Monday, February 23, 2009

AT&T ti spend $1 billion on business network capacity

According to “The Street”, AT&T is, despite recession, about to spend $1 billion on its own network capacity. But, following a trend we see a lot, it is going to emphasize efficiency for large business users rather than home customers. It will include data center expansion in Atlanta, Annapolis MD, New Jersey, Hong Kong, and the UK.

It will widen VPN service, as well as the delivery a specific applications including SAP and Oracle. The story, including remarks by Joe Lueckenhoff, AT&T's senior vice president of product management, is carried on “The Street” today at this link.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Broadband stimulus might not provide enough "bang for buck"; effect on national service?

The Associated Press has a story by Peter Svensson, “Skepticism arises over rural broadband stimulus,” dated Feb. 19, 2009. The article was reprinted by the Washington Post online today.

There is a general feeling that in many areas, government stimulus would not necessarily result in a large increase in customers for telecommunications companies. There is a “bang for the buck” problem. There is a certain population subset that is not computer literate or interested. But reliable broadband could strengthen local rural businesses and employment.

A press release from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, from July 2008, is quite interesting. 55% percent of all Americans have broadband Internet at home, up from 42% in 2005. But among those not having it, lack of availability was fourth in the reasons given.

Broadband Internet availability could become an issue for national service initiatives. Many national service projects would take place in rural or low income areas, and “volunteers” expect and need service.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Amost 500 stations go digital today despite DTV delay; some customers stranded: lists of affected stations available from FCC

Despite the DTV Delay Act (S 352) about a third of analogue stations, mostly in small cities, stop broadcasting analog signals tonight, leaving unconverted customers in the dark. In some cities, unconverted analog televisions will stop carrying one or more stations at midnight. Your local stations will tell you if this is happening. No stations in the Washington DC area are affected. The FCC has a list of the 491 stations on two PDF documents: here and here. There are 123 additional stations that may convert today if they meet additional guidelines, here. These lists appear on the website “TV Conversion Help” here.

Some of the smaller cities include Augusta GA, Dayton OH, and Providence RI. This morning, ABC News offered an AP story to the effect by AP writer Peter Svensson.

This morning ABC demonstrated how to install the converter box. The antenna is connected to it, which is in turn connected to the television. But on many older televisions the rabbit-ear antennas would have to be removed first.

It is not clear that people who buy converter boxes on their own dime will get reimbursed later by the economic stimulus. There have been suggestions that local “geeks” (“Chuck” people) call Meals on Wheels and offer to help shut-ins today in these specific cities.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Wireless, Internet, cable companies compete for stimulus: various versions of tax credits, direct stimulus lobbied for: neutrality conditions?

A story in Reuters on Feb. 5 explains how the economic stimulus would affect cable and wireless providers. Smaller companies want capital infusions, but larger companies want tax credits. Smaller companies say that there is not enough economy of scale in the current setup to make serving remote areas profitable, and that policy decisions must be made in that area to make it economically worthwhile.

There is some controversy over network neutrality and the issue of “openness” and whether providers will “discriminate” on the basis of content on their networks. If they did “discriminate”, some of the protections (like Section 230) from downstream liability for what their customers do could be eroded.

The link for the Reuters story by Lim Dixon, “Wireless, Internet companies vying for stimulus,” link here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Delay in DTV conversion until June 2009 will hamper improvement in some police department communications

NBC Washington (Channel 4) has a report during the evening of Thurs Feb 5 that the Prince Georges County MD Police Department, and probably authorities in many other communities, will not get access to old channels and will not be able to implement a new communications system for another 18 months because of the delay in conversion to DTV and in access to the old channels. New towers and equipment must be thoroughly tested, including during the summer with leaves on the trees. No link to the story is available yet.

Picture: Cell phone tower in Everglades, FL, 2004.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Broadband would take until 2015 to complete even under heavy economic stimulus

Questions are already coming up regarding president Barack Obama’s ambitious plans to extend broadband infrastructure to the most remote rural areas.

The story is by David M. Herszenhorn in the Tuesday Feb. 3 New York Times, front page, “Internet money in fiscal plan: wise or waste?; debate on billions for broadband service,” link here.

Some experts say that it would take until 2015 to complete the plans, even with the most ambitious appropriations. Decisions would have to be made regarding traditional cable or FIOS.

Another consideration would be recoverability of service after natural disasters.

Broadband is coming to be seen by small business as an essential utility, not as a luxury. But the history of cable television shows how fickle service like this is. Some areas in New York City had cable television in the late 1960s and it was common in apartment buildings by the mid 1970s as an alternative to a master antenna. Yet in more outlying suburbs, it has been slow to come. When I bought a condo in Pleasant Grove in Dallas in late 1984, the area did not have cable service yet, whereas “trendier” areas in the city did. Were I to be in the same situation now, I would have to require it as a condition of purchase or rental. Not all senior apartments list cable as available yet in many cities.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Blizzard/Glider/WoW case: can DMCA affect net access, affect neutrality and innovation?

First of all, I put this story on the network neutrality page rather than the main page – maybe I need more stories, to be sure – but really because of an interesting legal artifact. A software vendor is accused (and a federal judge upholds) of violating the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) because it, among other things, can change the way an original device (in this case, a computer game) connects to other network services. In the past, there have been decisions to limit the application of the DMCA to competition in garage door and printer industries – and by implication that could extend to any other device connected to a network or the Internet, such as future energy conservation devices that are being proposed and developed as connected to Internet applications. Presumably, it’s important that the legal climate allow flexibility and innovation in the deployment of the devices in the average home (Thomas Friedman’s “energy Internet” and such), or else companies won’t have an economic incentive to develop them. That’s why the case at hand here could matter so much done the road.

So here we are, looking at an arcane case involving computer gaming, MDY v. Blizzard, with components like “wardens” that look for a user computer’s bots like “Glider” to mediate the way a popular role-playing video game is experienced. We also get into convoluted discussions as to whether “non-literal elements” controlling network interfaces themselves are copyrightable and fall under the DMCA.

There were other issues, such as the personal liability of the defendant firm’s founder, Michael Donnelly, could become personally liable for infringement.

Judge Campbell ruled for the plaintiff, which will certainly lead to a Ninth Circuit Appeal.

Timothy B. Lee has a detailed analysis dated Jan. 29, 2009 in Ars Technica, and gets into other disturbing areas, like erosion of the “first sale” doctrine.

The full title of the case is “MDY Industries, LLC v. Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. et al” and Justia has a complete fact sheet and links to court papers here. Note that the case is presented here "contrapositionally" as a counter claim: "MDY Industries, LLC seeks a declaratory judgment that its product—WOWGLIDER—does not infringe on the Defendant's copyrights to World of Warcraft, violate the DMCA or interfere with the contractual relationships."

Strategically, this case could turn out to be important for innovation incentives, important for sharing information and implements over networks in all kinds of areas, including energy use and health care. The new Obama administration ought to look at this case carefully.