Not Only Will the Lion Lie Down With the Lamb, He Will Make Big Bucks Opening a Feed Store (While Still Running a Butcher Shop on the Side)

Y’all remember how AT&T (under its old name SBC) launched over a hundred lobbyists into the Texas legislature to kill muni broadband in TX? How it tried to kill muni broadband in Indiana? Not just once, but twice?

Guess what? AT&T has now cut a deal to build a muni wifi system in Springfield, Il. The article quotes an AT&T spokescritter as saying that AT&T expects to close many more such deals, and will seek them out where it makes economic sense.

Whoa! What happened to all of that rhetoric about the brave incumbent telco capitalist captain of industry going eyeball to eyeball with the evil Socialist menace of a publically financed internet? Answer: increasingly, the incumbents have realized this is a losing issue for them and have decided to figure out how to make money out of it.

While I take this as the latest and most potent sign that the move to outright kill muni broadband has run out of steam, I think a note of caution is advisable as well. Some victory snark and reflections on the future challenges for both muni broadband and other forms of community-based broadband below.

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Comcast Really Ought to Do Something About That Spam Blacklist Policy

The San Jose Mercury News reports on yet another group blaklisted by Comcast’s anti-spam policy. This time, it was the venerable online community The WELL that got blocked, then had a devil of a time getting off the blacklist.

Having been temporarily blocked by Comcast myself, I can say that it is rather unnerving to find oneself cut off from a huge number of folks because you fit some email online profile (or, in the case of The Well, because a bad actor in your community created a problem). As I reported, my case was easily resolved, but The Well and others (such as have run into trouble.

Yes, blacklists have a long tradition, going back to the old days when there were damn few of us online and cutting off someone’s access to your subscribers was unlikely to cause anyone any harm. Nowadays, when it is easy to spoof IP addresses and when getting blacklisted even for a short period of time can cause serious issues, companies should reexamine their policies. Given that Comcast is the largest residential broadband provider in the U.S., I really hope they reevaluate the usefulness of their blacklist policy ASAP.

They Chose to Praise Spectrum Ownership When They Should Have Buried It

The Cato Institute a solid bastion of neo-conservative economic thought (i.e., I disagree with them, but they aren’t industry sock puppets) has released a paper by Dale Hatfield and Phil Weiser on the difficulty in creating a property regime in spectrum property.

This should have been a hard-hitting indictment of the “property school” and its belief (as advocated by such champions as Evan Kwerel) that a transition from the current “comand and control” allocation to a property rights regime offers a quick and easy way to get new spectrum services deployed, and we should therefore move as quickly as possible to adopt the “property” model instead of the “commons” model. (See my now old but still vaguely useful primer on the spectrum reform debate if you are wondering what these terms mean.)

Instead, it assumes that the benefits of a property regime are so obvious and well-proven that, regardless of the burden of devising a property regime, spectrum reformers need to “stay the course” and keep slogging ahead. After all, if we question the value of property rights in spectrum, the info commies win.

I happen to like both Dale and Phil and usually agree with what they write. In fact, I happen to agree with the central tenet of this paper: devising a true property-rights regime for spectrum raises more problems than advocates would like to believe. But I draw a rather different conclusion from their work. My conclusions (and a few trademark TotSF snarky observations on some of the hand-waving and rhetorical tricks used in the article) below.

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Appears that Rose and Lloyd (and me) were right . . .

A month or so back, I reported that Greg Rose and Mark Lloyd had written a study for the Center for American Progress concluding that incumbent wireless providers used spectrum auctions to block the mergence of new competitors. Then came the AWS auction, with its legion of bidders. “A ha!” Declared the Wall St. Journal and others in the anti-net neutrality, anti-regulatory, pro-spectrum property camp. “Look at how the market-based policies create competition! No need for regulation here!”

Turns out, not so much . . . . Either for new spectrum entrants or for broadband competition.

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Hat's-off to Ken (and treats on the tube)

I’ve written before about my belief that we’re inexorably entering — and some of us resisting — a paradigm shift in how humans think of information, imagination, creativity, freedom, and non-real property. So I was unexpectedly delighted to receive this letter to all of the university’s Division of Information Technology staff, from our new (heh heh) interim CIO, Ken Frazier. (Below the fold.)

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Alien, (or was it Aliens?) in Alabama

According to this article in the Montgomery Advertiser, “To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama”.

You must check out the photo.

When you do I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as did Pvt Hudson and Ripley: “Blast off and nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

SHOUT OUT TO GARY GRAY: This was your story, man. I saw it on the ex-of-Curl list, which I know you read too. So where was you? Ping below to let us know you’re OK, OK? Because this is a Gary story if ever there was one.

The Federal Trade Commission Gets in on Network Neutrality

As widely reported, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Deborah Platt Majoras announced that the FTC will look at network neutrality. In the same paragraph, however, she also expressed her doubts on the need for network neutrality legislation. That, combined with her choice of forum (Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit; PFF is a vigorous opponent of NN), the FTC’s natural bias toward post-conduct remedies rather than prophylactic regulation, and Majoras’ decision to sign off on the Adelphia transaction without considering the voluminous evidence collected by the FCC make me suspect that the FTC will conclude that Congress should take no action and that antitrust solves everything.

A bit more analysis below.

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Back From Vacation And FCC Auction Still Going On . . . .

As I guessed, the FCC AWS Spectrum Acution continues apace. My two weeks off proving an insufficient time for the wonkiest and most expensive of online multiplayer games — spectrum auctions.

You can track the “action” (as we must call it) here. A quick flip through the current standings yields some interesting patterns so far. The DBS Wireless partnership, Wireless DBS LLC, started with some strong positions on regional licenses. Over time, they have been forced out by Spectrum Co (the Comcast/TW/Sprint group), AWS Wireless (the Salmesi “wild card”) and traditional cell phone cos. Dolan family (Cablevision) took a position in the NYC market (its home base) but also appears to have been knocked out.

A look at the overall stats in round 29 shows that T-Mobile, unsurprisingly, has the lead bid on the most licenses — 129. Spectrum Co comes in nest with 96. After that, there is a significant drop off in the number and nature of licenses held, with traditional cellular companies Cingular and Cricket holding 43 each. Interestingly, AWS is next, with 38. There follows a list of smaller fry with diminishing numbers of licenses in less desirable territories. Of the cable players aside from Comcast/TW, only Cable One (Washington Post) continues to have a presence with 24 licenses.

Unless something dramatic happens, the auction is unlikely to yield a drisuptive player/new competitor (unless one counts Spectrum Co).

More after I unpack and look at the stats.

Stay tuned . . . .

The Objects Fight Back

We’ve talked about allowing objects to come out of the application in which they have been embedded, and how that removes the lines between applications, operating systems, content, program, etc. and also between user and developer. And the University of Minnesota has been doing some neet work with software robots. I think this is pretty much where it’s all headed. Pleasant dreams, John!

A monkey by any other name. . .

Down in the ex-Confederate state of Virginia, seems that a fella name o’ G. Felix Allen Jr., candidate for US Senate on the Republican ticket (and presumptive candidate for the US presidency), has taken to singling out dark-skinned people for public ridicule, using the code word “macaca”, a French colonial term perhaps best translated as “sand nigger”, to invoke the ridicule of an all-white audience on a fellow Virginian, one S.R. Sidarth. Interestingly enough (and this was news to me, but Google can confirm it), it seems that the term “macaca” (“monkey”), long favored as a racial epithet by French and Belgian hatemongers, has migrated across the Atlantic and is well known among the set who are nostalgic for the glory days of lynching–a set that includes G. Felix Allen Jr., evidently, to judge from his fondness for displaying Confederate flags and nooses.

Now, Virginia is a great state and has given us great military men like Robert E. Lee, and you might make the argument that if we Northern Liberals and sissified academics had been decent enough to let the great Robert E. Lee salvage a win at Gettysburg then the South would have won the war, slavery would still exist there, and the term strange fruit would imply nothing more sinister than a pomegranate–lynchings being generally unnecessary in a state where the monkeys are bonded slaves. In which case Mr. G. Felix Allen would presumably be a senator in the Confederate senate, not our USian one, and I would have no standing to make any comment at all about his retrograde opinions, any more than Rush Limbaugh has to make about those of politicians in France.

But I myself have walked the paths of Little Round Top — on a sweltering August day twelve years ago (with two bored, irritated, resentful young daughters (aged 5 and 12) in tow), and I’ve actually thought about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion–politically uncorrect as this may be– that I’m actually happy that the Northern Liberals won the Civil War consequent to Gettysburg, however disappointing that may be to G. Felix Allen and the NASCAR, Blue-Collar-Comedy set, and not only because of A. Lincoln’s stirring neo-Shakespearean speech about government of the people, by the people and for the people, even ones named Sidarth, that that victory ensured I would get to hear, but also because I believe in the principles for which so many heroes gave their last full measure of devotion, falling dead to Southern bullets, bayonets, and grapeshot on that Pennsylvanian battlefield so long ago.

So here’s my token contribution to the anti-neoconfederate cause, ridiculing George Felix Allen, junior; doing my little bit to keep alive the “Felix is his middle name” meme, keeping “macaca” high atop the technorati search lists. The Republicans of Virginia have embraced this racist goon as their candidate. Let them deal with it. But since G. Felix Allen Jr. has given us Chamberlainites a pin to deflate his presidential trial balloon, by all means let us use it. Won’t it be funny if a macaca makes it go “pop”?