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January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton’s Internet policy speech

First, my overall reaction to Hillary Clinton’s speech: It’s thrilling that a Secretary of State would claim “freedom to connect” as a basic human right. That’s a very big stake in the ground. Likewise, it’s sort of amazing that the State Department is funding the development of tools to help users circumvent government restrictions on access. On the negative side, it’s distressing (but not surprising) that the Secretary of State should come out against anonymity so we can track down copyright infringers. Of course, in response to a question she said that we have to strike a balance so that the anonymity of dissenters is protected even as the anonymity of file sharers is betrayed. I just don’t know how you do that. [THE NEXT DAY: I fixed a couple of typos in that paragraph.]

What follows are the notes I took during the presentation itself. They are, as always, rough livebloggage. Here’s a transcript of her prepared remarks.

I’m at the Newseum where Hillary Clinton is about to give a speech about Internet freedom. The venue is filled: an auditorium that seats a few hundred. HRC enters. (Joe Lieberman is smiling in the front row, damn his eyes.)


Her topic: How freedom applies to the Net. She thanks Richard Lugar and Joe “The Weasel” Lieberman for sponsoring some act that promotes Internet freedom. [I don’t know what she’s referring to, but somehow I bet I don’t like it.] She takes a moment to note the gravity of the situation in Haiti. Communications networks have played a crucial role in our relief efforts, she says. The State Dept. immediately set up the “text Haiti” program that has raised $25M.


The Internet is forming a new “nervous system,” she says. Information has never been more free, she says. The U.S. believes that open access to info enables citizens to hold their gov’ts accountability, increase innovation, etc. But the same tools are used to work against freedoms. The same networks that organize people for freedom also enable Al Qaeda to spew hatred, she says. The same tech can be used to suppress dissent. Chinese, Tunisia and Uzbekistan have stepped up their assault on Internet freedom, she says. We stand for a single Internet, open to all. [“Single Internet” is code for “Boo, China!” but should also be code for “Yay Net Neutrality!”] This is based on our belief in free speech. We need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles.


The users of the Net ought to be assured certain basic freedoms:


Freedom of expression. She hearkens back to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Net is this generation’s icon. Instead of a wall, it stands for connection. Some countries [=China] have expunged search results and have imprisoned people for non-violent expressions of beliefs. This violates the Declaration of Human Rights. Viral videos and blog posts are the samizdat of our day. E.g., Iran.


Then she exempts terrorist beliefs. And, in the next sentence, exempts those transmitting “stolen intellectual property.” And, she says, we must not allow anonymity to protect them. [What the what??]


HRC says she likes freedom of worship and the Net ought not to be censored on those grounds.


The Net can be used to advanced struggling economies. The Net and mobile phones can do for economic growth what the Green Rev did for agriculture. “Information networks have become a great leveler.” We should use them to lift people out of poverty.


But: Bad people use the Net for bad purposes. Terrorists, sexual predators, totalitarian gov’ts, child porn, slave trade. We need our networks to be secure, especially from evil organizations. We need more tools to allow law enforcement agencies to cooperate across boundaries. “Countries or individuals that engage in cyberattacks” should face consequences. We need to protect the “cyber information commons.” [Cool phrase to hear a Sect’y of State utter]


We should all have a freedom to a connect: To connect to the Internet, Web sites, or one another. It is like the freedom to assemble.


We can use the Net to help ensure Net freedoms.

How to apply this in practice:


The U.S. is ready to spend what we need to in order to advance these freedoms.


We need 21st Century statecraft, as they say at the State Dept.


We’re including Net freedom in what we’re proposing to the UN Human Rights Council.


We are funding groups to make sure that Net tools get to people who need them to so they can be used in rights-challenged countries. We are committed to providing tools and training to people in countries where the Net is under political censorship. Announcement: Partnerships to provide tools to empower citizens. Also, an innovation contest. She talks about a State group that has been working on this, including in Mexico and Pakistan.


“Information freedom” is not just good policy, but it’s a universal value and good for business.


She calls on China to look into the violations that caused Google to threaten to withdraw. Countries that censor risk “walling themselves off” from progreess.


Will we live with one Internet, one body of knowledge, one community? Or will what you see depend on what your censors let you? Asymmetric access to info leads to global instability.


Consumers want to rely that their Internet providers are giving them open, uncensored access. Those who lose that confidence will lose customers. [Unless there are monopolies.] We need to be confident that what we do on the NEt won’t be used against us. [Hence we need anonymity.] We are reinvigorating the Internet Freedom Task Force. The private sector has a shared responsibility to safeguard Internet freedom.


HRC also likes the Global Network Initiative, a consortium that establishes mechanisms sfor transparency and accountability. The State Dept. is having a conference next month.


Q: But we need anonymity to enable free speech in repressive regimes.
A: We have to strike a balance.


Q: But business is in it for the money.
A: Open Net is in the long term interest of business.


A: If a gov’t disaagrees with what a blogger is saying, get into the discussion.


A: We are expanding our outreach to Muslim youth.


[Now there’s a panel discussion, but I’m not going to live blog it.]

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March 31, 2009

[f2c] Kevin Werbach and Dan Gillmor

[Note: Live blogging with all the suckiness and unreliability that that entails] Kevin Werbach was co-chair of the Obama FCC transition team, among many other things. Dan Gillmor is interviewing him:

Q: What does a transition team do?
A: You get to participate in a quasi-hostile takeover of a $14T organization. We reviewed the FCC to find out what was going on.

Q: What was going on at the FCC?
A: It’s no one thing. Commissioner Martin ran the agency in a closed, politicized way. He was very distrustful of the staff.

Q: What was broken?
A: I can’t discuss details.

Q: What would you do if you were Chairman?
A: If I told you, I’d ensure I could never have that job. The real opportunity for the FCC is to get ahead of the curve. What will the world be like in 20 years? What will be requirements of the iPhone in 20 years?

Q: Are we going to get to lots more open spectrum?
A: Chairman Powell was thinking about the future of spectrum. That got shoved aside by Martin.

Q: How real is this change, then? Will we see deep change?
A: There will be tremendous change. But people on the outside should keep pushing the Administration to do better. It really matters who wins the election.

Q: What some things that could be done that couldn’t be reversed?
A: Successes are the things that are hard to reverse. The telcos understand that they need to evolve to something else.

Dan opens up the Q&A to the audience.

[harold feld] What’s achievable with spectrum policy with this Admin?
A: NTIA just got its head, so it’s early. The FCC and NTIA need to coordinate. We need to know how spectrum is being used. Do an inventory.

Q: Can you start blogging again…?
A: I’d love to, but it takes too much time. So I’ve started tweeting ([email protected])

Q: Smart grids. What’s going on between the FCC and other bodies in trying to set new standards?
A: I don’t know what’s going on in that, but it’s important. I have a law review article coming out that argues that standards are a form of regulation.

Kevin asks Dan: What would you do as FCC Chair.
A: Resign.

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[f2c] Grids and muni nets

Geoff Daily introduces a panel at Freedom to Connect. [Note: Live blogging. Unedited. Uncorrected. Incomplete. Flat out wrong. Thanks for playing.]

James Salter talks about the Smart Grid. The biggest problems on earth: Over-population and global warming. The second is a subset of the first. James at first thought Al Gore was a hypocrite, but now he’s convinced of the truth of what AG says. (James is a proud Republican.) American residential electric usage has tripled in the past 50 years, and the efficiency has gone down. (Efficiency = peak usage over average usage.) 40% of carbon comes from coal-fired power plants and 33% from cars. Obama says we should get greener by building windmills, etc. But the effective thing he’s doing is installing smart meters. Smart meters are networked. There are 140M lectric meters in the use. Only 6.7M are smart meters so far. He estimates it’d cost $2,500 per house — including fiber to the house — to lower the load factor significantly.

Q: Is fiber required for a smart grid?
A: Nope. But the apps will need more bandwidth over time.

Terry Huval of Lafayette, Louisiana tells about broadbanding the city. In 1998, the Lafayette Utilities System put in fiber for its utilities. In 2000, they were authorized to “establish a wholesale and governmental retail network.” Companies were allowed to resell access to private folks. In 2004, the city proposed fiber to home and business as its fourth utility. But then the “Local Government Fair Competition Act” passed, a bill favoring the incumbents. The Governor stepped in and negotiated a compromise. Then the private telcos successfully sued. In 2005, the public voted 62% in favor of the project. “It was looked upon as a huge benefit to local businesses.” It was viewed as being like electricity. Then, in 2006, tow unknown citizens filed suit. 2007, State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 in favor of the project. The whole process cost $3.5M. In 2009, they’ve started providing retail telecommunication services to residential and smaller business customers, at 20% less than the standard competitor. But the vision is to provide much more than basic TV and phone services. They provide the triple play for $85. For $138 you get 250 channels (including HD) and 30MB up and down Internet. Customers can build their own bundle. E.g., unlimited long distance for $31. Five cents a minute to reach much of the world. He stresses that they’ve listened to the community. So, they’ provide 100Mbps for peer-to-peer, free. “We think it opens up doors for all our citizens and businesses.” They enable Net access through your TV if you don’t have a computer. It’s limited, but they can Google… People love the service overall and consider it, proudly, to be “ours.”

Q: [bob frankston] Among the triple play, which funds what?
A: TV is the driver.

Q; [Todd of the Utopia project in Utah] Will you wholesale access to the network so that others can be ISPs.
A: No. At least not until our bonds are paid off.

Q: [brett glass] Where does Lafayette get its backbone connection?
A: AT&T and Quest, about $50-60/Mbps. It’s an over-subscription-based model. You assume you won’t have all of your sources using all of your resources at the same time.

[Terry now plays Cajun fiddle and sings. Awesome.]

Geoff Daily makes a quick announcement of a new alliance: “All Americans deserve equal access to the best broadband. The best broadband is fiber.” [I couldn’t get the URL. Sorry.]

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March 30, 2009

[f2c] Politico-Regulatory talks

[Note: Live blogging. Sloppy. Incomplete. Unchecked. Wrong. Flee! Flee!]

Chris Savage talks about “The Re-Birth of Intelligent Regulation and the Chicago School.” The Chicago School overemphasizes the value of individual thought (= “revealed preference theory”). When people make choices, that’s the best way to know what’s good for them (Chris says). But how can people know which wireless plan they want? “Empirical studies of decision making show that people don’t know what they want.” They don’t act rationally. They have trouble when there are too many alternatives, need to assess risk, etc. But, if you can’t assume that people know what they want, there’s no reason to think that the results from markets are good results. Hence, we need to regulate. If there’s no factual basis to think open competition will lead to the best outcome, regulators may have a role in shaping the outcome. But, timing matters and now is the time to make a “more citizen-friendly regulatory system.”

Derek Slater, a policy person for Google (and a former Berkman Fellow). He’s going to talk about MLab. We have all asked “WTF?” he says, especially when an app starts running badly. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t have the tools to get the data that would help us understand that. Broadband policy needs data. mLab provides end-user testing tools. (It’s not just a Google project.) “We call it beta but that’s only because most people don’t now what alpha means.” Thirty-six servers at the moment.

John Peha, chief technologist of the FCC, talks about the “Mythology of Rural Broadband.” Myth 1: There’s less interest in broadband in rural areas. Nope. The percentage of US households with Internet overall and rural are almost the same, but rural has less broadband. They probably don’t like their Internet slow. About one third of rural households have no access to broadband of any ttype (except satellite). Myth 2: Customers are unwilling to pay the cost of the buildout. But there are spill-over benefits, affecting the community and not just the individual subscribers. Myth 3: Rural communities may not gain from the broadband they don’t have access to, but it doesn’t hurt them. Nah. “Reducing the size of a network harms those who remain.” Broadband is becoming the norm, hurting those who do not have it. Myth 4: “Government involvement in infrastructure always helps.” Nope. No “one size fits all” solution. We shouldn’t have the gov’t replicate solutions the market is doing well already. We shouldn’t assume that the market solves all problems. We’re getting some more spectrum in 2009 as the switch to digital TV kicks in, and there’s a new national broadband plan under development.

Q: [tim denton, CRTC commissioner] Expand on your point that we don’t know what market conditions will work, Chris?
Chris: We don’t know. It’s important for people, esp. regulators, to remember that.

Q: How can regulators make policy and maintain technological neutrality since technologies offer different capabilities?
Jon: Tech neutrality is a good thing to aim at.
Chris: I want to challenge that. We’re not neutral about houses that have electricity or not, or cars with airbags or not. The market won’t figure this out correctly, necessarily.
Derek: We need to set the goals and look at the data at what different technologies bring to the table.
Jon: The setting of the goals is the key part of that.

[amy wohl] I am a recovering Chicago economist. When the gov’t tries to fix market mistakes, it often introduces a lag that can create a new mistake. How can we help the gov’t make good decisions?
Chris: Elect the right people.
Derek: Infrastructure is special. That’s the message we need to be building on.
David I: Say more …
Audience: Because infrastructure is being built now but not being designed. [Tags: ]

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[f2c] Eva Sollberger

Eva Sollberger talks about SevenDaysVt.com, about being “stuck in Vermont” videos. The videos don’t make the newspaper a lot of money but it does help “brand” Vermont and Burlington. Shes done 122 of them over the past two years. Highly edited. Highly viewed. One person, a bunch of videos, making a difference.

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[f2c] Telehealth Project

Check this project: DocBox sits on top of a tv and provides 2-way connectivity so seniors can exercise together under the eye of a trained person

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[f2c] Politics

Tim Karr, campaign director of Free Press, moderates a small panel: Nathaniel James ( Media and Democracy Coalition) and Ellen Miller (Sunlight Foundation).

Tim: We’re in a period of turmoil, torn between “two distinct value systems”: Mass media and social media. Now is the crucial time for making the right policies. We’re seeing a perfect alignment of three movements: media reform, free culture, and open government. The principles of the unity of these three movements: Openness (neutral, nondiscriminatory net), transparency, innovation (through copyright reform), privacy, access.

Ellen: As Andrew Rasiej says, technology is not a slice of the pie, it’s the entire pan. (Ellen talks about the origins and current projects of the magnificent Sunlight Foundation.)

Nathaniel mentions that he’s very involved in One Web Day. But his talk is about fighting for the freedom to connect. He says the process of providing access needs to include a diverse swath of the country. The Internet policy process ought to be as participatory as Internet culture itself. “Are we building programs that allow empowerment and peer to peer education?”

Q: Politically, what’s it look like with the new administration and Congress?
Tim: We’re more hopeful. “The more the public gets involved in the sausage-making, the more visionary and courageous our politicians become”
Nathaniel: The Dems and Reps are equally opportunity offenders in this area.
Ellen: When it comes to the new admin, “it’s a delight to be pushing on an open door.”

Q: [googin] We’re seeing an increase in bottom up business, not just in media.

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[f2c] First panel

At Freedom to Connect, the opening panel, moderated by Joanne Hovis, is on municipal wifi. [Note: Liveblogging. Missing stuff. Typing too fast. Not spellpchecking. No rereading. This is a terribly incomplete and occasionally wrong set of notes.]

Tim Nulty is the former head of Burlington Telecom, and is now the head of a consortium bringing fiber to rural Vermont. He says there are about 45 municipal wifi companies in the US. We pretty much know how to do that. It’s different in rural areas, where the average density is 13 residences per linear mile. About 60% have no broadband. Why should it be harder to replace copper wire with glass the second time around? Why is there this myth that it’s impossible? Because there are incumbents who have a financial interest in saying that it’s impossible because they don’t want to do it [because the margins are lower than they want, which would drive down their overall margins, even while increasing their revenue].

Dirk Van der Woude, program manager for broadband in Amsterdam. They provide boradband as a public service such as garbage collection.

Lev Gonick, founder of One Community, has a million institutional users, via a community network, a 501C3. It has about 4,000 route miles. The governance model is mayor-proof because the infrastructure owns the governance. The goal was not to build-up fiber optics but to enable and transform their communty.

Bill Schrier works on getting Seattle fibered. He says that they’re spending $4B on highway infrastructure, which is 8x what it would cost to bring fiber everywhere.

First Joanne question: Fiber vs. Wireless [which is the topic burning up the backchannel]. Dirk says he pays for fiber at home. Wifi works but is slow, he says. For wifi, you need access points with backhaul that is likely to be fiber.

Bill: What’s the killer app for a network? HDTV. Video teleconferencing.

Tim: Fiber is cheaper and more economic if you intend to be universal. Bringing fiber to his neck of the woods (1,000 sq miles) is $69M. Doing this through wireless, with 2.3 or 2.5gH Wimax, to get close to universality, would be $35M. It costs half as much but brings 1/4 the revenue. The capacity is 1% of what you get with fiber. The right thing economically to do is to put the Wimax on top of the fiber network, at which point it costs $10M, which makes it a great business.

Dirk: In Amsterdam, dwellings are stacked. Getting the fiber to move vertically is a problem.

Mark Cooper: Which comes first, fixed or mobile computing? For connecting the underserved, the killer app isn’t HDTV. It’s connectivity. We want wireless: 1. It gets you further. 2. Mobile computing is a twofer: Mobile computing and basic connectivity that meets the need for connectivity. 3. Mobile computing is future-proof. For this project [stimulus package?] wireless is the right thing to do. 4. Public accountability.

Tim: Rural fiber does not need public money. It can pay its own way. Rural wireless does not pay its own way.

Lev: This is a family dispute. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Let’s move ahead, be pragmatic, etc…

Bill: Wireless and fiber are synergistic, (David I. asks for a show of hands; everyone agrees.)

Q: Fiber is the foundation that supports wireless. Now: Go mesh!

Tim: Mesh is great for thin uses. But for carrying lots of data, it breaks down.

Bob Frankston: We need to change the dynamic. We’re stuck in railroads where you pay for each trip. We need to get to the point where assume connectivity at any speed. The question is the funding model.

Dirk: Cooperate with anyone who wants to cooperate with you, so long as you get the network you want…

Bice Wilson: “Designing the hidden public way,” i.e., the infrastructure of connectivity. There’s a vast network of services that needs connectivity to the entire community.

Lev: That’s what One Community is about.

Bill: In Seattle, that’s where we’re directing our efforts.

Roxanne Googin: Current status…?

Tim: The really important investment is in universal fiber.

Joanne wraps up reminding us of the sense of the room that we want universal connectivity and we want it yesterday. [Gross paraphrase] [Tags: ]

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Freedom to Connect stream

I’m at Freedom to Connect, David Isenberg‘s annual conference on building open, fast, dumb networks. If you go to the F2C site, there should be instructions about how to live stream the proceedings. The twitter hashtag is #f2c09. The room’s backchannel is here.

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