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Still Little To Do About a Bad ISP

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the it's-comcastic dept.

Networking 178

theY4Kman writes "The Washington Post reinforces the grim situation on Net Neutrality and limited ISP choices faced by Americans: 'The FCC's research shows that 78 percent of American households have access to only two land-based broadband providers and that 13 percent have one. Don't expect that to improve. Many competing DSL services have left the market, spurred by the end of line-sharing in 2005 and other corporate consolidations. A few months ago, for instance, AT&T elected to close its WorldNet DSL service. Meanwhile, technologies that were once promoted as alternatives to phone and cable-based services have flopped. City-wide WiFi access ... turned out to be a business bust. The power-line broadband that then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell lauded as having "great promise" in 2004 fared no better: Last week, Manassas voted to unplug its pioneering service. ... We have a situation full of lawyerly jargon, with risks that can't be dramatized by putting a sick kid on a stage. I hope you like your Internet provider, because you may be stuck with it for a while.'"

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USA is teh doomed (1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886890)

no matter what you do, you are pwned.

how about passing your nerves on another innocent country, assholes?

Of course. (4, Insightful)

lalena (1221394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886894)

Given that "data" must be transmitted over the same mediums used by existing monopolies for decades (cable, phone, fiber, satellite), how could anyone expect anything different. I'm thankful I have at least 2 choices. It took a long time for me to have 2 choices for phone or TV.

Satellite (3, Informative)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887044)

DirecPC [Hughes Net] and WildBlue [Dish Network] have some products, as well.

3G (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887062)

Satellite is little better than 3G with the amount of monthly transfer you get for the price. So to me, home Internet access forms four tiers:
  1. Cable and FTTH
  2. DSL
  3. Satellite and 3G
  4. Dial-up

looks to be $75 to $100 per month (0)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887320)

1.Cable and FTTH 2.DSL 3.Satellite and 3G 4.Dial-up

It's an imperfect world, but all of those media [with the exception of dial-up] seem to be settling in the general vicinity of $75 to $100 per month.

Which I guess is what the free market is telling us is the cost of delivering high [or high-ish] speed "last mile" access to a nation with a population as widely-dispersed as the USA.

If you want significantly cheaper access, then I guess you would need to move to downtown Tokyo, or downtown Shanghai, and live like a sardine in a tin can.

Re:looks to be $75 to $100 per month (2, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887556)

There is no free market for internet service. I have lived in over a dozen cities in 5 states. In each one, high speed internet service was a monopoly or duopoly.

Re:looks to be $75 to $100 per month (3, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887576)

Which I guess is what the free market is telling us is the cost of delivering

Rather what a fairly closed market tells us the market will bear if they don't have significant competition.

with a population as widely-dispersed as the USA.

Except that even more widely dispersed countries like Sweden have much lower prices.

Re:looks to be $75 to $100 per month (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887812)

with a population as widely-dispersed as the USA.

Except that even more widely dispersed countries like Sweden have much lower prices.

Well, yeah, but Sweden is a socialist country, and socialism's baaad, mmmmkay!

DSL gives you multiple providers (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888210)

There are two reasons you care about your broadband provider - price/performance, and policies. Yeah, if there's only one Layer 2 DSL provider, that's going to limit the speed you can get to whatever your telco offers (though in many places you can also get Covad or other alternate DSLAM provider using telco copper), but for me what's at least as important is the set of policies and pricing on things like static IP addresses, bandwidth caps, being allowed to run servers at home, etc. And for that, you really can get multiple choices of Layer 3 DSL provider, even if they're still reselling telco DSLAM service. I'm using Sonic.net, many people use Speakeasy, and there are other national providers as well.

Re:Of course. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887190)

What this country needs (will never happen) is for FttH from a municipal owned central office. Your local town owns the fiber from your dwelling to the central office. Then the municipality allows "vendors" into the CO to provide service to its residents over said fiber. Voice, Video, Data all runs over this fiber and "vendors" get to compete house to house for your money. You then pay a small fiber fee each month for the municipality to maintain the fiber and the CO, like a water bill. No more coax, no more copper.

Separate the wire carrier from the content provider.

donkeypenis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31886898)

nt

I thin I have the solution (1, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886906)

If everyone used pure H.T.M.L. and not this flasyh stuff that everyone is using then the interenet would not be clogged with microsoft things that slow me down when I writde my great thoughts to the masses on my bloge.

Flashy HTML (3, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887072)

If everyone used pure H.T.M.L. and not this flasyh stuff

Pure HTML and flashiness aren't mutually exclusive. It's possible to make animations comparable to what is seen in SWFs with the <canvas>, <audio>, and <video> elements in HTML5.

HTML5: The biggest vaporware of the decade. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887110)

It's possible to make animations comparable to what is seen in SWFs with the , , and elements in HTML5.

Yeah, except you won't actually be able to run them anywhere, since 75% of people use IE, and IE doesn't support those "technologies".

Even if people are using Firefox, Opera, Safari or Chrome, they'll only get access to a limited subset of the functionality, since the current implementations are incomplete and generally do not overlap across browsers. Not only that, but they still can't even decide on common codecs to use, for fuck's sake.

Flash, as fucking horrible as it is, is the only viable solution.

Re:HTML5: The biggest vaporware of the decade. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887624)

75% of people use IE, and IE doesn't support those "technologies".

But what percent of IE users are locked down from installing ActiveX plug-ins such as Chrome Frame, which implements HTML5 on top of IE?

Re:HTML5: The biggest vaporware of the decade. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887792)

IE is undergoing a slow death. Helped along by the recent decision in the EU. :)

Re:Flashy HTML (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887112)

It's possible to make animations comparable to what is seen in SWFs with the <canvas>, <audio>, and <video> elements in HTML5.

For which the standards writers deserve to be ass raped by rabid bears until they take it back.

Re:Flashy HTML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887464)

You must be a flash "programmer".

Re:Flashy HTML (1)

jythie (914043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887598)

Agreed. I do not think this obsession people have with 'my language/tool must be the end tool capable of doing everything' is really healthy. Too many people want to be part of the 'one twue language' and try to get things extended to cover too many domains.

Re:Flashy HTML (1)

colfer (619105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888008)

And when Flash started, it was a very low bandwidth way to do animations. (Remember those enormous animated GIFs? Flash files were tiny.) Now it's more often a video container.

Of course (5, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886930)

All of the shutdowns, buyouts, prohibitive laws, monopoly over the lines, and other occurrences that killed competitors had nothing at all to do with the incumbent providers...

Regulation would fix this. The cost of entry into the broadband market is so prohibitively high that only the largest companies (e.g. Google) can even consider laying down a new broadband access grid. Line sharing is supposed to allow for open competition. But as usual, the ability of companies to donate millions of dollars, through various means, to campaign committees means our representatives listen to them, not us, and not common sense when their lobbyists put forward an anticompetitive bill.

Fix Washington, fix this. Like just about everything else.

Re:Of course (1)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886970)

Regulate the market even more? That would be... *echo effect with red light and smoke coming up* ..KHOMUNIZIM!!!!!!!
  - Glen beck

Re:Of course (0, Troll)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886988)

How quickly we forget. Regulation created this mess; I highly doubt that regulation will be able fix this mess.

Re:Of course (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887092)

How quickly we forget. Regulation created this mess; I highly doubt that regulation will be able fix this mess.

Bad, incompetent, non-oversighted, half-assed regulation which was never intended to serve the customer created this mess. But it's impossible for these businesses to exist in the absence of regulation, so clearly some form of regulation is necessary. Since the courts have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of interest in nailing down corporations for their false claims (like "unlimited" internet) it seems as though it is especially necessary. Corporations are granted access to public right-of-way in order to provide these communications services; it seems as though they should provide for our needs in communication. Today that means high-speed internet access, and providing it to every citizen ought to be a priority. Further, permitting competition supports the consumer. Line sharing ought to be mandated once again, and corporations which have used technologies which make it difficult ought to be considered to have shot their own foot.

Re:Of course (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887114)

Nailing down corporations for false claims does not require new regulation. We have existing laws on the books for dealing with false advertising. What makes you think that new legislation will cause the courts to enforce those when they aren't enforcing the legislation already on the books?

Re:Of course (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887124)

What makes you think that any legislation to come out of Congress will not be bad, incompetent, non-oversighted, half-assed regulation never intended to serve the customer? Because they have a record of passing such legislation in this or other areas?

Re:Of course (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887186)

Sorry, I don't have all the answers. The only thing I know for certain is that complete deregulation is not the answer. It's obvious that communications can't exist in the absence of regulation; the need to run wires and/or to not step on each other's slices of radio spectrum demands some level thereof. The land belongs to the people via the nation. The spectrum, likewise. If the corporations are to be granted their use, then that use must serve the people. My motivation not to tear down the ugly telephone poles is based on two things, their value to me, and society's punishment for damaging them. My motivation not to tear down the radio towers that make RF communications less available to me is that they indeed permit me to use them under terms which are not too onerous to me, and of course, that punishment thing again. So to reiterate, telecommunications interests cannot exist without regulation. Why should this regulation not serve the people? Do you really believe that past failures to intelligently and usefully regulate suggest that we should give up trying? If we do, then we end up without telecommunications, or with customers converted into consumers whose only purpose is to serve corporations, as has already happened with television; consumers are the product, and they are sold to advertisers who are the customers; they bring their custom to the television network, and purchase our eyeballs from them.

Or in short, deregulation is a myth; there are only degrees of regulation. We can argue over the degree, but arguing over the need is meaningless.

Re:Of course (2, Insightful)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887202)

Bad, incompetent, non-oversighted, half-assed regulation which was never intended to serve the customer created this mess.

Despite the best intentions, there is rarely any other kind.

Re:Of course (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887344)

but it's impossible for these businesses to exist in the absence of regulation, so clearly some form of regulation is necessary.

The original "how quickly we forget" poster has apparently forgotten about the Communications Act of 1934, which required universal telephone coverage. Granted, AT&T was given a government-instituted monopoly in exchange for that service, however we had the about the best phone system on the planet for a long, long time, thanks largely to that one piece of legislation. I'm generally not for increased regulation, but in this case, I think we need to apply some basic standards to these people, and penalize them when they fail to live up to them.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887372)

Have we ever seen these companies run without regulation? I really don't think so. We'll never know if deregulation will be effective because the FCC always looks over these companies' shoulders.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887554)

The only thing "unlimited" about Crapcast (er, Xloppity, sorry I forgot the rebranding) Internet is their price increases.

Re:Of course (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887096)

How quickly we forget. Regulation created this mess

Bad regulation did. Here in the Netherlands we have a lot of regulation, and there are at least a dozen providers I can choose from. 20 MBit downstream connections cost ~20 Euro per month, and some providers offer up to 50 MBit downstream/5 MBit upstream over TV cable.

Re:Of course (1, Interesting)

bazorg (911295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887354)

If you really want to make a honest comparison with the Netherlands, I would bet that on those Atlantic states with smaller territories and higher population density things aren't as bad as the average of the whole of the USA.

Re:Of course (4, Informative)

krull (48492) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887428)

Well, as a resident of lovely Boston I can attest that we have the same two poor offerings here (DSL or Cable).

Re:Of course (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888084)

And in addition, here in NYC, our landline options are limited to the following:

  • DSL/Fiber Optic with Verizon
  • Cable with Time Warner or Cablevision if you're in the right area (but not either or)

At least the prices are pretty decent and Comcast isn't the only answer...

Re:Of course (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887710)

Population density has nothing to do with that. Back in the days you had the choice between two providers: the one that provided DSL-services (KPN), and the one that provided cable internet services (UPC, @Home, Casema depending on the region you live in). Regulation forced KPN to open up their network to competitors, and therefore gave us (I am Dutch) more choice that only the telephone & the cable guy. If i recall correctly there are 2 nationwide networks from which the DSL-providers get their network capacity (KPN and BBNED, Tiscali's network is not nationwide), and these two provide 20+ ISP's with the connections needed. At this very moment there is an investigation whether the cable companies should also open up their networks to competitors, and slowly fiber gains ground (bringing a third option of providing the internets to our homes).

Re:Of course (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887536)

The Netherlands are _small_, less than 15,000 squarae miles, densely populated and highly developed. You have to be, in order to keep pushing back the ocean every year. (And good luck with that if global warming makes the oceans rise noticeably!) It is much easier to build dense, effective infrastructure to support such bandwidth in such a small area than it is in the USA, which has not only federal issues but 50 different state governments to negotiate with, and the states have vastly different requirements.

Re:Of course (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887630)

It is much easier to build dense, effective infrastructure to support such bandwidth in such a small area

So compare it to Sweden or Finland. Which also have rates around $35/month for 20Mbit connections. And even lower population density than the US.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887896)

You're completely dropping the size factor and the state governments.

Re:Of course (4, Informative)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887126)

It's not even confined to the federal level.

In one case, a city tried to implement its own network, and then got sued by the local ISP just long enough for them to beat the city to the punch.

In another case, an ISP threw such a tantrum about competition that it went to the state capital and whined the lawmakers into outlawing municipal networks.

Re:Of course (1)

General Wesc (59919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887132)

That regulation created the mess I can understand. That it can't fix it seems a complete non-sequitur and very counter-intuitive, in addition to ignoring countless examples from other areas.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887286)

When regulation creates a problem, why on earth would more regulation be the solution? That's like saying, "I put molasses in my gas tank and my car runs worse. Let's fix it - more molasses!"

Get rid of government favors to certain companies, and get rid of regulation. In urban areas, you'll have multiple companies competing for your broadband $ within five years.

American "regulation". (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887260)

Please keep in mind that American-style "regulation" is a lot different than that in other areas of the world.

In America, the people involved with regulating industry typically come from industry. A typical career path involves getting an MBA, becoming a mid-level manager at a large corporation, working their way up to a senior-level management position, then jumping to government briefly in order to put in place regulations that are very favorable to large corporations, and finally jumping back to a large corporation to profit from the "regulations" that have been put in place. Benefit to the consumer is completely irrelevant, and is thus ignored.

In other parts of the world, regulators do not come from industry, and they do not work for large corporations. Many are from academia, which does a much better job of putting the welfare of the general populace ahead of that of a small number of corporations. So we end up seeing regulations that benefit everybody, rather than just one party. Consumers are guaranteed safe, reliable products, while industry is still allowed to make reasonable profits.

Re:Of course (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887336)

How quickly we forget. Regulation created this mess; I highly doubt that regulation will be able fix this mess.

Actually I'd argue lack of federal regulation caused this. For reason politicians handed over billions of taxpayer dollars to these companies so they could upgrade their networks and provide high speed internet to the whole US... and then the companies pocketed the cash and did nothing because we imposed no regulation on what they did with the money. What regulation were you thinking of as the cause for our problem?

Re:Of course (2, Insightful)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887472)

How quickly we forget. Regulation created this mess; I highly doubt that regulation will be able fix this mess.

Proper regulation will. Regulation that truly serves the consumers and not the Service providers and politicians.
The service industries "helped" the politicians write the regulations, they "helped" the politicians re-write the de-regulation policies.
The separation of Business and State is just as important as the separation of Church and State.

We The People means the governed constituency and not governing body.

Re:Of course (3, Insightful)

Inf0phreak (627499) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887034)

Regulation almost never fixes problems like this. And it will not do so here, becuase the entrenched players will lobby for provisions that---though expensive for themselves (they'll just pass the buck on to you anyway)---make it nigh impossible for a small company to get started.

Again it all comes back to lobbying and campaign financing. And noone in Washington has any incentive to fix it. Congress? Heck no, they got cushy lobbying jobs to look forward to when they retire.

Re:Of course... corruption (3, Informative)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887212)

Again it all comes back to lobbying and campaign financing.

Doesn't sound like regulation to me, that sounds like America suffers from government corruption.

Really, a large corporation should not be paying Congress to lobby so they can kill their competition. This is the type of thing you expect from Russia and China, not the USA.

Re:Of course (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887244)

Again it all comes back to lobbying and campaign financing. And noone in Washington has any incentive to fix it. Congress? Heck no, they got cushy lobbying jobs to look forward to when they retire.

I actually think this is a real opportunity for reform candidates. Pretty much every person I know on both sides of the political spectrum are in favor of campaign finance reform. It might actually be the wedge needed to get a third party into congress in many districts or at least scare incumbents. It is truly a reflection on modern politics that an issue with such enormous public support can go unresolved because voters are too apathetic and uninformed to vote based on it.

Re:Of course (5, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887120)

Regulation of a market only works if the regulation is free from the influence of those operating in the market; in this case, as with the Banking sector, regulation doesn't solve anything because any corporations with something to lose will simply lobby to shape the regulation to their liking.

Broadband regulation has, on the whole, worked pretty well in Europe - here in the UK, forcing BT into LLU [wikipedia.org] has led to an extremely competitive broadband market and so far, every time BT have looked to take advantage of the situation, OFCOM [ofcom.org.uk] have smacked them down. If the government hadn't stepped in, we'd be in pretty much the same situation that the US is in; Cable via Virgin Media (where available) or ADSL via BT.

Re:Of course (1)

rugburner (1779412) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887498)

Count your lucky stars! BT in the UK has a total monopoly, kept that way by governments that want a one stop shop for all their eavesdropping and censoring needs. You cant even change isp in uk without going through a year of bt as both network and isp. Therefore their service is predictably an abomination. There are no market forces involved. All isps charge at same price, regardless of data rate. All data rates claimed to be "upto 20mb" a meaningless unit as /. Will realise. Actual peak rate averages at 4. You will be charged as if you get 20 even though you get 4. No market forces again. No reason for improvement of service. Why invest when you can charge like the speed is 4* reality. Throttleing and excess charges.- Totally out of control. They sell unlimited or limited. But throttle everything anyway. Regardless what you pay for. Fraud. Dont sell me 12 apples.... Correcting for car analogy - please hold.... Dont sell me 4 cars then say- "you cant use 2 of those cars you now own, that will cause traffic jams thats selfish. Also i've already sold the same 4 to someone else. On the basis that you're not likely to both use them at same time. So they have "fair use" of the cars too." I'm calling bullshit on that! On a personal note. BT are currently threatening to sue me and ruin my credit rating. After disconnecting me twice when i was fully paid up. Takes a full week to get reconnected. They failed to fulfil their side of the contract. I switched to 3g. Wrote a strongly worded letter to the boss and they refunded me. 4 months later they started billing me again for a service im not using because i had to get another supply. Im not paying for what they dont supply and i dont use. That is actual extortion. Demanding money with theats! Try to get by with crap credit rating. But being a corporation they can comit felonies without fear.

Re:Of course (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888128)

You cant even change isp in uk without going through a year of bt as both network and isp.

Of course you can. You *never* have to deal with BT retail - you can get a telephone line from, say, the Post Office, and add an LLU ASDL provider like Be.

Re:Of course (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887182)

Either have the government buy up all the lines and lease access to anyone who wants it at the same price across the board or split up ISPs who own lines into two companies, the line controlling entity and the generic ISP. The only problem here is that the companies who own the lines don't want anyone else using them because it cuts into their business. If they were free to sell access to anyone/everyone then they would want to do everything in their power to get as much business as possible. We would just have to force then to sell access to everyone equally. No giving one company a lower rate than another.

Re:Of course (0)

crackerpipe (1770368) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887220)

It's true government needs to step-in, on occasion, with monopolies. Sometimes, it's required because of the concentrated lobbying dollars, attorney dollars (litigation), and position of market power a monopoly may hold, other times it's for other reasons. It's not helpful though, when some people discussing a market situation, let's say ISP's, go too far with their characterizations of regulation or de-regulation. Those who say that market regulation is "like communism" seem as unhelpful as those who go the opposite direction and say we need to regulate everything. Although they may have different motivations, both sides red-herring the argument by generalizing when we are discussing a specific situation. Imagine Joe needs heart surgery. Now imagine a group of crazies on one side screaming that everyone in society needs heart surgery. Imagine another group of nutballs going the other direction and shouting that no one should ever have heart surgery because not everyone needs it. What happens to Joe? Yet, that's what a lot of these regulation arguments apparently become. The ISP situation appears to require measured government intervention and fast, or we're losing comparative advantages that we want in our country. Intervention could be accomplished by the FCC, it could be by legislation, or it could be by a mix. And of course, we have other issues, ACTA/DRM, multi-billion dollar corporate bail-outs, electoral college reform, etc, getting the same "all or nothing" argument from extremists. Meanwhile, these situations continue to require specific solutions for their problems which are not going to happen. It makes me despise what some people are doing to our country via obsfucation and grandstanding.

Re:Of course (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887300)

Regulation caused this, so of course the fix would be more regulation. The problem with regulation is that it is bought and paid for by the same companies to be regulated. As nice as an altruistic regulatory body might sound it just wont ever happen. Sure big business is full of corruptions and problems, but nothing like that that is seen in the government. I always side with the easy to understand evil of greed in big business than the much more sinister and difficult to understand lust for power that is government.

Re:Of course (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887504)

The problem with regulation is that it is bought and paid for by the same companies to be regulated.

A process known as "regulatory capture".

As nice as an altruistic regulatory body might sound it just wont ever happen. Sure big business is full of corruptions and problems, but nothing like that that is seen in the government. I always side with the easy to understand evil of greed in big business than the much more sinister and difficult to understand lust for power that is government.

Assuming you can draw a line between the two...

Polyopoly -- cured in Britain in the 18th century (2, Interesting)

davecb (6526) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887836)

Polyopoly is a term for local monopolies, due to high cost of relocation. Historically seen in factory locations in industrial-revolution-era woolen mills in England, in modern times ISP local monopolies.

Solved by creating a mechanism for farmers to sell their wool to remote mills, not just their local ones. This became, by repute, the British Woolen Marketing Board, and a good attempt a creating a monopsony (;-))

--dave

Same as many monopolies (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31886948)

Only one phone company.
Only one electric company.
Only one town government.
Only one state government.
All monopolies that abuse their users.

Re:Same as many monopolies (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887032)

Let's not forget to add only one AC.

San Francisco's free citywide WiFi (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31886978)

Did that ever happen?
The IT manager that sent Terry Childs to jail was supposed to have implemented it a year or two ago.

A different question (2, Insightful)

kenh (9056) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887038)

How many houses are passed by FiOS, Comcast, Time Warner, etc. residential broadband services and opt out? We need to understand why.

Do any of those "out-opt'ers" cite lack of speed as a reason? I bet not, I bet they either don't see the need OR can't/choose not to invest in a home computer and on-going monthly expenses.

Many workplaces are wired for internet access, millions of smart phones have some form of internet access, nearly every school building in America is wired to a high-speed internet connection (K-12 and college/university), as are most public libraries (the last two thanks in large part to tax subsidies paid, in no small part, by homes with more than one phone line), and let's not forget book stores, coffee shops, "grilled sandwich" shops, and, last but not least, your neighbor's "open" WiFi connection - the vast majority of Americans have a plethora of choices, and if they feel they need more choices, they need to work on their local PUC that authorizes the monopolies and duopolies in 91% of America.

Re:A different question (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887098)

millions of smart phones have some form of internet access

Millions of "feature phones" are still in use.

nearly every school building in America is wired to a high-speed internet connection (K-12 and college/university)

But a lot of times, K-12 Internet is heavily filtered to block sites offering even non-pornographic entertainment, to the point where it interferes with legitimate course work.

if they feel they need more choices, they need to work on their local PUC that authorizes the monopolies and duopolies in 91% of America.

PUCs reject new proposals for last-mile infrastructure because they answer to voters who have a NIMBY mentality.

Re:A different question (3, Insightful)

Jaime2 (824950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887148)

I'm not getting FiOS any time soon, although the towns all around me are. My town won't allow Verizon to put in FiOS until they stop the practice of removing the copper when installing fiber. Verizon is using its monopoly power over the PUC to remove choice from consumers. My PUC won't stand for it, so we all get screwed. I certainly don't see that the PUC has any power over Verizon here.

Re:A different question (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888140)

My town won't allow Verizon to put in FiOS until they stop the practice of removing the copper when installing fiber.

They don't do that. At least not in my town. I supervised the FiOS install at my ex's house, and there was no removal of copper. They simply ran a line from the trunk to the side of the house, and put a new junction box on the side of the house, next to the orig POTS interface. One jumper from the FiOS box to the POTS interface junction box, and another to the existing cable coax junction.
I actually asked him about going back to copper if necessary, and he said "No prob. It's all still there. Just hook this back up." Of course, all our cables are underground. If yours are elevated, YMMV.

Of course, this will continue. (0)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887052)

It makes the government's eventual goal of controlling the internet that much easier if they have fewer entities to deal with. After all, that worked out so well with the financial system...

Broadband over power lines was never a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887058)

Broadband over power lines was never a good idea. What idiot thought that transmitting RF noise over giant antennas was a good idea.

I'm very, very glad it failed and I hope it stays dead.

Split Fiber ownership and ISPs! (4, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887060)

Perhaps it is time to split these big companies into two operations - ISPs and network operators.

After you have done that you can then mandate that the company sell back bandwidth on its network to its self as well as the competition. So for example let's say MyISP.Net own all of the cable in Texas, that network provider would have to sell bandwidth on its cable back to its self and any third parties that want to offer Internet in Texas for the same price with the same T&Cs.

That way you open up the network in that area to lot's of competition which encourages lower prices and better quality of service. Plus in addition to that you might spawn new companies who only want to built new cable without having to manage an ISP.

Re:Split Fiber ownership and ISPs! (1)

UziBeatle (695886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887088)

  Fuck all that sensible talk.

  I say nuke the site from orbit, just to be sure.

  Ripley was right.

Re:Split Fiber ownership and ISPs! (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887178)

I think that might be overkill. Texas is always talking about succeeding from the US anyway, I say we just let them and all live happily ever after...

Re:Split Fiber ownership and ISPs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887218)

You misspelled California.

Yeah, we should definitely rip off musicians (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887070)

and filmmakers by downloading their stuff for free, because it's so much more worthwhile to post $60-80 each month (apiece) to the DSL, cellular and CATV providers who provide the pipes, they're obviously the ones who do the real creative work.

This is what it comes down to. Somebody's always there to collect the money.

What about other services? (1)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887080)

So let's change the scenario.
If you don't like your electricity supplier, you switch to another one?
Or if you don't like your local telephone company?
Or what happens when the gas company doesn't suit you?
Or when your water supply isn't pure enough, do you switch to another water supplier?

I don't think I've ever seen an article bemoaning the lack of choices in any of the above services, so why not just push for treating internet access like we do electricity? Make it a highly regulated, government controlled local monopoly so we can all stop griping. Because that's the only way it's going to get fixed, unless a wireless magic bullet comes along.

And I'm sure that government-controlled data services appeal to so many Slashdotters that there will be an overwhelming cry of "do something!" (/sarcasm)

Be careful of what you gripe about, someone might just do something about it.

Re:What about other services? (4, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887130)

The difference is all the utilities you mention are highly regulated and in some cases run by the local government. If my local water supplier is delivering poor quality or too low of volume or their prices are outrageous I have two different options. One, I can elect a different mayor and city council who will fix the problem or two I can call the feds who heavily regulate water companies and require certain levels of purity and quality of service as well as pricing. When my electric supplier want so raise their rates, they have to ask the feds and they can't exclude my buying power over their distribution lines from the wind farm down the way instead of from the coal plant owned by the distributor. For that matter if I throw up a windmill they are required by law to pay me for what electricity I add to the grid.

Utility companies in general are often monopolies because of practical limitations to the infrastructure, but they're also traditionally very heavily regulated to keep them from abusing that position and because they are considered necessary services. So far internet access is not considered a necessary service and is not highly regulated at all. Companies aren't required to provide service to everyone in the area like phone companies are and they aren't prevented from leveraging those monopoly or duopoly situations by bundling other services.

Re:What about other services? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887360)

So far internet access is not considered a necessary service and is not highly regulated at all.

True. And that's going to change. The question is, will the required regulation change with it?

Re:What about other services? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887258)

My water company is federally and locally mandated to provide me *reliably* with a supply of water that meets certain standards of purity. My ISP is held to no such standard.

My electric company owns the delivery lines and delivers power for several electricity producers. I can select my producer. The electric company and producers are also mandated to provide a certain standard of service, and their rates are regulated. My ISP is held to no such standard, and can charge me whatever the heck they like for their crappy service because I can't get service from anyone else.

If I don't like what my electric or water company is doing, I can submit a formal complaint to a governmental commission and it *will* be investigated and addressed.

If I don't like what my ISP is doing, well, the only recourse I have is to cancel service. And then I can't get an internet connection at all.

(Unless you count dialup, which for my purposes as a web developer or the purposes of anyone trying to use the internet to get media -- even legal media like Netflix on demand stuff or video from CNN.com -- might as well be no connection, and which for many people is available only through the local phone monopoly, which is also the very broadband ISP they're trying to boycott).

Re:What about other services? (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887284)

If you don't like your electricity supplier, you switch to another one?

In California, I can do this. PG&E is required to carry someone else's watts for me, which of course only happens on paper. But still, I don't have to buy power generated by PG&E.

Or if you don't like your local telephone company?

Well, there's vonage... unless you can't get decent internet :p

There's also cellular; I terminated my land line and got cellular because SBC (at the time) was suffering from a strike, and they told me it would be minimum three days before they could come out and fix my phone line that had spontaneously, mysteriously gone bad. It was always SOP at Pac Bell and by extension SBC (and probably still in those regions, even though they're now called ATT) to steal pairs from one residential customer to give them to a new one, and to endlessly splice wire until it was amazing for it to carry any signal at all; they probably stole my copper for someone else. I went to an alternative and haven't missed a land line since. Actually, we have one now, but I try not to answer it. It's mostly spam.

Or what happens when the gas company doesn't suit you?

I have a tank from Suburban propane. I'm a renter so I'm not changing it, but as an owner I could change my tank, and get gas from someone else. If I were upset enough, I could mount a tank on a trailer and get appropriate licenses and placards to haul it around, so I could also handle the transportation part of the equation, and not pay delivery fees. Not that you usually pay those anyway, unless you are an on-demand customer, and demand gas before it is convenient. I have up to a month lag time between my request and the appearance of the truck, but one of the things Suburban does is they will wait until the price of gas is high to send out the trucks, and then they tend to charge vastly more than the national average, hoping you won't notice. We're using the BBB against them for the SECOND time right now; it worked the first time, let's hope for two out of two.

Or when your water supply isn't pure enough, do you switch to another water supplier?

You can build a catchment, although in my county, you are billed both for water you pump from it, and for evaporation. Can that even be legal? As in, constitutional? Anyway, I have a well. I produce my own water. Can't do this in the city generally, but that's the price you pay for living in an artificial environment.

Make it a highly regulated, government controlled local monopoly so we can all stop griping. Because that's the only way it's going to get fixed, unless a wireless magic bullet comes along.

It might not be a bad idea. We have the best and cheapest postal service in the world. We could cut out half the days of service and that would still be true (and might keep it afloat longer at current rates of utilization and cash flow per day.) There's no security without encryption anyway; so what's the harm? It's not like they don't already have all the keys to the castle, making them the effective owners anyway. Might as well just let 'em hang a shingle.

Be careful of what you gripe about, someone might just do something about it.

Someone is already doing something about it. Consumers are getting boned by corporations. That's "something".

Re:What about other services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887488)

Incidentally I find your use of the postal service as an example of an effective government service highly interesting. The postal service is the only government-owned company which is required to break even every year, and is not subsidized at all by the government. It's not regulated other than the fact that they are required to deliver to all customers, and that nobody else is allowed to deliver into postal mailboxes. I think our Telcos would be more effective if we stopped handing them money whenever they want to upgrade their infrastructure. Let them pay for it themselves. Allow them their monopoly on the lines. But don't give them any more money. Prices might go up or they might not. It's highly unprofitable if you lose half your customer base because the price went from $60/mo to $100/mo. and so it's entirely possible that they would figure out how to improve line speeds when the customer began to value it.

Use of government force is not the answer, and it is in fact the mark of a fascist state. If you don't like their service, don't use it. That is your only option.

Re:What about other services? (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887294)

Bad analogies: You can't decouple the electricity, water, and electricity supplies from the infrastructure that supplies them. It is relatively easy to do with phone and data, however.

Re:What about other services? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887448)

Bad analogies: You can't decouple the electricity, water, and electricity supplies from the infrastructure that supplies them.

Actually, in most locales electricity distribution and generation are decoupled by law. You buy from a distributor, but they have to buy from any and all generators at the same rate, including from other companies owned by the same parent corporation.

Re:What about other services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887988)

You can already switch electricity providers in some states. Texas for one allows you to pick who provides your power. They all share the same "last mile" power cable but they individually provide the power.

Re:What about other services? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31888122)

> If you don't like your electricity ... local telephone ... gas company ... water supply

In the UK the answer to all those questions is YES. Supply is decoupled from infrastructure and that's why websites such as uswitch.com exist.

Fix your country.

City Wi-Fi (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887086)

The local city wi-fi closed its doors recently and its service was picked up by a local phone company. Part of the problem was the price, at least for me. They wanted $50 a month for city wide wi-fi. My Comcast bill is $60 a month for basic cable (no digital box so we have HD which is extra if you get the box) and comes with high speed internet.

[John]

Re:City Wi-Fi (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887208)

I happen to live in a small city with one of the nation's largest wi-fi cooperatives. They just got a lot of individuals to buy the same mesh network routers, centrally run it, and let anyone who wants to add their home or business network pipe to the pool. It does wonders for tourism, bringing in road warriors, and even helps the housing market a bit. I've always wondered why cities can't do this more affordably than most seem to. Really how much does it cost for some big network pipes, two techs and an admin on staff, and a bunch of wireless mesh routers to strap to light poles? There has been talk forever about a county-wide service with an interesting tiered plan (free at low speeds, with monthly charges for less throttled access). I think the bureaucracy of most governments combined with the intervention (both legal and political) of the existing telecos is on of the biggest roadblocks.

No kidding (4, Interesting)

Shaltenn (1031884) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887152)

We had problems with our Optimum Online cable service for 3 months. 3 months. We called them twice a week for 3 months, each month they would say "Your nodes are over-saturated and we are working on it." A tech would come out, look at our lines, say they are fine, and agree that we are in an over-saturated area. For 3 months. We were paying for 30/5 service and getting 1/.5. Finally after 3 months of dealing with this non-existent internet access (you try sharing 1/.5 amongst a house of 8 people) they get it fixed and we call up asking for some sort of credit for 3 months of basically non-working service. Optimum said they could give us a week. A week! A week for 3 months of non-working service. Finally after being on hold for an HOUR they agreed to give us one month and then promptly hung up on us. We would have gone elsewhere if there was a choice, but there really isn't.

Re:No kidding (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887368)

Contact your local Better Business Bureau. I find them to actually be fairly effective in most cases. Tell them you want a refund of whatever percentage the service wasn't working, i.e. if you got 5% of promised rates, offer to pay 5% of the bill.

Re:No kidding (1)

Shaltenn (1031884) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887824)

Aye but they get around this by saying "Up to 30/5" not you will have 30/5. After talking to the tech, I discovered that they say "It's not a problem" to speeds greater than 7/1.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31888134)

The BBB? You have got to be kidding. In a previous life I worked for a company that laughed when disgruntled customers threatened BBB action - because the owner knew how to write complaint responses such that the BBB considered them "resolved".

Screw the BBB. File a complaint with your attorney general then sue them in small claims court.

Re:No kidding (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887672)

And you are lucky. Most of us don't even have the option of a 30/5 plan, and would never dream that our ISPs would fix a problem with over-saturation (unless it involved throttling/capping or encouraging customers to cancel).

WTF (0, Flamebait)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887252)

If I can have my choice of shitty banks, why can't I have my choice of shitty ISPs?

Lobbying. They lobby to make it appear that Internet access is a scarce resource. This is, of course, bullshit.

Internet access is an infinite resource depending only on how much capacity they build into their networks.

They prefer to keep their capacity artificially low the same way the chinese yuan is artificially devalued.

Thus they can charge more for it than it's actually worth.

Regulation (1, Troll)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887376)

There was an article [slashdot.org] a couple weeks ago about how lifting regulation sent more people into a market.

The FCC is actually unconstitutional.

Re:Regulation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887720)

Wow. Who modded this informative? Did you even read the damn link?

"Getting rid of the Morse Code requirement sure helped in that regard." Is that your idea of "regulatory barriers"? Really? I suppose you think that evil leftist commies erected this terrifying standard of "YOU MUST LEARN MORSE CODE" to prevent all these nascent entrepreneurs from innovating in the space of SENDING RADIO MESSAGES OVER PUBLIC AIRWAVES. Yes, clearly we're seeing all sorts of economic activity now from hobbyists who were tragically forced to learn new things, now going out and buying radio transceivers and antennas so that they can do things that 99.9% of them don't even really care about.

It's kind of amusing that this is really the best example you can come up with to say "GOVERNMENT SUCKS THE FREE MARKET IS AWESOME OMG I JUST CAME."

Re:Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31888146)

Cream with that tea?

Two? One? (1)

LatencyKills (1213908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887426)

I can think of at least three towns in Northern NH that don't have a single land-based broadband option open to them. Heck, landline phone and cell coverage is spotty. Low population density - you betcha. But isn't that the sort of thing the billions of dollars dumped on the communications companies by the government supposed to solve? Oh, that's right, they turned the money around and lobbied with it instead of improving their networks.

re: Still little to do about a bad ISP... and BPL (2, Interesting)

GPSguy (62002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887496)

Addressing Manassas, BPL was never well-conceived, and Manassas was destined to fail. I'm sorry, but you transmit an RF signal along an unshielded random wire length without radiation and susceptibility problems. The BPL folks wanted regulation to prevent interference from all the existing users out there, and then lied to their potential customers about the impacts. Good engineering practice, and adherence to solid engineering won out here. It's not like BPL was going to do great things: It's expensive, complicated and requires regeneration at each transformer, and a variety of other points along the way. It's bad engineering done poorly.

Re: Still little to do about a bad ISP... and BPL (2, Insightful)

BLKMGK (34057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888116)

Here's a good one... I lived in Manassas for over 15 years and only recently moved. This is THE first time I've even heard of them trying to "pioneer" BPL! I thought surely it was some other Manassas but nope, I looked and there's a web site and everything - holy crap! You're talking about an area that dragged it's feet FOREVER to get cable internet. an area where I had to BEG to get the local phone company to sell meDSL - they refused but a third party sold me ISDL at some ungodly rate over the same lines the phone company said couldn't support me. The cable company told me for two YEARS that they were "rebuilding their cable plant" and would contact me when they were ready to sell me 'net service! Meanwhile just a few miles away in Fairfax there was cable internet and the phone company kept sending me fliers for their high(er) speed DSL but duh couldn't cross county lines to give it to me. Finally after years of this crap cable came though and gee not too long after that we finally got FIOS. Cable can kiss my ass with FIOS available.

Why they ever thought BPL would fly in an environment like that is beyond me. DSL in that area was stupid because the phone company wasn't interested, cable is actually pretty decent and most of the area is older with overhead wiring so not hard, and FIOS is making huge inroads also using the overhead wiring in many places. FIOS is smoking fast too and the cable was decent. What exactly did they think BPL was going to offer?!

The Best Government Money Can Buy Did This (4, Interesting)

SwedishChef (69313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887508)

I operated a small ISP for nearly 8 years and was finally driven out of business by my upstream provider (a municipality in the form of a PUD) which illegally subsidized a competitor and illegally created another competitor. This PUD had invited a competitor into the area and created fake "contracts" that covered up a secret agreement to repay the competitor for 110% of its costs to compete with me. The competitor created invoices for "work performed" under the contracts that just happened to cover their costs; plus ten percent. The PUD also sent their own employees to work on the competitor's systems. This was (and is) actually against the state constitution, not just illegal. Unfortunately no state entity was willing to investigate this activity or prosecute the perpetrators and when we tried to sue we discovered that municipalities are protected from pesky problems like anti-trust and racketeering so the suits were dismissed.

Only four of the managers of the PUD were discharged over this and no one went to jail or was even prosecuted despite having substantial written evidence provided by whistle blowers inside the PUD (who released documents before the PUD could act to cover them up).

We sold out for pennies on the dollar of our investment and felt lucky to get even that because by the time we bailed virtually all the other smaller ISPs had also been driven out of business.

Would regulation have helped me? There was (and is) plenty of regulation but there was not even a token attempt to enforce them. We were told, off the record, by a state investigator that the problems were so big that it would have been economically disastrous to the entire state if they regulations were enforced.

This, mind you, in the state (Washington) which has had numerous scandals involving public utility districts; including the infamous Washington Public Power System repudiating $200 million in municipal bonds some 30 years ago. (WPPS still exists under a new name.)

Re:The Best Government Money Can Buy Did This (1)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888010)

Yeah, Washington is rather ahhh FUBAR. Totally in the pocket of big business.

Don't think it's all fine in Canada either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31887714)

A lot of places don't even have a choice between two carriers. It's cable from ISP XYZ or.... dial-up from the same ISP XYZ.

What if the single provider disappeared? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887860)

In a city with a single provider, what would happen if that provider just disappeared one day, and nobody bought them? There'd be no Internet service at all. Surely some other provider would be formed quickly. So it is possible for another provider to be formed.

Now, what if everyone canceled their service to a provider. Surely that provider would also disappear, since it can't run without income. So like above, another provider could be formed to serve people.

So my real question, why can't everyone cancel their service with a monopolist provider, and sign on with whatever new provider came in its place? The only thing stopping this seems to be that most people are satisfied enough with their current service that they wouldn't want to be a part of this, and thus it does't happen.

Re:What if the single provider disappeared? (2, Insightful)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31888020)

Because people aren't going to drop their ISP unless they know another one is there to pick up their business. Would you cancel your internet knowing there was nobody else yet to provide your connection?

Broadband over Powerline (2, Informative)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31887992)

One big problem with broadband over powerlines was the fact that it constantly interfered with the amateur radio spectrum, and between people denying this, and companies unable to filter the signal or otherwise prevent interference, you simply had interference with an allotted set of spectrum which can't be tolerated. It would be nice to revisit that technology in a couple of years if they can figure out how to quit interfering with other frequencies.
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