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FCC Wants To Shift Phone Subsidy Funds To Broadband

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-know-just-the-place dept.

The Internet 211

An anonymous reader writes "FCC chairman Julius Genachowski revealed plans yesterday to overhaul the U.S. phone subsidy program and shift its focus to providing broadband access. He said, 'Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society. If we want the United States to be the world's leading market, we need to embrace the essential goal of universal broadband, and reform outdated programs.' According to BusinessWeek, the program currently 'supports phone service to schools, libraries, the poor and high-cost areas.' Last year it spent $4.3 billion to provide support to over 1,700 carriers in high-cost areas. Genachowski hopes the change will put the U.S. 'on the path to universal broadband service by the end of the decade.'"

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211 comments

So.... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638406)

In other words, you want to throw more of our tax dollars at broadband companies, which will continue to magically disappear while no improvements are made?
As much as I want a better internet, I'd rather not pay for it and not get it.

Re:So.... (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638540)

Agreed. I'd go for this plan on one condition: That large ISPs (e.g. Comcast sized or so) are forced to do what AT&T was forced to do back in the 1950's or so - string out a reasonable broadband speed to even the most remote rural area, upon request, at a fixed price ceiling. Then I'd demand that independent and random sampling be done (both in-town and out) to insure that speeds and quality are consistent nationwide. Finally, set up a hotline or similar means by which consumers can lodge complaints, and for each valid and provable complaint, the ISP has to pay back a fixed sum of money to the FCC - low enough to not kill the system immediately, but high enough to get their attention.

No improvements, no money.

Re:So.... (2)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638822)

The libertarian side of me disagrees with this. Why should the people in the city be subsidizing the lifestyles of the people in the country? It means higher prices for everyone. If the people in the country want broadband service, they should move to where there IS broadband service. Same goes with phone service, electric service, etc... All these policies ended up creating a society where the population is widely spread out, horribly inefficient, and highly dependent on automobiles.

People in the country want the benefits of living in the city without the negatives of living in the city, and they want the people in the city to pay for it.

Now the socialist in me says that if you didn't "spread the wealth" in this manner, you'd end up with huge swaths of poor people in the country not unlike what China has today. That's a pool of workers that would work for low wages and depress wages for everyone. But I guess the broadband would be cheaper.

Re:So.... (2)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638886)

Maybe the country wants food, and figures that the people who grow it ought not have to do without modern necessities in order to do so.

Re:So.... (2)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639164)

The problem with that argument is that VERY few people who live in the country are farmers (about 1.4%). And nothing is stopping them from paying for these services themselves (i.e. satellite service). Who knows what kinds of technology would have evolved to serve rural populations if we hadn't mandated this socialized approach?

Re:So.... (2)

bsane (148894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640002)

I know- not the main argument here, but:

satellite internet != broadband

its marginally better than dialup for a couple of very select things.

Re:So.... (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639608)

Define Necessity please? What does broadband give them that dial up does not? Your asking me to pay for it, so I don't think the quesiton is unreasonable.

Re:So.... (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640118)

Distance learning, consulting a specialist when the local Dr. is in over his head. I haven't tried to do two way video communication over dial-up in a very long time but I can't imagine it's improved much.

Re:So.... (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640278)

Finally, a rational answer, thanks for that. I'm all for paying 100% to have schools, hospitals, libraries and even local doctors offices to have the utmost in communications ability, just not individual houses.

Re:So.... (1)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638858)

You do understand that one of the concessions given to AT&T for mandating tariffed services was a guaranteed monopoly in those areas, right?

I'm not suggesting this is bad. The capital costs of deploying services like these to rural areas can be prohibitive. The monopoly guarantee allows the carrier to amortize the cost over a long term without fear of losing money.

Though today the inflation-adjusted costs should be lower because of the viability of wireless communications means many fewer miles of buried or strung wire, which is an expensive process.

Satellite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638408)

Down here in Oklahoma the most available thing out of town(and sometimes in some small towns) is satellite internet, which is claimed to be broadband. I really hope that the FCC doesn't classify them as broadband. 500Mb data caps, 1.3 second latency, download speeds of 60kb/s and upload speeds of 4kb/s (all for the low low price of $80/month for 2 years + equipment). If this thing will just put out more shitty satellite internet to rural areas, I'm flatly not interested.

How the FCC defines broadband (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638440)

Three years ago, the FCC defined broadband [about.com] as 768 kbps down. Two years later, it was changed [fcc.gov] to at least 4 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up, which would imply 400 to 500 kB/s downloads.

Re:How the FCC defines broadband (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638814)

And which would still be twice what I'm getting now. At least I finally got my bill reduced from $75 to $48. That's actually quite reasonable for broadband, if I had it. In theory my speed is supposed to increase later this year. Not holding my breath.

Open up the books (3, Interesting)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638412)

I'd like to see what carriers would be getting, vs what we will continue to pay.
Fee hikes every year leaves me bouncing between two carriers that I hate, just because they're the only two in town.

Re:Open up the books (3, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638538)

If you already have broadband it won't lower your fees. The program is to subsidize service in areas where it is currently too expensive for companies to wire (rural areas).

Re:Open up the books (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638694)

Please? My local WISP got bought out by a new one that claimed I wouldn't have to pay an installation fee, which was part of the deal. No, instead they decided to overcharge me for the first four months. When I called them on it they agreed to even refund me for the difference, and in the case they put a note "this is ONLY for Martin" ... And the final insult is that they are merely an AT&T reseller! AT&T literally owns all the fiber that runs into this valley, so it's ATT or a satellite. I would be worlds better off if I could just get DSL... because even if all my stuff was on battery backup, the WISP seems to go down in every outage anyway. (I did have the hardware on UPS for a while, but since it didn't do me any good...)

Re:Open up the books (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638576)

25% of my bill is taxes. I haven't bothered switching because my taxes would be the same and the line is very reliable.

Re:Open up the books (0)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638626)

What do we pay in taxes, and are we getting out money's worth?

THIS is the question we all need to start asking. We have runaway government and a bunch of people calling for raising of taxes and fees as the answer to our economic problems, as if that will solve inefficiencies in our market and more fairly redistribute wealth. Well, it doesn't. The rich control government, paying shills in the form of groups to pass legislation that is bought and paid for by lobbyists for all the various factions. Not just Corporations, but all groups.

In the meantime we are losing out liberties under the guise of "sticking it to the man" and "do it for the children" and "something must be done, this is something, it must be done" logic. Screw this MOB rule, it sucks. Lets get back to LIBERTY for all. Not this "all people are equal, but some people are more equal than others" crap.

Re:Open up the books (4, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638702)

Actually, much of the "taxes" on the bills are "regulatory recovery fees." It's a dodge by the phone and elec companies to make their services look cheaper and to blame to government for making them do the right thing.

Imagine if the local Walmart started charging you a fee for the merchandise, then a 3% "regulartory recovery fee" for having to install stormwater management so the neighboring property didn't flood, plus a 4% "federal corporate tax" fee, and a 6% "Local Property Tax recovery fee". It's a cost of doing business and gets built into the price of the goods.

Some of the taxes are real, like the 911 fee which (surprise) pays for a 911 operator to be standing by waiting to get your emergency call and route it to the appropriate emergency service provider (police, fire, rescue, etc.)

Everyone seems to be down on taxes, but nobody wants reduced services.

Re:Open up the books (1)

The Moof (859402) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639268)

Actually, much of the "taxes" on the bills are "regulatory recovery fees."

While this is true, I'm paying 3 times the "recover fee" amount in taxes (pulled my latest bill out to compare). The amount of tax on your bill greatly varies from state to state as well as town to town. When I moved a few years back, I noticed my bill went up. Apparently, the town I moved into has a monthly "Mobile Telecommunications Tax" that I have to pay.

the 911 fee which (surprise) pays for a 911 operator to be standing by waiting to get your emergency call [...] Everyone seems to be down on taxes, but nobody wants reduced services.

I have no problem paying that 75 cent tax, but what about the other seven dollars I'm paying in state and local taxes? As I pointed out above, my town even has a tax on my bill, and they offer zero mobile phone services. It's a cash grab by them on something that's becoming commonplace luxury.

Re:Open up the books (1)

DigiTechGuy (1747636) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639712)

Everyone seems to be down on taxes, but nobody wants reduced services.

I want reduced services and correspondingly lower taxes. I don't need a 911 operator at all times, I can call the police dispatch or fire department directly (just like before 911). I don't need things like trash pickup, I'm perfectly happy to take my own trash to the dump and sort my own recycles at the reclamation/recycling facility. The list goes on and on, but I want a smaller scope of government and correspondingly lower taxes.

Re:Open up the books (1)

King Coopa (1374689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639972)

Have you considered living in the country? You can have all those things.

Re:Open up the books (1)

DigiTechGuy (1747636) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640396)

Yes, I desperately want to relocate to the south, primarily for lower taxes, smaller government, more freedom and individual liberties, as well as better climate and nicer people. Unfortunately before making such a large jump I need to pay off at least a majority of the huge crippling student loans I took out for that scam that is college. Until then I'm stuck where I am. If I hadn't gone back to school I'd be making more money than I am now, have no debt, and have a much better quality of life down South.

Re:Open up the books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37640030)

Everyone seems to be down on taxes, but nobody wants reduced services.

I want reduced services and correspondingly lower taxes. I don't need a 911 operator at all times, I can call the police dispatch or fire department directly (just like before 911). I don't need things like trash pickup, I'm perfectly happy to take my own trash to the dump and sort my own recycles at the reclamation/recycling facility. The list goes on and on, but I want a smaller scope of government and correspondingly lower taxes.

Why? Specialization helps society do other, newer more interesting things like discuss social policy on an interconnected series of computers.

Re:Open up the books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37640612)

Having on single national number for a emergency saves lives and property.
Quick, your driving down the interstate, what is the local police number... in the middle of a 2 hour drive on the side of a interstate with the only marker being mile marker 200? You don't even know what little town you are blowing through let alone who actually has jurisdiction in that area, it might be the next town over.. Too late. you are dead now. Glad you saved that $0.75?

Also, as someone who has lived where garbage pickup was a optional thing you could choose and pay for out of pocket, but grew up in a state where garbage pickup is almost always done via property taxes I can tell you one thing.
SHIT IS EVERYWHERE where people have to take care of their own garbage. EVERYWHERE.
You ever drive around a metro area where garbage pickup is not done via property taxes for instance?
Busted open bags of garbage on the side of the road. There is crap strewn all over the place.
You can't even find a outside garbage can to get rid of your drink or wrappers. There is no place without a lock on it outside anywhere for garbage.
Then go to a metro area where garbage pickup is part of property taxes...
You almost never see people dumping garbage bags on the side of the road, there is much less litter on the sidewalks, and business are much more likely to have outside public-use garbage cans.

I'm all for proper usage of taxes, but things like emergency services, trash, roads and education should always be part of the job that government does. It is not about total 'efficiency', it is about reliability and it is about getting things done that can only be done at a scale like that. It is also about doing what is best for everyone in the long run. There is no nanny state about it.

Don't pay for garbage pickup with taxes?
Fine. Now you have to clean up shit from your front lawn every day, and your neighborhood looks like a 3rd world dump. Your property values have now been reduced enough that the few $$ you saved in taxes for garbage are now overshadowed by the thousands less your property is worth. Not even including your time and inconvenience of picking shit up all the time.

Sorry, the trash thing still gets to me. I've since moved to an are where garbage pickup is done via property taxes and the only garbage I ever pick up on my lawn is from my own kids. It has probably been a year since I saw a dumped garbage bag on the side of the road.
Every place from parks to the gas station parking lots have much less crap in them, and I can find a place to dispose of my drink.

It is proper use of taxes.

Re:Open up the books (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640696)

Here's the thing about reduced services - people generally point to services they don't use as a good place to "trim the fat," but never ask to pay the full price on the services they use. You may not need a 911 operator in your home town, but while you're on vacation in the country with your bride-to-be, it would suck to have something life threatening happen to her, and you not know the phone number. Or school - I rarely hear public school students (or their parents) asking to be directly billed the $160,000-$200,000 that will be spent by taxpayers on their education. People who ride bikes often complain about lack of bike lanes, but rarely ask for an annual assessment on bicycles to cover the cost of those lanes and maintenance.

I happen to like trash service, by the way, as the cost of my weekly service is lower - and far more convenient - than my taking a load of trash to the dump each month. It sounds like your landfill service might be free by your post so I presume you're okay with everybody paying to keep the landfill open for you.

Re:Open up the books (2)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638808)

We have runaway government and a bunch of people calling for raising of taxes and fees as the answer to our economic problems

Well, taxes on the wealthy are at pre-Depression era lows and the real runaways in this situation are the Teabaggers who are running around screaming about the deficit that their fucking heroes spent the last 30 years running up. Those of us who support raising taxes on the wealthy (a majority of Americans, by the way) are in this position because somehow Social Security (which does not add a single penny to the deficit) and Medicare are on the chopping block rather than say even one damn dollar of the out-of-control defense budget. If you wanted to talk about "runaway" programs, that is.

I don't know why you are heading down this path of shrieking about taxes and liberty except that it really looks like you are listening to way too much Rush Limbaugh or one of his stupid clones. None of what you said has jack shit to do with broadband access. Please go find a Teabagger convention to rant and rave at.

Re:Open up the books (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639810)

Okay, fine, I give up. Raise the taxes on the rich to 100%. I did my part, now it's your turn. Find the other 80% in spending cuts that are needed. Calling me a teabagger you brainwashed little piece of shit (since we are now reduced to school yard name calling). No teaparty person is calling for cuts in social security. Chopping block for Medicare? What the hell are you smoking? Instead of it increasing 8% next year, we only want to increase it by 7%? What in the blue fuck part of "we're broke" don't you understand? You honestly believe that raising taxes on rich people will pay for all this shit? Are you out of your fucking mind??? It's not even hard math, just the addition and subtraction kind...

Re:Open up the books (3, Informative)

Ed Bugg (2024) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639920)

Well, taxes on the wealthy are at pre-Depression era lows and ...

And with the same truthfulness you could say we have the highest corporate in the world (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rates_around_the_world it's 38% federal with an additional 12% state and doesn't count local taxes). It's not until you take part in all the nice tax loopholes that you get an equivilent tax rate that's at the record lows. Unfortunately since many businesses are small, they can't afford the tax lawyers to take advantage of all the nifty loopholes.

If you actually listen to Tea Party whole stance and what many speak about at the rallies, it's to lower the tax rate overall (lowering the 38% to something reasonable) AND to get rid of the loopholes. Allow the local computer store up the street to pay the same tax rate as Best Buy down the street.

I know it's hard to actually hear words through the shrieking, but I'm sure that even you equate someone stealing from you, with your liberty. It's a question of do you equate getting charged left and right for something as stealing. I pay my sewer bill every month, I expect that that money to go to the upkeep of the sewer system. To have the sewer company turn around and tell me that they are going to charge me an extra fee depending on how much non-grass area I have in my yard (thus assuming rain run off into storm system), after I'm already paying for my use of the sewer system. Me... I find thing close to stealing from me.

Re:Open up the books (2)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640186)

Teabaggers who are running around screaming about the deficit that their fucking heroes spent the last 30 years running up

So much ignorance about the tea party, so many pathetic attempts at juvenile insults ("teabaggers"). You probably don't realize that established big-government, deficit-loving Republicans were the main targets of the Tea Party movement in the 2008 elections. In many instances, the incumbents and fat-cat party favorites did not win the primary nomination.

Those of us who support raising taxes on the wealthy (a majority of Americans, by the way)

A majority? So what you're saying is that a majority would love to use their power as the majority to forcibly take money from the minority.

Social Security (which does not add a single penny to the deficit)

Where is the social security money invested? In government bonds. What does the government do with money from selling bonds? It spends it to run the government. There's no "lock box." When SS outlays exceed income (in the next several years), SS will have to cash in those bonds. The government most likely won't have saved the money to pay of course, so it'll be added to the deficit for that year.

However, the $106K limit on FICA does seem a bit low given what $106K means now vs. then. It should be at least $250K.

Re:Open up the books (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638990)

I'm an auditor for the organization that this article is talking about; I specialize in auditing the telecom carriers. This would be a huge change, but it's definitely needed. There has been a shift away from traditional land line service to internet-based and mobile-based communications. The support that the schools and libraries, hospitals, and telecom carriers in high cost areas is used to fund broadband services already. Unfortunately, this change would mean higher costs for end-users but keep in mind that the telecom companies aren't (or shouldn't be at least) keeping your money. It all goes to a good cause- underprivileged kids, outdated hospital systems, and people who live literally in the middle of nowhere.

Re:Open up the books (1)

pedrop357 (681672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639856)

It all goes to a good cause- underprivileged kids, outdated hospital systems, and people who live literally in the middle of nowhere.

Well, 2 out of 3. I don't think there should be subsidies for people who choose to live far away from everything.

You choose to live far away, you get the benefits of being far away-(generally) cleaner air, less noise and traffic, lower crime, more space, more freedom to customize land/home/etc. BUT, you have to pay more to have power, phone, cable, gas, etc. run to you. Freight costs for local merchants/gas stations as well as postage/delivery for personal mail/packages is higher.

That's the way it goes. I see no reason why those of who choose to live in urban and suburban areas should have to subsidize those who choose to live farther away.

Business subsidies need to be revisted (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638480)

You know, every time I hear various parties say "get government out of business" and all that, I think "okay... maybe... but some regulation is needed because when there isn't, big business ends up raping the country." But then again, I never heard parties say "we need government to stop giving subsidies to business..."

I think the next time I see the argument "keep government out of business" I will ask what their position is on subsidies to business is.

As it turns out, there are far more subsidies going on than any of us are collectively aware of. I am well aware of corn subsidies and the like, but telephone subsidies? That's news. Seems the phone business is a huge public rapist and they are getting subsidies too?

Yeah, it's time to stop paying the rapists.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638502)

I guess it's okay for the FCC to give money to telephone but not to broadband? But you know, I guess this will help to end the argument that "the FCC doesn't have jurisdiction" over the internet in the US.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638676)

Broadband IS Telephony ... and more. It is Communication, you know, as in "Federal Communication Commission". My broadband has proven more reliable than my POTS line.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638542)

But then again, I never heard parties say "we need government to stop giving subsidies to business..."

You're listening to the wrong parties. http://www.lp.org/platform [lp.org]

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638734)

Indeed. Libertarians have the solution, but it is a painful one to those dependent upon the Nanny State and her tit.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37640630)

I'd just laugh at you if I thought it would have any effect. You *do* realise how many services you depend on that come from the Nanny State, doncha? Of course you do.

Libertarians have the solution

yeah, LSD dissolved in water.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638568)

That's news to you?

Then you would seem to be rather out of date. Even the 1934 Communications Act made an effort to provide nationwide coverage.

This however, is not really a subsidy for business, but rather a subsidy for citizens to be served by a business. What's the difference? Well, to me the former is about encouraging the business in particular to operate, while the latter is focused on the citizens and their needs.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638608)

"Yeah, it's time to stop paying the rapists."
Don't be an idiot, stop using hyperbole, and try to figure out why there are subsidies.

The 2 you mention are pretty good ones.
The phone subsidies help ensure everyone can communicate and participate in society. This is good.

The Corn Subsidies help ensure we have a stable food supply. This is also good.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Xenkar (580240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638818)

Corn subsidies help ensure votes in Iowa and other corn growing states. We also pay farmers not to grow corn for food usage. We also ensure them a great ethanol market with the 10% ethanol requirements in our gasoline pumps.

Other subsidies include milk and eggs. While you might think this is the best thing ever, it removes consumer choice. You are already paying for it. Don't consume milk products, eggs, or corn for either allergies or personal ethics? Too bad sucker, you're going to pay more for your alternatives along with the taxes that pay for the established food subsidies.

Without subsidies, milk would be more expensive than soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. It will still have an advantage over hemp milk so long as it is illegal for farmers in the United States to grow it, forcing those who want it to pay outrageous amounts because we have to import it from Canada.

A more fair way to do this is to move the subsidies from the farms and to the grocery markets where customers can decide what they want to get for a reasonable price. The grocery stores buy what their consumers demand for full price and then get the subsidy rebate from the government. If a farmer sells direct to consumers, he can apply for the subsidies.

Before subsidies, the United States government used to keep grain silos so they could cover the country's food needs if the farmers had a bad year. It is sad that we don't do it that way anymore.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638932)

Various actual corn production subsidies seem to total about $3 Billion this year, down from $3.7 Billion last year, and an extraordinary high of $10.1 Billion in 2005. Corn ethanol subsidies this year will amount to about $5 Billion. Maybe more.

I'm not at all in favor of subsidizing corn for fuel. This makes no sense. Stablizing food prices is attractive, consider the dairy industry in particular as a fairly good example. Ethanol? Nope.

Subsidizing telephone service made sense when the telephone was the only useful means of instant communications. Farms surely used them to call the doctor, fire department, and even to check on commodity pricing.

Today, though, landline service could be replaced with broadband data. Skype etc. could replace landline voice, and decent Internet service provides all sorts of opportunities for rural residents, from schooling to commodity pricing data and sales for farmers. They do this now where it's available.

The real questions to me are:

- Will subsidized service also be relatively unrestricted? Will the FCC enforce rural service that is unfiltered, uncapped, and unthrottled? Will users be able to make use of any Internet service or protocol as they wish?

- Will subsidized service that replaces landline voice be permitted without penalty or punitive cost hikes for both rural and urban landline service?

- Will the FCC extend protection for free Internet usage to urban users also?

While the USF was a good idea, it resulted in the minimum service being delivered in many cases, and at very high cost. The school/library component was just a direct redistribution to local government in most cases. Moving to broadband might largely result in shifting the subsidy to school/library data services, and not so much to rural residential service. And much of the same infrastructure that was paid for with USF over the years will probably be declared useless for broadband, spurring another round of upgrading the rural telecom plant. that shoudl take a few years, and give the industry time to figure out how to make money from both ends of this candle. Nice.

Good idea. Wasteful, and inevitably so. Worth it if done right.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638614)

The FCC was basically established to maintain and regulate the phone companies in 1934 [wikipedia.org]. We have basically always subsidized the phone companies so that they could provide phone service to all americans and not just the areas where it was profitable. In order for many rural communities to even have phone service, the gov't had to step in and shove huge piles of money into phone company hands.

The phone companies have been sucking off the government teat since their inception for the most part.

I think unless they are going to start dropping rates when they start getting more and more money they shouldn't get shit. It's not like the broadband companies that start getting the cash are going to be different from the ones that are currently providing phone service. That's like the government taking money away from the marketing department of a company and giving it to the sales department. Sure different people might be getting the money, but the same company is still collecting the same stipend.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638620)

We currently pay them to build phone lines in rural areas where they will never make a profit. We do the same thing with the postal service and electricity. The free market provides these services to cities and suburbs where the marginal cost to add another customer is low. If you live in the middle of nowhere your getting big fat handouts from the goverment to do so.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (2)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638650)

I guess you've never heard of the tiny towns in the Louisiana swamps that still don't have landline telephones?

Those towns are so out of the way, there's no profit in providing phone service. The idea of the universal telephone fee was to save up enough money so towns like that get connected to the rest of the world. We did the same thing with electrification in the 30s and 40s. It works. Every now and again, there are news stories about some small podunk town getting phone lines for the first time.

Switching those fees to broadband is supposed to serve the same purpose. Since landline telephone service is no longer as important, it makes sense to shift the priority from giving those people landline phone service to broadband internet access.

Subsidies are not universally a bad thing. This is a service that would not otherwise be provided because of the high cost. It's not like with farm subsidies, where farmers will probably plant some kind of crops no matter what. There are some folks who will never get broadband service of any kind unless we spread the costs of providing it across society. Whether or not that's a good thing or not is a more philosophically complex question than the one you seem to pose ("giving" money to companies to do what they would do anyway.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639936)

Subsidies are not universally a bad thing. This is a service that would not otherwise be provided because of the high cost.

Is there a price point where it simply isn't worth the cost to subsidize service?

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638654)

It isn't just "Get the government out of business" (think Solyndra) but also get Business out of Government (No more Lobbyists). I want to hear more politicians talk about Liberty (thanks Ron Paul) more.

Nothing is too big to fail, if it sucks let it fail. Screw those that got us into this mess.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638688)

They are not subsidizing the business, they are subsidizing customers who would otherwise not have service. The electric/phone/broadband company is not going to run miles of wire to an individual house for the same $40/mo someone in a city is paying. The cost to the customer would be astronomical. So the government (via taxes on your phone/electric bill) pays the companies to do that on behalf of the customers. The alternative is that those customers go without those services, and we as a nation have decided that is not a good alternative.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638762)

You're reading it wrong, to a certain extent. The reason the subsidies exist is not to line the pocket of the corporations, but to pay them to put in service where it would otherwise be impractical (from a business standpoint). Call it welfare or socialism or whatever you want - it's there to make the financial burden of "necessities" on the far-flung communities in the US less onerous.

If you want to make the argument that if you live out in the sticks, you should pony up the $50,000 to string a telephone line and $10,000 a year to maintain that line on your own, then we're talking about something of substance. Otherwise, you're just twisting the facts to suit your view of the universe.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638770)

I think there are good ways to be involved and bad ways to be involved in the market. IMHO the anger over Solyndra's loans is justified not just by the facts that were apparently readily available about that company, but by the way the government was essentially picking winners in the market and providing money before any good was delivered rather than promising to support companies that had already proved their own value. I'd much rather the government say "we're going to start buying electric cars for our own fleets on X date, and we'll do it from whoever can make the best product" than say "we're going to give new company X some money to design and build electric cars." You could do the same thing by committing to buy green power from nuclear/solar/wind providers rather than providing or guaranteeing loans from unstarted companies. I think if we can make commitments to buy products from companies that have already worked out the details and have proven themselves to investors we can get a healthier outcome. Not only does that get them value for the money that they did spend, but it will multiply that value by adding itself to money from investors in the other startups that didn't get picked but produced second-best products or valuable new technology. If the market knows that there will be a buyer, then someone will get the investment that is needed to become a producer.

I know it won't happen, but it seems like the best way to spend this subsidy money would be for the government to defray the cost from the best and cheapest rural Internet providers (or give out vouchers that people can use to pick their own supplier). That way there will be incentive to provide good service, and there will likely be service provided by more than just the companies that end up coming out on top and getting government money. I'm sure what they'll do instead is just throw money at anyone who provides even crummy service, and as a result they'll get the lowest denominator return on that investment. Maybe this plan won't work as well in monopoly industries like cable, but it seems like the majority of the markets would work better this way.

Re:Business subsidies need to be revisted (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638830)

You know, every time I hear various parties say "get government out of business" and all that, I think "okay... maybe... but some regulation is needed because when there isn't, big business ends up raping the country." But then again, I never heard parties say "we need government to stop giving subsidies to business..."

I think the next time I see the argument "keep government out of business" I will ask what their position is on subsidies to business is.

As it turns out, there are far more subsidies going on than any of us are collectively aware of. I am well aware of corn subsidies and the like, but telephone subsidies? That's news. Seems the phone business is a huge public rapist and they are getting subsidies too?

Yeah, it's time to stop paying the rapists.

You make a good point, and many conservatives would agree with you. Subsidies aren't free market. If you subsidize something, that will tend to cause more production than the free market would dictate. The consumers will buy more and pay a lower price, while the producers sell more at a higher price. It almost sounds good except that the subsidy has to come out of the consumers' pockets in some way, so they (as a group) are actually paying more than they would have for something they wouldn't have wanted (or wanted that much of) at that price. It will typically work out to income redistribution. The people who pay more taxes are funding the lower prices for everyone and the increased profits for the subsidized businesses.

A necessity? (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638564)

How many degrees is that from a 'right'? Will 'three strikes and yer out' be the same as the death penalty?

Re:A necessity? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638636)

It's exactly that, a necessity. I'm not sure why you are comparing it to the death penalty..well that's not true, I do know. It's because you're an ignorant ass.

If you want people to participate in society, then they need communication tools. And since rural area aren't profitable enough to corporation, the government gives them money specifically so rural area can participate.

Re:A necessity? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638796)

Yes, communication tools to be leveraged against us when we 'misbehave'. In case you haven't noticed by now, it's a scam. Oh, and try rereading the original post before flying off your little 'handle' there.

Re:A necessity? (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638856)

Broadband internet access is a necessity? Why do people in the sticks need broadband, what the hell are they going to do with it? Everquest?? Can't use broadband without a computer (if it's not profitable for a company to provide internet access, you think those folks out there can afford a computer?, so I guess I'll be buying one of those for folks. If somone lives/moves out to the boonies with no high speed access, wouldn't one assume they are choosing to NOT participate in society? Where did (does) the government get the authority? Seriously. I'm buying houses, food, clothing, cell phones, roads, cars, phones, healthcare, abortions, dishwashers, insulation, HVAC systems. and now highspeed internet access? People ask me why I don't donate to charity, I just want to show them a copy of my W-2. I'm okay with food/shelter/clothing. That's a necessity. Everything else is a luxury. I'm so sick and tired of not being able to listen to the radio for more than 20 minutes without another government program/subsidy/tax break for every god damn product you can imagine.

Re:A necessity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37639580)

Maybe we should not let them read or write either, you know sense you're for sure all you tax money is going out to the boonies for them hicks who don't work and have no need to know what is going on in the world around them. What an ass.

Re:A necessity? (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640006)

I am an ass, no arguement there, but please answer the question. What makes broadband internet access to someones house a necessity for life in the United States? It's a very simple question, I'm sorry I made it complicated with a rant, but here it is: "I'm being asked to pay for it, What are they going to use it for, that dial up in not providing?"

Re:A necessity? (1)

King Coopa (1374689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639416)

As someone who grew up in a rural area, I've been waiting for broadband of any kind to become available in my home area. I moved off to the city for college and after graduating I have a job in the same city. I'm now able to work from home but I have to do it from my apartment instead of back in my home area because of no high speed connection. If there was broadband there I would move back in a heart beat. I wonder what affect this would have on that area if me and my friends in the same boat had the opportunity to live around the people we grew up with. The job market in that area is like night and day compared to the city and I think those areas would get a real boost in opportunity if businesses where able to operate in these lower income areas of the country.

This is why I've always been supportive of providing high speed internet to everyone. It's so much more than having the ability to stream Netflix and play online games. People who assume that is all high speed is good for are morons.

Re:A necessity? (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639666)

It's exactly that, a necessity. I'm not sure why you are comparing it to the death penalty..well that's not true, I do know. It's because you're an ignorant ass.

If you want people to participate in society, then they need communication tools. And since rural area aren't profitable enough to corporation, the government gives them money specifically so rural area can participate.

I live in a rural area and the best speed I can get is 1.5mbps dsl. I used to get wdsl from a local provider but it was very unreliable. I have much slower speeds than people in town, but it's my choice. It doesn't keep me from "participating in society". We have several computers/devices in the house and the biggest hardship we have is that we can only have one video stream going at a time. I feel like I'm fully participating in the internet society - I bank online, buy stuff online, watch netflix, my children create videos and game levels and share them. I just don't see the need for a subsidy. If I weren't into gaming, and could live with a the lag, I might have gone with satellite, which offers comparable speeds to what I have now. There may still be places that can't get DSL, but as far as I know, there is nowhere in the country where you can't get satellite.

Re:A necessity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638662)

No. Water, gas, electric, and telephone service have been considered "necessities" for decades, but they're not close to being treated as rights.
Is shutting off your electricity for non-payment "the same as the death penalty"?
Cut the hyperbole--there may be a reasonable debate behind your silly question.

Re:A necessity? (2)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638758)

They don't cut your electricity when you burn DVD copies.

If all billing goes electronic and they cut your internet (to support a failing business model) then you cannot pay or even SEE your bills.
Bill collectors cannot even call you on your VOIP phone line.

Re:A necessity? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639118)

Transportation is a necessity. They have no problem taking your license away for breaking traffic laws. Housing is a necessity, but your house can be condemned for code violations. Employment is a necessity, but you can become unemployed for any number of reasons.

If you lose your license you are inconvenienced. Maybe you have to take the bus or ask for a ride. Your days of just joyriding are over. You will be making far less trips than you used to.

If you lose your house you find somewhere else to live, or stay with friends or family. Huge inconvenience for everyone.

If you lose your internet service, maybe you have to go to a library or somewhere they have a hotspot you can use. You can certainly see/pay your bills that way. Can't watch movies, surf porn, whatever? Too bad.

Re:A necessity? (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639218)

My debate, I reckon, is unreasonable. If it's not a right, where does the government get the authority? Seriously. Please provide a link. How can you just, all of a sudden, under not justification deem something that 5 years ago (broadband) was considered bragging rights, to a neccesity? What does broadband provide that dial up can't? Faster click throughs on youporn? If folks NEED (I will debate the words "Need internet access") broadband, why don't they hook up a satilite dish, or go to the library I paid for? My problem is thus: I'm being forced to subsidize someone elses personal choice. If i CHOOSE to move out into the middle of the desert, or the boonies off some swamp, is it my right to have water, gas, and electric run to my shack?

That would explain Lightsquared... (1)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638628)

...and the fast-path treatment they're getting from Obama's FCC.

Free smartphones for @AttackWatch!

Shouldn't they (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638674)

Have done that like 10 years ago? The landline is dieing. There is no point in propping it up.

Shouldn't this be legislated? (1)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638682)

This sounds like the kind of thing that should be decided by Congress and the President, rather than by an unaccountable political appointee. We're talking an awful lot of money here, and I'm quite leery of letting a government agency decide more-or-less arbitrarily to redirect billions of dollars in such a manner.

Re:Shouldn't this be legislated? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638922)

last I checked the congress/president created the commission to handle these kinds of decisions. so have no fear, the lawmakers have had had their say and this is it.

Oh please yes (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638716)

My in-laws live in rural SC and the only broadband option they have is sattelite (which isn't really broadband at all.) Trying to fix their laptop is a nightmare since they only have dialup. It's not profitable for the cable or phone companies to run out an entire line to one house on the end of a dead end road when there is no guarantee that the people at that road could even afford it, so they don't bother. Extending the subsidies would knock out one more excuse the broadband companies have against universal access.

Re:Oh please yes (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639296)

Your asking me to pay for your in-laws broadband internet access. Please tell me why they *need* it, thanks. I mean, you gotta come up with something better than, "I need to raise your taxes so it's faster to fix my in-laws laptop... heh.

Re:Oh please yes (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639648)

Your asking me to pay for your in-laws broadband internet access. Please tell me why they *need* it, thanks. I mean, you gotta come up with something better than, "I need to raise your taxes so it's faster to fix my in-laws laptop... heh.

You're asking me to pay for your water and sewer. Please tell me why you need it when you can just dig a latrine in the backyard. You need to come up with something better than "I need to raise your taxes (or utility rates) so you don't freeze your butt off in winter when nature calls."

Re:Oh please yes (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640098)

I can answer those! woot. I drink water to survive, I use a sewer to to keep diseases from spreading (latrine in the backyard is illegal here). I ask again, what are they going to use the broadband for again? Oh, and yes, checking the ole' W-2, paying my share for water/sewage. Now answer my question please.

Re:Oh please yes (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640290)

I can answer those! woot. I drink water to survive, I use a sewer to to keep diseases from spreading (latrine in the backyard is illegal here). I ask again, what are they going to use the broadband for again? Oh, and yes, checking the ole' W-2, paying my share for water/sewage. Now answer my question please.

An internet connection, especially a high speed one, is just as essential today as other public utilities. It's more valuable than a telephone. If you're stuck with satellite or dialup, you're the connectivity equivalent of using an outhouse. Try loading any webpage with a dialup connection and see how long it takes. Even mundane tasks like paying the bills or surfing the web are almost impossible with a slow connection. You can pretty much forget about Skype conversations or any cloud-based services like Google Docs or Dropbox.

If you don't think it's needed, why don't you try going back to a dialup connection?

Re:Oh please yes (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640602)

That's why you can't argue with liberals. It was a very simple question that your unable to answer. I used the terms survival and disease. Your using Skype and web page load times. Billions go to funding the post office, and your excuse is paying bills online? Last chance, prove that liberals are capable of answering the most basic questions without character attacks or dodging the question all together...

Re:Oh please yes (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640862)

That's why you can't argue with liberals. It was a very simple question that your unable to answer. I used the terms survival and disease. Your using Skype and web page load times. Billions go to funding the post office, and your excuse is paying bills online? Last chance, prove that liberals are capable of answering the most basic questions without character attacks or dodging the question all together...

You've gone off the rails and completely lost me here.

I'm arguing that high speed internet is a de facto necessity that is more important than the telephone. Communication in today's society is very difficult without it, much like the telephone was 50 years ago. It's time the existing telephone subsidy be put towards providing high speed internet. Somehow, you're going on a rant about "liberals" and "character attacks."

Real proposal, or public relations ploy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638782)

What percentage of the U.S. population would not have telephone service without the universal service fund? Both liberals and conservatives would scream if the result leaves a significant chunk of the country without connectivity, since there would be economic, social, and national security issues. For at least 10 years, Congress has been very unwilling to put up the large sums of money needed for universal broadband.

Methinks Mr Genachowski is trying to generate some political leverage. He's too smart too think that he can radically transform the situation by just waving the FCC's magic wand.

Mo money yo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37638798)

Uh oh they found something else to tax, I mean universal access charge. And you better pay it because its for the children!! In a couple of years your broadband bill will look like the old land line bills, 50% tax. Enjoy!! And don't forget to get out there and protest the evil corporations and the man that hold you down and stuff.

4 miles (1)

tesdalld (2428496) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638912)

Why do you all hate freedom... kidding. I just moved 4 miles out of a town 60 miles west of DC... no high speed internet. 4 miles.....4 god damn miles.

Roads (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640004)

The Government is our democratic institution FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE and until people realize that and defend it instead of hating democracy it'll die and only represent the powerful (and those they sucker,) as it does today. If you hate government conceptually (as is a popular thing to do today) then you hate democracy. If you hate our corrupt government which is no longer a functioning democracy that is a different matter; too many people get confused.

Public land is the basis for our roads, phone, cable, sewer, water, gas, and power lines.

Government roads serve society quite well despite all our bitching about them and the occasional foolish management (hey, we put them there-- its not like HP hiring 2 horrible CEOs was a public decision...happens everywhere.)

Why we must have private corps build/design new infrastructure POORLY when we have a long history of successful government efforts defies reason! Its not like these private efforts don't bribe some government subsidizes at our expense then pad their profit margins pulling every trick in the book. Their management is always biased towards maximum profit not the public good. Trying to regulate the beasts without being bitten is always foolish in the long term; its like playing with fire. (fire has many good uses but also has many downsides.)

Government should run all the lines that go over our public land. It is done NON-PROFIT. I have cable AND phone lines over here which DOUBLE the cost as two monopolies maintain their mildly subsidized lines... running on the power company's subsidized poles. We have old gas lines which need replacing and every year we have a few explosions ("accidents") because the corp is too greedy to invest in a system upgrade so they only insure themselves and fix messes... A government system would have been slowly upgrading the system already and investing in something that would LAST LONG TERM (something MBAs can't comprehend.)

Internet is a perfect technology for sharing services. Many DSL companies are forced to allow other ISPs share their network. Just as ROADs provide the MARKETPLACE for businesses to run upon it. Wireless can't compete with a huge singular network that digitally splits services vs the current analog bandwidth splits we do now (which lower capacity each time we sell off another bandwidth monopoly.)

Money well spent... (1)

justdiver (2478536) | more than 2 years ago | (#37638998)

Don't get me wrong, I understand that the internet is a great learning tool, but "If we want the United States to be the world’s leading market for innovation" then we should focus more on our failing test scores in the school systems. Giving children access to the internet is not going to suddenly spur their interest in schoolwork and it certainly isn't going to make their parents sit down and do homework with them. Pushing billions of dollars so that everyone can get to facebook faster isn't going to teach math and science, it isn't going to magically create jobs like they kept referring to in the article (without really soundly saying HOW it was going to create jobs), and I really feel that money would be better spent if it were directly funneled into the school systems.

Provider should be compelled to offer service (4, Insightful)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639012)

The FCC needs to compel broadband providers to actually provide service in some instances. My parents live a mile off the road in a deep valley. The "mile off the road" part precludes cable because the cable company wants $15,000 to run line. The "deep valley" part precludes cell service and satellite. Literally, their only option is DSL, but BellSouth's local DSLAM has no free ports and they have refused to add a new one for several years.

We've raised the issue with the Tennessee Regulatory Commission (the TN service nominally in charge of overseeing utilities) and even they won't/can't do anything due to our braindead legislators handicapping them.

I can find 24 port VDSL2 DSLAM's on Google for $100 a port. I'm presuming AT&T, with their much larger negotiating power, can do even better. I'd be willing to buy the whole DSLAM for them, but they have no internal way of even handling that.

When the customer has no other option from whom to buy, there is no "free market". In that particular circumstance, the seller should be compelled to provide service.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639874)

The "mile off the road" part precludes cable because the cable company wants $15,000 to run line.

Its only $600 per household if there are 25 houses out there, which isnt that unreasonable.
If they moved into the middle of nowhere where few people live, then I say fuck 'em. Seriously.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640050)

If they moved into the middle of nowhere where few people live, then I say fuck 'em. Seriously.

If by that you mean, consider it part of the cost of living out in the middle of nowhere, then I agree. Why should people who wisely chose to live in an urban area where utilities are cheap have to subsidize the lifestyles of people who live in rural areas?

As Thoreau would say, if you love nature, stay away from it.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (3, Funny)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640052)

My parents live 1 mile off the main road, on a creek rock drive way. There is only one other neighbor living on this road. It's still far cheaper to just buy AT&T a DSLAM, if they even had the internal procedure to do it.

They built this house back in 1985. It was their dream house (still is, and mine too), in a nice, quiet, secluded little valley. I'm led to understand that the Internet wasn't such a big deal back in 1985, and thus had no bearing on their purchasing decision at the time. I'm sure a lot of older, fixed income people are in similar circumstances, having purchased homes before the internet even existed.

You are an idiot. Seriously. You'd have to work harder to even be considered a worthy troll on FARK, much less here.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37640416)

You are an idiot. Seriously.
 
This from a guy who even bothers to mention a "free market" in a post about trying to have the FCC and the TRC "compel" a regulated public utility into providing service. Wowz.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

radaghast (1672864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640560)

his point was that there is no "free market" or the "free market" has broken down here, as is so often the case when dealing with infrastructure.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37640418)

+ 7 or 8. Why should the rest of society be forced to pay for other people's lifestyle choices? Why should they be able to have their cake, eat it, and charge the tax payer? At some point, we need to bow to the realities of economics. I they want it, they should pay for it, or move to where it's cheaper. If they can't afford it, or they value their lifestyle over connectivity, then the market doesn't support connectivity in that area and the invisible hand has informed us that it is not a good use of scarce resources.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640542)

I am not asking you to pay for my lifestyle. If you'd actually read, you'd notice that I *volunteered to pay the full cost for a whole 24-port DSLAM*, just so my parents can get internet.

I'm not asking you to subsidize me so much as a dime. I'm asking that AT&T be compelled to take the money out of my hand and provide the service I require because they are a de facto internet monopoly in our area. A free market only exists when the buyer has a choice from whom to buy.

Being a analytical guy, I was attracted to libertarian thought, until I realized that A) the world doesn't really work that way and B) instead of recognizing that fact, the hard-core libertarians insisted that reality conform to their model, instead of modifying their model to conform to reality.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639894)

I think the federal government should start with this idea: It may be the case, within a few year or decades, that broadcast radio and TV will go away. Standard telephone lines will go away. Cable networks will go away. And we will be left with one thing: the network that we call the Internet. Even physical travel and shipment of goods may decline in some cases

That may not work out to be true, but let's just start from that stipulation. Let's assume, in addition, that almost everyone will need Internet access the way we assume that almost everyone will need running water and electricity. And let's think about all the ways that the Internet currently fails us in relation to our old infrastructure-- phones may work, for example, even when the power is out. Cell phone networks frequently get overloaded during an emergency. The Internet is currently not as robust.

So, let the Federal government think about these things and devise a plan: "This is how we would make it all work."

Make it robust, fast, ubiquitous, reliable, and something that you can thoroughly take for granted. Even if you aren't ready to commit to making it happen, at least come up with a plan. Then let's look at the costs and the downsides.

Why has this not already happened?

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37640088)

Try making AT&T run an ISDN line. Federal laws require that they run that, regardless of distance. They'll need a repeater every 18,000 feet and it'll run about $60/mo, but has a ping around 15ms - 100x better than satellite. As a bonus, you get insta-dial digital calling so you can win *every* radio call-in contest. Seriously, it's possible to dial a number so fast that it's impossible for the other end to get a dial tone. thelink.net will give you unlimited 1 channel ISDN for a reasonable rate.

After they had to run the ISDN, they were more receptive to opening up a port on the DSLAM, but they refused to offer more than 1.5Mbit, even though the line quality permits 3Mbit.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640200)

I had ISDN at their house when I was staying there (1999-2000). We tried to get it again a few months ago, but were told that they had removed the ISDN equipment from the local CO so they would have space to install DSL hardware. Apparently the state legislature voted last year to deregulate ISDN into a service that AT&T would no longer be compelled to offer, and AT&T has been burning the ISDN ships behind them as quickly as possible. At least that's what I was told.

Plus the general lack of availability of new hardware (I got burned twice buying ISDN equipment on eBay 10 years ago. I shudder to think what it's like now).

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640632)

When the customer has no other option from whom to buy, there is no "free market". In that particular circumstance, the seller should be compelled to provide service.

Or the buyer should be compelled to move to a location where there is service. That seems even fairer.

Re:Provider should be compelled to offer service (2)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640716)

This isn't a house, this is a home. My parents and I built it ourselves. I invested several years of my life doing that. I wouldn't trade it for all the gold in Fort Knox.

Why are all the liber-tards on Slashdot unable to comprehend simple English. *** I AM NOT ASKING YOU TO SUBSIDIZE MY LIFESTYLE ***. I am happy to pay the full price for a whole 24-port DSLAM, just so my parents can finally get internet. I'm not asking you for a single dime. I'm asking that AT&T be compelled to get off its corporate duff and, you know, *PROVIDE*.

It's hard to tell the difference between a libertarian and a troll sometimes.

A daring idea (1)

wganz (113345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639516)

Let's cut the tax that gives the FCC its subsidy money so that the companies have cash to do this on their own. The FCC is acting like they own this money and are willing to throw the serfs some alms from their carriage as they go by.

Re:A daring idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37639882)

Let's cut the tax that gives the FCC its subsidy money so that the companies have cash to do this on their own. The FCC is acting like they own this money and are willing to throw the serfs some alms from their carriage as they go by.

Considering incentives in a corporate environment what makes you think TelCo executives would do this on their own? They're paid to maximize shareholder profits, not 'throw the serfs some alms' as their private jets fly over.

Yeah, because... (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640210)

...the reason companies aren't investing in customers that they probably can't make a profit on is because they don't have enough cash laying around. Funny how whenever a corporation is caught screwing their customers, we're told they have to do that because they're required by law to maximize profits, but when we suggest regulating them we're told that if we'd only leave them alone they'll gladly do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts.

The telephone pole of our generation (1)

IronAmbassador (2008886) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639826)

No one needed a phone originally, and it was cost prohibitive to get those phone lines out into rural america as well. Then the government stepped in with these subsidies and initiatives to get everyone a phone. Now it's time to replace all those phone lines with fiber lines. Telco and ISP industries are already merging together thanks to VOIP let's just finish the process and mandate a project to officially merge the infrastructure. It might even add a job or two if we're lucky.

Billions of Dollars (1)

fallen1 (230220) | more than 2 years ago | (#37639986)

...have already been given to the telecom companies to expand broadband to under-served areas. I want to know where that money has gone - because it didn't go into expanding and improving broadband.

I have a wild suggestion and I actually don't believe I am suggesting this, as I dislike interference by the government in general, but... make all telephone and cable transmission lines national infrastructure. Virtually all of the current infrastructure built by the Bells and cable companies runs on or under what is the "right of way" governed by either local, state, or federal authority. Without them being able to run their infrastructure on or under this property they would not have a business - and, yes, the USA would be in the stone age. The idea is still valid - turn all the infrastructure of the telecom and cable companies into a common pool from which ANYONE can dip - small telecoms, large telecoms, competing cable companies, multiple ISPs, etc, etc. Open it up to true competition because every company would pay the exact same amount for each connection to the national backbone. The differences would be customer service,l quality of service, and number of offerings.

Make each company pay $X.00 per connection for maintenance and upgrades and a base fee of $Y.00 for each connection. Also make it a stipulation that NO company can loss lead a connection or charge only what the connection cost. Limited specials to entice new customers can be allowed, but no charging only the connection cost over a long span of time (for instance, limit specials to 6 or 9 months maximum). This would remove significant barriers to entry and actually bring competition to the market. Disband all of the cable monopolies. Decimate the telecom strongholds. Make companies compete on a common ground and let's see who wins the hearts, minds, and wallets of the American broadband market.

Of course, it would need to be legislated that this national infrastructure would be completely OPEN and not running through NSA headquarters or the like. No snooping, sniffing, or tracing without judicial oversight. You know, that whole pesky 4th Amendment thing.

Re:Billions of Dollars (1)

radaghast (1672864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640454)

who would oversee maintenance of this infrastructure? I guess the only entity left with any reason to do it would be the government itself. This would lead to massive inefficiency and bloated costs when public funds are already quite strained. I do agree that infrastructure is one of those special circumstances where the free market just breaks down, and it requires intelligent regulation. But I don't think it should be nationalized.

Right: the Phone is Obsolete (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37640740)

Why wold any one have a phone. Land lines are replaced with VOIP. And who would pay long distance with services like skype where calling around the world is like $0.08 cents UDS. to make the connection on the far end.

Then with the air waves stolen away. We all should be boycotting cell phone air time. Until we replace the piracy with our own roof top infrastructure.

So in reality there are no phones so it foolish to pay money for that.
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