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Bill Would Reverse Bans On Municipal Broadband

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the everybody-wants-in-on-the-act dept.

The Internet 157

Yuppie writes "A bill introduced to the House this week would overturn bans that currently exist in several states that forbid cities and towns building and deploying their own broadband networks. The big telecoms may not be be too happy about the bill, however: 'The telecoms have historically argued that municipalities that own and operate — or even build and lease — broadband networks could give themselves preferential treatment. The Act anticipates that argument with a section on "competition neutrality." Public providers would be banned from giving themselves any "regulatory preference," which should create a level playing field for all broadband providers. Municipalities interested in getting into the broadband business would also have to solicit feedback from the private sector on planned deployments.' The full text of the bill (pdf) is available from Rep. Boucher's website."

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preferential treatment (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111365)

"'The telecoms have historically argued that municipalities that own and operate -- or even build and lease -- broadband networks could give themselves preferential treatment"

how the FUCK is that any different to what telecoms do NOW? i bet at&t give themselfs preferential treatment on lines they install to. what a bunch of 2 faced cockheads.

Re:preferential treatment (3, Insightful)

Divebus (860563) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111417)

Well, SOMEONE has to give the telecoms some competition, if nothing else to keep them from raping the public. The U.S. is already the laughingstock of the planet for how behind our telephone systems and ISPs are. It used to be the other way around - the U.S. telephone system under AT&T was the best in the world (for what it was). Now everyone else is running rings around us with bandwidth and features while the U.S. telecoms are artificially limiting what they deliver. Go Munies!

Re:preferential treatment (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20112019)

You mean, free local calls and virtually 100% uptime? Cheaper long-distance than anywhere else in the world? A wide variety of options in Long Distance carriers, a largely unregulated market for VoIP? Most of Europe requires address confirmation for Skype-In, for instance, or doesn't even have the option.

What exactly was better about phone service under the AT&T monopoly? It was before my time, but its reputation was for shit.

Actually, ATT had a GREAT rep (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112921)

Before the break-up, ATT had about as good uptime as what we see today. In fact, the vast majority of that infrastructure was becasue of ATT. As such, ATT was able to solve problems quickly. Now, if you go into a CO, you will see wires in disarray due to the fact that they have to allow other companies (verizon, etc) in, and those companies do not care about the mess. If the connections drop, they just blame the clec.

As to the 100% uptime, we are nowhere near as good as it use to be. In particular, when a drop occurs, it takes MUCH longer to get service.

Re:preferential treatment (1)

Divebus (860563) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113723)

If you see any European or Asian over the age of 45 on the phone, they usually shout. We never had to do that here in the States during the AT&T era. I lived in Germany for three years during that time and traveled around Europe a bit. When I came back, it was clear our phone system was better than anything I had seen or heard in Europe. Also lived in Korea for a year during that time and had to use their phone system. It was simply horrible. Now... it's not. Most of Europe and Asia have an infrastructure much newer than the States and the service quality reflects that. For the rest, I'm talking about Internet access and how the current consumer bandwidth offerings in the States, as delivered by telcos and cable systems, is laughable when compared to many other places in the world. For cell phone service, I'd prefer to buy a phone and attach it to any carrier I want. You can mostly do that in Europe and Asia, just not here in the States. How about the cell phone as payment device? It's pervasive in many places but mostly just talked about in the States. A host of other features just never made it here.

WHAAAAAT? (1)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113961)

YEAH...I'M AT THE SUPERMARKET

If you see any European or Asian over the age of 45 on the phone, they usually shout. We never had to do that here in the States during the AT&T era
Why is it then, that when you see most Americans on the phone in a public place, they are usually shouting? Not to mention that if they have a hands-free, they think that they need to look everyone around them directly in the eye.

Screw this (2, Insightful)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113649)

Why don't we go ahead and put all goods and services in the hands of the government, because everything would be cheaper, right? Because they're not operating for a profit? I don't want to pay for your broadband, or anyone else's, with my tax dollars. Nor do I want my Internet regulated by those who brought us the PATRIOT act, the DMV, and the IRS. The government is terrible at managing cost-effective solutions to anything because they're spending other people's money. Take this million-dollar outhouse, for example: http://www.jldr.com/oh1mill.html [jldr.com] . "The whole project is loaded with Park Service overhead. The agency already has spent $860,000 for design and construction supervision teams. In all, the job could end up costing taxpayers more than $6 million." It's a four-holer outhouse with no running water. The worst argument for municipal broadband that I've heard is that it helps the poor who can't afford Internet access. I suppose we'll be buying them laptops with WiFi, too. The people that benefit most from municipal broadband are the people that can afford it but don't want to pay. If you want Internet access, pay for it. It's a luxury item that didn't exist in the public's perception fifteen short years ago. Don't levy taxes on the poor who can't afford or need a MySpace page so you can read Slashdot for free.

Re:Screw this (3, Informative)

Enigma2175 (179646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113913)

The problem is that the municipalities are granting monopolies on last-mile transport to private enterprise instead of handling it themselves. If I have to pay Comcast or Qwest for my connection, they insist that they make a profit off of it. However, if my city owns the network all they demand is that they break even on it. My current connection is 15 Mb/s symmetrical fiber. It costs me about $36/mo. Previously I was paying Comcast $45-$50/mo for a 3Mb/512Kb connection. Yes, it cost the city some money to lay the fiber but now that it is installed the maintenance is fairly cheap and EVERY house in the city has a connection to the network. There are multiple service providers for data, phone and TV so there is no monopoly pricing, if you don't like your current provider you can switch. You can rant about government pork, but the local government generally does a better job of controlling overhead and grift than the federal. You are criticizing hypothetical networks but I am sitting on a real one and from my perspective, it is sweet. I am getting way better speeds at a lower price than I was before. Yes, some of my tax dollars had to be used to build the network, but with the monthly cost savings I am coming out ahead. I am generally not for expanded government but where it comes to natural monopolies like utilities and roads, sometimes government does a better job than business.

Re:preferential treatment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111425)

I guess it is that obvious. Wasn't the recent issue over google bidding billions on the new wireless spectrum auction, contingent partially on the requirement for open access of devices and mandatory wholesale pricing to other carriers/competitors? I'm presuming this is meaning non-preferential pricing. Which of course the FCC said no too...

When I read the summary I was a little happy. Like oh yeah finally some competition (if the bill gets passed). I've worked for 3 telecoms. And not much pisses me off more than the phone company. Well, now the oil industry reaping record profits and forcing us all to Ben Dover etc. but those other politics aside, this is a biggie.

Re:preferential treatment (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111537)



So the customer is essentially the municipality? And the proposed law essentially says they're not allowed to do things for themself at any amount of cost that is better than getting someone else to do it? Even though there would inherently be less cost as there's no profit skimming overhead? Is that right?

I suppose it's better than the existing law if that just says you can't do anything for yourself.

What's the difference? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111539)

how the FUCK is that any different to what telecoms do NOW?
The difference is that you have the choice not to pay for the service.
 

Re:What's the difference? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111719)

Well, if you don't vote for your city's government, you are paying for far more expensive projects that you didn't choose to support. As for WiFi, the tax is likely to be dramatically less than at least $60/month that Comcast charges for Internet access.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111787)

The difference is that you have the choice not to pay for the service.
You are not required to live in an area covered by municipal WiFi.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

Wordsmith (183749) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113695)

Taxed too high by your state? You are not required to live in that state. Don't like the Bush administration's policies You are not required to live in America.

That's a weak argument. The government is the sovereign power, and as such must use its power responsibly. If a policy's bad, telling people they don't have to live in an area run by that government isn't a particularly practical solution; the onus is on the government to do a good job, not on the governed to shop around jurisdictions.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112535)

that depends on how they run it - there's plenty of government services out there that taxes dont' pay for and the consumer pays for directly.

Re:preferential treatment (3, Informative)

Cathbard (954906) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111701)

As an ex long term telco employee I can confirm that telco's give preferential treatment to corporate "strategic partners" (collusion anybody?) that would boggle your mind. These corporate discounts could never be matched by a municipality due to the scale involved. The amount of pocket pissing that goes on would make your stomach turn but when a telce does it it is is simply called standard business practices. How is a council giving preferential treatment to their customers any different?

Bill Would Reverse Bans on Municipal Broadband (1)

timrichardson (450256) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111957)

I thought Bill was retiring.

Re:preferential treatment (2, Interesting)

thanatos_x (1086171) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113015)

With respect, insightful? Yes, it is true that the telecoms do give themselves preferential treatment, but such an ill-formed comment. Yes, the fact that we pay more for ten plus times less is very very sad, but this isn't digg... Vocabulary. A more elegant weapon for a more civilized time. See also capitalization.

"... FUCK ... cockheads ..." (0, Offtopic)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113503)

I've seen some robust language on this site, but I don't remember such concentration of it getting moderated to such levels (5 Insightful ATM).

One developmentally-challenged dimwit (timmarhy) could happen, but where did the 3-4 others come from to mod him up?

OMG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111383)

I unconciously read "Bill [Gates] Would Reverse Bans ..." and now I'm a little bit scared.

Re:OMG! (1)

Divebus (860563) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111453)

Did the same thing! Ack!

Personally, I'm in favor of our Muicipal Overlords. I don't think they'll out-deliver the telcos but they'll provide reasonable, level baseline service. Right now, we live in an equivalent world of Coca Cola delivering water to our houses (at whatever prices containing whatever stimulants which make us thirsty) and the Munies trying to provide an alternative.

Oh noes! (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111385)

The telecoms are worried!? Price drops anyone?

Re:Oh noes! (3, Funny)

Adriax (746043) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111769)

Price drops? Hell no, 10% across the board price jump to cover "losses due to unfair/unconstitutional competition" and add an extra year to contract lock-ins.

Commie! (5, Funny)

gowen (141411) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111387)

Goddamn activist legislators preventing ordinary Americans being price gouged by ISPs.

Don't they know that that's SOCIALISM? And SOCIALISM is not just automatically bad, but Anti-American(TM) even when its not.

what type of "regulatory preference"? (2, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111405)

If an ISP decided it would be cool to allow uncapped transfer over their network (ie, no cost of switching to another ISP), would that be considered preference?

Re:what type of "regulatory preference"? (1)

Yokaze (70883) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111593)

No, the question is not so much, what they do with their net. The point is, that municipalities could provide special laws or regulations only for their provider. Say, they don't need to pay a certain fee, or only part of it, or they would be allowed to hang the wires at poles, while other companies are not. Or the municipalities services are made required to use the local provider.

Re:what type of "regulatory preference"? (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111671)

Regulatory preference of the sort the USPS enjoys over UPS, FedEx, and DHL, I imagine.

Re:what type of "regulatory preference"? (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112051)

Typically this kind of regulatory preference comes with certain extra demands. As I recall, he USPS is the only carrier allowed to take first class mail but they trade off for this is that they are required to provide equal cost delivery for everyone. Here in the UK, Royal Mail deliveries in rural Scotland are subsidised by the cost of stamps in England. The price of a stamp is set at close to an average delivery cost. If you used an unregulated private carrier, then they would charge you more for sending something from London to Scotland than to another part of London.

The rationale behind this kind of regulation is that communication is vital economic infrastructure, and the flat rate fees make the country as a whole more competitive. When the post office was in charge of telecommunications, they were required to connect a certain percentage of the population each year. A private telecoms company could have just gone after the ones that gave the biggest ROI. This is happening now; you have a lot more options for broadband in Central London, where the population is densest, than in many other areas.

Cherry Picking.... (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113885)

Most telcom/broadband suppliers do this in the US. RCN's entire business plan was built around it. The US population is scattered in such a way that close to 75% of the population lives in just 20% of the landmass (Boston - DC & Seattle - LA corridors). One of the biggest things the telcos are fighting is that the municipalities are trying to require that they don't cherry pick who gets the service. AT&T has gone after several Illinois municipalities that are caught between regulations saying they have to provide equitable access to utilities in the municipality & other regulations saying they can't stop 'network improvememnts'.

Thus the telcos are saying that they are doing a network improvement when they are building out for IPTV and are not subject to the laws about buildout requirements that the cable companies are. Thus they claim that they can cherry pick the wealthiest 10% of the municipality & can ignore the rest - while the cable companies are required to do full buildouts.

Sounds like... (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111407)

The Telecoms want net neutrality to only apply to them.

Not just big telecoms (4, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111409)

The big telecoms may not be be too happy about the bill, however

I really have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, it'd be nice to actually get something cool like this for my tax dollars. On the other, I definitely don't want to see my city out-compete our wonderful local ISPs. If/when they became the only game in down, what's their incentive to maintain the networks? Will Joe Cityadmin give a rat's butt if I call to complain about an outage? And above all else, do I really want the government (even the friendly local variety) being my gateway to the Internet? I have nightmares of hearing a prosecuting attorney saying something like "our city access records indicate you posted anti-government statements to a communist website called Dotslash." Maybe that's unlikely, but tell me honestly you can't hear a mayor explaining how his city's network will be "a safe place for our children to play thanks to our new monitoring and filtering system" to thunderous applause. If there's a vibrant ecosystem of private competition in an area, great. If not...

Help me out here. Do I root for the cities to undercut big telco (whom I customarily hate on general principles), or for private enterprise to win out over the government's desire to protect me from myself?

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111465)

The economically sound solution is for government to subsidize companies that meet certain standards. Good internet serves the common good, so correct the positive externality. Or something like that, its been a while since I took econ.

Re:Not just big telecoms (2, Insightful)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111643)

I don't know if you're trying to be sarcastic or not. It sounds like you think that the government should simply regulate ISPs. I've never taken any econ. classes, but all you have to do is look around to see that government regulating private industry gives you the worst of both worlds (government providing something as a public service vs. taking a hands off approach and letting the market work itself out). For example, right now most cities provide your sewer/garbage collection as a social service, and the fees are usually pretty reasonable because they are determined by elected officials. On the other hand, they leave retail services up to the private sector, which also results in pretty reasonable costs because of competition. But when the government heavily regulates a privately owned industry, each side can blame the other as prices go up and service degrades. It's a perfect symbiotic relationship where the politicians stay in office and the tycoons keep making money.

The problem with socialism vs. capitalism is that compromise seldom works. You have to decide which things are best left to government to provide, and which things are best left to the private sector.

As far as internet goes, I think it's too early to decide. Let's let those cities that want to, provide it as a public service, and those cities that don't, leave it up to private industry. After a few years we should start to see which works better.

Re:Not just big telecoms (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111795)

It's quite simple actually: Whenever there is a practically undividable resource, regulation is necessary if the government doesn't manage the resource completely. You can't have three competing roads from A to B and you can't allow one private entity to freely exploit a monopoly on getting from A to B. The situation is similar with last mile network access. Multiple competing metropolitan and wide area networks are economically feasible, but the free market tends to leave people with only one choice for last mile access (or two by companies which are not in the same primary market). Regulating equal access to the last mile has proved quite successful in the EU, which started out with government owned telcos.

Re:Not just big telecoms (5, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111485)

what's their incentive to maintain the networks?
The same thing that's their incentive to maintain all the other things local government provides: did the municiapal fire department become lazy because they've driven the private fire brigades of the 19th century out of business? Contrary to what they seem to teach in US schools, the profit motive is not the sole force for good in the known universe.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111525)

The same thing that's their incentive to maintain all the other things local government provides

The desire to grow the tax base?

God help us all.

Fire departments, police, and roads aren't inherently competitive activities. There are some things that make a lot of sense to roll under the government roof. Telecom is extremely competitive, though, and I think that's good for us.

Let me illustrate another facet: my local government is currently trying to force us to approve a bond issue to pay for a new water park that no one really seems to want. They're doing this by deliberately allowing the municipal swimming pools to deteriorate until we give in and approve it. Furthermore, they're flat-out lying about how much it would cost to repair those three pools (quoting $5 million for three 25m pools, all currently open and in use). I am 100% positive I could have someone to build a brand new 25m pool in my currently pool-less back yard for less than $1.67 million.

Now, I have absolutely no faith in their ability not to turn a city-owned broadband system into a total debacle. Sure, we have good fire department. Yes, our policemen are great. Our roads are even reasonably decent. But when it comes to building out and managing quality-of-life infrastructure, our local government sucks badly. That seems to be mostly true in the places I've lived.

Mod Parent Funny (2, Funny)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112073)

Telecom is extremely competitive

You owe me a new keyboard.

Mart

Re:Not just big telecoms (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111535)

The same thing that's their incentive to maintain all the other things local government provides: did the municiapal fire department become lazy because they've driven the private fire brigades of the 19th century out of business? Contrary to what they seem to teach in US schools, the profit motive is not the sole force for good in the known universe.

Absolutely. I really get tired of the unquestioned assumption that businesses will be more responsive to their customers than governments will to their citizens. The fact of the matter is, once a business gets over a certain size -- and the big telcos definitely fit into this category -- they don't give a shit what Joe Consumer thinks, because they don't have to. They're omnipresent, and if one or ten or a thousand customers get tired of their lousy service, tough; they'll never notice the losses, and the customers either have no choice (as is usually the case with telcos, of course) or the "choice" of dealing with some other megacorporation that's just as bad (as is the case with cell phone companies.) Personally, I'd expect a lot better service from a city-owned ISP than from some Not-So-Baby-Bell that's headquartered halfway across the country and has most of its employees halfway around the world, and makes more money in a week than my city council spends in a year.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111931)

"I really get tired of the unquestioned assumption that businesses will be more responsive to their customers than governments will to their citizens"

So I take it you've never dealt with the IRS, DMV, EPA, or most other government agencies that people have deal with on a regular basis. Even ATT is more customer oriented, and it's just about the worst the private sector has to offer.

"Personally, I'd expect a lot better service from a city-owned ISP than from some Not-So-Baby-Bell that's headquartered halfway across the country and has most of its employees halfway around the world, and makes more money in a week than my city council spends in a year."

Well, that's probably because you don't have a lot of experience dealing with underfunded, understaffed, municipal services.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113031)

So I take it you've never dealt with the IRS, DMV, EPA, or most other government agencies that people have deal with on a regular basis.

I have dealt with the first two plus the USDA, and while their policies may be completely bonkers, I have never received rude or condescending service, and have been able to receive meaningful follow-through with my concerns. Cingular... er... AT&T, on the other hand, has been pretty consistently awful.

Even ATT is more customer oriented, and it's just about the worst the private sector has to offer.

"Just about?" I can think of five national companies in five seconds who have been considerably more painful to deal with, in my experience: Wachovia, Bank of America, Countrywide Home Lending, Home Depot, and Circuit City.

I'm still shocked that you could fit "AT&T" into the same sentence as "customer oriented."

Well, that's probably because you don't have a lot of experience dealing with underfunded, understaffed, municipal services.

Perhaps this person is not unfortunate enough to live in areas with undersupported municipal services. In my experience, towns that suffer this problem are getting exactly what they ask for (generally not including towns that are just too poor to support anything.) People invite bad local government in two ways (at least): They can try to get it on the cheap, or they can pay a lot of money without having the will or interest to hold politicians accountable.

Everyone grumbles about their local government, but there are definitely instances of good local government. The difference I've observed in areas with good governance is the accompaniment of this grumbling with specific, informed demands of accountability, rather than general invectives against "those bastards" from folks who often can't name any of their city council members.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113541)

So I take it you've never dealt with the IRS, DMV, EPA, or most other government agencies that people have deal with on a regular basis.... Well, that's probably because you don't have a lot of experience dealing with underfunded, understaffed, municipal services.
I like how you disingenuously list huge federal/state bureaucracies which have the same size/distance problems the OP cited for large telecom megacorps in a discussion about municipal government. I live in Los Angles, which has as disgustingly bloated and stupid a city government as you'll find anywhere, and still they run rings around Veterans Affairs, Social Security, and the IRS. Even with the city department of Building and Safety, which has a terrible reputation for sloth and ineptitude, I've been able to resolve issues in a timely manner because the people involved are here, where I can badger them at my convenience. Ever try badgering the VA? It doesn't work at all. If you're lucky, you can get the attention of your congressperson, and they might be able to get your issue addressed, but don't count on it.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

David Hume (200499) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111553)

what's their incentive to maintain the networks?

The same thing that's their incentive to maintain all the other things local government provides: did the municiapal fire department become lazy because they've driven the private fire brigades of the 19th century out of business? Contrary to what they seem to teach in US schools, the profit motive is not the sole force for good in the known universe.
Yes, like they've done such a good job maintaining bridges [myway.com] . It is not like they have anything more important to do [myway.com] .

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113609)

Yes, like they've done such a good job maintaining bridges [myway.com] . It is not like they have anything more important to do [myway.com] .
Bridge inspection, repair, and maintenance is handled by the state and federal governments, fucktard.

Bridges, for instance. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112149)

The same thing that's their incentive to maintain all the other things local government provides
The reason the politicians want to provide you with WiFI is because it will buy your vote. In 5 years when the technology is outdated and expensive to maintain, it will be an entirely different matter where it's simply another cost to the taxpayer whether they want it or not.

Fire departments are a bad analogy, they are required by law to maintain a certain level of service because fire spreads.
 

Re:Bridges, for instance. (1)

jsebrech (525647) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113341)

Fire departments are a bad analogy, they are required by law to maintain a certain level of service because fire spreads.

That's the worst "that's a bad analogy" I've ever heard. It's a perfect analogy because you can mandate that the telco service provided by the government has minimum standards of service.

Re:Not just big telecoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20112695)

The same thing that's their incentive to maintain all the other things local government provides

What you list are what we pay the government for: protection from each other and from disasters.

Providing wifi service so people can surf at coffee shops isn't one of the things that a local government should be providing, they should concentrate on police, homelessness, and roads.

What criteria is used to decide that the local government should get involved in becoming an ISP? Why shouldn't they also get involved in making coffee? There's a lot of people that need coffee in the morning.

Also I'm waiting to find out what happens the first time someone downloads child porn while on a city wifi. They'll have to install a proxy server to catch these predators. Oh wait that means they also have a record of what everyone's surfing for. How long till that is leaked?

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

jsebrech (525647) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113409)

What criteria is used to decide that the local government should get involved in becoming an ISP? Why shouldn't they also get involved in making coffee? There's a lot of people that need coffee in the morning.

Government should be involved in everything that is a natural monopoly, either by regulating it so that it has artifically induced competition (my preferred solution), or by doing it outright. The notion that everything is better if privatized and unregulated is absolutely silly, because the worst places in the world are places with exactly that situation (parts of africa, areas with civil war, ...). It's economy 101: if something is easily monopolized, it will be, and private monopolies are ALWAYS bad for the customer.

Re:Not just big telecoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20113651)

Government should be involved in everything that is a natural monopoly

Who decides what a natural monopoly is? The mayor whose brother is running a struggling scrap recycling plant?

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111527)

If/when they became the only game in down, what's their incentive to maintain the networks?

If/when they became the only garbage collector in town, what's their incentive to maintain the waste disposal trucks?
If/when they became the only road repairer in town, what's their incentive to maintain roads?
If/when they became the only etc, etc,etc...

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111561)

Yeah, I'm not a fan of the municipal broadband for the reasons that you stated. From what I've seen monopolies pretty much always such whether it is a corporate or government monopoly. Having the government provide subsidized service is the quickest way I know to kill competition and consoledate broadband providers even more than they already are.

So if my city was proposing something along those lines I would definitely be against it. At the same time, if a community does decide to provide broadband then that is their prerogative to do so. Hell, if they want to go so far as to try and create a perfect little socialistic community, they are welcome to try. I won't live there. The fact that the federal government is stepping in to "defend" these telcoms against the big bad local governments, is absolutely ridiculous, even if the bill isn't completely onesided.

This is purely regional matter that has nothing to do with fundamental human rights, just different ideas about the best way to manage local infrastructure, and the feds should keep their noses out it.

Re:Not just big telecoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111761)

In order to allow competition, municipal broadband should only be allowed in the form of local infrastructure projects, without Internet service. Anyone who wants to provide Internet service should get equal access to the local infrastructure. This way the barrier to entry is lowered so that even small local ISPs can offer service to the whole area, and no service provider can hold the last mile hostage. Infrastructure reliability is much more easily evaluated than service quality. This setup would also free the municipality from dealing with customer service requests, a thing that they're notoriously bad at.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111905)

Although it's true that government can be quite lazy at times, we do have the advantage of living in a slightly democratic society, where local officials can be held accountable for how the government operates under their control.

Private monopolistic utilities are often much harder to control, and at the very worst are criminally negligent. Con Edison in New York City is commonly cited as being an example of this, where they profit greatly, yet return almost no money back to their crumbling infrastructure. The giant steam explosion from a few weeks ago and the massive Queens blackout last summer support this theory. In both incidents, they more or less got off the hook completely for it.

I should note that the 2004 election doesn't particularly support my theory of a functioning democracy in America, nor does the fact that Bush's approval rating is still in the double-digits.
 

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Grim Beefer (946632) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112183)

You're of course forgetting that ISPs, especially local ones, are already pressured to bow to governmental wishes. All broadband networks must give access to the NSA, if so requested. This includes web logs, e-mail transcripts, and general wiretapping privileges. You're also forgetting that a major reason a city municipality would want to institute their own broadband network is to remedy the woeful service being provided by unaccountable private ISPs, not necessarily just to undercut their prices. The article mentions three cities in particular, New Orleans, Seattle, and Philadelphia, where major ISPs refuse to lay more fiber, but also refuse to allow the cities to do such things themselves. This also comes after the fact that the infrastructure of the internet, like roads, phone lines, and railroad tracks before it, is heavily or entirely subsidized by the government in the first place. If you have no one else to turn to, what would you do if you're dissatisfied with your service? Personally, I'd be far more concerned about a private teleco becoming the only game in town as opposed to our government. A government agency is only going to allow as much intrusion into privacy as we, the people of a democratic nation, allow it to. It's just as foreseeable, given your example of a filtering service, to see federal law banning just such a policy. It all really depends on what we do.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112465)

Help me out here. Do I root for the cities to undercut big telco (whom I customarily hate on general principles), or for private enterprise to win out over the government's desire to protect me from myself?

Personally, the Ron Paul supporter in me says that the Federal government should have no authority to tell the ISP, state, or local governments what they can or cannot do.

If the local governments wish to have their own municipal ISP then I can justify that because there is nothing in federal constitution that would prohibit such behavior. It would be up to the locals to decide if they wanted the issue passed under their own municipal legislation.

(On a side note, this is why the Federal Government needs to give more power to state and local governments simply because a single private citizen is more likely to get a law or issue passed in his/her local or state government than it is in the Federal government which in turns gives more power to the individual rather than say people with lots of money and lobbyists)

At the same time, I don't believe the ISPs should be forced to do business in that town if they don't want to.

So yes... You can be a libertarian and still support municipal ISPs.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113139)

If the local governments wish to have their own municipal ISP then I can justify that because there is nothing in federal constitution that would prohibit such behavior.

I totally agree with that. If this were a new federal project, I'd be pretty well apoplectic by now. I'm OK with cities deciding for themselves; if a particular region wants to be entirely free enterprise and another wants fully-funded government services, that's their right.

So yes... You can be a libertarian and still support municipal ISPs.

Here's the problem: I fully support your municipal ISP, assuming you want one. I'm not sure that I'd support having my own municipal ISP, though, and I haven't heard enough about the track records of such projects to know how they tend to work out.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113217)

Personally, the Ron Paul supporter in me says that the Federal government should have no authority to tell the ISP, state, or local governments what they can or cannot do.


Should the federal government have the authority to tell state or local governments that they can't discriminate against blacks? That they must perform a trial by jury? etc...

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113671)

Should the federal government have the authority to tell state or local governments that they can't discriminate against blacks? That they must perform a trial by jury? etc...

Yes because it is in the constitution:

XIV Amendment [wikipedia.org]

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113895)

Well you just said the federal government should have no authority to tell locals what they can and cannot do.

Re:Not just big telecoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20113325)

You are perfectly describing the "race to the bottom". When businesses shop around for a good place to create jobs they have an unfair advantage in negotiations with state or municipal governments in pressuring them to pass laws such as the no municipal broadband law which may not be in their best interest.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

tronbradia (961235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113195)

The nice thing about municipalities though, is unlike things done by the federal government, or to a lesser extent the state government, it's real easy to vote with your feet. Municipalities have to compete with each other. If you don't like the way Seattle runs things, it's real easy to move to Bellevue (will be especially once they build the stupid train across Lake Washington so you wouldn't have to slog across the 520 everyday). But if the state has a policy you don't like, you'd have to probably get a transfer or a new job to get away, and if the US government did something you didn't like, you'd have to file your Canadian immigration papers and start waiting. My point is only, that municipalities are more like private companies. They have to compete. They know this, and that's why the City of Tacoma has advertisements up in Seatac airport.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113255)

And above all else, do I really want the government (even the friendly local variety) being my gateway to the Internet? I have nightmares of hearing a prosecuting attorney saying something like "our city access records indicate you posted anti-government statements to a communist website called Dotslash." Maybe that's unlikely, but tell me honestly you can't hear a mayor explaining how his city's network will be "a safe place for our children to play thanks to our new monitoring and filtering system" to thunderous applause.


You're forgetting something: the only reason any private ISP can exist at all is because of a government-granted right of way to run cable wherever they need to, across public and private property.

If the government passes some law or prosecutes someone to suppress speech (as it has before), a private ISP won't be immune to that... unless it has an army to defend itself with.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113345)

You're forgetting something: the only reason any private ISP can exist at all is because of a government-granted right of way to run cable wherever they need to, across public and private property.

For the record, there are still ISPs that don't own their own last mile. Since my DSL runs over Qwest's copper, and Qwest is unlikely to passively allow anyone to tell them they can't run copper to my door, I'm not terribly worried about that.

If the government passes some law or prosecutes someone to suppress speech (as it has before), a private ISP won't be immune to that... unless it has an army to defend itself with.

The difference is the legal route should the city decide to enforce filtering:

  1. Private ISP: No. Until a judge says we have to comply (and good luck with that), we're not going to.
  2. City-owned ISP: OK. Until a judge says we can't comply (and good luck with that), we're going to.

There's a lot to be said for separation of powers.

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

wakingrufus (904726) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113333)

I have no doubt that this would happen in my city. They tried to put fingerprint logins for public library computer access to "catch people who use them to find porn".

Re:Not just big telecoms (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113641)

If/when they became the only game in down, what's their incentive to maintain the networks?
I work as a locksmith for the second largest school district in the country. For lock repairs and installations, we are the "only game in town" for 1200+ schools. We do a good job because we are skilled professionals who take pride in doing our jobs well. For every story you hear about a lazy government worker who shirks his duties, there are a hundred other workers who are conscientious and diligent because that's how decent people do their jobs.

Not really a problem (2, Insightful)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111413)

As long as it's not paid for by the tax-payer I don't see the problem. Otherwise it's just a waste.

Re:Not really a problem (1)

medeii (472309) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111605)

How exactly do you expect a municipal Internet service to be paid for, if not with taxes? Or are you one of those people who expects governments to deliver services paid for by fairy dust and wishes?

Re:Not really a problem (2, Insightful)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111709)

I suppose he means that while the municipality does own and run the service, it charges for it and the charges go to keeping it maintained.

Re:Not really a problem (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112079)

It would require an initial investment, which would have to come either from taxes, or from a private finance initiative. A compromise might be a good idea; allow local businesses and residence associations to fund some of the development in exchange for being in the first connected areas.

Then there's the matter of running costs. This could be done by selling advertising space, although I'm not a huge fan of the concept. It could also be done by offering a premium service. There are a few options for this. The free service could be bandwidth-limited, and people who wanted more could pay for it (either with a subscription, or on a one-off basis). Alternatively, it could be free for non-commercial use, and companies could pay a fee to use it.

If the aim is widely deployed broadband, it seems that a better solution would be making it illegal to ban reselling of bandwidth bought from an ISP. That would allow anyone to run an access point for general use. Then all you need is a WAP that routes all traffic from unknown hosts directly to the Internet. A city could sell these cheaply (buy a load, sell them at close to wholesale) and have decent coverage up quickly.

Re:Not really a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20113743)

what's wrong with it being paid with tax dollars? we pay for roads, the post office, public schools, public parks, libraries, court system, police stations, fire stations, etc. all with our tax dollars. or do you just want the benefits of these shared public services without helping to shoulder the costs.

Bans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111415)

I can't believe such a ban exists in the first place! This is exactly the kind of crap that is helping the telcos. and the cable companies hold broadband hostage in the U.S. It's no wonder why we've fallen so far behind.

Preferential Treatment (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111443)

Wait, you mean municipal broadband will give preferential treatment for its own service? The one run by an elected entity, representing the people they serve? The one that won't be profit seeking (other than providing nominal tax dollars to fund other services)? The one whose pricing, serving level, and whatnot would be controlled by the citizenry at the city council level? HOLY COW BATMAN!

I don't see a SIGN UP button on the article, damn...

Re:Preferential Treatment (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111529)

representing the people they serve? The one that won't be profit seeking (other than providing nominal tax dollars to fund other services)? The one whose pricing, serving level, and whatnot would be controlled by the citizenry at the city council level?
You must be new.

 

Heaven Forbid.. (3, Interesting)

sieb (749103) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111495)

municipalities get fed up at the empty promises the Telco's give them about getting them wired, and how they can't make money if the municipality does it themselves.. Given how the Telco's already squandered the millions of dollars that were supposed to be used for upgrading broadband, I would be in favor of locking out Telco's all together. Like hell I am going to pay for my city to upgrade its broadband only to hand it over to a corporation to get neutered, all the while they [the telco] will complain that "this setup sucks, if you had let us install it as we promised, it would have been better!"

Re:Heaven Forbid.. (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113357)

If your local government entered into a contract with your local telecom to develop services like higher-speed broadband for your citizens, with tax dollars, and your telecom failed to do that, surely the contract had penalties spelled out for that eventuality? If those penalties were insufficient or nonexistent, that's your community's fault.

Something else to consider is developing municipal broadband infrastructure with tax dollars, but contracting out the maintenance and management of that to a telecom. That way they're not really "in competition" and the contract could be equally profitable for both sides.

You could even hire the local telecom to do the actual build-out, with the understanding that it would be owned by the municipality. If the telecom can't get favorable terms, they don't have to enter into the contract to do the work.

If you're worried that the telecom is going to do shitty work or sabotage the system, there are things like "inspections" and "licenses" that work well in other industries. Have an independent party verify that things were built properly, have network plans be approved by the municipality before they're implemented, etc.

I say let municipalities and states alike have the flexibility to do whatever it is that they want in this regard. The federal government has no business sticking its nose here. If a state wants to enter into some sort of agreement with a telecom headquartered there, and that agreement means that municipalities shouldn't be allowed to do their own thing, but in return, the state gets discounted broadband, universal coverage, and more jobs, that might be a perfectly reasonable thing for that state to do. If its citizens don't like it, they need to make themselves heard. But even so, it might actually be a good agreement for the state. You don't know that. We need to try to look past our anti-telecom bias here and not automatically assume that everything they do is evil.

Usually people on Slashdot are all about democracy, but they fail to realize that a strong federal government, from the state's perspective, is the anti-democracy. It's overriding what are effectively the desires of a sovereign state. If there was a valid reason for this ban on bans to be applied at the federal level, that might be OK, but just because you can justify the law under the Commerce Clause doesn't mean it's the right thing to do at the federal level.

Correct me if I'm wrong... (5, Insightful)

Elyscape (882517) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111551)

So, if I understand this properly, the telecoms don't want municipalities to give themselves "preferential treatment". That makes sense.

Wait a second. Are these the same telecoms that want to be able to sell "preferential treatment" at the detriment of everyone else? As a matter of fact, I think they are.

The only possible conclusion I can draw from this is as follows: it's okay for large companies to fuck people over, but governments damn well better... not. Or something.
What the telecoms need to realize is that the governments have been fucking us over for centuries, if not longer, to the point that they've nearly perfected it to a (very perverse) form of art. The telecoms can't hope to compete, though that doesn't seem to be stopping them.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Insightful)

Winckle (870180) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111911)

I love the use of language, when they do it, it's because they cannot maintain "network neutrality", when someone does it to them, they are being hurt by "preferential treatment".

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

abertoll (460221) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113947)

Of course... the media pretends to be retarded in the name of "neutrality." No one really believes that there's any merit to what the companies are saying. And if there were, why not deal with that problem when we get to it? I love the argument that "this MIGHT cause that, so we better not." I don't think we can pass laws (or not passed them) based on anything that has the remote possibility of happening.

It's a sad day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111559)

when the government has to ask permission of private business to do anything. :(
Municipalities interested in getting into the broadband business would also have to solicit feedback from the private sector on planned deployments.

Clean bill (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111589)

Of course the incumbent monopolies don't want competition from municipalities! They know their current services are miserable, that we don't have any other choice, and that there are a lot of well run, responsive, municipal utilities out there!

I live where I can choose between one of two local telco monopolies for bad Internet service: the phone company or the cable company. They don't really compete. Businesses have to go with DSL to get a static IP address and the privilege of running any servers. Home users go with the cable company because they already have cable television and the download speeds are marginally faster. Neither company has any connection whatsoever to the community, aside from extracting subscription fees and demanding cable right of ways. Both are widely despised.

In contrast, our local publicly owned water and electric utilities are responsive, provide excellent service, have a focus on low rates, and actively solicit community input, and (oddly enough) are widely respected.

If the water and electrical utility would provide the same sort of community oriented service for Internet that it now provides for water and electricity, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

There is, in fact, nothing to stop them from doing so right now. I live where there are no laws banning municipally owned data networks. But that brings me to this bill: although it would explicitly allow such networks, when I read the Slashdot summary my first concern was about the kinds of requirements it places on the municipalities. For example, soliciting input from local businesses (which might be served by such a utility) would make good business sense, but requiring discussions with the ILEC and cable company would seem silly. Fortunately the bill looks very clean and merely appears to mandate community involvement -- which is appropriate for a community network.

I strongly recommend reading the bill. It easy to understand and only takes a minute.

By the way: I see little reason to regulate publicly owned utilities any differently than the existing monopolies.

Of course what I'd really like to see are the physical lines condemned and handed over to local government with the provision they allow any service provider who meets appropriate qualifications sell services over those lines. But since that won't happen, and would be a bit thorny in practice anyway, this bill seems like a reasonable step in the right direction.

In the long run, the only thing that's going to materially improve high speed Internet service for most of us is some interest by the Congress and President in improving the situation. As it is, without competition, without any prodding from the powers that be, and given the practicalities of constructing new networks, the monopolies see no reason to improve and it's too risky for anyone else. So here's hoping for more active government motivation against the problem come 2008.

postal roads? (2, Insightful)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111615)

Ya know, I keep thinking about the Constitution's mandate to build postal roads, and I'm still having trouble understanding why the national government is not the primary interstate ISP, and why the state and local governments are not the primary state and local ISPs.

I understand the dangers in letting the government bureaucracy develop cutting edge tech, but, if the state is always so bad with infrastructure tech, why aren't more bridges falling down every year?

joudanzuki, with reservations

Re:postal roads? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20111731)

Ya know, I keep thinking about the Constitution's mandate to build postal roads, and I'm still having trouble understanding why the national government is not the primary interstate ISP, and why the state and local governments are not the primary state and local ISPs.
Well, the US government generally didn't build the railroads in the US, nor does the government own the rail lines today. Private companies are pretty good at building and operating this kind of infrastructure if the government gives them appropriate incentives and keeps them under a good level of regulation.

Of course, the railroads kind of crapped out during the 1960s and 1970s, but that's because they were now competing against the interstate highway system... which was a competition they had no chance of winning, because the government has arbitrarily deep pockets.

Un-Constitutional? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111953)

I don't believe the Congress is granted the authority to write laws regulating state treatment of municipal ISPs (I don't see how you could possibly try to shoe-horn this into "regulating inter-state commerce").

Re:Un-Constitutional? (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112003)

*shrug* They shoe-horned the banning of marijuana into it.

Re:Un-Constitutional? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112087)

If you buy things over the Internet, they are often shipped from a different state. Thus, the Internet is used for interstate commerce. Therefore, anything connected to the Internet is interstate commerce.

When it's time to draft Constitution 2.0, that clause needs some serious rewording.

Re:Un-Constitutional? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20112799)

constitutional or not, it's a matter of balance: FCC/Congress already made state and local utility commissions toothless:

    removing most regulatory power from local franchise authorities (after cable
    companies were safely protected as de facto monopolies)

    preventing state commissions from doing much to regulate DSL (a local service if
    there ever was one)

    making it difficult for locales to protect their skylines from cell towers, etc.

allowing municipal broadband (i.e., prohibiting prohibitions) might restore a little
balance in local control of local communications

Re:Un-Constitutional? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113079)

I don't believe the Congress is granted the authority to write laws regulating state treatment of municipal ISPs (I don't see how you could possibly try to shoe-horn this into "regulating inter-state commerce").

There are a lot that of laws being written by congress that actually step on the agreement of separation between the responsibilities of state and country.

It's a good thing (2, Interesting)

Odonian (730378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20111959)

Our internet service comes from our light department. Our town has no cable, and DSL covers only about half the town due to it's size. Last year the municipal light dept rolled out WiMax. It's not perfect, but it's damn better than dial-up. Before they went ahead though they had to write a letter to Verizon to get permission to enter the market, presumably due to this law or fear of it. Fortunately Verizon said yes (our town has only 1500 or so homes in it, so they probably didn't care - too busy rolling Fios out to people who already have broadband I guess) If Verizon had said no for some reason though, my phone line would be busy right now, and I probably wouldn't have loaded this article yet. So yes it's a good thing for competition in existing broadband markets, but it may also encourage other frightened municipalities from providing missing service.

Deregulated in many parts of Europe (2, Informative)

DELNI-AA (1132369) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112027)

Interesting that the US is taking a rather regulation-friendly route! In Sweden, anyone can apply to each local municipality to pull your own fiber - and I have never heard anyone being denied that. In rural areas aswell as cities, many municipalities have pulled their own fibers in order to give their areas a improved competitive edge when any of the main telcos have not been up to the task quick enough. The business model many have choosen is a completely open one; the offer to lease dark fibers, wavelenghts on lit fibers, and in many cases all the way up to the IP level. And yes, they will give themselves preferential treatments by connecting schools, administrations and hospitals to a well working, high-capacity network at competitive cost -. a service level that would not have been available to them otherwise. Many individual networks are interconnected, forming regional gigabit networks. Facilities for co-location of equipment is generally also on offer. I believe most Telcos has seen this as an opportunity since it gives the access to more infrastructure at lower risk of investment. I woud attribute the high broadband penetration and low costs in Sweden partly to this de-regulation. According to recent figures 97% of the households can have at least DSL access and about 20% have a fiber to their home.

Municipal broadband works well in Sweden (5, Insightful)

SwedishPenguin (1035756) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112043)

Here in Stockholm, there is a city owned company called Stokab, they build and own fibers to city owned apartment buildings as well as coop/condo buildings that sign a contract with the company. This company only owns and maintains the fibers, another company, called OpenNet, operates the fiber network. The actual services are provided by private companies, who are allowed equal access to the network. I have a choice between about 8 ISP's (with speeds between 10 and 100 Mbps both downstream and upstream, costing about 300 SEK (32/$45)/month for 100/100 Mbps), 4 VoIP providers, and (only) 2 TV providers, all operating over the fiber.

what about (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112053)

companies that build & operate toll road and highways? Do they have the same kind of power to regulate what elected governments do? say if a county wanted to build a new road from scratch would they need to consult various third parties beforehand and try to figure out a fair solution.. because free publically accessible roads means someone is not making a profit.. and that's not fair..

What ever happened to state's rights? (2, Interesting)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112503)

Which part of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to do this? Does the 10th amendment mean anything anymore?

Re:What ever happened to state's rights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20112897)

While you can easily hire lawyers to argue that the internet is not used in interstate commerce, it might be harder to find expert witnesses to testify to this. All a prosecuter would have to do is prove they _are_ experts and uh-oh.

Re:What ever happened to state's rights? (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112937)

We are so far down the track that I can not even see them slicing salami.

Re:What ever happened to state's rights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20112949)

Interstate Commerce, on one of the more straightforward uses of the clause. The Internet gets used for commerce across state borders, and forbidding states from blocking access to it can easily be seen as falling under the interstate commerce clause.

Which doesn't make this bill any less pointless. It would reverse bans on municipal internet services, placed by the very governments that would create them.

Re:What ever happened to state's rights? (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113173)

I hate the Commerce Clause. There should be an additional requirement that you should be able to justify why a bill should exist at the Federal layer with a straight face.

If a state really prides itself on the telecom companies that live within it, and maybe those telecom companies would give special discounts if they were the ones providing service to a municipality, it might be perfectly reasonable for that state to enact legislation that is perceived as a "ban" here. If it benefits their local telecom, then it benefits their local community, because lots of people there work for that telecom.

Of course, this makes no sense for other states that may not have those interests. But why prohibit it for everyone? Why do these "bans" exist in the first place? Because of corrupt politicians in the pockets of the telecoms? Or could there perhaps be more to these pieces of legislation, that, when understood, make the "bans" seem a little more reasonable? But I guess meddling in the affairs of lower governments, under the guise of doing something that, on its face, seems like a good thing, is all we care about? "Yay, they're really Getting Things Done in Congress! I'm going to vote to re-elect these guys!"

Re:What ever happened to state's rights? (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#20113293)

The internet and communications in general are channels for interstate commerce and interstate communication... should be managed by a federal agency. It would be like a state banning cities from building roads that link up to the interstate highway system in favor of only allowing private companies to build toll roads to do the same.

Still need some competition. (1)

domovoyny (178190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112627)

Either way this plays out, I hope there will be some incentive for the provider to keep up the quality, increase bandwidth as needed, etc. I cannot even imagine how frustrating it's going to be to have your internet go down for a week, and to have nothing but an answering machine to complain to. And what happens when the municipality claims that there is a budget crunch, and there is no money to improve coverage? Then we'll want the private provider to come back. There's something to be said for "you get what you pay for."

Mixed breed (2, Insightful)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112913)

I wager the future of public internet access will be a combined effort of private and public initiatives. Take for example the town of Brookline, MA [brookline.ma.us] , which recently implemented the nations first border-to-border wireless internet access system. It was an initiative based in the town, organized by the local government, but implemented by a private firm (Strix Systems I believe) to get a professional infrastructure in place. Although it's a pay service for most homes, public hotspots exist in parks, recreational areas, and some public housing. In short, with this bill I think we can at least look forward to more systems like this cropping up, which blur the line between municipal implementation and private enterprise. In the end, it means more choice for the consumer and more pervasive internet access for the people themselves.

Remember Wickard (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112939)

To my friends who see the blatant unconstitutionality of this act, remember Wickard.

A farmer named Wickard, in the 1950s I believe, was sued by the Federal Government for having commited the heinous crime of growing too much wheat. Here are the facts of the case, which are undisputed.

The farmer was growing more wheat than the statute permitted.
The wheat never sold.
The wheat never left the farm; it was fed to the cattle.

The Supreme Court of the United States determined that Mr. Wickard had indeed violated the law and that the law was constitutional. Why?

If Mr. Wickard had not grown the wheat, he MIGHT have bought it.
If he had bought it, it MIGHT have come from another state.
If it had come from another state, then it would be interstate commerce.
Therefore, Mr. Wickard engaged in interstate commerce.

"Legal reasoning" is an oxymoron.

Duh! (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 7 years ago | (#20112973)

Well first of all, I have a feeling the telecoms give themselves preferential treatment already. So STFU, AT&T.
Secondly - Good! Governments are supposed to give contracts to the lowest bidder. They're supposed to try to get the most out of our tax dollars. If they can save a few bucks from a government-run ISP, then good! They're spending enough of our money to build it, there better as hell be an upside to it. Because really, the government is paid for by the citizens, so them getting better access means we get better taxes. At least in theory. Once we pay off the massive construction costs.
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