Monthly Archives: August 2007

Broadband Speed by Country

broadbandspeedchart.jpg Letting a picture tell the story of how Japan, Korea, France, Poland, Portugal, and other countries have faster broadband than the U.S., here’s a graphical illustration of average broadband speeds per country. Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland I would expect, since they’ve long been fast. But Poland?

There seem to be two tiers. Japan and Korea are the top tier. Then Finland, Sweden, and France. Then a third tier starting with the Netherlands. The U.S. is either in that third tier or in a fourth tier, depending on how you look at it.

The source report, Assessing Broadband in America: OECD and ITIF Broadband Rankings, By Daniel K. Correa, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, April 2007, also examines broadband uptake, in which the U.S. is also fifteenth in these OECD rankings.

Maybe it’s time for a change. A change in public policy and the addition of competition.


Warp Speed From Behind

JBrbop02.jpg As we’ve mentioned before Japan has Internet connections much faster than those in the U.S. This point is getting more mainstream media play:
Broadband service here is eight to 30 times as fast as in the United States — and considerably cheaper. Japan has the world’s fastest Internet connections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, recent studies show.

Accelerating broadband speed in this country — as well as in South Korea and much of Europe — is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States.

The speed advantage allows the Japanese to watch broadcast-quality, full-screen television over the Internet, an experience that mocks the grainy, wallet-size images Americans endure.

Japan’s Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future, By Blaine Harden, Washington Post Foreign Service, Wednesday, August 29, 2007; Page A01

So is it just for video? If so, maybe we’d better let the telcos have their way. Continue reading

Facebook as PicturePhone

Phone1.jpg Jeff Pulver has an interesting point that orty years later it’s an Internet company that delivers what a telco long ago promised:
During the past couple of weeks I have come to appreciate just how simple and easy it has become to send Video Messages to friends on Facebook. While the concept of a video phone dates back to the work of AT&T and their demonstrations at the 1964 World’s Fair, it has taken the advent of the Video application on Facebook and it’s general ease of use to get me to take the time and use it as part of my daily (Internet) life. While I have discovered how the Facebook video application can be used in various ways, my favorite is to send a personal video message to a friend.

My Favorite Facebook Application: Video, Jeff Pulver, Jeff Pulver blog, August 27, 2007

While a telco did invent or at least publicize the videophone, forty years later it’s an Internet application that delivers something like it on a mass scale. And maybe one reason the Facebook version of it is popular is that it isn’t quite like what AT&T predicted: it isn’t interactive television. Experience indicates people don’t necessarily want to be seen live any old time regardless of their state of dress or coffee.

And more obviously, there’s no fancy equipment to buy, so the worldwide clientele is already there on the Internet. It’s the difference between distributed participation and being sold a centralized service.


if we just had phones and Internet service

32099661.jpg If you’re stuck in a desert in the summer in a dead-end war, what do you want? Water, women, wine? Food and a ticket out? For some, the first thing they want is:
“There are two different wars,” said Staff Sgt. Donald Richard Harris, comparing his soldiers’ views with those of commanders in distant bases. “It’s a dead-end process, it seems like.”

Asked to rank morale in his unit, Harris gave it a 4 on a 10-point scale. “Look at these guys. This is their downtime,” he said, as young soldiers around him silently cleaned dust from their rifles at a battle position south of the capital. A fiery wind blasted through the small base, an abandoned home surrounded by sandbags and razor wire.

“It sounds selfish, but if we just had phones and Internet service,” said Staff Sgt. Clark Merlin, his voice trailing off.

GIs’ morale dips as Iraq war drags on, By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, August 25, 2007

This is perhaps an indication of how important Internet service is these days. With it, these troops can communicate with their peers, family, and others, not to mention get news on whatever they want. Without it, they’re isolated in a howling desert.

Back home, without the Internet, we’re isolated in the wastelands of TV.


Comcast’s Secret Bandwidth Limits

salmon.jpg Just when you think it’s all telcos doing things dire for Internet freedom:
Comcast has warned broadband Internet customers across the country to curb their downloading or wind up on the curb.

The company has a bandwidth limitation that, if broken, can result in a 12-month suspension of service. The problem, according to customer complaints, is that the telecom giant refuses to reveal how much downloading is too much.

The company, which a few years ago advertised the service as “unlimited” has an “acceptable use policy” which enforces the invisible download limit.

The 23-part policy, states that it is a breach of contract to generate “levels of traffic sufficient to impede others’ ability to send or retrieve information.” But nowhere does it detail what levels of traffic will impede others.

Comcast Cuts Off Heavy Internet Users, Customers complain bandwidth limits are secret, By Joseph S. Enoch ConsumerAffairs.Com, August 24, 2007

And you have to wonder how long that AUP said that while Comcast was advertising “unlimited”.

This part is especially enlightening:

Douglas said the company shuts off people’s Internet if it affects the performance of their neighbors because often many people will share a connection on one data pipe.
So instead of fixing their bad topology, they penalize customers for using it.

Well, it’s a free market, right? Comcast users who don’t like it can switch to, er, if they’re lucky and have any choice at all, probably to whichever of Verizon or AT&T happens to be in their area. There couldn’t be any problems with those providers, could there?

Meanwhile, if you want to follow this Comcast controversy, here’s the Comcast Broadband dispute blog that one of the cast-offs started, presumably using his new DSL connection.It’s kind of like salmon organizing against a dam upstream.


Duopoly Spies

Mike_McConnell.jpg Well, I had been waiting to post something about the telcos and domestic wiretapping until more news came out, since much of it was still hearsay. But now National Intelligence Director and former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell has confirmed it:
Now the second part of the issue was under the president’s program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us. Because if you’re going to get access you’ve got to have a partner and they were being sued. Now if you play out the suits at the value they’re claimed, it would bankrupt these companies. So my position was we have to provide liability protection to these private sector entities.

Transcript: Debate on the foreign intelligence surveillance act, By Chris Roberts, ©El Paso Times, Article Launched: 08/22/2007 01:05:57 AM MDT

Ryan Singel points out in Wired’s Threat Level blog that this is even though the same McConnell signed a sworn declaration in April saying to reveal that NSA and Verizon had such a relationship “would cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security.” Continue reading

Achille’s Dark Heel

Raymond Kelly

John Arquilla

“The Internet is the new Afghanistan,” [New York police commissioner Raymond] Kelly said, as he released a New York Police Department (NYPD) report on the home-grown threat of attacks by Islamist extremists. “It is the de facto training ground. It’s an area of concern.”

The report found that the challenge for Western authorities was to identify, pre-empt and prevent home-grown threats, which was difficult because many of those who might undertake an attack often commit no crimes along the path to extremism.

The report identified the four stages to radicalization as pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and jihadization, and said the Internet drove and enabled the process.

Internet is “the new Afghanistan”: NY police commissioner, By Michelle Nichols and Edith Honan, Reuters, Wed Aug 15, 3:51 PM ET

Nevermind that this makes about as much sense as saying “the telephone is the new Afghanistan” or “talking is the new Afghanistan”. Of course the Internet enables that process! The Internet enables every communication process.

Let’s look beyond communication and information to what people think they know because of those things:

As the information age deepens, a globe–circling realm of the mind is being created — the “noosphere” that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin identified 80 years ago. This will increasingly affect the nature of grand strategy and diplomacy. Traditional realpolitik, which ultimately relies on hard (principally military) power, will give way to the rise of noöpolitik (or noöspolitik), which relies on soft (principally ideational) power. This paper reiterates the authors’ views as initially stated in 1999, then adds an update for inclusion in a forthcoming handbook on public diplomacy. One key finding is that non–state actors — unfortunately, especially Al Qaeda and its affiliates — are using the Internet and other new media to practice noöpolitik more effectively than are state actors, such as the U.S. government. Whose story wins — the essence of noöpolitik — is at stake in the worldwide war of ideas.

The promise of noöpolitik, by David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, First Monday, volume 12, number 8 (August 2007)

This sounds almost like what the NYPD is saying. Continue reading

Malamud Court Gadfly

gadfly.jpg Carl Malamud is at it again. After getting patents and SEC filings and Congressional subcommittee hearings available online, now he’s going for court case law.
Last week, Mr. Malamud began using advanced computer scanning technology to copy decisions, which have been available only in law libraries or via subscription from the Thomson West unit of the Canadian publishing conglomerate Thomson, and LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier, based in London.

The two companies control the bulk of the nearly $5 billion legal publishing market. (A third, but niche, player is the Commerce Clearing House division of Wolters Kluwer).

He has placed the first batch of 1,000 pages of court decisions from the 1880s online at the site. He obtained the documents from a used Thomson microfiche, he said.

A Quest to Get More Court Rulings Online, and Free, By JOHN MARKOFF, New York Times, Published: August 20, 2007

Markoff refers to Malamud as a gadfly. Hey, Socrates was a gadfly, too. Not bad company.

Now what happens if the Internet first mile access duopoly decides to give Thomson and LexisNexis and Wolters Kluwer high-speed high-quality transit and deprioritizes the Internet Archive?


Heck of a Job, Stickler

Richard Sticker ((ABC 4 News))
What practical difference does it make when a president appoints political commissars as heads of departments and agencies, enforcing ideologicallines instead of doing their job?
Also coming to light, is the fact that Stickler’s nomination to head the mine administration was twice rejected by congress and rejected when republicans were still in charge. Rejected reportedly by senators who were concerned about Stickler’s safety record when he operated mines. After his nomination was twice rejected by the Senate, President Bush gave Richard Stickler the mine safety job with a recess appointment. That’s a presidential appointment made when congress is not in session.

Finally, congressional investigations and hearings are now expected to look at a key provision of federal mining law, one which requires the U.S. Government to be the main communicator when an accident occurs. ABC News now notes it took the mine safety administration two days to take public control of the Crandall Canyon Mine. ABC also adds, “Others were irate that [mine owner Bob] Murray was allowed to publicly predict success and contradict MSHA itself while agency officials quietly looked on.”

Federal mine safety official’s credentials questioned, Chris Vanocur, ABC 4 News, Last Update: 8/20 2007 8:00 pm

Dead people in mines. Dead people in Hurricane Katrina. Postal rate hikes for small publications. Wireless spectrum handed over to a few big companies. And of course massive consolidation of first mile Internet ISPs in the hands of companies that aren’t delivering on their promises and that indulge in repeated political censorship while cooperating with the government in wiretapping.

The stakes going forward are even higher, including economic competitiveness, control of information, and political discourse and with it the survival of a political system.

At least the traditional media finally noticed the problem with the appointment of the Mine and Health Safety Administrator. Imagine if we had more proactive investigative media that might have actually noticed his appointment when it happened. And imagine if we had none, which is a very real possibility with continuing media consolidation and increasing control over the Internet by a very small number of companies.


Freedom to Degrade

closed.png BT made an interesting presentation at an IETF meeting in which it described a spectrum whose endpoints are
  • demand side — freedom to degrade others
  • supply side — freedom to degrade competitors

re-ECN architectural intent by Bob Briscoe, UCL, BT, 68th IETF, Unofficial Birds of a Feather (non-BoF), Prague, 21 Mar 2007

My, freedom is so degrading. Continue reading