Whither No License Wireless?


Exploring the Clash between an On Going Radio Revolution, Regulators and the Local Loop


Multi Part FCC Broadband Rule Making Slanted Against ISPs FCC Intent on Bail Outs for Legacy Telcos and Cable Co.s

Find out how to order single copy ($250) or group license ($500) for just double issue.

April 18, 2002 -- This combined June July Special issue of the COOK Report on Internet takes an exhaustive look at license exempt wireless technology. We make a detailed examination of 802.11b efforts and, with the help of Steve Stroh, many other types of no license wireless. Contributors to this symposium who discuss technolgy as well as regulatory issues are David P Reed, Dave Hughes, Dewayne Hendricks, David Isenberg, Jim Forster, Robert Berger, Peter Cochrane, Steve Stroh and Roxane Googin.


Wireless "Oil Drops" Versus the "Teleban"

This double issue takes a close look at a revolution brewing outside of our urban areas, in the provinces and at the edges of the network. Broadband wireless capability is spreading like drops of oil on the surface of centralized, carrier-controlled telecom. Operating exempt from license and using spread spectrum, the spread of broadband internet wireless access is hard for analysts who are accustomed to watching huge purchases by the big carriers to track. It is therefore not much noticed. This point of view is articulated by Patrick Leary of Alvarion in a significant essay called "The Secret Truths of the Broadband Wireless Industry."

While Leary describes in much more detail the spreading of what we choose to call "oil drops," in nearly eight weeks of work on this issue we have noticed more and more news about all manner of players jumping on the bandwagon.

The result is that, while the LEC's continuing their holding action determined to squeeze a few more years out of the wireline local loop, we have what seems to be a spontaneous combustion of no license creativity that is "asset based," end user controlled, and for the most part independent of the wireline monopoly. Unfortunately, the FCC appears ready to plunge into a deregulatory frenzy that will bless hither to 'unthinkable mergers' according to an April 8th Reuters article by Jeremy Pelofsky. Through an ongoing series of Broadband Notice of Proposed Rulemakings the FCC is declaring broadband to be an information service.

The result is likely to free the LECs and the Cable Companies from the need to offer interconnection to competitors. While for more than a decade Internet technology has shown that small, decentralized, edge-based service providers are the most cost competitive and efficient providers, the national Republican leadership is opting for deregulatory bail outs for the huge, inefficient and debt ridden phone companies and cable companies. While those whose capital is tied up in the lumbering dinosaurs will be relieved, those who are investing in telecommunications technology had better take their investments to places like Canada and perhaps even Europe. With national policy like this, the industry will stay flat on its back for a long time to come.

Despite this gloom, in this issue, we do see some broadband wireless rays of hope on the horizon. Those watching to see what broadband wireless will do to the otherwise dismal economic foundation of the industry should start by focusing on the spread spectrum "oil drops" as they infiltrate the wireline forces of what David Isenberg has aptly named the Teleban. A classic example of this infiltration is chronicled in the March 18 issue of Telephony which described the decision of Allegany County Maryland to build its own county wide broadband wireless network.

For the long haul industry, one way out of the bankruptcy would be to increase the demand for and use of bandwidth. Unlike Canada which is doing just this, national policy in the US has been left at the mercy of the local phone companies that have become singularly adept at using their resources to obtain political clout. They have gone to Tauzin and Dingell and with even more success to Powell at the FCC where they are gaining decisions that allow them to use their local loop monopoly to shelter their obsolete technology. They have become amazingly effective at combining their interests with those of the content owners to kill the spread of bandwidth intensive technologies at the edges of the network.

The result has been to eliminate the companies and technologies that could have brought sharply declining bandwidth prices to small business and home users. Instead the LECs have protected their interests via policies that are choking off growth in bandwidth demand that could revive the remainder of the industry. They are indeed the "Teleban." Their mission is to defend their old business and in doing so to stave off bandwidth abundance from ever reaching you or me.

In this 112 page double issue our experts conclude that a broad band license exempt wireless Internet access alternative to the local loop is possible. The technology to enable it works. It is here. Steve Stroh explains that

"1) BWIA is happening. But the fact that it's happening is only apparent in the aggregate ­ stepping back and looking at the big picture, which few are really equipped to do.

2) There's an incredible lack of understanding about BWIA in the general press. When they do write about it, they generally get the story wrong with numerous and serious errors of omission or commission.

3) There were some really spectacular failures in the BWIA ­Winstar, Teligent, ART, XO, and Metricom, as well as the "cessation of broadband wireless businesses" by Sprint, Worldcom, and AT&T Wireless. Those failures, upon examination, had far more to do with typical dot-com mentalities, excesses, and weak business plans. These failures have severely "clouded the picture" for BWIA companies and systems that will follow.

4) Cost-effective, feature complete BWIA systems were promoted too far in advance of being really ready. They1re ready now.

5) Much of the action, and excitement, and the strongest technical development is happening in license-exempt portions of spectrum, and "unlicensed" is under an immediate handicap for FCC mindshare, investment, and overall skepticism.

6) Far too few understand that making effective, reliable use of license-exempt spectrum is largely an engineering exercise and a willingness to continually invest in your technology. I call this the "Darwinian Effect Of License-exempt Wireless."

7) There is considerable anecdotal evidence that there is a widespread, and perhaps coordinated campaign underway to discredit BWIA in general (and in particular license-exempt BWIA systems and companies) with the effect of starving out BWIA vendors and service providers for investment capital."

Nevertheless the technology works. The number of companies is growing. Stroh counts 169 makers of license exempt equipment. Stroh oncludes: "If I had any doubts (I didn'tŠ) that the Wireless Internet Service Provider "industry" was tiny, such doubts would have been rapidly dispelled by my attendance at WISPCon Spring 2002 held in the Chicago area in mid-March 2002. WISPCon was a first-of-its-kind event organized by Michael Anderson, himself a successful WISP in the Chicago area. WISPCon came together, from inspiration to event, in less than two months."


Whither No License Wireless?


Exploring the Clash between an On Going Radio Revolution, Regulators and the Local Loop


Multi Part FCC Broadband Rule Making Slanted Against ISPs FCC Intent on Bail Outs for Legacy Telcos and Cable Co.s

pp. 1-7

[Except as noted at end, summary that follows is by Steve Stroh.] Gordon Cook highlights some of the data points that led to this formative issue, illustrative of how fast the developments are occurring in Broadband Wireless Internet Access and license-exempt wireless. Unfortunately, there are forces at work - the "Teleban" whose agenda has expanded to disrupt wireless before it becomes a more potent threat than it already is. Cook frames a fundamental question regarding Internet policy - is the intent of the regulators also "more of the same?" Is the Internet just another transport mechanism for passive "content" such as cable and broadcast television? Or is it something different entirely, with interactivity inherent and deserving of special treatment for now.


Yochai Benkler From Consumers To Users (Excerpts)

p. 7

There are producers, and there are consumers. That's the historic view, and those who produce think that the arrangement works best when producers "... have high incentives to produce", including regulatory protection. Yochai Benkler equates the demand for peer-to-peer communications that have come to life on the Internet with a wireless ""infrastructure of first and last resort". Such a system facilitates exchange between individuals, and why this isn't perceived as "progress" by content owners under the current "media property" model.


Broadband Wireless Internet Access Is the Wave Of The Present


an Introduction and Commentary by Steve Stroh

pp. 8 - 13

An independent editor writer and expect on broadband wireless Steve on reflects on the content of this issue and provides a must read analysis and summary of the many solutions that exist beyond the range of the 802.11 "family".


The "Teleban" Are in the Driver's Seat at the FCC


Republicans Propose to Remove Broadband from Regulatory Arena by Defining it as Information Service

pp. 14 - 16

The FCC has clearly indicated their intent to reclassify all Internet services from "telecommunications" services, which are regulated to insure fair and equal access to such services, to "information" services, which are unregulated. Most recently, the FCC has proposed to change cable modem Internet access from a "telecommunications" service to a "information" service. The cable modem providers had little incentive to tolerate competitors, with this NPRM there will be none whatsoever. Gordon Cook analyzes an FCC Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking that explains the justification for this change, in the eyes of the FCC. Gordon goes on to analyze dissenting (as the lone Democrat of the FCC) Commissioner Michael Copps' individual reply to the NPRM. Most chillingly, Copps states publicly that the FCC has transitioned from an agency charged with enforcing the will of Congress, to an agency who will summarily dismiss court opinion that is contrary to its worldview.


IRAC and the Making of Spectrum Policy


Executive Branch Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee Has Power to Approve or Veto all FCC Spectrum Policy Decisions


IRAC Reported to Want to "get rid of unlicensed services"

pp. 17-21

Gordon Cook and Dewayne Hendricks discuss the previously hidden role of a group known as the Interagency Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC) within the US Federal Government. IRAC is a powerful force, to which the FCC and its "government spectrum" counterpart, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), defer, despite having no statutory requirement to do so. IRAC's role only became clear in the aftermath of the FCC's widely unpopular ruling permitting (with crippling restrictions) the use of Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology. Hendricks discusses recent revelations about IRAC and raises the point that there is no opportunity for public input to IRAC's decisions. David Reed and Dave Hughes join the discussion with specific questions about IRAC's roles and goals.


Peter Cochrane Tracks Decline of BT and Rise of 802.11b in the UK


Spectrum Auctions Seen as Cause of Collapse of Telecom Industry in UK


Given Leadership Cochrane Points Out How Wireless Can Replace Local Loop

pp. 22 - 31

Gordon Cook interviews Peter Cochrane. The discussion begins with the disaster that was the UK 3G spectrum auctions, the total "take" of which was $34B and that bankruptcies of "successful" bidders are likely to enter bankruptcy. Cochrane posits a smaller scale approach to broadband deployment using license-exempt 802.11b wireless technology, and dives into detail about how such "clouds" of 802.11b coverage would work, including the practicality of services such as Voice Over IP (VOIP) and other value added services. Cochrane offers anecdotal evidence of just how profoundly such new technologies are affecting decisions at incumbent telecommunications companies.

Cochrane reverts to his BT CTO role when he offers the opinion that the only way for Broadband Wireless to work is to have fiber going into every building to be able to provide source bandwidth for very small wireless cells, and then offers that "provisioning" will be a very large issue. Cochrane offers several interesting insights such as what's now known as cable television began in the US as individual television viewers constructing their own distribution systems to receive a better television signal in remote areas. The interview concludes with Cochrane offering his views on new technologies such as phased array antennas, mesh networking, free space optics, ultra wideband, and that the biggest problem with "wireless clouds" will be that troubleshooting problems such as "rogue transmitters" will be difficult.


Catalyzing 802.11b Across Wales


Dave Hughes Shows Welsh Leaders How to Establish Community Owned and Operated 802.11b Networks

pp. 32 - 39

Gordon Cook interviews Dave Hughes about Hughes' proposed project to create a network of community wireless hubs throughout Wales. Hughes goes into exhaustive detail about the genesis of the project, his visits to Wales to explain the project, and along the way a bit of personal Welch history and travelogue. Hughes goes into considerable detail, including his incredulity that BT actually projected the deployment of wireline broadband services in Wales at 10 to 20 years (2022) because the UK government wasn't contributing sufficiently to make broadband happen in rural areas. Several email messages from Hughes are included which give even more insights into the issues that need to be addressed in the project. Hughes appears to be wholeheartedly throwing his considerable reputation in small-scale wireless projects behind this project, and it will be instructive on a number of levels to see how well the project plays out in a tight funding climate, a system that will require extensive community support (as in technical support), near total incomprehension by UK (but not Wales) politicians, and open hostility from BT. But then, as long-time COOK Report readers know, Dave Hughes loves nothing so much as he loves a challenge.


Some 802.11b Business Models


Boingo Launches as an Agreggator of Access to Commercial Wi-Fi Hotspots


Sky Dayton Wants to Replicate EarthLink Business Model


Will Boingo Management Engage in Spectrum Policy Development?

pp. 40 - 45

Gordon Cook looks into Boingo Wireless' business model, and eventually converses with Sky Dayton. Gordon had lots of questions about the details of Boingo's operations, and what the value was for those who signed up as Boingo "Microcarriers". Gordon especially had questions about Boingo's inclusion of Free Wireless Networks in its Wireless Hotspot location software. Gordon was eventually able to get some of his questions about Boingo answered by Tom Williams - that Boingo's "sniffer" (find unlisted wireless hot spots) capability was by no means unique to Boingo and that many wireless networks were unsecured and thus vulnerable to unauthorized use and that Boingo's software was again not unique in this. Gordon unearthed several news articles that related that a number of free wireless networks were declining to be listed in Boingo's directory because Boingo offered no incentive for doing so other than "publicity". The article concludes with an email interview in which Dayton minimally explains its payments with "microcarriers" and how Boingo's listing of free wireless networks is beneficial to them. The article concludes with Dayton claiming to be closely following regulatory developments, but declining to comment.


SPUTNIK Creates Open Source Wi-Fi Gateway Platform


Goal is Standard on Which to Build Security and Infrastructure Capabilities

pp. 46 - 48


Gordon Cook interviews David LaDuke about Sputnik, Inc.'s recently announced gateway software that purports to allow individuals to begin setting up secure wireless access points. If users A and B both set up Sputnik gateways, user A can authenticate to on User B's Sputnik gateway. The authentication is provided by Sputnik on its corporate servers. The Sputnik gateway is a specialized build of Linux that implements the functions of a Wireless Access Point on a PC - all that is needed is an inexpensive 802.11b device that is currently supported by Sputnik's software, a PC to dedicate to the task, and an Internet connection. To be legal, the user's Internet provider should not prohibit such sharing. Sputnik hopes to make its money from Enterprise versions of the gateway software, and charging customers that have not set up Sputnik gateways for access.


Joltage Combines Role of Aggregator and Hotspot Creator

pp. 49

Gordon Cook examines the case of Joltage, which has a business model with elements from both Boingo and Sputnik. Like Boingo, Joltage is a purely commercial service provider. Like Sputnik, Joltage provides the software to set up a secure access point with a centralized authentication and billing service.


GoGo Surfer - Used Clothing for Wi-Fi Access

p. 50

Al Arthur writes about GoGo Surfer, a community center in Bridgeton, NJ that among other things offers high speed Internet access via 802.11b wireless.


License Exempt Regulatory Issues


Wireless ISPs Profile High Enough to Make Them Targets of FCC Enforcement Attention


Regulations Are Marked by a General Disconnect from the Technology Regulated and Increase WISP Costs -- One Result May Be to Keep from Market Technology that Could Solve the Local Loop Problem

pp. 51 - 72

Gordon Cook compiles a number of email messages posted to the isp-wireless mailing list that try to relate the goings-on at WISPCon, a conference for Wireless ISPs held in Chicago in March. One of the key events at WISPCon was a talk and Q&A session with an FCC staffer from the Chicago FCC Enforcement Bureau, and Gordon excerpts a number of descriptive messages. Dave Hughes weighs in on why the FCC's Part 15 rules make no sense in the work he is doing to provide telemetry from remote scientific experiments and observation sites (which previously only recorded data that had to be picked up periodically). A detailed discussion with David Reed and Jim Forster follows, discussing the utility of 802.11b systems in the face of increased FCC enforcement of its Part 15 rules.

Dave Hughes joins the discussion by pointing out that adhering to the technical requirements of individual Part 15 components isn't sufficient - the antenna, amplifier (if any) and the radio must all be certified as a Part 15 system before they can be used in combination. Dewayne Hendricks and Peter Cochrane join the discussion which continues the discussion about IRAC. The group explores the potential "Local Tragedies Of The Commons" - basically two many radios operating in the same spectrum, in close physical proximity would render all the radios useless. Gordon speculates on the proper role of the FCC in regulating spectrum in an era where radios are pretty capable of "doing what we tell them to do" in using spectrum efficiently - defer to higher-priority uses, use absolutely minimum power, etc. The discussion detours into discussion of cable modem regulatory and technical issues.

The issue of Sirius Radio's petition to the FCC to restrict potential out of band emissions from 2.4 GHz Part 15 devices is discussed in depth with Roxane Googin. Googin posits that the Nextwave case demonstrates that "possession is 99.99% of the law, and that it would be nightmarish for the FCC to conceivably contemplate hunting down existing Part 15 systems that would not be compliant if the Sirius petition is acted upon as requested. The discussion continues on more general topics regarding FCC regulation.

The "conclusion" to this article offers two "if I were Tsar For A Day" suggestions by David Reed and an article on Do It Yourself Networks by Jim Forester and resulting discussion. Dewayne Hendricks contributes some thoughts on the innovative technology represented by Mesh Networks (this is the company name, not a technical description), which in turn sparks an extended, general discussion on mesh networking, personally maintained wireless hot spots and variations of the commercial wireless hot spot trend. Jim Forster proposes a 9-point "spectrum etiquette".


Wireless as the Last Hope of the Independent ISP


Scott McCollough on Wireless ISP Activity in Texas

pp. 73 - 79

Scott McCollough provides commentary on cooperative 802.11b networks, offers a memo from the Texas House State Affairs Committee to "every identifiable broadband provider in Texas" asking about their particular broadband deployments for the purpose of an inquiry into Texas' broadband policies. A response to the memo from Larry Anglin, an ISP making use of wireless, gives significant insight into one Wireless ISP's operations and services.


Optical Wavelength Trading, Technology, and Economics


Googin, St Arnaud, Odlyzko Isenberg Continue Their Discussion

pp. 80 - 85

Bill St Arnaud, Roxanne Googin, and Andrew Odlyzko continue discussions on cost of installing lambdas, and optical pricing and use in general that were begun in the April May issue. Information about Bill Norton's Latest Peering studies is included. A large section of David Isenberg's Smart Letter #69 is also appended.


ICANN Issues


Farber, Neuman, Weinstein Demand that ICANN Be "Overcome"

We Offer the Following Editorial

pp. 86 - 87

In mid March Dave Farber, Peter Neuman and Lauren Weinstein issued a manifesto titled Overcoming ICANN. The statement indicated that the three men believed that not only had ICANN failed but that it had done so so badly that its duties ought to be immediately taken over by another body such as the Internet Architecture Board. For Dave Farber to take such an outspoken stand is extremely unusual. Unfortunately the manifesto proposed a National Academy study to decide what to replace ICANN with. We reject the idea because such an effort would be subject to all the behind the scenes deal making that rendered the original instantiation of ICANN insupportable. We suggest instead that the Internet be left alone to function without an ICANN.


Vint Cerf Fails to Respond to Milton Mueller Further Evidence of ICANN's Disregard of its Own Procedures

p. 88


ICANN Director Files Suit Against for Access to its Records


Auerbach Attempting to Assert Absolute Right (Given by Statute) to Examine ICANN Records -- ICANN Fears Any and All Scrutiny

p. 89 - 90

With the support of the EFF Karl Auerbach has filed suit in California for access to ICANN's records which he properly contends that as an ICANN Director he has a fiduciary duty to inspect. ICANN apparently has things to hide, for Auerbach should not have been required to take such action as California statutes clearly state that the right of a Director of a public benefit corporation to inspect its records is "absolute." ICANN in its response to Auerbach's suit has made statements that Auerbach says are "false." Why are we not surprised?


ICANN Preparing to Walk Away from US Jurisdiction Taking Control of the Internet with it via the HiJacking of IP Numbers?


Question Raised by Michael Froomkin in ICANNwatch Article

p. 91 - 92

ICANN has announced contracts with the Internet Routing Registries that in comparison with other ICANN supporting organizations give them great freedom. In an ICANNWatch article Michael Froomkin speculates that Joe Sims, ICANN's shadowy attorney, is developing a strategy to try to enable ICANN to walk away from the control of the Department of Commerce and the United States government when the MoU expires on September 30 2002. Some clueful folk did meet with Robin Layton at DoC on April 16. Layton is Becky Burr's replacement and has an opportunity to distance the Bush Administration from the ICANN travesty. Why are we unsure that she will take it?



p. 93 - 97

Just as it sounds, a list of names, titles, affiliations, and contact information of IRAC. It's illuminating just how many agencies are represented on ICANN. Some are logical - Department of the Air Force. Others are less so - Department of Veterans Affairs.

* Stroh Summary, Optical, and ICANN Summaries by Gordon Cook.


Interview and Discussion High lights

pp.98 -109

Executive Summary