Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spanish entrepreneur develops new wireless paradigm with his company, FON

There has been a lot of talk about the lumpiness of Wi-Fi service, about security problems and reliability. An entrepreneur from Argentina and now living an modern splendor in Madrid, Spain, Martin Varsavsky, has started a company in Spain called FON (or Foneros), which, on the surface, echoes a concept known from P2P computing and Bit-Torrent. The concept is that consumers share and trade wireless access capacity with others under some sort of automatically monitored but voluntary contract agreement, a totally “libertarian” concept. Varsavsjy says that the concept combines the best of both worlds, WiMax and L.T.E. (or “Long Term Evolution”) Varsavsky says that he offers a bottom up development that adds generativity and neutrality to the growth of the Internet, issues raised in a recent book by Jeffrey Zittrain (discussed on my books blog in April 2008).

The hope is that such a development would add security, stability and availability for wireless access to personal and business travelers and to people who live in less populated areas. It might make some companies more willing to allow home workers to depend on wireless access in the future, a capability that is resisted now because of security and stability concerns.

The story is by John Markoff, “Global Dreams for a Wireless World,” from Menorca, Spain, in The New York Times Business section today, link here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sprint, Clearwire, others would develop national wireless "hot spot" for "ordinary" consumers

On Wednesday. May 7, USA Today has a big banner headline, “Wireless plan: Make entire USA a ‘hot spot’. The story in the Money Section (B) is “Deal shakes up wireless world: Sprint, Clearwire join forces to build “Wimax” network,” in a story by Leslie Cauley, link here. Backers would include Intel, Comcast, Time Warner, and Google.

Over 50% of the country would be included by 2010. It is not clear yet what the cost would be for consumers.

Generally, wireless companies offer plans to consumers that offer secured hot spot service in restaurants, shopping malls, airports, hotels, and some public areas around the country. It is safer to use a subscription service than a “free one” offered by many hotels (which now may be starting to charge fees anyway to increase bottom lines given recession and economic problems). Moderate income apartment residents don’t always have reliable cable, especially in lower cost areas, but lower income people and baby boomer retirees are starting to expect high speed service and need it. This plan could offer a big improvement in generativity and neutral customer access. One major reason that expanded wireless would be important will also be that dialup connections may be too slow to do the enormous automatic security downloads (from Microsoft and anti-virus companies) required by modern home computing.

There is more on this on my Internet safety blog (see my profile).

Update: May 8

The Washington Post today provides much more detailed coverage a story by Kim Hart and Cecilia King:

"Clearwire, Sprint Nextel Set Course for WiMax: $12 Billion Partnership to Focus on Speed and Distance," link here. The print version in Business Section D01 has a diagram that explains some of the practical difficulties.

Kim Hart also writes "FCC to Test Transition to Digital TV in N.C.: Wilmington's Rollout to Begin Sept. 8," link here, p D03 in print.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

ACLU blog presents testimony on Network Neutrality

The ACLU “Free Speech” blog available on its COPA weblink has a large entry dated April 23, 2008 “No Corporate Gatekeepers for the Net”, link here. There is a PDF file of notes on a Hearing on “Net Neutrality and Free Speech on the Net,” before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Task Force on Competition Policy and Antitrust Laws, testimony by Caroline Frederickson, Director, Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union. The link is here.
She also refers to an FCC Policy Statement from 2005 “New Principles Preserve and Promote the Open and Interconnected Nature of the Public Internet (link here); with later versions of adobe Acrobat, it is possible to follow embedded hyperlinks directly). Toward the end, Frederickson remarks that “Internet discrimination by ISPs is on the rise, and will only increase as Americans rely on the broadband services that they provide.”

The April ACLU blog entry refers to an earlier report of Comcast’s “behavior” as an example of what can happen in a world without legislated Net Neutrality, here.

The blog mentions an interesting incident in San Francisco of apparent government discrimination against protestors representing the interests of Tibetan independence, in this podcast, MP3 link here.

What does all this mean? Jonathan Zittrain, as I noted in the previous post, is more concerned about the loss of generativity in the mechanics of delivery of content than with discrimination concerning the content itself. A lot of this has to do with the way broadband and wireless services are made available in new areas, and with ways they can be secured for safe use by ordinary citizens in apartments, motels when traveling on business, shopping malls, and the like, an issue that I just took up on my Internet safety blog (see Blogger Profile). The more competition there is, the less the need for direct regulation, or, perhaps that is to say, some of the regulation would have to do with mergers and buyouts that could eliminate competition. The other issue may be social and even harder to encapsulate: society is starting to become unnerved by some speech by individuals, as in blogs and social networking sites, when it made without any sense of accountability to others.

The ACLU blog materials and references seem compelling -- but how balanced are they?