State of the Union Keeps Broadband On Front Burner

Obama is the tech president.  He’s the guy that finally got a Blackberry into the White House after all.  And gadget nerds and tech geeks will always remain true to their hearts even if they do become president.  So that being said it is no surprise that Obama made sure that America’s broadband strategy, or lack there of, was given a shout out.  SiliconAngle picked up my post from Digital Society on the issue today.  You can read about my thoughts on the Presidents comments at either of those sites.

-nick

Why Not Bail Out Buggywhip Makers?

I’m a little behind the times on this one- I had National Guard duty this past weekend- but late last week Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) supported the idea of bailing out newspapers. As a guy who likes newspapers- you know, printed instead of online- I sympathize with the fact that newspapers are going out of business quickly. Unfortunately for my personal desires, that is part of the beauty of creative destruction. As we improve technology, we eliminate inefficiencies in our system, and that is what newspapers increasingly represent.

There is some argument that losing newspapers would lose the generally quality, in-depth reporting that papers pride themselves on. After all, blogs and other online media are not generally renowned for their quality of reporting or in-depth research; they have other strengths, instead. That said, Huffington Post, Fox News, CNN, The Foundry, CNS News and many other sites and news sources are doing a good job of changing that stereotype through hard-hitting reporting, opinions and interviews. As advertising swings more and more online, I suspect old-fashioned reporters will be doing their fine reporting online instead of on paper more and more often. Best of all, they will be able to do it without the government’s money hanging over their heads, subtly or not-so-subtly influencing every decision that is made.

One other flaw with Waxman’s argument: ?There needs to be a consensus within the media industry and the larger community it serves? before the government acts, Waxman said. ?We have to figure out together how to preserve that kind of reporting.? Which media industry will he stop at? The television industry? The online industry? Talk radio? Newspapers? Magazines? Movies? Pornography? Mixed Martial Arts? CNN’s IReporter? If you bail out one, you open the floodgates to bail out the rest. Who’s to say The Economist is more important to society than Sports Illustrated? Both have large readerships, after all, and both represent industries worth billions to the American economy. They provide valuable news to America’s citizens.

Huffington Post has written numerous pieces this year alone defending the value they bring to news and decrying people like Rupert Murdoch for not adjusting to what consumers want. As much as I hate to say it, its writers are correct. Print newspapers provide news a day late, they update once a day and they are just one more thing to carry. Given their support for environmental legislation such as cap-and-trade and fuel standards, liberals such Waxman should be ecstatic that this is happening. Going online saves trees, lowers emissions from vehicles and saves on printing press use (though the servers would need electricity, which causes some harm), among others. The argument that going online will cause harm to our republic is a false one- who says online sources can’t (or don’t, or won’t) continue to use professional journalists? The transition is from print to online- news is still news, though to be fair Americans prefer shorter, less detailed news articles than we used to. But that has been happening even before Twitter and blogs became household names.

Net Neutrality Astroturfs Pushing Hard

In the resent weeks AT&T has been at the forefront of some curious decisions. They along with Apple have prevented companies like Slingbox from placing Apps on the iPhone that would stream video over 3G, but then allowed Major League Baseball, whom they have close ties, to introduce an application that would stream live baseball games. Then this week came the news that Apple and AT&T denied a Google Voice app from being placed on the iPhone that would allow users to use the app for VoIP calls or cheap international calls, which may have been part of the reason that Google’s Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board.? The Google application is similar to Skype, but the currently available Skype app can only be used on WiFi.

The various incidents brought clamors of Net Neutrality violations back into public lime light. An area of concern usually focused on traditional Internet networks. The situation brings up new questions about what networks should be allowed to manage packet delivery in the world of the “end-to-end principle” and whether a company should be allowed to control the applications available on its networks. The cell industry is a new realm for this debate, and the questions surfacing may be hard to tackle. A company like Apple and AT&T who are selling a product and service in this particular arena may have a decent claim that certain applications usurp their business model on the very thing they are selling and negate their ability to generate revenue. Cell phone companies have traditionally operated in models that are essentially silos. But the ever evolving nature of the phone market place essentially putting tiny computers, rather than simply stand alone phones in consumers’ pockets is opening questions pertaining to consumer rights.

In what has to be the worst timing possible for Apple and AT&T’s antics was the introduction of the Internet Preservation Act of 2009 by Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) on July 31st. The situation certainly is causing the drum beat for the bill to be loud and clear. But who is beating that drum and why?

Some of the major groups pushing for Net Neutrality include The New America Foundation, a group heavily backed by Google who also retains Google’s CEO as its chairman. Lobbying operations that receive money from Google including FreePress, SavetheInternet.com, Public Knowledge, and Media Access Project are also heavily engaged. Additionally, Lawrence Lessig, whom I have great admiration for but disagree with his Net Neutrality stance is a hard charger in this area and also backed by Google.

So why is Google so interested in Net Neutrality as law and especially at the width and breadth of this new bill when Google VP Vint Cerf was quoted as saying,

A lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive.

There are probably a variety of reasons. One may be that Google can simply speed up their traffic and avoid the end-to-end principle by edge caching. Essentially they make deals with telecos to place their servers all over the country (and world) and can deliver the data as cache speeding up the transfer of bits to the end user. Cache isn’t considered “network management” by most standards and therefore their bits travel faster while they pour money all over regulation that will prevent anyone else from having their Internet traffic be able to keep up.

Additionally, while Net Neutrality advocates claim that the current situation causes barriers to entry into the broadband marketplace for new broadband companies and technologies, the argument in reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Five years ago this was a decent argument. Today, new options are cropping up all over the country. And in a few years time, most consumers in metro areas should have at minimum five choices. My home town of Atlanta currently has seven plus options for high-speed broadband access at the moment, from copper, fiber, and satellite to WiMax with Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) soon to follow suit as well. But with government controlling broadband, and creating regulation for how companies manage their networks, the entry barriers will more than likely only worsen.

As Tim Lee puts it,

New regulations inevitably come with unintended consequences. Indeed, today’s network neutrality debate is strikingly similar to the debate that produced the first modern regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission. Unfortunately, rather than protecting consumers from the railroads, the ICC protected the railroads from competition by erecting new barriers to entry in the surface transportation marketplace. Other 20th-century regulatory agencies also limited competition in the industries they regulated. Like these older regulatory regimes, network neutrality regulations are likely not to achieve their intended aims. Given the need for more competition in the broadband marketplace, policymakers should be especially wary of enacting regulations that could become a barrier to entry for new broadband firms.

And along with barriers for entry in regards to new ISP’s, it may also create barriers for entry for new ideas like new advertising models. This may be another reason why Google and its lobbyist are pushing hard for this bill. [Make no mistake, Google is an advertising company, not a search company.] Additionally it could create barriers for entry for new technologies and services in the ISP market. The Internet is still in its infancy. While it has reached a point where the average user probably does not remember life without it, it is still a growing, evolving beast. What we imagine is not possible or that no one would be interested in today may be laughable tomorrow. The future of the Internet may become a customizable personal experience where individuals may specifically choose an ISP that is solely built for a specific purpose.

What if for instance Limelight Networks, a content delivery service for the likes of Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft’s Xbox Live, Sony’s Playstation Network, and Netflix decided they would create last-mile networks instead of simply connecting to a last-mile network? This would provide end users connected to the service the ability to have all time sensitive content like high definition movies, music delivery, downloadable content, and online gaming priority over non-time sensitive content like email or casual Internet surfing. The possibility of product specific entertainment oriented high speed networks is absolutely not out of the question for the future of the Internet.? But if this bill passes, things like this would no longer have only the current barriers of entry, they would have additionally have the government to determine entry.

As Richard Bennett, a network architect who has testified before the FCC, describes it,

In its essence, the Internet is a resource contention system that should, in most cases, resolve competing demands for bandwidth in favor of customer perception and experience. When I testified at the FCC’s first hearing on network management practices last February, I spent half my time on this point and all other witnesses agreed with me: applications have diverse needs, and the network should do its best to meet all of them. That’s what we expect from a multi-purpose network, after all.

Net Neutrality backers are currently scarred that ISP’s will take advantage of them in some way. But the free market traditionally has a way of correcting itself. James G. Lakely, managing editor of Infotech & Telecom News and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute recently argued in the The Bulletin in favor of the free market when it comes to the Internet,

The ordered chaos of market forces may scare those who don’t understand it. But the market is efficient, quickly responsive to the needs and wants of consumers, and in the proper sense of the word free.

This couldn’t be better stated. Neutrality proponents love to point out situations like last April’s fiasco with Time Warner Cable’s move to metered billing. And they continue to harp on the issue to this day as a reason to enforce Net Neutrality. But what happened in that case? The market reacted with grand outcry. [More than likely because they didn’t understand it, and the truth is that metered billing would probably save 95% of broadband Internet users a huge chunk of change.] Within days of the outcry, TWC pulled the plug. The market didn’t want it, and the company responded to the market.

Which ultimately begs the question, will the government react in only days if the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 has a negative market impact? If the 60 year period between updates of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 is any example, we’re in for trouble. Trouble that will only allow for other countries to continue passing us by in broadband innovation and delivery.

-nick

More Gateway Neutrality

News outlets are reporting today that recipients of grant monies from the Broadband Expansion portion of the Stimulus Act will be forced to implement Net Neutrality regulation into networks built on these grants as ruled today by the Obama Administration.

I first divulged this in an article on OpenMarket.org back in January.? And to quote myself, I had stated that,

The issue here is that it doesn?t matter if the FCC or the Fed can regulate net neutrality on the grand scale right now, the recipient of these grant funds will be legally bound to adhere to the FCC policy statement implementing net neutrality and establishing open networks.? After that, the fix is in.? One or more publicly funded networks would exist running under regulated and enforced net neutrality principles.? A few years later, legislation will be introduced again to mandate net neutrality in all U.S. networks.?? Backers of the legislation will refer to the networks built under the stimulus plan pointing out how flawlessly they are running, and how neutrality principles have provided for that condition because the FCC can watch dog the network.

Furthermore, I reported in March that companies like Verizon and AT&T were potentially not going to apply for grants for this very reason,

This reluctance to accept government funding shows that major ISPs realize that acceptance of stimulus funds puts them squarely under the FCC Network Neutrality principles.?? These principles could bleed into the other networks?such as Verizon?s FiOS TV or AT&T?s U-Verse?that these large Internet players own. ? Meaning this policy would be the camel?s nose under the tent.

Adding that,

Molly Peterson of Bloomberg News confirms that big ISPs realize the danger associated with accepting recovery funds:

AT&T, Verizon and Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable provider, say the rules are unwarranted and would hinder their ability to manage congestion on networks they have spent billions to build.

So while this was bound to happen, I guess one could say that it’s a sure thing now.? With only $7.2 Billion available for broadband expansion and those monies being distributed in amounts that will be paltry in comparison to what telecoms generally spend in network expansion, there is a real possibility here that avoiding government funding will actually benefit their bottom line rather than helping improve them.? These gateway stimulus fund drugs will inevitably find their way into regulating their own private networks if these companies are not weary.

-nick

Personal Democracy Forum: The Future of the Conservative Movement

I?m sitting in a bar.

These things must be qualified though, right?

So I?m sitting in a sports bar.? Sports bars are particular entities of the bar world in that they have televisions with sports playing on them while they serve the spirits of the normal bar.? This isn?t to say that normal bars don?t show sports on their televisions.? It just means that they are normally called something that starts with ?Mc? and they have fewer televisions.

This particular sports bar has a sponsor.? It?s a Fox Sports Bar.? Not to be confused as Fox, sports bar.? But rather it is a Fox Sports, bar.

Like I said, these things must be qualified.? Also not to be confused with quantified, which would be to essentially count something.? And I?m pretty sure there is only one of me here and there is only one Fox Sports, bar present at this time.? But that could change depending on the terminal.

Ah, yes.? I?m in a terminal.? Not conditionally, but in the transitional sense.? In this case transferring myself to a plan, which has now been delayed two hours.? If you thought to yourself, ?Bummer,? it was an understatement because I was already two hours early to the original flight.

Bummer.

So I?m sitting in a Fox Sports, bar, that resides in a terminal that is a part of an airport for which I am awaiting a plane to board which will take me to Atlanta four hours from now.

I?m involved in all of this because I have recently, at the point of this writing, left the Personal Democracy Forum Conference of the year 2009.? Following day one of the event I was certainly frustrated.? There were a number of reasons for this.? For one, which I?ve already mentioned, I was beleaguered by the progressive presence.? Yes, we are all tech people at this conference and we all want to talk about the influence of tech on politics.? But there are certain things that, while all of that is true, tech people on the left and right just don?t see eye to eye.

For instance, I do not want network neutrality regulated. Period.? Tech proponents of such a step are short sighted.? Talk to someone who manages a large infrastructure.? They will tell you that network management of packet transfer must take place.? Good luck with the regulated network neutrality Internet when your whole neighborhood is trying to get time sensitive streaming 1080p video across your network at the same time and we have locked in regulation that will take ages to alter.? In the spirit of Monty Python, ?I laugh in your general direction.?? Is network neutrality important?? Absolutely.? I will not argue that point.? But regulated neutrality is an entirely different beast.

But I digress.

Panelists were over heard making the following comments:

?This is what we need to do to see ?progressive? health care reform.?

?We need to pray to god for a hot summer to make people believe that global warming is real.?

?The ?Bush? recession.?

Additionally all our problems were blamed on the Bush Administration.? Obviously our current problems are entirely his fault, along with Batman, Darth Vader, and probably God.

My point in bringing this up is that if the objective of PDF is to study the convergence of politics and technology, then let?s do that.? It doesn?t necessitate bringing ideology into the mix.

I honestly believe that is what Andrew Rasiej and co-Founder Micah Sifry are trying to do.

I in no way believe there is an underlying motivation of promoting the ideals of the left.? And with that being said, heaps of praise must be bestowed on these two gentlemen for their fine work in putting together this conference since 2004.? It is interesting to consider the timing of this conference and the swelling online that began in Summer last year for Obama.? One must consider if more conservative presence (as in the attendees) was existent at last years event, how that may have altered the online dominance of the left during the election.? I don’t want to be ignorant enough to give PDF complete credit for what occurred.? But if 1000 people left the conference, and each one told 10 people, and those 10 people told 10 people…? You could see how easily the ball gets rolling.

The conference, all things considered, was a wonderful treat.? One that I would not have experienced without the Google Fellowship and PDF?s recognition of the work my fellow authors and I have done on this site, which I am of eternal gratitude.

The conference provided tremendous insight into developing web presence, establishing a bond and communication with your audience, and tools that can over night transform a site from drab to dapper.? The information of connecting with constituency and remodeling government websites to better connect and be more transparent with the citizenry is vital to the success of government in general and additionally vital to the revitalization of the GOP and conservatism in general.

This is a conversation that I hope more conservatives take more seriously and can join in on in the future.? It is no secret that the left ignored talk radio early on and allowed the center-right to take a dominating lead.? One that is irrecoverable for the left, as multiple failed attempts with Air America make astoundingly clear.? It should be very becoming very apparent to the right that if they ignore the convergence of technology and politics in the same arrogant manner that the left did to talk radio that at some point the strangle hold in the areas of internet technology and constituency connectivity will equally be unrecoverable.

Show stoppers:

Best Moment: Finally hearing Tara Hunt explain live and in her own words what ?Whuffie? is.? Equally great was getting to finally meet Tara after spending months Twitting with her.

Worst Moment: As mentioned in a previous column, the final panel of day one with Josh Silver, Executive Director of FreePress, was unbearably one sided.? Conservatives question the positions of telecoms as well.? But with no one there to present the center-right view on the future of telecommunications with regard to Internet regulation and expansion, the debate was completely one sided and a slaughter fest for Silver.? My memory may not be entirely accurate, but at one point I believe he rolled them over and actually stuck a fork in the gentlemen from Comcast & AT&T.

My Jaw Dropped To The Floor And The Girl Next To Me With The Mac Had To Pick It Up For Me Award: Easily goes to Apture.? If you are running any sort of online content machine or blog and do not have this application installed you will without a doubt be left in the dust!? This app allows you to finally start linking to outside content without sending your readership away from your site, keeping them right where you want them to be; reading your material and clicking your ads.? If you haven’t noticed, it has already been seamlessly integrated into our site.

Most Fun Presentation: Michael Wesch, The Machine is (Changing) Us: YouTube Culture and the Politics of Authenticity.

Most Thought Provoking Presentation: Danah Boyd, The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online.

I want to encourage more conservatives to take this intersection more seriously, and see them next year at PDF 2010.

Thanks for a great conference.? I was very happy to be a part of the conversation!

-nick

The Personal Democracy Forum Doesn’t Help Conservatives

Monday was a very long day here in New York City.? The Personal Democracy Forum Conference busted out of the gate bright and early and never seemed to slow.? The conference and its attendees are a cornucopia of ideas and innovation.? It certainly feels as if the applications built for and during the Obama campaign have spurred an entire new focus in the political realm.? I feel like I’m a fly on the wall of the office that invented grassroots mailers.? It certainly seems that we are witnessing the initial stages of a new era in politics.

Six month from now things will be very interesting.? The first campaigns since the 2008 presidential race will begin cranking their engines.? It will be the first big test as well.? Letting all of us evaluate who “got it” after the last go round.

One has to understand that when they attend these sorts of events that there is certainly a goal of objectivity.? The reason for attending is to discover the areas in which politics and technology are intersecting.? How is technology, or possibly more specifically, the Internet changing politics?? Are these changes creating the evaporation of results from the previous models?? If so, how do we incorporate these new tools into our area of politics to create new successful models?? That’s what we are hear to discover.

The reality though is that people that are passionate about anything can’t keep it from seeping out even when they are trying to hold back.? There is nothing wrong with this.? I take zero issue with individuals who wear their heart on their sleeve.? At least it’s out there.

But at some point a balance issue develops.? If panels are mostly chaired by a certain orientation of political enthusiast, the point of view is always the same.? If the audience to which they are speaking is of the same enthusiasm, then they are preaching to the choir.? The cheers and hardly applause comes because of political orientation and alignment and not because all political technology enthusiast share the same goals.

We don’t.

Case in point was the fine display of two sheep being led on stage for the final panel of the day.? The sheep, in the form of two teleco representatives, had their achille’s slit so that they couldn’t escape and then were promptly ritually massacred by the Picadores Josh Silver.? Silver, well known in tech policy circles for avoiding any concerns or facts outside of his own talking points was suburb in his beat down.? I honestly couldn’t tell if the teleco reps were ill prepared or just trying to play the saint for the audience, the obvious antagonist.

But why was this happening?? Silver has a particular motivation and a goal, and not one with which all parties in the tech policy community would agree.? Why was no one with a differing point of view sitting on this panal?? Not to defend the telecos, but to ask questions from a differing foundation, or to call Silver’s bluff.? Where was Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or Adam Thierer who started Technology Liberation Front?? Where was Timothy B. Lee, CATO fellow and Ars Technica contributor? (Who in my humble opinion has hands down written the best scholarly explanation of network neutrality available.? Which is mighty humble of me, if I do say so, considering I’ve written on it myself.)

I did appreciate hearing the audience gleefully suck up every drop the FCC commissioner Blair Levin had to say; especially the part where he told us that they were creating a plan.? Really? The plan he is referring to of course is the National Broadband Strategy which comes due in February of 2010.? What hardly anyone knows though is that the US Department of Agriculture who has used the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) division to improve broadband distribution in the past has been awarded funds for distribution from the stimulus.? RUS plans to distribute its roughly $2.5 billion by September 30th, 2009.? The National Telecommunications and Information Administration?who received the bulk of the broadband stimulus funds?will hand out their dollars in three phases occurring Spring of 2009, Fall of 2009, and Spring of 2010.

Spend first, formulate your plan later, Mr. Levin?? Sort of seems counterproductive to planning at all.

Conservatives are boned at PDF 2009.? There is certainly not enough representation amongst panel members.? Some of this is absolutely not the fault of Personal Democracy Forum.? We are under a liberal Administration, and that administration appoints liberal bureaucrats.? An invite to Robert McDowell or Meredith Attwell Baker would have been nice.? Maybe they were invited, and turned it down.? This too is a possibility.? At least Cas Sunstein with his Fairness Doctrine-esque “electronic sidewalks” for the Internet isn’t present.

I’m not laying the wood to PDF.? Yes, from initial indications it doesn’t appear that the ideological sides are well balanced, and possibly they don’t know where to look.? The real trouble however is the attendees.

The Personal Democracy Forum doesn’t help conservatives.? Because conservatives aren’t there to be helped.

The numbers are simply overwhelming.? I’d guestimate that the attendance is somwhere close to one thousand.? I’d also venture to say that there are roughly five conservatives there.? And I’m incorporating the one libertarian I saw with a Ron Paul button.

I’m dismayed.

I know these folks are out there.? I’ve written about them.? So where are they?? After this past Fall why aren’t ogles of people from the right side of the aisle on Capitol Hill all over this event?? Did the speakers shy them away?? I don’t really think so.? I’m a strong conservative-libertarian, and have been for years.? And while there are a few people in the speaker list that irk me on the average day, I wouldn’t let them keep me from attending when the majority of lectures and panels are simply focused on an examination of content in some form, a discussion of getting content to an audience, or about tools to help you be more efficient and productive.

This is subject matter that conservatives need to hear.? Maybe PDF needs to market themselves more to conservative circles on the web?? Possibly all conservatives on the web are poor and couldn’t afford to attend?? It could be that conservatives don’t fit in with all the Apple fan boys present at the conference.? If there were more Dell owners then it might have been more balanced.

All thought provoking questions.

These are just initial reactions.? I’m sure I will be thinking more about it into the second day of the event as I look for reasons for the paltry representation.

Secretly though, I think the liberals in the crowd are ecstatic.? Why wouldn’t they be?? It’s like someone serving up a box of free gold to anyone who shows up at the box and takes the gold.? And only liberals are showing up, so they get to take home all the gold.

You can’t teach a dead dog new tricks.? And you certainly can’t expect to win a fight you don’t show up to.

Very much looking forward to Tuesday.

-nick

?and Net Neutrality for All: An Advisement Against Regulated Broadband Expansion

I’ve recently posted my paper investigating broadband expansion policy within the broadband stimulus portion of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 on bpress.

You can find it here:? http://works.bepress.com/nicholas_brown/2/

Here’s the abstract:

Ever since the now YouTube famous Google interview of then Senator Barack Obama promoting broadband Internet deployment nation wide, broadband deployment as part of Obama?s overarching $825 billion stimulus package has been a ready topic of conversation in technology circles. Broadband penetration in the United States is only 25.67% of all Internet connectivity or available to roughly 71 million Americans, ranking the U.S. 19th in the world. Home connections via broadband have risen to 92.4%, creating the argument that the majority of Internet users are engaged in daily activities that require, or at least benefit from, broadband connectivity. Obama has promoted this line of thinking, and believes ?that America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access?. Pushing it even farther, he believes that the Universal Service Fund should be implemented in the expediting of deployment. This line of thinking is more than likely impossible.

This paper looks at the Broadband Stimulus portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to investigate the feasibility of expanding broadband into underdeveloped and undeveloped areas and the forced implementation of Network Neutrality into networks funded by the federal government.

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Be sure to post any feedback you may have. Would love to hear it.

-nick

thelobbyist goes to New York: Personal Democracy Forum 2009

Yours truly will be heading to New York City to attend this years Personal Democracy Forum conference.? I was recently awarded a Google Fellowship to represent thelobbyist.net at the conference.? You can see the list of awardees here. The conference is known as the largest of its type to investigate the intersection of politics and technology.? And this years conference may be the most exciting yet as we have had a huge year with the successful uses of new media/social networking in various campaigns, most notably that of our current president, the coming of age of Twitter in grassroots movements such as this past Springs Tea Parties, and new technology uses in government like we.gov.

If you aren’t familiar with the Personal Democracy Forum conference, you can check up on it here.

On behalf of all of us at thelobbyist, we are honored and humbled by this invitation, and would like to send out a special THANK YOU! to those at Personal Democracy Forum for their selection of thelobbyist.net for a fellowship, and additionally to Google, Inc for providing the fellowship allowing us to attend the event.

Updates will follow to share what we’ve learned about the growing convergence of technology and politics.

-nick

Obama: 101 Days In Tech Policy

President Obama reached his 100 day milestone yesterday to mixed emotions and reviews across the media spectrum.? But what did this milestone mean for technology policy?

The brightest spot could be Mr. Obama’s appointment of Melissa Hathaway to perform a 60-day review of federal cybersecurity procedures.? Early reports of her charge have been encouraging.? The report, however, remains unavailable to the public. ?Ultimately, the new administration must provide improved network security for our national infrastructure and bureaucracies while keeping government as far removed as possible from privately held networks and markets. The private sector must take the lead in experimenting with more robust data security and authentication technologies.

Obama’s approach toward intellectual property is one source of concern. Numerous Obama appointees, like the Copyright Czar, hail from large content companies.? While there is nothing wrong with appointing individuals with a background in representing major intellectual property owners, the lack of alternative viewpoints in the Obama administration is troubling. Lately, there has been a worrisome trend toward the criminalization of certain online activities and applications, such as peer-to-peer file sharing.? Non-commercial copyright infringement is wrong and should be legally actionable, but it should not be a criminal offense-especially not one that involves possible jail time. ?And file sharing applications, despite facilitating copyright infringement, also have many valid uses and do not deserve to be demonized. Going forward, Obama should consider a range of viewpoints and explore methods of allowing the free market to experiment with new licensing techniques and methods of delivering content that improve the consumer experience and deter content theft without necessitating bigger government.

Mr. Obama’s stimulus package includes roughly $7 billion in funds for the promotion of new broadband networks in unserved and underserved areas.? For firms to be eligible for these funds, they must comply with ambiguous FCC rules concerning network neutrality.? Neutral network management may be appropriate and ideal in many circumstances, but not all networks should be neutral in all situations.? Not all network traffic is created equal, and some network operators may not wish to be all things to all people.? President Obama should strip openness mandates from the broadband stimulus package and wait to hand out broadband stimulus funds until the National Broadband Strategy is completed early next year.

Concern exists with the appointment of Cass Sunstein as well.? Sunstein has supported the idea of a mandatory “electronic sidewalk” for the Internet, stating that, “A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government,” Sunstein wrote. “Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom’s name.”? It has been called “The Fairness Doctrine for the Internet,” by Adam Thiere of The Progress & Freedom Foundation.? The new administration should be advised to keep a tight leash on Sunstein and his Orwellian views of the 1st and 2nd Amendment.

Finally, steps taken toward allowing government officials to use cellular site data without a warrant raise serious Constitutional concerns.? Justice Department lawyers do not consider the use of this data as a “search and seizure,” and they ignore the serious privacy implications of government agents tracking individuals’ locations via their mobile phone signals. ?Only with either a court order or the consent of end users should government be able to intercept cellular site data for law enforcement purposes. ?President Obama should order the Department of Justice to end warrantless interception of cellular site data on the grounds that infringes on Fourth Amendment protections.

-nick

Does Anyone Understand The Internet?

[Editor’s Note: This is a recent post I did on openmarket.org.? It’s sort of indirectly political in that it deals with the panic and state of fear a few non-profs created by stirring up non-existent scenarios of Net Neutrality violations if Time Warner Cable dared to look at new service provision models.? It’s really a situation where we should allow private enterprise to work with their customers to find that happy medium and allow the free market to work.]

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I?m beginning to think ?no? is the definitive answer.? While most tend to understand the basic concepts of Internet connectivity and its associated parts, it seems that it is becoming abundantly clear that terminology has been misused by media and public organizations such that no one really understands what they are even talking about anymore.

It?s understandable that people who don?t work in the telecommunications sector are unfamiliar with networking.? But a group of writers that should understand these concepts are the individuals that are paid to write for PCWorld.

Today, David Coursey discussed the recent decision of Time Warner Cable to back off its plans to test metered broadband service in an essay strangely entitled, ?Why Metered Broadband Would Work?.? It?s odd, because he describes why TWC is up to no good and why metered broadband is greedy.

The column states that metering broadband service violates net neutrality and concludes that, ?anything that hinders Internet neutrality hinders the development of new technologies and new business models.?

Where do I begin? First of all, net neutrality has nothing to do with metered broadband service.? Nothing.

Metered broadband has nothing to do with how fast your connection is.

Metered broadband is a cap on the total amount of data you transfer during a given billing cycle.? That?s it. There is nothing more to it than that.? It has nothing to do with giving certain packets priority.? It has nothing to do with preventing the use of certain applications or equipment (like a VoIP handset) on your computer.? It has nothing to do with blocking access to sites that have competing content.? And it has nothing to do with Quality of Service.

Let?s look at this in different terminology.? The speed at which you travel in your car has nothing to do with the number of miles you choose to travel in a given month.? If you were to rent a car, and your rental agreement dictated that you could not travel more than 100 miles in 30 days, (assuming speed limits and the police were not a factor) you could travel at whatever speed you desired until you traversed 100 miles.? In this case, whatever connection speed you have from TWC would not change.? If you had a 10 meg connection, you would still get a 10 meg connection.? The difference is the number of miles you could travel on the Internet in a given billing cycle, not the speed at which you could get there.

Interestingly enough, metered broadband is a new business model that Coursey claims Internet neutrality would hinder.? Since metered broadband has nothing to do with Internet neutrality, and the column claims that in a recession the last thing we need to do is hinder new models, then this was the perfect opportunity to allow the free market to test a new model.

Metered broadband does cap the total amount of data that an individual can transfer in a given month.? That is not a negative thing, though.? Transfer speeds and data transferred are two different things.? The first is the speed at which data could potentially be transferred to or from your computer.? These are commonly referred to as ?downstream? and ?upstream?.? Over a given billing cycle ? generally a month ? an individual receives data and sends data by surfing the Internet, receiving email, using instant messaging, etc.? The benefit of a bandwidth cap is that it creates tiers that allow for more affordable service, and open up the doors of barred entry to individuals that could not previously afford Internet service.

TWC reports that their users in the Austin, TX area averaged 5-6 gig a month.? A benefit of metered service is that if a user falls into this category, there is no reason for them to be spending $50-$75 a month for unlimited access.? This is similar to a cell phone plan, in that if you don?t talk 3,000 minutes a month, purchasing the 3,000 minute or unlimited plan would be a major waste of money when you could get a lower plan for far cheaper.? TWC was proposing lower-priced tiers combined with higher fees for heavy users. A relatively basic plan would have offered 5 GB a month for $29, and a more robust tier would have offered 15 GB a month for $40, all the way up to unlimited plans for $150.

Metered service could be a major benefit for most average or below average users.? The only people that it hurts are Bittorrent fiends.? Additionally, those that use larger amounts of data on movie streaming services would have probably fallen into a data tier that was similarly priced to what they were paying before a switch to metered service.

Something that Coursey hints at, but never comes right out to explain, is the concern that caps are in response to television and movie distribution on the Internet.? The implication is that monthly caps would deter individuals from watching TV online, causing them to return to the couch where profits are higher. It is a certainty that cable providers do not want to simply become sellers of bits.? But the individuals that are concerned of this notion that caps force individuals into higher caps, or that they are somehow being cut off from certain services is really just silly.

Consumers are not forced to use the Internet.? They have the right to determine how much data they will transfer in a month and purchase an appropriate tier.? This occurs every day when consumers purchase cell phones.? They purchase the tier that is suitable for their needs.? This approach by TWC opened the door to allow low volume users to have very affordable rates.? Yes, the higher cap tiers were arguably pricey.? But that isn?t a reason for the media to create such a false state of fear over the issue that the entire trial is pulled.? The free market would have caused those tiers to adjust and match companies offerings like Comcast?s 250 gig cap.

Coursey is right about one thing.? In these dreadful economic times, we don?t need to be hindering new business models.? It?s too bad the noise heavily outweighed the signal on this issue and caused TWC to back off on something that most likely would have saved the majority of their customers a great deal of cash.

-nick

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