28 posts categorized "February 2011"

Proposing That the Mobile Internet Be Open, Too

There may be little chance of passage given that the House is moving in the opposite direction - to strip the FCC of authority to enforce its new net neutrality rules - but Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington has introduced a bill that would improve the FCC rules, by requiring that mobile broadband be part of the open internet.

66403911_3207e279dc_b The FCC rules, you may recall, largely exempted mobile broadband from its net neutrality rules. In essence, the FCC signed off on the carveouts for mobile broadband that had been proposed by Google and Verizon.

By negative implication, the FCC's rules say mobile broadband providers are permitted to:

  • block content;
  • block applications;
  • block services;
  • block non-harmful devices; and
  • prioritize traffic in a discriminatory fashion.

Senator Cantwell's bill would stop all of the above. Her proposed "no blocking" and "no discrimination" rules are more expansive than the FCC's and would apply equally to fixed wireline and mobile broadband providers.

If you think that mobile is the future of the internet, then applying neutrality principles to mobile broadband is at least as important or even more important than applying them to fixed wireline providers.

Here is pertinent language from Senator Cantwell's bill:

"A broadband Internet access service provider may not unjustly or unreasonably--

(1) block, interfere with, or degrade an end user's ability to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer lawful content (including fair use), applications, or services of the user's choice;
(2) block, interfere with, or degrade an end user's ability to connect and use the end user's choice of legal devices that do not harm the network;
(3) prevent or interfere with competition among network, applications, service or content providers;
(4) engage in discrimination against any lawful Internet content, application, service, or service provider with respect to network management practices, network performance characteristics, or commercial terms and conditions;
(5) give preference to affiliated content, applications, or services with respect to network management practices, network performance characteristics, or commercial terms and conditions;
(6) charge a content, application, or service provider for access to the broadband Internet access service providers' end users based on differing levels of quality of service or prioritized delivery of Internet protocol packets;
(7) prioritize among or between content, applications, and services, or among or between different types of content, applications, and services unless the end user requests to have such prioritization;
(8) install or utilize network features, functions, or capabilities that prevent or interfere with compliance with the requirements of this section; or
(9) refuse to interconnect on just and reasonable terms and conditions."

The bill's definition of "broadband Internet access service provider," to be subject to the rules above, is "a person or entity that operates or resells and controls any facility used to provide an Internet access service directly to the public, whether provided for a fee or for free, and whether provided via wire or radio . . . ."

Senator Cantwell's bill also takes more care than the FCC rules do to define what "reasonable network managment" is. This concept is important because it speaks to exceptions to the rules that are necessary for the sake of permitting providers to maintain and operate their networks.

The bill also would grant private rights of action and contemplate action by state attorneys general, but let's not get distracted by those provisions. Again, the bill is not likely to pass the current Congress. But as a proactive statement that fills in what's missing from the FCC's half-loaf of net neutrality, Senator Cantwell's bill is a clarion call.

Image by tellumo.

How I Source Images for Blog Posts

The other day a friend asked me where I get the pictures used in this blog, and I thought I'd share the answer.

For the most part, I use images that are subject to a creative commons license, which means I can use them for free but need to provide attribution and should link back to the source.

How do I find these images? Usually I google a phrase relevant to the post, having added the word(s) "wikimedia" or "creative commons" to the search box. Then I click for image results and scroll from there.

Search results will typically include images both from Wikimedia and from Flickr, although you can't rely on the Flickr images always being copyleft, no matter what search term got you to the Flickr page. In other words, when touring Flickr for images, assume you are going to have to pin down the permissions policy of that particular photographer.

Every couple months, I'll pay a license fee for a traditionally copyrighted image I simply must use. (Caution: some license fees can be prohibitively higher if the image is to be put to "commercial" or other uses. Each image licensing service has different terms and terminology, which is just one more reason to stick to copyleft sources when possible.)

I particularly like it when I find images in the public domain. And this universe is not restricted to images for which copyright protection has lapsed. Photojournalists and photographers employed by the US Government publish contemporary images that are in the public domain.

I have made the judgment once or twice that the use of a given image is "fair use" under copyright law, but I don't think this is a safe practice to extend generally, at least not for me. And it's not necessary as, with the proliferation of copyleft images on the Web and the brilliance of search engines, an abundance of terrific images are available under reasonable license terms.

Picture 48

Pictured: "Image of the Day" from the Wikimedia home page yesterday.

Joe Bartlett Article, "The Dilution Concern for Founders"

The securities attorney Joe Bartlett is a spirited writer, so its awesome to see him blogging about startups.

And talking turkey about dilution typically suffered by founders and their earliest seed investors:

"Take a sample of one hundred venture-backed companies that have been successful enough to undertake an initial public offering, and you will find a disturbing fact lodged in a high percentage of their prospectus disclosures. That is, the earliest stage investors (the founders and angels) hold very small equity percentages and garner similarly small returns on their investment in the company."

You'll want to read the post for the nuance of the analysis and the color of Joe's prose, but I draw two upshots from the piece:

  • get to break even early and avoid the Series C and D rounds; and
  • establish a precedent for founder participation in the option pool (doesn't help angels, of course).

Both tasks, as Joe says, are easier said than done.

Waxing Parochial: CA Sees Future in WA, But Does WA Have the Schools?

Lord knows I don't know how damaging the failure of the state income tax initiative in Washington State last year will prove to be. But the parochial glee with which I meet news like that in City of Seattle CTO Bill Schrier's tweet, pictured below, is countered with an equal measure of trepidation over the lack of a Stanford-class educational institution in the Northwest.

Picture 47

Maybe the smaller schools in BC, WA and OR are backfilling. But the University of Washington wouldn't appear to be poised to bulking up on capability or capacity anytime soon. This from the International Examinar last month:

“'It’s important to be clear about the enormous shift in funding that is taking place,' [said Ed Lazowska, the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at UW]. 'UW’s state funding for the 2007-09 biennium was $792 million, or roughly $400 million a year. State funding for the 2011-13 biennium, as proposed by the Governor, would be $451 million, or roughly $225 million a year – a total cut of nearly 50 percent in a four-year period. Tuition has risen considerably, but not nearly by this amount,' Lazowska added."

Meantime, tech giants from California continue to bulk up in the backyard of the tech giants that grew up in Redmond and Seattle. And it's the technical work that's getting sourced here. This from Brier Dudley's blog yesterday:

"Unlike most of Google's regional offices, the Seattle and Kirkland facilities are almost entirely filled with engineers, with more than 90 percent of the staff involved in research and development, as opposed to sales and administration."

Is my anxiety misplaced? Will the educational infrastructure follow, be endowed by the local billionaires in time to accomodate the official transfer from the Bay Area to Puget Sound of the seat of innovation in the United States?

Maybe this kind of thing trends the way it's going to trend and can't be shaped by conscious policy making.

Winfun with Winphone

When, yesterday, I finally attached my new Winphone to a PC running Windows, I got a funny dialog box that the device was not recognized and that Windows recommended against installing it.

At that moment I decided my post for today should be a "ha ha" screenshot of that message.

But the laugh was on me. The path to finding all the plug ins and updates and service paks necessary to run the software necessary to connect the Winphone was arduous. And my computer didn't make it. I experienced the blue screen of death and basically forfeited an afternoon of productivity.

I'm chagrined, but also oddly appreciative of the machine and the people supporting it and all it connects me to.


The blue screen of death, not mine, in Polish. Image from Wikimedia.

Bugs Scaled for Today's Era of Self-Surveillance

In old spy movies, "bugs," surreptitious listening devices, are small.

Even in that terrifically creepy television series with great production values from last year, "Rubicon," the bugs were minute. The good guys had to unscrew light fixtures and squint to try to find them. Even when they found a bug, they knew there must be others around they couldn't see. If they really needed to talk, they shut up, closed the blinds and scribbled notes with quiet pencils.

But Rubicon was an outlier of the normative contemporary condition. Today, surveillance is self-serve. We carry bugs, a/k/a smart phones, in our pockets and we're nervous when we can't place them near to hand. Cameras aren't really hidden, though they may be designed to be light and efficient. The tracking apparatus of our times are out in the open.


The sculpture pictured above is called "Space Observer" and it is by Bjoern Schuelke. It sits in the new San Jose airport terminal.

In the aperture at one end of the chassis resting atop the Calder-like legs is a monitor which displays what different cameras mounted on the sculpture are picking up around the room. According to a news article quoted on the artist's website, the sculpture "can see and track you as you walk around it."

This sculpture is right for the times, a bug at the right scale.

Mind you, I don't like the new airport terminal at all. It's the kind of architecture suitable for the information worker when she is not traveling: good for office work, for conferences, for art events. But an airport should be fantastic and the old terminal - small, cramped, inefficient, like a 1960s conception of the future - fit that purpose better.

The Gates Foundation Should Buy Out Twitter's Stakeholders

I'm being only slightly facetious.

In the tussle over actions Twitter is taking to protect its chosen economic turf - what business tolerates a user monetizing its system better than it can, at least without taking a cut? - we're running up against an eleemosynary instinct to nurture those non-commercial, social media uses of Twitter that make it (a) beloved by hard core users and (b) immensely important geopolitically.


Twitter's owners don't owe the world a damn thing. If subordinating intellectual, social and polticial uses of the platform is required to make a return on capital, that's fine and that's economic liberty at work.

But non-profits, trusts, foundations are still permitted to participate in the free market. If land can be used and preserved in trust, why couldn't an endowed group run Twitter as a global, public utility?

Twitter is that important intellectually and geo-politically.

The Gates Foundation, or the Clinton Golbal Initiative, or the Rockefeller Foundation, are some of the organizations with the kind of cachet and financial pull that could do this. Or a consortium of billionaires and individual philanthropists could. And while many of Twitter's shareholders would presumably sell out at the right price, perhaps some of them would want to participate in funding the future Twitter's endowment by contributing some of their shares. They deserve the recognition and the opportunity to participate in the democratic Twitter. After all, it's the shareholders' support of the passion of the founders and the work of the early Twitter employees that has given the world an essential tool in the cause of freedom.

Permitted uses of the endowed Twitter should continute to be commercial; part of what makes Twitter so viable is that it has immensely disruptive implications for commerce. But Twitter would return to being an open platform, and it would let any and all profit by building on it and offering services utilizing it. The endowed Twitter would, to paraphrase terminology from Chris Dixon's post (not about Twitter but about platforms in general) yesterday, mitigate developer community risk and encourage application investment by telegraphing ongoing core feature development.

And Twitter would be free to permit uncensored uses as an authentic social network.

Image by webtreats, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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