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|Friday, April 11th, 2014|
|Why Do We Help People?
Stephen Colbert, at the end of this clip from testifying at a 2010 Congressional Hearing, answers this rather interesting question: why does he take the time to highlight the plight of migrant workers?
This works for me sometimes, but I recently found myself asking that question when tackling a particular problem somewhat outside my usual range. It was not an issue on which I am usually active. I had not intended to address it. I mostly intended to pull together a briefing for some groups I thought would be interested primarily as a solidarity thing.
But now I've taken a bunch of time before disappearing for Passover (and you better believe it is otherwise overbooked) to do a couple of FCC meetings on this and try to straighten it out. So I asked myself, why was I doing this.
The answer I came up with actually comes from Lois McMaster Bujold's character Ivan. In learning the shape of the problem it just seemed so . . . . wrong. Worse, it was stupid wrong. There is no good reason for the people who are going to see their phone bills potentially double over 2 years to have that happen. And, with a modest amount of effort, I may be able to help correct that (or at least mitigate it).
With all the crap in the world, having a bunch of people steamrolled for no good reason just seemed, well, offensive. It annoyed me. To quote Ivan, "this is just . . . really wrong."
Useless bad crap happening to other people offends my aesthetic sense. Good things happening to people is aesthetically pleasing. It is worth some modest effort to create a happier world. Not for any noble reason, but from the purely selfish reason that it makes the world prettier for me.
|Thursday, April 10th, 2014|
|Tuesday, April 8th, 2014|
|Monday, April 7th, 2014|
|Sunday, April 6th, 2014|
|Thursday, April 3rd, 2014|
|Thursday, March 27th, 2014|
|It's a long way home
And I won't get there by running.
Which is a quote I always love, even if I am using it totally wrong.
Air travel in this country just keeps getting worse and worse. Am now stuck in a crappy hotel in Dallas due to equipment failure that prevented me from making my return flight to DCA.
Happily, I always carry an extra pair of undies and more kosher food than needed because it is hard to find.
Hopefully home tomorrow.
|Monday, March 24th, 2014|
|Need heraldry help
Someone asked me to blazon the Public Knowledge logo.
|Friday, March 21st, 2014|
|Netflix, Level 3, Cogent Unhappy With Paying Tolls To Comcast.
Netflix makes the amazingly brave move of denouncing its own deal with Comcast as an exercise of market power and pushes the FCC to do something about it. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings blog post here
. Good coverage from my favorite tech writers Stacy Higginbotham
and Jon Brodkin
I say "brave" because I have dealt with Comcast before. Let us just say that they do not make life easy for the companies that dare to defy them before the regulators.
Comcast, for its part
reassures the Ukrainian people that no one respects their territorial integrity more than they do but that Crimea has always been part of Comcast
reassures the world that no company has a stronger commitment to network neutrality than Comcast and that the "paid peering"/interconnection deal it negotiated with Netflix was "an amicable, market-based solution to our interconnection issues" that "demonstrates the effectiveness of the market as a mechanism to deal with these matters."
Meanwhile, the two largest Tier 1 backbone providers not integrated with a residential ISP in the U.S., Level 3 and Cogent, have likewise urged the FCC to wake up and take action. Level 3 has not yet made clear what it wants the FCC to do about it. You can see Level 3's original blog post here
and good coverage by Stacy here
But Cogent has gone further than anyone, they have actually asked the FCC in an official FCC filing to recognize that the business of shipping bits is a "telecommunications service."
As it happens, I have long said that this is true and what the FCC ought to do, as I see little difference between the business of shipping voice and the business of shipping bits in terms of the definition of "telecommunications service" (47 U.S.C. 153(51) for anyone who wants to look). Gotta rush now so will not link to my copious blogging on the subject.
So we are off to war, with Netflix and the non-vertically integrated Tier 1 backbone providers deciding to rage against the dying of the light rather than go gently into that good night.
|Tuesday, March 18th, 2014|
|Wednesday, March 12th, 2014|
|Foreclosure Value Is A Thing. Deal.
Please pardon a brief rant on economics and spectrum auctions.
IDIOTS! Foreclosure value is an actual thing. In a zero sum game like a spectrum auction, where there is an absolute limit to the number of spectrum licenses, there is an economic value to denying the spectrum asset to your opponent. That value varies depending upon the incremental benefit of denying the spectrum asset, which is a function of how spectrum constrained your opponents are. If all opponents are equally constrained, then the value is a wash. Everyone accrues the same value of denying the license to their opponents and the foreclosure value does not show up as a distinct element in the bid price.
But when one or two bidders have a substantially greater set of spectrum assets going into the auction, and their opponents are spectrum-constrained, then foreclosure value becomes relevant. Why? Because foreclosure value raises the rational bid price to the spectrum privileged firms. But the benefit is no longer reciprocal, because the marginal cost of to the spectrum privileged firm of losing the asset is much lower.
In other words, if license "X" has a theoretic market value of "$X" based on the ability of the firm to extract value (and assuming that all firms have a relatively equal ability to extract revenue from the license -- a factor I have dealt with separately under the "incumbent discount" argument but lets assume it for now for simplification purpose), then the rational bid price for all firms is $X-$1.
However, to operate a successful wireless firm, a company must have a certain threshold of spectrum. Lack of spectrum prevents you from offering competitive services. Furthermore, the more customers you have, the more capacity you need to have to offer service, or service starts to degrade significantly. This inability of Spectrum Constrained Carrier (Carrier SC) to compete has value to the Spectrum Privileged Carrier (Carrier SP). Let us designate this value to Carrier SP as $Y. This value does not include the opportunity cost of not having the license, which is the same for both carriers. $Y is a distinct value to Carrier SP by foreclosing a needed input for which there is no replacement.
In theory, Carrier SP also suffers from from not having the spectrum. But because Carrier SP already has enough spectrum so that its service will not degrade relative to Carrier SC, the value of $Y to Carrier SC is effectively zero.
Thus, the rational bid for Spectrum Privileged Carrier is not $X-$1, but ($X+$Y)-1. Whereas the rational bid for the spectrum constrained carrier is merely $X-$1. True, you can argue that avoidance of loss for Spectrum Constrained Carrier likewise increases the rational bid (since avoidance of loss is the same as additional revenue), but this misses the point. Spectrum Privileged Carrier, by virtue of its superior spectrum position and auction function, is able to impose a wholly artificial loss on the Spectrum Constrained Carrier to its competitive disadvantage. While this may be efficient from the perspective of Coasian efficiency, it sucks from the perspective of competition policy.
This is true regardless of whether the Spectrum Privileged Carrier warehouses the spectrum or deploys the spectrum
. The issue is not whether the Spectrum Privileged Carrier will deploy, but whether the Spectrum Privileged Carrier enjoys an anti-competitive advantage.Foreclosure value is a thing!!! Deal!!!
Stop treating this as a question of morality and bad intent and start treating this like an economic policy question! If you are mouthing platitudes like "auctions put spectrum in the hands of those that will put it to its highest best use" because the market "allocates spectrum to those best able to extract value," then you need to recognize that foreclosure value is part of the calculation of "value" and that the auction will -- absent a corrective mechanism -- allocate spectrum in the most anticompetitive manner.
|Monday, March 10th, 2014|
|Thursday, March 6th, 2014|
|Tuesday, March 4th, 2014|
|Sunday, March 2nd, 2014|
|Thursday, February 27th, 2014|
|Wednesday, February 26th, 2014|
|The peculiar nature of true advocacy
The successful world-changing advocate must believe it is possible to achieve the impossible through passion and perseverance and planning. At the same time, the successful world changing advocate must be a horrible pragmatist, knowing when to cut losses or what evils to tolerate because diverting to tilt at windmills will stop you from ever reaching the dragons -- let alone slaying them.
What this means is that the successful advocate exists in a peculiar state of functional delusion and cold calculation. It means having a pair of rose colored glasses but keeping them perched on your forehead, lest they obscure too much. It means spending oneself recklessly and, of necessity, repeatedly losing heartbreaking battles because failure is always, ALWAYS, an option. And despite utter, soul-crushing disappointment, getting back up and going for another round.
But even if one achieves this perverse state of functional madness, the successful advocate faces one last trap -- the seductiveness of martyrdom. By this I do not mean true martyrdom of dying for one's beliefs, or even genuine figurative martyrdom of those willing to endure in the face oppression so as to create an example of resistance or to shame others into action. By martyrdom, I mean struggle with no hope of victory and no goal in defeat.
Martyrdom allows you to define failure as success. Martyrdom converts bone crushing defeat into a sort of sick pleasure, and therefore defeat becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Martyrdom is its own reward, and its own prison. After a time, the failure becomes necessary, confirmatory that previous failures were not your fault but the inevitable way of the world.
Those looking for world-changing advocacy should therefore embrace madmen but shun martyrs. The unfortunate history of social movements is that they tend to get this backward.
|A Very Pleasant B-Day
My brother and sister-in-law had Becky and me over to dinner last night. Since we could not start before 7 p.m. (and even then I was 15 minutes late) we started with cupcakes and happy birthday from my nephews. Dinner was fun with kosher lamb bacon -- enormously unhealthy but I definitely see why goyim eat this stuff on a regular basis (assuming the lamb version is similar to the pig version).
After dinner, and as the kids were being bathed and put to bed, a few friends dropped by for a quiet dessert party with some Laphroig, a nice dessert wine, and some homemade hermits and blondies (made by my sister-in-law).
Very delightful and very low energy. Just the thing I was up for given everything that's been going on.
|Sunday, February 23rd, 2014|
|Arcadia Has Fallen! Comcast Penetrates Net Neutrality Trenches.
I keep hoping for a week with no earthshaking crap. I keep coming up disappointed.This piece by Timothy Lee
provides pretty good background.
It will take me much too long to explain why this matters to the overall economic structure of the Internet and goes way beyond Netflix. Netflix is just the beginning. But there is a depressing sameness to how this unfolds, as it mirrors what happened to the independent programming market back in the 00s.
If anyone needs me, I'll be off in a corner having a conversation with Billy Piper no one else can see.