Archive for September 2009

Sign the Net Neutrality Petition

1.6 million people, as of now, have already signed the petition supporting net neutrality organized by the Free Press.

I have.

You should too.

The simple fact is the the telcos do not need to violate net neutrality except to support closed, innovation-starving networks and business models.

Next Steps in the Stimulus

Anna Gomez, NTIA deputy administrator and deputy assistant secretary for communications and information, provided an important update in the stimulus schedule at a PCIA Wireless Infrastructure keynote, according to Fierce Wireless.

She said that grants for round one should be awarded in November, rules changed shortly after, and the new applications will be received by “late winter” which could be as late as February.

However, the best applications will be those that are ready early, so I recommend that anyone who wants to work on round two start collecting the data they need and making plans right now.

In addition, it’s still unclear as to whether there will be two rounds or three rounds in the stimulus.

Continue reading ‘Next Steps in the Stimulus’ »

Advice on Phone Bill Pricing

Found some excellent advice on phone bill pricing from User Centric.

The most basic piece of advice, one that everyone should know, is here:

Two 6 second calls, each at 6 cents per minute:

11% USF with 60 second initial costs 6.66 cents
6% USF with 6 second initial costs 0.63 cents.

This is 10 times the price!

ARRIS Believes in VOD

Cable Equipment maker ARRIS (NASDAQ: ARRS) yesterday acquired DVR maker Digeo, maker of Moxi set-top boxes. The price was $20 million in cash, but Digeo also brings over 70 employees and quarterly R&D budget requirements of $3 million, making this an investment that will require more cash. paidContent estimates that Paul Allen had invested over $110 million in the company, which had 280 employees in 2005.

The Moxi boxes include an intruguing social networking content sharing feature.

While some are asking whether free services such as Hulu will break the cabletelco dream of earning cash through premium television and movie services, ARRIS is clearly one provider that believes there’s a future in the TV and movie business on the internet.

As always happens when a company invests in its vision of the future, the stock declined since the announcement. Investors always prefer short term coupon clipping to actual management.

Barron’s reported that analyst Lawrence Harris of C.L. King likes the new market but warned that ARRIS will face tough competition from Cisco and Motorola.

DRM: Unnecessary, Expensive, Broken

“Academic criticism of DRM and the entertainment community’s enthusiasm for it are two debates that have run on parallel tracks for some time,” Wendy Seltzer, Law professor at the University of Colorado’s Law School, Berkman fellow, and board member of Tor, told me today.

“Policy makers bow to the entertainment companies without listening to academic concerns.”

One such academic paper is “Digital rights management: Desirable, inevitable, and almost irrelevant,” (available here in .pdf format), a three page screed published in 2007.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) software is designed to make it impossible to copy and share songs, movies, software, and other products which, because they are digital, can be distributed virtually for free.

Not all academic research opposes DRM, Odlyzko said, precisely because DRM is complex. “There are all these nobs to turn, so you can produce lots of PhD theses and conference papers,” he wrote to me in an e-mail.

Continue reading ‘DRM: Unnecessary, Expensive, Broken’ »

NYPIRG Demands Accountability in Stimulus Mapping

Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge first sounded the alarm about Connected Nation at the start of 2009, saying the organization was connected to Kentucky’s Republican governor and to telephone company lobbyists, enabling it to charge the state $400,000 and then make the state do the work.

More recently, Brodsky claimed that bids were rigged in Connected Nation’s favor in the state of Florida, arguing that there was no other explanation why the highest bidder won a broadband mapping contract.

Maps are important. They show where the government should invest money. They say who has broadband and who does not. If the maps are drawn by the phone companies, they could direct stimulus money only to the areas they don’t care about, bypassing wealthy areas they would like to deliver service to but have not yet built out.

Today, NYPIRG is calling out such policies. In its report (available in .pdf format here), NYPIRG says, “Contracts or grants to map data … must include requirements
that the mapping entity disclose any financial or other relationships to broadband providers. If data are self reported by a broadband provider and not independently verified, that should be disclosed and the data should not be considered accurate until independently verified.”

The report does not specifically name Connected Nation, but readers understand that’s the problem that’s addressed by this recommendation — a recommendation that is so obvious that it should not have to be said.

The report contains a massive number of other good ideas, endorsing structural separation, better data collection, an internet literacy curriculum and more.

NYPIRG’s report is a masterpiece.

OneWebDay Speech: What Broadband Is And Why We Need It

Today is OneWebDay and around the world, people will be celebrating the internet and drawing attention to the digital divide. Events will be held around the world, including here in New York City, where several speakers will talk about freedom and the internet.

On Saturday, I spoke at a related event, talking about What Broadband Is And Why We Need It. I argued that broadband is not a luxury.

What is Broadband?

Broadband is faster than dialup, and the speed enables not just convenience but entirely new applications. I like to compare it to the diffrence between a phone call and the telegraph. The telegraph was patented in the U.S. in 1837, while the telephone was patented almost forty years later.

With a phone call, you get direct contact, intimacy, and the ability to ask and answer questions immediately. The telephone does more than transmit data faster than the telepgraph.

In order to use broadband for real time applications, it needs to have low latency. Just as a phone call on earth is different than a phone call to the space shuttle, applications that encounter latency break or degrade in quality.

Continue reading ‘OneWebDay Speech: What Broadband Is And Why We Need It’ »

Bandwidth Pricing as I Understand It

I’ve covered the internet for over nine years, but I still don’t completely understand why and how the internet is priced and traded.

To the extent that the internet can be broken down into pieces that are local, regional, national, and international, the parts that serve more people are cheaper than the parts that serve fewer people. There is less competition on local routes, and far less demand on a per bit basis.

In this area, the internet is like air travel, with main routes offering more frequent service at a lower price, and service to remote areas being more expensive or even unavailable.

The internet can also be described as a series of vertical services, from the actual hardware connection all the way up to the protocols that sustain your connection to this website. The most used model describes 7 layers but for the purposes of this discussion, three layers suffice: hardware, routing, and services.

Hardware only (dark fiber) is cheaper than hardware plus routing (lit fiber) which, in turn, is cheaper than services.

Continue reading ‘Bandwidth Pricing as I Understand It’ »

Hughes Applies for $650 Million

In three applications, satellite provider Hughes Network Systems has applied for about $650 million to serve “all rural and rural remote unserved and underserved areas in the U.S.”

Satellite broadband is a special case. Although it can reach virtually anywhere in the U.S. — to any place from which you can see the Southern sky — it has unique flaws.

Satellite signals are transmitted over a sufficiently long distance to introduce latency, a delay of almost a full second that can degrade or even break some applications — especially those employing voice.

I don’t believe that 10 percent of the stimulus should be spent on delivering this lower quality service. Instead, I hope that the stimulus will be spent on delivering the same quality of service to rural areas that is currently enjoyed in wealthy areas of the United States.

I do see a limited use for satellite. There is an application from Motorbrain Consulting, Inc. of Lincoln, Maine, to deliver satellite service to 3,400 homes that have no other option, free to the customer, for 2 years, at a cost of $ 5,571,784. That’s less than $100 per home per month, and seems reasonable.

The state of Maine is mountainous and heavily forested, making it difficult (but not impossible) to bring wireless or fiber service to many homes. I think that Motorbrain’s application has merit.

Some Broadband Stimulus Information Redacted

The Stimulus grant requests are in, and a complete listing is available here.

Parts of some applications have been redacted. For example, parts of the executive summary of a $150 million + proposal from Hughes Network Systems, available here in .pdf format, are blacked out.

This appears to violate the promised accountability and tranparency of the stimulus.

I am looking into this and am eager for comments and links.