Tony Romm identifies 11 telecom folks working with Clinton. Alec Ross, Ben Scott, Jennifer Pahlka, Bruce Gottlieb, Rebecca Arbogast, Kevin Werbach, Phil Weiser and Tom Power are working with the campaign. I know almost all of them; they are intelligent, experienced and hardworking insiders. They are center-left as measured in D.C., which is to the right of the Conservative Party in England. None are likely to make large changes. Blair Levin in the article projects, "When it comes to telecom, a Clinton presidency would be like 'a third Obama term.' He's correct in that none of these people are radicals; I'm sure most would consider themselves "pragmatic." I hope it's not like the first Obama term, when the Bells walked all over Genachowski.  

I met Susan Ness in 1999 when as an FCC Commissioner she raised important questions about backbone competition in the Sprint-MCI deal. She worked with Hilary when both were out of office.

Romm reports she's raised funds for the Clintons since 1992, often crucial when jobs are handed out. She did a Hillary event in 2015. Karen Kornbluh was Senator Obama's policy director and led the 2008 Democratic platform committee. In a 2001 Times article (excerpt below), she called for universal broadband access. So did President Bush in 2004 and President Obama in 2008. We're not there yet.

Notably missing is Jessica Rosenworcel, perhaps because she is not known to be close to Clinton. Rosenworcel is smart as a whip and has a remarkable ability to work with people who disagree with her. She and Dan Gonzalez reached a cross-party compromise on the FCC Triennial; she went on to work for Jay Rockefeller and earned praise from both Republican and Democratic Senators. She was the popular choice for Chair in Obama's second term but he chose Tom Wheeler instead. Rosenworcel has been campaigning furiously for the job.

I reported in March that Ness and Clinton were close, but Romm has much more information than I do. If you care about FCC policy, click to Politico.

An excerpt from Karen Kornbluh's 2001 article and a speech from Susan Ness from 1999. They both shared the hope that competition was the solution for broadband. I don't know what they think today. Broadband competition proved a G-d that failed in the U.S. 

"Supporters claim that with the proper incentive, the monopolies will deploy the new technologies themselves. But most of the recent investment and innovation in data networks occurred only when the network was opened to competitors — as it was in the long-distance telephone market in the late 1980's.

The government needs to play a far greater role, just as it did with the construction and support of other infrastructure: railroads, electricity, telephone service, highways and the Internet. Each was more expensive than the private sector could have managed on its own, but the benefits to the nation were great.

The administration should articulate a national goal of universal broadband access — just like the goals we had for universal electrification and phone service. And if the cost of deploying broadband connections in some areas is more than consumers can pay, the answer is for the government to provide a subsidy — targeted at sparsely populated regions of the country, at low-income users, or both.


Remarks of
Commissioner Susan Ness
Before the 1999 International Ultra-Wideband Conference
Washington, D.C.
September 29, 1999
(As Prepared for Delivery)
"Meeting the Challenge of Innovation at Internet Speed"

I am delighted to join you today to talk about spectrum management policy for the 21st century and the exciting promise -- and unique technological and regulatory challenges -- posed by ultra-wideband technology.

One of the most important -- and I believe, enduring -- responsibilities of this Commission is its traditional role as steward of the radio spectrum. For the past five years, I have focused Commission attention on improving our spectrum management policies -- both domestically and globally.

From the early days of radio the Commission and its predecessor agency have been charged with ensuring that spectrum -- a precious national resource --is used efficiently and effectively, and that licensees are not subjected to harmful interference.

In the days of Marconi and Sarnoff this job was fairly straightforward. Technological innovations were measured in years while the number of spectrum users was small.

Those simpler and slower days are long past. Today industry operates at "light" speed. The Internet sets the pace for new products and services, with product life cycles collapsing from decades to years.

A few years ago most people outside of this room would not have known an ASIC from an exotic flower, but today application specific integrated circuits are helping to demonstrate that Moore's Law is almost as immutable as Ohm's Law.

The Commission must respond to this dynamic new world at the same time our job is made far more difficult by the proliferation of spectrum licensees, the complexity of technologies and the myriad of competing proposals for new spectrum use. And need I mention that our decisions have implications for the global spectrum community -- and vice versa?

This is our challenge: We must provide the leadership and the new approaches to fulfilling our responsibilities. We must help forge solutions in timely fashion so that entrepreneurs and engineers with beneficial technologies for the public have a chance to bring them to the marketplace -- all while we protect existing services and the public from harmful interference. And all while adhering to fundamental principles of fairness and openness.

In March of 1996 and again in the spring of 1999, I helped organize a Spectrum Management En Banc, both to help the Commission assess what spectrum policies and systems were working and what were not; and to explore new and innovative technologies that would have a fundamental impact on our approaches to spectrum management.

As noted by many witnesses, over the past few years the Commission has made tremendous progress in revamping our spectrum policies, even as we recognize that more needs to be done:

  • We have emphasized flexible use and limited reliance on standard-setting, to enable licensees to adjust their services to the rapidly changing marketplace;
  • We have streamlined the spectrum application process;
  • We have instituted auctions to collapse the time it takes to assign licenses;
  • We have revamped RF emissions compliance procedures, and forged mutual recognition agreements with our European counterparts to expedite the delivery of new products to market;
  • We have facilitated the implementation of products and services using spread spectrum technology. Ten years ago, there were less than 25 products in the marketplace that deployed spread spectrum technology; today the FCC receives requests at a rate of 15-20 per month involving such products;
  • And finally, we have expanded the bands designated for unlicensed uses, ushering in a wide assortment of new products and services.

Unlicensed Devices

I'd like to elaborate on the last point. The development of unlicensed devices authorized under Part 15 of our rules illustrates one way our one-size-does-not-fit-all approach to spectrum management has worked. These devices are key components of the information infrastructure of this nation. Part 15 has shown that without the intervention of licensing and with minimal parameters, responsible companies can develop and operate systems that comply with the FCC's two cardinal conditions:

(1) no harmful interference to licensed operations; and

(2) acceptance of interference from other lawful operations.

To the extent the Commission steps away from direct regulation, engineering must step in and assume greater responsibility to anticipate the electromagnetic environment in which your equipment will operate. The public needs to be confident that systems will function in that environment without causing harmful interference to others.

Ultra-Wideband Technology

Which brings me to the subject at hand -- the regulatory approval of the use of ultra-wideband technologies. As I noted, our Spectrum En Banc last April featured my favorite panel -- a discussion of new and innovative technologies that directly impact our traditional way of managing the radio spectrum. Ultra-wideband was one of these technologies.

As you know far better than I, ultra-wideband offers the promise of new radar and imaging services that can save lives. It can help rescue hostages, locate disaster victims trapped under rubble of a collapsed building, detect hidden flaws in the construction of highways or airport runways, secure our homes, and maybe even provide high speed Internet access to the classroom.

Its ultra-wide disbursement of ultra-low power bursts present novel interference questions which must be addressed, including how to insure that existing services are not adversely impacted -- especially those services that support public safety -- and whether widespread deployment would have any appreciable effect on the noise floor.

Proposal for Going Forward

One year ago, the Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry to explore these issues. Comments are in. While we still need to build on the record developed in our inquiry, I believe that we should go forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will address possible revisions to our rules that would permit deployment of ultra-wideband services. It is my hope that we can initiate such a proceeding within the next few months, with the goal of completing our study during the next year.

But we cannot do it alone. We must have the active involvement of our colleagues elsewhere in the government who are spectrum users or managers. And we must have the active involvement of your group and others in the private sector who would be affected by our actions.

To meet this challenge, I suggest, first, that the Commission, the NTIA, other agencies and interested parties bring their concerns forward and jointly test ultra-wideband technology to address these critical interference questions.

Cooperative testing that includes the principal parties interested in this technology, as well as those who would be impacted by its use, should provide us with results delivered more promptly while achieving wider acceptance. Such has been my experience to date in other contexts.

Perhaps such a public/private effort could use a government testing facility, such as the NTIA laboratory, or the research facilities of the ultra-wideband proponents.

And second, such testing should be conducted concurrently with our issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, to avoid unnecessary regulatory delay.

This approach in no way suggests casual dismissal of valid safety concerns. I take these interference issues very seriously. But joint testing, together with proceeding with an NPRM avoids an analog version of "business as usual" in a digital age. We can proceed in such a way that the Commission will have the benefit of the test results in time to conclude a rule-making next year.

I believe that this is an achievable and responsible goal.

Section 7 of the Communications Act of 1996 sets the development of new technologies as national policy. And, as stewards of the spectrum, the Commission has an obligation to the American public to ensure that the process yields the essential information needed to make good spectrum management decisions in a reasonable timeframe.

I am pleased to serve on a Commission that recognizes and accepts its responsibilities in achieving that policy goal. We have demonstrated our commitment to facilitating new technologies and consumer benefits they provide. We also are committed to streamlining our procedures. Dale Hatfield, Stagg Neuman, Julie Knapp, and the team in the Office of Engineering and Technology and others in the bureaus, are working diligently and ably to develop better approaches to address new technology.

In our society, the private sector bears the risks of innovation and correspondingly sets its direction and pace. From my prior life in the private sector, I know that unnecessary regulatory delays create uncertainty and harm capital formation.

This Commission continues to seek ways to streamline the regulatory process to avoid such delays. In so doing, we will meet our Congressionally mandated mission of providing sound spectrum management to support public safety and to provide to the American public the benefits that flow from competitive telecommunications services and equipment.

But -- again -- we need your help. Developing sound policies and rules in a world where government decision-making must respond at Internet speed is not easy. This challenge takes on even greater proportions when the technologies cut across wide bands of spectrum currently used by a myriad of government and private sector users and often involving critical and safety applications.


I want to challenge all of us -- both in and out of government -- to work together to help refine our processes so that we can better address innovation and new technologies such as ultra-wideband.

We face a new technological millenium; it will excite us, and it will challenge us -- personally and institutionally. If we approach it with our customary resolve and creativity, it will also reward us and those rewards will carry on for generations to come. Let us meet this challenge together.

Thank you very much.

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,