Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Is Broadband an Accurate Predictor of Economics

This past week, Indian telecom powerhouse Reliance Infocomm signed a deal with China Telecom establishing a direct cable connection between those two countries. Calls and internet traffic will fly directly over Reliance’s FLAG Telecom cables to connect with China Telecom network in Hong Kong. When compared to meaty issues (such as stopping reauthorization of the {un}Patriot ACT) it doesn’t seem like much, but if you look deeper it could signal longer term fallout on the bandwidth business.

Why? For starters, calls between the two countries untill recently were routed through Europe/US. Now traffic will no longer need to travel half way across the planet. Here in the south, we would have called that going around your elbow to get to your behind. This means reduced role for major US carriers like Level 3, MCI and AT&T (currently the world’s largest ISP... yes, they finally bested MCI/UUnet thanks to the SBC merger). It appears this trend is gathering momentum, and slowly network traffic that almost always used to flow through US is becoming more and more regional. Through most of the 1990s it was cheaper to connect individual European Union (EU) countries through US. In the late 90's and early 2000, small regional networks started to siphon off traffic a country at a time.

Asia network traffic is following the same trajectory. At some point in the future this is bound to have an impact on the US based carriers. Currently, the US is the top Internet hub country with 1.4 terabits/second of bandwidth. World’s fattest pipes (metaphorically speaking) are between London and New York, about 320 GB/s of bandwidth.

Will the regionalization of the traffic mean price wars will rear their ugly head? Will the prices plunge on the London-New York routes as once again capacity outstrips demand? Some folks who work in the bandwidth business are muttering that the transit fees, that once used to make up nice profit center for global carriers, are beginning to wane. This probably explains at least part of the back story in the flap between Level3 and Cogent over private peering last month. (People don't want pay Level3's rates for transit anymore... they're often seen as too high.)

Looking beyond the obvious - is this a general global economic trend? I won't pretend to know anything substantive about global trade, but my broadband crystal ball (with fresh batteries and all!) indicates that this could be forbearer of a global trade shift. I believe that what oceanic/sea routes, air routes and highways were to the 20th century, broadband pipes are to the 21st century. From that perspective, things could be shifting away from the US being the hub of global trade. [Is that news to anyone on the investment banking sector? I think not!]

(Adapted from Om Malik's Broadband Blog)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

White House Hijacks Patriot Act Reform

ACLU Says White House Usurps Patriot Act Reauthorization Process, Negotiators Neglect Privacy and Civil Liberties Concerns but Add Poison Pills

WASHINGTON - A conference committee tasked to reconcile differences between House and Senate Patriot Act bills ignored bipartisan calls to restore checks and balances on government power and protect privacy and civil liberties, the American Civil Liberties Union said today. The Republican-led conferees also attached several "poison pill" measures to the must-pass legislation, unrelated to the 2001 anti-terrorism law. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week.

The following can be attributed to Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy:

"The Patriot Act was bad in 2001, and despite bipartisan calls for reform, it's still bad in 2005. Instead of addressing the real concerns that millions of Americans have about the Patriot Act, the Republican majority in Congress buckled to White House pressure, stripping the bill of modest yet meaningful reforms. Congress must reject this bill.

"Don't be fooled by some lawmakers spinning this bill as Patriot Act reform. It’s anything but. Lawmakers have let the administration take us from bad to worse. There's a reason why groups like the Chamber of Commerce, American Conservative Union and American Library Association have all come together for Patriot Act reform. The question is: Why haven’t lawmakers listened?"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

DoD Buying Sprint's iDEN Network

The PCS Intel Blog is running a story that indicates the Department of Defense will be buying Sprint's iDEN network as "the first phase of a national overhaul of its security framework in regards to communication." The gist is that the government will move much of its wireless communications onto one encrypted wireless network, and Sprint/Nextel customers will be issued dual-network CDMA/iDEN handsets, so that as iDEN becomes restricted, CDMA will take its place.

The report also claims that in exchange, Sprint will get plenty of spectrum in the 700 & 800Mhz bands for mobile Wimax broadband service. Keep in mind that if true, most of this wouldn't happen until around 2010, which roughly gels with Wimax analyst timeline predictions. The report claims the deal won't even be announced until 2007 or 2008.

This move makes this week's news of a Sprint co-branding wireless deal with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox slightly more interesting. The deal would give Sprint priority access to Wimax spectrum, letting those three cable giants offer re-branded Wimax to better compete with baby Bell Wimax offerings.

This whole scenario assumes a lot; at the forefront that mobile Wimax is a solid business model. If Wimax tanks however, the report seems to indicate that Sprint's deal with Uncle Sam allows them to instead grab ample 2.5 GHz spectrum, and deploy the most popular technology at the time (like WiBro).

Either way, the cable industry would be well positioned for wireless broadband competition.


The United States of America has come to a fundamental conclusion about its national communications infrastructure post-9/11 in regards to homeland security; it's broken. The Department of Defense, working with the FCC, DHS, the President, and Congress has brokered a framework agreement to purchase Sprint Nextel's iDEN network as the first phase of a national overhaul of its security framework in regards to communication.

The plan is simple; everyone involved in securing this nation will be on the same network. This network will be using an encrypted iDEN sequence, ensuring that all soldiers, first responders, and chain of command will be able to contact each other. This is especially in the event of a series of disasters in concert (say, for example, multiple terrorist attacks in multiple major metropolitan areas simultaneously).

We do not intend to disclose details of the inner-workings or how DoD iDEN will differ from the current iDEN. We will only say that the transition will be announced approximately two to three years from the deprecation date of iDEN at 2010. All Nextel customers will be issued dual-network CDMA/iDEN handsets, so that as iDEN is barred from consumer use, CDMA will take its place.

Sprint WiMax

We are finally ready to disclose Sprint's master plan for WiMax as well. Sprint intends to deploy a national, non-fixed WiMax network with as much, if not more coverage than the existing CDMA network. WiMax will effectively act as a replacement to CDMA data, providing FIOS-like speeds via massive towers that resemble TV towers in major cities.

This will enable Sprint to not only be a national ISP, but to remove common conceptions of fixed ISP. The WIMax modem technology Sprint is attempting to deploy will ensure that a broad range of WiMax devices will share an account... for example, WiMax deployments could fit in a PDA that would share bandwidth allocations with home internet that would share bandwidth allocations with your HDTV.

Sprint intends to compete directly with Cable, Satellite, ISPs, and traditional Wireless. By bundling all telecommunication services ever envisioned, Sprint will tackle everyone by offering everything.

Now, how is Sprint going to get there? Sprint has multiple hurdles it must cross in order to obtain this vision. First, Sprint must gain a WiMax standard. Sprint is doing this by attempting to force WiMax standards through as an open modem technology... one WiMax device is compatible with another, and is mobile from the start. If this fails, Sprint will most likely divert to the nearest derivative of WiMax, currently WiBro, though Flash-ODFM is an additional fallback should such subsequent technologies also fail.

But, Sprint was late to the WiMax game... Sprint lacks the licenses to deploy a national WiMax network on the critical 700 MHz band.

In comes the FCC. As a part of the transaction of iDEN to the federal government, Sprint will gain a blank check to rebuild the 700 and 800 MHz bands in their image, taking licenses as needed from whoever has them regardless of how fairly they gained them at FCC auction in the past. With Congress, the FCC, and the President in the loop, Forsee, Donahue, and Lauer will have no problem in gaining dominance of the WiMax and digital CDMA 800 MHz spectrum needed to reform technologies in their image.

The final step in this strategy is bandwidth. As you may know, local loops to existing cellular structure generally tap out at about 10 T1 lines per tower in a high traffic cell site. Sprint will form a network coalition to utilize dark fiber across the country to connect the city-wide WiMax towers whenever possible, feeding into Sprintlink backbones in order to ensure that the entire network is able to deliver above-DSL speeds to all customers at all times. Clearly, the goal is to make all metropolitan areas at least initially wired via fiber, and eventually, to create a national fiber optics "spine" that will connect every citizen wirelessly to a fiber optics internet directly.

The Rebels Fight Back

We are reporting all of this today, which we have known and been briefed on for an extremely long time, because we have been notified that Sprint's competition, namely WiMax ISP newcomers that you probably have never heard of before, have learned this information above within the past week.

In short, they are flying to Washington D.C. to fight back in Congress and with the FCC. Now aware to these plans, they see that all their technology investments will go to waste if the FCC choses to pull their 700 MHz licenses key to WiMax "in the public interest". While we love a good behind-the-scenes fight, we have been informed this news will become public domain later this week.

Remember, these "rebels" have nothing to lose, and they intend to scream from the highest mountains this in a war between Sprint and Sprint's hardware suppliers, and the rest of the WiMax forum.

Sprint also has options if their plan fails. We have obtained intelligence recently that Sprint will deploy on the 2.5 GHz spectrum if they are unable to obtain sufficient 700 MHz spectrum. However, the inherent advantages of 700 MHz spectrum over 2.5 GHz spectrum, combined with the added ability to strike a major blow to dissent from Sprint’s vision of WiMax makes it a battle well worth fighting to Sprint.

The PR Spin Rooms Are Spinning

"When the United States depends on the power and performance of Sprint's networks, then yes, I guess I am a Yes Man."
- President Bush, circa 2007

Cue the Sprint pin drop, "Sprint, yes you can", etc. Sprint is billing this strategy as one that will secure the nation, and deliver on the President's promise of national broadband internet by 2010. There are many more details that we are aware of, however, in the sake of national security we will not disclose them here. Again, it is important to note that what is disclosed here will become public domain within the week, however, this is clearly a win-win for all parties involved.

The Editorial

I'm sure many of you will ask my personal thoughts on this. Personally, I think it is the most amazing cooperation between corporate, technological, and political facets of society to-date. It will secure the country, and deliver something that no other technological society has ever offered; wireless broadband internet for everyone. It will ensure that every commander can communicate to every single person he or she is in command of, either through the chain of command or directly at any time. It will ensure that the United States will be the leader in wireless communication and national communications security for the next 25 years.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Verizon EVDO: Unlimited, Isn't

Customers receive bandwidth consumption letters

Verizon's EVDO wireless broadband service promises unlimited data consumption, but as usual in this industry - that means the exact opposite. Verizon Wireless had already been complaining about the use of Junxion boxes to split 3G connections. Now, according to posters to the EVDO forums (via Techdirt), they're sending out warning letters (see copy) to users who consume too much bandwidth. We're not sure how many times we have to say this: If you're going to restrict consumption in any way, then don't tag your service as "unlimited".

Thursday, October 13, 2005

10,000 Midtown NY Phones Dead

A major phone outage in Midtown has left thousands of people without dial tones, and a solution is still days away. Landlines, Internet access and fax machines for many Verizon customers in the area have been shut down since Tuesday after a fire melted cables inside a manhole at 38th Street and Madison Avenue.

Verizon, which doesn't know the cause of the fire, said yesterday that as many as 10,000 customers in both homes and businesses are still without landlines in the heart of the city.

"At this point, we haven't estimated how soon we'll have it [repairs] all done . . . possibly sometime next week," said Verizon spokesman Cliff Lee.

"It's going to be a very time-consuming process, because of the situation and the [underground] location."

To ease the pain, Verizon has placed vans with free phones for the public to use in the affected area and will offer rebates for affected customers. But the outage has business owners fuming as they struggle to operate without fax machines, e-mail or regular phones.

"It's impossible to run a law firm without e-mail and faxes in 2005," said Paul Korngold, a partner at Tuchman, Katz, Schwartz, Gelles, Korngold and Weiss, whose lines have been down since the start of business on Wednesday.

It's still not clear what sparked the manhole fire that caused the problem. Verizon said that by yesterday workers had gotten fiber optic lines working, but they still had to repair melted copper wires.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Best Geek Quotes

  1. There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.

  2. If at first you don't succeed; call it version 1.0

  3. I'm not anti-social; I'm just not user friendly

  4. Roses are #FF0000
    Violets are #0000FF
    All my base
    Are belong to you

  5. My software never has bugs. It just develops random features.

  6. My pokemon bring all the nerds to the yard, and they're like you wanna trade cards? Darn right, I wanna trade cards, I'll trade this but not my charizard.

  7. Microsoft: "You've got questions. We've got dancing paperclips."

  8. A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history - with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.

  9. I would love to change the world, but they won't give me the source code.

  10. The box said 'Requires Windows 95 or better'. So I installed LINUX.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Health Insurance Search Engine

NEED Health Insurance? In addition to featuring the largest selection of major medical health plans from leading companies, eHealthInsurance also offers a wide selection of quality short term, student, and dental plans. You can obtain FREE instant quotes, side-by-side comparisons, the best available prices, online applications, and a knowledgeable Customer Care team to help you find the plan that is right for you. ShopforT1 revolutionized shopping for T1 and internet circuits. Now eHealthInsurance revolutionizes shopping for health insurance.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

For Verizon VoIP, Unlimited Really Means 5000 Minutes

Verizon VoiceWing fine-print on unlimited plans.
Verizon reserves the right to monitor usage for possible abuse of service. For packages with unlimited calling, more than 5,000 minutes a month is considered beyond normal residential use and may be investigated, resulting in potential termination of service.
That’s about 3 hours a day… not a lot of talk time! (Hat Tip, Chris Holland)

Monday, September 26, 2005

VoIP a not quite ready for primetime player

  • A VP for Level 3 said that the early adopter market is saturated, and perhaps that is why the market is growing much slower than expected. Om Malik wholeheartedly agrees: "I have brought this point up. I think many get swayed by the “early adopter” market place, and start believing that change will happen overnight. Most of us, who don’t study history, forget that revolutions take “years.” VoIP is precisely that."

  • Monday, September 19, 2005

    The 'We're Not Taking Any More' club

    p2pnet Special:- An unusual, extremely expensive, international online club is starting to form.

    Its first member was Patricia Santangelo, a single New York mother of five.

    Next came Dawnell Leadbetter, another single mother, this time from the Seattle area. If you’re a regular p2pnet reader, you’ll recognize both of the above names.

    The third member was someone you haven't met before: Tanya Andersen (right), a single mother who's living in Oregon and who's seriously disabled with a painful medical condition. She and her eight-year-old daughter get by on social security payments.

    By now, you'll have probably guessed the club members are all women being brutally victimized by EMI, Universal, Warner and Sony BMG, the huge, multi-billion-dollar record label cartel that's using its immense financial and political weight and deep, dark connections to law enforcement agencies in a bizarre marketing scheme.

    Instead of wooing customers, it's suing them and so far, it's clocked up close to 14,000 people.

    But the significance of the three women isn't that they're among the unfortunate victims.

    Rather, they stand out because they're standing up, defying the Mafia-like labels and their teams of hired legal thugs who work through 'Settlement Centers' which aim to terrorize people into paying 'fees' which usually start out at $7,500 to be 'negotiated' down to around $3,500.

    Do you think the superlatives victimize, brutal, terrorize and bizarre are too strong?

    They're not strong enough.

    The We're Not Taking Any More club

    Patricia Santangelo was the first to take the labels on, represented by Ty Rogers, Ray Beckerman and Dan Singer of New York’s Beldock Levine & Hoffman.

    She tells other victims, "Don't let your fear of these massive companies allow you to deny your belief in your own innocence. Paying these settlements is an admission of guilt. If you're not guilty of violating the law, don't pay."

    Dawnell Leadbetter, backed by Lory Lybeck of Lybeck Murphy in Oregon, says she’s not willing to let the labels walk all over her. We'll be running our interview with her within the next few days.

    More recently, Tanya Andersen, also represented by Lybeck, has decided she’s not going to put up with Big Music’s bullying either.

    "It was something I got in the mail and that I didn't quite understand from them stating they were releasing my private information," she told p2pnet. "They had a subpoena attached and it basically sounded to me when I read it that they were just investigating something and wanted my information.

    "I thought, 'Well I haven't done anything wrong so I'm not going to worry about it'."

    However, this was far from being an innocuous inquiry. In was the beginning of a nightmare for Anderson. And it's still going on.

    The letter she refers to was from ISP Verizon telling her the company was releasing personal information to the Big Four's RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), fronted by one of the Settlement Centers the enforcement unit uses to do its dirty work.

    'I have no money and did not do what is being said'

    In a March 6, 2005, letter to Mark Eilers at the Tukwila, Washington, 'Settlement Centre,' Andersen states categorically that neither she nor anyone in her household has ever downloaded "illegal" digital files.

    "If somehow this activity was to somehow been pinned to me, it was somehow done so fraudulently," she says. "There is no way it came from my household.

    "I have the least expensive computer system you can buy from Dell. The type you order off television for $499.00. It was purchased in the summer of 2002 and has the smallest hard drive they make. I have no cd writer on it and the cd-rom that I do have, does not even work correctly.

    "I live alone with my 8-year-old daughter (who would have been seven at the time the alleged occurrence took place). I am a single mom who is disabled and unable to work. I live on Social Security disability and struggle to support my daughter and myself. If I am put in a position where I need to defend myself regarding this situation, it would create extreme financial hardship on me. I have no money and did not do what is being said. I also must admit that all this stuff that has been occurring with this whole ordeal has triggered my medical condition to flare lately.

    "I have always been against music downloading. In fact, I have been a member of BMG's music club for quite some time and I purchase my music either from there or from Target. When I first got my computer set up almost three years ago, I had a friend set it up for me since I did not know how to do it. She had put Kaaza Lite on there and told me what it was. I never used it and had no interest in doing so. I deleted it since I had no use for it. Even though I deleted it correctly, as is recommended by Microsoft, Mr. Eilers has told me it can hide out in my system and play without me knowing about it. I have done a total check
    of my computer and it is no where on there.

    "These files you are speaking accusing me of sharing (which Mr. Eiler told me about), are not and never have been on my computer system. Several of those artists, I have never even heard of! One, I understand, is a rap song. I am 42-years-old and do not even like rap music. The login that this person who did this apparently used, which Mr. Eiler told me of, is not a login name I have ever used or heard of.

    "There is no one at my household who could have done what is being said at all. Mr. Eiler had brought up the fact that maybe a babysitter could have done it and that is impossible because I seldom have a sitter since I can't afford to pay one and am usually home."

    'Turning her life upside down'

    Andersen contacted the recording industry, Verizon, the Settlement Support Center, US congressman David Wu and US senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, "pleading for their help and investigation," her lawyer, Lorry Lybeck, told p2pnet, going on:

    "She didn't engage in any copyright infringement nor did she download or share any songs on her computer. After offering to make her computer available to the strong-arming record industry and explaining to them that she could not, and did not, engage in any prohibited conduct, the secret suit was dismissed and she was then sued in her name by another group of large record companies in federal district court in Oregon.

    "The continuing victimization of Ms Anderson and the unwillingness of the record companies to conduct even the most basic investigation before turning her life upside down betrays the total lack of concern they have for any concepts of fairness, due process and the rights of the individuals who they have wrongfully targeted.

    "If this lawsuit were filed for real purposes of fact finding and a determination of damages owed, the record companies would have been required to undertake a real investigation and determine whether a real basis existed to sue Ms Anderson.

    "In this circumstance, the real motivation and purpose of this suit (and the 15,000+ others clogging the federal courts) is to promote a national PR campaign being conducted by the RIAA. Because of this, the 'plaintiffs' in these many suits have no interest in investigating whether facts actually exist to support the allegations in the lawsuits. It is the publication of the threat of the suit that the RIAA wants.

    "The federal courts have important business before them. It is an outrage that the RIAA is abusing the federal court system to obtain the ability to threaten many many thousands of American citizens.

    "Copyright infringement is wrong. Thug-like threats by multi-national, multi-billion dollar businesses against people who cannot afford to speak or even explain their innonence is a much greater wrong. The music industry with all of its assets and all of its talents has the ability to handle the 'problem' of downloading much more effectively and much more humanely. Their present tactics cause real harm to real people.

    "Theses tactics do nothing to address highjackers, spoofers and commercially motivated copyright infringers around the world.

    "The RIAA needs to stop hurting innocent people."

    Candy, James and John

    And now, three more people have joined the We're Not Taking Any More club.

    Candy Chan, James and Angela Nelson and John Harless are all from Michigan, all represented by John Hermann and all determined not to cave in to EMI, Universal, Warner and Sony BMG.

    Hermann gave us brief breakdowns of each of the three cases:

    Priority Records v Candy Chan - US District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division Case No 04-cv-73645-DT Honorable: Lawrence Zatkoff.

    Candy Chan herself knows nothing about computers, but she does have a 13-year-old daughter and the RIAA went after her, contending she was indirectly liable for providing a computer to her teenage daughter, who denied doing anything wrong. Chan senior said she didn't know who may have downloaded or exchanged music files. But she said she's seen other kids playing with her daughter's computer after school, or at sleep-overs.

    "After taking Ms Chan's deposition, the RIAA moved to add the daughter," Hermann told p2pnet. "I objected, arguing that the daughter was a minor and that they had to appoint a guardian ad litem before for the child before they could proceed.

    "In the meantime, I threatened filing a motion for summary judgment on behalf of Ms Chan and they immediately moved to withdraw the complaint against her, which the judge granted."

    Mowtown Record Company v James and Angela Nelson - US District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division Case No 04-73646; Honorable: Bernard Friedman.

    John Nelson freely admits that when it comes to computers, he doesn't have a clue. The Big Four nonetheless accused him of copyright infringement, ignoring his assurances that not only did he not own a p2p file sharing application, but he didn't even know what it was.

    However, Nelson's wife, Angela, operates an in-home day care center with several teenagers as her helpers, with all that implies.

    "During the deposition of one of the employees, the teenager testified that although she downloaded many of the songs, she did so with Mr and Mrs Nelson's knowledge and approval," says Hermann.

    "Based on the teenager's testimony, the RIAA moved to add Mrs Nelson as a defendant.

    "During a second series of depositions, the teenage employee recanted her prior statement and said the Nelson's had nothing to do with the downloading and that she'd wrongfully accused them because she was scared and thought she was going to be in trouble herself unless she blamed them.

    "Not surprisingly, the RIAA has tried to threaten her in order to change her testimony, even going so far as to hire a private investigator to try and sign a false affidavit indicating that the Nelson's attorney (myself) was active in suborning perjury."

    Elecktra Entertainment v John Harless - US District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division Case No 04-cv-74502;Honorable: Bernard Friedman.

    John Harless is someone else whose knowledge of computers is to all intents ad purposes, non-existent. But he does have two teenaged children, aged 16 and 14.

    The RIAA says Harness infringed its owners' copyrights and, "Although no discovery has been taken, I've tried to obtain information as to the basis of their claims," Hermann told p2pnet.

    "Not surprisingly, they've resisted each and every request, no doubt because they have no information other than an IP address and account number.

    "I have an order compelling them to produce a Media Sentry representative for a deposition as to the pre-suit investigative procedures, but to date, they've dragged their heels and haven't complied."

    Holding a parent responsible

    Fred von Lohmann is the EFF's (Electronic Frontier Foundation) senior staff attorney specializing in intellectual property. He represented Morpheus owners Streamcast Networks in the Grokster vs MGM decision.

    “Is it acceptable to make parents responsible in a financial or other sense for something their children may, or may not, have done?” – p2pnet recently asked von Lohmann.

    “ The increasing number of lawsuits against the parents and grandparents of alleged file-sharers is a particularly unfortunate part of the recording industry's litigation campaign against music fans,” he said. “There is no precedent in copyright law for holding parent responsible for the infringing activities of their minor children. If the question ever went to court, I believe the RIAA would lose.”

    But, “Unfortunately, the RIAA has made it clear that, if a parent fights the lawsuit, they will simply sue the child directly.”

    Multi-billion-dollar corporations suing children for sharing music with each other? And sadly, it’s not only in America. The labels are using RIAA clones around the world to run similar terror campaigns aimed at bringing former product 'consumers' to heel.

    However, if, in their arrogance, they ever do begin to pillory children, they'll suddenly discover who depends on who.

    We'll be running p2pnet Q&As with both Leadbetter and Andersen in the next few days, as well as more details from the individual cases.

    If you're a lawyer representing someone else who's joining, the We're Not Taking Any More club, please let us know.

    Ditto if you know, or if you are, one of the victims.

    Meanwhile -------------

    FICTION: File sharers are depriving the music labels (not to mention the movie and software cartels) of billions of dollars in lost sales.

    FACT: The cartel is reporting substantial drop-offs in sales and much of this is, its owners claim, down to file sharing.

    It's eminently debatable whether file sharing has caused the loss of even a single sale. But the labels have cut back significantly on their output in Australia, say new figures from an Australian expert. Given that it's the case in Oz, one can assume it's also true elsewhere.

    There have also been a number of academic and other studies pointing up the fallacy of the cartel assertions.

    One of the first to suggest EMI, Universal, Warner and Sony BMG were being a little less than forthright in their 'File sharing is costing us billions in lost sales' declarations came from two respected American scholars.

    "According to the RIAA (2002), the number of CD’s shipped in the U.S. fell from 940 million to 800 million - or 15% - between 2000 and 2002 (though shipments continued to rise during the first two years of popular file sharing, 1999-2000)," say Felix Oberholzer of the Harvard Business School and Koleman Strumpf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in their The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis.

    "The record industry has claimed this decline is due to file sharing."

    The two analyzed the direct data of music downloaders over a 17-week period in the fall of 2002, and compared that activity with actual music purchases during that time, coming to the conclusion that spikes in downloading had almost no discernible effect on sales.

    Even under the worst-case example, "it would take 5,000 downloads to reduce the sales of an album by one copy," they wrote. "After annualizing, this would imply a yearly sales loss of two million albums, which is virtually rounding error given that 803 million records were sold in 2002. Sales dropped by 139 million albums from 2000 to 2002."

    Nor do downloaded mp3 files replace CD buys.

    "While downloads occur on a vast scale, most users are likely individuals who would not have bought the album even in the absence of file sharing," stated Oberholzer and Strumpf.

    Their studies concentrated on the American experience. But a more recent study by Dr Tatsuo Tanaka of Keio University in Japan, using the now famous Winny p2p application, says there’s, “not sufficient evidence that file sharing systems are responsible for the recent decline in CD sales”.

    To the contrary, p2p usage helps in the promotion of music by allowing users to experience it before purchase; and, it helps in the discovery of new music by users, says Tanaka in Does File Sharing Reduce CD Sales?

    "Based on micro data of CD sales and numbers of downloads, we found that there is very little evidence that file sharing reduced music CD sales in Japan. We controlled simultaneous bias between sales and downloads by instrumental variables but did not find correlation between CD sales and numbers of downloads. Although there were large differences in the numbers of downloads among CD titles, these differences did not affect CD sales.

    "We also carried out a user survey on file sharing and CD purchases with consideration to the potential bias of respondents trying to understate their illegal copying activity. This survey also showed that file sharing had very limited influence on CD purchases."

    Tanaka suggests copyright laws should be relaxed rather than tightened to allow for more positive effects of broadband internet file sharing.

    Meanwhile, millions of entertainment industry dollars that should have gone into shareholder dividends are spent on 'reports' meant to counter the papers. But they can be clearly seen for what they are: fruitless attempts to discredit papers which give the lie to industry claims.

    FICTION: File sharers are thieves.

    FACT: Put at its simplest, to steal something is to remove it from its original owner without his or her permission, causing deprivation through loss. File sharing means exactly what it says. Sharing. Nothing is stolen and no one is deprived of anything. To the contrary, file sharers are exposed to music they may never have otherwise heard. Mp3s are inferior, compressed copies of original CD tracks meant primarily for portable devices. People who listen to mp3s frequently go out to buy the originals so they can be played on home stereo systems.

    Moreover, no money changes hands and no profits are made or lost.

    FICTION: Targetting people suspected of file sharing has significantly reduced the number of file sharers in the US and around the world.

    FACT: The lawsuits have had, and continue to have, zero impact on the file sharing communities. To the contrary, the number of people logging onto file sharing networks everywhere is steadily increasing.

    p2pnet has been collecting data compiled by Big Champagne, the American research company which specializes in gathering data on file sharing.

    In August, 2003, in the US, on average, 2,630,960 people were simultaneously logged onto p2p networks at any given time. Globally, the number was approximately 3,847,565.

    A year later for the same months, the numbers were 4,549,801 and 6,822,312 respectively.

    And for August, 2005, Big Champagne statistics show 6,871,308 people were logged onto the networks at the same time in the US, with 9,620,261 individuals checking in around the world.

    FICTION: Entertainment industry lawsuits deter people from sharing files with each other online.

    FACT: Every day, hundreds of thousands of people around the world log on for the first time meaning the chance of any one individual becoming one of the RIAA's chosen few becomes exponentially more unlikely.

    In his Theory of Collective Consumer Risk, "Downloaders are generally less likely to expect a stern warning, expensive lawsuit or even criminal prosecution, the more those around them are doing the same," says Canadian marketing expert Dr Markus Giesler, also quoting p2pnet's contention that the odds of ending up as an RIAA target are akin to being struck by lightning.

    Or put another way, the risk tied to Internet file-sharing is almost zero despite entertainment industry claims to the contrary, says Geisler, going on: "Downloaders are generally less likely to expect a stern warning, expensive lawsuit or even criminal prosecution, the more those around them are doing the same."

    Slyck is famous for its forums and its statistics. In May this year, "From the last capture of the proportion of networks under the RIAA’s gun in November of 2003, 150 users of FastTrack were sued, compared to 5 Blubster users," said the site’s Tom Mennecke in RIAA’s Grand Total: 10,037 - What are Your Odds?, continuing:

    "Since the RIAA cannot subpoena individuals anymore, we unfortunately cannot provide a more current proportion. However, common knowledge dictates that FastTrack remains a priority, and on November 13 of 2003 it represented ~96% of those being sued."

    But, "If we were to eliminate 96% (proportion of FastTrack users) of the 6,523 sued in 2004, the odds of being sued changes dramatically. If we consider only those using a non-FastTrack P2P network, the total number of lawsuits drops to only ~261. In other words, you then have a 1 in 45,977 chance of being sued if you do not use FastTrack. Comparatively, according to the National Safety Council, you have a better chance of being killed in a transportation or non-transportational accident, death from suicide, death from assault or death by legal intervention (such as execution or being shot by a police officer.)"

    Say, however, half of those sued in 2004 were using FastTrack, that leaves 3,261 non-FastTrack related lawsuits, says Mennecke. "You would then have a 1 in 3,679 chance of being sued. That still places you above all external cases of mortality (1 in 1,755), but below all transportational accidents (1 in 5,953.) However, you would still have a better chance of being killed in an unintentional accident (1 in 2,698), then being sued by the RIAA.

    "Although these numbers are hardly an exact science, they do reflect the odds of being sued are little different than the risks one takes by simply living day-to-day life. But if we were to get real specific, the odds of being sued by the RIAA for non-FastTrack users (1 in 3,679) is still much greater than death by contact with a venomous snake or lizard (1 in 95 million.)”

    FICTION: Thousands of Americans have been found guilty of 'file sharing'.

    FACT: Not one person has ever been found guilty of file sharing, or of anything else. And that's because until Patricia Santangelo came along, not one person had been willing to risk going up against the labels. This in turn has meant no one has appeared before a judge and no alleged case of 'file sharing' has ever been taken to its conclusion.

    Worse, the practice makes a mockery of a corner stone of the American legal system: that people are innocent until they're proven guilty.

    However, the cartel and their RIAA and other similar industry owned enforcement organizations continue to issue disingenuous press releases suggesting they've successfully prosecuted thousands of 'criminal, thieving' file sharers.

    We could go on because pick virtually any aspect of p2p file sharing in music industry statements, and the odds are far better than even that they'll be distortions, if not outright lies, carefully crafted to give the appearance that the labels are beleaguered corporate citizens doing their honest best to survive in a world where millions upon millions of file sharing thieves get up every morning, bent on robbing the labels of what's rightfully theirs, depriving their contracted artists of their livings and causing terrible hardship to support workers.

    The contention is obvious nonsense. Nonetheless, the mainstream media repeat these "facts" as though they're a genuine reflection of what's occurring, and as though they come from credible and reliable sources.

    And while the labels and their counterparts in the movie and software industries do their best to imitate King Canute in his attempts to turn back the tide, the p2p networks have become a permanent part of the online scene, solidly locked in.

    Peer-to-peer is here to stay and as British ISP network service CacheLogic says in a just-published report, p2p not only represented 60% of Net traffic at the end of 2004, it “outstrips every other communication and distribution protocol and is still growing”.

    Moreover, p2p and broadband are mutually compatible forces, each driving the uptake of the other, says the report.

    The old-style monopolies are slowly but surely being broken down, but it'll take a while before the technologically ignorant executives who run the cartels are replaced by people able to function effectively and profitably in the digital 21st century.

    The tragedy is: until that happens, people such as Patricia Santangelo, Dawnell Leadbetter and Tanya Andersen will continue to be persecuted.

    And for absolutely nothing.

    Stay tuned.

    Jon Newton - p2pnet

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Cingular Wireless expelled from the Better Business Bureau

    After a string of unanswered complaints, Cingular Wireless has been expelled from the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York. Cingular has 20 unanswered complaints out of over 200 in the last three years, according to a report. "We want to set this right. We will be meeting with BBB representatives to address any outstanding issues they may have, and we will apply for reinstatement as soon as possible. It's very important for us to be a member in good standing," a Cingular spokesperson said.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Powerful solar flare erupts

    One of the largest solar flares on record was recorded by forecasters at the NOAA Space Center in Boulder, Colo. at 1:40 p.m. EDT on Sept. 7. Forecasters are predicting significant solar eruptions over the next few days. Electric power systems, high frequency communications, low-frequency navigation systems and spacecraft operations may experience disruptions over the next two weeks.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    What can you and your church do to help with Katrina?

    This is a synthesis of all the good ideas I've heard to date...
    1. Look for an organization to match your financial donations. Many companies are offering to match Katrina relief donations 1:1 - meaning you can double the effectiveness of your donation with zero additional work. For example, dealnews will match 100% of your donation to the American Red Cross, up to a total of $5,000. Their goal is to raise a total of $10,000 including yours and our donations. Click here to read more and to donate.

    2. Mobile laundry stations. Furnish enclosed trailers with 2-3 washing machines, 3-4 dryers, and water heaters. Take those to shelters, outreach churches, etc. so people can wash their dirty clothing.

    3. Mobile homes, trailers, RVs. People need places to live. And they need them *IN* LA and MS, not thousands of miles away. Find used RVs, inexpensive mobile homes/trailers, etc. Locate those at churches, local/state/federal parks and recreation areas, or find suitable RV or mobile home pads. Partner with a local church in LA or MS to provide a parking spot and utilities (power, water, etc.) for these units.

    4. Donate cell phone minutes. 10's of thousands of people still have not been able to contact their family, friends and loved ones. Take your cell phone or a group of cell phones to shelters, effected areas, etc. and allow people to use those phones to call out.

    5. Organize job fairs. Estimates indicate about a million people will need at least temporary jobs. Get the businesses in your area together and help them understand the need to get those people gamefully employed so they can support their family.

    6. Collect school supplies and send them to major school systems in Texas. Also to everywhere in southern Mississippi, Baton Rouge LA, etc. Many school systems in Texas, most in Mississippi and most in Louisiana have a *major* influx of students to cope with. All these students need get back into school so they can have some form of normalcy in their life.

    7. Organize groups of tutors. See above. These same students are going to need lots of help getting up to speed in school and keeping up. I hesistate to say it... but LA did have the 49th ranked school system in the US. Lots of kids there are going to need lots of help assimilating into schools with higher standards.

    Red Cross Shelter Statistics

    The American Red Cross said Monday it had 487 shelters and evacuation centers open and was caring for at least 142,121 hurricane victims in 16 states. These figures do not include refugees still in New Orleans, or at hotels, motels or church or state shelters across the South. (As of 9:30pm Monday night.)

    Here is a breakdown of Red Cross shelters in eight states:

    • Texas: 74 shelters, including the Astrodome; 56,000 people

    • Louisiana: 175 shelters; 55,000 people

    • Mississippi: 113 shelters; 17,000 people

    • Alabama: 48 shelters; 5,200 people

    • Florida: 41 shelters; 3,600 people

    • Arkansas: 7 shelters; 3,000 people

    • Georgia: 17 shelters; 1,100 people

    • Tennessee: 3 shelters; 1,000 people

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    Summer Travelers Want Broadband

    When travelers where asked what hotel product or service they would they would be willing to pay extra for, high-speed Internet access or a computer in the room topped the list.

    As Labor Day approaches, a new survey from Harris Interactive finds that two-thirds (66%) of US adults have taken or will take a vacation this summer.

    When asked what is the one thing they "absolutely must take with them" when traveling on vacation, Americans were most likely to say personal hygiene items (15%). Computers were far down the list. (click graph to view)

    But travelers still want the ability to go online, and fast. When asked what was missing from their hotel stays that they would most be willing to pay extra for, high-speed Internet access or a computer in their room topped the list at 10%. Better entertainment, such as DVD or Tivo, was third. (click graph to view)

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Your VoIP Line May Be Terminated Next Week

    If you don't acknowledge the 911 service sucks
    Written by Karl Bode

    If you don't respond to your VoIP provider's emails concerning the limitations of 911 service, you could find your service terminated early next week. It's part of an FCC order many providers claim is unreasonable, and at least one is suing over. Doesn't matter whether you use it on DSL, a T1 or a DS3! Everyone is affected.

    Back in May a mother blamed Vonage 911 service for her baby's death, despite the fact Vonage proved to local news outlets that the 911 call in question went through - twice. That didn't seem to matter. This and other similar reports created an uproar, and VoIP 911 became a hot political issue.

    In some instances the problem was that customers didn't carefully read this screen, alerting them that they must manually configure 911 service before use. The customer complaints led several states to sue Vonage. Vonage responded by routing everyone to 911 centers, regardless of whether they'd configured the service or not.

    Too late.

    Despite the fact that on any given day you can find ample examples of traditional 911 failures, VoIP 911 was now an FCC and Congressional target. This prompted the creation of new laws, and an FCC order demanding all VoIP providers offer 911 service by November (some VoIP industry insiders believe this is a trojan horse effort to eliminate bell competition).

    VoIP provider Nuvio has decided to sue the FCC over the 120 day window, claiming the request "unreasonable, arbitrary, and because technologically infeasible, capricious."

    As part of the order, providers were also told they had to get 100% customer acknowledgement of the limitations of VoIP 911 by August 29.

    That request also hasn't sat well with VoIP providers. “You could tell people that their house is burning down and by clicking on this link you can stop it and only 60 percent of them would respond,” recently noted VoicePulse CEO Ravi Sakaria.

    As the hour grows late, VoIP providers have grown desperate - flinging the "our 911 service sucks" confirmation emails far and wide. Our office receives at least one a day, and we're not even a current customer.

    Time Warner Cable meanwhile claims they've gotten all 600,000 VoIP customers to respond (sure they did, says CNET's Russell Shaw).

    Vonage states they've received confirmation from roughly 96% of their subscribers. If the estimated remaining 31,000 subscribers don't respond to Vonage by next week, they will find their services terminated.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Bank ATMs Converted to Steal IDs of Bank Customers

    Bank ATMs Converted to Steal IDs of Bank Customers

    A team of organized criminals is installing equipment on legitimate bank ATMs in at least 2 regions to steal both the ATM card number and the PIN. The team sits nearby in a car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly over weekends and evenings from equipment they install on the front of the ATM (see photos). If you see an attachment like this, do not use the ATM and report it immediately to the bank using the 800 number or phone on the front of the ATM.

    The equipment used to capture your ATM card number and PIN is cleverly disguised to look like normal ATM equipment. A "skimmer" is mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number and transmits it to the criminals sitting in a nearby car.

    At the same time, a wireless camera is disguised to look like a leaflet holder and is mounted in a position to view ATM PIN entries.

    The thieves copy the cards and use the PIN numbers to withdraw thousands from many accounts in a very short time directly from the bank ATM.

    scam graphic
    Equipment being installed on front of existing bank card slot.

    scam graphic
    The equipment as it appears installed over the normal ATM bank slot.

    scam graphic
    The PIN reading camera being installed on the ATM is housed in an innocent looking leaflet enclosure.

    scam graphic
    The camera shown installed and ready to capture PINs by looking down on the keypad as you enter your PIN.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    Official: Computer God

    Ok... so I took the geek test and scored a 95. Guess I am a professional geek after all.

    My computer geek score is greater than 95% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

    Your Score Summary

    Overall, you scored as follows:

    5% scored higher (more computer geeky),
    0% scored the same, and
    95% scored lower (less geeky).

    Compared to those in the same age group as you:

    6% scored higher (more computer geeky),
    0% scored the same, and
    94% scored lower (less geeky).

    What does this mean? Your computer geekiness is:

    Step aside Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, and Steve Jobs... You are by far the SUPREME COMPUTER GOD!!!

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    So... New York? Paris?

    She does good work!

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    Investigating Machine Identification Code Technology in Color Laser Printers

    Do you own a color printer or have access to high speed color laser printers? If so, then please take a moment to help the Electronic Frontier Foundation research the breadth of the print tracing systems and mechanisms that have been integrated into these devices without consumer knowledge or government acknowledgement.

    Summary: The serial number and other information about your printer could be hidden in every printout. At the request of the United States Secret Service, manufacturers developed mechanisms that print in an encoded form the serial number and the manufacturer's name as indiscernible markings on color documents.

    Here is their article and all the info:


    On Nov. 22, 2004, PC World published an online article stating that "several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters." (,aid,118664,00.asp). According to the article, the high fidelity of outputs from color machines to their original documents suggests that counterfeiters can potentially succeed in creating high-quality counterfeited currency and government documents using these machines. At the request of the United States Secret Service, manufacturers developed mechanisms that print in an encoded form the serial number and the manufacturer's name as indiscernible markings on color documents. The Secret Service and manufacturers would be able to decode these values from the markings and in the event a color machine was used to print a suspected counterfeited document, these values would be used with customer information to discover the identity of the machine's owner.

    The U.S. government is not the only national government using the marking technology to deter counterfeiting activities. An Oct. 26, 2004, PC World article entitled "Dutch Track Counterfeits Via Printer Serial Numbers" explained that Dutch railway law enforcement officials were employing this same technology to investigate a large-scale railway ticket counterfeiting operation. According to the article, since information about a user is not encoded into the arrangement of markings, law enforcement agencies work with manufacturers to obtain the identities of the persons to whom the printers were sold. In a typical scenario, when distributors sell printers, they obtain information about the purchaser, which is maintained in a database. The purchaser's identity is then associated with the serial number and the manufacturer's name of the machine. A document whose author a governmental agency wants to discover contains only the serial number and the manufacturer's name of the machine on which it was printed, so upon extracting this information from a document, it must consult the distributor responsible for selling the machine. The distributor performs a database query to match the serial number with a purchaser; manufacturers can also do searches if they have access to the database.


    In the PC World article, manufacturers and the Secret Service claim that the marking technology was developed to deter counterfeiting activities using color machines. While they may actually use it for legitimate anticounterfeiting purposes, currently no law prevents them from exploiting the technology in ways that could infringe on the privacy and anonymity of Americans. This means that we have no way to require them to adhere to these purposes or even verify that they are the only purposes. We also have no way of knowing whether the Secret Service is the only governmental agency using this technology.

    The possible misuses of this marking technology are frightening--individuals using printers to create political pamphlets, organize legal protest activities, or even discuss private medical conditions or sensitive personal topics can be identified by the government with no legal process, no judicial oversight, and no notice to the person spied upon. If the Secret Service or any other governmental body wanted to identify the author of an anonymously printed political pamphlet, it could use the markings on the document to at least determine the serial number and the manufacturer of the machine on which it was printed. Then, with the cooperation of distributors and manufacturers, it could identify who purchased the machine. We do not even know if the government actually needs to consult manufacturers each time it seeks to identify document authors; it could obtain a complete customer database from the manufacturer and simply access the specific information on its own for any purpose it chooses.

    Xerox senior research fellow Peter Crean has informed us that each document identification request that Xerox's security department receives from the Secret Service is handled on a case-by-case basis, that Xerox identifies only suspected currency documents, and that identification of machines used to print pamphlets, letters, and other non-currency documents does not occur. If true, these statements are somewhat comforting, but a clear risk remains due to the absence of legislation regulating the use of the marking technology. Color printers are regularly used for anonymous printing and pamphleteering; they are an important tool of speech. Without appropriate legal protections against the misuse of identifying technologies, these long-protected forms of expression may be in danger, as the government has easy and secret ways to identify the authors, or at least the printer purchaser, of any speech printed on color printers.

    Furthermore, what assurance does an author have that foreign governments, or even private entities, are not also using or misusing these marking technologies to identify speakers? We're aware of no laws regulating the distribution or reuse of information obtained through the use of marking technologies and customer databases. The Secret Service could share with foreign governments knowledge about interpreting the markings, which would mean that they could identify color documents printed in the United States. Similarly, no law prevents individuals or organizations from using this technology for their own purposes, which means that malicious parties who understand how it works can misuse it.

    It is especially worrisome that the Secret Service was able to coordinate with private-sector manufacturers on the development of this technology since at least the early 1990s with no public awareness, much less public discussion, of the privacy and anonymity risks for users of this technology. This raises the general concern that the U.S. government might have promoted the development of identification mechanisms in other devices and might do so in the future with new technologies. The marking technology is possibly one of many instances of the federal government's unwillingness to be forthright with questionable law enforcement techniques. In addition to the serious privacy concerns, we must consider the implications of the government's possible lack of accountability to the public on matters affecting technology use and development.

    Through this project, we want to inform current and prospective color laser printer owners, purchasers, and users of this potential privacy risk so that they can make educated consumer decisions. It does not necessarily follow from the presentation of this material that members of the general public should never use color laser printers containing marking technology. We recognize that some consumers, upon being informed, will still choose to use these machines; such a decision is within their discretion. We simply want to ensure that current and prospective owners, purchasers, and users of these machines know that they can be identified using this technology and consider the potential risks. We also want to continue to gather information to make this technology better understood over time.


    We visited numerous local print stores and printed eight speciallydesigned 8.5" by 11" test sheets, each with a resolution of 600 dpi (see right for two of these test sheets). We initially examined the printed test sheets using a Digital Blue QX5 computer light microscope, but later determined that a blue LED flashlight and a magnifying glass were sufficient to detect the markings, confirming the efficacy of the technique suggested by Xerox senior research fellow Peter Crean (see,aid,118664,00.asp).

    Upon detecting markings on a test sheet, we attempted to describe their arrangement. With Xerox documents, the markings consisted of minuscule yellow dots positioned within a 0.5" by 1.0" rectangular space. The arrangement of dots was repeatedly printed over the entire printed side. These dots were transcribed onto paper and text files. We wrote simple Linux shell scripts and C programs to analyze the arrangements.

    With Canon documents, the markings also consisted of tiny yellow dots. However, they were not arranged within a rectangular space, which made analyzing them more challenging. As of this writing, we haven't developed a protocol for analyzing Canon markings, which may require an interpreting scheme different from the one needed to interpret Xerox's. There may be multiple marking systems in use by different manufacturers or in connection with different generations of color printing technology.


    Here are images of yellow tracking dots printed by Canon and Xerox printers:

    Printed side of test01 sheet
    Machine: Canon Color imageRUNNER C3200. Magnified: 60 times.

    Unprinted side of test01 sheet
    Machine: Canon Color imageRUNNER C3200. Magnified: 60 times.

    Printed side of test01 sheet
    Machine: Xerox DocuColor 12. Magnified: 60 times.

    Yellow dots on blue color box background, test07
    Machine: Xerox DocuColor 12. Magnfied: 60 times.

    Yellow dots on edge of test09 sheet with blue LED light
    Machine: Xerox DocuColor 12. Magnified: 10 times.

    Yellow dots on test07 sheet
    Machine: Xerox DocuColor 12. Magnified: 60 times.

    Below is a list of transcribed dot patterns for Xerox printers in text file format. Pattern pXY refers to the pattern found on test sheet testXY, pattern pXY1_XY2 refers to the shared pattern found on test sheets testXY1 and testXY2, and pattern pXY1-XY2 refers to the shared pattern found on test sheets testXY1 to XY2, inclusive.

    Aftering unzipping these files, use WordPad or another text editor to examine them.

    1. DocuColor 12 (FedEx Kinko's, 201 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA)
    2. DocuColor 12 (FedEx Kinko's, 303 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA)
    3. DocuColor 12 (FedEx Kinko's, 369 Pine Street)
    4. DocuColor 40 (Let Us! Copy, 565 Commercial Street, San Francisco, CA)
    5. DocuColor 2045 (FedEx Kinko's, 369 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA)
    6. DocuColor 6060 (FedEx Kinko's, 201 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA)
    7. DocuColor 6060 (FedEx Kinko's, 1800 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA)


    For Xerox documents, within the 0.5" by 1" rectangular space, 8 x 15 = 120 locations exist for printers to print yellow tracking dots. Consider the following pattern found on test00-template, printed on a Xerox DocuColor 12 located at FedEx Kinko's, 201 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA.

       ^      x   x x x   x x x   x   x   x
    | x x x
    | x x x x x
    | x x x x x x x
    8 dots
    | x x x x x
    | x x x x x x x x x
    | x x x
    v x x x x x x x

    <--------- 15 dots --------->

    We hypothesized that the patterns should be interpreted as binary values of fifteen bytes, where one byte was eight bits long and the more significant bits were written near the top of the pattern. We further postulated that the presence of a yellow tracking dot was equivalent to a "1" and the absence thereof was equivalent to a "0." We used shell scripts to translate these binary values into hexadecimal numbers, reading each column from top to bottom as a byte and taking columns in order from left to right. Below are the fifteen hexadecimal representations generated for the above Xerox DocuColor 12 pattern:

    F1 32 80 80 8C 15 86 85 80 7F B9 1C 85 15 EC

    It is difficult to discover their significance without printer information such as a serial number. These values could be encrypted, which could thwart analysis. When we obtain more data, including the serial numbers of machines, we look forward to determining the meaning of the bit fields in this pattern. Our analysis could be enhanced when we obtain the serial numbers of color machines.

    List of Printers

    Below is a list of printers that do and do not print yellow tracking dots on documents. Although we qualify these dots as "tracking dots," we have not proven that they indeed encode identifying information. Crean's testimony in the PC World article and the pattern differences between numerous printers suggest that these dots encode relevant information, but we still need to demonstrate that they do. With all of these printers, there might be another form of marking technology being used in addition to the system of yellow dots. Watermarking and steganographic techniques have become elaborate and complex, so one cannot rule out their use in printer documents. One could argue that the real identifying information is encoded using a complicated, statisticallybased algorithm, and the yellow dots are merely decoys (created using random values at the time of printing) to prevent people from examining the real marking technology. Thus, the presence or absence of yellow tracking dots on a document does not prove that no other form of marking technology is being used.

    With these caveats, we present the following lists. Only one printer that we tested did not print yellow tracking dots:

    Xerox (list obtained through EFF's empirical research)

    1. TekTronix Phaser 7700

    Here is a list of printers that print yellow tracking dots:

    Canon (list obtained through EFF's empirical research)

    1. CLC 1000
    2. CLC 2400 with Fiery RIP
    3. Color imageRUNNER C3200
    Toshiba (list provided by the manufacturer)
    1. eStudio3100c
    2. eStudio2100c
    3. eStudio311c
    4. eStudio211c
    5. eStudio310c
    6. eStudio210c
    7. FC70
    8. FC15
    9. FC22
    10. FC25P
    11. FC22i
    12. FC25Pi
    13. FC15i
    Xerox (list obtained through EFF's empirical research, unless otherwise noted)
    1. DocuColor 12
    2. DocuColor 40
    3. DocuColor 2045
    4. DocuColor 2000 series (obtained from Fuji Xerox's product information; it is possible that this information is applicable only to Xerox machines manufactured or sold in China)
    5. DocuColor 6060 (see Fuji Xerox's product information for confirmation; it is possible that this information is applicable only to Xerox machines manufactured or sold in China)
    6. WorkCentre Pro series (obtained from the PC World article)

    FOIA Request

    EFF is also trying to discover information on this subject through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the United States Secret Service.


    Our project's work confirms that one form of marking technology is being used in color laser printers. There could certainly be other forms of marking involved. Consumers can easily test whether printers are printing yellow tracking dots on their documents by flashing a blue LED light onto the white parts of their document. If numerous black dots appear (yellow becomes black under a blue LED light) with a semblance of structure, it is likely that the document contains tracking dots.

    What You Can Do to Help EFF

    We always appreciate the help of our members and supporters. You can help us make further progress with this project. Ask manufacturers of color laser printers and color photocopiers to disclose information on this technology and to explain why it is not publicized or brought to the consumer's attention at the point of sale.

    You can also help us through a more hands-on approach. If you own, operate, or have legitimate access to color laser printers or color photocopiers, please print the eight test sheets provided below on each of the machines to which you have access and send them to EFF (see address below). If there are printing stores near where you live or work, please print the eight test sheets there and send them to us. Please also print a configuration page, which will tell us information about the printer. If you cannot obtain a configuration page, please obtain the name of the manufacturer, the model type, and, if you can, the serial number. Unfortunately, EFF cannot reimburse costs incurred in printing these documents. In the event that all eight test sheets cannot be printed, please try to print as many as you can. Please print or request printing of these test sheets on normal laser printer paper and in consecutive order based on their filenames' numbering. If you plan to send us more than one machine's test sheets, please keep them separated (preferably in folders) to prevent data mixing.

    Please include this information form (PDF) within each folder, to help EFF identify whence the test sheets came.

    Test sheets printed in foreign countries are welcome. Please send test sheets until Nov. 1, 2005.

    Test sheets:

    1. test00-template.pdf (154 KB)
    2. test01-eff_white.pdf (174 KB)
    3. test02-eff_blue.pdf (181 KB)
    4. test03-black_square.pdf (181 KB)
    5. test04-blue_square.pdf (180 KB)
    6. test05-pale_green_square_008857.pdf (175 KB)
    7. test06-text.pdf (174 KB)
    8. test07-checkerboard.pdf (108 KB)

    Send test sheets to:

    Electronic Frontier Foundation
    Machine Identification Code Technology Project
    454 Shotwell Street
    San Francisco, CA 94110-1914

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Want to complain about Dell? Forget it

    By Charles Arthur (feedback at

    Want to complain on Dell's website about its customer service? Too late - the Customer Support Forums, operational until last Friday, have been shut down, apparently to try to quell bad publicity there about Dell products and especially after-care service.

    While all the other equipment forums are still working - last time we looked - the areas where you could vent your anger or delight about Mikey Boy's company were shut with a peremptory notice (Link) saying that "The Customer Service boards on the Dell Community Forum will be retiring at 3:30pm this Friday, July 8th. ... Customer Service FAQs will still be available to help answer your questions. If you need further assistance, you may contact our customer service team via Chat for any non-technical issue you may have." (The UK site appears not to have such a forum.)

    Why? Could it be anything to do with the unbelievably corrosive effect on Dell's reputation that has followed its insistent refusal to deal with problems with the Dell Dimension 4600 power supply (Link)?

    Noted Windows expert Ed Bott, who has been tying together some of the threads of the tale, comments: "Dell continues its race to the bottom with the new management strategy: If your customers continue to ask annoying questions, stop listening."

    Dell didn't have a response to our query about why it had shut the forums, although in a chat with Christoper Carfi (Link) one Dell service bod said: "We are closing the Customer Service boards on the Dell Community Forum for the time being as there certain updates which needs to be taken care of."

    Dell is not the first company to find its customers revolting online; Apple has taken similar measures (Link) in the past, though not gone quite as far as deleting an entire category of discussion.

    Part of the problem seems to have stemmed from Jeff Jarvis, a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner, who summed up his anger in a letter to a Dell VP, saying: "This machine is a lemon. Your at-home and complete care service is a fraud. Your customer service is appalling. Your product is dreadful. Your brand is mud."

    That has snowballed into growing pressure on Dell to improve its customer service, at precisely the time it has been driving ever-harder to improve margins. Unfortunately, the two conflict: excellent customer service can't be measured by standard accounting metrics because it doesn't show up until people renew purchases or service contracts - which is a future, uncertain, event. However, you can cut costs in customer service today and it shows up in the bottom line.

    Jarvis's travails sparked a little civil war in Blogistan, where some thought he deserved special treatment from Dell as an "A-lister" and "influential", while Bott pointed out (Link) that "Google Dell customer service problems and you get 2,950,000 hits (Link), which seems like a lot by any standards. (Just to check, we did "Britney Spears" customer service problems (Link) and got only 181,000 results. It's good, Britney, but there's still work to do.)

    In fact Dell's growth has clearly been putting increasing strain on its customer service operations. In 2000 it won high marks in a PC World survey (Link) of subscribers. But fast forward to 2004 and it was slipping badly (Link).

    Meanwhile, Jarvis found his own solution to his problems. He bought an Apple Powerbook (Link). Doubtless Apple's moderators are already readying their "delete" keys.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    New drug blocks HIV from entering cells

    The Asahi Shimbun (Japan)

    A durable new drug that prevents HIV from entering human cells and causes almost no side effects has been developed by a team of researchers at Kumamoto University.

    The new drug, code named AK602, was reported by the research team's leader, Hiroaki Mitsuya, at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Kobe on Tuesday.

    The drug's main feature is that it shuts out the AIDS virus at the point when it tries to intrude into a human cell.

    Current AIDS medicines can lose their effectiveness in a few days when the virus changes and develops a resistance to those drugs. But AK602 is different because it reacts to human cells instead of attacking the virus, Mitsuya said.

    He said the drug sticks to a protein called CCR5 that acts as an entrance into human cells for the AIDS virus. When the new drug becomes attached to the protein, it can prevent HIV from entering, and thus stop the virus from spreading.

    The researchers conducted clinical tests on 40 AIDS patients in the United States.

    AK602 not only proved effective against viruses that had become resistant to other drugs, but it also caused almost no side effects, the team said.(IHT/Asahi: July 7,2005)

    Time For A Little VoIP Reality Check
    By Om Malik

    If you follow the blogs, it would seem that VoIP is the magic potion that can make you live till you’re 125. Well unfortunately that is not the case, and I think it is time to take stock, sort of a reality check. Not trying to belittle the achievements of the industry in past three years, but still, people lets take a deep breath because VoIP is the long haul. Since I am always accused of being a curmudgeon, well let me do it. I pored through two reports - one from Telegeography and the other from Point Topic - during lunch break today, and found some amazing truths. (And a warning to those who indiscriminately invest in VoIP service plays!)

    • Point Topic estimates that over 11 million people were using a retail voice over IP (VoIP) service for at least some of their telephone calls at the end of March 2005. Of these 11 million, well over half, 7.2 million, are in Japan. Yahoo Softbank provides the majority of these services, and they come bundled with the broadband subscription. Some have expressed doubts and don’t think that these are pure VoIP subscribers, but lets include them anyway.
    • France is the largest market for VoIP in Europe, with 1.2million subscribers by the end of the first quarter. Most of these lines are provisioned by Free and Neuf, using a plug and play set top box.
    • Telegeography puts the number of Americans using VoIP: 1.8 million, a number expected to grow to 4 million by end of 2005. In comparison, SBC had 51.9 million access lines.
    • For 2004 US VoIP revenues were $200 million. SBC’s first quarter consumer fixed line revenues - $3.9 billion.
    • Point Topic says American cable sector is numerically the most important VoIP sector, with around 2.1 million subscribers. This cannot be correct number because at the end of first quarter there were 1.8 million VoIP subscribers in the US, as per Telegeography. Looks like they are including Cox, which is still less than a third VoIP. Nevertheless, Cable MSOs now account for 46% of total VoIP subscribers, and independents like Vonage account for 41%. That number is going to slide downwards.
    • Telegeography estimates that by 2010 there will be 17.5 million VoIP users in US and revenues of $5 billion. That is a pittance, and don’t get me wrong, a blooming pittance.

    The best bit was at the very end of the report from Telegeography, where they asked 1500 random users about VoIP, and the interest in VoIP was peaked when the prices came in around $20. So there you go folks - cheap is the only reason to go VoIP, and well nobody is cheaper than Skype right now. However, the most interesting part of the survey was that despite all that, more people were going to go all wireless for their voice needs. Ouch… so if T-Mobile offers a $50 a month all you can eat VoIP plan, well you know who gets stiffed. The survey while not exactly scientific tells me that all the fancy features, soft-phones and management consoles don’t mean squat when it comes to mass market. Its all about cheap cheap cheap!

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    Everything You Need to Know About Next-gen Broadband

    New DSL flavors, DOCSIS 3.0, Bell TV, and more...
    Adapted from Written by Karl Bode

    ADSL2+? VDSL2? Fiber to the Curb? Fiber to the Home? DOCSIS 3.0? It's hard to get to the truth behind the constant stream of belligerently optimistic press releases. We sit down with industry reporter Dave Burstein to try and make sense of next generation broadband deployment, and find out when (if ever) you'll begin to see next gen speeds from your broadband provider.

    BBR: What can we really expect in regards to a bell next-gen deployment timeline?

    DB: In three to four years - because constructing facilities for millions of people take that long - expect that half of Verizon should have fiber at 15-100 meg, otherwise slow DSL. Half of SBC should have DSL at 10-20Mbps, from existing boxes 2,000-5,000 feet away (FTTN). The rest will be slow DSL and satellite resale. One-tenth of BellSouth customers should have 50Mbps+ service from fiber to the curb. Half of the rest should have 10-30Mbps DSL, often using two lines.

    BBR: As we discussed yesterday, Verizon seems like the poster child of how to do a next-gen deployment correctly. Your thoughts on their Fios plans?

    DB: Verizon is going as fast as it can building fiber; one newspaper reported 2,000 crews working just in Virginia! It's really that big a job to rewire a third of the U.S. All the others are constrained more by their decision on how much to spend, not construction limits.

    Verizon wants fiber to the home. That's the big deal. Three million homes passed by the end of 2005. They've budgeted for, and are likely to deliver - a total of 7 million by the end of 2006 and 15 million by the end of 2008. That's about half of their 1/3rd of the country target - an enormous build costing $15-20 billion. Verizon and NTT in Japan are the only two large carriers in the world doing large volumes of fiber.

    Currently, Verizon has a BPON network with video that matches cable on one wavelength and 19 meg down/ 6 meg up. They intend to switch to GPON for new builds as soon as it's ready, and have pushed manufacturers to have equipment by mid-2006 and accelerated the international standard. That's designed for 100 meg symmetric and higher, for real.

    For the 20 million plus other Verizon subscribers, they will continue offering DSL and have given no indication they'll jump from the 1-5 meg ADSL speeds to the 10-15 meg ADSL2+. They stopped the DSL build at 80% or so to concentrate on fiber, but I believe are now going back to reach 90%+. Because they were considering selling rural lines, they didn't invest, leaving half of Maine unserved.

    BBR: How about SBC's "Project Lightspeed"? Our understanding is that SBC was testing an ADSL2+/VDSL hybrid, but was unhappy with the results; they should should soon announce the use of VDSL2 for their next-gen network and U-Verse IPTV services, correct?

    DB: SBC is selling satellite to 50% of their users -a fancy TIVO style set top and a slow DSL connection, and upgrading the rest to low profile VDSL2 they call fiber to the node. From the projected 2,000-5,000 feet, low profile VDSL2 is maybe 20 meg down, 1-3 meg up, most of which will be used for their video. They've slipped a year, with 2008 now the goal for 18 million homes completed out of their 30 something million home target. Also called "fiber to the press release" (it's really DSL) and "fiber to the rich" (they are only building the "high-value" customers). Investment is less than 30% of what Verizon plans.

    BBR: How about BellSouth? Our understanding is they had run more fiber than the other two bells previously - and first settled on ADSL2+ - but now say they'll eventually embrace VDSL2?

    DB: BellSouth has 13 million lines, a million of which have fiber to the curb from a quiet build begun years ago, yes. Those are the lucky ones, because they will be upgraded to 100 meg symmetric VDSL over the next few years. Think 60 megs in practice, but still pretty good. BellSouth has just picked that build up to 200,000 lines for 2005 after slowing down for a few; unfortunately, at that rate it will take them fifty years to complete their rollout.

    The others at BellSouth are getting a build ready that will be much like SBC's, with DSL from a fiber node in the neighborhood. They intend to bond together two lines for most customers, to give you speeds closer to 30 meg down - more than the 15-20 meg SBC plans - because they think you'll need that for HD video.

    Nominally ADSL2+, will morph into VDSL2 low profile soon. But VDSL2 low profile really is a slightly improved ADSL2+ (2-5 meg faster at these distances), not the 100 meg "high profile" that only works 500-1000 feet they are using for the lucky fiber to the curb types.

    BBR: There has been a lot made of Swisscom's trouble with Microsoft's IPTV software overseas. Do you think these troubles will cross the ocean, and if so, will any of the big three bells - who've all tied their horses to Microsoft - be exploring alternative options?

    DB: Microsoft's software is incredibly ambitious, and like many big software projects will be late, delaying most big deployments until late 2006 or 2007. Moshe Lichtman of Microsoft recently claimed everything was going fine. It's not.

    Most carriers will just accept that, because the other software available (Siemens/Myrio, Minerva, etc.) doesn't promise as much. That may be why the other software works already, of course. They also decided Microsoft was a safer partner. Amazing conclusion - SBC even testified against Microsoft in the antitrust case - but the senior folks decided to go along rather than fight. In at least one big telco, that was against the recommendation of their technical staff.

    This spring, all the Bells (including Canada) announced for Microsoft, and I wrote the battle for the large U.S. telco TV standard was over. But I soon heard from folks who know, not to assume that's how it will play out. Everyone was checking other options, just in case. But they are more likely just to slow things down than to actually switch away from Microsoft middleware. They probably won't use Windows Media 9/VC1, opting for MPEG-4 AVC for the encoder, even if they use the Microsoft middleware (channel guide, switching, billing, etc.)

    Right now, Microsoft is only delivering some of the promised software, and will be late with some. The first to roll services, SBC, is deeply committed to Microsoft ($400M purchase), so will probably go with the flow. The result will be some limits on what SBC IPTV service will be, annoying but probably not crucial. Schedule of heavy testing and first customer rollout in 2005 will probably be honored in form, but things likely will go slowly until Microsoft bugs fixed, probably late 2006. SBC has already added a year to their schedule.

    BBR: IPTV in general, do you see it as a serious competitor to Satellite and cable?

    DB: Single channel, not HD IPTV is working well, with a million customers around the world and tens of millions coming in the next few years. Multichannel, HD, to several sets turns out to be much harder and takes more bandwidth, which is why it's coming slower. But $30B in planned investment is coming, and almost surely by 2006-2010, millions will be buying fancy TV programming from telcos.

    They don't want to cut prices, but behind all the puffery is essentially a me-too service. They'll claim lots is new, but picture in picture multiple camera angles isn't new, and Sky satellite is already making hundreds of millions with "interactivity", mostly gambling. Comcast will have more video on demand than any telco, while net based services, especially Google, will has loads of video as well. So the telcos will either price aggressively or have limited market share. Expect that to be disguised with a lot of advertising about great "new" services that cable already has in some places.

    BBR: So is VDSL2 a minimum requirement if the bells really want to enter the market? Can you clarify your statements on the various VDSL2 flavors mentioned earlier?

    DB: Everyone's confused because the next upgrade of ADSL is called VDSL low profile, but isn't that big an improvement. VDSL2, as planned by SBC, is only slightly faster than ADSL2+, perhaps 15-25Mbps rather than 10-20Mbps. Useful, especially when you need bandwidth for HD (9 meg per live encoded channel), but not an earthshaking improvement. Since by late 2006, VDSL2 low profile will be within $10 of the cost of ADSL, most carriers will switch over even for the small improvement.

    The real VDSL2 - the 50-100 meg plus of the high profile, including a fast upstream - delivers those speeds less than 1,000 feet or so, so requires new construction most places. Fiber to the basement or curb, advancing hard in Korea, Japan, and soon where BellSouth already has fiber. Verizon may do some of it where running fiber in a building is impractical.

    Don't be confused because a medium speed ADSL is named VDSL2. It won't give 50 meg to most people in the U.S.. An accident of what came to what standard committee, and the choice of the linecode technical parameters gave VDSL2 low profile a good name, but not the speed you need.

    BBR: If VDSL2 is so promising, why is BellSouth still planning on starting out with ADSL2+? Faith in compression?

    DB: VDSL2 is just moving from lab samples to first, untested chips. BellSouth will move when the chips are reliable, late 2005 or more likely 2006. They just aren't announcing things that aren't ready, but they are completely on top of the technology and will move soon as well. They've accepted that getting the speeds they want will often require bonding two lines (24-35 meg, although the press releases wisely promise a little less). With the doubled capacity, they can use either ADSL2+ or VDSL2, so they are waiting till VDSL2 works well and comes down in price.

    SBC instead was betting that VDSL2 would get here fast, and have enough extra performance they wouldn't need to give many customers two lines. They also were betting compression would reduce the bandwidth they needed. Vendors of course promised all this, but SBC (and everyone else) is waiting for the chip guys to deliver this month. SBC's tech guys knew they were taking a risk, but management decided that was a better option than spending the money Verizon is.

    BBR: What are your thoughts on the various compression flavors the bells are exploring for IPTV and HD?

    DB: MPEG-4 and Windows Media 9/VC1 are separately fighting out the war for the codec and the associated royalties. Microsoft in particular muddied the waters by showing great demos of carefully pre-encoded HD movies that ran at 6Mbps, and some uninformed CEOs and COOs didn't realize live TV, especially sports, needs much more bandwidth.

    Two HD channels at 6 meg require 12 meg, maybe 14 with overhead, which sounds like it can fit in 20 meg and leave some room for data and a third standard definition set. But the real codecs for live TV, shipping late in 2005, will need 9.3 meg per channel, and even the companies selling them know they've sacrificed some quality to get it down that far.

    So to watch one HD show and record another requires about 20 meg, and leaves things very tight unless you designed for 30 meg in the first place. Verizon looked at that, and said we better go for fiber; BellSouth and Bell Canada are thinking two lines bonded, and SBC is praying they can squeeze everything in without critical compromises.

    Currently, MPEG-4 AVC 264 is a little ahead of the Microsoft codec, probably a quarter or two. So most telcos are going MPEG-4 even if they are using the Microsoft IPTV software for copy protection, network management, channel switching, etc. Microsoft is pushing hard to get in, so the situation is dynamic.

    BBR: While we're only starting to see DOCSIS 2.0 deployment, and the higher speeds it can bring (Adelphia & Cox 15Mbps), DOCSIS 3.0 should only be a few years behind. Do you see the cable industry having any trouble keeping up with these bell plans?

    DB: The "15 meg" speeds Cox is offering where they compete with Verizon fiber are mostly advertising. It's really 38 meg shared among 100 or so users, the same speed as the current services advertised at as 3 and 7 meg. That's too much oversubscription to deliver 15 meg most of the time, if even 5 or 10 people are downloading on the node. To regularly get past today's 5 meg or so, you need to bond more channels, which is what DOCSIS 3.0 offers.

    DOCSIS 3.0 is real, mostly agreed, and the key vendors have the details and are making equipment for 2006. It's a shared 160/120 or higher, easily expandable to a shared gigabit. Real speeds to users will often be 20-50 megabits. It was developed to compete with higher speed DSL in Asia. Early in 2005, the U.S. cable companies realized Verizon was serious about fiber, and pushed CableLabs and suppliers (Cisco, Motorola, Arris, Broadcom) to get DOCSIS 3.0 ready for the U.S. ASAP, and 2006 is realistic with some pricey gear.

    What we don't know is whether the Verizon will scare the cable companies into actually doing the upgrades. It's not terribly expensive. CableLabs chose the Arris/Motorola/Broadcom 160/120 proposal over Cisco 1 gigabit alternative because it can be done with software in the CMTS and a new modem, relatively cheaply. It doesn't require running new fiber or anything terribly expesive. But it's more capital spending than the cablecos planned.

    Like the telcos, they've cut 20% or more from what they were investing in 2001. Very dynamic situation with some tough choices - no one outside the companies really knows, with the analysts busily watching every comment and reading tea leaves. I'm pretty sure the cablecos haven't decided yet. Inside at least one giant, they have plans to delay the upgrades but a very vocal disagreement trying to move the company faster.

    So maybe Verizon will inspire the cablecos to upgrade, which will in turn put pressure on SBC/Bellsouth. But maybe that won't be enough, and they'll hope marketing and program selection will beat technology. We just don't know yet.

    BBR In the end, which solution do you see as the best of the next-gen options?

    DB: Verizon's fiber is the best stuff out there, especially after they switch to 2.4 gigabit shared GPON in a year. That's why the smart cablecos are worried. What BellSouth and SBC are doing is essentially matching cable of 2002. By the time they deploy in 2007, cable should be well ahead.

    But better technology doesn't always win. Perhaps SBC, by spending less, will be able to price lower and do ok after all. Nobody really knows, although everyone has an opinion. My opinion is that the best tech is needed, especially in an HD world, and Verizon is making the right choice. But some very smart people have looked me in the eyes and said "the fiber numbers just don't work. Still costs too much," and other similar comments.

    BBR: Any insider information on how soon before Time Warner and Comcast cross into the 10-15Mbps range?

    DB: Both will be experimenting with how to fight Verizon, but remember the 10-15 is mostly illusion once loads go up. Your mileage will vary. It's the same physical system that now often doesn't hit the promised 4 and 7 megabits, with a faster connection from the modem to your computer.

    Where they do good traffic engineering (splitting nodes when necessary, etc.) performance will be good; where they are sloppy or cheap, Broadband Reports is sure to be the first with the story. I mentioned to a top Comcast guy recently how many disappointed California users were writing in to BBR, and he said he'd look into it. Company policy is to solve problems like this, but it's sometimes expensive and timeconsuming.

    BBR: Wimax: Is it a serious player in the next-gen broadband battles, or simply a niche-solution?

    DB: I'm the guy who writes about DSL, TV, and fiber, so the wrong person to ask. But everything's related, so I do keep my eyes open. Some very smart people (Dewayne Hendricks, David Isenberg, Robert Pepper, Eben Moglen) believe wireless could be a big part. Needs plenty of spectrum for the 10 meg plus speeds that will be common in a few years here (and already are in Asia); the current services at a meg or two won't be competitive in most cities.

    Meanwhile, Verizon's EV-DO is getting raves for delivering 500K surprisingly reliably to people on the move. Watch for it to become as ubiquitous as Blackberries in the business class. WiFi should be able to cover most cities with an interesting service for $15-20, so I've testified in its favor and hope it shakes things up. Meanwhile, TD-CDMA is working surprising well in London and elsewhere.

    None of which answer your original question about Wimax, the most hyped of the many wireless technologies on the way. Both Bill Smith (CTO BellSouth) and Balan Nair (CTO Qwest) tell me the trial results are impressive, although neither is committed beyond trials today. It won't handle mobile outside of Korea before 2007-2008, which is the key niche. Alvarion, the key supplier of "pre-standard" Wimax, just announced a down quarter as Telmex cut orders.

    Some things are clear. Wireless can be very cheap (if slow and not rock-solid reliable), so where it plays it is interesting competition. The stuff coming from the cellphone world is working well, and might turn out to outdo the more hyped Wimax. We desperately need more choices, so I hope some of the above proves out.

    BBR: One final question, do you see a future for independent ISPs?

    DB: AOL admits its dead as an ISP over broadband, and MSN has also given up in favor of other strategies. Earthlink and some of the local keep trying, but it will be very tough for them to remain a factor. Covad is too small, undercapitalized, and afraid of getting the bells fighting back to matter. For most Amreicans, everything but the cable company and the telco is of little relevance. I fear wireless data and power line won't be interesting players, but hope I'm wrong.

    It doesn't have to be so. In Japan, two independents (Yahoo BB and eAccess) are consistently beating NTT. Hanaro has a third of Korea. signed up over a million in the last year. In the UK and France, regulators set wholesale prices low enough that neither BT nor FT dominate.

    Killing the ISPs and most of the CLECs was a political decision, that might still be reversible if wholesale prices were dramatically changed. But I doubt Kevin Martin will make that decision, although I will editorialize about why he should.

    Dave Burstein has been offering excellent insider broadband reporting for years, months before it's picked up by major outlets and paraded around as fresh content. You can read his frequent thoughts on the broadband industry via his DSLPrime website or via his newsletter, which is frequently published over at ISP Planet.