OK, this is almost too easy to bother with, but I can’t help myself. Last week a former journalist with a book to sell wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times touting the “woe is us, our network sucks” premise of said book. Because it neatly encapsulates the nonsensical thinking of so many people, it’s worth comparing it to the facts to see just how poorly it stacks up. So in the finest traditions of blogging, here we go with a “fisking” of David Cay Johnston’s “Bad Connections” and his related book,”The Fine Print: How Big companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind,” not to be confused with his previous classic, “Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business” on the mafia.
He begins his New York Times Op-Ed with the following pearl:
SINCE 1974, when the Justice Department sued to break up the Ma Bell phone monopoly, Americans have been told that competition in telecommunications would produce innovation, better service and lower prices.
What we’ve witnessed instead is low-quality service and prices
In case you’re an ITU-watcher and you haven’t seen my report on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (currently running in Dubai until the 14th,) it’s here. For the rest, here’s the background:
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU,) formerly known as the International Telegraph Union, is an agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating global telecommunications. Primarily, it manages the global use of the telephone network, harmonizes radio frequency spectrum assignments, and establishes worldwide telecommunications standards and interconnection practices. At its upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai from December 3 – 14, ITU will consider a number of proposals that would expand the scope of its power to Internet regulation, interconnection, and governance as well as to the information technology (IT) sector generally.
These proposals, if adopted in full, would transform ITU from an international telecommunications sector regulator to an “Information Technology and Communications (ICT) regulator,” vastly expanding its reach. The mechanism for this expansion is amendment of the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs,) treaties that specify the ITU’s duties and the common agreements among its 193 member states.
Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of … Read the rest
One of the unfortunate consequences of events like the Northeast “Frankenstorm” is the speed with which they’re exploited for various kinds of gain. When food and water are short, vendors show up on street corners selling goods at exorbitant prices, looters rob stores of computers and that sort of thing. After the fact, many people with a policy ax of some sort will point to various things that happened as examples of tragedies and inconveniences that could have been avoided if only they’d had their way in the policy process. The National Association of Broadcasters jumped on Frankenstorm with a rather thin argument to the effect that the storm proves their networks are great for communication, despite their one-way nature. Another example of this phenomenon that struck me as particularly odd was a blog post written by Harold Feld on Wetmachine before the storm had even hit: If your cell tower loses power, be sure to thank CTIA and the D.C. Circuit. Feld argues that the FCC needs broad Title I authority over Title III cellular networks to keep them running after hurricanes strike:
As we hunker down to wait
Readers of this blog are aware that the telephone network is a relic of the past that will someday join the telegraph terminal and the buggy whip in the dustbin of history; the only question is when. For telephone network operators, sooner is better than later because the costs of supporting an archaic network with a dwindling number of users are an unsustainable drag on investment in the up-to-date broadband networks, both mobile and fixed, that have taken its place.
AT&T shows what’s at stake in a blog post on two very closely related initiatives, one on the investment side and the other in the regulatory sphere, Building a Network for the 21st Century | AT&T Public Policy Blog. … Read the rest
Two recent posts on TechCrunch about tech industry efforts to influence and work with government deserve comment, because one clearly shows the right way to go while the other just as clearly exemplifies the wrong way. We’ll take them in time sequence, starting with how not to do things.
Three geeks go into a bar. Several drinks later, they determine that all it takes to solve the world’s problems is a new web site to crowdsource amendments to acts of Congress.
If you’ve been following technogeek efforts at leveraging the Web to magnify tech political influence for very long, you’ve heard this story several times. Larry Lessig, Tim Wu, and their cronies at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society have been on this mission since the turn of the century. They’ve been joined by the folks who believed blogs were going to change the world, such as the founders of Personal Democracy Forum and MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, an early investor in blogging platform Moveable Type. When congressman Darrell Issa wrote his alternative to SOPA, the OPEN Act … Read the rest
As this is a presidential election year, it’s not surprising that the the “silly season” of politics has been extended into the baseball playoffs. A group of political extremists organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has filed a complaint with the FCC over the privacy disclosures for an old consumer broadband measurement program. This isn’t the program that the Commission conducts every year with Sam Knows that leads to an annual report comparing actual broadband speeds to advertised ones, but to a program that was developed by the National Broadband Plan some three years ago to provide the team with a snapshot of performance.
The letter has me wondering whether the advocates: (a) Have just come out of a three year coma; and (b) Have any idea at all about how the Internet works. There are also some distortions of law that will slap attorneys in the face. Please read the letter, but sit down first so you don’t hurt yourself rolling on the floor laughing at its circular logic.
Like many government programs that collect information that might be considered personal and sensitive, the FCC’s broadband measurement program … Read the rest
The United Nations Broadband Commission’s new report, The State Of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion For All is worth a read for all broadband policy wonks. It highlights the benefits that Next-Generation Broadband Networks (NGN) bring to economies and to citizens, explores the value of mobility, and celebrates the dramatic progress that nations are making in bringing high speed, “always-on” connectivity to everyone. By the UN’s estimate, there are nearly 6 billion mobile devices in the world already, which exceeds the world’s over-14 population by a billion or so.
Roughly 80 per cent of these connections are narrowband (voice and text only,) so we still have a long way to go in terms of universal broadband. Wireline broadband connections to the home continue to increase worldwide as more people buy computers and carriers offer low-price plans with correspondingly low usage limits, and many carriers price broadband on a pre-paid basis to reach lower income groups. This strategy has worked for cellular quite effectively, so there’s little doubt it will work for wired broadband as well.
By the U. N.’s forecast, the market for machine-to-machine connections may be as high as … Read the rest
As required by the Sequestration Transparency Act, the White House released details about how the $120 billion in budget cuts would be applied if Congress does not stop the sequestration plan agreed to as part of the Budget Control Act. As the White House’s document makes clear, these budget cuts would have a dramatic impact on the budget of defense and non-defense programs, including many projects important for technology R&D, modernizing government, spurring clean energy innovation, and developing digital platforms. Many of these cuts will have a substantial impact on specific policy initiatives. For example, these cuts include $86 million in cuts to DHS’s information security program and $8 million in cuts to the Public Safety Trust Fund. It also includes $400 million in cuts to basic energy research as well as $23 million to high-risk, high-reward clean energy R&D at ARPA-E.
In terms of information technology (IT), these cuts include:
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – $62 million
Speaking of subsidies, there’s another really good example in the today of the conflict between the old and new subsidy models. The Rural Cellular Association, the small carriers’ lobbying group, pressed their case for handset subsidies at an event on the Hill today. They’re formed a new front group called The Interoperability Alliance. If they have their way, handsets will become larger, slower, more expensive, and heavier for the 70% of Americans who have the poor taste to buy cellular service from the two largest carriers:
The alliance wants to pressure the FCC to adopt rules that would mandate a single technology in the 700 MHz band of radio spectrum. AT&T’s cell towers use a different technology in the frequency band, meaning their network is not interoperable with many devices.
As we explained in an FCC filing and our recent report on spectrum policy, the “interoperability” that the group seeks has three actual effects:
- It makes the low-cost spectrum licenses that RCA members bought for the lower 700 MHz band more valuable.
A raft of stories in the press today focus on the limited deployment of Google’s fiber network in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star highlights the plight of students at schools with high Internet content and slow connections:
[The Central Academy of Excellence,] with its overwhelmed Internet connection, sits in a neighborhood lagging well behind the pre-registrations Google requires to light up its cutting-edge Web access.
“It’s not fair,” said Mona Price, Central’s dean of instruction. “It’s not fair to the kids in urban settings who are trying to get an education.”
Many of the schools, libraries and poorest neighborhoods given first shot at drawing Google’s ultra-fast Internet service look in danger of missing out on Kansas City’s digital revolution.