So What's Up With That FCC Investigating Apple and AT&T Blocking Google Voice — Oh Wait, They Aren't . . .

So while I was gone, Apple and/or AT&T turned down Google’s effort to get a Google Voice Application certified for the iPhone, so the FCC launched an investigation into the matter.

Except they didn’t. Not exactly. Which is extremely important on the delicate question of FCC authority. Actually, the FCC invited three companies involved in a very high-level spat on an issue pending before the FCC in two proceedings to provide them with useful information on how the market actually works.

I know, I know, this is all boring legal stuff that folks who care just about outcomes hate with a passion — or think is just cheap legal handwaving. But these things matter, both as a matter of law and and as a matter of policy. The fact is that the FCC is very carefully not exercising authority over anyone. The companies don’t even need to respond. However, if they fail to respond, they invite the FCC (and the rest of us) to assume the worst. Because allowing industry folks to foreclose needed agency action by simply refusing to provide necessary information is a crappy outcome we’ve lived with for the last 8 years (longer, really). Far smarter to invite industry folks to respond to questions, but decide that at some point you need to move with the information you have. Heck, if the FCC pulls that trick only once, I bet we’ll see lots more folks with relevant information willing to come forward.

So while I expect lots of folks to yammer about FCC authority on August 21 when the answers are due, they’ll be barking up the wrong tree. Won’t stop ’em, of course. But for those who would like a sense of what is actually going on from a legal/regulatory authority angle —

More below . . . . .

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VW on the Web

One of the great mashups going on now is not just mixing content, but media. WebTV. NPR on an iPod. MTV on YouTube. TV on the Radio. Some social virtual worlds are lightweight enough that they can run within the frame of a Web browser when you visit the associated site. While we have always had documents, applications, sounds, movies, and Web browsers running within our Croquet and Qwaq virtual worlds, we’re now doing a bit more ping-pong between the Web and Qwaq Forums.
< %image(20090816-ForumPage.gif|522|437|Web page corresponding to a room in a virtual world. Click for full size.)%>

Pages like this one make it easy to get information (e.g., documents) into or out of a forum without using the 3D collaborative client. Maybe you’re not at your usual laptop or desktop computer and only have Web access. Maybe you are an executive or assistant to someone working in the forum such that you can’t suit up and be seen.

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D Block Drama Erupts! NENA Breaks Ranks! Wireless Carriers At War! Oh, the Humanity!

Yes, for policy wonks in the summer, this is high drama. Once upon a time, before the 700 MHz auction, we used to have two very clear groups of stakeholders in spectrum policy land. We had public safety on one side and commercial wireless carriers on the other. (We also had us public interest folks, but no one — especially in the Wireless Bureau — gave a crap about us.) While these two groups might disagree internally, they solidified into utterly united and utterly opposing camps when confronting each other — regarding the battle for spectrum as a zero sum game with each side trying to wrestle every last MHz out of the other one.

But the 700 MHz changed all that. It cemented the spectrum advantage of AT&T and Verizon over all other carriers, breaking the commercial world into “AT&T and Verizon” and “carriers who need backhaul, roaming agreements, and special access — all of which they buy from AT&T and Verizon.” And it fractured consensus in the public safety community by creating the enormous loose end known as the “D Block.” As readers may recall (and if they don’t, you can check out my extensive coverage of the 700 MHz auction) the D Block was the private part of a public/private partnership where a private entity would bid and then build out the network, then enter into a sharing agreement with the public safety block. Sadly, for various reasons I will not rehash here, this didn’t work out.

And now, just when it looked like public safety was lining up behind AT&T and Verizon to lobby Congress to reallocate the D Block entirely to public safety, all Hell breaks loose. The “not Verizon and AT&T” wireless carriers have introduced a counter proposal to take back the 12 MHz on the public safety side of the partnership and auction the whole 22 MHz for commercial use as one, unpaired block. And they have received the backing, sort of, of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

What drama to greet the arrival of Chairman Genachowski and the finally fleshed out full FCC! Commercial wireless carriers at war! Public safety in disarray! Spectrum brother against spectrum brother in the ultimate spectrum policy smackdown!

I analyze the possible deals, the potential winners and losers, and my guesses on odds for success below . . . .

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Awesom Newsom

Neutrino-class Wetmachiner David Newsom has his own blog. He’s a fine actor & photographer but a no-good bum, of course, because he now does most of his blogging on the above-linked site, instead of here at Wetmachine among us regular folks who might wear a tennis shoe or an occasional python boot, where he belongs. So why do I link to him at all, you ask?

Because of the photos, man. And the stories. The photos and the stories. Check ’em out. That is all.

Ontological conundrums: When is a thing a thing, and when is it something else?

A little while ago I posted a meditative review of Christopher Kelty’s book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software.

Some amusing issues have arisen over who holds copyright to the review; issues that are especially amusing, nay, borderline ironic, since they reflect the very subject matter of Kelty’s book in a kind of recursive way, and recursion itself is a theme of the book too-also.

Which copyright ambiguity reminds me of something similar that happened when I put my latest novella The Pains up on the web under a Creative Commons license and came face to face with the ontological uncertainty about just what constitutes a “book” in the digital age.

Which further reminded me of my fascination with ontological uncertainty about what constitutes a self in general. This “what is a self” topic is a central theme of each of my three books; furthermore, if you consider the three books together as one work (as I do ), with three constituent parts each of which is written by a different “John Sundman” who implicitly or explicitly refutes the authenticity of other two John Sundmans, then the subject of the work as a whole (which I call “Mind over Matter”) is “What constitutes a thing-in-itself in an impermanent universe?”.

So you see? Isn’t it profound? Or as my Irish grandmother Nana would have said, “there now”.

Below the fold: observations on an unwritten book review with future-retroactive copyright power, the “is-ness” of The Pains, and the mutual plausible deniability of John F.X Sundman, John Compton Sundman, John Damien Sundman, with wry commentary on their internecine squabbling by me, one jrs.


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