Does Free Press Coordinate Strategy with Google?

The ethics complaints against former Google lobbyist Andrew McLaughlin aren’t going away.

Over a two-week period in February 2010, McLaughlin exchanged numerous emails with Free Press director Ben Scott, another prominent advocate for Net neutrality who has coordinated policy strategy with Google and attended joint meetings with Google at the FCC and White House on numerous occasions. They agreed to meet outside the White House at a nearby coffee shop to discuss Internet policy.

It’s interesting to see this level of coordination, given all of Free Press’ claims of independence. But it’s not unusual for members of a coalition to talk to each other; they’re often directed to do so by the government. In a former life, I was often in that position, so this still has a “gambling in Casablanca” feel.

We’ve heard this before

Check out this essay from The Atlantic, “Closing the Digital Frontier”:

Digital freedom, of the monetary and First Amendment varieties, may in retrospect have become our era’s version of Manifest Destiny, our Turner thesis. Embracing digital freedom was an exaltation, a kind of noble calling. In a smart essay in the journal Fast Capitalism in 2005, Jack Shuler shows how similar the rhetoric of the 1990s digital frontier was to that of the 19th-century frontier era. It’s a short jump from John L. O’Sullivan in 1839—“The far-reaching, the boundless will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles”—to Kevin Kelly, the pioneering conceptualizer of the “hive mind” and a founding editor of Wired, writing in Harper’s in 1994, “A recurring vision swirls in the shared mind of the Net, a vision that nearly every member glimpses, if only momentarily: of wiring human and artificial minds into one planetary soul.” Two years later Barlow, a self- described advocate for “online colonists,” got down on bended knee, doublet unbraced, to beseech us mere analog mortals: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone … You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

Are there any new ideas?

Internet Congestion

I posted the second part of my Internet congestion article on High Tech Forum:

This is the second part of an examination of the nature of congestion on packet switched networks such as the Internet. In the first part, Internet Congestion 101, we looked the at an idea expressed on Chris Marsden’s blog regarding the assumption of a “reasonable level of backhaul.” As Chris acknowledges in a comment, the task of pinning down the level of shared capacity (backhaul is shared by its nature) that’s reasonable falls on the regulator rather than the engineer. The reason for this is that the way supply and demand are brought into balance on packet switched networks is dynamic; on a circuit switched network, demand is static per call, so the operator simply has to provision enough shared capacity to supply the number of subscribers that are likely to make calls at the network peak (probably Mother’s Day afternoon in the US.) The consequence of demand exceeding supply is the inability to make calls, and that’s clearly unacceptable.

Read the whole thing, slacker.

Check out my New Blog

I’ve got a new technology blog called High Tech Forum where I publish news and analysis of technology developments that affect networking and communications.

It’s a multi-user enterprise, so I’m happy to run articles by others, regardless of point of view, as long as they’re informative. It’s not a policy-oriented blog, it’s a “just the facts, ma’am” blog. So far I’ve got articles by Larry Roberts and Chuck Jackson, so you could be next.

The New York Times Takes Our Name in Vain

At least they spelled our name right. The Price of Broadband Politics is the title of a New York Times editorial on the lobbying that’s taking place around broadband Internet regulation that sounds the usual cliche themes about money in politics:

Comcast has spent more than $2 million on campaign donations; Verizon has given $1.2 million. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association — the industry’s collective lobbying group — has spent about $1 million more. And just in case that isn’t persuasive enough of the ills of government regulation, telephone and cable companies spent $20.6 million lobbying the government in the first quarter of the year.

Never mind that money spent on contributions is entirely different from money spent on lobbying, it’s the dollar signs that the Times sees, and only those on one side of the debate. So what happens if regulated industries are forbidden from lobbying? The industries who see a benefit from spinning the regulations a certain way will still lobby, and voices like that of the New York Times editorial page will be all the louder. The Times perceives its self-interest, rightly or wrongly, to depend on these regulations, and it’s spending its own money to advocate for its interests on its editorial page. God forbid its opponents who don’t own printing presses should do the same.