I am not yet allowed to to put all our cards on the table but it seems more likely to happen. And when it does it will be more disgusting proof of what Art Brodsky has been documenting with his continuing commentary of mapping that shows Larry Strickling unable to stand up for the public interest against the demands of the very incumbents who have caused our market failure. This is roads ,highway, sewers and electricity folk, it ought to have nothing to do with the lavish salaries of the executives at the incumbents…. and yet they are calling the tune and assuring that any maps will be meaningless.
Congress should rescind the money appropriated because the money buys the public interest zilch. But since congress is not likely to do that art correctly calls for President Obama and his advisories to get some SPINE
Brodsky: “If this mapping exercise is going to be worth even 1/10 of the money Congress appropriated, it’s about time for the government to step away from the table with the industry, remind itself of its public interest obligations and quit giving away the store. It doesn’t matter if it was a “good deal” or a “bad deal” to make those changes. There was no reason for any deal. Either scrap the program, extend the deadlines and start over, or hold the industry to some meaningful commitments. NTIA has to choose, and these choices to start the gradual surrender process are not at all auspicious.”
I think Frank Rich has the correct diagnosis of what is at stake.
The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy.
Rich continues: “It’s in this context that Obama can’t afford a defeat on health care. A bill will pass in a Democrat-controlled Congress. What matters is what’s in it. The final result will be a CAT scan of those powerful Washington interests he campaigned against, revealing which have been removed from the body politic (or at least reduced) and which continue to metastasize.”
Right now as Reagan did many years ago with David Stockman Barack needs to take Larry Stricking to the woodshed before Stricklings capitulation to the industry as written up by art is total and totally disgusting. Was is in the mapping money is ONLY metastasized fetid telco cancers.
I believed that THIS president was different - I put all my hope in him. But the fat are still getting fatter of the public purse. Read Arts pieces… from the Public Knowledge Blog
Connected Nation’s Other Shoe Drops On NTIA
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By Art Brodsky on July 30, 2009 - 6:11pm
It seems like only yesterday that we were saying that a game of chicken was likely to develop between the government and the telecom industry over the data that is supposed to be reported under the stimulus broadband mapping program. Actually, it was the day before yesterday.
But never mind that, it seems the day after that story was published, a group of telecom executives huddled with Larry Strickling, director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to express their concerns about the data that is supposed to be reported under the stimulus broadband mapping program.
There should be no surprises here. This was the other shoe waiting to drop. Connected Nation, the front group for the big telecom companies, has made it a practice to sign very restrictive non-disclosure agreements to protect its masters. In fact, confidentiality is one of CN’s selling points, along with its network of telecom lobbyists. CN tells states that it works successfully with carriers because it protects the carriers’ information. That may help the private interest; the public interest, not so much. Now, the companies represented by CN were bringing the message to the government up close and personally.
The industry doesn’t like the information NTIA wants to collect. The NTIA said it wants to display publicly in a broadband map:
“(a) Geographic areas in which broadband service is available; (b) The technologies used to provide broadband service in such areas; (c) The spectrum used for the provision of wireless broadband service in such areas; (d) The speeds at which broadband service is available in such areas; and (e) Broadband service availability at public schools, libraries, hospitals, colleges and universities and all public buildings owned or leased by agencies or instrumentalities of the states or municipalities or other subdivisions of the states and their respective agencies or instrumentalities.
“The national map will also be searchable by address. To the greatest extent possible, at every address, the type and speed of broadband service will be provided. For providers of wireless broadband service, the spectrum used for the provision of service will be provided.”
NTIA also wants data covering average revenue per user and information regarding the “type, technical specification, or location” of infrastructure owned or leased by the company reporting in.
However, the announcement of the funds availability is also chock full of confidentiality protections, starting with the one that if a broadband provider doesn’t want its identity on the national map, then the map “will simply display an anonymous provider.” The carrier’s “footprint” service area similarly can be displayed without a carrier name, unless the carrier gives its consent. Similarly, the data on type, specification and location will be withheld. From the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA):
“Confidential Information. Any information, including trade secrets, or commercial or financial information, submitted under this Program that: 1) identifies the type and technical specification of infrastructure owned, leased, or used by a specific broadband service provider; 2) identifies the average revenue per user (ARPU) for a specific broadband service provider; or 3) explicitly identifies a broadband service provider in relation to its specific Service Area or at a specific Service Location.”
So there is no public verifiability of the data, the information will be aggregated and can even be anonymous. Sounds somewhat benign, if not terribly useful.
But not according to the telecom carriers. Prior to meeting with Strickling, the industry drafted up a letter outlining their concerns. According to the text, the protections in the NTIA mapping notice are “are limited at best and ephemeral at worst.”
One problem is that the NTIA activity could interrupt Connected Nation’s program: “Indeed, many of our member companies have voluntarily participated in the public/private partnership efforts to map broadband availability that are already completed or under way in several states. Unfortunately, as currently conceived, the Broadband Mapping NoFA risks undermining these ongoing efforts.”
The industry letter complained: “The NoFA proposes to gather granular data that are (i) unrelated to the Congressional goals, (ii) not readily available or maintained in the normal course of business, and (iii) highly sensitive from competition, network security and public safety standpoints. Second, compounding our concerns with the scope of data being sought, the confidentiality commitments in the Broadband Mapping NoFA raise significant questions about whether proprietary, competitively sensitive, and network-security related information will be adequately protected by NTIA and other agencies.”
According to a Dow Jones news report, the letter wasn’t sent. However, the meeting with Strickling and NTIA Chief of Staff Tom Power was held, with the powers that be from the industry all in attendance.
The telephone industry was represented by Walter McCormick, US Telecom president and Jon Banks, US Telecom senior vice president, for law and policy represented the largest trade association, including AT&T and Verizon; Curt Stamp, president of the Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA), representing mid-sized companies; Brian Ford, regulatory counsel of the Organization for the Protection and Advancement of Small Telephone Companies ( OPATSCO), representing small commercial companies; and Eric Keber, federal government affairs manager of the Western Telecommunications Alliance. Also Mary Albert, assistant general counsel of Comptel, which represents competitor companies.
The cable industry was also there. Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) attended, accompanied by James Assey, executive vice president, and Steve Morris, associate general counsel.
From the wireless world, Steve Largent, president of CTIA the grade group representing AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and others, was there. He brought along Chris Guttman-McCabe, CTIA vice president for regulatory affairs and K. Dane Snowden, vice president for external and state affairs. Fred Campbell, president of WCAI, representing wireless broadband providers, also attended.
It’s not a stretch to assume that even now, industry lobbyists are drafting letters to be signed by influential members of Congress that would descend on the agency as a hail of fire from the heavens if Strickling turns down the industry and sticks to the already industry-friendly NOFA conditions. Coming as well, in yet another deluge, would be ginned-up letters from the telecom ecosystem of bought-off think tanks and business groups.
It will take a lot to stand firm in the face of that pressure. Here is why the agency should draw a line in the sand. The whole mapping exercise is already on its way to being substantially corrupted as the telecom industry’s creation, which exists to prevent data from being public, is collecting mapping contracts right and left through the efforts of their lobbying and influence. There is absolutely no reason for NTIA to concede on the data collection. NTIA and its supporters in the Administration and in Congress should realize that if agency backs down on this assault from the industry, there will be that much less of value worth saving.
At the end of the day, somebody is going to be in control of the mapping. It will either be the public, and the public interest, as represented by NTIA, or the industry.
NTIA Losing Game of Data Chicken
By Art Brodsky on August 8, 2009 - 1:59pm
A week or so ago we posed this choice: “At the end of the day, somebody is going to be in control of the mapping. It will either be the public, and the public interest, as represented by NTIA, or the industry.”
It appears that may have been, at least in part, a false choice. The NTIA has already started backing off its data-collection notice, in this Federal Register notice.
There was no reason to give away much of anything to start. Certainly, the mapping notice of funds availability (NOFA) had its numerous problems. Fixing it would require a month or so delay to get it right — something some of us requested.
NTIA didn’t do that. But in the face of the massive industry lobbying, NTIA started making concessions. The biggest one is that it backed off of the detailed speed data. Instead of reporting maximized advertised upstream and download speeds at the address level, NTIA now requires only speeds across service areas or local franchise areas.
That change is a monumental mistake, made for no reason. Speeds across such a wide area can very widely. At the address level, it would be possible to see where and how service is being deployed. At the service area level, it all averages out — the god and the bad, demonstrating nothing at all.
NTIA also lifted restrictions for reporting the crucial “middle mile” connection data, and for the average revenue per user. The second one wasn’t going to be reported anyway, because the phone and cable companies weren’t going to give it up. The middle mile data may have been more accessible. It certainly wasn’t worth surrendering.
If this mapping exercise is going to be worth even 1/10 of the money Congress appropriated, it’s about time for the government to step away from the table with the industry, remind itself of its public interest obligations and quit giving away the store. It doesn’t matter if it was a “good deal” or a “bad deal” to make those changes. There was no reason for any deal. Either scrap the program, extend the deadlines and start over, or hold the industry to some meaningful commitments. NTIA has to choose, and these choices to start the gradual surrender process are not at all auspicious.