Writings and Musings

Bob Frankston (bio)

Welcome to my writings.

If you want the recent essays check out the sidebar on the left or, better, go to Further Readings for a curated list of essays.

Other essays are listed in chronological order and then by category. The main essays are in larger letters and minor documents (such as messages posted on discussion sites) are indented and in smaller letters. The documents themselves are located on this site (www.Frankston.com) and as well as external sites.

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Recent By Date Posts from the last few months
Columns Columns written in 1998-1999 -- blogging before blogs. Look here for my more recent columns.
All All posts -- hundreds

Writings and Updates by Date

Some of the recent entries are also listed on the sidebar. Secondary items such as postings on other mailing lists are indented. Note that the year shown is the year the essay was updated. An essay written in 1979 might be listed under 2009 if it was updated recently.

Information versus Telecom 05-May-2011 (Updated: 26-Dec-2012 PDFIf you think that the Internet is important because it's a network you're missing the point. Today's telecommunications industry exists in defiance of all we've learned about "information" in the last 100 years. In 1897 the British Copyright office warned us about the danger of creating scarcity by taking our abundance and converting it to private property. In 1949 Claude Shannon gave us a science of "Information" that helped us understand the distinction between bits and what we do with them. The generativity of today's Internet demonstrates the power of the idea. We need to build on this understanding and experience to create an infrastructure that supports the exchange of bits. We can then focus on relationships and creating value rather than getting lost in the constricted pipes of today's Telecom.
Thinking outside the pipe 17-Oct-2011 (Updated: 19-Jul-2012 PDFThe idea that bits must flow through wires or virtual pipes makes it hard to think of the Internet as infrastructure like roads. We communicate by exchanging bits. We need to move beyond the pipe or railroad metaphors if we are to take advantage of the abundant opportunities all around us.
The Information not-so-super Highway 07-Feb-2011 (Updated: 19-Apr-2012 PDFIt doesn't matter whether we're stuck in the slow lane or the fast lane. What matters is that we're confined to lanes.
Re an Uproar on the Web Over $2 Fee by Verizon 30-Dec-2011 It's easier to grasp small insults than asking why we have to pay to talk among ourselves
Re: Verizon to charge $2 for each credit card payment without autopay 29-Dec-2011 Verizon's customers are already captive which makes nuisance charges predatory.
Why Gigabit DSL matters 18-Dec-2011 Gigabit DSL is one more reminder that it's about how we use our physical infrastructure and not copper vs. fiber vs. wireless.
The benefits of bad architecture 09-Dec-2011 Good architecture decouple system elements in order to facilitate evolving the design. But the telephone system is designed badly and as a result it's difficult to dislodge the incumbents. Bad user experience is one result. Economic stagnation is another.
Whose communicator is it anyway? 05-Dec-2011 When a carrier puts monitoring software in a device they are assuming it is really their device and their software even if you have all "phone" conversations over IP. Another reminder that something is very wrong.
re Verizon API To Give Apps 'Turbo' Bandwidth Boost | News & Opinion | PCMag.com 15-Nov-2011 Verizon's attempt to charge users for less-crappy service reminds me of Bank of America's attempt to charge people for using credit cards in terms of being tone deaf. It's also a stupid idea but that's more subtle.
It’s pipes all the way down 19-Oct-2011 The "pipe" model of communications is akin to assuming the meaning is intrinsic and exists in each atom.
VisiCalc 32nd Anniversary hangout 19-Oct-2011 📹 (video) Dan and I talk about VisiCalc with the Google Docs team and others.
The Internet as Infrastructure 17-Oct-2011 PDFAn in-depth discussion of the Internet as our new infrastructure. The lessons we learn from the Internet can also be applied to other markets and systems. The value of infrastructure such as the Internet comes from the opportunity it provides and what we do with that opportunity. It's a lesson for policymakers that extends beyond the particular technology.
Re Big Brother is watching you: Voice of Russia 29-Sep-2011 Fighting for our liberties shouldn't be like playing Whack-a-Mole
ISOC Talk: (Video) The Internet as Infrastructure 20-Sep-2011 📹 (video) My September 22nd, 2011 to the New York Chapter of the Internet Society explaining that the Internet is really infrastructure rather than a set of service you access.
Re: Researchers' Typosquatting Stole 20 GB of E-Mail From Fortune 500 10-Sep-2011 Yet more reason to use normal social mechanisms rather than the DNS for social functions like reaching sites using human-oriented names and symbols that aren't easily subverted by simple typos.
Re: FCC upset about "cell phone logjam" after D.C. quake 26-Aug-2011 We need to remember that the cellular system is designed to fail if the billing system fails.
Re: Losing on the Facts, AT&T Turns to Smears 26-Aug-2011 ATT ads continue to claim credit for what others due, often despite ATT.
Turnpikes and Toll Roads in Nineteenth-Century America 24-Aug-2011 Profs Klein and Majewski's history of our path from private pikes to public roads from 1792 to the twentieth century.
Remembering Divestiture. 22-Aug-2011 When you look back at the history of MCI we should also think about the technologies that enabled MCI and eventually doomed telecommunications as an industry.
Re: IBM PC @ 30: Original review of the Personal Computer Model 5150 12-Aug-2011 When we remember the IBM PC we should also remember the openness of the Apple ][
Colleges Join Plan for Faster Computer Networks 27-Jul-2011 Once again we see an emphasis on speed rather than availability.
ATT’s Plight is our Plight 23-Jun-2011 (Updated: 22-Jul-2011 PDFATT’s planned acquisition of T-Mobile is an occasion to look at the fundamental issues facing the entire telecommunications industry. Very simply – we are asking providers to add capacity but we’re not willing to pay them a portion of the value created. Skype gets the benefits without paying the carriers. Worse, the more capacity there is the less valuable the carriers’ own services are.
WSJ TECHNOLOGY ALERT: Verizon to End Unlimited Data Plans for New Customers 06-Jul-2011 We are losing our right to communicate. Why is there so little outrage?
Verizon/Android Tethering and ATT/Cellular-over-IP 02-Jul-2011 Cellular over IP, Tethering and other technologies are vital elements of our right to communicate. Today the carriers are trying to impose restrictions just as they did in days they tried to ban webcams and home servers. They can't have it both ways -- they can't argue that they are trying to create abundance when doing everything within their power to assure scarcity. Even more so when it comes at the cost of our safety as well as our economy.
Itunes and everything as a Service 23-Jun-2011 "iTunes" as part of the "as a service" trend which puts us at the mercy of third parties.
ICANN Financial incentives? 22-Jun-2011 ICANN seems focused on creating source of revenue even if that means assuring the web will unravel. We need to assure that ICANN's incentives are consistent with the needs of society.
The DNS may be being mooted 17-Jun-2011 New TLDs are being introduced just as browsers shift the emphasis from the DNS to searching. The new TLDs seem aimed more to extract money from users than to help them.
The Wrong Stuff 13-Jun-2011 PDFWhen trying to think rationally we have to be aware that we don't have all the facts. Some seemingly foolish optimism is necessary to counter the possibilities we cannot anticipate.
Wisconsin Omnibus Budget Bill Kills Wisconsin Networking 07-Jun-2011 An attempt to return the Internet to the status of just another telecommunications channel. Corruption or ignorance -- the harm is the same.
ATT Admits there is no bit exchange business 16-May-2011 A senior ATT executive comments that there is no business in mobile data. And if all business is data the implications are stark. Fortunately infrastructure is a viable and stable alternative funding option.
Why Isn’t Wi-Fi Better? 15-May-2011 The problem with Wi-Fi is not technical. It's the idea that we need to make billing and authentication level zero. That can't work -- instead we can simply fund a common infrastructure.
The Internet’s generativity stems from a paradigm antithetical to telecom 07-May-2011 The very concept of telecommunications is based the idea that we are transporting valuable messages. We’ve applied that model to phone calls (“message unit” and now “minutes”). It’s about creating billable events.
The Internet Lost in Translation 05-May-2011 (Updated: 06-May-2011 PDFIf all we need is a way to exchange some bits then we can adopt a simple model using any and all paths available without even a need to assure all bits get through. By funding it as a whole we don’t need to assure billing relationships between every device and every element of the path. It’s not just that you don’t know what to bill for. It’s hard to innovate when even a pacemaker must have a bookkeeper as the critical design element. While we do need to deal with some of the problems with today’s telecom our major focus should be on the future – creating generative opportunity rather than fighting over scarcity.
Re: [IP] Gets worse Epsilon breach website fraud 17-Apr-2011 The Epsilon break-in should be a warning about the risks of centralizing identity.
Re: [Dewayne-Net] How To Fix 911 -- a threat to the entire nation! 17-Apr-2011 A more "Intelligent" and centralized 911 is easy abused.
FCC Rules VoIP Provider May Not Collect Access Charges 12-Apr-2011 Once again we see people assuming that a VoIP provider must be cheating. Gaming the Regulatorium is the essence of telecom.
Re: 133 US cities now have their own broadband networks 28-Mar-2011 Another reminder that the funding model matters and that muni-bells aren't necessarily infrastructure providers.
Simple and Stark -- the telecom death spiral 21-Mar-2011 ATT's acquisition of T-Mobile is a symptom of a far deeper problem with the concept of telecommunications.
The First Amendment for sale for $39 billion dollars plus a tax on innovation 20-Mar-2011 It's time to revisit the First Amendment compromise that created the scarcity of spectrum.
Re: How the Assault on Netflix Will Shake Out 17-Mar-2011 More and more companies, including old-line "cable" companies are streaming over IP and will be hurt by companies.
Re: Fight over municipal broadband rules in North Carolina 15-Mar-2011 We need to be careful about framing the issue of "municipal connectivity" as infrastructure rather than as a broadband service.
Re: AT&T imposing DSL and U-verse bandwidth caps, fees for "excess" use 15-Mar-2011 Usage caps are about bad accounting and not exhausting resources.
Re: Fight over municipal broadband rules in North Carolina 15-Mar-2011 Is the ITIF only a shill for cable companies or can it take a positive stance in support of infrastructure?
Re: AT&T imposing DSL and U-verse bandwidth caps, fees for "excess" use 14-Mar-2011 Caps are a way to prevent innovation as well as competition.
The ability to bill for speech is the ability to deny access 19-Feb-2011 When "Building the Technology Stack for Internet Freedom" we need to make sure that the foundation supports freedom.
The iCology 14-Feb-2011 PDFApple has its own iCology in which you use Apple tools to develop products for Apple platforms for Apple users
Twit TV: Beyond Neutrality Parts 1 and 2 13-Feb-2011 PDF 📹 (video) First part of Leo Laporte interviewing me about connectivity technical and policy issues.
Re: The Death of Speed – Extreme Malthusianism 13-Feb-2011 We need to remember that abstractions are real and real objects can be abstracted. That's how markets work.
Re: The End of the (Nokia) Raj 12-Feb-2011 Nokia needs to adjust to a new landscape and figure out what business it is in.
Demystifying Networking 29-Nov-2010 (Updated: 09-Feb-2011 PDFExchanging bits is a simple idea but one that is shrouded in misunderstandings that keep us dependent upon service providers. If see past the mystery and understand networking we can fund infrastructure as a public good. It would give us the kind generative opportunity that a service provider can't give. In fact the service providers very existence depends upon keeping their users dependent and limited.
Re: Washington Post: "Rush is on for custom domain name suffixes" 06-Feb-2011 It is naive to assume that names are globally unique.
Verizon Restrains Video Downloads as IPhone Debuts - Bloomberg 04-Feb-2011 Verizon's decision to second-guess content shows it doesn't yet grasp the idea of the Internet and users defining the meaning of the bits
Re An Apple E-Book Rule Tightens -- Ed Whitacre redux? 03-Feb-2011 Apple's policy limit how much each of us an innovate.
An Apple E-Book Rule Tightens -- Ed Whitacre redux? 02-Feb-2011 Apple's attempt to take a cut of the money made using the iPhone is worrisome. ATT had a similar attitude.
Re: ICANN, Bill Clinton, and Mr. Magoo 31-Jan-2011 ICANN has value as a travel agency.
WorkingRe: Egypt's Internet shutdown (RISKS-26.32) 31-Jan-2011 It's easy to shutdown today's Internet because the protocols are aligned with authority.
Re When will ISP like Comcast understand they are running a utility 27-Jan-2011 Another reminder why we need an infrastructure business model rather than billable pipes.
More on UMA - Unlicensed Mobile Access 23-Jan-2011 UMA Liberates us from the physical cellular infrastructure. Next step is liberating us from the business model.
Re: More on UMA - Unlicensed Mobile Access 23-Jan-2011 We need to be careful about perpetuating myths like the idea that we can only communciate because we bake-in particular services.
Re: Wireless carriers claim it violates their "First Amendment Rights" to warn of overuse 22-Jan-2011 The idea of using the First Amendment to hide information is strange but it's a reminder to think about why we have cellular pricing cliffs.
Wi-Fi Calling! 22-Jan-2011 Why isn't "cellular over Wi-Fi' the norm. Why do we need a special cellular network?
Verizon’s Internet Gateway 18-Jan-2011 (Updated: 21-Jan-2011 PDFVerizon's limitations on what I can do with in my own home seem to violate the spirit if not the specific rules of neutrality.
F.C.C. to Study Retransmission Fees 18-Jan-2011 The should focus on eliminating choke points rather than negotiating passage.
The Residential Gateway is back 18-Jan-2011 Rolling back the clock to the 1990's?
CES 2011: An Interpretation 17-Jan-2011 PDFOn the surface the Consumer Electronics Show is about artifacts of technology. If we look under the surface it's a far more interesting show.
Won't You Be My Wireless Neighbor 17-Jan-2011 Sharing connectivity is a feature that enriches society. It's not like stealing a consumable but more like joining the commons.
Comments on the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace 15-Jan-2011 Trusting "identity" is a very seductive idea fraught with consequences.
YouTube – House of the future 13-Jan-2011 The 2011 and 1950 homes of the future aren't very different
What is 4G and who has it? 11-Jan-2011 There may be one Internet but why is it always on the far side of a tollbooth?
Bob Frankston
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