Storm not winning any raves

Om Malik isn’t impressed by the BlackBerry Storm and neither am I:

The Storm reminds me of the St. Louis Cardinals phenom Rich Ankiel, who was an awesome pitcher till he flamed out, got hurt and came back as an outfielder and a hitter. He scored a lot of runs last seasons, but he isn’t a center fielder like Mickey Mantle. He is just another player. Storm will be that — just another touch-screen smartphone.

He points out that Blackberry excels at text, which is merely adequate on a touch screen. The omission of Wi-Fi makes the Storm unacceptable for me, so I reluctantly got a G1 to replace my lost Blackberry Curve, and I’m not exactly Google’s biggest fan (see next post.)

Ankiel’s OPS, .843, ranks 78th in the National League, BTW, which is the definition of mediocre.

Keeping the Black Box under wraps

Cade Metz explains why Google canceled its pending ad deal with Yahoo rather than disclose its secrets in court:

“We canceled the deal with about one hour to go before a lawsuit was going to be filed against our deal,” Schmidt said. “We concluded after a lot of soul-searching that it was not in our best interest to go through a lengthy and costly trial which we believe we ultimately would have won.”

But surely, when Schmidt speaks of costs, he’s not concerned with paying his lawyers. A monopoly-expanding ad pact with Jerry Yang and Yahoo! would bring Google hundreds of millions of dollars a year. If the company was convinced of an antitrust triumph, legal fees were a drop in the bucket.

As head Mountain View lawyer David Drummond tells it, a long legal battle could damage relationships with Google advertisers – many of whom opposed the Yahoo! marriage. But the costs are even greater: An antitrust trial would finally give the world a window into Google’s black box of an ad engine.

The genius of the Mountain View money machine is that no one knows how it works.

The auction that’s not an auction is the heart of Google’s business, and disclosing its secrets would only unleash a torrent of anti-trust activity. Everybody loves Google because its services are free to consumers, but at the end of the day it’s simply an advertising-supported version of the KGB.

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This blog is an INTJ

Via Andy Sullivan, I found a service that analyzes and types blog content, Typealyzer. Here’s what it says about my blog:

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it – often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples. Since they are extremly good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

Sounds about right, but they do need some spell-checking.

Technology Liberation Front is the same type, but Harold Feld’s Wetmachine post on the FCC’s cable inquiry is an INTP:

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Again, about right.

UPDATE: Harold’s Tales of the Sausage Factory is, in general, INTJ.

Obama transition team member Susan Crawford is ENTJ:

The direct and assertive type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and how to get things done. They are talented strategic planners, but might come off as insensitive to others needs and appear arrogant. They like to be where the action is and like making bold and sweeping changes in complex situations.

The Executives are happy when their work let them learn and improve themselves and how things work around them. Not beeing very shy about expressing their ideas and often very outgoing they often make excellent public speakers.

That public speaker thing is obviously correct; I met her when we were both speaking on the future of broadband at Kevin Werbach’s Supernova. Kevin, the other Obama FCC transitioner, is INTP.

Canadian regulators smarter than Americans

Canada’s Internet users have won a measure of victory over bandwidth hogs. In a ruling from the CRTC, Canada’s FCC, Bell Canada is permitted to continue managing network over-use:

Bell Canada today won a largely clear victory in an anti-throttling lawsuit filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The government body has issued a ruling dismissing claims by Internet providers using part of Bell’s network that accused the carrier of unfairly throttling the connection speeds of their services while also constricting its own. These rivals, represented by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), had accused Bell of trying to hinder competition and violating the basic concepts of net neutrality by discouraging large transfers.

The CRTC’s dismissal is based on the observation that peer-to-peer usage does appear to have a detrimental impact on Bell’s network and so requires at least some level of control to keep service running properly for all users. It also rejects neutrality concerns by claim that Bell’s throttling system, which uses deep packet inspection to investigate traffic, is adjusting speed and doesn’t restrict the content itself.

Bell hails its successful defense as proof that those running online networks are “in the best position” to judge how their networks are managed.

Canada’s Larry Lessig, a populist/demagogue law professor named Michael Geist, was heart-broken over the decision, and pro-piracy web site Ars Technica shed a few tears as well:

The proceeding was also notable for the frank admissions from other large ISPs like Rogers—they admitted that they throttle traffic on a discriminatory basis, too. It also produced wild allegations from companies like Cisco that “even if more bandwidth were added to the network, P2P file-sharing applications are designed to use up that bandwidth.” Such assertions allow the ISPs to claim that they must be able to throttle specific protocols simply to stay afloat—survival is at stake.

This is (to put it politely) highly debatable.

Actually it’s not debatable, not by sane people anyhow. Residential broadband is as cheap as it is only because ISPs can count on people sharing the wires in a civilized fashion. People who keep their broadband pipes constantly saturated take resources away from their neighbors. There are alternatives, of course. You can buy a T-1 line with a Service Level Agreement that you can saturate with all the traffic you want. In the US, count on paying $400/mo for 1.5 Mb/s upload and download. Want something cheaper? Learn to share.

Canada is widely regarded as a more left wing, business-hostile country than the US. How to account for the fact that the CRTC got this issue right while Bush’s FCC got it wrong in the Comcast case?

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Just Another Utility

Critics of Obama FCC transitioner Susan Crawford have correctly pointed out that she’s made some odd-sounding remarks to the effect that Internet access is just another utility, like water, power, or sewer service. If the intent of this remark is to suggest that everybody needs access to the Internet these days, just as much (or nearly as much) as we need electricity and running water, nobody has much of a problem with this observation, other than standard hyperbole objections.

But utilities in the USA tend to be provided by the government, so it’s reasonable to draw the implication from Crawford’s comparison that the government should be providing Internet access. This interpretation is underscored by her frequent complaints about the US’s ranking versus other countries in the broadband speed and price sweepstakes.

If you continually advocate for more aggressive spending to win a supposed international broadband arms race, you minimize the effectiveness of private investment, and you tout the planet’s fastest and cheapest Internet service as a necessity of life, you’re going to be regarded as either a garden-variety socialist or an impractical dreamer.
Continue reading “Just Another Utility”

Honorably Mentioned

The Sidecut Reports ranking of the Top 10 Net Neutrality Influencers has some interesting honorables:

Honorable Mention: Tim Wu, Columbia Law School; Kyle McSlarrow, NCTA; Eric Schmidt, Google; Chris Libertelli, eBay/Skype; Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge; Jessica Rosenworcel, Senate Commerce Committee; Jonathan Adelstein, FCC; Phil Weiser, University of Colorado; Richard Bennett, blogger/independent network engineer and self-confessed geek.

Hmmm…I don’t know if this is entirely credible. But you never know.

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Thirty Profiles

Dave Burstein of DSL Prime has posted profiles of 30 FCC candidates to his web site, including one transition team member:

Susan Crawford, now teaching at Michigan, also has enormous respect from her peers and would bring international perspective from her role at ICANN setting world Internet policy

The selection of Crawford to join Kevin Werbach on the FCC transition team has already gotten some of my colleagues on the deregulatory side pretty excited, as she has the image of being a fierce advocate of a highly-regulated Internet. And indeed, she has written some strong stuff in favor of the “stupid network” construct that demands all packets be treated as equals inside the network. The critics are missing something that’s very important, however: both Werbach and Crawford are “Internet people” rather than “telecom people” and that’s a very important thing. While we may not like Crawford’s willingness to embrace a neutral routing mandate in the past, the more interesting question is how she comes down on a couple of issues that trump neutral routing, network management and multi-service routing.

We all know by now that the network management exception is more powerful than Powell’s “Four Freedoms” where the rubber meets the road, but we lack any clear guidance to ISPs as to how their management practices will be evaluated. Clarification of the rules is as much a benefit to carriers as it is to consumers. The one way to ensure that we all lose is to keep lumbering along in the murk of uncertain authority and secret rules. Internet people are going to ask the right questions to their candidates, and anybody who can satisfy both Werbach and Crawford will have to be a good choice. Check Werbach’s web site for his papers. Unfotunately, the most interesting of them is not yet in print, “The Centripetal Network: How the Internet Holds Itself Together, and the Forces Tearing it Apart”, UC Davis Law Review, forthcoming 2008. Perhaps he’ll post a draft.

The question of multi-service routing is also very important. Crawford has written and testified to the effect that the Internet is the first global, digital, multi-service network, which is substantially correct. The Internet is not fully multi-service today, however, and can’t be unless it exposes multiple service levels at the end points for applications to use easily. The generic public Internet has a single transport service which has to meet the needs of diverse applications today, which is not really an achievable goal in the peer-to-peer world.
Continue reading “Thirty Profiles”

Missing the point of the Internet

Network neutrality advocates have been preening and cooing since the election as they expect the Obama FCC and the new Democratic Party-dominated Congress to enact new laws and regulations advancing their pet cause. They got some support today from an unexpected quarter when the Cato Institute published a paper by graduate student Tim Lee echoing and supporting their main argument:

An important reason for the Internet’s remarkable growth over the last quarter century is the “end-to-end” principle that networks should confine themselves to transmitting generic packets without worrying about their contents. Not only has this made deployment of internet infrastructure cheap and efficient, but it has created fertile ground for entrepreneurship. On a network that respects the end-to-end principle, prior approval from network owners is not needed to launch new applications, services, or content.

Tim Lee, bless his heart, is wrong about the importance of the Internet’s end-to-end architecture. While the Internet, along with all other computer-based networks, certainly does have such an architecture, it’s not the only architecture or even the most important one in the mix. The most important part of the Internet is its “network-to-network” architecture, because that’s the part that makes it what it is. The Internet is only an internet because network operators have agreed to exchange traffic with each other according to terms that they develop among themselves without government interference. This exchange of traffic is what makes it an interesting place.

Internetwork packet exchange is not as simplistic as network neutrality advocates make it out to be. Network operators do not simply forward packets first-come-first-served to anybody and everybody for the end-to-end layer to sort out; they discriminate in all sorts of ways to provide good service to as many people as possible at a reasonable price. Some network operators offer different tiers of service to different customers, and exchange traffic with other networks accordingly. This is good, but it’s not the “stupid network” that our regulators want to see.

Network neutrality is an attempt to shackle the Internet with regulations that mirror a failed model of network architecture, to give a victory to a failed vision by government fiat that it could not achieve in the market. The government should not be picking winners and losers in the competition among network architectures.

Even if you don’t accept that argument, there’s another reason that the proposed regulations should be rejected: the Internet is a technology, and technologies can always be expected to improve over time as parts to build them become cheaper and faster. Net neutrality is a backward-looking agenda that seeks to freeze the Internet core at a particular level of technology. This can only have the effect of hastening its obsolescence, and make no mistake about it, it will be obsolete some day. Nostalgia has no place in technology regulation.

Indeed, Tim’s argument against net neutrality regulations is weak and non-specific. It’s a good reminder that advocates only make arguments about unintended consequences, slippery slopes, and camel’s noses when they’ve lost the argument.

Any attempt to add new regulations to the Internet should be examined from a bias against regulation. If a case can be made that new regulations will make things better, well and good. But arguments about restoring a once golden status quo should be rejected out of hand as incoherent and reactionary.

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AT&T’s Dubious Behavior

You may not have noticed in the crush of events, but AT&T announced a new broadband service option last week, up to 18 Mb/s DSL:

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) today announced it will launch AT&T U-verseSM High Speed Internet Max 18 on Nov. 9, offering speeds of up to 18 Mbps downstream. Exclusively available for AT&T U-verse TV customers, Max 18 is the fastest high speed Internet package available from the nation’s leading provider of broadband services.

Apparently this is simply a pricing option for existing U-Verse TV customers that allows them to use more of their pipe for downloading when they aren’t using it for TV. The general data rate of the AT&T pipe is 25 Mb/s without pair bonding, of which 2 – 16 Mb/s is used for TV. Under the old plan, Internet downloads were capped at 12 Mb/s, which generally left enough for two HDTV streams, except when it didn’t, and under those circumstances AT&T borrowed from Internet capacity to make the TV keep looking fairly good. AT&T should be able to offer a 25 Mb/s download tier without changing any hardware, but they don’t.

Generally speaking, we’re all in favor of faster downloads whenever possible, but this announcement is troubling for one very big reason: the only way you can get this service is to buy AT&T’s TV service. This bundling sets the giant of the telcos apart from competitors Verizon, Comcast, and Qwest and raises concerns that should have the consumer groups who’ve promoted the net neutrality agenda hopping mad.

The two aspects of network operation that deserve regulatory scrutiny are disclosure and anti-competitive practices, and this behavior falls squarely in the anti-competitive nexus. The other providers of triple- and quad-play services will gladly sell all tiers of Internet service to anyone in the service areas regardless of which other services they choose to buy. They typically discount Internet service for TV and phone customers, but it’s certainly available without purchasing the other services, and for less than it would cost to buy them as well.

This mandatory bundling is unfortunately consistent with AT&T’s role as the black sheep of net neutrality. It was their CEO’s remarks, after all, that set off the current controversy back in 2005: Ed Whiteacre said Google and Vonage weren’t going to “use his pipes for free.” This got Google engaged in a regulatory program and unleashed a massive infusion of cash into the debate over the regulation of Internet access services, not to mention an army of Google-friendly advocates such as Larry Lessig and Tim Wu’s Free Press organization, the muscle behind the Save the Internet blog. And when the FCC overstepped its authority in and slapped Comcast on the wrist, AT&T insisted the cable company should accept its fate silently and take one for the team instead of challenging the unlawful order in court. Their gall is breathtaking.

The consumer advocates have been strangely silent about this clearly anti-competitive bundling. Why should I have to buy AT&T’s TV service to get the top tier of their Internet access service? For years I bought Internet access from Comcast and TV from DirecTV, and was very pleased with the result. I would probably still do that if DirecTV had not ended their relationship with TiVo and tried to force their sub-standard DVR on me. And if I choose to do so today, I can buy the highest tier Comcast offers in my neighborhood without signing up for their TV service, and at a fairly reasonable price.

So why is AT&T trying to gouge the consumer, and why is the net neutrality movement silent about it? Consumer’s Union is all up in arms about cable companies converting analog customers to digital along with the rest of the country in February, a painfully silly campaign that argues for unfair regulation. Why not address a real issue instead?

John Doerr’s CTO recommendation

I see in the BITS Blog that John Doerr is recommending a partner to become Pres. Obama’s CTO:

Barack Obama wanted to know whom Mr. Doerr would recommend for chief technology officer of the United States, a position that Mr. Obama has promised to create. Mr. Doerr’s first choice was Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in which Mr. Doerr invested early on. Mr. Joy is now a partner at Mr. Doerr’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mr. Doerr said it would be a sacrifice to lose him to the Obama administration, but that “there is no greater cause.”

I can’t go along with that. Bill Joy is certainly an interesting guy, but he’s too much a creative mind for a government job like this one. He’s certainly done a lot of important work, what with vi, BSD sockets, and championing nfs and Java (and, as Wes Felter points out, Jini and Jxta,) but I think he tends to look a bit too far off into the future and tends to get burned on the practical side of things. I went to a talk he gave in Singapore back in ’86 in which he predicted the imminent demise of Microsoft. A talent for wishful thinking isn’t good in a bureaucrat. See: War, Iraq.

UPDATE: And more recently, Joy wrote this embarrassing piece from Wired about the danger of technical progress, which even Glenn Reynolds finds alarming. Doerr is a strong supporter of the “net neutrality” regulatory model, having co-penned an Op-Ed on it with Reed Hastings of Netflix. Protecting your portfolio is an understandable aim, but it’s not a good guide for national (and international) policy.

I hope Julius Genachowski isn’t swayed by the fact that these folks jumped on the Obama bandwagon (after their girl lost the nomination, actually.) The vast majority of the tech community supported Obama, and most of us are brighter and more sensible than the prominent figures from law and unsavory advertising who’ve made the most noise in support Google’s regulatory capture of the FCC. More on that later.