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OpenMarket: Tech and Telecom

  • Municipal Wi-Fi Stalls, Market Surges Forward

    August 14, 2007
    Over the last two years, San Francisco has been in negotiations with Earthlink who, in partnership with Google, has had plans to build a Wi-Fi "cloud" over the 47 sq. mile geek-infested city. The goal, set out in 2005, was to blanket the city with 1,500 wireless hot-spots which would be accessible free of charge, supported by ads from Google. For those who wanted faster, ad-free service, a subscription fee could be paid. Now rumors are circulating that Earthlink is pulling out of the deal, while the San Fran government is moving forward with a non-binding referendum in September that will presumably decide the fate of this boondoggle.


  • Blackle: Making a Difference

    August 13, 2007
    The Washington Post reports that Blackle, a website by Australia-based Heap Media, is trying to "help make a difference" through a black version of Google, the top search engine. This was prompted by a blogger who calculated that switching to Google to a black background could save 3,000 megawatt-hours every year. The Post doesn't tell you that you only save power by using Blackle if you're viewing Google on an old CRT monitor. If you own an LCD, be aware that its back-lights is powered up to full whenever...
  • A Series of Tubes Episode 1

    August 9, 2007
    Introducing CEI's weekly technology series A Series of Tubes. Cord Blomquist and Richard Morrison take a look behind the weekly headlines in tech and show you how the innovation of Silicon Valley is often bested by the idiocy of Washington. In this week's episode:
    • Google defends its right to purchase DoubleClick while it asks the FCC to rig the 700Mhz auction so that others can't purchase what they want.
    • Senators Stevens and Inouye want to filter the internet.
    • Can your cell phone get a virus?
    • Adobe is attacked for making it easy to make copies.
    • The NSA continues...
  • Does Municipal Wi-Fi Have the Incentive for Security?

    August 7, 2007
    USA Today reports that most are unaware of the dangers facing them at public Wi-Fi hotspots, which brought to mind an interesting question about municipal Wi-Fi. What incentive is there for municipalities to provide encryption and other security technologies? The article mentions that AT&T and T-Mobile are the largest providers of free Wi-Fi hookups in the country and although the Wi-Fi itself is unsecured, both companies encourage the use of freely provided encryption software. The incentives for both companies seem fairly obvious. If people are going to be Wi-Fi users they need to feel safe and encryption technology is a way to do this. Customers stay safe and continue to use the service, making AT&T, T-Mobile and other providers money. Do municipal setups have...
  • Collaring Markets into a Chokehold

    August 1, 2007
    Greg's post on the Whole Foods/Wild Oats merger brings to mind another pending merger: that between satellite radio firms XM and Sirius, which, while substantially different, is being opposed on a similarly overbroad definition of the relevant market. In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, the National Association of Broadcasters, which opposes the merger, argues that "the proposed merger would permit a single licensee to hold 100 percent of the available spectrum allocated to satellite DARS [digital audio radio service]," and that, "the relevant product market for purposes of the Commission's analysis of the proposed merger is the market for satellite DARS." This is, of course, ridiculous,...
  • Google: Open to Its Own Model

    July 30, 2007
    Openness--in our culture filled with feel-goodery and self congratulation openness is seen as a good thing--a trait that any liberal and modern person should hope to have. But is openness always the best policy? Google sure thinks so. It's advocating that the 700 Mhz spectrum--soon to be freed up by the transition to digital TV--should be auctioned with openness in mind. Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, has asked FCC Chairman Martin to limit the auction to models that would include open applications, open devices, open services, and open networks. Sounds great doesn't it? After all, other open things in the political world are good. Open government, open hearings--both good. But would we want open phone conversations or open...
  • Google Demands Fairness, When Convenient

    July 30, 2007
    Google's Policy Blog today makes a succinct argument for why its purchase of DoubleClick should be approved. While I find their reasoning compelling and logical--in fact, I don't think any justification should be necessary--I find it hard to be sympathetic to a plea for fairness when Google is asking DC to stack the deck in its favor on other issues. Example: Google has issued an ultimatum to the FCC, asking it to offer up the 700 Mhz spectrum--the radio waves that will be free when TVs switch over to digital in 2009--with conditions attached.  These conditions make all potential bidders conform to Google's business model. What other example in history do we have of a company actually demanding strings be attached to an FCC auction such as this? If anyone can think of such an example I...
  • Is Traditional Landline Telephone Service Even Worth Saving?

    July 24, 2007
    The failure of SunRocket--which I write about here--has left a fair number of people without landline telephone service. Nothing bad seems to have happened as a result. In countries like Israel and Greece that had terrible government-run phone monopolies, few people under 40 even have landlines at home largely because the monopolies gave the service such a bad reputation. The current billing structure for mobile service make it unattractive for businesses to adopt mobile telephone service for many purposes. The relative lack of density of North American mobile phone networks, furthermore, means that dropped calls are a fact of life. But network quality already seems to be improving by leaps and bounds (it's already much better in the richer and denser parts of Asia and Europe) and there's probably some economic model...
  • Hands off VOIP

    July 23, 2007
    Today's New York Times carries a story about the sudden failure and shutdown of my former home telephone company, SunRocket. Although it obviously could have handled its own demise better, SunRocket did provide pretty good service: Unlike its competitor Vonage, SunRocket never went down and generally provided call quality as good as land line. The 11 months of service I got for $203.00 (including all taxes) cost about what I would have paid to Vonage and a lot less than I would have paid for traditional land-line service. Although he can't actually find a single expert who supports his point of view, the Times reporter nonetheless talks about the possibility of more regulation for VOIP companies and, implies that it would be a good idea. Here'...
  • Nevada Network Security: Good Enough for Government Work

    July 20, 2007
    Declan McCullagh has a hilarious story today about the crack team that Nevada's governor has providing his office with computer security:
    If you ever wanted to be Nevada's governor for a day, it doesn't seem to be that hard. In what could be a whopping security hole, Nevada has posted the password to the gubernatorial e-mail account on its official state Web site. It appears in a Microsoft Word file giving step-by-step instructions on how aides should send out the governor's weekly e-mail updates, which has, as a second file shows, 13,105 subscribers. The Outlook username is, by the way, "governor" and the password is "kennyc". We should note at this point that the former Nevada governor, a Republican, is Kenny C. Guinn, which hardly says much about password security.
    That's like President...


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