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OpenMarket: Tech and Telecom

  • FCC on Indecency: Changing the Law After the Fact?

    January 28, 2008
    Language expert Bill Poser criticizes the Federal Communications Commission's recent ruling that "ABC violated decency standards by briefly showing a woman's naked buttocks, and finds it wanting. In particular Poser critiques the FCC's claim that buttocks are a 'sexual organ,'" as the FCC's own indecency regulations require. (The FCC fined ABC $1.4 million over an NYPD Blue episode). In essence, he argues that the FCC reinterpreted its rules to retroactively expand the definition of indecency, in order to ensnare ABC.
  • Why Wi-Fi?

    August 21, 2007
    David Robinson at The American said my last blog post on Wi-Fi was intriguing and asked me to write a piece for him. I can't turn down a request for writing, so here it is. The piece is about the recent failure of the San Francisco Wi-Fi plan with Google and Earthlink. I also advance the argument that a public/private partnership to create Wi-Fi is a generally bad idea—the regulation that comes with Muni-Wi threatens to turn providers into utilities.

  • In Defense of the Prix Fixe Menu

    August 20, 2007
    Our old pal Peter Suderman, now writing for FreedomWorks, has a great takedown of the argument for "a la carte" cable pricing up at CNET today:
    At a recent communications forum in Aspen, Colo., Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, once again announced his support for imposing federal authority over how your video programming company packages its lineup. Martin would force providers to offer channels on an "a la carte," or per-channel basis, replacing the current system in which subscribers buy bundled packages. He claims that such a rule would aid parents in fighting objectionable content, and that it would allow consumers to pay only for the channels they want, ostensibly saving them money. Sounds nice, right? Too bad enacting such a law would...
  • Talking About Municipal Wi-Fi on 1460 KION

    August 15, 2007
    Mark Carbonaro of 1460 KION had me on the "Wake Up Monterey" program yesterday morning. Here's a clip from the segment where we talked about the pitfalls of municipal Wi-Fi:
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  • 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.

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  • 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...

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