December 20th, 2007

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Good column in Ars Technica Highlights Real Problem for Public Policy

This column makes a point of made on numerous occasions. Predictions of an "exaflood" of data drowning the internet unless one permits companies to discriminate by data-type (under cover of quality of service, or QoS) are primarily being manufactured and flogged by people with a political agenda and are unsupported by any real data.

I was having a good conversation last night with folks who know, and there is a reason I say "unsupported by any real data." No one has any reliable, replicatable data on the nature of internet traffic. The companies transporting the data keep it quiet for a variety of reasons -- concerns over proprietary data, concerns over privacy, fear that an ability to monitor for purposes of data gathering will triggering responsibilities to police content, and other reasons ranging from good to bad.

But the upshot is that estimates about the quantities of data moved across networks and the nature of what applications are used are at best SWAGs (scientific wild ass guess) and at worst outright deceptions.

From a public policy and economics of the free market perceptive, that is a disaster waiting to happen. Let me illustrate with one example from the market. A good deal of the internet bubble valuation of carriers, and subsequent collapse, devaluation of carriers, loss of billions of dollars, overbuilding of capacity (now eliminated by increased volume) derived from false statements made by carriers that were unconfirmable. UUNET used to boast that traffic was doubling every 60 days or something like that. Everyone in the industry wondered how it was possible, but they (and Worldcom) were saying it and they were one of the major backbone players. Build outs and other economic decisions were made on the basis of these statements that were unconfirmable, and subsequent proved to be false. As in, they were known at the time to be lies, and were made for the purpose of boosting the value of Worldcom's stock (this is one of the reasons Mr. Ebbers, former head of Worldcom, is spending an extended vacation at the Greybar Hotel).

Not having data sucks rocks. As always, the question is what to do with imperfect data. Suggests folks study game theory before suggesting what appears to be obvious answers, btw.
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Teens less tupid than people think -- A Pity The Same Can't Be Said for Regulators

Surprise! It turns out teenagers understand the proper uses of communication technology much better than people think. As reported in USA Today a study by the PEW Center for Internet and American life (available here) shows that teens are incredibly well connected, but select the means of communication based on function and purpose. So sure, everyone is using text messaging and cell phones and so forth, but they still rely on landlines and face-to-face (f2f 2 u txtrs) for important conversations.

This is a point I make often in the regulatory world. There is a a difference between ubiquity (something being everywhere) and fungability (whether people regard them as the same thing) or substitutiability (whether people regard one as an acceptable alternative to the other). Too much policy is made by confusing these points.
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Support WIMN -- Women In Media and News

I'm reproducing here an end of year letter from an organization that does a hell of a lot to bring women on in media as experts and otherwise take effective action against the sexism that pervades our mass media -- including the news. This organization is small, lean, and outrageously effective for its size. And they need help. If you want to support organizations that make effective change, this is a good one (mind you, I still favor my employer, but these guys are good to).
WIMN's Words:
News, media analysis and action alerts from Women In Media & News

Award-winning journalist Susan Faludi has spent decades documenting the
dangerous impact of media sexism on American women, and on our country. Now,
the author of Backlash and The Terror Dream asks for your help to improve the
media landscape (

"Women In Media & News offers a desperately needed and all-too-rare public
service: spotlighting media's misrepresentations of women from all angles--from
distortions to falsehoods to utter erasure--and countering them with careful
reporting, no-nonsense statistics, and intelligent analysis. And WIMN's
dispatches are fun to read, to boot. What's more, WIMN actively changes women's
status in the media: both by bringing a vast repository of informed female
sources to the media and by teaching media consumers a crucial skill--how to
dissect and debunk those supposedly 'objective' media messages about women that
they are being bombarded with 24 hours a day, and how to improve those
messages. Please join me in giving as generously as you can to support WIMN's
vital work, professionalism, and commitment (you can do so here: The organization can't survive without

As one of our loyal readers, you know the vital work Susan's talking about. In
2007 alone, we:

* Brought feminist media criticism to the mainstream, with multiple appearances
on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and PBS. For example, on "Hannity & Colmes" in the
aftermath of the horrific Virginia Tech massacre, WIMN was the only voice in
broadcast media to expose how violence against women has been at the root of
most of the worst school shootings over the past two decades. (See

* Produced hundreds of blog posts, articles, and action alerts skewering double
standards in political reporting, debunking inaccuracy and bias in science
journalism, highlighting the invisibility of women in war coverage, and
offering astute insights on pop culture inanities from Britney Spears's panties
to the hookups of "The Bachelor." Our analyses often changed media coverage:
for example, after WIMN's Voices blogger Jill Nelson challenged the
invisibility of Black women's voices in media debates over radio host Don
Imus's on-air slurs, her commentary was reprinted widely and Nelson--an
award-winning African American journalist--did radio interviews and was quoted
extensively in regional and national media, shifting the tone of the national
discussion and broadening the whitewashed opinion lineup.

* Placed women as featured experts in major news outlets such as Fox, ABC News,
MSNBC, PBS, NPR, and Pacifica Radio and in the New York Times, the Washington
Post, Los Angeles Times, Bitch, Ms., In These Times, the American Prospect, and
many others.

* Conducted media trainings for more than 20 women's groups such as the NYC
Alliance Against Sexual Assault, the New Orleans Women's Health and Justice
Initiative, and Vibe Theater Experience, and led media literacy programs for
more than 1,000 young people at colleges across the country.

* Advocated for media justice in powerful arenas: Following conversations with
WIMN, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' campaign began speaking
publicly against media consolidation.

If that doesn't convince you to open up your checkbook, this reality check
should: WIMN has achieved these successes, and many more, with just one
full-time staff person (who works without a salary or health insurance), no
office, and only minimal foundation support.

In order to keep moving women's voices from the margins to the mainstream, WIMN
needs to raise $15,000 in donations from individuals like you. Please make a
tax-deductible gift to WIMN today at

As an extra thanks, when you donate, we'll give you a fabulous gift, courtesy
of our friends at the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild and The New Press (see for a description of the
books, mugs, mints and puppets we've got for you).

As Susan Faludi says, WIMN's work is essential to improving women's status in
the media. Your support will allow us to become an even greater force for
change. Please give generously today at

With gratitude,

Jennifer L. Pozner, Founder and Executive Director
Lisa Jervis, Aliza Dichter, Sunita Viswanath, Veronica Arreola, and Sara
Beinert, WIMN's board of directors

PS: Many companies and non-profits match charitable donations; ask your
employer if your tax-deductible gift to WIMN is eligible for matching funds.
Thank you for digging deep and making your donation today. We can't keep our
programs running without you!
# # #

Please note: Letters to the editor are taken most seriously when they are
concise, polite in tone and informative or analytical. Please copy WIMN
( on your correspondence with media outlets, and send us
any responses you receive. For tips on writing effective letters to the editor,
see WIMN’s Action Center: