Having a Cartwright Moment about Telecoms Regulation

So I read this article with some interest this morning on the Tube. Reading it requires subscription or sign-up (it was one of my 8 free articles a month – I’m not sufficiently motivated to subscribe, I’m afraid, though I’m a big fan of the FT WebApp.) For those non-subscribers, allow me to summarize one of the key points: forced unbundling of telecoms services in the EU (e.g. making companies like BT rent out their infrastructure to competitors at a regulated rate) has brought about great benefits for consumers (e.g. lower prices and more choice for broadband) but at the cost of these companies’ cash flow compared to their US counterparts who are not subject to this kind of regulation. AND (here’s the key part) therefore European telecoms companies have had less money to invest in network upgrades.

CartwfightNow – at the risk of channeling Cartwright from Time Bandits – why, if that’s the case, do I perceive that we have much faster broadband Internet speeds and choice of providers available in Europe than are generally available in US. In London, I have 80 megabit downlink / 15 megabit uplink to my house! And although I am a BT customer I could choose from a number of service providers who (though the magic of local loop unbundling) could provide similar services across the same wires. This is because BT have been investing in rolling out “fibre to the cabinet” (fttc) and fibre to the premises (fttp) technologies and then turning around and leasing that capacity through their wholesale division. My parents in New Haven, Connecticut (not exactly a technological backwater), meanwhile, are stuck with 1.5 megabit downlink from one monopoly provider as the only DSL option available to them.

So what’s going on here? Is there really a tidal wave of broadband innovation happening in the US and I just don’t perceive it?  From where I’m standing, the regulated unbundling seems to have worked well for both for competition and innovation in the broadband space. Am I missing something?

[see the comments thread on Google+]

Posted in Technology

“Disrupters don’t just play and experiment. They kill”

Disruption isn't always good and innovation doesn't always make the world better. I am a big fan of dystopian visions of future technology – currently typified by the wonderful "Black Mirror" series on Channel 4 in the UK. (If you had an implant that recorded every moment of your life for you to relive at your leisure, would that really be a good thing? Cf. Google Glass.) I think it's our role as technologists, strategists, architects, product designers, and so on to help steer us away from these kinds of dystopian scenarios. Just because something can be done does not mean it necessarily should be done, and just because someone poses an objection to or points out a risk of a new technology, that does not make that person a luddite.

The amazing image (http://www.businessinsider.com/vatican-square-2005-and-2013-2013-3) shared across social media of the difference between the crowd in front of the Papal conclave in 2005 vs 2013 (everyone in the 2013 shot is holding up a phone) is stunning and looks like it was ripped from a Black Mirror episode. Is it better that people are increasingly experiencing the world around them second hand, through a lens and a screen?


At the end of South By Southwest Interactive, after MakerBot had unveiled its desktop 3D scanner – after Google had demonstrated the power of Google Glass, after Leap Motion had shut down its demo ……

Posted in Misc

xkcd: ISO 8601

XKCD has hit the nail on the head with this one. Listen people: if you use a numeric date notation, it can be ambiguous because different countries use different order of information: eg day/month/year or month/day/year. The only non-ambiguous numeric notation of date is YYYY-MM-DD. I find it stupefying that in this modern age, this age of a global Web, people are still using these ambiguous date formats on their Web sites. Maybe as an American living in the UK, and having launched a UK version of a US dot-com, I'm especially sensitized to this issue? The most recent example I've come across is the TechCrunch events listings side bar – and TechCrunch is (supposed to be) a global brand? Anyway – great to see someone else is as irked by this as I am. #petpeeve #blogthis #iso8601

Public Service Announcement: Our different ways of writing dates as numbers can lead to online confusion. That’s why in 1988 ISO set a global standard numeric date format. This is *the* correct way to…

Posted in Misc

Mobile Monday Demo night

My brief notes from last night's MobileMonday London demo night have been posted up on the +BlueVia blog today. #blogthis

MobileMonday London (still going strong after seven years!) organised another great demo night last night. Eleven companies had 5 minutes each to talk up and demonstrate their applications live on sta…

Posted in Misc

10 Web design trends you can expect to see in 2013

Some predictions from The Next Web on what Web design trends we will see in 2013. I agree with all except no. 9 (which is actually at odds with no. 1). I agree people will be spending more money on responsive (Web) design in 2013 precisely because they realize it is more versatile than replacing web sites with apps. That's not to say that apps won't also flourish in 2013, but they play a different role than mobile web sites. For a concrete example, when I viewed this article off a link shared off of Facebook, on my iPad, it came through in a web view that was not very well suited to my device (buttons too small, not very well suited to touch, etc…) The answer to this would be a responsive design, not a fancy Next Web app or iMagazine which would a content silo therefore not well integrated into sharing off of social networks, etc…

By the way, some of these predictions (e.g. more social sharing) have already come true. #blogthis

Well, it is that time of year where we start to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. In 2012 we have seen several new trends appear in web design, one of the …

Posted in Misc

USPTO Preliminarily Rejects Apple’s ‘Pinch-to-Zoom’ Patent

I blogged about this in 2008 (http://www.torgo.com/blog/2008/04/beyond-point-and-click.html) and opined that patenting gestures was not a good idea. Glad to see the USPTO agrees with me. #blogthis

Another Apple patent is in the spotlight tonight, after the United States Patent and Trademark Office has preliminarily rejected all 20 claims of…

Posted in Misc

Effort to Clarify Mobile App Data Rights Hits Snags

Digital  #privacy , and especially mobile privacy, always seem to be in the popular headlines these days. Does this mean that people are becoming more aware of digital privacy issues? My anecdotal view is that they are, but I'm wondering if there is any survey out there that backs up or refutes this notion? /cc +Nick Doty #blogthis

A panel, devising a way to tell consumers what data is being collected about them by mobile apps, has had a hard time getting along, let alone reaching an agreement.

Posted in Misc

Disruptions: How My Smartphone Emptied My Pockets

This article seems describe a trend that I think will define the #mobilewallet : use of multiple applications and services that are brought together on a mobile phone (rather than a single mobile wallet application or experience that will unify all of this). #blogthis  

People’s wallets used to expand with each passing year. Now, the opposite is happening: many of the wallet’s contents have been siphoned out by the smartphone.

Posted in Misc

UK condemned on net address shift

UK Government Called Out on Non-Support of IPv6

The problem with #ipv6  is that it's like Y2K with no (or at any rate an extremely amorphous) deadline. We all know that limping along with IPv4 will basically continue to work for the time being, and that an enormous amount of work will be required to move everyone over to v6. The reward is similarly amorphous – things will "work better" in the "long term."

So what do we need to do to kick-start this? We've already had a "World IPv6 Day" and that seemed to come and go with little fanfare.

What is the end user experience or service that IPv6 enables which will result in a groundswell of popular support for moving to IPv6? Or is this one of those things that just won't happen without a public mandate?


The UK government has come in for sharp criticism for failing to do more to make Britain convert to the net’s new addressing scheme.

Posted in Misc

BitTorrent’s Plan for 2013? Go Legit

BitTottent Plans to "Go Legit" in 2013?

Er – I don't mean to burst their bubble, but from my PoV the main users of BitTorrent are people who probably can't get access to the content they are torrenting via legitimate means. See this episode of "The Oatmeal" for a quick primer: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/game_of_thrones. This issue is exacerbated even further when you consider all the international usage – e.g. Hulu doesn't stream outside the U.S. not because of technical reasons but because the rights holders have only licensed Hulu for North American distribution. European and other distribution rights are licensed to other provers. As long as this byzantine web of content distribution rights continues to exist, peer-to-peer file sharing will never be able to "go legit" and if they didn't exist then BitTorrent wouldn't need to exist anyway… #woolythinking  

BitTorrent, the start-up behind the popular peer-to-peer file-sharing system of the same name, has a resolution for 2013: to align itself with the entertainment industry and legally distribute movies,…

Posted in Misc

Who is Daniel K. Appelquist?

I'm an American ex-pat living in London and an independent consultant and advocate for emerging web technologies, the open web, open source and open data. As well, I am co-chair of the W3C Technical Architecture Group, I am a founder and co-organizer of the Over the Air hack day series and a founder of Mobile Monday London. I'm a former .com CTO and subsequent .com refugee. I am a parent dealing with the increasing complexities of raising children in a hyper-connected world.

If you are so inclined, you may find my public key on Keybase.io.

My books:
Mobile Internet for Dummies

For more info, see my Linkedin profile.

More (probably than you ever wanted to know) about Torgo.


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