Making Sausage

Sprint Presses for Cheaper Access to Broadband Linespdf

The dispute centers on the high-capacity fiber-optic lines that provide huge volumes of phone and Internet connections to businesses. The largest telecom companies — AT&T, Verizon and Qwest Communications — have networks that reach most buildings, and competitors such as XO Communications and Level 3 Communications often lease capacity on those lines to serve their customers. Wireless companies including Sprint and T-Mobile also use the capacity to connect calls to their cellphone towers.

But these competitors, led by Sprint, say the giants charge too much for access to the high-capacity lines and want the FCC to more tightly regulate the prices. Sprint says its access fees have risen sharply in recent years. AT&T, Verizon and Qwest argue that their prices are reasonable and that they should not be regulated in markets that have sufficient competition.

[…] In an interview yesterday, McDowell acknowledged the difficulties of determining the extent of competition in certain markets.

“A lot of the fundamental facts are at loggerheads,” he said, noting that more detailed information might be needed. “It makes resolving this issue very challenging.”

[…] The Telecommunications Act of 1996 opened up the local phone market, allowing new competitors to lease part of the incumbent phone companies’ networks. In 1999, the FCC reduced those pricing requirements in markets where there was considered to be enough competition to hold down prices.

Since then, competition has suffered, said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House subcommittee looking into business broadband prices. He is pressuring the FCC to “recalibrate” regulations to promote competition, which he says will accelerate the deployment of broadband.

“There is a market failure here that’s putting our national broadband aspirations at risk,” he said.

Radiohead Does Some Market Research (updated)

A record price for a Radiohead album: $0pdf

The great riddle facing the record industry in the digital age has been pricing. Napster and its ilk puckishly offered music for “free” in the late 1990s, and the major labels have largely clung to an average of $13 for CDs despite plummeting sales and seasons of downsizing.

Now, one of the world’s most acclaimed rock bands, Radiohead, is answering that marketplace riddle with a shrug. “It’s up to you,” reads a message on the Web page where fans can pre-order the band’s highly anticipated seventh album and pay whatever they choose, including nothing.

The British band, which has twice been nominated for a best album Grammy, will sidestep the conventional industry machinery altogether Oct. 10 by releasing the album “In Rainbow” as a digital download with no set price. The album will be available only from the band and at radiohead.com, its official site.

It may sound like a gimmicky promotion, but industry observers Monday framed it in more historical terms: Radiohead, they said, is the right band at the right time to blaze a trail of its own choosing.

Later: An LATimes commentary — Radiohead, the savior of 21st century rock?pdf

Escalating The Fight In Hollywood

Well, somebody seems to believe in the power of internet distribution: Guilds Ask Screenwriters for Authorization to Strike

Negotiations between the guilds and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the makers of films and television programs, have been stalled over issues including the payment of residuals for the use of movies and shows after their initial screening.

Writers want such payments increased, and have proposed a structure for compensation when movies and shows are distributed on the Internet or through other forms of new media.

Producers want to change the existing system so that they make residual payments only after recouping the cost of productions.

New Cellphone Services

“Every step you take, I will be watching you.” Nokia Does a Map Deal, Signaling Strategic Bet

The acquisition, Nokia’s largest, is an indication of where Nokia and other handset makers are headed. Navteq specializes in location-based services, which uses the Global Positioning System to track movement and delivers information to a consumer about routes and destinations. Because the services could include advertisements and promotions related to the locations, wireless carriers and mobile phone makers see potential for new sources of revenue.

“It’s a step that moves us toward the Swiss Army phone,” said Roger Entner, a senior vice president for communications at IAG Research. “It tells you where to go, where to pick up your children, how to find your spouse. It does everything for you.”

See also Bloomberg says being watched is now city lifepdf

Residents of big cities like New York and London must accept that they are under constant watch by video cameras, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York said yesterday.

FT Makes Their Move

Financial Times Will Allow Some Free Access to Web Site

The Financial Times, preparing for a fierce battle with The Wall Street Journal over business readers and online advertising revenue, will give casual readers free access to its Web site this month, according to executives at The Financial Times.

The Web site of the London-based business newspaper, which currently charges for much of its content online, as of mid-October will allow users to get up to 30 articles a month for free, said John Ridding, chief executive of the newspaper. Anyone who wants to view more online material will have to subscribe to the site.

Starbucks to Give Away 50 Million Songs

You Have To Pay Attention

If you want to post stuff all over the internet: Use My Photo? Not Without Permission

One moment, Alison Chang, a 15-year-old student from Dallas, is cheerfully goofing around at a local church-sponsored car wash, posing with a friend for a photo. Weeks later, that photo is posted online and catches the eye of an ad agency in Australia, and Alison appears on a billboard in Adelaide as part of a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign.

Four months later, she and her family are in Federal District Court in Dallas suing for damages.

[…] Chang v. Virgin Mobile USA is not the typical intellectual property rights case. A prolific member of Flickr, Mr. Wong has more than 11,000 photographs there that anyone with the time or inclination could page through. And, until recently, those photographs carried a license from Creative Commons, a nonprofit group seeking alternatives to copyright and license laws. The license he selected allowed them to be used by anyone in any way, including for commercial purposes, as long as Mr. Wong was credited.

Instead, the case hinges on privacy, the right of people not to have their likeness used in an ad without permission. So, while Mr. Wong may have given away his rights as a photographer, he did not, and could not, give away Alison’s rights. In the lawsuit, which Mr. Wong is also a party to, there is an argument that Virgin did not honor all the terms of the nonrestrictive license.

See also Online job hunters grapple with misuse of personal data (pdf); related Facebook warned on safety claims (pdf)

Technologically Enabled Convenience, Or Manipulation?

And how would you know the difference? At Starbucks, Songs of Instant Gratification

Starting tomorrow at certain Starbucks stores, a person with an iPhone or iTunes software loaded onto a laptop can download the songs they hear over the speakers directly onto those devices. The price will be 99 cents a song, a small price, Starbucks says, to satisfy an immediate urge.

“For the customer it’s an instant gratification,” said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment. “You’ll hear the song, be able to identify what it is and download to the device.”

[…] The idea is no waiting, cashier or other buying barrier — aside from the charges that show up on a credit card or cellphone bill. And there, along with challenges revolving around security and business models, lies a chief rub.

The mobile-payment technology can create a desensitizing and seductive purchase experience, said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University.

“The more people think about a purchase decision, the more likely uncertainty creeps in,” he said. “One frame of mind is you’re helping create in consumers’ mind a source of pleasure, and enabling them to fulfill that pleasure,” Mr. Katz said of the mobile impulse temptation. Another is that “they’re preying on our materialistic souls.”

[…] “One of the great steps forward for denizens of the online world was the development of one-click buying,” Mr. Katz from Rutgers said. Before that technology, “there was a vast amount of evidence that a small percentage of people who started the checkout process actually completed it.”

In the mobile world, the barriers fall further. No checkout aisle, cashier or money changing hands. Just an impulse — click and a buy.

A Court Test Begins

And Jon Healey expresses his opinion: For a few 99-cent songs morepdf

The major record companies campaign against individual file-sharers hits a milestone Tuesday: for the first time since the lawsuits began four years ago, a case will actually go to trial.

The defendant is Jammie Thomas, a Native American single mother of two from central Minnesota. She is one of about 30,000 people who have either been sued by the major
labels trade group, the Recording Industry Assn. of America, or agreed
to settle in advance of a lawsuit. And no matter how Thomas case turns out in a federal courtroom in Duluth, the RIAA can’t win.

[…] For all the public-relations consequences, the major labels have stuck with the campaign because they think it has some deterrent effect. Millions of people may still be sharing billions of songs online, yet in the RIAA’s view, the situation would be exponentially worse if it weren’t trying to impose some consequences on illegal downloaders. With some of these cases coming to trial, it’s possible that the public will begin to see file-sharers as scofflaws, not victims. But when the penalty for sharing a 99-cent song is $750 to $150,000, it’s easy to see battles such as Thomas’ as a case of David taking on Goliath.