Richard Bennett’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Mar 14th, 2015 @ 3:26am

    Think tanks and innovation

    Most of Silicon Valley is pretty clueless about what think tanks do. This enterprise may be valuable but it's not a think tank.

    Similarly, the four "innovation principles" strike me more as organizational values than ideas that have anything to do with innovation, and even at that they're more appropriate to non-profits than to businesses.

    Apple is the most innovative company in Silicon Valley and their business model doesn't follow this template at all. Apple is not nearly as much an imitator who depends on incremental improvement as most of today's California and NYC startups are.

    There's certainly a place for the 18th social network, the 15th CDN, the 5th SMS alternative, the 100th online tech institute, the Netscape dumpster divers, and the open source alternative to all the other blogging platforms, but it's mostly about serving niches with vertical plays to specialized audiences.

    But a Silicon Valley think tank would have to claim to disrupt the traditional mold to gather any eyeballs at all, so there's that. This will be amusing to follow, and with some perseverance and luck it could pivot in a useful direction.

    BTW, innovation is about empowering users and improving their quality of life by providing them with novel and valuable products and services; there are many ways to do that.

  • Mar 10th, 2015 @ 8:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Completely unrelated I'm sure...

    Right, politicians are all crooked. So why would anyone think city councils are less corrupt than state legislatures, or, God forbid, crony appointees to a federal regulator would be less corrupt than elected officials?

    Just trying to make sure I'm being irrational and inconsistent in the approved manner.

  • Mar 6th, 2015 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: As it does

    This is a good illustration of how Bode in particular and TechDirt in general misleads readers. Bode says: "These twenty or so laws, as we've explored in detail, are written and lobbied for by incumbent ISPs and prohibit towns and cities from deciding for themselves what they should be able to do regarding local telecom infrastructure." Thus, he claims that 20 (or so) state have passed laws protecting private broadband networks at the best of ISP lobbyists. When we look at the "detailed" examination, Bode mentions only one state, Kansas, and claims "more than a dozen states" are protecting ISPs. For reference, he cites a blog written by Jon Brodkin, someone who is actually less credible than Bode. Brodkin simply re-writes a list provided by the ISLR, a consulting company that advises local governments on how to build their own networks.

    The fact is that the "more than a dozen" or "twenty or so" laws that restrict local government entry in broadband span a wide range of conditions. Four states require local referenda; these include Colorado and Iowa, two states in which a number of such referenda have passed. Cedar Falls Iowa passed one, and 6 of 7 Colorado cities passed such referenda in November. So these laws aren't protecting capitalist firms as much as they're protecting tax payers.

    In five other states, laws simply give current operators the right of first refusal for new networks, and six states have laws requiring public hearings, feasibility studies or written business plans, things that should be done anyway.

    In other words, the article is false and misleading from the title all the way through to the last word, and it's only purpose is to raise your ire by making you believe a conservative Congressman in the pocket of the ISPs is out to deprive you of your freedom. And to keep you coming back for more manufactured outrage.

    Any law we don't like is passed by lobbyists, and any law we do like is passed by appointed shills at the FCC.

    Isn't democracy grand?

  • Mar 6th, 2015 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: As it does

    That's what this post says. Or "implies", when you put state broadband laws in context with other state laws on municipal debt.

    That may not come through clearly because of Bode's trolling.

  • Mar 6th, 2015 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: As it does

    Nope, Prop 13 was a voter initiative on runaway taxes. It also requires cities to hold referenda before building schools and libraries.

    According to TechDirt, broadband TV, phone, and Internet networks should not have to jump the same hurdles that all other debt issues face. Because, you know, the Internet is more special than phone networks, even though it has to be regulated as if it were a phone network because Comcast has bad customer service.

    After five phone calls to the government to register a new car today I'm reminded that government's customer service is much worse.

  • Mar 5th, 2015 @ 1:34pm

    As it does

    OK, muni broadband does struggle to survive, that's why Google was able to buy iProvo for a buck, Lafayette is drowning in red ink, and Cedar Falls had its bond rating downgraded.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    BTW, California doesn't permit muni builds without a referendum because of Prop 13, passed in 1978 in a statewide referendum. Clearly, the majority of California voters are cable lobbyists.

  • Dec 24th, 2014 @ 12:48pm

    ...and on the other hand...

    How chummy is Google with the DoJ and the White House? I believe they've all met.

  • Dec 13th, 2014 @ 10:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black


    This is from an iPhone.

  • Dec 11th, 2014 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    AEi is America's second oldest public policy think tank, founded 76 years ago. It might be wise to expand your reading circle a bit.

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 9:27pm

    Re: Can the BS

    For somebody who wants to cut through the BS, you throw a lot of it around. Ferguson and State Island, really?

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    All the data you should have if you want to argue broadband policy is here:

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 5:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    First, those are advertised speeds, not actual ones. In the UK, there's a large gap between advertised and actual, but in the US there isn't. The SamKnows tests commissioned by Ofcom and the FCC prove this.

    Second, you're comparing one city to one city, which only has meaning for those two cities. If you want to compare policy models, you need to look at the databases for entire countries, such as Akamai and Cisco.

    Third, you may or may not have caps in the UK, but in either case the amount of data transferred by the typical UK user is less than half the volume the typical American transfers. This reduces ISP cost in the UK.

    Fourth, UK cities are more densely populated than US cities, so the costs of providing service are lower still in the UK.

    The bottom line is that more Americans have access to speeds greater than 25 Mbps than do Britons, as a percentage of population. And yes, Americans do pay more for higher speeds, but that's largely because we can get them without building our own networks as they must do in rural Britain.

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 5:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    Show me your Speedtest or it didn't happen.

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    Mine's faster. Want to see my Speedtest? 105 Mbps down, 24 up on my phone.

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    You'll have to explain if you think UK broadband is faster than US, because my data don't show any such thing.

    Together, BT, Sky, and Talk Talk have 90% of the UK DSL market,and it's all day same DSLAMs so that's nothing price competition. BT has asked Ofcom for a regulatory holiday for fiber, and they're not going to build without it.

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    There are lots of stories about this town and that county and this little country, but they don't add up to an actual analysis.

    There's also no reason to be sad about the fact that some former Soviet bloc nations who never had cable or even decent telephone networks are finally getting their act together and installing some modern networks that use fiber, as everyone does in new networks today. But if you look closely you'll find the each of these networks is fast when it's brand new and has few users, but gets progressively slower as more people sign up and begin to actually use it. The quarterly Akamai measurements show this pattern in spades.

    You're basically whining about US broadband because you're been wound up by blogs going after clicks with alarming headlines.

  • Dec 10th, 2014 @ 2:44am

    Re: Re: Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    But broadband in the UK isn't faster than broadband in the US. On average, web page load time is 150% longer than in the US, despite greater population density and half the traffic volume. All the so-called competitors are connected to BT's switches except Virgin, so they're just reselling the same service. Effectively, you're confusing car dealers with car makers.

    Now that's a strawman.

  • Dec 9th, 2014 @ 8:11pm

    Re: TWC: Pot calling the kettle black

    Cable modem is deregulated in Europe, as it is in the US. In Europe, cable modem is faster than the DSL service that's heavily regulated; in the UK, DSL tops out at 20-25 Mbps, but Virgin Media's cable modem service goes up to 150 Mbps for the 50% of Britons who can get it.

    What easy setup do you imagine you see in Marcus's remark?

  • Dec 9th, 2014 @ 2:21pm

    Omissions and Disclosure

    Free Press says Title II treatment of broadband will raise end-user prices by $4B, while Singer and Litan say it will raise them by $15B. They agree that there will be a price increase, but they disagree on the exact amount.

    The wild card is state and local taxes, which Free Press judges totally impossible and which Singer and Litan note are automatically applied to telecom services today under state and local law. These taxes will obviously be triggered by reclassification.

    Bode tries to distract the reader with complaints about sneaky below the line fees that aren't affected by Title II at all.

    Given that this article was dictated by Free Press - by the author's own admission - why omit their claim that Title II will increase user fees by $4B?

    And for bonus points, given that the author claims the Singer/Litan study was dictated by AT&T - a claim that is offered without evidence - who pays the bills at TechDirt? Last I heard it was Google, but the tone of TechDirt's opinions suggest that Netflix and the hosting companies are in the mix now.

    Can we have some disclosure please?

  • Dec 8th, 2014 @ 7:27pm

    Amazingly weak article

    First, let me congratulate you for commenting on my study. While your post is less than illuminating, at least you didn't try to ignore my G-7 study; I suppose I can thank for forcing your hand. The study is iconoclastic because undermines the credibility of the endless stories tech blogs like to run about how the man is keeping the hipsters down and it's soooooo much better in Europe. So there's that. Now let's take note of the outright falsehoods in your story.

    1. The United States is not "indisputably mediocre when it comes to broadband." I see this turn of phrase often in Bode/TechDirt articles when the author can't be bothered to make a provable claim. The US isn't "indisputably" anything in broadband as there's a lively debate about how to assess our standing and what the data actually show. But more importantly, even the sources that claim the US is less good than I find us to be tend to rate the US somewhere between 20th and 40th on measures such as download speed, subscription rate, or price/performance. That sounds bad until you realize that there are close to 200 nations in the world, so mediocre would be closer to 100th place than to first. The top quarter isn't "mediocre".

    2. You say "It doesn't really matter if you look at data from FCC, the the OECD, OOkla's [sic] Net Index or walk next door and ask your neighbor. We're average or worse on metrics like speed (three quarters of the country has no competitive option at speeds faster than 25 Mbps), penetration, price and adoption..." Yet I cite all the sources you mention, as well as Akamai, Cisco, the EU, SamKnows, ITU, Google, Merrill Lynch, Infonetics, the Boston Consulting Group, Ofcom, Japan's MIC, and Plum, and I don't find any support for the claim that we're in the bottom 100 in the world. And no, walking next door and asking your neighbor will not tell you anything meaningful about international standings unless your neighbor is a scholar, and the number of competitors has less to do with speed than does the nature of the competition. More on that to follow.

    3. You claim "The latest study of this type comes courtesy of our friends over at the Verizon, Comcast and AT&T funded American Enterprise Institute, whose latest analysis (pdf) compares U.S. broadband to only other G7 countries, since a broader global comparison makes us look worse."

    I focused on the G-7 in this study because this is a group of nations that are more closely comparable with the US than city states such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, but I've covered the whole OECD in the past. In fact, comparing the US to the entire 194 countries in the world makes us look a lot better than simply comparing us to the rest of the G7, G20, or OECD does.

    4. You engage in ad hominem by claiming that I say "a think tank employed in part by the nation's largest ISPs has cornered the market on sound broadband pricing analysis" and that my study "makes light of all price studies that came before it." In the first place, AEI is not employed by anybody; it accepts donations from hundreds of contributors - most of whom are not even known to me - and I did not consult with a single one about this study.

    It's also false to claim I make light of all previous pricing studies. I analyze most of them - including the credulous OTI report that takes advertising claims as reality - and I criticize some of their methods. In particular, I find that a dollars/Mbps analysis is less meaningful than a bit miles analysis.

    Rather than making light of the OTI and some OECD studies that have used the wrong yardstick, I explain why I think measuring traffic and miles of cable is more meaningful. YMMV about which metric is more informative, but I show the math: wiring a Hong Kong apartment with fiber costs $200, but pulling fiber in the suburbs costs closer to $1000/home. That's a fact.

    5. You say I claim "we're competitive under this criteria if you look at specific metrics in just the right way, ignore all previous studies, tilt your head just the right way, and ignore the industry's awful customer service." If this were the case, why would I cite the OTI, Ookla, and OECD studies you praise? I looked at every bit of public data I could find, and generated 70 charts and graphs showing how the various studies rank us. I refrained from making any claims that aren't supported by more than one source, and in most cases I use three or more sources before making any claims.

    6. Your comments on cable are strangely inconsistent. On the one hand, you admit that cable modem is faster than the DSL that accounts for 80% of Europe's broadband connections, but on the other hand you say observing "United States has more cable in the ground than Europe sounds nice, [but] it's kind of like observing that Europe has different trees". When we're assessing speed, technologies matter, and cable affords the speeds that policy analysis classifies as "next generation broadband", 25 Mbps downloads or better. Because the US has more cable than Europe and Japan, we can employ different regulatory models to achieve performance-based competition, something that's lacking in most nations, including most of Europe where retail ISPs can only compete on price since they use the incumbent's DSL wires.

    7. You claim I make a big deal over the fact that the "United States leads many G7 countries when it comes to the number of total fiber based connections, a metric that includes fiber to the home connections like Google Fiber, and the slower and much less costly fiber to the node connections like AT&T U-Verse." I follow the FCC/NTIA convention of excluding VDSL systems like U-Verse from fiber connections and only count genuine FTTH/B. This departs from the European convention that counts VDSL as "FTTx". The US leads all of the G7 on FTTH except Japan, where it's essentially universal. In fact, the US has twice as much FTTH as Europe's G7 nations have, and we continue to install more fiber miles each year than does the EU as a whole.

    8. You make the false claim that Local Loop Unbundling leads to higher speeds and lower prices: "U.S. incumbent broadband pricing has long taken a particular beating when compared to places like Paris, where regulators took our discarded idea of local loop unbundling (opening up the incumbent networks to third party competition) and made it work. The result? Stories like this, where people visit Paris and are shocked to learn that Parisians can get 100 Mbps broadband, 250 cable channels, home phone service and a wireless phone with 3 GB of data -- for $63 a month."

    LLU is a system that allows retail ISPs to lease DSL from the incumbent, often at cost or below. There is not a single case of LLU for cable in the G7, and only one in the OECD (Denmark) so there's no way it affects these higher speed networks.

    Given that, there's certainly no way that LLU brings 100 Mbps services to anybody in the G7 unless FTTH is unbundled. I do a very thorough analysis of G7 FTTH policies and find that they're actually based on regulatory holidays from unbundling.

    In Japan, NTT-E/W will only lease fiber to a competitor in groups of 8 strands, which makes competition impractical. Germany and the UK also restrict access to FTTH for competitors, but there's very little FTTH in these nations to begin with: 2.6% of homes in Germany, 0.7% in UK, vs. 23% in the US. In fact, regulators in other countries incentivize fiber by copying the deregulatory US model for fiber while retaining LLU for DSL. This discourages upgrading to higher speeds because it makes DSL artificially cheap.

    9. Finally, you mention customer service several times, despite the fact that I make no mention of it. While it's certainly true that US carriers and utilities score low in customer service, even a quick Google search will show you that this is a global pattern. Nobody likes their carrier or utility, not even people in Europe and Asia, and but most people who use the Internet really like it. So there's no meaningful or measurable difference between the US and the rest of the world on that score, which is why I don't discuss it in the paper. In reality, telecoms are less reviled than actual public utilities in most nations.

    Conclusion: I realize that I've simply cited facts here and haven't made appeals to emotion. Having seen that facts and logic don't weigh heavily against emotion, I don't expect you to change your tune, but I take satisfaction in knowing that in the back of your mind you'll be aware that at least some of your readers are aware of the way they're being manipulated when they see your leaps of logic, your ad homs, and your non sequiturs.

    That pleases me.

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