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Telecom Policy

"For Want of Gloves, Ebola Doctors Die"
Friday, 15 August 2014 23:31

As I typed in the above into my latest newsletter, I couldn’t stop crying. The most horrifying headline I can remember. If I were a physician, I don’t think I’d have the courage to go in without basic protection. Gloves are cheap. Those with the resources to help are committing a crime, starting with my own government. My college roommate, Jerry Nadler, is now a Congressman, although we've drifted apart. I've never asked him to do something as a favor, until now.

   From Drew Hinshaw, Wall Street Journal

For Want of Gloves, Ebola Doctors Die

On the front lines of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, health-care workers believe its toll on their own staffs could be mitigated if only they had enough basic hospital supplies such as gloves

SERGEANT KOLLIE TOWN, Liberia—Rubber gloves were nearly as scarce as doctors in this part of rural Liberia, so Melvin Korkor would swaddle his hands in plastic grocery bags to deliver babies.

His staff didn't bother even with those when a woman in her 30s stopped by complaining of a headache. Five nurses, a lab technician—then a local woman who was helping out—cared for her with their bare hands.

Germany: When Landlines End, Wireless Must Be Just as Good and Cost No More
Friday, 26 July 2013 00:25

Deutsche Telekom agrees. Even conservative politician Bernhard Kaster “will insist that there is no deterioration.” http://bit.ly/16gDiEV Bärbel Höhn of the Greens added, "What must not happen is that customers have to pay more for less quality."

Times on Wheeler "An Industry Man for the F.C.C."
Monday, 13 May 2013 17:59

Time to answer questions. "President Obama has picked a former telecommunications lobbyist and campaign fund-raiser to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, raising serious questions about his 2007 pledge that corporate lobbyists would not finance his campaign or run his administration.

    He was also a big “bundler” for Mr. Obama ... it is almost certain that he raised money from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest. ... [He] should disclose how much money he raised from telecommunications executives and explain how he would make sure that those relationships would not influence his decisions at the F.C.C."

    Part of the answer should be to reverse JG's policy of stonewalling the press. He would run away in terror if a reporter tried to ask him questions. Jules had something like 3 announced press conferences in 4 years. It was harder to get information from Genachowski than I'm told it was from Karl Rove. Wheeler has enough experience to handle tough questions and should live up to Obama's promise of transparency.

   People I respect who recommended Tom include Gigi Sohn and Susan Crawford, so I'm withholding final judgment. I read about 20 of his blog posts, none of which suggested he would take on the incumbents. He has at least a mild case of "beltway blindness," where reality is overwhelmed by the massive lobbying that sets the agenda.

BTOP Triumph: 3 Ring Binder Fiber Complete in Maine
Sunday, 30 September 2012 18:23

3 Ring Binder

On schedule, truly open, reaching unserved. “I’m going to bake us a cake,” promised a woman in Big Lake Township, who proceeded to hug Tim McAfee of Pioneer Broadband for connecting her home with fiber. (Maine Sun Journal) Over 100 communities in Maine are connected by one of the three fiber rings of the Maine Fiber Network . McAfee, Fletcher Kittridge of GWI, Craig Gunderson of Oxford Networks and other local entrepreneurs are renting the fiber for $10-20/mile/month. They then offer services, including GWI’s “Gigabit Main Street” in Orono and Old Town. Part of the national “Gig-U” project, GWI is working with the University of Maine to deliver fiber speeds unavailable in Verizon’s Boston or AT&T’s Chicago.
    There’s a large area unserved on the map, but almost all of it is “Unorganized Territories” with few towns. The project cost was $32M, not much to bring a backbone to nearly a million people. That was enough for 1,000 miles of new fiber, network gear and facilities, and project overhead. Subtracting the other costs of the project, I estimate they spent $20-25K/mile or slightly higher, confirming the realistic costs in mixed terrain of a fiber build.
    CEO Dwight Allison said. “We built a highway through the state and said as long as you pay the toll anybody can get on this,” he said. “That means more competition, more startups. You can start a GWI-type of company now and have, in essence, a $32 million fiber network at your disposal without having to write out a $30 million check.” (MSJ)

Price of success: High costs per unserved, probable failure of incumbent Fairpoint

The primary purposes of the U.S. broadband stimulus were to reach the unserved and to create jobs. Three Ring Binder efficiently created jobs constructing the network with only modest overhead or waste. It also is effectively connecting the University of Maine and other public services, a secondary goal.
    There’s also good news for 30-40 families in Big Lake Township. Big Lake is proceeding based on expectations of $176K of local and state financing, That’s about $6K per home served, a lot of public money. There’s no reason to believe the company inflated the subsidy demanded; extreme rural builds often are that expensive. Many, probably most, of the BTOP projects, are backbones with no guarantee of ever connecting the unserved. 
    Also suffering will be Fairpoint, the incumbent that has already gone broke once. The local companies taking advantage of Three Ring Binder are likely to effectively win away Fairpoint customers. Other aggressive New England companies, like Vermont Tel where I’ve done some consulting, will further erode Fairpoint’s base. When Larry switched the stimulus funding from “unserved” homes to overbuilding existing fiber, he doomed some incumbent carriers.

ITU Secrecy Disappearing as U.S. ITAC Open to All
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 00:00

Join me and make a difference. 303,000,000 Americans have just been offered access to the notoriously secret ITU WCIT documents. Just join ITAC, the State Department International Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and enjoy access. “It takes a simple email with a request to be placed on the ITAC listserv, based on some material interest in a given topic,” Paul Najarian of State writes. Simply send an email to join ITAC_Listserve_Requests@state.gov and you automatically have access to ITAC. That's actually proving true, and email me if you need details how to make this work for you. Until now, no one knew about it so almost no one applies except insiders. It’s really that simple. I’ve recommended three people and they were all treated respectfully.

  Uncle Sam wants you, as  Ambassador Terry Kramer makes clear below and confirmed to me in a brief phone call. “We welcome all interested stakeholders to participate in our WCIT preparatory process and help the U.S. Government form positions in advance of the conference.  We solicit this input and feedback through the United States International Telecommunications Advisory Committee (ITAC).” His colleague, Ambassador Phil Verveer testified to Congress, that ITAC is “open to all interested parties to review and advise on the regional and national contributions to WCIT as they are submitted.” 
    To my amazement, the discussions are substantive. With almost no one outside the system, it's become a convenient forum for State to share information with NTIA, FCC, and others, as well as two dozen or so corporate people who are on the inside. So it's actually a useful point to express your opinion. Being on ITAC gives you access to the main ITU and WCIT documents, along with a painful number of exceedingly boring emails. The meetings are in D.C. at State and generally have call-ins. 
    Until recently, I was the only person speaking at most meetings who wasn’t part of government or have strong corporate ties. No one else spoke up, for example, when U.S. proposals for NGN resembled a blueprint for the Great Firewall of China. (Our security agencies have similar requirements.)
     I wrote that the ITU wanted to open the documents http://fastnetnews.com/itu/186-i/4822-itu-qmembers-free-to-publish-any-documentsq-and-they-will-im-told based on ITU sources and some comments from Europe. I had no expectation the U.S. would join actively, but that’s exactly what Ambassador Kramer promises

“Recently, the ITU Council announced its decision to make public one of the summary documents of proposals to amend the International Telecommunications Regulations.  In addition, at the recent meeting in Geneva, the Secretary General stressed that “all ITU members have full access to all WCIT-12 documents and can share them within their constituencies.”

Australian DSLAM article disclaimer
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 08:39

For the record, since I hope to keep down the volume of flames. I don’t know as much about Australia’s network needs as many CommsDay readers who aren’t 12,000 miles away. Perhaps I’ve learned enough reporting broadband since 1999 to offer useful perspective. I’ve learned a fair amount tracking broadband around the world. I am consulting on a gigabit network in Vermont. I think fiber home is great and wish the economics added up everywhere.  I also respect those who chose 50-100 megabit VDSL to save money and deployment time. After all, two HD videos fit easily into 10 megabits. ASSIA, whose founder invented DSL vectoring, is a major advertiser in my newsletter. They also make DSL management software. Alcatel has been an advertiser in the past and one of the other DSLAM makers is considering buying ads. Both Malcolm Turnbull and Stephen Conroy have graciously spent time discussing these issues with me. Turnbull has impressed me with how widely he’s sought out the experts around the world and mastered the technology. If I were Australian, however, I would have voted Labour because my politics are to the left.   

For the record: Dave to Austan Goolsbee on USF Waste
Monday, 15 July 2013 00:40


Obama $9B plan for faster schools will likely be full of waste. Austan Goolsbee, now the President's chief economic advisor, in 2006 wrote a paper on the impact of USF funding on school Internet. I checked with him about updated sources of data for my article on Obama's $9B proposal for faster school Internet. I also wrote him the below.

AT&T Lobbyist Patton Boggs Fires 65
Saturday, 02 March 2013 02:34

Strom ThurmondFollowing the money is basic to understanding telco power. They are “Washington’s largest and most profitable lobby shop” but just took a huge layoff. 18 partners have been warned their contracts may not be renewed. Billings are down. AT&T reduced their registered lobbying payments from $20M in 2011 to $17M in 2012, but apparently did not cut Patton Boggs. That $17M to registered lobbyists is just a small fraction of the estimated $150M-$250M AT&T spends on political influence each year. For example, the $millions paid to Jim Cicconi are not filed under lobbying expenses. The $168K reported paid to House Leader Boehner is in a different accounting; the $millions in California also separate.

   Cicconi is a “by whatever means necessary” fighter and extraordinarily effective. A dozen Patton Boggs staffers worked for AT&T, including former Senators Trent Lott and John Breaux. The homophobic Lott, who left the Senate in disgrace after praising segregationist Strom Thurmond (pictured), drew $millions from the telcos while in office. Lott’s a Republican, but Randall’s minions have no compunction about paying Democrat Breaux as well. T has William Clyburn on the payroll as well, cousin to the FCC Commissioner as well as the House Minority Leader.

   Patton Boggs is “one of American Lawyer's "Top 100" U.S. law firms and is consistently ranked as the nation’s number-one lobbying firm by the National Journal, Roll Call, Influence and The Hill” according to their web site They do what it takes to win for their client. FT reports them deeply involved in a $85M fraud in Albania, for example. http://on.ft.com/XMGIdP

   PB even has a shortage in their PAC fund that pays politiicans. http://bit.ly/YRIcXu

The Right Question: Ambassador Terry Kramer
Thursday, 20 September 2012 19:32

Ask ITU/WCIT Ambassador Terry Kramer: How does the U.S. convince the world “bottom-up multi-stakeholder” doesn’t really mean dominance by a few large corporations? (The Right Question)

Who: Terry Kramer, a former Vodafone-Verizon executive, officially leads the U.S. delegation to the >World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai in December. Many countries including Brazil, Russia, India and China have called for a stronger UN/ITU role in the Internet. The U.S. is saying don’t mess with the current “multi-stakeholder model” because it is working well.
    Kramer, a business executive rather than a diplomat, has opened up the U.S. State Department process. Because of his commitment, ihe State Department ITAC (International Telecommunications Advisory Committee) is open to all and attention is being paid to the discussion. The latest meeting included questions from a skeptic and outsiders including a prominent professor.

Where/When: Kramer is holding a press conference Friday, September 20.
Offices of Wiley Rein LLP, 1776 K Street NW, Washington, DC, Friday, September 21, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EDT.  Teleconference link: 1-888-272-7337 Passcode: 7438143#

Friendly questions that open interesting subjects

What impact do you expect WCIT to have on Internet Security/payments for Internet traffic/international roaming charges/traffic management/significant amounts of investment?

Chosen because Touré of the ITU has discussed each recently.

How can the State Department internalize the principals we're advocating for multi-stakeholder governance? 

Kramer has played an important role.

More intense questions, hopefully not rhetorical

What's it like being a public servant after a corporate career?

Kramer worked for 25 years in the industry, including very senior jobs at Vodafone/Verizon

Toure told the Financial Times “No proposal will be passed without consensus.” Does that mean that major countries like the U.S. have an effective veto? What are the practical implications?

How should the U.S. react to the ETNO proposal to charge companies like Google that send video to broadband subscribers?

ETNO represents France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom and other carriers. Toure has been sympathetic. The U.S. has been strongly opposed, but big U.S. carriers in other fora ask for similar.

President Obama and FCC Chair Genachowski are strong supporters of Net Neutrality but the term is almost absent in the U.S. presentations. Will the U.S. delegation support neutrality? 

Tricky, especially if Obama loses the election, which is before Dubai in December.

State Department Actively Reaching Out to Public Knowledge & Others
Monday, 30 July 2012 12:51

Looking for civil society support at ITU. “The USG did reach out to us and that is good,” Rashmi Rangnath of Public Knowledge emails. “They are certainly interested in hearing what we have to say.” Another key D.C. public interest group confirmed to me State was reaching out to them as well. 

AT ITU and WCIT discussions, the U.S. "multi-stakeholder" model is just a veneer on corporate interests. A Verizon lobbyist sits on the board of ISOC, where’s he joined by a Comcast engineer; Comcast went to court to oppose even the very weak U.S. neutrality rules and led a massive lobbying campaign against neutrality. Another Verizon lobbyist is on the official U.S. delegation to WTPF. The U.S. ITAC until recently had dozens of corporate representatives and essentially no one from civil society.
Terry Kramer, the head of the U.S. delegation to WCIT comes from Vodafone/Verizon. The State Department lead, Ambassador Phil Verveer, is a former Verizon/AT&T/USTA lawyer, although Verveer is rumored to be a lame duck these days. His telco ties certainly didn't hurt his chances for the job. Probably more important was that he and his wife were friends since college with Bill and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
      U.S. credibility requires incorporating people like Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge, who wrote

Civil Society is Key to the Debate on International Control Over the Internet

By Gigi Sohn  | June 04, 2012

Civil society will be the critical player in a policy debate that has dominated recent tech news - whether theInternational Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be given the power by its Member States to regulate internet access and the internet itself.   

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