Angels on the Heads of Pins and Splitting Hairs: The Winding Roads to Common-Sense Results on Net Neutrality, and How to Find a More Direct Path
There is perhaps no communications policy issue that generates more inflamed rhetoric and tortured logic than net neutrality. Everyone is for an “open Internet,” but that’s because each stakeholder seems to have his or her own definition and desired outcome. The “open Internet” is the Rorschach test of communications policy – you see in it what you want.
A significant part of the problem is that the very underpinnings of communications law are tied up in unnecessarily tortured knots. There may be no federal agency more uncertain about its ability to utilize its core statutory mandate than the FCC; various parties have thrown enough regulatory grime up against the wall in the past decade that some of it has stuck and rendered some of the most basic principles of communications law nearly unenforceable. For example, a decade-long refusal to classify VoIP as just another voice service and intervening decisions to treat certain kinds of network transmission as something other than what they are—conveyance of data between points A and Z—has unfortunately rendered regulators all but passive watchers in some of the most important debates. In turn, unregulated entities refuse to complete calls, seek access to universal service dollars with limited accountability, and impose charges that—while not called “access charges”—are really nothing more than access charges imposed without any oversight or transparency.
The current net neutrality debate gives us a real chance to wipe clean the regulatory grime and for the FCC to reassert its authority without overreaching. We have an opportunity to stop making policy by counting angels on the heads of pins (e.g., where does a call get converted to IP?) and splitting hairs (e.g., does the nature of a transmission facility change based upon the data that cross it?). Communications law may be tied in knots, but the knots aren’t Gordian. They can be untied, but the key is making sure that the ways to do so aren’t so contrived or complex in themselves that we make things worse. Read more
Think of it as Netflix for intellectuals: Amazon last week introduced Kindle Unlimited, a $9.95 per month service that allows users unlimited access to more than 600,000 books on Kindle devices, as well as via free Kindle reading apps for iOS, Android and more.
In addition to print titles, the service will offer more than 2,000 audio books via Audible with Whispersync for Voice, which allows users to switch between reading and listening.
Amazon is offering prospective users a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited. The service is not limited to Amazon Prime customers, but rather to anyone with a Kindle device or app. Like Netflix, there will not be any due dates on materials accessed through the service.
Pew Research estimated that as of January 2014, some 50% of all Americans owned either a tablet or an e-book reader, or both.
“In addition to offering over 600,000 eBooks, Kindle Unlimited is also by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together,” said Russ Grandinetti, Kindle senior vice president. “With thousands of Whispersync for Voice-enabled audiobooks to choose from, you can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy.”
I’m somewhat fascinated with Tesla Motors. When it comes to electric-powered cars I often utter the time-honored complaint, “we can land a man on the moon but we can’t make a battery-powered car?” It seems to me that this should be possible by now. They also look cool, and while Tesla is an American company, I feel a bit odd wanting one of these cars; I was born in Detroit, after all.
Tesla has been selling electric vehicles that run on lithium-ion batteries since 2003. The current Model S starts at about $70,000. That’s a lot of money for a car with a limited range that has to be plugged in to be charged every 300 miles or so.
Recently, Tesla announced that they are working on the Model 3, which they hope to sell for about $35,000, starting in 2017. Still not cheap, but not a ton more than the Subaru Outback I bought last year. If they can get the price down to $35,000 by 2017, maybe a $25,000 model (my kind of price range) is not too far behind.
One big hurdle right now, in terms of bringing down the cost of a Tesla, is the production costs on the lithium-ion batteries. They can drive down the cost of the batteries by producing a large volume, and Tesla is working right now on finding a location for and building a “Gigafactory” that will increase the production of batteries for cars, solar panels and other devices.