Monday, May 24, 2010

FCC needs a "fourth way" for net neutrality: "back to Congress" (Back to the Bay!)

The Washington Post is appropriately critical of Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Monday morning (May 24), with the editorial, “Why broadband regulation needs help from Congress,” link here.

The Post is underwhelmed by the FCC’s idea that a broadband backbone provider is a quasi-telephone company. (I remember all those interviews with the Bell system – including Bellcomm and Bell Labs, as I was getting out of the Army in 1970; I got one offer; those were the days, my friend.)

The editorial argues for a “fourth way” as if suggesting we need access to unused dimensions in string theory. It writes “The agency, industry, consumer groups and other interested parties should work with Congress to craft clear but limited rules tailored to broadband.”

Libertarians, of course, will choke on the idea that Congress will get involved again in the net neutrality debate. But it was already engaged a few years ago, around 2006, when it drafted the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act”, described here on the original June 22, 2006 posting.

"Back to Congress" is like the Army saying "Back to the Bay". Or, back to Statism.

Monday, May 17, 2010

NY Times explains the significance of "broadband classification" with respect to authority of FCC to regulate it

The New York Times has an important editorial today (Monday May 17), “Broadband and the F.C.C.”, link here.

The editorial maintains that the Bush administration had classified broadband as an “information channel” for the “purpose of freeing it from regulation.” That means that broadband is conceived of as involved in delivering actual content and therefore should not be regulated (or censored) by government but should adhere to the free market.

However, the FCC wants to claim that broadband service is more like a plug-in utility, like telephone. The Times advertises that the real broadband backbone is controlled by only a few corporations, reducing the effect of competition in many less populated parts of the U.S., and that Americans pay more for broadband than do many in Europe or many parts of Asia (such as Japan and South Korea).

The Times also questions the wisdom of Comcast’s questioning the authority of the FCC to regulate broadband under its previous definition.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Satellite damaged by solar storm could interfere with much of US cable television service soon

There is a possibility that damage to a satellite owned by Intelsat Corporation could cause it to interfere with another satellite used by US cable television companies, starting May 23, if it approaches close enough.

The story was reported by Newsroom Solutions in Arkansas Matters, (web url) here.  Intelsat would not say which cable companies or areas of the US could be most affected.
It’s not clear if it could affect broadband Internet also.

Michael Weissenstein has a more detailed story (“Drifting satellite threatens US cable programming”) for WJLA Channel 7 (ABC) in Arlington VA, link here. There is no danger of collision with the Galaxy 15 satellite, and engineers have several strategies for keeping the Intelsat satellite from being close to the Galaxy satellite and causing prolonged outages.

In October 2003 there were solar flares that caused little disruption in the US (ironically, an episode of “Smallville” was based on a solar flare’s affecting the teen Clark Kent, and it was aired the same day as the real flare even though it must have been filmed months before). There is always a possibility that solar storms can disrupt terrestrial communications.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of solar prominence.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

FCC will still try to regulate broadband by "redefining it"

Edward Wyatt has a Business Day story in The New York Times “FCC Push to Regulate Broadband Is Expected”, link here.  

Julius Genachowski is expected to announce a finding that broadband service is a “hybrid” between “information service” and a “utility” and that the FCC has the legal authority to stop telecomm backbone companies from charging more to content provider companies like Google, even though telecomm companies like AT&T and Comcast say they have no intention to do so.

The FCC Chairman apparently believes that he can deal with recent court opinions by redefining the legal definition of broadband service provider.

To put all this in context, look at Dan Woods, “Designing the Future Internet: It’s time for the technology equivalent of urban planning” in Forbes, May 4, here.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Broadband for America promotes libertarian position on Discovery Channel breaks

The organization “Broadband for America” (link ) has been advertising on the Discovery Channel (during Hawking's documentary) with the typical “libertarian” position on network neutrality, to the effect that free market innovation will effectively provide consumer neutrality on its own.  There are maps delving into the broadband development situation in each state.

The group provides a link to a Wall Street Journal report (link here  ) by Laura Landro, April 13, 2010, “Breaking Down the Barriers: When health-care providers exchange electronic medical records, costs go down and patient care goes up”. True, but the limiting factor for medical records is not telecommunications capability (although there is an issue of format compatibility in some health care record transmissions), but a culture of medical specialists who feel that manual records help protect their turf.