Freedom to Connect – Day 1

Free to Connect (F2C) is being held at the American Film Institute’s Silver theater in Silver Spring Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC It is an exemplary demonstration of how to hold a no-frills conference… skeleton (but highly competent) conference crew, judicious outsourcing of food and reception, in a compact venue which offers lots of opportunities to meet the other attendees and presenters. The presentations are being streamed on the web, and there is an interactive Campfire chat which is projected next to the PowerPoint slides and which can be monitored by the speakers so that questions can be taken from outside the conference. As might be expected, the interactive chat is a mixture of serious comments and snark. Its a little disconcerting to type and see your comment projected full screen twenty seconds later.

About 250 participants. We were invited to bring our wireless laptops, and looking at the audience during my own presentation it seemed that well over 70% of the audience machines were Macs. We used my own Macbook for my presentation and the colleagues in our session; two were PowerPoint presentations that we ran in Keynote after listened to catcalls as Parallels tried to boot up Vista. Balance seems to be a mixture of Dells, IBM/Lenovo and a few netbooks. Acer Aspire, etc.

David Weinberger is live-blogging.

Session 2: Net politics and other applications
Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation,
Nathaniel James, Media and Democracy Coalition,
Larry Keyes, Telehealth via Broadband, and
Eva Sollberger, Stuck in Vermont Video Blog

4th set of presentations. Chris Savage is a lawyer, had a really interesting talk about the death of the Chicago School and how right now there is a unique opportunity to retool regulation to make it more consumer friendly.

Derek Slater – Google policy analyst. Talking about “Measurement Lab” an open platform for researchers to make measurements of internet bandwidth and for consumers to figure out what their internet speed is. There is so much we don’t know how the internet is performing. Could we fund some servers at the University that would host the Measurement Lab applications?

John Peha – FCC chief technologist. Mythology of Rural Broadband
1 in 3 households do not have access to wired broadband at any price.
Broadband has positive benefits for communities who have it, even for members of those communities who don’t subscribe.

Unserved communities don’t gain from broadband, and broadband installed elsewhere can actually degrade things in unserved communities.

Comment: Government should write the rules so that it easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing.

Technology neutrality is something to aim at.

The people who are comfortable with technology are the non-engineers they just use what works.

Comment: Technology neutrality is a false mantra.

Amy Wohl — “recovering Chicago School economist.” When govt. attempts to fix mistakes by the market there is a lag.


The conference takes place on Monday and Tuesday. I arrived Saturday afternoon at Reagan airport and took the Metro to Silver Spring. Sunday, I ran around the mall. The Holocaust museum was jammed with school groups. I didn’t quite know what to expect, I rather thought it would be like going to a cathedral in Europe, but it was more like the science museum. To get to the regular part of the exhibits you have to get a ticket and you are assigned a time. Because of the crowds mine wasn’t until two hours later. I spent 90 minutes on the lower level looking at an exhibit of Nazi propaganda, and after that, I was done. Why people bring small children to this museum is beyond me.

I also went to the Native American museum, (outstanding kayaks) and the National Gallery. The Smithsonian museums are truly a national treasure..and they are all free.

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