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US Broadband Policy Called "Magical Thinking" 287

Posted by kdawson
from the unicorns-in-the-tubes dept.
eWeekPete writes "Is the pipe half full or half empty? Not surprisingly, the talk at the second annual Tech Policy Summit was decidedly mixed. 'The US is still the most dynamic broadband economy in the world,' said Ambassador Richard Russell, the associate director of the White House's Office on Science and Technology Policy. 'As opposed to being miles ahead, though, we're only a little ahead.' But Yale Law School's Susan Crawford called Russell's position 'magical thinking. We're not doing well at all.' She proceeded to call the White House's effort 'completely inadequate on broadband competition.'"
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US Broadband Policy Called "Magical Thinking"

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  • "only a little" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:06AM (#22893818)
    When our policy-makers (who never admit to anything bad lately) say that we're "only a little ahead," you know that we're seriously lagging.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      Basically it means two things: First, that the rest of the world is even more behind, and second, that they got some bri... funding from telcos and now need a reason to pump tax money that way.
      • Re:"only a little" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hyppy (74366) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:01PM (#22894462)
        Tax money shouldn't be pumped to the telcos to yet again waste instead of rebuilding critical infrastructure. Instead, the U.S. government should build its own national, public infrastructure to replace the crap that the telcos are trying to pass off as acceptable.
        • Re:"only a little" (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:09PM (#22894532)
          What? Socialized infrastructure? Maybe even offering everyone the same goods for the same price, leveling the playing field instead of offering discounts for large corporations to give them an edge over the smaller companies?

          Careful there, it may lead to a free market system, and I doubt that's in the best interest of the corporations and their politicians. In other words, don't expect to see that anytime soon.
          • Re:"only a little" (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Hyppy (74366) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:19PM (#22894628)
            You're right, I was completely out of line. We need the best government money can buy. In order to purchase that government, we need powerful corporations which have the people's best interests at heart to provide that money. Democracy at its best!

            Wait... I think I heard of a quote about corporations and government before... Ahh, yes, it was Benito Mussolini. "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the marriage of government and corporate power." So much for democracy.

            Is there an equivalent to Godwin's Law for fascism?
            • by k_187 (61692)

              Is there an equivalent to Godwin's Law for fascism?

              The irony of that statement is delicious.
              but yeah. Companies are only going to build out where's there's profit. Gov't either has to make them build out the rest or do it themselves.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bombula (670389)
            it may lead to a free market syst

            The definition is of a free market is one in which prices are negotiated "without force or coercion." In other words, a free market is transparent and competitive. Unfortunately, transparency and competition are anathema to profit; they are mutually exclusive. Ironically, a highly profitable market is a failed market by definition.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by suitepotato (863945)
          Tax money shouldn't be pumped to the telcos to yet again waste instead of rebuilding critical infrastructure. Instead, the U.S. government should build its own national, public infrastructure to replace the crap that the telcos are trying to pass off as acceptable.

          So you'd do this despite the fact that you'd not want all your communications copied by AT&T to the NSA? Despite eight years of privacy invasion by the current administration? Despite Carnivore? Despite initiatives by our government to make
          • Re:"only a little" (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TheLink (130905) on Friday March 28, 2008 @04:03PM (#22898002) Journal
            What are _you_ smoking? And no I don't want any of it.

            How has having the network being owned by a Corporation stopped comms being illegally spied on by the US Gov?

            If you have a crap Gov, it'll spy on citizens whether it owns the network or a Corporation owns the network. Heck it'll MAKE IT LEGAL TO DO SO IF IT WANTS. The fact that the present Gov doesn't even give a damn and tries to make it retroactively legal shows the amount of CONTEMPT it has for the citizens, their intelligence, and the laws of the country.

            The last I checked US citizens had this thing called a vote. If they don't care very much about your mentioned concerns, the Gov will continue doing it. If they do care enough then the Gov might stop doing it.

            But it appears most are clueless. The Sheep are busy deciding which Wolf should eat them for the next term, and it sure seems that some would rather have the Wolves' good friend the Fox to own the networks, because they are afraid of the Wolves owning the networks.

            Brilliant. No wonder Bush won two terms.

            I live in a different country and wouldn't care so much but for the fact that the USA is the most powerful country in the world ( military spending is almost as much as the rest of the world combined), and has no qualms on starting wars unilaterally, doesn't care about the UN, what the rest of the world thinks, or what the US Constitution says. Add Diebolded elections, lots of really stupid voters, and it sure doesn't look good.
    • Re:"only a little" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FireXtol (1262832) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:45AM (#22894284) Journal
      America is a very large country. To roll-out fiber optics (to the curb!) would be very expensive for a nation that still has a very large number of solely dial-up users. Especially compared to the arm-and-a-leg you're being charged for poor service.
      Plus it would enable hugely cheap WiFi networks. An entire neighborhood could be connected through one fiber line, and all be enjoying [several] Gigabit WAN. Enabling the ability to host your own fairly large web server.

      Unfortunately, these are all very bad for big business!

      Businesses model their offerings based not on what they can do... but what they think they can get away with. Establish unreliability as 'standard', establish that 'hosting your own' is cost-prohibitive (or contrary to a service agreement), and that this thing called bandwidth should be ridiculously expensive.

      It is basically a criminal mentality.

      • Re:"only a little" (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:29PM (#22894798)
        If you consider self interest to be criminal then you may be right. However, t is my own considered opinion that the extensive power of the government to regulate has created the opportunity for rent seeking [wikipedia.org] and anti-competitive behavior to occur in the first place. If there were less power to be gained by corrupting politicians because the government was smaller then you would have more broadband at cheaper prices right now. The competitive market does not allow people "to get away with it" because inefficient competitors are ruthlessly driven out of business by their more able competition. The problem in the real world is that busy-body governments, even though their intentions may be good, cannot resist interfering and we all know a certain road that is paved with good intentions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Most of the highways must be paved with good intentions, because they sure as shit don't use quality asphalt. The potholes are bad enough, but the "filled in" potholes are just as bad when they are "leveled" to 4" higher than the rest of the road, causing just as bad a dip when driven upon.
        • Re:"only a little" (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday March 28, 2008 @01:30PM (#22895710) Journal

          the extensive power of the government to regulate has created the opportunity for rent seeking and anti-competitive behavior to occur in the first place.

          And of course your solution to this problem is... less government! But back up a second. That's quite a leap saying that more powerful government gives more opportunity for rent seeking. If that is true, why did the EPA try to claim it didn't have authority to regulate CO2 emissions [acs.org]? Why have fewer species than ever been added to the endangered species list? Maybe the FCC shouldn't have any authority over the electromagnetic spectrum, parts of which were recently reclaimed, repackaged, and auctioned off? Why did the Department of Homeland Security bungle Katrina so badly? Why does DHS insist on spending big $ for radiation detectors that won't reliably detect smuggling [sciam.com] and which are subject to false alarms [slashdot.org], while barely pursuing other, more promising methods? Maybe they don't have enough people? It couldn't be because consolidating several agencies into one overall smaller agency was a bad idea, could it?

          The problem is not the size of the government, it's the size of the corruption, incompetence, and stupidity in government and in corporations. It's the extent to which these organizations and systems allow problems to be hidden and covered up. In some cases, government authority has been used for rent seeking, but in many other cases, lack of government authority has been used to put together monopolies and to get away with short changing the people. Just look at the subprime mess, and the way the telcos have not provided services, even going so far as to sue government entities set up to provide services where the telcos would not. If Bush and Cheney had less government to work with, they'd have fewer secrets to keep! Yeah. Transparency, not size, is the key.

          • Re:"only a little" (Score:4, Insightful)

            by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday March 28, 2008 @02:21PM (#22896414)

            why did the EPA try to claim it didn't have authority to regulate CO2 emissions [acs.org]?

            Regulatory Capture [wikipedia.org]

            Why have fewer species than ever been added to the endangered species list?

            This is relevant how?

            Maybe the FCC shouldn't have any authority over the electromagnetic spectrum, parts of which were recently reclaimed, repackaged, and auctioned off?

            Other than to manage and sell licenses and enforce exclusive rights they shouldn't. In fact, they could even outsource the management and auctioning parts and concentrate on the enforcement. This is the same as the government selling oil, mining, and mineral extraction rights on public lands.

            Why did the Department of Homeland Security bungle Katrina so badly?

            Government, by definition, bungles. That is why I and many other Libertarians want substantially less government.

            Why does DHS insist on spending big $ for radiation detectors that won't reliably detect smuggling and which are subject to false alarms, while barely pursuing other, more promising methods?

            Again, because the government has no profit motive AND they are spending other people's money they aren't very careful about what they buy or what gets wasted. They might buy product A over product B because product A is made by a company that made a contribution to the re-election campaign of a certain politician or promised to do a personal favor for a DHS manager in the future. If you were spending the money of another person for them would you be as careful as if you were spending your own money on yourself? Probably not.

            Maybe they don't have enough people?

            They almost certainly have too MANY people already.

            It couldn't be because consolidating several agencies into one overall smaller agency was a bad idea, could it?

            Of course it was a bad idea. The new agency should never have been created and most of the other existing ones should have been ELIMINATED. The ideal government, IMHO, would be composed of the constitutionally mandated branches (president, congress, supreme court), the justice system (state and federal courts) to adjudicate disputes, police (national, state, and local) to enforce the rules and prevent violence and coercion, and finally the military to prevent foreign powers from conquering us by force. That is it and that is all.

            The problem is not the size of the government

            Yes it is.

            it's the size of the corruption, incompetence, and stupidity in government and in corporations.

            Corruption is inevitable in government, it will always be present at some level and it will be larger and ever more present as the size and scope of government is increased. I know of NO counter example to this principle from any time in all of human history. The difference between incompetence or stupidity in government and the same in corporations is that an incompetent or stupid corporation will be selected OUT of the system by the forces of market competition (it will declare bankruptcy and cease to exist). The government on the other hand, no matter how incompetent or stupid, will not go bankrupt OR be forced out by market competition because they control the market via the ultimate power, threat of violence and coercive physical force. Replacing governments can be dangerous work, just look at the US experience in Iraq if you don't believe that.

            In some cases, government authority has been used for rent seeking, but in many other cases, lack of government authority has been used to put together monopolies and to get away with short changing the people.

            If one looks at the economic history of monopolies then it is clear that the durable monopolies (i.e. ones that were not temporary) were invariably backed up by the coercive power of government to enforce the continuation of the mono

      • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:39PM (#22894956)
        Canada is even bigger, with a much lower population density. Rural Canadians typically pay $20/month for ADSL bandwidth I couldn't buy in downtown Chicago at any price. I could get equivalent bandwidth, but not ADSL, and prices were in the multi-$100s/month for leased lines. The US was woefully behind its northern neighbour, and the rest of the developed world, three years ago.

        Now that I live in Europe, I'm able to get 24Mbit/2Mbit ADSL for a fraction of what I paid for 1/12th the bandwidth in Chicago (and having spoken to a friend of mine who lives there now, it seems things haven't improved much in the last 18 months). Seeing as 100Mbit is coming in the next few months, I'd say the US is not only not ahead, it is falling behind at a geometric rate.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday March 28, 2008 @01:09PM (#22895376) Journal
          Canada has more land area per person but their population tend to ignore a good portion of that area making a real population density a low larger.

          Also, you comparison of DSL prices is a bit misleading. The prices are different from city to city and market to market but DSL can be had in Chicago for about $20 a month. [chicagotribune.com] I only payed $35 a month for a 3 meg connection and my father was is paying $10 or $15 for a 1.5 or 1 meg connection that suits his need. That was about 2 to 3 years ago when we temporarily located in the Chicago area for a job that lasted about 8 months.

          I don't think this says what you want it to say.
      • Re:"only a little" (Score:4, Interesting)

        by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew AT zhrodague DOT net> on Friday March 28, 2008 @02:07PM (#22896194) Homepage Journal
        America is a very large country. To roll-out fiber optics (to the curb!) would be very expensive for a nation that still has a very large number of solely dial-up users.

        Hi. Here in Pennsylvania, we already paid Bell/Verizon multiple billion dollars to have fiber rolled out. That was 15 years ago. We're still waiting.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      I was just thinking, 'A little ahead!? We're behind!' Some other countries have had 10 and 100 megabit connections for YEARS. I'm at 8mb at home, and getting that much at a business is still ludicrously expensive.
    • When our policy-makers (who never admit to anything bad lately) say that we're "only a little ahead," you know that we're seriously lagging.

      Speaking of policy makers not admitting anything bad, I'm not sure if I should be worried or encouraged that the policy-makers have admitted that the 1996 telecommunications act was a mess, and now they are unsure of how to make good policy. FTA:

      . "People don't understand how hard it is to write legislation," he said, citing the 1996 Telecommunications Act as a prime

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Curunir_wolf (588405)
        Well, he's right - writing good legislation really is hard, especially since most of the time they are relying on "industry consultants" to help them, and they are inevitably motivated by their own agendas.

        Part of the problem is the vast library of existing legislation that's been around since AT&T was first handed a monopoly on right-of-way for telegraph wires. The first step is to identify and organize that mess, including everything that the FCC controls, spectrum, rights-of-way, broadcaster and F

  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:08AM (#22893836)
    Corporate greed prevents connecting rural housing to broadband?

    I thought greed and the free market would solve everything!

    Ron Paul where are you?!?!?
  • "Magical Thinking" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:10AM (#22893858)
    Anything coming out of the White House at the moment is "Magical Thinking" alright.
  • magical thinking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 45mm (970995) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:12AM (#22893880)
    It's certainly magical ... like LSD-induced magical. What is this administration smoking? Can I have some?
  • by querist (97166) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:18AM (#22893948) Homepage
    I don't know about Washington, DC, (which I suspect has great broadband) but where I live in South Carolina all I can get is dial-up. I get better connectivity when I'm in China.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Serge_Tomiko (1178965)
      Ridiculous. I've been to Charleston, Hilton Head Island, and Aiken. You know what? They all have broadband available. This means you live someplace rural.

      People in rural China don't have access to many basics of urban civilization known since Roman times, ie paved streets and running water. Regular electricity service is not available in large sections of the countryside.

         
    • by yiffyfox (162564) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:18PM (#22894624) Journal
      I live, 35.4 mi - about 1 hour, from Google's headquarters in Mountain View. The best I can get is ISDN. No Cable/DSL is available. Nor will the phone company install a T1 to our house. I feel your pain. If you live in the thick of it, you can get broadband, step away form the city and it's back to dial-up.
      • by Morrigu (29432)
        Verizon won't even sell me an ISDN circuit. Bastards.

        Not like I'm bitter. See my other post on this thread [slashdot.org] for my bitch-session on satellite Internet access.

        The real kicker is that the county a couple miles to the south line has DSL access available for every home from its telco cooperative (Shentel). But not Verizon. Verizon will wire up FiOS all day long to its precious consumer base in densely-populated Northern Virginia and the DC suburbs, but will hardly lift a finger to provide even decent dial-up
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday March 28, 2008 @01:44PM (#22895916) Journal
          Find your local public utilities commision and write a complaint to them. It worked for me in ohio. I'm only 200 yards from a main timewarner line and found that I couldn't get service from them when both the neighbor across the street and next door can. I'm stuck with Verizon DSL or a satellite hookup that the other neighbors tree knock out every so often.

          Time Warner told me that it wasn't econimically feasable to service my house so I complained to the PUCO. It took about 8 months to a year and time warner sent letter to everyone on my road (I am rural) saying they where going to run all the way down the right of way and we needed to attend a meeting to object to it. Verizon already put in a RDSLAM to increase my service and extend DSL to others down the road.

          Your local authorities and government structure isn't as concerned with externalities like the state would be. Seriously, complain to them, get your neighbors to complain, and it might take a while, but something will/should happen. The purpose of giving them monopoly access to certain areas is to make sure the unprofitable areas get served. If your state is anything like mine, the fines for non-compliance will end up being more then the costs of running the lines and making the necessary changes. Also, if it is a local "right of way" issue, the state can step in and settle the issue a lot easier then a company can.

          Don't hesitate to use the PUCO or equivalents authority to complain about being left out. BTW, if you call, record everything and write down what you said then mail it to them. A call gets logged but doesn't always have the same status. Written correspondence and email seems to be much more effective because they can forward it to someone specific easier then a call taken by a secretary.
  • Not so good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scubamage (727538) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:20AM (#22893972)
    My boss's mother in Korea has 1Gbps coming into her house via ethernet. It costs less than 30$ a month.
    Considering that a t3 functions at 45Mbps and costs a few thousand dollars a month, I'd say we're lagging behind. Badly. Most of our national infrastructure is still using lines which were installed in the 50s and 60s that have been retrofitted with newer equipment.
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      You don't need a T3 to get 45Mbps now that we have FTTP. You can have your 50Mbps for in the $100/month price range.

      It's not 1Gbps, but it's also not nearly as bad as you say. It's pretty impressive considering how far apart people live here compared to Korea. You have to spend orders of magnitude more money on infrastructure per customer, so it only makes sense that the cost of the service reflects that.

      Granted, not all of the ILECs are installing FTTP... This is a problem. Any ILEC executive that signs of
    • My boss's mother in Korea has 1Gbps coming into her house via ethernet. It costs less than 30$ a month.

      Ah, this explains it. You see, only old people in Korea use email, so the government there set up a special infrastructure for the elderly in order to cope with the spam levels. Of course a very fast connection is part of the equipment!

      Otherwise, the USA is still the bestest country when talking about the Internet, we invented it duh! Not listening to you nananananana not hearing you, fingers in my ears

    • Re:Not so good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JohnSearle (923936) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:55AM (#22894392)
      I get 2Gbps up/down in my apartment in Finland, and it's included as a part of my rent; which is next to nothing, since it's a student apartment. On top of that, free post-secondary education for all! On the downside, higher taxes... on the upside, a well educated populous, and debt free students.

      I'm a Canadian married to a Finnish citizen, which is the reason why I'm here, and I can say this connection is the nicest I have ever been on. I've also been on other publicly available Finnish connections, and it is still leaps beyond what Canada has to offer... especially in terms of fairness towards the customers, since rates are low and forced contracts are rare.

      - John
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      Would you please stop comparing US w/ Korea and Finland already?

      Fare comparison would be with countries with similar distribution of people over the area.

      Big question is why Montgomery county or Maryland cannot be like Korea and Finland...
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Scyber (539694)
      It's called population density. The US has a density of 80 per sq mile. South Korea is at 1274 per square mile. Such a higher population density provides a much better return on infrastructure investments. This opens the competiveness of the broadband market, forcing prices down.

      In the US it is nearly impossible for a new broadband player to enter the market due to the extensive infrastructure investments needed. In areas where Verizon FIOS and the cable companies compete, speeds have increased. Pric
      • Re:Not so good (Score:4, Insightful)

        by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:39PM (#22894954)

        In the US it is nearly impossible for a new broadband player to enter the market due to the extensive infrastructure investments needed.


        No. In the US it is completely impossible for a new broadband player to enter the market due to the extensive laws explicitly prohibiting it, at the request of the incumbent telcos. This is pure corruption.

        Who told you that the infrastructure investments were prohibitive? Hey, it's those same telcos again. They're lying to you: it's quite doable in the urban areas, and the rest would creep out slowly over the following years. This is all sleight of hand to distract you from noticing the corruption that's really responsible for the mess.

        If it was legal, you would have competition, and your network services wouldn't suck so utterly.

        It's called population density. The US has a density of 80 per sq mile.


        Irrelevant. Nobody wants to run network service to miles of desert in Utah. The density in the parts of the US where people actually live is more than high enough to support real service. This sort of misleading statistic is typical of the way they try to convince you that what you have isn't broken.
  • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn AT wumpus-cave DOT net> on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:22AM (#22894000)

    In this case, "success" means that local monopolies are continuing to make money on existing infrastructure without having to reinvest any of it into new infrastructure.

    I signed up for a business-class cable modem a few years back (being willing to pay the premium so I could host my own email and not have to worry about bandwidth caps), and my contract is about to expire (defaulting to month-to-month after the expiration). In that time, the cable company hasn't increased the speed for business users at all. Normally, I'd look for a competitor, but none of the local companies have DSL coverage near my house. There's one company offering WiMax service, but I find WiMax questionable.

    So apparently, in the few years that I've had my cable modem, almost nobody has invested a single penny in infrastructure upgrades. Meanwhile, the Koreans had 10 megabit fiber connections years ago. I can only conclude that "a little ahead" is a measure of profit margins, not usefulness.

    • In this case, "success" means that local monopolies are continuing to make money on existing infrastructure without having to reinvest any of it into new infrastructure.
      Bingo. The White House (and Congress, for that matter) talks to telecomm CEOs and lobbyists, and they tell them, "We're great!". Together, as in so many other areas, they make their own reality.
  • by Jerry (6400) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:26AM (#22894044)
    Crawford added that what America needs is "access to a general communication structure that is open with universal access," a notion characterized by Russell as a "tragic mistake" and invoked an image of a single, regulated monopoly.

    "More pipes into the home is the key," Russell said.


    We already have "more pipes" and their bandwidths are too narrow and too expensive. We pay $70 for 10MB and many European and Asian countries pay $15 for 40MB to 100MB.

    We should have had a PUBLICLY OWNED 100GB optical fiber pipe across the nation FIFTEEN YEARS AGO but the cable and telcos reniged on their promise to build it after Congress gave them to money to do so in order to prevent local governments from building their own. Much of that pipe my city government installed is still buried and is still good. One line goes under my yard. We should demand that the cable and telcos FULFILL their promise and finish the job they were paid to do, and finish it without being paid a single penny more or raising their rates. That's right... take it out of the profits and stockholder dividends. The stockholder's didn't mind receiving windfall dividends while the cable and telcos management was taking the money and paying themselves huge salaries and bonuses and giving those dividends. It's time to pay up, with interest... just like they'd charge.

    • I've said the same thing. Connectivity should be somewhat socialistic, services should be market based. As long as the content providers are giving you the connection there can be no fairness in it. When having the internet was similar to dial-up=beater car and broadband=luxury SUV perhaps the market was handling it. Now we have a need for ALL people to have broadband access to the Internet. The market fell behind. The 'market' in this case fell behind not because of some magic, but because of greed.

      If the
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I agree. A lot of people are sure that anything any government runs will be run badly, but health care in other countries belies that. All the retired people I know are happy as clams with their medicare, yet the youngsters don't want it. I think they're brainwashed fools who refuse to look at facts.

      Here in Springfield [wikipedia.org] the power company [cwlp.com] is owned and run by the city government. We have the lowest electric rates in Illinois.

      When the tornados tore through here [wikipedia.org] in 2006, they destroyed a very large portion of th
    • We should have had a PUBLICLY OWNED 100GB optical fiber pipe across the nation FIFTEEN YEARS AGO but the cable and telcos reniged on their promise to build it after Congress gave them to money to do so in order to prevent local governments from building their own. Much of that pipe my city government installed is still buried and is still good. One line goes under my yard. We should demand that the cable and telcos FULFILL their promise and finish the job they were paid to do, and finish it without being paid a single penny more or raising their rates. That's right... take it out of the profits and stockholder dividends. The stockholder's didn't mind receiving windfall dividends while the cable and telcos management was taking the money and paying themselves huge salaries and bonuses and giving those dividends. It's time to pay up, with interest... just like they'd charge.

      What exactly are you smoking? 100Gb 15 years ago? 28.8 dialup was fast 15 years ago. The 100Gb Ethernet standard isn't even ratified TODAY how in the hell are the telcos supposed to build a 100Gig 'optical fiber pipe' when the technology doesn't even exist TODAY. There are NO routers that support 100Gb connections. OC-768, 40 Gb is the fastest you can get today and the are MILLIONS of dollars While I agree the telcos and cable cos can and should do more to promote broadband around the country. You have

  • Translation (Score:5, Informative)

    by arth1 (260657) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:26AM (#22894048) Homepage Journal
    "A little ahead" in this context means "behind Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, United Kingdom and Belgium" in broadband penetration.
    And that's with a very liberal view of what broadband really is (256 kbps or above). If only looking at true broadband capable of video streaming both ways, the US is WAY down the list behind almost every other non-third-world country.

    Geographically, it becomes even worse, with broadband being largely unavailable outside cities and suburbs, while other countries have ensured that penetration also reaches areas with a low population density.

    The US is much like the Holy Roman Empire in that it refuses to acknowledge that its days are numbered and that to survive, it needs to accept that it's not #1, and that it must accept help from the outside.

    Or, to use a vehicle analogy (this is slashdot, isn't it?): The train has left, and the US was not on it. Even though the many of the engineers are Americans, the passengers and their agents were too busy haggling over the ticket price, so they missed its leaving the station.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Well except I don't know a single person that can not get broadband.
      I have a good friend that lives in the middle of no where Idaho. Somewhere near a town called Rupert... He has broadband.
      My father in a cabin in mountains of Northern GA. He has broadband there. I think that if you take a look at the percentage of people and the actual number of people in the US that have Broadband available you will see that it is a pretty big number.

      I have a cable modem at home. Most of the time I can not saturate that li
      • by arth1 (260657)
        "In the US local calls are part of your flat rate bill."
        Don't assume that everyone has the same plan as you. I live in the US, and I pay per minute for local calls. Because the number of local calls I make are very few, this saves me over $100 a year.
      • by jcnnghm (538570)
        I have a 15mbps FiOS connection, although on speed tests it can register up to 16mbps. In practice, I very rarely am able to download at a rate of greater than 1 MB/s. Indeed, the only internet service that I am routinely able to download at link speed from is my Usenet provider. Of course, being able to download over 5 gigabytes an hour has its advantages.

        I have been able to stream HD video from the few sites that currently support it (Hulu), and that's nice. In general though, I'd say that a 15mbps is
  • The gist of the article is the phrase "universal access". What this really means, is that cash strapped cities and suburban areas should again rise to subsidize broadband in rural areas. I think at some point, if you choose to live in the middle of nowhere, you aren't going to get all the benefits. While its great that Denmark has higher broadband penetration, I think its silly to argue that broadband penetration in a country the size of one of our states is the same sort of engineering feet as solving t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arth1 (260657)
      You're quite wrong here. To quote F.D.R.: "Look to Norway"
      Norway has mountains ranges and large fjords cutting off easy access to most anywhere, and less than 3% arable land. It's much harder to cable up Norway than the US. Yet, they have a much higher broadband penetration, especially outside the big cities. This doesn't jive with your claims.

      The real difference is in politics, not geography.
    • by ivan256 (17499) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:45AM (#22894282)
      I have cows in my back yard.

      On Main Street in the center of my town, people keep horses and sheep. I don't think you could categorize my town as anything buy "rural".

      However, Boston is 30 miles to the east of me. I've got Fiber to my house. Nobody in Boston does.

      Why do I mention this? It's because the problem is much more complicated than you imply. We've got a city with a high population density with no access, and rural farming communities with the option for 50Mbit symmetric connections, because while it's typically easier to serve a higher density population, the problem reverses when you start talking about a place where everything is hundreds of years old. It's hard to lay cable in a city that has gone through hundreds of years of layered construction projects, so those of us in the sticks end up with service first.

      We need to come up with our own solutions. The only way we can be compared to European and Asian countries is in these statistical analyses. We can't always adopt their solutions. If you look at the European cities that have high penetration, they're generally fairly modern cities (even if they're "old", because many of them have had non-voluntary infrastructure resets (read: wars) over the years) compared to some US cities. We need solutions custom tailored to each of our regions. There isn't one magic solution.
    • by cowscows (103644) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:52AM (#22894344) Journal
      I don't think there are that many people arguing that some hermit living in the middle of the woods in Montana should have telco's lining up to run a fiber line to his house, but there's a strong case to be made that even in dense urban areas and brand new high end suburbs, the state of the telecommunications infrastructure in the USA is generally behind the times. I've got family living in wealthy areas of the east coast, and their internet options are limited to the same dsl/cable choices that I get where I live. In the south in a city that was half destroyed by a hurricane a couple years ago.

      What I think this means is that the government should force the telcos to get off their asses and actually upgrade some of this stuff, and do it without passing huge new bills onto consumers. Yes it's regulation, no it's not free market economics, and no it's not necessarily fair to the telcos and their shareholders. But the idea that those telco companies and their successes are the result of a free market is just a myth. They were handed their marketshare by the government decades ago. That wasn't a gift, it was a trade, and the telcos need to be held responsible for their side of the bargin.

    • by rtb61 (674572) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:56AM (#22894400) Homepage
      Typical infrastructure lie. Do you know, factualy, that electrical power supply is far more expensive not only to supply but also to power. Water services are also far more expensive to provide and also the cost of supplying the water. Public roads of course are an order of magnitude more expensive and that excludes the cost of the land used.

      So of all the services FTTH is the cheapest to provide and supply. The only thing holding it back is the existing inflated value of the copper network, with the telcos valuing it in the billions to justify their share prices, and make no mistake, they will lie, cheat, steal and corrupt to protect that copper network for as long as possible.

      It will only be replaced when fault rates start to have a severe economic impact upon the overall economy, and why will fault rates rise, why naturally enough, why spend money on maintaining the copper if you are going to replace it with fibre.

      No for the country size lie, oddly enough smaller countries, also have lower populations and smaller economies, hence they have significantly less money to spend on infrastructure projects.

      • by PPH (736903)

        It will only be replaced when fault rates start to have a severe economic impact upon the overall economy, and why will fault rates rise, why naturally enough, why spend money on maintaining the copper if you are going to replace it with fibre.

        No. The copper will only be replaced when its owners are allowed to escape telecom regulation with the new network.

        Show me a place where Verizon (or whomever) has torn down an old decrepit copper network and installed fiber to serve existing customers with existing contract terms.

      • by tjstork (137384)
        Typical infrastructure lie. Do you know, factualy, that electrical power supply is far more expensive not only to supply but also to power.

        Electrical power lines and water pipes last a long time. A lot of water infrastructure in the USA is decades old, and there are some electrical generators pushing 75 years....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sm62704 (957197)
      I think its silly to argue that broadband penetration in a country the size of one of our states is the same sort of engineering feet as solving the problem on a continental basis

      Your feet are engineered? ;)

      Seriously though, I don't see any difference between giving Denmark universal broadband penetration and giving Illinois universal broadband penetration.

      Why are our cities cash-strapped while Denmark's aren't? Why do you make excuses for government's abysmal failures?

      One more nit: we're only about a thir
      • by tjstork (137384)
        Why are our cities cash-strapped while Denmark's aren't? Why do you make excuses for government's abysmal failures?

        Government is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. If people want broadband, they can buy it. If they don't have the money for it, its not the government's problem. You could always move to where there -is- broadband and that reflects on the value of a neighborhood. It's not a failure of government that taxpayers don't want to subsidize something that is a private sector effort.
        • by us7892 (655683)
          Exactly. Why the heck is government supposed to mandate broadband access to everyone?

          Electricity and Water are basic needs. Broadband is not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkf (304284)

      Broadband for the USA is a much, much, larger problem than broadband for a tiny european country.

      Only if you're intent on doing the whole country at the same time. It certainly wasn't done that way in the UK; instead, it was a sustained investment (by companies after being pushed into it very hard by the regulators and government) over many years, and it involved a lot of digging up of streets (well, mostly sidewalks). Sure, at the time it meant a lot of grumbling by various people, but it now means we've got a free market in internet access where there are lots of providers fighting for your custom l

  • That is a symptom of schitzophrenia [wikipedia.org].

    Schizophrenia, from the Greek roots schizein (, "to split") and phrn, phren- (, -, "mind"), is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental illness characterized by impairments in the perception or expression of reality, most commonly manifesting as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized speech and thinking in the context of significant social or occupational dysfunction.

    Emphasis mine.

    I've known a few schitzophrenics. I seem to be a "nu

  • A series of optimistic tubes.
    • Geeks talk about the size of the pipe to their house. Some Senator talks about the internet being a bunch of tubes that can fill up because of file sharing or video on demand or whatever. It's exactly the same metaphor the technocrats use. So exactly why was the guy wrong other than he's old and from the wrong party?
    • Technically, fiber optic cable is a series of tubes, and getting government permission to build a FTTH network requires a great deal of optimism...
  • What's the point of more residential bandwidth? All most people will do with it is watch TV. Why should national policy be devoted to helping people watch TV, which is a fundamentally nonproductive activity?

    Once you get to 1Mb/s or so, you can do everything most residential users do that isn't video-oriented. What's the problem?

    The "gigabit connections" of some of the high density countries are illusory. You may have gigabit Ethernet to your apartment, but your 1000-unit apartment complex doesn't h

  • The owners of the last mile are holding it hostage for a bigger cut of the profits.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:40PM (#22894978) Homepage Journal
    Back in the day I worked for an ISP/consultancy. I was at a client site which was also our POP, and had dual T-1s, and I shared that with our users. It was blazing fast for the day. Then I got RoadRunner (one of the early users in our city) and damn, that was fast. I would mirror vendor FTP sites overnight, swapping 1GB/hr one night. Woot!

    Today, my cable service is the equal of what I had back then, but the download speeds suck. Why?

    Demand, and of course backbone capacity.

    So, does that nice Korean grandmother with the GB Ethernet connection get GB BitTorrent downloads? It's not up to the last mile how fast your connection is. It's the source(s) and the backbone. And your ISP's gateways, of course.

    Our broadband problem in the U.S. doesn't seem to be, IMHO, the last mile. It's the ISP's gateways, just inside the gateways, and the backbones.

    How do they fix this? Well, for most ISPs, they ignore the capacity issue as long as possible, either waiting for the next generation of switching equipment or a capital infusion to spend some money on the NOC. This takes years either way.

    I just saw a story on Nokia apparently offering changes to GPRS, doubling and then increasing again data speeds. this might be a software change, which while not free would be cheaper than new boxes. Sounds like they wanna keep GPRS alive and competitive with EV-DO, HSPDA, et al. This sort of competition is not working in the landline/wired ISP business.

    For a while, a DSL provider in Southern Maine was advertising that they offered faster connections than the cable company did. Oh, man, the cable co threatened to sue for false advertising. And the DSL provider basically said 'bring it on'. They could back their claims. In none of this did the telco, Verizon, ever speak up about *their* speeds, Cause their speeds sucked. That little spark of competition is not happening over much of the nation. The incumbents are so entrenched there is no getting past them.

    Perhaps wireless gives us a hope to get past the incumbents, but with the C Block auction going to the highest bidders^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H incumbents, we're probably not going to get any more there. The 'open network' spec is a joke. Any device will operate on the 700MHz band, it will just operate at the pokey, laggy speed every other device works at. Nice. I have no hope that the bidders will build out their networks to accomodate the potential demand of true broadband - BitTorrent, 1080p, large file transfers for online storage/backup are the drivers for this.

    We need to change things at the FCC, open up the marketplace, and let someone/something come on and deliver what is wanted.

    Fat chance.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jayp00001 (267507)
      I think the countrywide marketplace IS open. There is no federal law stopping you from stringing fiber from point a to point b anywhere in the US. The real problem is that all the local municipalities in the middle look at anyone thinking about running any type of cable as a.) a potential cash cow and b.) a threat to the local cable company monopoly that they have already granted. The cable company, of course, threatens to sue the town if they even consider letting another company run fiber. The sole ex
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rickb928 (945187)
        Ah, so many issues, so little time...

        It isn't federal law that is the issue. Stringing FTTH requires hanging it off of poles in most of the country. Paying for access to the right-of-way. Even burying requires ROW. Local communities control most of this, while common carriers usually have a deal with the local authorities also. In Maine, most of the poles were owned by the power cos., and everyone paid them for access. The local community took a cut of the action. To go into business as a FTTH ISP, y
  • Broadband Utilities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday March 28, 2008 @12:43PM (#22895018) Homepage Journal
    The US still has to make the cultural leap to seeing broadband Internet as essential a utility as is electric, heat, water and sewage. We still don't even see TV that way, or we'd never put up with its high prices and monopolies - partly because we allowed cartels in exchange for "free" (ad supported, FCC regulated) air/radio broadcasts.

    Small experiments in the US have shown that when municipal or other governments introduce network service, it finally spurs competition among the incumbent network operators, who stop putting off the less profitable market segments (who then get no service) while they pursue the "lowest hanging fruit". These municipal networks, whether wired or wireless, can support the increasing municipal network operations without paying tax money to private profit. If they permanently introduce real competition among the private operators, they can recede back into carrying only government traffic, like fire/police/medical comms, public websites, and the government's IT operations (including voice). In the meantime they let public policy make direct changes in what's available, to guide their constituents into a more competitive position with everyone else on the Internet.

    Or we can just trust the phone company to invest time and money into keeping American communities competitive with all our foreign competitors, on the Internet that we invented and shared with them.
  • local governments that will allow new companies to run FTTH and to not grant legal monopolies to anyone. You'd have to deal with the feds for wireless communications but not landline.

    Yes, AT&T and Comcast have scary amounts of money, but AT&T in particular is run by morons. Could a new competitor with their own FTTH network prosper? I think so. With state and local governments fast-track the paperwork and not demand bribes ("free" access for this and that, "franchise fees", etc)? Well...

    Utah ha
  • by Mentorix (620009) <slashdot@benben.com> on Friday March 28, 2008 @01:27PM (#22895654)
    You should be looking at enabling consumers to make an actual choice. Where I live (western Europe) I can choose between 20+ DSL providers, they'll install in a week and moving between them is done with virtually no interruption of service. If anything this is the big reason for the high broadband penetration here. The owner of the copper (former state monopolist usually) gets to charge a low maintenance charge and is obliged to cooperate with anyone that wants to sell DSL service over their copper.

    I'm sure quite a few people will be on 512k lines but then this is still a world of difference to dial-up or nothing at all. Oh, and bandwidth use is not a big issue at all at most ISP's, I can burn 100GB of traffic a month and nothing will happen, I can spike to 200GB or 300GB in a month once in a while and nothing will happen. The ISP's could whine about it, but then I'd take my money elsewhere, so they just make sure their networks can deal with however people choose to use it. The consumer rules the broadband market, anything else, and your broadband economy is really just a pie in the sky.

    The comment from Richard Russell is nothing but denial and sillyness. I'm skeptical that the US ever had the most dynamic broadband economy in the world, claiming that title for this very moment is even more ludicrous. I'd say this man is reality-challenged and incompetent. A common theme in this US administration it seems.
  • by rbrander (73222) on Friday March 28, 2008 @01:41PM (#22895878) Homepage
    It's several years now since then-active industry pundit and Ethernet inventor Robert Metcalfe commented on his frustration with the "teleopolies" (hooray for that word not catching on) not providing broadband like they could.

    I'm a waterworks/sewer engineer and wrote him to ask why is it that *real*, fiber-to-the-home broadband isn't cheaper than water and sewer service, which run about $30-$40 /month. To supply you with that, local utilities have to bury large, heavy pipes in the ground up to your house, and every day, they have to run multi-hundred-million-dollar plants to clean, sterilize and pump a ton or more of water (usually some ways uphill from your local river) to your house.

    Offhand, that SOUNDS more expensive than running a hair-thin fiber to your house and maintaining the operation of some silent, no-moving-parts routers in your neighbourhood and downtown.

    After water treatment, transmission and delivery became possible, within a few decades, they'd been run to every house in major cities; utilities took out some big loans and started paying them off from part of your $30/month.

    Metcalfe replied that he had no idea why there was not fiber to the home for the same price as water, sewer, gas, phone and electric to the home. Neither could any of his readers who posted reply comments. There just is no answer to why we were able to do the first five and not the sixth, "utility install".

    The Internet providers have instead been charging that $40 and up per month to provide service over infrastructure that was already paid for - phone wires by 1960, cable by 1995, about 25 years after they were put in. So they were free, from an ISP point of view.

    The Canadian and European broadband penetrations are the result of tighter regulation of the monopolies - they were just told to spend more of that $40/month on providing service to rural areas or at higher quality in urban, by regulators who knew damn well they could still make a VERY decent profit.

    But only Asia has solved the problem the way American and Europe just called out the backhoes and put in water, sewer, electric and phone lines as soon as they were practicable. Asia got out the backhoes and put in fiber to the home, and that's why they have many, many MB/s to the home.

    So could we, if the internet-providing companies had not largely completed a "regulatory capture" and told their own regulators what to tell them to do.

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