Writings and Musings
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The Office of Connectivity Advocacy 05-Dec-2008
PDFWe need a connectivity advocate as part of a proactive agenda to assure connectivity and provide our economy with new opportunities. The Internet isn't a telecom service so we're not going to get there by fixing telecom. Instead we need a fresh start that can find value in our existing infrastructure and take the lead in providing new opportunity.
Becoming an Internet Native 21-Nov-2008
Become an Internet native is about more than seeing it as the "e-" version of the familiar. It is a chance to rethink the basic design of systems and see new opportunities.
The Internet and Opportunity 04-Nov-2008
We need to get past the very corrosive idea that the Internet works because the carriers know what's best for us. It's just the opposite -- it works despite their efforts. But as we see in this response to my further comments those who defend the carriers seem to find it necessary to attack the messenger rather than the message -- after all they insist they own the message.
The ITU vs The Internet 13-Sep-2008
Sometimes policy goals and engineering realities are in conflict as is evidenced in talk of the ITU requiring protocols supporting traceability.
Re: Do the Happy Dance people... strike 3 and you're out 01-Sep-2008
Comcast simply doesn't get it. They lie to the FCC about what they are doing and they promulgate arbitrary and seeming perverse policies. At some point we need to call them out. What if Comcast Transport and Comcast Content were separate companies. What if it had to follow the same rules as the rest of us?
Time to understand accounting rather than just bookkeeping V2 30-Aug-2008
It's useful to think of telecom industry in terms of accounting. Real accounting gives us measures used to guide decision making and set policy. Today's telecom is based on measures antithetical to the dynamic that is the Internet and one result is that the more connectivity we have the more the measures our out of kilter.
Re: OPEC 2.0 -- Barrels vs Bandwidth 30-Jul-2008
We need to be careful about our analogies. Bandwidth is a measure and not a resource in itself. If we have bandwidth based pricing we create constrictions that limit our ability to connect and communicate.
We didn't need all that DRM after all?? 29-Jul-2008
It's encouraging to see P2P usage is down while getting content from original sources is increasing. While there may be value in controlling content we don't need the extreme control inherent in controlling the path from the source all the way to the screen.
The Carriers' Perspective 24-Jul-2008
If we are to understand the issues behind the controversy over network neutrality we need to understand the carriers perspective. They are stuck with a business model that depends on sharing in the value generated using their wires. This puts them in conflict with the Internet and the creation of value using the network but outside the network. I a could argue that the carriers should've known better and that we paid for much of the infrastructure but better to encourage moving forward than being vindictive.
Cellular Scare -- byte caps extreme 22-Jul-2008
With all the talk about "byte caps" it's useful to look at what happens when you exceed your cellular minutes or, far worse, you pay for data by the byte. A simple error of being on the wrong plan could result in a $1000 charge for a $50 ... or worse.
The efforts to do good often come at a price. Even more problematic then the real agenda is different as in trying to limit the Internet because it spread ideas and not all are "good".
getting to be interesting -- a scarcity-creating model 15-Jun-2008
When looking at economic models it's important to question the premises as well as the model. A clever model shouldn't lead us to accept false premises. Congestion pricing decreases supply when value comes from scarcity. (Note typo at end -- I meant to say increasing capacity is more efficient than managing scarcity)
The ID Divide 09-Jun-2008
Once again a word, in this case "identity", makes it too easy talk about a complex concept without understanding what we don't understand.
Two Sides but Different Coins 26-May-2008
I applaud the call for civility in the debate over Internet policy issues vs telecom interests but there aren't two sides of a debate -- we have two different dynamics. The Internet is about creating solutions independent of what's in the middle. Telecom is all about what's in the middle. We need to come to terms with this fundamental difference if we are to have a productive discussion.
Network Neutrality: It's not just Common Carriage and Antirust 14-May-2008
I wrote this essay after a complex legal discussion about this history of common-carriage and antitrust and how it applies to telecom policy and antitrust. As I've written, those policies make sense when we are taking about Railroads. If we want to talk about the Internet we need to question precedents based on premises that no longer make sense.
Achieving Connectivity from the Edge 13-Mar-2008 (Updated: 14-May-2008
Very simply the Internet is about relationships that are independent of the path and intermediaries. This is what makes it easy to create new value and our own solutions. The telecom industry is just the opposite - it's all about making sure intermediaries can charge a fee even if they not only don't create new value but work hard to prevent it.
GIOVE-B Transmitting its First Signals 13-May-2008
Getting more sources of location information is good but we need to more than rely on satellites. If we are to get the benefits of knowing the location of device and people we need better protocols and better availability of the data even when satellites are not directly visible.
How carriers mismanage traffic and then blame us 22-Apr-2008
We need to be careful to avoid getting so focused on the problems in trying to repurpose a content delivery system as peer infrastructure that we forget that it's a transient problem. If start by assuming a common infrastructure and then remove the bottlenecks we'll find we have abundant capacity at a very low cost.
South Park says it better 21-Apr-2008
This episode parodies the popular notion that the Internet is something that can crash. Perhaps more telling is the meta-message -- they very idea that I can simply give you a URL to a TV show bypasses the entire broadcast and telecom infrastructure as if it added no value. Alas, you can't watch the show from outside the US as the infrastructure is used to limit the availability and value of the content (or to create artificial value through synthetic scarcity).
Re: how does one define "capacity" 20-Apr-2008
We typically think of capacity in terms of bits per second or a technical measure? But that misses the point - shouldn't we think of capacity in social terms or human terms such as the entertainment value we can deliver or the learning we do?
FCC: Moving Beyond Neutrality. 26-Feb-2008 (Updated: 15-Apr-2008
The FCC is holding hearings on "Network Management" in response to the concerns over network neutrality. I've been pleased to see that the FCC is taking steps to limit the carriers' practices but ultimately the problem of neutrality cannot be solved in isolation.
The basic problem is that service-based regulator system forces the carriers to take advantage of their control to finance their infrastructure. This is true whether we have a traditional phone company or a municipal system (a "muni-bell").
The FCC can play a positive role in removing the impediments to local ownership and work with the carriers to revisit divestiture but this time effect real restructuring so we can have a shared infrastructure.
FW: [IP] Comcast HD Quality Reduction: Details, Screenshots - AVS Forum 02-Apr-2008
Dividing a common medium into separate paths decreases effective capacity as we see with Comcast resorting to compression to fit more channels into their broadband pipes. It's difficult to add compression as an after-the-fact solution. We can indeed compress video signals if we due sufficient computation but it requires stepping back from the isochronous streaming constraint of traditional television.
Re: Comcast increasing compression of some HD sources 02-Apr-2008
Our fixation on speed as the primary measure of "broadband" value we've lost sight of the importance of connectivity itself. In turn we look to something we can do with speed -- video. In particular HDTV. Yet even for video innovation is far more important than arbitrary standards. It's as if we confused typing speed with the ability to write and think. Speed is easy – we should be demanding ubiquitous (wireless) connectivity rather than more 1950's style TV.
Re: Hope for Wireless Cities. (revised for clarity) 31-Mar-2008
Another perspective on how the Internet isn't an improved version of traditional telecom. Internetworking is a pragmatic approach do creating our own solutions. We need to be careful to avoid confusing the bits with their meaning – the problem is not in the network but in ourselves. Given this confusion it's useful to look at the premise that HD is just about lots of bits at high speed. This focus on technical measures misses the point of television as entertainment for humans. It's as if we confused the ability to type with the ability to tell a compelling story.
Re: Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out 28-Mar-2008
This is part of an ongoing attempt to explain how the Internet is very different from the traditional telecom view of the world. Many efforts to provide local connectivity, including municipal Wi-Fi are simply local version of traditional carriers (I use the term muni-bell). I wrote about this in WiFi Edge. This goes into more detail in responding to counter-arguments.
Re: Economics is Dismal 22-Mar-2008
When you listen to economists you must examine the presumptions. We shouldn't accept a dismal conclusion based on the presumption of scarcity when know that measures like bandwidth are arbitrary and don't represent the potential capacity available.
Re: Competition 01-Mar-2008
Maybe we need a new term "natural commons" for cases where it's hard to have competing exclusive ownership but we want to encourage everyone to contribute.
BS and FCC v Us and Comcast v ATT 16-Feb-2008
The carriers' network management policies seem to belie their claims of a crisis. There is not consensus that there is a long term problem. Instead their short term strategies highlight the fundamental problem -- they are managing their network rather than fulfilling their mission of serving our communities. The problem isn't a question of network management - it's about whose network they are managing.
NN is about users, not providers! 15-Feb-2008
Focusing too much on the plight of small ISPs or even large ones misses the point of the Network Neutrality debate. It's not about how they manage the networks -- it's about our ability to communicate without having to serve the business needs of providers we are forced to use.
Re: "Deep Packet Inspection" Trade Group 12-Feb-2008
The idea that you must peek at every packet to determine how to handle it misses the point of the Internet. Unfortunately such assumptions go unquestioned by many of those who see telecommunications from a network-centric perspective.
That Olde Tyme Broadband -- again. 01-Feb-2008
Another demand for more broadband. Inarticulate rage has risks. Broadband is just a package the Internet comes in. And it comes despite the package not because of it! It's a testament to the power of the ideas behind the Internet that we can get value even though the very idea of telecommunications is dysfunctional -- the more we get the less viable the carrier business is.
Imagine no FCC 30-Jan-2008
Imagine a world without the FCC and without a telecommunications industry. How would we communicate? The FCC is supposed to assure we can communicate but instead has become agency that has assured scarcity rather than abundance.
Re: Regulating the Invisible Hand: A Contradiction? 17-Jan-2008
We must be careful when talking about (de)regulation to recognize when we are trying to manage the results vs. managing a dynamic that we can't fully control. What we can do is try to prevent obvious dysfunctional behavior (as we see with telecom) and find a balance between cooperation and collusion that frustrates marketplace dynamics.
Re: [ NNSquad ] Richard Bennett on Comcast and Fairness (from IP) 14-Jan-2008
A good engineer works within the constraints given -- a great engineer questions the constraints and gets fired because the constraints serve a policy need higher than mere science or reality.
One can argue about Comcast's approach but far more important to question the constraints and focus on making the inherent abundance available to all.
Re: Your Thermostats or Your Life! 13-Jan-2008
The real lesson of the Internet in understanding how to create distributed solutions. Too bad we still try to impose arbitrary "intelligent" solutions rather than working with dynamic marketplaces that can evolve.
Net Neutrality vs Moral Court 12-Jan-2008
The very idea of that a network provider gets to decide what the nature of our communications is problematic (and offensive). It's not simply a matter of treating everyone equally because still leaves the measure in the hands of carriers whose arbitrary assumptions cannot be challenged. We needn't settle for "equally bad".