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The Battle Over AT&T's Fiber Rollout 121

Posted by kdawson
from the rock-and-hard-place dept.
Tyler Too writes "AT&T is facing heated opposition from some communities where it wants to deploy its U-Verse fiber network. Ars Technica has a feature looking at the situation in the suburbs of Chicago. 'Legal uncertainty is the rule when it comes to IPTV deployments by telecommunications companies. Neither Congress nor the FCC [has] weighed in on whether services like U-verse require their operators to take out a cable franchise from cities, and no federal judge has issued a definitive ruling.' It's not just Chicago, either: 'With AT&T set to upgrade its infrastructure to support U-verse across its wide service area, this is a battle that could play out in thousands of communities across the country over the next few years.'"
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The Battle Over AT&T's Fiber Rollout

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  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:28PM (#17293130) Homepage
    It is this kind of legal wrangling that goes on endlessly. Sure, if everything in the entire country was controlled by The Government there would be fewer people to sue over stuff like this. But I hardly think that would be a solution most people would find acceptable in the end. Like many things, it sounds good until you find out the details.

    OK, so there should be competitive entities. Well, if you are going to spend a billion or so dollars you need to mitigate every risk, right? Unfortunately, the lawyers have set things up such that one risk that is very difficult to mitigate is someone else suing you over some perceived wrong. And yes, trying to run a fiber link is going to distrupt many businesses and push a few under. When those entities have been forced to jump through other legal hurdles to combat all the NIMBY lawsuits and "beautification" lawsuits (you know, those wires are really ugly...) and endless other lawsuits a lot of people feel very justified in suing over what will essentially put them out of business.

    Sure, it is just the changing face of technology. But cable TV has been over-regulated in most US cities for so long that it is going to be a real battle to convince those owners that they bought nothing with all of their franchise fees, taxes, and public meetings.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hjf (703092)

      all the NIMBY lawsuits and "beautification" lawsuits (you know, those wires are really ugly...) and endless other lawsuits a lot of people feel very justified in suing over what will essentially put them out of business.

      Not sure what it's like where you live, but look at what happens when you let the monopoly lay ther wires whenever they like:
      http://comunidad.muchoviaje.com/cs/photos/dan/pict ure417.aspx [muchoviaje.com]
      That's all over the country. And they can't change it now because it costs a lot of money and the c

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stupidfoo (836212)
        To the (possibly ignorant) observer that just looks like a bunch of people pirating cable to me.
        • Heh. I had some cable wiring like that back in Jersey; the cable line for the building was just a splice off the pole, and the lines in the basement were just one incoming line, hooked to like 20 y-splitters.

          Sadly, this actually was legitimate wiring, though it worked like crap.
        • by hjf (703092)
          Nope, that is actual, Telco-installed phone wire (it says electrical wire on the pic but it's actually telephone wire). If you ever go to Buenos Aires and look up, you'll see that all over the country. There aren't that many cable pirates heh.

          I'm too lazy to go take a picture, it's 4 blocks away from here, but I could show you a good ol' fashioned wooden telephone pole (one of the few remaining) with almost 100 lines coming out of it in every direction. It's so weird it's like a monument or something.

          Actual
          • Nope, that is actual, Telco-installed phone wire (it says electrical wire on the pic but it's actually telephone wire). If you ever go to Buenos Aires and look up, you'll see that all over the country. There aren't that many cable pirates heh.

            I'm too lazy to go take a picture, it's 4 blocks away from here, but I could show you a good ol' fashioned wooden telephone pole (one of the few remaining) with almost 100 lines coming out of it in every direction. It's so weird it's like a monument or something.

            Actually the telco replaced those poles about 10 years ago, with surface boxes bolted to people's walls, and multipair cables going underground to somewhere (never had the luck to see where those cables go underground, because they go way inside the block and come out I don't know where, and come out at little white closets every few blocks (where I assume they go through more heavier multipair wires). I think those "mega-poles" remain in service because it's too complicated to rewire that many houses.

            I can take a picture of the cable lines behind my apartment.

            My block consists of 3-5 unit apartment buildings in two rows, centering on an alley, with maybe 10 buildings per side.

            Each _unit_ has its own feed running from a central bundle of cables in the middle of the alley, there are three cable providers, and two telephone providers.

            It's like a bloody mesh up there. It's ugly as sin.

            Thank god we've got alleys; but that stuff should be underground.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeffrey Baker (6191)
      Mitigate every risk? I suppose they could do that by getting the government to guarantee their revenues and profits ... OH WAIT! They already have that deal! So, nevermind.

      People talk about AT&T like it's the scrappy pull-itself-up-by-the-bootstraps earthly incarnation of capitalism. The truth is that every penny AT&T takes in is made under an essentially free grant of profit by some government agency -- municipal, county, state, or federal. And now that Ma Bell has taken us for hundreds of tri
      • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday December 18, 2006 @08:02PM (#17294450) Journal
        But the current situation requires strenuous local government oversight.

        Actually, if the government oversight just looked the other way, ATT could fiber up all the rich neighborhoods they want, and someone else who could do it cheaper could show up and fix up the other neighborhoods, pretty much screwing ATT out of any chance of growth (while the rich neighborhoods start to bitch about their overpriced service).

        Unfortunately, the reason this has stalled so hard is because ATT wants that oversight. The entrenched telcos love government oversight. They just want the government oversight on their competitors, not on them. Simply put, if they were to do something that got these monopoly franchise contracts struck down, they'd be in deep shit, since the competitors would be crawling out of the woodwork and kick their ass. And they know it, so they are locked in this slow dance with the government, trying to weasel out of the contracts while still keeping their monopolies protected by them.
    • Realy the federal govenment needs to take control of telcoms (like the FCC does for radio) - its stupid to have each little state/town do its own thing for both mobile and fixed telephany.

      You might get some progress if you had Local Loop Unbudeling and real competition.

  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:30PM (#17293166) Homepage Journal
    This is just another example of the government protecting monopolies. Cable rates are outrageous primarily because we have few if any choices (around me, it's Comcast or DishTV or stuck with Antenna). We'd all be better off if the FCC would just allow some good old fashioned competition. Let more cable, phone, broadband, and internet companies offer cable-like options for consumers and the product and/or price will almost certainly improve.
    • by ivan256 (17499) on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:48PM (#17293456)
      This has nothing to do with the FCC. Check your town's budget reports to see how big a check they get from the cable company every month is to prevent competition from coming into town. You'll wonder if your representatives have your best interests in mind after all. This isn't about corporate power, the federal government, or the FCC. It's about local government revenues.
    • by moriya (195881) on Monday December 18, 2006 @07:08PM (#17293746) Homepage
      It's not as simple as that, though. The article details a possible legal loophole problem when it comes to IPTV. Since cable TV uses an actual cable line, then it's easy to enforce the law where necessary. AT&T's U-Verse, using IPTV, works differently in that it's "cable but not cable".

      The Ars article has all the details, including the metal giant that they called 52B. It stands around 5ft tall, 4ft deep, and is about 2ft wide. It is big. AT&T wants to build and deploy those boxes wherever they please. Part of the problem is that these so-called tele-comm upgrade is also going to provide video services (like cable). Using IPTV as part of the legal loophole, AT&T wants to put a bunch of these boxes scattered across the towns that they're trying to roll fiber out to. These deployment also affect a section of a town. So unlike a cable TV deployment, service is available to the area where it is immediately available instead to every home in the town.

      Both the suburban communities and AT&T are stuck. Yes, competition is good. We all want a choice. But in legal terms, both sides are stuck and AT&T isn't all that lenient when it comes to what they provide as services.

      * AT&T claims it is not cable and that it's all telecomms.
      * If AT&T deploys, the town is likely to be sued by Comcast and the state DA, citing violation of two laws.
      * If AT&T cannot deploy, the town is sued citing support for monopolies and anti-competitive acts.

      AT&T doesn't want a build-out, which would guarantee the service is provided to every house/building in that town within a limited time period. AT&T also refuses to provide a structured layout plan of where they wish to deploy these 52B boxes (for all we know, it might end up in someone's front yard 5ft from the house). The people in some of these towns do not want that. They also do not want a single corporate entity to be the only choice they have for broadband and cable tv services. So the question continues to remain: Where do you stand?
      • Oregon and possibly Washington are have similar issues with Version FIOS TV. We've been having issues with bad faith negotiations on Verzion's part here in Oregon for the past couple years. Part of it is that cable is regulated by county in Oregon (although a some counties have banded together) and Version hasn't wanted to negotiate individually. Also, they didn't want to support the same local services that cable is forced to support. A lot of Verizons demands were simply untenable. In the end, I susp
      • Those are all side issues.
        The real issue is they want to use the old easements, cable right-of-ways that they were *given* years and years ago, for free. In fact they were less than free, we hired them and we paid for all that infrastructure in our rates. It's actually ours.
        These old "regulated monopolies" want to be unregulated in their "new media" enterprises, but they want to use all the old easements, so they can be protected from competition. Competitors don't have free easements, and even if
      • by Megane (129182)

        The Ars article has all the details, including the metal giant that they called 52B. It stands around 5ft tall, 4ft deep, and is about 2ft wide.

        I like how the picture in the article has the guy standing a step or two down, a few feet behind the box, rather than right next to it. It makes the box look much bigger than it really is... or it makes the guy look like a midget. Way to spin the issue, guys!

        And for what it's worth, those aren't the type of boxes that I'm seeing down here in Texas. The Lightspeed cabinets here are of a similar size, but have a distinctive beveled edge in front.

      • by Fastolfe (1470)

        AT&T also refuses to provide a structured layout plan of where they wish to deploy these 52B boxes (for all we know, it might end up in someone's front yard 5ft from the house). The people in some of these towns do not want that.

        If AT&T wanted to put these boxes on private property, they're required to make an agreement with the property owner to do it. (In fact, the article specifically discusses these situations as ways AT&T is successfully getting their upgrades accomplished without requir

        • If AT&T wanted to put these boxes on private property, they're required to make an agreement with the property owner to do it.

          That may be a necessary but not sufficient condition in many jurisdictions. Many local districts have zoning laws that restrict the rights of property owners to put "nuisances" on their property.
    • This is just another example of the government protecting monopolies. ... We'd all be better off if the FCC would just allow some good old fashioned competition.

      If you think the FCC is a pro-monopoly bottleneck NOW, just WAIT until the Democrats rehack it, the next time they have a president and a congressional majority all at once.

      The FCC under the recent regimes has been solidly behind keeping hands off the Internet, and keeping everybody ELSE's hands off it, too. To the point of suing to keep both the F
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WhiteWolf666 (145211)
      Nonsense. You sound like a shill.

      I find it atrocious that companies shouldn't have to pay something for essentially "free" right of way access to lines. Cable companies are required to carry certain community channels, are a forced to negotiate with the local governments in terms of what sorts of service they are required to provide.

      If they don't want to deal with local governments, they can simply negotiate with every individual land owner for line-stringing rights, or they can go wireless.

      If my local comm
      • by Danga (307709)
        I'm sorry you live in a small town with little choice, but at my location I've got a fair number of choices; I can go with the 2 satellite companies, or 3 cable companies. The 3 cable companies ALL have franchise rights with the accompanying requirements; I get local Chicago public television, and I get state channels, which includes all kinds of political goodies.

        I recently moved from the north side of Chicago and my only choice there for cable was Comcast, where abouts do live and what are the 3 cable com
        • River west, and I've got WOW, Comcast, and RCN.

          RCN is currently in the middle of a franchise dispute with the City, in terms of not rolling out far enough.

          The city is forcing them to rollout to more of the city; and they would not be able to do this without the franchise agreements.
      • by gad_zuki! (70830)
        >The 3 cable companies ALL have franchise rights with the accompanying requirements

        Chicago is a mess. There's one company that gives any decent coverage of the city and that's comcast. RCN is strictly gold coast, lincoln park, and affluent north side. Comcast's pricing is monopoly pricing. I was paying up to 70 dollars for a friggin cable modem capped at 2 or 3 megs just last year. 59 for service, taxes, and 'modem rental.'

        I tried their video service after being told by my new landord I can't install
    • by jrp2 (458093)
      The main problem here is "cherry-picking". AT&T will come in and serve only the most profitable areas of a town, avoiding the less profitable..... if they are allowed to.

      I live in Chicago (the city proper, not the suburbs mentioned in this article) and we have zero competition in our neighborhood. The lakefront area where many of the wealthier folks live have a wide variety of choices for telco and TV. Some parts of town don't even have DSL available, even if they live near a CO.

      AT&T (nee SBC, Am
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hobo sapiens (893427)

        The main problem here is "cherry-picking"

        Maybe, but remember AT&T (SBC) made the same claim about CLECs, ISPs, and Cable companies when these began offering phone service. And really, the cherry picking claims were/are justified. Of course AT&T will do that, at least at first, just like the startup telcos did. But it would seem that turnabout is fair play. If AT&T wants to cherry pick, let em. It isn't going to hurt anyone, maybe except for the cable companies. But then again, they are in

    • To support multiple lines into your home is EXPENSIVE. Instead, the monopoly should be minimized. Basically, from the Central Office (or even the block-level greenbox) to the house should be owned by local city and then have competitive bids on it every 5-10 years. All else should then be free to charge whatever they want.

      Problem is that corruption is so rampant. Politicians and even the cities are being bought.
      • by omeomi (675045)
        owned by local city and then have competitive bids on it every 5-10 years. All else should then be free to charge whatever they want.

        Oh, yeah, because the "lowest bidder" mentality has really brought us some great stuff in the past...I, for one, am all for open-market competition.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by xothermic (655675)
      Actually, I'd say it's nothing of the sort. I actually grew up in Geneva, and resided there in 2004 when the city tried to pass a referendum to provide municipal fiber to it's citizens, working with the surrounding towns (St. Charles and Batavia). http://www.geneva.il.us/bb/faq.htm [geneva.il.us]

      The plan seemed pretty good, the city would provide fiber to the doorstep selling bonds to cover the upfront costs. The bonds would be paid back by the subscriber base's monthly fees which were slated to be reasonable ($40-50/m
  • Am I imagining things or haven't phone bills included extra fees,
    and/or phone companies have gotten special breaks, in order to have
    had fiber installed already?

    Why isn't there fiber to my HOUSE yet? I'm seriously under the
    impression this technology should be much more widespread than
    it is, but don't know any facts. I just have the notion that
    somehow we've been paying for something we're not getting yet.

    I want my fiber already.

    hpy

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
      Mostly they run fiber near your house, and then send everything the rest of the way on their antiquated copper network. The whole bit in the article is talking about an attempt by AT&T to try to run fiber closer to your house, and how it's flopping for 'em. I wish they'd just do the real deal as well, or do something what the water companies do: run fiber near someone, and let them pay if they want to hook on.

      For a real, high band fiber connection, I'd be willing to put in some change, and I doubt I'm t
      • by dch24 (904899)
        Ditto here. I've heard of some good FTTP/FIOS providers, and I know Ma Bell is interested in getting into the market. Why do they have to anger everyone from the Federal Government (well, back in the Anti-Trust days) to the end users?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheGavster (774657) *
        well, or do something what the water companies do: run fiber near someone, and let them pay if they want to hook on.

        Does your water company seriously do that? In my town, they wanted to run water to the middle of town to promote denser development. I have a nice little private well and live along the way, and they not only forced me to pay the $5K hookup charge to this new (totally uneeded) line, but also to pay for the pipe running out in the middle of the road, and to take on a monthly fee even though I a
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          Well, they do it here. Of course, our local water utility is semi-privatized...The city spun them off about 50 years ago, so they don't have access to imminent domain and have to play by the rules.

          I'd kinda be interested to see how something like that would work out for fiber...Clearly don't want the federal government involved in it because they'll screw it up, but at the same time, the private companies will do what's best for themselves and to hell with the consumers.

          In the article, the locals had attemp
  • so what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hjf (703092) on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:33PM (#17293222) Homepage
    A little competition doesn't harm anyone. There was only one broadband (ADSL) provider here in my country (the largest monopoly). They charged whatever they wanted. One day they went too far (the infamous 4GB cap and $20 for the extra GB or fraction). What happened? Cable modem operators started operating in cities where they didn't provide service, with double the speed and no limits.

    So, Telecom Argentina had to do something to keep their customers: They increased the speed 5x, kept the same price, and removed all kind of caps. That's just capitalism and competition in action. Yes, local cable operators want to "protect their investment", but most of these did that investment 10 years ago, and want to keep earning money without investing in newer stuff. So they go through the legal way in order to stop competition (or to buy a few more months). But, well, sooner or later they either do some spending or competition will eat them. It's just the way it is. It's everyting america stands for, right? Capitalism.
  • For all the talk from Republicans about "states rights", this is something they seem to have no belief in when it comes to cable television. Of course, with the DLC contingent of the Democrats coming to power, who knows if the Democrats will be any different. I'm quite sure we wouldn't have some of the public access television shows we have locally if those bills made much headway. Government then just hands over the rights to wire public streets with cable lines to some giant multinational monopoly. Yo
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      States, sure. But it is rediculous to let every town micro-govern every aspect of its community. All it results in is enormous duplication of bureaucracy so some townies can have their power trip. (Or more specifically, sell their 'rights' to the highest corporate bidder to fund their pet project, like making sure their son's team wins the state championship, or making sure that everybody on main street keeps their lawn mode to 1.75 inches OR ELSE).

      If you knew how much that public access stuff cost, you'd p
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you knew how much that public access stuff cost, you'd probably wish the money went to something else. Now that we have the internet, it is absurd to spend 50-100 thousand dollars per town, per year for public access. Do you have any idea what that adds up to? It's over $15 million dollars a year in my state alone.

        I remember something from my days of playing SimCity 3000. There was an ordinance you could pass, the "public access television" ordinance. All the strategy sites essentially said "This is i

      • $15 million dollars a year for your state?

        Holy smokes, batman!

        Given that public access channels generally include the ONLY coverage of local politics, I really think that's a small price to pay.

        Consider; across the ENTIRE US, that's $750 million. That's really not a large chunk of change to insure that _each_ and _every_ small community has broadcasting of it's internal politics. All of the other stuff, PBS, etc. . . are freebies.

        Power should be devolved as much as possible. If it's responsible for landowne
        • by TellarHK (159748)
          Not to feed the troll we both replied to, but I'd have to say a lot more than $15 million per state goes into PEG programs. I know of several programs around the country that operate with budgets in the millions such as Washington State's public access channel for government video, and one program in Michigan that's particularly large. The budget for the program I work for is nowhere -near- these levels, but we're also new enough not to have any outside sponsors or supporters other than our franchise fee
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TellarHK (159748)
        I'm an IT manager for a new Public Access entity in Nevada, and let me tell you something - it's a well-spent few thousand dollars per town. As recently as nine months ago, I didn't think public access was an important thing at all but that changed once I saw just how many people really rely on PEG (Public, Education, Government) access channels for a lot of local information and content. You don't watch public access, but grandma does and she's not exactly wired in with DSL nine times out of ten. As we'r
  • Yadda yadda (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:37PM (#17293278) Journal
    For those who don't want to RTFA, it's the usual mix of local politics, coupled with the regulatory snafu that's arising from the ever-decreasing "difference" between phone and cable companies.

    Basically the phone company is doing a significant fiber upgrade, and trying to slip the whole "we're going to be doing tv soon" idea under the radar of the local people, who've already signed one of those craptastic cable monopoly agreements with comcast...The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question. To add insult to injury, the community just got over a nasty fight with SBC (now part of Verizon), over doing fiber-to-the-house on their own initiative.

    It's all a load of crap at this point anyway. The damn regulation we're using to play phone and cable companies off against each other is hilariously dated, especially since they're all sending the same damn bits, and mostly sending them over the same damn wires!

    We need a simple law to force wire sharing (so we don't end up with five times the amount of bandwidth we need going into every damn neighborhood), and maybe a standard connector for data cables, and we need to step back, and let them fight it out to the death. Forcing those jokers to compete is the only way we'll get decent service for a decent price.
    • Not Verizon, AT&T...Got my mergers confused.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      We need a simple law to force wire sharing

      Beware of creating temporal paradoxes by mentioning "simple" and "law" in the same sentence.
      • Understood...The law governing it right now is far from simple, and includes wire sharing, and about a billion more things. If we deregulated them completely, the phone companies would use the fact that they control most of the fiber backbones to choke out the cable companies by not allowing them to use the wire. The cable companies would fight back by laying their own wire, and we'd end up with dozens of bit players and a completely ridiculous hodgepodge network of fiber.

        I'd say the right way to get it don
    • by TommydCat (791543)

      ...(so we don't end up with five times the amount of bandwidth we need going into every damn neighborhood)...

      I was with you all the way up to here... Too much bandwidth is just unpossible!

      If it's not eventual migration to a new standard (e.g. high-definition was not even thought of when the original cable lines were run), increased numbers of communications-capable devices will start chewing through all the "extra" bandwidth no one needs (xbox, video phone, transmat pad, food replicators, etc.).

      • by Laur (673497)
        I was with you all the way up to here... Too much bandwidth is just unpossible!
        I think the parent is refering to the stupidity of having multiple wires (such as phone and cable) coming into your home. Unless you are purchasing both DSL & Cable internet, at the highest data rates available for each, then you are not taking advantage of that extra bandwidth.
    • by PingSpike (947548)
      So who pays to lay those wires?
      • Originally it was the phone company, which is why we have wire sharing today. Cable has gotten big enough, however, that they could do their share.

        Regardless, if there is money to be made by running wire to a place, someone will do it, and, in the interest of not having 5 sets of wire going to each house, companies should be allowed to purchase space on existing wires, from the company that ran the wire in the first place. You have to add in that stipulation, or the company that ran the wire will refuse to
        • Or you can just have the city build the network [utopianet.org] and give equal access to all providers. This gives a level playing field to any provider that wants to take advantage of it. Comcast, AT&T and Qwest sure fought tooth and nail against it but in my locality we actually made it a reality. I have a 15 Mb data pipe (that's both down AND up, thank you very much!) that costs me about $30 per month. I haven't taken advantage of any of the television or telephone offerings yet, but they are there if I wish to
          • Ideally it would be great for the city/county/state to run all the wires to your home and have open access for all providers, but I somehow doubt it would work out too well in most areas. The rich side of town won't want to pay for the hardware on the poor side of town, and getting together enough tax money to do major upgrades could take a decade. As someone else mentioned, one way to do it would be how many other utility companies work now (I know electricity in Maine does, not sure about other states), w
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by swb (14022)

              and getting together enough tax money to do major upgrades could take a decade.

              If the municipal network provider was able to have the municipality issue tax-free bonds on behalf of the network provider, it shouldn't be hard to raise money to perform significant upgrades, and the upgrades ought be cheaper this way than via a private entity borrowing money from a bank or issuing their own bonds (we'll ignore the broader issue of the "cost" of the bonds tax-exempt status).

              What I think should happen, though, is that cities should build in some of the underground infrastructure -- cable t

    • The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question.

      I'm not a yuppie, or affluent, or yard-obsessed. And I *still* wouldn't want one of those giant boxes on my property.
    • by ehovland (2915) *
      It's all a load of crap at this point anyway.

      Here, here! The problem here is that both companies are competing for the same damn thing, data service to your house. The data might be voice, might be email/web or it might be video. But it is just bits. And FWIW, the stream goes down and up you shifty blighters!
    • by prator (71051)

      The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question.

      I don't see how you have to be an affluent, yard-obsessed yuppy to not want a giant ugly telecom box in your yard.

      http://origin.arstechnica.com/articles/culture/u-v erse.media/wheaton.jpg [arstechnica.com]

    • by swb (14022)

      The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question.
      I like the collection of shibboleths, but doesn't living in the suburbs exclude you from being a Young Urban Professional?

      I think "appearance-obsessesed bourgeoisie" is probably a better description.

    • by packeteer (566398)
      We need a simple law to force wire sharing (so we don't end up with five times the amount of bandwidth we need going into every damn neighborhood),

      I agree with you everywhere but in that statement. There is no limit in sight for how much bandwidth is needed. Years ago nobody ever imagined anything but a large corporation needing more than a 300 baud modem. We should lay all the wire we possibly can to everywhere we can.
  • by ivan256 (17499) on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:37PM (#17293284)
    We're not moving away from net neutrality... We never had net neutrality. Neither from the providers, nor from the government.

    Here is a case (and the same thing is happening with Verizon's FiOS) where a company has wires in place, and is sending data, but the local government won't let them send certain data (digitally encoded TV shows) without giving the municipality a cut of their total revenue. It's ridiculous. Worse, this cut of the money is passed directly on to consumers, but most consumers (voters) don't realize that their local government gets between three and six percent of the local cable TV revenues. It's a huge tax that people don't know is there, and that's why they are surprised when their local government doesn't allow a new competitor into the market. Well here's the reason: It's so the town/city continues to get a fat check every month.
    • That's BS.

      Those lines ostensibly belong to the teleco company, but exist by the good graces of the LOCAL governments. That land was taken from the local community for the greater good.

      There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with local communities regulating what goes over essentially public property. In fact, I'd rather have localities controlling that then the federal government.

      If AT&T wants to build a fancy new network without dealing with localities, all they have to do is secure their own rights of way fr
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        They already built the network. They already have their wires. They already have permission to send data over them. This battle isn't about that. It's about what kind of data they plan to transmit.

        And good graces my ass. They exist to benefit both parties. It's not like the town said "Oh, OK, I suppose you can run some cable and turn a profit." The town needed phone service as much as the company needed permission to run its wires.

        Also, the wires frequently (if not usually) run over private property that th
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What does that have to do with net neutrality?

      You've apparently bought into some random smokescreen interpretation of it, spread by either an idiot, or by a telco.

      If you want to try and make an analogue between network neutrality and TV and the government, it would be like the FCC broadcasting interference on every channel except those that paid extra. They would receive a channel allocation where it would come through crystal clear. Any other channel could pay up at any time if they wanted crystal clear
  • I can all too easily see my telco installing fiber to the curb all over the area with the wonderful promise of IPTV and blazing speed. Not that "no, thank you, I'll keep copper" will be an option.

    Then when it happens (of course) DSL won't work, the only remaining "high-speed" connection will be a slice of fiber bandwidth, the only ISP you can get will be MSN, and the bandwidth slice if you don't want television will be 256 kb/s.

    I've never seen a technological advance yet that Ma Bell hasn't tried to pr

  • None of this would be an issue if AT&T was just selling BANDWIDTH. But, they're not. They plan on selling SERVICES as well, including television and telephone. Both of those are regulated by franchise agreements and AT&T is trying to do an end-run here.

    I wonder if AT&T's U-Verse service will be tariffed? Will I be able to purchase that 20+ Mbps link as just an Internet link and without the additional TV & telephone services? Will they be required to make that band available to competitor
    • No, the internet portion will be 6Mpbs down and 1Mbps up. The rest is reserved for TV. See https://uverse1.att.com/launchAMSS.do [att.com] and click on Internet.

      Verizon, however, is offering 15Mbps/2Mbps.

      When uverse comes to me the internet portion won't even match what I am getting from cable is offering (10/1) now.
      • by chill (34294)
        Yeah, I know. I also read the fine print on how they won't unbundle Internet service and you HAVE to purchase television to get anything else.

        If all they're offering is 1 Mbps up, they can count me out.
  • AT&T and other phone providers don't seem to NEED a new "franchise agreement" from any local government because they pretty much already HAVE one and have had it ever since copper wires were laid in. It seems pointless, and fairly stupid actually, to demand that a change in the physical media from copper to fiber would demand some new operating agreement, oversight and (ahem) ***FRANCHISE FEES** with the local government. What we're talking about here is a change in content, not a change in the nature
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      Unrelated question, and obvious attempt to stir up conspiracy hounds: does anyone know if Comcast is subtly or overtly behind efforts to ban or restrict satellite dishes? Seems like there was a move in Boston to ban visible satellite dishes, largely in violation of FCC regs that don't generally permit localities to do so.

      Comcast pays a percentage of its revenues to the licensing municipality. Satellite TV providers don't. Comcast doesn't have to put pressure on the local governments. The local governments w
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wesley Felter (138342)
      AT&T and other phone providers don't seem to NEED a new "franchise agreement" from any local government because they pretty much already HAVE one and have had it ever since copper wires were laid in.

      We're talking about a video franchise agreement. Since AT&T was not previously selling video services, they don't have one.
      • But what I'm saying is, what difference does it make what signal the carrier puts out over their already-franchised lines? Is it within the purview of localities to tell a carrier what type of signal or data they carry, to whom, and how? I haven't lived anywhere that had that specific a franchise agreement because frankly, most places I've lived, local officials were nowhere near as sharp as the franchisees' lawyers and technicians!

        I see no functional difference between telephones carrying voices, fax dat
    • Here's a Boston Globe article [boston.com]. Basically they just wanted the dishes moved to the backs of buildings and out of site from the streets.
  • Rob Biederman tells Ars that AT&T's IPTV system is "neither cable, nor is it a telecommunications service."

    and

    AT&T planned to upgrade its network in Geneva and said that the city could of course conduct zoning oversight of the process, but could not halt it (cities cannot stop ordinary network upgrades).

    On the one hand he seems to be saying this is something "new" that doesn't fall under existing laws. On the other hand, he says it is a network "upgrade".

    Seems to me an "upgrade" would be to an existing network that was regulated by existing laws...

  • by Incongruity (70416) on Monday December 18, 2006 @06:50PM (#17293494)
    Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but I really think this story is an excellent example of the high quality journalism that is popping up at arstechnica. This is a very real issue that may well effect a huge number of people and it's good to see an informed, well written bit of investigative journalism coming from a new(ish) source. (read: not the old-media). Bravo to all the folks over at Arstechnica!
    • by massysett (910130)
      Quality journalism, right. From the same source that, when faced with the Sony rootkit, said that LAME is an MP3 player [arstechnica.com].

      If this were not a tech news site I would have excused an error like that. From a site like Ars it is not excusable. And it hasn't even been corrected, even though a year has passed and comments indicated the error.
      • Um, yeah, they say " LAME, an MP3 encoder and player" So, first and foremost it's an encoder, even by their description. Second, if you have to resort to cherrypicking an example from over a year ago about a small, ancillary detail (again, they correctly stated that it's an MP3 encoder, first), then you're kinda proving my point. Lastly, I'm sure that if you bothered to look, almost any other news-source, particularly in the old-media, has as much if not more of a track record of mistakes with technical
        • by massysett (910130)
          Naa, News.com gets its facts straight. Plus, a technical detail is hardly "ancillary" for a technical website written for a technical audience. And I cherrypicked that example because I haven't read Ars in over a year due to that error and many others.
          • Plus, a technical detail is hardly "ancillary" for a technical website By that logic, any incorrect detail, no matter how tangential, in any article would invalidate everything else they did say. And, while sweeping indictments of that sort are sometimes a handy way of winning the opinion of the masses -- lawyers and politicians are frequent users of such tactics, and they work, even if they're not really right. If you bother to read the story you're citing, you'd see that, for that story and the point
        • by jZnat (793348) *
          According to lame.sf.net, they called it that because it started off as a patch to the reference encoder from the MPEG standard. It eventually became a full-blown encoder once all the code was replaced. So yes, LAME is an MP3 encoder; they just used the GNU acronym joke.
    • Your post actually convinced me to do something I almost never do with a slashdot posting .... read the article.

  • I just got fiber to replace my DSL and I couldn't be happier. IMHO, the laws should favor the consumers, making it easier for them to recieve and use the latest technologies.
  • Verizon just ran fiber to my community and is pushing their new TV services which I thought was IPTV, but this article says it's not?
    • FIOS TV is old-fashioned RF over fiber.
  • I wrote ATA (see article) early today asking if they accepted money from AT&T (they claim to be a grassroots advocacy group, "anti-cable").

    No answer.

    Hmmmmm.....

    (The article was EXCELLENT, btw)
    BWilde
  • With all the hundreds or thousands of individual franchise agreements its a wonder there is any cometition at all in any one particular city. The fix is a state wide uniform franchise agreement as recently passed (but yet unsigned) in Michigan

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2005-2006/ billenrolled/House/pdf/2006-HNB-6456.pdf [mi.gov]
    The "Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act".

    AN ACT to provide for uniform video service local franchises; to promote competition in providing video services in this state;
    • by locokamil (850008)
      I believe New Jersey also passed such a franchise agreement for FiOS a couple of months back.
  • Only a very few of the first 70 posts show any understanding at all of what's involved. I live in the western Chicago suburbs. Here's the deal.

    1) AT&T wants to deploy fiber which will carry the triple play everyone's been drooling over for the last 10 years: Video, Phone, and Internet on one bill.

    2) Comcast just got done with a very expensive infrastructure buildout in the last 3-4 years in my city, so that their network could deliver triple play services. Before that, large parts of the city could get
    • "1) AT&T wants to deploy fiber which will carry the triple play everyone's been drooling over for the last 10 years: Video, Phone, and Internet on one bill."

      I have AT&T and I have the triple play. Local phone, DSL and Dish for TV. Granted it's not one line, but it is one bill. Still MUCH cheaper than comcrap too.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:12PM (#17296092)
    The entire point of a franchise agreement is equal coverage for all residents of a town. Here's the deal: if cable companies want to sell into a city or town, they must meet certain service and coverage requirements. Without these franchise agreements, these new fiber services will only be deployed to rich towns (or rich PARTS of towns).

    Look at the FIOS roll-out. Verizon says they are not equipped to handle "multi-dwelling" units. So they deploy FIOS to single family properties. If you live in an apartment or town-house - too bad. They can do this because most towns stupidly think it is a "data" service, and do not require a TV franchise.

    I have standard copper pairs and coax cable in my townhome, why would a strand of fiber be more difficult to install than either of those?

    I'll tell you why. Single-family properties tend to be owned by people with more money than those who own/rent townhomes and apartments, so Verizon uses the excuse that "multi-dwelling" units are too difficult to deploy.

    I hate all these companies. They will only deploy service to rich people where they can make HUGE margins and screw all the rest.

    We need municipal fiber and we need it now.

    -ted
    • by Dravik (699631)
      Why is it a good idea to force companies to sell a product in an area that isn't very profitable? If there is a demand then someone will be willing to sell the service to the poor areas unless there is no way to cover costs. I just don't see the advantage of the franchise agreements except to ensure everyone has equally bad service.
    • by mwmcginn (1041610)
      Isnt this like saying that a company should offer the most expensive services in areas that arent able to buy expensive things. Anyway. Like saying that Blue Ray DVD players need to be accessible for all? I am on the Att side, and I think the following shows that they are not trying to hurt anyone. Have you heard about anything like this with cable? http://www.statesman.com/search/content/news/stori es/local/12/17/17internet.html [statesman.com] By the way, my cable rates go up next year. I think we could stand a li
  • Here in Northern VA specifically the City of Alexandria, the broadband service is horrible. The main issue is that Comcast is the only provider. The City of Alexandria and the county of Fairfax are two different municipalities. Comcast is in Alex and Cox is in Fairfax. but there are not in each other's territory because that means they would have to compete with each other so they just don't apply for that license(sounds like collusion). Back the problem, I live in an old apartment(1940s) and Verizon DS
  • I believe that the local permitting process is the best level in government to demand a Net Neutrality clause. What do you think?

    Could a Net Neutrality debate on the local level make sense? More sense then federally in Congress? I think it is really there where communities ca assert their rights and Interests.
  • Living in Geneva... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Insightfill (554828) on Tuesday December 19, 2006 @10:51AM (#17299802) Homepage
    I can tell you that AT&T's position is pretty goofy. As the former SBC in the area, their fear campaign against community-based broadband was pretty brutal. They bombed the mailboxes with little flyers like here [tricitybroadband.com] and really soured me more on the company. Now they come around and claim that we need the exact service they were shooting down last year. Sheesh. Those boxes are also pretty huge.
  • Interesting quote from TFA:
    Rob Biederman tells Ars that AT&T's IPTV system is "neither cable, nor is it a telecommunications service." It's a data service, he says, and it is not regulated under the federal Cable Act.

    So how does this fit in with their push for a tiered Internet? Is it "just data", or is it voice and high-bandwidth video that we need to be charged extra for? Which is it?
  • We've been raped up the ass by all the telcos over then not delivering one inch of fiber to the home and now we're going to compound that by fighting with AT&T when AT&T finally gives us what we've been paying surcharges for all these friggin' years.

    People are stupid shits.

    Let em deliver the fiber and if we don't like the way its going, then we can regulate their balls off.

    BUT LET 'EM DELIVER THE FUCKIN' FIBER!!!
  • I dunno... this seems more like a battle of the usual NIMBY busybodies rather than any coherent argument.

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