Broadband

Events overtaking net neutrality

The conventional Beltway wisdom would be that net neutrality legislation should have a real chance now with the election of President-Elect Obama and strengthened Democratic majorities in the Senate and House. But there are two recent developments which make the case for net neutrality regulation less compelling. Free Airwaves The Federal Communications Commission approved the use of unlicensed wireless devices to operate in broadcast television spectrum on a secondary basis at locations where that spectrum is open, i.e., the television “white spaces.” In other words, a vast amount of spectrum will soon be available to provide broadband data and other services, and the spectrum will be free. George Mason University Professor Thomas W. Hazlett notes that [S]ome 250 million mobile Read More ›

Reform intercarrier compensation

The Federal Communications Commission began a broad inquiry of intercarrier compensation in 2001 and now it may finally be getting around to acting on it on Nov. 4 while everyone’s thoughts are on something else. This is about 12 years overdue. Congress in 1996 foresaw that implicit phone subsidies were unsustainable and ordered the FCC to replace them with a competitively-neutral subsidy mechanism. Due to political pressure, regulators have failed to complete the job. Intercarrier compensation refers to “access charges” for long-distance calls and “reciprocal compensation” for local calls. A long-distance carrier may be forced to pay a local carrier more than 30 cents per minute to deliver a long-distance call, but local carriers receive as little as .0007 cents Read More ›

Comcast v. FCC: Now what?

A divided FCC recently issued an order concluding that Comcast acted discriminatorily and arbitrarily to squelch the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet, and that its failure to disclose it’s practices to its customers has compounded the harm. The FCC required Comcast to end its network management practices and submit a compliance plan. Richard Bennett reviews the Comcast “protocol agnostic” network management plan requested by the FCC: [T]he new system will not look at any headers, and will simply be triggered by the volume of traffic each user puts on the network and the overall congestion state of the network segment. If the segment goes over 70% utilization in the upload direction for a fifteen-minute sample period, congestion Read More ›

Broadband prices drop

I expected to see more reaction to the Wall Street Journal’s recent observation of a surprising shakeup in the broadband industry. Vishesh Kumar reported that Verizon Communications Inc., which last quarter became the first company ever to see a drop in DSL subscribers — some of whom went to its faster FiOS service — is now offering customers six months of DSL service free if they sign up for the company’s phone and Internet package. That makes the bundled package $45 a month, vs. $65 prior to the offer. AT&T Inc., meanwhile, is now guaranteeing its current prices, ranging from $20 to $55 a month, for two years. I cite this because I always claim that less regulation of a Read More ›

Exaflood, Zettaflood

From an interview by Peter Day, of BBC Radio 4’s “In Business,” who notes that “nearly everything that George Gilder has been predicting about communications is now in the process of coming true,” with George Gilder: George Gilder: … you have video conferencing widely used and suddenly you move from petabytes to zettabytes … two human eyes do more image processing than all the supercomputers in the world put together. Peter Day: What? Now? Today? Gilder: Now. Today. Day: No wonder it’s so difficult to get to a video conferencing that’s convincing. Gilder: That is true. … .Anya Hurlbert Ridley … says that vision is not a sense, it’s an intelligence. And so, in understanding vision, it’s not enough to Read More ›

Telecosm recap

You should have been there! Telecosm was thrilling. I will list the ways, in chronological order in two or three posts over the next few days. (Below is Part 1.) 1) Lawrence Solomon, author of The Deniers, demonstrated, beyond cavil, that nearly all the relevant scientists, outside of the government echo-chambers, completely repudiate the climate panic. He concluded by pointing to evidence for a cooling trend ahead. 2) After I presented the statistics showing that most of the global economy is driven by innovation in the Telecosm–teleputers, datacenters, optical fiber, fiberspeed electronics–Steve Forbes gave a magisterial tour of the world economy. Relevant to the debates on the Gilder Telecosm Forum subscriber message board was his assertion that the Fed had Read More ›

Terabit Ethernet coming soon

George Gilder is getting some well-deserved recognition in Technology Review in an article by Mark Williams entitled “The State of the Global Telecosm – The most notorious promoter of the 1990s telecom boom has been proved right.” “I’m a fan of George Gilder, the bubble bursting notwithstanding,” Ethernet co¬≠inventor Bob Metcalfe (a member of Technology Review’s board of directors) told me after his San Diego keynote speech, “Toward Terabit Ethernet.” Metcalfe had told his audience not only that optical networks would soon deliver 40- and 100-gigabit-per-second Ethernet–standards bodies are now hammering out the technical specifications–but also that 1,000-gigabyte-per-second Ethernet, which Metcalfe dubbed “terabit Ethernet,” would emerge around 2015. Why, I asked, did Metcalfe believe this? “Last night, Gilder spoke to Read More ›

The bandwidth conundrum

John Dvorak, PCMag.com: In today’s world, bandwidth demand is similar to what processing demand was 20 years ago. You just can’t get enough speed, no matter how hard you try. Even when you have enough speed on your own end, some other bottleneck is killing you. This comes to mind as, over the past few months, I’ve noticed how many YouTube videos essentially come to a grinding halt halfway through playback and display that little spinning timer. Why don’t they just put the word “buffering” on the screen? All too often, it’s not the speed of my connection that’s at issue–it’s the speed of the connection at the other end. It may not even be the connection speed itself; it Read More ›

What did he say?

Normally when you quote someone extensively but selectively and you’re making a different (arguably opposite) point, you acknowledge that. Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, who got a chance to lecture a captive Federal Communications Commission during a special public hearing on broadband network management this week, began the lesson quoting from remarks Gerald R. Faulhaber, Professor Emeritus of Business and Public Policy at Wharton, made at Stanford on Dec. 1, 2000 when he was chief economist at the FCC. I think Prof. Lessig is a gifted and well-intentioned scholar and educator. And Prof. Faulhaber framed the issues well, so it’s understandable why Lessig quoted him. But Faulhaber wasn’t on Lessig’s page. A transcript of Faulhaber’s full remarks, available on the Read More ›

Back to spectrum giveaways

In 1993 Congress substituted auctions for the deplorable practice of giving away valuable spectrum to well-connected commercial entities. Lawmakers who think spectrum is a valuable public resource for which the taxpayers should be compensated need to wake up for a minute. FCC rulemaking could render the remaining assets worthless, distort wireless competition and contribute to the unfortunate perception of the FCC as a candy store. Google has made it clear that it plans to weigh in at the FCC as it determines how to re-auction the D-block from the recent 700 MHz auction, and that it wants to open the white spaces between channels 2 and 51 on the TV dial for unlicensed broadband services. Anna-Maria Kovacs, a regulatory analyst, Read More ›