WiMAX HomeNets?

Olga Kharif of Business Week
says a company called Radiospire Networks makes chips for in-home WiMax networks.

Their chips, essentially, allow users to stream high-definition TV channels onto the home PC, or the other way around. So this technology competes with Ultra-Wideband and Wi-Fi, also looking for a place within the home.
Some people in the know say WiMax might actually be better than the other alternatives, since it has more bandwidth and can transmit higher-quality video. The Radiospire folks, apparently, believe the technology can be made relatively cheap to allow for mass adoption.
Considering how much effort the various UVB outfits have put into promoting their alternative, that’s hard to believe. But who knows, WiMax could come out of the left field and grab a chunk of the market that was expected to go to UWB and Wi-Fi. It’s certainly an interesting idea.

NSA’s Political Pickle

You pays your money and you takes your choice.

The Baltimore Sun reports the NSA spent six years and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to kick-start the Trailblazer datamining program, intended to help protect the United States against terrorism, that many experts say was doomed from the start.

The NSA initiative, which was designed to spot and analyze such hints, has resulted in little more than detailed schematic drawings filling almost an entire wall, according to intelligence experts familiar with the program.

After an estimated $1.2 billion in development costs, only a few isolated analytical and technical tools have been produced, said an intelligence expert with extensive knowledge of the program.
Trailblazer is “the biggest boondoggle going on now in the intelligence community,” said Matthew Aid, who has advised three recent federal commissions and panels that investigated the Sept. 11 intelligence failures…

“Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about.

This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al Qaeda.
We bring to bear all the technology we can to ensure that this is so. And if there were ever an anomaly, and we discovered that there had been an inadvertent intercept of a domestic-to-domestic call, that intercept would be destroyed and not reported. But the incident, what we call inadvertent collection, would be recorded and reported. But that’s a normal NSA procedure.
It’s been our procedure for the last quarter century. And as always, as we always do when dealing with U.S. person information, as I said earlier, U.S. identities are expunged when they’re not essential to understanding the intelligence value of any report. Again, that’s a normal NSA procedure.
So let me make this clear. When you’re talking to your daughter at state college, this program cannot intercept your conversations. And when she takes a semester abroad to complete her Arabic studies, this program will not intercept your communications.
Let me emphasize one more thing that this program is not — and, look, I know how hard it is to write a headline that’s accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three — accurate, short and grabbing. I don’t think domestic spying makes it.
One end of any call targeted under this program is always outside the United States”.

Then there’s the lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

EFF charges the company with allowing the NSA direct access to the phone and Internet communications passing over its network as part of President Bush’s administration’s domestic spying operation.

The suit also said the company gave the U.S. government unfettered access to its database containing more than 300 terabytes of caller information. The EFF said the database is regarded as one of the largest in the world.
“AT&T’s customers reasonably expect that their communications are private and have long trusted AT&T to follow the law and protect that privacy,” said Lee Tien, EFF senior staff attorney in a statement. “Unfortunately, AT&T has betrayed that trust. At the NSA’s request, AT&T eviscerated the legal safeguards required by Congress and the courts with a keystroke.”


Congress To Hear Net Neutrality Concerns

“I will bring the whole edifice down on their unworthy heads.”
– Richard Burton in The Medusa Touch

Congress will consider the question of net neutrality
Feb. 7 in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, as it attempts to update telecommunications laws, last updated in 1996. Telco critics are trying to maintain the equal access provisions.
Two telecom reform bills have been introduced that include net neutrality principles, but neither would prevent the kind of “walled garden” approach that telcos want, say industry observers. Light Reading says no existing laws define the responsibilities of the network operators with regard to carriage of competing IP services.
Currently Google video and Vonage depend on “best efforts” of telcos and cable companies when you pay your $40/month internet access bill. But RBOCs are pushing their own IP voice and video services. They say they want to provide a better quality of service (QOS) for their own applications. On Jan. 6, 2008, Verizon sheds the requirement to comply with “network neutrality” (for twisted pair). Same deal with ATT/SBC. Fiber plant may have different rules – telcos own it and run it. They control the horizontal. Thank the Supreme Court for that.
BellSouth might require a QOS “tier” to access Google Video (even if you’re paying for 5 Mbps service). Three of the four U.S. RBOCs — BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T have made public statements in favor of that approach.
SBC CEO Ed Whitacre said that allowing competing video content run unfettered over SBC networks is “nuts”. “We have to figure out who pays for this bigger and bigger IP network,” said Whitacre. “If someone wants to transmit a high quality service with no interruptions and ‘guaranteed this, guaranteed that’, they should be willing to pay for that,” he said.

Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said during his Consumer Electronics Show keynote: “We have to make sure they [services] don’t sit on our network and chew up our capacity.”

BellSouth CEO Duane Ackerman acknowledged the benefits of unique content but seemed to favor a mix of proprietary and non-proprietary offerings. “Unique content is going to be important, but taking this world…and making it easy for a mass market to do what they want to do when they want to do it is going to have a great deal of value.”

The phone companies’ networks that carry Net traffic around the U.S. are much like the highway system, explains Vint Cerf, who wrote that they may begin setting up the equivalent of tollbooths and express lanes, potentially discriminating against the traffic of other companies. Such moves, Cerf warned, “would do great damage to the Internet as we know it.”

AT&T/SBC and Verizon/MCI now own the choke points — controlling much of the long distance fiber networks in the United States. They intend to use it.Don’t look to Kevin Martin for leadership. It was Michael Copps, a Democrat, not Martin, who held up the SBC/AT&T merger to require “network neutrality”. But that “network neutrality” provision only lasts 3 years. “Our open and vibrant and freewheeling Internet is to me the last place on earth where we should tolerate gatekeeper control,” Copps said.

“The short term enforcement of network neutrality, and the absence of similar enforcement mechanisms for other telephone and cable companies, means that Internet service providers and applications developers can be undermined by anticompetitive practices of network owners.”

EarthLink’s Internet phone provides competition. Telcos don’t want it. They got muniwireless banned in some states through sycophantic legislators. Maybe they’ll do time behind their own “walled prison”.

Look. Different people have different points of view. But the case for muni networks just gets stronger.

Wireless Canon

Steve’s Digicam’s
reviews the $500 Canon PowerShot SD430 Wireless camera with built-in 802.11b.
The point and shooter (specs) features a 3X zoom, SD cards, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, and records 640×480 video at 30fps. The SD430 can be remotely operated wirelessly from a PC (Windows XP w/SP2 only).
Steve’s Digicam’s liked it (Engadet photo above)

I was very surprised at how well the SD430’s wireless system works. We had no problems connecting to our D-Link router to test the remote capture software as well as do some screen shots. Transferring your pictures is a snap and takes about 5 – 6 seconds to copy over a 5-megapixel image.

When using the included Canon Wireless Print Adapter, I was extremely impressed at how fast and easy it was to connect to our Canon PIXMA IP5000 printer. It only takes about 6 – 10 seconds for the camera to make a connection, depending on how far away you are.
The wireless camera competes with the $600, 4 megapixel Kodak EasyShare One (which now comes with the WiFi card) and two models of consumer Nikons; the $400, 5 megapixel Nikon P2 and the $500, 8 megapixel Nikon P1 (both have 3.5x optical zooms). PC World found the Coolpix P1 “extremely frustrating to operate as a wireless device“.
Only the $600, 4 Megapixel Kodak Easyshare, apparently, can operate as a webcam, sending photos direct to a webpage.
But cool your jets. The big Photo Marketing Association show runs February 26th through March 1st, in Orlando, Florida. Expect new WiFi camera announcements. Faster, cheaper, longer, better. And if I were rich, I’d buy Tony Pierce a Nikon D200 with a 18-200 mm VR zoom. Just because.

MetroFi Goes Free

, today announced it was dropping fees for wireless Internet access in Santa Clara and Cupertino, California. Now everything is free (with a banner ad).
The community LAN operator, which uses SkyPilot mesh gear, used to offer two choices; a $19.95/month, 1 Mbps wireless access service (without advertising), or a free 1 Mbps wireless access service (with a half-inch advertising strip at the top of their Web browser).

At roughly $20 per month for unlimited usage, a good percentage of that had to be devoted to the expensive tasks of billing and marketing. If MetroFi netted $2 per month per customer, that might be an optimistic rate. By that token, having ten times the users bringing in an average of 50 cents a month each in advertising should cover increased capital and recurring expenses while reducing staffing requirements.

MetroFi may also be angling for advantage in other municipal contests.The next big city cloud that will be awarded is likely to be Unwire Portland. MetroFi is one of three finalists bidding on the 134 square miles wireless “city cloud”. Only Wireless Philadelphia and San Francisco’s Unwired RFP compare in scale and complexity to Portland’s, says Portland Business Journal.
Philadelphia hired EarthLink, and is just beginning work on its network. San Francisco just issued its request for proposals last month.
It’s crunch time for Unwire Portland which narrowed the field from a total of 6 proposals last year. In Portland’s Request For Proposal, equal access to competing wireless ISPs would be required. The operator can be both a wholesaler and a retailer of internet access to end users (if they so choose).
The three finalists for Portland Unwired are:
Today, Kevin Yin of the city’s purchasing department, told DailyWireless that oral interviews have concluded and that a decision will be forthcoming, towards the end of February.After the Selection Committee Recommendation, in 3-6 weeks, the proposals will available for public inspection. Yin explained that before they are made available, proprietary financial information will be removed. Some people think that’s wrong. I don’t see what the big deal is.

DailyWireless is based in Portland and your editor, (Sam Churchill), considers Steven Schroedl, the founder of VeriLAN, a friend.
I haven’t seen any of the proposals and I don’t have much to go on. Schroedl did say he was bidding dual-radio Cisco mesh routers, and will act as a wholesaler, not a retailer. I’ve also read elsewhere that Earthlink has bid Tropos mesh gear with Motorola’s Canopy for backhaul while MetroFi is bidding their SkyPilot gear with a free advertising component (although I can’t be sure).
I like the wholesale model. It seems more open.