Retrograde inversion

Going backwards upside down. That’s what we’re doing with telecommunications policy in the U.S. The Comcast affair should prompt a re-examination of many decisions the FCC, Congress, and the courts have made over the last few years. When the FCC reports on its reactions to Comcast’s activities, the right response will be “You’re asking the wrong question.” “What is reasonable network management” isn’t the question we should be asking. Instead, we should be asking ourselves “Why do the dominant network operators always win?” We don’t need retrospective fault-allocation – instead,…

Weird boxes

With the help of one of my colleagues, I’ve been going through the history of the Computer Inquiries and all of the regulatory muttering that goes into the “information services”/”telecommunications services” dichotomy. What a strange story of subversion. We started off, back in the 60s, with a real fear of dominant telephone companies manuvering/leveraging their way into data processing businesses.  So we (basically) cordoned off data processing as a separate business and kept the telcos out. Then, about 20 years later, the telcos pointed out that they needed to use…

Freedom to Connect — remarks today.

Many thanks to David Isenberg for inviting me to speak today.  Here is a copy of my notes for today’s talk. Life is short, so I have put on the screen an image of a clock whose hands are close to midnight. It’s always good to have a sense of urgency, both in movies and in talks like this one.  And to face the big questions. Here’s one::  What makes a life significant?:  There’s an essay by William James with this title that I look back to.  James says that…

Needed: Votes

I’m at the Tech Policy Summit. There was a particularly good panel yesterday that included Tod Cohen and Ken Kay talking about what it takes to do effective policy work. Tod’s quite blunt: “Do you vote?” That’s the question he asks people who want to do policy work with Ebay. You have to love politics, he says, to be in this business. It’s all about incremental advances and relationship-building. Without votes, nothing happens. Just being smart or persistent won’t make any difference. It’s sobering. Who has votes for an open…

Why Block C matters

Today the FCC announced the winners of the 700 MHz auction – and you can see from pp. 62-63 of this document that Verizon won Block C. (Block C was set up in two nationwide paired blocks of 11 MHz each, which were auctioned off in very large geographic areas—12 licenses, each covering a “Regional Economic Area Grouping”. Verizon won seven of the twelve licenses, covering all of the US except Alaska, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.) Why does this matter? Context. The 700 MHz…

Thursday links

The House Commerce committee investigation of the FCC continues. According to the Washington Post, a detailed letter signed by Rep. Dingell has gone out to the FCC asking for a host of documents that (among other things) relate to “management practices that may adversely affect the Commission’s ability both to discharge effectively its statutory duties and to guard against waste, fraud, and abuse.”:  This is serious – business as usual at the Commission must be under severe pressure, and the idea of real structural reform of the Commission (and perhaps…

The rock star, the Christian Coalition, and NN

Yesterday’s House Judiciary hearing (witness statements and archived video here) had a deeply political angle – what committee should have jurisdiction over network neutrality issues – but also revealed to me that: We’re seeing the moment when Hollywood, law enforcement, and the network access providers publicly attempt to join hands in favor of monitored/monetized network access. I loved meeting Damian Kulash and hearing him testify.  His opposite number (for purposes of the hearing) was the president of the Songwriters Guild, Rick Carnes.  Carnes was there to talk about piracy, p2p…

Meta moment

I did a short segment on NPR’s Bryant Park Project with Rachel Martin this morning – for broadcast tomorrow, Tuesday.  The plan had been to talk about the Cuba OFAC story from last week.  But when I got there they had switched gears – they really wanted to talk about net neutrality instead. So we did an interview about everything.  We talked about registrars freezing web site registrations at the direction of the Treasury Department, about a judge knocking Wikileaks off the internet, and about network access providers filtering/managing internet…

Raising the stakes

The first panel discussion during Monday’s FCC hearing in Cambridge provided a useful summary of the first stages of what will be/already is a much bigger battle. I think it would be a good idea to raise the stakes in this discussion. Even the most pro-public interest of the five commissioners, Cmmr. Copps, talks only about a case-by-case adjudication by the FCC of the “rules of the road” for “reasonable network management.” But that won’t get us faster, more open high-speed internet access. Commr. Adelstein makes more headway – he’s…

The European super-agency

I personally have been cheering in support of Viviane Reding’s proposed plans to set up a Europe-wide oversight body and mandate functional separation of telecommunications providers.  But it looks as if national regulators in Europe are fiercely fighting back.  This Reuters article suggests that Ofcom and others are opposed to a pan-Europe regulator on the ground that such a body would be a top-down, single-answer entity.  Ofcom’s Ed Richards also points out that functional separation (well, for DSL, not fiber) has been achieved in the UK without a Europe-wide mandate….

More filtering and blocking in more places

As the FCC convenes its hearing today in Cambridge to address Comcast’s degradation of BitTorrent packets, two other blocking/filtering stories are playing out. First, the Pakistan government (probably nudged by President Musharraf, who heard that some YouTube videos are critical of him) ordered that YouTube be blocked. An over-zealous ISP owned by the state sent out a redirect for YouTube’s IP address to some other more suitable site.  But that redirect was somehow propagated all over the world – removing YouTube from view for everyone. Second, the infamous Clean Feed…

Why regulate cable internet access

The cable guys have their way of saying it::  “What do you want to do, nationalize our businesses?” Another way of seeing this issue is::  We have a very few very large providers of highspeed internet access in this country.  They have sufficient market power to decide how and when to prioritize internet communications.  And all of these providers are competing with the internet in some way – they are all (or are becoming) old media and old telecom companies that want to maintain control over their distribution channels.  The…