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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Broadband penetration and damned lies

Looking over the Lesssig compilation of OECD-ITU numbers reminds us why the OECD price-per-bandwidth charts are more useful - but certainly shows precipitous falls for Germany-US-Canada amongst G7 countries, and relative rises for Japan-UK-France-Italy = the former group uses facilities-based competition, the latter supplements that with local loop unbundling.

There's not much point including smaller countries in such comparisons - the combination of scale economies for investment and geographical diversity of the G7 means that you can make somewhat meaningful comparisons. Hong Kong, Iceland and Bermuda may look good on stats, but....

For the future of such stats, I like particularly the price per bandwidth within monthly cap AND the cost per MB of additional bandwidth above the cap: see it here.

Wall St Journal Europe hugely biased piece on NN

Stuck in Neutral:
"...benefits will only occur if countries in Southern and Eastern Europe expand and upgrade their communications networks. Officials in Brussels may spend their time discussing how to regulate "neutrality" over the Internet, but that is of minimal interest to Italians, Greeks and Czechs who do not have a single option for high-speed access.
"Clearly, the EU -- and Southern and Eastern Europe in particular -- needs to focus on increasing high-speed choices and access. The European Commission had it right last year when it proposed ambitious new goals for broadband penetration in Europe in its review of the Lisbon Growth and Jobs Strategy [i2010]. But, as always, the devil is in the details. Increased investment, not ill-considered new regulation, is the best and only option to bring the Internet's wonders to all Europeans."
Written by two lobbyists: Mr. Bolognini is chairman of the Italian Institute for Privacy. Mr. Pehnelt is a research associate at the European Center for International Political Economy.

Self-regulation - vast study for the EC published in full

If you fancy 1300 pages on self- and co-regulation (go on, you know you want to!) then here they are!

Its a huge study I conducted as project manager, with friends (Jonathan Cave, Steve Simmons, Ian Brown, Adam Peake and others) and colleagues from RAND in 2007. There are sections on net neutrality - if rather carefully hidden!

RAND work on net neutrality 2006-7

Here's the link to what was published, for both the EC and Ofcom, sadly not including the work for content providers, though you get a snapshot here from TPRC 2007 (the ideas were laid out in 2006 in a talk I gave to round up a seminar at the Royal Society).

Lessig and Enck with broadband data

Lessig has gone on the record praising the FCC for the Comcast decision - a typically lucid as well as political letter.

In terms of the hocuspocus what's-happening-in-the-network that Comcast was all about, here's James Enck on France and Germany, and Lessig's compilation of ITU-OECD broadband rankings. All grist to the net neutrality mill...

Home news from abroad

I'm in Canada for 3 weeks working and travelling, but want to post the Society for Computers and Law essay prize - deadline end-March 2009, #1000 plus an internship:

Essex School of Law news!

Well, 2 official notices:
[1] Its now the School of Law;
[2] I'm officially Senior Lecturer as of 1 October - which means I can devote myself to writing on net neutrality and self-regulation for 3-4 years instead of trying for a promotion!

There is also the following news on the new website:
26-28 Septemer 2008: Chris Marsden is presenting a paper at a conference on Internet co-regulation at the Telecoms Policy Research Conference, Washing, USA.
24-25 September 2008: Chris Marsden is presenting a paper at a conference on market failure in communication regulation at GikIII, Oxford.
22-23 September 2008: Chris Marsden is chairing a conference of the SCL Policy Forum at Herbert Smith, London.
18 September 2008: Chris Marsden is presenting a paper at a conference on net neutrality at the Society of Legal Scholars, LSE, London.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Canada will rule on net neutrality in October

The CRTC has delayed its decision in the wholesale dispute between Bell Canada and its customers - not directly affecting the retail customers who protested at Parliament in May: "CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein in June warned that his decision on the Bell-CAIP dispute will be limited to whether Bell has violated its wholesale obligations under the Telecommunications Act. If Bell is found to be in violation, the company could be ordered to cease throttling its wholesale customers, but would not be obliged to end the practice with its own subscribers. A further, deeper probe into net neutrality and throttling on a larger scale is likely in the future, von Finckenstein said."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Personal blogs and professional associations

Ever wondered why its my blog, not Essex or RAND or anyone else? Read on...and thanks to Blogzilla for the link...

End of the Blog (Prof William Patry, now Google's Senior Copyright Counsel) I have decided to end the blog, after doing around 800 postings over about 4 years. I regret closing the blog and I owe readers an explanation. There are two reasons.

1. The Inability or Refusal to Accept the Blog for What it is: A Personal Blog I have been a full-time copyright lawyer for 26 years. My late mother, aleha ha-shalom, told me repeatedly that I had a religious obligation to learn every day, and I have honored her memory by doing exactly that. Learning also involves changing how you think about things; it doesn't only mean reinforcing the existing views you already have. In this respect, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval once said that the best way to know you have a mind is to change it, and I have tried to live by that wisdom too. There are positions I have taken in the past I no longer hold, and some that I continue to hold. I have tried to be honest with myself: if you are not genuinely honest with yourself, you can't learn, and if you worry about what others think of you, you will be living their version of your life and not yours. I started the blog when I was still in private practice with the above goals in mind and one more: I felt there was no blog devoted to the geekery of copyright; meaning a blog where people who loved copyright could come and discuss copyright issues in a non-partisan way.

In order to encourage open discussion I permitted not only comments but anonymous and pseudonymous comments. I did that because I wanted to encourage the largest number of people to participate, and after four years I believe that was the right decision. But it is also the right decision to end the blog. While in private practice I never had the experience of people attributing my views to my firm or to my clients. I moved from private practice to Google I put a disclaimer to the effect that the views in the blog (as in the past) were strictly mine. I also set a policy, which I strictly adhered to, of never discussing cases Google was involved in, and I refrained from criticizing those with whom Google was involved in lawsuits. I did not run ads, including not using Google's AdSense program.

I cannot see what more I could have done to make what was a personal blog more separate from my employer. For the first year after joining Google, with some exceptions, people honored the personal nature of the blog, but no longer. When other blogs or news stories refer to the blog, the inevitable opening sentence now is: "William Patry, Google's Senior Copyright Counsel said," or "Google's top copyright lawyer said... ." There is nothing I can do to stop this false implication that I am speaking on Google's behalf. And that's just those who do so because they are lazy. Others, for partisan purposes, insist on on misdescribing the blog as a Google blog, or in one case involving a think tank, darkly indicating also a la Senator Joe McCarthy, that in addition to funding from Google, there may be other sources of funding too. On Blogger, blogs are free. The blog had no funding because it doesn't cost anything, because I don't run ads, and because it was my personal blog, started before I joined Google.

On top of this there are the crazies, whom it is impossible to reason with, who do not have a life of their own and so insist on ruining the lives of others, and preferably as many as possible. I asked myself last week after having to deal with the craziest of the crazies yet, "why subject yourself to this?" I could come up with no reason why I should: My grandfather chose to be a psychiatrist, but I chose a different professional path, one that doesn't obligate me to put up with such nonsense.

In the end, I concluded that it is no longer possible for me to have a blog that will be respected for what it is, a personal blog. I don't draw any grand conclusions from this and hope others don't either. The decision was 100% mine. No one at Google ever asked, suggested, or hinted that I should end the blog. To the contrary, in keeping with Google's deep commitment to free speech, the company encourages blogs like mine, and has stood completely behind me.

2. The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing This leads me to my final reason for closing the blog which is independent of the first reason: my fear that the blog was becoming too negative in tone. I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries. I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others.

But in my view, and that of my cherished brother Sir Hugh Laddie, we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

It is profoundly depressing, after 26 years full-time in a field I love, to be a constant voice of dissent. I have tried various ways to leaven this state of affairs with positive postings, much like television news shows that experiment with "happy features." I have blogged about great articles others have written, or highlighted scholars who have not gotten the attention they deserve; I tried to find cases, even inconsequential ones, that I can fawn over. But after awhile, this wore thin, because the most important stories are too often ones that involve initiatives that are, in my opinion, seriously harmful to the public interest. I cannot continue to be so negative, so often. Being so negative, while deserved on the merits, gives a distorted perspective of my centrist views, and is emotionally a downer.

So between the inability or refusal of some people to accept the blog for what it is -- a personal blog --- and my inability to continue to be Cassandra, I decided it was time to pull the plug. I thank profusely all those who have accepted the blog for what it is, and who have contributed so much to it and to my learning over the years. I intend to spend my free time figuring out a constructive way to talk about the difficult issues we face and how to advance toward their solution.

Friday, August 01, 2008

US net neutrality - smoking guns and mirrors

Kevin Werbach has a thoughtful post on Werblog (see links to right) about the FCC net neutrality ruling.

Chairman Martin's FCC ruling is against Comcast's ludicrous attempts to stop P2P - by sending phantom RST reset packets to customers! That's about as smoking gun as it has got since the VOIP blocking in Madison River back in 2005. Its Phorm-abulous....

Kevin makes two points - that have real relevance for the UK. First, that the ruling will be dragged through the courts and overturned because Comcast broke the spirit of the FCC's vacuous 'Four Freedoms' but spirits are not actionable, only rule-breaking.

Second, he decries Martin's political stuntifying, as Martin is not condemning 'metered broadband'. That means caps on usage. Well hold on a minute, isn't that what we have - he says from his 3GB per month, #7.50 Three mobile dongle...

I would expect legal challenges to any Euro-regulator ruling under current laws, and caps? Well, we practise 'safe surfing' by phophylactics against those nasty P2P people...

Surrey Cricket are rubbish - except the bloke in the furry dog outfit

I joined Surrey this year - which was wonderful in April and May watching at The Oval in the freezing cold as they drew 4-day game after 4-day game - but less fun in June with the chavvy 20-20 [cricket in under 3 hours!] which they kept losing, and there's been no cricket in July and will be very little in August.

But to make up for a record of about 2 wins out of 20, their mascot won the 20-20 mascot race...the highlight of the summer!