Dan Bricklin's Web Site: www.bricklin.com
Open Access thoughts
Links to articles for discussion about crafting communications policy that will be good to foster innovation.
I'm involved in some discussions on crafting communications policy that will be good to foster innovation. I've been putting together some links for others to read. I decided to share some of that here on my web site. (Some of these come from recommendations by David Reed and Bob Frankston).
Bob Frankston has a draft of an essay called Comments on Open Access. He states:
This innovation takes place outside the network, at the end points. Unlike the traditional telecommunications industry which required that all parties within the infrastructure agree to a standard, this new infrastructure simply requires cooperation between two parties at the end points. And this is without the need to make a major capital investment in an special infrastructure for a single purpose.
The traditional telecommunications industry has provided the services itself and charged for their value. The IP Infrastructure allows anyone to create a service and charges only for the cost of transporting the packets.
Some specific writings come from Professor Jerry Saltzer (of MIT). He was one of my professors when I was at MIT and helped develop many basic concepts in computing, including some that influenced the Internet. He has made available his open access note and also the latest draft of a model cable license provisions for Internet access on the World Wide Web.
Similarly, Lawrence Lessig (Harvard Law professor) wrote an article "Architecting Innovation: The key to the Net's extraordinary innovation is that it doesn't allow a term like 'allow'" in The Industry Standard recently. He also has a filing/op-ed piece called "In the matter of the AT&T/MediaOne merger".
End-to-End Arguments in System Design
The classic End-to-End paper cited by Lessig and Saltzer is definitely worth reading. The principle it puts forth, called the end-to-end argument, suggests that functions placed at low levels of a system may be redundant or of little value when compared with the cost of providing them at that low level. (Examples discussed in the paper include bit error recovery, security using encryption, duplicate message suppression, recovery from system crashes, and delivery acknowledgment. Low level mechanisms to support these functions are justified only as performance enhancements.)
More specifically, this argument is used to call for simple pure connectivity without high-level features as a basic commodity on which to build systems like the Internet. As Saltzer points out:
Since 1975, when the architecture of the current Internet was laid out, the number of users has increased by nearly a millionfold; the power of computers has increased by 1000 times while their cost has dropped to one thousandth; the communications links that make up the network have increased in speed by a million times; and the Internet is being used in ways completely undreamed of at the time of its design. The primary thing that has made possible this remarkable evolution and adaptation is one simple design principle, called the End-to-End argument.
The End-to-End argument says "don't force any service, feature, or restriction on the customer; his application knows best what features it needs, and whether or not to provide those features itself."
Some people say that there is the danger of assuming that telecom companies need an "incentive gift" of a regulatory "barrier to entry" (rather than open access) to invest in deploying broadband Internet service. Businesspeople are easy targets for this rationale. We like to see other businesspeople succeed, and we tend not to see the hidden accounting issues that work in regulated industries to make it look like investments in innovation are unprofitable or risky.
In a related vein to get you thinking about the important accounting issues in the age of Moore's Law, here's an article on the problems of following the old methods of depreciation (and utilities are used to thinking in terms of depreciation). It gets at what happens to businesses that protect their linearly depreciating hardware by not keeping up with competition -- which is why old cable and phone systems are a target for the fiber/IP/software guys who can deliver much more interesting services at a miniscule fraction of the book value that old telecom companies carry on their books. It appeared in Context Magazine, entitled "Accounting in the Age of Moore's Law".
An approach to problem solving
As further background on non-wiring issues, there are two extra credit readings about the Domain Naming System from Bob Frankston. The first one is an attempt to try to separate out the technical problems that must be solved by DNS from the legal ones: DNS Safe Haven. This technique of making sure the technical problems' solutions are unbundled from the legal and political ones is something worth following. The second is an introduction to the history of the Domain Name System, IP addresses, and the scarcity problems for both. It's called Much Fuss About the DNS.
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