"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Politics *of* the Internet

Well, it's been a quiet St. Patrick's day, and that's been nice. Here's a little roundup on the politics of the internet.

First, I came across a good backgrounder if you're not aware of the coming battle for Net Freedom (Network Neutrality):

Telcos and cable operators want to charge more for faster access to content in part because they claim to have invested so heavily in their networks. Demand is only increasing for online video, music, multiplayer games, and other bandwidth-intensive activities, so, they argue, their pipelines are increasingly clogged with data.
Bruce Kushnick, chairman and cofounder of Teletruth, makes a pretty good case that the big telcos have already charged consumers and state governments plenty for broadband infrastructure they've never delivered. They're also feeling threatened by services that compete with their other core businesses, such as VOIP (define), and future offerings. Verizon, for example, is planning to deliver video services via its fiber optic network. That makes virtually any other online video player, from Time-Warner owned AOL to YouTube, a competitor, doesn't it?
In a tiered system, what happens to the long tail and to consumer-generated media (CGM)? I'm betting the blogging software providers, such as TypePad, Blogger, and Six Apart, are never going to buy into this. Yahoo! and Google, the long-tail gateways, say they won't either. Suddenly, the Internet looks a lot like it did in 1998: far, far away. Back then, it existed for most novice users somewhere outside AOL's walled garden. A proprietary ad format called Rainman reigned supreme, and if advertisers didn't like it, well, they knew what they could do about it.

I'm from the long-tail, bitch! Step off.

But maybe the future is not so dim:

Given a choice between the Internet and a tiny wedge of corporate content, subscribers will defect in droves. This, after they blame every slow-loading Web site, premium or otherwise, on their ISPs. Cities and municipalities will be spurred to accelerate public Wi-Fi plans, creating pockets of broadband non-subscribers.

There's my underground socialist utopia. Power to the municipalities! Metro revolution!

Muni WiFi
But seriously, let municipalities compete. The idea of making Corporations exempt from competition -- the legal response in Pennsylvania -- would be laughable if it weren't so likely to become the norm. The Judiciary is extremely pro-business, and I'm worried that a challenge to this law might be affirmed in the Supreme Court.

Now, I don't know what the telco's plan is, but Consumers for Cable Choice is a Verizon astroturf group. I think it's just building hype for their new Fiber To The Home program. That's right baby: Verizon is bringing fiber-optic cable, the highest bandwidth network ever to your streetcorner, and they're complaining about having to let just anybody sent you content with it, even after you pay $60 a month for the privilege.

Philly, on the other hand, and after quite a bit of early skepticism, is Partnering with Earthlink and smelling like a winner:

The city said Wednesday that pricing of the [Earthlink] broadband service will be kept below $20 per month. Economically disadvantaged users will be charged $9.95 a month, while other Internet service providers will be charged a wholesale rate that allows them to sell access for $20 a month or less to retail customers, the city said.

That works for me. I can already get all the TV content I really care to watch without cable, with the exception of live stuff, like news (mostly a waste of time) and sports coverage. I'd be happy to loose my cable but keep my Internet and save $50 or more a month. It also drives family-wage jobs, civic pride, and new opportunities for education.

If we get our shit together, we could have a generation that is better educated, connected and ultimately successful than the past. That's the promise of America to me, the idea that each generation gets smarter.

The Politics of Online Politics
Access isn't the only area of Net Freedom under attack. There is legislation pending to regulate political activity online, particularly (it would seem) blogging. A number of GoGo (good government) groups want this. Why is sort of unclear. How is a blog different from a talk radio program? Is, as Matt Stoller is asking, it a fetish?

The thing is, Garance never explains why Daily Kos will have to do anything she says it will have to do.  Why?  What is the point?  Is it to increase freedom?  Reduce corruption?  Help puppies?  What is the point of regulating blogs?  

I laid out our conceptual overlay, that internet politics lowers the barriers to entry and thereby reduces corruption.  Regulating the internet reraises those barriers and increases corruption.  But what, aside from a weird distrust of people who can't be fired that write on the internets, is behind this 'must' statement?  Nothing, as far as I can tell.  There's no rationale behind it except the rationale of a bureaucrat who just says 'because it's always been done that way.'

Plausible. I'd phrase it differently though: the GoGo Establishment is afraid of change. The Balance of Power is shifting as flows of information change, and they're being reactionary.

But really, fuck 'em. The truth is that government has become increasingly corrupt, secretive, and antagonistic to the public interest, particularly in these past five years. They were unable to prevent any of this. It's time to try some new ideas.

Some New Ideas
For instance, why can't I form a public-interest enterprise which seeks to compete in the commercial marketplace, but has it's profits capped and it's surplus revenues used to seed new startups and provide market infrastructure. It would be really easy to get going, like maybe there's some seed money/infrastructure/mentorship to start.

The state would provide high quality accounting/banking tools (like quicken online) for free, thereby insuring total fiscal transparency. A whole ASP for your enterprise. The private sector would still be the place to go for big business, but they'd face competition on the local level from a network of community-scale enterprises.

This "Open Accounting" standard can then be applied to the government itself, as well as to regulated political activity. Because the types of market-space this opens up -- small to mid sized organizations with a community focus -- it's a natural for 21st Century Journalism, and we could once again have a vital fourth estate.

This could be run by non-profits themselves with minimal government involvement. All the state needs to do is loosen up the rules around non-profits selling stuff or services to finance their public service actives. Nobody seems to consider that running a business in a certain fashion can be a public service in and of itself.

Hello? Wanna build a moral economy?. Stop stepping on the little guy. To get the ball rolling Microfinance might work.

Bringing It All Back Home
This is uncharted political territory, and, like energy independence and a global redeployment of the US Armed Forces, could really be adopted by either party from an ideological perspective, but I don't think either are in a hurry. The GOP is very deeply connected to Corporate America and to the Military Industrial Complex, but the Democrats... well, they're not quite as financially or interpersonally meshed up as Republicans, but they have a largely Corporatist way of looking at things. Lacking in Imagination. It's a greenfield.

So the plan then is to push around and through them. We're going to create our own vision for the future, and we'll sell it like Perot, except it'll all be Online and free on demand from your cable company or Tivo:

Two weeks ago, Comcast began rolling out the service: "Getting ample and strategic exposure on television for candidates and issue advocates has, historically, been a challenge. Complex messages are often reduced to sound bytes, with campaigns relying heavily on :30 second commercials to educate and influence voters. With ON DEMAND political advertising, enhanced, detailed and varied messaging can be viewed by the prospective voter."

That, plus an 80% broadband adoption rate, is going to put us, potentially, in enough American homes to play ball. The costs will be minimal. We need to start creating the content. This guy sort of gets it (his campaign staff is young and green, but that's what a small arena like Rhode Island offers. Small can be really good for innovation.

I think the real break is going to come as the new medium is going to let politicians break away from fluffy do-gooder biopic stuff, and be more like real people. I mean, that's the only way I'll ever win at this stuff.

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GoodMail Is Bad

Word up, Steve:

Why the fuck should e-mail cost money? Spamming is illegal and now the vultures at Goodmail want to sell the right to spam your mailbox. What? Mail from Sprint is just as much spam as mail from Nigerian 419 hustlers.

Who can afford to pay? America's largest corporations, who will be assured of now flooding your mailboxez with bullshit. New Egg can't afford that, nor can many of the small shops online. You think that won't be a hit for Lush or Kitbag or eBags, or even LL Bean? They will all be hurt by such a plan and their larger competitors.

That's the word. At most, email should cost the bandwidth it takes to send, which I already pay Time Warner plenty for. If you want to make up a new thing and charge money for it, that's fine. Good luck getting people to opt-in to your pay-for-play spam ring.

I also tend to agree with Steve that Esther Dyson is full of it. She's well liked in Silicon Valley, but as far as I can tell that's pretty much because she's a relatively nice person and she's rich. That's cool. Nice rich people are good to have around to buy lunch and coordinate and stuff, but when it comes to ideas and opinions, we live in a meritocracy.

Very few people want to get advertisements in their email. The market will indeed sort this out, and email will remain Free. Any attempt to force "pay for delivery" by a cartel of large ISPs should be busted up like Standard Oil. Ditto a tiering structure online (the devil horns thing in my sidebar) that's backroom-rigged by corporate fatbacks.

I dare the greedheads at AOL to start charging for email. They're already loosing about 10,000 customers a day to superior service providers. Perhaps they can further hasten the decentralization.

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm observing. Are you?

Things have been reserved though. I got a jump at Drinkin' Liberally last night. Franz took care of me when I couldn't figure out where I locked my bicycle up. Apparently I moved it without remembering, which rases a whole host of unanswered questions. But all property recovered now; everything beautiful and nothing hurt.

Also, Snakes on a MOTHERFUCKING PLANE! (background here).

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Rich get Richer

Another profit record on Wall Street. This time from scrappy underdog Bear Stearns:

Bear Stearns on Thursday was the latest Wall Street bank to report record first-quarter earnings thanks to strong performances by its trading, derivatives and investment banking businesses.

The company said first-quarter profits rose 36 per cent to $514m, or $3.54 per share, from $379m, or $2.64 per share a year earlier.

But, as fate would have it, some of those profits will have to be let go. The very same morning:

Bear Stearns Cos. has been fined $250 million by the New York Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission for fraudulent market timing and late trading of mutual funds, regulators said Thursday

Well, in fairness, the $500M came from one quarter (three months) work. The fines cover misdeeds over four years, from 1999 to 2003. I'm sure everyone's year-end bonuses will still be pretty good, rest assured.

Is it wrong of me to wonder whether these record profits have anything to do with those other record profits that came in about across the board from petrochemical (oil) companies? We heard about the US company record from Exxon/Mobil, but there was also a UK record from Shell, and personal bests for both BP and Chevron.

Those are the four big private oil companies worldwide, may their astronomical wealth trickle ever downward. In commie pinko places like Alberta, Canada, where the oil operations are managed by the state, they're stocking up public-investment funds. Here in Corporate America, we've got a $7B giveaway to these already fantastically successful companies.

Woo! Hummer 3s all around!

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Air Strike

Breaking news reports of a "massive" air strike North of Baghdad. Turned on CNN for a moment, looking like they're slipping back into a cheerleading mode. Interesting. Bet there will be lots of 1991-style footage for the Cableheads. Wonder what we blew up this time?

...Ahh, attacks on insurgents of course. A little note of skepticism from CNN's lady at the Pentagon. Apparently this is something that's just launching. Seems like maybe that's a choice, to telegraph a military operation to the stateside media.

Also being billed first as an "airstrike," maybe confirmation of what Sy Hersch has been saying?

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Apparently Markos was on TV tonight and now the world knows that he does, in fact, look like a 12-year-old.

The effect is even more pronounced when he's wearing a Cubs jersey.

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Power Through


Got the bike back, and managed to slip away at sunset for a quck 7 mile (twice around the Prospect Park loop) ride at high-power. It's a good ride, nice up and down movement and a good range for my fixed gear. The steep uphill in the northeast corner is right in the red zone for what's possible, a little strength training.

I think I can get up to doing 5 circuits in about 45 minutes (avg: 23mph). This is going to make a really great semi-daily practice.

I was doing something similar the summer the Dean Campaign took off and MFA was being born -- subletting from the LandeMan out in Brokeland, nursing some heartache. I used to take this giant (like, 50") heavy (like, made out of iron) 1970s Schwinn I got at the Ashby flea market up to the top of Grizzly Peak. That was a hell of a climb, and one rip of a trip down. When I moved over to SF I used to make assaults on Twin Peaks, but that was unfortunately less of a regular thing.

Physical exertion helps my brain work right.

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Geek Mom

As if it weren't enough that she has a tatoo and I don't, my mom out-Geeks me. This weekend she helped host and organize a 24-hour gaming LAN party at the UO student union.


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Fuck Yeah.

For what it's worth, this is something we've got over the Europeans: the ability to organize a friendly outing of shooting rifles at targets packed with home-made explosives out in rural Idaho is our birthright.

On the other hand, in Cambodia, for the right fee, you can shoot an RPG at a live cow. So there's that to consider.

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The Lonely Island - The 'Bu

VIDEO FUNNY: The Lonely Island - The 'Bu

This shit is going to get better and better. Gotta keep it Free. (clicky clicky on those devils if you haven't)

Oh, and on that tip, I saw via the Common Cause blog that Marc Cuban is complaining about the form-letters being forwarded., saying it's spam. He also links to a post calling for tiered internet service so that fantasy applications like remote medical diagnostics can emerge.

My response:

It's the beauty of the marketplace, man. You speak with the voice of a billionare investor. That's a loud voice. Sometimes you get spoken back to by a few thousand of us little people. Welcome to parity.

The problem with teiring service is not that the principle of Network Neutrality is involuble. The poster above who suggested home-alarm data as that which could be "privileged" is correct. There are already laws around this that impact things like 9-1-1 service.

But if you really think BellSouth wants to tier internet service so grandma can get a video checkup, I've got a bridge here in Brooklyn you've just got to see. We don't have technology or trained personnel to even begin to imagine that as a reality. It's pure vaporware spin.

On the other hand, you're a founder of HDnet, a company that produces video entertainment of the highest-bandwidth that conumers can currently recieve. It's pretty easy to imagine real ways in which tiered service might be of use there.

Here's what I believe: If large corporations determine how internet traffic will be teired, it will almost certainly not be done in the public interest, or in the interest of creating a vital market for service and data online. It will almost certainly be a move to consolidate the existing marketplace, to commoditize and productize the network, to turn the internet into a consumer medium.

This will raise higher barriers to entry. It will stifle innovation. It also threatens the principles of standardization and interoperability: a "market driven" tiering structure would likely lean towards propritary technologies and business practices, creating corporate/national vertical silos which may impair global connectivity.

The great pracitcal benefit of the internet has been the decentralization/re-distribution of the means of communication. That's what makes all this cool, really. Incidentally, is also the phenomena which enabled your fantastic personal wealth. (Yahoo made you a billionare. Their money comes from harnassing online communication.)

Color me cynical, but I'm unconvinced that your support for net teiring is motivated by a desire to "keep the net healthy." I suspect it's about maximizing shareholder value.

I don't know if the comment was accepted or not. There seems to be some moderation happening. Ah, email verification. There it is. Anyway, it's interesting how billionare blogging works. I suspect in todays business culture it's nearly impossible to be very honest.

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