FCC to ease some broadband rules for AT&T

The FCC has decided to give AT&T a break and allow it to raise rates for business customers and other companies using its facilities.

FCC eases some broadband rules on AT&T | Benton Foundation

I find the FCC’s reasoning less than compelling. For example, Commissioner McDowell suggests the deployment of wireless technologies is legitimate competition for broadband.

“As competition in the broadband market continues to grow, especially through the deployment of new wireless technologies, less regulation should be required. However, many parties allege that competition in the special access market is uneven and is limited to certain urban areas, thus creating supply bottlenecks that favor incumbent local exchange carriers in the business broadband and wireless markets. Despite requests for better data to help us resolve disputes of these material facts, the Commission still has inadequate information to determine whether allegations that competition is scarce in certain segments of the special access market have merit.”

Commissioner McDowell’s statement, particularly the reference to wireless technology, makes me think the FCC doesn’t have enough data to support assertions that legitimate broadband competition exists enough to relax broadband rules for AT&T. WiFi Networks, such as Google WiFi, are available in only a few select cities, have spotty coverage areas, are testing an unproven business model. As the industry stands today, the FCC is counting chickens before they hatch if relying upon WiFi Networks as reason to relax rules for AT&T. Coffee houses, hotels, and some other service companies provide wireless access however those are limited in scope and reach, therefore not providing any real competition in broadband. And wireless Internet access via mobile phones should not be considered broadband at this stage.

The more I learn about mass communication technologies, the FCC, and the overall regulatory environment, the more I believe the conduit (wires, cables, spectrum used by wifi and satellite, etc.) should be regulated to provide full access to competition. The companies that connect to people through those conduits should each be considered common carriers. Then competitors would be guaranteed full access to the consumer and a reasonable profit margin would be guaranteed (10% sounds about right) to the owner of the conduit. Otherwise, we end up with uncontrollable monopolies that stifle innovation and ream the pocket books of consumers, neither of which are in the public interest.

reminder of University policy on sharing copyrighted materials- increase in notifications

It appears the RIAA is about to come after students at SCU. It amazes me that they (RIAA) don’t more heavily promote the music rental services like Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music, and the new Napster. Instead they make rental more costly by forcing additional charges to upload songs to MP3 players (notice the payment structure for the three services) and in general make it more difficult for everyone.

“Dear Students:

I am writing to remind you about Santa Clara’s policy regarding sharing of copyrighted materials such as music, videos, and software – such sharing is illegal, in violation of the University’s Network and Communications policy (http://it.scu.edu/policies/NetPolicy.shtml), can lead to disciplinary action by the University, and can place you at risk of financial and criminal sanctions.

More than 20,000 people have been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for illegally sharing copyrighted music.

The potential financial exposure is up to $150,000 per song, video, or program obtained or shared in violation of copyright. Santa Clara is required to comply if it receives a subpoena requesting identification of someone suspected of such sharing via University computer networks.

Recently, RIAA has announced that they will be targeting university students with 400 monthly *offers to settle* in advance of suits.

This reminder is motivated by a dramatic increase in notifications of potentially illegal file sharing received by the University. This academic year we have already received nearly three times the number of notifications received all of last year, including eight in the past 24 hours. At some other institutions such a surge has preceded receipt of subpoenas.

Regardless of your personal view of the ethics related to file sharing of copyrighted materials, it is an illegal activity, one with potentially serious criminal and financial risks, and possible repercussions for your relationship with the University. Please be aware of these possibilities and conduct yourself accordingly.

I*d be happy to discuss file sharing, or other technology issues, at any time: [email], or [phone#].

Ron Danielson
Vice Provost and CIO”

Has Yahoo! Mail Jumped the Shark?

Yahoo! Mail ran a test by attaching third party advertisements to the bottom of each email message I sent using my Yahoo! Mail account during the past week. Here are three such ads:


Sponsored Link

Mortgage rates near 39yr lows. $420,000 Mortgage for $1,399/mo – Calculate new house payment

Sponsored Link

Online degrees – find the right program to advance your career.


Sponsored Link

Degrees online in as fast as 1 Yr – MBA, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Associate – Click now to apply

Previously, that ad spot was held only by internal Yahoo! products such as Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, and Music. Those are expected. This is, after all, mail from a Yahoo! Mail account. However, third party advertisements, particularly bottom-of-the-barrel advertisers like LowerMyBills and Nextag, are another story.

To be blunt, I think it stinks. I understand that Yahoo! is a business but it needs users as much as it needs advertisers. Attaching third party advertisements to the bottom of user emails will likely turn users off to Yahoo! Mail and the company in general and is a particularly risky move because there are viable competing products that don’t attach third party ads, like GMail and Hotmail.

If Yahoo! Mail likes the result of the test and decides to continue down this path, I have some demands (after all, I am now just a user):

1) More clear and conspicuous disclosure.

a) Name the advertiser and/or domain. Only one of the three advertisers I listed above are named.
b) Disclosure that this ad is inserted by Yahoo!.
c) A “more info” link that points to a help page that contains more information about what this is about.
d) The font used for the disclosures needs updating. It should be the same or similar font size, weight, and color as the ad itself. “Sponsored Link” is currently in grey (versus black) and in a smaller font than the ad. If the ad is in black, the text should be too. The current set-up makes it look like Yahoo! is hiding something.

2) Control over advertisers and advertising categories. Major advertisers (i.e. Chevy, Dell, Disney, etc) that sell regular products and services are fine. However, I don’t want bottom of the barrel advertisements hawking controversial products or services that will make my emails look spammy or get caught in spam filtering software. Examples include LowerMyBills, X10, CIC (credit reports), sites selling diplomas or telling us how to earn a degree, selling prescription drugs such as ci@lis and viagra, or sites pushing multi-level marketing (MLM).

3) No web beacons or graphical ads ever. Enough said.

4) More information about how this works. Questions that need to be answered include:

  • “How are advertisers chosen?”
  • “How are the ads and advertisers screened?”
  • “What type of ads will never appear?”
  • “How are the ads targeted?”
  • “Are my email messages scanned to determine the topic?”
  • etc.

I think these demands are reasonable. I’m not asking for a cut; having a free, dependable email service is enough for me. I just don’t want my messages to look like spam, be flagged as spam, or for the ads to offend the recipients. Even then, I won’t decide whether to accept the ads until I have more info.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone, but Yahoo! is in the trust business. Without user trust, Yahoo! is nothing. Users build a lot of equity in their online identities, including their email addresses, but that doesn’t mean they won’t abandon the company and its products if they feel they can no longer trust it. That same equity is what makes a user fight like hell if that identity is threatened.

I could say a million things more but I don’t have time. I should be studying.

Note: I edited this some and made my blog public again after finding out this program was a test that has since ended. I’m glad I don’t need to consider giving up my email account just yet.

Google Wifi – more information

I’ve been using Google Wifi for a few days now, switching between that and my home wifi connection. It has been fairly consistent and zippy, however there is a substantial degradation of speed when Google VPN is on. There is no way I’ll use Google Wifi without using VPN, for security reasons.

I think Google’s gamble will pay off. I’ve found myself using Google more now than I had before, and I’m a Yahoo! loyalist, having worked there for so long. Google knows my exact location, knows what web sites have been the focus of my time online, and can infer personal traits from that information. When I do a search with Google or use one of their services, they can use that information to serve me ‘relevant’ ads to me. Relavant ads are the holy grail of the advertising business.

I’ll still keep paying SBC/AT&T for my dsl although I dislike their privacy policy and illegal cooperation with the Bush administration for spying. Maybe this time next year, I’ll be able to drop AT&T completely.
Google Calendar is one of those products I found myself trying out. Google needs to provide a feature/tool which will sync my Google Calendar with Outlook. For now, Yahoo! wins hands down because I can fairly easily sync my Y! Calendar with Outlook. I think that ultimately the winner between Y! and Google will create a desktop calendar program which automatically sync. Hopefully, they both create a program which will compete with Outlook.

Google WiFi, now up and running

I struggle with my wireless router on a daily basis. It is old and my laptop is new, and they hate each other like humans would. As usual, the laptop wouldn’t find the router sitting two feet away but found nine other local wifi routers broadcasting a signal. I was stunned that one of those belongs to Google.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I live in Mountain View, home of Google and their long expected wifi hotspot experiment. But I was. I’m now using it temporarily until I find a good deal on a new router.
I posted a screenshot to Flickr of the first page my browser sees when using their service:

google wifi

They let users sign up for a new account without forcing them to give cell numbers. They’re missing a link to their privacy policy which says a lot to me. I haven’t bothered to search for it, but I’m sure they reserve the right to mine my traffic history to target ads to me. I don’t mind since I don’t use their services much while I’m logged in; there just isn’t much value in that to me yet.

Update:  The free G-wifi is pretty zippy. They provide a free VPN to go with the free wifi access. However turning on the VPN brings the speed to a snails pace.