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Lessig On McCain's Technology Platform 156

Agthorr writes "Lawrence Lessig has created a video analyzing John McCain's recently released technology platform (available here). Lessig's video touches on broadband penetration, competition, and network neutrality." Note that while Lessig has come out as a supporter of Barack Obama, this video is not from the Obama campaign.
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Lessig On McCain's Technology Platform

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  • To sum it up... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @07:24PM (#24666149)

    McCain's has the foresight and intents (and motivations like "faith") of GWB. Not that Obama is a saviour, but let's try to minimize the severe damage the internet will suffer under either candidate (in America).

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, I support Max for President [maxforpresident.org]. He is the only President that I know of that has actually killed the Internet.

  • Is there a transcript?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kesuki ( 321456 )

      sadly those who have banned flash on their pcs can't access content that could have easily been done with 2-5 small images and a text based blog entry instead of making a 2 minute shockwave flash video and wasting everyone's bandwidth.

  • by Mumei no koshinuke ( 1110677 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @07:43PM (#24666321)
    Lessig says the only two issues at stake are broadband penetration and net neutrality. McCain will try to solve the broadband penetration "problem" by providing subsidies to the cable and telecom monopolies, and he will oppose net neutrality.

    Obviously Lessig would prefer to see more competition and open networks.

    Personally, I think the broadband penetration number ("our rank has fallen to #22") is a bit of a red herring because the US is far less densely populated than most other countries and thus perfect broadband penetration is not feasible. And while I'm all for net neutrality, that issue alone is not going to determine who I vote for.

    Despite the current lack of regulation I think I get a fairly fast, unrestricted Internet connection at a fairly low price. I think that as long as there are at least two providers available in any locality the market will force reasonable prices and net neutrality.

    • by bersl2 ( 689221 )

      And I'm sure if he'd thought you'd listen to more than 16 minutes, he'd have made a more complex argument.

      • And I'm sure if he'd thought you'd listen to more than 16 minutes, he'd have made a more complex argument.

        I see: Longer arguments == more intelligent. Got you.

        Penetration - that's all I want to hear.

        Lessig! Who the hell does he think he is making a clear and concise argument in only 16 minutes! Geeze! He could have made a completely obfuscated, overly complex, and important sounding argument that would last an hour! Or more! But I hear you. Long arguments are for intelligent and boring people but more important! If you can say it in 16 minutes, you can say it in in 160 minutes - and it'll be more intelligen

        • by bersl2 ( 689221 )

          It also has to do with the media he is using.

          One of the things you're supposed to do with speeches---and that was most definitely a speech---is to keep the point of the speech simple. Another thing you're supposed to do is to be very redundant with the point you're trying to make: say that you're going to say it, say it, and say that you said it. He did both of these things.

    • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @07:55PM (#24666475)

      Personally, I think the broadband penetration number ("our rank has fallen to #22") is a bit of a red herring because the US is far less densely populated than most other countries and thus perfect broadband penetration is not feasible.

      Lower population density may mean that universal broadband access isn't as profitable for commercial vendors as it might be otherwise (ditto with access to electricity, running water, telephone service, mail, etc.), but it certainly does not mean it is not feasible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Foofoobar ( 318279 )
        This is a good argument for selling the 'last mile' to consumers. Some companies are looking into selling the last mile to consumers or smaller communities that way they do not have to pay for the cost. This also would make a much better argument for net neutrality in consumers and communities owned the last mile.
        • Not to mention the benefits to competition.
          When the last-mile is no longer owned by monopolies we may get decent competition.

          • That would depend in the costs to implement it. If it costs me $2,000 to hook into a $45 a month service that is no better then Time Warner's $60 a month service, it would take me 133 months before I ever start seeing a saving. BTW, that's about 11 years so if something more advanced comes along, I might have to pay again to get the better tech.

            • If it costs me $2,000 to hook into a $45 a month service that is no better then Time Warner's $60 a month service

              True, but that's not how the numbers work out.

              I think it is fair to say that about $25 dollars of any DSL or cable service is going to the physical system.
              (I would love to see more data on this, anyone who knows please speak up. Bell canada charges independent ISPs $27 to use their DSL system)
              That leaves $5 to $35 for IP service. That makes sense if you look at the wholesale price of bandwidth.

              • While I will admit that my number might be a little off because I made them up, and my longevity concerns might be overblown but I think yours might have some issues too.

                First, Your seemingly promoting an interconnect situation where you become your own ISP. That would cost a substantial amount more then the $2000 I initially started with as your would now need to track your own routing tables and DNS. Second, the charges to independent ISPs for line ussage, at least in America, is supposed to be the actual

                • Rights of way really are a big problem.
                  The situation is also highly variable from town to town because it is a municipal government responsibility.
                  There are federal rules forcing the municipalities to allow the phone/cable/gas companies access but no global rule requiring easy access for things like customer owner fiber. If the power or phone company 'owns' the rights of way or the poles they could be a big problem.
                  Some municipalities require 'fair/open' access to the poles/rightsofway which would be the

                  • That sound very interesting. I wasn't aware that there was an actual pilot project that went beyond talk. I'm going to have to find out more about it.

                    On a side note, I'm imagining that the lines running into the neighborhood will be able to accommodate the houses that haven't signed up yet, at a future date. I'm wondering how this is reconciled if after everything is done and payed for, I decide I wanted in. Obviously chargeing what you paid would be nothing but pure profit but charging less wouldn't be fai

                    • I'm imagining that the lines running into the neighborhood will be able to accommodate the houses that haven't signed up yet, at a future date.

                      Ya, that's a good point I'll see if I can find out what the plan is for that.

                      As for capacity, the trunk line has something like 400 fiber pairs in it and each home will get its own pair running all the way back to the datacentre.
                      So there is no sharing of bandwidth until you reach the actual ISP network switches. At that point it will be up to the ISPs to decide how

        • This is a good argument for selling the 'last mile' to consumers. Some companies are looking into selling the last mile to consumers or smaller communities that way they do not have to pay for the cost.

          But if they do that, what if some nearby communities put a direct line between their networks ? That way they might communicate with each other - great for BitTorrent or shared news or mail servers, for example - without paying the company ! That's clearly communism !

          This also would make a much better argume

          • and...? Your point? Wait are you saying a network for the people by the people (much like a nation for the people by the people) is Unamerican???
      • by kriss ( 4837 )

        In a way true, but you'd be stuck with one of two scenarios really: Quick and expensive (nice last-mile solution) or Not-so-quick and inexpensive (cheap last-mile solution). Or quick-and-exposed-to-competition-hopefully-meaning-inexpensive (municipality owned access network w. nice last-mile solution), but they seem to get sued left and right for some reason, which is a pity.

    • Lovely... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > McCain will try to solve the broadband penetration "problem" by providing subsidies to the cable and telecom monopolies

      Great. So regulation to protect Net Neutrality by preventing people from making an open market closed is bad, but giving tax money to monopolies is good?

      As for broadband rank, I would like to point out that the Nordic countries do find in spite of having lower densities than we do. Also, if you look at coverage, it's concentrated in the rich areas.

      I'm in the _middle_ of the 5th large

      • It sounds like you are pretty far from any CO. You are in range for IDSL but not regular ADSL. To be at that range you must be pretty far out. There are benefits and drawbacks to anywhere you live. You dont have to deal with as much congestion and people are but you don't get easy broadband. If its not a worthy tradeoff then move.

      • by Abreu ( 173023 )

        Darn, you really are screwed!

        I live in Mexico City and my broadband is better and cheaper than yours...

        (of course, computer hardware is more expensive, but well...)

    • by thanatos_x ( 1086171 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @08:12PM (#24666639)

      Allow me to elaborate on the broadband issue. If you look at average and top speeds available in NYC, LA, Chicago, or any other major city, you'll find that they are 2-5 times slower than the average available to the whole country of Japan, South Korea, France and Sweeden.

      The fastest speeds you can currently get from Verizon (via FiOS) are 50/20 (down/up), for which you'll pay $145 a month. This is below the average of what you'd get in the above countries, and I'm almost certain it costs 25-33% of the above rate.

      A more reasonable 20/20 or 20/5 costs 70 or 57. The bottom line is that IF you can get the service, you'll pay 3-6 times the cost per mbps as you would in another country. One could argue that markup is to pay for further penetration, but eh... we're still well behind in internet speeds even in our metro areas.

      To my knowledge Verizon offers the fastest service plans available for residential access, and I'm guessing their $/mbps is competitive as well. I'm glad that they're at least offering a 20/20 or a 50/20 package, but don't kid yourself - we're still pretty far behind in our coverage.

      • by yuna49 ( 905461 )

        I have a 20/5 business FiOS account. I have yet to visit any server (other than speed testing sites) that can saturate my connnection. I can reach 1+ Mbyte/sec download speeds with well-populated torrents, but that's still far below my 20 Mbit download speed. I could upgrade to higher speeds, but what difference would it actually make in practice?

        • by mariushm ( 1022195 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @09:13PM (#24667165)

          I have cable 20/2 Internet connection, and I'm in Romania (a small country in Europe with neighbors Hungary and Bulgaria for people with less knowledge of geography).

          Inside the country, I can max the connection anytime, full 20mbps. Outside the country, the speeds are on average 13-14mbps.

          This is the result of heavy competition between two ISP that bought almost all the small ISP companies in the country.

          Also, no bandwidth caps and it costs about 20 dollars. Bundled with cable TV (576p, about 55 channels) the total cost is 40$.

          For an additional 10$ a month, the company can give me a set top box that takes digital tv out of the same cable (still 576p but digital up to the set top box so crystal clear. HD is still in testing in the country).

          About two years ago, for the same price I would have received 2mbps download, 256kbps upload.

          So what I'm trying to say is that it's quite possible to saturate your connection, if I can for example by downloading two linux iso's from two different servers in my country.

          It's your provider that doesn't invest enough to have the backbone capable of handling the speeds.

      • Japan, South Korea, France and Sweeden.
        Seriously? those countries are either technology obsessed or quasi-socialist. as another pointed out:
        "Lower population density may mean that universal broadband access isn't as profitable for commercial vendors as it might be otherwise (ditto with access to electricity, running water, telephone service, mail, etc.), but it certainly does not mean it is not feasible."
        How about you back up your claim with a list of government spending on broadband. TANSTAFL, The cos
        • by thanatos_x ( 1086171 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:22PM (#24667709)

          I attempted to compare apples to apples. The population density in NYC or LA has to be greater than the population density of any of those countries outside their cities. Nowhere did I mention our average broadband speed, which even in the best of states is under 5 mbps IIRC. I didn't mention the average (under 3 mpbs), and I certainly didn't mention Alaska (under 1 mpbs)

          Now an above poster mentions that a former USSR country (Romania) gets 10-15 times faster actual download speeds (20/2) than a 20/5 person in the US, and pays 1/3 as much.

          As for your argument about density - Romania's average density is 236/sq mi. There are 11 US states with a density greater than that, according to wikipedia.

          In my opinion (not to disparage Romania at all), but when a country that was under Communist control until 20 years ago has better internet speeds for 1/3 the price of the US, it should be entirely unacceptable.

          Since you like economics, you should know duopolies (which are what most local ISPs are) and oligopolies (nationwide ISPs) don't allocate resources efficiently in many cases and reduce consumer surplus.

          I'm also pretty sure U.S. telecoms have been given subsidies and/or tax breaks in return for guarantees on broadband penetration and speed. For the most part, telecoms are years behind where they promised to be if they got said subsidies.

          If there's anything else you have a question about, let me know.

          • In my opinion (not to disparage Romania at all), but when a country that was under Communist control until 20 years ago has better internet speeds for 1/3 the price of the US, it should be entirely unacceptable.

            Why? Thats what i was asking, What are the costs? Sure a former soviet country has better internet then U.S.. Government subsidy's excel at this kind of thing. But the cost the end user pays is not the total cost of creation when subsidy is involved. What are the true cost of producing this internet? I'd bet you its way more then what it is in the U.S.. And what is the market desire? If they produce it more cheaply and abundantly then what is actually needed you have tons of resources going to wast.

            Monop

            • You're right. I'm sure that being in the USSR started with much better internet than us because of being communist.

              It was the fact that their grocery stores were entirely unstocked that was the reason they failed. That when people came to America they wept the first time they saw one of our grocery stores, of just seeing row after row of food - they thought it was impossible for that to happen, and yet here it was, all over the country.

              I assure you their infrastructure was horrible in 1989. I'm also guessin

              • Your neglecting the fact that almost all broadband access in the US is a dual use connection that works as something else. Romania had to invest in their infrastructure in order to be competitive with western markets and unlike the US, they had the luxury of installing something better from the start. Now in the US, we are replacing the infrastructure and improving it all the time but the shear amounts of it is very taxing compared to a company one quarter the size if that. But upgrading the infrastructure

            • by Abreu ( 173023 )

              Ok, I'll bite.

              I live in Mexico (very far away from the Soviet area of influence) and I have several options available for broadband here (3 phone companies and 1 cable tv company)

              My cable provider gives me 1.5 Mbps internet, plus phone service (w/unlimited local calls) and 230 channels of digital cable for $64.85USD a month total (at today's exchange rate)

        • by fbjon ( 692006 )
          So your government doesn't spend on high-speed penetration, and companies don't spend either. What's your point?
      • my goodness, how terrible that must be for you...

        unlike us here in australia where in a capital city it's not possible to get faster than 24/8 for less than $100.00 a month -and- with horribly restrictive download limits of 20-40gb!

        and this is supposed to be a 1st world country... it's shamefull.

    • Population density (Score:5, Insightful)

      by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @08:15PM (#24666681)

      Personally, I think the broadband penetration number ("our rank has fallen to #22") is a bit of a red herring because the US is far less densely populated than most other countries and thus perfect broadband penetration is not feasible. And while I'm all for net neutrality, that issue alone is not going to determine who I vote for.

      Was the USA more densely populated eight years ago?

      I'll point out that Arizona is more urban than the Netherlands. Almost all of Arizona's population lives in major urban areas; the Netherlands has a higher net population density but a much higher percentage of their population lives in nonurban villages.

      This is by way of saying that population density is a red herring, because broadband penetration is measured by people, not square miles. The USA's ranking isn't being driven down by the lack of broadband on the Yuma Proving Grounds or the Plains of St. Augustin.

      • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

        Interesting bit of selective statistics. Arizona is a desert state, where there isn't much point to living outside of a city. Its not very representitive of the US as a whole. We have far more agricultural states, where near universal coverage is more of a problem.

        Now let's see what Wikipedia has to say about your figures for the Netherlands:

        However, municipality sizes alone do not reflect the degree of urbanisation in the Netherlands comprehensively. Many of the larger Dutch cities are the cores of a signi

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @08:26PM (#24666807) Journal
      The trouble with the "less densely populated" argument is that even in wealthy and thickly settled areas our broadband is expensive and crap. It would, I agree, be wholly unrealistic to whine about how rural Idaho has internet access that would make Tokyo cry. Obviously so. The fact that even in major metropolitan areas, we face an effective duopoly; both options fairly lousy, is not at all unrealistic to be upset about.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by natedubbya ( 645990 )

      by providing subsidies to the cable and telecom monopolies

      Not quite. What McCain proposes is tax cuts to these areas to spur development. Lessig, of course, calls them subsidies. A subsidy is very different from a tax cut. Of course, one shouldn't be surprised that Lessig makes this confusion as his political leanings tend to assume that tax money originates and belongs to the government, not the originating source of the income. The word subsidy also makes it sound like McCain wants to fill evil tel

      • A subsidy is very different from a tax cut. Of course, one shouldn't be surprised that Lessig makes this confusion as his political leanings...

        Lessig first refers to them as tax cuts; he obviously is not "confused" about the distinction, he quite deliberately equates tax cuts with subsidies, and the end result of a selective tax cut and a subsidy (assuming the subsidy is not larger than the amount taxed) is the same thing, as you well know.

        If you don't see the distinction ... imagine calling a decrease in y

    • by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <wrosecrans@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:18PM (#24667665) Homepage

      Personally, I think the broadband penetration number ("our rank has fallen to #22") is a bit of a red herring because the US is far less densely populated than most other countries and thus perfect broadband penetration is not feasible. And while I'm all for net neutrality, that issue alone is not going to determine who I vote for.

      Yeah, population density explains it. That's why a typical Canadian broadband connection is faster that a typical broadband connection in the US (or any particular part of the US, regardless of population density.)

      Looking at the post from the fellow in Romania, I think it's interesting that HDTV is normal here is the US, but basically doesn't exist in Romania, while the reverse is true for fast Internet. It's not a matter of technology level, or wealth. It's just a matter of priorities. Romania invested in a key enabling technology that has impacts in education, the economy, and individual political empowerment. The US invested in American Idol with extra pixels. And, this makes me sad. I know we could do better, and I just don't understand why we as a society choose not to.

    • by fbjon ( 692006 )

      Personally, I think the broadband penetration number ("our rank has fallen to #22") is a bit of a red herring because the US is far less densely populated than most other countries and thus perfect broadband penetration is not feasible.

      No. There's countries with much less density and far better penetration, even in rural areas.

    • Personally, I think the broadband penetration number ("our rank has fallen to #22") is a bit of a red herring because the US is far less densely populated than most other countries and thus perfect broadband penetration is not feasible.

      That's the biggest problem here in the USA--people forget that given the population density if western Europe, Japan and South Korea, there are enough customers per square hectare of area that telecoms can afford the exorbitant cost of wiring up everyone to ADSL, cable or fib

  • In court, we require people to testify in person, and if they cannot for some good reason, we take a video deposition and show that. This is because we want the jury to see the person, to be better able to judge from their demeanor whether or not to believe them. Witnesses often have a strong incentive to lie, so this is important.

    What are the chances Lessig is going to lie about his position on McCain's platform? Seems pretty damned low to me--I think we could trust him if a textual form of his analysis

    • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *

      > So why present this in a cumbersome video format?

      Welcome to the 21st Century. Text is dead, video is everything.

      Litteracy in written English will be as common as basic arithmetic skills are now in another generation or so. The pocket calculator did in math, the mouse and cameras on everything will do in writing.

  • by andy1307 ( 656570 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:58PM (#24668027)
    John McCain [johnmccain.com] has a comprehensive economic plan that will create millions of good American jobs, ensure our nation's energy security, get the government's budget and spending practices in order, and bring relief to American consumers. Click to learn how the McCain Economic Plan will help bring reform, prosperity and peace to America.
  • Lessig is a hack (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scudsucker ( 17617 )

    I lost all respect for Lessig when he described the opposition to telecom immunity as "leftist hysteria" [lessig.org]. It's like if Richard Stallman suddenly called opposition to DRM the work of "Linux zealots".

    • Except that's not what your linked article says at all. Lessig is talking about the hysteria over Obama's reaction to the FISA bill.

      For instance:

      This is not an easy task. I don't know, for example, how I personally would have made the call. I certainly think immunity for telcos is wrong. I especially think it wrong to forgive campaign contributing telco companies for violating the law while sending soldiers to jail for violating the law. But I also think the FISA bill (excepting the immunity provision) was

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