undervalue the social/economic benefits of open access.

It's all but certain that network access providers will undervalue whatever they can't monitize.

Elsewhere, DSL Reports says that Verizon

. . . is a company that would probably rather die than become a "dumb pipe" provider of bandwidth.
It suspects that Verizon's plan is to monitize the traffic itself. If it does so explicitly, transparently, without discrimination and without gouging, it is the least bad alternative.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Verizon "Tears Down the Walled Garden"

I still think it's huge and wonderful that Verizon has announced the opening of its wireless network. Harold Feld outlines most of the reasons why, but here's my list:

1. Apple not only got beat up for tying the iPhone to AT&T, but it also seems to have a real mismatch on its hands. AT&T is causing Apple some real business problems. Even the U.S. Congress beat up Apple. And the European Commission is giving Apple a hard time too.

2. Verizon didn't have a good iPhone competitor.

3. Google's Android, aka GPhone, is getting some big attention, e.g. from T-Mobile and Sprint. And Google looks like it will be a serious bidder in the 700 MHz auctions.

4. Then there's OpenMoko and Nokia's experiments with open handsets, e.g, the N800 and the N95.

5. Tim Wu's Wireless Carterphone paper was tactically brilliant to point out that the Four Freedoms didn't apply to wireless broadband. And it was perfectly timed.

6. Verizon Wireless made a big strategic decision not to pursue Wi-Fi as a business. And it is getting hurt by it, and it sees that its own spectrum licenses will become more valuable by adapting Wi-Fi's openness.

7. As big telcos go, Verizon is less clueless than most. Not only did it do FIOS while other telcos were being more "expedient," but also Dennis Weller, its Chief Economist, made a non-discrimination pledge at in public at TPRC a couple of years ago. In addition, while some of its Terms of Service are egregious, others are downright reasonable, as I wrote here and here.

8. Maybe Verizon realizes that networked value is like a handful of sand -- if you squeeze real hard, it runs between your fingers.

Feld says that Verizon's move is not due to the "magic hand of the marketplace" so much as to the very visible hand of impending regulation. If you interpret "the magic hand of the marketplace" expansively, so it means, simply, that open networks are good business, maybe it is bit more "magic hand" than Harold thinks. If you interpret it even more expansively, then the pro-neutrality movement is another manifestation of the magic hand too . . . that's stretching it.

In any case, I think this is a huge event, a sea change, approximately equivalent to when Dan Hesse, when he was head of AT&T Wireless, instituted AT&T OneRate -- destroying the domestic distance-minutes billing paradigm for wireless -- and fixed line long distance followed. Huge. Kudos to Verizon, and to everybody from Android to Wu who helped Verizon find the way.

Yes, we still need regulations mandating openness. Surely Verizon Wireless will no longer object.

UPDATE: Om Malik says, "My Inner Cynic says don't believe the hype." Thanks Jorge!

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Breaking: Verizon Wireless opens its network!!!

Today Verizon Wireless, in a press release that's not on the Internet yet, [link] announced it was opening its "nationwide wireless network," to, "wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company." It said it would publish "minimum technical standards" for devices in early 2008, and, importantly, "Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices."

Wow! If there are no gotchas, like covert traffic caps or silly blocking tactics for "undesirable" applications, it's a huge step forward.

Here's the text:
November 27, 2007

Nancy Stark

Jim Gerace


New Open Development Initiative Will Accelerate Innovation And Growth

BASKING RIDGE, NJ – Verizon Wireless today announced that it will provide customers the option to use, on its nationwide wireless network, wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company. Verizon Wireless plans to have this new choice available to customers throughout the country by the end of 2008.
CEO Lowell McAdam will discuss more details in a Webcast media conference at 10 a.m. ET today at
In early 2008, the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network. Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing lab which received an additional investment this year to gear up for the anticipated new demand. Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.
This new option goes beyond just a change in the design, delivery, purchase and provisioning of wireless devices and applications.
“This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices – one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and CEO. “Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience.”
Verizon Wireless will continue to provide a full-service offering, from retail stores where customers can shop, to 24/7 customer service and technical support, to an easy-to use handset interface and optimized software applications.
While most Verizon Wireless customers prefer the convenience of full-service, the company is listening through today’s announcement to a small but growing number of customers who want another choice without full service.
Both full service and “bring-your-own” customers will have the advantage of using America’s most reliable network.
Following publication of technical standards, Verizon Wireless will host a conference to explain the standards and get input from the development community on how to achieve the company’s goals for network performance while making it easy for them to deliver devices.
Verizon Wireless has a track record of listening to customers and transforming entrenched industry practices based on those customer needs. The company parted with the industry last year when it introduced pro-rated early termination fees, and in 2004 when it refused to participate in a wireless directory when customers said they didn’t want one. Verizon Wireless also broke with “wireless tradition” when it supported local number portability because customers wanted the freedom to take their number if they switched service providers.
Such responsiveness to customers has earned Verizon Wireless’ the strongest brand reputation in the industry.

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Monday, November 26, 2007


The Iron "Law" of Institutions

Tinyrevolution says

The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.
I'm not so sure it's a law, but it is certainly a strong tendency. At AT&T, we has met the enemy and it was us.

But what about nested institutions? Take, for example, a committee chairman who belongs to a committee, a party, a legislative body and a nation. Is her loyalty to the committee, the party, the legislative body or the nation? Or to some superordinate institution? Or to some orthogonal institution? Which institution is the one for which power is optimized? Which institution supplies the context for "failure"?

Good idea, just a bit simplistic.

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Friday, November 23, 2007


The Clooney Formula

Surely I'm not the first person to notice that George Clooney's last three movies, Goodnight and Good Luck, Syriana and Michael Clayton, all have the same theme, a corrupt but internally consistent system peopled by ordinary people driven by ordinary motives who willingly see their job in a limited context while they function as cogs in the machine, a few leaders driven by greed who rationalize their moral lapses, and one guy with a conscience who sees the big picture and decides to do something about it.

I think the recent New York Times article, Denial Makes the World Go Round, especially the part where tacit agreements not to discuss certain topics can wedge participants into untenable corners, provides critical context. Moral Mazes, by Robert Jackall, is the best book I've read on the subject. [My review] [Aaron Swartz review] [Another great review I just found.]

Each Clooney movie ends too early to tell whether the individual makes a difference, but the probable outcome in all three cases ranges from, "Not much," to "No."

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Thursday, November 22, 2007


One Laptop Per Child by Nitrozac and Snaggy

Thanks to Snaggy for permission to use this! [Original]

Thanks to Dewayne for the pointer!

If it's funny it must be true, yet village life is neither that ideal nor post-tech life that screwy . . . and, yes, I signed up for Give One, Get One at One Laptop Per Child, only $399, yesterday! Only five days left. UPDATE: extended through December 31.

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Quote of Note: Jeff Bezos

" . . . when someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this."

Jeff Bezos in Open Letter to the Author's Guild, 2002, addressing Amazon's used book sale policy. Lots of links to original letter, e.g. this one. Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing notes that Amazon's new e-book reader don't seem to follow this principle that, "Everybody understands."

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


John Doerr on Climate Change

John Doerr spoke at TED2007 on climate change. It's more free enterprise-oriented than Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, more entrepreneurial than the most recent IPCC report [official summary.pdf] , and as powerful and personal as anything I've seen. Watch it.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Pic>1kword: Gonzales Not Forgotten


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Monday, November 19, 2007


Keep FCC Out of Network Management!

Vuze is a really cool app, but a recent Vuze petition to the FCC [.pdf] asking the Commission
. . . to adopt reasonable rules that would prevent the network operators from engaging in practices that discriminate against particular Internet applications, content or technologies . . .
is, in my opinion, entirely the wrong way to go. The petition is aimed at Comcast, which is behaving covertly, unfairly and anti-innovatively, so Vuze's reaction is understandable. But I wish Vuze would think a bit more strategically!

Do we really want the FCC to adopt rules defining what "reasonable network management" is? I think there are three reasons why we don't.
1) What's "reasonable" is likely to be determined by incumbents close to the ears of Kevin Martin et alia.
2) Specific rules are likely to be gamed by those with the ability to game them. Such games will define a gray area that will take decades to "settle." Settle, of course, will mean simply that the incumbents have stopped litigating.
3) Such a rule making would (if my IANAL understanding is correct) constitute another expansion of the FCC's "ancillary jurisdiction," which has already been expanded way beyond what Congress intended in 1934 and 1996.

Like food providers, Internet access providers should tell us clearly what's in the can. If they're traffic shaping, or throttling, or port blocking, or site blocking, or injecting reset packets, or app blocking, they should have a legal duty to say so. This was the Powell FCC's "fourth freedom." But asking the FCC to set out rules about which of those practices is reasonable is asking for trouble.

Instead, it should simply be illegal for Internet access providers to have any financial interest in what they're carrying. I've already said why here, here, and especially here.

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Friday, November 16, 2007


Financial Times on Telecoms Separation

I've written that a Network Neutrality law needs a Network Management Exception, and I've laid out how this exception is likely to become a giant vacuum-cleaner-fish loophole. The way out is the separation of infrastructure from service, so infrastructure operators can have no financial interests in the services they carry, hence no motive to discriminate in anti-competitive ways.

Now today's Financial Times has an editorial on the EC telecom regulator, Viviane Reding's proposal to beef up national telecom regulatory authority within European countries and create a Europe-wide so-called super-regulator. The editorial endorses functional telecom separation, saying,

. . . the commissioner has proposed allowing national watchdogs to force large operators to split the parts of their businesses that manage network infrastructure from those that provide services to consumers.

This “functional separation” makes sense. In the UK, BT’s decision to create a separate infrastructure subsidiary has, arguably, improved access for rival providers. Greater competition and broadband use followed.

But the FT is skeptical of the super-regulator concept -- as was I when I read about it! -- saying,

The proposals for an EU super-regulator, and for the European Commission to be able to veto decisions by national watchdogs it does not like, are more worrying. There, Ms Reding has gone too far. Her premise is that regulatory consistency is needed and some watchdogs are too close to big telecoms providers to be trusted. But it is hard to see how the proposals will not create extra bureaucracy. They smack, too, of a “one-size-fits-all” strategy.

The FT proposes a "Lamfalussy committee" alternative. (Never heard of it.) The FT says that such a body would, " . . . enable the regulators to offer legislative advice and co-ordinate action among member states . . . "

I'm curious how a super-regulator or a Lamfalussy committee avoids regulatory capture. Anyhow, I'm off to Google Lamfalussy . . .

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I Am My Own Grandpaw

Each element of the song, I Am My Own Grandpaw, makes perfect sense. The young fellow marries a widow, the fellow's father falls in love with the widow's daughter, and so on. The conclusion, of course, is preposterous.

So it is with the State Secrets Law. It is illegal to divulge state secrets. It is necessary to marshall the evidence at a trial. But if the evidence is a state secret, voila! The trial becomes virtually illegal. Using a state secret to commit a crime is a get-out-of-jail-free card. How long before there's a black market in secrets for criminals? Did I say preposterous?

I can point to the exact place in the Constitution where our right to a fair trial is guaranteed, but where in the Constitution are state secrets protected?

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Friday, November 09, 2007


More good stuff from One Laptop Per Child!

In addition to all the other reasons to join the Give One Get One program, now T-Mobile is offering one year of free US T-Mobile hotspot access with your two computers!

The Give One Get One program starts Monday.

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Peak Oil story hits New York Times

When I read Hubbert's Peak, by Princeton Geology Professor Kenneth Deffeyes, in 2001, the idea that Planet Earth would predictably reach its peak of oil production within the decade was meticulously and scientifically laid out. By scientifically, I mean that Deffeyes made a diligent, approximately exhaustive, effort to seriously consider every scenario with the potential to refute the peak production hypothesis, so that even the skeptical reader that could follow the book's logic had to accept the idea that peak oil might well be near at hand.

It turns out, if no black swan holding a wild card in left field surprises us, Deffeyes even nailed the date of the peak oil pretty closely . . . and he was only half joking.

So now oil is hitting $100 a barrel, and a NYT article like Rising Demand for Oil Provokes New Energy Crisis seems like a dog-bites-boy story. Yawn. Tell me something I *don't* know.

Today I realize that the story is the story. The very fact that this Grey Lady story quotes Shell Board Member Linda Z. Cook saying . . .
"The concern today is over how will the energy sector meet the anticipated growth in demand over the longer term . . . Energy demand is increasing at a rate we’ve not seen before. On the supply side, we’re seeing it is struggling to keep up. That’s the energy challenge."
means that Peak Oil is no longer hidden in plain sight. It's out. It is socially acceptable to discuss. It's not the province of geeks and nuts anymore.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007


Picture > 1k words

Source: CrunchGear

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Quote of Note: George W. Bush

"You can't be President and head of the military at the same time."

George W. Bush, press conference yesterday (11/7/07), watch it yourself here.

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Hip Hop Rhythm of Events

Mark Twain is reputed to have observed that history doesn't necessarily repeat, but it often rhymes. Today I'm seeing current events beat a rhyme tattoo too -- did somebody put mind-altering drugs in my toy beads?

There's massive flooding in Tabasco state in Mexico . . . and in Vietnam. But Google News search for "vietnam mexico flood" returns a mere 15 hits. [top hit] Am I hallucinating?

In Burma, the protest is led by Buddhist monks in saffron robes. In Pakistan, the protest is led by lawyers in suits. A Google News search for "monks lawyers protest" returns a mere 20 hits. [top hit]. I've been expecting to see streaks for several hours now . . .

The spur for the Pakistan crackdown was that the Supreme Court was just about to rule on the legitimacy of the president's election. This is contrapuntal, in the U.S. the Supreme Court is more docile. Google News search for "Bush Gore Pakistan Supreme-Court" -- 18 hits. [top hit]

The spur for the Burma crackdown was, supposedly, oil, reputedly Chevron and the French oil giant Total have major Burmese operations. (Wonder why Bush and Sarkosy are suddenly friends this week?) Google News search for "oil burma riot" -- 7 hits. [top hit]

The former Soviet republic of Georgia, another oil-rich country, also has riots this week. Google News search for "oil georgia riot" -- 15 hits. [top hit]

Google News search for "britney kevin lawyer" -- 3134 hits. Anybody got any Thorazine?

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Comcast: Drew Clark digs deeper

Intrepid reporter Drew Clark recently posted an article called Comcast and Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information that digs deeper into Comcast's practices, its terms of service, and the practices and terms of service of other Internet access providers from telecom and cable.

He observes, "What is striking is that none of Comcast’s broadband service documents make any mention of either limitations on “peer-to-peer” applications, or the use of “network management” practices on the purchased Internet service."

It's an excellent analysis, and like just about everything Drew Clark writes, it is well worth reading.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Op-Ed in my Home Town Paper

Time For A Falmouth Internet
By David S. Isenberg

[This article appeared in today's issue of The Falmouth (Massachusetts) Enterprise as an Op-Ed, on p. 4. It's available to subscribers as a .pdf -- David I]

Falmouth can’t trust its Internet providers anymore. Two weeks ago, the Associated Press caught Comcast covertly blocking file exchange among peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent, Gnutella, and Lotus Notes. Comcast does this by injecting reset messages into Internet file exchange sessions. Reset messages tell one computer in an Internet file exchange that the other computer wants to end the exchange. Comcast’s reset messages are injected in the middle of the connection to fool both ends. The result is unsuccessful file transfer. There are no reports that Comcast’s Falmouth customers are affected yet, but Comcast has not renounced the practice, so it’s only a matter of time.

Until 2005, Comcast couldn’t legally interfere with our Internet activities, but a series of FCC and court decisions now makes it perfectly legal for Comcast, Verizon, and other Internet access providers to decide what our Internet connection can and can’t do. Congress is debating Network Neutrality legislation that would return control of our Internet connection to us. (When a Network Neutrality bill came before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2006, Representative William D. Delahunt was the only Democrat there who didn’t vote “Yes.” He voted “Present.”) So far, Network Neutrality remains an actively debated proposal.

Comcast’s predecessor, Adelphia, defied its agreement with Falmouth to offer advanced services. Then it failed to pay Falmouth’s penalty fees when Adelphia’s chairman and its CFO, father and son, stole the profits and drove Adelphia into bankruptcy. Now John and Tim Rigas are in federal prison.

Verizon is the other Internet access provider in town. A few weeks ago Verizon blocked an abortion rights group’s access to mobile messaging services. It unblocked it after public outcry, but its Internet terms of service assert that if your Internet activity “is objectionable for any reason,” Verizon, “in its sole discretion,” can terminate your service. Until Network Neutrality is restored to US law, it is only a matter of time before Verizon is deciding what we can and can’t do as a Verizon Internet customer.

Woods Hole scientists have another reason to distrust Verizon. On Thursday, October 12, 2006, at 2:30 PM, Verizon cut off services to Global NAPS, which provides Internet access to the six Woods Hole scientific institutions, as the result of a long-simmering business dispute. Woods Hole’s Internet went dead. Scientists around the world were unable to access critical databases at the MBL/WHOI library. Hundreds of underwater robots surfaced to send their data to Woods Hole and could not; irreplaceable data was lost forever. Frantic calls to Verizon hit a brick wall of lawyers and unavailable vice presidents. Woods Hole’s Internet was restored late Saturday after a 53.5 hour outage.

Clearly, the giant telephone and cable companies can’t be trusted where the interests of Falmouth citizens are at stake. Fortunately, it is becoming easier for citizens to own their own network. Just as computers have become friendlier and easier to use as they’ve become more powerful, so have networks. Networks are much cheaper to build and operate than roads, sewers and water pipes. Hundreds of US towns and cities, such as Lafayette, Louisiana, and Clarksville, Tennessee, are building municipal networks. A Falmouth Internet could ride the same technology curve as, e.g., Hong Kong, where a 100-megabit connection costs about $49, about the same as Verizon’s 5-megabit connection here. In Paris, a 100-megabit connection plus 100 channels of TV, plus unlimited in-country telephone calling costs about $40.

We could have a Falmouth Internet that was many times faster and much freer than what the telephone and cable companies are offering us. The Falmouth Chamber of Commerce turned on the first phase of its downtown wi-fi network last summer, and the Falmouth Industrial Park just got a wireless link. Meanwhile, the Open Cape Initiative, a partnership of Cape Cod businesses and governmental organizations, is planning independent ways to connect the Cape to the rest of the world.

These are good beginnings, but Falmouth’s goal should be a town-wide, town-owned fiber optic network that reaches every house and business. The next step, I believe, should be a town requirement that whenever the pavement is built or repaired, e.g., for sewer construction, bike path construction, sidewalk improvement, et cetera, a duct for fiber optics (a simple, flexible plastic pipe) should be buried. This is a very cheap way to invest in a networked future that Falmouth’s citizens control. Where there’s no buried duct, we can put fiber optic cable on power poles.

Such a network can, potentially, pay for itself in streamlined town and school system information processing. Better jobs, higher property values, better healthcare and more efficient police and fire department work are also likely. Plus cheaper telephone service, cable TV, and Internet for everybody. The Enterprise made a strong editorial call for municipal networking in November 2005. The recent shenanigans by Comcast and Verizon won’t be the last wake up calls, either. But we should not hit the snooze alarm again; it is time to act.

(David S. Isenberg, a resident of Woods Hole and Cos Cob, Connecticut, is a former distinguished member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories and a former student of Falmouth Public Schools.)

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Monday, November 05, 2007


Quote of Note: Andy Rubin

We are not building a GPhone; we are enabling 1,000 people to build a GPhone."

Andy Rubin, Google's director of mobile platforms, quoted in the NY Times today.

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No Email Privacy claims Bush & Co.

A very powerful little article by Mark Rasch in The Register outlines how the U.S. Government is arguing that email falls outside our Fourth Amendment "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Very important. Highly recommended.

Clearly we need a federal statute. Ideally, the statute would be three words long: Email is private.

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