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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Update for Fed-spotters

Julius continues frenzied lobbying in the art of the possible and will be heaped with opprobrium on 21st December - which I will happily blog in Janaury as I am currently sitting in equatorial jungle detoxing from a year of blogging. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

Want to see real over-regulation of the Internet?

Then look at European proposals for mandatory web filtering - not in Wikileaks' worst nightmares could we expect to see such over-reaction from ostensibly democratic states. Its officially only for kiddie porn horrors, but these lists are notoriously unreliable.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Nyet neutrality in US and UK?

Marvin Ammori further fillets the FCC 'compromise' (if I move to the far right, you have to follow me to compromise). Meanwhile, Jean-Jacques Sahel opens up on Ofcom on two fronts, a letter by the content boys except the BBC which was not competent to sign in time, and a biting reply to a ludicrous Ofcom spin on some research that shows we have lots of smartphones but very restricted mobile data plans so can't use them properly. I could not have signed the letter, it talks self-regulation and I am now Dr Co-regulation....
I write this on my 5GB monthly capped 3 dongle which I will try to use for a Skype confcall tomorrow PM.
UPDATE: Rob Frieden's masterful analysis combined with his posting on Level3 and peering, makes a strong case that whatever happens will be likely viewed 'skeptically' by the courts.

Russia and Qatar net neutrality?

Side bitter point: Qatar is ranked 120th (boosted by Al-Jazeera) and Russia 140th (all those quasi-official murders) in the world for media freedom - FIFA will feel right at home. I suspect they will be able to control any unauthorised pirates feeds from the World Cup.

European net neutrality summit videos - evolution is televised...

European Commission does have video (and slides!) from the net neutrality summit - I'm 54min in… "Open Access is undoubtedly a win-win game" says @ at Ghent University   EuroParliament video of net neutrality summit afternoon in full…

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I think they all agree with Sir Tim - except they don't

The FCC is going for a Waxman, or a Google-Verizon. No mobile neutrality, and only basic rules on transparency and non-discrimination. Now for the devilish details!

Obama-open or Genachowski-closed - or co-regulation?

Marvin Ammori rather starkly portrays a choice between Waxman not-neutrality (another monkey, this time surrendering?) and NTIA stimulus neutrality in a thoughtful campaigning post. If FCC Commissioners are currently chewing over the proposal prior to the 21 December meeting, will it bear some resemblance to Phil Weiser's suggestion of co-regulation last year (which itself bears huge resemblance to my stuff since 2007 but I suspect he became too busy running the country to have read it!)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ed Vaizey completes his stupid monkey act

Edward Vaizey: The Government expect all ISPs providing an internet access service-both fixed and mobile-to offer all legal content. Consumers should always be able to access any legal content or service they want to and content providers and applications should be able to access consumers. ISPs should not be able to discriminate unfairly against services or users. That means no blocking or discriminatory degradation of services or applications for commercial reasons." Sounds good eh? Read on...."There is not yet any evidence that discriminatory practices are emerging, or that there is a problem with regards to how ISPs or networks manage the traffic that flows over them (something they all engage in for technical reasons to deliver the best possible service to consumers). And this is enforced by the initial responses to Ofcom's recent consultation on the issue. A contributing factor to the success of the internet has been the lack of legislative restraints that have been placed on it. It is important that we give the market the opportunity to self regulate. Ofcom will closely monitor how the market develops and if it develops in an anti-competitive way they will intervene." He's against net neutrality, plain and simple - don't look for the problem and rely on (largely non-existent due to lack of incentives) competition to throttle less - of which we claim there's no evidence!

Ed Vaizey and the next Tim Berners Lee?

In view of Ed 'I agree with Sir Tim' Vaizey's views on the benefits of open innovation, I think he might usefully read Alissa Cooper's submission to Ofcom, with its natty and pertinent title. I now realize the formatting has gone on my submission, but then here's my Brussels reminder of the main points. I do hope Ofcom and government has recalled the advice they commissioned from myself and Jonathan Cave in 2006 (I remain grateful), that 'walled garden' bottlenecks and entry barriers would harm innovation.
It may be obvious, but I have just realized I was the only independent expert invited to speak at the net neutrality summit - everyone else was pro or con. Is that unusual?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thank you, dear Brussels-based reader

There has been a huge spike in readership from Belgium in the last month (which means its now 3rd on the all-time list, and double German readership), which means that a great many Walloons and Flems are suddenly switched on to the issue, or (as I have studiously avoided using Doutzen Kroes as a traffic spiker) that some lobbyists and policymakers may have noticed our conversation - and jurists judging by the Luxembourg numbers. Its also notable that Firefox has reached 27% and Explorer is down to 48% this month - you are very open source educated new readers (including Livermore Labs), welcome!
Finally, let me flag up Monica Horten's analysis of the Trautmann call for a new Recommendation on traffic management - which would be a damned sight more transparent and timely than a bit of background whispering. Will the Commission show leadership? Lets not be beastly to Ofcom lobbying MEPs against a new Recommendation - UK government has almost zero civil servants left to fight on this one, so think of it as outsourcing  (for the time being, Ofcom still has the resource).

“Adding bandwidth is cheaper than scarcity allocation”?

Here are the numbers courtesy of Benoit Felten and Hermann Wagter - it would be nice to think a regulator somewhere is talking to these guys and working out the same thing?
UPDATE: some commentators suggest that different numbers would be more reliable - the point stands: regulators should be analyzing the issue rather than accepting ISP claims. As a Super JANET user, I would suggest they speak to their architects.

On why the open web is important

VPNs are closed, managed services are charged - if they're FRAND, I'm happy with them. But not the WWW. A great follow-up Scientific American article by his co-author reminds us that Tim Berners Lee and the W3C gave it to humanity to improve communication - politicians and entrepreneurs just can't understand why someone would be so generous. "The reason the Web has remained open is because Berners-Lee, and the Web consortium, have protected the founding principles. Is society so crass that it won't stand up for ideals that go beyond a profit motive? Many more truly human benefits, as well as commercial successes, can come from an open Web than from a commercially controlled Web." A chapter in my new book deals with W3C self-regulation - a remarkable gift to the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ford-ist ISP switching?

The nub of the European problem is that you can switch, but you'll still be dealing with the underlying cable-telco duopoly - i.e. your DSL provider is using the wholesale network of the incumbent. On mobile, there are three UK networks for five operators. On that basis, what is the ISP incentive to encourage high-use consumers? (Call them freetards if you must). So bandwidth caps and throttling will continue. As Henry Ford said a century ago, "You can have any colour you like, as long as it's black."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Net neutrality, wise monkeys redux.

The most explosive comment of the 'sommet' on Thursday was from Thomas Nortvedt of the Norwegian Department of Consumer Advocacy (the Tories would shut that like they shut Consumer Focus). He reiterated my 'three wise monkeys' article - you can't say you're mere conduits for the E-Commerce Directive then claim you want to deep packet inspect for paid content. Its one or the other, chaps - an inconvenient truth.
There is an excellent balanced summary from  Ray Corrigan here - though as he have agreed with me I hope I'm not being overly self-serving. As an engineer, his sadness at the lack of proper analysis is manifest.
The BBC was told to 'show me the money' by Robert Madelin - and they have (courtesy of Rhona Parry).
My conclusion remains the same - this problem is deep enough in the plumbing that unless you have a smoking gun (Madison River, Comcast) or the brilliantly indiscrete Charlie Dunstone, you'll not find it unless you look - and the equally wise monkey regulators are not going to go there (yes, I duplicated my metaphor, I liked it so much)- except ARCEP?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What if they throttled the Internet and no-one showed up? 'Summit' redux

I had forgotten quite how dreadful public debate in Brussels is - remind me to stay behind the scenes talking to officials who know the subject.
We had a 'summit' - well, there was a goodish panel first-up with the bright and amusing Robert Madelin, the new DG. Then a frankly embarrassingly network/manufacturer panel gloating about the FCC defeat over Comcast.
Then a good speakers' lunch (thanks - and excellent company), before we had to face a storm to get to the EuroParliament - which has no WiFi access, not even locked down. That and the pompously priggish Malcolm Harbour editorialising with little speeches after each speaker on the first panel was enough for me - especially when Neelie Kroes rolled in at 4.15 and said Skype blocking could be avoided by switching mobile provider - when the previous panel was all about how ALL French mobiles block Skype. She unfortunately made a fool of herself by following that - shame as she's such a Skype fan.
The US newspapers got it all wrong as usual, the WashPost's Kang really doesn't check  her facts at all.
Not the best day ever - but as JJ Sahel said, it could be worse, we could debate this in Washington....

If you don't use Chrome, you can get live stream this morning

It needs a Windows plug-in...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The evolution will not be televised...much...

Thursday's net neutrality summit in Brussels will only be televised from 1425 - so I'll live blog the morning for you. Hash tag is the standard #netneutrality.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Some facts on browsing and choice

Further to my pondering why customers don't want to pay for faster broadband despite being told its good for them,  note that Internet Explorer has dipped below 50% of you discerning readers out there. Firefox is 26% and Chrome now over 10%.
But still two out of three Windows users have IE as their browser, and 2 out of 3 Mactards use Safari.
We're simple undiscriminating folk, and we eat the porridge in front of us two-thirds of the time (written with Dell on Windows XP and Chrome...)

Please note: I did not make a statement about ARCEP attributed to me in NYT

Its worth making sure no-one expects me to be an expert on ARCEP this Thursday - I have 'restaurant French'. I did speak to Kevin O'Brien for 35 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, and about the only thing I didn't say is what was attributed to me. I did ask for an email confirming any quotes to be used, but hey....
Which brings me to ask - did the phantom quote have any truth to it? Is ARCEP planning on fines and penalties?
Oh, and its 'Dr Marsden' - I got my degree stripped too!
UPDATE: I've never heard of the journalist who wrote this piece, but perhaps he's trying to paraphrase my blog - an email would be polite to ask me!

Murdoch dislikes neutrality - so got his lieutenant to say so in WSJ 'review'

What a ridiculous plant - WSJ has no shame left, of course...but Tim Wu's book deserves a less flagrant breach of their reviwer guidelines.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Demonstrations against Vodafone's £6billion deal with HMRC

There is real popular anger - even arrests and shop closure in Cambridge - at the decision by UK tax authorities to settle the outstanding claim against Vodafone for its purchase of Mannesman back in 2000 via its Luxembourg subsidiary (a small garrison town which has become a tax haven for European multinationals impoverishing the major EU countries - like a little Ireland or Bermuda).

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mobiles want content providers to pay for premium access as consumers won't

O2 has joined the chorus of mobile and fixed players wanting Facebook, Google, Skype et al to pay more - unsurprisingly. I assume they will continue to run misleading 'unlimited' advertising? If the EC doesn't make sure rules stick to prevent them, they're pushing on an open door.
But 70% of European mobile users won't even contemplate paying more for faster access (cut through the PR flannel and that's what this survey says). Can't pay, won't pay.
So be thankful that Demon has actually been honest where customers and networks won't - it has launched new MINIMUM speed broadband packages. Prize for truth in advertising!

Neelie's carrot and stick: roaming cuts plus no neutrality?

I'm reading the tea leaves (or coffee grounds) around her ETNO speech of 23 Sept which focussed on NGA and roaming prices 'approaching zero' but it included this tasty morsel:
"the competitive process promoted by the Recommendation may play an important role also in the framework of the net neutrality debate. Competition at the network level, combined with appropriate transparency measures, gives customers the ability to choose among different providers for their internet connections, making any potential danger to net neutrality less clear and present... In other words: strong competition in broadband markets may allow a more relaxed regulatory approach to net neutrality issues."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Nice papers on recent developments from Van Schewick, Korea, Chile to Finland to France

Barbara has a very interesting paper which she presented at TPRC on what types of discrimination might be permitted - notably that a rule banning application-specific discrimination would allow many forms of Quality of Service without removing incentives for network investment: "network providers could allow users to choose which applications to prioritize within the user’s bandwidth envelope during times of congestion" (at p9).
This Korean paper suggests that while Korea has fast broadband, ISPs play fast and loose with user terms and there is a significant lack of transparency which needs remedying.
This new EUI paper might have cited a recent book, but this is a topical rather than analytical paper - very good summary of 2010 developments to August.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The night the music died - for US net neutrality

So Congress will (the manic mainstream media all agree) swing to the right, and not just the right but the Teabagging Right (who continue to deny that Europe passed net neutrality legislation in 2009) - think 1994. What does that mean for telecoms policy? Well, maybe Google was right to cut a deal with Verizon and hope for the best. But as that infamous 'Contract on America' Congress did pass the 1996 Communications Deregulation (sic) Act, you might be surprised by the action on spectrum reform that could come.
UPDATE: so a Republican House and Democrat Senate (just) - with both Whitman and Fiorina (unless the OC pushes her ahead) losing in California (former CEOs of eBay and Hewlett-Packard respectively).
UPDATE 2: So Cliff Stearns will become Chair of the Sub-Committee - and privacy will be high on his agenda, which makes the Google Buzz settlement of particular interest. He also pushed House Bill 5257, so US net neutrality is comatose until at least 2012 (and probably longer).

Monday, November 01, 2010

Agenda for 11 November hearing

Interesting - Vodafone, D-Telekom, Telefonica, GSMA, AT&T, Cisco, Siemens Nokia. A really interesting group of vested interested. I assume Jean-Jacques, La Quadrature and I are there as light entertainment? But ARCEP's recent declaration means they will not take the BEREC-Ofcom line.
9:30 – 11.15 Moderator: Robert Madelin, Director General, DG INFSO
Statements – 5 minutes each
Broadcaster: BBC – Matthew Postgate, Controller of R&D
ECTA - Ilsa Godlovitch, Director
ETNO – Ralf Nigge, Deutsche Telekom , ETNO Regulatory Policy Working Group Chairman
Vodafone – Richard Feasey, Director Public Policy
Consumer organisation: tbc
Regulator: Arcep - Joëlle Toledano, Member of the Board
11:30 – 12:45 Moderator: Bernd Langeheine Director DG INFSO
Academic: Dr. Chris Marsden
Operators: AT&T – Mick Corkerry, Executive Director EMEA Government Affairs
Content provider: tbc
Manufacturer: Cisco –Patrik Faltstrom, Distinguished Consulting Engineer
DigitalEurope – Speaker to be confirmed
Speaker from Japan/Singapore - tbc
14:30 – 15:50 Session 3: Moderator: Malcolm Harbour MEP, Chair IMCO Committee
Regulator: OFCOM – Alex Blowers, International Director
GSMA - Robindhra Mangtani, Senior Director
Cable Europe – speaker to be confirmed
VoIP provider: Skype – Jean-Jacques Sahel, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs
Civil society: Quadrature du net - Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder
Manufacturer: NokiaSiemens - Sigurd Schuster, CTO Head of Technology Roadmapping
Operator: Telefonica - Mr.Rafael Diez Vega, Director of Corporate Regulation
16:00 – 18:00 Session 4: Net neutrality and the open internet – what is at stake?
Moderator: Herbert Reul MEP, Chair ITRE Committee
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President for Digital Agenda
MEPs: Maria Badia Cutchet (CULT representative), Pilar del Castillo Vera, Catherine Trautmann, Adina-Ioana Vălean, Jan Philipp Albrecht,
John Doherty, Chair of BEREC
Belgian Presidency - Vincent Van Quickenborne Minister for Telecommunications

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

People won't pay a premium for faster broadband

Virgin Media, the UK cable operator, reported results today - and they are fascinating, leaving aside the announcements of 100Mb/s product and trials of 200Mb/s product with Prime Minister puffery.
NOTE: these are real speeds, not the DSL or HSDPA phantom lab speeds.
Hidden amidst this hype is the following: only 90k customers have taken up the 50Mb/s product so far. 610k are happy with 20Mb/s. 3.5m are happy with lower speeds.
So that's >3% who choose faster speeds at higher prices. Hmmm....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hutchison 3: 100TB a day, 6% Windows Updates

Its difficult to get accurate data reporting on 3's traffic, but its important because 3 has 40% of the UK broadband mobile market (over a million dongle users), not the tiny smartphone browsing usage. It also now has 12,000 base stations, with a lot of HSDPA to improve the previously patchy experience.
In July, they reported 250TB of data - trivial by fixed network standards though its mainly used by laptop users -  and the 6% Windows Update figure matches my own usage - the laptop decides to download about 60MB in every GB I have (which is monthly use for normal users, I have a 3GB cap).
The Guardian's reporting is 'exclusive' (12 days after WhatMobile's!), and their data suggests 1% of data was iTunes, 3% Facebook, 2% Farmville and other Zygna games. From Whatmobile, it seems about 1% is Skype and MSN - which is high as its hard to make good Skype calls on 3's network. Google and YouTube together make up less than 1%. Notably, voice calls use up only 3% of total capacity - that's what the cashcow really sucks out of backhaul - next to nothing.
Add up all those numbers, and that's 17%. Yup, 83% of mobile broadband is other stuff - and I'm guessing BBC iPlayer might be quite a lot (though its only really good for radio on 3), but also other peer-to-peer uses, and email. After all, 250TB between a million  people doesn't go far, in fact that's 250MB each.
So (despite shock-horror Guardian claims that they may soon throttle and otherwise breach net neutrality) it may be a while before the network ever needed to consider traffic management - after all, they charge per MB if users exceed their cap. Sit back and enjoy the money flowing...

Hearings in French Senate and European Parliament on neutrality

26 October, today, my old friend Bernard Benhamou is on a panel debating at the French Senate - with ARCEP, Bouygues and Orange - could be pretty feisty!
11 November - I understand there will be a big event at the European Parliament - more details soon.
Incidentally, BEREC and Ofcom's attempts to douse the EC law on net neutrality appear to have been lit as a bonfire by Tea Party wingnuts in the US - who incidentally seem to have no idea that the European Directives were passed last year. Be careful who your friends are - do you want Grover as your pal?

Excellent 'Scientific American' article on Korean transparency and US fog of war

This is the best summary I have read of the CITI-IDATE summit at Columbia - and it reveals that Ethernet speed broadband in Korea is $28/month for all you can eat. If that was the clear offer in your country, wouldn't you subscribe? That would end net neutrality debates at a stroke.
Meanwhile, Americans are told to pay through the nose for duopoly and low speed (and even pay twice for cellphone/fixed backhaul on femtocells, which are the best short-term fix), and much the same applies elsewhere in the developed world outside East Asia.

POLIS/CCP seminar video from LSE net neutrality seminar 6 September

Consumer Panel Net Neutrality event from Communications Consumer Panel on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

LTE puffery in Germany by Vodafone?

A DSL Prime story that Vodafone is using 800MHz LTE to connect over 1000 German villages by Christmas in a doughnut (outside to in) rural build that will overcome the digital divide. 30Mb/s for 40euros - sounds too good to be true? I did some digging.
First, note that its about 3Mb/s - and that you only get to use that subject to tight data caps. You pay a huge 70euro/month to get a landline equivalent 30GB cap, for instance. And its only in a few places, and its HSDPA so far, and no-one knows what real data rates will really be - clearly much lower if they are successful and there's no fixed access. I checked the beautiful little village of Konigstein in Saxony - no answers there except GSM, blank space, and some EDGE. No 3G even.
Conclusion: show me the data that says it really gives more than 2Mb/s in villages before all this puffery.
Huawei have helpful real information by Voda's CEO: 'We will be commencing network extension into regions which don't currently have any coverage in the near future, providing actual transmission speeds of around 3 mbit per second right from day one," said Friedrich Joussen, CEO of Vodafone Germany. 
Vodafone will start work on the LTE upgrade at the end of September, and by next year 1,500 base stations will incorporate LTE technology. The communication company has been implementing field trials with HSDPA technology in rural regions over recent months, providing residents there with wireless access to the Internet. The infrastructure for Internet access is now in place in the Uckermark region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, plus Thuringia and Saxony.
UPDATE: DSL Prime was much more balanced than I suggested initially - here's my edit of their caveats: "The caps are low if you regularly watch video, plausible if your net use is light. That's probably the long run expectation of LTE and LTE advanced: moderate but not terrible speeds, not enough capacity for many to watch quality video, (30 gig is less than 90 minutes a day.) This is a reasonable but not great offering for the last few percent that are expensive to reach with landlines...wireless is shared and limited in total throughput...Most of us are optimistic results like this will be common in rural areas and prices come down. But no one is sure until we see results on networks with many subscribers."
UPDATE 2: DSL Prime has also explained that vectoring claims are theory not reality.

UK broadband: BBC to pay for rural areas

This agreement between government and BBC gets very complicated, but basically after digital TV switchover is complete in 2013, the BBC will pay £150m a year towards rural broadband - that's just more than one Cornwall each year. Its a drop in the ocean but a start.
Incidentally, BBC's licence fee freeze at £145.50/annum to 2016 is accompanied by responsibility for funding the World Service from 2014 (to be folded into BBC News), and part of Welsh language TV from 2013. It also has to provide £25m capital and only £5m ongoing funding for local TV - good luck with that!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Transparency is necessary, but its not regulation - The Economist is furious!

Regulators have decided to avoid confronting net neutrality violations by focusing on transparency rather than consumer redress - and the FCC is following Ofcom's lead on this (note that UK misleading ads are self-regulated [89 complaints upheld, generally long after the campaigns ran]).
But in The Economist : "Babbage is ranting about protecting consumers. Internet service providers love to hide what they offer behind words that suggest speed but evade responsibility for it. In America Comcast, a cable provider, is advertising a system upgrade called "Xfinity". It sounds fast, like something they'd test on a salt flat. But it's a technology with a boring acronym that offers about 30 megabits per second".
Mind you, they are finally investigating two blatant smoking guns that the European Commission acted on years ago: bill shock and mobile stealth data charging. There must be an election coming up...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Informal discussion in European Parliament on net neutrality

From the magnificent EDRi [Note: EDRi response to Commission consultation on net neutrality 30Sept10   (Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)]
"For possibly the first time since the adoption of the "telecoms package", an informal discussion on the issue of "net neutrality" took place at a breakfast meeting hosted by Catherine Trautmann MEP. This happened ahead of upcoming the net neutrality "summit" planned to take place in the European Parliament [11 November].
None of the positions defended by the industry or consumer representatives were particularly surprising, with Telefonica arguing that the "nightmare" of increased demands of their services had to be responded to by increased "management". In the same way as roads are not built to cope with maximum possible demands, it would be wasteful to build networks to have enough capacity to cope with maximum demand. Skype argued that the virtuous circle created by the open Internet, whereby openness fosters innovation which attracts more users, which increases the incentives to innovate, must be protected. Skype and the European Consumers Bureau (BEUC) argued that research shows clearly that transparency is insufficient to protect consumers from non-neutral access providers because of the difficulties involved in changing broadband providers.
"The Commission said that there were over 300 responses to the recently closed net neutrality consultation and that the priority was to ensure a level playing field and to avoid fragmentation. The issue of deep packet inspection, which BEUC said should be banned, was avoided by the Commission, which argued that other technologies "must be possible". During the debate, both Ivailo Kalfin (S+D, Bulgaria) and Edit Herczog (S+D, Hungary) briefly raised the thorny issue of content regulation, presumably because increased interference with citizens' communications for business purposes will make it harder for access providers to avoid caving in to demands to restrict or monitor access to data on the basis of government requests or media pressure. Telefonica (whose subsidiary O2 accidentally blocked the entirely innocent Imgur website because the "technology behind the service is more far reaching than anticipated and on occasion a site which should not be blocked may be") said that it was not interested in censoring online material."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Universal service and net neutrality: EC publishes consultation responses

I linked net neutrality to universal service in my reply to the EC universal service consultation, all of which have now been published.

Accidental data usage on your mobile - $90m and counting?

Well, that's just what Verizon makes - you know, when you take your phone out of your pocket and find out its tried to connect to a web page. 0.02MB appears on your bill at maybe 30cents/20pence or so for that first MB. You can't be bothered to argue (actually I can, but then this is my research area).
So all those 50c add up to $90m for Verizon Wireless apparently - add AT&T, Sprint, every European country and everywhere else and its a conservative estimate that this is a billion-dollar design feature for mobiles. How about if you had to press 2 buttons to access the web so that accidents don't happen?
Rob Frieden highlights the actions the FCC - and all other regulators - could but don't take, on behalf of consumers.
European Commission action time perhaps?

Council of Europe has its very own Declaration on net neutrality

So in addition to the EC (see below), the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, representing 47 European countries - all the EC, all the little ones, plus Russia and a few other freedom-lovers in the European Convention on Human Rights - has adopted on 29 September its own Declaration - here it is in full:

1. The member states of the Council of Europe have repeatedly expressed their commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights on the Internet. This applies in particular to the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and information regardless of frontiers, the right to respect for private life and correspondence, the right to freedom of thought and religion, the right to freedom of association, the right to education and the right to the protection of property, as well as to related procedural rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5).
2. Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)16 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet underlines people’s significant reliance on the Internet as an essential tool for their everyday activities (communication, information, knowledge, commercial transactions) and the resulting legitimate expectation that Internet services be accessible and affordable, secure, reliable and ongoing.
3. Electronic communication networks have become basic tools for the free exchange of ideas and information. They help to ensure freedom of expression and access to information, pluralism and diversity and contribute to the enjoyment of a range of fundamental rights. A competitive and dynamic environment may encourage innovation, increasing network availability and performance and lowering costs, and can promote the free circulation of a wide range of content and services on the Internet. However, users’ right to access and distribute information online and the development of new tools and services might be adversely affected by non-transparent traffic management, content and services’ discrimination or impeding connectivity of devices.
4. Users should have the greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services of their choice, whether or not they are offered free of charge, using suitable devices of their choice. Such a general principle, commonly referred to as network neutrality, should apply irrespective of the infrastructure or the network used for Internet connectivity. Access to infrastructure is a prerequisite for the realisation of this objective.
5. There is an exponential increase in Internet traffic due to the growing number of users and new applications, content and services that take up more bandwidth than ever before. The connectivity of existing types of devices is broadened as regards networks and infrastructure, and new types of devices are connected. In this context, operators of electronic communication networks may have to manage Internet traffic. This management may relate to quality of service, the development of new services, network stability and resilience or combating cybercrime.
6. In so far as it is necessary in the context described above, traffic management should not be seen as a departure from the principle of network neutrality. However, exceptions to this principle should be considered with great circumspection and need to be justified by overriding public interests. In this context, member states should pay due attention to the provisions of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the related case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Member states may also find it useful to refer to the guidelines of Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)6 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to promote the respect for freedom of expression and information with regard to Internet filters.
7. Reference might also be made in this context to the European Union regulatory framework on electronic communications whereby national regulatory authorities are tasked with promoting users' ability to access and distribute information and to run applications and services of their choice.
8. Users and service, application or content providers should be able to gauge the impact of network management measures on the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular the rights to freedom of expression and to impart or receive information regardless of frontiers, as well as the right to respect for private life. Those measures should be proportionate, appropriate and avoid unjustified discrimination; they should be subject to periodic review and not be maintained longer than strictly necessary. Users and service providers should be adequately informed about any network management measures that affect in a significant way access to content, applications or services. As regards procedural safeguards, there should be adequate avenues, respectful of rule of law requirements, to challenge network management decisions and, where appropriate, there should be adequate avenues to seek redress.
9. The Committee of Ministers declares its commitment to the principle of network neutrality and underlines that any exceptions to this principle should comply with the requirements set out above. This subject should be explored further within a Council of Europe framework with a view to providing guidance to member states and/or to facilitating the elaboration of guidelines with and for private sector actors in order to define more precisely acceptable management measures and minimum quality-of-service requirements.

When Sir Tim went to Brussels...

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the WWW, Sir Tim Berners-Lee addressed a group of European parliamentarians in Brussels last December on the need for openness and interoperability. This December, they will hear from the European Commissioner on what the 'Declaration on Network Neutrality' means in practice. Will it be a happy 21st birthday?

Friday, October 08, 2010

McGarty critiques Vaishnav paper: MIT healthy discussion on telecoms reform?

Very interesting (or controversial, or sour, delete as appropriate) discussion of Chintan Vaishnav's TPRC paper - which appears to have attracted internal criticism both for its prominent plugging by the public relations folks at MIT and for its use of mathematical modelling for what are (claims the critic) ultimately judgment calls. The latter may be legitimately argued (questioned/lampooned), especially as the main beef appears to be reliance on regulation for regulated industries (sic), the former is an internal argument that I would like someone to cast light on - is this unusual publicity for an MIT paper?
The paper itself is to a European non-controversial in its conclusions (use SMP to prevent abuse of dominance, encourage interoperability/modularity and encourage co-regulatory type consensus building), though clearly I don't follow the modelling, and I rather like the allusion to herding an elephant (Ma Bell) which transmogrify into sheep (BabyBells and CLECs) and then multiply into cats (current landscape - though Verizon, Comcast and AT&T are more like tigers stalking deer?).
Oh, and it looks like Dr Vaishnav is a very proper engineer, so that particular criticism seems inappropriate. One does not have to make billions to be an analyst of telecoms....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

TPRC 2010

Just got back from the three-day telecoms policy wonks extravaganza that is TPRC. What I love about this conference is that all the big shots (at least on the American side) are present, while the conference itself is rather small-scaled and accessible.

Together with one of my co-authors I presented our experimental study on transparency regulation to mitigate network neutrality concerns, which resulted in some interesting discussion. Many thanks to moderator-extraordinair Sascha Meinrath, and fellow panelists Christiaan Hogendorn and Adam Candeub.

As can be expected, there were many more net neutrality related panels. Katerina Maniadaki did an excellent job explaining the Americans how EU competition law works in relation to net neutrality issues. Nicholas Economides presented no less than two new models in by far the most dense presentation of the weekend. The final panel of the conference to me was the most interesting one, in which Barbara van Schewick made her case for an application agnostic non-discrimination rule. This resulted in a good discussion between BvS, Christopher Yoo and Jonathan Cave.

All in all a great weekend. Looking forward to next year!

Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group approach announced

Dale Hatfield has published his outline of what BITAG will be, an expert self-regulatory organisation with an open membership and technical transparency: "BITAG will be an independent non-profit organization, with membership open to any person or entity interested in furthering its mission and able to bring the requisite technical expertise.  The BITAG’s primary purpose will be to support a balanced and diverse technical working group (TWG) of volunteer engineers and other experts tasked with analyzing and developing consensus on network management practices and other related technical issues that can affect the experience of Internet users.  As the BITAG’s Executive Director, I am strongly committed to shepherding an open, transparent, and collaborative expert technical forum that will enable engineers to do what they do best: solve problems."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Ofcom finally posts responses on net neutrality

It seems to be Ofcom policy to publish responses after the consultation closes - which is a shame - but they finally have published the 97 responses on net neutrality. I am hoping a keen PhD student out there somewhere will go through them in depth but I recommend reading the special pleading of the GSMA on mobile neutrality, which includes this beautiful couplet on p12: "Operators want to apply open principles to deliver choice, innovation and differentiation. Operators don't want the potential of the internet to be stifled by an indeterminate openness concept." Translate: get out of the way, we'll choose who can use our network.
Elsewhere Damian Tambini has written for The Guardian on why Ofcom's position is untenable as regards this issue - it timidly claims all wider remit questions are for government, while government has told the EC that it should be up to NRAs how they respond! I think they mean they don't want to do anything much?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TPRC: some interesting papers

Its very much worth looking at Katerina Mandiaki's paper on the EU situation from a competition perspective (she willingly agrees that there is more to the issue than just competition law) - bang up-to-date and very well argued. There's also some interesting stuff particularly on Japan (which in summary has a lot of hot air but no visible action on net neutrality) in an otherwise slightly dated comparative paper (e.g. uses 13th Implementation report where she uses the 15th, easily fixed). There is a sprinkling of other panels on net neutrality, including my co-blogger Jasper's excellent paper.
Hopefully he can report back on what else happens in DC!?

European consultations closing - get yours in quick!

Ofcom's 'so-called net neutrality consultation' closed on 9 September - no responses published online so I assume someone else replied. We will no doubt be told later in the year.
The European Commission is finalising its consultation period - 30 September is your deadline. Again, nothing online yet - they normally publish responses well after the final date, its not like the FCC process.
Meanwhile, the club of national regulators, BEREC, is meeting in Amsterdam on Friday week (as OPTA will be chairing BEREC next year, this is part of the handover). Their news page was updated on 4 June, but they are recruiting...they'll discuss their response to the Commission on net neutrality.
And the FCC's comment period on their latest Notice is 1 October, with replies thereafter. No doubt it will be a topic of conversation at TPRC next week - can't go, I'm getting married...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cisco, Canvas and Economists

BT and Cisco have just announced they'll be streaming UK TV content via Cisco's CDN rather than over BT's wholesale network. It'll be interesting to see TalkTalk's response to that - Canvas is all well and good if you can deliver it to your broadband subscribers. Sky is rather obviously opposed, but that's not news.
On the subject of Cisco, their infamous hockey stick net traffic graph was reproduced in an otherwise excellent Economist piece which is great undergrad primer material on net neutrality. Unsurprisingly The Economist agrees with the Ofcom economists' answer that more local loop competition is the answer, quoting the Berkman study dissed by the network duopoly's lawyers last autumn - to which we might ask why Canvas and CDNs then become so important in apparently 'competitive' UK ISPs? But the clue is in the journal's title. It does quote at length Kevin Werbach and even the excellent Debora Spar - who would tell you to follow the money...

Truth in European advertising: Ofcom study on mobile broadband

Ofcom has commissioned Epitiro to measure mobile broadband speed and latency, with results due in January - if it chooses, it can also publish the results by network to make the research meaningful to the consumers it is tasked to serve. I linked to the comments page so that doubters can see that a subset of ISP customers actually give a damn and have some ability to sort the wheat from the chaff on fixed as well as mobile.
Meanwhile in Spain, Telefonica is planning to offer best-efforts Internet with higher QoS offered as a premium product. This is the harbinger of more QoS-led efforts where transparency will be paramount.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ray Corrigan on Ofcom net neutrality consult

Inspired (?sic?) by the relentless discussion of consumers/competition/transparency at the POLIS seminar this week, Ray has written his reply to the Ofcom consultation, in which he makes good points about the narrow consumerist economics focus of the Ofcom framing of the issue, and the need for some universal service consideration by government. He also makes vital points about monitoring the networks (against whom, let it be added, Ofcom has not listened to a single complaint) - and that the easier Ofcom makes it, the less transparent:
"Assessment of published documents pertaining to network operators' claimed operating procedures is relatively straightforward. Actually ensuring operators are following the letter and the spirit of their own publicly available procedures is more difficult. Measurement of actual operations and net user harm is complex and the temptation would be for an independent auditor (Ofcom?) to measure metrics which are easy to measure rather than those that provide truly informative indicators of sector practice." Bravo!

What we have here are the usual suspects: LSE seminar 6 Sept

POLIS organised a seminar on the net neutrality issue 6 September - unfortunately I could not speak as I was travelling back from Montreal to the UK. It brought together what we might call "the key stakeholders" which included one group favouring net neutrality, i.e. Skype, but no BBC from what I could gather (please let me know if they spoke up?). Ofcom pursued the transparency furrow that its been ploughing for 3 years with some success, and the EC said - given they are in 'reflection' - more or less nothing.

Friday, September 03, 2010

"What we have here is a failure to communicate": regulatory capture and neutrality

Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand. Its in retrospect amazing that net neutrality got as far as it did in Europe, where regulators are agnostic and politicians notably ambivalent towards Internet entrepreneurs and inclined to follow neo-corporate routes forwards. In the US, with its abandonment of inset competition for ISPs, and its corporate purchasing of policy on Capitol Hill, its far less surprising. It is really down to the inspired design of the non-party political and forward-viewing (at its best moments) European Commission.
The reasons why telecoms regulators such as Ofcom simply fail to appreciate the depth and scale of problems inherent in traffic management are many and I have expounded on them at great length elsewhere, but the key issue is regulatory capture. ISPs are as unlikely as turkeys to vote for Christmas, and so long as they all agree that freetards are a problem, they will have a more or less settled line in favour of throttling bandwidth, underprovisioning backhaul, lying about broadband speeds, and describing as 'unlimited' packages which are anything but, and 'reasonable use' as that which makes them a net profit. When the content players are more concerned to disconnect suspected filesharers than try to achieve an Internet-based business model, they're all pushing on an open door with regulators and politicians.
This is why it is so remarkable that a measure which is only favoured by consumers, the poor bloody infantry, the  voters, has got as far as transparency (which all economists are supposed to favour). Now lets see whether the implementation of the Directives can actually provide a decent deal for those consumers, against the combined weight of the media and telecoms industries.

The wireless conundrum - three Wharton views

Professors Werbach, Faulhaber and Matwyshyn have made very thoughtful contributions via Knowledge@Wharton to the Google-Verizon proposal and the FCC's likely response (after all, as Kevin reminds Harvard Business Review readers, it is its job assigned by Congress to regulate communications), focussing on specialized services and wireless - and the unlikelihood that anything will get done this side of 2011, given the midterm elections in November.  

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Wireless and 'managed services' - what will FCC do?

The FCC has issued a call for yet more evidence on 'specialized' services and wireless as part of the ongoing NPRM process, though with Google conceding the latter this may just be for form's sake. AT&T has made some pretty aggressive rebuttals on DiffServ, and my view remains that managed services need definition but obviously should be permitted so long as they do not degrade the basic unfiltered Internet pipe.
But lets not fool ourselves, investing in specialized (as opposed to managed) services diverts capital from the basic pipe and vice versa, unless you're the genius who knows exactly how to use managed as well as specialized services to continue offering an exact 'Goldilocks' service to regular Internet users - not too hot, not too cold. In this version of the fairytale, too hot is too expensive to deploy efficiently or non-profitable, and too cold is too throttled. Just right would offer the full suite of managed, specialized and plain vanilla services, ensuring maximum consumer transparency and choice, with surplus profits reinvested in maximising the cheapest and best alternative for the majority of traffic, the Internet pipe. That's obviously easier where your main or sole business is as an ISP and your main accounting is wholesale and transparent. Its hardest if you're a cable provider or even more massive communications conglomerate with horizontal-vertical linkages into content and customer services that makes the pipe and ISP consumers the least of your worries.
As with all out-of-copyright fairytales, it comes from Europe and suffers greatly in translation to American corporate capitalism. It may even come true, but probably not in Kansas.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Cisco to buy Skype and end net neutrality corporate lobbying?

If Cisco does what is rumoured - buy Skype and use it for enhanced consumer video calling and wholesale P2P services to mobiles using LTE - then that removes more or less the last major corporate lobbyist (notably Jean-Jacques Sahel) in favour of some net neutrality.
Cisco of course likes Quality of Service and differentiated services as that enables it to sell fancier routers. Its recent work on the future Internet actually designs a scenario of a type of 'net neutrality leads to Paradise Lost' called 'Bursting at the Seams' (this scenario is alongside protectionism, economic stagnation and security threats).
This is the 'Silly Season' of wild rumours, so most likely the Skype share flotation (can it be worth $5b to anyone?) will go ahead...

New report on transparency regulation in broadband

Please forgive me for this shameless self-promotion, and allow me to share with you a report on transparency in broadband that I co-authored, together with Florian Schuett and Bastian Henze, both also researchers at TILEC. Our research project was supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs.

We argue that transparency of broadband works. Increasing transparency about the actual quality of broadband internet is good for consumers and increases quality and efficiency on broadband markets.

We conducted an experimental study in a laboratory, comparing various policy scenarios in which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are obliged to disclose the actual quality of their service. Nowadays, consumers often only have information about the price and maximum bandwidth of broadband internet, which says little about the actual quality they experience. Results of this research indicate that increased transparency about actual quality leads to stronger competition between ISPs, and increases the quality of broadband.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs supported this TILEC research project as part of its effort to implement the new European directives on electronic communications into Dutch telecommunications law. Our study is part of TILEC’s larger research agenda on innovation, competition policy and regulation, and we will use the data and results of this study for a number of academic publications.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Net neutrality: special issue compared Canadian experience to US, Europe, Japan

I warmly recommend the Global Media Journal Issue 3 number 1 - an entire issue devoted to country comparison's on net neutrality policy now that we have emerged from the phoney (sic) war of 2006-8 (at least outside the US, where they have done things in reverse).
Greg Taylor gives a thorough and thoroughly fair review of my book, and his two particular criticisms, that it is Euro-centric and that it is perhaps too optimistic about the reversal of neo-liberalism in US telecoms policy, are those that I fully accept. Recall the book was written in the bright Obama dawn of early 2009, not the appalled, apocalyptic and rotten summer of Beckian doom.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Special/managed services

There's a lot of interesting comment on special/managed services at the Net Neutrality squad list at the moment: well worth reading. Its worth remembering that common carriers are required to carry on a best-efforts and non-discriminatory basis because they have special privileges associated with that status. Its not a free market, more of a free lunch - which is why they can guarantee dividends.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Broadband Internet and economic growth: some thoughts

There's a lot of head-scratching over net neutrality and innovation - and the effects of centralized versus localized innovation on economic growth. On the local side, there are Seely Brown, Benkler, van Schewick, Lessig, and economists Economides, Evans and Brynjolfsson. On the central side, there are any number of managerial experts, and its certainly the case that previous industrial revolutions depended to a large extent on the management of capital and resources, notably in warfare and railroads.
Andrew Odlyzko's latest work has set me thinking, along with Christian Sandvig's reminder of the brutal corporate strategy of the railroad and oil pipeline bosses of the Gilded Age (which I back in the bubble of 2000 decided had been replaced by a new George Gilder-ed Age).
John Seely Brown has long talked of the role of information processing in terms of enabling technologies (or general purpose technologies), and of the second forty year period as more important than the first in any enabling technology's development. This is not new - it is known as Solow's Productivity Paradox - and reflects the socio-economic lag before the full benefits of new technologies can become generally deployed in any market. Hence, the steam engine was invented in 1774, the mobile version - steam trains - in 1805, the iron-clad ocean-going ship in 1843 (and the enormously advanced SS Great Eastern in 1858, largest ship for over 40 years), but their effect was far greater over the third and fourth human generations after their invention (note that Brunel's great ships became respectively a gold rush passenger carrier to Australia and a telegraph cable carrier, thus enabling enablers). The same process applies to the motor car, the microprocessor, electrification and so on.
So with the Internet. It was 'invented' (depending on your taste) in about 1968, so it is now entering its third generation with widespread consumer adoption of broadband.
Its worth adding that these enabling technologies can produce bubbles in investment because their development is so lumpy before it becomes entirely ubiquitous - and Odlyzko's thesis is in part that this bubble speculation is in the long run beneficial for development (if not for investors) as it spurs that ubiquity. Hence the railroads have seen multiple bubbles in investment, which eventually resulted in oversupply of track in the UK, but phenomenal growth in economies which copied that development (as well as in the UK itself). Argentina, Paraguay, Siberia, Utah, the Punjab, Kenya, all benefited enormously from the railroad up to a hundred years after its invention. In consequence, beef, wheat, rice, cotton markets all made huge strides, as did real estate, tourism, postal services, local road transport and so on.
What does this mean for net neutrality? Well, first is that real damage to wider innovation, should it occur, may not matter much until 2050 or so, at which point it will have utterly shattered the lead of .
Second, the core network usages may simply resist innovation - railways have more or less used standard gauge ever since 1850, despite the attractions of broad gauge and Brunel's other innovations. An unmanaged pipe may be best - just as Brunel's 130km/h trains of the 1870s barely needed speeding up for 100 years (and are still timetabled speeds today!). But Japan's bullet trains from 1964, and France's TGV from 1981, are only now being replicated in Germany, China and so on, and the UK is unsurprisingly at least half a century behind with its fiendishly useless railway regulation almost 20 lamentable years old, and no investment or longterm planning.
Third, the network itself may not need to continue to exponentially increase its speed: perhaps Ethernet is fast enough, or at least can be trivially upgraded for consumers. Of course you have to reach Ethernet speeds first by fibre to more or less everyone in the country. So once you're up to speed and have several alternative distribution networks (e.g. rail, canal, road, bicycle/horse now outmoded), you don't need to invest in some maglev type of super-fast service. Take an example: satellites are brilliant at delivering high definition television, mobile spectrum is great for telephony. The fixed Internet doesn't need to do everything.
Fourth, you could fiddle around the edges ('managed services' anyone?) just using the spare physical capacity in the ducts, as railways developed telegraph and telecoms services next to the rail lines. Its what keeps trunk telecoms working in most countries even now - MCI in the US used the railways' rights of way, most UK companies used the same - after all, they had 17,000km of fibre ready for competitors to BT.
But at the centre is the unrebuttable claim that the innovation caused by a largely distributed architecture is the best for innovation - it cannot be rebutted because we don't have enough convincing evidence to prove the contrary, unless one simply maintains that telecoms companies are hopeless innovators and thus should be kept away from fiddling with the system.
However enabling the Internet will become - and it promises a great deal - it will achieve a great deal more in the next fifty years. Whether it will be allowed to do so is what net neutrality is all about, whether you frame the issue in technical, social, economic, political, philosophical or any other terms. A bubble of investment that allowed developed countries to simply run fibre to their customers would solve most of the connectivity part of the problem. How what gold rush fable can we invent to make it happen? How about Free's business model, an all-you-can-eat buffet at 30euros with no sales: the world's greatest ISP?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ofcom research: managed services as telcos' only answer to declining revenues

Ofcom's annual bumper research volume is now out - and shows UK mobile voice revenues finally reducing in response to termination rate cuts (Fig 5.2) - 7 years after technology caused the same for fixed voice. Note that fixed broadband connections have stalled at 65% of total households and any increase in broadband subs is from mobile - notably dongles.
There are at least 4.1m broadband users (in only 3 years from launch), and 6% of households appear to have only mobile broadband (with 9% having both). As data speeds increase, this might grow, though patchy coverage and ludicrously low caps (1GB/month typically, though my 5GB/month package from 3 is adequate) discourages growth (see p.295 on how rubbish it is perceived). Unsurprisingly students and those who change address often in private rents - early-career types - are those who most want to avoid long-term contracts. Ofcom also shows - unsurprisingly - that mobile data use is growing much quicker than revenue (Fig 5.6) - though its still a barely significant 1% of total data revenue use. With 4m Jesus-phone users, that may increase.
With managed IP networks representing 20% of Internet volume but video 30% (double web surfing) it will be instructive to see how that managed fraction increases over the next 2 years. CAGR for IP traffic is steady at about 70% in the UK. At pp285-6, Ofcom explains that the overall trend is towards throttling and capping usage - and explains that this unsurprisingly is driving consumer concerns about net neutrality.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dutch Court Strikes through Cable Unbundling

It's been ages since I last published something here—sorry, Chris!—but I've had an insanely busy summer. Hopefully everything will be back to normal business shortly when the fall semester starts—whoever said academics can relax during the summer?

This came in today: Dutch telecoms regulator OPTA lost a case today against the four Dutch cable companies, effectively preventing OPTA to unbundle the Dutch cable market. The Dutch were the first to implement such an unbundling scheme in cable, which by now has been standard practice in DSL for years. In fact, one firm normally active in the DSL market had already successfully entered the (analog) cable market in the Netherlands by leasing lines from cable firms Ziggo and UPC.

After OPTA got the green light from the European Commission to unbundle analog cable, the four cable providers active in the Netherlands immediately filed suit to prevent such from happening. I'm still reading through the opinion of The Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal, (aka the Administrative High Court for Trade and Industry), but this is looking bad.

The court mainly slams OPTA for its definition of the geographic scope of the Dutch cable market. Whereas OPTA claimed the cable market to be consisting of a number of regional monopolies— which warranted special intervention like unbundling—the court had none of that. Rather, the Tribunal takes the scope of the Dutch cable market to be national, and thus sufficiently competitive to prevent intervention. This argument on the geographic market for cable is strengthened by the finding of the Court that the product market is pretty much uniform throughout the country.

I have been a big fan of OPTA's cable unbundling, and I was actually about to enter into a contract with a new entrant company to get cable. I've never really bought the ladder of investment theorem, but in this market it may arguable may work well in a different way: cable unbundling enables entrants already active in the high-end digital TV market to offer an entry level service to attract new customers. This basic service does not so much generate enough revenues to allow the entrants to invest according to the LoI principle, but rather creates a stepping stone for consumers towards double, triple, or quadruple play packages that these entrants couldn't offer before. And this makes the telecoms market more competitive as a whole.

So I would urge OPTA to appeal. To be continued, hopefully...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Vodafone, Froyo and wireless net neutrality

In the wake of their joint venture's agreement with Google to avoid restrictions on wireless neutrality, its instructive to see what happened when Vodafone HTC users tried to download Android 2.2 in the UK - yup, Google's open platform. It provides HD video support, Flash, and provides wireless hotspot functionality. But all they got was the adware V360 supplied by Vodafone, as the BBC explains: "Last week, many customers who own HTC Desire smartphones were prompted to download a software update which they believed was an upgrade to Android. Instead it installed irremovable Vodafone-branded apps and bookmarks, including links to dating sites. Following a raft of complaints, the firm has backed down and will now offer an update without the applications."
The biggest issue for Vodafone users is the changes, including their branded music store, cannot be reversed, whereas for instance Orange's rival ad bloatware can be removed.
Wireless net neutrality and transparency are overdue some regulatory oversight?