Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Martin drops filtering from Wi-Fi plan, FCC meets today
"I'm saying if this is a problem for people, let's take it away . . . A lot of public interest advocates have said they would support this, but we're concerned about the filter. Well, now there's an item in front of the Commissioners and it no longer has the filter. And I've already voted for it without the filter now. So it's already got one vote."
Hmmm. One nationwide provider. Revenues from advertising. The motivation to snoop and discriminate would be overwhelming. How about neutrality and privacy rules?
The commission meets today at 11 AM today by teleconference. At the moment, there are no items on the agenda. FCC meeting notice [.pdf] is here.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Quote of Note: Tom Friedman
There is no such thing as a free market, no more than there is a farm or a garden that grows without fertilizer, without proper plowing, without intelligence brought into it. Markets are shaped by rules, incentives and disincentives . . .Tom "Flat, Hot and Crowded" Friedman in Scientific American, December 2008 [source].
Technorati Tags: Markets
Sunday, December 28, 2008
The meanings of Network Neutrality
- End-to-End Design
- Nonexclusionary Business Practice
- Content Nondiscrimination
I've been developing a taxonomy of issues that interact with and are bound with Network Neutrality. So far there are six items:
- Scarcity Management -- the idea that network elements are scarce and expensive and need managing by their operator.
- Business Model Preservation -- the idea that if networks are completely stupid and just deliver the bits, they're a commodity that one can't make money running. This is also tied to the idea that telcos and cablecos think of themselves as sellers of end-user applications rather than conduits to other providers' apps.
- Non-Standard Handling of Data -- the idea that a provider of Internet connectivity has the power to handle sets of bits differently based on criteria that are not specified in public standards. Non-standard handling includes pricing plans that require charging differentially for such non-standard handling.
- Innovation Suppression -- non-standard handling of data presents a barrier to new apps -- they might not work everywhere.
- Gathering Personal Information -- the idea of adding value to a commodity connection by figuring out what the person at the end of the connection values. The gathering itself doesn't necessarily change how the data move through the network, but Andrew Odlyzko pointed out in 2003 that this practice provides a compelling commercial impetus to handling bits in non-standard ways.
- Free Speech -- non-standard handling of data may exist for reasons other than business. Making less money may not be the only thing a provider dislikes.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
What infrastructure looks like
Quote of Note: Cleo Fields
Cleo Fields, former U.S. Congressman, February. 23, 2008 [source]
Weinberger, some good points but still wrong
[Rick Warren] is noted among Christian evangelists for insisting that the real issue Christians ought to be exercised about is not gay marriage or abortion but world poverty. That's half the intended symbolism. The other half is precisely that RW is not a Democrat, not a liberal, not in agreement with Obama on important issues.Well said. Nevertheless, I'm not being ideologically rigid when I ask whether there isn't somebody who symbolizes these things without nauseating our gay brothers and sisters, minimizing the plight of spouses in abusive and degrading relationships, and sullying the options of people who have struggled with the extremely difficult issue of whether to continue an unintended pregnancy. If the honest answer is no, well then, Rick it is.
Meanwhile -- and Weinberger doesn't touch this one in his comment -- what do Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and Laura D'Andrea Tyson symbolize? That Wall Street cronyism is welcome under Obama's inclusive tent?
As for Weinberger's idea that if the left is too insistent about what's right, it will become marginalized and less effective, yeah, that's why Dr. King said, "Lunch counters, schools, busses? Hey, no big deal, we don't want to make anybody angry because then our issues won't get heard." And that's why janitor Barack Obama is pushing a broom at Harvard Law School after all the professors and students have gone home.
Friday, December 26, 2008
More on Obama's economics team
When Obama makes a mistake, let's NOT roll over!
Weinberger's main argument is that it is time for America to move beyond Us v Them, Red v Blue, etc., and by choosing Warren, Obama's showing us how to do it. He says:
" Obama's getting us to do what seems impossible: to listen to what's best in what the other side is saying, because then you hear the shared values, and the other side isn't another side at all."I have No Problem Whatsoever with healing and unifying. But I do have a problem with choosing a sexist, homophobic, anti-science, anti-choice, egotist as the instrument to do it.
My question for Obama and Weinberger is whether Rick Warren is the best person for the job. Is there another American who could symbolize our shared values without symbolizing the denigration of women, gay people, good science and arguably moral choices?
The President's most important job is to hire well. I don't want any more Heckuva Job Brownies. I want Obama to choose the best. And the smartest. (I am avoiding that worn cliche that means, "And they still got us into a stupid war.")
Fortunately, the three people on the Obama team I know the best ARE the best people for the jobs Obama picked them for. There is no better person in America for Presidential Science Advisor than John Holdren. There are no better people in America to co-lead the FCC transition team than Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach. This gives me hope.
It looks like the Obama economics team is an even bigger problem than Rick Warren. I'm hoping I am wrong. But Tim Geithner, nominee for SecTreasury, has already played a part in shaping the current $700 Billion dollar no-strings-attached cash giveaway, and Henry Heckuva Job Paulson, who was on the bridge when the ship hit the iceberg, thinks Geithner's great. Perhaps Weinberger thinks Geithner and Warren are, "hearing [each other's] shared values," but I think neither one of them have been minding the flippin store.
Then there's Larry Summers, whose has "shared values" with Rick Warren about the role of women. And who was SecTreasury when Bill Clinton weakened the regulation of financial derivatives.
Then there's Laura D'Andrea Tyson, an economic advisor on the Obama transition team, who picks up a cool $350,000 a year as a Morgan Stanley board member. The same Morgan Stanley that got $10 Billion in no-strings bailout bucks. The same Laura D'Andrea Tyson who defends the current no-strings bailout on TV without disclosing her conflict. [Watch this!]
Why does Obama pick an economics team that is complicit in the current mess? Where's Peter Schiff and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, both of whom warned us about the coming crisis for years? Are Geithner, Summers and Tyson REALLY the best people for the job?
Don't get me wrong. I am delighted that Obama will be President. DeLIGHTed!!! One of the things this means -- a cause of my delight -- is that the last eight years of Imperial Presidency are over. Obama's going to act like a mortal human, fallibility and all. Another thing this means -- and another reason I am delighted -- is that we're in a new era of interactive politics. So I, for one, am going to interact. When I see Obama blowing it, I'm not going to, "Chill out," like Weinberger suggests.
One of the maxims of the Open Source movement is that many eyes make even the toughest bugs tractible. If enough of us who understand the power of the Internet calls it like we sees it, maybe we can help the Obama Administration govern better. There's no way that means, "Chill out."
Obama should find a better person to pray for America at the Inauguration than Rick Warren. He should find better people for his economics team than Geithner, Summers and Tyson.
Disclosure: I count David Weinberger among my dearest friends AND wisest sources of wisdom. So I feel a little queasy pushing the "publish" button. But you're wrong on this one, David, despite our otherwise-shared values.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Teenagers have zero words for "clean up"
Earthrise, the 2008 video
Boy, howdy! Network Neutrality news blankets the bloomin' blogosphere. Steve Schultze has compiled 20-some blog articles triggered by the WSJ's clumsy-to-clueless article.
I have been in smoldering slow burn mode on a couple points, and Brendan Ballou's piece in JZ's blog fanned the smoke to light . . . so here goes:
Making bits go from one location to another faster is not, of itself, a violation of ANY REASONABLE DEFINITION of Network Neutrality. I am flipping tired of hearing about treating all bits (or packets) exactly the same. Nobody does this. Nobody can do this. There is no reasonable definition of NN in terms of exactly the same treatment of bits or packets.
If my server has a 10 gigabit per second connection to the Internet, and yours only has a 256 kilobit connection, chances are good that bits from my server will arrive faster than bits from yours. This is not a violation of NN.
Of course a 10 gigabit connection costs more than a 256 kilobit connection. I need to be rich enough to afford a 10 gigabit connection. There are some advantages that come because you're big and rich that have nothing to do with NN. If I'm a big and rich Internet applications company, I can afford a great cafeteria for my employees, et cetera. By the same token, maybe I can afford to access multiple paths through the Internet so I can figure out which paths are faster, and send my data preferentially over these paths, and if so, that's not a violation of NN.
This doesn't mean there aren't reasons to fear big, rich Internet applications companies, or to limit their power. But these reasons might well have nothing to do with NN.
Edge caching, as Google's Derek Slater defines it in an earlier comment in this blog, is not inside the Internet. It is at the edge of the Internet. Content arrives at an edge cache via anybody's stupid pipes. It leaves via anybody's stupid pipes. An edge cache, defined this way, is not a means for violating NN.
Note that Peer to Peer is a form of edge caching. It might be THE ULTIMATE form of edge caching. When I use Skype or BitTorrent, some of the relevant data may be cached on my machine, precisely because it is closer (in some statistical Internet topology sense) to the next potential user of that data.
Do the hackles on your neck go up when somebody suggests that the Internet should be used for what it was originally designed to do? Mine sure as flack do! As if it were designed to do Web surfing and email but not video or meter reading! Hey, we're not done inventing all the things we can do on the Internet, and we sure don't need the telcos and cablecos, who didn't invent any of it, telling us what we can and can't do. When the telcos and cablecos tell us we can do this, but not that, or that we can do this activity or access that information but it will cost us more, that's where the Internet starts to lose its groove.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Garcia's Guitar Sold
We still have plenty of Perry Lederman's record, This World Is Not My Home, for sale.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Music and Market Failure
Sportiello came to Woods Hole this Fall again, and I missed it again, and I heard about it again! So I went to his Web site and found out he had several NYC area gigs. Finally, last night I caught him at Small's Jazz Club in Manhattan.
I don't have enough adjectives in my bag to describe Sportiello's playing. Words like, "awesome," don't do it justice. "Impossible," hints at the kinds of things his hands were doing. And when, after an enthusiastic round of applause, I muttered, "Wow, too much," from my front-row seat, he replied, "Yes, probably," and all four of us in the audience laughed.
Yes, that's right, this world-class piano player, playing in a noted jazz club in one of the music capitals of the world, had drawn FOUR listeners. Four. Me and three others. One was probably a friend of his, and the other two were snuggling in a booth in the corner.
OK, OK, by the end of Sportiello's set, the room had maybe 20 people in it. One of the newcomers asked me, "Who was that? He's good!" He was there for the next act.
Sportiello isn't alone. Have you heard of John Miller? Joe Weed? Ginny Snowe? Joe Sutton? Savely Schuster? Beverly Smith and Carl Jones? [UPDATE: David Grier? Matt Fliner?] These are skilled masters of their craft, just as worthy of kudos as the musicians we know as household words, or more so. I've seen them all in small rooms with maybe a dozen other listeners. If they showed up in your town, I'd bet they'd draw in the low-dozens at best, even with good publicity.
I know, I know, long tail, blah, blah, blah . . . I think there's something different going on. I think there are great musicians everywhere. I am not underestimating the skills of the great ones, but I think musical greatness is way more accessible than the Star Maker Machinery admits.
I think if there were means to discover who the great musicians in my neighborhood were, I'd be amazed. My guess is that most of them don't play in public at all, and that this, in itself, is a market failure. I think the market failure in music is in treating "the market" as if it were the entire country, or bigger. I think the market failure that is live music needs to be de-failed -- our culture would be richer, our lives more meaningful with more live music.
[By the way, I got email yesterday suggesting that isen.blog was a tech blog, and shouldn't stray into other topics like music, fishing and politics. Especially politics. My response: too bad. If I want to write in public about music, or the people I love, or the a55h01es that run the country, or climate change, or the joys of fishing or flying or sailing or cooking, or about my kitty cats, I will. Don't like it? Don't read it, like billions and billions of other people.]
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
What if I were wrong about edge-caching?
- Google's edge caching isn't new or evil
- Lessig didn't shift gears on NN
- Microsoft and Yahoo have been off the NN bandwagon since 2006
- The Obama team still supports NN
- Amazon's Kindle support is consistent with its NN support
So I've been assuming that the edge cache that Whitt is describing is at the edge of the Internet, and that it is connected to "the cloud" just like any server or customer. Whitt as much as says that this is what Google is doing.
But what if there's more going on?
What if Google were attempting to put a server in, say, a head end or a central office in such a way that it faced the local customers connected to that head end or central office. In this case, Google would be in a very privileged position. It would be communicating with the cableco's or telco's customers NOT via the Internet, but via a single wire, the Last Mile.
The ability to put a caching server this close to the customer is powerful, especially with a fiber or VDSL or DOCSIS 3 distribution network. There's no bottlenecks between cache and customer. The content arrives NOT from the Internet but straight from the provider.
The advantage to the telco or cableco is that the incremental costs of Internet traffic to its end-user customers would be lower. Popular videos would not need to travel over the Internet every time one of the local customers attached to the central office or head end requested it. Instead, it would be sent over the Internet to the cache once, then distributed to customers connected to the cache via central office or head end many times.
The disadvantage would be that the telco or cableco that owned the central office or head end would need to share a putatively proprietary advantage. It might be risking losing that proprietary advantage altogether.
This would be dangerous, especially to a cableco.
Does a cableco or telco have a duty to let a co-locator into its head-end or central office? Yes for telcos under the telecom act of 1996, but the whole notion of unbundled elements has been so trashed that I don't know where it stands. And the situation is even murkier for cablecos. Of course any of this could change, depending on how issues like structural separation (between infrastructure and applications) play out.
Would such an arrangement be a Net Neutrality issue? Hmmm. Yes if the pipes connecting the cache to the Internet had special properties, or if the telco/cableco dictated what kinds of apps could be cached, or yes if the telco/cableco wouldn't let other players co-locate caching servers in central offices and head ends, but my feeling is that once the content is cached and served out to the customer at the other end of the Last Mile, it's video, not the Internet.
I am not sure what I think here. It's a plausible scenario, but hypothetical. I invite the readers of this post to think this through with me . . .
Monday, December 15, 2008
Dumbpaper coins a word
I prefer "stupid" because it is a direct reference to the absence of intelligence. Dumb, on the other hand, means mute, and something can be mute without lacking intelligence. If the WSJ reporters, for example, has remained mute on several issues, that would have been smarter.
However, the WSJ story improperly liaises caching servers and violations of network neutrality, and it improperly liaises dumbpipes. To wit,
'Dumbpipes'Here's hoping this neologism doesn't stick to the wall . . .
The carriers picked up the unflattering nickname "dumbpipes," underscoring their strict noninterference in the Internet traffic surging over their networks.
Bogus WSJ Story on Net Neutrality
My bullshit detector was triggered by paragraph five, which reads
One major cable operator in talks with Google says it has been reluctant so far to strike a deal because of concern it might violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality. "If we did this, Washington would be on fire," says one executive at the cable company who is familiar with the talks . . .Yeah, right, the cable guys want to preserve Network Neutrality, while Google wants to violate it. That **would** be a boy-bites-dog story, if it were true.
Google's FCC counsel, Rick Whitt explains that Google simply seeks to do edge caching, just like Akamai, Amazon, and several other companies. The idea of edge caching is to locate frequently used content closer to the people who access it. It makes accessing the cached content faster.
Importantly, since the cache must be connected to the Internet by a big, fat, stupid pipe, the company doing the caching can, in principle, buy pipes from any carrier. Indeed, if it is concerned with up-time, local congestion, or avoiding single points of failure, it will buy connections from several providers. [See my "Buy as Many Nines as you Need"]
Also, in principle, carriers can let any edge cache access its network. Indeed they have a duty to do so, under the Doctrine of Public Callings, the doctrine of common law that underlies common carriage and network neutrality that has been in effect for about 900 years now.
Net Neutrality only becomes an issue when a carrier picks and chooses which cache to supply pipes to.
The argument the WSJ seems to be making -- and they don't make it very well -- is that when Google has an arrangement with carriers to provide a cache it advantages its access. However, it has always been the case that Google pay a carrier more for a fatter pipe to its content. Edge caching is another case of that, no matter in which building a caching platform might be located.
In other words, if Google does edge caching it buys access. It's the same as when I, as a residential customer, pay $34.95 for one megabit DSL service or $49.95 for 3 megabit DSL.
The concern of Network Neutrality advocates is not with access but with delivery. The fear is that Internet connection providers would charge for expedited delivery of certain content to the end user, and in so doing would put themselves in the business of classifying which content gets enhanced delivery. Since they were charging for expedited delivery, they'd get more revenue for improving the enhanced delivery, so the only network upgrades would be for the enhanced service. Non-enhanced would fall further and further behind. Plus the power to decide what gets delivered might, indeed, be powerful, and power corrupts; just ask NARAL.
Since the edge caching Google is proposing is about access, not delivery, there's no problem.
A second concern of Network Neutrality advocates is that deals for "enhanced delivery" could be used to advantage some application providers and disadvantage others. So, for example, [hypothetically, but see this, this, this, this and this] Internet telephony might work better with Comcast telephony than with Vonage if you're a Comcast customer -- but this would have NOTHING to do with the Internet access that Vonage purchased from its suppliers.
And it has NOTHING to do with Google's edge caching proposal.
A third concern of Network Neutrality advocates has to do with barriers to entry and innovation. The concern is that the Internet has two very innovation-friendly properties, Transmission-without-permission and Rapid-market-discovery that foster an unprecedented rate of innovation. If barriers to either of these appear, the Internet becomes less fertile. Suppose for a moment I had to pay each ISP that had a reader of this blog as its customer, and every month I got hundreds of bills from around the world. I might decide to limit the distribution of my blog. Or if I didn't pay some of the ISPs, I'd lose the readers they connect. In any case, my ability to discover my market would be impaired.
Again, this has to do with delivery. It has NOTHING to do with Google's edge-caching proposal.
There's a fourth concern. It has to do with the amount of Internet capacity that some apps -- mostly video -- use. Internet providers on both the access and the delivery side are concerned, and they assert the right to "manage" their network. The concern over management is inversely proportional to the capacity of their network. So, on one side we have Verizon, with its new FIOS fober-to-the-home network, saying it doesn't need to cap or manage its network to deal with video. On the other side, wireless carriers often institute severe limits on monthly capacity AND on which applications you can use. In the middle, you have telephone companies that provide DSL but not fiber, and cablecos that only allocate a small proportion of the capacity of their coax to the Internet -- here you get the most intense concern for the "coming Exaflood" of bandwidth, a bogus claim that, they say, can only be solved if there's more investment than these individual companies can afford. And, of course, the screaming about Internet video is loudest from the companies most vested in the old video entertainment model.
I have some concern here that since the caching servers that Google proposes to install, and their associated access pipes, are expensive, and they do provide an advantage to Google-as-Video-Provider, that it may make it more difficult for other video platforms to get a start. But I must say it is the same concern that I have for new search providers and new on-line advertisers. Once you get big like Google is big, you're a barrier.
But this has very little to do with the Internet, and nothing to do with Network Neutrality.
Also, the concern over the specialness of video is severely misplaced, because the cost of high-speed connections is falling. Remember when Internet connections were so slow it was hard to make a VOIP call? Not anymore (except for special cases such as outlined above). Soon the Internet will be able to do 6.5 billion channels, so everybody on Earth can watch what he or she wants whenever he or she wants, affordably and without delay. The technology already exists, and has for decades. It is now rolling out . . . slowly. The gating factor is not availability or affordability, it is the extent to which incumbents need to protect existing revenue streams and the depreciation schedules on existing equipment.
Yes, even mobile networks could soon provide gigabits per user, just as soon as we (a) re-think spectrum regulation in terms a bit more modern than 1927 technology and (b) put fiber everywhere so radios can whisper rather than shout.
So, even as we acknowledge the carriers' need to manage their networks, let's be mindful of whether they're managing for scarcity or abundance.
Finally, it is funny that two of the WSJ story's five named sources, Rick Whitt and Larry Lessig, either don't remember saying what the Journal quotes them saying or feel their words were twisted and taken out of context. How can this be good journalism? This is not the first time I've been in an expert position to see the WSJ engage in gotcha-reporting [link].
Disclosure: Google has sponsored several isen.com events, such as F2C: Freedom to Connect, in the past. Currently Google is not a sponsor of the next F2C, which will be held in Washington DC on March 30 and 31, 2009, but we're in discussions about it. My sponsorship relationship with Google has no causative relationship to anything I've said above; rather Google has been an isen.com sponsor because WE BOTH SHARE pre-existing positions on issues like Network Neutrality. Verizon, mentioned above, sponsored F2C 2008, but is not likely to sponsor F2C 2009; again, they sponsored F2C because it was already in synch with isen.com on issues of global climate change and network capacity.
Further disclosure: An isen.com sponsor might disagree with isen.com, and vice versa, but I'll still accept their sponsorship if there's no quid pro quo, implicit or explicit, about my positions on any issues.
Even further disclosure: Chris Rhoads, one of the authors of the WSJ story, once took me out to lunch, and I've had several cordial phone calls with him since then, but I think he did a crappy job on this story. Chris, you blew it. Completely.
More disclosures? I can't think of any, and I'm trying, but it's not because I'm hiding anything. [Cause for this nervousness here.]
Technorati Tags: AndrewOdlyzko, Broadband, Cableco, Cellco, Censorship, Competition, End-to-End, F2C, F2C2009, FIOS, FON, Framing, FreePress, FTTH, Internet, isen.blog, LawrenceLessig, NationalBroadbandStrategy, NetworkNeutrality, Organizational Culture, Press, Stupid Network, Telco, Verizon, VOIP, WirelessNetworks, WSJ
Friday, December 12, 2008
Quote of Note: Kevin Anderson
Kevin Anderson, climate scientist, at Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, UK, quoted in, Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst, The Guardian, 12/9/08.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
A momentary pause
This is a screen shot of Susan Crawford's blog today. Its last entry was November 5, 2008, the day Susan was called to co-lead the Obama FCC Transition. I've been watching for changes for over a month. In a way, I am glad there haven't been any. It suggests that the insight and analysis she's consistently brought to her blog is going elsewhere, where it is needed more and has a more tangible effect.
To Susan Crawford -- and Kevin Werbach! -- my hat is off, and I'm standing by.
Quote of Note: Barack Obama
President-elect Barack Obama, December 6, 2008 [source]
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Great comment, now what?
"Nisse" wrote a very intriguing comment (go read it!) on my previous post, and he or she ends by saying,
I wrote a short paper "The Only Really Open Net Is The Really Stupid Net !" which can be downloade[d] from http://fiberforum.Hindersby.net -- Click on "Filebox". It is just a draft. Comments appreciated.I tried to find it. http://fiberforum.Hindersby.net redirected me to http://bredband.selfip.net/forum/ which is a"fibermaffians debattforumm" but I couldn't fine Filebox to click on. I tried Googling, and came up with all the usual suspects but not Nisse's paper. Nisse didn't leave an email address, but I'm pretty sure the last name is Husberg.
Any ideas anybody? Maybe Nisse will reply personally. Thanks in advance.
[By the way, what's a fibermaffian? Is it more like a fiber maven, i.e. an expert? Or is it more like a member of a secret society, as in Mafia?]
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Today's Bandwidth Hog is Tomorrow's Mainstream Internet Customer
Alert: My wife, not a bleeding-edger, not a geek, finds it perfectly normal to watch legally obtained, full-length, full-screen movies over the Internet. If my livelihood depended on the old TV paradigm, I'd be quaking in my boots.
Scene 2: I checked into the hotel last night, and sure enough, the Wi-Fi sucked. Then I realized what I was doing: trying to download who-knows-what RSS feeds, a YouTube video and my email. Probably everybody else in the hotel was doing the same.
Hotels, it is time for a 10x bandwidth upgrade. Might as well make it 100x while you're at it.