Iranian Protests

Andrew Sullivan is the one-man, citizen journalism aggregator of the protests in Iran today. His collection of Tweets and YouTube videos convey the impression of a large-scale uprising that the government is trying to control with riot police, chemical weapons, and propaganda. It certainly appears that the uprising is gathering steam and that the government is out-matched. Given that the Supreme Leader relies on his moral authority to govern, and that authority is now shot full of holes, it seems unlikely that he can hang on to power.

Twitter and YouTube are certainly playing a role in getting the news out of the blackout the Iranian government has sought to impose.

Posted in Fascism | Comments Off

What’s happening in Iran?

BusinessWeek isn’t buying the story that Twitter is the essential organizing tool for the protests in Iran over suspicious election results:

“I think the idea of a Twitter revolution is very suspect,” says Gaurav Mishra, co-founder of 20:20 WebTech, a company that analyzes the effects of social media. “The amount of people who use these tools in Iran is very small and could not support protests that size.”

Their assessment is that people are organizing the old-fashioned way, by word-of-mouth and SMS. Ancient technology, that SMS. But it is a great story, either way.

Posted in Politics, Wireless | 3 Comments

My New Job

Incidentally, I’ve started working for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in DC as of this week as a Research Fellow. I’ll be working on the issues that I’ve been working on as a consultant for the past few years: pro-innovation Internet regulation, the National Broadband Plan, and regulatory and policy considerations in the wireless networking space. I’m staying in Silicon Valley for the time being, but I will be making more regular visits to DC.

I like ITIF because their policy line is pragmatic and moderate: they appreciate the fact that sound regulatory policy makes good things happen, and don’t support or oppose any particular line on reflex.

Posted in Internet | Tagged | 4 Comments

Second Hearing in Internet Privacy tomorrow

From House Energy and Commerce:

Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on “Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations”

Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on “Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations”
Publications
June 16, 2009

The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a joint hearing titled, “Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations” on Thursday, June 18, 2009, in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will examine the potential privacy implications of behavioral advertising.

INVITED WITNESSES:

* Jeffrey Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy
* Scott Cleland, President, Precursor LLC
* Charles D. Curran, Executive Director, Network Advertising Initiative
* Christopher M. Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer, Facebook
* Edward W. Felten, Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs, Princeton University
* Anne Toth, Vice President of Policy, Head of Privacy, Yahoo! Inc.
* Nicole Wong, Deputy General Counsel, Google Inc.

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 18

WHERE: 2123 Rayburn House Office Building



This is the second in a series of hearings on the subject of behavioral advertising. I’ll predict that the Democrats will praise Google, the Republicans will criticize them, and nobody will pay much notice to Yahoo.

I only know four of the six personally, I need to get out more.

Posted in Google, Internet, Privacy, Regulation | 5 Comments

New Broadband Czar

Trusted sources tell me Blair Levin is headed back to the FCC to be the Commissar of the People’s Glorious Five Year Plan for the Production of Bandwidth. He’d be a wonderful choice, of course, because he’s a bright and humorous fellow with no particular delusions about what he knows and what he doesn’t know.

I haven’t been enthusiastic about this National Broadband Plan business myself, but if we’re going to have one, we’re going to have one, and it should be the best one on the planet. And no, that doesn’t mean that the object of the exercise is for America’s broadband users to have big foam number 1 fingers, it means we do something sensible with the people’s tax dollars.

The plan should figure out a meaningful way to measure progress, and it should fund some of the efforts to create the next-generation network that will one day supersede the TCP/IP Internet. We all love TCP/IP, mind you, but it’s a 35-year-old solution to a problem we understand a lot better today than we did in 1974. We’ll get a chance to see just how much vision the New FCC has by their reaction to this proposal.

UPDATE: Press reports are dribbling out about the appointment.

Posted in FCC, Regulation | 2 Comments

Finally, nominees for the FCC

Amy Schatz of the WSJ reports that a deal has been struck to move the new nominees into the FCC:

Work has slowed to a crawl at the Federal Communications Commission, since President Barack Obama’s pick to be chairman, Julius Genachowski, is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

But the logjam could be broken soon: Republicans appear to have settled on two people to fill the GOP seats on the five-member board, paving the way for a confirmation hearing in June. Senate Republicans have agreed on former Commerce Department official Meredith Attwell Baker and current FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, officials close to the process say.

This is good news. McDowell has been the best of the FCC commissioners since his appointment, and allowing him a second term is a very bright move. Uncertainty over McDowell’s future was the cause of the slowdown in confirmation hearings, since these things go forward with the whole slate of nominees. So the new FCC is going to look this this:

Chairman Genachowski, new blood
Dem Copps, old hand
Dem Mignon Clyburn, new blood
Rep McDowell
Rep Meredith Baker, new blood

It’s interesting that Baker and Clyburn are both nepotism candidates, as Clyburn is the daughter of powerful Congressman James Clyburn and Baker is the daughter-in-law of the Bush family’s consigliere, James Baker. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the best Chairman of recent times was Colin Powell’s son, and neither of the daughters is particularly unqualified. But if you want to get a laugh out of Blair Levin, the former “sixth commissioner” who wasn’t nominated, tell him you understand that he’s not qualified to serve on the FCC because his daddy’s not in politics. You won’t get a laugh exactly, more like a moan.

The first item of business for the nominees, once they’re confirmed, will be the list of 120 questions Copps put to the world. Good luck to the Commission with that.

Posted in FCC, Politics | 1 Comment

FCC Comments due in National Broadband Plan

See IEEE Spectrum for a few observations on the FCC’s request for comments on the National Broadband Plan:

Comments are due Monday, June 8, at the FCC on the National Broadband Plan (NBP.) The Notice of Inquiry lists some 120 questions that the Commission would like filers to address, running the gamut from goals and benchmarks to open access to privacy to entrepreneurial activity to job creation. Anyone who compiles a list of so many questions clearly hasn’t given much thought to the problem under discussion, so it’s clear upon reading the NOI that we’re many years away from a good NBP, although we may have some vague and probably counter-productive guidelines much sooner: the FCC is supposed to report a plan to Congress by next February. Bear in mind that it took the US 20 years to convert from analog to digital TV, and we’re not even there yet.

There’s more.

Posted in FCC, Internet | Comments Off

Catching up

I’ve been too busy to blog lately, what with the conferences, a white paper I’m writing about protocols and regulation, a recalcitrant editor (at a local paper,) and a new gig blogging for IEEE Spectrum’s Tech Talk. My observations on networking and policy will be appearing there for the while.

The focus over here is going to be pure politics and pure technology, with a little bit of baseball.

We’re in a silly season for politics at the moment:

* Pro-lifers committing murder
* Intellectuals practicing tribal politics
* Critics of tribal politics complaining about pronunciation
* Morons playing with statistics

The funniest among these (please note, there’s nothing funny about murder) is the conspiracy theory about Hillary fans among the car dealers getting off the shutdown hook. It comes as no big surprise that the source of the rumor is Doug Ross, the big net neutrality booster who used to comment here as “Director Blue” until I shut him off. The common thread is conspiracy theory, the essential philosophical basis of American politics.

Posted in Internet | 7 Comments

How Hard is it to Find Authors?

One of the mind-boggling facts about the Google book deal is the number of so-called “orphan works” there are. According to Brewster Kahle, most books published since our current copyright regime was adopted in 1923 are orphan works:

But the settlement would also create a class that includes millions of people who will never come forward. For the majority of books — considered “orphan” works — no one will claim ownership. The author may have died; the publisher might have gone out of business or doesn’t respond to inquiries; the original contract has disappeared.

Google would get an explicit, perpetual license to scan and sell access to these in-copyright but out-of-print orphans, which make up an estimated 50 to 70 percent of books published after 1923. No other provider of digital books would enjoy the same legal protection. The settlement also creates a Book Rights Registry that, in conjunction with Google, would set prices for all commercial terms associated with digital books.

For the archivist who makes money by advertising and resale, orphan works are uniquely convenient: not only do you not have to obtain permission to republish, you also don’t have to share revenues with anyone. Taken together, those facts certainly don’t motivate digital book sellers to expend any effort to find the authors or their heirs.

Now imagine how this would change if someone developed a tool for searching the Internet. Surely the information is out there on most published authors, their heirs, and their whereabouts, so as long as someone is diligent enough to sift through it, evaluate it, and interpret it, they can be found. I wonder how long it will be until a bright young pair of graduate students in the computer science program of a major university set themselves to solve the problem of Internet search.

Not to be sarcastic or anything.

Posted in Google | 2 Comments

Recycling Garbage Abroad

Advocates of network neutrality regulations have been largely unsuccessful in advancing their agenda in the US. The one case in which they claim to have secured a victory was the Vuze vs. Comcast action in the FCC, which was severely tainted by Vuze turning to porn to resuscitate its dying business:

In a bid to increase their revenue, among other things, Vuze has added a catalog of HD adult videos to their BitTorrent client. For a few dollars a month Vuze users can subscribe to the latest hotness. Of course, all torrents on the erotica network are well seeded.

The same FCC commissioners who levied an unlawful fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction ordered Comcast to give free bandwidth to a porn site. (Feeling good about that, Chairman Copps? [ed: OK, that was a cheap shot, but Copps and I know each other.])

Not deterred by this spotty track record, wannabe neutrality regulator Cory Doctorow trots out the well-worn arguments for the overseas audience in a Guardian column that stinks of Dow Chemical’s overseas pesticide dumping:

Take the Telcoms Package now before the EU: among other things, the package paves the way for ISPs and Quangos to block or slow access to websites and services on an arbitrary basis. At the same time, ISPs are instituting and enforcing strict bandwidth limits on their customers, citing shocking statistics about the bandwidth hogs who consume vastly more resources than the average punter.

Between filtering, fiddling connection speeds and capping usage, ISPs are pulling the rug out from under the nations that have sustained them with generous subsidies and regulation.

Doctorow supports his arguments with a series of fanciful metaphors since there aren’t any real abuses for UK subjects to be upset about. Here’s a portion of my reaction in the comments:

Let’s take a closer look at Doctorow’s non-metaphoric claims:

“Between these three factors – (1) reducing the perceived value of the net, (2) reducing the ability of new entrants to disrupt incumbents, and (3) penalizing those who explore new services on the net – we are at risk of scaring people away from the network, of giving competitive advantage to firms in better-regulated nations, of making it harder for people to use the net to weather disasters, to talk to their government and to each other.”

I’ve numbered them for easy reference. So where’s the proof that these things are happening? For (1) we have this:

“ISPs would also like to be able to arbitrarily slow or degrade our network connections depending on what we’re doing and with whom. In the classic “traffic shaping” scenario, a company like Virgin Media strikes a deal with Yahoo…”

How do we know that ISPs want to slow or degrade our access, which would seem to drive us to a different ISP? The metaphoric example is offered as the proof. See the relevance?

For problem (2) , Doctorow offers:

“Unless, that is, the cost of entry into the market goes up by four or five orders of magnitude, growing to encompass the cost of a horde of gladhanding negotiators who must first secure the permission of gatekeepers at the telcoms giants…”

The problem with this, of course, is that the barriers to entry for new search and video services are the edge caches Google would like to install in the ISP networks, which do in fact give them a fast lane to the consumer (why else would Google want them?) and raise obstacles to start-ups. But American neutralists say these entry barriers are good because their friend Google wants to erect them, not a telco. Double standard.

And for (3), the evils of metered billing, we have this lovely little thing:

“Before you clicked on this article, you had no way of knowing how many bytes your computer would consume before clicking on it. And now that you’ve clicked on it, chances are that you still don’t know how many bytes you’ve consumed..”

Please. Metered billing systems aren’t going to operate on the differences between web pages. If Doctorow believed what he said about the Pareto Curve, he’d certainly be able to appreciate the difference between reading a thousand web pages vs watching a thousand videos. High bandwidth consumers aren’t doing anything “innovative,” they’re most likely downloading free porn. Who is this guy kidding?

Doctorow’s fiction may be very enjoyable, but his understanding of the Internet and his policy prescriptions are nonsense. Read the book, take a pass on the law.

What’s especially sad is how Doctorow tries to pander to the overseas audience by using a tonne of Brit slang, going on about “punters,” “Quangos,” pounds and pence, and making a tube reference; NN is all about tribal ID, and he gets just that much of it.

Posted in Net Neutrality | 4 Comments