31 March 2006

Peer to peer, free riding and Skype

The paper by Adar and Huberman “Free Riding on Gnutella” first raised questions about free riding on peer to peer systems. This thread that was recently posted on Nicholas Carr's blog follows up that analysis by looking at the impacts of Skype, which is also a peer-to-peer service.

Do the economics of p2p adequately recognize these "uneven" contributions of resources? How is this connected with the debate on network neutrality that is currently going on?

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29 March 2006

Bell Labs and the Lucent/Alcatel merger

One of the icons of American industrial R&D is Bell Labs. The original Bell Labs has been sliced and diced with the various divestitures:

  • A portion went to the (then) RBOCs, which became Telcordia and was eventually sold to SAIC.
  • Another portion, AT&T Labs, stayed with AT&T. At present, this portion seems to have survived SBC's buyout of AT&T.
  • Yet another portion, Avaya Labs, was a consequence of the Avaya was spin-off.
  • The remaining portion, which retained the name Bell Labs, ended up with Lucent.

Now with Alcatel's proposed purchase of Lucent in the news, the question as to what will become of Bell Labs has arisen. As this article points out, this is not simply a matter of industrial reorganization, as Bell Labs historically had close ties to government projects that have homeland security implications.

Should this be sufficient grounds for the US government to block the merger? Should the US Government take over these labs? Should the US Government keep out of the deal and see to their homeland security needs via other mechanisms? Is there enough of the "original" Bell Labs left for this to be a significant issue?

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23 March 2006

Canadian Telecommunications policy review

You might find this report worth reading. Canada has been reviewing its policy for the past year or so. This report summarizes the results of this review and makes some recommendations. To what extent can the recommendations of this report be applied outside of Canada? What do you think the consequences of these recommendations are should they be implemented?

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16 March 2006

Transition to IPv6

This article provides a summary of and commentary on some NIST reports on the transition to IPv6. This report was released in January by NIST, and it addresses the conversion (or perhaps I should say lack thereof) to IPv6. The report does address cost and benefits, but it stops short of a detailed cost analysis. A more detailed cost analysis can be found in this NIST report (prepared by RTI International).

Based on these reports, what do you think the barriers are in converting to IPv6? What are appropriate roles for government?

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03 March 2006

Network Neutrality and priority pricing

One of the things that I have not seen discussed much in the debate over network neutrality is how the literature has argued for priority pricing of various kinds for the past twenty years or so. The classic paper in the field that reviews the literature and creates a strong theoretical foundation is MacKie-Mason and Varian's 1994 paper on congestion pricing that was published in IEEE Journal on Selected Areas of Communications (JSAC). What Verizon and SBC are planning to do seems to be precisely what these papers advocated as being a welfare gain. It would be interesting to consider both sides of the network neutrality discussion in light of this literature.

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02 March 2006

Senate bill would bar Internet premiums

Earlier today Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced legislation calling for a “toll free” Internet. Senator Wyden’s bill is in response to increasing pressure from major U.S. telecommunications companies, including AT&T, and Verizon, that the Internet be divided into two “tiers” – one for high speed delivery of voice, video and data, which could be accessed for a fee, and another, “common man’s tier,” for everything else. The concept of charging for faster delivery of data is proving to be extremely controversial.

Reference: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/technology/02online.html