May 2009 Archives

May 21, 2009 10:35 PM

Has Handset Exclusivity Created Smart Phone Promiscuity?

Business people, technical people, and government people all have their inexplicable, annoying, or simply confounding catchphrases.  Most either bear no semblance to the ordinary, direct conversational words we use, and some even have the opposite meaning from their everyday context. 

Sometimes they aren't even real words--like "incent", or the really annoying "incentivize"--both of which are attempts to turn what was once solely the noun "incentive" into a verb, without "plagiarizing" more grammatically-correct words like "encourage", "motivate", or "inspire."

Other times the words are real words, but they are put together, or used, out of their ordinary context in a way that allows business people to "own" the words for the purpose of creating a slick, cool rap.  Consider one of many potential examples.  Around the turn of the century, businessmen in the "money business" (sometimes called "investors"), started using the term "space" instead of the previously (and still) correct word "market." 

And sometimes, otherwise smart people carelessly use words and phrases in exactly the opposite ways from which these idioms developed their original meaning.  For example, how many times have you heard someone use the term "split the baby" when they really mean "split the difference?"  "Splitting the baby" may be a fair solution, but it does not refer to a compromise.  Rather, it refers to a winner-take-all outcome.   Recall from the origins of the idiom--King Solomon's technique for deciding the claims of two women over the same child--that no baby was in any way divided. So where does all this meandering lead? 


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May 14, 2009 7:41 AM

[Go] Back to [Get to] the Future: The Foundation of a National Broadband Plan

Saul Hansell had a great post on May 8th, that is well worth reading if you are one of the many parties struggling to come up with comments to file on June 8th in the FCC's National Broadband Plan proceeding.  In fact, the last paragraph/sentence of the post provides what, with very little (if any) editing, could be the first sentence in a compelling set of comments.  Indeed, it is too bad the FCC didn't start its request for suggestions for big plans with such a simple, commonsense, and obvious premise.  Mr. Hansell concludes:

"What good will it do for the F.C.C. to come up with a spiffy new plan to get faster cheaper broadband to more people if the phone companies fail and millions of people won't be able to dial 911 in an emergency?" 

To really understand what he is talking about, I strongly encourage reading the post.  For too long, telecom industry "insiders"--what you might call the FCC's constituents--have been whistling past the graveyard, assuming that the FCC has all the tools it needs to keep any type of company/industry in business if it really deems that company's services to be in the "public interest."  The "tools" of which I am referring are the implicit and explicit subsidies of intercarrier compensation (what companies--telephone, cable, or wireless--pay each other to deliver voice calls to the party being called) and the Universal Service Fund, which all users pay into in order to ensure (theoretically) that all Americans have access to telephone service.  Mr. Hansell understatedly characterizes these interrelated mechanisms as "inscrutably complex."   They are all that, and a bag of chips.

Continue reading [Go] Back to [Get to] the Future: The Foundation of a National Broadband Plan
May 2, 2009 12:12 AM

TeleComSense Congratulates Mignon Clyburn On Her FCC Nomination!

Now there are two . . . FCC nominees by President Obama. Earlier this week, President Obama announced the most recent Democratic FCC Commissioner, South Carolina Public Service Commission veteran Mignon Clyburn.  Commissioner Clyburn seems like another candidate with excellent experience--more than 10 years on the South Carolina PSC--and the practical knowledge of regulation [and its limits] to profoundly advance the public interest [if she's smart enough to help Chairman-to-be Genachowski stick with the "simple, but tough" regulatory priorities outlined by TeleComSense].  I wish her well, and I know she'll make the President look good, if she sticks to the hard work--the work that hasn't been done, but that needs to be done.  I'm talking about the work that the FCC has been tasked with by the law for the last 13 years--because of a reluctance to take on politically-contentious issues by the Commission. 

While I can't really vouch for Commissioner Clyburn, because I have mostly worked on federal (vs. state) issues, I am a little annoyed at the many stories that suggest she is just another beneficiary of nepotism.  You can't read a story about Commissioner Clyburn that doesn't note that her father is the House Majority Whip, Congressman James Clyburn.  [I don't recall as many critical stories about Michael Powell being appointed to FCC Chairman in 2001, with not nearly as much experience as a regulator, right after President Bush appointed his father to be Secretary of State.]  I do have to ask, though, why do we know (as many critics seem to) that President Obama's choice of Ms. Clyburn is dangerous to the American public?


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