SMART Letter #80
Trans-Pacific Tour -- part one
December 20, 2002

            SMART Letter #80 -- December 20, 2002
            Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg - "no incarceration without representation" -- -- 1-888-isen-com

>  Soapbox: Let's find a new name for 'anti-globalization'
>  The Trans-Pacific Tour, part one
   + Japan
   + How Japanese kids and U.S. kids connect
   + What ever happened to India?
   + Australia
>  Quote of Note: Doc Searls, "Nice doing business to you."
>  Quote of Note: on customer disservice
>  If it's funny, it must be true, by Scatt Oddams
>  Conference on my Calendar
>  Copyright Notice, Administrivia

by David S. Isenberg

I'm distressed that huge multinational corporations have 
given globalization a bad name.  Notwithstanding, people 
who oppose tyrannosauric actions of big companies ought to 
stop calling themselves "anti-globalization."  Globalization 
itself is a fact.  There are more ways to be globalized 
than there are to be American; some of them are wise, human 
and life-affirming, while others are toxic, taxic, 
imperialistic and exploitative.  Most of the time it is 
easy to tell which is which.  We share a small, beautiful 
planet  "Anti-globalization" sounds so head-in-the-sand.  
C'mon people.  You're not against cheap, easy, 
international air travel or instantaneous international, 
communications are you?  If you're SMART you're not against 
treating our planet as a single complex system.  I hope 
you're not anti-roundness or anti-blue or anti-anybody-but- 
your-own-tribe.  Let's find a better descriptor!

THE TRANS-PACIFIC TOUR by David S. Isenberg is a one-person multinational thanks to the 
Internet -- without the Internet it would be almost 
impossible to do what I do without a staff.  Since I do not 
make enough money to support a staff, I couldn't do it.  
So, thanks to the Internet I've enjoyed business and 
pleasure over the last few weeks in Japan, Australia, New 
Zealand and (that oh-so-different culture) California.  
This SMART Letter covers the first half of the trip -- my 
visit to New Zealand and my write-up of the Supernova 
conference will be in SMART Letter #81.

You don't have to travel or have an e-pen-pal halfway 
around the world to think globally.  The next time you're 
watching the sun "rise," remember that you're on a planet 
that is rotating towards the sun on its axis as you watch 
it.  When I really think about it while I'm watching, it 
changes my perception of the event; it feels like I am 
rotating out of the planet's own shadow, there is no 
"rising" involved.


Japan is definitely rotating towards the sun these days,
in connectivity if not overall economy.  

When I visited Japan two years ago, it was pathetically 
behind the United States, except in mobile services.  
Techies lamented the paper-insulated, World War II era 
copper loop plant and NTT's parochialism.  Now, suddenly, 
Japan seems (to this globalized gaijin) to have its act 

Japanese ADSL service is priced right.  In September 2002 
there were over five million "broadband" (mostly ADSL) 
subscribers, and take rates are accelerating.  YahooBB, the 
largest, most aggressive ADSL provider, offers 12 Mbit/s 
connectivity at about US$12.00 a month.  Mandatory Yahoo 
ISP subscription costs another US$12.00.  YahooBB is 
sparing no expense to Get Big Fast.  There are bouncy TV 
commercials.  Attractive teens in YahooBB uniforms hand out 
free starter kits (ADSL modem plus software) on the 
streets, in the subway, in shopping malls to anybody who 
will take one.  YahooBB, in business since September 2001, 
blew past the million-subscriber mark months ago.  (When I 
imagine YahooBB's customer acquisition costs, I cringe, but 
since YahooBB is controlled by Softbank, they *must* have a 
plan, right?)

For another US$3.00 a month YahooBB also offers unmetered 
Internet-to-Internet VOIP telephone calls, and (in a 
country with non-trivial per-minute local charges) 
dramatically reduced Internet-to-landline calling prices.  
There's an RJ-11 jack on the back of the YahooBB ADSL 
modem; just plug in your phone and call.  (I did not get to 
hear a YahooBB Internet telephone call firsthand.)

For another US$10.00 per month, YahooBB customers can use 
802.11 hotspots in McDonalds, Starbucks, Denny's and other 
public and semi-public spaces.  To date, there are only 
about 3000 hot spots nationwide, but this number is 
growing.  (It will be fun to see how businesses respond 
when spaces designed for fast customer turn-around become 
places where kids spend hours lingering over laptops.)  

There's not much cable TV in Japan, so cable modem service 
has no base.  But there are other large ADSL providers 
besides YahooBB/Softbank (e.g., NTT), and Fiber to the Home 
(FTTH) is a reality in more than a few Tokyo neighborhoods.  
In November, the seven next-largest ISPs announced plans 
for an Internet telephony service for their 2 million 
broadband customers to compete against the YahooBB service.  
They say their calls will travel over a dedicated network.  
Bad idea!

FTTH deployment is still in its infancy in both Japan and 
the U.S.  Today FTTH serves over 100,000 Japanese homes, 
versus a few tens of thousands in the United States -- and 
Japan has less than half the people of the U.S.  Like 
Japanese ADSL service, FTTH in Japan is priced right.  100-
megabit symmetrical service costs less than US$50.00 a 
month from Usen (including ISP service).  Or, where fiber 
serves an apartment building, 10-megabit service (via in-
building Cat-5 wire) is priced similarly to ADSL.  FTTH 
availability is spotty and according to neighborhood, but 
it is expanding fast.

I have never connected to the Internet in more ways than I 
did in Japan.  I dialed in, of course; I could hear the 
crocodile going tick, tick, tick, so always-on was out of 
the question.  One of the hotels I used had always-on 
Ethernet service for about US$10.00 a day, another charged 
about US$15.00; these were absolutely plug-n-play.  (Or, 
more accurately, plug, reboot and play.)  When I visited my 
brother Daniel's company (http:// www I 
plugged into his company's fiber-based Ethernet service 
seamlessly.  I also connected via 802.11b at GLOCOM's 
"Socio-Economic Impacts of Wireless" conference that hosted 
my visit to Japan.  (You can see the entire conference at

But perhaps the most interesting connection was supplied by 
Japan Communications, Inc. (  It 
was wireless and ran at up to 128 kbit/s.  OK, so it didn't 
set any speed records, but it did allow me a persistent, 
un-metered, always-on anywhere connection that Tokyo local 
telephone calling did not.  This was important, if for no 
other reason than to maintain instant messaging 
reachability for people back in the United States.  

Japan Communications is a virtual provider, a networkless 
networking company.  It buys connectivity from a private, 
licensed network in the 1900 MHz band and re-sells it.  It 
supplies a PCMCIA card and some simple software, including 
drivers and various compression engines to make the 128 
kbit/s experience faster to the user.  Japan 
Communications' specialty is selling connectivity to the 
corporate marketplace, so, e.g., salespeople can reach into 
rapidly changing databases at headquarters.  Meanwhile, 
Westport Communications, a re-re-seller of Japan 
Communications' product (, provides 
individuals, including visitors to Japan like myself, with 
a rent-a-connection for about US$80.00 a month.

My experience was that it worked well during non-business 
hours, but slowed significantly as people came to work.  
Japan Communications founder Frank Seiji Sanda (who I knew 
from a previous visit and who serves on my brother's 
advisory board) explained that during work hours his 
corporate customers get priority.  He strongly suggested I 
use the compression engines, but I am philosophically 
opposed -- best effort *should* be good enough.  However, I 
suspect that if I were in Japan for any length of time (a) 
I would have to become a customer and (b) I *would* use the 


Howard Rheingold's new book, _Smart Mobs_ largely revolves 
around how kids in developed nations use mobile 
connectivity, and how it changes their lives.  I read most 
of _Smart Mobs_ on the plane to Japan.  When I got to 
Japan, I could've fallen under the spell of the Jet Lag 
Monster, but instead I took my cue from _Smart Mobs_ and 
hopped a subway to Shibuya to see the mythical Japanese 
young people in action.  There they were, just as Rheingold 
described, jamming the electronics stores and sushi bars, 
thumbing their keitai (mobile phone), getting a funny joke 
via text and passing the phone around to their friends, 
capturing a picture of their girlfriend's ring on their 
cell phone and emailing it from their seat on the subway.

Why, I asked several people, did Japanese kids glom onto 
mobile devices more than U.S. kids.  The answer that 
emerged speaks to me more of cultural differences than of 
technology or connectivity.  

After school, U.S. kids go home, shut their bedroom door 
and log on.  In contrast, Japanese kids hop a train and go 
downtown, keitai in hand.  In Japan it is safe to be a 
teenager of either sex anywhere; in the United States 
parents fear for their kids when they're out.  Also in the 
United States distances are long, roads are wide and 
gasoline is cheap, but in Japan driving is difficult and 
expensive; the large freeways through the middle of Tokyo 
are mostly two-lane and jammed.  Meanwhile trains are 
everywhere; young Japanese teens are as mobile as everybody 

In addition, Japanese living space is small and not very 
private, hence it is not as likely that kids will have a PC 
set up in their bedroom; they probably don't have their own 
bedroom or even their own desk.  

Before Comcast split my old New Jersey neighborhood's cable 
Internet access, performance would sag right around 3:30 PM 
on school days.  So I know that U.S. kids are as techy-
connected as anybody.  But they're in their rooms, not out 
meeting their friends because Soccer-Mom would have to 
drive them -- yet another example where the mere act of 
asking permission itself becomes a barrier.  

Meanwhile, Japanese kids are out face-to-facing even as 
they connect to the net.  The latter sure seems healthier.  
Especially if you believe the experts (like Susan Stucky, 
see who say that the deepest 
learning comes from direct social interaction among peers.

U.S. kids probably have a richer on-line experience with a 
big screen, a full keyboard, printers and speakers.  I 
wonder if Japanese kids will stay home more as they acquire 
higher-speed connectivity.  But mostly I wonder how a 
nation of shut-in and mommy-driven kids will evolve 
compared to a nation where kids are autonomously mobile and 
more socially interactive.  


For almost a year Bharti Telecom, India's second carrier, 
has been sending me feelers through third parties about 
visiting them.  Bharti was on the trans-Pacific tour until 
the Fail Fast Letter (see hit the 
Internet.  The very next day the folks at Bharti decided to 
"postpone" the visit.  (If it thinks it's a telco 
and acts like a telco and avoids dissenting views like a 
telco . . .)  I'm not sure which business unit at Bharti 
was inviting me.  I'm not sure if they knew who they were 
inviting or what I stand for.  They wanted me to do 
"promotional," but I only do promotional if I like what I 
see.  They weren't ready for  In contrast, when I 
criticized Cisco directly (in SMART Letter #72,, concerned senior Cisco 
folks invited me to come tell them more, because they 
wanted to understand (on the off chance that I *might* be 
right). NTT (Japan) is trying hard to understand the 
consequences of the Stupid Network too.  And if Bharti ever 
decides it wants to hear what I have to say, that'll be a 
sign of hope.  Then I'll be glad to go tell them and listen 
to them, and we'll probably have a good discussion.  


The flight from Tokyo to Melbourne was about the same 
duration as the flight from San Jose to Tokyo, but it was 
less disruptive because Tokyo time is only two hours 
different than Melbourne time.  Body time stayed in synch 
with planet time.  

Both Australia and New Zealand, having dabbled briefly in 
telecom competition, are slipping back towards duopoly.  In 
Australia, Telstra is the former monopoly and Telecom New 
Zealand has an interest in the #2 carrier.  In New Zealand 
it is vice versa.  One person I talked to thought that the 
non-dominant carrier in one country cribbed the press 
releases from the other non-dominant carrier on the other 
side of the Tasman Sea.  Tweedle dee on one side is 
tweedle-dum on the other.  And vice versa.

  "Well, they're living in a happy harmony
   Tweedle-dee Dum and Tweedle-dee Dee
   They're one day older and a dollar short
   They've got a parade permit and a police escort"
Bob Dylan, "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," in _Love and 
Theft_, 2001.

International long distance is still showing signs of 
strong competition in Australia.  I bought an AU$10.00 
prepaid card from the local tobacco shop to follow up on 
some business in Japan.  I had a nice long leisurely chat, 
maybe 45 minutes or an hour.  The voice quality was fine, 
and the explicit dialing directions on the card more than 
compensated for having to dial over 30 digits.  After 
Japan, I called the United States, and the announcement 
said that I had AU$7.82 (about US$4.50) left on the card 
and therefore the call could only last four hundred and 
some minutes.  So distance really is dead in Australia if 
you use the right stethoscope.

In contrast, the cheapest U.S. calls from New Zealand that 
I could find cost NZ$0.16 per minute (8 U.S. cents).  Not 
bad, but it seems that the N.Z. economy must bear an 
infrastructure cost that the Australian economy does not.

Another contrast: the hotel's Ethernet connection cost 
AU$29.95, about US$17.00, significantly more than Japan.  
But it was still worth it.

My host in Melbourne was the Australian Telecommunications 
Cooperative Research Centre  Nice 
folks, but old school.  They were reeling because Ericsson 
had just announced they were closing their Australia-based 
research lab.  After my talk, Leith Campbell, the head of 
ATCRC, invited a couple of Australian telecom/IT folks.  
One of them, Ric Clark, the managing director of the 
Ericsson lab that was closing, wasn't much fun because he 
agreed with me completely.  The other, Robert G. James was 
feisty.  He talked confidently, as if neo-new-economy 
business models were already in place that would let 
publishers get their cut, banks get theirs, and would even 
let the telcos get theirs.  In my interpretation of his 
view, nobody gets disintermediated; all the entities remain 
intact despite the technical and architectural disruptions 
of the Stupid Network (which he agreed were coming).  Well, 
I guess it is one scenario -- one that publishers and banks 
and telcos would probably pay good money to hear.

The next morning I was in the elevator in my hotel when the 
door opened and a young man bounded in.  He crackled with 
energy.  "G'day," I proffered.  He replied, "What do you 
do?"  I reply with a sweeping gesture of my arms, 

His energy level went from high to intense.  "Really?" he 
says.  "I'm building a new network for rural Sri Lanka from 
scratch.  Everything -- land line, mobile, Internet.  I 
have $xxx million committed and I'm here looking for 
partners.  I'm flying to Europe tomorrow.  Do you want me 
to send you the documents?"  As he says this last word, his 
hands indicate a stack half a meter high.  

"No, I told him, feeling a little afraid, "but I would 
*love* to see your executive summary.  I bet I could help."

There are no coincidences.  To date he and I have exchanged 
a couple of brief emails, but I have not yet seen the 
executive summary.  Clearly the man is busy!  But given the 
opportunity to dive in, I am willing to try to show him 
that IP over dumb fiber will beat the telco stuff he's 
getting from the major vendors and 'sultants in performance 
and price.  Stay tuned . . .

The cab driver who took me to the airport provided another 
memorable encounter.  When I got into the cab, he asked me 
how I wanted to go to the airport.  I looked at my watch 
and suggested the scenic route.  He was in his sixties, I 
guess.  He was born in Iraq, neither Muslim, nor Kurd, but 
a Christian.  He had lived in the Ukraine, in some other 
former Soviet republic, in Egypt, in Singapore, and he had 
recently moved to Melbourne and achieved Australian 
residency.  He had a Ph.D. in food microbiology, and he was 
delighted to meet another Bio Ph.D.  

I asked him about the threatened U.S. invasion of the 
country of his birth.  His answer did not have a cliché or 
habitual thought in it.  He talked about how the powerful 
use power and about how people let themselves be oppressed.  
Mostly he talked of his own experiences.  He would 
interrupt himself to show me the sights -- here a hospital, 
there a park -- and to ask me about the United States.  

He had no idea about U.S. racism; his eyes widened when I 
told him that dark skinned people in the U.S. had higher 
infant mortality, longer prison sentences, lower incomes 
and shorter lives.  I assured him that most people in the 
U.S. thought that this was not a good situation, and that 
it was still a great country, and that even with racism 
there was tremendous opportunity for immigrants.  He 
smiled.  But he thought he would stay in Australia.

At the airport, I stepped out of the cab onto the surface 
of the Earth with more awareness than when I had stepped 
into the cab.  A consulting firm I used to work with at 
AT&T -- GBN -- calls its affiliated clever consultants and 
powerful pundits "remarkable people" after Gurdjieff's 
book, _Meetings with Remarkable Men_ .  Gurdjieff's 
remarkable men were avatars in the original sense, 
embodiments of divine consciousness sent to Earth for a 
purpose.  The cab driver would not have fit the GBN 
profile, but I think he might have fit Gurdjieff's.

[Next: "My amazing day in Wellington, New Zealand," and 
"Supernova, the most blogged conference ever," in SMART 
Letter #81, available soon on computer screens everywhere.]


  "[There's a problem with acronyms like] B2B, B2C and so 
   on. 'To' is the wrong preposition . . . the correct 
   middle letter should have been W, because in a real 
   marketplace we do business with people not to them. Does 
   anybody ever shake hands and say 'Nice doing business to 

Doc Searls, quoted in, 21 Nov 2002

QUOTE OF NOTE: Despair, Inc.

[ does a send-up of "success-ories" -- those 
kitschy motivational posters titled, e.g., Teamwork, Let's 
All Pull Together.  You've seen them down at HR and in the 
Salesman of the Month's office.  I ordered the Despair 2003 
calendar; the January page says, "If a pretty poster and a 
cute saying are all that it takes to motivate you, you 
probably have a very easy job.  The kind robots will be 
doing soon."  Just before my calendar came, I got email 
from, excerpted below. -- David I]

  "We regret to inform you that shipping on your order was 
   delayed until this week.  In this email we provide 
   excuses in a customer-mocking fashion and make shallow 
   gestures of remediation.  

  "Please do not infer that Despair actually values the 
   customer.  It is simply a defensive gambit, as customers 
   who don't received their order might call their credit 
   card provider to initiate a chargeback.  

  "For those of you unfamiliar with your rights as a credit 
   card holder, a chargeback is something you should NEVER 
   NEVER NEVER EVER attempt.  Without getting into too much 
   detail, chargebacks are incredibly dangerous 
   undertakings.  They can destroy your credit rating and 
   leave you vulnerable to hackers.  They're also not 
   particularly patriotic.

  "In closing, thank you for your money.  Hopefully someday 
   we can figure out how to legally take it without 
   providing anything in return to eliminate having to 
   write this condescending pathetic semi-apology.

by Scatt Oddams

Hey David,

Maybe a tiger can't change its stripes but what the U.S. 
stands for today would put corners on the stripes of its 
flag.  This 'toon lets U.S. off too easy:

Mikhaela Reid's a 22-year-old Harvard 'tooner, but they 
didn't teach her this -- -- in 

Don't forget, David, that it can be true even if it's 
not funny.


February 4, 2003, Santa Barbara CA.  Center for 
Entrepreneurship and Engineering Management (CEEM) at UC 
Santa Barbara.

March 31 through April 3, 2003, San Jose CA.  VON.  I have 
a general session TBD on April 1 that I promise will be 
interesting.  April 1 is one of my favorite holidays.  You 
will believe EVERYTHING my panel presents.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any 
part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, 
provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: 
Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com 

[There are two ways to join the SMART List, which gets you
the SMART Letter by email, weeks before it goes up on the web site.  The PREFERRED METHOD is to click on and supply the info
as indicated.  The alternative method is to send a brief, 
PERSONAL statement to (put "SMART" in the 
Subject field) saying who you are, what you do, maybe who 
you work for, maybe how you see your work connecting to 
mine, and why you are interested in joining 
the SMART List.]

[to quit the SMART List, send a brief "unsubscribe" 
message to]

[for past SMART Letters, see]

[Policy on reader contributions: Write to me. I won't quote 
you without your explicitly stated permission. If you're 
writing to me for inclusion in the SMART Letter, *please*
say so. I'll probably edit your writing for brevity and
clarity. If you ask for anonymity, you'll get it. ]

David S. Isenberg            , inc.                         888-isen-com                       203-661-4798 
     -- The brains behind the Stupid Network --