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January 25, 2008

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I've only heard rumors of the numbers, but it's a lot.

Exhibit A: AT&T and Verizon's assets and revenues are obscene.

Exhibit B: They own the entire internet.

(1) Net Neutrality. The telcos' interest in net neutrality issue dwarfs everyone else with the exception of a few large content providers like Google (if then), who -- in the worst case -- they'll just buy off with the promise of an exemption.

(2) FISA exemption. Let's face it -- except for Senator Dodd, we have no ammo on the retroactive immunity issue. No one has a financial interest going the other way. The telcos have zillions on the line.

Furthermore, losing on the immunity issue would be dangerous for them on the net neutrality issue too (once people make the connection that deep-packet-inspection is the basis for both). As a result, all of the big institutional players are aligned on both issues and have all the more motivation to buy off the content providers on net neutrality to get a pass on immunity. (See Exhibit D.)

Exhibit C: We haven't been winning on either issue -- the telcos just haven't been in a rush. The only reason we haven't seen much movement until now is that AT&T had to commit to net neutrality as part of their merger deal, but that deal runs out at the end of 2008. There's already been an enormous amount of activity here in just the first three weeks of the year as they gear up for the moment the chains come off in 2009.

Exhibit D: I'd like to see the lobbying numbers too, but at the end of the day I don't feel that they'd tell the whole story, or even all that much of it. There are a lot of non-cash issues here as well, e.g.:

(1) All the relevant regulators are old telco guys, especially the standards committees; they're either part of the inner circle, don't understand the issues, or both: consequently, either tiered/overage service (a la TW in Beaumont right now) or filtered service (a la AT&T's new test runs) will eventually get through and probably be called "net neutrality."

(2) The FCC Commissioners are 100% in the telco's pockets, esp. Martin.

(3) The DoJ is behind the telcos like nobody's business, probably because they want to preserve their CALEA capabilities (which is the thing that made the FCC reverse-course on net neutrality in the first place). See, e.g., the recent report about the financial importance of a non-neutral system (because financial issues are exactly what the DoJ is most qualified to deal with... or maybe they just didn't think it'd go over well if they said 'we want to keep spying').

Exhibit E: Even if there's no retroactive-immunity provision for the telcos, I'm still not convinced that a suit would even be all that effective. There's still plenty of other shields, most notably CALEA, which basically legalized a lot of monitoring some time ago. Even if the issue gets to court, there are a whole lot of barriers in the way, and all of the telcos, AT&T especially, have very, very, very good legal teams.

I have to admit that I don't see a lot of light at the end of this particular tunnel, pub.

--As to the fact that some of the Committee Dems voted the other way, I wouldn't put much stock in that one way or the other, either. I'm sure you know as well as I do that the telco lobbies are perfectly willing to let the Committee members vote how they want in the Senate (so long as nothing gets passed) if they toe the line in Committee. That's how these things have worked since the Sunshine Act, on every Committee.

I'll make a somewhat rash statement.

I'm willing to risk the Democratic majority in either the Senate or the House to throw these sorry assed bums out.

I'm sure that some of these folks will have primary challenges. I'm going to find out who, and give money to the challenger.

Nelson, Pryor, and Rockefeller also voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act in 2006.

Nelson, Pryor, and Rockefeller also voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment.

There's nothing magic about a (D) after your name. It's about the votes.

Kick one or two of them out and the others will get the picture.

Thanks -

It's just absolutely sickening to see, in such blatant terms, what money can buy you in politics.

I have to wonder what it will take for these politicians to be afraid of the voters again.

Also, here is the direct link to that diagram of the Internet backbones. (Warning: 1.1MB PDF; also the coolest diagram you'll ever see.) Red and Blue are Verizon and AT&T.

--Incidentally, I have it on good authority from an inside source that this diagram is on the 'big board' in at least of AT&T's 'war rooms' (their words).

adam - that's a great graphic. i'm partially color-blind. are the wide goldish (or maybe green) circles Level 3? or is that qwest?

another question -- am i right the longer a line is, the more significant it is (e.g., are the long verizon/AT&T lines trans-ocean, or at least transnational).

I ask b/c I'm giving a paper presentation soon and backbones are part of it (I'm going back and forth, but I'll probably post the SSRN link of hte paper here for feedback).

Publius, if you view the map in Safari 3, you can search for things like "level3" or "qwest" and see the every instance hilighted in a nicely readable fashion. Level 3 is a subset of the green portions of the network ("other backbones") that is clustered around the upper middle of the chart, and Qwest is in yellow just slightly to the right of the center of the chart.

the publiuses are firefox people, but could be convinced otherwise :)

-but thx

adam - that's a great graphic. i'm partially color-blind. are the wide goldish (or maybe green) circles Level 3? or is that qwest?

Those big dense circles appear to be Canadian hubs, and frankly I have no idea why they look like that :)

As for the other colors, if you can see them: red is Verizon; blue is AT&T; yellow is Qwest; green is the other big ISPs (Level3, etc.); black is the cable companies and I think Sprint; grey is everyone else.

another question -- am i right the longer a line is, the more significant it is (e.g., are the long verizon/AT&T lines trans-ocean, or at least transnational).

It's actually pretty much non-geographic, but it's weighted, so the long lines just tend to be the ones connecting the really big hubs, interconnect points, etc. E.g., that really big one in the middle is Verizon's NYC hub.

The key is to zoom in and look at the text labels on the nodes; most of them include the owner and something indicating the location. If you do a little visualization, you can kind of work out the physical structure of all the ISP's networks.

It's pretty interesting to look at who controls what parts of the country (e.g. Qwest and Level3 are much bigger in the center of the US, whereas AT&T and Verizon pretty much own the coasts), as well as who has to interconnect with who to get transit to the other networks. (I used this chart to do some predictions on the 700MhZ auction about a month ago, based on who's able to get middle-mile services where.)

(Also, in order to decode the tags it helps to know some of the ownership changes; e.g., all the alter.net nodes belong to Verizon now. It seems like the UUNet nodes should be under Verizon too, but I see one now that isn't, so maybe the map is a tad out of date. It's still fairly accurate though, as far as I'm aware.)

the publiuses are firefox people, but could be convinced otherwise :)

-but thx

Hey, stick with what works for you. The more web browsers the merrier, if you ask me. Though, surely someone you know has an up-to-date Mac that you can borrow for a minute?

Though, surely someone you know has an up-to-date Mac that you can borrow for a minute?

You don't need a particular OS or browser -- just download the PDF, open it, and zoom in until you can see the node labels.

Dragging around might be a bit slow, but even if you can't search it's pretty easy to get an idea of what goes where.

My guess on the canadian hubs is that not much branches off of them, ie the big american hubs have lots of interconnects where as the canadian hubs seem to just have limbs out to presumably local ISPs and what ever algorithm drew this graph made them as dense as possible.

Are you kidding? This must have something to do with socialism in Canada. They probably have some government initiative to wire every room in every house in Canada, which is why you have so much density. First is was prescription drugs, now it is ISP providers. What evil scheme will those maple syrup quaffing, 'eh' saying aliens think of next?!?

[...] I would love to see an enterprising journalist determine how much money the Bells gave these five Senators (and how those figures compare with other non-Commerce Senators). I feel like I’ve seen numbers of Rockefeller, but not necessarily the rest.

If this information is on the Internets, please let me know in the comments.

There are a variety of other ways of channeling money and support to a Senator or Represenative's interests, but you can check the direct campaign donations here.

Jay Rockefellar's career (since 1989) second largest donor is AT&T Inc with $52,900. #5 is Time Warner with $46,500 and #7 Verizon Communications with $45,300.

Inouye has #7 AT&T Inc with $35,000. #11 is the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn with $32,749.

McCaskill hasn't been in office long, but her #13 contributor is Time Warner with $17,849.

Bill Nelson's #6 contributor is Walt Disney Co. with $61,769. #18 is Comcast Corp with $42,150.

Does that help?

Ah, sweet sweet free speech.

Thanks for the break from primary "coverage".

Opensecrets.org also has donations by industry.

Gary -- thank you very much for that. Totally awesome. I'm going to pass that on to some places it'll do some good ;)

(The NCTA is #20 on Rockefeller's list as well, BTW.)

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