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Wednesday, 02 July 2008 00:02

DSL by Jennie and Dave

This is the news of the fast net, always looking to get closer to the truth.
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Dave Burstein, editor and publisher. daveb (at) dslprime.com

Jennie Bourne, online editor

Saifuddin Abdullah, editorial staff

I've had a lot of fun since I started DSL Prime in 1999. The coverage always was more than DSL, and after ten years I'm recognizing that with the DOCSIS Report, Fiber News, and more. I've met some incredible people, learned a lot, and occasionally wrote something interesting.

Since 1999, DSL Prime has built a circulation of 15,000 around the world. Nearly everyone in the English-speaking part of the industry is a subscriber, as well as many in government, academia, the press and Wall Street. We mail three issues each Bournemonth.

Our stories have been picked up, with credit, in The New York and Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, Business Week, and many others. We've also been cited in many government reports and independent studies.

DaveMy first rule is not to bore my readers. My second is to always get "closer to the truth." I quickly reached 13,000 subscribers. DSL Prime is free, has the best gossip, and sometimes contains useful information, so most of the English-speaking industry has subscribed.

 

I found myself deep in engineering, finance, and policy, although I'm not formally trained. I developed some surprising friends in high places, and got startled one day when a bureau chief called me "the conscience of the FCC." Wall Street analysts made me their pet geek. I discovered I could walk up to a CEO with 200,000 employees and he'd answer my questions if they were interesting enough.

 

I was mostly a curious geek trying to imagine how to be a reporter. There were no rules for Internet journalism, so we made up the rules as we went along.

 

The biggest favor you can do a journalist is to point out our many errors

The financial side is crucial in this capital-hungry business, and is an essential part of reporting and analysis.  Looking at the ratio of depreciation to capex makes it clear, for example, that Qwest, Century, and other medium U.S. carriers are strip mining their companies and will happily sell to anyone who wants to buy. Huawei's nearly unlimited line of credit with government controlled banks allows them to finance customers freely. That's won them major customers from Africa to the United States.

 

Smart executives don't lie when they talk to wall street, so I listen closely. Information is currency on the street, so I get invited to events where the waiters have better suits than I do. I seem to be the pet geek of wall street, which turns out to be a great role for collecting information. For example, I've had great confirmation that SBC/AT&T can provide near universal DSL service using $200 repeaters and is ready to do so. I asked CEO Ed Whitacre in 2005. In 2008, I broke the story that Cablevision was soon to turn on 100% DOCSIS 3.0, 50 meg and more across their territory. Their pr people weren't happy I announced before they did, but couldn't deny the facts their President had mentioned to investors.  Qwest in 2008 told the street that they are reducing costs effectively, while telling Colorado their costs have gone up so much they need a large price hike. That's a story.

 

This is not a financial publication. We do not pick stocks. Really. We are looking at very different issues than the market does, and the market often moves against our analysis. That's experience, not modesty. I've often been surprised by market moves I didn't expect. That's partly because the price of stocks has only a modest connection to the underlying financials of the company. Pro traders only incidentally look at the substance of a company's prospects, and pay far more attention to what their peers believe than the facts. Graham and Dodd are paid lip service, but rarely more in today's markets. In addition, hard as this is to accept, randomness has a major impact on stock moves. In 2008, stock prices reflect even more of a short term outlook than usual, forcing companies to cut capex beyond what's rational for earnings. Dividend increases and buybacks have been the way to get stock prices up. Since stock prices have been going up with dividends, analysts demand more of same. Companies respond and pull so much cash out of the business profits will drop a few years later. A few years later doesn't count, until it does. This cycle will one day reverse, the smartest guys on wall street tell me, but none of us know when.

 

Policy is boring but important, so I cover it as best I can. I've been surprised to make so many friends in policy; they really do prefer to talk with anyone other than the usual suspects saying the usual things. If you know what's really going on, they want to hear. Even honest lobbyists rarely have depth on what their own companies are doing in the field, much less knowledge of practices worth copying from other nations. If Verizon can profitably deploy fiber to the majority of their territory, so can British Telecom despite the "expert" opinions developed by the industry-facing analysts. Ed Richards and Stephen Carter need to hear that. Half of Britain is getting a second rate Internet because they believe things that aren't true.

 

I only succeed with help from readers and the industry. I want to hear from you. Contact Dave Burstein, the editor. daveb at dslprime.com.

 

Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime, 420 West 119th St #51, NY NY 10027

 

Online editor: Jennie Bourne jennie at dslprime.com

 

Jennie Bourne is the author of Web Video: Making it Great, Getting it Noticed and co-author ofDSL: A Wiley Tech Brief she produces videos for the web. As a journalist Bourne wrote TV news, edited news film for ABC and NBC TV, and produced and anchored the Evening News at WBAI-FM. Producer of Ecological Literacy, a documentary and segments for German television, Bourne taught at Rutgers and NYU.  She is currently working on a documentary about Macintosh creator Jef Raskin.

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Bias: I have a strong consumer bias. It's my job to overcome any bias and report as close to the truth as possible. I believe any reporter who claims to be unbiased is lying to him/herself. I would rather not pretend.  I've also gone beyond that as a advocate for what I believe, including filing comments on FCC issues and pressing officials on issues I care about. In telecom, there are few knowledgeable people who aren't paid by the companies involved. I think it's important therefore to bring information I have to government when I feel they are being misinformed. Readers will have to judge whether my reporting remains accurate despite my bias.

 

Press information: I have a press-friendly policy, and am happy to work with or share anything I have knowledge with other reporters. I like getting the ideas out, and learn from other reporters in turn. Call or email Dave Burstein and I'll find a way to help you. Deadlines understood.

 

Editorial Integrity Policy and conflict of interest: Like most trade press, we accept advertising from the companies about which we report. Of course they push us to write stories their way. We believe we serve our advertisers best by independent reporting that attracts readers to their ads. Advertising packages generally include consulting or advisory work if desired. As an Internet enabled business, we support our work with related income. We believe the ethical response is to make clear where our conflict of interests lie. Jennie and I have written two books, one on DSL and one on Web Video. I've chaired three Fast Net Futures conferences for Pulver and two Web Video Summits for Meckler. We accept occasional work from companies in the industry, including briefing, presentations, seminars and similar, always disclosed. Amazon will pay us a commission if you buy books after following a link from our site. (February 2009 update: With conference work etc. hard to find these days, I'm more aggressively going after consulting. For example, I've just made a proposal to a small telco to provide them information about how to qualify for broadband stimulus money. Readers will have to judge whether my reporting remains accurate. The McArthur Foundation hasn't come calling, but my landlord has.)

 

We do accept meals from companies and small presents like notepads. We freely accept travel expenses from conferences, etc. Occasionally, companies have a legitimate press event and we accept travel. Centillium brought a dozen reporters to San Francisco once, for example. I turn down offers that don't pass the smell test. Jennie is still mad I passed on an all-expense trip to Israel for the two of us. The company was based there, but it was obviously a thank-you rather than an attempt to bring us there for reporting.

 

Privacy Policy: We do not collect any information about visitors to our site. Period. We do not share our subscription list with anyone, although infrequently will do a mailing on behalf of a sponsor. Web site advertisers may use a service like Doubleclick to offer their ads, which tracks responders.

 

 

The boom was unbelievable. I reported the limousines 3 deep in front of the Plaza, as the Masters of the Internet Universe compared their billions. I reported a million, then 10 million, then 100 million homes connected. Video over the net was called "streaming media" and lost billions before they discovered not many people wanted to watch boring, small, jerky videos on the net. Covad, Rhythms, and NorthPoint were worth $20B at the peak, then bankrupt 18 months later. The U.S. had the lead, and then it switched to Korea, Japan, China and France. I hate that the U.S. has fallen to an also ran on the Internet, but delighted with what I'm learning from the French, Germans, and Koreans as I travel.