Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Larry Lessig comments on Barack Obama

While the text on this video is as annoying as the MTV "hand-held camera" effect, the points that Larry Lessig makes here are spot-on!

Integrity matters.

Lessig endorses Obama

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fiddling (with numbers) On the Titanic

In recent testimony before Congress, CWA President Larry Cohen made the case that the average broadband download speed in the US is only 1.9 megabits per second, compared to 61 Mbps in Japan, 45 Mbps in South Korea, 18 Mbps in Sweden, and 17 Mpbs in France.

Another report came out recently stating that when combining so-called broadband penetration (lovely term!) with subscribers and price per household, the US is 12th in the world rather than 15th.

While I admire the desire to drill down into the details, no matter how you count the lifeboats, the fact is the Titanic is still going down. Unless we wake up and realize how critical the Net has become to every facet of society, including our economy, we will wake up in icy waters instead.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Life as Conversation

Too often interactions with politicians are framed by the conventions of battle: one interest group versus another, campaigns waged, etc. In a refreshing departure from that approach, the Swedish Urban Network Association sent an open letter to the Swedish government to start a dialog on the future of open networks. I think this is a great example of how Doc's "Markets are conversations" can be extended to Life is a conversation!

Open letter to the politicians and decision makers of Sweden from the Swedish Urban Network Association (The Swedish Urban Network Association, SSNf, is the Swedish
trade association for urban net owners with open and neutral communication nets)

Open urban net – a prerequisite for Sweden of the future

Approximately 170 local authorities today have an open urban net solution.
The issue now is: How to guarantee a broadband development in Sweden advantageous to all of us.
Do we want a country where you can lead a life both in the cities and on the countryside, still accessing the same offer of electronic services?
Do we want to grant the opportunities for local and creative small entrepreneurs?
Do we want one IT infrastructure supplier being responsible for both cities and countryside?
Do we want a truly open digital society?
If so it is a simple choice: We should continue the open urban net venture
In order to make Sweden successful in granting access for everyone to broadband, a broadband strategy has to have the support of all the main participants of the business.
Openness and durability are the critical issues in parallel with topics as local and regional development. The future of open nets, based on a reliable infrastructure, will offer entirely new opportunities to a variety of entrepreneurs and business owners to share the NEW and UP TO DATE electronic world of broadband as we see ahead.

Sweden an example in the EU
The extension of the new IT infrastructure of Sweden in most Swedish local districts has so far been driven by local council initiatives. The openness has been obvious in these nets, since they have been built in order to develop the local and regional trade and industry as well as the society.
The model used by a majority of the Swedish urban nets, is the one recommended by the EU as the model to be employed by the EU to achieve an open and sustainable IT infrastructure for everyone. These open urban nets have paved the way and secured a lead position for Sweden among the broadband nations of the world.
The main obstacle for Sweden and the Nordic countries is that we cover a large part of the European surface, however, with few inhabitants. In spite of this, a vast number of the Swedish local councils and urban net enterprises have shouldered – as is the situation in the rest of the Nordic countries – the responsibility to build an open and sustainable IT infrastructure adapted to local conditions in each local district or region. The urban nets have taken on a social responsibility, which the market often neither has wanted, nor been able to accomplish.
Together with our members and the majority of the main participants of the broadband market, we are now working on an open IT infrastructure on all levels in the whole of Sweden. If we are to achieve the broadband-for-everyone objective, joint action is a must – not laws, regulations and directive from the Swedish government or the EU.

Ulf Borbos, chairman, The Swedish Urban Network Association
Mats Berggren, deputy chairman
Lars Hedberg, secretary-general

Perhaps we could use this as an example for a much needed discussion in this country. Bonus Link

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Step Right Up

This post requires a little background music: Tom Waits doing "Step Right Up". I cant help but hear him rasping out that song when I read these words from chairman Martin:

broadband-wireless services need to be 'on the same footing' as wired high-speed-Internet services from cable and telephone companies.

It’s going to be important for consumers to develop that third broadband pipe as a competitor to DSL [digital subscriber line] and cable.
If only he meant that as it reads -- *consumers* developing the third broadband pipe -- we would have reason to cheer (and forgive the paternalistic use of the word "consumers"). Alas, that would be a mis-read of what is being said. Of course, the intent is to portray the FCC as looking out for the interests of consumers by ensuring that there is a third pipe in the broadband arena. One can only hope that it turns out to be the third rail and it knocks some sense into this carnival sideshow.

Martin went on to say that wireless-broadband Internet-access service will be treated as an information service under the Communications Act of 1934. What a great idea! Let's take a developing communications technology and subject it to legislation that was passed at a time when electricity was the new modern convenience. Martin goes on to say it is "critical" that broadband-wireless services receive "the same lighter regulatory treatment as other information services." The purpose of this anachronistic move becomes clear when put in the context of the upcoming wireless spectrum auction.

In case the subtlety is lost on anyone, Martin spells it out:
Martin said the biggest priority for the FCC in 2007 on the wireless front will be getting the procedures in place to auction off that spectrum in a timely and equitable manner. "Getting the government out of the way, in that sense, is the most important thing we can do."
Ring any Bells? Only one? Exactly.

But it gets worse.
Not only is he harkening back to the day when MaBell ruled like something out of the Matrix, but he is looking to avoid anything that might impose universal service.

Martin suggested that the FCC needs to examine universal-service policies "to make sure we’re not funding yesterday’s technologies.”
That's rich. Let's use 1939 communications policy, but at the same time, let's not get bogged down in anything as anachronistic as ensuring universal access.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Market Equilibrium

Commons-based peer production according to Benkler, is not a victory of the left. It is rather an eqilibrium between market actors and non-market actors. He ended with the remark that leaving economic systems to the capitalist market alone is unforgivable.

That's from a synopsis by Trebor Scholz of a talk Yochai Benkler gave at Eyebeam last year.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Opposite of the Tragedy of the Commons

In what is decidedly the opposite of a tragedy of the commons (euphoria of the commons?), the COMMONS project has published its official report. Congratulations Sascha and kc! What a tremendous and exciting effort!

Here is a snippet from the report that captures the essence of the COMMONS project:

Through discussion, debate, and compromise, COMMONS Strategy Workshop participants consented unanimously on the following shared Statement of Purpose:


... a community of interest comprised of local networks, broadly defined, who seek to:

  • utilize a AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) neutral communications infrastructure,
  • mitigate geographic disparities in the cost of Internet access and wide-area network connectivity,
  • enable competitive environment in the connectivity market,
  • benefit from economies of scale, and
  • realize a vision for ownership in an open, universal and scalable backbone infrastructure.

... a community of network operators who:

  • recognize that the future usefulness and security of the Internet depends upon the availability of empirical network data,
  • support the availability of that empirical data to the academic research community, and
  • insist that the data collected and utilized be handled in a manner respectful of personal privacy.

....a community of interest of people who seek to exchange ideas on, and devote resources to, a wide variety of common interests in furtherance of the objectives stated above, including:

  • approaches to social problems that leverage innovative technology and business strategies,
  • political, legal, and regulatory strategies, and
  • community networking.

I'll be writing more on the COMMONS project soon, but for more details, read the whole report, or visit the project page at Caida.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Net Devolution

It's sad to consider how much creativity is wasted re-creating the past. For example, radio was "theatre" brought into your living room, and television was "radio with pictures". Now we have netTV. Wired has a piece on the latest hot topic, the "Venice Project". Brought to you by the same folks who brought you Skype, the Venice Project (or "Joost" as it will become named), delivers all the content you could wish for, at the price everyone wants: free.

What's the catch?

Not much really -- just a customer relationship the likes of which you've never seen before.
In fact, this is such a DEEP relationship that the Surgeon-General advises you bend over, grab your ankles and take a very deep breath!
From the Wired article:

"The key in the past was volume and frequency," says Clark. "Now it's going to be quality."

One of the Leiden crew's top priorities is a backend ad engine that can pinpoint viewers by location, time of day, viewing habits, and opt-in profile information to serve up a perfect ad. Developed by open source geeks in privacy-centric Europe, the central database doesn't store any identifying data. Personal information is stored only on the user's own PC. Clark, the ad sales chief, is happy to blue-sky the possibilities: "Buy all the Desperate Housewives viewers in a zip code. Or the first thing a given viewer watches on a given day."

In theory, that kind of control will make the network much more valuable to advertisers. "We offer targeting they've never dreamed about in the TV world," says Werdelin. "And a deeper relationship with customers. Not just deeper than TV, but deeper than most of what you get on the Net. I don't think anyone really knows what those things are worth."
I don't know about you, but I'm certainly relieved to know this double-deep relationship is being stored on my PC!

All cynicism aside, haven't these folks learned anything from the Net? Do they have to be run over by Cluetrain before they get that "perfect ad" brain cramp knocked out of them? Is this why we're fighting for Net Neutrality?

It's natural to want to roll the most powerful aspects of one medium forward into the new medium. But let's leave the unnecessary baggage behind.

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