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The $200 Billion Broadband Rip-Off

CmdrTaco posted about 7 years ago | from the where's-my-dsl-dangit dept.

The Internet 464

Jamie noted that Cringley has a piece about the US Broadband situation. He talks about where we were and where we are: 'not very fast, not very cheap Internet service that is hurting our ability to compete economically with the rest of the world' and about the $200B the phone companies got to make it that way.

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FIRST! (-1, Troll)

GoMMiX (748510) | about 7 years ago | (#20203207)

[insert goatse link]

Don't blame Canada (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203213)

I blame lack of competition. What's needed is laws that lower the entry barrier for ISPs.

Re:Don't blame Canada (5, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20203281)

It still costs a lot of money to string fiber up to every residence. Competition could, theoretically, actually impede development of such a network, since they're so expensive to build that you're only going to build it if you have a reasonable expectation of recouping you investment.

Not only that, but it's horribly inefficient for us to build multiple networks. There should be one physical network, and competition should exist on it.

The problem is that in most of the country (Everywhere non-Verizon), this network isn't being built. And in Verizon territory, there is no competition allowed. Worse, in some areas, inferior technology is being installed (FTTN, etc..) that will actually delay the possibility of anything but 7ish Mbit ADSL. Even worse, we paid for the fiber network, but we don't actually have it.

What is needed? We need some politicians with ethics who aren't in the pocket of the telcos to actually stand up and hold them to their promises. Either that, or we need the physical network to be a public utility. The former would be best for everybody, but it hardly seems likely... Everybody up the chain from the local town governments on up to the senate and even the executive branch is used to receiving their cut of what are essentially bribes from last-mile carriers (unscrutinized regressive taxes on citizens, really, funneled through telcos and cable-cos into local treasuries and national campaigns), and nobody is going to give the money back unless the voters hold them accountable. Most of the voters don't even know what's going on.

Re:Don't blame Canada (4, Insightful)

viniosity (592905) | about 7 years ago | (#20203475)

What is needed? We need some politicians with ethics who aren't in the pocket of the telcos to actually stand up and hold them to their promises.

Then end corporate personhood. In fact, why not write your Congressman about it today?

Re:Don't blame Canada (3, Insightful)

S.O.B. (136083) | about 7 years ago | (#20203549)

We need some politicians with ethics who aren't in the pocket of the telcos to actually stand up and hold them to their promises.


When it costs in the neighbourhood of $200 million to run a presidential campaign they're going to be in a number of pockets.

Re:Don't blame Canada (5, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about 7 years ago | (#20203915)

When it costs in the neighbourhood of $200 million

Well, it will do when you make the campaign season last over a freaking year. I always cringe around election time in the US. How much productivity and money is wasted in this regular orgy of popularity contests?

Go for the British model. Announce elections, campaign 5 weeks, over and done with.

Forget campaign finance laws and lobbying problems. Just drastically shortening the election season alone would make a huge postive difference in the US.

Re:Don't blame Canada (1)

kayditty (641006) | about 7 years ago | (#20203661)

Why would anyone run ADSL over fiber, when it's a copper technology? Actually, why would anyone run ADSL at all, since it's a completely ancient DSL technology? You'd think if they were going to use DSL at all (which barely makes sense), they'd update to something more recent like ADSL 2 (which I know nothing about). Finally, ADSL used to have a maximum of around 6 or 8 Mbps, but this has been extended (there are 12Mbps ADSL line cards, and possibly higher now, I think?). 6Mbps+ ADSL has been in wide use over copper for quite some time. Why, exactly, would there be such a low limit on DSL over fiber?

For new installations fiber is cheap (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 7 years ago | (#20203701)

What costs the most is stringing the wire. For new construction you have to string the wire, so omitting the fiber at the same time is negligent.

We need some politicians with ethics who aren't in the pocket of the telcos to actually stand up and hold them to their promises. Either that, or we need the physical network to be a public utility.

Congratulations! You have the right answer. Now what do we do?

Re:Don't blame Canada (1)

Heddahenrik (902008) | about 7 years ago | (#20203751)

"Not only that, but it's horribly inefficient for us to build multiple networks."

You are kidding us? It's way cheaper and much better to build three parallel fiber networks than letting one fat monopoly build one network.

As written before here: I, who live in Sweden, have cable-Internet, LAN (100 Mbit) and ADSL (from hundreds of companies) to select from at my apartment. But then we have a pretty free market here, and not the feudal system described in the article.

Re:Don't blame Canada (4, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#20203845)

we paid for the fiber network, but we don't actually have it.

Why do the congress critters need to hold the telcos responsible when we the customers can. As you pointed out, we paid for a service that was not delivered. That sounds like a giant class action lawsuit to me. Now if it were an individual person I think that it would qualify as fraud, and that person would face prison, but in this case the criminal is a corporation with corporate personhood. So how do you jail a corporation? Well jail is basically the loss of you freedoms to the state, so that is what we should do here and in other cases of corporate criminal activity, take away control from the those in control and give it to the state for the duration of the sentence. That would mean the stock shares are frozen and cannot vote, the upper management/board of directors is not paid or allowed accept new employment, and a state Warden will run the company with the sole goal of maximizing the public good through the companies line of business, shareholder profits or losses are not considered in state Wardens decision making process, only the maximum quality at best possible cost to the existing customers. Yes the executives and the shareholders will get screwed in this scenario, but they are the ones who's greed and poor decisions lead to the fraud in the first place.

I blame convolution... (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 years ago | (#20203717)

...of plant and service.

Personally, I'd rather have two bills - one for the physical layer (cables, swtiches, and maintenance) provided either by the government or pseudo-governmental corporation, and one or more for the data (of any kind - voice, video, internet). By segregating the two, you can allow local issues to be dealt with as a local problem, and offermake up funding for low-density where "the government" feels necessary (rural electric comes to mind as an example, if not the best one). For those afraid of government, realize that most areas run their own water and sewer, and do a fairly good job, on the whole. And I'm not saying it has to be government - a corporation can run the plant (under gov. supervision - any monopoly needs close oversight).

By separating the physical and the data, you can offer _real_ competition by local or national providers. Think of long distance telephone service - it's in a hell of a lot better shape (for the consumers and competitive pricing) than, say, local telephone or cell service (Verizon, anyone?). Most places don't even have the possibility of a competing high speed carrier because the physical plant operators can charge whatever they want for access, and as a result their services will always end up being more competitive.

Power would be nice this way, too. I already have the physical plant portion broken out on my bill with generation costs separate. By prohibiting the physical plant operators from having any financial interest in the service operators, there will be a more level footing - and more opportunity for competition.

Oh, in case you're curious, the incumebents know this, and would lobby to their deaths against any mandated separation.

more evidence (3, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | about 7 years ago | (#20203223)

This is just the latest piece of evidence for the case that completely unbridled market capitalism is not without flaws. The biggest shortcoming, in my opinion, is the inherent contradiction between what drives the market economy and how markets work:

Mainstream economic theory clearly states that free markets only work when they are both competitive and transparent, and yet, just as clearly, the profit motive drives companies to minimize both competition and transparency. Profit itself is therefore inherently at loggerheads with the two prerequisites of free markets. As competition and transparency decline, so does market efficiency, until at some point inefficiency yields to outright market failure. We already have market failure in many industries - oil, diamonds, OS and Office software, telecommunications - and now broadband too, it seems. It's funny this contradiction raises so few eyebrows...

Re:more evidence (2, Insightful)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 7 years ago | (#20203297)

It's funny this contradiction raises so few eyebrows...

Dogma is rarely questioned and when it is you get called a heretic/commie

Re:more evidence (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 7 years ago | (#20203307)

This is just the latest piece of evidence for the case that completely unbridled market capitalism is not without flaws.
Whether there are flaws in "unbridled market capitalism" or not, blaming it in this case is inappropriate, for this isn't a story of completely unbridled market capitalism! The story, and indeed the telecom industry in general, is positively fraught with government intervention and regulation. And though "The FCC was (and probably still is) managed for the benefit of the companies and their lobbyists, not for you and me," that makes it even less free-market, not more.

I know an economics professor, incidentally, who noted that regulations on trade are generally put in place by the rich and powerful and act to keep the little people down. This is a textbook example.

Re:more evidence (3, Informative)

Bombula (670389) | about 7 years ago | (#20203345)

While you're right, of course, about this being a story about government regulation, I don't see how that negates the contradiction I pointed out in my post. Without regulation, corporations would have even more leeway to stifle competition and transparency - examples of which abound, especially outside of western culture (example: the now richest guy in the world, the Mexican telecom magnate and his monopoly in Mexico).

Re:more evidence (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203493)

Well it negates your point because it's the same thing over and over. For every single example you'll pull up about supposed "unbridled capitalism" quashing competition you'll find that if you actually examine the details, the lack of competition is a direct result of government interference and regulation.

The same is true of Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecommunications guy you refer to, if you research what is behind his wealth, it's a direct result of a government sanctioned monopoly, no one could compete with him because it was literally against the law. (He built his empire under Telmex, the government sanctioned telephone monopoly and has since used that base to acquire other telecommunications companies in South America). That is your example of capitalism?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to dog on you. I think it's the general idea that government regulation is always for the benefit of the common citizen. Regulation is in and of itself neutral, it can be designed to benefit the commoner, but it can just as easily be designed to benefit the oligarch.

The government, through its threats of force or its failure to protect its citizens from the use of private force and enforce the rule of law (extortion, fraudulent contracts, thuggery and thievery) is the only entity that can hinder competition.

Re:more evidence (4, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203567)

Well it negates your point because it's the same thing over and over. For every single example you'll pull up about supposed "unbridled capitalism" quashing competition you'll find that if you actually examine the details, the lack of competition is a direct result of government interference and regulation.

The irony here is that, despite the heavy-handed government regulation, that's actually not true in telecommunications. The lack of competition would still exist without the regulation, because once one participant has built infrastructure, other participants will usually not find their return on building duplicate infrastructure to be worth the very intensive investment it would take. The regulation simply forestalls the natural solution to this problem: making the capital-intensive infrastructure a public utility and allowing providers to do the much less capital-intensive job of competing on the public infrastructure, which would still provide the benefits of competition to consumers.

Re:more evidence (4, Informative)

iminplaya (723125) | about 7 years ago | (#20203585)

...the Mexican telecom magnate and his monopoly in Mexico

A very heavily government protected monopoly. Hardly a case of "lack of regulation" I guarantee you. In fact it's a prime example for the libertarians to use against regulation. What we need is for the public to keep a close eye on how things are regulated and actually use their vote to weed out the crooks, otherwise it will only get worse.

Re:more evidence (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 7 years ago | (#20203753)

While you're right, of course, about this being a story about government regulation, I don't see how that negates the contradiction I pointed out in my post. Without regulation, corporations would have even more leeway to stifle competition and transparency - examples of which abound, especially outside of western culture (example: the now richest guy in the world, the Mexican telecom magnate and his monopoly in Mexico).
Hmm. Okay. I won't speak to that directly, but I'll offer a Milton Friedman quote that expresses a related sentiment:
"The two chief enemies of the free society or free enterprise are intellectuals on the one hand and businessmen on the other, for opposite reasons ... every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that's a different question. He's always the special case. He ought to get special privileges from the government, a tariff, this, that, and the other thing..."

Re:more evidence (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about 7 years ago | (#20203867)

is positively fraught with government intervention

You sure about that? TFA seemed more to point out how government basically abdicated most of their oversight duties simply because the telcos told 'em everything was just peachy.

And though "The FCC was (and probably still is) managed for the benefit of the companies and their lobbyists, not for you and me," that makes it even less free-market, not more.

I must need more coffee. How does that sentence even make sense?

Re:more evidence (1)

MPAB (1074440) | about 7 years ago | (#20203891)

Because if the government wasn't able to intervene the market in such ways, there would be no use for lobbysts and/or corruption in the first place.

Re:more evidence (4, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | about 7 years ago | (#20203311)

We in way shape or form have "completely unbridled market capitalism." Thats impossible when you have government granted monopolies, the FCC, etc.

Telecoms are using government regulation in their favor. They don't want capitalism.

Re:more evidence (0, Flamebait)

CliffSpradlin (243679) | about 7 years ago | (#20203319)

Just to be clear, the article is about a supposed $200 billion in GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES. This has nothing to do with the free market..if anything it's the government suppressing market capitalism.

And beyond that.. this is a fucking Cringely article.

You coulnd not be more wrong... (2, Insightful)

BarnabyWilde (948425) | about 7 years ago | (#20203333)

...about "completely unbridled market capitalism".

What we have here is the exact opposite: Central-planning. And it has gone haywire, as it usually does.

Throw in a touch of the corruption that centralized power allows, add a little protective legislation, and you get what we have today.

Methinks you tend toward Marxist-style central control.

Re:You coulnd not be more wrong... (3, Insightful)

enrevanche (953125) | about 7 years ago | (#20203527)

This is not government central planning, but corporate central planning. This really has nothing to do with the regulation causing this fiasco, but that the regulation was pointless, that the major telcos just did whatever they wanted anyway.

What you don't understand, is that effective regulation is required to have any kind of long-term competitive market, especially when the product is not a commodity.

Re:more evidence (4, Funny)

toppavak (943659) | about 7 years ago | (#20203343)

Er... the telecom industry represents completely unbridled market capitalism?

Re:more evidence (5, Informative)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 7 years ago | (#20203351)

Except this isn't an example of "unbridled market capitalism". The original copper network was a private/public compromise built on private property seized by the government with its power of immanent domain.

The federal government allowed monopoly control of the copper by one company, as long as it agreed to follow certain rules that a normal company would not need to. That is why multiple phone companies were allowed to compete on the same copper.

Now we have the case where companies are not fulfilling their part of the bargain and the government isn't enforcing it any more.

Re:more evidence (1)

HardCase (14757) | about 7 years ago | (#20203635)

The original copper network was a private/public compromise built on private property seized by the government with its power of immanent domain.

I wouldn't call a utility easement a property seizure by "immanent" domain. Nothing was taken.

Re:more evidence (4, Interesting)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 7 years ago | (#20203775)

You must be taking your information from post AT&T breakup, 1981'ish. Back when the publicly owned and traded phone "monopoly" was f'd up. HiTF a publicly traded company can be considered a monopoly I would like to know. But, anyway...

The original copper network was a private/public compromise built on private property seized by the government
No sir. The original copper was being put in place in the mid 1800's along with the railways. The land was "seized" from the native Americans.

The federal government allowed monopoly control of the copper by one company, as long as it agreed to follow certain rules
Bell was given credit for the phone making The Bell Telephone Company was the only player in the market. The government owned the copper it put in place until the, then, "American Bell Telephone Company" built enough exchanges to receive through government grants the existing copper because uncle sam didn't want to pay for upkeep not to mention it needed private phone system and couldn't do it due to patents:
Until Bell's second patent expired in 1894, only Bell Telephone and its licensees could legally operate telephone systems in the United States http://www.corp.att.com/history/history1.html [att.com]

Up until the 80's the majority of old folks had their money tied up in phone stocks and government savings bonds. The industry was broken up to get that stagnant money back out in the world to pump the U.S. economy back to life.

The reason we don't have good network connectivity is the constant fighting for control of what is unarguably the biggest industry in the U.S. Everything, in one way or another, is dependent on communication. The people in the industry are the second most greedy pieces of sh't on the face of the earth. Absolutely everything they do is for their own benefit. The massive tax cuts they received to "modernize the infrastructure of our nations communications" went directly onto their bottom line. The proposals that Google et. el. are putting together are the only signs of hope the people have to break free from the same ol sh't.

Re:more evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203463)

Are you fucking kidding me? Did you even read the article? This situation was the exact opposite of "unbridled market capitalism".

Government regulation and "for the children" do-gooderism was a primary factor in creating this mess.

Re:more evidence (1)

Catmoves (1136147) | about 7 years ago | (#20203521)

I find the lack of competition to cable connection is only market greed. If my business is the only game in town, you can pay what I want you to or go without. All the while I'll be telling you about how my business cares.

Re:more evidence (1)

fyodorovich (1141591) | about 7 years ago | (#20203945)

What gets me is that we seem to be ignoring the fact that the US government, for the most part, is in complete collusion with the corporations that are gutting us for all they can. Look at the health care, look at union busting, look at NAFTA, look at Medicare and the drug program. Look at the frickin war! It doesn't seem possible that our federal and state representatives are so gullible as to accept proposals from corporations that continually result in increasing corporate profits at the expense of citizens. They are colluding. Public officials are bought with the promise of joining the filthy rich club, plain and simple, so they willingly sell us out. And the more money corporations get, the stronger their control of media and propaganda machine becomes, and the harder it becomes to change public opinion and get the public to see how they are being screwed.

For A Start (5, Insightful)

JamesRose (1062530) | about 7 years ago | (#20203241)

These companies can sell you an 8 meg broadband connection, they'll sell it to 100 people and the line they're selling this on is an 80meg connection (example, not right numbers but right point). Any industry that can do this legally (or just get away with it) is clearly going to screw any consumer they can.

Re:For A Start (2, Funny)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#20203309)

The real problem is that the most they can sell you is an "8meg" connection (it's not *really* 8meg because it's asymmetric).

1999 called. It wants it's internet connection back.

Re:For A Start (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203373)

Every industry does this legally.

Go outside and look at the electric lines leading into your house. How much current can you draw over them? It's probably a hefty amount. Now go look at all your neighbors and add it up. Then look at the distribution system. Guess what will happen if you all start drawing the maximum amount of current at the same time.

Go into your bathroom and turn on your shower full blast. Guess what will happen if everyone in your neighborhood did the same thing at the same time.

Go to your local grocery store and buy some bread. Look at how much bread they have on the shelves. Guess what will happen if every single person who patronizes this store decides to buy bread at the same time.

Get in your car and get on the roads. Guess what will happen if everyone in your neighborhood did the same thing at the same time.

Overselling is a fact of life and a necessity of economics. The problem is not overselling, the problem is when it's squeezed too much. It would be unreasonable for all bandwidth to be enough to simultaneously serve every single customer at the maximum rate, it simply can't work. But the problem is that the current ISPs often push things too far so that you lose performance during peak hours. That, not overselling, is the real problem here.

Re:For A Start (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | about 7 years ago | (#20203547)

Yes, but the ISPs actually tell you, they don't have enough bandwith for you to use an unlimited connection, I mean for gawds sake, my internet connection is sold under the name "Bt UNLIMITED Broadband 8MB Connection" except they clearly are overstretching because they actualy introduce steps to limit you during peak times- the least of which is actually telling you they'll just cut off your connection with no notice if you do overuse your unlimited connection.

Re:For A Start (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20203617)

First I need to state that I agree entirely with your post. That said, however:

      The electric company provided me with a contract that specifies exact voltage tolerance limits. This contract also states that they will make their "best attempt" at providing power for a reasonable time (99% of the month, or something), and are not responsible for interruptions in emergency/disaster situations. Guess who has to pay for my refrigerator motor/electronics if suddenly the electric company decides that instead of 110 V today, they'll send me 170V. Or 50V.

      I don't belong to a "bread club" at the grocery store that guaranteed me a loaf of bread any time I wanted.

      The municipal water/roads are governed by regulations and engineered to ensure the availability/efficient use of these public resources. If everyone gets on the road at once, you'll soon see a lot of traffic police turn up to try and fix the mess.

      However with broadband companies - only recently have their "Terms of Service" started to acknowledge that you probably won't be getting the bandwidth they advertise MOST of the time (oh sorry guys we meant "PEAK") and are still very unclear and arbitrary as to who/what they decide is not important to YOU and therefore worthy of "throttling". They have hidden milestones/triggers like download limits, etc. which will intentionally degrade your service if you cross these thresholds. When they change the terms of service apparently they feel they can do it without a) notifying you and b) your approval. There is just too much underhand going on in this "industry" and frankly they deserve to be regulated much more than they are.

      I don't disagree that they need to maximize the efficiency of their network and ensure they can provide service smoothly to everyone. However if I am sold a service on bandwidth, give me the damned bandwidth. If you find I'm casuing a problem with my usage, then let's talk. Maybe I'm willing to pay a little more. However just blacklisting file sharing programs like bit-torrent is silly.

Re:For A Start (2, Insightful)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | about 7 years ago | (#20203627)

Meh, that's not really a good point. I don't need my 8Mbit (which I actually have) all the time. If my ISP can juggle usage patterns to ensure I get my 8Mbit when I need it, why should I care? It's the main way to actually turn a profit on this internet business. At least, when there's some competition. In the Netherlands, low-end internet connections are provided at a net loss to the major ISP's.

Think of it as insurance, or banks. If we all needed our insurance to pay up, we'd get nothing and the insurance company would go belly up. Same with banks. Aggregating resources and parcelling them out according to need is a pretty standard way of doing business.

So what? (1)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about 7 years ago | (#20203629)

The fact that my ISP doesen't have (customers x downstream kb) capacity on their backbone is totally irrelevant.

What is relevant is how OFTEN they hit their maximum capacity, and for HOW LONG when it happens.

As long as I get the capacity I need and pay for, who cares if the total capacity is lower? No user actually uses their lines 100% 24/7 (unless they are software pirates in which case they deserve to have their connection terminated anyway).

- Jesper

Re:For A Start (1)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#20203655)

8mb broadband is more then enough for most people. Hell, my 3mb DSL was delightful. No, where they need to start is simply making broadband available. If you don't live within the city you're pretty much screwed. I was lucky enough to have lived not too far outside of a little one-intersection village that had a telephone hub in it, so I had DSL. If I had been a few more miles in any direction I would not have had that available to me, or anything for that matter. You can't even get cable television in most areas around here, let alone internet. You're pretty much stuck with super crappy and super expensive satellite internet or super crappy dial-up (super crappy by dial-up standards at that! Try 24.6kbps).

Bleh! (0)

Blobule (913778) | about 7 years ago | (#20203249)

100 Mbit connections? WTF, even Canada sucks!

linux got you (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203251)

it's fucking you up the ass like steve jobs and his bullshit.

Maybe in the city (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203267)

it was fast and cheap, but out here in the sticks, the mid-west, it's never been fast (compared to the coast) or cheap (again compared to).

The State of Broadband Today? (5, Insightful)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#20203305)

'not very fast, not very cheap Internet[..]
And not very available either. Much more of the country is without than is with, I can assure you. The telecoms and cable companies don't care though. For some reason putting out a bit of money for a long-term payoff just doesn't register with corporations.

Re:The State of Broadband Today? (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 years ago | (#20203477)

Compute the cost of the cable and hardware needed to reach a farm twenty miles out from a town. Add the labor and construction, then divide the total by monthly rate.

Re:The State of Broadband Today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203903)

Compute the cost of the cable and hardware needed to reach a farm twenty miles out from a town. Add the labor and construction, then divide the total by monthly rate.
Your math is a bit off. You left out some key numbers, for instance the fees charged everyone with phone service to support rural lines, the billions in tax breaks given to the telcos to establish fiber optic connections to every home and business in America, a myriad of other tax breaks, state funding, over charges to customers for service, etc etc. Even if you reduce this to the rural support charges and directly defined tax breaks to the telcos for providing broadband everywhere then you could probably run the numbers and find the cost is more then covered for every remote household in the US, including some of those where the mini-monopolies still insist it is too costly to provide even POTS service to entire towns even though they have a monopoly legally assigned to them for that town and have taken the money to provide that service from the citizens of this country and its assorted governments.

BTW some rural coops have managed to handle things like this where they were allowed to and if they can do it without the billions "stolen" from us, then the major telcos certainly can. Note also that the telcos fight the establishment of new coops in both rural and in non-rural areas.

Re:The State of Broadband Today? (1)

jargon82 (996613) | about 7 years ago | (#20203731)

At our old office, we had a T1. We wanted an additional comcast connection for regular download use. Comcast wouldn't run it unless we paid for the work to bring a line down the rather long driveway of the complex from the main road. Cost to us, $20,000. Why would they not do this? Our monthly cost would have been about $300 a month. Why, it only would have taken them 6 years to recover! Assuming, of course, we didn't move first. I can't say I blame comcast (or any provider with a similar situation) for this.

Broadband in Holland (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203313)

Let me tell you 'bout my friend in Holland. And, no, I don't mean Holland, Michigan. I mean Holland, Holland.

He pays some ridiculous amount of money monthly, 10 or 20 Euros, and gets high speed broadband, TV (including the porn channels) and phone. His mortgage is 3.8%. Sex of any kind is not against the law and he can travel to any country in the EU without even slowing down as he drives across the border. At the risk of going off topic, do I need to add that health care and education are free.

Could it be that there's something not quite right here in America?

Must be the pot... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203361)

...that gives them all those strange ideas.

Re:Broadband in Holland (3, Insightful)

ShaneThePain (929627) | about 7 years ago | (#20203363)

America has its fair share of problems, but we arn't going to fix them with socialism.

Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (1)

BarnabyWilde (948425) | about 7 years ago | (#20203371)

...nothing is free.

Those highly-socialist countries have huge problems ahead when the bills come due.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (5, Informative)

abigor (540274) | about 7 years ago | (#20203425)

Not the Netherlands - they have a +$45 billion trade balance and a budget surplus. Financially, they are golden. The only G7 country that is in similarly great financial shape is Canada.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203865)

There's a minor disadvantage to living there too, though. A significant part of the country lies below sea level, so they're gonna *need* all that money to build more and higher dams when the poles start melting.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (4, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203459)

I would happily pay double my existing taxes to get a country with effective universal health care, a modern and well-maintained infrastructure, a people-focused government, and the financial condition of the Netherlands. Instead, I get low taxes and... nothing at all to show for those low taxes, because the people are so ignorant and apathetic that the government long ago stopped bothering with trying to serve them.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (1)

HardCase (14757) | about 7 years ago | (#20203679)

Seriously? You would happily pay 60% or more of your income for that? Consider just how much of your income goes to federal, state and local income taxes. What about sales tax? Oh, and part of your auto registration fee is a tax. Property tax, if you own some. Excise taxes on all sorts of commodities. Gas tax. I'm sure I left out a few. Now double it.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (5, Interesting)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203761)

Let's see... about 24% of my income goes to federal & state (no local) income and payroll taxes... and, my best back-of-the-envelope guess is that I pay another 1%-2% in gas taxes, my car tab, and other user fees. (I own no property.) Yes, I'd happily pay half of my income to live in a country where we really had all of that stuff. Many Americans react just like you did when I say that, because the government is so ineffective here that they can't believe it would actually work. But there are a number of countries where it does, most notably a few of those evil European welfare states.

Obviously, competent management and fiscal discipline are necessary for such a state to succeed. Ultimately, those are political problems and are the responsibility of the people. Ask yourself why certain other countries have them and the U.S. doesn't. I think you will find the answer has to do with how people are educated.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (2, Informative)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | about 7 years ago | (#20203863)

I don't think double taxes would cover it. I pay an average of 42% income tax, 19% sales tax on most things, 6% on food and such.

As for transportation, I picked out a lease car from my work, which had a retail price of 23k euro's, and a before-taxes price of 14k euro's (19% sales tax and 'BPM', a separate tax on new vehicles). After this, a car owner would pay road tax, several hundred a year. Then you pay the equivalent of US$7.25 per US gallon for gas, which mostly comprises tax.

Mostly I don't consider this a bad thing, but we only ever get new taxes, even when older taxes were supposed to have been *replaced* by the newer taxes. But it ain't all roses.

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 7 years ago | (#20203897)

Interesting. That just makes it all fall into place.

A GOVERNMENT OF THE ignorant and apathetic PEOPLE, BY THE ignorant and apathetic PEOPLE.

I wonder what the key to a good "GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE" is? Maybe it is keeping bad things from getting in between THE PEOPLE?

Re:Umm... have a look at their taxes.... (3, Interesting)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about 7 years ago | (#20203743)

Totally OT, but still...:

The tax rate percentage is irrelevant. What is relevant is how much money a taxpayes has in his/her pocket after paying taxes, and what he/she can buy with it. In short: purchase power.

I wouldn't mind paying 90% taxes if I lived in a country where my salary was a million USD for the same job I have today.

As it happens, I live in Denmark. Our average taxes are around 46% and on top of that we have a 25% VAT (sales tax). Does that mean I am poor? No! It means my salary and the entire economy around me has been adjusted to that level. My purchasing power is equal to (and in many cases greater than) most other people in other countries with a job just like mine.

And btw... even though we have a social system which gives us free healthcare, free education and better social security that doesn't mean we are a "highly-socialist" country. In fact I think our liberal prime minister would find your comment rather funny.

- Jesper

Re:Broadband in Holland (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203405)

i bet you his mortgage and his taxes are more then my mortgage and my taxes. you're being selective about what he has and what he pays. lay out his bank statements and tax statements and we will start to do comparisons.

Re:Broadband in Holland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203413)

I mean Holland, Holland.

That would be Holland, The Netherlands.

10 or 20 Euros, and gets high speed broadband, TV (including the porn channels) and phone. His mortgage is 3.8%.

Discount porn? AWESOME!

Sex of any kind is not against the law

I'm sure you mean between adults.

he can travel to any country in the EU without even slowing down as he drives across the border.

Only in the Schengen countries.

At the risk of going off topic, do I need to add that health care and education are free.

It's those dope-smoking hippies again!

Re:Broadband in Holland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203551)

I fucking know it's not Holland, Holland, you dick. I lived there for three years en spreek ik heel goed nederlands zelf. If you are so hell bent on correcting people why don't you do it where it will make a difference, namely, go and correct a theoretical quantum physicist who has a mistake in his calculations.

Re:Broadband in Holland (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 7 years ago | (#20203417)

At the risk of going off topic, do I need to add that health care and education are free.
Free. Right. Yeah. That's cute.

Just because someone else (or, really, everyone else) pays for it doesn't mean it's free.

Re:Broadband in Holland (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203455)

Holland doesn't have to spend billions to fight in Iraq: No war == free health care and education ;)

Re:Broadband in Holland (0, Troll)

boguslinks (1117203) | about 7 years ago | (#20203605)

Holland doesn't have to spend billions to fight in Iraq: No war == free health care and education ;)

And if the US hadn't been fighting Nazism and Communism in Europe the last 60 years, there'd be no Holland.

So, in a sense, the US has been subsidizing the lavish welfare states of Europe. Pretty good deal!

Re:Broadband in Holland (4, Interesting)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | about 7 years ago | (#20203949)

And if the US hadn't been fighting Nazism and Communism in Europe the last 60 years, there'd be no Holland.

That sounds like a good excuse until one realizes that in the WWII the USA's involvement in Europe was far behind that of the Soviets, even ignoring the fact that the British faught a prolonged aerial war to hold Hitler at bay. The majority of the WWII action for the USA was its tangle with Japan, not in Europe. As a matter of fact, a significant portion of the business elites of the USA were sympathetic to Hitler and did brisk business with him, until (and for some even after this point) it became very dangerous for them to do so.

As to Communism, if the Soviets managed to take over Holland (an exceedingly unlikely scenario since all the other countries they took over were in their path to Berlin, at which point the Soviet public had no apetite whatsoever for further warfare after paying such a horrendous price so far, and by the time they did, the Western Europe already had nukes), their empire would have crumbled that much sooner, as its inherent internal deficiencies, accelerated by its being an over-stretched military monstrosity, brought it down, Reagan's hand waving nothwistanding.

And to truly put a lie to all these claims of "protection" of Europe in post WWII era (never you mind that both UK and France are nuclear powers) the USA kept on building its ever-more expensive arsenals and armies long after the Cold War ended, and now it seeks to employ these armies in an effort to brutally impose its will on random resource-rich countries. So much for all the bullshit. After Vietnam and Iraq, attempts at painting the USA as a "protector" of anything but its own elites and profits have become an exercise in pathetically comical futility.

Re:Broadband in Holland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203469)

Its not everyone else who pays, its everyone.

Re:Broadband in Holland (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 7 years ago | (#20203719)

Its not everyone else who pays, its everyone.
The difference is negligible. Pretend that every one in the Netherlands (~16 million and change) pays the exact same taxes. My latest healthcare expenditure (some surgery, let's say) costs, oh, $16,000. I pay $.001 for my healthcare, Everybody Else pays $15,999.999.

Re:Broadband in Holland (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | about 7 years ago | (#20203443)

What's your tax rate over there in utopia?

Re:Broadband in Holland (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | about 7 years ago | (#20203665)

What's your tax rate over there in utopia?

The rates are comparatively high, but not higher then they used to be in the 50-60s in the USA, at the height of the post-WWII prosperity boom.

Furthermore, a majority of Americans are now realizing that saving some few hundred to few thousand bucks (at the majorities' income levels) a year in exchange for not being able to afford medical care or education for one's children is a rather rotten deal. Hence strong (and getting stronger) support amongst the American populace for following in the footsteps of those in the "utopia", even if it means taxing the billionaires and their Libertarian flunkies.

RDS (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203553)

Must be nice to have a large oil company pay $21 billion in taxes [google.com] to a country with only 16.5 million people [wikipedia.org] -- that's $1200+ tax revenue per capita from just one company.

Re:Broadband in Holland (1)

HardCase (14757) | about 7 years ago | (#20203653)

Could it be that there's something not quite right here in America?

Yes, our taxes are too damn low!

Re:Broadband in Holland (2, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 7 years ago | (#20203735)

He pays some ridiculous amount of money monthly...

He also pays ~$7/gal for gas (the highest in Europe).
If he makes more than EUR$53,000, he pays 52% in income tax. Add on to that 6.5% for the "free" health insurance premium, a flat tax of 25% on any 'substantial business interest'. There are other taxes as well.

Holland is great. Lived there for 3 years. But there are substantial differences between Holland and the US. Differences that make a direct comparison, on narrowly selected data points, silly.

he can travel to any country in the EU without even slowing down as he drives across the border

Going from Holland to Belgium to France is quite similar to going from NY to Pennsy to Ohio. No big deal.

Re:Broadband in Holland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203745)

Methinks your friend is lying (I'm not exactly living in Holland, but in Belgium -- it's only a 30 minute drive to the border, and the situation isn't that much different on the other side).

First, I don't believe you can find what he claims (broadband + TV including optional channels + phone, for 10 or 20 euros/month) *anywhere* in Europe.

Second, his mortgage will probably be closer to 8.3% than to 3.8%.

Third, health care is NOT free. Health insurance is called differently, it's combined with unemployment insurance, it's non-optional, and the premium is withheld from our wages before we get them (so are taxes, but listed separately), but that doesn't make it something else than health insurance and it doesn't make it free.
The more money you make, the higher your insurace fee is, but also the more it'll pay if you're unable to go to work.

The cheapest broadband account at my provider (cable) is 20 euros/month, NO phone, NO TV, at 512/128 kbps (down/up) speed and with a traffic limit of 400 MB/month (above that you pay 0.0102 eur/MB extra - make that 10 eur/GB, counts easier).

The account I have (the highest) is 15(20) Mbps down / 512k up, traffic limit 30 GB, without phone or TV: 61.32 euros per month, plus 2.6 eur/GB above limit.
I said "15(20)" Mbps because they advertize it as 20, with a disclaimer saying the hardware is actually only designed for 15 but they get out more by applying a special technique. BS if you ask me, I've never seen it reach more than 15 peak.

There are only two real providers here: one cable, one DSL.
There are other "providers" you can choose for DSL (not for cable), but those are in reality nothing but a kind of resellers for the first one, with their own and slightly different monthly subscription rates.

Broadband is somewhat cheaper in Holland than it is here, but rest assured that it won't be cheaper than the same in the US.

Not cheap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203353)

I pay $15 a month in Arizona for 2mbit down 512kbit up, and that includes the line and everything. That is less money than I spend on food in a day, how is that not cheap?

Re:Not cheap? (1)

postmortem (906676) | about 7 years ago | (#20203395)

Because here in Iowa we pay $60/mo for cable internet - it is about 5mbps down/512kbps up. Only major cable ISP is Mediacom, there are few others reduced to apartment complex or two.

Re:Not cheap? (3, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203479)

Because in several other countries your $15 a month would get you between 20-100 Mb/s both down and up.

Re:Not cheap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203595)

Oh yeah? Name one.

Re:Not cheap? (1)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203769)

South Korea, most of northern Europe (excepting the UK), and soon Australia.

How exactly non-competitive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203445)

Is our situation really that bad? I think there are many arguments against this current system, and if we had some real free-market competition instead of government monopolies things might get better, but is our system really such a mess?

I hear some say a 768k down DSL is a non-competitive link (or even ISDN). How exactly? How am I constrained by such a link? What kind of business cant I do on such a link? I can surf, download DVDs, perform remote support, participate in collaborative development and have global communication with friends/co-workers.

Let's see (4, Insightful)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 7 years ago | (#20203511)

I got ADSL In 1996 , back when it was 1.5 Mb download and 120Kb upload, today, eleven years later
I get 8 Mb download and 385 Kb upload, at about 30 percent higher pricing.

Basically broadband in the US is crap. If those various companies mentioned in the article
were forced to refund the money they got for giving us nothing, and I agree we got nothing,
they would be singing a different tune. I say send them a bill for the money they received, but did
not spend on actually providing that which they said they would, PLUS interest.

Broadband should be defined at 20Mb down and 20 Mb up. Period. Too much time has elapsed
with basically zero quality or quantity increases.

Re:How exactly non-competitive? (4, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203525)

You can't watch live video of any quality; you can't use any sort of interactive video link; you can't use any remote desktop solution with any level of fluidity; you can only participate in collaborative development with a very limited number of participants; you can't participate in e-commerce of any significant volume; you can't download software updates or revisions without tying up your connection entirely for minutes or hours; and, perhaps most significantly for the economy, you can't consume new, bandwidth-intensive applications such as sophisticated online gaming.

Well, what did you expect? (4, Interesting)

ZoneGray (168419) | about 7 years ago | (#20203465)

In most of America, only two companies are allowed to run wires into your home, the local telco monopoly and the local cable monopoly. The existence of the cable and telco monopolies is responsible for the problem. As long as that's the case, you're just arguing about the best way to manage the ripoff. Any regulatory scheme, at best, simply minimizes the ripoff. At worst, it leads to the two companies having undue influence over regulators.... and indirectly gives the regulators vast power to regulate and monitor private communication.

My own feeling is that the very idea of regulated telecommunications is inconsistent with the First Amendment. I don't think it could be any plainer. But I'm not holding my breath waiting for the court decision.

Re:Well, what did you expect? (1)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#20203621)

My own feeling is that the very idea of regulated telecommunications is inconsistent with the First Amendment.

That's a very interesting and thought-provoking way of putting it. The problem is that completely unregulated telecommunications, as we saw in the very earliest days of radio, are even less effective, because no messages can get through at all. While there are obvious free-speech problems with any government involvement, I think some level of regulation is necessary to ensure that speech actually happens in a more or less organized fashion.

I think a solution that would not run into any potential First Amendment problems is a publicly owned broadband connection, available to each household for a nominal fee, with actual Internet service over the connection provided by a choice of private providers. Just have the government build the infrastructure and ban the government from exercising any control whatsoever on what goes across it. Of course, the problem here is that the public will not have the stomach to maintain total network neutrality the first time someone is busted for using the government network to send kiddie porn... then censorship will start.

Re:Well, what did you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203649)

"only two companies are allowed to run wires into your home, the local telco monopoly and the local cable monopoly"

Gosh, I wonder how all these light bulbs stay on, then.

Simple question (-1, Flamebait)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 7 years ago | (#20203471)

Rural areas don't drive the American economy, and particularly high-speed Internet at the home is not a driving economic force, mostly it's useful for pirating movies. How is lower-quality broadband out in the middle of Bumfuck, Iowa, hurting the American economy?

Re:Simple question (1)

BoberFett (127537) | about 7 years ago | (#20203577)

This was my thought as well. I want a 100Mb line for $10/mo as much as anybody. But how exactly will cheap, fast residential internet increase our business standing in the world?

Re:Simple question (2, Interesting)

andphi (899406) | about 7 years ago | (#20203869)

I can't speak for or about any place but Texas, but it seems to me that while more widely available, less expensive broadband would be a great boon to small, rural businesses all over the state - farmers and ranchers of all kinds could probably find ways to do their business better and faster if they had something more than a dedicated phone line for internet service - it seems to me to be an example of putting the cart before the horse. The state-run primary and secondary education system has been gutted by years of increasing emphasis on grade-level exit tests, so much so that the students themselves are aware of it now.

To put this post back on topic, your question seems to ignore the very real possibility that a person's place of business and place of residence are one and the same. This possibility increases as one moves out into rural areas, which are the least likely to have decent broadband availability.

Re:Simple question (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20203693)

Rural areas don't drive the American economy, and particularly high-speed Internet at the home is not a driving economic force, mostly it's useful for pirating movies. How is lower-quality broadband out in the middle of Bumfuck, Iowa, hurting the American economy?

      OK everyone in rural areas stop working, and let's see what happens when kamapuaa realizes that his food is not grown in the supermarket. Rural areas DO drive the economy - just not the part YOU think is important.

Simple answer to a simple question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203813)

> How is lower-quality broadband out in the middle of Bumfuck, Iowa, hurting the American economy?

With a name like Bumfuck, it must mean we're missing out on some quality porn.

High-Quality broadband to all Bumfuckers, now!

Re:Simple question (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 7 years ago | (#20203939)

Hey! You leave Bumfuck out of this. We've installed our 8th trailer. Show some respect!

any more detail on the $200B figure? (2, Interesting)

boguslinks (1117203) | about 7 years ago | (#20203503)

Over the decade from 1994-2004 the major telephone companies profited from higher phone rates paid by all of us, accelerated depreciation on their networks, and direct tax credits an average of $2,000 per subscriber for which the companies delivered precisely nothing in terms of service to customers. That's $200 billion with nothing to be shown for it.

For instance, later in TFA Cringley says that a five-year phone rate freeze was part of the deal at one point, then says that rates should have really fallen during this time and he calls this a "rate hike".

So this $200B figure sounds like some mix of a bogus number (a "higher" phone rate that is really constant), some bookkeeping shenanigans (accelerated depreciation accounting), and real cash (direct credits.)

I want broadband/DSL... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203535)

...but the telco (Embarq former Sprint) keeps saying 3 months. So for the past year, i've been calling every week, and nothing. It's in the town 8 miles away, so i really don't think it's going to happen.

Is this not geographical discrimination - class action lawsuit anyone? there's racial, sexual discrimination - just because i live somewhere does that not mean i'm entitled to the same service as someone who lives just down the street.

how do other slashdotters cope with telcos like this? can you shed any light on getting them to pony up and give the same service?

Re:I want broadband/DSL... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 7 years ago | (#20203601)

Well, for starters, quit whining and learn how DSL works. DSL is limited by distance. Just because the town 8 miles away can have DSL doesn't mean you can get DSL.

Re:I want broadband/DSL... (0, Flamebait)

ewhenn (647989) | about 7 years ago | (#20203697)

I want to say.. hi... and shut the fuck up.

Oh no, a private company doesn't want to install lines/hardware to your home. Fucking deal with it, it's their right as a private company.

Say you ran a pizza shop, you decide where your boundaries for delivery are. After that point, oh well, no deliveries. It's the same thing really. They have their boundaries of service. If you don't like it, that's just a tough break for you.

I hate how people always think everybody *owes* them something. That isn't the way the world works.

Since you think it's reasonable to have lines ran to your home and the necessary hardware installed and maintained, why don't you start a company and do it yourself if they aren't willing to? If there REALLY is money to be made there, you should jump at that opportunity.

Call me crazy... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20203589)

...But I don't think this was just a cash grab on the part of the telcos. Look at how much the various content industries are freaking out over what we have now. Look at the shady, skeevy methods in which they are slowly coming to terms with it in ways that still screw the customer. If we had gone straight from what we had in the early 90s to what they were planning, it'd have been 45Mbit bidirectional ass-raping as far as the industries were concerned. Real broadband, without the period of transition we're going through now, was the sword held at the neck of the RIAA and the MPAA. They had to keep America backwards or the floodgates would be open.

Old news to revisit, but /. is 10yo on 20070901 (2, Interesting)

OldHawk777 (19923) | about 7 years ago | (#20203705)

Search the /. archives, /.s including myself have been describing and predicting to state of telecommunications in the USA as far back as 1997.

Yep, that long ago, but do you think any of you younger /. whipper-snappers would remember back to 19970901 launch. CmdrTaco, Hemos, ... were all young fellers like yourselves are now ... young, but git'en older, wiser, wizen, creaking and crankier with age.

Should we ask CmdrTaco and Hemos; When/What/Where are the 10th year celebration' keggers, or is it a BYOB in Death Valley?

Re:Old news to revisit, but /. is 10yo on 20070901 (1)

Ximok (650049) | about 7 years ago | (#20203961)

Hrm, Bring Your Own Broadband?

Optimum profit is created by a balance between.... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 7 years ago | (#20203917)

....spoon feeding the consumers and avoiding telling them or letting them realize what you are doing.
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