Friday, February 29, 2008


The U.S. Dollar is Windows

The front page of the Wall Street Journal had a bizarre analogy today. The article's headline was, "Dollar's Dive Deepens as Oil Soars." Then down in the middle of the article, but still above the fold, reporters Craig Karmin and Joanna Slater write:

. . . the world is unready to let go of America's unloved dollar. Akin to the way Microsoft's often-criticized Windows operating system remains indispensable to the majority of computer users, the dollar remains the common language of finance, the medium of exchange in everything from sugar to wheat to oil.

[link (article behind paywall)]

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Bill St. Arnaud on David Reed at FCC

Bill St. Arnaud and I agree. David Reed's testimony at the FCC hearing last Monday was brilliant.

Bill writes:
. . . My personal interpretation on David's comments is that cablecos and telcos have entered into a contract with users to provide access to the "Internet". The Internet is not a product or service developed by exclusively by the cablecos or telcos for use and enjoyment by their customers, as for example traditional cell phone service. Since the Internet is a global service with its own set of engineering principles, guidelines and procedures, implicit in providing access to the Internet is, in essence, an unwritten contract to adhere to those recognized standards such as the end2end principle. No one questions the need for traffic management, spam control and other such services, but they should be done in way that is consistent within open and transparent engineering practices that are part and parcel of the contract with the user in providing access to the global Internet.
David Reed's excellent testimony is here [.pdf]

The photo of David Reed above, worth another 1000+ words, is by Chris Herot, whose blog post on the FCC hearing is also excellent.


Comcast pegs Outrage-ometer

Just when you thought Comcast couldn't possibly get any more outrageous, Karl at Broadband Reports writes:
Last Summer, Comcast started charging customers in many markets an additional $1.99 fee if they wanted to pay their bill at the local Comcast office. Last January, they started charging users $4 if they wanted to speak to a live human being on the phone to pay their bill. Now, the Consumerist claims they've found another way to make a profit: charging users a $1.99 "change of service" fee if you want the company to stop sending you junk mail . . .
Yup, soon it'll be $2.00 extra to access, $5.00 to access Google . . . you get the drift . . . Comcast's real problem starts when is live every night at 11 . . .


Stupid anonymous comment

A comment on this article pushed my buttons, and I responded accordingly.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Kessler off deep end

Andy Kessler is a smart guy, but his stupid WSJ article on Net Neutrality uses all the telco clichés. John Quarterman takes Kessler's article apart.

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Comcast throws money at ISOC

Comcast has become a platinum sponsor of the Internet Society, and it is hosting the next IETF meeting in Philadelphia, March 9-14. [link]

Lots of questions:

Why was this development ignored at Monday's FCC meeting? (Did you hear it mentioned? I didn't, but then I was not listening as closely as I could've.)

Does Comcast suddenly get what the IETF does?

Does Comcast think it is buying influence?

Wonder who will pay the seat warmers at this meeting?

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Quote of Note: Phil Kerpen

If the ‘Save the Internet’ crowd wants to see the biggest threat to Internet freedom and innovation they should look in the mirror, because their own shrill calls for more intrusive government action are the gravest threat the otherwise-thriving Internet faces.

Americans for Prosperity’s policy director Phil Kerpen, 2/22/08. [link]

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More on Comcast's Denial of Citizenship Attack

The Associated Press confirms the basic facts -- Comcast packed the house at the FCC hearing at Harvard on Monday.

In the AP story, Comcast draws a false equivalence between its paid seat-warmer program and Free Press attempts to get interested parties to attend. Free Press didn't need to offer any extrinsic reward to its attendees. Comcast did.

I don't think Comcast knows the difference between its own spin and the actual truth.

UPDATE: Conde Nast confirms the story.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Comcast Outrageous again!

Tim Karr alleges -- and presents audio, photographic and eye-witness evidence! -- that Comcast bussed in a bunch of seat-warmers to yesterday's FCC hearing on Comcast's outrageous "network management" tactics. Meanwhile, over 100 people were turned away. [link]

If this is true, it's a really powerful demonstration of how much Comcast cares.

It's a "Denial of Citizenship Attack."

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Monday, February 25, 2008


FCC Hearing, overall impression

I listened to the entire hearing by streaming audio . . . all in all, it was an extremely good discussion, a high-minded exchange of views.

If there was one thing missing, it was a strong statement that -- in the decade-old words of Peter Lothberg -- we have the technology to never be bandwidth limited again.

There are at least two observations to support this. First, provisioning 10 megabits costs far, far less than ten times provisioning one megabit. Same for ten gigabits versus one. Second, the ability to jam bits down a fiber, a wire or through the air is improving faster than Moore's Law.

At the FCC hearing, the general impression was that bandwidth was like candy bars, that two of them cost twice as much as one . . . and that's just not true.

Another point that was MIA was that compared to other infrastructures like roads and sewers, provisioning a high speed Internet connection is far less expensive.

Nevertheless, in light of all the good stuff that was presented and discussed, if the Commissioners were acting solely on the basis of what they heard, they'd most certainly do the right thing. Will they?

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Kevin Martin at FCC Hearing

"Consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer, consumer . . . "

. . . even when Ammori, Benkler, Wu have explained, "Citizen, participant, creator, innovator, investor . . . "

The audio of the hearing continues here until 4:00 PM EST.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


Good Question!

Is the U.S. Internet infrastructure ready to handle a pandemic?

If meeting in "real life" anywhere on the planet suddenly meant exposing yourself to a virulent, potentially deadly form of influenza, or SARS or whatever, would people be able to switch to telework (email, document exchange, IM, SL, video conferencing, etc.) and keep working? Could the infrastructure in place handle the load? (Even if, say, we all agreed no video during such an emergency?)

The experts I've polled agree, the answer is the obvious one . . . no.

Wouldn't a crash program to beef up the Internet lead to a rather real form of "HomePlanet Security." Would it be worth, oh, say, $9 Billion a month (just to pull a random figure out of the air)?

(No civilians need be harmed in such a HomePlanet Security exercise.)

Hat tip to George Sadowsky for asking!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


FCC at Harvard

The program [.pdf] for the FCC hearing at Harvard Law School next Monday, February 25, on network management practices, is essentially complete. I've written several times about how the Network Management Exception throws a monkey wrench into what otherwise would be simple network neutrality rules.

The hearing is open to the public! All y'all come now.

Here's the program:
11:00 a.m. Welcome/Opening Remarks
11:45 a.m. Technology Demonstration – Gilles BianRosa, Chief Executive Officer, Vuze,
12:00 p.m. Panel Discussion 1: Policy Perspectives
Marvin Ammori, General Counsel, Free Press
Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Co-Director,
Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School
The Honorable Daniel E. Bosley, State Representative, Massachusetts
David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation
The Honorable Tom Tauke, Executive Vice President – Public Affairs, Policy and
Communications, Verizon Communications
Timothy Wu, Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
Christopher S. Yoo, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Technology,
Innovation, and Competition, University of Pennsylvania Law School
1:30 Lunch break
2:15 Panel Discussion 2: Technological Perspectives
Daniel Weitzner, Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Decentralized
Information Group
Richard Bennett, Network Architect
David Clark, Senior Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Eric Klinker, Chief Technology Officer, BitTorrent
David P. Reed, Adjunct Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media
Scott Smyers, Senior Vice President, Network & Systems Architecture Division,
Sony Electronics Inc.
3:45 p.m. Closing Remarks
4:00 p.m. Adjournment
Looks fascinating.

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Monday, February 18, 2008


We're Number 18 is ranked #18 in "The Top 100 Analyst Blogs" according to Technobabble.

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Friday, February 15, 2008


F2C: Price goes up

Price is going up from $450 to $550 tonight at midnight. Well . . . I probably won't change the index page until morning (a word to the SMART).

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24,000 torture videotapes?

Apparently some Seton Hall Law students have uncovered evidence that every Guantanamo interrogation session is taped. Wow. Hopefully the 6 detainees facing kangaroo court and the death penalty will be allowed to use some of this evidence.

(I've argued that not taping torture invalidates the alleged reason to torture, and that not taping makes the abhorrent practice even more unconscionable.)

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Quote of Note: John Conyers

"I have not seen anything that leads me to believe, as the President seems to believe, that providing amnesty to these companies [telcos] is a more compelling public interest than our Constitutionally protected right to privacy. We must maintain our civil liberties and give the government the tools it needs to collect intelligence information, but I do not believe telecom amnesty is necessary in order to accomplish that goal."

Representative John Conyers, Chairman House Judiciary Committee, in a statement yesterday.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


Quote of Note: Silvestre Reyes

"I, for one, do not intend to back down – not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear. We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won."

Representative Silvestre Reyes, Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in a letter to George W. Bush today on letting the telcos off the hook for spying on Americans. Worth reading in entirety.

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House Adjourns . . .

. . . without letting the telcos off the hook! Another small victory . . .

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So simple even a Congressman can understand it

In my letters to my representatives, I've boiled the FISA argument down to this:

I urge you to oppose telco immunity in the FISA Conference Bill now before you.
Let the courts decide matters of law. Don't erode the Fourth Amendment.
Your job is to protect the Constitution, not the telephone companies.

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Quote of Note: Hands Off the Internet

" . . . we are concerned that an effort to seek public input is intended to be a stalking horse for federal Internet regulation."

[Right. Since when did the public know anything?]

Hands Off the Internet, an astroturf group controlled by telcos and their allies, in a statement on the Markey-Pickering bill.

Thanks to Tim Karr at, a group controlled by its members that takes no corporate money, for pointing this out.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Markey & Pickering Introduce New Net Neutrality Bill

We interrupt our all-FISA-all-the-time coverage to announce . . .

Representative Ed Markey [D-MA, chair of the telecom subcommittee] and Chip Pickering [R-MI] have introduced a bill [.pdf] that would restore Network Neutrality and more . . . in the bill's own words, it would
. . . establish broadband policy and direct the Federal Communications Com-
mission to conduct a proceeding and public broadband summits to assess
competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues relating
to broadband Internet access services . . .
Among other things, it amends the 1934 Communications Act to include a policy statement that says, in part,
It is the policy of the United States . . . to maintain the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators, as has been the policy and history of the Internet and the basis of user expectations since its inception [and to] preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of broadband networks that enable consumers to reach, and service providers to offer, lawful content, applications, and services of their choosing, using their selection of devices, as long as such devices do not harm the network.
It requires the FCC to hold at least eight Broadband Summits around the United States
. . . to bring together, among others, consumers, consumer advocates, small business owners, corporations, venture capitalists, State and local governments, academia, labor organizations, religious organizations, representatives of higher education, primary and secondary schools, public libraries, public safety, and the technology sector to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues related to broadband Internet access services.
We'll probably need to elect a president with a more enlightened technology policy before such a bill becomes law. But it is a great bipartisan first step!

To learn more, and/or to voice your support for this effort via, visit here.

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Privacy in the old Bell System

My former Bell Labs colleague Matt Blaze reminds us that violating customer privacy used to make Ma Bell angry. Now the government -- scratch that, I mean the Executive Branch -- seems to be the only entity whose activities it's verboten to divulge.

Here's a reminder a colleague of Matt's dug up. I don't actually remember seeing such a poster in my twelve years at AT&T, but the privacy ethic was deeply embedded in the company's culture.

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Quote of Note: Donna Edwards

"Congress must not give in to the President on the issue of immunity for telecommunications companies who have violated the law . . . These companies and their powerful lobbyists have given generous contributions to members of Congress including [Edwards' just-defeated primary opponent, incumbent] Congressman Wynn [D-MD]. They must be held accountable. These companies had a choice and some chose to break the law and violate our civil liberties. No amount of money or influence should prevent the companies and their senior decision makers from being held accountable if they broke the law. Corporations cannot be allowed to break the law under the thinly veiled guise of ‘national security’ and walk away without penalty."

Victorious Congressional candidate Donna Edwards, on her campaign Web site [link].

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Nadler's Clueless Op-Ed

Representative Nadler (D-NY) had an incredibly clueless op-ed on TV White Space last week in the New York Times. To the Times' vast discredit, they ran it. It was so wrong on so many levels that I didn't know where to begin critiquing it, so I didn't. Besides, it was a busy blogging week with F2C and FISA.

Thank goodness that (former FCC staffer) Kenneth Carter has now effectively taken Nadler's op-ed down. Carter poignantly concludes:

The future of spectrum policy will not be about “scarecity” or “interference” so much as it will be about coordination of use.

Insight: People, I cannot stress this enough, use your gray matter before you talk about the white space.

Recommended: Read the whole thing.

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Obama opposes telco immunity

Sam Graham-Felsen, of the Obama Campaign, released the following statement yesterday to a list I'm on, saying, "Feel free to quote."

I'm not entirely comfortable quoting it without a citable source, but the issue is important, and the Obama campaign folks are understandably busy. Graham-Felsen says the URL will be available soon. I'll post it as an update as soon as I get it.

Oh, by the way, in yesterday's voting, McCain voted to weaken the Constitution and let telco-bushco off the hook, Obama voted against it, and, I am very, very sorry to say, Clinton was apparently too busy to show up.

Obama's statement:
"I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty. There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of the American people – we must reaffirm that no one in this country is above the law.

We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties. That is why I am proud to cosponsor several amendments that protect our privacy while making sure we have the power to track down and take out terrorists.

This Administration continues to use a politics of fear to advance a political agenda. It is time for this politics of fear to end. We are trying to protect the American people, not special interests like the telecommunications industry. We are trying to ensure that we don't sacrifice our liberty in pursuit of security, and it is past time for the Administration to join us in that effort."

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


FISA: Dodd ready to filibuster conference report

I was just on a conference call with Senator Dodd in the wake of the crushing defeat of his attempt to hold telco-bushco responsible for illegal spying.

Dodd said that the House bill was so much better than the Senate bill that rather than run out the four hours on the Senate floor he is entitled to, it will be best to get into conference with the House and work it there.

But if the bill that emerges from conference has telco-bushco immunity in it, he will "use all the tools available to one Senator" to keep the bill from passing.

(I am no Senate procedure maven, but an attempt to filibuster a conference bill seems very unusual!)

Dodd said there were 18 telcos involved, and that they vacuumed every call, every email, every Web click, every image, that traversed their network in the greatest invasion of privacy in this nation's history.

He said there had been only 29 votes against cloture (previous post cites 31).

He was asked how he explained all the senators who supported illegal spying, and he said (a) that he didn't want to second guess his colleagues' motivations, but also he thought it was, "Dangerous for the country" to be facing a "false choice" between liberty and security.

He said he's seen few issues as important in his quarter-century in the Senate.

Dodd grudgingly supported one amendment, the Whitehouse/Rock/Leahy/Schumer amendment, after all the stronger ones were defeated. This amendment would permit the FISA court to review data gathering procedures retrospectively. Dodd said this is a dangerous expansion of the FISA court's power, that the FISA court was never meant to be an appeals court.

Dodd said that whatever happened on this matter would set precedent for decades to come.

I wanted to ask him about what he expects the dynamics of the conference to be, who the conference committee participants will be, et cetera.

In any case the action now shifts to the House again. Call your representative!

Here's another account of the Dodd call -- and there will be more.

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FISA update: Senate fails to remove retroactive immunity

Folks, it looks like the telcos and the Bushies are going to be free to spy on us to protect the fatherland against its citizens. The vote to let telco-bushco off the hook was 31-67. Roll-over play dead Democratic senators include Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Joe Lieberman also voted against stripping retroactive immunity.

Details blogged by Matt Browner Hamlin here. A vote that will live in infamy . . . or be overturned in soon-to-come House-Senate conference (slim chance).

There's still an opportunity to make your feelings known here -- the larger bill still has not been voted on.

UPDATE: Cloture failed. Now the last hope is the house-senate conference. Be prepared to kiss the late, great Fourth Amendment goodbye.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008


FISA Immunity Update

If the Senate is going to let the big telephone companies off the hook for illegal spying, it will do it on Tuesday. The very fact that this is dragging on and on means that the Blogosphere is having an impact! [Have you seen much telco immunity coverage in the New York Times? Me neither!]

<egg on face>
UPDATE: NYT Editorlal 2/10/08:
. . . This whole nightmare was started by Mr. Bush’s decision to spy without warrants — not because they are hard to get, but because he decided he was above the law. Discouraging that would be a service to the nation. This debate is not about whether the United States is going to spy on Al Qaeda, it is about whether it is going to destroy its democratic principles in doing so. Senators who care about that should vote against immunity.
</egg on face>

The very best source of updata seems to be the ACLU Blog, which says in this story,
The Senate is currently moving through debate on its FISA bill. Remaining amendment votes and - the big one - final passage are expected on Tuesday. The Senate bill will then have to be reconciled with the House's RESTORE Act (which contains no immunity) by February 16. Senate Majority Leader Reid just filed for another 15-day extension to give both chambers more time to figure out a compromise. President Bush has said that he will not sign another extension, so stay tuned next week for what promises to be an interesting couple of days.
There's a very interesting letter [.pdf] that Representatives Dingell, Markey and Stupak sent yesterday urging their Senate colleagues to reject telecom immunity. It says that the President is offering Congress a false choice by tying the immunity issue to the rest of the FISA bill. It alludes to an argument apparently making the rounds that spying lawsuits would create an economic burden on the telcos -- as if it is the job of Congress to lighten the telcos load, grrrrrrrrr! It alleges that the Administration, "gagged and threatened" the telephone companies that wanted to give Congress the information it was seeking.

[In my humble opinion, there is one player who deserves retroactive immunity in this whole mess -- Joe Nacchio! He was the ONLY telecom CEO I know about who stood up on two legs and said, "Where's your warrant?"]

The Dingell-Markey-Stupak letter concludes,
The Administration's great discomfort with public scrutiny, however, leads us to believe that Congressional oversight is all the more necessary in this case. For that reason, we urge you to join with us in rejecting retroactive immunity until every Member that seeks information to inform his or her vote on this issue has received enough information to make a sound public policy decision.
Woo hoo, strong stuff. Good reading, even as a .pdf.

Thanks to Liz Rose at ACLU for the pointers.

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Take the Broadband Census!

The FCC won't collect or disseminate broadband availability data that bears any resemblance to what actually seems to be happening, so ace telecom reporter Drew Clark has put an together so we can do it ourselves.

Go to and fill out the simple form about what kind of broadband service you have. Together we can do what the FCC won't.

Most of the features on this Web site aren't fleshed out yet. It needs a few thousand of us to tell it what we know. And it needs a bit more work by its founders too. But DON'T LET THIS STOP YOU from entering the info about your broadband service. Together we can . . .

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My Interview in WorldChanging

I did the interview below with my friend Jon Lebkowsky, and it first appeared under Jon's byline in WorldChanging. (I first heard the phrase, "Freedom to Connect" from Jon's lips!) Below, Jon has elicited the most concise, coherent explanation of Network Neutrality and Structural Separation I've ever done. (In my very humble and completely dis-interested opinion, of course . . . What do you think?) I also explain some of my motivations for doing the F2C: Freedom to Connect conference. I'm reproducing it verbatim but you can read it at WorldChanging too.

David Isenberg is founder and coordinator of the annual Freedom to Connect (F2C) conference, held in Washington, DC (actually Silver Spring, Maryland). This year's conference is March 31-April 1 at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. The conference, focused on net neutrality and net regulation, is a must-go if you're concerned about the future of the open Internet.

JL: "Net neutrality" has always been more complex than public conversations would suggest. As coordinator of the F2C conference, and as one of the more knowledgeable participants in the conversations about the Internet's future, how do you see the issue today? What's the best case future of the Internet, and what are some of the risks we should be thinking about?

DI: Here is my multi-layered answer to Network Neutrality is Complex, Discuss.

The first answer is that this meme is largely promulgated by
people who want Network Neutrality to be complex. The telcos
and their henchmen are fond of saying, "Nobody knows what it
is. You can't even define it." The subtext is, "So how could
we possibly have a law about it?"

Then along came the AT&T-Bell South merger agreement, with a
perfectly adequate definition of Network Neutrality agreed to by
both sides. It defined Network Neutrality as Internet service
that does not privilege, degrade or prioritize any packet
transmitted over an Internet-connected network based on its
source, ownership or destination. Problem solved . . . except . . .

. . . as long as there are networks in the real world, not just in
some Platonic ideal space, there will be congestion. And network

operators will need to deal with the congestion. So they will
have to decide which traffic gets throttled or filtered and which
traffic gets through. Therefore, every Network Neutrality rule
needs a Network Management Exception.

This means that we must decide what network management is reasonable
and what isn't. This is where things do get complex.

The telcos, because they have a voice service, have an overwhelming motive to
discriminate against other voice services. The cable companies,
because they have a video entertainment service, have an
overwhelming motive to discriminate against video services . . .
all in the name of effective network management, of course.

In fact, the two big examples of Network Neutrality violations in
the U.S. have been (a) a telephone company (Madison River)
discriminating against Internet telephony and (b) a cable company
(Comcast) discriminating against Internet video entertainment.
In both cases, the company said they were simply managing their

So the debate about Network Neutrality quickly becomes a debate
about what constitutes reasonable network management.
In findings by Odlyzko and Coffman, Odlyzko and the entire
Internet 2 research team have shown that a network is only as
congested as its most congested link, that (a) in virtually every
case, network congestion can be alleviated by replacing a very few
nodes or facilities with more capacious ones, and (b) in
every case studied, it is easier to add capacity than it is to
impose more complex management schemes. But these findings
are derided by the operators as "academic," even when derived
from real-world experience.

So, once again, those with a financial interest in keeping
things complex rule the day. As long as network management is
about so-called quality of service, i.e., rationing, rather
than simply providing more than enough capacity so rationing is
not necessary, then it remains complex and subject to operator
bias . . . and operator financial interest in what is carried.

At this point, I must agree with the carriers. It would be
a disaster if the FCC, or Congress, or any governmental agency,
told the carriers how to manage congestion on their networks.
The rule book would be overly long, overly complex, overly
subject to interpretation, dispute, and litigation.

To simplify, I have proposed – and continue to propose – that
the carriers should simply be prohibited from having any
financial interest in what they're carrying. Then we could
let the carriers manage their networks without fear that they'd
discriminate against traffic that competed with their interests
because they would have no competing interests.

This solution, which is called Structural Separation, would
guarantee and assure that any network management was for
the sole purpose of congestion control, because that would
be the carrier's only interest. Any bias in favor of one kind
of packet or against another would be, by definition, entirely
innocent. As such it could be easily remedied.

Structural Separation would make Network Neutrality simple.
Enforcement of the proposition that carriers could have no
financial interest in what is carried would be via audit.
There would be no big fat complex rule book. There would
be no government intervention in processes the government is
not competent to govern. The carriers would behave, and
the network would be de jure neutral. Simple.

But the political process to get from "here" to "there" would
be as complex as the carriers could make it.

JL: Structural Separation doesn't sound like a concept you could build a whole conference around, so I assume that this year's Freedom to Connect will be about much more. What subjects are you covering and how are they related?

DI: You're right. Structural Separation is just one scenario. The huge
barriers to getting there, spelled t.e.l.c.o (and c.a.b.l.e.c.o.) are
mostly uninteresting. Funny that the telcos and cablecos resist,
even though under Structural Separation the shareholders would
probably make more money, the employees would still be employed and
the customers would be served, perhaps better than they've ever been
served. The IDEA of Structural Separation sounds like death to the
telco because it is so antithetical to their culture and their
business model.

Not only that, Structural Separation is waaaaaay too simple to spend
a whole conference on.

F2C: Freedom to Connect – and I remember that the originator of that
phrase was a wise man, initials JL, from Austin TX – is a conference
designed to look at any Internet topic we want to look at.

Conferences are not so much about exchanging information, you can do
that on the Web. Conferences are more about meeting your friends,
making new ones and building relationships. The most important parts
are the breaks, the hallway conversations, the meals and the
parties. I try build in lots of that. I try to make the food good
so people arrive early for breakfast, stick around for lunch and
enjoy the breaks. I try to make a killer evening reception – I'm
working on something super this year.

I also try to make the conference sessions themselves as interactive
as possible so it is as much of a conversation between the speakers
and the audience, and among members of the audience, as possible.
Again, the goal is relationship building, not information
transmission. In fact, much of the research I trust indicates that
real learning occurs best in the context of trusted relationships.

So to that end, I am inviting speakers who I admire and trust, who
have done good work in lots of different fields, and invite them to
tell stories (rather than advocate positions or convey information)
and challenge them to give the best talk of their lives. For
example, I am inviting John St. Julien, who keeps
Lafayette Pro-fiber
As a result, I expect we're going to learn a lot about the
challenges Lafayette, Louisiana faced when it decided to build its
own municipal fiber network. We can look up the demographics of
Lafayette, the cost-per-home-passed, the megabits-per-whatever, the
price-per-month and even the overall economic benefit . . . what I
really want John to do is tell the story of his experience.

You can see from who I've invited that my predominant interest is in
infrastructure, and how the economics of infrastructure is different
from the economics of end-user goods. So I've invited Dirk van der
Woude, who is in charge of
Amsterdam's world-leading fiber network
Tim Wu, a fount of new ideas in regulations to spur wireless
innovation. I've also invited several people who are working to keep
our infrastructure free, such as security expert
Bruce Schneier, Open
Rights Group founder
Suw Charman, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Brad Templeton, and OneWebDay founder Susan Crawford.

But in addition, I've also invited some people I admire who see the
Internet and its applications as an emerging critical infrastructure
for society, such as author
Clay Shirky, non-profit sector activist
Katrin Verclas and political activist Andrew Rasiej. Since this is
an election year, we're going to try to get the technology policy
advisors to whoever the major presidential candidates are in late
March, too.

Also, because the Internet's problems pale next to the big one –
Climate Change – and because there's a strong hypothesis afoot that
we could actually use the Internet to ameliorate Climate Change, I'm
putting together at least one session, and maybe two, on how the
Internet can save the planet through reduced travel, traffic
congestion management, active monitoring and management of energy
uses, real-time energy auctions, and computation-shifting to places
with renewable energy. This topic will be addressed by Kevin Moss,
BT's head of corporate social responsibility, Bas Boorsma, of Cisco's
Connected Urban Development program, Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar,
Bill St. Arnaud, optical wireless researcher and keeper of http://

All-in-all, the F2C: Freedom to Connect program will present a
NetHead perspective that is under-represented inside the beltway.
Thanks for asking :-)

JL: Do you get many DC policy insiders at the gathering? Do you think you have an impact on them?

DI: I actively try to recruit federal government staff to
come to F2C. This year there are already four FCC staffers
on the roster and I certainly expect many more. In the past
we've had not only FCC folks but people working telecom
policy issues in Congress, in the Congressional Research
Service, at the Federal Trade Commission, and from several
other agencies. Having these folks in the room is a key
goal of F2C for me. They don't get exposed to NetHeads from
outside the beltway very often! Does this have an impact on
them? I hope so!

Also, we've had several FCC commissioners come speak at F2C,
and we've had former Chairmen Hundt and Powell.
Two years ago Representative Rick Boucher gave an excellent
detailed insider's view of the negotiations on the
comprehensive telecom bill – the one that stalled out
because it did not have strong enough Network Neutrality

To me, one of the highlights of all five years of F2C came
during a panel of congressional staff members from the Senate and
House discussing pending telecom legislation. In the Q and A,
somebody asked why they had not talked about more unlicensed,
Wi-Fi-like spectrum. The panelists' answers collectively
indicated that it wasn't on their radar screen, and the
F2C audience started booing and heckling. The staffers
looked shocked . . . Now, I have no idea whether this
incident influenced any of them, but I sure hope so!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


F2C: Speakers, Sponsors, Agenda, Hotel Deal, Wiki

New Speaker!

Jonas Birgersson, the Swedish founder of Bredbandsbolaget (The Broadband Factory, one of the first truly broadband, symmetrical residential access services, SMART Letter writeup here) and more recent entrepreneurial Internet ventures, has joined the F2C roster!

New Sponsors!

Verizon has agreed to be an intermediate-level sponsor of F2C: Fredom to Connect. This is big news because the major carriers usually run the other way when produces an event. Kathy Brown, Verizon SVP, Public Policy Development and Corporate Responsibility, will open the Carbon-Negative Internet session on Tuesday afternoon. Making the Internet Carbon-Negative is critical to BellHead and Nethead alike, regardless of business model, incumbency or locus of control. But Verizon seems to be going further; recently Tom Tauke, Kathy Brown's boss, just explicitly rejected AT&T-style network policing, and seems to be embracing a separation between carriage and services. And then there's FIOS; without FIOS, FTTH in the U.S. would be a pinprick of light at the end of a very long guide. Bring your hardest questions and deepest insights -- this could be a learning experience for everybody.

More News:

The New America Foundation will be a sponsor too. Their sponsorship is almost certainly bigger, relative to their budget, than Verizon's. Michael Calabrese, Director of New America's Wireless Future Program, will be an F2C speaker.

The Agenda is taking shape, a complete, up-to-date speaker roster, and the emerging agenda are here.

37Signals will be joining F2C's technical support sponsors again this year for its help with F2C's Campfirenow Group Chat -- now open for participation!

The F2C Wiki is up. You can use it for ride-sharing, lodging-sharing, and whatever substantive contributions you think might be useful or interesting to other F2C participants.

Hotel deal for F2C: $226 a night includes tax, etc. at Crowne Plaza, one of three hotels within walking distance of the F2C venue. This may seem expensive, but compare the other hotels near by. (Also, no extra Wi-Fi charges!) This rate is not available on line, to book it call Leslie at 301-563-3712, mention F2C.

Admission rates are F2C's Early Bird Rate expires February 15 -- so register now.

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FISA Immunity Vote -- Godknowswhen

The current law's extension expires on February 15. The pro-spying-on-Americans, anti-Constitution wing of the Senate has adopted the tactic of waiting until the last minute to allow a vote on key amendments letting the telcos off the hook. This way, any extended debate, and the conference to resolve House-Senate differences would, necessarily, be brief . . . or the terrorists win.

Senate leader Harry Reid says, "They want to stall the FISA legislation as long as they can, and they’ve done a pretty good job, because they want this legislation to be completed at the last minute, to give the House and the Senate conferees little time to work on this."

Senator Kennedy, concurring, said, "The president’s insistence on immunity as a precondition for any FISA reform is yet another example of his contempt for honest dialogue and for the rule of law."

[Link for both quotes, good story too!]

[Here's another FISA Immunity story on why the proposed amendment by Diane Feinstein to put blanket domestic spying under the supervision of the FISA court, heretofore billed as a compromise, is actually a complete legalization of the offending un-warranted -- pun intended, but please don't laugh -- behavior. Feinstein amendment described here.]

[H/T to Liz Rose and Marcy Wheeler]

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Verizon invokes Slippery Slope

Reed Hundt once pointed out to me that in the process of evolution, many species die off, but some dinosaurs become birds. Is Verizon sprouting feathers?

Tom Tauke, Verizon's VP of public policy, gave an interview to Saul Hansell of the New York Times which underscores and solidifies what he said at State of the Net last week and emphasizes the difference between VZ and AT&T, which is policing its net at Hollywood's behest. Hansell blogs:

“We generally are reluctant to get into the business of examining content that flows across our networks and taking some action as a result of that content,” [Tauke] said.

Mr. Tauke offered at least three objections to the concept:

1) The slippery slope.

Once you start going down the path of looking at the information going down the network, there are many that want you to play the role of policeman. Stop illegal gambling offshore. Stop pornography. Stop a whole array of other kinds of activities that some may think inappropriate.

2) It opens up potential liability for failing to block copyrighted work.

When you look back at the history of copyright legislation, there has been an effort by Hollywood to pin the liability for copyright violations on the network that transmits the material. It is no secret they think we have deeper pockets than others and we are easy-to-find targets.

3) Privacy.

Anything we do has to balance the need of copyright protection with the desire of customers for privacy.

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Monday, February 04, 2008


FISA Immunity Tuesday

Tomorrow is Super-Poll.

It's also the day that the Senate votes on retroactive immunity for telephone companies who didn't have enough Constitutional awareness to ask the NSA, "Where's your warrant?"

I'm afraid that:

a) Three key anti-immunity Senators (Obama, Clinton and Kennedy) won't be on the Senate floor.

b) Every MSM reporter with any clout will be distracted from activities on the Senate floor.

c) The American public will be in the thrall of the Kontest.

. . . and immunity for spying telephone companies will become the law of the land . . .

Do something. Call your senator. Please. Tonight. And keep calling. Here's the critical list:
Bayh (202) 224-5623
Carper (202) 224-2441
Obama (202) 224-2854
Inouye (202) 224-3934
Johnson (202) 224-5842
Landrieu (202)224-5824
McCaskill (202) 224-6154
Mikulski (202) 224-4654
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
Clinton (202) 224-4451
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
Pryor (202) 224-2353
Salazar (202) 224-5852
Specter (202) 224-4254
McCain (202) 224-2235
Graham (202) 224-5972
Warner (202) 224-2023
Snowe (202) 224-5344
Collins (202) 224-2523
Sununu (202) 224-2841
Lieberman (202) 224-4041
Byrd (202) 224-3954
Lincoln (202)224-4843
Chambliss (202) 224-3521
Coleman (202) 224-5641
Dole (202) 224-6342
Smith (202) 224-3753
Stabenow (202) 224-4822
Kohl (202) 224-5653
Feinstein (202) 224-3841

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Another FISA Monday

Seems that Monday is FISA day in the Senate. That's the day some Senators argue that we should forgive the telephone companies, as Vice President Cheney says, "that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States." (Big news. Cheney says they did it. if you haven't seen this Keith Olberman clip, stop reading this and click through.)

If you want to stop the U.S. slide towards becoming a surveillance state, please call your Senator, especially if he or she is on this list. More depth here. An effective way to make your opinion known is here.

UPDATE: The ACLU fact sheet on this bill is here.

Debate starts right about now. The vote on amnesty for bad actors is scheduled for tomorrow.

UPDATE: A vote on Feb 5, super-poll day? With neither Clinton nor Obama present? WTF???

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Superpoll Upset

Obama's coming up fast . . . you voting tomorrow? I am.

Somebody on a list I get said, "The movement is more significant than the man." Amen.

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