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The Battle Over AT&T's Fiber Rollout

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the rock-and-hard-place dept.

Communications 121

Tyler Too writes "AT&T is facing heated opposition from some communities where it wants to deploy its U-Verse fiber network. Ars Technica has a feature looking at the situation in the suburbs of Chicago. 'Legal uncertainty is the rule when it comes to IPTV deployments by telecommunications companies. Neither Congress nor the FCC [has] weighed in on whether services like U-verse require their operators to take out a cable franchise from cities, and no federal judge has issued a definitive ruling.' It's not just Chicago, either: 'With AT&T set to upgrade its infrastructure to support U-verse across its wide service area, this is a battle that could play out in thousands of communities across the country over the next few years.'"

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121 comments

Bloody capitalists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292934)

Don't they realize that we'd all be happier without their infrastructure advances while they steal from the poor. If only we'd all work together we wouldn't have to allow companies like this to push forward their capitalistic agendas.

Fuck AT&T (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292978)

They were the ones that let the government watch what you were doing online, and still are.

Re:Fuck AT&T (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293016)

Because you think your internet communications are safe passing through the other providers? how quaint...

And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (4, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293130)

It is this kind of legal wrangling that goes on endlessly. Sure, if everything in the entire country was controlled by The Government there would be fewer people to sue over stuff like this. But I hardly think that would be a solution most people would find acceptable in the end. Like many things, it sounds good until you find out the details.

OK, so there should be competitive entities. Well, if you are going to spend a billion or so dollars you need to mitigate every risk, right? Unfortunately, the lawyers have set things up such that one risk that is very difficult to mitigate is someone else suing you over some perceived wrong. And yes, trying to run a fiber link is going to distrupt many businesses and push a few under. When those entities have been forced to jump through other legal hurdles to combat all the NIMBY lawsuits and "beautification" lawsuits (you know, those wires are really ugly...) and endless other lawsuits a lot of people feel very justified in suing over what will essentially put them out of business.

Sure, it is just the changing face of technology. But cable TV has been over-regulated in most US cities for so long that it is going to be a real battle to convince those owners that they bought nothing with all of their franchise fees, taxes, and public meetings.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (2, Informative)

hjf (703092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293300)

all the NIMBY lawsuits and "beautification" lawsuits (you know, those wires are really ugly...) and endless other lawsuits a lot of people feel very justified in suing over what will essentially put them out of business.
Not sure what it's like where you live, but look at what happens when you let the monopoly lay ther wires whenever they like:
http://comunidad.muchoviaje.com/cs/photos/dan/pict ure417.aspx [muchoviaje.com]
That's all over the country. And they can't change it now because it costs a lot of money and the company is not interested in fixing that.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (2, Insightful)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293380)

To the (possibly ignorant) observer that just looks like a bunch of people pirating cable to me.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293468)

Heh. I had some cable wiring like that back in Jersey; the cable line for the building was just a splice off the pole, and the lines in the basement were just one incoming line, hooked to like 20 y-splitters.

Sadly, this actually was legitimate wiring, though it worked like crap.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293800)

Nope, that is actual, Telco-installed phone wire (it says electrical wire on the pic but it's actually telephone wire). If you ever go to Buenos Aires and look up, you'll see that all over the country. There aren't that many cable pirates heh.

I'm too lazy to go take a picture, it's 4 blocks away from here, but I could show you a good ol' fashioned wooden telephone pole (one of the few remaining) with almost 100 lines coming out of it in every direction. It's so weird it's like a monument or something.

Actually the telco replaced those poles about 10 years ago, with surface boxes bolted to people's walls, and multipair cables going underground to somewhere (never had the luck to see where those cables go underground, because they go way inside the block and come out I don't know where, and come out at little white closets every few blocks (where I assume they go through more heavier multipair wires). I think those "mega-poles" remain in service because it's too complicated to rewire that many houses.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293928)

Nope, that is actual, Telco-installed phone wire (it says electrical wire on the pic but it's actually telephone wire). If you ever go to Buenos Aires and look up, you'll see that all over the country. There aren't that many cable pirates heh.
 
I'm too lazy to go take a picture, it's 4 blocks away from here, but I could show you a good ol' fashioned wooden telephone pole (one of the few remaining) with almost 100 lines coming out of it in every direction. It's so weird it's like a monument or something.
 
Actually the telco replaced those poles about 10 years ago, with surface boxes bolted to people's walls, and multipair cables going underground to somewhere (never had the luck to see where those cables go underground, because they go way inside the block and come out I don't know where, and come out at little white closets every few blocks (where I assume they go through more heavier multipair wires). I think those "mega-poles" remain in service because it's too complicated to rewire that many houses.
I can take a picture of the cable lines behind my apartment.

My block consists of 3-5 unit apartment buildings in two rows, centering on an alley, with maybe 10 buildings per side.

Each _unit_ has its own feed running from a central bundle of cables in the middle of the alley, there are three cable providers, and two telephone providers.

It's like a bloody mesh up there. It's ugly as sin.

Thank god we've got alleys; but that stuff should be underground.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (2, Insightful)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294020)

Mitigate every risk? I suppose they could do that by getting the government to guarantee their revenues and profits ... OH WAIT! They already have that deal! So, nevermind.

People talk about AT&T like it's the scrappy pull-itself-up-by-the-bootstraps earthly incarnation of capitalism. The truth is that every penny AT&T takes in is made under an essentially free grant of profit by some government agency -- municipal, county, state, or federal. And now that Ma Bell has taken us for hundreds of trillions of dollars, they are trying to fuck us over (more) by rolling out their new services to only wealthy neighborhoods.

People should realize that AT&T's historical monopoly grants still represent a huge competitive advantage over all other players in the market. So AT&T's actions need to be restrained to prevent them from killing off every competitor. If AT&T wanted to repay write off all past profits made under regulated monopolies, that would be fine. But the current situation requires strenuous local government oversight.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294450)

But the current situation requires strenuous local government oversight.

Actually, if the government oversight just looked the other way, ATT could fiber up all the rich neighborhoods they want, and someone else who could do it cheaper could show up and fix up the other neighborhoods, pretty much screwing ATT out of any chance of growth (while the rich neighborhoods start to bitch about their overpriced service).

Unfortunately, the reason this has stalled so hard is because ATT wants that oversight. The entrenched telcos love government oversight. They just want the government oversight on their competitors, not on them. Simply put, if they were to do something that got these monopoly franchise contracts struck down, they'd be in deep shit, since the competitors would be crawling out of the woodwork and kick their ass. And they know it, so they are locked in this slow dance with the government, trying to weasel out of the contracts while still keeping their monopolies protected by them.

Re:And you wonder why US is behind on broadband? (1)

hauntingthunder (985246) | more than 7 years ago | (#17298762)

Realy the federal govenment needs to take control of telcoms (like the FCC does for radio) - its stupid to have each little state/town do its own thing for both mobile and fixed telephany.

You might get some progress if you had Local Loop Unbudeling and real competition.

FCC supporting monopolies again (4, Insightful)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293166)

This is just another example of the government protecting monopolies. Cable rates are outrageous primarily because we have few if any choices (around me, it's Comcast or DishTV or stuck with Antenna). We'd all be better off if the FCC would just allow some good old fashioned competition. Let more cable, phone, broadband, and internet companies offer cable-like options for consumers and the product and/or price will almost certainly improve.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293456)

This has nothing to do with the FCC. Check your town's budget reports to see how big a check they get from the cable company every month is to prevent competition from coming into town. You'll wonder if your representatives have your best interests in mind after all. This isn't about corporate power, the federal government, or the FCC. It's about local government revenues.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17299590)

If that check is spent on improving local services then I think that they do have their constituents best interests in mind. A cable TV monopoly in exchange for frequent garbage collection? I know where my priorities are.

Of course, if they're corrupt and that money goes to slush funds or building a golf course next door to the Mayor, then they absolutely belong in jail. But corruption is a separate issue and shouldn't influence our opinions on funding.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (5, Informative)

moriya (195881) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293746)

It's not as simple as that, though. The article details a possible legal loophole problem when it comes to IPTV. Since cable TV uses an actual cable line, then it's easy to enforce the law where necessary. AT&T's U-Verse, using IPTV, works differently in that it's "cable but not cable".

The Ars article has all the details, including the metal giant that they called 52B. It stands around 5ft tall, 4ft deep, and is about 2ft wide. It is big. AT&T wants to build and deploy those boxes wherever they please. Part of the problem is that these so-called tele-comm upgrade is also going to provide video services (like cable). Using IPTV as part of the legal loophole, AT&T wants to put a bunch of these boxes scattered across the towns that they're trying to roll fiber out to. These deployment also affect a section of a town. So unlike a cable TV deployment, service is available to the area where it is immediately available instead to every home in the town.

Both the suburban communities and AT&T are stuck. Yes, competition is good. We all want a choice. But in legal terms, both sides are stuck and AT&T isn't all that lenient when it comes to what they provide as services.

* AT&T claims it is not cable and that it's all telecomms.
* If AT&T deploys, the town is likely to be sued by Comcast and the state DA, citing violation of two laws.
* If AT&T cannot deploy, the town is sued citing support for monopolies and anti-competitive acts.

AT&T doesn't want a build-out, which would guarantee the service is provided to every house/building in that town within a limited time period. AT&T also refuses to provide a structured layout plan of where they wish to deploy these 52B boxes (for all we know, it might end up in someone's front yard 5ft from the house). The people in some of these towns do not want that. They also do not want a single corporate entity to be the only choice they have for broadband and cable tv services. So the question continues to remain: Where do you stand?

Oregon Verzion FIOS TV too (1)

Tuirn (717203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294176)

Oregon and possibly Washington are have similar issues with Version FIOS TV. We've been having issues with bad faith negotiations on Verzion's part here in Oregon for the past couple years. Part of it is that cable is regulated by county in Oregon (although a some counties have banded together) and Version hasn't wanted to negotiate individually. Also, they didn't want to support the same local services that cable is forced to support. A lot of Verizons demands were simply untenable. In the end, I suspect that they had hoped the big TelCom bill this last summer would fix things in their favor.

I recently had FIOS installed in Beaverton, OR and asked the installer about it. He claimed that they been had given installation classes recently and expected it to be rolled out this year.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (1)

ciscoguy01 (635963) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296078)

Those are all side issues.
The real issue is they want to use the old easements, cable right-of-ways that they were *given* years and years ago, for free. In fact they were less than free, we hired them and we paid for all that infrastructure in our rates. It's actually ours.
These old "regulated monopolies" want to be unregulated in their "new media" enterprises, but they want to use all the old easements, so they can be protected from competition. Competitors don't have free easements, and even if they did they aren't near strong enough competitors to be able to dig up all their own wireways.
This is exactly why cable TV, Cable Modem and DSL rates are so high. No real competition.
If they want to put cables on my property, whether fiber or otherwise I want some money from them. The easement is available. But it's not free.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296298)

The Ars article has all the details, including the metal giant that they called 52B. It stands around 5ft tall, 4ft deep, and is about 2ft wide.

I like how the picture in the article has the guy standing a step or two down, a few feet behind the box, rather than right next to it. It makes the box look much bigger than it really is... or it makes the guy look like a midget. Way to spin the issue, guys!

And for what it's worth, those aren't the type of boxes that I'm seeing down here in Texas. The Lightspeed cabinets here are of a similar size, but have a distinctive beveled edge in front.

If you think that the FCC is a bottleneck now ... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294000)

This is just another example of the government protecting monopolies. ... We'd all be better off if the FCC would just allow some good old fashioned competition.

If you think the FCC is a pro-monopoly bottleneck NOW, just WAIT until the Democrats rehack it, the next time they have a president and a congressional majority all at once.

The FCC under the recent regimes has been solidly behind keeping hands off the Internet, and keeping everybody ELSE's hands off it, too. To the point of suing to keep both the Federal court and state regulators' hands off. This is expected to change. (D's have a history of trying to control it.)

AT&T is deploying IPTV as a data service, as part of their (unregulated) internet service, and the rest of the ISPs are doing the same. IP networking is a "disruptive technology", breaking the locks of the air-broadcast, wired-broadcast, and satelite-broadcast carriers on video distribution, and opening it, not just to ISPs, but also to all who have a broadband connection.

Letting regulators at all governmental levels get their hands on networking content because it can emulate broadcast/cable services would spike this big time. So far the FCC has said a resounding "NO!" and wielded the power to make it stick. It's essentially the only regulatory body to actually defend openness (rather than using its power to increase its control). It's doing EXACTLY what you're asking for - against opposition by corportations and governmental organizations at all levels.

Be careful when wishing for changes.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (2, Insightful)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294014)

Nonsense. You sound like a shill.

I find it atrocious that companies shouldn't have to pay something for essentially "free" right of way access to lines. Cable companies are required to carry certain community channels, are a forced to negotiate with the local governments in terms of what sorts of service they are required to provide.

If they don't want to deal with local governments, they can simply negotiate with every individual land owner for line-stringing rights, or they can go wireless.

If my local community is going to be forcible taking land from landowners for telecom companies, those telecom companies better follow the landowner's rules, which are represent by the local governments.

I'm sorry you live in a small town with little choice, but at my location I've got a fair number of choices; I can go with the 2 satellite companies, or 3 cable companies. The 3 cable companies ALL have franchise rights with the accompanying requirements; I get local Chicago public television, and I get state channels, which includes all kinds of political goodies.

This is not about the FCC allowing good old fashioned competition. This is about AT&T taking my land away. Either buy it from me, or put up with my town's laws/requirements. But don't try and spin this as a free market thing; having the federal government take away land rights from landowners in the name of the world's largest telecom company is most _certainly_ not a free market position.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (1)

jrp2 (458093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294062)

The main problem here is "cherry-picking". AT&T will come in and serve only the most profitable areas of a town, avoiding the less profitable..... if they are allowed to.

I live in Chicago (the city proper, not the suburbs mentioned in this article) and we have zero competition in our neighborhood. The lakefront area where many of the wealthier folks live have a wide variety of choices for telco and TV. Some parts of town don't even have DSL available, even if they live near a CO.

AT&T (nee SBC, Ameritech, Illinois Bell) has a long history of this, as do the cable companies. I bet AT&T would have a lot more luck if they agreed to a reasonable (over several years) "full coverage" plan.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (2, Interesting)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17295528)

The main problem here is "cherry-picking"
Maybe, but remember AT&T (SBC) made the same claim about CLECs, ISPs, and Cable companies when these began offering phone service. And really, the cherry picking claims were/are justified. Of course AT&T will do that, at least at first, just like the startup telcos did. But it would seem that turnabout is fair play. If AT&T wants to cherry pick, let em. It isn't going to hurt anyone, maybe except for the cable companies. But then again, they are in some ways worse monopolies than ol Ma Bell.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17295574)

To support multiple lines into your home is EXPENSIVE. Instead, the monopoly should be minimized. Basically, from the Central Office (or even the block-level greenbox) to the house should be owned by local city and then have competitive bids on it every 5-10 years. All else should then be free to charge whatever they want.

Problem is that corruption is so rampant. Politicians and even the cities are being bought.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297128)

owned by local city and then have competitive bids on it every 5-10 years. All else should then be free to charge whatever they want.

Oh, yeah, because the "lowest bidder" mentality has really brought us some great stuff in the past...I, for one, am all for open-market competition.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again (2, Interesting)

xothermic (655675) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297040)

Actually, I'd say it's nothing of the sort. I actually grew up in Geneva, and resided there in 2004 when the city tried to pass a referendum to provide municipal fiber to it's citizens, working with the surrounding towns (St. Charles and Batavia). http://www.geneva.il.us/bb/faq.htm [geneva.il.us]

The plan seemed pretty good, the city would provide fiber to the doorstep selling bonds to cover the upfront costs. The bonds would be paid back by the subscriber base's monthly fees which were slated to be reasonable ($40-50/mo iirc). There was tons of misinformation spread by Comcast and SBC (now AT&T). Employees of said companies sent out their employees door to door handing out pamphlets that were mostly untruthful and lead people to believe their taxes would increase if the plan went through. The initiative failed, and my assumption to some degree is that the city is still trying to accomplish this (or they are bitter) If you RTFA, the city of Geneva has a great independent streak, currently providing their own water and electricity and this has nothing to do with supporting monopolies or the FCC.

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again - idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17298888)

Hey idiot, this has nothing to do with the FCC.

This is a problem with local political greed. Franchise rights = tax revenue = let's have a party and tax AT&T (and anyone else who wants to step into the fray.)

Dig into this, and I can guarantee that you will find Comcast, Time/Warner subverting this and protecting their franchises.

Cable franchises are going to go away. It won't be today, it might not be tomorrow, but it is coming. In the past, when it was expensive to put in a cable TV system in a city, to protect assets, a franchise was awarded as a form of protection. Today, with IPTV coming, you should be able to order TV from whoever has a GigE feed to your community. I think it's great that someone wants to come in and compete (which is a GOOD thing). Sadly, politicians only see it as a source of revenue. They want to negotiate high franchise fees. They have no interest in allowing lower costs/lower prices to trickle down to the consumer. And frankly, I blame it solely on the liberals "tax and spend" method of running government.

This is NOT what America is about. We the people are not sheep to be led to the trough to pay taxes. If you think AT&T or anyone else is going to just pay up and NOT pass these franchise fees/taxes on to the consumer, you've got another thing coming. Costs will go up, competition will diminish due to the gate for offering services being too high.

Look at your cell phone bill or home telephone bill. It's 20% taxes if not higher. Where does that money go? There are 4 or 5 "service funds" of various types. There are very few actual competitors in the phone business. The few competitors that do a good job are cherry-picking in areas where there are loopholes, or it's tremendously easy to offer service and pick away from the phone company. That is NOT true competition.

Every time someone wants to invest or roll out a product, politicians dance and sing about tax revenue. Taxes limit freedom, limit choice by increasing costs.
Slapping millions of dollars of franchise fees to bring in revenue for the community will do nothing but limit competition.
 
If that's what a bunch of idiots thinks is good, fine. Good luck. It doesn't work for the phone business, how come liberal politicians think it works for CableTV?
 

Re:FCC supporting monopolies again -- NOT ANYMORE? (1)

ian13550 (697991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299552)

Looks like the new FCC chairman is trying to change that and thinks that competition is good (??).

Check out this article -- FCC Preparing To Smooth The Way For TV Services By Phone Companies [informationweek.com]

No clue if it's true or not - I'm just hoping I have a better choice someday than Comcast or *gasp* *choke* Qwest!

I just want some fiber (1)

hpycmprok (219527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293170)

Am I imagining things or haven't phone bills included extra fees,
and/or phone companies have gotten special breaks, in order to have
had fiber installed already?

Why isn't there fiber to my HOUSE yet? I'm seriously under the
impression this technology should be much more widespread than
it is, but don't know any facts. I just have the notion that
somehow we've been paying for something we're not getting yet.

I want my fiber already.

hpy

Re:I just want some fiber (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293432)

Mostly they run fiber near your house, and then send everything the rest of the way on their antiquated copper network. The whole bit in the article is talking about an attempt by AT&T to try to run fiber closer to your house, and how it's flopping for 'em. I wish they'd just do the real deal as well, or do something what the water companies do: run fiber near someone, and let them pay if they want to hook on.

For a real, high band fiber connection, I'd be willing to put in some change, and I doubt I'm the only one.

Re:I just want some fiber (1)

dch24 (904899) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293566)

Ditto here. I've heard of some good FTTP/FIOS providers, and I know Ma Bell is interested in getting into the market. Why do they have to anger everyone from the Federal Government (well, back in the Anti-Trust days) to the end users?

Re:I just want some fiber (2, Interesting)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293640)

well, or do something what the water companies do: run fiber near someone, and let them pay if they want to hook on.

Does your water company seriously do that? In my town, they wanted to run water to the middle of town to promote denser development. I have a nice little private well and live along the way, and they not only forced me to pay the $5K hookup charge to this new (totally uneeded) line, but also to pay for the pipe running out in the middle of the road, and to take on a monthly fee even though I already have a source of water. On top of it, they copied their work elsewhere in the area and didn't take care in repaving over the trench, so now the road is crap to drive on as well (some genius decided right where your left tires go was a nice place to put a bumpy strip over the pipe). I suppose I could have it worse; rather than pay the subscription+zero volume for the capped off pipe in the basement, an uncle of mine out in Washington State is actually prohibited from using water other than city water. This includes rainwater cisterns, for when there's a storm and the crap public water stops.

Re:I just want some fiber (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293760)

Well, they do it here. Of course, our local water utility is semi-privatized...The city spun them off about 50 years ago, so they don't have access to imminent domain and have to play by the rules.

I'd kinda be interested to see how something like that would work out for fiber...Clearly don't want the federal government involved in it because they'll screw it up, but at the same time, the private companies will do what's best for themselves and to hell with the consumers.

In the article, the locals had attempted to do FTTP previously, and been intimidated out of it by SBC...They ran some seriously abusive push polls, "Do you want your tax dollars paying for your neighbor to get porn?" and "How many schools do you think will close because tax payers won't support both the school referendum and the fiber referendum?" and the local government caved. Still, local service utility co-ops work pretty well for this sort of thing. Too bad we don't see more of that.

so what? (4, Interesting)

hjf (703092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293222)

A little competition doesn't harm anyone. There was only one broadband (ADSL) provider here in my country (the largest monopoly). They charged whatever they wanted. One day they went too far (the infamous 4GB cap and $20 for the extra GB or fraction). What happened? Cable modem operators started operating in cities where they didn't provide service, with double the speed and no limits.

So, Telecom Argentina had to do something to keep their customers: They increased the speed 5x, kept the same price, and removed all kind of caps. That's just capitalism and competition in action. Yes, local cable operators want to "protect their investment", but most of these did that investment 10 years ago, and want to keep earning money without investing in newer stuff. So they go through the legal way in order to stop competition (or to buy a few more months). But, well, sooner or later they either do some spending or competition will eat them. It's just the way it is. It's everyting america stands for, right? Capitalism.

Big Business is against local power (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293270)

For all the talk from Republicans about "states rights", this is something they seem to have no belief in when it comes to cable television. Of course, with the DLC contingent of the Democrats coming to power, who knows if the Democrats will be any different. I'm quite sure we wouldn't have some of the public access television shows we have locally if those bills made much headway. Government then just hands over the rights to wire public streets with cable lines to some giant multinational monopoly. You can read about what has been going on this year here - here [hearusnow.org] .

Re:Big Business is against local power (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293412)

States, sure. But it is rediculous to let every town micro-govern every aspect of its community. All it results in is enormous duplication of bureaucracy so some townies can have their power trip. (Or more specifically, sell their 'rights' to the highest corporate bidder to fund their pet project, like making sure their son's team wins the state championship, or making sure that everybody on main street keeps their lawn mode to 1.75 inches OR ELSE).

If you knew how much that public access stuff cost, you'd probably wish the money went to something else. Now that we have the internet, it is absurd to spend 50-100 thousand dollars per town, per year for public access. Do you have any idea what that adds up to? It's over $15 million dollars a year in my state alone.

Re:Big Business is against local power (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293722)

If you knew how much that public access stuff cost, you'd probably wish the money went to something else. Now that we have the internet, it is absurd to spend 50-100 thousand dollars per town, per year for public access. Do you have any idea what that adds up to? It's over $15 million dollars a year in my state alone.
I remember something from my days of playing SimCity 3000. There was an ordinance you could pass, the "public access television" ordinance. All the strategy sites essentially said "This is intentionally a money-waster." Art imitates life.

Re:Big Business is against local power (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294088)

$15 million dollars a year for your state?

Holy smokes, batman!

Given that public access channels generally include the ONLY coverage of local politics, I really think that's a small price to pay.

Consider; across the ENTIRE US, that's $750 million. That's really not a large chunk of change to insure that _each_ and _every_ small community has broadcasting of it's internal politics. All of the other stuff, PBS, etc. . . are freebies.

Power should be devolved as much as possible. If it's responsible for landowners to manage their own property in some aspects, they should. Things that need to be managed by localities should be. Things that need to be managed by the states should be, and up until the federal government.

Efficiency is not the goal here; and besides, the Soviet Union demonstrated that continuous centralization != efficiency. And please don't hold up AT&T's Project Lightspeed as an example of the wired future. AT&T's Project Lightspeed makes the U.S.S.R. look efficient.

Re:Big Business is against local power (1)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294646)

Not to feed the troll we both replied to, but I'd have to say a lot more than $15 million per state goes into PEG programs. I know of several programs around the country that operate with budgets in the millions such as Washington State's public access channel for government video, and one program in Michigan that's particularly large. The budget for the program I work for is nowhere -near- these levels, but we're also new enough not to have any outside sponsors or supporters other than our franchise fee cut which should be settled this week. Some smaller states such as Maine might be under fifteen million, but any large state may well be multiples of that - though I wouldn't know where the funding came from in those particular cases.

If the cable companies are as stingy as the one here (Charter) has been, it's no surprise to me that the majority of PEG funds are outside the franchise fee system.

Re:Big Business is against local power (2, Interesting)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294614)

I'm an IT manager for a new Public Access entity in Nevada, and let me tell you something - it's a well-spent few thousand dollars per town. As recently as nine months ago, I didn't think public access was an important thing at all but that changed once I saw just how many people really rely on PEG (Public, Education, Government) access channels for a lot of local information and content. You don't watch public access, but grandma does and she's not exactly wired in with DSL nine times out of ten. As we're starting from the ground up, I have a pretty clear insight as to just how much this kind of operation can cost and how much it costs to maintain it and though I can't give you our budget numbers (we haven't had them approved yet, that happens this weekend) I can tell you that our program is going to be running on a shoestring compared to others that get far more than a million dollars per year in operating expenses and have accumulated hundreds of thousands in (highly depreciated) equipment.

Also keep in mind that the money that funds public access is considered part of the cable company's fee structure, and on the proposed agreement for our city (up for voting this week) it comes out to fifteen cents per monthly bill in charges that actually go to funding capital improvements and buildout to our Public Access program.

Now, what do communities get from public access?

In our city, we don't have network affiliates of our own, so our public access is the only way for people to see a community bulletin board and community events videos from groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Clubs, local youth sports, and of course all sorts of religious content for those people so inclined. In addition, we also broadcast city government meetings live and in reruns so city residents can stay informed even with just the most basic cable account.

Most PEG programs are non-profits under a 501(c)3 so we're not in it for the money.

Also, from the examples given in your posting I'd have to say you really don't know much about just what communities use PEG channels for. There may be cases where "townies" get a power trip, but for every case where someone's lawn is regulated to 1.75" (which is more of a homeowner's association nightmare than a local legislative one) you'll get ten major ones such as regulations on billboards and new building developments that actually draw huge crowds of interested viewers both on television and in the hearing room.

Public access television shows we have locally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293546)

The most of the "public access" tv we have around here amounts to little more than free advertising for the incumbent politcians. And the "municipal service charge" that most fail to notice on their cable bills is not insignificant.

Yadda yadda (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293278)

For those who don't want to RTFA, it's the usual mix of local politics, coupled with the regulatory snafu that's arising from the ever-decreasing "difference" between phone and cable companies.

Basically the phone company is doing a significant fiber upgrade, and trying to slip the whole "we're going to be doing tv soon" idea under the radar of the local people, who've already signed one of those craptastic cable monopoly agreements with comcast...The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question. To add insult to injury, the community just got over a nasty fight with SBC (now part of Verizon), over doing fiber-to-the-house on their own initiative.

It's all a load of crap at this point anyway. The damn regulation we're using to play phone and cable companies off against each other is hilariously dated, especially since they're all sending the same damn bits, and mostly sending them over the same damn wires!

We need a simple law to force wire sharing (so we don't end up with five times the amount of bandwidth we need going into every damn neighborhood), and maybe a standard connector for data cables, and we need to step back, and let them fight it out to the death. Forcing those jokers to compete is the only way we'll get decent service for a decent price.

Ooops (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293340)

Not Verizon, AT&T...Got my mergers confused.

Yadda yadda-Dump! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293420)

"The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question."

Nothing wrong with asthetics. Not that anyone has ever accused geeks of having taste.

"It's all a load of crap at this point anyway. The damn regulation we're using to play phone and cable companies off against each other is hilariously dated, especially since they're all sending the same damn bits, and mostly sending them over the same damn wires!"

It's not the bits, but who's indirectly and directly charging for those bits. And neither monopoly has control over the "same damn wires". Just the "last mile" part.

"We need a simple law to force wire sharing (so we don't end up with five times the amount of bandwidth we need going into every damn neighborhood), and maybe a standard connector for data cables, and we need to step back, and let them fight it out to the death."

Hush now. All the BT people need all the bandwith they can "borrow".

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293458)

We need a simple law to force wire sharing

Beware of creating temporal paradoxes by mentioning "simple" and "law" in the same sentence.

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293552)

Understood...The law governing it right now is far from simple, and includes wire sharing, and about a billion more things. If we deregulated them completely, the phone companies would use the fact that they control most of the fiber backbones to choke out the cable companies by not allowing them to use the wire. The cable companies would fight back by laying their own wire, and we'd end up with dozens of bit players and a completely ridiculous hodgepodge network of fiber.

I'd say the right way to get it done was to take it away from the private companies altogether, but what a nightmare that would be! We'd never get fiber! Basically what we need is an efficient, redundant and pervasive network, and while we're never going to get this from private industry, the public sector would screw it up hopelessly as well.

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

TommydCat (791543) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293470)

...(so we don't end up with five times the amount of bandwidth we need going into every damn neighborhood)...


I was with you all the way up to here... Too much bandwidth is just unpossible!

If it's not eventual migration to a new standard (e.g. high-definition was not even thought of when the original cable lines were run), increased numbers of communications-capable devices will start chewing through all the "extra" bandwidth no one needs (xbox, video phone, transmat pad, food replicators, etc.).

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293504)

So who pays to lay those wires?

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293628)

Originally it was the phone company, which is why we have wire sharing today. Cable has gotten big enough, however, that they could do their share.

Regardless, if there is money to be made by running wire to a place, someone will do it, and, in the interest of not having 5 sets of wire going to each house, companies should be allowed to purchase space on existing wires, from the company that ran the wire in the first place. You have to add in that stipulation, or the company that ran the wire will refuse to allow others to use it as well, resulting in multiple sets of wire.

This is perfectly normal for utilities. Rival gas companies use the same pipes, because it's stupid to double up if you don't need more capacity.

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

Enigma2175 (179646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17295390)

Or you can just have the city build the network [utopianet.org] and give equal access to all providers. This gives a level playing field to any provider that wants to take advantage of it. Comcast, AT&T and Qwest sure fought tooth and nail against it but in my locality we actually made it a reality. I have a 15 Mb data pipe (that's both down AND up, thank you very much!) that costs me about $30 per month. I haven't taken advantage of any of the television or telephone offerings yet, but they are there if I wish to do so.

Having a community-owned network guarantees that the providers can't just cherry-pick the wealthy customers as was described in TFA. The network is available to every home in each city that it serves. Data is becoming a valuable utility and I think that a public infrastructure is in everyone's best interests.

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 7 years ago | (#17298894)

Ideally it would be great for the city/county/state to run all the wires to your home and have open access for all providers, but I somehow doubt it would work out too well in most areas. The rich side of town won't want to pay for the hardware on the poor side of town, and getting together enough tax money to do major upgrades could take a decade. As someone else mentioned, one way to do it would be how many other utility companies work now (I know electricity in Maine does, not sure about other states), where one company owns the lines and several other companies do the generation. You then either have a separate item on your bill for the delivery, or the production company pays for access to the lines (either way works out about the same, it's just whether you see the exact amount on your bill or not).

Re:Yadda yadda (2, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299370)

and getting together enough tax money to do major upgrades could take a decade.
If the municipal network provider was able to have the municipality issue tax-free bonds on behalf of the network provider, it shouldn't be hard to raise money to perform significant upgrades, and the upgrades ought be cheaper this way than via a private entity borrowing money from a bank or issuing their own bonds (we'll ignore the broader issue of the "cost" of the bonds tax-exempt status).

What I think should happen, though, is that cities should build in some of the underground infrastructure -- cable tunnels, equipment vaults, perhaps even mandating a standard for house-to-street cabling connections the same way they do sewer and water connections -- and then require the utilities to use these facilities, but on an equal basis.

This way the big last-mile problem isn't so big anymore, since there's a pre-built and standard infrastructure in place for running wire.

Re:Yadda yadda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293804)

We need a simple law to force wire sharing

We had one that required telephone companies to lease their lines to competitors at cost. Then the capitalists whined about regulation, so it was deregulated away. Now anyone who wants to compete with the telephone company has to rent the lines with a markup just like consumers, and then if they want to make money, they have to mark those up more, making it impossible to compete on price.

Some still do it though. After being fed up with SBC's colossally inept service, my company looked for alternatives and switched to Covad DSL, despite it being $20/mo more than SBC's offering. Of course, this didn't stop SBC from "accidentally" canceling the phone line we had DSL on during a completely unrelated service order, but at least the Covad support team were able to re-activate our DSL by the end of the day. When screamed at for their error, SBC had promised rather uselessly to try and fast-track their line activation notice through to Covad "in a few days, instead of two weeks".

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294818)

The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question.

I'm not a yuppie, or affluent, or yard-obsessed. And I *still* wouldn't want one of those giant boxes on my property.

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

ehovland (2915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294900)

It's all a load of crap at this point anyway.

Here, here! The problem here is that both companies are competing for the same damn thing, data service to your house. The data might be voice, might be email/web or it might be video. But it is just bits. And FWIW, the stream goes down and up you shifty blighters!

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

prator (71051) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296462)

The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question.


I don't see how you have to be an affluent, yard-obsessed yuppy to not want a giant ugly telecom box in your yard.

http://origin.arstechnica.com/articles/culture/u-v erse.media/wheaton.jpg [arstechnica.com]

Re:Yadda yadda (1)

swb (14022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299470)

The upgrade also includes large beige junction boxes, which is causing the predictable uproar among the affluent, yard-obsessed yuppies who live in the suburb in question.
I like the collection of shibboleths, but doesn't living in the suburbs exclude you from being a Young Urban Professional?

I think "appearance-obsessesed bourgeoisie" is probably a better description.

And people think we have net nutrality already.... (3, Informative)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293284)

We're not moving away from net neutrality... We never had net neutrality. Neither from the providers, nor from the government.

Here is a case (and the same thing is happening with Verizon's FiOS) where a company has wires in place, and is sending data, but the local government won't let them send certain data (digitally encoded TV shows) without giving the municipality a cut of their total revenue. It's ridiculous. Worse, this cut of the money is passed directly on to consumers, but most consumers (voters) don't realize that their local government gets between three and six percent of the local cable TV revenues. It's a huge tax that people don't know is there, and that's why they are surprised when their local government doesn't allow a new competitor into the market. Well here's the reason: It's so the town/city continues to get a fat check every month.

Re:And people think we have net nutrality already. (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294134)

That's BS.

Those lines ostensibly belong to the teleco company, but exist by the good graces of the LOCAL governments. That land was taken from the local community for the greater good.

There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with local communities regulating what goes over essentially public property. In fact, I'd rather have localities controlling that then the federal government.

If AT&T wants to build a fancy new network without dealing with localities, all they have to do is secure their own rights of way from property owners. Build an entirely private network, and you don't have to deal with the local government.

But forcibly releasing locality control over public property to giant telecom companies? That's fascism.

Re:And people think we have net nutrality already. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17294210)

What does that have to do with net neutrality?

You've apparently bought into some random smokescreen interpretation of it, spread by either an idiot, or by a telco.

If you want to try and make an analogue between network neutrality and TV and the government, it would be like the FCC broadcasting interference on every channel except those that paid extra. They would receive a channel allocation where it would come through crystal clear. Any other channel could pay up at any time if they wanted crystal clear reception, yet everyone would be just fine if the FCC quit with the interference. After all, think of the internet now: when was the last time google was "slow" for you? Yet the ISPs insist that google needs to pay up or their traffic will be slow, yet the only way this threat has any bite is if the ISPs involved broadcast the interference themselves.

No, what you've got is the usual taxation and corruption.

OK, call me paranoid (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293390)

I can all too easily see my telco installing fiber to the curb all over the area with the wonderful promise of IPTV and blazing speed. Not that "no, thank you, I'll keep copper" will be an option.

Then when it happens (of course) DSL won't work, the only remaining "high-speed" connection will be a slice of fiber bandwidth, the only ISP you can get will be MSN, and the bandwidth slice if you don't want television will be 256 kb/s.

I've never seen a technological advance yet that Ma Bell hasn't tried to prevent, and I've been watching them fight a rearguard action against the 20th Century (no, that's not a mistake) for over 40 years.

Re:OK, call me paranoid (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297362)

What about the stuff from Bell Labs? Does that count?

Common carrier (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293438)

None of this would be an issue if AT&T was just selling BANDWIDTH. But, they're not. They plan on selling SERVICES as well, including television and telephone. Both of those are regulated by franchise agreements and AT&T is trying to do an end-run here.

I wonder if AT&T's U-Verse service will be tariffed? Will I be able to purchase that 20+ Mbps link as just an Internet link and without the additional TV & telephone services? Will they be required to make that band available to competitors?

  Charles
(Residing in one of those suburbs mentioned in the article.)

Nope, you won't get 20 Mbps. (1)

WebHostingGuy (825421) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294982)

No, the internet portion will be 6Mpbs down and 1Mbps up. The rest is reserved for TV. See https://uverse1.att.com/launchAMSS.do [att.com] and click on Internet.

Verizon, however, is offering 15Mbps/2Mbps.

When uverse comes to me the internet portion won't even match what I am getting from cable is offering (10/1) now.

Re:Nope, you won't get 20 Mbps. (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17295448)

Yeah, I know. I also read the fine print on how they won't unbundle Internet service and you HAVE to purchase television to get anything else.

If all they're offering is 1 Mbps up, they can count me out.

Franchise even needed? (2, Interesting)

theoriginalturtle (248717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293452)

AT&T and other phone providers don't seem to NEED a new "franchise agreement" from any local government because they pretty much already HAVE one and have had it ever since copper wires were laid in. It seems pointless, and fairly stupid actually, to demand that a change in the physical media from copper to fiber would demand some new operating agreement, oversight and (ahem) ***FRANCHISE FEES** with the local government. What we're talking about here is a change in content, not a change in the nature of the communications infrastructure. The local telcos have already had the rights to go bury copper cable all over suburbia, the fact that the new physical medium MIGHT be used to carry some new content is pretty much irrelevant, any more than the fact that phone lines could carry voice *but also* carry fax required any interaction with localities.

The issue is more likely that Comcast doesn't want the competition, never mind that they already HAVE it from systems that don't involve physical right-of-way, i.e., DirecTV.

Unrelated question, and obvious attempt to stir up conspiracy hounds: does anyone know if Comcast is subtly or overtly behind efforts to ban or restrict satellite dishes? Seems like there was a move in Boston to ban visible satellite dishes, largely in violation of FCC regs that don't generally permit localities to do so.

Re:Franchise even needed? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293524)

Unrelated question, and obvious attempt to stir up conspiracy hounds: does anyone know if Comcast is subtly or overtly behind efforts to ban or restrict satellite dishes? Seems like there was a move in Boston to ban visible satellite dishes, largely in violation of FCC regs that don't generally permit localities to do so.

Comcast pays a percentage of its revenues to the licensing municipality. Satellite TV providers don't. Comcast doesn't have to put pressure on the local governments. The local governments want the extra cash enough on their own to push this trash.

Re:Franchise even needed? (2, Informative)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293964)

AT&T and other phone providers don't seem to NEED a new "franchise agreement" from any local government because they pretty much already HAVE one and have had it ever since copper wires were laid in.

We're talking about a video franchise agreement. Since AT&T was not previously selling video services, they don't have one.

Re:Franchise even needed? (1)

theoriginalturtle (248717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17295342)

But what I'm saying is, what difference does it make what signal the carrier puts out over their already-franchised lines? Is it within the purview of localities to tell a carrier what type of signal or data they carry, to whom, and how? I haven't lived anywhere that had that specific a franchise agreement because frankly, most places I've lived, local officials were nowhere near as sharp as the franchisees' lawyers and technicians!

I see no functional difference between telephones carrying voices, fax data, computer dial-up signals, or any other type of IP traffic. Therefore, I see no reason why any carrier should need to obtain a redundant franchise agreement. In a situation where anytime they chose to use existing technology in a new way, they had to go back to some dorkwad local county commission or city franchising board, telecommunications technology could never advance faster than the local yokels' ability to flap their jaws about it. This is why the FCC has oversight over carriers, and not, primarily, local entities.

AT&T already has rights to put the phone lines and DSL out there... the fact that that IP traffic might now carry old episodes of "Murder She Wrote" instead of your gramma's emails is irrelevant.

Re:Franchise even needed? (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 7 years ago | (#17298942)

Here's a Boston Globe article [boston.com] . Basically they just wanted the dishes moved to the backs of buildings and out of site from the streets.

Can't have it both ways (1)

Phillup (317168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293492)

Rob Biederman tells Ars that AT&T's IPTV system is "neither cable, nor is it a telecommunications service."
and

AT&T planned to upgrade its network in Geneva and said that the city could of course conduct zoning oversight of the process, but could not halt it (cities cannot stop ordinary network upgrades).
On the one hand he seems to be saying this is something "new" that doesn't fall under existing laws. On the other hand, he says it is a network "upgrade".

Seems to me an "upgrade" would be to an existing network that was regulated by existing laws...

Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (4, Insightful)

Incongruity (70416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293494)

Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but I really think this story is an excellent example of the high quality journalism that is popping up at arstechnica. This is a very real issue that may well effect a huge number of people and it's good to see an informed, well written bit of investigative journalism coming from a new(ish) source. (read: not the old-media). Bravo to all the folks over at Arstechnica!

Re:Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (1)

massysett (910130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294368)

Quality journalism, right. From the same source that, when faced with the Sony rootkit, said that LAME is an MP3 player [arstechnica.com] .

If this were not a tech news site I would have excused an error like that. From a site like Ars it is not excusable. And it hasn't even been corrected, even though a year has passed and comments indicated the error.

Re:Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (1)

Incongruity (70416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296344)

Um, yeah, they say " LAME, an MP3 encoder and player" So, first and foremost it's an encoder, even by their description. Second, if you have to resort to cherrypicking an example from over a year ago about a small, ancillary detail (again, they correctly stated that it's an MP3 encoder, first), then you're kinda proving my point. Lastly, I'm sure that if you bothered to look, almost any other news-source, particularly in the old-media, has as much if not more of a track record of mistakes with technical (as in specific) details. But hey, you're bothered by it? That's cool, don't read ars.

Re:Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (1)

massysett (910130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296456)

Naa, News.com gets its facts straight. Plus, a technical detail is hardly "ancillary" for a technical website written for a technical audience. And I cherrypicked that example because I haven't read Ars in over a year due to that error and many others.

Re:Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (1)

Incongruity (70416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296716)

Plus, a technical detail is hardly "ancillary" for a technical website By that logic, any incorrect detail, no matter how tangential, in any article would invalidate everything else they did say. And, while sweeping indictments of that sort are sometimes a handy way of winning the opinion of the masses -- lawyers and politicians are frequent users of such tactics, and they work, even if they're not really right. If you bother to read the story you're citing, you'd see that, for that story and the point they're making, saying that LAME is also an MP3 player (after correctly stating that it's an encoder) is, in fact, an unimportant detail (mistake or not) inasmuch as that mistake doesn't alter the main point of the story -- if they simply said "The software, developed by British software firm First4Internet, was found to contain source code from the open-source project LAME" and left it at that, the story wouldn't have been lacking. You're right, it is a mistake, but it's not the crucial, story invalidating mistake you seem to take it to be -- it ends up being more telling that you're hung up on that extraneous detail in a single story and that you're not willing to base your statements on recent pieces, such as the one referenced here in this story. You admit that you stopped reading Ars over a year ago. Right there you disqualified yourself as someone who could comment on recent quality, in your own words. I'm all for getting facts straight and you're right, it's a mistake that shouldn't have been made, but failing to see the quality of the majority of the pieces, especially the longer/more substantial write-ups and the overall ability of ars' writers to distill complex issues into understandable, yet technical explanations makes them worthy of praise. I read news.com as well, but they're different beasts and it's pretty clear you're not interested in seeing the difference. Your loss.

Re:Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297372)

According to lame.sf.net, they called it that because it started off as a patch to the reference encoder from the MPEG standard. It eventually became a full-blown encoder once all the code was replaced. So yes, LAME is an MP3 encoder; they just used the GNU acronym joke.

Re:Arstechnica: New Media, Good Ol' Journalism... (1)

CuriousGeorge113 (47122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296568)

Your post actually convinced me to do something I almost never do with a slashdot posting .... read the article.

fiber for all (1)

maulakai (1040966) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293554)

I just got fiber to replace my DSL and I couldn't be happier. IMHO, the laws should favor the consumers, making it easier for them to recieve and use the latest technologies.

I thought Verizon was IPTV (1)

boomerny (670029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293580)

Verizon just ran fiber to my community and is pushing their new TV services which I thought was IPTV, but this article says it's not?

Re:I thought Verizon was IPTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293688)

Verizon actually has agreements with some cities to push their iptv service.

Re:I thought Verizon was IPTV (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293924)

FIOS TV is old-fashioned RF over fiber.

Re:I thought Verizon was IPTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17294292)

...and is thus compatible with current digital service devices, after a little media conversion. Verizon's FIOS is fully CableCard and digital-tuner compatible, meaning your new TV (or new Media Center PC w/tuner card, TiVo, etc) doesn't need anything new or fancy to access the coax running out of the converter. IPTV is *NOT* compatible, and requires device lock-in with conversion boxes.

Re:I thought Verizon was IPTV (2, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294732)

Verizon's FIOS is fully CableCard and digital-tuner compatible, meaning your new TV (or new Media Center PC w/tuner card, TiVo, etc) doesn't need anything new or fancy to access the coax running out of the converter. IPTV is *NOT* compatible, and requires device lock-in with conversion boxes.

I can find precious little on the lo-layer specifications of FiOS, however, it appears to be IPTV. They may build in the converter box to the outside of the house to convert it back to something that "old" boxes can recognize, but from what I can tell, from the head end to the home, it is all IP. It sounds to me like the "we aren't a cellular company" chant from them being a cellular company but trying to get their cellular service to be called something else for differentiation. Just because they complain they they aren't "cellular" doesn't mean that they are, in fact, not cellular. Just because they make up some FiOS name for their particular IPTV product does not make it anything other than IPTV.

Why should AT&T be exempt.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293878)

..if companies such as Surewest [surewest.com] are signing franchise [surw.com] agreements [bizjournals.com] . They also offer the exact same service in Sacramento, as well as other areas in the region (Elk Grove, Natomas, etc). If they are in direct competition with companies such as AT&T, why the hell should AT&T be exempt from franchise agreements? I understand that AT&T probably does not plan on running fiber in Northern California central valley region, but some of these same rules should apply from one market to the next. I believe that the CPUC considers a specific class of provider as "Broadband Overbuilders", and they are under the same restrictions as Cable Providers. The FCC needs to strike down on companies like AT&T and make them pay like everyone else.

Re:Why should AT&T be exempt.. (1)

Incongruity (70416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294152)

What I love is that they argue that they should be exempt from any sort of local regulation/control and yet lobby hard to regulate and restrict local municipalities from competing with them (by running their own fiber networks). Pure and simple, this is a contradiction.

Re:Why should AT&T be exempt.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17294846)

Let's just boycott them for a couple months, and see how they like not having the money at all. The problem is, they have spoon fed us for so many years with their service, that it is hard to ween off of it. The same thing is happening in Oil (energy). If we all started moving towards the scooters, hybrids, and low emission vehicles, the oil companies would eventually either lowering the price to where it should be, or they would risk going out of business. We can't just keep letting the corporations run the country, but then again, I don't really like Bush trying to run it either.

No reply from ATA yet.... (1)

BarnabyWilde (948425) | more than 7 years ago | (#17294896)

I wrote ATA (see article) early today asking if they accepted money from AT&T (they claim to be a grassroots advocacy group, "anti-cable").

No answer.

Hmmmmm.....

(The article was EXCELLENT, btw)
BWilde

Cable is over-regulated (1)

RimfireShooter (749073) | more than 7 years ago | (#17295114)

With all the hundreds or thousands of individual franchise agreements its a wonder there is any cometition at all in any one particular city. The fix is a state wide uniform franchise agreement as recently passed (but yet unsigned) in Michigan

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2005-2006/ billenrolled/House/pdf/2006-HNB-6456.pdf [mi.gov]
The "Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act".

AN ACT to provide for uniform video service local franchises; to promote competition in providing video services in this state; to ensure local control of rights-of-way; to provide for fees payable to local units of government; to provide for local programming; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain state and local agencies and officials; and to provide for penalties. ....

It sets statewide franchsise fees and rules and removed all the local political bullshit and graff.

Re:Cable is over-regulated (1)

locokamil (850008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296022)

I believe New Jersey also passed such a franchise agreement for FiOS a couple of months back.

The Usual Slashdot Ignorance (2, Insightful)

doctorcisco (815096) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296080)

Only a very few of the first 70 posts show any understanding at all of what's involved. I live in the western Chicago suburbs. Here's the deal.

1) AT&T wants to deploy fiber which will carry the triple play everyone's been drooling over for the last 10 years: Video, Phone, and Internet on one bill.

2) Comcast just got done with a very expensive infrastructure buildout in the last 3-4 years in my city, so that their network could deliver triple play services. Before that, large parts of the city could get NO broadband service at all, except from some (necessarily expensive) wireless ISP's that sprang up or $125+/mo IDSL at a whopping 144 kbps.

3) Comcast, by the franchise agreement, must serve all homes in the city or none. It's the ONLY consumer-friendly provision of the franchise agreement, IMO. So they were required to run the upgraded infrastructure to ALL parts of the city. We have an older downtown full of lower-income, mostly Hispanic residents, and newer, higher-income subdivisions. Guess which residents are very profitable to serve? Guess which residents would be left in the digital dark ages if Comcast weren't bound by the franchise agreement?

4) AT&T wants it both ways. They want to compete with Comcast. But they refuse to be bound by the ONLY consumer-friendly part of the franchise agreement -- serve everyone, or serve no one.

5) They also claim the right to drop their ugly green boxes wherever they want. Comcast doesn't get to do that.

Comcast sucks -- it's expensive, and their internet service blows compared to top-of-the-line DSL, let alone FIOS. But at least everyone can get service, and at least there aren't butt-ugly 5' dark-green steel cubes for Comcast all over the place. AT&T is fighting in court for the right not to serve everyone, and to put their butt-ugly, way too big green boxes wherever they want.

The moral of the story: Not all super-highspeed-broadband rollouts are good. Some of us here don't want AT&T ramming their accountant-driven priorities down our communities' throats because it's for our own good. "Our" own good is defined as "any household that is most likely to be most profitable for AT&T, and to hell with the rest. Oh yeah, and aren't those 5' dark green steel cubes really attractive?"

doctorcisco

Fiber - only for the rich... (2, Interesting)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 7 years ago | (#17296092)

The entire point of a franchise agreement is equal coverage for all residents of a town. Here's the deal: if cable companies want to sell into a city or town, they must meet certain service and coverage requirements. Without these franchise agreements, these new fiber services will only be deployed to rich towns (or rich PARTS of towns).

Look at the FIOS roll-out. Verizon says they are not equipped to handle "multi-dwelling" units. So they deploy FIOS to single family properties. If you live in an apartment or town-house - too bad. They can do this because most towns stupidly think it is a "data" service, and do not require a TV franchise.

I have standard copper pairs and coax cable in my townhome, why would a strand of fiber be more difficult to install than either of those?

I'll tell you why. Single-family properties tend to be owned by people with more money than those who own/rent townhomes and apartments, so Verizon uses the excuse that "multi-dwelling" units are too difficult to deploy.

I hate all these companies. They will only deploy service to rich people where they can make HUGE margins and screw all the rest.

We need municipal fiber and we need it now.

-ted

Re:Fiber - only for the rich... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17296890)

Actually, as someone who works for a FTTH company, you have it totally backwards w/r/t the multi vs single family issues. We're trying like hell to do MDU projects, but the equipment to do it just isn't available/mature yet. There are a lot of issues with FTTH in an MDU setting, mostly related to the local power requirements. When you start looking at townhomes, smaller condos, etc, you have to have a common source of power for the ONTs from the building, that the building owner or condo association will let you use (and most smaller ones don't have house/common area meters), or you have to run power cable into each unit (and you can only use up to 50' of cable), and have a whole wall full of single family ONTs on the side of the building. It just doesn't work. If you look at the demographics, MDU residents are some of the most profitable customers to have, more so than single-family, so you can bet everyone is working on a solution that will work.

Re:Fiber - only for the rich... (1)

Dravik (699631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297494)

Why is it a good idea to force companies to sell a product in an area that isn't very profitable? If there is a demand then someone will be willing to sell the service to the poor areas unless there is no way to cover costs. I just don't see the advantage of the franchise agreements except to ensure everyone has equally bad service.

Re:Fiber - only for the rich... (1)

mwmcginn (1041610) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299032)

Isnt this like saying that a company should offer the most expensive services in areas that arent able to buy expensive things. Anyway. Like saying that Blue Ray DVD players need to be accessible for all? I am on the Att side, and I think the following shows that they are not trying to hurt anyone. Have you heard about anything like this with cable? http://www.statesman.com/search/content/news/stori es/local/12/17/17internet.html [statesman.com] By the way, my cable rates go up next year. I think we could stand a little competition in my area

AT&T like a horror movie (1)

winningham.2 (666628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17297080)

After reading the article it seems weird to me the plight of AT&T. They had the world at their fingertips then suffered the backlash before being written off.

Now they are trying to upgrade their network and get back in the game. The only problem is, we all want to hate them again because of the same old monopoly fears.

Well I hate to say it but that is how business has been done throughout time. If a business wants to be successful it has to keep re-inventing and evolving itself. AT&T are trying to do just that on the infrastructure side of things, but the client services side of it all needs to evolve as well.

Until recently I lived in rural Wyoming with little or no choice in broadband service. In fact I didn't even have a provider when living in western Wyoming. Don't even get me started on the prices and reliability. The overall problem is "economy of scale", so to speak but also the local commissioners desire to keep the low-tech, 20th century way of life.

Now I am living just outside a town in Ohio with some 100,000+ people within 15 mile radius and I have exactly one (1) broadband provider charging $50/mth for shoddy service. If I wanted to switch to DSL, VerizonWireless package, or satellite the letters I would have to associate myself with would be S.O.L.

So if AT&T want to come in and install a huge network to give me choice, I'm all for it. I know their ROI will be good enough without the gouging IPTV or telephone service (who still uses landlines anyways). I just want a value-choice, more reliable coverage, and better speed. I won't need their mickey-mouse customer service if it all works right and looks good.

Give the consumers a chance with more choice, and if you don't want the triple-pay deal then just tune out. You'll have choices.

Where does PEG TV fit in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17298900)

I hear a lot of arguments about franchise and competition here.

The corporate mainstream media already controls 99% of everything you receive as news,
where does Public Access and PEG (Public Educational and Governmental) TV come in?

Is this a plan to just kill Public Access?
Will they going to allow Public Access on their fiber?

You stupid people are more concerned about your fucking cable and telco bill you
don't step back to see the bigger picture of all the information you are being
denied.

Oh but I guess who cares what the government does, as long as you have your
football and beer.

Dumb motherfuckers!
WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

You already lost the 4,5,6,7,8th amendment, You giving up your 1st amendment TOO?!

Dumb motherfuckers!
WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

Re:Where does PEG TV fit in? (1)

mwmcginn (1041610) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299380)

Are you crazy? Do you really sit around and watch public access tv? The internet has changed the world. Most of the information is available online, on demand. If there was demand for access to what you talk about, dont you think that someone would be providing it without having someone legislating that the people who buy the service pay for something that is free online? Is it really "public access" if you have to have cable to get it?

Teleco Bill (1)

neuromancer2701 (875843) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299116)

Here in Northern VA specifically the City of Alexandria, the broadband service is horrible. The main issue is that Comcast is the only provider. The City of Alexandria and the county of Fairfax are two different municipalities. Comcast is in Alex and Cox is in Fairfax. but there are not in each other's territory because that means they would have to compete with each other so they just don't apply for that license(sounds like collusion). Back the problem, I live in an old apartment(1940s) and Verizon DSL does not work because of the wire quality. I eagerly await the day when I can tell Comcast that I am dumping them for anyone else hopefully FIOS but I doubt that.

One of the aspects of the much maligned telco bill is that any company can apply for a national tv license instead of having to go to every municipality. Cable companies are running commericals says that it will put people(their workers) out on the street and that the created the industry from nothing so they deserve to have it the way it is. Shouldn't this be an opportunity for the Cable companies to expanded as well, as opposed to just protecting their island. I know that the telcos are not any better in the vast scheme of things but having the two monopolies duke it out has to be better than just being forced to be hostage to one company. I just want the options.

Question: With ABC and other channels allowing free viewing of Lost and other shows(on the web), couldn't the Cable companies sue for unfair advantage even though it could be over DSL?

Consider demanding Net Neutrality (1)

Conficio (832978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17299322)

I believe that the local permitting process is the best level in government to demand a Net Neutrality clause. What do you think?

Could a Net Neutrality debate on the local level make sense? More sense then federally in Congress? I think it is really there where communities ca assert their rights and Interests.
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