How is Senator Corker like Laban the Aramite? Perhaps Mr. Corker and His Fellow Republicans Should Spend More Time With the Bible.

It’s Sunday School time! And our reading today is going to be from Genesis. Specifically, I want to tell you the story of Laban the Aramite. You can find the details in Gen 29:1-32:3. Today’s reading is dedicated to Senator Bob Corker, who may find some bits of the story familiar.

Now when our father Jacob, the memory of the righteous is as a blessing, fled from the anger of his brother Esau, he came to the land of Charan where dwelt his Uncle Laban the Aramite. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. He also had an abundance of flocks of various kinds.

Now when Jacob had been there a month, Laban asked: “Would you work for me for free? Say what shall be your wage.” And Jacob loved Rachel, and he said: “I shall work for you seven years for your daughter Rachel’s hand in marriage.” And Laban agreed. And so great was Jacob’s love for Rachel that the seven years had seemed but a few days. But at the end of the seven years, Laban tricked Jacob and gave his daughter Leah instead.

And Jacob discovered this and said to Laban: “You tricked me!” And Laban said: “But here we have a law that we will not give the younger in marriage before the elder. Sure, I might have mentioned that before, but hey — it wasn’t my responsibility. You agreed to the terms of the contract without worrying about the underlying legal background which — curiously enough — is controlled by me and my fellow similarly situated Arameans. And while it may seem like we are just picking on you because you are a worker and helpless stranger in our land, that really isn’t it at all. Now, becuase I am such a nice guy, I will let you marry Rachel in addition to Leah in exchange for another seven years of labor.”

And even though Laban had cheeted him, Jacob was without recourse, so he maried Rachel and he worked another seven years for Laban on account of Rachel.

And at the end of the seven years, Laban said: “Now let us negotiate and tell me what you wish your wages to be.” And Jacob said: “I will take all the striped sheep and all the spotted sheep, and you will take all the solid sheep.” And to this Laban agreed. And Jacob guarded the sheep, and did all that he could to maximize the number of striped and spotted sheep because, after 14 years of working for Laban the Aramite, Jacob was no fool and knew exactly what he was getting into. And time and again, Laban the Aramite changed Jacob’s wages without notice. And time and again, God protected Jacob and caused Jacob’s flocks to increase. And throughout all this, although Laban always sought to cheat Jacob, Jacob did his job as best he could. He stood guard at night in the freezing cold. He watched the flocks in the summer heat. And Laban’s flocks grew vast from the labor of Jacob.

But there came a time when Laban and his sons grew Jealous of Jacob. Yes, Jacob did everything he was asked to do. And everytime Laban tried to cheat him and changed his wages, Jacob would still work hard for Laban. And because of Jacob’s labors, Laban and his sons grew very prosperous. But still, the fact that Jacob also grew wealthy stirred their hearts against them. And the sons of Laban said: “Behold how Jacob has taken all that belonged to our father, and from what was our father’s he has gotten his glory.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not look at him as he had before. Because of course, the fact that Laban wasn’t doing nearly as well as he wished he were was totally Jacob’s fault for doing everything Laban had told him, and because every time Laban had tried to cheat Jacob by changing his wage, God had protected Jacob. So Laban and his sons knew that it must somehow be Jacob’s fault. So God told Jacob to gather up all the cattle and wealth he had earned and take early retirement, while Laban and his sons went off to the big sheep convention in Paddan Aram. (Rachel took the opportunity to grab the household idols as a parting gift, but Jacob did not know this.)

When Laban heard Jacob was taking early retirement, Laban and his sons rose to persue him and steal from him all the wealth that he had earned from Laban. But God did not think very highly of Laban and his conduct. So he warned Laban that attempts to improve the balance of trade between Charan and Canaan by confiscating all the wealth that Jacob had earned was a very, very BAD IDEA. And the Lord would not look kindly on the efforts of Laban and his sons to resolve Laban’s economic problems at the expense of Jacob and his family.

So when Laban overtook Jacob, he made a big deal about all of this as if it were Jacob’s fault, even though Laban had been the one to ask Jacob to name his wage, and Jacob had labored faithfully at all Laban had asked. And Jacob got really pissed off, and reminded Laban that Laban had tried to cheat him like 100 times, and that everytime it looked Like Jacob would get ahead, Laban tried to cheat him, even though Jacob’s labors enriched Laban and his sons. And Laban was all like “well, I’ll still do you a big favor and let you leave with everything you earned, but I reserve the right to cross the border and take stuff away from you if I think you are mistreating my daughters.” And Jacob did roll his eyes, because everyone knew Laban did give a rat’s patootie for his daughters, but said “fine, whatever. Just bugger off and let me keep what I earned you miserable whanker.”

And Laban and Jacob made their piece, and Laban departed.

Here endeth the lesson. Next week, we’ll take up Exodus, and why crapping all over immigrants because you fear them doesn’t work out very well either. In the meantime, I would recommend Mr. Corker and his Republican buddies spend a bit more time with their Bibles. In particular, I refer them to Deut. 24: 10-16. You should find it instructive on how to reform the personal bankruptcy code.

Stay tuned . . . .

In your face

This summer we added an exit survey to Qwaq Forums, which was presented a percentage of the time when you quit the application. I and other engineers hated the idea of popping up a survey when the user doesn’t want it. We preferred a feedback box that the users could launch themselves under the Help menu. Anyway, the board of directors were quite clear, so I implemented the survey pop-up as asked, and then in the next release I added the user-launched Help->Feedback box. I thought the exit survey would always be left blank, and that the feedback box would take over.

I was wrong…

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Same Old, Same Old: How T-Mobile and the Rural Telecommunications Group Propose to Wreck the AWS-3 Auction.

M2Z Networks recently filed a study I prepared for them in the AWS-3 service rules proceeding (07-195) before the FCC.

In this study I identified how a coordinated effort between T-Mobile and the Rural Telecommunications Group threatened to wreck the AWS-3 auction by writing rules excluding technology proposed by key potential new entrants, including M2Z Networks, and adopting disastrous combinatorial bidding rules like those which provided a nearly half-billion dollar windfall for Verizon in the 700 MHz Band auction.

In brief, T-Mobile has proposed a “bandwidth maximization plan,” first mooted in this filing and elaborated here. The T-Mobile plan would split the J Block in half, giving 5 MHz for uplink and joining the other 5 MHz of J Block with 20 MHz of AWS-3 spectrum for downlink. This would force abandonment of the Time Division Duplex (TDD) technology envisioned by the FNPRM in favor of Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) technology favored by T-Mobile.

That might seem innocuous enough at first glance, but it eliminates consideration of a technology which is both more efficient and more robust than T-Mobile’s FDD alternative, and it is never a good idea to throttle new technologies at the bidding of vested incumbents. However, it is more pernicious still in that it aims at excluding the TDD technology on which Sprint, Intel, Arraycom, and M2Z proposed to build a nationwide network, effectively erecting entry barriers to major competitors to T-Mobile.

The irony is that T-Mobile proposes to kill TDD technology in AWS-3 on the pretext of preventing interference between AWS-3 and AWS-1 spectrum (T-Mobile was a major acquirer of AWS-1 spectrum). However, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology conducted extensive testing and found that such interference presented no significant problem. T-Mobile’s justification for the technologically-discriminatory erection of this entry barrier is, thus, a lie.

But it gets worse.

More below…

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Changes for Media Access Project, And For Me Personally.

As everyone not living under a rock has heard, the spirit of change is now sweeping through Washington like a broom enchanted by a lazy animated mouse. Who are we at Media Access Project to resist change? Heck, we bloody well lead change, we make change. We are change agents. We — well, you get the idea.

So what changes will happen at MAP?

1) After 10 years, I will leave Media Access Project, effective January 31, 2009.

2) After more than 30 years as President and CEO, Andrew Jay Schwartzman will become Legal and Policy Director. Andy will handle policy, and MAP will hire a new CEO to handle administrative and fundraising duties.

3) Associate Director Parul Desai will have an enhanced role in the organization going forward.

Why? Because, bluntly, we need to prepare for a very different world. Make no mistake, the telecom policy world still needs MAP — perhaps now more than ever. As I repeatedly stress, anyone who thinks that we can just elect the right people and go home needs to think again. The new Administration, despite what I believe is a very real and strong ideological affinity for our issues and a reasonable skepticism for the blandishments of incumbents, will need a powerful progressive movement to keep it moving in the right direction. MAP will continue to sit at the tip of the spear on media and telecom reform, pushing against media gatekeepers and fighting for an electronic media that lives up to its potential for Free Speech and innovation.

But we can’t do that by staying the way we’ve always stayed. We need to take a deep look at ourselves and ask some hard questions about how we avoid the trap of fighting battles that no longer matter, in ways that no longer work. We have spent the last 8 years in opposition, fighting to hold back some really wretched policies and swimming uphill to create new opportunities for independent voices. Whatever the Obama Administration brings, I gaurantee it will not be anything like the Bush or Clinton years.

Which is why I have decided to move on, or at least give up my job at MAP. I still love this field, and strongly believe in the Progressive movement (including my belief that it is a movement and not a mob). But the time has come for me to move on to something else, although I have no idea what that something else will be (anyone with any thoughts on the subject, don’t hesitate to write). I have a book contract with Ig Publishing for a book on building the modern progressive movement and developing an alternative to the Gods of the Marketplace (I like to think of it as what Naiomi Klein forgot to write about in The Shock Doctrine, the part where people figure out how to get a better system in place). that, of course, will not pay the bills (especially as it will not actually get published until the fall of 2010), so I expect to do some consulting for awhile until I figure out what else to do. I’ll add that if anyone can figure out a way to make this bloging stuff pay, I would love to know it.

In answer to the inevitable question — yes, I’d love to work for the Obama Administration or do something worthwhile on the Hill. And like every other Democratic policy wonk, I’ve filled out the form at, so they will know where to find me if they decide they can use me.

But even without a job waiting for me, and despite my general satisfaction with my job at MAP, I feel the time has come for me to move on. Cliche as it sounds, I need a change and I cannot think of a better time for one (other than this pesky recession), given how the policy wonk world is undergoing one of its rare ferment moments when the possibility of sweeping away the established order of things seems breathtakingly real if we have the courage to sieze it and dare to do something utterly different.

I may regret it. But I think not. I like to think I’ve done a lot of good doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I also like to think I’ll find other ways to do good and interesting things as well. This feels right, and I would be false to myself if I refused to take the risk.

Stay tuned . . .

Shure Makes Clever Defensive Gambit Against CTIA/Public Safety in 700 MHz Tussle — $1000 Rebate.

In an interesting new development in the wireless microphone saga, Shure is now offering a $1000 rebate on a replacement wireless microphone for anyone who trades in a wireless microphone that operates on the 700 MHz frequencies, provided the purchaser bought the microphone before February 2007. I’m not sure why the magic cut off date, and Shure does not explain.

Shure does, OTOH, offer an explanation for why it will make this generous offer — albeit an incomplete one:

“Our number one priority is to provide our customers with the highest quality products, service, and support,” said Al Hershner, Vice President and General Manager of the Shure U.S Business Unit. “We’ve known for some time that the ‘700 MHz band’ would be reallocated for new services following the DTV transition on February 18, 2009. Although a final decision from the FCC is still pending, we felt the need to assure our customers now that we will take care of them regardless of the outcome.”

Shure does not mention, of course, that the most likely outcome involves outlawing all use of wireless microphones in the 700 MHz, and a reasonable probability that Shure (and other manufacturers) will be required to replace the equipment for free. But that doesn’t mean Shure will miss an opportunity to spin its customers and recruit their support at the FCC explain to interested customers the ongoing FCC legal proceeding:

“There has been a great deal of confusion for wireless microphone users regarding the political and technological developments surrounding the DTV transition and the 700 MHz auction over the past few years,” added Hershner. “As always, Shure has a team of sales, customer service, and technical support staff available to answer any questions people might have about this rebate program or their products.”

Hmmm….could this have something to do with the recent push by the incoming public safety and commercial 700 MHz licensees to take this seriously so it won’t mess up deployment? Could Shure be trying to fob off the FCC with a fake remedial action while boosting its own sales and recruiting its customers for a massive push against the wireless guys and public safety? Or is that just my nasty and suspicious nature rejecting the idea that Shure is deeply — deeply I say — concerned about its customers (which it assures the FCC are only retailers and not members of the public ineligible for licenses to operate such systems) and I should be ashamed of myself for questioning this noble voluntary remediation by an upstanding corporate citizen that just happened to build its business on wholesale violation of federal law?

I explore the possibilities below . . . .

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Context is King

Musing: While Google’s business model is based on advertising, it seems to me that the essence of their business is that they are all about meta-data. They don’t own or deliver data, but rather they keep subject, ranking, tagging, and other data about the data. In an information world, if you can’t own the info, owning or at least organizing the metadata about it is pretty good.

In this way, I think my professional activity is all about context. I don’t create or control collaborators nor the artifacts they collaborate on, but I do try to provide a means for people to organize and recognize the contexts in which these act. When we can access everything that anyone in history has ever done, plagiary becomes meaningless, and content is no longer king.

BitTorrent Employs Self-Help After CRTC Ruling. Net Neutrality Folks Called It Right So Far.

Well that certainly didn’t take long.

Richard Bennett has an article at The Register describing BitTorrent, Inc.’s new method for circumventing traffic throttling. Essentially (if I understand it), BitTorrent has altered the way in which its uTorrent P2P application will work. Instead of relying on the Transfer Control Protocol (TCP) uTorrent will now use the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) to move packets. Richard describes what this means and the potential impact of this better than I can. Critically, however, Richard describes this as a means by which BitTorrent can avoid Bell Canada’s targeted traffic management by disguising the nature of its traffic as latency-intolerant (like voice over IP (VOIP))and therefore given priority over other traffic. You can see some discussion of this as a response to the CRTC decision to allow Bell Canada to manage traffic here at DSL Reports.

As I observed only last week, the CRTC decision presents a splendid opportunity to grab some popcorn and watch some other country play games with its critical infrastructure. Mind, since the internet is a global “network of networks,” what happens in Canada is likely to impact me here in the U.S. as well. But I can’t do anything about that. So pardon me whilst I munch my popcorn and enjoy a good dose of Cassandrafruede (a term of my own invention which means “the bitter pleasure experienced when something awful you predicted that could have been avoided if people had listened to you comes to pass, even though you also get screwed through no fault of your own”).

More analysis to go with my popcorn below . . . .

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