Tag: "history"

Posted January 2, 2012 by Christopher Mitchell

Smithsonian magazine provides some background on Samuel Morse, inventor of Morse Code and credited with inventing the telegraph.

It is interesting background, but not particularly relevant for community broadband until a paragraph toward the end:

Four years later, in July of 1844, news reached Paris and the rest of Europe that Professor Morse had opened a telegraph line, built with Congressional appropriation, between Washington and Baltimore, and that the telegraph was in full operation between the two cities, a distance of 34 miles.

From the beginning of telecommunications, the government played an essential role.

Posted December 6, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Communities with grassroots movements investigating or encouraging community networks should take a look at the many resources the citizens of Lafayette, Louisiana, developed in their referendum fight in establishing LUS Fiber.

In order to help educate the community, fiber supporters created a short newsletter (if there was more than one issue, I have not been able to locate it) with articles focusing on how the proposed publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network would create benefits in economic development, health care, and education. The newsletter is has a professional layout and comes complete with a glossary.

Fiber for the Future Newsletter

The newsletter also has a word from the Mayor (the inimitable Joey Durel) and quotes the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce Broadband Policy. Finally, it also explains why the Lafayette Utilities System should build the network and cites successes from BVU in Bristol, Virginia.

Groups that are looking for strategies or a template for a web presence should check out Lafayette Coming Together. This was the organizing site they used in building support for the network, as a complement to Lafayette Pro Fiber. Unfortunately, the Fiber Film Festival web page no longer exists, but the most popular video (Slick Sam Slade) is still around - and embedded below.

An old episode examining the arguments around the network is still viewable (for Windows users) via the Louisiana Public Broadcasting archives -- look for episode #2844.

Posted September 2, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

I've had a long stretch on the road, leaving me with little time to post stories, so in leiu of doing nothing, I encourage you to read a short history of AT&T from Matthew Lasar in Ars Technica: "How AT&T Conquered the 20th Century."

Also, let's continue celebrating that the Department of Justice has correctly found that the AT&T takeover of T-Mobile would have bad consequences without any compensating upside for us.

Posted July 8, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

I have long been a fan of Larry Lessig's work, so I was proud to see him use our work as the foundation for his presentation at the 2011 Personal Democracy Forum.  He talks about the fundamental right of communities to build their own networks as well as Time Warner Cable's successful purchase of competition-limiting legislation in North Carolina.

Posted May 4, 2011 by Rita Stull

This is the first in a series of posts by Rita Stull -- her bio is available here. The short version is that Rita has a unique perspective shaped by decades of experience in this space. Her first post introduces readers to the often misunderstood concept of the Right-of-way, an asset owned by the citizens and managed mostly by local governments.

yarn1.png

In the process of knitting a baby blanket, a whole ball of yarn became tangled into this mess. . . .

. . . reminding me of the time, in the early eighties, when I was the second cable administrator appointed in the U.S., and found myself peering into a hole in the street filled with a similar looking mess—only made of copper wires, instead of yarn.

yarn2.png

Why talk about yarn and copper wire in the same breath on a site dedicated to community broadband networks? Because it was the intersection of ‘art and cable’ that got me started in the ‘telecommunications policy’ arena, the same kind of thinking that continues today in our tangled telecom discussions: Is it content or conduit, competitive, entertainment, essential, wireless, landline, gigahertz, gigabits?

I transferred from the Recreation Department to launch the city’s cable office as an experienced government supervisor with a Masters in Theater. My employer and I thought cable TV was the ‘entertainment’ business and I had the requisite mix of experience and skills to manage one of the first franchises awarded in 1981.

Yikes. Imagine my surprise on discovering that cable was a WIRE LINE UTILITY using PUBLIC LAND, which each citizen pays TAXES to buy, upgrade and maintain! And, our three-binders-thick, cable franchise was a ‘legal contract’ containing the payment terms for use of our public rights-of-way, as well as protection of local free speech rights. I was thirty years old, a property owner who had never thought about who owned roads, sidewalks and utility corridors.

Rights-of-way are every street plus about 10 feet of land on each side. That land belongs to everyone in the community. Rights-of-way are a shared public asset—sometimes called part of our common...

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Posted March 25, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

A CBC show, Spark, offers a content-rich 40 minute interview with Barbara van Schewick discussing how the Internet developed and the role of network neutrality. Her explanation is very accessible, a great opportunity for people who are trying to learn more about the issue but frustrated at technical discussions.

Highly recommended. She explains how the innovate applications and products we use today developed precisely because no one controls the Internet. The danger now is that powerful ISPs may exert more control and retard the innovative nature of the net.

Posted January 23, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Big cable and phone carriers want to take credit for what the Internet has become -- but they never wanted it to be open.  Smart decisions behind the scenes by people like Bob Frankston have allowed the open Internet to flourish despite the big carriers.  In Frankston's case, it was creating the router that allowed home users to put any device, and number of devices they wanted, on their network connections when the carriers wanted to charge for every device.

 

Posted December 30, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Excellent lecture.

Posted December 27, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

The day before the FCC's Chairman decided that AT&T and Comcast should have greater powers as gatekeepers to the Internet, Marketplace Tech Report published an interview with Tim Wu.

Tim Wu discusses the history of net neutrality and its importance. In addition to the usual 5 minute clip, they have released a longer 20 minute clip. Listen to the longer one.

Posted November 25, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

The abstract immediately captured my attention:

Policymakers often tell us that the Internet succeeded because of a lack of government regulation. For instance, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell recently noted that the “evolution away from government intervention has been the most important ingredient in the Internet’s success.” These views, while widely shared, happen to be inaccurate. In reality, a diverse range of federal regulations, subsidies, and nondiscrimination protections sustained the Internet’s historic growth.

But what if, as many inaccurately assume, these regulations had never existed? What would today’s Internet look like in such a world? In this essay, I provide a fictional alternate history - in form of a satirical book review - to illustrate how differently the Internet might have developed in a truly privatized world. Although the essay below (beginning after this abstract) is fictional, it draws heavily upon both the regulatory history of the Internet and the policy arguments at issue in today’s leading regulatory proceedings.

This article covers decisions like Carterfone, the FCC's Computer Inquires, giving control over TCP/IP to the National Science Foundation rather than AT&T, and the intentions of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. It also includes a reminder of the difference between open systems and closed systems:

One important way that open policies achieve this goal is by reducing various types of transaction costs. In open networks, new market entrants can completely avoid negotiating with companies who have “gateway control” over the network. The aspiring entrants do not have to pay—nor seek permission from—the network owners for access. Accordingly, these policies encourage vastly more experimentation and amateur “tinkering.” Closed networks, by contrast, produce relatively less innovation because they rely on centralized network owners to introduce—or at least approve—innovation before it becomes available.

This is a fantastic read (really riveting telecom reading -- how often do you get that?) and a good history lesson for people who were not there to see it firsthand over the years.

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