Friday, October 28, 2005

An Outsider’s View of the CCIA Technology Summit

I spent a day as an invited guest of the CCIA in beautiful Dana Point, California. I’m not sure if my attendance and speaking will add any business to Hitachi Telecom, but I certainly enjoyed myself. It’s a shame I had to leave before the show ended. At least I did get to enjoy the spectacular location and very nice dinner provided.

In particular, I enjoyed listening to discussions on a set of topics that are completely outside of my area of expertise and of passionate importance to the other attendees. The CCIA is, as far as I can tell, primarily interested in resolving problems with software patent law and content copyright restrictions that can be illogical and can stifle innovation.

This was a different type of crowd than I’m used to dealing with at telecommunications tradeshows and meetings. For example, I don’t believe I’ve ever attended a meeting within my industry where we discussed or even brought up the weighty issue of internet music services dropping out during sex. Also, the lawyer to human ratio at this meeting seemed higher than I’m used to (and they were perfectly nice lawyers, too, almost indistinguishable from real people).

The speeches by Japanese government representatives were interesting to me in a few areas, in particular in their reporting that FTTH deployments have now surpassed cable modem deployments in Japan. Also, the number of new FTTH deployments per month has now passed the number of new DSL deployments per month in Japan. Other attendees were interested in the speakers’ overview of regulation of broadband in Japan. And some audience members asked specific questions about their narrow world focus (security, content rights management) that were really outside of the scope of the speakers’ expertise. (As the questions continued, I was seriously concerned that I would have nothing left to talk about. Fortunately the moderator cut them off eventually.)

My talk was next and I think it went well. Others either agreed or were just too polite to say otherwise.

Some talks flopped miserably. For example, a talk on WiMax that I was greatly anticipating was rambling and nonspecific and ran over time so egregiously that the audience turned openly hostile by the end. A shame, as I would have liked to hear some real information on WiMax’s potential.

Some talks were very interesting and entertaining, such as the talk on internet security by Dr. Daniel Geer of Verdasys that was both unnerving in its assertions and entertaining in its delivery. The speaker made a very good case for there being significant potential for a WMD strike on our computer infrastructure by “professionalized” virus designers in national labs of countries where Microsoft source code is being cached due to antitrust rulings. And even his anecdotes of amateur exploitation of vulnerabilities were terrifying and fascinating.

The panels were especially interesting to me, as they actually ignited some controversy among the panelist and within the audience. Discussions of problems in software patent law in the US and Europe were absolutely fascinating. The details will, I’m sure, eventually escape my fissure-ridden memory. However, the overall scope of the problem and its implications will be stuck in there, ready to leap out at a variety of cocktail parties and social gatherings whenever the subject of intellectual property arises.

J. D. Lasica was an interesting lunchtime speaker, quoting absurdities from his book and showing off a variety of entertaining videos that have been contributed to his on-line, grassroots media project. It’s a shame that he focused on political videos, as I’m sure that there were more entertaining topics to choose from. Also, his vehement arguments for “fair use” prompted one other attendee (a prominent lawyer type) to quip that he was going to take one of J. D.’s “free” books – since he would only be using it for personal use. Obviously there were a lot of extreme views and quite a few interesting characters represented.

In the evening, the entire crowd was trucked over to the lovely St. Regis Monarch Beach
where we dined on passable food and were highly entertained by Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford Law professor who fights for copyright reform in several public media. His presentation, obviously polished from much use, was the most entertaining of the day. His arguments were thought-provoking and well considered. For example, if (as the AAP asserts) Google Print is illegal not because it puts information onto the web, but because the initial copying of the information from a book into a digital database was done without permission – then why is Google itself not also illegal? Lessig used some of the same examples as Lasica in displaying the sad state of copyright law in the US, much to Lasica’s obvious glee.

On the side, I got to meet and have stimulating discussions with all sorts of folks that I’d normally never meet or greet. I got to see a very cool demo of watching someone’s home TiVO on their Verizon EvDO phone using a Slingbox (gotta get me one of those). I got to stay up past my bedtime in the basement of a stunning hotel. I got to stay in a Michelin 4-star hotel (the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel)
with all of the perks that entails. And I got chauffeured to and from the airport in a limousine. All in all, a very nice trip and one that I would recommend to anyone else who happens to be an expert on Japanese broadband fiber to the home deployments.

No comments: