Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Open ePolicy Group's Roadmap Drives Gov

Just saw this article in The Nation, one of Thailand's biggest newspapers. Apparently, the Open ePolicy Group's work is having real impact helping governments openize ICT ecosystems. Thailand will build its own national roadmap based on the Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems.

ODF Finds a New Taker

You knew it would happen eventually . . . and eventually is now. A second government agency is making the move to OpenDocument Format (ODF).

For the details, we go Down Under.

The National Archives of Australia will switch to ODF, as reported here.

Not surprising that ODF government adopter #2 is a public agency that is a data-intensive user. Preservation of public records is a major public interest, and national archives, like libraries, are natural leaders in the switch to ODF. For them, the business case is clear. Only ODF assures them the ability to archive documents in a format that will be accessible using tomorrow's software, whatever that might be.

Put simply, ODF guarantees the longevity of public records.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Net Neutrality: Coming to a Politician Near You

Net neutrality is fast becoming a political football in Washington. Today, Democrats in Congress hit back against a Republican-backed telecom bill for its failure to protect net neutrality.

Jay Inslee, a Congressman from Washington, put his finger right on the button:
The ones that get hurt are the young innovators, the garage innovators, the small-business innovators, the ones that have not achieved the great success of the Googles of the world.

So far, the only excuse offered by Republicans against net neutrality is that no good definition exists. Feeble. Especially since their bill would prevent the FCC from trying to develop a workable definition, or considering any regulations on net neutrality. That's more than feeble; it's disingenuous.

Worse, the people who will feel the pain are consumers and all those entrpreneurs out there creating innovative content who won't be able to afford those "premium" fees the cable companies will soon be charging for life in the fast lane.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Net Neutrality Hole

So, the battle over net neutrality is now joined in the U.S., as reported here.

The draft telecommunications legislation just released by the U.S. House Commerce Committee has opened a hole. And when it comes to laws, a hole is an invitation to fight. The only thing the legislation does is name the referee: the FCC.

The bill offers no rules or even principles about net neutrality, which is fine by telecom and cable companies. In their view, net neutrality is an answer in search of a problem, at best. And what they don't say is that they want the absolute right to divide up bandwidth to create new revenue streams by charging Internet content providers for "faster" delivery (i.e., loading) of the websites.

Here's my question: why was it a problem to state a simple principle of non-discrimination when it comes to Internet access? And then let the FCC enforce the principle based upon actual cases or anti-competitive activity.

Even that would have been a step forward from the situation today.

The FCC has issued a broad statement (available here) supporting competition among network, application, service and content providers. But it has not spoken with enough clarity to ensure the key to competition -- level playing fields. Worse, the FCC has no power to enforce this policy anyway. So, it's not only hopelessly vague, it's also toothless.

What do telecom and cable companies say? They pledge not to block any Internet content. Block. That hardly sounds comforting.

Every open ecosystem, including the Internet, rests on a few important principles, which include accessibility and non-discrimination. Unfortunately, I fear, these are exactly the "choke points" that telecoms and cable companies want to control. How? By controlling access to bandwidth and discriminating among content providers. To my mind, this sounds like it will have plainly anti-competitive effects on content providers, especially smaller Internet companies and individuals who create Web content.

I worry that the Internet will start to look like my cable TV -- expensive with few choices and limited content, compared to the Internet.

Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.

But is it crazy to worry about net neutrality?