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posted by janrinok on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the cue-the-America-is-too-big-apologists dept.

Ezra Klein of Vox.com interviews Susan Crawford about treating the internet as a utility. Crawford is the author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry & Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. Former Special Assistant to president Obama on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, she may well be the Telecomm Lobby's enemy #1.

From the interview:

We need a public option for internet access because internet access is just like electricity or a road grid. This is something that the private market doesn't provide left to its own devices. What they'll do is systematically provide extraordinarily expensive services for the richest people in America, leave out a huge percentage of the population and, in general, try to make their own profits at the expense of social good.

When it comes to fiber penetration - that's the world class kind of network we should have - we're behind Sweden, Estonia, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan. A whole host of other developed countries. We should be looking the rest of the world in the rearview mirror. Instead, for more than 77% of Americans, their only choice for a high capacity connection is their local cable monopoly. So just as we have a postal service that's a public option for communications in the form of mail, we also need public options in every city for very high-capacity, very high-speed fiber internet access. That way we'll make sure and we can compete with every other nation in the 21st century.

What happens is that we deregulated this entire sector about 10 years ago and the cable guys already had exclusive franchises across across the country. They were able to very inexpensively upgrade those to pretty high-speed internet access connections. Meanwhile the telephone companies have totally withdrawn. They have copper line in the ground and it's expensive for them to build and replace it with fiber. Because of both deregulation and sweeping consolidation in the cable industry we've ended up on this plateau where for about 80% of Americans their only choice for a high-capacity internet access connection is their local cable monopoly.

In a sense I'm trying to have it both ways. This is by nature a monopoly. It really makes sense to have one wire going to your house. The problem is we've gotten stuck with the wrong wire. We've got a cable wire and it should be fiber and it should be then shared by lots of competitors. That's what drives prices down. If you hand the one company the ability to control that market they'll just reap their rewards and price discriminate and make lots of profits.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mrcoolbp on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:43AM

    by mrcoolbp (68) <mrcoolbp@soylentnews.org> on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:43AM (#25338) Homepage

    When it comes to fiber penetration - that's the world class kind of network we should have - we're behind Sweden, Estonia, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan.

    None of these compare to the geographic reach of the US, but yes we are behind on bandwidth in price.

    As for the government providing it as a utility? I agree they need to invest in the infrastructure some, but utilities are mostly handled by for-profit entities. Not sure I want to see the governments idea of the internet 3.14 or whatever.

    --
    (Score:1^½, Radical)
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by mendax on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:53AM

      by mendax (2840) on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:53AM (#25341)

      Well, I'm not sure the government ought to "provide" the network, but it should be a service made available universally like the current land-line telephone network which is slowly being destroyed. The land-line network is universally available regardless of whether it's profitable to provide the service in the area because the other rate payers in profitable areas subsidize the service through government mandate. Everyone benefits from it. I'm not sure if there is any real benefit provided by more than one service provider operating in an area. ISP monopolies are not a bad idea. The bad idea is the cable monopolies. When everyone has fiber coming into their residence, we will be able to pick and choose what we want to subscribe to, like we should have been able to do all along.

      --
      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
      • (Score: 1) by GmanTerry on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:41AM

        by GmanTerry (829) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:41AM (#25357)

        I do not trust the government. The NSA will record every single thing you say and do on "their" Internet. It would just help them to further their Police State. Everything you said would be there for them to use to accuse you of something without any due process. I was in the Military and I love my country but I do not trust my government. Being that I'm a veteran, according to the Dept of Homeland Security, I am at the top of their list of terror suspects. Timothy McVeigh was a veteran and the worst home grown terrorist so, of course it follows, that all veterans are possible terrorists.

        --
        Since when is "public safety" the root password to the Constitution?
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:07AM

          by frojack (1554) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:07AM (#25368) Journal

          This.

          We already see this mentality exhibited, (sometimes here on SN as well as that other place), that you have no expectation of privacy while driving on the street.

          You can be monitored, have your license plate scanned, and your papers demanded on a whim.

          On a county road. Paid for by local taxes.

          Anything provided by any level of government is fair game for all levels of government. There is no way to keep the federal government from grabbing 100% of the data. After all, you put it in a public place. You can't claim privacy any more.

          Logically having government provide fiber backbones to the curb side just like they provide roads and water and sewer.

          But until we can get our government under control we dare not trust them with our communications.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 2, Insightful) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:38PM

            by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:38PM (#25638) Journal

            But until we can get our government under control we dare not trust them with our communications.

            Isn't this why we say: USE ENCRYPTION!

            I don't trust Verizon or Cox (my only two options) any more than I trust the US Government. In fact, I may even trust them less -- one of the fed's favorite tactics for violating the constitution is to let private contractors do it, since they aren't always bound by the same rules.

            The NSA *already* watches everything we do, with the full cooperation of the corporate network owners -- so saying you won't accept a government network because they'll spy on you doesn't seem like a valid argument. We have a strong suspicion it'll happen on a government network, but we KNOW it will happen on a corporate one!

            What we really need is something vaguely equivalent to credit unions. Give every subscriber a vote on any major decisions along with a share of any profits. Perhaps with some taxes on the wealthy ones paid to the poorer ones, because otherwise there's no way in hell the ten person ISP union you'd end up with in some of the villages in rural Pennsylvania where I grew up would have any hope of connecting to anyone else...

            • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:32PM

              by frojack (1554) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:32PM (#25735) Journal

              Except we DON't use encryption that much, and encryption isn't that safe. SSL is hopelessly compromised. Encrypted Email is almost unheard of in real life.

              --
              No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
              • (Score: 1) by GmanTerry on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:59PM

                by GmanTerry (829) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:59PM (#25803)

                And the NSA is trying to subvert any encryption algorithm that there is. Lets face it, we have lost control of our government. They do as they please and the document that was supposed to set the rules, the Constitution, is ignored. Our government is run by secret courts that are accountable to no one. Those in power support this system because it gives them unlimited power. If they get caught doing something illegal, as defined by the dead document, the Constitution, they claim national security and hide behind their secret court. This is NOT the country I was born into many years ago. This is the country we hid under our desks from when I was a child.

                --
                Since when is "public safety" the root password to the Constitution?
              • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:03PM

                by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:03PM (#25807) Journal

                Yeah, and that's why we're screwed, regardless of who owns the pipes.

                My point is merely that people saying 'I don't want a government network because they'll spy' are making a bullshit argument. The government DOESN'T run the network, and they still spy! So what protection are you getting from a non-government network? Absolutely none. Possibly even less, because if the government is buying your data from private corporations, those corporations don't have to even *pretend* to care about the bill of rights.

                Look at how Obama is exploiting the private ownership of the net with his proposed NSA rule changes. He's proposing to keep the data in private hands but make it as easy as possible for the NSA to purchase that data at any time. If the network was government owned, that would provide one less way for him to *pretend* to obey the constitution.

                Ownership of the network is a completely orthogonal problem to the security of the network's contents.

          • (Score: 2, Funny) by Open4D on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:02PM

            by Open4D (371) on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:02PM (#25657) Journal

            We already see this mentality exhibited, (sometimes here on SN as well as that other place), that you have no expectation of privacy while driving on the street.

            Count me in. Piloting a ton of metal at life-threatening speeds on a public road is definitely a matter of public interest IMO.

             

            On a county road. Paid for by local taxes.

            Any arguments about which layer of government is responsible for which roads is secondary; we probably come from different countries so we would be talking at cross purposes if we were to get into that.

             
            Note, I am only referring to the driver, not the passengers.
            And lots of other privacy invasions (like Internet snooping - to bring this back on topic somewhat) should be avoided even if it means higher crime.

          • (Score: 2) by Angry Jesus on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:52PM

            by Angry Jesus (182) on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:52PM (#25849)

            Have you heard about the NSA? They've been doing all that to private networks for the last decade.

            It is silly to think that any sort of private property rights will protect users of corporate owned networks any more than they would protect users of public networks. If you assume the government is out of control in one area, its nonsensical to think that it would still be under control in a related area.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:23PM

          by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:23PM (#25568) Journal

          There was an article a few days ago that covered how the Zetas had covered Mexico with their own radio network to keep their communications private. Why can't we citizens do the same? We could form a nonprofit to plan out the network and and administer it. There's a nonprofit in Redhook, Brooklyn, that did that after Hurricane Sandy knocked the neighborhood offline.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
          • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:45PM

            by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:45PM (#25643) Journal

            Probably easier for the Zetas since I'm sure they don't worry about things like licensed spectrum...

            Wifi mesh networks have been tried, but we need something unlicensed with a MUCH larger range. And high bandwidth too -- the Zetas are probably just using voice, which doesn't need near as much as The Internet.

            Some individual municipalities or neighborhoods *do* have such networks. But then they still have to route through a traditional ISP to reach anyone else. We need longer range radio links to get those connected across the dozens or even hundreds of miles you might have between networks. Preferably in a way that lets anyone in between tap into it too.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by edIII on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:53AM

        by edIII (791) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:53AM (#25361)

        I disagree only because both options suck.

        Shit sandwich - Telcos/Cable abuse the crap out of us because we only have two options in every city on average. Some of have WiMax and maybe something else equivalent, but it's usually not good and not deployed everywhere (Clear/Clearwire is horrible now). Prices are high, consumer satisfaction low, abuses often, and they will turn bitch to the government first chance they get.

        Giant Douche - Government provides the network by tying in state cooperation with highway funds held hostage since they are both analogous enough for a Senator to understand. Initially the specs are good, and the government bids out to the incumbent technology providers with the glorious efficiency that is government awarded contracts. Citizens pay 7x the 2nd highest bandwidth cost in the world, but don't notice since it's all just part of taxes anyways.

        It really does suck because neither side is good for the consumer either

        Shit sandwich - We are going to charge you separately for the super duper responsive platinum turbo adult entertainment package featuring non-throttled and preferred bandwidth that allows for actual moving imagery. It's called movies. Leave still images behind.

        Giant Douche - We are going to heavily regulate and block all the naughty naughty fun time unless you have a cryptographically signed connection linked to your citizen ID card. Think of the children citizen.

        It doesn't matter whether or not the government or corporations run it, they are going to fuck us. The real issue we need enshrined into government as some fundamental utility is the idea we can send packets of information to each other unregulated, unmonitored, unmoderated, and without discrimination whatsoever regarding content, destination, or origin. It's the citizen responsibility to deal with the packets.

        Put that into law on how anyone provides the networks for us and then we will be talking.

        --
        Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
        • (Score: 2) by clone141166 on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:03AM

          by clone141166 (59) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:03AM (#25365)

          Well put, I couldn't agree more. Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world that wasn't solely motivated by the desire for money and power.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:24PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:24PM (#25872)

            So far, the system where the infrastructure is owned by a tiny number of individuals (with greed as their primary motivator) has been delineated; that is called Capitalism.

            The system where the infrastructure is owned by the government (a system which can be abused when democracy fails) has also been called out; that is called Socialism.
            Note that Socialism is the *economic* system and Democracy is the *governmental* system; they CAN coexist.
            Indeed, for the former to work, a proper implementation of the latter is necessary.

            Note also that in the second system I mentioned, there's a solution to that abuse as well. [google.com]
            That word, in contrast to the common (incorrect) "understanding" of it does NOT mean *chaos*.
            When translated, it means "without rulers".
            To further expand that, it means "bring home the decision making".

            Now, you have overlooked A THIRD MODEL: User-owned cooperatives.

            Unlike a for-profit corporation, the primary goal of cooperatives is to serve the needs of their members.
            Cooperatives are very democratic; each member gets a vote when decisions are to be made.

            There is a name for this system where the infrastructure (aka the means of production) is in the hands of the people with the greatest investment in the delivery of the product/service.
            When the owners and the consumers (or, in a different context, the workers) are the SAME people, that's called Marxism.

            Where it is tried, Marxism works well.
            You have to go to the Basque country of Spain to see what is widely considered to be the best example of Marxist practice. [googleusercontent.com] (orig) [wikipedia.org]
            Northern Italy is also a hotbed of successful Marxist economic activity.
            In the USA, where Plantation Capitalism is casually accepted as right and proper, not so much.

            Note that all the countries who have ever called themselves "communist" have NOT been anything like this.
            A system with top-down decision making, single-party states, and centrally planned economies would properly be called "Totalitarian State Capitalism"; that is the antithesis of Marxism.

            Oh, and A FOURTH MODEL is also possible, a hybrid of all 3 economic systems:
            The gov't owns the hardware and allows, without prejudice, both for-profit companies and cooperatives to license that infrastructure and compete for users.
            Many here are going to call this "Capitalism".
            That is NOT what you have when you have cooperatives involved.
            This is called "a market"; if all the Capitalists dropped out (or, as I like to say, they all died), the market would still exist.

            -- gewg_

        • (Score: 2) by mendax on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:15PM

          by mendax (2840) on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:15PM (#25814)

          I disagree only because both options suck.

          I agree but I don't see that there is any realistic, viable alternative. Better the evil we know, mixed in with lots of strong encryption to make the governmental and non-governmental snoopers have to work for their morsels of information, than the evil we don't.

          --
          It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
          • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday April 04 2014, @01:36AM

            by edIII (791) on Friday April 04 2014, @01:36AM (#25974)

            I think that your idea is unrealistic. That idea being that we could work with government.

            Even with all the NSA bullshit, I think it will ultimately work out to where unless that encryption is true endpoint-to-endpoint, and all middlemen corporations are zero knowledge, that your idea will simply not be possible. Think massive Darknets, every website has an .onion address, and everywhere it's full balls to wall encryption and security. All of it decentralized and distributed. That precious social networking tying the plebes together migrates towards Diaspora type concepts.

            There is a huge problem with that. These government people don't work for their morsels of information. They take them forcibly. We are just hearing about a new office in the NSA specifically tasked with analysis and compromising of remote target networks.

            I think that any true solutions to this will be met with a surprising amount of force to prevent private-from-the-NSA conversations from ever becoming a reality. All the parties involved don't want anything fixed. Just enough holes so that it could provide enough security to keep out riff raff, but never enough to be nearly air tight against an opponent like the Five Eyes.

            You give the government access and you are playing the Scorpion and the Frog game. They will little by little encroach on it in the name of protecting America and the Children. That's just what they do. Keeping private enterprise in the way may be weak right now, but at least it's something. They would fight to keep the costs low, profits high, and are the only ones capable of offering any resistance since they are full blown 2nd class citizens right beneath the Shareholder. They have representation in government where we have zero representation, and some might argue negative.

            If that weren't bad enough, you also have the economic aspect. This is a *very* expensive undertaking that is no less costly than the entire Interstate system. Which that is really what it is. An Interstate highway system in cyberspace.

            You are proposing that we allow government to create something akin to the Interstate highway system that also extends all the way down to the last mile away from the highways. A massive undertaking to be sure. All of that coax and copper would need replacements, all of the equipment on the easements removed or absorbed, and entirely new departments or private contracts to service all of the existing customer's needs.

            I don't think it's cynical to think that it could bankrupt the United States at this point. We can only go so far with debt, and we chose to bail out worthless wastes of human skin so they could experience none of the consequences of their immoral lifestyles and wage war for over 10 years.

            There is no way the US government, of all people, are going to do this at the same costs carriers are currently dealing with. It will become expensive. It will become a nightmare. It will become a joke that you had to move out of your apartment because that was the simplest way to get Internet back from the government. Either that, or beg the neighbor to share of his Wifi.

            If the government deploys huge wireless nets because that's easier (That's the way it's done in China) at the local level, a disruption could impact an entire neighborhood including all the businesses. I fully expect that utilities, schools, hospitals, etc. will receive certain guarantees and fuel contracts and be just fine. Residents? Nope.

            My extreme cynicism sees a future like Mega-City One where there is an activist complaining about gentrification in his neighborhood because back in his day it took weeks to get a city engineer out to repair the Internet and now it has 4 nines uptime.

            We literally can't afford government to create our infrastructure right now. They suck that bad.

            --
            Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
    • (Score: 2) by prospectacle on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:18AM

      by prospectacle (3422) on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:18AM (#25344) Journal

      As you say, governments need to invest in infrastructure, but when it comes to the internet, the infrastructure is - in a sense - the product, unlike with say water, gas or electricity.

      You generally don't pay for the content of a website, but you do pay to have it transported to you.

      I guess it's like a conveyer-belt network, as opposed to roads. You can have competing courier trucks using the same roads, and competing retailers using the same courier trucks. So there are three layers of service: network infrastructure, transport mechanism, and content.

      But for our (hypothetical) conveyer belt network there's only two layers (network infrastructure and transport are the same physical thing, and content is separate).

      So I guess my point is as long as transfer-capacity is priced fairly and equally and open to all, and especially if the government is willing to wholesale capacity to competing retailers (e.g. ISPs), who then divide it up however they see fit into pricing schemes for individual customers, then it's probably ok (better, even) to have the govt own and sell internet. You'll still have competition where it counts.

      I don't know if that was convincing to you, but now I've managed to convince myself that we we need an automatically-switched international conveyer-belt network. That would be pretty cool.

      --
      If a plan isn't flexible it isn't realistic
      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:56AM

        by frojack (1554) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:56AM (#25362) Journal

        If you had a point it was still-born, strangled at birth with an ill chosen analogy.

        Government provides roads.
        Government does not provide electricity. In most places electrical generation is by private companies.

        Conveyor belts never enter into the picture.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:35PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:35PM (#25877)

          Government does not provide electricity

          -1 Clueless [wikipedia.org]

          -- gewg_

      • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:53PM

        by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:53PM (#25648) Journal

        I don't know if that was convincing to you, but now I've managed to convince myself that we we need an automatically-switched international conveyer-belt network. That would be pretty cool.

        Those conveyor belts would need to be enclosed in some way, otherwise your packages could get knocked off or damaged by wind and weather. And you probably want to pull a vacuum in those tunnels, so you can move things at a greater velocity and more efficiently. At which point...might as well remove the conveyor belts and make it pneumatic -- a true series of tubes.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by FatPhil on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:59AM

      by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:59AM (#25364) Homepage
      Geographic reach is a falacy. The population density in Estonia and Sweden is very low too (lower than the US's). Finland even more so. Norway even more, and has its population stretched out over silly distances. Yet all of these have superiour infra. Latvia too, I'll add. Just from the "population is spread out" perspective, your whining is misdirected - we're *more* spread out in the baltonordics.

      And what happened to the economies of scale? Shouldn't they act *in the US's favour*?

      So stop making excuses, and start asking what you did wrong? (Or what the Nordics did right.)

      Wasn't Nebraska, which has to be one of the most isolated parts of the mainland US, one of the first 30 sites ever connected to ARPANet?
      http://nrg.cs.ucl.ac.uk/images/early-arpanet.png says yes - 1973
      You were capable of connecting over vast distances 40 years ago - what's changed?
      --
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 2) by Hairyfeet on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:24PM

      by Hairyfeet (75) <bassbeast1968NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:24PM (#25570) Journal

      I'm sorry but the geography argument just doesn't hold water as too many of our large cities have shitty service, coverage gaps, and all around just piss poor numbers. TFA is right that the phone company has all but walked away from their lines due to the fact that they can make so much more profit of of wireless, and both sides cherry pick the iving hell out of neighborhoods. If you are poor or black? Give it up, you won't be getting shit.

      Oh and before anybody brings up the "free market bullshit" of "oh its just those neighborhoods don't buy"? yeah well that is what happens when you price the service out of the reach of a large number of people, again as in TFA. In my area with each passing year and people dropping cable TV we cable net users get to pick up the slack with higher bills, in my case the price of internet has doubled in the past 4 years while they haven't added a single foot of coverage area. the DSL lines are falling apart, my father's shop is practically atop a DSLAM in the middle of the business district and on a GOOD day he gets a whopping 3Mbps, most days he is lucky to get half that...oh and it costs $90 a month for that and a basic POTS phone for his fax, and you wonder why poor folks don't buy?

      --
      ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
    • (Score: 1) by ankh on Friday April 04 2014, @05:02PM

      by ankh (754) on Friday April 04 2014, @05:02PM (#26291) Homepage

      Ben Franklin, who required the new government's Post Office provide universal service, understood that this new "Republic, if you can keep it" was going to be held together by communication equally available to everyone.

      Pity he didn't realize that this "electricity" thing could substitute for horse-drawn postal wagons.

      But, clearly, that's the intent.

      POTS should be Post Office Telecom Service.

      Save your "Forever" stamps, some day one of those may pay for an ounce of bandwidth.

  • (Score: 1) by gishzida on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:54AM

    by gishzida (2870) on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:54AM (#25342) Journal

    We should never have deregulated the telcoms, television, satellite tv or cable [the idea that Satellite == Cable is BS]. Our regulation of wireless is a joke... where they telco got the gold and the government as our representative gave us the shaft... which explains why we are behind most of the rest of the world... The table is now tilted to systems like Comcast that are "too big to fail". Have we heard that before?

    Frankly I think if a company is owned and operated in more than one state that Federal regulation rather than tariff regulation should apply... Of course we have nothing to use as a barganing chip. Theyve bought the finest congress that money can buy... regardless of the fact they are said to be "liberal media" you won't see any republican stepping forward to prevent their abuse of their customers... after all that is business and jobs... and campaign donations.

    Congress will never vote against campaign donations... ever.

  • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:23AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:23AM (#25345)

    give it to me, NSA, right between the legs you know you want it

    JACK me into the JUICE and feed me green laser goo until I become

    the ultimate riddler and my head twists around and around until I become...........

    BATMAN!

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by jmoschner on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:33AM

    by jmoschner (3296) on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:33AM (#25346)

    There is some faulty logic here saying that "internet access is just like electricity or a road grid. This is something that the private market doesn't provide left to its own devices."

    Actually the private market does in the case of electricity, and the government makes special allowances for private companies to be monopolies in the power sector. Utility poles in most places in the US are owned by either the utility company or the phone company.

    The rise of people adding solar panels and turbines also undermines the point that the private market does not provide electricity.

    And the wrong continues. In many areas roads are actually privately built and maintained. For instance the road my wife's family lives on was privately built and maintained by the people in the neighborhood. The city won't go out that far to build roads. The city won't even run water to some areas or offer trash service.

    If the government doesn't put in place the infrastructure for electricity (and even in some areas roads), why should it do so for internet access?

    Plus the government does provide internet access to people. Many libraries and a number of government buildings (such as some unemployment offices) have areas where the public may use the internet or provide free Wi-Fi.

    The cost of the government taking over and upgrading the lines would be ridiculous. In Texas it something like $8million in stimulus funds to reach under 300,000 people with internet. In Vermont using federal dollars and loans they have spent over $116 million and still not everyone has internet access (the populations is around 626,000). And in many of the places that do, it is a poor connection.

    And think of the problems in having to go through the government every time a storm or car accident takes out a untility pole. It could be days even weeks before the line is fixed.

    If there is to be change, the government needs to lower the barriers to entry into the telecom market through regulation and incentives or by breaking up the existing telecom monopolies. None of that will likely happen. That leaves the option of either starting or supporting companies that would run fiber to your home.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by mrbluze on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:53AM

      by mrbluze (49) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:53AM (#25360) Journal

      Private industry is notorious all over the world of bleeding infrastructure dry until it falls over in the next puff of wind, whilst at the same time gouging customers of every possible cent, especially when there is a lack of oversight or real competition. Private industry, when left to its own devices, forms cartels and uses stand-over tactics.

      I don't say that governments are better, but you don't need to look much further than a company such as the one that bought out the web-site I used to love. It's shiny and slick but soulless and the main focus of development drifts away from the consumer (community) to profit generation. So the article is right, the Internet is so big now it is part of the public domain. Government has to step in, but only to ensure:

      • Internet neutrality
      • Fair pricing
      • Healthy competition
      • Infrastructure development in the national interest
      --
      Do it yourself, 'cause no one else will do it yourself.
      • (Score: 1) by migz on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:14AM

        by migz (1807) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:14AM (#25370)

        The problem is government involvement. The industry has NOT been deregulated. Can you lay a cable to your neighbor, and connect him to your lan? No? I would willingly do so. I know a lot of people who would, and some who have done so ... illegally (Think of the poor children^H^H corporation!) .

        Think about it, why cant we make our own communication network.

        The only thing stopping me from doing so is government regulation forbidding me from communicating across property boundaries.

        So the government granted some of their friends licenses to do telecommunications. Well that's the cause of the problem. If there was more competition, as much as the market will support, the price will drop. However since competition is restricted to the well connected, they can exploit their UNNATURAL oligopoly to charge what they like, offer what they like, on the terms that they like.

        Regulation is THE problem. What is needed is LESS regulation.

        • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:03PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:03PM (#25658) Journal

          The problem is government involvement. The industry has NOT been deregulated. Can you lay a cable to your neighbor, and connect him to your lan? No? I would willingly do so. I know a lot of people who would, and some who have done so ... illegally (Think of the poor children^H^H corporation!) .

          Half my apartment complex already uses my 50mbit FiOS connection (I usually find about a dozen unrecognized devices connected to my wifi at any given time)

          But even if that's illegal (which I highly doubt -- show me the law!) it doesn't mean industry hasn't been deregulated. Comcast is industry. You are not. You are a consumer, and regulating you is exactly what the industry wants. Giving the industry more ability to regulate you can actually be part of industry deregulation.

          • (Score: 1) by migz on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:55PM

            by migz (1807) on Thursday April 03 2014, @04:55PM (#25681)

            I agree that oligopolists like Comcast have unfounded power to prohibit me from competing. The ONLY way Comcast can do this is through regulation, granted by government, and government alone, that grants an artificial license to allow them to do something and prohibits me from doing it. Those regulations need to go away.

            We don't need more regulations e.g. net neutrality laws. We just need the freedom to self-provisions. Then they can go fly a kite.

            You do understand that this is the telcos, asking government to give them tax payers money? Won't anybody think of the poor who can't afford internet access? How will the corporations make money off the poor? I know! Let's screw the tax-payers again!

             

            • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:27PM

              by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @05:27PM (#25693) Journal

              I agree that oligopolists like Comcast have unfounded power to prohibit me from competing. The ONLY way Comcast can do this is through regulation, granted by government, and government alone, that grants an artificial license to allow them to do something and prohibits me from doing it. Those regulations need to go away.

              The problem with government is corporations and the problem with corporations is government. Brilliant.

              In the absence of government corporations would find other ways to impose their will on you. The difference between a government and a corporation is that a government asserts an exclusive right to use violent force within some geographic area. Now, should the government give up that right, you think nobody else will try to take it? You think corporations won't be hiring armed guards? You think they can't afford it? They'll just jack up prices. They have power, you do not, and you will lose every time.

              We need to get rid of government, but we need to get rid of corporations first. Otherwise you'll just wind up paying taxes to News Corp. And without the corporations we *may* find we don't need to get rid of government after all. Although I kinda doubt that.

              Wipe out both and establish a federation of cooperatives.

              • (Score: 1) by migz on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:04PM

                by migz (1807) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:04PM (#25712)

                It's called fascism.

                Corporations as juristic persons only exist because of government.

                The government does not have and exclusive right to use violence. They may claim it, they may do it, but that does not make it a right.

                Who has the power? From where I'm standing the elephant in the room is government, not the corporations.

                Who is going to protect you from that big massive overarching corporation that can sell you stuff you don't want, take what they like, and use force? Your answer is government? Well the name of that overarching corporation is The Government!

                And yes, smaller units of voluntary association would be better.

                • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:39PM

                  by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:39PM (#25790) Journal

                  It's called fascism.

                  Corporations as juristic persons only exist because of government.

                  Agree with you there.

                  The government does not have and exclusive right to use violence. They may claim it, they may do it, but that does not make it a right.

                  My original statement was: "The difference between a government and a corporation is that a government asserts an exclusive right to use violent force within some geographic area."

                  Feels to me like you're saying I'm wrong, but since "assert" and "claim" are synonyms, we seem to agree completely.

                  Who has the power? From where I'm standing the elephant in the room is government, not the corporations.

                  From where I'm standing, the problem is not *exclusively* the government, it's the corporations using the government to do their bidding. If there were no government, that *might* not happen (or it might still happen). If there were no corporations, that might not happen (or it might still happen). The BIG problems though come when they merge. Government is political power; corporations are economic power; neither form should be allowed to be so concentrated, and they CERTAINLY shouldn't be allowed to be concentrated *together*!

                  Who is going to protect you from that big massive overarching corporation that can sell you stuff you don't want, take what they like, and use force? Your answer is government? Well the name of that overarching corporation is The Government!

                  I'm just gonna quote my original post here, with some added emphasis: "We need to get rid of government, but we need to get rid of corporations first." The reason for getting rid of corporations first is because otherwise they will become a new government and we'll have to fight the same battle twice.

                  Would be nice to pit one against the other then eliminate the victor. I think government is currently the weaker of the two (seems pretty clear that corps have more power over gov than gov has over corps), so let's use government to nuke the corporations then turn against it ;)

                  And yes, smaller units of voluntary association would be better.

                  Seems to me like we agree more than not.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @10:45PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @10:45PM (#25911)

          Regulation is THE problem. What is needed is LESS regulation

          -1 Consumes too much Fox so-called News [google.com] without a critical thought process following that.

          "Government is the problem" [google.com] --A doddering old fool 8-) [google.com]
          I don't do video; Maybe someone else will point to that.
          RIP, Phil Hartman. You were awesome.

          The problem is NOT too much government; the problem is too much BAD government. [wikipedia.org]
          Now, this may be the most on-topic thing in this thread:
          If you're in the USA, you ALREADY paid for bandwidth up the wahzoo--you just didn't get that. [googleusercontent.com] (orig) [pbs.org]

          The **solution** is to get involved. [movetoamend.org]
          (You can't even imagine the number of useless stylesheets on that page.)
          ...and in case you missed it yesterday, there are now no limits on billionares purchasing the USA gov't. [google.com]

          -- gewg_

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:56AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:56AM (#25363)

      Think of what the United States would be like if the government didn't build the Interstate Highway System. The country would be a mess of private and toll roads and no one would be able to get anywhere without paying extortionate fees to the various private road builders and maintainers. And I have a question for you. Does your wife's family vote in the mayors and other elected officials? More to the point, do they pay taxes to the city? If so, then they have the right to demand such things as roads and water and sanitation that their taxes are supposed to give them. If not, then they don't belong to the city at all, and they need to incorporate their own township or whatever.

      Your government gave billions to the telcos to build out precisely this sort of infrastructure. The telcos never delivered, and haven't been punished for not delivering the goods. Just because your government is victim to regulatory capture doesn't mean that the idea of publicly owned Internet infrastructure is a bad thing.

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:20AM

        by frojack (1554) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:20AM (#25372) Journal

        You were going great till the last paragraph.

        The government didn't give billions to the telcos to build any sort infrastructure.

        It was almost all private money. The government coughed up the right-of-way for wires, but that was largely local government.

        The telcos built each successive generation of the network with the revenue earned by billing customers of the current network.

        If any part of this was left to the government, we would still be using only the post office. That is the only public communication system implemented by the government.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by naubol on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:41AM

          by naubol (1918) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:41AM (#25380)

          It does seem to me that the interstate highway system is a communications system that is wildly successful.

          OTOH, you mentioned the Post Office. How is this not an excellent example of a "government run business"? It has operated without tax revenue since 1980, last year it handled 158.4 billion dollars worth of items, and so forth. It delivers 6 days a week everywhere in the United States. It is an amazing achievement.

          That said, I think a possible answer is simply to convert internet telecommunications to common carrier status. I have yet to hear a good argument against this, and I would really like to hear one.

        • (Score: 1) by GmanTerry on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:27PM

          by GmanTerry (829) on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:27PM (#25824)

          And... the Post Office is broke. The government is the worst money manager. Look at Social Security... Medicare and the looming cost of Obama Care. When I went to work for the government, from private industry, my manager explained it to me like this:
          When your old company had to get something done fast they hired new employees. They were able to get the work done by using more people. However the government has a fixed number of employees which is set by law. So when the government need to get a job done in a hurry they have to hire contractors. Contractors cost more than employees therefore the government can never compete one on one with private companies. It's simple rules and the cost of complying with those rules.

          --
          Since when is "public safety" the root password to the Constitution?
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:02PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:02PM (#25920)

          The government didn't give billions to the telcos to build any sort infrastructure

          -1 Clueless [soylentnews.org] (The "up the wahzoo" link)
          Do you EVER get ANYTHING right? [soylentnews.org]

          -- gewg_

    • (Score: 1) by gishzida on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:26AM

      by gishzida (2870) on Thursday April 03 2014, @07:26AM (#25374) Journal

      just one issue with your line of thought... You assume that those providers own something which "we the people" had no say in... That is not the case: our various governments [States, Federal, and local] have provided the "rights of way" and or "licensing of the transmission media" and / or provided "tax breaks or other incentives" to the various cable / satellite / telcos... the purpose of this was of course public benefit... Yet while the rest of the world speeds by us on services at half the price at ten times the speed one wonders how anyone can believe that the American consumer is getting good service and fair value for accommodating these kinds of monopolies... I'm sorry but the free market wet dream that is every libertarians / republican's dream is only another form of oligarchic oppression...

      I lived in L.A. for forty years... which was serviced by the L.A. Department of Water and Power. Guess what? DWP had better service than the private utility companies I've had to deal with since I left L.A. You are holding up straw men that you have never actually any actual experience. A broken streetlight fixed in hours in L.A. while the streetlight across from my house which is serviced by SCE&G has been out for a couple of months. Private monopolies have no reason at all to provide service... "public benefit" it cuts into their profits.

      As for Texas... do the rest of us a favor: succeed please and take all the lame ass "free market" and "tea bag" rabble with you. I'm just a bit tired of hearing how Texas Politicians talk of cutting government spending when Texas is near the top of the list on a per capita basis see this 2012 chart [wikipedia.org] In fact it appears 57 Billion Federal tax dollars more was spent in Texas than it citizens paid as federal taxes.

      When you look at that chart you'll see 32 states put in less in taxes than they received... and the majority of those are Republican controlled states... The majority of the positive cash flow states are Democratic. Tell me honestly now do Republicans really want to quit spending all that money in their states? Great let them voluntarily return all that "extra money" to the treasury then lets talk about budgetary reform.

      Sorry but the "Big Government is always Bad" theory is probably as fallacious as "Big government is always good".

  • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:20AM

    by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:20AM (#25353) Homepage
    > When it comes to fiber penetration - that's the world class kind of network we should have - we're behind ... Estonia, ...

    You suck, we rock! :-P
    --
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by lubricus on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:06AM

    by lubricus (232) on Thursday April 03 2014, @08:06AM (#25395)

    I think she actually misses the most important point. Which market do we want to protect, the ISP market, or the market of the goods and services on the internet.

    If the free market can't provide ISPs with similar performance as the rest of the world enjoys, then the government should provide it, if only to protect the much more valuable markets created by the internet.

    The irony is that as new technologies and services appear that use more and more bandwidth, the ISPs have been able to turn the story on its head, and hold both the services and the customers hostage.

    We've seen this over and over again with cable and satellite TV, car dealerships, MPAA... this is middlemen rent-seeking, nothing more. We should just (or at least *threaten*) to get rid of them.

    --
    ... sorry about the typos
  • (Score: 2) by zim on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:04AM

    by zim (1251) on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:04AM (#25412)
    On one hand. Yeah the goverment should be the ones in charge of power, water, phone, internet and medical care. It would save billions and give us the best service possible.

    On the other hand. OUR goverment fucks up everything they touch.

    We need a new goverment before we can expect them to do it right.
    • (Score: 1) by theluggage on Thursday April 03 2014, @10:06AM

      by theluggage (1797) on Thursday April 03 2014, @10:06AM (#25433)

      On the other hand. OUR goverment fucks up everything they touch.

      So does industry. Especially if you're talking big 'to bit to fail' corporations that can fuck up beyond all recognition yet the only consequence faced by their leaders is a token cut in their 7-digit bonus that year.

      The difference is that Governments are obliged to do their fucking-up in public, while the private sector gets to keep most of its fuck-ups behind the 'corporate veil' (although here in the UK, government is getting quite good at out-sourcing their fuck-ups to the private sector then claiming 'commercial confidentiality').

      • (Score: 1) by migz on Thursday April 03 2014, @10:27AM

        by migz (1807) on Thursday April 03 2014, @10:27AM (#25441)

        Don't confuse so-called industry with the real private sector. Nothing is too big to fail, unless uncle sam is stand behind them with a cheque book (more correctly a credit card).

        The government bailing out companies is an abomination. Investors should bear the consequences of their poor decisions, not the tax payer.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by iwoloschin on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:30AM

    by iwoloschin (3863) on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:30AM (#25457)

    I think this would work, but only on a local level. Each city (or cluster of cities) should be looking to provide it's citizens with a "dumb pipe" for internet. Just the same how most, but not all, cities provide water/sewage. Key word here is cities, not towns, villages, or random houses on the prairies. I live in Somerville, MA, the most densely populated city in New England. We abut Cambridge, MA and Boston, MA, with tons of young, technical professionals (like me!) living in Somerville because it's cheaper, but prices are going up, and many move out to the suburbs once they have kids. If the city were to put in it's own city-run ISP it would probably quickly become a big selling point to living or owning a business in Somerville, especially since Verizon never bothered rolling FIOS out here.

    To be fair, this would suck and not work at all for more rural areas, and even many suburban areas. But if your local government is providing water and sewage, you're probably dense enough that it would be worthwhile, though it might be a 5-10 year ROI. Of course, not having to deal with RCN anymore would be worth a lot more than that to me...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:15PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:15PM (#25924)

      on a local level

      Your post may be the most intelligent thing in this thread.
      My post on economic systems and alternatives to the status quo [soylentnews.org] is a natural complement to your ideas.

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:38PM (#25521)

    So just as we have a postal service that's a public option for communications in the form of mail,

    The usps has been on life support for a very long time. I'd be cautious using them as an example of anything. Of course, maybe the usps should be the ones providing this internet access...

    FYI, this lameness filter is lame. Can't capitalize usps, even with periods??

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:40PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:40PM (#25527)

    The US government is no longer capable of doing great things. Providing access to the internet, which is something the world's richest country should definitely be doing, will never happen as the US government simply isn't capable enough.