# "telecom" entries

## Does net neutrality really matter?

### Competition, access to bandwidth, and other issues muddy the net neutrality waters.

Screen shot of signatures from a “Common Carrier” petition to the White House.

It was the million comments filed at the FCC that dragged me out of the silence I’ve maintained for several years on the slippery controversy known as “network neutrality.” The issue even came up during President Obama’s address to the recent U.S.-Africa Business forum.

Most people who latch on to the term “network neutrality” (which was never favored by the experts I’ve worked with over the years to promote competitive Internet service) don’t know the history that brought the Internet to its current state. Without this background, proposed policy changes will be ineffective. So, I’ll try to fill in some pieces that help explain the complex cans of worms opened by the idea of network neutrality.

## Pursuing adoption of free and open source software in governments

### LibrePlanet explores hopes and hurdles.

Free and open source software creates a natural — and even necessary — fit with government. I joined a panel this past weekend at the Free Software Foundation conference LibrePlanet on this topic and have covered it previously in a journal article and talk. Our panel focused on barriers to its adoption and steps that free software advocates could take to reach out to government agencies.

LibrePlanet itself is a unique conference: a techfest with mission — an entirely serious, feasible exploration of a world that could be different. Participants constantly ask: how can we replace the current computing environment of locked-down systems, opaque interfaces, intrusive advertising-dominated services, and expensive communications systems with those that are open and free? I’ll report a bit on this unusual gathering after talking about government.

## Court prods FCC in unexpected direction in this week’s Verizon ruling

### Network neutrality was on the retreat shortly after the Telecom Act of 1996.

A court ruling this past Tuesday on FCC “network neutrality” regulation closes and opens a few paths in a three-way chess game that has been going on for years between the US District Court of Appeals, the FCC, and the major Internet server providers. (Four-way if you include Congress, and five-way if you include big Internet users such as Google — so, our chess game is coming closer to Chinese Checkers at this point.)

A lot of bloggers, and even news headlines, careened into histrionics (“Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords“). The Free Press, although oversimplifying the impact, did correctly link the ruling to what they and many other network neutrality supporters consider the original sin of FCC rulings: eviscerating the common carrier regulation of broadband providers.

Even better, many commenters noted the ambiguities and double messages in the ruling. Unlike a famous earlier ruling on Comcast regulation, this week’s court ruling spends a good deal of time affirming the FCC’s right to regulate Internet providers. Notably, pp. 35-36 essentially confirm the value and validity of network neutrality (in the form of promoting innovation at the edges by placing no restraints on transmissions).

## How did we end up with a centralized Internet for the NSA to mine?

### The Internet is naturally decentralized, but it's distorted by business considerations.

I’m sure it was a Wired editor, and not the author Steven Levy, who assigned the title “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet” to yesterday’s fine article about the pressures on large social networking sites. Whoever chose the title, it’s justifiably grandiose because to many people, yes, companies such as Facebook and Google constitute what they know as the Internet. (The article also discusses threats to divide the Internet infrastructure into national segments, which I’ll touch on later.)

So my question today is: How did we get such industry concentration? Why is a network famously based on distributed processing, routing, and peer connections characterized now by a few choke points that the NSA can skim at its leisure?

## Who will upgrade the telecom foundation of the Internet?

### A conference report on the IP transition.

Although readers of this blog know quite well the role that the Internet can play in our lives, we may forget that its most promising contributions — telemedicine, the smart electrical grid, distance education, etc. — depend on a rock-solid and speedy telecommunications network, and therefore that relatively few people can actually take advantage of the shining future the Internet offers.

Worries over sputtering advances in bandwidth in the US, as well as an actual drop in reliability, spurred the FCC to create the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force, and to drive discussion of what they like to call the “IP transition”.

Last week, I attended a conference on the IP transition in Boston, one of a series being held around the country. While we tussled with the problems of reliability and competition, one urgent question loomed over the conference: who will actually make advances happen?

## A discussion with David Farber: bandwidth, cyber security, and the obsolescence of the Internet

David Farber offers his big ideas about where the Internet is headed: how long it can last, slaying the bandwidth bottleneck, and waiting for the big breach.

## DC Circuit court rules in Comcast case, leaves the FCC a job to do

The DC Circuit didn't tell the FCC to turn back. It has a job to
do–promoting the spread of high-speed networking, and ensuring that
it is affordable by growing numbers of people–and it just has to find
the right tool for the job.

## Four short links: 19 February 2010

### Data Adjustments, Grasping Telcos, Open Data Panacea Denied, Newspaper Software

1. How to Seasonally Adjust DataMost statisticians, economists and government agencies that report data use a method called the X12 procedure to adjust data for seasonal patterns. The X12 procedure and its predecessor X11, which is still widely used, were developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. When applied to a data series, the X12 process first estimates effects that occur in the same month every year with similar magnitude and direction. These estimates are the “seasonal” components of the data series. (via bengebre on Delicious)
2. Vodafone Chief: Mobile Groups Should Be Able to Bypass Google (Guardian) — Vodafone and other telcos want to charge both ends, to charge not just the person with a monthly mobile data subscription but also the companies with whom that person communicates. It’s double-dipping and offensively short-sighted. Vodafone apparently wants to stripmine all the value their product creates. This is not shearing the sheep, this is a recipe for lamb in mint sauce.
3. Open Data is Not A Panacea, But It Is A StartThe reality is that releasing the data is a small step in a long walk that will take many years to see any significant value. Sure there will be quick wins along the way – picking on MP’s expenses is easy. But to build something sustainable, some series of things that serve millions of people directly, will not happen overnight. And the reality, as Tom Loosemore pointed out at the London Data Store launch, it won’t be a sole developer who ultimately brings it to fruition. (via sebchan on Twitter)
4. Our GeoDjango EC2 Image for News Apps — Chicago Tribune releasing an Amazon EC2 image of the base toolchain they use. Very good to see participation and contribution from organisations historically seen as pure consumers of technology. All business are becoming technology-driven businesses, realising the old mindset of “leave the tech to those who do it best” isn’t compatible with being a leader in your industry.