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Rural Broadband to Replace POTS As Beneficiary of US Gov't Subsidies

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the hello-sir-wondering-which-bribe-you'd-prefer dept.

Communications 208

IDG reports that "The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted to overhaul a decades-old system of telephone subsidies in rural areas, with the funding refocused on broadband deployment. The FCC's vote Thursday would transition the Universal Service Fund's (USF's) high-cost program, now subsidizing voice service, to a new Connect America Fund focused on broadband deployment to areas that don't yet have service. The FCC will cap the broadband fund at $4.5 billion a year, the current budget of the USF high-cost program, funded by a tax on telephone bills." That cap, says Reuters, is "the first budget constraint ever imposed on the program."

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Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (5, Interesting)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860766)

I have been trying to get broadband for my parents for years. They live a mile off the main road in a deep valley. Thus far...

  * No ISDN. A year or two ago Tennessee decided it no longer had to be a tariffed service, and AT&T burned their ships behind them as rapidly as possible, because I was told our CO no longer has ISDN hardware (it did back in 2001-2002).

  * No DSL. AT&T has a cluster of SAI cabinets 1 mile from their driveway, but no free ports on their DSLAM, and no intention of adding new ones. I've voluntered to *BUY* them a frickin' VDSL2 DSLAM and give it to them, but I've never heard back from them on that or any of several other offers. AT&T is a bigger information sink than /dev/null

  * No Fiber. I have asked Charter if they could provision single-mode fiber if I pulled it to the road. I was agnostic about whether that's a pure FTTH setup, or just a cabinet by the road with a cable modem and a fiber converter. Nope. They cannot provision my fiber under either scenario, but they *can* provision fiber they lay themselves, which strangely costs roughly "one new car" more than doing it myself. Which is kind of hard on retired fixed-income folks.

  * No cable. Their house doesn't have cable coax. See Charter's idea of fair price above.

  * No cell. The valley effectively blocks all signals. I have maps of every cell tower in a 10 mile radius, and never found a useful signal on any of them.

  * No satellite. They don't have line-of-sight with geosynchronous orbit, and even if they did, the satellite providers in our area aren't accepting new customers right now.

I mean, what can you do at this point? My next step is getting two 2 watt Wi-Fi routers and a couple of high-gain antennas, setting up a couple of passive repeaters between them and my house (very NoLOS), and hoping I can set up a wireless bridge. My next step past that is contacting CERN to see if they can beam internet over neutrinos.

The last time this issue came up on Slashdot, the (L)ibertarians came out of the woodwork, blaming my parents for building a house somewhere where there's no broadband, despite the fact that they built the house in 1985. Which is about as rational as blaming settlers in the 1700's for not building cities where the interstates were going to be.

They also pounced on me for wanting something subsidized. Except you're not subsidizing me one thin dime. The phone cable is already in the ground. All I need is a DSLAM in the local SAI cabinet, *which I volunteered to purchase myself*. No go. A free market only exists when the buyer actually has a choice (see "healthcare" for another example of your economic ideologies colliding with reality).

Freshman economics tells you that some business don't behave well under the usual free-market rules, and thus need to be heavily regulated. Those business are called "natural monopolies", which is why gas, electricity, sewage, roads, phone (hah!) are provided by either public utilities, or publicly-regulated private utilities. A utility only needs one set of physical plant, one set of staff, one set of senior management. Multiple companies waste megabucks on multiple plant/staff/management. They waste further megabucks on advertising, trying to steal profitable customers from each other in a zero-sum game. All that needless spending increases your costs, increases the necessary rate of return before they will provide internet, and ends up marooning a lot of marginal households on the wrong side of the digital divide.

In the middle 2000's several underserved TN cities and utilities got tired of being ignored by the AT&T and Comcast's of the world and were looking at getting into the game themselves. And then in 2008 our state politicians decided to actively hinder the formation of municipal internet and the entrance of local electric utilities (existing ones got grandfathered in), in the name of "encouraging competition". Which had nothing to do with AT&T/Charter/Comcast increasing political donations the year the legislation was considered by 100x. Not 100%, 100 *times*. They went from $2k a year in total donations the previous cycle, to $200k. Which works out to roughly 3 cents per voter tossed under the bus. At least Judas had the sense to hold out for 30 pieces of silver.

So what's the net result of "encouraging competition"? A lot of people in "competition-land" (29% of the households in my own county) can't get any broadband access. Zero. None. Because the all-wise, all-knowing, whats-it-going-to-cost-me-this-quarter-and-screw-the-long-term-returns free market says so. Today the real inflation-adjusted interest rate on 30 year US Treasuries is less than 1%. ISP's that think long-term should be backing up the truck, borrowing all the money they could, and planting fiber like there's no tomorrow. But they aren't, because they're afraid that their immediate-gratification stockholders would be upset (and probably also because their senior managment's compensation is partly based on current stock price and not the stock price 20 years from now). And over the years they've shown that they'll just take whatever subsidies we hand them and funnel them into the stockholder's and senior management's pocket. So where's our fiber network we've paid for multiple times already?

Meanwhile, Chattanooga TN's Electric Power Board has a monopoly on wired broadband in its region. They have the fastest internet in the state, and one of the fastest on earth. Fiber everywhere. 1 Gb/s available today to every single home and business in their service area. No cherry-picking. Their *slowest* residential broadband connection (30 Mbs) is faster than Charter's best in my neighborhood (25 Mbs), at 2/3's the price. All the other internet utilities in my state that I'm aware of (Tullahoma Utilities Board, Jackson Energy Authority, Clarksville Department of Electricity) have lesser but still impressive results compared to our "competitive" ISP's.

This is an utter embarassment. The USA *invented* the Internet. This year we were ranked 35th in the world for broadband speed and availablity. Folks, we're behind such economic titans as Bulgaria and Romania. Broadband needs to be a tariffed, regulated utility.

As stated earlier, real 30 year borrowing costs are less than 1%. Unemployment hovers around 9%, and underemployment around 16%. I'm willing to bet the long-term returns (both financial and social) of having broadband everywhere in this country *far* exceed the 1% borrowing costs. We should borrow heavily (which helps a lot of savers looking for safe places to put their money), put a metric crap-ton of unemployed blue-collar people back to work (which both helps them and serves as economic stimulus), and build a nationwide fiber network to every house in the land. That's literally the biggest no-brainer I've ever seen in my life.

And for the record, I say all the above as someone who is a moderate Republican with a Vanderbilt MBA and has run for office once as a Republican. Stupid ideas appear to know no ideological boundaries, so why should good ones?

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860850)

* No cable. Their house doesn't have cable coax. See Charter's idea of fair price above.

You know what I would consider doing (seriously)? I'd actually lay the coax myself and order the cable. The guy on the truck won't give a crap who installed it, and he'd probably get a kick out of you doing it yourself, if you did it right. Assuming he even knew you did it.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860986)

I would be tempted. But given the cost of doing so, and the likelihood that they wouldn't support that either, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

It also doesn't make a lot of sense to invest several thousand laying coax when it's going to be obsoleted by fiber in a few years any. Last time I checked, the successor to HDTV (Utra-HDTV) required 250 Mbs for streaming, and is supposed to be out around 2018. I rather doubt coax would scale that high. So it doesn't make sense to spend money that's going to be obsoleted within the decade.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861018)

If they will provision on the cable, then run both. You only need to rent the ditch witch for the same amount of time.

Odds are they will not. They will tell you that their coax ends at the road, and they want $XXk to run it to the house. They will have no way of dealing with you running it yourself.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861492)

Bury a damn conduit. Pull whatever you need later.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861028)

my house had no cable when we moved in a year ago, time warner layed the cable to my house (underground, had to be dugg) and left me a 3/4 full spindel of coax and let me wire the inside myself the way i wanted to. oh yeah, and it didnt cost us a dime. This is in a rural are in upstate NY

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

RealTime (3392) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861126)

Bury conduit instead?

Just choose a diameter that will accommodate anything you might expect to pull in the future and be sure to have some intermediate weather-tight boxes every few hundred feet.

Always make your installation look crappy (4, Insightful)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861624)

Bury conduit instead?

Just choose a diameter that will accommodate anything you might expect to pull in the future and be sure to have some intermediate weather-tight boxes every few hundred feet.

The problem with that is that the provider will know you did it, because it's been done right.

If you do a half-assed looking job you can just call 'em up and when they say "we don't have a cable into your house" you can reply "yes you do, what are you talking about, I'm looking right at it!" and make them send a truck out to check. The guy on the truck will say "hmmm, looks just like one of ours" if you do the job badly enough, and you'll probably get hooked right in.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861684)

I would be tempted. But given the cost of doing so, and the likelihood that they wouldn't support that either, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Hmmm. Well, maybe what you could do is FIRST badger the person taking the order into just putting it in. Insist that you brought out a "technician" who told you the cable is there, and that they insisted that the cable is in place. Or insist that you *did* agree to have them come out and bury the cable, but they came out and said the cable is already there. "What do you mean you don't have a record of it? Your records are wrong! Look, I don't have all day, just put in the order please, do you know how much of my time you've already wasted, etc. etc." Remember, the customer service reps just want to get you off the phone. Even if it comes to just putting in an order that will screw you up later; from their perspective it's someone else's problem when you call back enraged.

Anyhow, if you manage to get them to acquiesce, schedule the install for a week out, and go ahead and bury the cable. No risk! :)

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (-1, Troll)

glrotate (300695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860914)

I'm sorry, but I'd rather not pay your parents internet bill. If its so important, why don't they move?

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861168)

I'm sorry, but I'd rather not pay your parents internet bill. If its so important, why don't they move?

I live in the countryside well outside a small city (population about 100,000 including surrounding countryside), and have 100/10 internet. This internet service costs me 43euro per month from the regulated local monopoly. Actually, they're upgrading me to 100/100 in early November with no change in price. So should I move also, to a hell-hole like the US suburbs? GP is correct, US service mostly sucks; some places are OK or even good, but in most places - even some large cities - it sucks.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (3, Funny)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861388)

I live in the countryside well outside a small city (population about 100,000 including surrounding countryside), and have 100/10 internet. This internet service costs me 43euro per month from the regulated local monopoly.

So the solution is to get the Europeans to subsidize US broadband? Sounds good to me!

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861496)

Why not, the US is subsiding the European bank bailouts and has been subsidizing the defense of western Europe since 1945, and central Europe since 1992.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861408)

This doesn't sound like the suburbs. Sounds more like some white bred mountain compound. Probably surrounded by survivalist compounds on pot plantations.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861838)

Seriously? You saying one country in Europe has good service is like someone else saying LA has good service. Same size, same amount of people. Ask people in rural Slovakia if they have good service, because that's about the equivalent.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861036)

a moderate Republican

boggles I think I saw one of those in a museum once.

with a ...MBA

This is /. , now you're just bold-faced trolling. GTFO. ;-p

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861522)

a moderate Republican

boggles I think I saw one of those in a museum once.

I voted for several. I used to vote R more often than D. It's telling that every single one I voted for that's still alive has since retired or been voted out of office, and in recent interviews called themselves independents, with one saying he agrees with Democrats more often these days. Neither their nor my political opinions have changed much, save for our opinions of the Republican party.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (-1, Troll)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861064)

The last time this issue came up on Slashdot, the (L)ibertarians came out of the woodwork, blaming my parents for building a house somewhere where there's no broadband, despite the fact that they built the house in 1985. Which is about as rational as blaming settlers in the 1700's for not building cities where the interstates were going to be.

Bingo. And the libertarians were right too. You still don't seem to get it either. Why are we're supposed to provide your parents with broadband?

As stated earlier, real 30 year borrowing costs are less than 1%. Unemployment hovers around 9%, and underemployment around 16%. I'm willing to bet the long-term returns (both financial and social) of having broadband everywhere in this country *far* exceed the 1% borrowing costs. We should borrow heavily (which helps a lot of savers looking for safe places to put their money), put a metric crap-ton of unemployed blue-collar people back to work (which both helps them and serves as economic stimulus), and build a nationwide fiber network to every house in the land. That's literally the biggest no-brainer I've ever seen in my life.

I notice too that you have fiber (and probably DSL), but aren't willing to pay to have them installed yourself.

And for the record, I say all the above as someone who is a moderate Republican with a Vanderbilt MBA and has run for office once as a Republican.

I guess that's why I'm not a Republican. Because when it's their interests at stake, they catch the big government religion just as easily as the Democrats.

One new car (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861114)

Why are we're supposed to provide your parents with broadband?

Why are hospital emergency rooms supposed to provide everybody with care instead of turning away patients who cannot pay? Public investment in services that have become necessities helps reduce the demand for criminal services. Are you familiar with the plot of the film John Q, about someone who used crime to obtain health care?

I notice too that you have fiber (and probably DSL), but aren't willing to pay to have them installed yourself.

Grandparent is willing to pay for parts and labor to have them installed, but the carriers want to add a surcharge of tens of thousands of dollars (search post for "one new car").

Re:One new car (-1, Flamebait)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861350)

Why are hospital emergency rooms supposed to provide everybody with care instead of turning away patients who cannot pay?

Why isn't society paying for the food delivery system? Food is far more important than medical care or the internet. The public doesn't invest in everything that we think is necessary.

Are you familiar with the plot of the film John Q, about someone who used crime to obtain health care?

Nope. But I see from Wikipedia's plot description that it's a typical, totally contrived propaganda movie.

Grandparent is willing to pay for parts and labor to have them installed, but the carriers want to add a surcharge of tens of thousands of dollars (search post for "one new car").

Then the problem is that your grandparents aren't willing to pay for internet service which is more than just "parts and labor". I see also that you're thinking of putting in a wireless bridge. Do society a favor and just put that in rather than becoming another burden on society.

Re:One new car (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861760)

Why isn't society paying for the food delivery system? Food is far more important than medical care or the internet. The public doesn't invest in everything that we think is necessary.

Society is. See agricultural subsidies. See food inspections. See highway systems. See food stamps.

Re:One new car (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861440)

Prior to the institution of tax privileged, employer paid health insurance, and the accompanying lawsuit frenzy, the vast majority of hospitals were charitable, and didn't charge the poor for their use. Emergency rooms certainly didn't. But now, with all you can eat health plans everywhere (meaning more healthcare consumption), ever rising educational requirements for doctors (meaning decreased supply), people can be left to die on the floor of emergency rooms. Nicely done, American fascist overlords.

Re:One new car (2)

Zan Lynx (87672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861520)

Yep. You can probably get better, faster, cheaper medical care from a veterinarian, paying cash without insurance.

You just have to watch out that they don't forget and do a bonus neutering on the side. Plus, those plastic neck things to keep you from chewing on the scab are super annoying.

Re:One new car (1)

chrissandvick (844662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861572)

Public investment in services that have become necessities helps reduce the demand for criminal services. A

Because THAT's a real problem, with a Hollywood film cite no less. I've got no problem with hospitals providing charitable care. It's when you put the regulatory gun to their head and not only demand that they provide care, but how, what treatments, what they can be paid for it, and "no, you thought you were a citizen in a free country? Not if you work in healthcare." There is no such thing as a right to healthcare.

Re:One new car (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861864)

So broadband should be provided the same as health care?

Because if that's the claim you're making, you're crazy.

And if that's not the claim you're making, then they have no relation to one another and your example is completely meaningless.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

MichaelKristopeit401 (1976824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861078)

wow... the phone company wouldn't accept an outside sourced piece of hardware to be installed in their cabinets and connected to their networks?

those bastards.

you're an idiot.

Hush-A-Phone and Carterfone (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861144)

the phone company wouldn't accept an outside sourced piece of hardware to be installed in their cabinets and connected to their networks?

Requiring the local phone monopoly to accept any conforming equipment wouldn't be much of a stretch from the Hush-A-Phone and Carterfone decisions.

Re:Hush-A-Phone and Carterfone (1)

MichaelKristopeit401 (1976824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861304)

different =/= much of a stretch.

government access =/= consumer access.

what about the chain of custody requirements or ownership of liability?

you're an idiot.

Natural monopoly is a myth (0)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861084)

The last time this issue came up on Slashdot, the (L)ibertarians came out of the woodwork, blaming my parents for building a house somewhere where there's no broadband, despite the fact that they built the house in 1985. Which is about as rational as blaming settlers in the 1700's for not building cities where the interstates were going to be.

I think they were trying to suggest that your parents sell their house and buy another one.

Freshman economics tells you that some business don't behave well under the usual free-market rules, and thus need to be heavily regulated. Those business are called "natural monopolies", which is why gas, electricity, sewage, roads, phone (hah!) are provided by either public utilities, or publicly-regulated private utilities.

Other economists claim that natural monopoly is a myth [mises.org] , and effects attributed to natural monopoly are in fact caused by 1. local government ownership of roads and 2. local government's failure to efficiently value permits to tear up those roads to install pipes, conduits, etc.

Multiple companies waste megabucks on multiple plant/staff/management. They waste further megabucks on advertising, trying to steal profitable customers from each other in a zero-sum game.

So why doesn't Coke merge with Pepsi?

At least Judas had the sense to hold out for 30 pieces of silver.

Which are thought to be Tyrian shekels of 1.38 troy ounces each. At current price of 35 USD per troy ounce, Judas turned in Jesus for less than $1,500.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861314)

Other economists claim that natural monopoly is a myth

A picture is worth 1000 words. And that, mind you, was only due to the lack of multiplexing technology. If there were not a monopoly, the individual companies surely would have formed a cartel for the wires and poles at some point.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861460)

Surely, just like all the fast food restaurants merged into one. Now Taco Bell is the only restaurant.

Pfft, I bet you don't even know how to use the three shells.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (0)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861364)

Maybe you forgot the part where we paid for telco lines and cable lines to be run to these people's houses to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in straight tax money in addition to the fund that the article is talking about.

You clearly don't see Internet access as a basic human right, much like richer people did when phone lines were first getting laid. When you realize that digging trenches and laying conduit is actually really expensive you start to see why it is smart to have one cable plant to each house rather than having a hundred different providers fail as they can't scale out beyond office buildings.

I also find your linked article highly dubious calling running multiple gas and water lines from different providers an inconvenience. Not only can it be dangerous but it's also really really really expensive to do.

You are also confused as to what the parent was suggesting, when government owns the wires they can subcontract out to multiple providers in each pop leveling the playing field for competition and ensuring that funds are used for the most public good. The forced sharing of lines is what allowed DSL to become a real technology instead of staying on the fringes. You had multiple providers using the cable plant to individual houses which allowed for real competition instead of private companies charging disproportionate amounts to lease lines that tax payer money helped lay.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (1)

chrissandvick (844662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861642)

Maybe you forgot the part where we paid for telco lines and cable lines to be run to these people's houses to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in straight tax money in addition to the fund that the article is talking about.

Like the billions that goes into the infrastructure to build cars? Aircraft? A steel plant? Finance and financiers funds industries that have timelines that take decades. Comparatively digging ditches is cheap.

You clearly don't see Internet access as a basic human right,

It's not.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (4, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861436)

Other economists claim that natural monopoly is a myth, and effects attributed to natural monopoly are in fact caused by 1. local government ownership of roads and 2. local government's failure to efficiently value permits to tear up those roads to install pipes, conduits, etc.

Back when I was pricing out my broadband options, I checked out Comcast's (heavily advertised) three for one package. TV, broadband and telephone. But when I called them, they told me that, based on my address, Verizon was my telephone provider and they wouldn't compete with them. On the other hand, Verizon wouldn't install DSL because 'Comcast provides broadband in your neighborhood'. Covad checked out my line and was more than happy to take over the loop and install voice/DSL. But Verizon told them that they couldn't have the pair (they'd take it and reassign it to a second residential service if ever I dropped my Verizon line before leasing it to a CLEC).

This has nothing to do with permits and installing facilities. It has everything to do with not throwing telecom execs in prison for Sherman Antitrust Act violations. If you want to keep your NSA fiber taps running in the switching facilities, you're going to have to grant these bastards immunity from the law.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861560)

Which are thought to be Tyrian shekels of 1.38 troy ounces each. At current price of 35 USD per troy ounce, Judas turned in Jesus for less than $1,500.

Wow, that's scary. He should have at least held out for $5000!

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (3, Funny)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861866)

Just read a fair bit of that article.

Author must be a migrant worker--he's supremely skilled at picking cherries.

Re:Natural monopoly is a myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861988)

"So why doesn't Coke merge with Pepsi?" Because the resultant company would STILL have to advertize like hell to sell their product. I used to drink colas but finally figured out that I think they taste like crap. Does ANYBODY actually like the way they taste?

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861176)

The last time this issue came up on Slashdot, the (L)ibertarians came out of the woodwork, blaming my parents for building a house somewhere where there's no broadband, despite the fact that they built the house in 1985. Which is about as rational as blaming settlers in the 1700's for not building cities where the interstates were going to be.

If by "blame" you mean that people live with the consequences of earlier decisions, then we certainly do. Those towns founded in the 1700s don't have Interstate service. You're in the position of saying that we should build an interstate to every town founded in the 1700s just so that people there aren't "blamed" for the founder's choice of location.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

fred911 (83970) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861224)

Build or buy a yagi and point it at one of the cell towers you have mapped. You should easily be able find signal in a valley with a 35db gain antenna. It might not be the most pretty solution, but it shouldn 't be too costly either. Kinda down and dirty, have by torrow solution.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861324)

The issue you're having with the Libertarian point of view is that you're between a rock and a hard place. In a libertarian country, we wouldn't have protected incumbent POTS that cities sold their souls to acquire, and thus you wouldn't feel a right to that cable. You'd likely also be able to find a way to drag a wire 1 mile without spending tens of thousands of dollars. There'd be competing DSLAMS, too, so that means you'd either find one with a free port, or you'd find a small company who would gladly accept thousands of dollars of free hardware.

You can make a country socialist overnight, but it takes a long time to undo that damage. Witness Russia.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861334)

I'm not going to scroll through ALL the responses and see if someone else already suggested this, but...

Have you considered trying to acquire some land closer to, or even adjacent to, the road? If you could just get 100sq ft or so, you could perhaps convince the companies to provision to THAT location and then run the rest of the cabling yourself. This has the advantage of solving the "we have to run it all the way to the property ourselves" problem, you've brought the mountain to Mohammed!

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861370)

Actually I have considered it. It's a ludicrous idea, but it's also a ludicrous situation too.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

Scootin159 (557129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861352)

Why not start an ISP yourself? Seems you've done the research, and your research suggests that there is a market ready. While your ROI timeframe may scare away investors, you might be able to get some of the locals who will be using this service to invest in it themselves, as they too likely see the value.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861360)

You think (L)ibertarians are in any way happy that a telecom duopoly is about as competitive as it gets in America? Fix root causes, rather than pretend turning that duopoly into a monopoly will magically make things better.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861376)

Wait wait wait. You are on the one hand complaining about not being able to get service, and on the other holding up government enforced monopolies as "good" even though it means you can't get service for ANY price?

I think they need to fill in the valley.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (4, Informative)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37862038)

No, he's complaining that the current sorta-kinda half monopoly, half unregulated market thing isn't working. He would prefer the government do it right and own the lines.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861510)

So you are willing to purchase a $25000+ dslam, but not pay the $10000 fiber run charge?
I've only been out of telecom for 3 years now and can't at all believe prices have changed that much in such a tiny amount of time. Especially for hardware that is not mass-produced for consumers...

I'm also almost shocked* they wouldn't run a PRI to you for around $10k. That's what AT&T wanted to charge me to pull new wiring from the CO down the 5 block area where I live, just to provision a PRI/BRI
(* Yea after 3 seconds thought, I'm not all that shocked really)

At any rate, it's crappy to have to resort to and shouldn't be needed, but the wifi point-to-point idea isn't a bad one.
My boss and his "next door neighbor" 1.5 miles down the road do this. They are on different sides of the county line and the cable company will only provide service to the FAR side, despite the trunk cables running by the street in front of the unserviced area.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861544)

A Zhone 24 port VDSL2 DSLAM goes for about $100 a port nowadays. The fiber run and node was north of $20k just for the hardware. Labor was estimated at $5-7k on top of that.

I'd be willing to run twister pair to a neighbor's house, pay their internet if they'd share, and pipe it back on VDSL2 modem. ZyXEL sells 'em for $300. But the neighbors are in much the same situation.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861682)

If you have access to the top of the valley (to install an antenna mast), I highly recommend you build your own Point to Point (or Multi-Point) radio network.
Take a look at the Skyway series (over 70Mb/sec) of radios if you are looking at high-speed over at http://www.solectek.com
If you want to go cheap(er), check out Ebay for some older Motorola Canopy radios pairs (~7-22Mb/sec).
One of the things you could even do is setup a localized repeater for the neighbors and offer rural wireless broadband to them, that is if you can get your radio on the top of the valley and another repeater to point towards town at your local ISP (they would have to agree to except the other end of the radio hop, or you can talk to your fiber provider for renting a space on their roof). Something like this happens more than you think for small towns. Local ISPs (in my area) work with folks who are willing to spend their own money to extend their services. A few jobs have sprung up in my area from people seeing a need and filling it by them selves.
I myself, am a rural wireless subscriber and the bank that I manage the network for has several branches linked together with the Motorola Canopy radios. They work pretty good, though make sure you insure them... towers pretty much equal lightning.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (2)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37862142)

I've considered 900 Mhz radios too RadioLabs sells a pair with dish antennas for $500. I wanted to test with 2.4 GHz WiFi first just to see, because if I spend $500 on 900 MHz and it doesn't work, then I've poured money in a hole. Whereas if I spend $500 on 2.4 GHz Wifi and antennas and it doesn't work, I can at least use them somewhere else.

Re:Make broadband a tariffed, regulated utility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37862136)

Keep an eye on Wild Blue. Since they just launched a new satellite, you may be able to get service from it once it goes live.

Good, Now Make it Bigger (3, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860822)

The changes will cost U.S. residents paying less than $30 a month for telephone service an additional $0.10 to $0.15 a month

This sounds great. Good for people without broadband, insignificantly more expensive for people who currently get a POTS subsidy from the program.

Now how about an urban broadband fund, to replace the worthless service tens of millions of us still have, service so bad it isn't even legally 'broadband' in any other industrialized country, with something usable?

Where's the damn 300 billion? (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 2 years ago | (#37862132)

I hate the FCC. They'll now have an extra 4.5 billion to give back to the major telcos, that already owe 300 billion in undelivered broadband [newnetworks.com] . I harped on my local rep about this when he was head of the house subcommittee on telecommunications, but he was in the pocket of Telcos then. Since the telcos lobbied so hard to roll back the telco reform of '96, that ended up killing CLECs and ISPs, we know who will obviously win with a few billion more - the monopolies.

The libertarian answer would be to stop government mandated monopolies like we have. There used to be a few thousand ISPs and the local ones would bend over backwards to help people get online. Plenty of companies would be happy to hook you up, IF there was a fair playing ground. When the Telco reform was rolled back under Bush almost all those ISPs had to close because they couldn't compete against the monopolies again. So what should you do? Vote the bastards out of office who accept lobbying. Yeah that'd be most everyone but sooner or later we'd manage to get some good people in.

From a technical point of view, set up your own last mile. Meraki - now owned by Google - makes easy and good gear. A mile isn't that big of a deal for wireless and is rather cheap. Or your own cable.

Scam (2, Insightful)

glrotate (300695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860848)

Why should I have to subsidize the internet cost of someone who chooses to live in the country?

Should country dwellers pay extra property tax to subsidize my mortgage?

Re:Scam (2)

sumdumgai (92866) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860870)

If nobody lived in the country, what would you eat? Good luck with raising cattle on the roof of your apartment building.

Re:Scam (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37860994)

Why is that my problem?

I agree with building out ISP service, but handing the money to private companies is not going to work. They will just steal it and still demand to not be regulated.

Re:Scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861152)

Yep, which is why there is no phone or electric service in rural areas. Maybe you should get your head out of your ass and learn what the subsidies are and how they work before making idiotic comments.

Re:Scam (2)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861030)

I don't see where he said that no one should live in the country. That's a strawman.

Choices have consequences, and it would be nice if other people weren't forced to subsidize your particular choice of lifestyle.

Re:Scam (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861076)

That is just as much a strawman. Living in a society means one way or another people are always subsidizing one another.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861230)

A strawman is when someone sets up a position that their opponent did not take, merely so they can have something knock it down (e.g. glrotate says he doesn't want to subsidize people living in the country, and sumdumgai sets up and knocks down an argument about no one ever living in the country at all). Where did I set up such a position?

Re:Scam (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861514)

Sure, but there is a difference between "voluntary subsidization" ie paying more for goods created in the country, like food products, and "involuntary subsidization" where we pay more for nothing.

Re:Scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861098)

Significantly more tax money is spent per person for people who live in urban areas compared to rural areas. Quit bitching just because every dime everyone pays in taxes isn't spent on you personally.

Re:Scam (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861128)

Lets see some quotes for that.

Not a lot of city folks getting farm subsidies, and welfare rates are pretty high out in the country.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861298)

It's a red herring anyway, along the lines of "Group A steals from Group B so it's okay for Group B to steal from Group A". Statistics can give you an idea of the overall size of the problem, but justice always requires an individual solution. If someone steals from you, you are owed recompense from that individual, and not every individual that shares some real or imagined group affiliation with them.

Re:Scam (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861330)

I thought we were talking about subsidies, where did the theft angle come from?

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861478)

Sorry, I'm a "taxes are theft" kind of guy, and I sometimes forget that many people believe that taking things under the threat of bodily harm is okay, as long as it's done by someone with a badge on behalf of someone behind a podium.

Either way, the same logic applies. Not everyone in a city pays the same into the system, just as not everyone in the country takes out the same amount from the system, so working on averages won't necessarily make the system any fairer.

Re:Scam (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861622)

Sounds like you should move. Somalia would probably be a good fit.

Taxes are the price of civilization. I am happy to pay mine. I would even support a government program to buy your kind of folks a free one way trip to nations like Somalia.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861774)

Sounds like you should move.

Nah, I'd rather stick around and try to change my country for the better. Only losers cut and run. ;)

(Speaking of false dilemmas, "Institutionalized Theft or Somalia" is a classic!)

Re:Scam (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861772)

The theft angle comes from not honoring the requirements of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

They are past the time limits of the provision. They haven't delivered what they are supposed to (45mbit symmetrical broadband to every house) and thus this is stealing money and not giving the required service.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861164)

I don't think any taxes should be spent on me. Everyone should pay for exactly what they use and not a penny more.

The fact that the government forces me to accept ill-gotten gains in a thousand different ways (most of which I can't even see or adequately account for) does not make my position inconsistent or hypocritical.

Re:Scam (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861278)

You may be consistent, but you are probably hypocritical.

Would you like to see the roadways that you use dug up? Those are subsidized by taxes, and are essential for everything from personal transportation to industry.

Do you seriously want to depend upon unaccountable businesses to provide safe water? Remember, businesses will gladly raise rates and cut safety measures simply to break even (and that is before you factor in greed or negligence).

Are you willing to go without electricity? A lot of our power comes from megaprojects ranging from hydroelectric dams to nuclear reactors, none of which would have been build without government backing.

The basic rule is that you don't depend upon unaccountable businesses to provide essential shared resources. When you do, society will fall apart.

And the list can go on.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861406)

Would you like to see the roadways that you use dug up? Those are subsidized by taxes, and are essential for everything from personal transportation to industry.

I support tolls. Let the people who use the roads pay for the roads.

Do you seriously want to depend upon unaccountable businesses to provide safe water?

I would argue that businesses are much more accountable than politicians. And given the shitty quality of the tap water where I live (generously provided by our wise government overlords), I would gladly shop around for better water. In fact, many people do, as it now comes in bottles (sold by ruthless corporations, no less, who, if popular sentiment is correct, just want all their customers to get sick and die, which they will somehow translate into a profit).

Re:Scam (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861836)

We do, they are called fuel taxes.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37862164)

Better than some taxes, since at least they are more targeted than a general income tax, but they still leave room for improvement due to differences in engine efficiency, purchases of fuel not related to roadway use, etc.

Re:Scam (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861556)

Sell the roadways to private operators if you must. Privately owned roads are generally much better maintained than publicly owned ones.

I like how you think that a person can't be held accountable for selling bad water, as if people wouldn't immediately put him out of business by getting their water from elsewhere, and suing him for damages caused by his polluted water.

Just because the government funds a lot of things doesn't mean that those things wouldn't happen without government funding. Indeed, private citizens, with the money that would have been spent on the programs PLUS the amount of money that would have been spent paying the salaries of the government workers administering those benefits AND the salaries of those private sector workers who oversee regulatory compliance could create more efficient projects, and have more money left over for more capital investment.

Re:Scam (1)

PoopMonkey (932637) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861664)

You sure would have a problem driving to a new spot you haven't been to then... Your taxes go to roads. Roads you don't use right now. So in your view, all roads should be toll roads, and you should pay for each road you drive on. That would sure be a fun thing to manage.

Re:Scam (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861718)

Wouldn't be as hard as you think. I (gladly) pay for toll roads where I live now, and I don't even have to think about it except when my transmitter comes unstuck from behind my rear-view mirror.

Victory gardens (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861228)

If nobody lived in the country

Food prices would go up.

what would you eat?

Rising food prices would lead to a lot more tomatoes and strawberries raised in Topsy Turvy planters, along with other crops commonly found in 4x4 foot raised bed planters [wikipedia.org] . Only government interference (such as the case of Julie Bass of Oak Park) prevents such victory gardens from becoming more widespread.

Re:Scam (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861488)

But we PAY for beef. If the rubes want free internet in exchange for free beef for city dwellers, then I'm all for it. The rubes will be on the losing end of that deal.

Re:Scam (1)

MikeB0Lton (962403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861062)

It is subsidized because it has been determined to be beneficial to society as a whole, just like phone service and education. Also, this is probably the largest factor holding us back from a paperless society.

I got mine, FU! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861122)

t is subsidized because it has been determined to be beneficial to society as a whole, just like phone service and education.

I seem to recall hearing something about a few upset people staging sit-ins recently partly as an indirect result of states deciding to de-subsidize higher education.
nah, those chickens will never come home to roost, we've got "Survivor" and "Dancing with the Stars", gay marriage and abortion to worry about.

Re:Scam (2, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861270)

Why should people with no kids pay school taxes? Why should people with no children in college fund public universities? Why should people who live outside the city pay tax on their cars to subsidize a subway system 90 miles away? Why should I fund state or national parks if I don't use them?

People in my area (100 miles from NYC) have an extremely heavy burden in the form of draconian land-use restrictions in order not to harm the water supply to the city. Is that fair?

You do realize that the people who 'choose' to live in the country are the ones providing YOU with your most basic needs, like food and energy, right?

It is called society. Every one gets to pitch in. Get over yourself.

Re:Scam (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861702)

Why should people with no kids pay school taxes? Why should people with no children in college fund public universities? Why should people who live outside the city pay tax on their cars to subsidize a subway system 90 miles away? Why should I fund state or national parks if I don't use them?

All very good questions to which there are no good answers. People shouldn't be forced to pay for things they don't use, including all these examples and more.

People in my area (100 miles from NYC) have an extremely heavy burden in the form of draconian land-use restrictions in order not to harm the water supply to the city. Is that fair?

No, it's not fair. It's your land, and it's not like anyone from NYC has a legitimate claim on the source of the water or the water table itself. If supplying water to the city is a problem they are welcome to collect it closer to the source and have it shipped in.

You do realize that the people who 'choose' to live in the country are the ones providing YOU with your most basic needs, like food and energy, right?

To the extent that they do, they are payed for the service. That's all the "subsidy" they need or deserve. To forcibly increase their compensation leads to overproduction, misallocation of resources, and a net loss for society as a whole.

Re:Scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37861458)

The problem is these people *want* broadband just as much as you. However, the monopolies in their area decided 'hey we can rake in some ca$h off these nit wits'. These people are even willing to dig the ditches and run the wire themselves if it means getting it. No one in these companies will hear of it.

Get off your high horse. Living in the city is no better than living in the country. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Should the land owners in the rural countries stop paying taxes to fund roads because they get no use out of them that those 'darn city slickers are using'?

Also here is what moving to the city got me. When I moved here I had nearly 20 choices of ISP's from Free to 50 bucks a month. Now I effectively have 2. With 3 companies making sure my city will never bother to try to setup fiber to my house...

4.5 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37860952)

I would say stop giving away tax payer money and let the people decide over these kind of funds! I'd rather see the regulatory commissions from each country not just advise but enforce net neutrality... because yes,... that 100MB is being throttled for sure! Try downloading from RS, FS, WU, ... without a socks and then add a socks on top :)

Non-socks = 100 Mbit = max 2MB/s
Scoks = 100 Mbit = 10 MB/s

This world urgently needs new net neutrality laws instead of POTS subsidization. Regulatory bodies: Please do your work and don't throw away taxpayer money

Adnan

End It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37860970)

The rules also reform a broken system of phone charges fraught with inefficiency and should result in $2.2 billion in savings passed down to consumers, the Federal Communications Commission estimates.

This program is horrible and just a way for phone companies to charge extra money. They largely get to chose how to spend it and own all the infrastructure purchased with it. Don't extend it's reach. End it. People who choose to live in less expensive places shouldn't be force to subsidize others. I don't see people in rural places paying me money to rent more open space.

Speeling fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37860998)

Plural's do not get apo'strophe's.

Wow... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861024)

When I drive around in the vicinity of the Mohave Desert I see houses scattered - a line of poles provides a telephone line may extend to 20 miles, or more to a lone dwelling. So to provided High Speed there will need to be either fibre or a series of amplifiers and power to them. Not something a phone company would enjoy doing, for one dwelling.

Shouldn't this be a regional decision ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861042)

The internet may be important but the telephone remains more important, especially in remote areas where it is the norm for business and power distribution may be less than reliable (POTS usually has backup power supplies, which is useful in emergencies).

On the other hand, there are plenty of places where the telephone system is just fine and they are looking for broadband.

So shouldn't the region be deciding what's more important given their needs and level of development?

Have IP? Get Vonage. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861294)

if broadband can be made as reliable as POTS, nobody will need POTS anymore when they can VoIP.

Re:Shouldn't this be a regional decision ... (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861410)

Why are we paying for private corps to build our infrastructure? Can't we wake up and have the DoT lay the lines when they work on the roads? Put them under ground X distance from all roads that have any work done. Same with the water and gas lines. If you don't have a decent enough road; then you are on your own.
The huge profit margins of these corps could fund a great deal.... they don't innovate anymore; they avoid upgrading to maximize profit 1st. Profit is #1 and if they are a monopoly your happiness doesn't have much of an impact on their profit.

Government internet; low level-- ISPs run on top the network; which they encrypt etc (not that they won't just hand over all traffic anyway...) No different than how government roads, police, fire provide a place to run a business and invest. no roads, no reason to go there. Internet speed / cost is a factor.

how much will $4.5 billion buy? (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861090)

For laying fiber in rural areas, a quick search comes up with a cost of between $16,000 and $80,000 per mile. This appears to include digging a ditch, laying the cable, repeaters, etc. So, for $4.5 billion we should be able to lay about 90,000 miles of fiber. Of course, pretty much all of these rural places that need broadband should already have phone service (and power; internet is probably not terribly useful without it), so in theory we should be able to hang new fiber on the existing utility poles - that should bring the cost closer to the $16,000 figure, which would allow 280,000 miles of fiber to be strung up, ignoring all costs of "subsidizing" people who already have connections.

Oh, just noticed that only $300 million is earmarked for deployment, so I guess we're only looking at 6,000 - 18,000 miles of fiber next year.
Maybe it's time to move to the country - it seems I would be far more likely to get better internet there than waiting for AT&T or Comcast to ever actually upgrade their systems.

it makes sense IFF (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861342)

VOIP is available as well. Seriously, it makes good sense to convert POTS lines to DSL/VOIP systems. It might even make sense to run fiber in many areas.

FTTH in progress here (1)

greatgreygreengreasy (706454) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861862)

All the local phone companies where I live (Northern ND) have some sort of FTTH plan. I work for a contractor doing the work in people's homes after the fiber is buried, and the larger 'cities' (50 to 3000 people) all have fiber, now we're working on the tiny towns, then the farms, etc. Whatever stimulus money they're getting to do all this sure is working. I hope it works for you all in the future too (especially the gentleman in TN.)

Bury him already (0, Offtopic)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37861932)

Steve Jobs is dead. Please bury him. He is starting to stink. FTFA: "the era of Steve Jobs and the Internet future he imagined." That is not the future I want. No Usenet, 99 cents for each morsel of low quality iCrap, all my posts getting deleted, all my devices resembling a iDildo, and buying my groceries on iTunes. Why not just have Bono run for president?
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