26 May 2006

End of Telephone Excise Tax in the US?

A tax that was levied to finance the "Spanish-American War" that ended 108 years ago may be finally terminated (see this -- free registration required). Other observers are a bit more skeptical. This case has been a "poster child" for how easy it is to enact taxes in the US, and how difficult it can be to eliminate them even if their justification is long since gone. Another similar example is the tax on alcohol in Pennsylvania, which was designed to aid victims of the Johnstown Flood ...

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22 May 2006

"Free" Internet service

This article reminds me of the business models tried by Juno and NetZero during Internet Boom 1.0. There are a couple of notable, interesting wrinkles and questions here:

  • Is there a value in a nationwide service? What about the municipal networks that are being built?

  • Should government act as a venture capitalist by agreeing to M2Z's proposal to share revenues? What are the dimensions of this policy decision that are worth discussing?
  • Is 25MHz of spectrum enough? Is it more than necessary?

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19 May 2006

ICANN and the US Dept of Commerce

A debate over independent governance of the internet took place in the period leading up to WSIS/Tunis, as has been reported widely and discussed earlier on this blog (see this item, for example. Based on documents recovered in relation to the .xxx debate, Milton Mueller concluded:
... the documents show how US supervision of ICANN was influenced by domestic political pressure. They leave no room for doubt that the US altered its policy toward ICANN in response to this pressure, and that it actively worked in tandem with ICANN to conceal the nature and significance of US governmental oversight of ICANN from the public and the media.

Do you think the ICANN critics were justified at WSIS? Do you think governance needs to be revisited now?

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11 May 2006

3G vs. WiFi redux

Over the years, there have been numerous discussions (and some academic papers) written about the competition between WiFi and 3G. In fact, one could perhaps frame the topic of municipal networks (that has appeared on this blog rather frequently) in this way.

What is interesting about this article in the Washington Post is that it points to the changing (end user) economics of 3G. As the article points out, it is increasingly unnecessary to invest in a 3G card for a portable computer. It is now also possible (with Verizon Wireless anyway) to purchase service on a 24 hour basis at prices that are competitive with the commercial public WiFi providers (such as BellSouth and T-Mobile).

The question that users may increasingly ask themselves is: why should I go out of my way to find a WiFi access point (with unpredictable QoS) when I can perform the same function at the same price wherever Verizon has EVDO service? Verizon's EVDO services are generally rolled out across an entire metropolitan area rather than a single coffee shop, airport lobby, etc. as is the case with WiFi.

Do you think this changes the economics appreciably? Do you think this will have an impact on the viability of municipal WiFi networks?

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Hutchison to phase out 2G in Australia

I found this article interesting. This is the first report that I have see of a carrier planning to phase out 2G service.

Why would they do this? What about the (significant) group of users who want basic mobile telephone service? Do you think Hutchison is being too aggressive with its technology migration?

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10 May 2006

Verizon may sell lines

I came across this news item today that illustrates one of the lesser known phenomena of the telecom industry. It is not unusual for telephone companies to swap lines to rationalize and consolidate their service areas to gain operational efficiences. What is unique about this particular news item is that Verizon appears to be using this "sale" as a way of effectively acquiring smaller telephone companies.

Update: This story in BusinessWeek has a different spin on this story. Rosenbush frames this as a strategy by Verizon to readjust its "investment portfolio" away from a shrinking wireline business and towards a growing wireline one.

Which analysis is more compelling to you?

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08 May 2006

Marcus on NGN Interconnection

Those of you who are interested in interconnection might be interested in reading this recent paper by Michael Marcus. Marcus observes that:

The NGN interconnection problem is best understood, not as a problem of technology, but rather as a problem in economics. With that in mind, this report seeks to review what is known about interconnection from an economic perspective, in order to reach conclusions about the prospects for deployment going forward and the corresponding implications for policymakers.

This paper does not contain technical economic analysis, even though a quick scan of the footnotes shows that it is grounded in the classic economic theory of interconnection. I look forward to reading it in detail, and to your comments on its content.

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05 May 2006

John Carrol on Network Neutrality

I came across this article today. It struck me as remarkably different from what I have been reading by David Isenberg or the PFF. Do you have the same reaction? Why and how is this article different?

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