Category Archives: Duopoly

Duopoly Cons Congress Members

73 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter drafted by telco and cableco lobbyists against net neutrality. Save the Internet has sufficiently fisked it. My favorite point is that when AT&T was required as a condition of acquiring Bellsouth in 2006 to abide by net neutrality, it increased its infrastructure investments. As soon as that two year requirement was up, so were the investments. (And they didn’t even honor all the requirements, such as a low-end $10/month service.)

The simple fact is that net neutrality was the condition under which the Internet grew to be what it is today, which is the last bastion of free speech and a free press in much of the world, especially in the United States. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is that the duopoly (telcos and cablecos) succeeded in their regulatory capture of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s term as chairman and did away with much it. The U.S. used to have among the fastest Internet speeds in the world. Since the duopoly got their way, the U.S. has fallen far behind dozens of other countries in connection speeds, availability, and update. While the U.S. NTIA claimed at least one user per ZIP code counted as real service.

We can let the telcos and cablecos continue to turn the Internet into cable TV, as they have said they want to do. Under the conditions they want, we never would have had the world wide web, google, YouTube, flickr, facebook, etc.

And left to their plan, the duopoly will continue cherry-picking densely-populated areas and leaving rural areas, such as south Georgia, where I live, to sink or swim. Most of the white area in the Georgia map never had anybody even try a speed test. Most of the rest of south Georgia had really slow access. Which maybe wouldn’t be a problem if we had competitive newspapers (we don’t) or competing TV stations (we don’t). Or if we didn’t need to publish public information like health care details online, as Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) says he plans to do. How many people in his district can even get to it? How many won’t because their link is too slow? How many could but won’t because it costs too much?

John Barrow (D GA-12) has a fancy flashy home page that most people in his district probably can’t get to. Yet he signed the letter against net neutrality.

I prefer an open Internet. How about you?

Why did the 73 Democrats sign the letter? Could it have to do with the duopoly making massive campaign contributions to the same Democrats and holding fancy parties for them?

The same lobbyists are after Republican members of Congress next.

Call your member of Congress and insist on giving the FCC power to enforce net neutrality rules.


Lessig’s Herculean Holiday Present: Reboot the FCC

1990.05.0243.jpeg Here’s a good test for the new U.S. Executive: to recognize that steady pragmatism means radical change, starting with the FCC:
The solution here is not tinkering. You can’t fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: “minimal intervention to maximize innovation.” The iEPA’s core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies—excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.

Reboot the FCC, We’ll stifle the Skypes and YouTubes of the future if we don’t demolish the regulators that oversee our digital pipelines. By Lawrence Lessig, Newsweek Web Exclusive, 23 Dec 2008

Lessig gets the connection with his old topic of intellectual property and copyright. Those are monopolies granted by the federal government, and they have been abused by the monopoly holders just like the holders of communication monopolies: Continue reading

Selling Out Has Its Party: AT&T Fetes Blue Dogs

2793874065_fd20bc4453.jpg Glenn Greenwald has video of attendees refusing to say who they were or why they were there or what the party was for:
Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party’s purpose was, why they were attending, etc. One attendee said he was with an “energy company,” and the other confessed she was affiliated with a “trade association,” but that was the full extent of their willingness to describe themselves or this event. It was as though they knew they’re part of a filthy and deeply corrupt process and were ashamed of — or at least eager to conceal — their involvement in it. After just a few minutes, the private security teams demanded that we leave, and when we refused and continued to stand in front trying to interview the reticent attendees, the Denver Police forced us to move further and further away until finally we were unable to approach any more of the arriving guests.

AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Monday Aug. 25, 2008 11:15 EDT (updated below (with video added) – Update II) Thursday, Aug 28, 2008

The video includes Denver police repeatedly asking accredited press to move away from a public sidewalk.

At another party, an ABC News reporter was arrested while “attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.”

Parties like this are part of the lobbying revolving door that makes the U.S. look like a banana republic. I’m picking on Democrats, here, but at least 75% of Senate Democrats (including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, but not Barack Obama) voted against the recent bad FISA bill. A much higher percentage of Republicans voted for it.

If he were alive today, Robert Burns would say:

‘We are bought and sold for telecom gold’
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!


Movie King of the Internet: Bad Idea

kong_iup2.jpg Andrew Odlyzko asks what if the duopoly gets its way and completely does away with net neutrality:
But what if they do get their wish, net neutrality is consigned to the dustbin, and they do build their new services, but nobody uses them? If the networks that are built are the ones that are publicly discussed, that is a likely prospect. What service providers publicly promise to do, if they are given complete control of their networks, is to build special facilities for streaming movies. But there are two fatal defects to that promise. One is that movies are unlikely to offer all that much revenue. The other is that delivering movies in real-time streaming mode is the wrong solution, expensive and unnecessary. If service providers are to derive significant revenues and profits by exploiting freedom from net neutrality limitations, they will need to engage in much more intrusive control of traffic than just provision of special channels for streaming movies.

The delusions of net neutrality, Andrew Odlyzko, School of Mathematics, University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA Revised version, August 17, 2008

Why is that?
But video, and more generally content (defined as material prepared by professionals for wide distribution, such as movies, music, newscasts, and so on), is not king, and has never been king. While content has frequently dominated in terms of volume of traffic, connectivity has almost universally been valued much more highly and brought much higher revenues. Movies cannot be counted on to bring in anywhere near as much in revenues as voice services do today.
The Internet isn't about Sarnoff's Law (broadcast content like TV, radio, and newspapers) or even about Metcalfe's Law (1-n connectivity, like telephone or VoIP): it's about Reed's law, 2n-n connectivity, such as blogs, P2P, and facebook). That's my interpretation; Odlyzko probably wouldn't agree.

Anyway, that video content such as movies is king is one of the primary delusions Odlyzko addresses in this paper. The other is that movies need to be streamed in realtime. It is mysterious why people continue to believe that in the face of the massive evidence BitTorrent and other P2P services that deliver big content in chunks faster than realtime. I can only attribute this second delusion to a bellhead mindset that still thinks in terms of telephone, which was realtime because nobody knew any other way to do it back in the analog-copper-wire-connection day.

As Odlyzko sums it up:

The general conclusion is that the story presented by service providers, that they need to block net neutrality in order to be able to afford to construct special features in their networks for streaming movies, is simply not credible. If lack of net neutrality requirements is to be exploited, it will have to be done through other, much more intrusive means.
So why let the duopoly force a policy on everyone else that won't even work to the advantage of the duopoly?

One way to get net neutrality would be to let the duopoly have its way, and wait for it to implode. However, given that for streaming video to have any chance of succeeding, the duopoly would have to clamp down on everything else to eliminate any competition, I shudder to think what this would mean. The Internet as a source of real news and opinion would go away. Given that the vestigial traditional news media in the U.S. (TV, radio, newspapers) provide so little news, there's a very good chance that most people in the U.S. wouldn't even know how bad they had it as the country sped its slide into parochialism and irrelevance. How many people even know now that the U.S. has slid from #1 to #23 or whatever the latest number is in broadband uptake? If the duopoly is given its head, even fewer would know.

If we let King Kong Telco and T Rex Cableco battle it out to be Movie King of the Internet, where does that leave poor Fay Wray Public?

FCC, FTC, Congress, executive, and courts, not to mention the public, should all read Odlyzko's paper, and should all refuse the duopoly's demand for special privileges that won't even produce profits for the duopoly. Then all of above should legislate, enforce, and maintain net neutrality so we will all profit and benefit. Yes, even the duopoly can win with this.


Mises Hates Duopoly: Or Only Monopoly and Fictional Wal-E?

wall-e.jpg I was reading a review of the movie Wal-E, and ran across this quote:
…without the presence of multiple providers of goods in the economy, the single dominant firm is in the same position as a socialist central planner. In the real world, BNL would have no market price signals to help it discern consumer demand for and the relative scarcity of resources. It would not be able to engage in rational economic calculation and would make decisions arbitrarily. Surely, this state would not please many consumers, and the BNL monopoly would be short lived at most.

WALL-E: Economic Ignorance and the War on Modernity, Daily Article by Gennady Stolyarov II | Posted on 7/4/2008

So is it better if we have a duopoly rather than a monopoly? Is that competitive, then? The current FTC and FCC will say yes. I say no.

Sure, the Austrian school is controversial and all, and I found much of the rest of the review hilariously inapt, but this quote did stick in my mind.


L.A. Times to cut 250 Jobs: Less Free Press; More Need for a Free Internet

lat_logo_inner.gif There’s good news and there’s bad news:
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday announced plans to cut 250 positions across the company, including 150 positions in editorial, in a new effort to bring expenses into line with declining revenue. In a further cost-cutting step, the newspaper will reduce the number of pages it publishes each week by 15%.

“You all know the paradox we find ourselves in,” Times Editor Russ Stanton said in a memo to the staff. “Thanks to the Internet, we have more readers for our great journalism than at any time in our history. But also thanks to the Internet, our advertisers have more choices, and we have less money.”

Los Angeles Times to cut 250 jobs, including 150 from news staff, By Michael A. Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, July 3, 2008

One reason for these cuts is the housing downturn in California: fewer real estate ads. But there are deeper reasons:
Announcements of hundreds of reductions were issued only last week by dailies in Boston, San Jose, Detroit and elsewhere. Among Tribune newspapers, the Baltimore Sun said it would cut about 100 positions by early August and the Hartford Courant announced plans to cut about 50 newsroom positions. The New York Times and the Washington Post both instituted layoffs or buyouts to reduce their staffs this year.

Besides the changes in the newspaper industry, Tribune carries the burden of about $1 billion in annual payments on its debt, much of which it took on to finance the $8.2-billion buyout.

Sure, it’s happening everywhere. But the L.A. Times is one of the best sources of journalism around. Why did somebody find it worthwhile to buy it out just to load it up with debt and force layoffs?

Whether this newspaper was targetted or not, the handwriting is on the wall for fishwraps. They’ll either adapt to the Internet or die. I suspect many of them will die. That means we’ll lose many of our traditional sources of real reporting. Fortunately, some new sources are arising, such as Talking Points Memo, which bit into the Justice Department scandals and hung on like a bulldog. Yet blogs like that thus far have a tiny fraction of the resources of big newspapers like the L.A. Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. There’s going to be a time of unsettlement of the fishwrap plains while the new shops in cyberspace put down roots into the old country.

And we won’t have ready access to either the remaining existing newspapers worldwide or to the new online sources of reporting unless we have a free Internet. Yet another reason that net neutrality is important.

Yet another reason not to let the telcos get away with retroactive immunity. Remember, the telcos currently paying off Congress are the same companies that want to squelch net neutrality. If they can get away with handing over every bit to the NSA yesterday, why would they stop at squelching your P2P today?


Amnesty Foes 2.0: SenatorObama-PleaseVoteAgainstFISA

obamafisa.jpg I’ve been waiting for this to hit the bigtime, and it has, it’s been slashdotted:
ya really notes a blog posting up at Wired reporting that foes of the Telecom Amnesty Bill have mounted a campaign on Barack Obama’s own website. Though the group was created only days ago, on June 25, it has grown to be the fifth largest among 7,000 such groups, just short of Women for Obama. Although it is widely known that Obama changed his stance from opposing telecom immunity to supporting it, many have not given up hope of getting him to switch once again.

Telecom Amnesty Foes On the Move, Posted by kdawson, slashdot, on Tuesday July 01, @08:02AM from the one-week-and-counting dept.

And today the group has more than 9,000 members and is #2 among all MyBO groups.

It’s everywhere else, too, Time, WSJ, Wired, Huffington Post, TPM, DailyKos, MyDD, OpenLeft, digg, reddit, and of course facebook. Read all about it on the wiki.

(Yes, I’m a member of the group, since about the second day, and here’s what I think about the issue.)

This group is a goldmine of information about which telecoms gave what money to whom.

The most significant part to me is that people are using a candidate’s own organizing tools to attempt to organize the candidate. Not stopping there, either, attempting to organize allies for the candidate. Obama claims to be people-powered. Let him say that while other politicians follow money from lobbyists, he listens to the people who give him money, who are the people, and when they said think again he did, and discovered the bogus House FISA “compromise” bill is no such thing, and now he’s against it. We’ll see.


Banana Republic, DC: Telecom Lobbying Revolving Door

800px-Banana_republic.svg.png Greenwald notes that AT&T spends more in three months for lobbying than EFF’s entire budget for a year. Then he spells out how the lobbying revolving door works, and concludes:
The “two sides” referenced there means the House Democratic leadership and the telecoms. Congressional leaders are “negotiating” with the telecoms — the defendants in pending lawsuits — regarding the best way for immunizing them from liability for their lawbreaking, no doubt with the help of the former Democratic members and staffers now being paid by the telecoms to speak to their former bosses and colleagues about what they should do. To describe the process is to illustrate its oozing, banana-republic-like corruption, but that’s generally how our laws are written.

None of this is particularly new, but it’s still remarkable to be able to document it in such grotesque detail and see how transparent it all is. In one sense, it’s just extraordinary how seamlessly and relentlessly the wheels of this dirty process churn. But in another sense, it’s perhaps even more remarkable — given the forces lined up behind telecom amnesty — that those who have been working against it, with far fewer resources and relying largely on a series of disruptive tactics and ongoing efforts to mobilize citizen anger, have been able to stop it so far.

How telecoms are attempting to buy amnesty from Congress, Glenn Greenwald,, Saturday May 24, 2008 06:48 EDT

Remember, AT&T and the other telcos and cablecos are the same companies that want to nuke net neutrality in the name of competition and progress; two other flags they behind, just like the banana republic flag of national security.


ATCA Again: Duopoly Against VoIP Long Before Video

TinCanPhone-726651.jpg Back in 1995, an organization calling itself AMERICA’S CARRIERS TELECOMMUNICATION ASSOCIATION (“ACTA”), petitioned the FCC to regulate Voice over IP (VoIP) services. The gist of the matter was:
Permitting long distance service to be given away is not in the public interest.
In other words, if the telcos couldn’t make money off of it, nobody should.

A usually reliable source says:

The ACTA petition was the first time that the FCC confronted VoIP as a policy issue. The FCC, however, never acted on the ACTA petition, and ACTA, the moving party, no longer exists. The question presented by the ACTA petition was whether the FCC had regulatory authority to regulate VoIP Internet software used by individuals to do telephony with each other, with no service provider in the middle.

VoIP: ACTA Petition, Cybertelecom

It’s interesting that the same telcos that now rail against regulation were happy to try to use it back in 1995 when it suit their purposes.

So ATCA failed to control VoIP via FCC regulation. But they can use volume charging to eliminate both VoIP and video they don’t provide themselves.

The duopoly’s claims of a few people using too much traffic are a smokescreen. The real issue is control: they want to control what passes through “their” networks so they can profit by as much of it as possible. I have no objection to telcos and cablecos making a profit. I do object to them squelching everybody else to do so. On the Internet you can connect any two tin cans, unless the duopoly can cut your string.


Byte Charging Rears Its Ugly Head

leakfaucet.jpg Here it is again:
Some people use the Internet simply to check e-mail and look up phone numbers. Others are online all day, downloading big video and music files.

For years, both kinds of Web surfers have paid the same price for access. But now three of the country’s largest Internet service providers are threatening to clamp down on their most active subscribers by placing monthly limits on their online activity.

Charging by the Byte to Curb Internet Traffic, By BRIAN STELTER, New York Times, Published: June 15, 2008

The article names Time Warner, Comcast, and AT&T as the three prospective byte chargers.

I can remember when all the European PTTs charged by the byte. That held the Internet in Europe back by at least four years. The article rightly points out byte charging would interfere with all sorts of business plans. It would also inhibit political speech.

Isn’t it lovely when the duopoly that controls U.S. Internet access considers participation a leak that needs to be fixed?