Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why the FCC can’t protect Internet Users

A response to a letter to the editor by Michael J Copps
In today’s Washington Post Michael J Copps, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, lays out his argument about why the FCC does not but should have jurisdiction with “protecting” the internet.
Below is my respectful response:

Mr. Copps,

In your letter in the post this morning your state, “Now is the time to put broadband back under Title II, where it belongs -- and under which many smaller companies continue to offer Internet access to the public.”  You further state that the Verizon-Google plan that the Post endorses, “creates a  two-tiered Internet at the expense of the open Internet we now have…”

The internet, as it exists right now, already has in place a number of offerings that provide advantage to some providers that others may find it difficult to replicate.  I will only use one example.  Google (and others such as Hulu, Netflix, etc.) have begun to deploy massive replicator servers that they are placing throughout the internet in order to provide their content at a closer physical location to the user. This creates an advantage for them as it means that users have fewer routers to flow through in order to deliver their content to the end user. 

To many, this is a good thing because it means that the the user experience delivered by those content providers who can afford to replicate their server content on a massive scale will have a better user experience.  This means that the little guy you are trying to protect, will have a tougher time competing against those who can afford this type of replication.  This has nothing to do with the way that traffic gets delivered, it simply takes advantage of the laws of physics and the fact that the fewer routers a stream of data must flow through to be delivered to the user, the more likely it will be delivered in a manner that is acceptable to the end user.

Google (and others) are doing this because they can afford it.  However, smaller content providers may be squeezed out in the process because if they can not afford the same level of replication, their content will have to travel a much longer route and “bang up” against a higher number of routers, any which of them could be a potential “choke” point.  What is fair about that?

What if an internet service provider were to offer a service that would allow a content provider to affordably deliver their traffic with a higher priority?  This would provide smaller content providers with another means of competing with the big content providers without having to purchase server space all over geographically. 

Your present position on so called net neutrality would deny smaller content providers with that option.  They would be forced to compete with the only weapon presently available, content replication.

Here is my point.  The present system is already unfair and tilted to the existing content providers in a way that has nothing to do with so called net neutrality. Traffic such as video, on the internet is growing at a geometric pace.  This traffic is very sensitive to delays and packet loss.  Your proposed policy provides only one way to manage this dilemma which the large content providers are already exploiting.  Denying internet service providers with a different means of managing the traffic may jeopardize the very thing you are trying to protect.  Because providing smaller content providers a way to expedite their traffic across the internet could be a less expensive and more powerful way of leveling the playing field with the large content providers.

Please reconsider your position.  As it stands right now, your present stand, protects the content providers already in place and denies smaller, less well financed providers, with a more cost effective mechanism with which they might complete.

Let Freedom Ring

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Walt Mossberg Claims AT&T Microcell can Improve Cellular Reception and Reliability

Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg in his recent Personal Technology column had mostly positive comments about AT&T’s Microcell as well as several other offerings from Sprint and Verizon. 

His bottom line:  “Overall, I can only firmly recommend the MircoCell for situations where coverage is virtually nil, you are willing to spend an extra $150, and you can locate it in a way that works. If you just want to improve a spotty signal, or a few weak areas in your house, you might be disappointed.” W. Mossberg

In a review of the comments posted with this article, many users pointed to a mostly positive experience both in setup and use.  A few had frustrating experiences, but many reported that this has helped them to obtain good coverage in their homes where little or none had existed before.

There were a few misconceptions.  First, it does not need to be located next to a window.    This is only for the initial setup so that it can obtain a gps location signal or to triangulate with existing cell towers.  Once that has happened, it can be moved to a more convenient location.  Secondly, it will work with dsl provided you have more than 384 kb/s downstream and 128 kb/s upstream.

I offered one comment to a business owner who was frustrated with the charges for the AT&T Microcell for his business.  My response was:  I  am empathetic to your challenge. Believe me, as an AT&T employee who has worked in the business enterprise division, I have heard your request on more than one occasion. I had a customer who was desperate for a solution within their data center that could not get a signal from any carrier due to the shielding in the data center. Having a reliable signal in their center was important for security and disaster recovery.

What we would have given for a business grade solution like this. I can tell you that in meetings with our Microcell product managers I have heard them state that having a business grade solution is a priority. However, there are challenges in deploying these solutions due to spectrum license and capacity issues.

Meeting the demands of a business with multiple users and the need for simnplicity in deployment make a Microcell solution challenging.
Still, I am told this is a priority. i suggest you follow up with your AT&T account manager, let them know of your interest. Hopefully, when a solution is finally released, you can take advantage of it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is it time to Completely Deregulate the Local Phone Service?

Headlines from the past year…

Almost all of us take for granted much of the services and features that are being incorporated into mobile phone devices at a pace that is dizzying.  Whether you are a iPhone fanatic or Droid disciple, you appreciate the dizzying introduction of apps and other services to your hand held device.  We take for granted features like call forwarding and voice mail as “of course” services.

Have you ever wondered why more is not done with a mainstay of the twentieth century the home phone?  Why is it, for example that our mobile phones become increasingly powerful and sophisticated but at the same time the traditional phone is little different than it was 25 years ago?

This was brought home to me in a personal way recently when I tried to add something as simple as call forwarding to my Verizon home phone.  Currently I subscribe to a Verizon FIOS triple play with phone, internet, and tv in the bundle.  When I inquired about adding call forwarding to my service, I was told, that will be $5.99 extra per month.  $5.99 extra???????  Isn’t there a bundle that offers that I politely inquired.  No was the response.  This is not part of the “package”.  This got me thinking, why in heavens name doesn’t Verizon offer this as a package?

Welcome to the world of regulation.

Let’s compare and contrast what a service provider must do to turn on a feature like “call forwarding” on a mobile device and a traditional land phone.

Traditional Land Line
Because land phones are regulated at both the federal and more completely at the state level, they must prepare and deliver to regulatory boards filings that describe services offered and the list prices that will be charged.  If they want to reduce the price, they must file paperwork.  If they want to offer a discount, they must set forth the specific circumstances in which those discounts would apply.  So a phone company must:
  • prepare documents (not a trivial task),
  • file them with several different state regulators,
  • get approval from each of them
before making any changes to an offer.  All of this must be done within the existing (and outdated) definition of what the phone service is.  That definition makes any significant change to what is offered, including handsets and how the service is delivered, costly and difficult.  Even adding something as simple as “call-forwarding” is something of a sisyphus task.

Mobile Line
Compare that with what must be done to introduce call forwarding in the mobile world.
  • The company builds call forwarding into the network
  • Turns on the capability in the devices
  • Announces it to its customers.
Now you tell me, if you were a phone company.  Where would you invest your resources and concentrate your innovation?  The ultra-regulated world of traditional phone services, where it takes an act of the gods to offer something as simple as call forwarding or mobility where competition drives innovation and services are deployed with minimal regulatory regard?

Our legislators are going regulation crazy!  You know, train wrecks may be fascinating to watch, but ultimately destructive and hurt a bunch of people. If we don’t change, a train wreck is where we are headed.  We must slow this train down before it goes off the rails or we may end up like Harrison Ford in “the Fugitive” running for our lives to avoid a runaway locomotive.

Not only should we not regulate the internet, we should tear down the regulations that hold the traditional land line phones stuck in the twentieth century while the rest of the world zips by.

Let Freedom Ring

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How AT&T Saved My Presentation

I have noted in my profile that I work for AT&T, so that I am proud of my company should come as no surprise.  However, now and then something happens that makes me especially proud and this past week, I had one of those experiences.

Last Thursday, I was working from my home office when we experienced a particularly nasty storm here in my home town near Alexandria, Virginia.  The storm tied up traffic with my wife and daughter taking hours to get home when it usually takes about 45 minutes, even with crazy beltway traffic.

As I was sitting here, I saw the lights flicker and eventually go out.  Yes, I had lost power.  The problem was, I was getting ready to present a live webinar to managers all across the world.  Without power, I would have had to rely on someone else or cancel the presentation.  At that moment, the fact that I not only worked for AT&T, but had AT&T service came in very handy.

I popped in my wireless card into my laptop, fired it up, got connected to our fastest in the industry 3G network, fired up my iPhone to connect to the call, and connected to our AT&T Connect web meeting platform.  My Dell computer had plenty of juice, so I was good to go.

Connecting to the network was simple and easy.  I had good speed and latency.  Download was 3.9mb/s Upload was 1.78 mb/s and latency was an acceptable 167 ms.  So the connection was fast, reliable and steady.  I then uploaded my 2mb file to the AT&T Connect platform and at 4PM welcomed my participants to the webmeeting.  All went well, even when the AT&T Connect had a bit of a hiccup.  One of the participants became the presenter momentarily and since I had given the presentation before, we kept on rolling without missing a beat.  I then reentered, took back control and finished the meeting on-time.

Without this, my group would have been clueless as to what happened to me and we would have had to cancel, then re-schedule the presentation. This kept everyone up, running and productive.

Once again, this incident reaffirmed for me why I am so proud of our terrific network.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Results Oriented or Time Oriented. What Type of Manager Are You?

One of my colleagues at AT&T, Susan D Rodgers, had a very thought provoking entry she shared with her community.  I thought this to contain many great idea for consideration so am offering a condensed version here with a link to her original source material.

Susan writes....
Over the weekend, I found a blog piece on The App Gap site, written by Celine Roque back in 2008, which talks about results-oriented versus time-oriented workplaces. Time-oriented workplaces have their roots in the Industrial Era, when it was important to put in your 8 hour day at a specific factory location so you could punch out a pre-defined number of widgets. You were a cog in a bigger wheel and everyone had to be present and working on the line in order for the wheel to turn. But managing the work by “time spent” is not as effective for managing knowledge work, which is really better suited to a “results-oriented” approach. Some of her observations on the differences between time-oriented and results-oriented workplaces are:
  • Time-Oriented You are seen as diligent if you are the first one in the office and the last one out of the office.
  • Results-Oriented: It’s not about when you arrive and when you leave, it’s about what you accomplish during your stay – no matter how long or short it is.
  • Time-Oriented: Let’s have long, regular meetings so we know we’re discussing things in depth.
  • Results-Oriented: Let’s have meetings only when necessary, and make them as short as possible.
View the full article here: http://www.theappgap.com/is-your-workplace-results-oriented-or-time-oriented.html

Another dimension to this discussion is whether the work is “place-oriented”, e.g. how important is the location of the work to accomplishing the job? In a “results-oriented” workplace, location can often be irrelevant; it’s about how you work and the results you achieve that are important. Here are some of those differences:

  • Place-Oriented: It’s important for the supervisor to “see” the work as its being done in order to effectively manage it.
  • Results-Oriented: Managing by results means the supervisor and the employee don’t have to be in the same room, or even in the same city.
  • Place-Oriented: The tools and equipment used in the job are only available at the specific company location; therefore, your presence at that location is required.
  • Results-Oriented: Since knowledge work is all about the handling and creating of information, the tools and resources required for the job are available through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), meaning, you can do your job from nearly anywhere.

Thanks to AT&T’s enabling technologies and our results-oriented management practices, I could argue that most of AT&T’s knowledge work is location independent – meaning, work that can be effectively accomplished from a variety of different locations.

So, how would you describe your job? Place-Centric or Location Independent?

My own commentary back was:

Thanks for this thought provoking piece on how we best consider the work environment. I have met and worked for sales managers who were both. Those that were place oriented often insisted that their sales staff be in their cubes at a specified time, then schedule meetings to "kick-off" the day. At times, they would have wrap up meetings at the end of the day, some would insist that the rep come back to check in with the office.

Other managers basically take a 'I don't care how you work your day as long as you deliver results on time'. Each of these extremes have their proponents and detractors.

Personally I have been both over my career and have adopted an "It depends" attitude of which works best. When things are working with a team that is generally delivering results, I tend toward the Results Oriented approach, while when people are not delivering results, I tend to be more prescriptive in my approach with boundaries, face time and timetables.

This is what has worked for me. I would be interested to see what other (sales) managers are doing and what works for them. Any thoughts out there?