AT&T, Verizon dominate wireless… Is it time to regulate?

Posted on May 24th, 2010 by bile
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Well… of course not but some seem to think so.

http://arstechnica.com/telecom/news/2010/05/att-verizon-dominate-wireless-is-it-time-to-regulate.ars

The government’s latest annual report on the state of mobile wireless competition is out, and its conclusions are not what the wireless sector wanted to hear. Over the last half-decade, concentration in the industry has gone up—way up, in fact. The Federal Communications Commission says that the two dominant providers, AT&T and Verizon, now enjoy a 60 percent chunk of revenue and subscribers, “and continue to gain share.”

Their nearest rivals, T-Mobile and Sprint, serve most of that remaining 40 percent. T-Mobile enjoyed some growth over the last two years. Sprint lost subscribers.

As a consequence, the antitrust measurement gauge that the FCC uses, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, has jumped by almost 700 points since the agency first began using it in 2003. That’s a 32 percent increase. Some of this newer concentration is a consequence of mergers over the last few years: AT&T/Aloha, T-Mobile/Suncom, Verizon Wireless/Rural Cellular, and Verizon Wireless/Alltel.

So the wireless sector HHI is now at 2848, the agency says, which doesn’t mean diddly until you know that the Department of Justice regards a market to be “highly concentrated” if, following a merger, the HHI in a given industry throttles past 1800. The FCC typically starts to eyeball the situation after a post-merger calculation of 2880.

More…

The cell phone industry is quite heavily regulated as are most ‘utilities.’ There are some issues that can’t really be dealt with such as the momentum of the old AT&T monopoly (which was created by the federal government). Those entities which came from it continue to hold huge amounts of capital and I don’t see any reasonable way to deal with that. It could be argued that they should be broken up I believe simply removing the existing intervention would cut them down to size should they be unable to compete with new comers.

How can we get some improved competition and therefore truly fulfill the customers desires?

  • Scrap the FCC. They increase the barrier to entry to entering the field within the current technological structure, stifle technological advancement and time to market by requiring devices to undergo special testing and limiting the frequencies that can be used. The limiting of frequencies reduces the supply and therefore increases costs. It limits the reasons to research in new technologies with different frequencies since they can’t be used without great lobbying. They in effect create a cartel which normalizes service not only from a technological perspective but also their general service.
  • Stop any intellectual property abuse. Don’t allow the government to proactively go after individuals on behalf of the hardware and software providers. Only enforce those terms that are clearly agreed to in the contract. This is not any different from game consoles. The owners of the console have the right to modify the hardware and it’s software as they see fit just as the service provider has the right to attempt to discover such changes and stop servicing that individual.
  • Remove any service requirements, taxes, etc. that rise the barrier to entry and normalize service. If the customer is fine without the ability to make emergency calls, for example, that’s between them and the provider.

I’m sure there are other issues that could be addressed but as far as I can see the first one, the FCC, is the biggest. Removing restrictions on all forms of wireless technologies would go a long way in opening up the floor to new technologies and entrepreneur wishing to exploit those technologies to provide a better service for the customer.

My day in court 2010-01-19

Posted on January 19th, 2010 by bile
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  • Arrived at 500 Pearl St at approximately 9:55AM. Met NYCLU representatives in front of building.
  • Approximately 10:00AM we entered the building and stood in line for a security scan.
  • At 10:20AM we got to the appropriate floor / counter. I let them know I’m present and we wait.
  • 10:40AM two officers arrive. Neither is the arresting officer, C. Barnes #245.
  • 10:45AM I overhear the officers say to the clerk that C. Barnes #245 is not going to show up. He’s apparently in training in Washington DC for the next 2 weeks. Later we learn that the Assistant US Attorney only learned he was going to be absent that morning.
  • 10:48AM Officers notify two women that their meeting with the AUSA has been rescheduled due to C. Barnes #245′s absence. They are both obviously upset. The taller, Hispanic officer attempts to get them to just pay the tickets. Asking several times if they would be paying it. As they go to leave a gentleman in his 60′s asks one of the women if she was contacted in any way. She responds in the negative. He, obviously upset by that, says something to the effect: “They could have at least let you know he wasn’t going to be here. It’s the courteous thing to do. It’s *your* government. They should issue a warrant for him. They would have done that to you had you not shown up.” At least 5 people, including myself, are affected by C. Barnes #245 not showing. Each person spoken to by the Hispanic officer he tries to get them to pay the ticket.
  • 10:50AM The Hispanic officer says to the other: “I say we just reschedule all of them.”
  • 10:52AM The Hispanic officer speaking of Julian Heicklen’s 5 tickets, which he did not appear to contest: “They should just issue a warrant for this guy. He’s got five tickets.”
  • 10:53AM The Hispanic officer starts checking out his cell phone. Perhaps reading text messages. There are several signs posted in the room saying that absolutely no one is to use cellphones.
  • 10:55AM The officers leave to meet with the AUSA with the paper work for all those present.
  • 11:00AM they start calling people in.
  • 11:15AM I’m called and told C. Barnes #245 will not be showing up and therefore the appearance is rescheduled to February 9th, 2010. We ask to talk with the AUSA anyway.
  • 12:05PM we are told to stand out in front of the conference room where the AUSA is meeting with people. He is in with the 60ish y/o who commented that Barnes should have a bench warrant issued for him. I missed the lead up to the incident but the gentleman was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Prior to the arrest apparently the officer stepped on his foot so hard that he broke at least one toe and caused the nail to come loose. He was wearing a cast. I was unable to gather any specifics otherwise.
  • About 12:55PM the man leaves the room with the AUSA and we knock and walk in. The AUSA says that we need to reschedule due to C. Barnes #245′s absence. My NYCLU reps inform him we are not fighting the description of events but feel the regulation does not apply. We are told that he would likely drop it down to deferred with a 60 day period in which I would not be able to record otherwise I’d they’d bring the issue to trial. We indicate we want full dismissal and he tells us that he will talk with C. Barnes #245 when he gets back and if he’s OK with a dismissal so be it otherwise we will have to talk again in February.

An account of the November 9th, 2009 arrest of Julian Heicklen and myself as well as a video can be found here.

FTC going after Intel for being a monopoly

Posted on December 16th, 2009 by bile
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http://ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/intel.shtm

The Federal Trade Commission today sued Intel Corp., the world’s leading computer chip maker, charging that the company has illegally used its dominant market position for a decade to stifle competition and strengthen its monopoly.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Intel has waged a systematic campaign to shut out rivals’ competing microchips by cutting off their access to the marketplace. In the process, Intel deprived consumers of choice and innovation in the microchips that comprise the computers’ central processing unit, or CPU. These chips are critical components that often are referred to as the “brains” of a computer.

According to the FTC complaint, Intel’s anticompetitive tactics were designed to put the brakes on superior competitive products that threatened its monopoly in the CPU microchip market. Over the last decade, this strategy has succeeded in maintaining the Intel monopoly at the expense of consumers, who have been denied access to potentially superior, non-Intel CPU chips and lower prices, the complaint states.

“Intel has engaged in a deliberate campaign to hamstring competitive threats to its monopoly,” said Richard A. Feinstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “It’s been running roughshod over the principles of fair play and the laws protecting competition on the merits. The Commission’s action today seeks to remedy the damage that Intel has done to competition, innovation, and, ultimately, the American consumer.”

this is a total load of horseshit. monopoly, mono, one. intel is far from being the ‘one’ microprocessor developer or manufacturer. what about amd, via, mips, arm, power, m68k, 6502, dragonball, powerpc, itanium, microblaze, pic, atmel, etc.? there are more arm cpus in the world than x86. one in just about every single cell phone, nintendo gba and two in ever ds. where’s the outrage?

the only monopoly here is that which the government artificially created… the intellectual property monopoly on the x86 architecture and related parts. amd and via and anyone else should be able to make an x86 compatible chip without intervention. what intel is being accused of is entirely legitimate, though sneaky. paying their customers or selling their product cheaper to them is by its nature competitive as is writing *their* own compiler to perform better on their chips (or the competitions worse) . and if they make exclusive or restrictive deals so what? that’s the customers decision. if they don’t like the conditions don’t sign the contract. use via or amd or arm.

the government has absolutely no business morally or authority constitutionally to interfere with voluntary business. if they got out of the business of creating cartels and monopolies there would be no need for them to break up supposed monopolies… which by the very definition of the word these conditions do not fit. allow real competition and empower the consumer.

Julian Heicklen’s 2009-11-23 FIJA outreach and arrest

Posted on November 23rd, 2009 by bile
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I arrived at he U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan at 11:45 am on Monday, November 23, 2009. The weather was cold and windy. I stood in the middle of the plaza in front of the courthouse.

I passed out 10 of the FIJA pamphlet entitled “True or False: Factual Information about Jury Service” along with my flyer (see below). At 12:10 pm three Homeland Security police officers approached me. I asked them to identify themselves, but they did not. Instead they asked me who I was. I responded that I did not have to identify myself, but that they did. One of them grabbed my arm and placed me under arrest. I fell to the ground and lay still on the cold ground for about 1/2 hour and said nothing. I was not handcuffed.

The police confiscated my ‘JURY INFO” sign and my pen, but not my remaining pamphlets. I was not issued a property receipt or a citation.

While on the ground, some individuals were taking pictures of me. They were informed by the police that they could not take pictures on federal property, but at least one of them continued. I do not know what happened to them. I overheard one of the police officers say that he saw my web site and himself on youtube.

Medics from the fire department arrived. They asked me questions, but I did not respond. They pounded on my chest and shoulders to try to get me to respond, but to no avail. Then they searched me for identification, which I do not carry. While doing this they put a 3-inch rip in my pants.

Soon an ambulance arrived, I was lifted onto a gurney, and placed in the ambulance. The ambulance attendants also punched me in the chest and shoulders to get me to talk, which did not work. They also gave me a medical exam.

I arrived at New York Downtown Hospital and was treated by 4 nurses, who stripped me naked and gave me the most thorough medical exam of my life. This included two intravenous injection, blood withdrawal, an electrocardiogram, stethoscope, blood pressure, pulse, eyes, and temperature. I was found to be in excellent health. However they did not give me a colorectal exam. Fortunately, my urologist had done that on November 11, 2009.

The nurses called two people listed in my cell phone to identify me, but they refused to identify me or themselves, as I had instructed them. Finally Dr. Cho came to see me at about 2:15 pm. I asked her if I was still under arrest. She said no and did not know why I asked. The hospital was told that the police found a man lying unconscious in the street. I talked to her, which greatly relieved everyone else. She tried to learn my identity, but I would not give it to her. I asked to be released, and she agreed.

The hospital wanted my name, address, and medical insurance information. I refused to give any information. I was released at 2:35 pm and signed the release form “John Galt.”

I was unable to make it today to record the event. I’m not sure if anyone else did but should it surface I will post it.

Arrested for filming the arrest of Julian Heicklen on federal property

Posted on November 9th, 2009 by bile
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This is the code under which I was arrested for this afternoon (2009-11-09) at approximately 12:30PM for saying that I do freelance work (for free, though I didn’t make that as clear as I could have) for Free Talk Live while filming the arrest of activist Julian Heicklen. Julian has been arrested the past three Monday’s for refusing to stop handing out FIJA information and brought to a mental hospital each time for unexplained reasons.

I was relaxing near a large stone statue perhaps 100 feet away when Mr. Heicklen entered into a rather large public area in front of the court house at 500 Pearl St. in Manhattan. After he was approached by police I walked up with my primary camera to record the conversation between the two officers (Sullivan and Musumeci) and Julian. I was asked by officer Sullivan (@2009.11.09 00:46:23 in the footage) “You got something to do?” which I replied that I was just observing. The officers ask Julian to leave, Julian offers me jury information and then refuses to leave or give officer Musumeci, who was doing the talking, his name. Musumeci then says “OK, lets call the boss.” and walks away. I took the information Julian handed me and then walked 20 to 30 feet away to the side of the area near a lamp post and read through the pamphlet.

After done reading the information (2009.11.09 01:10:19) I approached Mr. Heicklen again and performed a brief interview.

Right after the interview and a brief chat with Julian the officers approached us and I was asked by the arresting officer, C. Barnes #245, who I worked for and Julian informed them and me that I didn’t need to tell them. I step back from the immediate area of the arrest while filming.

After going through Julian’s belongings and then removing some of them from his person officer C. Barnes #245 approaches me and asks who I work for. Not aware of the statute above I said a news agency referring to Free Talk Live (which it’s not but “radio talk show” didn’t mediately come to mind) who informs it’s listeners to use them if questioned in such a manner. I’m then told of the statute and that I’m now under arrest for breaking it. I knew better. I should have stayed quiet. Never talk to the police. C. Barnes #245 gave me no real ability to explain my relationship with FTL and interrupted me as I attempted to explain. Officer Sullivan also spoke at the same time making it difficult to figure out what was going on or who to listen to especially when both had their hands on me. I was accused of not having a press card without them actually checking or asking for one.

My hands are placed behind my back, my camera taken by a plain clothed officer and officer C. Barnes #245 asks if I need to be cuffed. I say no and he tells me to sit on the flowerbed edge. He asks for a state ID. I tell him I don’t have one and ask if I’m required to carry one. He states that on federal property I must (can someone confirm or deny this?) and then threatens to take me to jail so to obtain fingerprints. Telling me that I’d be free in a few days when the results came back. Not wanting to sit in jail I offer him my Free Talk Live press badge which he accepts.

I sit down and check my cell phone to see the time. The plain clothed officer gives me grief for doing so asking to see the phone and to tell him what I just did with it. I inform him I just checked the time and he allows me to put it away. He then tells me I should have just stopped recording when I was asked. Officer C. Barnes #245 and I inform him that I was never asked to stop recording. After a moment I try to break the tension by commenting on the quality of the camera after seeing the plain clothed officer checking it out.

The citation is filled out and I am asked to sign the ticket but told I may refuse to do so. I should have asked the consequences for not doing so but it slipped my mind. After reading the ticket over I signed adding “under duress” at the end.

Then on to the camera. It’s being kept as evidence that I filmed and broke the above rule. At no time during this event was I asked to stop recording or was asked to show that I had in fact recorded anything. I also did not see the arresting officer confirm I had recorded anything. He was processing me and the plain clothed officer had the camera. At one point (@2009.11.09 01:20:00) the plain clothed officer opens the camera, turns it on and starts meddling with it. I ask what he’s looking for and he tells me I’m not permitted to record on federal property without permission which was obvious given I was just arrested for that. He then shuts the camera and tells me I couldn’t film the arrest and officers. I make the claim that there is nothing wrong with doing so and he gets snippy with me sarcastically asking me if I know the law. I ask him if he knows the law, the exact statutes, and he tells me not to worry about it and to sit down.

A man who noticed the going on stopped to witness what was going on and is asked to step back but otherwise left un-harassed.

At 2009.11.09 01:26:36 I ask C. Barnes #245 about the expected length of time between now and when I should expect a court date. After telling me 60 to 90 days I repeat in surprise the length and he says “It’s the federal government. What do you expect?”

A receipt is retrieved for C. Barnes #245 by the plain clothed officer for my camera and when told the camera is going to be held for evidence I ask if only the memory card could be since it’s a purely external flash based devices with no internal memory. C. Barnes #245 accepts that and the plain clothed officer starts to take out the card but then C. Barnes #245 instructs him to have me do it instead. C. Barnes #245 takes the chip and copies down the serial number on it’s back, gives me a copy of the receipt. He never had me sign it and it slipped my mind.

I ask the plain clothed officer for his information but he deflects the questions telling me he’s not really involved and I don’t need it. Given his snarky attitude I didn’t want to push it and left it be. I’m told at some point by C. Barnes #245 that had I been on the sidewalk I would have been fine though I’m not sure that’s true given my understanding of the statute above.

After everything was done regarding my arrest I walked over to Julian and the observer (later identified as Joel Kupferman, a lawyer and Executive Director of the New York Environmental & Justice Project.) We chatted about the situation for a few minutes and then parted ways.

Footage will be posted shortly. Note that the timestamps are incorrect. I was released by police and walked over to Julian and Joel at about 12:35PM meaning the arrests took place about 12:20PM.

Update:

Julian Heicklen’s account can be found here: http://blogofbile.com/2009/11/10/fija-demonstration-of-november-9-2009-by-julian-heicklen/

Footage here: http://blogofbile.com/2009/11/10/julian-heicklens-fija-outreach-2009-11-09-arrest-video/

AT&T suing members of LCD industry for price fixing

Posted on October 21st, 2009 by bile
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http://gizmodo.com/…

AT&T and the LCD industry make for strange courtfellows, but wait’ll you hear what for: AT&T claims that due to LCD price fixing by LG, Sharp and other, they’ve overpaid for 300 million handsets. Interestingly, they’re not thrilled about this.

Between a general leeriness towards AT&T and spectacularly huge numbers involved, the whole thing sounds a little conspiratorial. Thing is, the price-fixing definitely happened:

South Korea’s LG Display Co., Sharp Corp. and Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. agreed last November to pay $585 million in criminal fines in a U.S. Justice Department probe of illegally price fixing on LCDs used in flat-screen televisions, cellphones and other devices.

This lawsuit is less about AT&T proving that some of the biggest LCD manufacturers in the world have been gouging them (and in turn, their customers) than it is about getting some kind of compensation for said gouging, which has been driving up prices of phones for quite a while now.[WSJ]

Tough shit AT&T. If you didn’t think it was worth the asking price you wouldn’t have purchased the screens. This is just taking advantage of the situation.