Anonymous bidding and not so anonymous shakedowns at the FCC

Say what you like about Martin in other areas, but he is (so far) sticking to his guns on whether to require anonymous bidding for the upcomming AWS spectrum auction. MAP has actively supported this proposal, because it will make the auctions work better and facilitate entry by minority owned businesses and new, disruptive competitors (I’m stuck with them by statute, so I may as well try to get them to work right).

In perhaps the most telling evidence that anonymous/blind/sealed bidding (in which the identity of the bidder is not disclosed during the action) is a good idea, every incumbent (except VZ Wireless, which has been “targeted” in certain auctions) is lobbying fiercly against it. My favorite little tidbits of when the Sausage Factory turns nasty below.

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An Examination of the Economics of Whitacre Tiering

Today’s lecture in my occassional “Economics of Market Power” series comes from the hot policy debate over whether we should let dsl (and cable) providers charge third parties for “premium” speeds to reach their customers. I call this behavior “Whitacre Tiering” (as distinguished from other sorts of tiering traffic or bandwidth) in honor of AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre, a chief proponent of the concept.

Last time, I explained why permitting Whitacre tiering would be a disaster for democracy. This time, I’ll explain why Whitacre tiering produces really, really awful results from an economic perspective. It gives actors all the wrong incentives, adds new layers of uncertainty and inefficiency to the market generally, and discourages investment in bandwidth capacity at every stage of the network (thus aggravating the broadband incentives problem you may have read about recently, rather than solving it, as some defenders of Whitacre tiering maintain).

But hey, don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger! Go do the math yourselves. All you need is a basic knowledge of Econ 101. OTOH, if you have a religious belief, possibly supported by self-interest or fueled by PAC money, that all deregulation is good and all regulation is bad, mmmkay (not that Senator Enisgn is likely to ever read this), I expect you will remain unpersuaded. Rather like passionate believers in Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the cosmos, I expect the true believer neo-cons, the companies whose self-interests are implicated, and their wholly owned subsidiaries in state and Federal legislatures, to devise theoretical models and epicycles to explain away all the nasty empirical problems and assure me I live in the delightful world of competition and frictionless switching to competitors.

It moves, it moves . . . .

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What did Martin Really Say About a “Tiered” Internet?

Much has been made over statements made by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin at this week’s TelecomNext trade show. As we at MAP have just had an experience with how often the press misunderstands Martin’s rather carefull statements, I am not as ready as many of my comrades to declare that the end is nigh. There is a huge difference between “customer tiering” (where a customer gets to chose the level of service), “provider provisioning” (where a provider pushes packets faster via Akami or bit torrent), and “Whitacre tiering” (where the ISP charges third parties for “premium” access to subscribers without regard to subscriber preferences). As explained below, figuring where Martin is proves harder than people assume.

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The adventures of Fair Use Person?

To my surprise and delight, the good folks at Duke Law have produced this comic book to explain the law of fair use and how expanding copyrights is producing lots of “collateral damage” in the free speech department. Back when I was in law school I had an idea for an entire series of comic books dramatizing the law school curriculum. Happily for the world, I can’t even draw stick figures as well as Jim Snider did in his Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy.

Stay tuned . . .

More Proof the RIAA Claims Are Bunk

Yet another study finding that P2P filesharing is not the reason people stop buying CDs, and that most music people listen to on their computers and MP3 players is legally obtained. More information here. Michael Geist, on of the genius people you never hear about in the U.S. because he’s like, you know, Canadian (actually, he’s from the U.S., but he lives and works in Canada) offers an excellent analysis here.

Of note, the study was conducted by the Candian Recording Industry Association, the RIAA’s Candian cousin, so one can assume that any bias toward result was in favor of finding that P2P is tantamount to theft.

Stay tuned…..

Two good conferences

I want to flag two important conferences in the next few weeks where I’ll be attending.

First, the Second National Summit for Community Wireless Networking. The last of these was in August 2004, and was excellent. For anyone interested in any aspect of community wireless broadband, whether it is the future of CWN as a movement or simply the nuts and bolts of setting one up in your neighborhood, this conference should be on your “must attend” list. The Summit is scheduled for March 31-April 2 at Lynnewood University in St. Charles, MO (easily accessible from St. Louis Int’l Airport). I’ll be speaking and generally making a nuisance of myself.

The second, much closer to home, is Dave Isenberg’s Freedom 2 Connect 2006. Again, last year’s was excellent, and it has the advantage (to me, at least) of being half a mile from my house. Dave has drawn together some of the top thinkers and respected pioneers in internet development to discuss the future of the internet in a world where the “freedom to connect” is no longer guaranteed. Speakers include such luminaries as founder Esme Vos, net personalities and pioneers Om Malik & Doc Searls, political heavyweights such as Congressman Rick Boucher and former FCC Commissioners Michael Powell and Reed Hundt, etc., etc.
Sadly, yr hmbl obdnt is not quite “A List” enough yet to make the schedule, but it will still be a good conference and I expect I will manage to make my presence known (those who know me understand I am not generally a quiet person).

Stay tuned . . .

BoingBoing reunited with its evil twin! — The Conclusion of Cory Doctorow’s visit with Wetmachine

A few weeks ago Cory Doctorow, major-domo of House GeekZeitgeist, stopped by for a chat with Wetmechanics John and Gary. Earlier installments of our conversation can be found here and here.

Highlights from this episode:

  • Wetmachine is revealed as the evil twin of BoingBoing! (Or, in any event, its aspirations to same are revealed.)
  • Cory recapitulates how the seminal Clarion writer’s workshop was saved from extinction;
  • We explore the philosophical tug-o-war between the transhumanist and bioconservative impulses, touching on light subjects such as disabiliy rights and societal pressure to selectively abort “defective” fetuses in the post-Human-Genome-Project era.

You’ll get to hear Cory ignore my rambling introduction to my soon-to-be revealed novella The Pains as he paws Gary’s iAudio X5, the mp3 player used to record the interview. (Which, as Gary points out, is much more politically correct than a iPod, since it supports the open-sourced Ogg Vorbis audio format, and doesn’t contain any stinkin’ drm.)

Most tantalizing of all, you’ll get to hear Cory’s enthusiastic reponse to the killer illustrations from The Pains, soon to be appearing in a Wetmachine entry near you!


Begone, ye serpents and grasshoppers!

Sure, ’tis a great day for the wearing of the green. And a good thing it was, too, how Saint Patrick drove the serpents right back into the sea.

But let’s not neglect that other saintly colusus, he who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, whose name-day we also celebrate today. (Although some people observe St. Urho’s Day on March 16th, the 17th is also an acceptable day for observance, kinda like how going to Mass on Saturday night counts just as much as going on Sunday morning.)

As the grandson of Jakob Sundman from Minas, on the coast of Finland, and his good wife Lillian Hudson, from County Roscomon, I shall do my level best to preform the rituals associated with these two spritual icons of my ancestral heritages. To wit: anybody seen my green food dye? I need to doctor up my Lapin Kulta.

Unlicensed Under Assault, or When Staff Attack!

This latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking shows how far in the wrong direction the FCC has come on spectrum issues. Funny thing is, I don’t think FCC Chair Kevin Martin hates unlicensed or is in the pocket of the licensees. I think this is an example of WHEN STAFF ATTACK!!! (specifically the wireless bureau staff).

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