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Anti-Muni Broadband Bills Country Wide 655

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the more-than-one-equals-a-trend dept.
Ant writes "Broadband Reports says that 14 and possibly more states that have or will pass(ed) bills banning community-run broadband. Free Pass shows a map breakdown of the states while Tallahassee.com takes a look at a newly proposed bill in Florida, backed by Sprint, BellSouth, Verizon, and Comcast, designed to bog down the muni-development process."
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Anti-Muni Broadband Bills Country Wide

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  • That's funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:56AM (#11744342)
    Here in the Land of The Free (i.e. Western Europe), we allow our local/community governments to do what the electorate want them to do.

    Aren't we naive....
    • Re:That's funny (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Phu5ion (838043) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:16AM (#11744553)
      Yes, well here in the Home of the Brave (i.e. USA), we allow our local/state/federal government to do whatever the large corporations want.
    • Please don't do that (Score:3, Interesting)

      by essreenim (647659)
      I'm happy about the E.U commisioners decision to restart the patent law process etc. but I'm tired of all this Europe with rivers of gold bs. That's just cock. I've been in a good few European countries now and I live in Europe. There is no limit to the amount of corruption and negativity in this (formerly the most war ravaged region on Earth) continent. Having vistied the US, there are allot of things about it that are better than here. If it wasn't for the fact that there are so many marginalised people a
    • Re:That's funny (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rasta Prefect (250915)
      Yeah, and over here we don't ban personal expressions of religious identity [pbs.org]. I agree that Europe does do some stuff better than the US, but this pro-Europe/anti-US sniping that comes up every time any US regulatory issue is on Slashdot is just another form of annoying zealotry. If we want to talk about unfair corporate/government interactions, lets discuss Airbus funding some time.
  • Business kills (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:57AM (#11744343) Homepage Journal

    If there was as much money in building and running "Community Clubs" I'd wager the big corps would try taking over the basketball courts and hockey rinks. All so the locals have more choice, you know.
    • Re:Business kills (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ayaress (662020) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:16AM (#11744550) Journal
      They do try. The Saginaw Spirit hocky team tried to buy exclusive use of our public ice rink a while back (not the rink itself, just wanted it closed to the public for the three months of the year that people occasionally go there so they can practice). Thankfully, they're even more broke than the city and couldn't afford it, since the city council just loves to sell public facilities. Dr. Shaheen (rich retired doctor who's into real estate in the area) has bought most of them. It's not always a bad thing when a businessman buys a public facility, though. All the ones Shaheen bought are still public facilities, it's just that they're clean now. That's more than can be said for the Court Theatre.
    • by rednip (186217) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {pinder}> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:38AM (#11744771) Journal
      When I first heard of these 'full profit for telecomm companies' acts, I thought, WOW, how completely self serving of those corporations. While I still think that the legislation is too giving to those companies, I decided to think of what could happen if government controlled Internet access. The community clubs which you speak of carry many restrictions about use, would you like your Internet to work the same way?

      I can imagine that in smaller communities and perhaps larger ones, that 'local decency groups' would force local elected officials to censor objectionable content. Since they would be you ISP it would be easy to administer community standards. I can imagine that political hacks in charge of the network creating 'routing problems' which block opposition candidates, or the local rumor mill. Heck the local police could check on your email, or see which sites you visit. While larger communities might have good separation, smaller ones might even have the police dispatcher as the overnight server support!

      I think that these laws should be written to include 'fair access' in the same way that local telephone companies are starting to open their own access, sort of a carrot and stick approach.

  • this is nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:57AM (#11744345) Homepage
    Cable companies fought for and won laws that banned community run Cable TV type systems back in the early days of cable.

    there used to be "community tv" or basically a neighborhood TV antenna setup. the would all get together and buy one large tower and good antennas as well as equipment to send the signal to the homes. these were made illegal in most places by cable tv companies in the area or coming into that area.

    I know, my father used to set these up for smaller communities.
    • by Y2 (733949) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:04AM (#11744424)
      'S truth. CATV stood not for CAble TV, but for Community Antenna TV.
    • by corporatemutantninja (533295) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:19AM (#11744578)
      I'm actually a little surpised to see Slashdotters so eager for the goverment to jump into this. Do we REALLY think the Government can do this better/more efficiently than private business? Forever? 'Cause that's what it will be.

      I think what's going on is that we're fed up with the DSL/Cable duopoly, which is entirely understandable because they're doing a bad job with bad customer service at high prices. There are few companies I hate more passionately than Time Warner Cable. And, yes, I'm including Microsoft. But to then go running off to mommy and da....oops, I mean government officials...crying "Fix it! Fix it!" is a little short sighted.

      Isn't what we really want just more competition? I guess I'd rather see government, whether local, state, or federal, offering various non-permanent subsidies to businesses that wanted to offer competing broadband capabilities. Perhaps only making those subsidies available in communities where current providers failed to meet certain service/price targets.

      • by revscat (35618) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:23AM (#11744603) Journal

        I'm actually a little surpised to see Slashdotters so eager for the goverment to jump into this. Do we REALLY think the Government can do this better/more efficiently than private business? Forever? 'Cause that's what it will be.

        I don't think the differences are so significant as to be noteworthy, and the benefits for the community are great. I know it's trendy to believe "government is always bad", but it's not always true. I've worked in enough corporate environments to know how screwed up and inefficient they can be.

        Isn't what we really want just more competition?

        Sometimes. But competition isn't the end-all be-all. Sure, it works great. Most of the time. But not all of the time.

      • by fsmunoz (267297) <fsmunoz@@@member...fsf...org> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:34AM (#11744721) Homepage
        I'm actually a little surpised to see Slashdotters so eager for the goverment to jump into this. Do we REALLY think the Government can do this better/more efficiently than private business? Forever?
        Yes.

        This recorrent myth that "private business" is always more efficient and beneficial for the user doesn't even stand a chance under a closer look. I find it hilarious that these great saviours, the "private businesses", need good old government interference to forbid any effort of providing a community and/or municipal WiFi network access. I private business is oh so much more efficient, why do they need these? Their obvious higher quality and pricing should be enough right? Except that they are there to maximize their profits, not primarily to provide a service. If they can (and they always can, with the power that big business has over the corrupt politicians) keep prices high and provide shitty service, they will. Only if the bottom line is affected is the behaviour changed, and even then, trough price fixing and other cartle like tactics, nothing substantial changes.

        Internet access is becoming important enough to constitute a basic necessity (education wise, for example). As such the State should provide it. If private business can top the State offer, that's great! But, as the British pension fiasco showed, they seldom can.

        I'm not from the USA though, so I lack that "Sheriff and a saloon and many guns!" kind of view on individual liberty as opposed to colective beneficts dispensed by the Government.
        • by Omestes (471991) <omestes AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:47PM (#11745523) Homepage Journal
          I find it hilarious that these great saviours, the "private businesses", need good old government interference to forbid any effort of providing a community and/or municipal WiFi network access.

          Good point. And one that I would like the average Randian Libertarian /.er to explain. If they are so against the government regulating industry, why would they be for industry regulating government? And if corporations could do it cheaper, what is wrong with letting government do it, and then if they are correct the gov't won't be able to compete?

          Though if we had community cable/broadband, and it cost a couple bucks more, I'd choose it over the telco or cable company, just to support my community. I doubt that most people would do this, though, caring more about their pocket books than the state of where they live. If my neighbor takes my money for service, I view that as a better situation than some rich ass living in New York or California taking it.

          But then again I live is a rather small violently liberal community, one that passed a law to keep superwallmart out, and from undercutting the locally owned buisness.
      • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:35AM (#11744731)
        Government frequently does the job better than private business.

        A recent study (I heard it on NPR) showed that the government-run VA provided better health care than the private competition. Something about knowing the patients would come back, enabling them to focus more on long-term and preventitive care.

        Social Security spends less on administration than most private retirement plans. And they provide expensive-to-manage disability insurance as well.

        Medicare and Medicaid provide health services with far lower overhead than private insurance companies; IIRC, spending 3% of revenues on administrative expenses vs. 30%. And that's with "free market competition".

        When the private supplier has a monopoly position, watch out. The suppliers are maximizing their profit, which means high prices and expensive service has to be justified by the revenue that it brings in (or the revenue that would be lost if they didn't).

        "Government subsidies" are another name for corporate welfare. And you can claim they won't be permanent, but they will end up like copyright, renewed and extended every time they're about to expire.
        • Your examples (Score:3, Interesting)

          by beakburke (550627)
          I'm not going to disagree with your first example, because frankly, I think it's at least close to the truth. See my earlier posts about how US healthcare is NOT freemarket. Your Social Security vs. Private Pensions argument isn't comparing apples to apples however. Social security operates nothing like a pension plan. If it were a pension plan, it would have to carry diverse assets in reserve in proportion to the present value of estimated future benefits. Basically, everyone running it would be in jail if
      • This is more competition. Most municipal governments are smaller than any of these big cable or telecom companies and actually have less bureaucracy. The people running the service are vested in the community. If something fucks up with the mucicipal service, at least you can go to town meeting or your council member and air your complaints. Try doing that with the Verizon board.
      • by valmont (3573)

        you said "what we need is more competition". How do you think this is going to happen?

        Here's the problem: our country's broadband infrastructure is owned and operated by a couple of corporations who own all the pipes to people's homes. I don't have a problem with corporations building out infrastructure and seeking to make a very lucrative buck off of it. This is what they do. This is free enterprise. Free enterprise is a good thing. Making money is a good thing. However, and understandably enough, loca

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:57AM (#11744346)
    A good compromise would be to ban municipal wireless internet access unless no provider has established a commercial wireless internet access within 2 years.
    • by ckaminski (82854)
      No. That will only encourage corporations to do least cost implementations. You'll have killed any sort of competition a community could drum up, and enslaved them to the will of the corporation leaving them with spotting connections and outrageous prices. Nay, SCREW the corporation. They had their chance.

    • by keyne9 (567528)
      That's been the case in some of these affected areas for years. The companies keep telling the muni's that they'll either deploy (or that it isn't cost-effective to deploy, heh), then obviously do not. Then, they turn around and tell them "No, you can't do that! That would be taking our (non-existant) business (that we dont' want anyhow) away from us!"
  • I don't understand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:58AM (#11744354)
    Why can't the communities register broadband companies and run them in a style similar to mutual societies or worker's co-operatives?
    • Good point. I also wonder how these laws are constitutional. It would seem to me there would be some sort of interstate commerce or equal protection type arguement. But I haven't seen any of the acts.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That would make sense. There's plenty of precedent for this sort of thing like local electric cooperatives. And even with those, there are thriving electric companies. For example, Ameren operates here and even owns a nuclear plant in the county to the east of here, but there's also the Boone Electric Cooperative.
    • well (Score:3, Interesting)

      by palad1 (571416)
      That would be socialism, and that would be double-plus ungood.

      (Same thing happened 2 years ago in France, a wireless operator in the south got its ass sued into oblivion by France Telecom because it set up a simple wireless network for small villages)
    • by swb (14022)
      If a community really wanted to do municipal broadband and was barred by law from doing so, the thing to do would be to form a private, non-profit to sell IP/broadband services and then have the municipality favor it politically -- streamline approvals, dig permits, sweetheart deals on use of municipal property for towers/repeaters, switch the municipality over to this as their ISP.

      And then do the oppposite for for-profit companies -- sandbag their requests and tie them up in red tape to make it difficult
    • by Fooby (10436)
      They could. But then they would have to get people to invest a lot of money to buy equipment and get started, which is difficult. And they would have to charge monthly fees, which in the long-term could be highly competetive with commercial providers. But they could not operate at a loss, or provide free service. Governments can. And subsidizing utilities makes sense in some situations.
    • They could ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pavon (30274) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:53AM (#11744937)
      but then they couldn't fund it using tax-payer dollars. That is half of the appeal of municipal internet access - it is "cheap" or "free" because it is being subsidized by people who don't use it (those without computers), or who use it and are paying a disproportionate amount of the costs (the wealthy). The local telcos and cable companies are definately not providing the best bang-per-buck possible, mostly because there is not enough competition. But a small coop has it's own inefficiencies, and I would not expect them to be able to do much better than the existing broadband services on price - without sweetheart price-setting legislation forcing the hardline owners to offer their lines to the coop at whatever the politicians think is a "fair" price.

      That said, even though I would not support government broadband in my community, I do not like these laws. I am a pragmatic liberterian but I also believe in democracy formost. If these comunities want thier towns to provide broadband, that is their decision to make. The federal government has no place telling the states what services they can and can't offer, and the states have no place telling the counties/towns what services they can and can't offer. Besides, the fact that there is such demand from the comunity for these services shows that the existing monopolies are not serving the people well, and creating legisation to enshrine them further is not the answer.
      • Re:They could ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@neverbox. c o m> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:09PM (#11747239) Homepage
        I agree with you, but I think there's something you aren't considering:

        With public wifi, the costs are an internet connection, and various adapters. (Don't have to pay for locations, businesses love having a free wifi connection in their business.)

        With for pay, you added 'billing', and 'keeping track of who paid their bill', and all sorts of crap.

        Sticking up a public network might cost, oh, 300 dollars a month, with a startup cost of 5000 dollars. (Probably need a system admin, but, then again, they probably already have an IT guy for the government. Or just have the local high school students volunter to run it.) This is trivially within reach of any town over 200 people.

        Now add billing, and someone to keep track of it. Well, you could do that with income tax, except people don't pay local income tax. There are going to have to be bills sent.

        Now add the fact that keeping track of the people on the network is now a full time job...you need to keep track of MAC addresses or logins or something, and match those up with the billing.

        I mean, you've at least tripled the cost. You've probably added another full-time staff, and you've turned it into a business.

        I mean, imagine the street in front of your house, and all those people who don't use it. Imagine all the streets that you don't use, and how you pay for them. Now imagine that the government could keep track of who used what streets, at least statistically, and just billed everyone for their existimated useage...that would cost a lot more than just having the streets.

        Sometimes, just doing things for everyone is a hell of a lot cheaper than billing people for them. Yes, people without computers will pay for people who have them, but people in cities paied for phone lines in the country, and people without cars pay for roads, people without children pay for schools, etc, etc. A wifi broadband connection is peanuts compared to one road being built on the other side of the state, which you pay for all the time.

        OTOH, my local touristy city has an open wifi network on the square that I think was setup by the Chamber of Commerce. Or just three or four businesses on the square working together. (Of course, I'm talking about a football field worth of coverage here, not a city.)

    • Because the high-cost American CEOs would howl through the mass media (that they own and operate) that communities doing so would be Communism! And Communism is Bad. Unamerican. "Worker's co-operative".. that's Socialism! Which is tantamont to Terrorism! Off to gitmo for you...
  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@ x m s n et.nl> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:00AM (#11744368)
    From TFA: "A bill limiting Internet offerings by government entities is back for legislative consideration..."
    • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:30AM (#11744675)
      Communities form local governments to collect taxes and perform various and sundry duties for the community. If the community can run a fscking library, school, water works, police department, or any other services, why the hell shouldn't they provide a telcom service?

      This only seems non-obvious looking at cities like Los Angeles or New York. Go out to Tumbleweed, Idaho and suddenly the relationship to local government is pretty friggen obvious when your cousin is the judge, your neighbor is the mayor and aslo the gas station attendent. In that sense, community and government are utterly synonymous.
  • by dnoyeb (547705) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:00AM (#11744370) Homepage Journal
    No rest for the weary. Even if its voted down, it will just come back at the next opportunity. That is why we don't get tired or frustrated, we stand strong and casually vote this crap down as many times as we have to.

    Obviously community internet will lead to community controlled media eventually squeezeing out cable/phone and every other communication medium. I don't blame the companies one bit. But I will blame the government if they let this happen.
    • Obviously community internet will lead to community controlled media eventually squeezeing out cable/phone and every other communication medium. I don't blame the companies one bit. But I will blame the government if they let this happen.

      Hehehehehe he said if . This is the government we're talking about remember? Nothing personal, it's just bidness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:00AM (#11744377)
    Community-backed broadband isn't the way we want to go. That sort of stuff is basically anti-capitalist at heart. Really. These companies might look like they're in it for the money, but really, they have our best interests at heart. Seriously. I promise.

    Oh, and Saddam really did have all those weapons. Honest. I swear.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:02AM (#11744394) Homepage
    but on the other hand, I don't like rules that forbid a municipality from doing something which could benefit its citizens.

    While in the vast majority of instances, it might be appropriate to ban a city from setting up its own ISP, there might be a few towns which are being ignored.

    We have towns like that in my northern state. My father lives in a town with no broadband, heck, with NO local dial-up! To say that city can't set up its own ISP is ludicrous. The private sector has had decades to set up something but they've failed to even take notice. The city should be able to take action "for the common good" to set up its own.

  • by LMCBoy (185365) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:02AM (#11744398) Homepage Journal
    Ah, yes. The free-market system, unfettered from legislative "regulations". Behold its efficiency! Marvel at its ability to out-compete any misguided "Big government" attempts to duplicate that which the market can provide!

  • by eno2001 (527078) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:03AM (#11744411) Homepage Journal
    Do you call this good? While I'm not 100% in support of community run networks (mostly due to the fact that there aren't enough smart people to run them securely in most communities), I think this illustrate the point quite well that governements no longer have power, the businesses do. After all, who has the most money? Your governments (state local and federal) or businesses? Considering the huge debt at the federal level and the deficits at state and local levels, my money (hehehe) is on the businesses controlling the most funds. And they say we have "big government", hah! It seems that during the past decade, as the tech sector has grown tremendously and gained the most wealth in a short time, more and more "laws and legal decisions" have been bought by them. We are headed rapidly for the corporate feudal system with our governments being democracies only in name. Wake up... we're only a few steps from complete fascism.
  • Anti competitive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsro AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:04AM (#11744421) Journal
    .. correct me if im wrong , but isnt bringing anti competitive legislation to stop competition (even if it is run by local gouverments) anti competitive in of itself. Yes reading that makes my head sping too. If the city wants to provide free or cheap broadband to its citizens then what is wrong with that , if the companys wish to compete they should have to offer something which the competition doth not. I would far rather have a state run monopoly on services , as atleast then i do have some say over the board of directors via a vote. Aslong as the gouvernment plays fair there is no reason why they should be disalowed to compete
    • They do have a point, in that governments are allowed to run systems at a loss, indefinitely. No private enterprise can compete with the right of governments to levy taxes.

      I think the best way to go is akin to Utah's Utopia Project [utopianet.org]. The state takes out some municipal bonds, lays out vast swaths of fiber optic cable, connecting a lot of the cities in Utah. Then it pays the bonds back as private service providers rent the lines and compete for customers. The best thing about it is, rather than havin
  • by freakasor (792714) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:05AM (#11744436)
    The bill in the works for Texas would kill not only municipal internet service but could be used to shut down municipal web sites, information channels, etc. "Information" services is a large amount of stuff to block with a single piece of legislation.
    http://www.freepress.net/communityinternet/=TXbill [freepress.net]
    Under the bill, municipalities and municipal electric utilities would be prohibited from providing, directly or indirectly, alone or in partnership with other service providers, either "telecommunications" or "information" services as those terms are defined under federal law.
  • by victorvodka (597971) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:06AM (#11744438) Homepage
    These laws make about as much sense as a law that prohibits a government from maintaining a highway system. A government, with its existing rights of way and networks, is in a prime position to build out computer networks, particulary in places where corporations don't feel they can make a profit. I'm really really tired of libertarian arguments that don't take into account all the hidden and structural subsidies that alter the landscape of the supposedly Utopian Adam Smithian Capitalist Marketplace that they claim to want to protect. True capitalism of this sort means that only the strong survive - your next door neighbor with a gun. So it's not communism when a government decides to do something - we're a community, we live together, and if our governments want to build infrastructure that benefits everyone, let them!
  • Greed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by matth1jd (823437) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:06AM (#11744440)
    It's sad that basically these companies are trying to preserve their virtual monopolies on broadband service instead of attempting to work with communities to develop large scale community wide broad band solutions.

    A company such as SBC should really be playing both sides here as they could still charge for a fat pipe to be run a town. The difference being that a municipality has the money to subsidize the pipe and basically sell the bandwith to residents at a loss. SBC makes it's money albeit slightly less than if they were to provide service to each household but money none the less.

    We'll see what happens, but I'm seriously considering asking some of my neighbors to get together to lease a line from SBC and then set up a community router. It will save all of us money and I'll finally be able to get a decent connection without interference from the 8 other routers my laptop can connect to.
  • by tommck (69750) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:09AM (#11744471) Homepage
    GOD.. R... T... F... A...!!!

    It's stopping local governments from doing it!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:49AM (#11744901)
      Learn politics. The local government is the orginised expression of the community. The whole purpose of the local government is to reprisent the comunity and take care of issues related to the community. If the local governement can do it cheaper than business, then so be it. Business better learn to compete.

      By the way, the lack of cheap Internet access stalls the local economy. So it's in the best interest of community businesses to support community networks
  • by Mr_Perl (142164) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:12AM (#11744500) Homepage
    In my small town of Spencer, IA we have a municipal provider of electricity, cable TV, phone, and broadband.

    Phone costs $10.50/mo per line.
    Basic Cable costs $5.00/mo
    3Mbit/sec broadband costs $27.50/mo.

    Not to mention some of the lowest electric rates in the state.

    The reason we did this was because the local cable company had spent decades gouging on the prices on cable and having crappy service and we finally had enough of it and built our own system.

    Mediacom still is around, but now charging fair prices. This municipal effort INCREASED COMPETITION, breaking the monopoly the phone and cable companies enjoyed for so many years.

    I'm a firm believer in Municipal Utilities, if you have the chance to write a letter to your congresspeople by all means do it now.
    • My god thats great... Let me go over the bills in my house:

      Single phone line: $40 (verizon)

      Basic Digital TV Package: 80$/m (adeplhia...)

      3/256 Cable Modem: 50$/m.

      There's simply no other choices in my community.

    • by SamNmaX (613567) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:30PM (#11745348)
      Mediacom still is around, but now charging fair prices. This municipal effort INCREASED COMPETITION, breaking the monopoly the phone and cable companies enjoyed for so many years.

      This is a big problem with how capitalism has been going. When there is competition it's a win, but when there is little competition we end up with oliopolies and monopolies, and they will charge as much as they can get away with to maximize their profit. I'd argue that having a single company control a business is much worse than having the government control it, as at least theoritically the government can provide the service at a fair price, whereas without competition the business will not.

      I do have some qualms about government going into business's that are handled by the private sector, besides the big brother issue. The main issue is that the if the government wants to allow there to continue to be a private market, they have to ensure they don't charge less than what it costs to provide the service. In the case the parent post provides, it appears they have not run out the competition, which is a good thing. What I'd like to see is for industries such as this where the government wants to do something about unfair prices, the government help setup co-ops that would be self-sufficient after x number of years. As long as there is a rule of (at minimum) self-sufficiency, private enterprise should still be able to thrive.

  • by Phleg (523632) <stephen@tousetTWAIN.org minus author> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:25AM (#11744622)

    ...have a problem with government controlling access to the Internet? Anyone at all?

    I know this is Slashdot and we're supposed to hate big buisiness and everything, but isn't government-provided Internet access just a bad idea? First off we have the fact that government can always undercut the opponent and hide the costs in taxes; few will ever complain. So clearly there's the risk that in the end we'll end up paying even more for broadband than we used to. Second, once government is involved, this throws the door wide open for "concerned mothers" to start lobbying for state-, county-, or city-wide controls on the content. You know how draconian those content filters are at government-run schools? In all likelihood these will go on municipal broadband offerings, too.

    If it's like any other government service, it will be poorly and insecurely run, slow to respond (for instance, blocking ports to stem the spread of viruses), and twice as expensive as anything else. And by the time it's in, we'll be stuck with it for the rest of eternity (Amtrak, anyone?).

    • by jeff4747 (256583) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:38PM (#11745429)
      Does anyone else out there have a problem with government controlling access to the Internet? Anyone at all?

      Not at all.

      Government is bound by the constitution, and the first and fourth amendments should be easy to leverage into stopping those 'concerned mothers'. (Filters are legal in schools and libraries, because minors have very limited constitutional rights. Adults can ask the librarian/teacher to disable the filtering while they use the computer.)

      Private companies, OTOH, have no such restrictions. Your local cable monopoly could decide to respond to those 'concerned mothers' and slap on a filter, and there would be nothing you could do about it. In theory you could switch to another provider, but in most places there's a monopoly on broadband.

      If it's like any other government service, it will be poorly and insecurely run, slow to respond, and twice as expensive as anything else

      Take a look at the history of municipal utilites that were privatized. The municipal service offered water, sewer and electric power for less than for-profit companies that replaced them. And they did operate in the black while doing it, and service was as reliable as private companies.

      In a completely free market, I'd agree that government is bad, but in the case of utilites there is no free market.
    • government can always undercut the opponent and hide the costs in taxes; few will ever complain.

      Those books are open. And, in my experience, there is never any lack of picky people complaining. Private corps, by comparison, can hide any level of profit, gouging, or executive largess behind their closed books. And they can ignore any complaints.

      If it's like any other government service, it will be poorly and insecurely run, slow to respond (for instance, blocking ports to stem the spread of viruses),
  • by mjh (57755) <mark@@@hornclan...com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:26AM (#11744631) Homepage Journal
    I don't really understand the hue and cry from folks on this forum to have their broadband run by the a local government. Aren't you just trading one monopoly (the telco's and cable company) for another (the municipality)? In the latter case, it strikes me that you don't have the choice not to pay the government, where as if the telco and/or cable company sucks, you can decide not to pay them, which gives them an incentive to at least make sure that there service doesn't suck too bad. But with the gov't I don't see what incentive they'll have to provide good services. You're legally required to pay your taxes whether the service is good or bad.

    Personally, where I live, I wouldn't mind seeing the gov't reeled in a bit. That way that can't force my neighbor (who is happy as a clam w/out broadband) to subsidize my broadband. If my broadband provider starts to suck, I'd like the option of not subsidizing someone else's broadband. I don't see any way to do this latter part if it's run by a gov't.

    For a group of people strongly opposed to monopolies (e.g. micorosft), I don't really understand why you'd prefer to have some other monopoly (e.g. the local gov't) running your lives.

    Is there something obvious that I'm missing?
  • by Colonel Panic (15235) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:30AM (#11744674)
    What if back in the 1920's laws were passed to ensure that public electrical projects couldn't be setup to compete with private industry?

    We wouldn't have had the TVA, BPA and Rural electrification. Many rural areas would probably still be without electricity.

    Interestingly enough, the Bush admin wants to get rid of the BPA (Bonneville Power Admin) that runs the dams in the Northwest. Doing so will amount to a 30% rate increase for electric customers in the Northwest. So much for the free market...
  • Larry says... (Score:3, Informative)

    by tooloftheoligarchy (557158) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:31AM (#11744685)

    1.) This legislation is despicable.

    2.) Don't take my word for it. Listen to Prof. Lessig's first podcast [lessig.org] for a thoroughly considered explanation of why this is not in our best interest.

  • by Gallenod (84385) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:33AM (#11744712)
    Current initiatives for municipal broadband have a lot in common with previous attempts to set up municipal cable systems, not the least of which is that the same companies (Cox, Viacom, Adelphia, etc.) are involved.

    Municipal cable TV proposals aren't completely dead, they've just gone out of style. However, The city of Burlington, Vermont, is petitioning the state public service board (http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?A ID=/20050214/NEWS/502140334/1003/NEWS02) for permission to set up its own cable television service. The difference between this and the broadband proposals is that Adelphia is claiming that establishing a municipal cable network would be "overbuild," while with the broadband they're claiming that allowing a municipality to set up a broadband network would then prevent commercial companies from entering the market.

    What do they want? If it's open markets, they should be willing to compete with municipal projects on a level playing field (i.e. one where the city can't subsidise their system through tax revenues).

    If they champion "first-to-post" efficiency, then whoever builds the network first should be able to reap the benefits. Given government's alleged inefficiencies, that may mean that even if a city builds a cable or wireless network, they'd eventually have to sell it to a commercial provider if it becomes a liability to the city.

    All it will take is one state allowing this before it becomes a national issue with a fight in Congress. The big cable companies are fighting this state to state at the moment, but Vermont is a very independent-minded state. IF they let Burlington proceed it wouldn't be the first time they've told an industry co-op to buzz off and set a precedent for any city that wants to do something similar either with cable or IP. I expect Adelphia to pull out every weapon they can find to stop them, but I'm hoping, as with the sign restriction laws, land development rules, and the non-returnable bottle ban, that Vermont holds its ground and lets Burlington take Adelphia on head to head.

    They may ultimately fail, but I'd rather see them go down in a fair fight than see the project get bound, gagged, and tossed in Lake Champlain before it can get to the arena.

  • by newdamage (753043) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:35AM (#11744732) Homepage Journal
    Currently in Tallahassee you can get free wireless internet both downtown and at the airport. It's called Canopy, and it basically requires you to access a website first and then it connects you. It's quite convienent in the airport while you're waiting for a plane, I haven't had a chance to use it much downtown yet.

    Also, just for reference: Comcast highspeed internet without cable, $55/month. Gotta love monopolies fighting tooth and nail to hang on to their huge profits.
  • by panurge (573432) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:39AM (#11744787)
    We are still working on the outdated idea that government is big and we need to be protected from it, while business is small and needs free access to markets to flourish. This may be true still in a few places in the world, but increasingly the big government we need to be protected from is large companies.

    Case in point: in our town, Walmart wanted to build on a green field site. By the time they got around to it zoning rules had changed, but guess what? Our small municipality could not afford the legal fees to take on Walmart. Big corporate crushing small government.

    And this is the same thing again. The fact is, if small municipalities can afford to provide broadband at reasonable rates, the private suppliers should easily be able to match them. Because private enterprise is so much more efficient than public enterprise, isn't it?

    Well, pardon me while I beg to differ. Why should private enterprise, with its private airplanes, hugely overpaid execs, vast corporate dick-swinging-contest headquarters, and layers of management, be so much more efficient than small community efforts where the management overhead is minimal and the project manager isn't spending most of his or her time trying to do down the internal competition for the coveted corner office job?

    Private enterprise is very good at delivering capital goods cheaply, but actually not always terribly good at delivering services cheaply.

    It is hard to understand on what basis private companies have the right to prevent citizens banding together to co-operate on projects, whether it be putting up a community hall or a local broadband service. Perhaps a constitutional lawyer could explain it, but an expert on the cash flow of lobby companies might do better.

  • Freedom (Score:4, Insightful)

    by famazza (398147) <fabio DOT mazzarino AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:41AM (#11744814) Homepage Journal

    Individuals have all the same rights. But companies have more rights then individuals.

    That's the so called democracy in the United States.

  • by rkhalloran (136467) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:24PM (#11745278) Homepage
    I'm in Jacksonville FL; the city gov't has set up a large neighborhood hotspot for one of the 'developing' neighborhoods. The article says this sort of thing would be exempted, but the phrase you HAVE to add to something like this is "for how long?"

    If the cable/DSL duopoly isn't interested in serving an area, why should they get to whine when the local government steps in to fill the need? The demand is clearly present, or the city fathers wouldn't bother either.

    Then add the provisions that apparently hinder public websites for city/county/state government, and you REALLY have to start wondering.

  • by jocknerd (29758) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:50PM (#11745557)
    The local governments are wanting to provide Wi-Fi because the telecom monopolies are sitting on their asses and not providing it because of various reasons.

    The second issue is in the areas where the telecom monopolies are providing it, they are the only choice and are charging too much. If the government wants to get involved, contract out the data infrastructure. Don't leave it in the hands of a Verizon to control everything.

    Which scenario is better?
    Scenario A: Verizon runs fiber to my house. Verizon is my only choice of ISP. If I want another ISP, they have to run a separate fiber line to my house. Nuts!

    Scenario B: Gov't awards job to contractor to run fiber to my house. I can choose from multiple ISP's for my service over this fiber.

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