Sunday, May 31, 2009


Quote of Note: Brett Glass

"All that is necessary is to ban anticompetitive practices and incent or require the existing fiber owners to open their networks to the areas through which their fiber passes. (This should have been a condition of granting them use of the public right of way, but at the time no one imagined that they wouldn't do the obvious thing and seize the opportunity to serve those areas.)"

Brett Glass, in a CircleID comment on my Crawford likes Aussie utility network blog posting. Good idea Brett, but probably not quite all that is necessary.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009


Homeless but Wired

From The Homeless Stay Wired, by Phred Dvorak, WSJ, 5/30/09

Like most San Franciscans, Charles Pitts is wired. Mr. Pitts, who is 37 years old, has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He runs an Internet forum on Yahoo, reads news online and keeps in touch with friends via email. The tough part is managing this digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge.

"You don't need a TV. You don't need a radio. You don't even need a newspaper," says Mr. Pitts, an aspiring poet in a purple cap and yellow fleece jacket, who says he has been homeless for two years. "But you need the Internet."

Aspiring computer programmer Paul Weston, 29, says his Macintosh PowerBook has been a "lifeboat" since he was laid off from his job as a hotel clerk in December and moved to a shelter. Sitting in a Whole Foods store with free wireless access, Mr. Weston searches for work and writes a computer program he hopes to sell eventually. He has emailed city officials to press for better shelter conditions.

Robert Livingston, 49, has carried his Asus netbook everywhere since losing his apartment in December. A meticulous man who spends some of his $59 monthly welfare check on haircuts, Mr. Livingston says he quit a security-guard job late last year, then couldn't find another when the economy tanked.

For Skip Schreiber, 64, an amateur philosopher with wispy white hair who lives in a van, power is the biggest challenge to staying wired. Mr. Schreiber tended heating and ventilation systems before work-related stress and depression sidelined him around 15 years ago, he says. For his 60th birthday, he dipped into his monthly disability check to buy a laptop, connected it to his car battery, and taught himself to use it. "I liked the concept of the Internet," says Mr. Schreiber, "this unlimited source of opinion and thought."

Michael Ross creates his own electricity, with a gas generator perched outside his yellow-and-blue tent. For a year, Mr. Ross has stood guard at a parking lot for construction equipment, under a deal with the owner. Mr. Ross figures he has been homeless for about 15 years, surviving on his Army pension. Inside the tent, the taciturn 50-year-old has an HP laptop with a 17-inch screen and 320 gigabytes of data storage, as well as four extra hard drives that can hold another 1,000 gigabytes . . .

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Friday, May 29, 2009


Still missing my cat

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As it should be -- open and free!

President Obama made a remarkably strong re-affirmation of network neutrality today, saying,

“Let me also be clear about what we will not do . . . Our pursuit of cyber security will not -- I repeat, will not include -- monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to Net Neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be -- open and free.”

[source] via Tim Karr in Free Press Blog [link].

Excellent. But when do we get proof positive that the optical splitter in Room 641A at AT&T's Folsom Street facility and the Quantico Circuit at Verizon Wireless in northern Virginia -- and the other domestic spying facilities that we haven't discovered yet -- have been taken off line? [ref]

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Clarifying "Crawford Likes Aussie Network"

Dennis Fazio has posted a comment over at CircleID, which reprinted my blog post entitled Crawford likes Aussie utility network, taking me to task for saying that an Aussie-style network would cost way less than the $500 billion we get when we naively multiply the cost of that network by the difference factor of the two national populations. He is right for flagging this prone-to-misinterpretation number.

Fazio bases his alternate estimate on Verizon's cost per house passed of $800 per house times 111 million households in the U.S. That's $88.8 billion. Since that doesn't include the cost of hooking up a house or the new gear in the central office, I say it is low. It probably doesn't include passing homes in Vermont or Maine or other hard-to-recable states, which Verizon has been dumping left and right.

In another blog post not too long ago, I tried to pencil out the cost of fiber a bit more carefully and came up with $290 billion. Is that right? Who knows. But $500 B is clearly way high and $88.8 B is clearly way low.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009


Open Access Makes Economic Sense

My friend Benoit Felten (with co-author Wally Swain), has written a Yankee Group report entitled "Open Access Makes Economic Sense." It begins:

Analysis of a series of high-level generic next-generation access business models suggests that on the basis of the current generation of services, the revenue-generating opportunity will not offset the costs in a reasonable amount of time for the vertically integrated service provider deploying it. Opening the network to competitive or new service providers is one of the solutions to solve that conundrum.

The business model for fiber to the home (FTTH) is a tough one to make fly. Despite the increasing pressure (competitive and political) for wireline copper operators to upgrade their networks to FTTH, the economics of the business model scare both the telcos themselves and their shareholders or financiers. This report examines the greenfield deployment business model in depth and looks at how it might be optimized

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Word of the Day: renonymize

Re-nonymize, or renonymize, V,. To discover, using data from an "anonymized" data set (a data set from which the explicit identifying data has been removed) which specific individuals generated the data. Usage: ". . . companies claim they're releasing an anonymous dataset, only to discover later that it's not so difficult to re-nomynize it." [source]

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Carnegie Library Stimulus =?= ARRA Broadband Funds

Douglas Galbi writes,

More than half the libraries existing in the U.S. in 1919 had received construction grant money from Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-born U.S. industrialist who acquired massive wealth. He believed in self-improvement through hard work, and he considered public libraries to serve this purpose by making knowledge available to everyone. Hence Carnegie set up a grant program for the construction of public libraries.

The total value of Carnegie's grants to U.S. libraries was about equal to that of the current U.S. broadband stimulus package. Carnegie donated more than $40 million between 1886 and 1919 to construct 1,679 new libraries in the U.S. (about $56 million for libraries world-wide). As a share of GDP, Carnegie's total donation to U.S. libraries is about equal to the current $7.2 billion U.S. broadband stimulus package.
Galbi says that commercial book rental libraries were very active at the time, but there's no evidence that this potential conflict ever became a problem.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009


twee2blog: Democracy AT&T-style

All your election R belong to us! Democracy by AT&T RT @freepress: RT @TimKarr: NYTimes: #AmericanIdol

UPDATE 5/28/09: Did AT&T throw the election? We'll never know because the results won't be made public. As for the charge that it provided power-texting equipment and instructions to supporters of one candidate but not the other, AT&T claims just a few bad apples, saying,
"a few local AT&T employees, caught up in the enthusiasm of rooting for their hometown contestant, they brought a small number of demo phones with them and provided texting tutorials to those who were interested . . ."
Sounds almost like what AT&T said when it censored anti-Bush portions of a Pearl Jam concert, just a few bad apples, in that case, "a mistake by a webcast vendor."

As long as AT&T has a role that joins delivery of content and control of content, such mistakes will be made. By AT&T.

We need structural separation now. The delivery of our data is too important to be left to entities with motive, means and opportunity to mess with it in transit.

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Crawford likes Aussie Utility Network

Susan Crawford, special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy and a member of the National Economic Council, is reported to be favorabll inclined towards a U.S. network much like Australia's recently announced $33B broadband plan.

Of course, the U.S. is some 15 times bigger than Australia, and that'd make the price tag closer to $500B by straight multiplication. But the U.S. would get a fiber network done right. It'd be as fast as technology would allow; note that affordable symmetrical residential Gbit service is already available in Sweden and Japan. It'd be upgradable approximately forever. It'd be un-bundlable, so anybody could offer services on it and no entity would need to maintain a monopoly. And, says Crawford, ". . . [such] a wholesale network can deliver massive social and economic benefits."

What's not to like? Incumbent mouthpiece Scott Cleland says that it'd unfair if the government competes against his clients. Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt doesn't think it's a "practical solution."

I think Susan Crawford has the right idea. Technology exists now to deliver hundreds of times more than we're getting. The only thing the U.S. lacks is the will to do it. The U.S. used to think big. That's what made it a great country. It could do it again. The only losers would be the very same companies that are keeping us in the past in the name of the late, great free market.

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Friday, May 22, 2009


Networks v. Agribusiness

This is wonderful!
The Networked Future of Farms

. . . a Bay Area startup has launched a service to make it easier and cheaper for restaurants to buy food from small, local farms. With a suite of mobile apps for use in restaurants and on farms, FarmsReach wants to create an online food marketplace that would directly connect farms with restaurants.

“The food supply industry is ripe for ‘disintermediation’ because of the internet,” said Alistair Croll, a startup consultant working with FarmsReach. In other words, middlemen beware: Food could undergo a transition like the one that swept through classified ads, air travel and dozens of other industries.

The current distribution of edibles works the way it does, though, because it’s brutally effective at reliably delivering low-cost food all over the country. Sysco, the dominant $13 billion American food distributor, works and restaurants know that . . . "Chefs order from Sysco because they know, no matter what, they’ll get their orders or there is an account rep they can strangle.” . . . [today] restaurants have two basic options. Call up a dozen local farms to order the ingredients for their salads or use Sysco’s online system and have everything show up, come hell or high water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, only the pickiest chefs at the fancier restaurants choose the local farm route.

FarmsReach wants to make ordering from local, small farms as easy and reliable as ordering from Sysco.

If the Internet stopped developing now, disruptive innovations like this would probably echo down through history for a few dozen more years. But do we have that long?


Networks to get even more important

Previous versions of the, "End of Moore's Law" story have been superseded by technology breakthroughs. But this most recent one, by Saul Hansell, in the NYT Bits Blog, might have legs.

Eli Harari, the CEO of SanDisk says he anticipates about two more doublings, with doublings occurring about every year. “We can’t get below one [electron per memory cell]," he says.

Harari continues, “If I want 40 electrons, plus or minus two electrons, I can do that when the device is new. But seven years out, it will start to smear.”

He anticipates maybe two more doublings. So what it it's four? Or eight? "We can't get below one [electron]," is a fairly hard limit.

"When Manhattan ran out of space, they built skyscrapers," says Harari. What's a skyscraper in the world of bits? Hansell, entrained by the real estate analogy, imagines multi-layer chips. That's OK if you're only thinking chips.

In the wider digital economy, three things trade off with each other: storage, data compression and transmission. Data compression is the least general of these alternatives; it is costly, energy-intensive and/or inappropriately lossy. So, if Hansell's article is even close to right, I think we'll see new emphasis on the value of ubiquitous, inexpensive network connections.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009


Quote of Note: Dick Cheney

"After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized."

Former VP Dick Cheney, May 21, 2009 [source]

[Photo source.]


American Airlines tweets4investors, CustSvcFAIL

American Airlines twitter handle is AAirwaves. AAirwaves tweeted all day today about the American Airlines shareholder meeting. But it doesn't do customer service, it doesn't tweet about airline delays, weather, fare deals, etc. At American I'm Platinum, been a card carrying AAperson since 1982, but AAirwaves tweets me like chopped liver, saying "AA.Com does that, but not on twitter." Gosh, thanks for the news, I'm on every week.

As you can see from this post, @AlaskaAir actually tweets4customers.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Twee2blog: @chrismessina

RT @chrismessina: Not only did @AlaskaAir respond to my tweet, but also helped me check in to my flight *VIA Twitter*! OMG! Customer service 2.0 FTW!

UPDATE: @AlaskaAir tweets: Check-in via Twitter isn't available as a svc. We reach out to people that are having technical issues.

My comment, at least AlaskaAir tweets4customers.

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Several Quotes of Note

The Hollywood panel reported in this story, 5/15/09, has a couple of gemstone quotes to mark our nodal times.

“I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet. Period.”
Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO


“It’s just giving everyone a bathroom wall to write exactly what they think.”
Anne Hathaway, actress.

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Quote of Note: Ben Scott

"If Comcast decided to get in front of the 435 members of the House, they could do that in a week. I don't think I could do it in a year."

Ben Scott, Policy Director, Free Press. via @jenhoward80, DSL Reports and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Give Twitter 6 months?

In the last weeks I've become a major twit, er, tweeter.

If you can't express yourself in less than 500 words are you a woofer?

How about: Dress up in costume, knock on door, "Twitter tweet?"

Now the CIO of Seattle @billschrier tweets news of the First Ever Perkins Madrona-Ventures Twittercon where experts with weeks of deep experience . . .
. . . from local companies such as Avelle, Alaska Airlines,, Nordstrom and Expedia offered advice and feedback on how to utilize Twitter . . . [and discussed] "Where's the ROI?"
I'm already getting tspam. Name tsquatting is rampant. Twademark conflicts are common.

It's the march of the monetizers. How long will Twitter be a friendly open place where you can twitter a rhythm with your tribe? Six months?

I hope it'll evolve faster than monetizers can march.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009


WaPo OpEd: Web unfair to Newspapers

UPDATE 5/18: Art Brodsky and Kos weigh in.

Yesterday's Washington Post OpEd, Laws That Could Save Journalism is an explicit call for protectionism for the Old Journalism, aka MSM. It whines that, "the playing field has become so uneven."

It's worth noting that even the conservatives aren't saying, "Let the market take it's course," anymore. So now that we've agreed that some regulation is desirable, the next question is, "What kind?"

If a nation wants to remain at the forefront of new technology, its government should regulate to nurture new, young innovations so that established behemoths don't strangle them in their crib. If progress is to occur, a government doesn't regulate to protect big, old, powerful entities from young, new ones. If government is to treat corporations like persons, the least it could do would be to treat mature ones like adults that can take care of themselves!

The Internet's innovations are just beginning. A pro-progress government doesn't say, "We've seen enough of this new stuff," unless it is in the pocket of the old, threatened industry. This is Tim Karr's main point in his HuffPo takedown of the "Save Journalism" OpEd. It's authors are old-media sock puppets.

But there's a bigger point, one that Clay Shirky makes in his March, 2009 essay, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. This essay points out that newspapers saw the Internet coming miles away. They devised a number of plausible strategies to deal with it. They only missed one of the major plausible scenarios, to wit:

The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow. Walled gardens would prove unpopular. Digital advertising would reduce inefficiencies, and therefore profits. Dislike of micropayments would prevent widespread use. People would resist being educated to act against their own desires. Old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online. Even ferocious litigation would be inadequate to constrain massive, sustained law-breaking. (Prohibition redux.) . . .
This seems to be the scenario that's playing out. In scenario planning, it's worth taking each, "We'll always have . . . " assumption apart before the scenario exercise is complete.

The "death of telcos" was the scenario that AT&T missed while I was working there. Discussing the possibility that AT&T might wither and die was seen as impolite in the extreme. My Rise of the Stupid Network was rejected and I was treated accordingly. Shirky says:

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception . . . Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors.
The WaPo OpEd falls short of a useful contribution because its authors didn't read Shirky's piece. Or, if they did, they didn't acknowledge it. Perhaps the OpEd's authors (or the WaPo OpEd editor, who could have asked for appropriate revisions) wasn't aware of it, because it was published only in the blogosphere. They're newspaper folks. They didn't know about Shirky's essay cause it wasn't published in their version of reality. More'n likely, there's the rub.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009


More on portrait artist Gwenn Seemel

A friend is visiting Portland, Oregon this morning, and I wanted to point him at Gwenn Seemel's great portrait work. I've blogged about her before, but I wanted to find something that'd really capture his imagination, and I found this remarkable post from her blog. The picture to the left is an excerpt from that post.

[A little note on culture and so-called piracy. I don't have the artist's permission to reproduce her work, but I don't think she'll mind. After all, she wrote to thank me for my previous post on her, and said not a word about my reproduction of her work. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm virtually certain "fair use" covers my use of her work on several grounds. However, if she were to express any discomfort, I'd take down the wonderful work to your left -- immediately, not because of any law, but because of my respect for this great painter.]

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Why don't I feel all warm and fuzzy about this?

A recent Washington Post story, headlined DHS to Bolster Protection of Civilian Computer Networks, explains that the Department of Homeland Security, working with the National Security Agency (these two agency titles sound alarmingly similar), are plotting to defend my network and yours
. . . despite concern over the impact on Americans' privacy and the legal authority for the military and intelligence agency to conduct domestic surveillance activities.
I get it. The DHS and NSA on our side, so it's all OK.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009


Music video highlights from F2C

Here's two of the musical highlights for me from F2C. The first is Benoit Felten's hot harmonica rendition of Django Reinhardt's Swing Mineur with the John Jorgenson Quintet. The second is Terry Huval, the inspiration for the Lafayette LA FTTH project, giving us a taste of Cajun culture.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009


Blogger Down Yesterday, Now Fixed

Yesterday I couldn't post the fact that Blogger was unable to publish about 15 comments on my "ain't worth squat" story, because Blogger was down just about all day yesterday. FTP from my computer to my site worked, but FTP from Blogger to my blog was hosed for more hours than I have fingers.

It is finally fixed. The comments are there. Blogger posted this story. But there's no official indication as to why it broke or what needed fixing. Did Blogger get to the root cause? Or do we have a duct tape and hose clamp situation that could go fubar again?

After all, this is the second time it has failed in two weeks.

A lot of people on the "Something is Broken" page within Blogger Support were a bit irritated.

It's good that Twitter has an independent feed. If this happens again, I suggest we use #bloggerfail.

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Friday, May 01, 2009


Quote of Note: Paul Krugman

" . . . it’s important to understand that just as denials that climate change is happening are junk science, predictions of economic disaster if we try to do anything about climate change are junk economics."

Paul Krugman in his New York Times column today on the economic costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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