Friday, March 03, 2006


Protect your F2C: SMART Letter #98

SMART Letter #98 - March 1, 2006
Some Rights Reserved by Creative Commons License - "Uncommon Carrier" -- -- 1-888-isen-com
********* at *********
*F2C: Freedom to Connect, Apr 3 & 4,*


Quote of Note: Kevin Werbach
A Word to the SMART
F2C: Freedom to Connect, April 3 & 4
[special $395 price for SMART People!]
The Google Scenario
Barton's Bad Bill
Celebrate OneWebDay, Sept 22!
Creative Commons License Notice, Administrivia

Quote of Note: Kevin Werbach
"Be afraid. Be very afraid"

A Word to the SMART
By David S. Isenberg

It has been A. Very. Long. Time. Just over a year, since SMART Letter #97. My apologies! I've missed doing the SMART Letter, especially the correspondence that comes back from my SMART friends all over the globe.

I am writing now for 3 reasons:
1. I made a New Years Resolution that I would re-start the SMART Letter.
2. VON Magazine, for good business reasons, switched to image format on-line. This means that the text of my last three columns is not searchable or quotable. Please find these three columns below. Here's a complete list of my VON Mag columns since 2003.
3. The Internet is now under attack like never before. The U.S. Supreme Court's Brand X Decision, the FCC DSL ruling that came immediately after Brand X, and FCC decisions deregulating fiber to the home have cast an unprecedented and dark storm cloud over Internet Freedom.

So I have organized the second F2C: Freedom to Connect meeting, to be held April 3 & 4 in Washington, DC.

Register with Priority Code SMART for special $395 rate.
This special code expires at midnight on March 15.
The list price is $1195 after March 31. Please come.

***** IMPORTANT: Come to F2C: Freedom to Connect *****
If for the 'net you deeply care,
*********** 'tis your calling to be there! ***********

I am co-producing F2C with and partnering with Tim O'Reilly, Free Press, and numerous others because this year it is critical that we bring all the voices that care about Internet Freedom together to understand our common interest in the surrounding issues.
F2C: Freedom to Connect speakers include:
Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA)
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps
Level3 CEO James Q. Crowe
Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt
Google Biz-Dev Leader Chris Sacca
UPDATE: Former FCC Chair Michael K. Powell will also join us [3Mar06]
More details here.

If you're SMART, I WANT YOU THERE. If you can't afford
the $395, write to me and make your case!

See you on April 3.
David I

David S. Isenberg's "Edge-Centric" Column in VON Magazine,
December 2005

The future could belong to Google, so long as it sticks to its motto, "Don't be evil."

I worked at Mattel in 1983 when it fielded a PC based on its Intellivision video game platform. Its design price was $1800. Eighteen months later it hit the stores at $1800. Meanwhile Coleco fielded a similar PC for $900. Whoops!

We had all heard of Moore's Law, but this was the first time its consequences actually touched our lives. As we digested the bad news, somebody said, "Holy smoke, if this continues, hardware will be more or less free!"

A second holy-smoke moment followed close on the first one's heels. "How does anybody make money on software?" we asked. Arguably, only one guy figured out the answer to that.

Today's evident technology trends indicate that the price for raw Internet connectivity might be more or less free. Who will be today's Microsoft? Perhaps Google.

Subhead: Five Alternate Scenarios

Unlike computers, networks are regulated; regulatory initiatives shape the marketplace. There are three usefully distinct regulatory scenarios for Internet connectivity. In one, "Telco-topia," market entry is limited to duopoly, perhaps augmented by network access technologies so crippled that they'll always be also-rans, such as Broadband over Powerline and today's wireless options. In a second scenario, "New Entry," regulation supports new entrants and holds established companies in check; this is the thrust of Rick Whitt and Vint Cerf's proposed Horizontal Leap Forward model legislation based on layers, and it underlies the Powell FCC's focus on multi-modal competition. A third scenario, "Structural Separation," is approached in countries where broadband is densest and fastest; here the low layers of the network are heavily regulated to be open and inexpensive, while brutal competition rages in the network's upper layers.

There's a fourth scenario, "Customer Owned Networks," where technology advances so far so fast that it end-runs all attempts at regulation. Technology improvements make it so easy to set up networks that customers do it themselves.

Subhead: Google World

The fifth scenario is a free market scenario in which some company figures out how to make money running a network business despite (or maybe because of) the fact that raw IP connectivity is becoming free. Google is my candidate.

Google has apps like its search engine that we can't live without. Others, like Blogger, Gmail, Google News and Google Maps, we simply use frequently. All of them are free. Each of them informs its personalized advertising business, its money machine. Google Internet service could also be free. It, too, would pay its own way by informing G-Ads. G-Net could tell G-Ads about things only an ISP would know, like where you are and what you do on the Internet beyond the Google family. To get good data, Google would have to run an open, application-neutral network. G-Net would have an added benefit -- it would be a pre-emptive defense against other Internet operators who might try to charge Google for use of their network (see my VON Magazine column Disconnectivity, April 2005, for more on this).

It would not be the first time a company offered a freebie to get customers. Grocery stores don't charge for parking. Gas stations don't charge for bathroom use. Telcos don't charge for directories.

Google's size scares some people. The information it collects scares others. I think these fears are unwarranted as long as Google makes good on its public pledge, "Don't Be Evil." To Google CEO Eric Schmidt the pledge means that Google should follow newspaper ethics by maintaining a clear prohibition against its advertising side interfering with its applications. Schmidt explains, just as a reporter should ideally write fearlessly about a bad-acting business even if that business advertises in the reporter's paper, so should the Google applications themselves never discriminate on the basis of what the advertising side of Google "knows."

Like all scenarios, the Google scenario may never happen. Blogger Doc Searls points out that Google is now a monoculture, thus a single failure could bring it down. Or perhaps its size will make it hard to manage well. Or maybe a high-visibility subpoena will blow the public's faith in "Don't Be Evil." But the Google scenario is at least as plausible as the other four.

David S. Isenberg's "Edge-Centric" Column in VON Magazine,
January, 2006

As Telecom competition fades away, fiendish moves are afoot to restrict Internet connectivity.

Damn those customers, anyway. They always want more and better services for lower prices. There ought to be a law.

Soon there will be a law. By the time you read this, a bad telecom bill will be on its way towards a vote in the U.S. House and Senate.

If the bill is similar to the one introduced by Chairman Barton of the House Commerce Committee last November, it gives network providers overwhelming motivation to restrict, constrict and interfere with the Internet connectivity they provide. It does this by allowing a network operator to provide partitioned telephony and TV offerings along with its Internet connection service. Just as increased scarcity causes increased prices, so will a telco want to constrain its customers from using its Internet to make VOIP phone calls over the raw Internet connection. A cableco will want to constrain its customers from finding video entertainment out there on the Internet.

The predilection towards restriction will expand as telcos begin to offer video entertainment and cablecos start doing telephony. Telco and cableco alike will whittle at the customer's basic Internet connectivity so it won't disrupt voice and video revenues.

The call has gone out for "network neutrality" provisions that would prohibit the most blatant kinds of network impairments. Vint Cerf, as good a candidate for "Father of the Internet" as anybody, wrote a letter to the Telecom Subcommittee that said, "Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of [telephony and video] and to potentially interfere with other [services] would . . . not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need." He's right about that! But then he writes, "As we move to a broadband environment and eliminate century-old non-
discrimination requirements, a lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive." Though I agree with Vint on most matters and trust the purity of his motives, I'm skeptical about this assertion.

I don't think there is an Internet neutrality rule that is both lightweight and enforceable when the network operator also provides telephony and video entertainment that are isolated from the basic Internet connection. The two "enshrined" services come with well-known business models and predictable cash flows. The Internet service is self-
competitive. It lets the customer get those same services either "for free" or by paying fees to other providers. Any network operator that was not sorely tempted to impair its Internet service or skimp on throughput to make it harder to use certain applications would be a network operator that did not know its own self-interest.

A rule that put the network operator in a self-competitive bind would be neither lightweight nor enforceable. It would be the subject of hundreds of pages of hair-splitting FCC regulations. Compliance by network operators would be subject to slow-rolling, litigation, and weakening by FCC interpretation. Attempts to strengthen the FCC's enforcement powers would be castrated by the K Street boys. It would be a replay of the 1996 Telecom Act at its worst.

The theory underlying the 1996 Telecom Act was that competition would be an effective substitute for regulation. But today the competitive local exchange carriers have almost entirely disappeared, the incumbents stay out of each others' residential markets so assiduously it smacks of collusion, and the cablecos wink-wink compete with the telcos. Residential Internet users choose between frying pan and fire. Telecom competition has joined the Oxymoron Club, alongside phrases like, "Fight for peace."

The Powell FCC, at least, worked towards intermodal competition, where new spectrum regulations would open the Internet connectivity marketplace to entire new sectors of wireless carrier and new technologies like broadband over powerlines. Chairman Powell, at least, had the wisdom to forbear from most regulation of Internet service providers and Internet applications, even if they threatened telcos with Skype-like disruption.

But the Martin FCC acts as if market consolidation is a good thing. Chairman Martin thinks newly-merged bigcos like Verizon and AT&T will accelerate 911 service and broadband deployment. In fact, current FCC 911 policy is a huge barrier to new VOIP telcos, and US broadband deployment appears to be slowing even as it surges in the rest of the world.

As competition fades, the last thing we need is more incentives to constrict Internet connectivity. How could we incent open Internet connectivity? Watch this space.

David S. Isenberg's "Edge-Centric" Column in VON Magazine,
February, 2006

Rejoice! The Internet now has its own day of celebration, September 22.

The Internet gets its own special day of celebration on Friday, September 22, 2006. That day is called OneWebDay. It will fall on September 22 every year hereafter. It is a day for those of us who depend upon the Internet to appreciate its very existence, whether we keep a blog or a website, run an online business or an enterprise that depends on the Internet, or even if we simply use Internet applications in our daily lives. It is a day to unite the interests of Internet users and telecommunications carriers, Google and Microsoft, Verizon and Boingo, music sharers and the RIAA. It is a day, like many other special days, to put aside daily concerns and appreciate what we usually take for granted.

OneWebDay began in the mind of Susan Crawford, a Professor of Internet Law at Cardozo Law School in New York City. She describes OneWebDay as a day to, "treasure a resource that has changed our lives." She says that OneWebDay is to, "celebrate the health and diversity of the Internet, and to remind people they need to work to maintain the values that have made the Internet a gift." The idea for OneWebDay came to Professor Crawford on the train home from Washington, DC after a contentious negotiation on an FCC matter. She was juggling the conflict in her head, trying to figure out how to bring the opposing parties to common ground. Then, she says, "I looked around at the other people on her train and wondered if they appreciated how spectacular the Internet is," and the idea of an Internet holiday came to her as an, "Aha!"

"Spectacular," is how Crawford describes her early Internet experience. "I had a sensation that the back of the computer had fallen off and I was suddenly able to see new worlds. I realized that distance and time no longer separate people on the Internet. Conflicting values can coexist. A new kind of citizenship is possible, not just for techies and policy people but for everybody."

How will we celebrate OneWebDay? I am on the Board of OneWebDay, so you'd think I would know, but I don't. I have never helped to create a new holiday before. Susan Crawford likens OneWebDay to Earth Day; on Earth Day, there are no universal ceremonies or rituals. People decide what to do to celebrate it. Schoolchildren make posters, others organize groups to clean up their neighborhood park, still others have tree-planting ceremonies, environmental teach-ins and bicycle rides. Toyota offers fifteen Earth Day scholarships to Canadian high school students. Disney features Earth Day on its website. Organizations from the American Chemical Society to the Zion Lutheran Church are involved.

So, to celebrate OneWebDay, we expect a wide range of activities. We hope everybody who cares about the Internet will find a way to celebrate OneWebDay that is consistent with their views and interests. I'm looking forward to involvement from AOL to Zhone, and everybody in between. I'd like to see the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fox News involved. I'd like to see groups organize to put up free hotspots in their local parks and business districts. I'm hoping to see workshops where kids learn how to put their pictures on line. I'd like to see groups organize to make a Wikipedia entry for their neighborhood. I'm hoping there will be online art collaborations, web design workshops in libraries, and a collection of pictures that capture life on line on our special day.

There's even a hand signal for OneWebDay. You hold your little finger with your thumb to form an O, the remaining three fingers form a W, and, if it is your right hand, from the side your whole hand looks like a lower case D. Yes, it is corny. The OneWebDay team takes the idea seriously, but not too seriously.

Susan Crawford reminds us that, like Earth Day, OneWebDay is inherently global. She sees as a global clearinghouse for worldwide projects, as a central place to aggregate blogs and tags and wikis to help OneWebDay celebrants around the world find each other.

OneWebDay is missing one big thing. Your idea. Visit to share your ideas for how to make OneWebDay a success worthy of the Internet itself. We'll see you on line on OneWebDay, September 22, 2006!


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