A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy

Pragmatism and Creativity in Holland 

Lessons in Why National Fiber Infrastructure and
Carrier Unbundling Must Become Top Priority

Can the US Under President Obama Grasp these Insights? pp. 1-6

On November 24, 2008 Bob Herbert wrote in the NY Times: “The idea that the nation had all but stopped investing in its infrastructure, and that officials in Washington have ignored the crucial role of job creation as the cornerstone of a thriving economy is beyond mind-boggling. It’s impossible to understand.  Impossible, that is, until you realize that bandits don’t waste time repairing a building that they’re looting.”

Now that the looters have been removed from office we have an immense opportunity in telecom infrastructure if the right connections can be made.

CalTech physicist Harvey Newman summed up the situation to “arch-econ” with exquisite power when he said: “The focus on video as the motivation for true broadband [must be] temporary.”

“Network applications involving access to, and sharing of large volumes of binary data as the basis of information, and ultimately as a basis of knowledge, are highly developed, but are not so visible in the world of entertainment and social networking, as they are in the realm of research. But soon corporations will learn to follow in the footsteps of the research community to handle and benefit from the knowledge implicit in such datasets, whether for healthcare or for other business processes, or for new forms of education, that complement web-page and video (more traditional) ‘content’.”

“Even in the days when walls of your home are live displays (the walls themselves, as extensions of current OLED developments, not just screens), it will be the knowledge behind the images, and the ways they are used to inform and educate, as well as entertain, that will matter most.”

The message is clear that he new administration must enable the infrastructure top support this by building new fiber and by forcing the incumbents to unbundle.

Supercomputing 08 in Austin provided connections that will occupy the next two or three issues of the COOK Report.  Perhaps not surprisingly they are from Holland as well.  Meanwhile the rest of the introduction to the January issue explains some of the reasons for the Netherlands extraordinary flowering of activity in communications infrastructure.

The Role of the Global Fiber Evangelist
pp. 7 -18

Frans-Anton Vermast explains how he became a lobbyist on behalf of fiber as infrastructure in the Netherlands.  This is an excellent tutorial in the process of educating policy makers.  It will help to inform the reader with regard to some of the processes that were important to the success of Amsterdam’s fiber build and to the emergence of INEC (International Network of Electronic Communities) and its related alliances. 

This text is a guidebook to an exceptionally important educational role of which few people are aware.  It is also a guidebook to 21st century education collaboration and sharing by a lobbyist that is so utterly different from the disreputable stench of K Street that it should bring welcome smiles of relief to reader’s faces.

Why Regulators Can’t Put Us Back in the Box, pp. 19- 33

Jaap van Till grants us first publication of his November 7th Jens Arnbak lecture in which he looks at how the digital and internet revolution have changed the face of telecommunications regulation.

Telecommunications are not there for the pleasure of the operators. Roads are not there for construction companies. Telecommunications are there for society and the economy.   . . . . I suggest that policy development should not be about the terrain or the jurisdiction, it should be about what we actually want these services to do for society.

His concept of Trias telematica where he calls for a balance of interests between state, society and operators is very significant. “Government and institutions should concentrate on things that apply equally in the eyes of the law to all citizens.   Companies should dare to take risks and reap the benefits if successful in uncertain and innovative ventures and if they want to lower risks they should be allowed to form brotherhoods to cooperate to solve shared noncompetitive issues. And add value in self-organized supply chains.

Users should be free to choose – and this is the most important message that I have – and they should have the freedom of choice, their own, for what they want to get and when. If I get a haircut I do not want to be forced to buy new shoes.”

Where he gets most interesting and innovative is in pointing out that, when things become digital, they no longer fit into appropriate cubby holes.  This is what he calls the “tillevision” model.  During the rest of the essay he breaks further new ground in showing how digital technologies continually break the boundaries of the stereo typical circuit-switched way of looking at he world.  Horizontal planes or vertical silos don’t fit well into this world where technologies slither from plane to plane depending on conditions of use and transect operational layers  as they are used.

Finally Jaap speculates in a very informative and solid way on the collaborative behavior these technologies encourage.  twentieth century forms of regulation will fail because they ignore the collaboration that gives value and the civil society that is empowered by such collaboration.

Beyond Triple Play in the Netherlands
pp. 34-41

Patrick van Eeckeren describes an exceptional home automation services platform that has been in trial in one of the Reggefiber towns in Holland and goes production on January first.  He also describes a different system called “neighborhood life” that offers  social networking capabilities.  These systems go far beyond the capabilities of anything in the United States of which I am aware.

Symposium  Discussion

Change is Coming to the FCC p. 42

Obama’s FCC transition choices are superb.  David Weinberger got it when he wrote: “This makes me so happy. Not only are they amazingly knowledgeable about the issues, they also share Obama's political temperament: Strong beliefs, an ability to listen, a respect for others that is manifested as gentleness, and a practicality that carries them past mere ideology. Change is coming to the FCC."
Regretfully two important mail lists published uninformed and misleading attacks on Susan Crawford before the stroke of midnight on the day the appointment was announced.  It seemed that in testimony before the US Senate in March Susan had not paid enough attention to WISPs as a means of broadbandaccess to satisfy a Wyoming WISP.  In my opinion a ridiculous accusation. Susan’s March testimony was on network neutrality a very sticky area that she navigated with brilliance.

In the meantime in October, displaying her indefatigable research drive, Susan made an in-person visit to list guru Frank Coluccio on the question of the design of an open access fiber network.  This is one of the most critical issues facing us.  And although simple in concept, when you get right down to the details you will find that it is made artfully obfustcatible by many possible architectural variants.

On October 19, Frank wrote: I was asked recently the following question by another list member in a fascinating off-line discussion that lasted close to two hours:

"What would the perfect open-access network look like? Describe it if you could."

Needless to say, the question left me thoroughly flat-footed and mouth agape, at first, just as many other seemingly "dumb questions" have in the past. It's an instructor's delight, though, since questions such as this one make life a helluva lot more interesting than serving up the usual, well-scripted rote.

Would any of my esteemed colleagues and fellow network-ologists here care to step up to the challenge of answering this question by offering a functional description of what would constitute a perfect open access network?

One favor, if you please. Kindly keep your offering to ten thousand words or less. I'm sure that both the original inquirer and Gordon, alike, would be most appreciative :)

There followed a superb discussion for the next three days.

On the 22nd Susan summed up on her blog: “I'm grateful to Frank Coluccio for pointing me to George Gilder's Fibersphere piece from 1992. I'm spending time these days trying to figure out what an open access fiber optic network would look like.

It's astonishing what abundance could be unleashed by combining a few components: dark, unlit fiber; a coordinating entity that could ensure that different providers were using different wavelengths to communicate across that fiber; a small box
with power and air-conditioning for that coordinating entity to operate in; and modulation schemes taking advantage of different frequencies. That's it - and then you'd have potentially hundreds of thousands of "channels," each possibly provided by a different vendor, each carrying the communications of thousands of knowledge-workers. It really would be the end of scarcity. Transmission would be the cheap element - device-manufacturers and coordinating entities would have to leap into innovation mode.

The way Verizon has built up its fiber network doesn't allow easily for this kind of unbundling, for many reasons. The top reason is that the potential interconnection points ("splitters") are out in the field, without power or air-conditioning, so no one else can interconnect there. Also the hardware, software, and protocol standards used by this network are hard-wired to Verizon. You could interconnect right near Verizon's central office, but you'd need a lot of cooperation from Verizon.

I'm just beginning to understand that the architecture chosen by Verizon makes it difficult (if not impossible) to retrofit abundance and open access into their network. The company gets a lot of credit for bringing more fiber to more people. But what tradeoffs are implicitly being made?”


Some FCC Discussions  p. 54

Chris Savage:  I am not sitting here saying that the FCC should regulate "the Internet" under Title II. I am not, actually, even saying that it should do much different than it is doing now - if it/we/the country were to affirmatively conclude that where we are, and where we seem to be going on the issue of broadband access is basically

OK. Again, note that I'm an old-timer and remember when only big shots had car phones, when the fastest modem you could buy was 9600 baud, when consumer email was something you did with fellow devotees on a closed system like Compuserve. Considering where we've come from, maybe a duo-and-a-half-opoly is OK. But if it's not OK, I am saying that we do not need a massive re-write of communications law to take steps to fix it.?

Frank Coluccio: So, what matters very much here is the framing one chooses to assume at the outset. Are we attempting, on the one hand, to preserve the status quo by

repurposing many of the earlier constructs whose original reasons for being were to provide oversight for something that is a now dying, or, on the other hand, are we viewing the end game as an environment that is well suited for providing ubiquitous connectivity?

Savage: I agree that framing matters, and I think that re-framing is in order. What I am saying is that taking steps in light of, and to implement, the new framing does not actually require a major re-write of the Communications Act.


Pragmatism and Creativity in Holland

Lessons in Why National Fiber Infrastructure and
Carrier Unbundling Must Become Top Priority

Can the US Under Obama Grasp these Insights?

Understanding the Flowering of Technology and
Network Infrastructure Building in the Netherlands            p. 2

Pragmatism                                                    p. 3

Open Access Fiber’s Global Roving


An Interview with Frans-Anton Vermast                p. 6

From a Communications Interlude to Contacts and
information Broker                                            p. 8

Why There is a Role for Government                            p. 10

Inter Connected Travels and Alliance with CUD                p. 12

INEC -- International Network of Electronic Communities        p. 13

Expanding from Amsterdam to Global Fiber Advocacy            p. 15

Keeping the People Straight                                    p. 16

Alliance Building                                            p. 17

Orthogonal Transformations on
Telecommunications and Networks of
People and Machines

by Jaap van Till

Introduction                                                    p. 19
The Old Way of Looking at Telecom Regulation                p. 20

The Trias Telematica                                            p. 23

Tillevision Model                                             p. 24

What Next?                                                    p. 27

The World Becomes Fractal                                     p. 29

Beyond Triple Play Services
State of the Art Broadband Services in The Netherlands

Patrick Van Eekeren, Trikala, October 22, 2008                    p. 34

OnsBrabantnet                                                p. 36

Lessons Learned                                            p. 39

Buurtleven.nl (Neighborhood Life)                            p. 39

Change is Coming to the FCC
An Editorial Introduction to Symposium Discussion
October 19 - November 15               

A Unfounded Attack                                            p. 42

Would that I Could Do This Kind of Due Diligence                p. 45

How an Astute Choice at the FCC
Could Begin to Solve our Telecom
Infrastructure Disaster                    p. 53

QoS Versus Bandwidth - a Good
Concise Summary                             p. 58

A Policy Note from Hendrik Rood for the
Incoming Obama Administration              p. 59

Executive Summary                                  p. 60