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US Considers Some Free Wireless Broadband Service 111

Posted by kdawson
from the get-what-you-don't-pay-for dept.
gollum123 writes "US regulators may dedicate spectrum to free wireless Internet service for some Americans to increase affordable broadband service nationwide, the Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday. The FCC provided few details about how it would carry out such a plan and who would qualify, but will make a recommendation under the National Broadband Plan set for release next week. The agency will determine details later. One way of making broadband more affordable is to 'consider use of spectrum for a free or a very low-cost wireless broadband service,' the FCC said in a statement." Nobody has more than a couple of paragraphs on this story. None of the press coverage mentions the obvious likelihood that any such free network would be heavily filtered, censored, and monitored.
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US Considers Some Free Wireless Broadband Service

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  • heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @12:31AM (#31423014) Homepage

    First comes government cheese. Then comes government health care. Now comes government internet connections. Next comes government monitoring and censorship of said inter- *NO CARRIER*

    • Re:heh (Score:5, Funny)

      by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @12:33AM (#31423020) Journal

      Well it's obvious the whole purpose of this is to ga*NO CARRIER*

      • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @01:24AM (#31423288)

        Though you know this is government we're talking about. That NO CARRIER will not be due to filtering and regulations, but simply to shoddy, half-baked and simply not working connections.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by geekoid (135745)

          Fuck YOU and fuck the people that modded you up.

          I am so sick of people saying that. The government does tens of thousands of projects every year, within budget and of incredibly high quality.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Name one.

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              Roads in most states. Now in the long term, they fall apart because they fail to budget for required long-term maintenance, but when they first pave the things, most of the time, they're well built. :-)

              • Roads in most states. Now in the long term, they fall apart because they fail to budget for required long-term maintenance, but when they first pave the things, most of the time, they're well built. :-)

                Roads are constructed and maintained by state governments with some federal funding. Now try and name a federal government "project" that is somewhat efficient and well executed.

                • by dgatwood (11270)

                  By those standards, the federal government basically doesn't do projects. Mostly, the feds just create agencies to distribute funds and regulate things. Pretty much everything the federal government does that qualifies as a "project" involves giving money to the state earmarked for a specific task. Even things like the NEA (.gov, not .org), DARPA, etc. involve giving money out to somebody else to do the project.

      • At least the government won't grab you as soon as you do something unlike Candlejack. Wait, oh shi*NO CARR
    • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @12:39AM (#31423066) Homepage Journal
      It's not necessarily a bad thing if the scope is narrowed to emergency services or official business(state and local government agencies, in short) like filing tax paperwork, renewing vehicle registration or paying off tickets, and applying for and managing benefits(which would be facilitated by ubiquitous debit cards). It would eliminate a lot of paperwork and expensive face-time for the agencies involved as well as lower-class and/or rural citizens.

      But for regular browsing news and Facebook-type stuff? Yeah, bet on monitoring...though the data collected won't be representitive of all demographics because the middle-class and wealthy will still have the "full-featured" broadband from cable providers...which are kinda monitored anyway, but that's beside the point.

      Since the service must be allocated among a list of open frequencies, it's also possible that people subscribing to the service would need new gadgets to access the pipes. There's a lot of possibility for abuse if, say, the extra communication logic is subseqently required for "emergency" purposes in all gadgets.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

        ...though the data collected won't be representative of all demographics because the middle-class and wealthy will still have the "full-featured" broadband from cable providers...

        At first. Eventually the only people that won't use it will be the security-conscious, the torrenter, and the government conspiracy theorist.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jketch (1485815)
          It seems more likely we'll end up with the majority of people purchasing faster service through a wired provider just like most people pay for cable/satelitte now. Besides, there's only a limited amount of spectrum available. That may be fine for some place out in rural Montana, but can you imagine trying to provide the entire Internet bandwidth of a place like New York City with wireless alone?
      • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by skids (119237) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @12:54AM (#31423128) Homepage

        I see nothing in the liked article that says the "free or low cost service" would be run by the government, just that they'd consider allowing companies, localities, and nonprofits to use these frequencies if that's what they do with it.

        As always, you put a lot of your trust in your ISP, so choose carefully.

      • and yet another step closer to the Romans and having our Bread and Circuses [wikipedia.org]
      • by geekoid (135745)

        " Yeah, bet on monitoring.."
        that would be a loosing bet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      First comes government cheese.

      Yeah really. I'd much prefer government Twinkies.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        First comes government cheese.
        Yeah really. I'd much prefer government Twinkies.

        The cheese was surplus that would have gone to a landfill. My grandmother got some of that cheese, and it was the best damned cheese I ever ate! Government twinkies, otoh, would only line the pockets of whatever multinational corporation manufactures twinkies.

        Don't woosh me, bro.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm less worried about the government blocking sites than I am about them recording my usage "for law-enforcement purposes"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      First comes government cheese. Then comes government health care. Now comes government internet connections. Next comes government monitoring and censorship of said inter- *NO CARRIER*

      If you hadn't noticed, Government has been monitoring communications since they set up ECHELON in the 60s.

      If you really want to talk about goverment cheese, let's discuss the billions in subsidies/tax cuts/etc that have been given to telecom companies.
      Anyone with two eyeballs can look at the market for certain services (including healthcare) and see that the market is broken.

      • There actually has to be a market to even talk about the market. For health insurance and telecomms there simply is none.... Too few players all in quiet agreement; and when the product is a NEED instead of a WANT there really is no 'market'.

    • The cheese is a lie.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just FYI, the gvernment has every possibility of monitoring and censorship on commercial connections too, they can just use the very suspect antiterror laws.

    • by Spewns (1599743)

      First comes government cheese. Then comes government health care. Now comes government internet connections. Next comes government monitoring and censorship of said inter- *NO CARRIER*

      Because government cheese and internet connections are the same as government monitoring and censorship. You're a genius.

    • The US is first and foremost a Capitalist nation. As such, giving citizens anything they could be made to pay for is completely alien.
      (Just consider the "Healthcare Reform" Bill.)

      Unless of course a major Corporation was to pay Congress to do this - but why would that ever happen?

      Standing tall in the land of the rich and the poor

      • The US hasn't been a capitalist nation in over 100 years. We are a social market economy.

        • Interesting. I had to look that one up and I don't remember the term from college economics.

          From what I read a social market economy is merely regulated capitalism in which regulation works to achieve various desirable goals. And we do have a lot a regulation in places. Some of this is designed to achieve goals too. However, it does not seem we are making the coordinated effort we required by the definition and we are arguably failing to regulate entire segments of the economy properly. I think that definit

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'm all for the long-gone government cheese; it was surplus anyway, and hungry people need food. Better to give it to the poor than to pour it into a landfill. "There but for the grace of God go I". I have a decent job, but lots of folks aren't so fortunate. I don't mind some of my tax money going to feed the hungry, but I do object to it going to a senseless war like Vietnam or Iraq, or pork projects that serve no purpose other than to get Senators re-elected, or grants to IBM and Kodak that are bigger tha

    • >First comes government cheese. Then comes government health care. Now comes government internet connections. Next comes government monitoring and censorship of said inter[net.]

      I *know* ... it's ridiculous!

      All those things should be the preserve of private corporations!

      • by gink1 (1654993)

        First comes government cheese. Then comes government health care.

        Then comes the giant Bill for government health care.

        Don't worry, if you don't like it you can always go live free in government prison.

        You will not like that though!

        --

        Standing tall in the land of the poor and the rich

    • First comes government cheese.

      But I am lactose intolerant, you insensitive clods.

    • The parent ether has no clue, or works for
      IPS or a cell phone carrier. Reading on
      other posters also simple don't understand how the Internet works, and that a grid of
      roof top routers can and will ( when its legal ) replace low bandwidth comumications
      like cell phone carriers. Well perhaps not
      as a foot ball game. Of in a harbor tunnel.
      But most any place you can see a roof top
      you should get coverage. We are talking ranges of 5 to 10 miles.

      NOw that that is said when will the FCC
      put out the standards of fai

    • the servers won't be run by the government any more than NBC and CBS and FOX and ABC are run by the government-
  • This isn't new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @12:52AM (#31423116)

    I don't remember the name of the company but suffice it to say, there is a company who has been riding the back of the FCC for years, trying to get them to approve some kind of free wireless broadband plan just like is being described here.

    The old plan was to have the government collect some revenue from the company in exchange for offering exclusive use of the spectrum. The company was planning to filter the connection, specifically to block porn, because they had some significant ties to the moral morons in the "family" groups.

    I don't recall how they were planning to pay for the whole thing, but i seem to remember they had for-pay plans that might have subsidized the free (censored) plans.

  • Community fiber (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashqwerty (1099091) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @01:16AM (#31423248)
    I have heard it would cost $1,500 per home to run fiber to every home in the nation. That's $225 billion. If you want better and more affordable communications install fiber co-ops throughout the nation that do nothing but the physical installation from the home to a neighborhood hub. From the hub, any ISP that chooses can compete for your business.
    • by bcn17 (1390121)
      Sounds like a great idea.
    • by witherstaff (713820) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @03:34AM (#31423682) Homepage
      We've already paid 320 billion [teletruth.org] to get fiber to the home that never got installed. If the FCC and state utilities would simply hold the telcos to the existing contracts it'd be a done deal. But we'd have to have politicians not beholden to the industry. My local House rep Fred Upton was previously chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Not surprising to see SBC, Verizon, and other telcos giving upwards of 100K a year (according to opensecrets.org). Corporatism at its finest.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Where does this lie keep on coming from? Nothing was paid to the telecoms. Nothing at all.

        That whole "320 billion" figure basically counts profits made by the telecoms since some date against them, as if any profit made somehow counts as "paying the telecom for fiber to the home" which is ridiculous.

        When it comes to actual fund received from the government, the telecoms got squat.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          When it comes to actual fund received from the government, the telecoms got squat.

          [citation needed]

          $182 million [tmcnet.com]
          The first broadband stimulus grants and loans – about $182 million worth – finally have been awarded

          There, 10 seconds on google.
          Your turn.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      Or just start getting the municipalities to run a pipe from the homes to a central hub. Yes I mean a pipe as in a cylinder of metal, plastic, or concrete. It would only have to be the size of your sewer line to allow for a dozen different providers. Municipalities are already experienced in the low tech job os running pipes to people's homes, and around cities. I know that my home has three different pipes running into it now. A forth pipe wouldn't be a big deal.

      You can bet if all a startup had to d
  • unless nobody gets paid for providing that, and nobody gets charged to make up for the free stuff, the word you're looking for is not "free", it's subsidized. Not that I'm against it, I really have no opinion right now, but I'm tired of people thinking stuff is free because others pay for it.

    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      The "public" air waves, which insofar as they can be "owned", are owned by the people of the United States (in this case), have been leased out for a fraction of their value for decades by the US government. There's your subsidy. Where is it written that corporations which have been getting an (almost) free ride virtually since the dawn of broadcasting are entitled to expect it in perpetuity? The people own that bandwidth, and if representatives chosen by the people to deal with these matters decide tha

      • by TheSync (5291)

        Where is it written that corporations which have been getting an (almost) free ride virtually since the dawn of broadcasting are entitled to expect it in perpetuity?

        "Free ride" is a bit of a misnomer. Broadcasters will be pretty upset that the $20 billion they just spent on the FCC mandated transition to digital television is to be thrown away (not to mention the >$1 billion taxpayer dollars spent for DTV converter box coupons, and the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on Public Televisio

        • by hyades1 (1149581)

          They spent that money in the mistaken belief they'd be getting it all back and plenty more besides. There were even plans afoot to take the bandwidth that would normally carry one high-definition channel and split it into two or more. They completely failed to see what broadband and the virtually instant availability of everybody's favorite shows on-line would do to their business model. The point remains...they've had a free ride almost since broadcasting began in North America. I only wish I could rem

          • by TheSync (5291)

            There were even plans afoot to take the bandwidth that would normally carry one high-definition channel and split it into two or more.

            I can assure you that if you drop MPEG-2 HD video below ~15 Mbps live encoded, your sports are going to start to look bad. You can't fit two good-looking HD channels with serious motion into 19.39 Mbps. You can sneak an SD of 4-5 Mbps stat muxed in with an HD into 19.39 Mbps, but that is it. I'm not saying people aren't trying to mux 2 HDs into 19.39, just that it doesn't

            • by hyades1 (1149581)

              Just a quick FYI: When those plans were being discussed they weren't planning to deliver 2 HD channels. They were going to be 2 with regular definition, or perhaps just slightly better. And there were no plans at all to use them for sports. That was going to be max bandwidth all the way. And it was before there was much thought, if any, given to mobile applications. I might be wrong, but I think it was the first time the term "narrowcasting" came into popular use.

              What you've said is accurate. It's

  • Setup our own MESH type networks? I was thinking about this. I know there are ports of OpenWRT that let you mod a Linksys WRT54G to do bridging. That would do the trick.
  • The actual remarks [fcc.gov] by Commissioner Clyburn are a lot less technical than the SL summary implies. What she wants doesn't have so much to do with the physical deployment of broadband (the "last mile"), as it does with actually adopting the broadband that's available (what she called the last "half-mile".)

    Apparently, 93 million Americans don't use broadband, even though they could. Why? The Commish says its because 1) broadband costs too much, 2) non-users lack "digital literacy", and 3) non-users just don't see the benefit. Her proposed fixes have a lot more in common with the Peace Corps than with the White Spaces Coalition: provide free broadband to the poor, and form a National Digital Literacy Corps to deliver a National Digital Literacy Program while going home-to-home to help set up broadband. Her model is the recent national switch-over to digital TV, where hundreds of thousands of volunteers went around and hooked people's TVs up.

  • by stephencrane (771345) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @02:13AM (#31423434)
    Isn't it more likely, whatever are the specifics, that this kind of announcement, coming from the Feds, is an attempt at creating competitive pressure on the current ISPs to expand their network and/or keep prices stable or lower?
    • Can't the "Feds" simply say "Right, you have a monopoly on local broadband which you're exploiting to the detriment of the people. You've been at this for a while, but that time has gone. Sort it out with some reasonable pricing and fair contract terms, or we're going to subsidise your opposition so you can't compete except by losing money hand over fist until an equilibrium is reached."
    • Don't be ridiculous. This is a story posted by kdawson. If it doesn't involve some maniacal government conspiracy to rape the public it's not worth posting.

      [insert you must be new joke here]
  • Allow people to complain that they don't have broadband online(they can use dialup or someone else's service). Then the biggest clusters of people complaining get targetted first.
    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      Allow people to complain that they don't have broadband online(they can use dialup or someone else's service). Then the biggest clusters of people complaining get targetted first.

      Targeted how exactly, and for what? "Take off and nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure" type targeting, or something slightly more benign? Could you mean targeted as in for putting every man, woman, and child, as well as their children and grandchildren into virtual economic servitude to pay for their own enslavem

  • I really don't see a lacking of broadband penetration any more, this isn't 1999. Maybe about the working poor not affording/knowing how to use computersm but if they actullly get a computer, they get brondband if they need it. Why not give away free telephone service too? It's alot more importantand VOIP makes it dirt cheap, or free water, etc. The market place is working just fine for broadband, no need to make it a government utility. Same for cell phones
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You've never visited a rural area, have you? Draw a circle even 50 miles around a major population center and I guarantee there are pockets where people live and can't get broadband.

      Just because cities are covered, it doesn't mean everyone is. I do admit that it is becoming less of an issue even in small towns, but any time I go back to Willis Texas, I am reminded that "DSL doesn't cover it and the cable company won't go there". Once again, just because you look around and find it to be quite available, it

      • by b0bby (201198)

        Yeah, I live inside the DC beltway & have FIOS; one of my coworkers lives about 35 miles away, and can only get dial up. It's pretty patchy coverage, considering that she's basically between DC, Baltimore & Frederick, all of which have decent broadband. She ended up getting a Sprint MiFi, which is actually becoming a viable alternative in a lot of places & will get more so as they expand their 4G/WiMax coverage.

    • We are talking, Free as in freedom of speech

      Not as in your free to read for me in the city square.

      It is currently Illegal for me to put a
      Cell Phone Router on my roof.

      It is legal for me to go out and buy a gun.
      It is not legal for me to shoot you with it.
      There have to be Rules to make a Wireless
      Network Grid Work. And until the FCC gives up
      the spectrum and makes the rules, hardware can not
      be built and I can not join in to the free open cell phone network.
      Yes you could text and get e-mail too so how much do

  • Seems to me the target for this stuff would be the un-served rural population. There are millions of us out here who will be dead and gone long before we get even DSL service. You are looking at huge areas with insufficient population to support any "for profit" service except possibly wireless.

    That brings us to the infrastructure needed. You have to have towers, power, radios, antennas, and back haul. Just because you make the spectrum "free" and declare service free does not put the necessary equipmen

  • by TaggartAleslayer (840739) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @08:25AM (#31424850)

    Have any of you tuned in to over-the-air television recently? Imagine that, but with the internet.

    The FCC would be doing it's job properly to open a range in the spectrum to public internet, license it to qualified providers, and then play watch dog over it.

    If you're worried about internet wardrobe malfunctions being banned, and you should be, then you should stop with the grumbling and get behind this movement while promoting freedom of speech and expression on the internet as it always has been.

    Just because Cable TV has more channels, that doesn't mean it's the only way to tune in. Trust me, I know. I grew up in an area that you couldn't actually get cable. Which also means I couldn't get broadband.

    Eventually we will all have to get used to the idea that the internet is a utility in the sense that it drives commerce and carries public concern. It's our modern electricity. It has to be made available to everyone for us to continue as an equal society. The government will become involved. It's up to us to determine whether that's in a fashion like our current electric and telecom monopolies or in a more acceptable manner.

  • The devout village elders with buckles on their hats and scarlett letters at the ready will prevent the free distribution of anything relating to (shudder) sexuality.
  • by smchris (464899) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @08:48AM (#31424948)

    The media people receive in sparsely populated areas is already "heavily filtered, censored, and monitored." Just drive across Wyoming some time and see what the radio offers.

  • It`ll never happen...if it does,they`ll find some way to charge for it.
  • There is already a US Gov't supported program [safelinkwireless.com](aka Obamaphone) for "low income" population. What is going on with America!!!!
  • So I can pay taxes for others to have censored internet... How about instead, the Federal government works to remove monopolies? I only have one DSL provider in my area and the speeds are terrible.
  • While some of you are making fun of a government ran isp, you are missing the point.

    The Government should be taking care of: The internet, the phone, the cable, the power, healthcare, etc...

    The Government should be keeping the infostructure running. We are in charge of our government.

    Instead, we let the government run us, and they reinforce the notion by letting us think the gov makes shoddy products.

    Do I have a socialist view? maybe, but here's the kicker:

    communist and socialism haven't worked because t

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