Monthly Archives: April 2008

Sitcoms as Gin, or, Looking for the Mouse

Clay Shirky explains why sitcoms serve the same function as gin did in industrial revolution Britain:


This is why traditional media fear the Internet. They have been supplying the gin to keep us all intoxicated instead of doing anything participatory or useful with our leisure time. The Internet (and gaming, and computers in general) provides ways of interacting and participating at every scale from local to global that have never existed before. And people are starting to use them.

Think about that the next time somebody equates “screen time” for television and the Internet.


Murdoch Wants Another NYC Newspaper

Rupert Murdoch AP Photograph
Four months after Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal, the editor quit. Murdoch already owns the New York Post. Now he wants to buy Newsday. Nevermind that such a purchase would be illegal. The good money is on Kevin Martin’s FCC letting it happen anyway. After all, if he doesn’t need a law to enforce, what’s to stop him not enforcing the laws he’s already got?

Despite having had no success at preventative or forensic oversight of the FCC, Congress is going to give it another go:

However, the looser ownership rules the FCC passed in December – over an outcry from many interest groups – has stirred criticism from many in Congress, suggesting that Murdoch’s Newsday bid faces the first stirrings of a backlash.

The commerce committee in the Senate yesterday approved a “resolution of disapproval” measure that would overturn the new ownership rules, creating more of a hurdle for Murdoch.

Senator Byron Dorgan, the measure’s leading sponsor, said: “We really do literally have five or six major corporations in this country that determine for the most part what Americans see, hear and read every day. I don’t think that’s healthy for our country.”

Dorgan is backed by 25 senators, including Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and is confident it will pass the Senate. A similar bill has been proposed in the House.

Murdoch’s Newsday bid faces hurdle, Elana Schor,, Friday April 25 2008

We’ll see if the Senate or Democrats have a spine this time.

Meanwhile, the entire mainstream press, except the New York Times, ignores that the president of the United States admits he personally authorized war crimes. Except for ABC, which broke the story, but then couldn’t be bothered to mention it during a “debate” it hosted between the remaining Democratic presidential candidates.

If every other major paper in NYC (and 3 out of the top 10 in the U.S.) is controled by Murdoch, how long before the NYTimes falls prey, too? With net neutrality we can still know about stories like this. Without it?


Hamlet in DC: To Legislate or Not to Legislate, That is the Question

EdwinBoothasHamlet.jpg The U.S. Senate takes up net neutrality again, to legislate or not to legislate:
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing entitled “The Future of the Internet” on Tuesday, Democratic politicians argued for passage of a law designed to prohibit broadband operators from creating a “fast lane” for certain Internet content and applications. Their stance drew familiar criticism from the cable industry, their Republican counterparts, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who said there’s no demonstrated need for new rules, at this point.

Net neutrality battle returns to the U.S. Senate, by Anne Broache, C|Net, 22 April 2008

Some of the senators seemed to think the Comcast debacle indicated there was need for legislation:
“To whatever degree people were alleging that this was a solution in search of a problem, it has found its problem,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “We have an obligation to try and guarantee that the same freedom and the same creativity that was able to bring us to where we are today continues, going forward.”

Kerry is one of the backers of a bill called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, chiefly sponsored by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, which resurfaced at the beginning of 2007 but has gotten little attention since. A similar measure failed in a divided Commerce Committee and in the House of Representatives nearly two years ago.

Unsurprisingly, Martin says he doesn’t need a law to enforce, because he can make it up as he goes along: Continue reading

NFL v. Comcast: Expect this on the Internet

nfl.gif This is what we can expect to see on the Internet if the duopoly is left to its own devices:
NFL Network is filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against cable TV giant Comcast in the latest legal wrangling between the two.

The network announced Thursday it had served Comcast with the required 10-day notice of its intent to file a complaint. NFL Network is accusing the nation’s largest cable operator of discriminatory and anticompetitive treatment in violation of the Cable Act of 1992.

The two sides have been feuding over Comcast’s decision to place NFL Network on a premium sports tier that customers must pay extra to receive. NFL Network sued Comcast in October 2006 over the move.

NFL Network filing complaint with FCC against Comcast AP, 17 April 2008

The NFL Channel and the Amazon Channel. Whatever the duopoly thinks it can milk for extra revenue by putting it on a premium channel, that’s what they’ll do.

Defenders of the duopoly may claim they’re doing it to protect copyright, but note that in this case the content provider doesn’t even want it.


ISPs Escalate Ignoring FCC

comcast.jpg Fox started the trend of ignoring the FCC when it does something they don’t like. Now the duopoly has gotten up to the same trick:
Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and cable research company CableLabs were all invited to participate several weeks ago, but declined, Martin said. The commission again reached out to Comcast after the announcement this week that it would develop a P2P bill of rights with Pando Networks, but they again sent their regrets, he said.

ISPs Give FCC Cold Shoulder at Internet Hearing, by Chloe Albanesius,, 04.17.08

You may recall at the previous hearing, at Harvard, FCC chair Kevin Martin couldn’t hear the difference between participant and consumer, while Comcast hired shills off the street to take up seats so people with things to say couldn’t. Now the duopoly is painting the FCC as unduly critical of themselves, and the press is going along with that, including the hometown Silicon Valley newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, which should know better: Continue reading

Abyss: What You Won’t Hear Without the Internet

tim-robbins.jpg Tim Robbins, famous actor, writer, director, and producer, was invited by the National Association of Broadcasters to give a talk. Then they turned off all the cameras. But they forgot to tell the audience to turn off their voice recorders:
Now some of you are concerned with that unrelenting pesky competition. You know, the new technologies; the Internets and satellite radio and television. The problem is there are too many people in this country that take the notion of creativity and invention too damn seriously. Just when one technology is centralized, conglomerated, monopolized, along come new technologies and delivery systems to threaten the good work born of deregulation. Just when we were getting close to a national playlist for our music, satellite technology is threatening to provide music that people actually want to hear. Just when we were close to a national news media, providing a general consensus on what the truth is, along comes the Internets that allow its users a choice on the kinds of news it watches. And the You Tube. My God we’ve got to stop them. Recently when we were about to enjoy our great national pastime of ‘tearing apart a presidential candidate with relentless repetition of ugly things his friend said’, You Tube provided the candidates reasoned response and millions watched and responded positively.

Well you here at NAB have the power to stop this dangerous technology. The question is, how? I respectfully suggest that you do what others have done when facing the competition of new technologies. Get compromising information on your enemy and expose them in a sex scandal. Or call them a racist, or better yet a traitor. That not only undermines your competitor, but provides the public with fantastic entertainment.

The Power and Responsibility of our Nation’s Broadcasters, By Tim Robbins, The following is my opening keynote speech for the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, which I delivered Monday night. 14 April 2008

He had a fine time lampooning that the news media do all the time. And then he got serious: Continue reading

Panopticon Click: NYTimes and Wapo Catch on to Packet Privacy

Panopticon.jpg When both the New York Times and the Washington Post catch on, the idea of online privacy protection from ISPs must be catching on:
It’s not paranoia: they really are spying on you.

The Already Big Thing on the Internet: Spying on Users, By ADAM COHEN, New York Times, Published: April 5, 2008

Some specifics:
The online behavior of a small but growing number of computer users in the United States is monitored by their Internet service providers, who have access to every click and keystroke that comes down the line.

Every Click You Make: Internet Providers Quietly Test Expanded Tracking of Web Use to Target Advertising By Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, April 4, 2008; Page D01

Some say privacy is only distant nostalgia; I say we need to do something about it. We need packet privacy.

Laissez faire won’t get ‘er done. As Cohen writes: Continue reading

Novelty Used Against Net Neutrality by Duopoly

damian-interview.jpg A musician warns us about novelty being used to subvert participation, and comes up with a clever analogy:
We hate when things are taken from us (so we rage at censorship), but we also love to get new things. And the providers are chomping at the bit to offer them to us: new high-bandwidth treats like superfast high-definition video and quick movie downloads. They can make it sound great: newer, bigger, faster, better! But the new fast lanes they propose will be theirs to control and exploit and sell access to, without the level playing field that common carriage built into today’s network.

They won’t be blocking anything per se — we’ll never know what we’re not getting — they’ll just be leapfrogging today’s technology with a new, higher-bandwidth network where they get to be the gatekeepers and toll collectors. The superlative new video on offer will be available from (surprise, surprise) them, or companies who’ve paid them for the privilege of access to their customers. If this model sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s how cable TV operates.

Beware the New New Thing, By DAMIAN KULASH Jr., Op-Ed Contributor, New York Times, Published: April 5, 2008

Yep, and the cablecos and telcos have not been shy about saying that’s what they want to do.

Here’s the new analogy: Continue reading

Game on: ECA for net neutrality

eca.jpg Good news:
Gamers are, by nature, a more web-savvy lot than the average Internet consumer. As a result, complicated-sounding concepts like “Net Neutrality” tend to be a pretty easy sell to those individuals whose primary means of entertainment is heavily dependent on fast and unfettered Internet access.

Yesterday the Entertainment Consumers’ Association unveiled another new venture into the realm of gamer activism. Following on the success of political action programs such as the Video Game Voters Network, the ECA is hoping to apply a similar formula to the complicated issue of Net Neutrality. The new initiative is called Gamers for Net Neutrality, and its purpose is to provide gamers with the tools necessary to fight the encroaching threat of a micro-monetized and heavily controlled online space.

ECA Launches Gamers for Net Neutrality, New initiative empowers gamers to help keep online traffic regulation-free. By Mark Whiting,, 04/02/2008

This is what it will take to win. We need the FCC to enforce net neutrality. And that will only happen when there’s an administration that will make it do so. And that will only happen if the people vote it in. We need more ISP competitors. And that will only happen as customers demand it. This is the path to net neutrality and Internet freedom.



“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced.
The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people…
This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments,
and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”

John Adams, 1818

Popular: Bell Canada Throttling Story in Canada’s Biggest Newspaper

logo_torontostar.gif This article was for a bit the most popular on, the online edition of Canada’s largest newspaper, and is still number 5 on most emailed as I type:
The Toronto Star has learned that John Sweeney, Bell’s senior vice-president of carrier services, sent a letter to the independent ISPs last Friday acknowledging that Bell has implemented bandwidth management from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. for its wholesale customers. Sweeney admitted that peer-to-peer applications will not work as fast during this period, but argued that “a majority of end users will experience an increased level of satisfaction.”

While much of the initial commentary has focused on the implications for consumer rights, that discussion misses the more important aspect of this story, namely that Bell’s plans undermine the Internet’s competitive landscape by raising three concerns.

Bell throttles its Internet competitors, Michael Geist, The Star, Apr 01, 2008 04:30 AM

It seems Bell Canada has handed net neutrality advocates proof of their concerns , and that the public is watching. This article isn’t some emotional scare piece, either. Continue reading