Off the Top: Politics Entries


August 21, 2007

A Sad Day for Great Customer Service

Today I made a call that was really tough. I canceled my Speakeasy DSL account. A few weeks ago the we upgraded to Verizon FIOS (fiber network) to get much faster internet service for less cost. The switch removed the copper wire coming to the house (although that may not be fully the case due to some law suits brewing against this practice - the copper may have to be put back for free if the case wins or is settled and Verizon is cutting their potential losses making it easy to reconnect).

Giving Up Customer Service

In making this switch I gave up one of my favorite customer service relationships I have ever had, which was with Speakeasy. Every time I have needed to call Speakeasy, which was not often as their service was nearly perfect in the nearly six years I used them, they were polite and were very helpful. In one occasion they suggested an option that would save me money. They also applied the lower rates to my service when the rates dropped. They have acted just like you wish every company would act. They treat you like a valued customer at every turn. They look out for their customers interests, even it if is making less money. For me Speakeasy would win my business if they could compete on a level playing field.

Verizon the Painful

I have had horrible customer service in the past from Verizon, with customer service agents flat out lying (their upper managers later apologized in each case and said it was not normal practice, only to have it happen the next call). But, with getting an oder of magnitude (10x) or faster internet for a third of the price, it was a really tough call. Before we even got the service installed we uncovered Verizon had signed us up for services we did not want and did not have in our signed contract. It has been painful to get that sorted out.

Why go with Verizon? Well, I figured I can put my battle boots on to get what I need (hopefully), which is just what is promised in the contract. I know that every conversation will be a lot of effort and painful, just like they have been the last 14 years and even getting the fiber activity connected proved they have not changed.

Lack of Competition Ensures Low Quality

I have been amazed that much of the rest of the industrialized and post-industrialized world treats its telecom infrastructure as a public good. It is a national interest. The copper wires we have/had are considered belonging to the public. It has been considered a core necessity to have up to date technology infrastructure by many countries, but not the USA. Today the USA is 14th to 25th in broadband availability, use, and average speed compared to other nations across many surveys. The USA is way behind and its model leaving infrastructure in the hands of those with no competition or incentive. In a capitalist market society there needs to be competition, but in telecom there is no market as their is an oligopoly (only a limited few strong players), which is not a market (open competition) in economic terms.

I like the model for DSL, which had many parties buying infrustructure and selling based on service. When DSL started there was largely parity (small companies and large with similar pricing) and competition on services was the difference. Then the courts ruled and still allowed access, but the telecoms created a playing field in their advantage where they could sell services for less by not providing "discounts" to other service providers. The competition then came to be solely paying more for better service (connectivity and customer service). For many paying to be treated by a human was worth the cost.

Today there continues to be no marketplace. But, there is no option for competition on service. The lines are now property of the telecom that laid them and others have to lay their own lines to provide access. This method tears up the road infrastructure and creates un-needed redundancy. The model is broken and is keeping the USA behind other countries. I would gladly pay $10 to $15 more per month for Speakeasy customer service for my fiber connection.

Infrastructure is Competition?

I have chatted with a few CEOs and CIOs who have global businesses. When they look at expanding they look less to the USA than to Europe or Asia. It is not so much the cost of people, as most will pay for good people. But, in the US the poor infrastructure comparatively means they need more buildings and to pay for infrastructure themselves. The big campus is not efficient to many businesses as the technology and tools to connect and collaborate have improved. But, to do this takes infrastructure in a country or region.

My upgrading my connectivity allowed for much smoother video chats and voice chats. I can share large documents more easily. But, my access to the infrastructure is extremely rare in the USA. In the Netherlands similar connectivity is at nearly every doorstep in the top cities, secondary cities, and even tertiary cities. Outside of their city centers many people I talk with there work from home 80 to 90 percent of the time.



August 24, 2006

Net Neutrality Faces Biased FTC

FTC to the Rescue?

Monday the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC Chairman, Deborah Platt Majoras, stated the FTC was going to look into the Net Neutrality issue. Her statement already shows the outcome based on her language and the tools they are going to use to investigate.

Chairman Majoras has formed an "Internet Access Task Force", which could be good, but depends on who is on the task force. Where things get troubling is the Chairman&'s preference for reliance on the markets to sort things out and using "cost benefit analysis" as their policy tool.

The "Market"

The Chairman's preference for the market to sort things out is very problematic as there is really no market. In economic terms the market normally applies to a "free market", which is setting where their is open competition and many players. With Net Nutrality we are talking about the telecom companies being the the providers of bandwidth that stands between the consumer and those with the content on the Internet. It is rather funny to call the telecom industry a market as their are now four players and possibly three soon (Verizon, ATT, and Qwest) for landlines. That is not a market but an oligopoly (a small number of providers). An oligopoly does not act like a free and open market, but much more like a monopoly. The prices do not very, there is very little differentiation between products. The consumer has little choice, well they get a different brand on their phone bill.

The "Tool"

The Chairman stated she was going to use a "cost benefit analysis" to determine what is happening. There was one very strong point that came out of graduate policy school, cost benefit analysis (CBA) is highly biased and really does not pass the laugh test (mention it in serious settings and you are not taken seriously or you are out right laughed at).

The problem with CBA is the variable you are investigated are weighted with nothing to back them up. Lets say you want to compare sheep and cows and figure out which is better. You can examine weight be market value divided by the cost to raise the animal. But, if you live in a cold climate you may value the wool of the sheep more, so you use CBA to give weight to the wool in the equation, which is fine until you go to assign value to the wool. Assigning values makes the CBA highly biased.

Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Good Decision

The Chairman said she prefers markets to sort things out, but a free market does not exist. She said she wants to use a heavily biased tool to sort things out. These are not the words of an open arbitrator, but somebody who has made up her mind. She is trusting a biased market to be good players (we broke that market up once before for similar tactics).

Whom Do We Trust

I have worked in the telecom industry a couple of times. In the early post Ma Bell break-up doing work for an alternate long distance carrier (one that barely served a whole area code in the California Central Valley) I put speed dialers into homes and businesses to help them deal with the many extra numbers needed to dial for the cheaper service. I also did analysis work for market entry for telecoms in the late 90s (including work for Bell South involving market assessment tools and visualizations of the data for policy work and decision making) mostly focussing on wireless and satellite broadband.

I did have some trust in the telecoms when they were in a free market, but they have not been playing fair as their numbers have dwindled. In the Net Neutrality debate they have taken a three legged argument (telecom, consumer, and content provider) and removed themselves from the argument. The telecoms want people to believe a lie that it is the content owners and the customers that are on opposite sides. But, in reality it is the telecoms that stand between the people and the content and the telecoms have threatened to extort money from the Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others. The telecoms fed the lies to Senator Ted Stevens to make him look like a bufoon talking about the "Internet are just tubes".

Do we trust Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo? Well the content providers are far more in number than those. Every web start-up is a content provider. MySpace, YouTube, Dabble, RocketBoom, Ze Frank, and every blog and videoblog are your content providers too. I do trust Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo with my content, but I also have trust and have faith in the small players.

The Real Market is Bottom-up Innovation in a Free Market

Who stands to lose if the FTC mangles its investigation (remember they have already claimed their bias)? It is the small players that will not be able to pay the extortionist pricing of the telecoms. Innovation often begins with the small players taking risks. Google started a few years ago as a small player in a free market. Companies like YouTube, Dabble, RocketBoom, etc. are the new Googles, but they need a free market, not one that is biased toward the oligopolies.



April 14, 2006

Congressional Race Reaches MySpace

I got a new and different request today in a social site, a request to "add Allan Lichtman as a MySpace friend". While the campaign has an official Allan Lichtman for Congress site, I thought the MySpace page was a new and interesting approach, particularly for a candidate of the people.

First, I do not know of any other campaigns that have a presence on MySpace or other social networking sites. I am sure they exist, but the MySpace entry interests me as it is a place where young voters (potential voters atleast) hang out. Getting people within collision space of running into a candidate in a web-based community is interesting. A friend of a friend in virtual space is a good play in my book.

While, I know very little about Allan Lictman I added him as a friend as a marker to spend a little more time finding out about him and his campaign. The request and the failure of social networking systems lack of ability to more granularly define relationships or components of relationships that "friends" have defined is really made clear here. I can not define how I know Allan Lichtman, nor can I define the elements that I find of interest in his stances.

Do we need a political social network? I really do not think that more verticals to social spaces are needed, but the social spaces we have need to stop being relative failures for the millions that use them and find them still frustrating.

So, for now I am a "friend" of Allan Lichtman on MySpace.



June 29, 2005

Join the Cause with Live8

In light of the G8Reboot, I would be remiss if I did not mention Live8 or the tracking the Live8 web conversations using Technorati. Twenty years ago Live Aid made a change, but today we have the opportunity to make an even bigger impact. Add your voice and your support, can you think of anything better to do?



One in a World of Many More

Ben Hammersly points out the doom and gloom around Grokster is missing one clause, which is in the U.S. Just because things are borked in the U.S. does not mean that the rest of the world is broken. The U.S. is one country, whose government lacks foresight, but there are many many more countries out there that have not mangled foresight.



June 27, 2005

G8 Summit Now has G8Reeboot

Within days the G8 Summit kicks off. This time around there is a little pressure to do things that really matter. Adam reminded me that it is well worth the effort to take an interest and to urge people to get involved with G8Reboot

G8 REBOOT



June 1, 2005

The Last Big Piece

I grew up in the early 1970s with the Watergate scandal and hearings on television in the background to my world. Yesterday the one big missing piece was revealed, Felt was Deepthroat.



May 12, 2005

Oddities on an Odd Day

There were three things from today's White House and Capitol evacuations that were a little more than bothersome.

First it was reported that a couple weeks ago there were evacuations, but the cause of the radar blips were clouds. It sounds like the system is not quite ready for prime time and our lives depend on it.

Second, the only way those of us not working in the Capitol nor White House knew something was up was people calling them or they caught something in the media. The city government of Washington, DC was not informed until after the all clear was sounded. After September 11, 2001 this Government seems to have learn little and changed their planning very little and they prove they lack competence at every turn.

Lastly, our President was out in the country-side on a bike ride. Oh, it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday and the President of the United States is out with an old school chum for a bike ride? You have got to be out of your mind. Not only did people elect this guy, he is getting paid for leading not bike riding and playing hooky, and he is allowed to keep his job?



November 2, 2004

Voted, Have You

I voted, have you done your part? If not, please do so.



Wonderful Show on Election Day

There are about 275 voters ahead of me inline outside to vote. This is my new place to vote and those around me say there has never been a line outside before. This is an incredible showing of people with faith in the system, particularly after the last election fiasco.

Come join the fun and have your say.



Vote

Please Vote!



October 31, 2004

New way to view politics

I learned something about politics today. This past year or two really has had me scratching my head and wondering what I am missing. There are some individuals I can not fathom how somebody could vote in the manner that they claim to. Today I found the answer...

At the drugstore I was checking out and a toy was playing "I've Got You Babe". My cashier, who is elderly was complaining to her manager that she was getting a headache from the music.

Manager: Do you not like Sonny Bono?
Cashier: I don't know Sonny Bono
Manager: He was the governor of California
Cashier: He was?
Manager: He sure could not sing, but he was a great Republican governor.

I am trying to turn my head so she does not see my San Francisco Giants cap, but somehow I do not think that would ring a bell as being part of California.

Today I learned suspending reality is a great way to look at politics. Well, for some. Tuesday I vote with my reality fully engaged and with an eye on my son and his future. I vote not to dismantle the future with building huge deficits, destroying the environment, nor dismantling foreign relations. But a future that is safer, with global warming in check, solid education, sound economy, innovation and science respected, creativity embraced, diversity embraced, and living in a country that the world respects again.



July 22, 2004

DC Metro Scene

The DC Metro Red Line was a mess as usual today, but it was hot and muggy to add to the usual fun. When we arrived at Metro Center the train was packed and many people we trying to get out and one older guy in a suit was pushing to get on. People started yelling at the guy in the suit to let people off before trying to get on (this is the proper Metro etiquette, as is moving to the center of the train).

Older guy: [yelling back] You can't stop me from getting on the train.
Passenger: Who do you think you are, the Vice President?
Older man: No, I suppose you think you are the President.
Passenger: I am not dumb enough to choose you.



January 11, 2004

Blogs highlighted on Meet the Press

While I am not a huge blog-for-blog-sake person, Meet the Press has a relatively long roundtable discussion on blog and the Democratic presidential campaigns. The talk about how Joe Trippi not only uses the blog to communicate with potential Dean supporters, but how he and others cull ideas from the blogs.

This highlight how new innovative ideas can quickly get posted by individuals, culled, and directly or with modification get implemented to better an endeavor. One clever idea that was culled from a weblog was the ability to have individuals share their unused weekend cell phone minutes and have the campaign use these minutes to call voters in Iowa. A rather clever idea and even smarter use of culling the Internet's vast cacophony of voices to find good helpful ideas to run a business/organization better and smarter.



September 9, 2003

I see Mars

Tonight I got a very good glimpse of Mars. It was the moon peaking through the blinds in the office that caught my eye, but right next to it was a bright orange-red star. I went out the front door and turned off our lights to get a better look with binocular assistance. The moon and Mars were stunning.

This site made me feel small at first, but then apart of something so much larger. The moon and stars know no politics, no killing for ego or pride, no political boundaries, no foolishness. These objects in our sky, in our orbit and solar system know far more time and remind us to take the long view.

Maybe one day I will get a telescope, but looking to the stars through binoculars seems to only draw on a desire to get up on the roof to get closer to the stars and have a better look. I know that this would do little to assist my view, nor would getting on top of a tall building. There is great beauty in the heavens that are beyond our arms length, but still drive the desire to see and get beyond the petty temporal issues of the day. (Fortunately NASA site offers some solace.)



August 28, 2003


June 23, 2003

WatchBlog for all political commentary

If you are looking for American political commentary and want Democrat, Third Party, and Rebublican commentary all in one place, you should check out WatchBlog: 2004 Elections.



June 7, 2003

Photo galleries from September 2001

September 2001 was wonderful and a little hectic, to say the least. Hence, I have just posted three new galleries of photos from my trip to San Francisco in September 2001. Posted are People, Places & Things, Flowers, and Architecture. These are some of the 450 pictures taken on that trip. The galleries will get a little more tweaking to improve browsing structures, but they are there to enjoy.

This process of posting was eased as I finally turned on the Windows file sharing in Mac OS X, which even works with XP Home. I can now view the directories on my TiBook from the PC. This allowed me the ability to pull files to the PC and build Adobe Photo Shop Web photo galleries from them. I have build the photo libraries on the Mac using iPhoto, but the PS galleries are one of my favorites for layout (not for accessability nor standards compliant). This solution will work until I move Photo Shop to the Mac with version 8.



March 21, 2003

Now less competion in the tech marketplace

Wall Street Journal reporting Cisco is buying Linksys. In all I think this is a good idea as I like Cisco products and they care about their products. On the other hand the lack of competition in the technical sectors can not be good in the long run. We need options, much like when I got fed up with Windows and switched to Apple (actually Apple provided a better solution and I switched last January and found a much easier and reliable way to do computing, which caused me to question why we put up with inferior products from Microsoft). In the U.S. we were educated to believe competition was good and the evil empire to the East did not allow competition. Now the U.S. government seems complacent to allow, and even encourages (at the FCC) the removal of competion. The lack of competion was un-American. Where is the U.S. now if we are removing competition from the marketplace?



March 9, 2003

US prepares for a private war

Fortune magazine's discussion of the private war show there is very little that the military actually does any more. Most of the technical assistance, repairs, food services, recruiting, and training is being done by private corporations, like Dyn Corp and Haliburton. Those that private civilians working for these companies may follow the troops into the battle field, but the civilians do not have any Geneva Convention protections, which means if they are captured they do not have the protections that military personnel does.

Peace



December 10, 2002

RIP Smokey

The Washington Post says R.I.P. Smokey the Bear. I hope this dismantling of the U.S. Forest Service is a failed effort. I really don't want to go to a Haliburton Yosemite Forest showcasing the one remaining tree and the "environmentally friendly" pavement.


August 1, 2002

Vote MP3

Would you vote MP3?


July 10, 2002

Logical digital media law

I really liked Matt's discussion of a logical digital media law, but it really does not have a chance as there is a lot more money pushing the other side. Maybe "We the People" will get our chance one day.


May 31, 2002

Techs urged to mingle in politics

Bill Thompson urges tech folks to get involved in politics, this is needed to protect the world as we know it can be, which is better with technology.


May 6, 2002

Fortyun shot dead

The news of the shooting of Dutch politician Fortyun really is bothersome. One it is in the Netherlands, the home of my ancestors. It is also an open and accepting country, which is often thought of as free from the violence that crops up in American culture. It is also 2002 and Western Europe which is democratic and a place usually associated with peace. Adam offered a broad set of links yesterday (still today in the U.S.) that covered the news. Netherlands Radio provides local shooting news. I usually consider the Netherlands the place to escape, clear my mind, and think about the good things in life.

The Economist this week surveys the Netherlands and one of its articles focuses on politics (registration may be needed) and highlights the complexities of the political landscape and Fortyun himself. This was just odd timing.



April 23, 2002


April 16, 2002


February 20, 2002

The Supreme Court to hear copyright extension case. Congress has tried to enact a 20 year extension to the current copyright laws, which would protect Disneys sole use of Mickey Mouse beyond 2003 as well as other properties. Lawrence Lessig has been a strong opponent of these extensions for very good reason, it restricts advancement of technology, culture, and the free flow of ideas. This free flow of ideas is what America is about, but copyrights have hindered the discussion of works and even the ability to satarize works.

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