I haven’t posted in a while, and this will be the last for the foreseeable future. At its foundation, Third Pipe was focused on the promise of alternatives to the telco/cable chokehold on internet access. We evolved to report on issues of an open Internet, personal privacy, security and intellectual property.The shocking loss freedom as it relates to all of these topics have made reporting on new developments so consistently negative, that it’s time to take me and my partners a break . The archive and news feeds will remain online. New work here on a regular basis could resume in a more positive environment.
It’s worth noting that in the not too distant past, there were a plethora of Internet providers competing to provide service. The Internet began as a free and open frontier that was sufficiently self regulated. Hacks served to improve security. Existing laws regarding property both physical and intellectual worked surprisingly well when our so called protectors elected to apply them.
Over the last few years, government “internet regulation” has given itself the authority to peer into our lives in ways never imagined even by the most cynical of futurists. Under the guise of security, protecting American jobs and even the shameful claim of protecting children, the over reach continues. The new police state need not rely on nosy neighbors to keep the masses in line. The police state has been upgraded to a surveillance state. This has happened by stealth as major new outlets are only too happy to report an endless stream of distractions instead of informing us.
We have seen the access duopoly continue to evolve towards a new, less competitive duopoly, with cable controlling fixed line access and the telcos controlling wireless. We will like see telcos continue to abandon more of their fixed line customers, freeing the cable guys to do what they will with us. Wireless remains marginally competitive, but AT&T and Verizon are on a campaign to lock up all available spectrum. None of this could have happened without direct involvement of the government. To be clear, American internet access is not a product of free enterprise. It has become at best crony enterprise headed towards fascist enterprise.
Fascist enterprise has also overtaken intellectual property. While the Internet promised to set information free, those who profited from the control of intellectual property have sought and taken control of much of that freedom. The formerly common practice of loaning a book or recording to a friend has become criminalized and the common practice of moving media you have paid for from one device to another could get you in trouble. Even creatives who seek to give away their work are under threat. Government hates the free flow of information even more that the media oligarchs. The internet has made it much easier to expose disinformation and a plethora of other dirty deeds that have flowed freely from Washington without question in the past.
There is hope. The change we hoped for at the last election cycle has proven to be yet another grand ruse. A new cycle is upon us. Establishment pols are being challenged in party primaries at an unprecidented rate. To be clear. the establishment in both political parties is the problem. Their talking points are carefully constructed to distract us from our loss of freedom. We still have a vote, and the real point of change is in the primaries. Voting in a primary is the quickest way to unseat the establishment. Waiting to vote for establishment candidates in the general election will only perpetuate the existing way of doing business.
There is still hope in creating alternative access. Wifi could evolve to provide competing wireless service and municipalities can grant open access to or make use of existing right of ways for fixed service. Getting involved is the price to pay for this freedom.
Even if you prefer using commercial software and hardware products, supporting open source with time and cash will insure that the marketplace remains competitive. The same goes for creative works. You don’t have to boycott the blockbuster movie, music or written work to make an impact as long as you also support independent artists. In fact you could find it rewarding to do a little creating yourself. If we are all content creators, regulating the flow of ideas and information will be impossible for even the most intrusive government.
If and when the outlook becomes more positive, I’ll be back.
Solving the problem of getting broadband to the sparse population of the Australian outback could help advance wireless communications everywhere. It’s impossible to justify the cost of fiber infrastructure to serve a small number of subscribers over a very long haul. Microwave has always been a viable solution, but it has had bandwidth limitations that increase exponentially over distance, making it more appropriatate for 3G cell towers than for modern broadband service.
Australian researchers claim that they have advanced microwave technology to provide 10GBPS over of distances of 30 miles.
CSIRO has begun talks with global manufacturers to commercialise microwave technology it says can provide at least 10 Gbps symmetric backhaul services to mobile towers.
The project, funded out of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund and a year in planning, could provide a ten-fold increase in the speed of point-to-point microwave transmission systems within two years, according to project manager, Dr Jay Guo. (IT News)
If this technology proves to be commercially viable, it could extend the reach of wireless broadband and improve mobile service everywhere by providing cheap, high bandwidth backhaul.
There are still a number of performance issues that will continue to keep microwave in the role of second choice to fixed line backhaul. Most significant are very long latency and and interference from weather. Current understanding of the laws of physics dictates that these limitations can’t be overcome. Perhaps we’ll see these laws revised with future developments.
The discussion of increasingly draconian intellectual property laws isn’t exact new at Third Pipe. Manipulation of the political process, bureaucracies and the courts has created a whole new class of oligarchies in our society. It’s one of the foremost reasons why it’s all but impossible for a new competitor to enter mature, research intensive businesses. Governmental grants of exclusive rights to common design elements that have existed for ages like Apple’s newly patented slide to unlock function have perverted intellectual property law to erect overwhelming barriers to any worthy rival interested in competing.
Even crushing barriers can inspire human ingenuity. As lawyers and Oligarchs continued to manipulate law to squelch outsiders. a few freedom loving rebels established the open source movement. When there’s no profit from intellectual property alone and no owner of that property, patent trolling becomes difficult if not impossible. This frees creative people to innovate with impunity with larger communities of contributors that enrich the process. That’s likely why most successful software startups founded in the last decade have managed an open source product rather than a commercial one. That trend is rapidly moving into hardware, with new projects beginning to challenge closed architecture products. Commodity manufacturers are likely to continue to produce more products using open source technology due to reduced R&D costs and faster time to market.
This takes us to the world of pharmaceutical development. Big Pharma is a dominant yet seldom mentioned player in big push to criminalize the free exchange of information and technology via new patent laws. Like the entertainment industry, the drug peddlers have become flat, bloated and stagnant. Industry consolidation forced by laws that unfairly favor the establishment has stifled innovation leaving it without promising new products in the pipeline. Many of the most profitable (and expensive) drugs are going out of patent in the near future freeing them to be produced by rivals and sold for pennies. The likely passage of new laws to extend patents will only bring more stagnation. Fortunately, a few industry rebels are embracing the open source movement:
When Tomasz Sablinski was working in pharmaceutical R&D, he was often frustrated by the demand for secrecy in the clinical trials process—a misdirected effort, he says, to keep competitors in the dark about what drug companies were up to. “The price you pay when you hide what you’re doing is you only get feedback from a precious few people,” he says. “There is very little new blood in the ideation process.”
Then Sablinski read an article about the open-source operating system Linux and he had an epiphany. “If said, ‘If computer coders can do open source, so can drug developers,’” he recalls. “You have to add patients to the mix, because they’re really the reason you’re doing drug development.” (more at Xconomy)
This is worth watching…. and supporting. If the likely roadblocks that Big Pharma’s cronies at the FDA can be overcome. we could see real breakthroughs in the drug business. Not just from the application of fresh new ideas. Open Source means many sources for the final product with good, healthy competition. That could bring a real breakthrough in healthcare by doing an end run around the political and industry establishment that has kept prices high and innovation low.
It’s no secret that the Telcos have major pull in Congress. Review any representative’s list of top campaign donors and you are more likely then not to find them at the top. It’s also no secret that AT&T and Verizon see a perfect world where they control all of the public airwaves. We’ve heard endless hand ringing in Congress about how bad wireless service is directly connected to too little spectrum in the control of carriers.
What they don’t mention is as much as half of the licensed spectrum in held major markets by the top two carriers isn’t even being used. There’s also no mention of repurposing any of that fallow spectrum for broadband like is being proposed for broadcast bands. Even if spectrum was lacking, increasing tower density can overcome virtually all capacity problems. None of this makes much sense unless we understand that the real issue isn’t the need for more spectrum to provide better service. It’s to gain control of the wireless last mile and effectively end competition.
Acting in the public interest to facilitate better service is not what this debate is about. After gaining control of more than half of the fixed line right of ways to the last mile, the two major telco’s slowed infrastructure improvements to a snails pace. That’s created an America with substandard broadband at some of the highest prices in the world. They have the same plan for wireless. By controlling all of the spectrum and consolidating into two companies, the non competitive broadband duopoly will be extended into the wireless space.
The House of Representatives wants to take control of spectrum auctions. They want us to believe that the FCC is acting to slowly to resolve that the completely fabricated “spectrum crisis”. According to former FCC chair Reed Hundt, the bill would end competition: (more…)
While Microsoft isn’t exactly hurting, the company has had very mixed success entering new markets for some time. In fact, without the OS and Office cash cows, it’s failures would have torpedoed most companies. One thing Ballmer and company do seem to have is tenacity. That tenacity can be seen in action with Windows Phone.
Windows Phone is a well executed smart handset platform that came to market a little to late. It’s also lacks any real advantage over the established Apple and Android platforms. Add to that the obstacle a its licensing fee and there’s not much to make Windows Phone compelling to potential manufacturing partners. That gives Android a price advantage while Apple holds the overpriced designer label space. Microsoft has tried to remove that disadvantage by patent trolling Android manufacturers, with mixed success. There are also rumors that the company could acquire the ailing Nokia, likely giving Windows Phone a stable hardware partner. None of this will open any shelf space for MS as long as devices are joined at the hip to service plans that are sold exclusively by carriers.
That brings us to Skype. The VoIP company that Ebay notoriously overpaid for, was acquired for far less by Microsoft last year.The company is currently testing an app that will add the mostly free to talk service to Windows Phone 8. Tight integration of Skype into the Windows Phone OS has the potential to accelerate the end of by the minute mobile voice plans forever. That is assuming the carriers cooperate. While the mobile hardware space continues to become more crowded, the carrier space is not with incumbents scrambling to consolidate. Despite what we keep being told, mobile data is enormously profitable. That profitability is eclipsed by the margins on voice by the minute and messaging. Without major changes in the wireless connection business, Skype will do nothing to improve Windows Phone’s fortunes. (more…)
While they folded under public pressure to table SOPA and ProtectIP, most of Congress and the Obama administration are on board with the ACTA treaty. Currently being negotiated, this radioactive attack on the free and open Internet also puts individual liberty, the right to due process and the very existence any sovereign nation in the crosshairs.
Even if the president goes rogue and signs (which is likely). ACTA cannot be legally enacted without ratification by the Senate and passing constitutional muster in the courts. Neither the Senate or the courts will act in our interest without a public outcry. The war has just begun, and our freedom is at stake. Please write your representatives.
As one whose livelyhood and fortunes have gone from boom to bust over my lifetime, I can attest that living on the cutting edge of technology can disrupt fortunes and futures. As an individual of modest means, my only choice has been to adapt.
The power of basic computing and open networks has revolutionized and democratized. That has threatened the business of governmental tyranny and the big media oligarchy. They will use brute force to hold onto power rather than adapt to take advantage of new technology. The them, the lions share of a shrinking pie is preferable to a dominant position in a rising tide that lifts all fortunes.
New media author and self publishing pioneer Cory Doctorow presents a bleak reality that can only be overcome by the diligence of the average citizen.
After announcing that SOPA would be delayed until 2012, it’s hearing date and potential vote has been quietly rescheduled to 12/21/2011. While SOPA claims to help stop piracy, it also gives DHS even greater ability to act without due process. Even if that wasn’t a violation of the 4th amendment, DHS has a horrible record of abusing the power it already has. It’s time to once again call our representatives to remind them they are sworn by oath to protect the constitution.
More nanny state skullduggery on our Internet: check out who’s at the top of the SOPA’s author’s donor list.Then have a look at who’s been downloading!
Meet the most distracted generation as mobile data use explodes. Age demographic shows data usage peaks at 25-34 and declines with age.
Doing the only right thing to restore customer confidence: Sprint is the first wireless provider to ditch Carrier IQ.
An old tactic as a new trend? Buying new business in a very slow economy. Verizon offers $300 to competitors subscribers in the southern US to jump ship. Groupon burns some of it’s IPO cash trying to stay ahead of copycat offerings from Amazon and Ebay.
A few lucky souls in San Francisco will be getting uncapped 1GB broadband for about what most US cable subscribers pay for 30MB or less.