Stevens Bill Part II — The Bad Stuff (Broadcast Flag).

Like the thin cows of Pharoh’s dream devouring the fat cows, the bad parts of the Stevens Bill overwhelm the good parts. (My, I’m feeling biblical today. Perhaps because this legislation feels like such a prelude to Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.)

Leaving aside the video franchising provision, which I leave to my friends at Free Press, Saveaccess.org, and Alliance for Community Media, I find the damage the Stevens Bill would do to municipal broadband and network neutrality, combined with the broadcast flag mandates, make this bill a “must kill” in its current form.

Again, because there is just so much bad stuff here, I need to break it up into different chunks. First up, just when you thought you could buy a new TV in peace — THE RETURN OF THE BROADCAST FLAG!

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Why wait for the Daily Show for Fake News?

This goes back a ways. Between vacation for Passover and the net neutrality fight, this fell a bit by the wayside. But it is still an important issue.

Back on April 6, my friends over at Free Press, working with the Center for Media and Democracy, have issued a rather stunning report on how local television stations rebroadcast “video news releases” — press releases created by corporations — as real news. For example, a “news story” about a new drug treatment may, in fact, an advertisement created by the drug company and packaged to look like a news report.

Free Press subsequently hosted a “blogger briefing” call, which you can listen to here. FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstien spoke. And I attended wearing my blogger hat.

My thoughts on this most recent disclosure of how pathetic our news media has become below.

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Comcast/TW/Adelphia Deal In Trouble — Update

Back in December 2005, I wrote this piece suggesting that it might not be smooth sailing for the proposed deal between Comcast and Time Warner to split the bankrupt Adelphia systems between them and achieve total cable dominance. At the time, I was a lone voice suggesting that the split at the FCC might force the companies to chose between accepting conditions or walking away, especially as Adelphia creditors demand that the parties close the deal and come up with the money.

Apparently according to this article in Variety, I am no longer a lone nut or in denial. The endless delay and the likelihood that the FCC will impose conditions (despite the party-line green light the Federal Trade Commission gave at the end of January) has a number of analysts suggesting the deal may crumble in the face of creditor concerns and possible “deal breaker” conditions on access to regional sports networks and net neutrality.

Meanwhile, Robert McDowell’s nomination as fifth FCC Commissioner, on whom Time Warner and Comcast pin their hopes to break the tie and prevent real coditions on the merger, remains stuck in the Senate. McDowell is non-controversial, but scheduling a vote remains hostage to the vagaries of Senate politics. Senators can place a hold on any nominee for any reason. McDowell has been caught up in various controversies and thus remains in limbo. Given the short legislative calendar this session, because folks want to rush back home and campaign, it is possible that McDowell will remain in limbo until the fall. Or he may get cleared by a Senate vote when they come back this week.

If you were an Adelphia creditor, would you want to bet on the timing? Or would you rather see the deal close? And that gets you fighting with TW and Comcast.

Hmmmm….. maybe the other bids weren’t so bad after all. Anything would clear more easily than this mess. And wouldn’t it be nice to get paid?

Stay tuned . . . .

Welcome Boingers and Sundry Wetmachine Virgins!

Step right this way!

If you’re looking for what Cory Doctorow calls my “gonzo hacker novels”, you are almost there. Click on the images on the top left of this page.

The creator of the illustrations for The Pains, Matthew Frederick Davis Hemming, is selling prints of the illustrations. Check out his site too!

Speaking of Cory, check out the podcasts of his interview with me:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

If you care about holding onto democracy and yer constitutional rights in today’s modern digital-futuristic world of today, check out Harold Feld’s Tales of the Sausage Factory. He’s written a lot of good stuff lately — on net neutrality, on the new FCC chairman, on collusion in FCC auctions, on municipal wireless & democracy. . . When Harold writes something it’s usually well written, informative, funny, and very important.

If you’re a software geek, check out Howard Stearns’ Inventing the Future. Howard is one of the lead developers on the Croquet project.

Speaking of cool web n+1 software, isn’t about time that you checked out OpenLaszlo?

In conclusion, let me beg for money. Please buy one of my books (or make a paypal donation as a token of value received for the free downloads).

Satellite Radio Has Good Political Sense, NOT

Normally I like XM and Sirius just fine. But this rather sad attempt to claim they complied with the terms of their license by designing interoperable radios, but not producing them, makes me laugh.

Normally, I wouldn’t care (much) if XM and Sirius want to go all anticompetitive against each other or if the FCC lets them. But with a Senate bill pending to cut off satellite radio’s traffic and weather service, I’m not sure I’d pick this moment to look like I’m flouting the law. But hey, what do I know?

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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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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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FCC Bidding Credits and Digital Inclusion

For the forseeable future, we’re stuck with spectrum auctions, so we may as well try to get them to work as well as possible. Contrary to what some folks argue, I don’t think that means just jacking up one-time revenue to the government. It means trying to get licenses to folks who don’t usually get ’em (like women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, and small businesses generally), trying to get services deployed to underserved communities, and trying to foster real competition.

So last week, MAP submitted a lengthy set of comments (including a 30-page econ analysis from my economist friend Greg Rose) on reforming the FCC’s designated entity “bidding credit” for the upcomming AWS auction.

What does all this mean, and why should the guy who says “spectrum auctions are the crack cocaine of public policy” care? See below . . .

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Wyden Introduces Net Neutrality

Wyden (D-Ore) has pushed back against the wussiness of the Enisgn (R-NV) bill. The Ensign Bill has a provision that would require “neuterednet neutrality.” The broadband access provider could still favor its own content and could offer “premium” service to others.

The Wyden “Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006” requires real Net neutrality and has a serious enforcement mechanism. If the FCC sits on a complaint, it is deemed granted in 90 days.

Of course I’m partial to the Wyden bill from shear vanity. The bill references the muni broadband paper I wrote last year in the legislative findings.

Stay tuned . . . .

Legal Cell Phone Blocking? Cell Phone Blocking Paint and the FCC.

TMCnet reports that a company called NaturalNano has developed a paint that blocks radio waves. The paint contains nanotubes with copper cores that block radio waves of all frequencies. The article says they will market it as a cell phone blocker, but one blogger has already suggested that those anxious about leaking wifi access paint their homes with it.

But is it legal? My first reaction was “yes.” But now I’m not so sure.

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