McDowell Forgets He Already Voted That FCC Has Authority To Enforce NN Rules.

I recently complained that no one else ever seems to follow the record on the network neutrality stuff. But Commissioner McDowell took the prize for failure to remember what he had previously voted for in this very proceeding back in March 2007 when the Commission voted out the Notice of Inquiry that started this whole thing. Mind you, McDowell should not feel too bad, given that nobody else at the FCC seems to remember this stuff either. Not when they wrote the Comcast/BitTorrent Order, nor even when they wrote the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last week. Despite the fact that both items are actually in the same blasted docket. Because good God almighty, how hard is it for the staff at the FCC to actually know the friggin’ docket? It’s just the basis for this entire proceeding. And the entire collective agency cannot remember that it voted as settled law by 5-0 that it has authority to regulate and enforce network neutrality rules. And that McDowell not only voted in favor, he explicitly concurred!

I swear, it’s enough to make a poor obsessed policy wonk tear out what’s left of his hair and beard.

More below . . . .

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Only You Can Save Creation Science

Listen, I know that there’s a pretty good chance that you (yes, you!) are some kind of policy wonk who only reads Wetmachine for the insight & analysis of all things FCC/Net Neutrality/media hegemony/First Amendment provided by the inimitable Harold Feld.

And there’s also a pretty good chance that you don’t give a care about Harold Feld’s wonky analysis, because you read Wetmachine for Howard Stearns’s stunning and out-of-nowhere insights into software development in general and 3-d collaborative virtual-world software in particular.

Or maybe you’re a Gary Gray groupie. Stranger things have happened. Maybe you even come here to see what I might have to say.

Or maybe, like those men who were busted at the suburban New Jersey bordello a few years ago, you just happened to be here because you pulled your car into the driveway to make a U-turn & got trapped when the fuzz showed up. Maybe you were googling for “Ted Williams’ Frozen Head” and wound up reading this instead.

I don’t care.

Wetmachine readers come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, even non-policywonk walks of life. Whatever. All is cool here. One love.

But you all should click on the above video, dammit. And you should chip in at least a buck to support Creation Science, the nifty new novel by moi, the Ur-Wetmechanic. I’ve been bringing you this site for 8 years now. Ain’t that worth nothin? Show me your love! At least watch the flippin video! It’s short!

N.B. Even if this is your first visit to Wetmachine, you can still show me your love. Click on the video! Join the family!

Why Don’t Broadcasters Become “Spectrum Innovators?” Because They Like Being Broadcasters.

Can’t help but take a brief break from the Net Neutrality craziness to be mildly amused at Adam Thierer over at Tech Liberation Front. We have an increasing number of reports that Blair Levin wants to bribe broadcasters to get off their spectrum as part of the national broadband plan. Adam is very excited by this and, of course, brings up the usual Libertarian argument that because property solves all problems, we should just make the broadcast licenses property of the broadcasters and let the endless innovation begin.

The problem with argument is that broadcasters could already do this. Under 47 USC 336(b), broadcasters can use their digital spectrum to provide “ancillary and supplementary services.” In a series of orders, the FCC has said that as long as full-power broadcasters provide one free over the air digital channel, they can do whatever they want with the remaining spectrum — including lease it out in the secondary markets to someone else. Under the statute, broadcasters need to pay a fee for any such ancillary services that would be the functional equivalent of what the broadcasters would have paid for the spectrum at auction (47 USC 336(e)), which the FCC has fixed at 5% of any annual revenue from the ancillary services.

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Proposed Wireless NN Rule “No Block, But Not No Lock?”

An interesting tidbit from Washington Post Reporter Celia Kang’s interview with Ruth Milkman, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau Chief. Of interest, Milkman states that the application of network neutrality to wireless would still allow cellular companies to lock cell phones to wireless providers.

How are the proposed rules different from conditions on the C block during the 700 MHZ auction? There, net neutrality rules were put in place that allow any device to attach to the network and prevent Verizon Wireless, who won the spectrum, from blocking Web content.

The difference between what we are thinking about in the general NPRM (notice of proposed rule-making) and the C Block is that we are not proposing a no-locking rule. So I guess it’s no block but not no-lock. If consumers can get an unlocked device and not harm the network, the consumer ought to be able to attach that device to a network. Does a service provider have to unlock the device it provides to the consumer? The draft doesn’t go that extra step.

This is an interesting twist on the application of the third principle of the 2005 Internet Policy Statement:

To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.

(emphasis in original). This is generally taken as the application of the “Carterfone” principle (and the Internet Policy Statement cites the Carterfone decision in case anyone misses this point). This is the decision that held that AT&T could not refuse to allow you to connect any device, like and answering machine or a phone you owned or a dial-up modem, to the phone network.

Milkman is right that the freedom to connect to a network is not necessarily the same thing as the freedom to move a device that comes locked from one network to another. In the old days, it wasn’t necessary to say it that way because there weren’t other networks to attach your device. The question was whether somebody other than Ma Bell could make something and attach it to the phone network. By the time we got to multiple wireline networks serving the same neighborhood, the consumer electronics market was so well developed that the idea of trying to lock particular laptops or wireless routers to specific network providers did not make much sense. Indeed, even in the never ending fight over set-top boxes and cablecard, the fight is over the ability to attach to an MVPD network, not the ability to unlock a device and move it from one MVPD network to another.

Most of us have always assumed that network neutrality applied to wireless would include both “no blocking” of content and applications and “no locking” devices to networks. But I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way. And, of course, this does not stop the FCC from dealing with handset exclusivity separately.

Still, it comes as a bit of a surprise. Nice to have the heads up, and tip ‘o the hat to Celia for doing this series of interviews with important folks at the FCC.

Stay tuned . . . .

A Brief Response To Richard Bennett's New Paper

I salute Richard Bennett’s new paper Designed for Change, in which he traces the engineering history of the end-to-end principle. It is a serious paper and deserving of serious response. Unfortunately, it being right before Yom Kippur and various deadlines, that more serious response will need to come from elsewhere. I can give only a brief, surface response — reality is messy.

OK, too brief. A bit more elaboration. Richard Bennett is eminently qualified to write the technical history and draw engineering conclusions. As are a large number of other folks who take very different views on the issue of net neutrality and the virtues of end-to-end (Vint Cerf, David Reed and kc claffy to name a few folk of my acquaintance). The history described by Richard is layered onto an equally rich history of political and economic events which all interweave, and continue to interweave, to create a complex and messy reality in which public policy tries (in my opinion) to set rules to create the strongest likelihood of the best possible outcome.

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AT&T Falls Back on “It's All About Google” Strategy

For some years now, the opponents of Network Neutrality have had the same basic fallback strategy: When all else fails, make it about Google. So no surprise that AT&T, in a letter supposedly about the rather technical issue of “traffic pumping” opens with an attack on Google and Net Neutrality. Because if we have learned anything from our national healthcare debate, it is that it is more important to make this about how awful the other side is rather than debate the merits.

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Net Neutrality Nearer? Maybe

Some promising noises out of the FCC and Congress lately–even from President Obama– about preserving Net Neutrality. However, the Telco & other retrograde forces out there have lots of money, lobbyists, and influence. Free Press’s “Save the Internet” campaign has some good things going on, including an astonishing $100,000 matching contribution fundraiser sponsored by an anonymous donor. Chip in what you can. And contact your congresspeople today.

On the Cultural Significance of “The Cultural Significance of Free Software” : Part one: my review of the book.

In a manner remarkably similar to how my homologue John Compton Sundman was approached by the obscure editors from the Society for Analytical Engines to edit the entries of the inaugural Hofstadter Prize for Machine-Written Narrative (as chronicled in Cheap Complex Devices), I was approached, some five months ago, by the book review editor of the journal “Science as Culture” to write a review of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software by Christopher M. Kelty. I agreed to write the review for free. (Why? Because I’m a monkey/amateur –just ask Harlan Ellison).

I think the book, despite its various shortcomings, is good; important, even. It raises significant issues that bear upon (yes, I know how hyperbolic this sounds) whether democracy and the ideals of pan-human equality have any future.

My draft review appears below. At some point, presumably, a version of this review, perhaps considerably revised, will appear in Science as Culture

Funny issues arose regarding copyrights and copylefts of the review itself. I’ll write more about them in a second post.


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Fun Event On Capital Hill Next Monday: I Take On The Neocons On BB Policy

One of the fun things here in D.C. is getting to go to events that are (a) informative on issues, and (b) offer a free lunch. Such is the Broadband Competition Panel sponsored by The Technology Policy Institutenext Monday, July 13, at Noon (for details, follow this link).

TPI has a fairly antiregulatory/UofC/“Free Market” bend to it. Happily, the event organizer, friend and occasional sparring partner Scott Wallsten, likes panels where folks get to mix it up a bit rather than panels where everyone agrees. so he’s asked me to come as the more “regulatory” (or, as I prefer to say “practical and empirically grounded”) panelist to defend how things like net neutrality and more rigorous antitrust enforcement are good things not bad things because they create jobs, spur investment, and protect fundamental freedoms and stuff.

Should be fun. They will provide lunch, but register first. You know what a mob scene these policy debates can be — especially given the hordes of hungry Congressional interns.

Stay tuned . . . .

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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