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.

Note that I'm currently writing shorter transient posts on Facebook as "Bob Frankston" with public access. I may create a file with links to some of them if there is interest.

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The best way to link to a document is as http://rmf.vc/keyword.

By default only the most recent posts are shown, to see:
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.

Spectrum as Farmland? 10-May-2009 (Updated: 10-Mar-2014 PDFI can understand why the idea of spectrum auctions are so attractive to economists. But is it good policy? Is spectrum really like "40 acres and a mule"? Spectrum is not dirt.
Re: [BarryDGold@ca.rr.com: Re: AT&T Asks FCC to Kill Conventional (POTS) Phone Service] 31-Dec-2009 Let's make a deal. If ATT gives up their copper I'd be glad to convert it to infrasttructure.
Re: Why Apple Can't Kill Cable 23-Dec-2009 And let's remember the conflict of interest in the current idea of content providers own their, not our, infrastructure.
Re: Why Apple Can't Kill Cable 23-Dec-2009 Let's not forget that cable pricing is a small part of a larger picture.
Re: AT&T defender switches sides 20-Dec-2009 ATT closed a loophole. Let's not focus on details and ignore the larger picture.
FiOS – a Reality Check 15-Dec-2009 PDFPeople still find magic in fiber. Judging by my FiOS experience fiber is nice but so is Coax. Let's not be blinded by the light and recognize the problem of putting old line companies continuing to build upon business models that are at odds with the Internet. You can also read a prettier version on CircleID
Re: CDT (Leslie Harris) Op-Ed on "Three Strikes" Internet Laws 06-Dec-2009 What does it mean to be banned from the Internet?
Re: Television's Money Complaints - 2009 and 1974 06-Dec-2009 In the 60's TV was just TV. Today it is transport and content.
Re: Some thoughts on Google Public DNS from David Ulevitch OpenDNS founder 03-Dec-2009 If we care about critical infrastructure let’s not forget the DNS is a source of designed-in failure.
Comcast's Data Usage Meter is far from benign 01-Dec-2009 Measuring "broadband" usage begs the question. We shouldn't be surprised in seeing the status quo confirmed rather than challenged.
Erik Cecil:Moving beyond "neutrality" 27-Nov-2009 Conversation with Erik Cecil on escape from the false dichotomy of Network Neuetrality:Yes or No
Background Audio on Web Sites 27-Nov-2009 Web pages not seen should not be heard.
Re: Comcast/NBC Merger would pose new challenges for FCC 27-Nov-2009 Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal is a sign that industry is moving faster that the FCC in recognize bit transport is not a viable business in its own right.
Today's peering system is a perverse tax on innovation 12-Nov-2009 Today's system of settling accounts among network service providers creates a maze of twisted passages which deny us simple and abundant connetivity.
Identity give-away 04-Nov-2009 The banks blame identity theft on the victims. We mustn't accept this -- the responsibility is with the institutions which should work to earn our trust. Instead they seem complicit in giving way our "identity". I'm particulary annoyed at Bank of America's practices.
Purpose vs.. Discovery and the Internet as a dynamic 03-Nov-2009 I wrote this essay in response to all those who are trying to manage the Internet in order to assure their favorite applications work. In doing so they threaten the very dynamic that has made the Internet what it is.
Untethering and new connections 01-Nov-2009 Once we start thinking about dependencies on the cloud we should also think about other implicit dependencies and limitations. For example why must I have line of sight to a satellite to find my location.
bit.ly vs. China? 19-Oct-2009 Small URLs are a problematic point of failure
What About the Right to be Connected? 21-Sep-2009 (Updated: 16-Oct-2009 PDFConnectivity via the postal service is a basic right. Today electronic connectivity plays that role and is even more vital.
IPV6 Failure as a Market Success 09-Oct-2009 PDFIPV6 advocates blame the "market"for failing to transition to the new protocol.Perhaps the market recognizes it is too little for too much effort.
The Myth of Isochronous and the Risk of Baking-in the Past. 04-Oct-2009 PDFToo much of the discussion about network issues presumes constraints that aren't necessary and favor the past over the future.
Re: "Entry level pricing" as social policy v2 02-Oct-2009 We need to avoid confusing large providers with small ISPs.
Re: "Entry level pricing" as social policy v2 02-Oct-2009 When we look at prices for "broadband" we should look at cost per user. Getting friends to join us reduces the price, getting everyone to join ...
Ambient Connectivity: An Introduction 27-Sep-2009 📹 (video) “Ambient Connectivity” is the ability to assume connectivity anywhere and anytime. It's the result of having an infrastructure that facilitates our ability to communicate
Re: Turning Research into Inventions and Jobs - BusinessWeek 21-Sep-2009 Encouraing entrepreneurship and innovation is good.But I worry when the purpose of the university seems to be to maximize the endowment.
Re: Internet still reshaping history 07-Sep-2009 The ARPANET and the Internet are different but then the Internet from the 80's is different from today's.
Future of the Internet and How to not Disable It 04-Sep-2009 The ITIF may have inadvertently made a case for reinventing the Internet
IPhone Users Love the Device, but Hate Its Slowness - NYTimes.com 03-Sep-2009 Let's try to understand the cellular system more before we jump to conclusions about apparent performance issues.
Mistranslating Broadband 02-Sep-2009 PDFWe are mistranslating "The Internet" as "broadband".
Robert Fano film 01-Sep-2009 The idea of information sharing goes back decades.
That Darn Internet -- questions with an attitude 31-Aug-2009 If we are to have a real discussion rather than posturing we need to decompose the problem.
We need to put the lie to the just-so stories that carrier networks are "the Internet" 30-Aug-2009 I wrote this in a response to a discussion thread on NNSquad claiming that the Internet depends on some bits being more special than others.
Defining Broadband 27-Aug-2009 Comments submitted in response to the FCC request for how to define broadband.
Re: BT NGN runs into difficulty 26-Aug-2009 Next generation networks attempt to move value back into the network and are in conflict with the dynamic of the Internet.
Re: H.R. 3458, Rep. Markey's third bill proposing to DEregulate the Internet 25-Aug-2009 As I read it this bill, in effect, deregulates the Internet by freeing it from the strictures of telecom. It is a step in the right direction.
Re: H.R. 3458, Rep. Markey's third bill to stop telecom from mismanaging our basic infrastructure. 25-Aug-2009 Responses to some of the standard objections to separating infrastructure from services.
Re: Setting the price of a free press 22-Aug-2009 Before we try to save newspapers we need to think a bit about what journalism is.
Re: Apple FCC response WELL WORTH READING 21-Aug-2009 Apple:Think different is not an option.
Cellular history -- Past and Perfect - but what about the future? 19-Aug-2009 More about the accidental history of "cellular" and why need to move ahead to generic connectivity.
Re: Hacker-run GSM network vs the current hack we call cellular 19-Aug-2009 Today's cellular phone system is fragile and more of a hack then a well-designed system ...
Hub to get early look at next-level Web link ... AKA, the past all over again 13-Aug-2009 I've been excited about "3G" so I was surprised to realize how annoyed I was at "4G" -- another generation of being captive to providers.
Re: The Case Against [FOR] Apple - Hush-A-Phone revisited 10-Aug-2009 Apple's effort to manage the user experience are very remiscent of ATT's Hush-A-Phone policy half a century ago.
Re: FCC Announces Senior Staff for Development of National Broadband Plan 08-Aug-2009 The problem with the FCC is not so much whether the individual appointees are capable, the problem is in the defining premises of the FCC.
QR Codes 02-Aug-2009 http://frankston.com/?name=IPQRCodesQR Codes are a way of encoding text that can be read by apps on devices such as iPhones and the Android without requiring third party services.
The Internet Story 23-Jul-2009 PDFThe Internet is a wonderful story but we confuse it with the old story of telecom. In my talk about GlueCon I dig beneath the surface to understand how the two stories differ.
Zero Marginal Cost! 16-Jul-2009 PDFThere is essentially no ongoing cost to running an existing wire as DSL or lighting up a fiber at higher speed. Imagine if we could take advantage of the abundance inherent in our physical infrastructure!
Post-Telecom Connectivity WIll Spur Innovation 15-Jul-2009 Short video on how the future beyond telecom.
Re: WSJ TECHNOLOGY ALERT: Justice Dept. Launches Informal Review of U.S. Telecom Industry 06-Jul-2009 We'll see if this is about the symptoms or an opportunity to address the inherent dysfunctions in the industry.
Is telecom contributing to climate change? 03-Jul-2009 As if we didn't have enough problems with today's telecom -- there is an energy cost to staying within silos.
ICANN – moving on from the DNS 02-Jul-2009 ICANN seem makes it difficult to move ahead. See DNS Failed to better understand why today's DNS is a failed idea.
DNS – A Failed Idea 02-Jul-2009 PDFWhy today's DNS is a failed idea.
Opportunity for Innovation 30-Jun-2009 PDFWe need to look beyond the simplistic notion that "innovation" is what drives our economy and understand the importance of opportunity as a prerequisite.
Re: TV Anywhere Gets A Boost: Paging Christine Varney! (and Jon Lebowitz and, eventually, Julius Genachowski) 24-Jun-2009 You have to wonder what the cable industry is thinking when they wrest back control of content that has escaped their grasp. It's as if they feel the market owes them something.
Cell phones are tools of the establishment 23-Jun-2009 As much as we are excited about the potential for the new technologies let's not lose sight of the fact that they are designed to follow established rules of 19th century telecom.
Re: The iPhone 3G S (I have never been less excited djf) 12-Jun-2009 We should have transparency - carrier funding of cell phones should be explicit.
Re: It's the Internet Stupid 07-Jun-2009 As we shift the funding model from services to intrastructure current networking practices will become moot.
Pipes – The Dumber the Better 03-Jun-2009 (Updated: 04-Jun-2009 PDFThe carriers fear becoming "dumb-pipes". We must seize the moment to transition to a post-telecom economy.
Policy beyond the potholes 01-Jun-2009 One of the more mindless arguments against connectivity as infrastructure is that cities can't fix potholes. This is childish at best. Instead we should be asking why we are denied access to the "dumb pipes" we need.
Re: Local forums to Implement High-speed Broadband 24-May-2009 PDFOpen government is not necessarily serviced by empahsize speed over infrastructure. It's hard to build apps when you have to negotiate the path.
Re: Apple's iPhone Channels the Prudes -- "Pick a Little, Talk a Little!" 23-May-2009 Another reminder of the dangers of forcing corporations to take responsibility for your services.
Phone tax on a wifi 22-May-2009 Another reminder of how difficult it is to recycle old companies -- so we are we trying so hard to prevent the birth of new industries based on connectivity?
The Broadband Internet? 26-Jan-2009 (Updated: 20-May-2009 PDF Achieving Simple Connectivity.
We ask for more "Internet" but it gets lost in translation from "broadband". We're so inured to the difficulty of getting connected that few people even realize the importance of making connectivity simple. We should be able to assume we are connected everywhere without having to make deals with every provider. Today's telecom is all about billing and not about empowering us. We need to make sure that our demand for broadband doesn't get lost in the 19th century idea of telecom. We can achieve connectivity with our existing resources -- we needn't settle for more of the same.
Re: Cisco: Smart grid will eclipse size of Internet 19-May-2009 Is the "Smart Grid" really about all the new opportunities to sell expensive gear?
Re: WashPost on Death of TV by Internet (no mention of bandwidth caps, natch) 17-May-2009 Another sign that television industry is moving away from "cable" and "OTA".
Re: Stricter rules regarding use of middle/maiden name on airline tickets 15-May-2009 It's troubling that policy makers seem to think that a person's name can be a simple unique identifier.
Re: British libel law strikes again 10-May-2009 What happens if we can't call nonsense nonsense?
Shovel-ready broadband stimulus 08-May-2009 Economists are Plato's children living in their ideal world. Be cautious about letting them define our reality.
Re: New Kindle DX introduced - is bigger better? 07-May-2009 The Kindle is a very clever design but clever has its limits.
All networks are not considered equal 07-May-2009 One if by Wi-Fi, Zero if by 3G? Path-dependency vs neutrality.
Licensed vs. Unlicensed Wireless Spectrum and Plato's Children 07-May-2009 We need to stop thinking in terms of telecom and think in terms of the resources locked up in the value chain of Regulatorium-defined services. Trillions of dollars in value were created by liberating IBM's hardware by decoupling it from software. The Internet has demonstrated that we can apply this to connectivity. So do we keep slipping back into the outdated and outmoded language of "telecom'?
The Economic Crisis and its Implications for the Science of Economics 06-May-2009 Much of economics appears to be about trying to predict the future even though it is inherently unpredictable. Instead we need to work with that dynamic instead of trying to outsmart it. We need to embrace the nuance and sharp distinctions I call "digital". We'd rather see nice analog lines trends than accepting the digital discontinuities.
ICANN: Billions for the DNS and not a penny for stability 06-May-2009 ICANN seems to be in the business of creating artificial scarcity rather than assuring the Internet functions over the long term.
Re: Op-Ed Contributor - End the University as We Know It - NYTimes.com 29-Apr-2009 While the department boundaries at universities may be problematic it's not likely that increasing top-down management is a better solution.
The Internet: Everyday Magic 14-Apr-2009 We're so used to working with ideas that we forget that we are accomplish real results simply by manipulating abstractions. Why can't we accept that the Internet is about an idea and not the fiber and other physical objects?
Cost (price!) of 1 gig - and other tales of structural corruption 14-Apr-2009 Byte caps are another consequences of charging for bits or minutes or other measures that are most valuable when scarce. They are accounting fictions and don't even reflect an underlying reality! We need a structural solution to a structural problem.
Telecom: A Prison of Our Own Devise 10-Apr-2009 PDFBy using physical metaphors for telecom we create our own limits and scarcity. The Internet is an idea and not just fiber and radios that we use to express the idea.
Re: Thousands cut off from phone service (land AND cell) 09-Apr-2009 Is failure due to someone who cuts a fiber or due to a policy that creates the vulnerabilities?
Re: How the Internet got its rules 08-Apr-2009 The success of the IETF may owe more to technology than sociology.
Twitter vs Telecom and the RIAA vs Newspapers. 05-Apr-2009 We need to be careful about our metaphors. High-speed is about HD not twitter and the Internet. If we care about intellectual property shouldn't we worry more about newspapers than music?
Register.com suffers further DOS attack 03-Apr-2009 Another reminder that we need to look beyond the DNS if we are to have a resilient Internet.
Hedges and Perpetual Motion 01-Apr-2009 The origins of our financial crisis may be as much in naïveté as malevolence.
Reflecting on regulations and markets and (cyber)security 01-Apr-2009 Let's not confuse simplistic notions of markets and "good" with the complexities of real markets and business.
Walgreens pricing vs Telecom Pricing 22-Mar-2009 It's useful to compare two different kind of markets to better understand why the concept of telecom is problematic.
Shuffling Markets – Coupling/Decoupling 14-Mar-2009 PDFIt's useful to compare two different kind of markets to better understand why the concept of telecom is problematic.(also see the previous post
Re: User sues AT&T after $5000+ bill for exceeding 5 GB bandwidth cap 03-Mar-2009 Companies have wide latitude in pricing but are limited by market forces and people's expectations. Why do we get the pricing anomolies in telecom?
Re: Credit card #s plucked out of air at FL Best Buy 02-Mar-2009 Again we have a story of "identity theft" but we need to look deeper to understand what is really happening.
DPI -- Protecting the past from the future 01-Mar-2009 The idea that we can distinguish between good uses and bad uses of networks isnot just naive but dangerous
Indirect vs Direct 28-Feb-2009 Information science challenges our distinction between direct and indirect action.
The (Kindle) Value Chain 27-Feb-2009 Authors are worried about losing control if they permit the kindle to read books. A mothers going to have to pay a royalty if they read to their children?
25 Years after ATTv1 -- it's not good vs evil -- it's Telecom vs the Internet 27-Feb-2009 25 years ago ATT was the telecom industry. Today's telecom is structurally similar to that version of ATT. The lesson of divestiture is that he industry can reconfigure itself. We now must apply the real lesson so we can communicate without having to petition the king be it ATT or today's telecom.
Re: Proposed data retention law WAS Republicans propose data retention laws etc 23-Feb-2009 Once again we see legislation that is technically naive with the potential to do great harm in its attempt to protect us from those bad people.
Lies .. Verizon FiOS Follies and destructive competition and SVC! 19-Feb-2009 We confuse broadband competition with Internet competition even as new protocols like SVC make it clear that owning private video networks is costly and foolish.
Re: The slow convergence of Internet and TVs 16-Feb-2009 Once again we get a confused story about the Internet vs TV as if the two were comparable rather than TV being just another application over the Internet.
A Fine Way to Run a Railroad but not an Internet 07-Sep-2007 (Updated: 14-Feb-2009 We tend to find ourselves trapped by bad metaphors. The Internet has had such a transformational effect because it has given us the opportunity to create our own solutions by doing our own networking. But we continue to act as if the Internet were a railroad with finite capacity and we must pay others to do our networking for us -- even if that creates a fundamental conflict of interest. We are forced to become dependent upon broadband. The Internet grew rapidly in the US because we could use the phone network as a transport without paying a premium to stay online. Riding the broadband railroad puts an end to that and leaves us firmly dependent upon companies that exist only in the fictional world of the Regulatorium. It's as if instead of enacting antitrust laws we handed the economy over to the robber barons 100 years ago.
Re: CNN's use of "Octoshape" slips live video P2P into users' PCs 05-Feb-2009 Once again we're being warned against using up the Internet and violating the conditions of our bandwidth bondage.
Verizon Deep-Fries VoiceWing 04-Feb-2009 Another reminder of how weak the carriers' business models are as they retreat from the present into the past
Ensuring Effective Broadband Stimulus — Analysis of Draft Economic Stimulus Legislation 26-Jan-2009 There are indeed issues with reducing "broadband stimulus" to practice but we need to setp back before we get lost in the details.
In-flight confrontations can lead to charges defined as terrorism 24-Jan-2009 A reminder of the danger of PatriotAct mission creep.
FCC Probes Comcast's Phone Practices - NYTimes.com 21-Jan-2009 Another reminder that we have a structural problem.
The Carriers are trying to take back control of the home network 19-Jan-2009 Connectivity begins at home -- and the carriers want back in.
Our world may be a giant hologram -- scientifically inclined friends. What's goin' on here? Not much 18-Jan-2009 We need to beware of settling for mysticism and filing to find the true wonder in our universe.
Our world may be a giant hologram -- scientifically inclined friends. What's goin' on here? DIGITAL! 17-Jan-2009 I've long argued that the universe must be fundamentally digital. Perhaps this is some sort of confirmation?
Fiber Showdown Tests the Viability of “Telecom”. 05-Jan-2009 PDFAs Verizon and ATT start to compete head on we need to wonder about wether the business model can survive real competition?
Bob Frankston
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