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Comment: Re:Government picking favorites (Score 1) 25

by schnell (#46776887) Attached to: Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

Well, to begin with, if the big players want that bandwidth they'll just buy whoever buys it. Problem solved.

What if Sprint or T-Mobile buy that spectrum? AT&T already tried to buy T-Mobile and was shot down by the DOJ, so it's silly to think that the big two could buy either T-Mo or Sprint in order to get that spectrum. With set-asides, T-Mobile and Sprint are in effect having their cost of doing business being subsidized by taxpayers, which - depending on your view of competition in cellular - may or may not be worth your taxpayer dollar.

Comment: Re:Sale or lease? (Score 1) 25

by schnell (#46776869) Attached to: Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

Why isnt it for lease? Why arent the carriers paying something per year for the use of the spectrum?

Technically, it is a more like a very long term lease rather than a perpetual sale. Ultimately, those frequencies are still under the discretion of the FCC to allocate or revoke subject to certain conditions.

To answer your question about why carriers don't "rent" it annually, it's because there is an ecosystem around those frequencies that require huge multi-year investments. Let's say that you're carrier X and you just bought the rights to the LTE "C Block" frequencies. You need to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of LTE equipment that runs is the C Block, site your towers to match the RF propagation characteristics of that particular frequency band, have all your smartphone vendors that you commit to buy XXX millions of units from have their devices support that spectrum block, etc. etc. Every radio band that you add to a piece of tower equipment costs money, and adding additional bands to phones takes up motherboard space and adds extra costs, so on both sides there is a monetary cost to supporting additional spectrum bands.

If you could lose that spectrum next year to another bidder - you have literally spent hundreds of millions of $$$ on equipment and devices that are worthless to you - or, worse - are only worthwhile to customers who will use the network of your competitor who just bought that spectrum. If carriers could not lock up spectrum blocks long term, the uncertainty would mean that they would pay far, far less for it, so the government would extract far less money from them for that spectrum. So "selling" the spectrum under long-term leases means more $$$ for the government vs. trying to "rent" it year-to-year.

Comment: Re:at&t wasn't welcome anyway (Score 1) 25

by schnell (#46776819) Attached to: Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

instead of wannabe monopolists that have spectrum to spare

Here's the problem: the more customers you have, the more spectrum you need. If you have lots of spectrum today and continue to grow, then you will need more tomorrow. If Verizon and AT&T had more and enough to spare, do you think they would be lining up to shell out $X billions of dollars for this instead of improving next quarter's profits? Given Slashdot's consensus that all corporations are obsessed with short term returns, why would the mega-carriers be shelling out huge sums of cash that could otherwise be pocketed by shareholders or executives if they didn't actually need it?

The true situation is that all carriers, big or small, can use more spectrum to increase their LTE spectral efficiencies and decrease cost per bit/customer and increase capacity. It's an interesting quandary for the FCC. AT&T and Verizon can and will pay more for the spectrum to be auctioned. That means US taxpayers get more money, which is what is supposed to happen when the government is selling public airwaves. If the government reserves some of that spectrum for smaller carriers, it fosters competition at the cost of getting paid less for that spectrum than (by market demands) it should have - in effect, subsidizing the operations of these smaller carriers at the expense of taxpayers. Do you as a taxpayer want to in effect provide free profits to Sprint or T-Mobile's shareholders - even if you don't use those carriers - because you think it's good that they are around to provide more competition? That's the fascinating question that makes this debate interesting since it has no objectively correct answer: where is the right balance between taxpayer duty and fostering competition?

Comment: Re:Right! (Score 1) 578

by schnell (#46731467) Attached to: Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

A 50 year old coal miner should have been able to see at age 20 that the industry was fragile and in decline

I think there are degrees to this. If you wanted to get into typewriter repair in the 1980s, you were pretty clearly an idiot. But if you were getting into US auto manufacturing in 1965, with a sweet "for life" union job at high wages, at the time that seemed like a really safe bet - with no way to predict where that industry would be just 20 years later, let alone 40 at the end of your career.

If they were the kind of people who had the discipline and motivation to train for other jobs they wouldn't be stuck in the dead end job they have

I think that's a misperception common among white collar workers, that any blue collar job that was phased out was always a "dead end" job. For several decades in the US, there was a reasonable expectation that you could get a job in a steel mill, auto manufacturing plant, coal mine or whatever and you would be paid a living wage that increased ever so slightly each year with your seniority and you would eventually retire with a pension because you never contributed to an actual retirement savings plan. For my parents' generation - as amazing as it sounds to me - this was actually a workable plan for many people. In retrospect: mmanufacturing union wages have been WAY too high, economically speaking, for half a century; and defined benefit pensions have always been more or less a ponzu scheme. So, sadly, it was just a matter of time until those blue collar industries busted and shed their "living wage" blue collar jobs en masse. But, honestly, what high school graduate decades ago was supposed to figure that out when even leading economists hadn't?

It's easy to laugh at the dopes who were the last enrollees at buggy whip manufacturing school after the fact. It's not so easy to see it decades in advance when you were choosing your profession.

Comment: Re:Right! (Score 5, Insightful) 578

by schnell (#46726787) Attached to: Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

The problem is that we have many millions of people with NO useful skills

I think it's a little more accurate to say that we have millions of people with skills that were marketable when they started working but over their career lifetime those skills no longer became useful. I really do feel bad for these people because they didn't do anything "wrong" - the economy shifted under their feet and the profession that they expected to spend their lives in just happened to disappear. Imagine if tomorrow programming or IT became obsoleted - would you really want to start over from scratch in some other industry that you don't understand (or even like), especially if you're an old fogey like me? That's the harsh reality of what people have to do, but it doesn't make it any less painful.

It's also not quite fair to say they are "mostly untrainable" but there is definitely a limited subset of things that you can be retrained for with a high school education and a professional lifetime spent in blue collar jobs. The US economy - like that of most advanced industrial nations - has shifted over the last several decades to outsourcing blue collar jobs and increasingly retaining onshore only "knowledge worker" and white collar roles. And many of these people are not educationally (or potentially mentally) suited to the jobs that are still here, which puts a premium on figuring out "what are the still extant jobs that they can be retrained for?" To Bloomberg's point, that is a hard question and the technology industry is not a panacea.

Comment: Re:Level of public funding ? (Score 1) 290

by schnell (#46721857) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

If this is all he's got, I wouldn't even call him a science journalist. He's more like an op-ed columnist/author.

John Horgan is not a Fox News flat-earth Jebusite shill, he's an actual science reporter. I don't know the guy personally, but having read his book before, I know he respects and enjoys science. He just has a viewpoint that while "technology" (applied science) has a great runway of decades or centuries in front of it, pure basic research science may have run out of paradigm-shifting fundamental discoveries.

Agree with it or not, I think Horgan is valuable to science (and hence controversial in a good way) because he is not denying science or the scientific method, but instead saying that "science works so well that we have actually answered all the really big questions that we can currently answer." Science requires healthy skepticism, and I think that is what Horgan is providing with his critique not of science itself but of whether its golden days are in the past. Again, agree or disagree, I think it's fare for an interesting intellectual discussion.

Comment: Re:Level of public funding ? (Score 1) 290

by schnell (#46721553) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Anyone here think that the computer science revolution is anywhere close to being finished?

Horgan differentiates between "science" and "technology" which is defined as "applied science." Horgan argues that "technology" will continue advancing at a torrid pace for a long time to come. Even things like sustainable fusion reactors would be "technology" rather than "science" since it's an application of the principles of fusion previously discovered. It's his thesis though that pure, fundamental "science" has run out of true game-changing, paradigm-shift type discoveries.

Again, I am not supporting or disclaiming Horgan's thesis, but I am suggesting that it is an interesting topic worthy of discussion.

Comment: Re:Level of public funding ? (Score 3, Interesting) 290

by schnell (#46720725) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

I think this might have to do with the level of basic science funding (of course I don"t have any figures to back that)

That's not John Horgan's point. He is, by the way, a very controversial figure in science journalism (in a good way). Back in 1997, he wrote a fascinating book called The End of Science, the thesis of which was pretty much the same as this article. It examined a number of different sciences and reviewed the accumulated evidence that there were no more major league breakthroughs (a la relativity, quantum mechanics, the unraveling of the DNA double helix) to be found, and scientists henceforward would largely be fleshing out and clarifying the implications of the big discoveries of the past.

Scientists of all stripes, of course, immediately decried the book - if that belief gained traction it would kill the climate for future funding as well as killing most interest among future scientists from entering the field. But regardless of your perspective, it was a great book since it raised some interesting questions for discussion, and it's very very worth reading if you have any interest in science.

Long story short, Horgan's thesis isn't "oh noes we aren't funding basic research," it's more along the lines of "there is just nothing as huge to discover left, no matter how much money you pour onto it. That doesn't mean science isn't useful but you have to adjust your expectations not to expect any more great revolutions like have happened regularly from the 17th century through the 20th centuries." Many Slashdotters will reject that argument out of hand, but Horgan has done his homework enough that it's a compelling read and worth considering his point even if you disagree with it.

Comment: Re:Ah, Crony-Capitalism! (Score 1) 223

by schnell (#46684065) Attached to: Why There Are So Few ISP Start-Ups In the U.S.

Under Bush Jr. and Colin Powell's son appointed to head the FCC this was all rolled back. No more independent telco companies, no more independent ISPs.

Yes and no. There are still plenty of CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers)/independent ISPs out there. But their prominence has been diminished, partly because of the FCC and partly not.

The bad thing the FCC did was to exempt fiber or cable systems from line-sharing requirements. CLECs were chartered under the idea that "the copper TDM PSTN has been around forever, it's paid off, so the ILECs who maintain that copper infrastructure should have to wholesale it at reasonable rates." But the ILECs and big cable companies said (not unreasonably, BTW), in effect, "well, it will cost us $billions to roll out all-new fiber or coax infrastructure to every customer (a la FiOS) so you can't expect us to wholesale that out to other people because it will make the time for us to recoup the investment so long that we just won't bother." The FCC said, "Okay, we accept that logic, so non-TDM/copper infrastructure doesn't have to be shared." The problem was that you could be competitive as an ISP providing DSL over copper, but once higher-speed cable and fiber Internet service speeds badly outstripped DSL, there was just no market demand for DSL. So the market window for CLECs to provide competitive services if they didn't want to spend the money to roll out their own pipes gradually dried up."

The flip side, though, is that many of those CLECs were bubble companies at best, having been set up to exploit an assumed (in the late '90s, anyway) neverending surge in demand for home phone/fax lines, DSL subscriptions, etc. Many were poorly capitalized bubble-fed "me too" companies that had little chance of long term success ... and furthermore the recent "cord-cutting" trend in favor of mobiles would have killed off most of those guys anyway. There is, by the way, plenty of ability in the US to set up a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) using the cellular carriers' infrastructure and be your own cellular provider, which partly fulfills the CLEC vision.

So it's partly the government, and partly the CLEC/independent ISPs themselves. There are many still around, but usually because they have found a comfortable niche in an underserved geographic area where that business is sustainable instead of, for example, trying to go head to head with Verizon in the big cities.

Comment: Re:Freedom of Speech? (Score 1) 328

by schnell (#46667385) Attached to: Federal Bill Would Criminalize Revenge Porn Websites

you don't actually have to do anything, if you decide something is incompatible with the US Constitution.

Not trying to be obtuse but I don't understand this. If I decide that the Income Tax is incompatible with the constitution, am I no longer liable to pay it?

Very interested because if the answer is "yes" then I need to e-mail my accountant before April 15.

Comment: Re:Freedom of Speech? (Score 1) 328

by schnell (#46667359) Attached to: Federal Bill Would Criminalize Revenge Porn Websites

The problem here has nothing to do with whether or not we should condemn the concept of "revenge" porn, but rather, whether a website should bear liability for content posted by a third party.

Excellent point, but one that has been generally tested in the past under the DMCA "Safe Harbor" provisions. Generally speaking, this issue has only come to light in situations where a website was hosting copyright-infringing content posted by a user. The Safe Harbor provisions basically said "you aren't responsible for manually screening all content on your website, but if a user posts infringing material and the copyright owner sends you a 'DMCA takedown notice' then you must act swiftly to remove it." Obviously this process has been abused badly many times by content owners, but it has been the general model for websites: "you, website owner, aren't liable for user-posted content - but if someone tells you it's illegal, you have to quickly get rid of it."

Revenge porn, however, falls into a different category that necessitates a different legal approach. If you take a nude picture of someone with their knowledge - albeit with their understanding that you would not share it - and you post it online, you as the photographer own the copyright to it. So copyright infringement is no longer the issue, and whether a website has a responsibility to take it down is more of a gray area under current law which is copyright-driven.

I think all this is not aimed at legitimate user content-driven websites that inadvertently host "revenge porn" but rather to the sites that specifically traffic in it. According to some of the stories I have read, the business model of several of these sites basically amounted to blackmail wherein they posted the pics from users for free and hosted banner ads for viewers but most of their cash came from charging the women pictured therein $200+ a pop to remove them.

So while on a philosophical level it poses an interesting "slippery slope" argument, on a practical level I don't think it's aimed at "unknowing infringers" as the DMCA would put it, but rather at the sites which knowingly post it as part of their model and/or sites which are told about it but refuse to take it down. It's a fair argument to say that the implication is bad for its chilling effects, but in real world terms I don't think this is likely to be abused and will actually help real people.

Comment: Re:Warning Shot (Score 4, Insightful) 148

by schnell (#46650849) Attached to: Russian GLONASS Down For 12 Hours

If you dont think this is intentional then you are nuts

Of course it's intentional but not for the reason you think. The reason that Detroit, Trenton and (at least previously) DC were/are cesspools is because of the evil force known as democracy. The residents of those cities and states voted for crap politicians who drove their respective areas into the ground economically. Nobody from outside imposed Marion Barry or Kwame Kilpatrick onto their cities, and nobody had to nefariously conspire to make them suck, they did that perfectly well on their own. Externalities can hurt a city or state, but to get it into Detroit territory you have to actively keep making it worse on your own - and the residents of those areas have nobody but their own votes to thank for it.

Seriously... not EVERYTHING is a gubmint conspiracy. Sometimes it's just stupid people electing terrible leaders, and that's the downside of democracy that comes along with all the other good stuff. Ask the people of Venezuela how electing people who promise free goodies works out in the long run.

Comment: Re:Big Ugly Dishes (Score 4, Informative) 219

by schnell (#46633383) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Experiences With Free To Air Satellite TV?

I think people here (and throughout this thread) are conflating a few different things when they say "free TV." The following explanation is an oversimplification, but anyway...

In the US, back in the '70s and '80s, there was "free" satellite TV. The reason that it was free, though, is that you weren't supposed to have it. Big TV networks, HBO, ESPN, all those guys used analog C-band satellite transmissions to distribute their content to local TV affiliates and early cable TV providers. People discovered that if you bought your own analog C-band dish (the big 6+ footers) you could tap into those transmissions and watch them for free, and a cottage industry sprung up around getting people hooked into this feed. Note that it wasn't like "pay" satellite TV today where you point your dish at one satellite that gives you all the channels you subscribe to - you actually had to point your dish at different satellites to get different content feeds.

The content providers got upset about this and migrated to digital delivery, which could be encrypted. You could still buy de-scrambler gear for your home dish (not so legally) but for most people it was enough of a PITA that they just moved over to a paid cable TV service (whose reaches were growing in leaps and bounds then) or to one of the emerging paid satellite TV services, which sprang up to meet precisely this need. You still have DISH and DirecTV as the two main US paid satellite TV providers today, and they use higher frequencies than C-band (Ku or Ka) which enable those nice little .75m dishes you see everywhere today.

Elsewhere in the world, "Free To Air" TV has always had much more content. In my very limited experience, it's either state-funded TV like the BBC, or it's some other party that buys transponder space on a satellite and says "Okay, here it is for whoever wants to watch it." When travelling internationally I occasionally see ads for FTA TV, but it always seems to be creepy Phillipine megachurches or Al Jazeera wannabes that just can't get their content distributed any other way. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.