twenty years of bandwidth prices and demand

Some public data on prices and demand for U.S. interstate bandwidth in use from 1990 to 2009 are now conveniently available on the web.  The source data, which are also freely available, are interstate access price-cap tariff filings made publicly at the FCC.  Derived datasets compile demand and prices for trunking and special access interstate services from rate detail files.  I’m making these data available for broad participation in exploratory data analysis, data categorization, construction and evaluation of price indices, and for informed public deliberation about bandwidth demand and pricing.

These data were the basis for a paper I published in Telecommunications Policy in 2001, and a presentation I gave at a Brookings Workshop on Communications Output and Productivity, also in 2001.  While the FCC source data are the same, I have revised slightly my categorizations of them.  That affects some of the statistics calculated in my prior work.  More importantly, now anyone can study in detail my categorization, make a better categorization for analyzing specific issues, and calculate new statistics.

Even more exciting, now everyone can contribute to organizing, categorizing, and analyzing the data for 2001 to 2009.  The number of rate elements and service types has increased greatly through the years.  For example, the Bell Atlantic service area had about 1000 rate elements in 1992, about 7,000 in 2001, and about 44,000 in 2009.  The much larger number of elements makes organizing and categorizing the data more difficult. But by networking all the brain power of persons on the Internet, informative analysis of these data might be possible. I hope others will construct from these data interesting bandwidth price indices covering from 1990 to 2009.

Open data platforms contribute to transparency and openness in government and can help to spur rapid innovation.  Making public data on bandwidth prices and demand readily available in a form relatively easy to use is a small contribution I’m making to the ongoing creation of open data platforms.  Please contribute to more participatory regulatory policy analysis and to relevant public knowledge.

reasoning about symbolic choices

Parents usually consider carefully and at length what name to give to their new new-born children.  Recent research shows that given names that increase faster in popularity also decrease faster in popularity.  According to survey evidence, parents reason that names that are rapidly increasing in popularity are less likely to have enduring appeal.  Hence parents are less likely to choose those names.[*]

This sort of reasoning is relatively sophisticated.  Persons concerned about product quality might reason about aggregate sales of the product.  Reasoning about the slope of aggregate demand for a product is less common.  Concern about inter-personal choice effects (fads) and a long-term horizon for valuing a good favor aggregate, dynamic reasoning in individual choices such as that for children’s names.

The sophistication of reasoning in personal naming sheds some light on the large change in the shape of the given name popularity distribution that begin early in the nineteenth century.  Major twentieth-century changes in media have registered little effect in magazine advertising, which is a type of aggregate symbolic distribution.  Changes in the information economy early in the nineteenth-century are less obvious.  However, sophisticated reasoning about symbolic choices can produce large changes that have relatively obscure relations to aggregate circumstances.

*  *  *  *  *

[*]  See Jonah Berger and Gaël Le Mens. 2009. “How adoption speed affects the abandonment of cultural tastes.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.0812647106

COB-36: classical beauty

Nothing is more attractive than the grandeur that was Roman bureaucracy. Reading through the Roman Notitia Dignitatum will inspire any bureaucrat with longing to return to that spiritual home.  In that holy land, the Master of Offices managed these organizations:

the first school of shield-bearers,
the second school of shield-bearers,
the school of senior gentiles,
the school of shield- and bow-bearers,
the school of mailed shield-bearers,
the junior light-armed school,
the school of junior gentiles,
the school of confidential agents
the surveyors and lamp-makers,
the bureau of memorials,
the bureau of correspondence,
the bureau of requests,
the bureau of assignments
the staff of ushers

and probably others as well.  The Master of Offices’ staff, made up from the school of confidential agents, included:

a chief assistant and other assistants, including two aids, three for the arsenals, four for the embroiderers in gold (for the diocese of the East one, for the diocese of Asia one, for the diocese of Pontus one, for the diocese of the Thraces and Illyricum one), an inspector of the public post in the presence, inspectors for all the provinces, and interpreters for various peoples.

The many bureaucrats serving in the time-honored position of servus vicarius can only thrill in imagination of the Roman cursus honorum.  The most promising young bureaucrats began their careers with ten years of service in the military. At age thirty, they were expected to move up to become a financial administrator and supervisor of public games.  At age thirty-seven they could become an administrator of public works.  Up several more steps was the pinnacle of a public career.  That was a job as a census bureaucrat:

The censors took a regular census of the people and then apportioned the citizens into voting classes on the basis of income and tribal affiliation. The censors enrolled new citizens in tribes and voting classes as well.

Byzantium is typically lauded for having a highly developed bureaucracy.  But in this aspect of life, Rome too was quite beautiful.  So the next time you’re filling out a form, or on the telephone, waiting on hold, remember the inspiring classical antecedents of it all.

In other bureaucratic posts for this month, Terry Telco reports on an employment support program at an anonymous telco:

you sit through a one hour meeting, where the first 15-25 minutes is spent figuring out how to get everyone on the call, saying hellos and general small talk, getting the silly collaboration “tools” working, planning for the next call, etc… and then you finally have the discussion where absolutely nothing happens because you’ve revisited a discussion that you had 20 times already over the past 2 years

Terry Telco calls that Terri-Tastic.  We call it simply terrific.

Epeus Epigone reports that a media leader has declared:

Companies that publish mainstream people’s interviews without paying a fee are the “parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet” and will soon be challenged

That’s totally ridiculous.  Processing what others say is a core bureaucratic function that has been at the heart of mass media for nearly two centuries.

Frank Furedi at Spiked writes about “how EU bureaucrats are destroying public life.”  He argues that only 43% of the EU electorate voted in the recent election because they are disillusioned with the EU political process.  That seems to me to be a rather rash judgement.  A better approach would be for the EU to form a committee to study procedures for inviting EU citizens to particpate in studies of why the EU electorate is so apathetic.

Helen at the truly magnificant 27b/6 documents the diligence and perseverance of Strata bureaucracy.  You’ve got to read this for yourself!

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats. Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

platforms for sharing data and local innovation

President Barack Obama recently appointed Aneesh Chopra as the first U.S. Chief Technology Officer.  Chopra will be among the first circle of senior advisors to President Obama.  On June 15, 2009, Chopra addressed the annual meeting of the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association (RAFOM).  Chopra once lived in this Arlington neighborhood and was a member of this civic association.

Chopra will primarily focus on challenges in health, education, and the environment.  He will seek to build platforms for game-changing innovations.  These platforms will consist of open data standards and technologies that local communities can leverage.  He discussed Virginia’s successful experiment in quickly mobilizing local expertise to create a new, digital physics textbook.  This new textbook both saved money and provided more up-to-date knowledge to students.  He noted that data visualization contributes significantly in the Toyota Prius’ fuel efficiency.  He expressed his interest in assuring that a networked power grid provides open data standards to enable decentralized innovation in energy conservation visualization.  He also pointed to the importance of open data for spurring local analysis of educational problems and local solutions to them.

While his position is associated with technological leadership, Chopra seems to me to have keen insight into social networking, volunteer organizations, and community activism.  The Internet has created an amazingly powerful tool for connecting persons and sharing data, ideas, innovations, and implementations.  Chopra offers great promise for bringing network technologies, in their broadest sense, to promote the common good.

Video excerpts of his talk below.