Thursday, October 30, 2003


Quote of Note: George W. Bush

In his press conference on October 28, 2003, George W. Bush said:
"You're not credible if you issue resolutions and then nothing happens. Credibility comes when you say something is going to happen and then it does happen."

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


How do you feel about international policy?

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (Hewlett is the H in HP) presents a "poll" or "test" or "survey" or "questionnaire" about our attitudes towards international policy. It is a more complex (and (to me) satisfying) way to think about policy than tired, convenient dichotomies like hawk-dove, pro-anti Bush or USA in-out of Iraq. My own results surprised me, and while they didn't feel "wrong" they gave me a fresh way to think about things.

What's your experience?

Thanks to mathowie at metafilter for the pointer.


Excellent article on "Steal this election"

Joanne McNeil's article on the Diebold scandal does a very nice job of pulling disparate pieces together.

Thanks to "misbehaving elsewhere" for the pointer to McNeil.


One more tiny crack in the DMCA

Copyright officials rule against Lexmark
The United States Copyright Office has ruled in favour of Static Control Components, of Sanford, N.C., saying that its microchips do not contravene the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Lexmark International, the world's second-largest printer maker, had charged that SCC violated the act by making components for use in remanufactured laser printer toner cartridges.
Thanks to Joanne McNeil for the pointer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Why Austin Fitts isn't at The Future of Money Summit

Catherine Austin Fitts is one of the best financial thinkers I've met. She sees "How money works," and her sensible explanations illuminate some dark corners. Unfortunately, she's going on trial tomorrow. The trial is to resolve an eight-year-old civil suit that comes directly from her efforts to open up the system by which distressed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) real estate loans are re-sold to private parties.

Her company, Hamilton Securities, developed information technology to measure the "gross neighborhood product" of a non-performing loan's neighborhood. (This had never been done. Previously (and since) good ol' boys used their back-room intuition to determine the value of such loans.) Then Hamilton would, for one example, support a neighborhood start-up to do data transcription, and -- guess what -- the gross neighborhood product went up! And the non-performing loan could be sold for more. (And the people who lived there could make a living previously only available to drug dealers.)

Fitts says that Hamilton put over US$2 billion back into "the pockets of U.S. tax payers." And took same out of the pockets of the good ol' vultures that hover over HUD. Which is the reason for this suit, which I expect the court will finally find utterly bogus.


The Future of Money -- Summit and Valleys

Anywhere Dan Gillmor goes is bound to be interesting. When he blogged that he would be at "The Future of Money Summit" today, I looked it up. Hmmm . . . Cory Doctorow, John Gage and Porter Stansberry will be there too, and Tim O'Reilly is on the advisory board.

Here's a piece of interesting trivia from the conference website: The Top 10 Inventions in Money Technology:
1.) The Electronic Cash Register - 1906
2.) Electronic Money - 1918
3.) The First Armored Car - 1920
4.) Credit Bureaus - 1937
5.) The Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) - 1939
6.) The Credit Card - 1950
7.) Barcodes - 1952
8.) The Smart Card - 1974
9.) The Spreadsheet - 1978
10.) RSA Encryption - 1983
Runner-up technologies include micropayment technologies, prepaid credit cards, mobile payment systems, and biometrics.

The agenda is interesting, but with glaring holes where the problems of the world are. For example, take the first session, "Digital Pearl Harbor: A Modern Disaster Scenario." I infer that this deals with what happens when the money system comes under attack.

Well, the money system already is under attack for anybody in the class formerly known as "Middle" who has children, according to The Two Income Trap, a jaw-dropping empirical study of 2200 U.S. families that went bankrupt. Here's an excerpt from the book:
The families in the worst financial trouble are not the usual suspects. They are not the very young, tempted by the freedom of their first credit cards. They are not the elderly, trapped by failing bodies and declining savings accounts. And they are not a random assortment of Americans who lack the self-control to keep their spending in check. Rather, the people who consistently rank in the worst financial trouble are united by one surprising characteristic. They are parents with children at home . . . Our study showed that married couples with children are more than twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as their childless counterparts. A divorced woman raising a youngster is nearly three times more likely to file for bankruptcy than her single friend who never had children.
These are the bedrock citizens who play by the rules in the wealthy United States. Then there's the undeveloped world, but the Future of Money Summit ain't goin' there either.


Bye Bye Spam?

I just upgraded my email client to Eudora 6.0. I paid the $49.95 via credit card, I pasted in my registration number, and it started filtering out spam. Just like that.

It uses a statistical technique called Bayesian filtering.

It has been two days now. So far it has missed about 15 spams, but the Eudora folks say it learns from manual reclassification. It has made no "false alarms", that is, it has not put anything I want to look at in the "Junk" box. But I will scan pretty carefully for a while.


What do you think, gentle readers?

1. I just got a request to include complete articles in my RSS feed. Right now I publish only the first few lines in the interests of simplicity.

2. Should I have comments? Blogger doesn't support comments, but apparently there are plug-ins. I don't want to deal with comment spam, again, there are plug-ins. So far, I don't mind getting comments by email. I've been publishing the ones I think are worthwhile.

My bias is to keep it sparse and simple. What do you think? Full story RSS? Comments?

Monday, October 27, 2003


Nice Report on Dartmouth Wireless Network

In the next issue of VON Magazine, my column includes details about Dartmouth, where they've done away with long distance billing, instituted universal WiFi, and they're phasing in untethered VoIP. But Ventureblog scooped me! Ventureblog's great set of observations include: residences use 5x the bandwidth of academic locations, location-based services are emerging (such as automatically printing on the printer you're closest to), and they're already running out of bandwidth (so they're adding more access points and implementing load balancing).

I'm not including a link to VON Magazine because the site is embarrassingly naked. The only thing worth doing there is subscribing to the paper version, anyhow.


Telepocalypse: Telecom Strategy in the Age of End-to-End Networks

Martin Geddes' Telepocalypse blog has put a buzz in my brain. (Thanks to Jorge Ortiz and Kevin Werbach for a pair of simultaneous converging pointers.) I've added Geddes to my blogroll.

In one recent article, Geddes observes that Ryan Air is rethinking transport in a way that could be instructive for telecom. He observes that 40-some percent of the revenues of BAA, the company that runs most of the UK's airports, is due to shopping, parking, etc. Further to this, he notes that Ryan Air is "heading towards a model of 'reverse landing fees', where they get paid to deliver wallets within reach of geographically-bound businesses." They're launching new routes from Prestwick, a private airport near Glasgow, and the Scottish government is softening up. This generalizes to telecom in a couple of ways. First, Ryan Air rethought its place in the value chain. Second, Ryan Air was not locked into one infrastructure provider.

In another article, Geddes speculates on why Vonage might fail. (Might fail? I'd say it's all but stone-certain!) He says that Vonage is locked into the old telephony paradigm by the single-function Cisco ATA-186, and that Vonage is trying to arbitrage around all the regulatory baggage of local-loop-classic (i.e., taxes, universal service fund, etc.). In other words, Vonage wants to be a low cost player in the old value space. Geddes observes, correctly, that to succeed Vonage will have to do something that the phone company **can't** do. Correct again.

As Jonathan Rosenberg, co-creator of SIP, says, "The killer communications apps have not been discovered yet." (That's a paraphrase.) As Clayton Christensen says, "Compete against non-consumption." New forms won't start out looking anything like the old forms, but they will expand into the value space of the old forms. The trick is to find the new forms.

The old space is easy enough to move into. is a 7-person mom-and-pop ISP with no special voice expertise, but it saw voice as a new source of ISP revenue, so it is providing credible competition to Vonage in a handful of area codes. Others will follow, decimating the revenue base of the telcos.

Geddes is right that Vonage does not address the long run impact of VOIP -- the important thing won't be voice, it will be what you can do over IP.

Sunday, October 26, 2003


EFF people never published anything people would pay for (!?!)

Professor Ed Felten reports this bit of ignorance-based ranting from security software maker SunnComm's president Peter "shift key" Jacobs:
I'll bet none of [those Electronic Frontier Foundation folks] EVER had any digital content that anyone else (aside from family and friends) would pay for, and, if they did, they'd be screaming bloody murder if someone ripped them off.
Jacobs must have never heard of Lotus Corporation, The Grateful Dead or the works of Cory Doctorow.

Friday, October 24, 2003


Scatt Oddams recommends Prison Funnies!

Speaking of the holy American Way of Life, the United States "holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, though it comprises only 5 percent of the world’s population. Imprisoning about 73 of every 1,000 people, the U.S. locks up a larger percentage of its population—six to 10 times more, in fact—than any other industrialized democracy." But reporters don't report from in there, so we get our information from unreliable sources like TV shows and Prison Funnies.

Prison Funnies creator Chip Zdarsky only spent a month up the river but prison seared his brain with visions so perverse they must be true.

Disney, listen up! Chip LIKES IT when his fans do their own art based on his characters.

Thanks to dobbs at Metafilter for the pointer!

Gotta go!


Wisconsin bill would make barriers for muni telecom

The Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times reports:
". . . Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon, and Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, are sponsoring a bill that would prohibit a city, village, town or county that owns and operates a cable television system from requiring nonsubscribers (taxpayers) to pay any of the costs of the system. The prohibition also would apply to any entity owned, operated or controlled, in whole or part, by a local government. However, a local government could require nonsubscribers to pay costs for public, educational and government access channels, as well as the cost of debt service on public improvement bonds for construction, renovation or expansion of a cable TV system.

In a memo to legislators seeking co-sponsorship of the bill, Montgomery said it would 'maintain competitive fairness when local governments compete with private sector telephone or cable companies.'

'We want to prohibit a city or village or town that is running a cable TV system or wants to provide some sort of broadband service from using their local property tax base as a tool for creating an uncompetitive situation,' Kanavas added in an interview. "

Thursday, October 23, 2003


What is the ROI on a bathroom?

. . . asks a Computerworld article entitled, "Free [Wi-Fi] hot spots pay dividends." The article notes that the days of pay toilets are over.

It's been years since I've seen a pay toilet. Wonder why pay toilets failed. Was it because the underlying infrastructure was ubiquitous and cheap? Was it because paying and collecting was more hassle than it was worth? Was it because people thought they had a right to use an existing toilet without paying, and defeat or circumvent the coin lock?

Seriously, why did the pay toilet model fail?

Thanks to Boing Boing for the pointer!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Steal this election: Civil Disobedience

This blog's thread entitled "Steal this election" is about new voting machines that are so poorly implemented that many experts are concerned that they'll result in untrustable elections.

Some people are so concerned about incompetent (best case) or rigged (worst case) voting machines that they're defying a Diebold "cease and desist" letter sent under the DCMA demanding that ISPs shut down Web sites that make a corpus of "copyrighted" Diebold internal memos about these voting machines available to the public.

The memos are juicy reading. One, for example, says that Diebold machines in Precinct 216 in the contested Florida election recorded -16,022 votes for Al Gore -- this "count" reflects the zeal with which votes can be taken away from a candidate!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is defending them. And there's more detail at the Indymedia site.

Diebold voting machines help "count" the vote in 37 states.

I think the citizens of the United States should petition the U.N. for independent poll watchers from neutral nations for the 2004 election. Maybe it'll be fair, but these machines cast a dark shadow of doubt.

Here's a Salon article with lots more details.

Thanks to Joho the Blog for the pointer.


Evident truths

Steve Stroh writes:
FOCUS on Wireless Broadeband Internet Access is founded upon the following tenets:
1. Internet technology is becoming the foundation for nearly all communications, commerce, and entertainment services;
2. For Internet access to be truly usable, always-on Broadband Internet access is required;
3. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Internet access will be ubiquitous;
4. In the 'last mile', wireline-based technologies and systems will generally prove to be insufficient or not cost-effective to provide ubiquitous, always-on, Broadband Internet to most homes and businesses;
5. In the near term, Broadband Wireless Internet Access in all its forms -- Sub 11 GHz, Above 11 GHz, Free Space Optics, Ultra Wideband, Licensed, License-exempt -- has emerged as the most likely technology to provide cost-effective, ubiquitous, always-on Broadband Internet Access.
I'm there. I'd edit this, but only slightly. In #2, instead of 'truly' I'd say 'optimally' -- there are lots of trickle-bit apps and more are coming. And in #5, I'd explicitly add multi-hop (or packet relay or ad hoc) networks to the list.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


Re-framing telecom's changes

Berkeley cognitive scientist George Lakoff points out that our perceptions and thoughts are organized by our cognitive frames. Frames presuppose facts and shape the words we use. Often the effect of framing is so powerful that facts that don't fit lose their meaning. For example, 40,000 U.S. automobile deaths a year are framed as, "The price we pay for mobility," and fatal car wrecks aren't usually covered, even on the inside pages of newspapers. Instead, these deaths could be framed as, "A horrible tragic attack on innocent Americans," and we'd be at war against the causes of auto crashes, and every crash would be front page news. But we use the former frame, so usually auto crashes are non-news.

According to Lakoff, "If you have been framed, the only response is to reframe."

The telecom revolution has been framed! Telecom financiers and incumbent telcos speak of the telecom "downturn" and the "recovery" they desire. They presuppose a frame in which a diseased patient will return to health. But maybe there's no round-trip ticket. Maybe telecom's so-called troubles are not recoverable-from.

There are other ways to frame the discussion. In SMART Letter #90, I mention biological development (caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly), disruptive product substitution (hand-held electronic calculators made slide rules obsolete) and evolution (dinosaurs to mammals) as alternative metaphors.

Steve Stroh (steve at, perpetrator of the excellent "Focus on Broadband Wireless Internet Access," (subscription required, and worth it!) has come up with another compelling frame:
I liken the fight against the telco view of the world to a scene from the movie 'Force 10 from Navarone'. They finally get into position inside the dam and detonate a relatively small charge of dynamite. Nothing happens and the helper is outraged that the dam apparently isn't damaged. The wise old demolitions expert says... patience... and pressure... will get the job done. Sure enough, the charge had caused some cracks in the dam that the relentless pressure of the reservoir eventually broke through and the dam finally crumbles, depriving the Germans of the damn's power, transit, and flooding the bad guys in the valley. If we little guys can drive ENOUGH wedges into the telcos... using CLEC fiber, wireless, VOIP, and avoidance of reliance on telco infrastructure... we'll win."
Denver Fletcher (denver at paradise dot net dot nz) presents yet another reframing:
[Telecom] resembles a formerly strong and successful man battered by simultaneous severe emotional traumas on multiple fronts. His wife has run off with his brother, his children have abandoned him, his wider family suspect him of some dark perversion, his job is lost, his dog dead, his home burned down, and his car crashed. The Police, the FBI, and the IRS are now hunting him. His increasingly unhinged efforts to reassemble his life into some familiar pattern are not yet informed by the recognition that his life has fundamentally changed and cannot be returned to him as it was, and no amount of human effort can possibly change that.
Wanted: additional frames for telecom that suggest a one way trip -- and a new beginning!


James Seng on Stupid Networks

James Seng writes:
"Smart network or dumb network? Whats your view?" I asked Don Tapscott during lunch yesterday.

'Everything, both device & network, is getting smarter. Some devices will remain dumb however.' replied Don and immediately, I feel embrassed asking such a silly question. 'Isn't it so obvious!' I told myself. Or is it? No offense to Don...I mean he is a brilliant guy. I love his books and I enjoy his presentations. And if I have anyone I wish to be when I "grow up", it is probably him. But I think I am siding with David 'Stupid Network' Isenberg on this.

Lets take an analogy: If you tell an RF engineer, say 15 years ago, that you want to put a RF transmitter on every device, what would be his reaction? 'Huh? What would you want to do that?' . . ."
"I don't know why my cups and pots need to be 'smart', I know I don't want the network to also 'act smart' to tell my cups and pots what they can do and what they cannot. So bottomline, I prefer a dumb network. Scott Bradner would agree with me (as would thousand of other IETFer) . So anyone going to take a bet with me that CloudShield whose mission is to build 'smart' network is going to fly?"

Saturday, October 18, 2003


A Direct Line to Django & Stephane

Thanks to Zipf's Law, you can hear in-f*ing-credible music in intimate little rooms. SMART Person Francois Rouseau emailed me last Thursday to say he's coming to Montclair NJ from Montreal for a weekend of gypsy jazz with Parisian guitarist Patrick Saussois, and Vitali Imereli, a Georgian violin player. (Imereli is from the Georgia near Russia, not the one near Alabama.)

We arrived in the middle of Friday's first set. The club had a dozen or fifteel people in the audience -- not good for a Friday night at 10:00 PM. Saussois was picking a complex Gypsy melody on his guitar, playing left handed with the high strings on top. Rouseau was chunk, chunk, chunking away behind him, driving an inspired rhythm. Then Imarelli stepped up and as he leaned into his violin I found it hard to catch my breath. Whew.

Imereli used to play with Grapelli. In the break, Saussois told me was born in '54, the year after Django died, but he was a band-mate with Babik Reinhardt, Django's son. The music was a direct channel. In my memory, there's a small handful of musical miracles that I cherish -- last night now joins this set. You don't need to go to no stinkin stadium to hear the most awesome music.

Trumpets is a real-thing jazz club. The club owner sat in on chromatic harmonica with Saussois, Imereli and Rouseau on a couple numbers -- he was good. As we were leaving, around midnight, the musicians were arriving from their gigs, with their guitars over their back and their trumpet cases under their arm. Was the third set awesome? (Did the Yankees beat the Sox?)

Francois Rouseau's day job is at Voiceage, which provides codecs and middleware for VoIP and audio Internet apps. Thanks Francois! We'd have never known without you!

Friday, October 17, 2003


Those who learn from *this* history could be blessed by repeating it

This is a story of wireless networks, Linux, VoIP, war and reconciliation.

Earl Mardle from Australia emailed comments on SMART Letter #90, which led me to his excellent blog. An older entry said:
My Friend Lee Thorn . . . wanted to start the process of reconciliation between Laotians and the wealthy world that spent so much of its wealth turning Laos into the most bombed, most mined most devastated nation on the face of the earth, and did it in secret . . . they have built the Pedal-Powered Wireless Communications Network.
Quoting from the Jhai Foundation website:
"Without telephone lines or electricity, amid torrential rains followed by high temperatures and thick red dust, standard technologies won't function.
[The Jhai Foundation is developing:]
A rugged computer and printer assembled from off-the-shelf components that draws less than 20 watts in normal use - less than 70 watts when the printer is printing - and that can survive dirt, heat, and immersion in water

A wireless Local Area Network with relay stations based on the 802.11b protocol . . .

A Lao-language version of the free, Linux-based KDE graphical desktop and Lao-language office tools . . .

Villagers [will be able] to make telephone calls within Lao PDR and internationally (using voice-over-Internet technologies)"
The network is up and running!
This success is replicable.
Those who learn this history will *not* be condemned by repeating it.

Thursday, October 16, 2003


The wit and wisdom of Governor Schwartzenegger

On this website, you can click on phrases to activate Governor Schwartzenegger's voice saying things like, "Who is your daddy?" "If I'm not me, then who da hell am I?" and "Sue me, dickhead." There should be a prize for the person who pastes the funniest speech together.


A Sad Day for Schools!

Dennis Schweikhardt is upset that the FCC has cut funding on the dark fiber Gigabit Ethernet network that he built in 1998 for Spokane, Washington's 13 educational institutions in the greater Spokane, Washington (state) area and now administers. With Schweikhardt's net, not only do schools in Spokane get whizzy Internet connections and advanced video services, but also, the Spokane Public Schools have dumped their separate phone system saving thousands of dollars a month with VoIP over Schweikhardt's GigE net. You know whose pocket these "savings" come from, right?

The Spokane initiative was funded by a local bonds, a state K-20 education fund, local businesses, a private/public partnership and the federal E-Rate, a part of the universal service fund designed to, "provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access."

Over the past several years, my friend Dave Hughes, #1 in the Wired 25 of 1999 has railed against the E-Rate because it covers only services, not products. In other words, the E-Rate subsidizes telephone bills, but not, e.g., wireless gear. That is, the E-Rate limits what schools get to what the LEC provides. It is an LEC subsidy!

I don't know how school-owned dark fiber networks continued to get E-rate funding. But that ended on last week, on October 10, 2003, when the E-Rate posted its new Eligible Services List, which stops covering both dark fiber and VoIP, which were covered for the last five years, ". . . pending resolution of this issue."

Schweikhardt emailed me to say:
The FCC has now decreed to the SLD that dark fiber leasing and Voice Over IP is IN-ELIGIBLE for E-Rate subsidy. In our case this is has been at a 65% subsidy and worth several hundred thousand dollars. This will effect all schools and libraries in the country that have been receiving this support. For the last six years it has been eligible and starting in 2004 it will no longer be eligible. They do continue to support copper based T-1's Cells phones and other traditional services and "lit" fiber services, just not if we light it ourselves as we may need. We lease it as a pipe to move data and voice to and from our schools just as we would if it were copper or lit fiber. Why should schools be penalized for choosing a better and more economical solution? I have included their just published (Oct 10th 2003) document outlining what they will and will not cover.
In a follow-up email, Schweikhardt said:
I would like to clarify two points. (1) We do not own the fiber itself. We deliberately structured it as a leased service for E-rate purposes. Also, the school district didn't want to deal with cable maintenance. (2) We are not opposed to E-rate . . . I would just like an even playing field on the types of services we are allowed deploy so we get the most value for our limited dollars.
The E-Rate, if it exists at all, should allow schools that want to own their own networks to do so! That it does not, in the emerging age of Customer Owned Networks, is a travesty!


Kevin Werbach on "dumb" connectivity

Kevin Werbach's werblog says
The money today is in the apps on the edge, hardware, and of all things, dumb connectivity. The first one explains Microsoft's presence at the Telecom Show, the second one explains the large Intel and HP booths, and the last one is what carriers don't want to hear. If you talk to US mobile phone subscribers, though, I bet you'll hear far more complaints about coverage and network speed than lack of services or high prices. The first user-facing telecom company to execute the Dell/Wal-Mart model -- being the efficient commodity provider -- will make a killing. (Partly because they will kill their competitors.) Not that this is an easy task. Legacy billing systems and legacy culture are huge hurdles to overcome. The "services" alternative, though, is a mirage. The few exceptions like NTT DoCoMo only prove the rule.
Right on, Kevin! But the word's "stupid," not dumb. Dumb originally meant "mute" and then got an extra meaning because people thought that mute people were stupid. But t'ain't necessarily so. So the right word is "stupid." In my humble opinion.


The Economist also asks "Crisis, What Crisis?"

This story tells in pictures another side of the story that SMART Letter #20 tried to tell in words:

Thanks to Jorge Ortiz and Napier Collyns for pointing me at this edition of The Economist.


Point of Clarification -- SMART Letter #90

Arish Ali, a SMART Person, wrote:
Did not understand your point - [in SMART Letter #90]
"With Wi-Fi access points for $39.00 at Staples that provide network speeds ten times faster than telephone or cable company will give me for $39.00 *a*month*"
Harvey Cohen, another SMART Person and a friend from the Bell Labs of yesteryear, wrote:
Can I really buy a Wi-Fi access point at Staples for $39? Can I take it home and use it to surf the Internet ten times faster than my current home cable service? In your passion, perhaps the message got a little garbled.
Yes, I bought two Netgear 802.11b access points at Staples in August for US$39.00 after rebate. No it did not speed up my Internet surfing. As with all Internet performance, a bottleneck anywhere slows everything down. The local loop (or bus, in the case of cable) bottleneck still exists.

What I meant by the justaposition of the $39 product vs. the $39 a month service is simply that the technology for faster bandwidth than the telco delivers is here today. And affordable. And simple enough that we can install it ourselves without going to Sonet school and ATM training. But local carriers are not bringing it to our home. So maybe the last mile costs 10 times what in-home technology does -- where do I send my check for $390???

Arish Ali then replied:
I agree with the spirit of your answer, the LECs should be exploring alternatives and providing cheaper, faster broadband - and I will be happy to send my $390 check too if they can harness any variations/siblings of Wifi to provide me with decent broadband. is Feedster's Feed of the Day!

Thanks, Feedster!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


More on Eli Noam

Was SMART Letter #90 unfair to Eli Noam? Didn't mean to be. Eli Noam is no dummy, just a bit locked into the Wall Street/Big Telco view of the world. His "New Volatility" theory is a good scenario. But scenarios always come in sets, and if you choose one, it's as if you're predicting. If you can predict any better than chance, and you're not a stock picker, you're in the wrong profession. Anyhow, Noam has taken his "Remedies for Telecom Recovery" show to Telecom2003 in Geneva. Here's a good story on it from the show's daily e-news, called "The days of steady growth are gone; prepare for the 'new volatility.'”


Telecom trouble: Whose Problem is it?

SMART Letter #90 -- October 15, 2003

Copyright 2003 by David S. Isenberg - "getting the good news back home"

> Quote of Note: "The Node" on Neil Postman's Questions
> The Telecom Downturn -- Whose Problem is it?
> Quote of Note: Dana Frix on 2003 FCC Triennial Order
> If it's Funny it must be True, by Scatt Oddams
> Conferences on my Calendar
> Copyright Notice, Administrivia

Quote of Note: "The Node" on Neil Postman's Questions

"The questions that Postman proposes we ask of
technologies are intended to help us filter out the
jargon of progress, efficiency, and whizbangery and to
perceive the crucial, central and oft-overlooked whys,
hows, and implications of technology. What is the
problem to which this technology is a solution? Whose
problem is it? Is it actually a problem at all? Who will
pay for it? Who will benefit from it, and who stands to
suffer from it? What new problems might arise from
solving this one?"

>From "The Node," January 2000,
in memoriam, Neil Postman, 1931-2003.

The Telecom Downturn -- Whose Problem is it?
by David S. Isenberg

Neil Postman, who died on Sunday, October 5, was known for
asking provocative questions. One of his best was, "Whose
problem is it?"

So let's ask. The telecom "downturn" -- whose problem is
it? With the Internet still growing at 100% per year, with
always-on services in 20 million U.S. homes and a 40% annual
growth rate, with Skype and SIPphone and Vonage and Addaline
and Packet8 and CallWave, who is concerned about a downturn?
With Wi-Fi access points for $39.00 at Staples that provide
network speeds ten times faster than telephone or cable
company will give me for $39.00 *a*month*, is it a downturn
or a horrendously inefficient market? Who, exactly, is
concerned? Whose problem, exactly, is this so-called

In the circles I've been traveling in lately, the dominant
metaphor is medical. Telecom is a *sick*patient*. I
went to a conference on, "*Remedies* for Telecom *Recovery*" .
The Wall Street Journal says, "Telecom-Industry *Recovery*
May Be Far Off" . And an industry
press release declares, "TIA Releases Five-Point Strategy
for Sustained Telecom *Recovery*" .

The talk of today's telecom turmoil as a disease leads us
to think that the telecom industry's pundits, professors,
bankers and regulators will act like do-no-harm doctors,
trained to make an accurate diagnosis and apply the right
remedy -- one that's both effective and safe -- so the
patient will return to health.

Who's the patient? What are the symptoms? Where is the

Read the rest of SMART Letter #90.

Or, better yet, join The SMART List.

Monday, October 13, 2003


Steal the Georgia 2002 Governor Election?

Quoting Wired News::
". . . a former worker in Diebold's Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machines before the state's 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials. If the charges are true, Diebold could be in violation of federal and state election-certification rules. The charges also raise questions about the integrity of the Georgia election results and any other election that uses patched Diebold systems that have not been re-certified. According to Rob Behler, an engineer hired as a contractor to work in Diebold's Georgia warehouse last year, the Diebold systems had major functioning problems.
Behler first informed Bev Harris, owner of the BlackBox Voting site, of the situation.
According to Harris, this scenario is particularly worrisome in light of what happened in the Georgia gubernatorial race, which ended in a major upset that defied all polls and put a Republican in the governor's seat for the first time in more than 130 years. "

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


Scatt Oddams* finds new meaning in "Do Not Call"

Scatt thanks Jorge Ortiz of Interfibra, "el futuro de su conectividad," for the pointer to this cartoon.

*Scatt Oddams is the cartoon critic at The SMART Letter.
His address is

Sunday, October 05, 2003


Is the U.S. Press doing its job?

Not too long ago I lamented that when over 40% of the U.S. public still believes that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. press is not doing its job.

Now Pete Kaminski shows who:


Telecom Statistics for Japan

Japan seems to update its telecom statistics within a few months.
It is on a national mission: Beat South Korea.


Statistics on network usage from the FCC

These stats are through December 2002, for the most part.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


Ah, Globalization

BBC News reports:
"More and more international patients are travelling to India to seek quality health care at a fraction of the cost back home. Typically they are admitted at one of the many upscale private hospitals that have sprung up across the country. With state-of-the-art equipment and medical practitioners trained abroad, these 'five-star' hospitals now attract a new breed of international traveller - the 'medical tourist' . . . Open-heart surgery in the UK can cost more than $20,000 and double that in the United States. In India, leading hospitals can perform that surgery for less than $5,000."
Protectionism isn't the answer. Neither is falling behind. Unanticipated consequences ahead!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Rove fired for leaking to Novak in 1992

Matt Drudge points to a Houston Chronicle story with the following paragraph, way down at the bottom:
"In 1992, Rove was fired as a consultant for the Bush-Quayle Texas campaign, after officials suspected that he was the source for a column by Novak and Roland Evans that portrayed the Texas presidential operation as in disarray. Rove was accused of making up the story because of a feud with the campaign's chairman, Rob Mosbacher Jr., whom the column reported, erroneously, was to be dumped."
In other news, numerous bloggers are pointing out that there are two "Senior Administration Officials" who committed a felony and compromised national security in what the Administration calls "a time of war."

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