Senator Durbin Live Thread

by: Dick Durbin

Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 19:26

Hello, I'm Dick Durbin and I'd like to thank Matt Stoller, OpenLeft, and the many participants who have already commented on this effort.

Since we announced this initiative over the weekend, I've been overwhelmed with the response.  In addition to the discussion here at OpenLeft, several other progressive blogs, tech news sites, and others have posted comments. Already, a number of trends are beginning to emerge in the comments, both here and elsewhere.

Those who have already begun the discussion are already debating issues of broadband competition, as well as how we should define broadband.  Others have raised the problem of states that have limited the ability of localities to provide their own service when the market doesn't.  And there's a great deal of concern about consolidation in the broadband realm.

I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to blog already, and look forward to a fascinating experience this week. Now I'd like to take some time to respond directly to some of your comments.

Dick Durbin :: Senator Durbin Live Thread

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Hi senator (4.00 / 3)
Hi senator, the people from sound exchnage say that they want to keep the rates low for small webcasters, however, there is nothing in writing and no legilstaion to ensure that happens. What can we do to make sure that some one doesn't decide to change their minds at the last minute?

Also what can be done to make sure that SE or the major labels does not cut any side deals with corporate terrestrial radio stations and exchange payments for online royaltie rates for airtime?

Davey D (4.00 / 3)
I'd like to thank Davey D for his comments about media consolidation.  I share his concerns about media consolidation.  This trend means that it is harder and harder for a diversity of voices to be heard through the important medium of the web. 

First, please do no harm (0.00 / 0)
Dear Senator,
  You offered to look "for the best and brightest ideas on what Congress should do to promote and foster broadband. "

  My initial thought went to the famous Hippocratic oath which stated, "First, do no harm."  This is the essence of Net Neutrality which, I believe, should be the first and foremost objective for all of us.

  Another suggestion is to develop an even higher-tech "Internet 3" to replace the "premium" Internet 2 found on college campuses and government agencies.  For anyone bent on dumbing down the net (in the name of protecting our "young and impressionable" masses), you could censor the net for anyone under 18 and replace our net with an equally-priced Internet 2 for responsible adults focused on preserving our freedoms.

[ Parent ]
Seperate but equal (0.00 / 0)
Multiple internets (little i) weaken the power of the Internet (big I) as an information sharing media.

The good news is that the Internet views censorship as damage and routes around.

[ Parent ]
Synopses & priorities. (4.00 / 1)
I'm very much looking forward to the next few days' discussion.  I've already seen a number of great ideas from various participants and am hoping that the Senator's staff would be willing to pull together a daily synopsis of what's been mentioned. 

Since one of the goals of this form of participatory democracy is to utilize this feedback to formulate legislation, I'm particularly interested in how we can prioritize various elements and themes that are sure to arise (e.g., structural separation, common carriage, network neutrality) and potential solutions that would help us attain our shared goals of universal, affordable broadband.

Good point, Sascha (4.00 / 1)
I'd like to second Sascha's comment.  Given our ambitious goal for this exercise (to help craft legislation), it seems that we need a little more structure than a few days of blog threads can support, perhaps starting with Sascha's suggestion of a daily synopsis that gets fed back to us, perhaps with some suggestions/comments from Sen. Durbin and his staff or others that are "inside" the legislative process.  Some forms of followup after you get a chance to digest all the input would also be much appreciated.  Evolving the dialog into an ongoing and productive communication needs to be part of this Legislation 2.0 experiment.

[ Parent ]
GPL 3.0 as potential model. (4.00 / 2)
For those familiar with the GPL 3.0 process -- the online tool they used to draft (and comment) on the new General Public License is fairly impressive.

[ Parent ]
Sorry for the CAPS, but I did want to make sure folks would be able to find this easily.  Here's a link to the FSF collaboration tool for creating the GPL 3.0 -- definitely worth a look if you're not familiar with it:

[ Parent ]
separate diary (4.00 / 1)
needs to be a separate discussion, I just checked it out and am wondering if it has "vote to merge" in changes via the comments.  But, another time, thx for the lead on this.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
can we take (0.00 / 0)
Say one of Durbin's draft bills from, plop it into this tool and give this a test whirl?  We do need something like this, down to the legislative language, but a comment management system plus a merge on comments revisions to keep it manageable.  We need a "accept by vote" and let the legislative staffers have ultimate veto power to manage such a thing.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
The telecom lobbyists versus the activists (4.00 / 1)
First off, Senator Durbin, thank you very much for engaging with this community in such an accessible way. And thank you for pioneering the idea of Open Legislation. I hope it becomes standard operating practice.

Here's my question: How willing/able are legislators to ignore the telecom lobbyists in favor of the large group of citizens who want access to (a) a neutral network and (b) a free national wireless network (or at least federal law that protects municipalities who want to provide free wireless)?

That is, do you believe that centrist Republicans and Democrats will be willing to buck the telecom giants on these issues, or is the pressure and money simply overwhelming?

Response to an earlier comment (4.00 / 3)
Ady, you started this conversation, but the points you raise have been recurring themes all night. The essential question is: how do you counter the power of special interests and paid lobbyists?

The answer is partly to do what you're doing tonight -- get involved. And stay involved. Even if the fight doesn't go your way. That is one of the reasons the telecom lobby is so successful. If the bills they advocate don't pass or are amended in ways they don't like, they come back at it the next day. or next week. or next year. Net activists need to adopt that philosphy as well.

[ Parent ]
Thank you senator (0.00 / 0)
Having you come and talk about this issue with us certainly will make the community much more energized and willing to fight repeated battles -- knowing we have allies on the Hill is crucial to our self-confidence and determination.

The more that Democratic leaders converse with the netroots and treat our concerns and ideas seriously -- as opposed to merely relying on us as a cash register -- the strong our progressive movement will be. Thank you for being a leader on this score. Please spread the word on the Hill -- if leaders come to us for advice and consultation, they'll be strengthening their alliances and coalitions.

[ Parent ]
Senator (0.00 / 0)
is wonderful to have you here sir.  Let me take this opportunity to repeat the question I left for you in the previous thread.

What are the prospects of regulating broadband like we do other utilities?  That would simultaneously fix the accessibility and net neutrality problems.

Lost in the Dark (4.00 / 2)
Let's agree on a starting point. The FCC does not even collect the data on the availability of broadband in our nation. It's no wonder we are falling behind many "less developed" nations in this effort. ConnectKentucky is a good state program which collects the data and fills the gaps. My Connect the Nation bill (S1190) sets the same goal nationwide.

[ Parent ]
Expanding On This (4.00 / 2)
Now that the Democrats are back in charge of Congress, shouldn't we ressurect the Office of Technology Assessment, that Newt Gingrich killed back in 1995?

Imagine: Making law based on empirical knowledge.  What a concept!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
yes to a new ota! (0.00 / 0)
absolutely right, paul, and thanks for the suggestion.  ntia has done some surveys and demographics, but so much more needs to be done.

[ Parent ]
This almost just happened. (4.00 / 1)
The latest House Appropriations bill for FY08 almost had language re-funding the OTA.

Instead, it got rolled into the GAO, which will now be receiving funding to do technology assesments, which is almost as good as having a renewed OTA, since GAO reports are public (unlike CRS).

For more background, see this post from the Open House Project.

[ Parent ]
They do...they just don't do it well (4.00 / 1)
Another point I made in my diary was that the FCC collects data on broadband penetration based on flawed models--in this case, by ZIP code rather than infrastructure development. By their model, if ONE subscriber to ONE broadband model exists in a region, then the region has broadband connectivity.


Would you support Sen. Inouye's "Broadband Data Collection Act," as it mandates new standards for data collection and authorizes the GAO to act as a third party, collecting data independently?

[ Parent ]
thank you Senator (4.00 / 3)
I'm glad you're doing this, and I hope you continue to solicit public feedback so that the public can have access to the halls of Congress in some small measure of reasonable equity with lobbyists.

Thanks, Matt (4.00 / 2)
I see you are in touch with my landlord/buddy George Miller and thanks for your help with this effort.

Lobbyists have power and checks but I believe the political potential of the internet dwarfs them. If we get our act together and turn concern into political action, the lobbyists cannot keep up.

[ Parent ]
Not to be too cynical, but (4.00 / 1)
I watched a hearing over in the House Telecommunications Subcommittee this morning, and it seemed as if the most dominant party present wasn't Democrats or Republicans, but AT&T.

How do you overcome that?  And can you get any friends of yours on the Senate Commerce Committee to join this project?

Transparency (4.00 / 1)
Here is a reply to Artbrodsky and AdyBarkan and others who have talked about how to overcome the power of entrenched interests.

I think there are two pieces here.  First, we need more transparency in the process.  This is an experiment in how to foster a more democratic bill-writing process.

In addition, legislators in Washington need to hear more from activists who care about this issue.  They need to communicate their views with us and get out and vote!  There's no replacement for a concerned body of citizens who are willing to organize.

[ Parent ]
Jeff from CWA (4.00 / 2)
Jeff Rechenbach from CWA also makes a great point.  All of the indicators show that the United States is falling behind our competitors not just in terms of access but also in terms of speed and the cost of service.  Just yesterday Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed that detailed how this trend means that Americans have less access to educational opportunities, health care, and business opportunities. 

Psst (4.00 / 2)
Senator, if you click the reply link under each comment it will allow you to respond directly to the person who you are replying to.  That way the comments are threaded.

[ Parent ]
What do we do about misinformation? (4.00 / 1)
Reading FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell's "Broadband Balony" Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal brings up another major problem in the battle to provide universal affordable broadband access -- our "expert agency" is lead by folks who have a very particular slant on things.  In McDowell's case, he cites statistics from an industry-funded organization to bolster a position that is almost identical to the stance of telecom incumbents (that there's no problem in the US with broadband service provision). 

As an expert in this field, it's incredibly disconcerting to have the FCC leadership obfuscating both the extent of the problem and refusing to take responsibility to fulfill their duties to maximize the public benefits of telecommunications.  Somehow we've grown to equate "free market solutions" with the public good -- even though the history of telecommunications is rife with examples where this has had disastrous results.

[ Parent ]
let us know about it (0.00 / 0)
Corporate sponsored "think tank" biased "studies" with bought and paid for "researchers" is so common and it's tough to get the real statistics out there, especially when profits are involved so hopefully we can just blog it out and point it out.

We also need a site to say "follow the money and motivation" since so often in these "reports" one needs to dig into the stats or some underlying assumption that is buried on page 96 to see that it's a propaganda piece written by an researcher for $$.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
FCC (0.00 / 0)
with this auction coming up and Google 4.6B w/ "conditions" reaction this whole thing smells badly to me.  I mean ATT, Verizon doing battle with Google, ok, well, I sure do not trust Google to represent the American publics interests either and so we have such the battle of the corporations in this debate?

Spectrum should be like the waterways or highways here, how can they privatize and sell off the "air"?  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Wireless phones (0.00 / 0)

I'm primarily concerned with the contracts wireless carriers force consumers to join in order to access their service. I am locked into a two-year commitment that would cost me $250 to get out of while my cable and internet bill is month-to-month and I can change to a satellite service at anytime and pay no penalties. How can we level the playing field?

month-to-month (0.00 / 0)
The law should allow everyone to buy access month-to-month from the get-go.  That sets the floor for broadband participation (please let's not call it 'penetration', okay?)  Then providers could be free to offer other deals -- if there's competition, this might really help all parties.  But no one should ever have to swap out any hardware to change providers -- enforce the existing and developing technical standards.

[ Parent ]
competition for access (0.00 / 0)
I think we should have social goals regarding ubiquity and competition, something like:

100% geographical coverage
where population density is x or greater, 2 providers
where population density is 2X or greater, 3 providers.

That would at least set the table for measuring progress.

Population density and competition go hand in hand; having clear goals lets the market operate, and lets us see where it is not working so the public sector can intervene.

Smart, Fair Solution. (0.00 / 0)
I hate the fact that I really only have one provider in the city in which I live, if I could have more we could definitely cause the service level to increase.

I think playing this as a "free market" argument, could pose problems for the Republicans and Telecoms that we are fighting against.

[ Parent ]
The Free Market (4.00 / 1)
This is a key to the problem with broadband access in the United States.  We keep hearing about how the free market is going to solve this issue, but there remain huge unserved areas and areas that only have one provider.  I'd like to know what your ideas are for providing incentives for other providers to enter.  What regulations would be helpful here?

[ Parent ]
Open up the white space spectrum (4.00 / 4)
One think Congress might do is to make sure the FCC opens up the broadcast white space to unlicensed use.  Unlicensed spectrum use has proved to be very efficient and will be even more so in the future. There's a lot of white space spectrum and it has great propagation characteristics for wide-area networks that can provide a platform for multiple new competitors.

The FCC and Congress need to make sure broadcasters do not prevail in squashing unlicensed use of this spectrum, which they covet and would like to add the spectrum they recieved decades ago for free.  Unlicensed spectrum combined with Internet market dynamics could lead to incredible innovation.  This is currently pending before the FCC, so I'd encourage Congressional oversight of the process to keep it honest.

[ Parent ]
Alexis de Tocqueville (4.00 / 3)
People forget that ATT used to have a 7.5 percent profit cap, or that common carriage was the law of the land for decades, or that the postal service was set up as a neutral network in response to the British Royal Post (which, at the time, only carried packets for the elite and could monitor and inspect any packet it wished). 

Current policies fly in the face of centuries of US history -- when Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about Democracy in America (and, in particular, rural America), he was incredibly inspired by our communications and information dissemination networks.  Today, the modern communications equivalents are under rigorous attack. 

I'd love to see us take a page from history -- there's a tremendous amount to be learned from what worked previously.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the History (4.00 / 1)
You really add perspective to this discussion. We recently started discussing the Fairness Doctrine which twenty years ago sought to guarantee equal time on the major networks and radio stations. Today two decades later the world has changed and we are testing whether a world of infinite sources offers a democratic society the diversity of opinion once protected by the Fairness Doctrine. If the "New World Order" is to succeed, we need to keep the marketplace of ideas open for business in every community and every home and office.

[ Parent ]
The Fairness Doctrine Had Its Own Long History (4.00 / 2)
The public airwaves still need the Fairness Doctrine.  The history of print media and broadcast media embed vastly different traditions, functions and constraints.  Different media have different logics, which call for different forms of governance.

I would urge you, if you're not familiar with it, to look at the work of former FCC Commissioner (1966-1973) Nicholas Johnson, particularly How to Talk Back to Your Television Set (full text online).

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
local municipalities (4.00 / 1)
Can we a grant, subsidies, tax rebate to small regions who form co-ops to provide broadband service to these regions?  like co-op utilities in rural areas?  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Dream bigger (4.00 / 2)
Obviously, I think 2 or 3 providers would be better than 1. But why should internet access be conditioned on payment to private corporations? Users of the federal highway system finance it through gasoline tax.

Senator, we should dream bigger. Why not build a national wireless network financed through some simple tax (say, on computer sales)? This can literally be the network on which our commerce, our information, and our politics will flow for the next century.

[ Parent ]
Regulations (4.00 / 1)
The best way to look at this might be to look at those countries that have passed us by in broadband access and other internet related statistics. Obviously, some people in America get scared about asking other countries for advice, but this along with health care are issues where we could really look abroad.

[ Parent ]
Releasing the apps from the pipes (4.00 / 1)
If you let the pipe (the fiber, wireless, or other "last mile" technologies) be a utility, with a guaranteed rate of return, and the possibility of municipalities owning it, and separate that, regulated part from the applications that run it, I think you will find there will be the investment available to build the pipes out universally.

If you allow any app provider to provide applications on the dumb pipe, on an equal basis, you will find that the magic that in the Internet, it doesn't matter where you are as long as you have access, will give every American a very rich selection of services.

The key is to prohibit the pipe provider from providing services.  They are just the pipe provider.  That is the regulated part.  The applications are (pretty much) unregulated, and the power of the market will drive their availability to everyone.

[ Parent ]
I don't think it's entirely an entry thing (4.00 / 1)
One thing I think we have to keep in mind is that a second company coming to town isn't the only way to get more internet service to people.

There could be legislation stating that if you were a provider servicing a geographical region you had to allow consumers to resell or share their service, and you couldn't artificially degrade that service.

That way, if there wasn't good enough service, people could attach to the incumbent network and share that connection to others using their own wireless hardware or by running a terrestrial network to their next door neighbor.

Basically, there's more than one way to extend/expand network service, and we should encourage creativity as well as participation by multiple carriers.

As an aside, if we have an open chunk of that new 700Mhz spectrum... expanding networks independently of large providers becomes much more feasible.

[ Parent ]
Real free markets, not duopoly (4.00 / 3)
Its very hard to create a "free" market in facilities-based telecommunications, since the fixed costs (and risks) are so high.  That's largely why we generally have two or fewer wireline network competitors and four wireless operators that dominate the industry. 

Where competition can (and has) blossomed is in services carried on networks that do not discriminate among these services. That's the Internet model, and it has revolutionized our economic and political system in a short period of time and in overwhelmingly positive ways.

This goal of free markets for applications and services should be combined with a view of the physical network as a public road network that transports IP packets instead of cars.  This connection/bit-transport utility then supports vibrant competition in applications and services. 

To get our public road system built in the 20th century we didn't offer tax incentives to companies wanting to own and control the roads (we'd seen the abuses of railroad monopolies).  Instead we built it with public funds.  And the result was economic growth and support for healthy competition in a wide range of businesses (not to mention massive public benefits related to healthcare, etc, from the availability of faster and more convenient transportation on a "universal" transport network).  The Internet and the networks that carry it are most accurately viewed in the same light--as the 21st century "open" public road network that supports the entire economy.

I also think there are parallels between "Internet roads" and the "post roads" cited in the Constitution as part of the funding responsibilities of Congress.

[ Parent ]
I would think (4.00 / 1)
That what woud be most helpful is empowering municipalities, through tax credits or something, to purchase broadband for their communities without interference from the telecoms who want that access.  You'd see communities wired up in a second.

Insert shameless blog promotion here.

[ Parent ]
Competition (4.00 / 1)
There was a time there was a choice: Ma Bell or the U. S. mail. With the de-reg of the telephone industry, competition flourished. Now we are at the earliest stage of developing new forms of competition for internet access. I agree that we should be pushing the market for more options and more real competition.

[ Parent ]
Not enough competition (0.00 / 0)
The physical limitations of access prevent true competition. At most there's one company that owns the telephone lines providing DSL, a cable company, and in select locations satellite nad wireless, the last of which offer significantly degraded service compared to wired options.

[ Parent ]
We need to understand "competition" (4.00 / 1)
Competition only flourished in long distance and devices, and in some areas of resale and applications to the extent there was some regulation to limit local telco abuse of market power.  Regulation temporarily opened up some competition in the local access market, but this was always limited and, once the Bells won their regulatory battles in court and at the FCC, the CLEC sector imploded.

Having more local access pipes is fine, but there are real economic limits on the viability of too many competing pipes, due to their high fixed costs.  More sensible is a strategy that leads to deployment of the fattest and most universal wireline and wireless pipes, with an economic and regulatory structure in place to insure these pipes support a healthy and highly competitive market for applications and services. 

That's the Internet "open network" model, but it's not the model preferred by incumbent telco and cable pipe owners.  That doesn't make them bad guys, but it means their business model is fundamentally inconsistent with the Internet model, which is dramatically more conducive to innovation and free market competition.

We need a migration path from a legacy-network duopoly on the verge of squeezing the Internet into its business model (and therefore squeezing a lot of life out of it) to a future in which we've got universal high-capacity networks built around  the Internet model.  That needs to be the priority.

[ Parent ]
What are the obstacles? (4.00 / 1)
What are the obstacles to your legislation and what can be done about it?  Do campaign contributions play a role here?  Seems like some of your opponents have some juice behind them.

And thanks for all your efforts on behalf of working Americans.

100% Juice (4.00 / 1)
We are pulling this together and it's a little early to guage the political reaction.
Honestly there's much more "juice" in grassroots activism than a PAC check.
Make sure you and your friends are registered to vote and make your views clear to elected officials.

[ Parent ]
Another idea: Dark fiber? (4.00 / 1)
Senator Durbin,

Might some legislation take advantage of what some term "dark fiber"?  I know that Google and other tech players have been considering buying such to use for an "alternative" broadband infrastructure if in the event they or other by Big Telecom and Big Cable don't. 

Perhaps some policy might consider using some dark fiber to help offset costs of improving America's technical infrastructure and thus improve our international standing in broadband.

Another idea...

Again, sincerely:
Mitchell Szczepanczyk
Chicago, IL

Dark Fiber (4.00 / 1)
The "Dark Fiber" idea isn't half bad. Up here in my little Berkshires city, there's a generous amount of dark fiber which would work great in assisting the process of creating a muni wi-fi network.


Stay tuned for better signature.

[ Parent ]
adsf (4.00 / 1)
but it's being picked up by Internet2 and some other private how does unused fiber optics (from the overcapacity laid in the dot con era) help in terms of keeping an infrastructure analogous to the 1800's railways of the robber baron era for the American people instead of monopolies (and Google is included here)?

Can the government claim imminent domain and grab the stuff?  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Interesting . . . (0.00 / 0)

Interesting set of options you present, Mr. Oak. It's either monopolies or robber barons, and the response you mention is eminent domain claims.

I wonder how much of that dark fiber has public service obligations associated with it.

You're a confusing fellow, Mr. Oak.  Don't you want QoS?

Oh, I know what to do!  Let's use those nifty new Cisco routers!  Problem solved!


[ Parent ]
Again, oops. (0.00 / 0)
Man, I'm not completing my sentences today.

One of those sentences in my post above is supposed to read: "I know that Google and other tech players have been considering buying such to use for an 'alternative' broadband infrastructure if in the event Big Telecom and Big Cable begin locking down on 'their' 'pipes'."

Again, my apologies for the error.

[ Parent ]
Considering? Hell, Google's been doing it... (0.00 / 0)
Google's been buying up "dark" (unused) fiber since 2005 at least, but has been extremely mum about its plans for it:

Combined with their challenge to AT&T over the money for the wireless spectrum bid, I'd say they are seriously planning to build their own true "third pipe" network.

[ Parent ]
Kent Nichols (0.00 / 0)
I saw Kent Nichols post - now that was something interesting.  Kent has developed a franchise with his 'Ask a Ninja' series.  It's funny stuff.  And I doubt that it would have ever come to the public's attention if it weren't for the open nature of the internet.  We need to preserve this basic quality - it's the key to giving more creators and entrepreneurs more opportunity and more freedom.  Thanks for the post, Kent.

let's ask a ninja... (4.00 / 2)
... his opinion of "dark fiber".

[ Parent ]
Competition is the key (4.00 / 1)
Senator, thanks for having this discussion and for letting us help in drafting legislation.

We need more competition in the broadband space and that means the telcos and cable companies have to open up and allow for low-cost wholesale access. It's the only way to spur innovation on the Net.

After we fix that, we need to open up the cell market. You've got your work cut out for you!

Peter Fleck

Well, this is going well so far (0.00 / 0)
Welcome to the Jungle, Senator.


Some thoughts that come to my mind:

1) Make sure you have a staffer with fairly thorough background in Internet society and technology; both facets are important to understanding what's necessary, and what to avoid.

2) Remember the Law of Unintended Consequences and keep it wholly.

3) Ignore the socialists: there's no reason why companies shouldn't be allowed to charge money for providing connectivity, which leads directly to

4) Find a way to encourage *real* competition (David Isen posted a map a few days back in his blog at that showed *actual* broadband competition in Massachusetts; it's quite eye-opening, and thank ghod *I* don't live there anymore.

5) In conjunction with Isen's longstanding Stupid Network theory (just provide the tubes, and get out of our way), keep a close eye on Net Neutrality -- and what is *actually* neutrality, as opposed to what some people say it is.

and finally

6) Sift well; you've been getting the thoughful commenters here (and people can be thoughtful, even if I don't agree with their stance)... but you *will* hear lots of loud-mouthed morons as well.

I lied:

7) Check out Open Law, at the Berkman Center (; it's got some useful parallels to what you're trying to do here.

And if you didn't already have a note somewhere about that site... ask your staff (and yourself) "why?".

poverty and broadband (4.00 / 1)
If you have a moment, I recommend this diary by Martin Bosworth.  It touches on a number of important principles that you might consider as you think through this problem, especially the affordable housing/poverty angle.

Poverty and Broadband (4.00 / 2)
This is a really significant point and it's often left out of conversations about broadband policy.  One of the main reasons why I'm interested in this policy is because I see the internet as a great leveler, a tool for social and economic opportunity.  By making access universal and affordable, we can provide every family with health, education, and economic opportunities.  I have a couple of ideas on this - why not have federal research and development devoted to developing a serious, low-cost computer that almost every household could afford?  Why not provide some sort of universal service support to subsidize service to under served areas?  What do you think?

[ Parent ]
How far down do we need to go (0.00 / 0)
You can get a fully functional PC with monitor for $300 on sale.  How low do we need to go before its just worth buying what we have and giving it to those below an income threshold?

At at least $50/month, the cost of broadband service is a bigger barrier than the cost of the computer.

There is, of course, the OLPC=one laptop per child project, which is currently around $150 each.  If the U.S. government decided that every child needed one, it could probably be $100. 

How low do we need to go?

[ Parent ]
Excellent point (4.00 / 2)
I was going to link to the OneLaptop project, but brtech has made the crucial point: If the US government decides to buy a 30 or 40 million of these laptops, the price will drop dramatically. And that will help children around the world.

But Senator Durbin, subsidizing service to under-served areas is only a worthwhile effort if it turns into more than a give-away to the big providers. And as you know, a program for the poor is often a poor program. That's why I think that providing (tax-funded) free access to all Americans would be a much more popular, effective, and sustainable option.

[ Parent ]
This Is Absolutelyt Vital (4.00 / 1)
And as you know, a program for the poor is often a poor program. That's why I think that providing (tax-funded) free access to  all  Americans would be a much more popular, effective, and sustainable option.

Put everyone on an equal footing, and everyone will have an equal stake in making sure it works as it should.

We know for certain that the speed of social and cultural change is only going to accelerate.  We need to do everything we can to strengthen bonds that will tie us together, or else the sheer speed of change will constantly threaten to tear us apart.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
National Wireless Research Institute. (4.00 / 1)
Over the past year, I've been putting forward the idea that we build a National Wireless Research Institute to create open wireless technologies.  Unlike the Internet (which is open architecture, open protocol, etc.), wireless is rapidly becoming a non-interoperable muddle of proprietary (and exceedingly expensive) solutions.  I've already built a coalition of university research labs, cutting edge R&D initiatives, and the necessary developers and programmers to make this a reality. 

It might not be a silver bullet, but it would be a giant leap forward in bringing affordable broadband to many of un(der)served constituencies and communities. 

[ Parent ]
NWRI why? (0.00 / 0)
What is the ITU (IMT-2000), ETSI, IETF, IEEE, ISO/IEC and so on not doing?

To me, it's the deployment of the private industry and their infamous "VHS vs. BetaMAX" game plus outrageous business models that are so high $$ demand will be repressed and thus 3GPP(2) technologies will not be deployed.

To me, its the US carriers and maybe we need to look at what the EU is doing here, Japan, Korea who have 3GPP2 reasonably deployed already.

This is for my FYI, you're obviously expert i can tell by the comments.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Why NWRI is important. (4.00 / 1)
You bring up a good point -- how would NWRI differ from standards bodies?  Basically, standards bodies develop agreed-upon technologies, unfortunately, in wireless, these standards are being incorporated into proprietary technology.  NWRI would be committed to developing turn-key wireless technologies that are open (e.g., freely available) -- think Linux vs. Windows or Firefox vs. IE. 

As it turns out, in wireless, the expensive part of the systems isn't the hardware, it's the software.  Wireless today is like going to a shoe store and only have the choice of Nike and Reebok.  What we need are free open source wireless solutions -- that's what will dramatically lower the costs of last mile service provision. 

This doesn't solve backhaul, but it does create an incredible resource for spreading connectivity. 

[ Parent ]
can I get a job there? (0.00 / 0)
:)  that sounds like an excellent idea, to fund through government R and D grants and so forth an open source soft solution, (or expand DARPA to do this????)
  but I think the yrs of IMT-2000 et al shouldn't be ignored...I mean it's pretty tough to get engineers to innovate, work together and problem solve for free (although these days many US companies are trying!!!) and thar's a lot of good stuff in them stds., but I'm unsure of the licensing fees for them per say.  I mean they are consortium of industry support creating them but they also are not free (ITU, ISO/IEC, IEEE1394 I believe), which certainly locks out start ups often depending on the licensing model and complexity of code (design).

ok, very good idea!  Thx.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Why Texting Sucks In The US (4.00 / 1)
You're absolutely right about this.

I spent a good piece of last week learning about cutting edge things people are doing with the net for non-profits and issue advocacy.  Some of the most interesting use cell phone messaging. Almost none of this is happening in the US, however, because cell phone networks are closed networks.

An open software platform, plus universal access to the cell phone network, would allow the US to catch up with Europe and even much of the 3rd world in this area.

[ Parent ]
National Wireless Research Institute. (0.00 / 0)
Over the past year, I've been putting forward the idea that we build a National Wireless Research Institute to create open wireless technologies.  Unlike the Internet (which is open architecture, open protocol, etc.), wireless is rapidly becoming a non-interoperable muddle of proprietary (and exceedingly expensive) solutions.  I've already built a coalition of university research labs, cutting edge RandD initiatives, and the necessary developers and programmers to make this a reality. 

It might not be a silver bullet, but it would be a giant leap forward in bringing affordable broadband to many of un(der)served constituencies and communities. 

[ Parent ]
repeated comment (0.00 / 0)
I wrote this elsewhere and I agree with you
(although India and a few other nations have figured this out, along with manipulation of PPP (purchase power parity), which I don't think was the original plan!)...

but the issue is to make spectrum, broadband, access somehow like the postal service, the library system, at least the public utilities versus the obvious "auction" privatization and domination activity going on right now...

so what do you need for us, the bloggers, to raise hell and get the 1st piece of legislation passed to stop the creation of "toll roads" on the information superhighway?


1.  a public utility
2.  everywhere, esp. in very remote locations

The reason for this is rural sourcing, telecommute.

A.  Rural sourcing is defined as outsourcing but to rural areas within the US versus to a foreign country.  It's cost competitive, keeps all services under US domestic laws of privacy, consumer and I.P. and also allows for disadvantaged and increasingly discriminated groups of working Americans to earn a living.
They are:
  a.  disabled
  b.  mothers with children
  c.  the aged and infirm
  d.  part-timers looking to supplement
  their income

Providing Broadband like electricity and water (which is under threat of privatization), would enhance rural life, strengthen small communities and keep urban centers from becoming even more of a super highway hydra due to people being forced to work in a 20th Century paradigm.

B.  Telecommuting improves:
  a.  environment
  b.  quality of life
  c.  urban congestion
  d.  PRODUCTIVITY in many services.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Connectivity is key (4.00 / 2)
Affordable computers aren't the problem, Senator--you would be astonished at the kind of high-end systems you can find secondhand in repair shops, on eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, etc.

The problem is connectivity. Computers are amazing tools, yes, but the Internet has empowered and expanded their range by orders of magnitude. A person with a low-end computer and a decent DSL connection can accomplish far more than a person with a high-end computer and no connection whatsoever. Get us the Internet, and we'll get ourselves the tools.

So I agree totally that access MUST be universal and affordable. It doesn't have to be high-end, but it has to be sufficient to enable people to take advantage of rich media content and build their own ideas.

P.S. Thanks for the link, Matt.

[ Parent ]
Also, emphasize the net as two-way (4.00 / 1)
The thing that makes the net revolutionary is its two-way nature. It's not the ability to get rich content that has fueled its growth.  It's the fact that the barriers to posting content have been so very low.

We talk a lot about the net as if it were like cable, or like a book.  But it's really a "press", and in exactly the sense that the Founders understood the word.

[ Parent ]
Yes, absolutely. (0.00 / 0)
I should have made that clearer in my previous post...the true transformative power of the Internet isn't just communication, but creation as well. :) Thanks for noting that.

[ Parent ]
$100 laptops (0.00 / 0)
Re: low cost computers, the One Laptop per Child project is already pretty far down that road, with a target of $100 for a laptop equipped with mesh network capabilities. You can check it out at:

[ Parent ]
well i'm late to the discussion (0.00 / 0)
just found out about this via fdl.

but senator i want to thank you for taking time to discuss this subject with the netizens.  this shows me that you are committed to democracy on a broad scale and to open innertubes on a specific scale.

i'd also like to take this moment to thank matt stoller for putting this together.

"Innertubes"? (4.00 / 5)
Is Senator Stevens in on this?

[ Parent ]
Chris Bowers/Muni Broadband (4.00 / 2)
Chris Bowers made an excellent point in a post he made this afternoon.  Chris was talking about Philadelphia's attempt to install a municipal, city-wide broadband system.  Apparently, this and other similar projects have had a hard time getting off the ground, often times due to the fact that state governments or powerful intersts oppose them. 

I couldn't agree with his point more strongly.  In my home town of Springfield, Illinois, there is a city-owned electric power plant that provides power to the city.  It is unbelievable that state governments have attempted to override these projects.  I strongly support efforts to fill the gaps in broadband coverage and promote competition.  For a state to oppose these efforts is a serious problem.

Thanks Chris and thanks for having me here tonight.

Go All The Way (4.00 / 4)
As I argued here, broadband access should be a right, not a commodity.  It's as basic to 21st Century citizenship as public education has long been in creating a literate public.

Anything less will inevitably end up creating larger and larger divides between haves and have nots.

Moreover, it's a virtual certainty the extension of service to those who could not afford it as a commodity will easily pay for itself in numerous ways, ways that may not be easy to capture in the marketplace, but that are realized in terms of values that governments encounter--such as long-term increases in productivity that extend the solvency of Social Security, for example.  Broadband can be a powerful means of access for those otherwise shut out, just as the Land Grant Colleges established by Morril Act were, or the great public education system New York once had--and should have again.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Couldn't agree more... (4.00 / 2)
Communications is a fundamental human right.  One of the biggest problems is that we engage in these reductionist arguments that oversimplify the benefits of communication to dollars and cents.  Meanwhile, all the secondary and tertiary facets (and many of the non-monetary positive elements) of communications are externalities to these equations.  So we end up with the suboptimal solutions because the assumptions underlying the math don't take into account the true value of communication.

[ Parent ]
Reductionist brains produce reductionist arguments (4.00 / 1)
In a culture increasingly dominated by MBAs and lawyers who are taught to see the "free market" as the Platonic ideal and all relationships reduced to the cost/benefit ratio, this is no surprise.

The ability to communicate and the power to do so is even more than a right--it is an endemic form of our evolution as beings. Once we understand the necessity of global communications for all as a public good, we can much more easily push Internet access for all.

[ Parent ]
New Internet-friendly economic models (0.00 / 0)
Sascha's comment about "assumptions underlying the math not taking into account the true value of communication" reminds me of the potential value of having new economic models that can counter the undue influence of price-based market equilibrium theories in DC policy circles, especially in the comm sector. 

While researching a report on spectrum policy, I recently came upon a paper by Susan Crawford that applied Paul Romer's New Growth Theory to Internet and comm policy.  It struck me as important, since it points to the creation of quantifiable (and more accurate) economic theories that can provide a new and more Internet-friendly basis for communication policy. 

One of Romer's key points is the fundamental and important distinction between "ideas" and "objects" in terms of economic dynamics and theories.  Mainstream economic theories acknowledge but then largely ignore this difference, making them increasingly irrelevant to communication policy, which is all about ideas and communications and very little about "objects."

If anyone is interested in hearing more about this, let me know via a reply to this comment.  I'd recommend a little reading in this area to someone on Senator Durbin's staff and/or on the staff of the relevant Congressional committees, and would be happy to provide some suggestions.

[ Parent ]
You Should Do A Diary About This n/t (0.00 / 0)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I probably should (0.00 / 0)
I'd pretty much sworn off blogging (time constraints and bread winning demands) until this Leg 2.0 thing got me all fired up. But I am passionate about the Romer/Crawford arguments and my efforts to extend them a bit. I can probably just edit some parts of a report I recently wrote.  Thanks for the encouragement.

[ Parent ]
I find the municipal debates fascinating (4.00 / 1)
It is very troubling that thanks to the Verizon law, Philly will have wi-fi but my brother in Pittsburg won't.

While I firmly believe this in public ownership for any such system, the latest trend is the public/private partnership. However, even if you believe in such a model, the lack of the ability to explore a municipal ownership model hurts any city that wants a public/private partnership.

The problem is that failure to concurrently pursue a municipal ownership option puts cities in an awful negotiating position. The result in San Francisco was a "deal" that had awful last mile obligations and inadequate speed. Even worse were the non-existent privacy and free speech protections.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

[ Parent ]
Key Net Neutrality Issues (4.00 / 4)
I'm a computer scientist by trade ... I'll try not to get too geeky here.

First, thanks Sen. D. for showing up.  Showing up is 90% I think.

Somebody said the press is free for anybody that can afford one.  At this point anybody can, and the results are overwhelmingly positive.  But we have issues:

1. The heart of the net neutrality has to do with "last mile" service to the home.  Solve the community wireless problem and you solve the NN problem.  At least until we push the issue to the big network backbones, and it's not there yet.

2.An unexamined and pernicious ideology is driving lawsuits to prevent localities from making last mile service available in the public sector.  We need to nip this in the bud.  Citizens can provide any service we please in our locales.  My own county government has been outmoneyed and outlawyered by Verizon over our very right to regulate.  When corporations are the size of good sized countries we especially need to stand up for the right of localities to regulate utilities.

3. The debate starts over money, but it doesn't end there.  You'll never (this year) hear an ATT or Verizon talk about the need to weed out those pernicious sources of citizen news; they're focused on the big bucks from pumping television to every home. 

But most  regressive developments in my lifetime have followed a "camel's nose in the tent" strategy.  First Afghanastan (who could object, or would dare?) then Iraq, for example.  Protecting financial interests will be followed by protecting those political interests that protect them.

We're not immune to that ourselves, per Mr. Reid's RIAA amendment to the college bill.

In summary:

* Local access
* Neutrality of service
* Watch out for the camel's nose

Monopolies Oppress (0.00 / 0)
We started a revolution over that very point.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Tea pollutes, but cable boxes are worse (0.00 / 0)
I'm not sure how we'd restage the Boston Tea Party, but I'm looking for suggestions.

[ Parent ]
Reserve bands for "shared spectra" (4.00 / 2)

I can only emphasize robinpc's points.  The "last mile" problem is the choke-point here, and emphasis needs to go into encouraging investment and innovation in solving it.

I'd encourage you and your staff to look at some of what Larry Lessig and others have written about reserving more and more bands of spectra to shared use, similar to what's been possible in the ISM bands.  By creating more and more bands where the the major requirement is non-interference with other users, we can make it possible for many different groups to cheaply supply access in many areas.  This is particularly true in regions of the country where the telcos and the cable giants have not found it "profitable" to provide access.

Public wireless is a great service that needs Congress's help to open up the airwaves.  It's deregulation at its best: freedom to innovate that benefits a wide group of users and entrepreneurs, rather than a small number of monopolies and their shareholders.

[ Parent ]
divide & conquer (4.00 / 2)
Since large legal firms like to "pick off" cash strapped local governments is it possible to create a national legal fund or organization that all of these local municipalities?

While I see by local contracts and regional service this is a real head of a large snake but can you detail future why you think the backbone is not the focal point of bias?  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Legal funds a fabulous idea (4.00 / 1)
This is a great idea.  A sort of ACLU or EFF of net access would be very helpful here, since most cities lack the resources and the expertise to fight these kinds of bastards in court.

I'm not sure how the financing for this works, but it deserves some serious thought.

[ Parent ]
Replies vs. New Comments (0.00 / 0)
I think for a "live chat" via a blog, entries should be new comments and not replies so I don't have to keep scrolling up and down trying to find new ones.

Is there an easier way to read this?

re: competition (0.00 / 0)
You bring up an excellent discussion point, Senator.  A warning: this might take us a bit far afield from the focus of the discussion for the moment (which is U.S. broadband policy).  But let me briefly make a tangent if I may.

I wonder if it might be endemic to markets to always consolidate -- to always go from the diverse realm that some would associate with Adam Smith, to the kind of monopolies that are synonymous with names like Standard Oil, Microsoft, and (relevant to our discussion) AT&T.  If so, some people may remark (perhaps with some justification) that all we're doing is rolling a boulder uphill only to see it roll back down.  If so, then we have to consider the question: What then?

This might sound like a huge question in just two words -- and certainly one which we can't address here for the moment, but it's one which has been gaining increasing concern and for which some have posed some proposals -- and it's all certainly of some relevance to the topic at play here.  (I don't want to have a discussion in 20 years time about how do we break up AT&T again.  Hopefully, the decisions we make now would make that a non-issue by then.) 

I'll end my remark here, but my thanks for indulging me with this tangent.

Mitchell Szczepanczyk
Chicago, IL

thanks, please go big and bold with policy (4.00 / 1)
Thanks for making this happen and good luck when the telecoms go after you starting a conversation that threatens their schemes.

Timid incrementalism is not what we need, it is time for big, bold action like so many Democrats have provided in the past. I think it is true that we need to be thinking of this like the interstate highway system. And let's not just think of this historically like the ambitious programs of past Democrats, but older history, too:

One core similarity is almost always overlooked-it has to do with "privatization," which sometimes means "corruption," though it's actually a far broader phenomenon. Rome had trouble maintaining a distinction between public and private responsibilities-and between public and private resources. The line between these is never fixed, anywhere. But when it becomes too hazy, or fades altogether, central government becomes impossible to steer. It took a long time to happen, but the fraying connection between imperial will and concrete action is a big part of What Went Wrong in ancient Rome. America has in recent years embarked on a privatization binge like no other in its history, putting into private hands all manner of activities that once were thought to be public tasks-overseeing the nation's highways, patrolling its neighborhoods, inspecting its food, protecting its borders. This may make sense in the short term-and sometimes, like Rome, we may have no choice in the matter. But how will the consequences play out over decades, or centuries? In all likelihood, very badly.

Fast access to a free and open internet needs to be considered a right.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

The real forces in the "debate" (0.00 / 0)
Please don't pander to TV and politicos by trying to label it a question of technologically advanced medical care, or education, or other tear-jerking heart-string-pulling.

It is money.  AT&T, et al, want to decide whose data gets through quickly, so that they can charge for providing the service everyone is capable of having for free, now.

Make it illegal to base access and efficiency upon subscriptions or other financial payments or arrangements.  If 911 calls, or Red Phone connections to the Russians, or to call off an atomic attack need priority, those should be specified, and, frankly, receive preferential treatment.  Those are the only cases.

Piet Van Allen

Auctioning Bandwidth, etc. (4.00 / 1)
It is Ours, the People's.  No auction should be for more than a very limited, say, 5-year lease.  Then we can make corrections, and keep Ma Bell or AT&T VERIZON, et al in line.

[ Parent ]
Shared Public Access Vs. Auctioning (4.00 / 1)
The problem with the Coarse/Action model is that it creates exclusive use for swath of bandwidth. This is often a very inefficient way to use scarce bandwidth.

Where possible, the  shared use of spectra as done with the 80211 networking technologies will allow better use, and more rapid innovation.

[ Parent ]
dynamic auction? (0.00 / 0)
Since BW use is dynamic, is the IEEE doing anything w/in 802.11x stds to enable the idea of dynamic auctions, per units of time, that these auctions become absolete, so basically a technical solution to stop them from locking down large swaths of spectrum for 1 corporate agenda?

In other words, temporary leasing of spectra so they don't "get it" for years at a time.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Why would you need this? (0.00 / 0)
No one owns the 2.4GHz ISM band. No one even rents it.

That's why 802.11 networks have done as well as they have.  No paperwork.

"They" should never be given all access to all bands.  Even for 1 or 2 years.

[ Parent ]
I'm think of those 1,2, 5 yr leases (0.00 / 0)
I'm thinking of those versus 2.4G....just an idea to technically stop the lock.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Appetite (4.00 / 1)
I have found in Illinois that real stories about broadband applications whet the appetite for expanded broadband. If we focus on access and competition, a diverse marketplace will give you the political base for Congressional success.

[ Parent ]
The core: common carrier (0.00 / 0)
What a lot of informed and insightful comments this experiment has produced! Enough ideas to keep you winnowing and sifting for some time to come, Senator Durbin.

As the comments here show, there are many parts to making a whole that works. But it seems to me that the essential heart of the matter is to make broadband a common carrier like the phone company used to be -- a pipeline open to all, with no content control by the pipeline owners/operators at all, whether that ownership is in the public or private sector. With that provision firmly in place and strictly enforced, there are many specific proposals that can bring 21st-Century broadband leadership to the US at last.

Thanks for doing this pioneering experiment, Senator -- it could become a true landmark in democratic communication's evolution. You have raised a lot of hopes for real structural change in this country. I hope you are fully aware that you're on the train now, and there's no way to get off. Please keep us informed about how we can specifically assist your efforts toward truly open citizen participation.

An Al Gore moment (4.00 / 1)
Some of you will recall when Al Gore invented the Internet (you remember my friend Al, right?) telecom companies were required to share their lines in the way you describe. It's also true that only recently have these requirements ceased to be enforced. It's very important to me that the net remain an open space for innovation and dialogue.

[ Parent ]
Brand X was a dark day... (4.00 / 2)
My hope is that a new FCC in 2008 may decide that the decades and decades of common carriage precedence should be brought back. 

[ Parent ]
Another idea: Using sister cities? (4.00 / 1)

Here's another idea.  My city of Chicago has a number of "sister cities" in countries around the world.  Certainly, those other countries may have broadband policies that we can learn from -- perhaps at the local level.

Maybe some program to connect local muni internet efforts to those in comparable "sister cities" might be something to pursue?

-- Mitchell

The Flags in the O'Hare Tunnel (4.00 / 1)
When I am running from Terminal One to the CTA I am always struck by our "sister cities" flags. In addition to learning local customs and how good their beer is, we might learn something by measuring their progress on broadband against ours. The global statistics suggest we have a lot to learn.

[ Parent ]
Going bold (4.00 / 2)
Thanks for all of you who have urged me to go big and bold with my legislation.  That's exactly what I plan on doing with this process.  We really need to push the envelope and put together a comprehensive broadband strategy.  We have gone too long without a concerted, coordinated push on this - that's the reason why we've fallen behind countries like South Korea, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Oversight and Access to Channels to Challenge Capture agencies (0.00 / 0)
Good evening Senator and thanks for doing this,

The Bush Administration's politicization of the  agencies is dangerous and one area where it concerns me is using the bureaucracy to gut the law.  There are a lot of good ideas in the list , but one thing I think we have learned is that a determined President can simply ignore the law if left to only the bureaucracy.  Whatever solution is reached, granting broad rights to sue under the law is essential to ensuring judicial review. 

This administration has largely ignored the Administrative Procedures Act again and again.  In theory that is capable of being constrained by the judiciary, but the conservative courts have greatly reduced the ability of average people to sue the government. 

Restoring those rights really are essential to any of these reforms being able to be implemented as legislation dictates, and not as political appointees prefer. 

[ Parent ]
Ongoing feedback/dialog (4.00 / 1)
Thanks again Senator.  I hope we get a chance to provide feedback on your legislative proposals, including specific language.  As you  well know, the devil can be in the details of legislative language. 

It would be great if we could have some sort of structured feedback mechanism when you get to that point in the legislative process, or maybe at several points along the way. 

As you note, its time for a "comprehensive broadband strategy," not an incremental revision of a regulatory structure that's fundamentally outdated but also supported in various ways by those who benefit from the status quo.

If you keep working with us, we'll keep working with you to help refine your bill and  help mobilize grassroots and netroots support.  That capability has already been evident in the recent debates over net neutrality, media ownership, etc.

One of the things about this issue is that it seems more amenable than others to bipartisan  efforts.  With your support, guidance and encouragement, we can leverage the growing power of Internet-based sites, groups and movements to make it easier for your colleagues to recognize that, as you said,  "there's much more 'juice' in grassroots activism than a PAC check."

Best of luck on your end of this process. 

[ Parent ]
Yet another idea: Foster BPL? (4.00 / 1)
Another idea:


Why not encourage tax breaks for municipalities that set up broadband over power lines?

I think that there's an initiative in Princeton, IL -- if you're looking for an example in Illinois.

-- Mitchell

Democracy in Action (0.00 / 0)
Thank you, Senatro Durbin, and whoever was instrumental in using this format for this meeting.  I think this is something that could revolutionize communication in our democracy between elected leaders and their constituents.  I believe that this is the first thing I have seen of real, only positive, value on the internet since the internet's inception.

Thanks for your leadership on this important issue Senator. I'm concerned about minority communities not having access to broadband, particularly as the political discourse has moved to the internet, Latino and African American communities, are again being left out.

Perhaps you should revisit the early days of radio and television.  the government created a system that delivered universal access in the broadcast arena. By granting pioneering broadcasters access to spectrum, the airwaves over which television signals travel, Americans of all income levels were immediately able to gain access to free over-the-air news, entertainment, public service and emergency alert information.

The fact is, the private sector is usually a step ahead of the public sector. There is a proposal now before the FCC that would replicate the free, over-the-air television model for broadband, but the FCC is sitting on it.

Under the plan, which has now been pending for 15 months, a nationwide broadband service would be available to consumers, small businesses and public safety entities for free.  All they would need to connect to the internet is a certified modem, which they could buy at Radio Shack or Best Buy type electronics stores.

In exchange for access to the spectrum,  the company M2Z Networks has offered the FCC a number of "self-imposed" conditions:

Provide nationwide broadband service with no recurring fee;
Build a network that would reach 33% of Americans within three years, 66% within five years, and 95% within 10 years;
Block access to indecent content for all users of the free service;
Provide public safety officials with access to an interoperable secondary data network; and
Pay the U.S. government 5% of gross revenues from a premium subscription service.

According to a credible research paper by Simon Wilkie of USC, taxpayers would stand to benefit to the tune of $18 to $25 billion. But the FCC has not been responsive.

there are over 1,500 supportive comments in the record at the FCC for this plan, and only 12 in opposition. You can imagine who the opponents are, Hello Verizon and ATT and CTIA.  I guess they are the real decision makers in this debate.

Censorship? (4.00 / 1)
I don't think I can trust anyone else to decide for me what is "indecent" content.  Not even the Libraries do that.

[ Parent ]
Censorship? (0.00 / 0)
Why should it matter if M2Z allows so-called indecent sites to be accessed?  That should only affect the site, and the user who accesses it.  Who is reading over my shoulder to become offended?

Next thing you know, any correspondence about changing the M2Z monopoly would be censored, and any calls for impeachment of a King-mad George somebody-or-other!

[ Parent ]
Agreed. (0.00 / 0)
I don't want any censorship of my internet. Grown-ups can make their decisions and children can be protected by their parents (and companies who want to make software to help and make money off of the process)

[ Parent ]
Oh Puleezee (4.00 / 1)
Ask M2Z what the bandwidth they are providing is, and what the oversubscription at that rate will be.  It's not broadband as in Korea, Japan or anywhere else ahead of us.  It's not even decent DSL speeds.

And that 95% leaves off one heck of a lot of America.  Ask them what the area is that they will cover, in 10 years!

I'm in favor of a 3rd pipe if we leave the telco and cable folks alone, but the M2Z proposal is not it. 

I am no fan of the telco/cable duopoly.  But this plan is not very interesting.  No where near what we need.  Not even a decent stop gap.  If we took the billions we get from auctioning this spectrum and turned it into a loan fund for state/local govn't to finance local fiber or very high speed wireless local  access networks, we'd be much farther ahead in the same 10 years.

[ Parent ]
M2Z Analysis. (0.00 / 0)
I wrote up a fairly extensive analysis of M2Z awhile back -- brtech is quite right, M2Z's offerings are quite lame.  I tend to include a lot of primary sourcing, so read things over and decide for yourself:


[ Parent ]
Thanks for the analysis. (0.00 / 0)
It really does look that way to me as well. It seems like a wonderful thing on the surface, but really really bad in the truth of the matter.

[ Parent ]
line sharing (4.00 / 2)
The senator's comment about line sharing is spot on.  If you look at all the countries ranked ahead of us in broadband penetration, all have some form of policies that we have discarded, including line sharing and an active wholesale market.  Reversing Brand X would be a huge step forward to bringing back a competitive market.

Ideas (0.00 / 0)
First of all, I'd like to express the idea that the internet community is very wary of government interference in the internet.

That noted, net neutrality is a big issue.
We need that.

No taxes on the internet: the net has an explosion of innovation. It's not really the actual taxes that matter, but the complexity and bureaucracy that get in the way. The less red tape, the better.

Again, attempts to censor the internet even for seemingly noble goals, such as protecting children from molesters and so on, usually just end up messing things up even more.

Talk to the EFF (electronic frontier foundation), please. They have the vision and mission statement to give you a lot of help, but it seems they spend all their time actually thinking, and not enough lobbying.

One example: trying to force search engines to record the activities of their users (ala the TorrentSpy case) is counterproductive and wrong.

Also, please talk to the the Free Software Foundation. An emphasis on open infrastructure and architecture would help an explosion of innovation on the net.

As for other internet issues, can we please decrease the patent time for website ideas or general computer-related ideas? The idea of software patents is legally dubious in any case, but the real issue is the frenzy of innovation in the digital plane.

Things move faster online. Therefore, patent length for computer-related ideas (software, for example) should be drastically reduced. It's patents reduce innovation for computer-related issues.

I propose a restriction on patents on issues dealing with the internet. Copyright and trademark law refering to the actual code written is more than enough to protect inventors.

Software patents take care of ideas, such as "hey, let's have two windows open at once in our program," or "let's have one-click shopping". This abuse of the patent system is really a bad idea.

Many industry leaders, notably IBM, have already commented on this problem. Most famously, the young Bill Gates acknowledged that Microsoft got to power because of lax enforcement of software patents, and that if patents were as rigorously enforced back in the day as they were today, much of our modern technological scene would be missing.

I really urge you to visit and spark a discussion there. They are a collection of the finest minds on technological issues and have lots of interesting and good ideas for long-overdue reform of the system.

Thanks for reading this far, and please, get in touch with the EFF, FSF, and They may not be as politically active as us, but they know a heck of a lot more about these issues.

Sahar Massachi

I blog on

Yeah! (4.00 / 1)
First of all, I'd like to express the idea that the internet community is very wary of government interference in the internet.

Why'd the government provide five decades of start-up funding anyway?

If the government had just left us alone, we'd all have two-way wrist radios by now, with a range of at least 500 yards.  Okay, maybe feet.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Would You Believe... (4.00 / 1)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Too many libertarians online (0.00 / 0)
Engineering, network development, and the like seems to attract an abundance of left-brain types--very literal, black/white sorts with an aversion to the world in general. Thus the Internet reflects that anarchistic, self-interested, "Eff you and leave me alone" mindset.

I've lost count of the number of times I've argued tech policy with these guys and watched them go rapturous over the idea of the Internet as a free market creation.

[ Parent ]
Cyberselfish (4.00 / 1)
Paulina Borsook's classic answer to all that: Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech.

My review from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Very nice. (0.00 / 0)
This is going right on the reading list.

[ Parent ]
Ad hominem attack (0.00 / 0)
Again, if you want to debate what I actually wrote, go ahead. If you want to slander my friends and colleagues, as people with an "anarchistic, self-interestd, "Eff you and leave me alone" mindset," please, stop.

I blog on

[ Parent ]
Learn Your Fallacies: Ad Hominem Attack (0.00 / 0)
From the Nizkor Project Fallacy: Ad Hominem:
Description of Ad Hominem

Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
  3. Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made)....

[emphasis added]

In this case, however, you were advancing an Appeal to Authority.  Just as an Appeal to Authority is legitimate when the authority is legitimate and knowledgeable about the subject at hand, so, too, an attack on the source of an argument is legitimate when the attack goes to a fact that is not irrelevant.

All fallacies derive their power in large part because they mimic legitimate modes of reasoning. That is why it is so important both to recoginze their existence, and to be able to distinquish when one is encountering a fallacious argument, and when one is encountering the valid form of reasoning that the fallacy derives from.

My problem with this post was precisely the overbroad, generalized nature of the appeal to authority, particularly as it was rooted (inadvertantly though it may have been) in the profoundly ahistorical cyberlibertarian mythos.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Straw Man fallacy. (0.00 / 0)
Don't mischaracterize my argument. Everyone knows the Internet grew out of the ARPAnet, a military information network. Everyone knows the government created the internet.

What those hated 'libertarian' "sorts with an aversion to the world in gerneral," want is a continuation of government policies so far.

First off, I'm a proud liberal progressive, part of the netroots, and so forth. Secondly, even if I wasn't, it's intellectually dishonest of you to respond to me in that fashion. It's a logical fallacy called an Straw Man fallacy.

What, exactly, do you disagree with in my statements? If you want to actually debate, I'm totally up to it.

I blog on

[ Parent ]
What Argument? (0.00 / 0)
Don't mischaracterize my argument.

What argument?  I was deriding a statement:

First of all, I'd like to express the idea that the internet community is very wary of government interference in the internet.

There is, of course, an implicit argument that flows from this statement and its positioning in this post, that (a) this is what "the internet community" (whatever that is, it certainly isn't as clear as it once was) rightly believes and therefore should be granted a high degree of deference and (b) that this attitude undergirds all the specific points that follow.

My comment was was directed at that implicit argument, and was in no way a strawman.  The fact that a given attitude exists should not confused with it being well-founded.  This needs to be proven.

In the case of this attitude, it clearly cannot be proven because in large part it is based in historical denial.  Having been online for well over a decade, I'm well aware of the history of cyberlibertarianism, and it's profound irrationalism; I've spent countless hours arguing with its empirically impoverished adherents.  For years, Mike Huben's Critiques Of Libertarianism was my most-used bookmark, even more than Talk Origins or The Nizkor Project's  Fallacies Page.  (The Strawman Fallacy is here.  What I said was nothing remotely like it.)

You may think that:

Everyone knows the Internet grew out of the ARPAnet, a military information network. Everyone knows the government created the internet.

But I have years of online experience to the contrary, or at least denial ("That's not really the internet as we know it, what makes it the internet is the last mile," for example.)  And besides, ARPAnet is just one part of what I'm talking about.  Government demand is what built the foundation of the entire computer industry, not just the internet.  Just like the Louisiana Purchase or the building of the Transcontinental Railroad or the Interstate Highway System, it was a major governmental effort that the market desperately needed in historical hindsight, but could not possibly create for itself.

First off, I'm a proud liberal progressive, part of the netroots, and so forth.

In which case you're advancement of the cyberlibertarian mythos was inadvertant, and should thank me for pointing it out to you.

Secondly, even if I wasn't, it's intellectually dishonest of you to respond to me in that fashion. It's a logical fallacy called an Straw Man fallacy.

Fallacies only apply to arguments. As explained at the beginning, you made a statement, not an argument.  The only argument was implicit, and my couterstatement went directly to the point of highlighting it, and revealing its flawed assumption.

What, exactly, do you disagree with in my statements? If you want to actually debate, I'm totally up to it.

What I object to is the implicit fallacy tying all your points together.  It's called Appeal to Authority:

Also Known as: Fallacious Appeal to Authority, Misuse of Authority, Irrelevant Authority, Questionable Authority, Inappropriate Authority, Ad Verecundiam
Description of Appeal to Authority

An Appeal to Authority is a fallacy with the following form:

  1. Person A is (claimed to be) an authority on subject S.
  2. Person A makes claim C about subject S.
  3. Therefore, C is true.

This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious.

This sort of reasoning is fallacious when the person in question is not an expert. In such cases the reasoning is flawed because the fact that an unqualified person makes a claim does not provide any justification for the claim. The claim could be true, but the fact that an unqualified person made the claim does not provide any rational reason to accept the claim as true.

When a person falls prey to this fallacy, they are accepting a claim as true without there being adequate evidence to do so. More specifically, the person is accepting the claim because they erroneously believe that the person making the claim is a legitimate expert and hence that the claim is reasonable to accept. Since people have a tendency to believe authorities (and there are, in fact, good reasons to accept some claims made by authorities) this fallacy is a fairly common one....

To the extent that were implicitly positing "the internet community" (again, whatever that is) as the authority, my comment was disputing that claim by pointing out the disjuncture between common cyberlibertarian beliefs and historical reality, which calls into dispute the presumed expert/authority status of said community.

While I agree with some of your points and disagree with others (no taxes on the internet because we'd have to code subroutines!), it was the deceptive presentation of them as a whole that I most objected to.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Some Net Neutrality Considerations (4.00 / 2)

See the Dynamic Platform Standards Project at http://www.dpsprojec... for a minimalist approach focused on clarifying that the protocols are designed for net neutrality.  It presents the correct definition of what it is that make the Internet neutral:


The following links are of testimony by Seth Johnson (that's me writing this note) to the New York City Council, on net neutrality and how it relates to "quality of service" schemes and genericity.  See my further comments on genericity and the IP platform below.

The DPS Project isn't quite enough to assure sustainable net neutrality, but it is the fundamental technical rationale for net neutrality.  If one sets up a policy of treating similar apps the same, one has not set up a policy that assures net neutrality.  It's not about similar apps; it's about supporting a generic platform that can't anticipate what kind of app you can develop -- any more than a chalkboard anticipates what you're going to write; the little pieces of chalk are ground off and arranged freely by the end user.

A policy of how to treat categories of applications would enable things like IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS) to actually end net neutrality.

This is the important thing for you, Senator Durbin, to remember as a legislator.  You will hear lots about quality of service and IMS as supposedly a way to get quality of service -- and in the end, the proponents for ending net neutrality could live with a policy that says identify types of apps and treat those apps alike, because that's really completely consistent with their plans; it's just a regulatory framework that their plans would fit within perfectly well.  Remember that it's not about competition among network providers; it's the innovation and competition you want is among application developers -- and when the network providers also control applications (in the name of competition), you end competition among applications.  And remember that the heartblood constituency for you on this issue are the independent developers of Internet applications (other than those developing for the incumbents in one way or another) -- the genericity of the IP platform is second-nature to them and they feel any incursion on that viscerally.  It's not the most populist argument, but it is the definitive one both technically and in terms of appeal to the hard base of the constituency for net neutrality.

David Isenberg has issued a call for separation of the transport from its applications, and David Weinberger has articulated the policy in a pithy way at the following links:

> http://www.hyperorg....

On the common carriage ground, the Internet Protocol was developed.  The reason why the Internet is neutral is because it was designed to be *generic* -- the packetizing transport is as flexible, in terms of each person's being able to communicate in any pattern or language they please, as the digitized bits that make up Random Access Memory in your computer.

The person to talk to about this is David Reed, who along with 4 or 5 grad students and professors convinced Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn to separate the IP layer from TCP in a hallway discussion in Marina del Rey in 1977.  They did this to make the network generic, because they were each working on different projects with very different transmission patterns (while also creating a "spanning layer" that bridged all the physical infrastructure below and all the existing and potential applications above).  The uniform treatment of packets is a side-effect of that design for genericity.  The argument for innovation through genericity is a no-brainer that can't be refuted.  That's the technical basis for arguing for net neutrality.  The Internet Protocol could never have been rolled out without common carriage -- without common carriage, every notion that anybody came up with in any standards body or individual attempt to solve a unique problem, would have had to declare they were "services" and somehow convince the incumbents that they should be allowed to go ahead and set it up.  So, we need common carriage because that's the register of basic social premises that we need to regain, the way the social contract worked at the time that enabled us to develop the Internet.  But at the same time, we need to be clear what net neutrality is in technical terms and *why *it is.

Seth Johnson

IMS (0.00 / 0)
ok, now how is enabling QoS for IMS specifically biasing net neutrality if apps themselves are equalized? 

As I understand IMS and QoS protocols they are always wrapped inside the IP protocol and simply do give an amount of guaranteed BW per app potentially, but if there is only so much priority give per app, how would that starve out a regular TCP/IP based other app?

My understand of this issue IS the "pipe" providers (ISPs et al) are wanting to charge for QoS (or lack thereof) in a premium, which would automatically prioritize and add an additional surcharge on apps themselves...
which is a problem.

But, on the other hand, if one does not have QoS in IMS then your streaming multimedia sounds like CACA and almost every VoIP platform has these protocols and session managers as part of the system.

So, if I read your stuff right, implying the protocols themselves are an issue, I don't think so, business models of prices based on those protocols...yeah, that's a problem.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Bandwidth quotas (4.00 / 1)
This is a tricky question.  If you try to run IMS on the same wire as the rest of the Internet, the problem could be that IMS-based Services that use QoS could eat up most of the capacity, starving out the "best effort" applications that are the lifeblood of the Internet.

But in a competitive market, the non-QoS applications would have to work, or people would go elsewhere.  That's why competition is so important.

It's also critical to distinguish between two ways of creating QoS.  One method, which is still opposed by some extremists who believe that voice should sound like caca as an incentive to force the Internet and all access lines to be grossly overprovisioned everywhere, is to allow people to request QoS.  That would not be application-sensitive, just a user's choice of QoS for a given packet stream.  And the network would charge a defined price for the QoS stream, not the application. 

A second method, which is what some Bellheads want, is for the IMS-based network to perform Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) on the payload of everything, assign a QoS on what it reads, and act accordingly, both for network performance and charging purposes.  Discrimination would be a feature.  So if the network think you're sending voice, then by gum it'll charge you for a toll call.  Users with new applications or even web sites would thus need to turn to the network, ask "mother may I?", and the network owner would assign a price.  This is apparently permitted by current FCC rules, effective 2008 (just in time to censor electioneering), when the AT&T and VZ Merger Conditions expire.

[ Parent ]
Charming (0.00 / 0)
Where is the IETF on this because it seems to me, technically user x gets BW allocation defined by the account itself and then an app itself can reserve BW per that client stream and allocate the QoS scheme accordingly, but there is no "additional charge" since the only charge is the account BW itself.  Is this naive?  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
oops (0.00 / 0)
I'm seeing the issue here, in my technical understd'g (dusty) of QoS in both IETF and IMT-2000 (ITU) is that schemes/protocols do not "decide" how much BW rhe app is allocated or latency given, it has a certain set of parameters that it adapts to (through scalability even in the server and terminal to additional error correction, to dropping of error correction in packet schemes and scalable raw streams, etc.)  but the account itself sets these 2 initially and hands it to the app, dictated by overall network conditions and the terminal (last mile or last hop, to the client account w/ correspond'n BW).  Now maybe that's changed which is baaad and hence the controversy.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
DPI (0.00 / 0)
This scares the shit out of me.  It's bad enough we have  LexisNexis and Choicepoint but to me, this will make the NSA in the 50's look like a couple of paper cups with a string.

Thanks for your expertise, I'm just starting to look deep into this for I too believe the Internets is a powerful tool for the democratization of the US.  I hope you write diaries on critical technologies, business strategies.  A lot of misinformation and non-technical papers to swim through.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
what you should remember when considering QoS . . . (0.00 / 0)

. . . is that various schemes that seek to break the IP layer in the name of QoS are among the chief rationales and means being offered for ending net neutrality.

As long as one thinks about existing applications, not the platform's flexible nature and its conduciveness to innovation, the way in which QoS "biases" what's understood by "net neutrality" may not be clear.  But from the standpoint of the neutral transport, as defined by the design of the Internet Protocol, it's a much more direct point, just not as jazzy as a more direct appeals to principles of free speech and openness: network providers who analyze and interpret the types of applications being conveyed within packets at the IP layer in order to offer special service features (including but not limited to prioritized delivery) intrinsically favor particular application designs that they recognize over competing ones.  Network providers get the privilege of impeding competition from new applications and among applications as such, reframing the debate as if it's about competition among network provider offerings, rather than among application offerings freely developed by end users.  That's the whole point: to establish rules at the application layer that affect the transport layer.  This is why in the end, if policy simply says treat like apps alike, you'll still end net neutrality.  Net neutrality is only assured by one of two things: 1) (re)establishing common carriage or 2) in technical terms, preserving the IP layer's neutral transmission of information.  See the  Isenberg and Weinberger pieces on that.

It's also useful to keep reminding people that the network providers did not invent the Internet -- end users did.  The applications we have come from end user innovation, and that depends crucially on the flexibility and genericity of the IP platform.  It is essentially that the packetizing transport gave us the same genericity enabling application development for communications, that we all obtained and have at hand in the RAM in our local personal computing devices.

(Small technical point: IMS seeks to wrap TCP/IP, not the other way around.  It can't quite achieve that unless the principles of the neutral transport are ended, but that's the notion.)

[ Parent ]
where (0.00 / 0)
show me where IMS breaks the IP layer.  It uses IPv6.

QoS is a real technical issue in IP based networks, so you must show me, technically where this is, in the specification, server, DIAMETER, etc.
All of this is "above" the transport layer which uses IP based protocols.

QoS does not equal IMS per say, IMS is a server, service standard....

but in so many words if one is going to claim that a Senator should regulate an engineering standard, in my view, one needs to critique that standard from an engineering viewpoint and show me the technical evil within.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
:-) (0.00 / 0)

No, you must show us how "QoS is a real technical issue in IP based networks" -- not the other way around (but first start by saying what you really mean by that).

I said that IMS seeks to wrap TCP/IP, not the other way around, but that it won't be able to until net neutrality is broken -- not that it breaks the IP layer.

Now, it certainly *wants* to.  That's the whole point of it.  It's just a plan for network providers to manage traffic for specific applications.  If its proponents can confuse people long enough, they can kill net neutrality by reframing the discussion as if it's a question of applications (implying applications offered or managed by network operators), not innovation by end users.

[ Parent ]
you said (0.00 / 0)

. . . is that various schemes that seek to break the IP layer in the name of QoS are among the chief rationales and means being offered for ending net neutrality

QoS means quality of service and is not only a metric but a host of techniques and protocols to improve real time streaming of media and even TCP/IP based streams of any payload, over a network.

IMS does not equal QoS.

and finally, I'm sorry but if you are going to try to convince a Senator that something is 'bad' when you are technically incorrect and not deferring to the engineers who can read those standards and analyze, that's really not a good thing.

The last thing one needs is policy that is examining something highly people who do not understand that very technology itself.

You're going to have to trust the STEM professionals here to do the right thing and look for the evils that might be embedded into a technical specification but trying to claim a component, a metric or even a standard in and of itself is the "problem" is quite dangerous without scientific understanding.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
IMS and QoS are tools which can be used either way (4.00 / 1)
IMS is a way to provide telephone network-like services, basically billable events with QoS, using IP for transport.  It's ridiculously complex so the main beneficiaries are likely to be integrators who will spend lots of billable time trying to make it work for their clients.  But if it's done on a dedicated network, it's harmless.  The risk is if the "broadband" operators (telco execs and their acolytes almost never use the word "Internet" -- listen carefully) add DPI and try to replace Internet access with IMS-based data "services".  The Bells are very interested in doing that.

IP was designed for no-QoS applications.  Mixing all sorts of stuff on an IP network and trying to get QoS out of it is somewhat difficult and rather unnatural.  Merely providing optional QoS, though, at the user's choice (via a choice in the packet header, for instance), is generally harmless.  The main "risk" is that too much reserved QoS capacity can crowd out real Internet apps.  A DPI vendor calls his "hobo class".  That would be very bad.  So a real ISP wouldn't do that.  A Bell would, if there were little competition.

Common carrier services with QoS can be totally neutral, though -- if you request your bits be carried a certain way, then the network can do so without "peeking inside the envelope".  That's the cleaner way to do it.  (A whole set of standards, "Broadband ISDN", was designed for that in the 1985-1992 time frame -- that's where the ATM protocol came from, even after the B-ISDN project died.)  The Bells opposite it, though, and the FCC has taken away their common carrier obligations.  That's a huge problem.

So I don't want to make it public policy that all QoS-based services are bad, even if the Bells have adopted a bad way to do them. The problem is letting the telcos take control of applications.

[ Parent ]
re: you said (0.00 / 0)
I have answered your question about how enabling QoS for IMS "biases" net neutrality, "if apps themselves are equalized."  To wit:

> Network providers who analyze and
> interpret the types of applications
> being conveyed within packets at the IP
> layer in order to offer special service
> features (including but not limited to
> prioritized delivery) intrinsically
> favor particular application designs
> that they recognize over competing ones.

See the rest of the passage in my original note.

You asked where IMS breaks the IP layer.  The answer to this question
is exactly as I said: It wants to (not that it does), but it can't
until net neutrality is broken.  I see no dispute with that from you.

The following is the relationship between QoS and IMS that I adduce.
In no way do I equate the two terms, though indeed it would appear to
be a technical misunderstanding if I did:

> [. . .] various schemes that seek to
> break the IP layer in the name of QoS
> are among the chief rationales and means
> being offered for ending net neutrality

You offered the following response when I asked how "QoS is a real technical issue for IP based networks" and what you mean by this:

> QoS means quality of service and is not
> only a metric but a host of techniques
> and protocols to improve real time
> streaming of media and even TCP/IP based
> streams of any payload, over a network.
> IMS does not equal QoS.

This is a sort of definition at best and not much of an explanation.  What I want to be sure about is what is the "real technical issue" you speak of, because 1) it connects to your call for me to ground a proposition that I did not make, that "IMS breaks the IP layer", in the technical standards; and 2) it appears to connect to the above statement that IMS does not equal QoS, since this is the only way I can relate your comments to mine regarding the relationship I describe between QoS, network neutrality and schemes for network provider management of applications such as IMS.

Now, I'm going to read your words empathetically -- just as an attempt to understand your meaning genuinely.  Do you mean by "QoS is a real technical issue in IP based networks" that QoS is necessitated by IP based networks?  Is necessitated too strong a term?  Do you mean it is highly needed or advantageous for certain applications?  I take it that you consider it at least possible that the "real technical issue" of QoS may be worth managing through IMS or similar schemes -- as motivated by either the advantages of IMS or the "real technical issue" of QoS.

If this supposition is correct, my question for you would then be whether you think this management would be worth doing if it sacrifices the conduciveness of the IP layer for end user innovation, whether you think allowing network providers to do this would be worth the sacrifice, and of course whether you think in some way it wouldn't sacrifice the genericity of the IP layer.

> and finally, I'm sorry but if you are
> going to try to convince a Senator that
> something is 'bad' when you are
> technically incorrect and not deferring
> to the engineers who can read those
> standards and analyze, that's really not
> a good thing.

My intention in posting to this blog is to clarify for Senator Durbin's benefit that a policy of treating similar apps alike will not assure net neutrality, and that schemes such as IMS are the means for ending it even with such a policy.

I like the proposal for structural separation of layers presented by Isenberg, Crawford and Weinberger.  The DPS Project, which all three have endorsed, is focused on assuring that the advantages of the technical behavior defined by the Internet Protocol are recognized and not overlooked in the net neutrality discussion.

> The last thing one needs is policy that
> is examining something highly
> people who do not
> understand that very technology itself.

I think as far as the Dynamic Platform Standards Project goes, you'll
find plenty of expertise: http://www.dpsprojec...

. . . though they have not stated so clearly and directly as I do here that QoS and schemes such as IMS are means for network providers to break the IP layer.  Some have said as much, but not all.

> You're going to have to trust the STEM
> professionals here to do the right thing
> and look for the evils that might be
> embedded into a technical specification
> but trying to claim a component, a
> metric or even a standard in and of
> itself is the "problem" is quite
> dangerous without scientific
> understanding.

The point I offered to you is what I leave you with: what you should remember when considering QoS is that various schemes (such as IMS) that seek to break the IP layer in the name of QoS are among the chief rationales and means being offered for ending net neutrality.

What's needed is to make sure the technical basis for net neutrality is understood.  Then one can pursue regaining common carriage or keep the discussion on track by basing one's position on the actual technical basis for network neutrality, not on policy that simply calls for treating like apps alike.


[ Parent ]
Protect User Privacy (4.00 / 1)
Senator Durbin thanks much for using this forum to build legislation for the People.  Please create legislation that protects internet users and their identities from programs like Bushâ??s NSA surveillance program, and from predatory corporations, like the RIAA. Significant loss of profit should accrue to any ISP or other providers that divulge customer information to illegal and corrupt operations. 

Public Ownership (4.00 / 3)
Senator Durbin:

Someone has likely already made this point, but I will make it again just to make sure.

At least where I live, the local public utilities are clamoring to provide broadband access to consumers.  They want to install the "last mile" of fiber to homes and businesses so they can read the power meters.  The savings to them for doing so (as opposed to hiring meter readers) would allow them to provide broadband at prices well below those provided by commercial providers.  They are prohibited from doing so by state legislation.  Accordingly, the entire problem could be solved by an Act that read simply as follows:

No state or subdivision thereof shall pass or enforce any law preventing any municipality, publicly owned utility, or other public entity from providing broadband internet access to its' customers, or from owning and operating equipment used to provide broadband internet access to its' customers.

Bada boom, bada bing.  For most of the United States, problem solved.

All the best, and thanks for having this forum.

Also (0.00 / 0)
Ideally, Broadband should be a commidity, like Electricity or Water. I hope the bill reflects that.

I blog on

[ Parent ]
we taxpayers have already PAID for 2nd generation broadband deployment (4.00 / 3)
this is a repost from the earlier diary on the presumption that Senator Durbin elected to start a new diary rather than continue the earlier one, apologies to anyone who's seen this already.

  The telcos got a $200 billion tax break to provide 2nd generation broadband to all Americans. Note that I said 2nd generation - in most developed countries, the 1.5 mbps low-end broadband rate Americans get is considered equivalent to dialup. The telcos got a massive tax break to provide us with broadband pipes to every home and business capable of streaming HDTV movies in real-time and providing other services it takes serious broadband to get. Which one can get in the First World, but NOT in America.

OTHER countries have them, at a monthly end user cost lower than Americans pay. We're just beginning to see fiber-to-the-home rollouts in "selected areas".

The telcos want to get special treatment on the Net? Before demanding favors from Congress, you guys need to make them deliver on what the American taxpayer has bought and paid for. They pocketed the tax break, WHERE'S OUR SERVICE?

Until we get what we paid for, Net Neutrality should be a slam-dunk. After we get the high-speed broadband we paid for, the telcos STILL have to make a case that anti-Net Neutrality will help consumers. . . and all they've pitched is smoke and mirrors.

From: $200 Billion Broadband Scandal

  * By 2006, 86 million households should have been rewired with a fiber optic wire, capable of 45 Mbps, in both directions. -- read the promises.
  * The public subsidies for infrastructure were pocketed. The phone companies collected over $200 billion in higher phone rates and tax perks, about $2000 per household.
  * The World is Laughing at US. Korea and Japan have 100 Mbps services as standard, and America could have been Number One had the phone companies actually delivered. Instead, we are 16th in broadband and falling in technology dominance.
  * Harm to the economy. Five trillion dollars was lost because new technologies and services that America would have developed, happened in Korea.
--------- end quote
There's a lot more, the above is a fair usage quote. Go to the URL for more info.
by: alizard @ Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 19:01:00 PM EDT

ConnectSI and National Broadband (4.00 / 1)
i'm from Carbondale, IL, & remember being excited when the trenchers dug the line for the fiber optic! (yes i have been a geek for a long time..)

Back then it was UUNET, which started as a nonprofit but ended up being eaten by Verizon when Worldcom crashed.. long story..

Anyway, up until the present day, that fiber, and the backbone it provides, are owned by Verizon.  i can tell you from experience that it isn't easy to get a CLEC license, just to get started competing in Illinois.

my suggestion is to open up Tier 1 competition.. broadband is going to unroll just as slowly as Verizon decides, otherwise..

& i can stop wistfully staring at that fat OC-198 by the railroad line!

Education (4.00 / 1)
Coming out of the education field I know the importance of fast broadband available to everyone cheaply.  Keep up the good work for the students

The Telecom Act was hijacked (4.00 / 1)
Senator, thank you for coming here!

The problem with our Internet and Broadband strategy is that the very progressive parts of the Telecom Act of 1996 were hijacked by the current (Republican-majority) FCC.  When TA96 was passed, the FCC had a rule in effect, 1980's Computer II rule, which distinguished between "basic" and "enhanced" services.  TA96's definitions of "telecommunications" and "information" services seemed to memorialize that rule.  But the FCC has revoked the rule, removing the obligation of telcos to provide raw DSL and wire to competing ISPs.

The FCC has also lessened the ability of CLECs to access the existing wire, and thus to innovate with it.  So we are stuck with a situation where the utility wire owners can treat it as non-utility property, holding back progress to protect their obsolete business models.

By resetting the regulations to about where they were in 2000, and requiring both common carriage and unbundling of ILEC raw facilities, we can have affordable, advanced, market-neutral service.  "Deregulation" should not mean letting monopolists run amok, but that's exactly what we have now.  Europe has picked up where the US has left off, and current US policy is more like that of a tinhorn dictatorship whose telephone company is a sinecure for the president-for-life's brother.

Problems, Questions, and Solutions (0.00 / 0)
#1:  The FCC has shown its hand multiple times to be serving special interests, even with their new proposed wireless spectrum auction rules.  The crux of the problem appears to lie with Commissioner Kevin Martin.  Is there any way to require the FCC to keep more rigorous records and have more safeguards so that future abuses of power can be avoided?

#2:  Disregarding special interests' apparent influence over the FCC, there still remains the problem of broadband penetration lying at a low with few providers to choose from.  Given the nature of the wiring of the main current networks for broadband (DSL and cable) on public land, what possibilities exist for expanding broadband networks?  If little to none exist, would it be possible to declare wired broadband a public good?

#3:  Many musicians have a hard time marketing their music due to the advertising power and questionable media sources created for the purpose of bolstering the advertising of music and slamming unwealthy competitors.  With the lack of competition in the traditional media world of radio and television, along with consumer dissatisfaction in the traditional media with respect to musical satisfaction, many have turned to the internet.  Webcasters, major and minor, have been important in offering a competitive venue for the airing of music.  With the granting of SoundExchange the exclusive ability to collect webcaster fees, there is a pressing need to set guidelines that are webcaster friendly.  Would it be possible to impose a condition that an artist must first request fees to be collected before they're collected, as opposed to fees being collected unless asked otherwise?  This condition would allow webcasters to operate, oftentimes with the implicit agreement between the artists they play and the webcasters themselves that the playing of the artists' music is free advertising, while still allowing those who wish to charge to collect on their due.

And thank you Senator Durbin for taking the time to ask for assistance on these pressing issues.  Few senators have shown such dedication to the cause of the consumer.


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