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No we are not yet Borg

I admit that while not being a die-hard science fiction fan, I am a fan of Battlestar Gallactica and Star Trek. Last spring I binged on BSG sometimes watching three or four episodes a day. The series is great. While I’m more a fan of a Star Trek: The Original Series, I always found the Borg the more interesting of antagonists on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Their single-minded focus on assimilating all species of the known universe into one collective was intriguing and downright scary.

BSG also dealt with the collected in a way. The series depicted survivors of the Twelve Colonies (twelve planets) wiped out by machines they had created. These machines, the Cylons, were also part of a collective although they were not out to assimilate any humans. They managed to defeat the Twelve Colonies by hacking their interconnected computers. The commander of one of the Colonies’ battlestars, Bill Adama, had a rule on his ship that may have been responsible for them staying alive: no interconnected computers on his ship. Interconnection has its downside.

I’ve touched on being interconnected before, addressing the downside of social media, but an article in The Wall Street Journal by Holman Jenkins provided some additional fodder for the notion of being socially connected via computer. Mr. Jenkins argues in the latter part of his piece that the current tit-for-ta that we are seeing between CBS and Time Warner Cable is a side show, a distraction from the real goal of telecommunications and cable companies: facilitating the meld of mind and machine.

It makes sense. From a consumer view, cell phone users may as well implant their devices as much as we are seen clutching them to our ears. I have to get used to people apparently mumbling to themselves when they are actually talking to someone else.

From a business view the fight for advertisement dollars comes from the traffic we can accumulate at some point. The cable and telecommunications companies, the broadband providers, want their sites to be the points of accumulation. They want the advertising traffic that Facebook and Google are combating for. Anticipating our consumer needs by tracking and documenting our thoughts, feelings, and buying habits would be aided by a technology that makes it easier to meld devices collecting this data with the behavior of the consumer.

My question is, will government promote this type of innovation? How regulated will this new frontier of technology and consumer thought be?

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Are we too connected?

Posted June 22nd, 2013 in Broadband, Facebook, Government and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

I wonder if we are too interconnected. As a society we interconnect primarily for our self-interest in security. We accept the rules that result from our voluntary decision to be a part of society when those rules protect our property and resolve disputes when our liberties are interfered with.

Unfortunately our reliance on our current state of permanent interconnection via social networks is being leveraged by government and Internet companies not to the benefits I mentioned above, but to the benefit of government that benefits from extracting tax revenues and garnering votes; and to commercial enterprises chasing revenues resulting from sales of goods and services and advertising.

Today’s level of interconnection simply does not promote our security. It does not serve to help us create capital that we can leverage for food and shelter. Frankly it encourages more consumption and should not be confused with the natural communications flow that exists between members of society. By natural communications, I am referring to exchanges of information that enhances the ability of the communicators to purchase housing, food, and security. Connection should be for the mutual benefit of enhancing each communicator’s self-interest without any benefits flowing to third-parties, specifically the government or Internet companies.

Arguably society benefits from the cohesiveness that communications brings, but it shouldn’t profit from communications by collecting personal information, taxes, or advertising revenues.

We should be careful to exclude broadband providers from the requirement of non-extraction of rents. The Internet is still a tool of information exchange and broadband carriers provide consumers with the pipes necessary for accessing data. Broadband providers were relevant before the advent of Facebook and should not be tainted by FISA, PRISM, or the NSA.

The recent disclosures surrounding the government’s monitoring of e-mail and telecommunications has shed light on how much of our own liberty and individuality is being trampled on. We have bought into the lie, the Facebook mantra, of changing the world through digital connection so much so that we have forgotten the primary reason for connecting via membership in society; the promotion of our self-interests.

The growth and popularity of social networks should not be surprising. Forming groups is the result of basic human drive. Social networks tend to herd us like so much sheep, but although we may volunteer to run with the flock, it doesn’t mean we condone Internet companies and our government stalking us like prey.

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Do we really need government intervening in the advertisement market?

Posted September 21st, 2011 in free speech, Google, Government, Government Regulation, Internet and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

Sounds like Expedia, Nextag, and Yelp need to create their own version of “Mad Men.” According to The Wall Street Journal, the companies will be on Capitol Hill today ganging up on Google, and making their case that the Internet’s biggest search engine unfairly diverts search engine consumers to its online properties while forcing Expedia, Nextag, and Yelp below the consumers eyeball levels.

Sometimes I believe these companies are so locked into “the cloud” that they are oblivious to the rest of their environment. Rather than seeking out innovative methods of competing, the allegedly sophisticated companies would rather have the government intervene thus making a competitive market look more like a regulated utility industry.

Forcing a middleman like Google to behave the way you want them to is a waste, and I don’t see how government intervention is going to aid competition. Competitors are not guaranteed survival.

Rather than look at Google primarily like a competitor, these companies, and the government, should look at Google like Whole Foods. If you want a higher eyeball level, pay a higher shelf fee.

In addition, whatever happened to going directly to the consumer. If Expedia, Nextag, and Yelp value their services that much, maybe it’s time for them to do some more old fashioned face time with the hotels and airlines.

Mark Zuckerberg is Time’s person of the year

Posted December 15th, 2010 in Facebook, FCC, Government, Government Regulation, net neutrality and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew
Okay. Again I got snubbed. First it was People Magazine picking that Green Lantern dude as the world’s sexiest man. Now Time Magazine has chosen Mark Zuckerberg as its person of the year.
In all seriousness it is a good choice. I don’t know him from Adam, but I admire his vision and his tenacity. You need those two things if you’re going to defend and promote outside the box thinking. Fortunately we live in a society and a nation that promotes and rewards outside the box thinking.
When Congress decided over a decade ago to pursue a hands off approach to the Internet, Mr. Zuckerberg was a young buck in elementary school. It would have been hard for him to imagine the possibilities that his government was affording him by maintaining a near regulatory free environment that would eventually help incubate the phenomenon we know as Facebook.
Contrary to the belief that network neutrality proponents have been pushing, our government has understood the principles of openness from day one. Were it not for this understanding, the concept of Facebook, which itself is based upon unbelievable openness, would have been left stuck in a dorm room at Harvard.
The social network Mr. Zuckerberg conceived and implemented is thriving today on the very same open Internet network that has been in existence for twenty years. It represents what the Internet is, and always has been, about:  the exchange of information across all geographical, cultural, racial, and ethnic barriers. And if Congress and the FCC are wise enough, they will keep the Internet as it is, thereby avoiding regulatory barriers that stand in the way of innovation and entrepreneurship, the likes of which is demonstrated regularly by Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook and others like him.
Time to hit the “Like” button

Level 3, Public Knowledge can’t have it both ways

Looks like the net neutrality posse thinks it has a Trojan horse it can use to penetrate the walls of Troy. According to an article in The New York Times, Level 3 Communications is whining about recurring fees it is being “forced” to pay to Comcast for delivering traffic from Netflix.

Netflix, known for delivering DVDs of your favorite movies to your home for cheap, is also in the streaming movie business. Because of its emerging business model, Netflix considers itself a competitor of Comcast’s on demand video delivery service.

Now, the last time I checked, Level 3 Communications was also a telecommunications company. Level 3 enters into interconnection agreements with other communications companies for the delivery of traffic. Given the other portion of its business model, ie., delivering media traffic, audio/video feeds, dedicated Internet access, Level 3 has to interconnect with other networks to bring its clients like Netflix any value. Level 3 also provides long distance and local service and as such it also receives interconnection fees from the termination of traffic on its network.

The other irony is that Public Knowledge has jumped into the fray, describing this incident as another example for why we need net neutrality. Public Knowledge can’t have it both ways. If the network neutrality posse wants the broadband Internet access ecosystem regulated under Title II, it means that there will be recurring fees for inter carrier compensation. As demand for video streaming increases, the cost for congestion caused by these services will be recovered in these fees and these fees will increase.

Level 3 knows this. Netflix knows this. So why is Level 3 whining? Well, have you seen their stock prices lately? They are practically a penny stock and definitely not the darling of the street. Level 3’s return on equity is -257%. Its return on assets is -0.90. Earnings per share is also negative, at -$0.46. In Street parlance, the company is a dog. The last thing they need are increased costs that may lead to further questioning of their company’s value.

So, rather than hide behind the bogus net neutrality argument, maybe Level 3 needs to focus more on operating efficiently and getting that bogus stock price up. Time to find a new Trojan horse because this dog don’t hunt.