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The Problems with Broadband in America

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the i-want-service-dangit dept.

Networking 800

Tenken writes "Salon has an article about the state of broadband in America. After seeing what many other countries have accomplished with their broadband markets, namely Japan, Korea, and (gasp) even Canada, the current state of affairs in the U.S. is looking pretty dismal. I'm sure I'm not the only one tired of paying $45 a month just for cable internet." From the article: "Across the globe, it's the same story. In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here. In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita. While other countries are taking advantage of the technological, business and education opportunities of the broadband era, America remains lost in transition."

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Here the problem arises. (5, Insightful)

Knight Thrasher (766792) | about 9 years ago | (#13820355)

If you suddenly had a better alternative to paying $45 a month for your cable or DSL internet, you'd take the alternative. Instantly. I know I would, without second thought. There's just nowhere downhill to go, without going back to dialup.

That means the existing monopoly corporation providing broadband to you would suddenly have to invest major capital into revamping their business to approach a competitive edge with this new alternative that everyone smart like you and I would switch to immediately. This would cut into profits. Businessmen like their profits, so they look for an alternative, hmmm, how not to have to revamp their networks, think think think...

So the company instead pays out campaign donations the right people in senate and congress, hires some lobbyists to naysay revamping impractical and backwards laws, say if they do change the laws the terrorists will get us over the intrawebs on their haxxor boxenz and copyrighted material will be given away on the street corners. And the people of the country that invented and played a major part in developing the internet into what it is today, lose out to nations with 1/100th of the population and GNP.

God Bless America. What would Liberty be like without a caring, guiding corporate hand to slow things down to maximize their own profits? I rarely rant on like things about this, but let's face it; American broadband users are sheer cash cows to their ISP's.

You forgot about PIRATES ;-) (1, Insightful)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13820388)

Most broadband users download content that's valued more than what they pay each month.

3 seasons of DVD in DivX format via BitTorrent has a cash value of over $100 and most people pay $25-40 per month for the access, so that's $60+ profit! :)

Re:You forgot about PIRATES ;-) (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 9 years ago | (#13820522)

It's okay. I make up for about 1.3 of those folks by hosting open source projects, paying twice that much per month, and not getting anything in return other than a faster connection to Slashdot.

Re:You forgot about PIRATES ;-) (1)

picklepuss (749206) | about 9 years ago | (#13820561)


And Thank you!

Re:Here the problem arises. (1)

jeriqo (530691) | about 9 years ago | (#13820471)

As the article highlights it, we don't have this problem in France, but we have the exact same problem with cellphones.

Re:Here the problem arises. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820474)

I work at a smallish dsl company. Although I'm not in the business loop, my tentative understanding is that now that verizon no longer has to lease its lines to us, our dsl division will disappear and there will officially be only two alternatives in my town:

Mediacom and Verizon.

Thank you fcc. Asshats.

Re:Here the problem arises. (2, Interesting)

jtwJGuevara (749094) | about 9 years ago | (#13820497)

I'm going to play devil's advocate, and it may be based on an ignorant assumption of mine, but here goes anyway:

As I understood it, the initial cost of laying down this infrastructure is massive to the organizations who do it. As such, once they've setup their infrastructure they can then offer their service to paying customers over whom they have a local monopoly. However, if multiple organizations were to place down dual infrastructures to lay claim to an area they are a) doing duplicated unnecessary work and b) will not have a monopoly on the local customers. I've heard it said, and it may just be FUD from the ISP's, but if multiple broadband ISP's (ignore the fact DSL and cable can be available in two places) were to compete in the same region then prices would be driven down in competition to a point to where the providers costs in laying in the infrastructure down are not going to be made up in profit. As such, there would be no motivation to provide broadband and we would still stuck with dialup.

*shrug* Let me know if I'm off base here. I'm curious to learn more about this.

Some minor defenses... (3, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | about 9 years ago | (#13820544)

Let me first establish that I agree with your sentiment and I wholeheartedly believe that corporations are part of the problem. Their never-ending efforts to shut down municipal efforts, to preserve their monopolies, and to create a "delivery system" rather than a "networking system" (4MBits down, 256kbits up, anyone?) are a blight on our great (if, sadly, not as great as once it was) nation.


With the exception of Canada, the countries mentioned have a tremendous advanage regarding broadband penetration, and that is relative population density.

Although we are not as rural as once we were, the United States still has one of the largest rural populations of any first-world nation. So in addition to the problems you've mentioned, there is an extra infastructure cost and the comparable difficulty of wireless solutions.

It's not an excuse, really, but there are logistical issues with U.S. broadband that also have to be addressed if we are to have any truly comprehensive solution. Frankly I'm not sure which kind of issue will be easier to resolve, but if the slow spread of municipal broadband in rural areas (where big companies can feel comfortable ignoring it) is any indication, we'll get fiber to Anytown, U.S. long before we overcome the greed that prevents us from getting it in urban areas.

Re:Here the problem arises. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820545)

Compare the cross correlation of geographic extent and population density... and it becomes clear why things as they are... we are both large geographically and have our population spread over large extent... no place in the world is like this (Canada is larger, but the population is largely limited to a comparatively small area - most of Canada is largely unpopulated - similar situation with Australia).

When China has a larger infrastructure than the US and it is not paid for by the Government...then that's noteworthy... but Korea, HongKong, UK and rest of Western Europe are very small (geographically) with huge population densities... it's a horse of a different color...

Look at how the high density countries have Government infusion (more tax $$$ and Gov't PTT's to force the issue).

Also, look at the bad side of market dynamics... too many competitive offerings in some cases and monopolies in other cases... one instance has it difficult to deliver and the other has little reason to deliver...

It's not that simple...

I've had broadband for 6 YEARS!! (1)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13820356)

And it rocks here in America (no, really, no complaints!).

Re:I've had broadband for 6 YEARS!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820511)

8 years here, in 5 different residences in 3 states. Haven't had any problems with it.

The Least Among U.S. (4, Insightful)

fragmentate (908035) | about 9 years ago | (#13820364)

Other countries are claiming [] that the U.S. has mismanaged the internet. Which has led to broad speculation that the internet will splinter soon while those other countries work on their own "Internet."

If one were to judge our use (read: underuse) of the internet on the public level... well, that's just a whole new angle on our lack of efficacy in educating our own. Think about it, at $50/month for a typical broadband connection in this country it's cost-prohibitive for a large segment of the population to access the internet regulary. Sure, there's dialup, but the frustration involved in dialup could discourage an internet "newbie" from using it. Let us also not forget that many, many metro areas have horrible phone lines. Our infrastructure in the U.S. is sad when you consider the fact that we're still (for now) the largest economy in the world.

The best way to build your population up intellectually is through information. The undisputed king of information is the "Internet." Imagine all the eyes that could be opened. Mixed in, of course, with all the idiocy, smut, and exploitation...

But some locales are contemplating making wireless accessible [] to the general public. So there is a movement. It's just a shame that in the most mighty economy in the world the cost is still prohibitive for a good segment of its population.

Keep squeaking about it... perhaps the corporations will grease the wheel. But I doubt it. What we need is a brave provider to go for the quantity, and not the quality (I never thought I'd say that) -- in other words, make the pricing attractive for everyone.

Re:The Least Among U.S. (4, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | about 9 years ago | (#13820455)

Our infrastructure in the U.S. is sad when you consider the fact that we're still (for now) the largest economy in the world.

It's the curse of the early adopter. We were among the earliest to go whole-hog into telecommunications, especially in the urban centers, then spent a fortune bringing it to the rural areas, and we have been coasting along on legacy infrastructure for a long time now while other countries have been building more modern networks from scratch.

The problem here is obvious. Infrastructure needs upgrading, and the U.S. having a relatively low population density makes this much more expensive. Somebody has to pay those costs, and fairly enough those who actually use the new infrastructure pay the costs.

Anybody who thinks that passing a law or breaking up a company will make infrastructure cheaper is fooling themselves.

Greed (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820365)

Thats all there is too it - in a America everything is ruined by greed.

Cable internet (2, Informative)

zeke-o (595753) | about 9 years ago | (#13820366)

You have cable? Must be nice. All I can get is satellite, and this post probably won't even go through because of all the jerks on direcway :(

100 Times Faster? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820376)

I'll bet that if MY DSL were 100 times faster than my current DSL, I would have gotten first post.

A decision must be made. (1, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13820377)

A decision must be made whether to cater to the very few and very rich media moguls, or whether to cater to the interests of the other 99.99% of Americans. Indeed, at this time the development of basically the entire American citizenry is being arrested by an extreme minority. American as a whole should be willing to trade a small increase in piracy for the vast other opportunities that widespread, extremely highspeed broadband Internet access would bring.

Re:A decision must be made. (1)

JVert (578547) | about 9 years ago | (#13820405)

I think its a conspiracy to keep us from telecommuting.

Re:A decision must be made. (1)

ghukov (854181) | about 9 years ago | (#13820480)

you may be on to something there. wonder if the communications companies are in bed w/ the oil industry...

How can we change this? (5, Insightful)

MicroPat (895649) | about 9 years ago | (#13820384)

More importantly: How can we, as consumers, change this in America?

Re:How can we change this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820423)

by moving to greener pastures?

One word... (1)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13820428)


Re:How can we change this? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about 9 years ago | (#13820440)

You can't, but citizens can.

Re:How can we change this? (1)

RLiegh (247921) | about 9 years ago | (#13820459)

You're wrong; neither consumers nor citizens have the power to effect change. Only corporations and PACs can do that.

Re:How can we change this? (4, Interesting)

Skater (41976) | about 9 years ago | (#13820469)

Wait. Is it a problem? 10 times faster doesn't mean much to me, since almost all of the delays I experience now are the remote server being slow to respond rather than a pipe that's too small. I have 4 megabit download speed, with the option of going to 5 megabit, and I've never felt like I need it any faster.

I don't download large ISOs or anything very often, but maybe if I did I'd feel differently.

Re:How can we change this? (1)

SetupWeasel (54062) | about 9 years ago | (#13820502)

Maybe moving to a country with a higher population density.

Re:How can we change this? (1)

joschm0 (858723) | about 9 years ago | (#13820521)

More importantly: How can we, as consumers, change this in America?

Write your congressman (as though that's going to do any good).

Two words: We can't. (1)

RLiegh (247921) | about 9 years ago | (#13820599)

Either suck it up or move (ya right) to another country.

Relax (-1, Flamebait)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 years ago | (#13820390)

America is Jeebus country. Jeebus don't need no broadband. Jeebus don't need no high-speed porn or music. Jeebus has Jerry Fallwell, George W. Bush and that guy on the Fox Network that always looks like his head is going to pop off and his headless trunk is going to start singing Yankee Doodle Dandy. Let those foul atheists, socialists, Catholics and multi-headed god worshippers have their broadband. Jeebus will get 'em in the end.

Re:Relax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820448)


Re:Relax (1)

B11 (894359) | about 9 years ago | (#13820571)

So I guess we need to stop looking at pr0n on the internets and pick up a bible?

how big the country is.. (4, Insightful)

danielos (791072) | about 9 years ago | (#13820396)

has anyone stopped and thought about how big america is?

It's going to take awhile to replace all the old infrastructure in america...
that's why many smaller countries have already have newer systems in place.

Re:how big the country is.. (2, Informative)

Andrewkov (140579) | about 9 years ago | (#13820429)

Not as big as (gasp) Canada! []

Although, to be fair, most of Canada's population is within 500 miles of the US/Canada border.

Re:how big the country is.. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 9 years ago | (#13820564)

Most of the U.S. population is, I believe, within about a hundred miles of either coast. What's the difference?

Re:how big the country is.. (1)

eln (21727) | about 9 years ago | (#13820606)

As you noted, most of Canada's population is concentrated along the southern border. Do they have the same low-cost high-speed bandwidth in, say, Yellowknife? If so, then maybe we should be talking to them about how they managed to pull that off. NOT an excuse! (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 years ago | (#13820583)

Even in major cities we only get crap Internet access. I live in metro Atlanta. When I can get 10Mbps downstream and upstream for $40/month, then you can use that excuse to explain why people can't get broadband in Boonieville, North Dakota.

The Article (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820403)

Free American broadband!
In France, you can get super-fast DSL, unlimited phone service and 100 TV channels for a mere $38 a month. Why does the same thing cost so much more in the U.S.?

By S. Derek Turner

Oct. 18, 2005 | Next time you sit down to pay your cable-modem or DSL bill, consider this: Most Japanese consumers can get an Internet connection that's 16 times faster than the typical American DSL line for a mere $22 per month.

Across the globe, it's the same story. In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here. In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita. While other countries are taking advantage of the technological, business and education opportunities of the broadband era, America remains lost in transition.

How did this happen? Why has the U.S. fallen so far behind the rest of its economic peers? The answer is simple. These nations all have something the U.S. lacks: a national broadband policy, one that actively encourages competition among providers, leading to lower consumer prices and better service.

Instead, the U.S. has a handful of unelected and unaccountable corporate giants that control our vital telecommunications infrastructure. This has led not only to a digital divide between the U.S. and the rest of the advanced world but to one inside the U.S. itself. Currently, broadband services in America remain unavailable for many living in rural and poorer urban areas, and remain slow and expensive for those who do have access.

For instance, when farmers gathered at this year's Iowa State Fair to discuss their policy concerns with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, the topic on the minds of many was broadband. And for good reason. Twenty-five percent of Iowa's rural communities have no access to high-speed Internet service, and over half of the remaining rural communities are serviced by only one provider. Those lucky enough to live in areas served by Iowa Telecom can pay as much as $170 per month for a DSL line.

President Bush has called for "universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," and Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin recently declared broadband deployment to be his "highest priority." Martin recently took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to tout "the dramatic growth in broadband services." In his editorial he boasts of "fierce competition" among broadband providers and tells us we're "well on our way to accomplishing the President's goal."

The facts tell a different story. Today, major cable companies and DSL providers control almost 98 percent of the residential and small-business broadband market. This trend is the direct result of FCC policies that fail to encourage real competition among broadband providers, giving free rein over the market to the cable and DSL giants. The corporate giants are also vigorously fighting to stop cities and towns from building "Community Internet" systems -- affordable, high-speed broadband services funded in part by community groups and municipalities -- even in places where the cable and DSL companies themselves don't offer service. Yet, like rural electrification projects in the early 20th century, today's Community Internet projects offer the best hope of achieving universal broadband service.

Like so many other challenges faced by the Bush administration, the response to the growing digital divide has been to redefine success and prematurely declare victory.

In the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress directed the FCC to oversee the timely deployment of Internet services that "enable users to originate and receive high quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications." Currently, this requirement translates into an Internet connection with typical download and upload speeds between 10 Mbps and 20 Mbps (megabits, or million bits, per second).

But the FCC defines a "high-speed" connection as one capable of transmitting data at a rate of 200 kbps (kilobits, or a thousand bits, per second) in one direction -- about four times the speed of dial-up. At this slow speed, it is barely possible to receive low-quality streaming video, and is completely impractical to originate high-quality video.

The typical download speed of a DSL connection in the U.S. is 1.5 Mbps, while the average cable-modem connection downloads at 3 Mbps. These connections are adequate for streaming low- to standard-quality video, but are far too slow for applications like high-definition video. Furthermore, they pale in comparison to what is being offered in Japan, where consumers can download high-definition movies in less than five minutes.

Setting the high-speed standard so low allows Martin and the FCC to portray the increase in mediocre connections as a sign of progress. Other countries define broadband in a more honest way. For example, Canada has declared the minimum standard for broadband to be 1.5 Mbps in both directions -- more than seven times faster than what the FCC considers to be "advanced service."

Defenders of the status quo like Martin argue that since the U.S. spans a huge geographical area, it is wrong for us to expect the level of high-speed broadband service that Western Europe or Asia enjoy. But this ignores the success of sparsely populated nations like Canada, and cannot explain why densely populated cities such as San Francisco do not have access to the same types of high-speed connections found in Seoul, South Korea, or Tokyo.

Martin's failure to confront the broadband problem becomes painfully obvious when you consider how his commission measures broadband availability and adoption. Instead of counting the number of subscribers in a particular area, the FCC considers an entire ZIP code as "covered" if at least one person living in that area has a broadband connection. This allows the FCC to make misleading boasts about how broadband coverage reaches 99 percent of the country.

Consider the case of Loudoun County, Va., a high-tech community just outside of Washington that's home to Internet giant America Online. The FCC claims there are more than six broadband providers, on average, within each Loudoun County ZIP code. But a recent survey revealed that one-third of the county's households are unable to purchase any broadband service.

Nationwide, the reality is only one in three urban and suburban American adults have broadband at home, and only one in six adults living in rural areas do. Furthermore, the choice of broadband providers available to these consumers is paltry. The FCC's own data show that nearly 20 percent of all Americans report having no cable or DSL service providers in their neighborhood, and another 28 percent only had access to one provider. In President Bush's home state of Texas, for example, 93 counties have only one broadband provider and 16 counties offer no service at all.

Most of the countries surpassing the U.S. in broadband speed and availability have "open access" rules governing both their cable and DSL industries. Open access rules require the owner of a network to allow its competitors access to the network at wholesale prices. These rules usually apply to networks that are "natural monopolies" like telephone systems and railroads, and in order to ensure innovation among competitors, these provisions usually do not apply to newly built infrastructure. Ultimately, open access benefits consumers by creating competition that leads to lower prices and new innovative services. You can credit open access with the drop in long-distance rates seen in the 1990s.

Nations like Canada long ago mandated that the local cable and telephone monopolies provide competing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) access to their networks at wholesale cost. However, here in the U.S., the FCC -- backed by the Supreme Court in the Brand-X case -- took the bizarre step of exempting cable Internet providers from all open access rules, while applying them in a limited fashion to the incumbent DSL companies.

The Brand-X ruling affirmed an FCC decision to classify cable modem service as an "information service" and not a "telecommunications service." Under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, information service providers are not subject to the open access regulations that are applied to telecommunications providers, such as DSL companies. To assert that cable-modem services have no telecommunications component is simply bizarre. Indeed, Justice Antonin Scalia said in his dissent, "When all is said and done, after all the regulatory cant has been translated, and the smoke of regulatory expertise has blown away, it remains perfectly clear that someone who sells cable-modem service is 'offering' telecommunications."

The Supreme Court's decision in effect ensures that consumers have no choice among cable-modem providers. This is because almost all municipalities grant a single cable provider the right-of-way to lay cable wire, in exchange for a portion of its local revenues -- usually 5 percent.

While almost no competition exists within local cable Internet markets, consumers in some larger cities have been able to choose among several DSL providers. (Although thanks to other FCC decisions, customers often must purchase a phone line in addition to their DSL service.)

But the FCC recently decided to cut off this last frontier of competition by ending most of the remaining open access provisions governing the DSL industry. Bush's FCC believes that open access is restricting innovation in broadband services.

However, the FCC's own data indicates that open access in the DSL sector has contributed to growth in DSL services and the weakening of the cable companies' monopoly power over the broadband market. It appears that the FCC is acting under pressure from telecom companies, which are demanding a "level playing field" in the wake of Brand-X. This move will permanently entrench a cable-DSL duopoly over the broadband market, ensuring higher prices and lousy service for consumers.

Now, some may see the recent "price wars" between such popular providers as Comcast and SBC as a signal that the market is functioning properly. Closer examination of introductory offers reveals them to be nothing more than bait-and-switch gimmicks.

SBC's $14.95 per month offer for its "DSL-express" service -- rolled out with much fanfare earlier this year -- is merely an introductory rate, which requires signing a long-term contract with an expensive termination penalty. Furthermore, subscribers must be new SBC DSL customers, and must purchase the DSL along with the additional cost of SBC telephone service. The connection itself is extremely slow by most standards of "broadband," as it only offers a maximum upload speed of 384 kbps. When spread out over three years, the true cost of the SBC offer is about $25 per month, not including the cost of the phone line, taxes and other fees. When these additional charges are included, the total cost averages out to well over $40 per month.

Rick Lindner, chief financial officer of SBC, told investors the offer was simply a way to lure customers away from cable companies and sell them other SBC products. Lindner explained that bundling low-cost DSL with phone service "suddenly takes you from ... being a $15 product to being a $65 or a $70 customer." He joked: "We're out to pillage and plunder the industry, that's our objective."

The most promising alternative to the cable-DSL duopoly is Community Internet -- universal, affordable high-speed broadband service provided by cities and towns or community groups. Hundreds of places -- from Philadelphia and San Francisco to Chaska, Minn., and Granbury, Texas -- are now viewing broadband as a public service, no different from water, gas or electricity. They are building Community Internet and municipal broadband projects to bring high-speed Internet to areas overcharged or underserved by the cable and DSL companies.

Community Internet projects come in many different forms, utilizing different technologies and various business models. Some projects are built and operated exclusively by a municipality, while many others operate under public-private partnership agreements. Although a few places receive broadband over power lines, or fiber laid directly to homes, the majority of Community Internet projects utilize "Wi-Fi" technology to create "hot-spot" zones of broadband coverage or, in many cases, build a "mesh network" to blanket an entire city. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is currently taking bids to build just such a network in his city, with Google offering to provide the service for free.

The story of tiny Scottsburg, Ind., illustrates how Community Internet can provide needed services that keep jobs and resources in the local economy. In 2002, Scottsburg Mayor Bill Graham was confronted with the possibility of two local businesses leaving town because his city had no broadband service. One of the companies nearly lost a key defense contract because its dial-up Internet connection repeatedly failed as it was trying to send in a bid.

The mayor contacted cable and DSL providers, who told him outright that providing broadband in his town just didn't make business sense. As Graham told the PBS program "Now": "We were in a crisis mode. We were gonna lose companies, gonna lose jobs. We just had to do something, you know. How many jobs can a small community lose? None."

A committee formed by the city to find a viable solution to this problem quickly concluded that the answer was to construct a municipal wireless network. The city created the Citizens Communication Corporation, and within four months installed wireless transmitters on water and electric towers, producing a network that reaches over 90 percent of the county's residents.

After the Scottsburg network was up and running, several DSL companies (the very same ones that had refused to service Scottsburg) went to the Indiana statehouse to lobby in support of a bill that would have prevented any other towns in the state from creating their own Community Internet systems. Fortunately, the powerful testimony of Mayor Graham convinced legislators to kill the SBC-backed bill.

However, across the nation, the cable and telecom companies, armed with powerful lobbyists and coin-operated "experts" are quietly working the halls of state legislatures and Congress in a concerted effort to kill off Community Internet. Over the past several years, 14 states enacted laws that ban or place limits on municipalities from building Community Internet projects.

Over the summer, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) -- a former SBC executive -- introduced an anti-Community Internet bill with the Orwellian title "Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005." The legislation would prevent any city in the country from providing Internet access if a private entity offers service nearby -- even if the private company serves as little as 10 percent of the residents.

Community Internet opponents routinely accuse municipal broadband providers of being an unfairly advantaged competitor and offering an inferior service doomed to fail and bankrupt taxpayers. But the allegation that municipal broadband providers hold an unfair advantage because they are the beneficiaries of special tax and legal treatments doesn't hold water.

For decades, the incumbent cable and Bell companies have enjoyed all the benefits of a protected monopoly status, granted to them by the FCC and by local municipalities. And over the past several years, these companies have received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize their broadband deployment efforts. The truth is that Community Internet projects pay taxes just like any other competitor. In fact, a study by the Florida Municipal Energy Association showed that private incumbent providers pay fewer taxes than municipal systems and receive more state and federal subsidies.

In addition to providing broadband to underserved areas, Community Internet projects often entice other competitors into the market. The same Florida study found that municipal construction of communication networks expanded "the number of private firms serving the same market by more than 60 percent."

Yet the big cable and telecom companies continue to spread misinformation. A "fact sheet" distributed to journalists earlier this year by Verizon, detailing supposed failures of Community Internet projects, was found to be full of errors and mistakes, relying primarily on a 7-year-old discredited study of municipal cable TV networks.

Notably, municipal networks are arising because of the failures of the incumbent providers. Without them, the U.S. will continue to fall behind the rest of the world in broadband technology. Nations such as Canada and South Korea long ago realized the importance of public broadband, and incorporated municipal systems into their overall broadband strategies.

There are signs, though, that the tide may be turning in the U.S. against the cable and Bell companies. This year, spurred in part by success stories in places like Scottsburg, anti-municipal broadband bills were defeated in seven states and delayed in two others. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., have introduced a bill that would allow municipalities to provide Internet service and overturn existing state anti-municipal broadband laws. The bills are expected to receive further attention this fall.

But Congress needs to do more than just allow Community Internet projects. It needs to free up valuable "spectrum" for these wireless networks to operate on. Currently, most Wi-Fi devices operate on an unlicensed basis in the "2.4 GHz" region of the spectrum -- a crowded area occupied by hundreds of different types of consumer devices such as microwave ovens and cordless phones. The physical properties of this end of the spectrum prevent wireless signals from penetrating obstacles and terrain. This means citywide networks using the 2.4 GHz band will require large amounts of antennae, raising the overall price of deployment.

If wireless networks were able to operate on lower-frequency spectrum -- such as the region used by over-the-air television stations -- the infrastructure costs would be much lower, potentially allowing Community Internet networks to offer extremely fast connections for as little as $10 per month.

In most areas, even in large markets like Los Angeles, large portions of the television spectrum go unused. (Just attach an antenna to your TV to see how many channels it picks up -- odds are it will be less than a dozen, and most of those will barely be visible.) Congress should allow low-power wireless devices to operate on these valuable but unused channels.

Similarly, Congress could set aside a portion of the spectrum coming back to the government from the broadcasters, as part of the digital television transition. The current plan is to auction off this valuable resource to the cellphone companies to cover the cost of the war and tax cuts. But it's hard to imagine a better use of the public airwaves than opening up the spectrum for everyone to use.

But the answer doesn't lie solely in government either. What is needed is a truly competitive market, with many providers engaging in innovation that ultimately benefits all consumers. Government can play a role in making the market more competitive -- both by deploying Community Internet projects and by requiring the cable and telephone companies to provide open access to their networks.

American innovation offers a solution to our broadband problem. It's time for Congress, the FCC and the White House to stop protecting the corporate dinosaurs and start exploring alternatives that will foster a genuine free market in high-speed Internet services.

-- By S. Derek Turner

It's the Geography, stupid! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820410)

Most of Europe and Japan have much denser populations than the US. They also have fewer cities to lay cable through, etc etc. Don't you realize some towns in this country still don't have landline phones? Yeah, it's true.

This is a huge country. It takes time. It sucks, but it's true.

Re:It's the Geography, stupid! (2, Insightful)

afeinberg (9848) | about 9 years ago | (#13820466)

Not only that, but each small chunk of the country down to the city level has different regulations for laying new infrastructure.

Re:It's the Geography, stupid! (1)

faragon (789704) | about 9 years ago | (#13820509)

Wrong. I live in the EU, in a 2 million people urban location (nearby Barcelona, Spain), paying 45 euro/month per 1024/320Kbps ADSL line (static IP, it could cost 30 euro/month for dynamic IP for the same 1Mbps).

It's the market, my fine friend.

tell me about it (1)

FrivolousPig (602133) | about 9 years ago | (#13820414)

I live in Canada, and just got 6Mb/s service yesterday, $50 a month.
But from what I understand thats nothing compared to Korea.

I wonder (1, Insightful)

jeffs72 (711141) | about 9 years ago | (#13820419)

All the states listed are pretty socialist, compared to the US anyway. I wonder if France and Canada and so-forth have subsidised internet from the government. I'm not certain I want my tax dollars (and tax increases) going towards discounting broadband for everyone. Other countries that have lower costs of service are probably delivering their product with monetary assistance from the governments.

One thing the article probably failed to mention is all. You could have the same article and swap "broadband" with "health care".

Re:I wonder (1)

Betcour (50623) | about 9 years ago | (#13820513)

I wonder if France and Canada and so-forth have subsidised internet from the government.

No subsidies in France. Quite the opposite : there's a 19.6% sale tax in the prices quoted in the article. Basic 16 mpbs DSL service cost about $15 without taxes.

Re:I wonder (1)

ryants (310088) | about 9 years ago | (#13820527)

I wonder if France and Canada and so-forth have subsidised internet from the government.
As a Canadian I can tell you the answer is "No" for Canada, at least as far as I know. However, until fairly recently, many provincial telcos were Crown coprorations, but most are private entities now.

Re:I wonder (1)

Daveznet (789744) | about 9 years ago | (#13820538)

The Canadian government does not subsidise internet. Nor does it receive any subsidies from any local or provincial governments. One reason that Canada is able to do this is that the majority of our population borders the United States border, Im pretty sure that the majority of the US/Canadian Border has great broadband. The problem in the states lies in getting it to much more wider area because the US population is alot more spread out compared to the Canadian population which is alot more concentrated.

Re:I wonder (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820552)

Yes. It's the socialism. That must be it.

Actually the last time I looked, I, and not the government of Canada or the tax dollars that said government takes from me, was still paying the DSL bill.

Re:I wonder (1)

SpamJunkie (557825) | about 9 years ago | (#13820596)

Wow, you sure make that American brand of capitalism look good! Expensive broadband AND health care? Sign me up!!1!

Makes me wonder what it is the US does have. Oh right, the richest man in the world. Now I get it. Americans like playing the lottery with their lives.

Re:I wonder (4, Insightful)

revscat (35618) | about 9 years ago | (#13820618)

All the states listed are pretty socialist, compared to the US anyway. I wonder if France and Canada and so-forth have subsidised internet from the government. I'm not certain I want my tax dollars (and tax increases) going towards discounting broadband for everyone.

But what if you gained more in the amount saved than you paid in taxes? Or what if you didn't actually have to pay anything extra in taxes, and the funds were just reallocated from, say, defense spending? Other countries have proved its possible, and that it works better for more people than the way America does it. Will you really be so foolish as to let ideology stand in opposition to demonstrated proof of benefit to your own person?

Taboo to say round these parts, I know, but socialism works pretty well. Taxes are the cost we pay for a civilized society.

I call BS (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 9 years ago | (#13820421)

Just because their ISPs up the DSL/Cable modem cap does not mean faster internet service. Clearly the perspective infrastructure is missing. While at the local level, our ISPs in America may be slower, at least we have a better interstate fiber backbone system which yeilds more bandwidth, less latency, and less packet loss.

Remember, your slowest link is your fastest connection.

Re:I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820479)

I've used broadband a lot at private and public connections in Paris, and have found them to be generally sluggish compared to standard $20/month DSL in California.

Its not just broadband... (2, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | about 9 years ago | (#13820432)

The US has lagged lots of the "new economy" networks. Mobile phones in the US are behind the networks in Europe, and miles behind Japan. Even basic technologies like SMS are only just being adopted in the US. And now with broadband a similar picture is evolving of other markets seeing the opportunities for MASS adoption rather than trying to fleece people with a few high cost offerings.

Considering that the US is the leader of the market economies, something the French detest, its amazing to note that in many ways market economics is working more effectively for consumers in France than they are in the US.

Has the US gone too far towards corporate economics and too far from consumer economics?

Important differance...government... (2, Insightful)

haplo21112 (184264) | about 9 years ago | (#13820433)

In most of those places, the government either owns or has significant control over the Telcoms industry.

Re:Important differance...government... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820568)

Exactly. You pay less because aspects of the funding comes from taxes that you pay in many of these countries... while in the US you generally pay less in taxes and more directly for what you use.

Re:Important differance...government... (1)

moosesocks (264553) | about 9 years ago | (#13820570)

Is your sig supposed to be ironic?

Face it. The US is big, and not densly populated in most areas. Broadband providers are having a tough enough time as it is making a profit. Competition has forced providers to cut prices and make technological advances that allow them to provide a better service for less money. Right now I pay $30/month for 5mbps fibre from verizon, and could get 15mbps service for $10 more each month. If their DSL service did not face competition from cable providers, I am sure this would never have happened.

Re:Important differance...government... (5, Insightful)

FreshFunk510 (526493) | about 9 years ago | (#13820602)

What are you talking about????

Let me see the countries that were mentioned in the article: Japan, France, Finland, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong... control over telecom? owns telecom?

You're almost right in one respect, but I don't think it's how you intended it to be. The reason why many of these places are successful are NOT because the government owns the telecoms but because the government regulation is better. The reason why we've failed here is because if big money interests that have bought lobbyists and support in the FCC. It's not that they own the networks, it's that they have better regulation.

Canadian broadband (2, Interesting)

milkme123 (302350) | about 9 years ago | (#13820435)

Rogers Hi-Speed Extreme, 6mbit down, 800k up = CAD$46.95/month. ent/compare.asp []

It's fantastic. I don't understand how the US can be lagging so far behind though.. Shouldn't they be cheaper and faster then us?

Re:Canadian broadband (1)

FlameboyC11 (711446) | about 9 years ago | (#13820526)

My comcast is that without download limits. I really dont understand why somebody would need more than this, your home internet connection is not for running a web server.

Re:Canadian broadband (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820607)

Ya but thats in Canadian bandwidth. Converted to American, its only around 256k down, 56k up.

yea, but we make the content (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820436)

The rest of the world needs to realize that the US makes most of the content. We make the most movies and best movies. We make the best music and even invented Rock and Roll. Our former VP Al Gore even invented the Internet. Our best company Microsoft even makes the best software.

Why is the rest of the world complaining? The US pays for all that content so the rest of the world can get it for free. After all 3rd world countries like France can't afford premium content at our rates, so we have to amortize the rates and charge more in the US and less across the pond.

Fools! Bwa ha ha! (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | about 9 years ago | (#13820437)

In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month.

Laugh while you can, you singes de capitulation qui mangent du fromage! You'll come crawling back when the Internet comes crashing down [] around you! Then we'll see who gets the last laugh!

Re:Fools! Bwa ha ha! (1)

tjebe (830017) | about 9 years ago | (#13820589)

...or do you mean: fromage mangeant des baiseurs de singe?

Cheaper in Canada? (1)

Barkley44 (919010) | about 9 years ago | (#13820449)

My cable connection with cogeco ( is good, I have no issues with the speed (up to 640 Kbps according to their site) but it isn't super cheap. It's $40/month, and that's with a discount for getting their various other digital services, which amount to another $80/month. I would certainly like to get it cheaper ;)

A friend of mine from Japan was in town... (1)

FSUpaintball (833904) | about 9 years ago | (#13820454)

...for a wedding this weekend. Being the geek I am, I asked him about his internet connection. Currently, the only options where I live is $50/month for Comcast 3/384 cable, or $50 for slower DSL.

He says he pays $50 a month for a DSL line that gets 34 megabits down and 5 megabits up.

Today I was asked by someone why our available lines are so expensive and offer so much less bandwidth than that of some other countries. I said I didn't know. Now I have a slightly better idea.

Re:A friend of mine from Japan was in town... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 9 years ago | (#13820586)

He says he pays $50 a month for a DSL line that gets 34 megabits down and 5 megabits up.

First, I'm guessing that his DSL line is fibre optic cable. Many telcos are currently in the process of replacing all the copper with fibre. It takes time to replace that many miles of copper. Second, he wouldn't happen to live in the city now, would he?

Other Countries (3, Informative)

stanmann (602645) | about 9 years ago | (#13820456)

Last I heard, most of these countries have per minute phone service, and bandwidth usuage caps as low as 6G per month. Also, in the US, High speed internet is considered a luxury. Of course, I also know of people who spend $100(US)+ but the extra $25-30 for Internet is too much.

The Megababy Bells (5, Informative)

KiltedKnight (171132) | about 9 years ago | (#13820458)

They're the ones who maintain the hardware that goes from the central offices to our homes. They're the ones who used a concept known as FITL (Fiber in the Loop). Sure, this will improve phone service, but it screws people over when it comes to DSL.

With FITL, it's fiber optic cable from the central office to a "lightspeed box" in your neighborhood, where it gets converted to copper wires to go to your home. If you're lucky enough to be in a FITL neighborhood, the best you can get is IDSL (aka ISDN). The Megababy Bells insist on putting the DSLAMs in the central office, when they could put it out in the lightspeed boxes, thus creating IFITL (Integrated Fiber in the Loop). By pushing the DSLAM out to the neighborhoods, a vast majority of people could get broadband... but that means opening up the lines to competition, which I know Verizon doesn't want to do... thus the concept of FIOS... which takes advantage of a loophole in the law, allowing them to maintain total control/access of those fiber lines because they've put brand new ones out there from the central office to your home.

Since nobody other than your local power company, local cable company, and local phone company can put lines up on the phone poles (or in the conduits, if you have underground lines), they're going to kill off the broadband companies.

Conversion? (2, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | about 9 years ago | (#13820462)

In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here.

Yes, and in China you can buy a house for a couple thousand dollars. That doesn't mean that houses here are overpriced.

what's with the gasp? (5, Insightful)

xutopia (469129) | about 9 years ago | (#13820477)

Is it too hard to fathom that Canada exceeds the US in something?

Re:what's with the gasp? (1)

llZENll (545605) | about 9 years ago | (#13820603)

yes, yes it is, darn tootin.

Population Placement (2, Insightful)

digitalthoughts (691755) | about 9 years ago | (#13820481)

It seems to me that this article doesn't take into account the size and disbursement of the US population. Its not as hard for Finland and France to cover their country with broadband access, and to even upgrade it to handle higher speeds, but neither country are as large as Texas, just 1 of 50 US states.

ok (1)

cached (801963) | about 9 years ago | (#13820488)

Obviously, the only way to solve this is innovation. Innovation offers a solution to our broadband problem. It's time for Congress, the FCC and the White House to stop protecting the corporate dinosaurs and start exploring alternatives that will foster a genuine free market in high-speed Internet services. Who's with me?

Sure we pay more for our broadband internet...but (0, Offtopic)

thegurujim (890607) | about 9 years ago | (#13820492)

What do you pay for gas? What do they pay for gas? What's more important to the US, gas or the Internet? I say we're making up for the fact we pay much less for fossil fuels than they do. I'm willing to pay a little more for broadband access.

45? Where? (1)

NidStyles (794619) | about 9 years ago | (#13820493)

I pay 53 a month for a lousy 4.3 down, and something like 768 up, which is more like 3.5 down, and 512 up on average. I would be happier with at least a balanced connection.

Hmm. (1)

RoffleTheWaffle (916980) | about 9 years ago | (#13820494)

Maybe the sluggish rate at which the U.S. is catching up with the rest of the world in regard to telecommunications will help to inspire folks to go out on their own and start fixing the problem themselves. For some reason, wireless mesh networks come to mind... Just a thought: "We have the technology. We can rebuild him." Yes, we have the technology. But can we rebuild the net?

Preach on, Brother! (2, Informative)

lobsterGun (415085) | about 9 years ago | (#13820495)

Broadband in America is fucked.

I live in Ohio. I've had DSL for about 5 years. In two weeks, I'm moving. I'm moving less than 10 miles away from where I live now.

I checked into getting DSL at my new home. It isn't offered. The CO hasn't been upgraded.

I looked into getting a cable modem. Cable isn't offered.

I checked into getting ISDN. It isn't offered.

I even checked into getting a T1 business class line and starting a coop. It isn't available.

I asked them (SBC) when the CO is going to be updated. Their answer: They have no plans to upgrade that CO.

Aside from dial up, satellite is really my only option (they can't take the sky from me - but lets face it, satellite internet sucks).

Apples and Oranges (2, Insightful)

stlhawkeye (868951) | about 9 years ago | (#13820503)

After seeing what many other countries have accomplished with their broadband markets, namely Japan, Korea, and (gasp) even Canada, the current state of affairs in the U.S. is looking pretty dismal.

Let's play Comparison!

The USA has a population density of 17.
Japan is like 325 and Korea is #3 in the world for population density at well over 400.

So, seriously. This is an intelletual exercise? Comparing the telecom infrastructure of Asian nations like Japan and Korea, among the most heavily populated people in the world per land area, to the United States? Canada would indeed make for a better comparison, with its insanely low population density of less than four, except something like 90% of Canadian citizens are condensed to areas that are within 200km of the American border [] , so the overwhelming majority of their land mass is almost entirely unpopulated and probably does not have cheap Canadian fat pipe broadband access.

American broadband blows because it's hard to wire the 450,000 people in Wyoming using the same deployment strategy that wires the millions that live in Chicago.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

faragon (789704) | about 9 years ago | (#13820578)

Do people in Wyoming have phone lines? Yes? Ok, then they're able to get somewhat type of *DSL service (QED). There is no excuse.

Why broadband sucks in the US.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820518)

A lot of people are perplexed at why broadband sucks in the US. They blame the government. They blame the size of our country. They blame the market. But look who's primarily behind broadband over here: Phone companies and cable companies.

Let's start with phone companies. Does it really benefit phone companies to have great and cheap bandwidth? Not when everyone switches over to VoIP killing their high profit long distance service. Not to mention that businesses pay for EVERY call they make. If broadband was great and cheap, the phone companies would disappear.

Let's move on to cable companies. Pretty soon you'll be able to watch movies via broadband. E.g., Netflix is about to offer movies. In a few years you'll probably be able to watch any movie and any TV you want with a simple clicks. Does this benefit cable companies? Nope. Because they make tons of money, nearly all their money, selling premium movie channels and content via pay-per-view. In other words, if broadband was great and cheap, they'd also be out of business.

Thus, the ONLY way we're going to get real broadband in the US is by wrestling control of it from the current status quo. That's why I'm really excited about broadband over power lines. The power companies have nothing to lose with broadband.

Piracy (2, Insightful)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | about 9 years ago | (#13820524)

My thinking is that the issue is political. With the MPAA/RIAA cartels in place with their hooks buried deep within our government, who in their right minds would risk offering consumers with high enough broadband speeds, making their system efficient enough to transfer high quality content in mere seconds? Knowing our legal system, they'd probably get sued for facilitating large scale P2P file sharing of copyrighted materials.

That's not to say, of course, these services are entirely innocent of playing games with the consumer. By trickling higher bandwidths to us slowly over a period of several years "for $10 more" each upgrade, they stand to make a huge fortune off the generally ignorant population we have here.

They forgot Sweden (4, Informative)

Psionicist (561330) | about 9 years ago | (#13820525)

We've had 10 mbit up/down no caps since the 90's, 24 mbit for several years and you can also get 100 mbit connections (both up and down, no limitations or caps) for a mere $30 / month in some places. I myself live in a very small town of 3000 people in the middle of the woods, and almost all of us have 8 mbit, or at least 2 mbit. It's even better in the universities.

Clarification please (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 9 years ago | (#13820530)

In the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress directed the FCC to oversee the timely deployment of Internet services that "enable users to originate and receive high quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications." Currently, this requirement translates into an Internet connection with typical download and upload speeds between 10 Mbps and 20 Mbps (megabits, or million bits, per second)

Can someone tell me where they get that 10-20Mbps number from? I can get pretty good video over a 4Mbps connection.

Density (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820532)

Put the entire population of the US in New York State and service will be better and cheaper.
Unfortunately, urban sprawl/lower density means it requires a lot more infrastructure to accomodate everyone.

Marketing (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 9 years ago | (#13820533)

Its mostly marketing is why you pay what you pay.

As long as they can charge you 50 bucks a month, they will. Until most of their customers balk, the price wont drop.

Its just a fact of life here, charge what you can get away with.

wrongside economics (1)

icecow (764255) | about 9 years ago | (#13820535)

The U.S. is real good at manufacturing scarcity and charging accordingly.

More than courts are being lobbied. Americans are being lobbied through scarce broadcast channels that scarcity is needed.

Why the gasp at Canada? (4, Informative)

saskboy (600063) | about 9 years ago | (#13820536)

Canada has long been a telecommunications leader. It's 50%+ the site for the world's first trans-atlantic wireless communication on Signal Hill in Newfoundland. It's had a transcontienent microwave network for phone and TV communication since at least the 1960s [and possibly longer I don't recall], and it's the home of Nortel Networks, and Research In Motion [makers of the Blackberry email device PDA].

Even lowly Saskatchewan has had broadband in smaller markets [compared to US markets of similar size], since the late 1990s.

Same with cell phones? (1)

obli (650741) | about 9 years ago | (#13820546)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the US in a similar position when it comes to the coverage of the wireless phone network, as well?

Isn't this a good thing? (1)

stlhawkeye (868951) | about 9 years ago | (#13820547)

In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita.

Isn't the world always on our collective asses for hogging a disproportionate share of the world's resources? So American is using a smaller percentage of the world's bandwidth supply. Shouldn't we be happy about this? Because if our usage was going UP even while ever-increasing populations of the world were getting Internet access, would have some kind of expose about how the greedy Americans are using up all the bandwidth and starting wars for copper so they can give contracts to their rich friends at SBC. Wow the wheels totally came off this metaphor as it trundled downhill.

Capitalism = stall + lobby (1)

fastpage (125435) | about 9 years ago | (#13820548)

Of course the US is falling behind in broadband use per capita. When you have the telcos and cable companies dragging their feet while spending their time & money fighting/lobbying cities not to setup tax payer supported broadband. And these are some areas where the telcos have yet to deploy any broadband. I hope in San Francisco they blanket the city with wifi internet access. I am tired of these wanna be AOLs with their entirely pointless extra features and crappy service.

Bad comparison (1)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | about 9 years ago | (#13820551)

In big cities in the US you have a number of options for affordable broadband access. For example in San Jose (where I live) I have the choice of SBC DSL ($14.99/mo) or Comcast Cable broadband for ($29.99/mo). I use comcast and It's like lightnening. I'm sure Paris (and other big cities in France and the other countries mentioned) have similar options available. I'm also sure that there are some rural areas in those countries that don't have these kind of options available just like we have in the US. So, I'm not sure this article is comparing apples to apples by saying France has fast internet and we don't have internet available _everywhere_. Also, I'd like to know if any of the countries listed have government subsidies on these "hyper-fast" connections. If that's the case, that has to be factored in to the equation. Just because your government pays the bill doesn't mean it's not coming out of your pocket! ;)

Quality vs. Quality (1)

Dster76 (877693) | about 9 years ago | (#13820555)

Hey -

I thought I'd post my experience moving from Insight Digital Cable (Indiana) to Eastlink (Halifax, Canada) to Aliant (Halifax, Canada).

The Indiana connection was advertised as 5 Mbps download, and not too far off actual speeds. Also, there seemed to be no throttling based on what I was doing (e.g. bittorrent, p2p). I paid $44.95, no taxes or additional fees, and was very happy.

I joined Eastlink about 2 months ago, which advertises service so fast "you don't have time to blink" [] . However, what they don't tell you is that they use Ellacoya servers which implement technologies to throttle bandwidth to anyone using eMule, bittorrent, and a variety of other P2P technologies. Oh, and I was paying about $40 CDN/month for this.

Of course, as soon as I found out what they were doing, I switched from the cable guy (Eastlink) to the dsl guy (Aliant). Back to 5 Mbps, no throttling, much happier, $49.99 CDN/month.

The short bit: I would take Canada off the list of countries which are outpacing the US in broadband. From what I can tell, Eastlink's behavior is more common than Aliant in Canada. What good is 10+ Mbps if you can't use bittorrent? [for linux distros AND pr0n, of course].

This isn't politics, and it's not really that bad. (1)

djh101010 (656795) | about 9 years ago | (#13820557)

Since when does free enterprise business offerings of service have anything to do with politics?

That said, I've got wireless broadband to my house, better-than-T1 speeds, for $24.95 a month. (you clicky linky) [] I'm in a rural area, and a local ISP has gone to providing broadband wireless using Motorola's Canopy system. It doesn't suck.

Why can't this be done elsewhere? It can. Get a feed, get a spot on a tower, and start selling your service. For a rural, "last miles" solution, it's ideal, might be good for city use too, I dunno (check Motorola's site, I suppose). Broadband options are out there, and it has nothing to do with politics.

we are changing this (1)

roXet (95005) | about 9 years ago | (#13820559)

There are small compaies out there, like the one I work for, who are working to change this. Granted, we are still held down by trying to price our product close to the big boys, but I think we deliver a much better product. We are deploying IPTV over both ADSL2+ lines and fiber to the home, with over 200 channels of mpeg encoded and multicasted tv watching goodness. Along with telephone service and high speed internet.

Companies like mine are agile enough to roll with the punches and implement new technology faster when it is our best intrestes. Sure the Bells will eventually impleemnt this same technology, but how long will it take? By the time they do what we are doing now, we will have moved on to the next big thing. Sure you can get burned by this early adoption, and it has happened, believe me.

The biggest problem we face is getting people to let go of their "We want Bell" perceptions. I'm not talking about the slashdot crowd here. I'm talking about Joe Punchclock, we can tell them all day long that our product is better and attempt to explain why, but Megabits and IPTV and all that jazz means nothing to him. He just wants his porn, TV and phone service to work, and for some reason this means the has to go to the "big boys" for these services.

Repeat After Me. Population Density. (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 9 years ago | (#13820562)

Folks, this whole thing has been rehashed a thousand times. It's very simple.

The United States is very, very big. It has a population density nowhere NEAR Korea and Japan, the posterchildren of "supermegaultra internet to the door".

You can afford to run fiber, switchgear, etc if you get a lot of customers for your effort. Japan is 145843 square miles and 127M people; New York state is a THIRD of that alone (54471 sq miles) and has 19M people.

Let's think that through- Japan has about half the US population, yet is only about 3 times bigger than NY state.

PS:I had to post this from home via an SSH tunnel because I've been "downmodded too much". I have mod points, but I can't post from work. Funny that. Can't get more than a form-reply from "Robert Rozeboom", either...which consisted of: "You have been downmodded too many times and are in timeout for a bit."

Where in the world is America? (1)

Decameron81 (628548) | about 9 years ago | (#13820565)

Is this article about broadband in America or broadband in the US?

half-ass competition (1)

ecloud (3022) | about 9 years ago | (#13820569)

The other countries probably regulate the prices more than we do. But cable is fundamentally a monopoly, just because somebody has to own the cables. The only competition is coming from alternatives like DSL, powerline, wireless etc. And both the cable and DSL businesses belong to stagnant, big, slow-moving companies. So in this kind of case the government-regulated (or g-owned, or g-mandated in some countries) model is working better, as long as the government happens to have decent leadership in this department. There are counter-examples too, in some of the former Soviet republics for example - the government has the telecomm monopoly and it sucks, worse than it did in 1970's America.

Capitalism will triumph eventually, when there are enough alternatives. Meanwhile I still feel kindof privileged to have such fast broadband over cable, and don't really mind the price that much. The total bill is a bit steep ($85); I just get TV along with it in order to get the broadband discount (and plain old analog at that, without any premium channels). But after the discount, the broadband portion of that isn't too bad. And there are extra government fees and taxes and crap that shouldn't be there. Right now in this country we have most of the disadvantages of both systems, and not all the advantages.

There have been some efforts to force cable companies to offer a choice of ISP; not sure what happened, probably got derailed, but when there is a natural monopoly it might be a good idea to have regulations like that. Then again, maybe it just ruins the efficiency of the natural monopoly by burying both companies (the cable plant company and the ISP) in extra red tape.

The Problem Is: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820573)

The problem with broadband in the USA is;

You pay > $50/month for
-Dynamic IP
-WhoKnowsWhat for DNS, non reverse-resolving
-Usefull ports (80, 25) firewalled to stop you from running a server
-Sub-Standard offshored tech support
-"No Promises" towards speed or uptime
-Did I mention that all the usefull ports are blocked?
-Terms of service which specifically exclude you from running " a server of any kind " .. and yet somehow at the same time require WindowsXP (which runs a bunch of servers by default .. ahem ..)
-Terms of service which specifically lay out that $PROVIDER promises nothing.
-Terms of service which specifically disallow hostname-based addressing (dont want you to use or simmilar services) ... not that they [can] enforce much of this, and I run web+mail from behind a comcrap cable modem with above terms in the contract, but I needed to spend a lot of extra cash for external hosts to relay to me on unblocked ports. Lame lame lame.


Content problem, and also verizon dsl = $15/ month (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820582)

Verizon has 768/128 plan for $15/month.

Lately I find that if you don't do P2P, there's not much content that requires more than standard broadband. I mean, high speeds are nice, but it's not critical to have it. It's not like dialup, you know.

Even MP3s take 3-5 min to download on a regular DSL, so I can't complain.

Downloading movies is too dangerous these days, it's much easier to pay $15-17 to netflicks, and rent DVDs (which take forever to download even with fast connections)

our country is different (1)

axiome (782782) | about 9 years ago | (#13820601)

I would say the primary reasons are: 1) the non-centralized/socialized telecoms and 2) every consider the size of our country compared to the other ones? We are alot larger and have people living in much more remote areas.

The strangle of entitlements... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13820612)

High rates for broadband internet access (and communication services in general) have a few different components:
1) Universal access- this goes back to the telephone days when the urban users with a lower per capita infrastructure cost subsidized communications infrastructure for rural users.

2) Geography- We're a big country and there's a lot of empty space to cover between population centers.

3) DSL vs. Cable internet- There is a fight going on here between these two legacy infrastructures that ends up wasting the potential to create a unified solution and move forward there. Much like multitasking diminishes the quality of any one task; any investment made in DSL is fruitless for cable subscribers and vise versa. Parallel infrastructure is good for redundancy yet highly wasteful.

So as long as I, an urban payer in the middle of San Francisco, have to subsidize both two types of infrastructure development and also rural users spread out across a large continent, costs are going to remain high and speeds mediocre.

It's the same idea as a bar fight, the big guy may have more force in terms of mass, but the little guy has less momentum and therefore spends less energy starting and stopping his kinetics.

As far as the dual infrastructure concept, that is hitting us really hard, much like the waste of covering an area with both GSM and CDMA cell towers that don't inter-operate. We are literally funding two competing standards and splitting our effort when a unified standard would get the service activated and then more money could be spent on the content (which all around needs more investment).

Personally, I hate DSL as I have yet to see an implementation of DSL that is a reliable as cable. Yes, I know, we all have assholes and stories about which is better, but personally, I would prefer to have my coax come in and split off into data, voice and television (not unlike Sprint ION or something similar) instead of paying one bill to SBC for mediocre internet service (that I use constantly), one bill to Comcast for great cable service (that I use rarely).

Give me one wire! One wire!

The universal access is stickier as there is a social need for above average income people to subsidize below income average people (if you disagree with this, just go live alone in the forest and horde your wealth) however, it's a burden for sure. Perhaps there should exist tiered access where you are guaranteed a dialtone and 256kbps data (over your cable line) so that the wires have to be there but no one builds a backbone to nowhere.
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