Tech at Night

Hello! As is my right, I’m going to start tonight by shamelessly promoting my own piece arguing for the assignment of the D block of wireless spectrum to civil defense and public safety. I keep calling it civil defense because we learned about the need for this after 9/11, and if the actions of the first responders after those attacks wasn’t wartime civil defense, I don’t know what is.

I know some (but certainly not all) libertarian-leaning Republicans oppose this plan, despite or even because the 9/11 commission chairmen have come out for it. But I’m of the view that there are legitimate government roles in society, and that not all things must be (or even should be) sold or given off to the private sector. Civil defense is one of those that is perfectly fine in government hands.

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Remember the Digital TV transition? That was when we took advantage of improved technology by making all the broadcast TV stations give up their old, huge blocks of wireless spectrum, in exchange for receiving new, narrower blocks. By making the switch, we made room for new wireless technologies to bloom.

That room was split into 5 “blocks.” The C block, for example, was auctioned off to Verizon, who’s using it for 4G LTE wireless Internet. The B block has been bought up heavily by AT&T for the same use. However the D block went unsold. When it went up for auction, nobody even met the reserve price, so today the D block remains available.

After 9/11, we learned that we need to make more spectrum available to first responders. The D block would work great for that purpose. So why don’t we just hand out the D block to first responders across the country? You’d think that’d be obvious, but unfortunately some Republicans are hesitant.

Instead of just showing leadership and doing what we need to do for honest-to-goodness civil defense, we’re playing with cargo cult markets.

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Tech at Night

Remember when I seemed to write about Net Neutrality four times a week, which was really something when I was only posting three times? Well, the AT&T/T-Mobile deal is probably going to get that much discussion for now.

Of course there’s nothing new yet. Discussion is all there is until government actually starts acting. My job is to find the interesting discussion, I suppose. So let’s start with Douglas Holtz-Eakin at NRO, who makes very well the key thing we all must remember when it comes to the wireless market: size isn’t what matters. Competition matters. And as I’ve been saying from the start, taking the sick man in T-Mobile and combining him with the #2 firm only helps competition by putting pressure on the high-flying, LTE-deploying #1 Verizon.

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Tech at Night

After that flurry of activity online, we seem be having a bit of a slow Friday. It’s no wonder: we have a long fight ahead with respect to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, a process that Mike Wendy calls Legalized Extortion. And when property rights are made contingent on acceptance of a goverment-dictated consent degree, it’s hard to argue with the thrust of Wendy’s point.

Scary thought for all users of SecurID, after the RSA breakin: What if SecurID has a backdoor? If it does, then there could be real danger ahead for all its users.

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Tech at Night: AT&T, T-Mobile, FCC, Patents

On March 24, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

So the top story this week is going to be the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA. There’s a lot being said about it, about unions, about competition, but the story I’m seeing emerging is that this deal is about spectrum. AT&T sees in T-Mobile a way to get the spectrum it needs going forward. In fact, even power grabbing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said to the CTIA that this is an issue:

If we do nothing in the face of the looming spectrum crunch, many consumers will face higher prices – as the market is forced to respond to supply and demand – and frustrating service – connections that drop, apps that run unreliably or too slowly.

So not only is T-Mobile a sensible purchase for AT&T in the short run, due to their use of similar technology, but in the long run this is the kind of purchase AT&T may need to be able to compete with Verizon. Verizon, of course, already got more spectrum when it bought the C Block of old television spectrum in 2008.

So if we want competition now and in the future, we need to let the deal happen.

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Tech at Night: AT&T, T-Mobile, Unions, FCC

On March 21, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

So, read any good Tech posts lately? OK, I couldn’t think of a better way than that tonight to introduce a pair of RedState posts on the top story of the moment: AT&T’s announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA from the Germans. It seems that there are two major conservative perspectives on this deal.

One was described by LaborUnionReport on Sunday: if the non-union T-Mobile workforce is forced under the unionized AT&T umbrella, then the CWA and the AFL-CIO literally profit. And sure enough, the AFL-CIO has now come out in favor of the deal, even though much of the radical left is going to oppose it. I’ve mocked the CWA in this space for backing Net Neutrality over the interests of its members, but apparently blocking this merger would be a bridge too far, because blocking the merger would be against the interests of the union bosses.

However I disagree with blocking the merger regardless of the union issue. If we want to fight forced unionization, let’s pass Right to Work laws and reform the NLRB. Let’s not stop a merger that should improve the wireless service options and quality available to Americans, effectively increasing competition by merging two tech laggards together.

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A look back at Nazi and Communist propaganda

On March 21, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens

An academic by the name of Randall Bytwerk has gathered together an impressive snapshot of history in the form of the German Propaganda Archive, which covers Nazi propaganda from the early days of the party to the 1945, and then covers Communist Germany’s ruling SED Party propaganda from 1949 to 1989*

What I find interesting about the archive is not only how it shows that the Nazis really were another party of the left, but just as Stalin claimed that Nazis were the allies of the “crony capitalists,” so too did the Nazis claim that about the Communists!

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In the fast-paced, highly-competitive market of wireless phone and Internet access, this announcement stands out. The wireless carrier with the second-most subscribers, AT&T, is to acquire the number four carrier, T-Mobile USA. Some would say that this is a grave threat to competitiveness, risks reducing competition and increasing prices on everyone, and so should be stopped by the benevolent masters of the Obama administration. I disagree.

This is a young and vibrant market, with many competitors already out there, and more yet to come. The acquisition of a lagging company by the #2 company only puts pressure on the #1 firm, Verizon Wireless. Not only that, but existing regulations are plenty strong, and will almost surely result in resources being made available to lesser firms, reshaping the market without reducing choice.

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Tech at Night

Long week on my end, but thankfully it’s over as soon as I’m done writing this. But the top story is danger at the FCC. The regulator is still threatening to overstep its bounds and circumvent the Telecommunications Act, which strictly limits the amount of power the FCC has over Information Services. So now they want to redefine high-speed Internet access as something new and different they’re calling BIAS, and then regulate the daylights out of it. This is bad stuff and must be watched. Read the whole article if you’d like to know more.

I am so glad DC Republicans are so strong on the problem’s surrounding Obama administration’s regulatory excesses and the talk is moving to full-on regulatory reform.

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You may have heard that there was an election in Ohio last year. Popular Governor Ted Strickland (D) was defeated in his re-election campaign by John Kasich (R), and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (D) was crushed in the Senate race by former Bush advisor Rob Portman (R).

Senator Sherrod Brown (D) has sure noticed. He’s also noticed that gas prices are going up, and up, and up since Barack Obama took office, skyrocketing from under $2/gal to over $3.50/gal, an increase of about 75%.

So what does a Democrat (and Daily Kos darling) who has built a career by crusading against international trade do, when his career is on the line in 2012? Why, become a champion of trade, of course.

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