09.19.10

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Microsoft Wants the Network, Starts White Space PR

Posted in Microsoft at 8:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Communication vs. communism

FCC logo

Summary: As companies compete over ‘white spaces’, the Microsoft marketing machine (or the “R&D” PR) kicks into high gear with eyes on the now-Microsoft-occupied FCC

With Microsoft employees in the FCC (Steven VanRoekel is its Managing Director) and some resultant issues, e.g. [1, 2], it is not shocking to see that Microsoft’s ‘white space’ experiments, which go back to FCC affairs from a couple of years ago, carry on this month and are being advertised, too [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] (lots more articles like that, maybe dozens). As one article puts it, “Microsoft is testing a new wireless hot spot that uses the airwaves previously reserved for television.”

“Would you trust Microsoft around suppressive regimes?”One has to look back a couple of years to understand the significance of this (our previous posts cover that). These control grabs are likely to be made easier by Microsoft veterans inside the FCC and as Microsoft's behaviour in Russia ought to teach, giving Microsoft control over communication is a path towards disaster. There are already devices in the mix and Murdoch’s press says that “Microsoft has already begun eyeing basic blueprints for white-spaces devices, however, which could include mobile phones and laptops.”

Should one trust Microsoft? How about spying for example (see this leaked Microsoft document)? Would you trust Microsoft around suppressive regimes?

“Microsoft Launches Massive Wireless Hotspot” says this headline which makes it sound like Microsoft is so sophisticated and unique (a lot of Microsoft boosters covered the Microsoft angle), but as other articles explained, there is more to it than Microsoft PR:

Technology companies plan to put unused wireless spectrum that sits between TV channels to use when the Federal Communications Commission finalizes rules for the new spectrum next week.

Companies such as Microsoft, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Motorola, are already testing products that will use unlicensed wireless spectrum called “white spaces,” which sit between broadcast TV channels.

So the story is not about Microsoft after all. Nice spin, though. Microsoft wants more power over people’s connectivity/broadcast.

“Since the birth of the Republic, the U.S. government has been in the business of handing out “exclusive rights” (a.k.a., monopolies) in order to “promote progress” or enable new markets of communication. Patents and copyrights accomplish the first goal; giving away slices of the airwaves serves the second. No one doubts that these monopolies are sometimes necessary to stimulate innovation. Hollywood could not survive without a copyright system; privately funded drug development won’t happen without patents. But if history has taught us anything, it is that special interests—the Disneys and Pfizers of the world—have become very good at clambering for more and more monopoly rights. Copyrights last almost a century now, and patents regulate “anything under the sun that is made by man,” as the Supreme Court has put it. This is the story of endless bloat, with each round of new monopolies met with a gluttonous demand for more.”

Lawrence Lessig in “Reboot the FCC”

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