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Own the Last Mile 172

Posted by Zonk
from the get-the-last-word dept.
jonabbey writes "Robert X. Cringely's most recent column advocates a radical solution to the network neutrality thicket: create our own last mile infrastructure, rather than paying the telcos and cable companies to use our bandwidth as a lever. From the article: "A model in which the infrastructure is paid for as infrastructure -- privately, locally, nationally, and internationally can create a true marketplace in which the incentives are aligned. Instead of having the strange phenomenon of carriers spending billions and then arguing that they deserve to be paid, we'd have them bidding on contracts to install and/or maintain connectivity to a marketplace that is buying capacity and making it available so value can be created without having to be captured within the network and thus taken out of the economy."
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Own the Last Mile

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  • wireless (Score:5, Informative)

    by gosub770 (884067) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @07:25AM (#15642126)
    Why not set up a comminity wireless network or check if your neighbour already has http:ghostmodernism.com/ [ghostmodernism.com]
    • Re:wireless (Score:4, Interesting)

      by NeilTheStupidHead (963719) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @07:43AM (#15642163) Journal
      That is a great idea, and many cities around Europe and even a few in North America are trying to implement 'free' wireless networks (tax-payer subsidised). The problem is not that not everyone has a wireless connection. The problem is that everyone is not capable or willing to upgrade to a wireless connection. There's also the cost for a widespread wireless network. This kind of internet service is only even remotely practical in an extremely dense population area like the core of a major city. The small amount of money you save not running wires from the telephone pole to houses/building does not offset the cost of all the wireless 'hotspots' needed for wide area coverage. And as far as maintaince goes, four or five meters of wire are a lot less likely to get damaged in a storm and are also far cheaper to replace. Locally, the two 'highspeed' ISPs are the two competing cable/telephone companies. One (Company A) owns all the lines regarless of thier use and the other (Company B) piggybacks even their telephone and cable service on the other's infrastructure. The difference in price between the company that has to maintain the infrastructure and the company that has to pay to use it is about five dollars in favour of Company B, but their services is about 25% slower.
      • Re:wireless (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob.hotmail@com> on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:41AM (#15642239) Journal
        The problem is...

        Those are not the real barriers to adoption of freenets in the real world. If you look at projects like WA Freenet http://www.e3.com.au/ [e3.com.au], you can see the infrastructure here is being built by a handful of enthusiasts. If there was a coordinated effort by local governments, the network would be complete by now.

        The key problem is that such a network, allowing things like VOIP and video streaming, would cut the legs out from under existing telcos and media groups. It would make a decentralised network which is unaccountable and uncontrollable (by the government). In Australia, common carrier laws are being used to stop the freenets from connecting to the bigger internet. If a workaround is found for that, another barrier will be put in place.

        • I don't want the government any more involved in my internet access than they already are. A non-profit group would be an interesting idea, though.
      • The small amount of money you save not running wires from the telephone pole to houses/building does not offset the cost of all the wireless 'hotspots' needed for wide area coverage.

        That sounds like utter bullshit. Have any proof?
    • Why not set up a comminity wireless network or check if your neighbour already has http:ghostmodernism.com/ [ghostmodernism.com]

      Because it's impossible for you guarantee service.
      If my neighbor buys a cordless phone that knocks out my wifi connection, legally I can't do squat.

      Now if you're talking about liscensed wireless you run into a whole other set of problemss. (Like the cost of liscenses and limited hardware availibility.)
      • I was under the impression that unlicensed devices are not allowed to interfere with any other device even if that device is not RF based. You are not allowed to jam your neighbor, but certainly your neighbor is in violation of FCC regulations.
        • I was under the impression that unlicensed devices are not allowed to interfere with any other device even if that device is not RF based.

          They are not allowed to intentionally interfere, as in you are not allowed to deliberately jam you neighbor. However, if you have a legitimate reason for transmitting, you may do so.

          A licensed HAM radio operator can radiate up to a THOUSAND WATTS in the 2.4 GHz range, so long as he has a good reason for doing so. That WILL jam you, and you do not have any authorit
      • You could go to 5.8GHz. There's no point in using 2.4GHz for anything other than very short range any more.
    • I've been witnessing the problem for a non-US telco, as we helped them with their strategic planning efforts. What is needed is a new last mile business model, separate from services (data, internet, etc.). Last miles investments are long term, and now they are coupled to services in many countries. When regulations force you to share the last mile, you have the US situation (A bit better than unregulated).

      Cringley argues in favour of citicen owned last miles. That's one way. What we need to develop is a bu
    • I can think of a reason.

      while (1) {

      "Hi, I'd like to buy your internet."

      "Okay, where do you live?"

      "$address outside($smallradius)"

      "Oh, we don't have any access there. Sorry."

      }

      Until you can make a community wireless network large enough to cover > 50% of your market, then you will fail as an ISP. And would you like to take a guess as to how much money *that* will cost? Way more money than people are willing to pay, that's how much. Around here, a single radio license costs somewhere around $100,000.
  • by jkrise (535370) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @07:29AM (#15642132) Journal
    A model in which the infrastructure is paid for as infrastructure -- privately, locally, nationally, and internationally can create a true marketplace in which the incentives are aligned...

    Despite the availability of Free software -- both as in beer, and in freedom... the software marketplace remains skewed in favour of corporate giants, patent trolls etc. What incentive would the bandwidth providers have... for practising a transparent and 'fair' bisiness model? How many 'consumers' are technically capable / informed to take up this task? Can't see this model working on either side of the equation...


    • Step back from software & the 20th & 21st centuries, look at what continues to be a constant discussion: privatization of the postal system - sell it out and let the gov't deal with the last mile.

      It hasn't happened there despite the most Herculean efforts of the biggest checkbooks.

      Why do you think it'll change with a lot of glass & copper?


    • by hey! (33014) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:18AM (#15642206) Homepage Journal
      What incentive would the bandwidth providers have... for practising a transparent and 'fair' bisiness model? How many 'consumers' are technically capable / informed to take up this task?

      I think you may have missed the point. The broadband providers would be out of the picture, so far as the business of prividing broadband access is concerned. ISPs would have to compete on Internet services not access. The question of 'fair' business models wouldn't come up, because they wouldn't have monopoloy control over anything. And if we don't have large companies leveraging their publicly granted monopolies into strategic advantages in Internet services, the result is that the government gets out of the business of monitoring and intervening in private enterprises to enforce fairness.

      How many 'consumers' are technically capable / informed to take up this task?

      How many are capable now? And even if they were capable, what good does that do if they can only get broadband through one provider?

      A public broadband infrastructure would lower the barriers to entry in service. If you don't like Comcast or Verizon, you can choose a small service oriented ISP, or even get together with your friends and start a co-op. You might not be able to figure out which ISP is the best, but if you didn't like your service you could cancel it and buy somebody else's. You can't do that now in many places without giving up broadband.
      • A public broadband infrastructure would lower the barriers to entry in service.

        With the obvious exception of AT&T, most telcos oppose wiretapping. With this infastructure being owned by the government already, there's not even that whole "liability barrier" to privacy invasion. Can't sue the government without the government's permission, remember? The Supreme Court decided that a long time ago.

        That's not to mention how new infastructure is totally fouled up by government about 30% of the time. The "bi
        • Imagine 5 years from now when all the new fibre needs to be replaced and the Government's already spent all the tax dollars set aside for it.

          Though I suspect from the tone of your post that we disagree on most things government, I happen to agree with you on this one. I just came from a presentation last Wednesday from the American Society of Civil Engineers about the state of our roads, and it is ugly. Like bridges near collapse ugly. Same for sewer and water systems, navigable waterways, dams, railroad

      • Start a co-op? Do you know how hard it is, for example, to start a DSL co-op?

        Don't get into one of those libertarian, "you should do it for yourself!" things, because if you're not 100% hardcore, you're going down.

        I only say this from experience.
  • Mesh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by paganizer (566360) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .1evorgeht.> on Saturday July 01, 2006 @07:29AM (#15642134) Homepage Journal
    I'm probably not getting some subtle nuance, but do not the various wireless nationwide mesh projects pretty much make this a non-issue?
    Sure it sucks now; the assinine laws being passed truly suck and all, but with more geographic communities able to talk to each other without using telecom infrastructure, it looks like the interweb has a chance to get back to being the unregulated freedom space it is supposed to be.
    • I'm probably not getting some subtle nuance, but do not the various wireless nationwide mesh projects pretty much make this a non-issue?

      No, they don't.

      Mesh networks, at best, only spread the cost around.

      Someone is still tied into the "last mile"

      The main problem with re-doing the last mile is getting permission to lay fiber, copper, or whatever. There's a stack of legal hassle & the cable/telco wankers will fight you like hell.

      Oh, and 'the market' frowns on duplication of resources, meaning that consumer

      • Re:Mesh (Score:3, Informative)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        Today's prime rate is 8.25%

        And 10-year municipal bonds are currently 5.125% - which is the rate this would actually be financed at. http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/rates/index.html [bloomberg.com]

        Monthly payments over 10 years of $16/month on initial capital of $1,500. http://money.guardian.co.uk/calculator/form/0,1456 ,603156,00.html [guardian.co.uk]

        • But Cringley isn't suggesting that this be done on the municipal scale
          (and even if he was, the cable/telcos have sued in the past to prevent it)
          which is why he went with the prime rate & not the lower municipal bond rate,
          as he envisions consumer collectives doing this, not the city/town.

          Maybe someone can explain exactly what $1,500 buys you in terms of "fiber drop"
  • by A_Mythago (204246) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @07:39AM (#15642153) Journal
    As optimist as this article is (and adds a nice bashing of Microsoft that should please this crowd), it fails to take in account the other side of the telecomms strategy for "metering the internet". There has been a legislative push to throw so many roadblocks against municipal broadband projects at both the state and federal level, often citing "anticompetive environment" as a justification against them.
    Considering the virtual monopoly positions held by most providers in their areas of services, it is apparent they have seen the potential (and threat) of municipal broadband projects to their mid and long term plans for the internet.
    "Owning the last mile" is a beautiful vision and expresses the American dream in the digital age...unless you they have already outlawed it in your area.
    • Maybe a community project just needs another form of organization? If interested users form a "Local Infrastructure Corporation", I guess the laws against municipal broadband projects might not apply.
      Of course, an important difference would be that the "Local Infrastructure Corporation" cannot force anyone to join, so you would have to convince enough interested people to make the undertaking commercially viable.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:15AM (#15642200) Homepage Journal
      "Owning the last mile" is a beautiful vision and expresses the American dream in the digital age...unless you they have already outlawed it in your area.

      Please state where it is illegal to set up a new commercial ISP. I don't think you need an ISP owned by the local government, which is really what telco & cableco fought against. They didn't outlaw commercial internet services. You can try competing against them as an actual business not funded by the local government, which is probably a better way to go anyway.
    • expresses the American dream in the digital age
      I would have thought the american dream was rather to direct of one of those monopolistic telcos :)
  • The real problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kazrael (918535) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @07:41AM (#15642159) Homepage
    The real problem with this idea comes in with people who want access from rural locations or connecting cities across large distances. Who is going to pay the million bucks to get the wiring from the DFW area to Austin?
    • Re:The real problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by denormaleyes (36953) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:17AM (#15642204)
      The real problem with this idea comes in with people who want access from rural locations or connecting cities across large distances. Who is going to pay the million bucks to get the wiring from the DFW area to Austin?

      As to the inter-city hauls, those are already available at decent rates once you get your local bits to a nearby POP.

      Sayeth the Cringe (I RTFA):

      Of course you'd still have to buy Internet service, but at NerdTV rates the amount of bandwidth used by a median U.S. broadband customer would be less than $2.00 per month.

      The whole point of the article is that by doing the expensive (relative to a consumers monthly ISP bill) last mile infrastructure ourselves, we avoid the rent seeking behaviors of the current last mile owners who are more in the business of monthly billing events than transporting packets. If you pay $50 a month for broadband and the part of that service between your local POP and the rest of the world currently runs about $2 per month, what exactly do you get for that other $48 per month? Email service? Blocked server ports? The ability to get a less comprimised QoS by paying more?

      Cringe thinks we could, over a 10 year period, finance fiber to your door with crazy local bandwdith (basically free) and cheap metered Internet service (for what you use today, not necessarily what you might use when you can do BitTorrent at 100Mbit/s symetrical) for about $20 per month if you and your neighbors worked collectively. At that point, ISPs and TV providers would be more likely to beat a path to your "last mile" door since the really really expensive part was already built by someone else (you) who doesn't discriminate against them like the Bells would against CLECs.

    • Re:The real problem (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:18AM (#15642210) Homepage Journal
      Who is going to pay the million bucks to get the wiring from the DFW area to Austin?

      I thought this is about the last mile, not the backbone. You can tie into the the internet without having to make your own connections between two major cities.
  • by Sulka (4250) <sulka AT iki DOT fi> on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:08AM (#15642189) Homepage Journal
    In the apartment complex I live in, we installed HomePNA equipment that's owned by the complex. As a result, we're paying an ISP only for the hooked ADSL connections and thus have been able to both cut down costs get a faster connections over time. I'm paying $2 a month for a 1 mbit/s connection so this strategy certainly has worked for us. Yes, the total bandwidth (16mbit/s) is shared by everyone participating but this far I've actually gotten that amount of bandwidth every time I tried.
    • HomePNA looks like mainly ethernet infrastructure. If it's a small complex that might work, but I have over 100 neighbours in my building and ethernet is going to max out after the first 100 yards. I guess I need something similar that does fiber instead.
  • by brendanoconnor (584099) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @08:16AM (#15642201)
    While the idea of setting up community networks then buying bandwidth to be shared amongst everyone certainly is appealing to many of us, there are many more people that just wouldn't be interesting. Not to mention, it would be a brutal fight with the incumbent telcos and cable companies. Even once the network is built in said local community, I am sure the telcos would try and rack up as huge a cost for the higher bandwidth lines just because. Now, this would not be a problem if the government was on our side, but lets face it, demo or repub, they both belong to big business. With most of if not all of our government on company payroll, I find it near impossible for community networks to become the norm and not the extremely rare exception that they are now. I hope I am wrong. Brendan
  • I like this analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LaughingCoder (914424) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:01AM (#15642278)
    In a sense Microsoft is a lot like the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire's growth and economy was driven by conquering and plundering neighboring regions. Within the Empire they created a sort of safe economic zone where commerce could work and technology could be developed. However, that came at a price, as they tended to destroy everything outside the empire as it grew.

    Even though I am not a Microsoft basher -- in fact probably on these boards I would be characterized as a Microsoft shill -- I think this analogy really does a nice job of describing Microsoft's behavior. And it probably also explains why my personal feeling is that, by-and-large, Microsoft has done more good than bad for folks like me (software developer). That's because I'm essentially "inside the empire". No doubt most Roman citizens felt the same way about their government's actions. That said, this analogy helps me to better understand the bitterness and vitriol directed at Microsoft that I witness on places like these boards, as many of the complaining folks consider themselves among the plundered.

    Of course if one accepts the analogy, it is tempting to extrapolate what the future might hold for Microsoft. The Roman Empire grew so large that ultimately it collapsed because they couldn't control such a large and disparate entity. I think we may be seeing signs of that collapse in Microsoft as well.

    Et tu, Ozzie?
    • by Zobeid (314469)
      I've been observing Microsoft for many years. Their whole business was built on the idea that the platform with the most software Wins, and therefore third-party developers for the Windows platform must be supported, nurtured, coddled, wooed. . . as long as they aren't doing something that competes with Microsoft itself, of course.

      Microsoft treats most of the world like dirt. End users get treated like dirt, and ripped off on a massive scale. Corporate clients get manipulated, jerked around, and treated
    • The Roman Empire grew so large that ultimately it collapsed because they couldn't control such a large and disparate entity. I think we may be seeing signs of that collapse in Microsoft as well.

      Just don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

      The empire had a very long run and in many ways still defines what is distinctly Western.

      The eastern empire, while always more Greek than Roman, survived well into the modern era---which more or less begins with an awareness of Rome's fall.

    • by Tim (686)
      I think this analogy really does a nice job of describing Microsoft's behavior. And it probably also explains why my personal feeling is that, by-and-large, Microsoft has done more good than bad for folks like me (software developer). That's because I'm essentially "inside the empire".

      Actually, being a third-party developer in the Microsoft world is a lot more like being a pig on a factory farm than a citizen in ancient Rome. They feed you well, keep you in a confined little intellectual space, and bore yo
    • The Roman Empire fell because they were too busy hiring and firing hoards from beyond their borders to fight each other.

      Microsoft will fall when they make an alliance with Linus Torvalds to fight Steve Jobs (wait, this already happened in reverse...!) and they don't keep up with the tribute payments. Everyone wants MS to play nice with open source software and support standards, but those are the barbarians that will destroy Ro^H^H Microsoft.

      Pax Microsoftus, it's the only way the Empire can survive.
  • meeting halfway (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:05AM (#15642286)
    We are building a house in a remote, upscale community of 125 houses. The only option out there for access is cable which isn't much of an option as the ISP is small and not very forward looking. I contacted some of the better alternative ISPs in the area in the hopes of finding someone who would be more willing to work with a small community. Most of them said if we can get a commit level of greater than 50% from the community they would bring the service out to us for free (DSL). The DSLAM would be local so everyone would have a fast connection. The ISP is calculating recovery of installation costs in 2.5 years. The people that commit would have to sign a 3 year agreement. Some of you might be thinking that why would someone do that with only 6 months of guaranteed income. The ISPs all said that their customer loyalty rates are higher than average so they are counting on keeping customers for a much longer period of time, plus there isn't much choice in ISPS as there would be in a larger community.

    The second alternative which are are looking into is the cost to get the main Telco ISP to drag fiber to us. So far they have speculated that the cost would be around $250K plus we would have to purchase the termination equipment on our end. The builder would be willing to run the fiber from the local demark to each home for free (we pay for the cable). The conservative estimate is that it would take us around 8 years to pay off (at normal monthly cable rates) but we would all have shared access to the fiber.

    There is a huge disparity in the costs that the small ISP is calculating for the fiber and what the telco would charge us, I am not sure where that comes from yet but we are looking into it.

    • Re:meeting halfway (Score:2, Informative)

      by larytet (859336)
      did you consider satellite ?

      What is the distance from the nearest town we are talking about ?

      I know a guy who lives 4 miles from the nearest town together with other 4 families. local telco told them - dial up access only and they have it at 19200kBits/s or roughly 2KBytes/s symmetrical. This guy has a friend in that town. They installed an amplifier ($100), two WiFi routers ($150) and made focused antennas from cans of coke (they drunk the coke, so the antenna is free). It took a week to install and f

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:15AM (#15642305) Journal
    ...see how wrong they where?

    I'm a radio amateur, don't know what that is? Look up ARRL on Google and educate yourself.

    The idea of making an international network predates the Internet, actually way back in time when Samuel Morse invented ...well..duh...Morse code. Of course, morse code....slow as it is - isn't practical for a world-wide-wireless network with todays demands for broadband and hight troughput, but the Radioamateurs are the ones that carry the solution for nearly every wireless innovation in the world. Who's the first to try out new untested stuff? Radio amateurs, who's the first to utilize it all before it becomes mainstream? Who's do YOU know that communicates today digitally via their own satellites? You may not know anyone - but they're radioamateurs and they're in this world - way ahead as usual - perhaps not old "grandpappy HAM-operator from-way-back" but the legacy he and so many others carried on - lives in us - the younger generation who grew up with bread-board electronics and became engineers, technicians...and yes.. radio amateurs - your average radio-shack hobbyist. You may not know it - even though radio-shack and the likes all over the planet are phasing out old-style electronics - we're still active and inventive.

    Fancy - a little history and a waving finger, but where does that place us? Well - you brought it up to the public and you read it, participated in it - a suggestion to create our own world wide intranet. I say it's a GREAT idea, not new as you can read from this and history - but is it feasible? Well - turn to radioamateurs, call out NOW and get cracking! (and no - that's not cracking, it's a metaphor for get busy!)

    Things as they are now:

    A world wide wireless Ad-Hoc network. More and more mainboards plus laptops come with wireless adaptors built right in, as you may know already - these are radio transmitters & receivers. A little engineering and these can be modified to support such an idea, heck....you can even use it today without modifying anything but software.

    In the radio-amateur world we have something called Packet-Radio. Packet radio can be hideously slow and it can also be really fast, it all depends on the same things YOU depend on...bandwith....and the actual band. A little radio theory for you all: The short wave bands are great for reaching long distances and a relatively reliable connection that can last for hours - worldwide! The shortwave bands shortcomings is that they're not carrying a lot of bandwidth for data usage so we need to be creative. For 20 years ago - no one would have guessed that you could transmit digital Hifi-Stereo radio streams via the shortwave band in a few kilohertz bandwith, but you can - look it up on Google - it's called DRM (no Not Digital Rights Management) But Digital Radio Mondale. This shows you how creative you can get being a radio amateur engineer - and we haven't reached the limits there yet. Now for the more interesting bands - VHF and UHF. These bands doesn't reach very far, but we have higher bandwidth capabilities and it could potentially sport speeds up to an average 56 K modem. 56 K is not very fast, but the good thing about radio is that you can be several users onto several servers using the same frequency but far away from each other...thus you could in fact share a 2 mbit "wireless" line just using packet radio alone because all users wont be onto that same 56K relay! And best of all - it's free, you need a radio-amateur license though.

    Ok, 56 K not enough for you even if it's free? How about microwaves? yes - thats what you already use today with your existing wireless equipment - yes even as hight as 5 ghz. If you read my post so far, then you probably have guessed that the microwave distance will be even less...shortwave reaches far..but have low bandwidth ...Vhf...medium bandwidth ...and UHF to microwave have Mega to Gigabit capability, now we're talking, right?

    Truth is - it's alre
    • Yes, ham radio exists and has lots of new high-tech directions. Unfortunately, for the /. crowd (and even more for the general Internet community), there are limitations to what you (we) can do in ham radio compared with the Internet.

      Amateur radio is a licensed service, meaning that a non-trivial (though pretty easy for /.-ers?) exam is required. This will always keep out the general public -- either a good or bad thing depending on point of view. Some folks would like to see licensing diluted to the

    • I'm a radio amateur, don't know what that is? Look up ARRL on Google and educate yourself.

      You might be surprised at how many people around here understand or are involved in the hobby. Just saying, you're probably not blind-siding us with the technology.
    • It wasn't the Internet that killed amateur radio (the data side of it, not long-distance HF, that's still going strong).

      It was government licensing restrictions that killed it, idiotic things like not being allowed to encrypt our data links because the authorities wanted the content of transmissions to be visible to them. They didn't care that this made our data systems open to every script kiddie under the sun, nor that lack of privacy rendered it largely worthless for personal utility comms.

      Amateur data
      • It was government licensing restrictions that killed it, idiotic things like not being allowed to encrypt our data links because the authorities wanted the content of transmissions to be visible to them.

        Without that restriction, many countries would never have allowed their citizens to operate amateur radio stations. It may seem like paranoia to the average slashdotter, but amateur radio has only become as widespread as it has because it is transparent and easy to monitor. It's also why many countries h

  • Nationilze? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yez70 (924200) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:37AM (#15642346)
    I know this goes completely against the 'American way' but maybe it should be considered. Besides, WE paid for the telco networks, WE subsidize them in taxes that never end. WE have put up with their BS for long enough. The bloated telco's are already facing their demise as communication becomes cheaper and cheaper thru alternative sources, and will eventually be completely free or near to it for the majority.

    Let's use 'eminent domain' the right way, not against the citizens, but against the corrupt telcos whose only interest is their own survival and profits - not the consumer.

    On the flip side - there is already a company building a free wi-fi network, you share your wi-fi and you get to use everyone elses too - free - or don't share it and only pay a fair $2 a day to use other people's wi-fi hotpsots. Check out: http://en.fon.com/ [fon.com]
    • Re:Nationilze? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Explodicle (818405)
      An interesting idea, but...
      • The big telcos already have their fingers in Washington's pockets. If net neutrality is to fail in congress, what make you think net socialism would ever pass?
      • The government has little incentive to keep up with customer demands, since we HAVE to pay taxes. Some broadband companies (admittedly not all) have to compete with another provider.
      • How sure can we be that our internet usage wouldn't be monitored to catch terrorists/communists/pedophiles/witches? A private company can
      • Re:Nationilze? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Yez70 (924200)
        Yea, the idea has little chance in todays political climate, but America began with a revolution and it's headed for another - so you never know. If more Americans would act like Americans and stop putting up with the corporate control of the government things could start changing for it's citizens. Until then, count on the only things that matter are the corporate entities and their lobbies.

        We don't matter anymore.

        Viva la revolucion! :D
  • by lseltzer (311306) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:38AM (#15642349)
    People who buy service from an ISP aren't just buying raw connectivity, they're buying e-mail service, proxies, some security facilities, tech support and a lot more. Maybe it's a bad deal, but Cringely's $17.42 figure is not an accurate one.
    • But why can't I pick and choose that?

      The "Information Superhighway" should be just like the /real/ highway. We pay a proportionately low price for the road (Currently in PA, it costs me $36/car/year and $25/4 years for a license), and are given unlimited access to all roads, owned by my state or not. I, however, choose the car, how I maintain it, the route, etc etc. Imagine paying Bell a small fee for access to the "Public Data Network" and then choosing your own services separately, or running them yoursel
      • In this case the company that runs the road have the power to determine how it is used. There are established standards and NEUTRALITY laws that regulate roads so that you or nobody else gets discriminated.

        In the case of internet, they are trying to prevent this neutrality. You cannot leave the control of the internet 'road', even the last mile, to local corporations. If you do, theyll do whatever they want with you.
        • >>There are established standards and NEUTRALITY laws that regulate roads so that you or nobody else gets discriminated.

          This isn't true. There are lots of roads where, for example, trucks are not permitted, or their operation is limited, or there are weight limitations. There are bridges and tunnels where certain types of vehicles and cargoes are banned. There are toll roads where different types of vehicles pay different fees. And, of course, the operation of vehicles on the roads is heavily (if unev
          • What you are talking is quality of service. Ie - video stream first or http packets first. This is not an analogy to roads in correct form.

            To relate it with net neutrality, it should be this way ; if roads had been regulated as the telcos want net to be, then ordinary citizens in commuter cars would need to pay different companies at every traffic light, and still the company would decide who would pass first, and discriminate people from another state on arbitrary 'commercial' grounds - like not being a
  • by jonwil (467024) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @09:47AM (#15642369)
    If the companies that own the copper, coax and fibre were to change the way they operate, they could continue to make globs of money AND do better for the customer (better yet, they can make MORE money from the bandwidth hogs downloading over bittorrent)

    Here is my 5 step plan:
    1.Stop selling/advertising "Unlimited" bandwidth.
    2.Give customers a limited amount of bandwidth per month. Once that has been exceeded, they have to pay $x per gig or part thereof over the limit. (which means the bandwidth hogs pay more). Make sure that the monthly fee, the bandwidth you get for that fee and the extra charges are clearly spelt out in the terms of service.
    3.Give customers a full open internet. Do not give preferential treatement to (or conversly, limit/throttle) any ports, protocols or networks/machines except where necessary to maintain network security/integrity (e.g. blocking mailservers running on residential DSL/cable/fibre accounts to prevent spam zombies). Do not restrict the running of servers unless necessary to maintain network security/integrity.
    4.Make a full range of extra options available and dont make them expensive. Static IPs should be available to ALL customers (including those on "residental" connections) and should be in a different network block to the normal pool of residential dynamic IP addresses. (if they cost a little extra, thats perfectly ok). Also, it should be possible to "pre purchase" extra bandwitdh for a per-gig price that is lower than what you would get charged at the end of the month (so if you are doing a really big file download such as a linux ISO and you think it will push you over the limit, prepurchase the bandwidth to save money). If you dont use the prepurchased bandwidth, it would be forfited at the end of the month.
    and 5.Be honest to your customers. (not like all the cable companies etc that will cut you off or cut your speed if you exceed a certain amount of bandwidth but wont tell you what that amount is or how much you have used already)

    If US ISPs followed this plan, the bandwidth hogs that download TV shows, movies, XBOX/PS2/PC ISOZ, linux ISOs or whatever else would pay extra whilst the normal users who dont download large stuff wouldnt be subsidising the heavy users anymore.

    Of course, this will never happen. Why? Because for the ISPs, its NOT about money, its about CONTROL. One of the things that makes the internet great is that anyone can publish their own origonal content. The internet can be used by garage bands and amatuer film makers everwhere as a way to disseminate their work and get it seen. The internet can be used by bloggers and others to post their own options even if those opinions conflict with the "collective groupthink". The internet can be used by programmers to post and share free code, free software and free ideas.

    This is what those in power want to stop. If the ISPs implement tiered internet, you can bet they will use it to make the big guys bigger and the small guys smaller.

    Search engines like MSN will be in the high tier and engines like google will be in the low tier. Microsoft.com will be in the high tier whereas sourceforge.net and gnu.org will be in the low tier. Sites like nytimes.com, news.com.au, cnn.com, foxnews.com and abcnews.com will be in the high tier while sites that dont follow the "groupthink" such as news.bbc.co.uk or slashdot.org will be in the low tier. Sites like geocities.com (with all the restrictions like a ban on posting any audio file even if you can prove you own the copyright) will be in the high tier whereas sites that give you hosting without the restrictions (paid or free) will be in the low tier.
    And so on.

    Now is the time to rise up and fight the large ISPs to keep the internet open.
    Fight the push to turn normal people into consumers with no abillity to publish their origonal content. Fight the push to tell us what we can and cant watch on our TVs.
    Fight the push to tell us what software we can run on our computers.
    Fight the push by the big media co
    • you think bandwidth overage charges would be a good thing!???

      why not just use smart throttling so in any given week your first X(1) megabytes go at y(1) then it slows down to y(2) for x(2) megabytes etcetera

      if you hog too bad you will end up at early 90's dialup speed, but only for a few days.

      this would teach people not to hog bandwidth without people getting shocked by their first bill and leaving the service
    • One quick response - bandwidth is 'per second'. And Id love to have a specific, limited bandwidth. What you are talking about is 'transfer', which harkens to the cell phone carriers wanting to bill 'per minute', or for dialup ISP's to bill 'per hour'. The former is starting to break down, and the latter went away a long time ago. The entire concept of being 'on the meter' is obnoxious. I'd rather have a limited, fixed X Mbps, and be able to use it (or not) as much as I want.
      • Another alternative would be to do what the ISP I am with here in australia does.
        I get 20GB a month download quota and if I ecxeed it, I get throttled back to 64kbps speed untill the end of the month.

        What I am really saying is that US ISPs are finding out that they cant offer "unlimited" and get away with it because of all the p2p users etc. And so they want to solve it by blocking or throttling p2p and other things when the better solution is a user pays model which means that the people who are downloadin
    • geocities.com (with all the restrictions like a ban on posting any audio file even if you can prove you own the copyright)

      But can you prove that you own the copyright? If you make a "cover version", a recording of someone else's copyrighted song, then you do not own the copyright. If you write a song and you happen to subconsciously copy part of someone else's copyrighted song, then you do not own the copyright. If you write a song, and it happens to coincidentally match [slashdot.org] something you heard on the radio a

    • Of course, this will never happen. Why? Because for the ISPs, its NOT about money, its about CONTROL.

      While I don't necessarily disagree with your point, that is not why it won't happen. It will not happen because of something economists refer to as a "flat rate bias." People prefer to pay a fixed rate and not have to worry about how much they're using rather than pay any sort of rate per unit or any sort of overages like you describe. This holds true most of the time even if it can be demonstrated to

      • Basicly, my real point is that ISPs are facing problems because high bandwidth users are downloading a lot more than they are paying for and ISPs see discriminating based on port, protocol and/or network (i.e. charge google more) as the solution when the right solution is to find a way (doesnt much matter how) to make the high bandwidth users pay more for their internet.
        As for competition, most people are stuck with either one cable provider or one DSL provider with maybe a provider like verizon offering fi
  • customer: I am having problems with my internet connection
    telco: Well, everything looks good on our side. You need to contact your local municipality.
    customer: uhhhh, what's a municipality?
  • by Rinisari (521266) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:30AM (#15642437) Homepage Journal
    I've pulled out some choice thoughts from the article:
    To Bob the issues surrounding Net Neutrality come down to billability and infrastructure. While saying they are doing us favors, ISPs are really offering us services they can bill for. Nothing is aimed at helping us, while everything is aimed at creating a billable event.
    This is true, don't act like you don't know it. Every corporation wants every chance to make money--it wouldn't be a profitable business if it didn't.
    Take WiFi hotspots, for example. Why should the telephone or cable company care about who connects to my WiFi access point? They are my bits, not the ISP's. I paid for them. If I can download gigabytes of pornography why can't I share my hotspot with someone walking down the street wanting to check his e-mail? Frankston's analogy for this is accusing someone of stealing your porch light by using it to read a street sign.
    That may be about the best analogy I've ever heard for relating using someone else's wireless access point. From the buisness point of view, I can see where ISPs want each individual using their bandwidth to pay them, but if a person has already paid for a connection and is willing to share it, he should be allowed to do so.
    Well we did [build public infrastructure], didn't we, with the National Information Infrastructure program of the 1990s, which was intended to bring fiber straight to most American homes? About $200 billion in tax credits and incentives went primarily to telephone companies participating in the NII program. What happened with that? They took the money, that's what, and gave us little or nothing in return.
    They used it, and now they charge us for it. Money that should have been given to towns and cities went to corporations. I love America.
    Using the higher $1,500 figure, the cost to finance the system over 10 years at today's prime rate would be $17.42 per month.
    I'm paying $40 per month right now for an incredibly snaillike 512 kbps cable line and my parents, who live five miles away, are paying $43 per month for a 4 Mbps cable line that they barely use! Since I moved out, I'll bet their bandwidth usage is under 200 MB, and I've been out for a month. I'd gladly welcome this stuff in New Wilmington--lower cost, more bandwidth. And bragging rights.
    One billion dollars each in seed capital from Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, and Google would be enough to set neighborhood network dominos falling in communities throughout America with no tax money ever required. And they'd get their money back, both directly and indirectly, many times over.
    Call it the investment of the millennium. Hell, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [gatesfoundation.org] could finance it independently with all the money it just got [nytimes.com]. It'll give kids a real Internet connection to enhance their education. Please, Think of the Children [wikipedia.org]!
    • They used it, and now they charge us for it. Money that should have been given to towns and cities went to corporations. I love America.

      Ummm... if you have ever lived in a totally corrupt one-party political machine city, lower income areas with poor infrastructure (the people who are the least likely to be able to pay a lot of money to the telcos for broadband), are also the places where those grants would essentially go straight into the pockets of the local political machine and not help anyone at all.

      Th
  • by Zobeid (314469) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @10:42AM (#15642464)
    Free space optics (FSO) have been used to created community networks (free and otherwise). The advantages are: high speed full-duplex connections, no need to lay cable, no need for RF spectrum or broadcasting licenses.

    Cost can be a problem, because it's strictly point-to-point, and you need a transceiver at each end of each link. That can rapidly add up to a lot of transceivers. And commercial transceivers are expensive. By comparison, the RONJA device can be made very cheaply, in terms of components costs -- but they take a lot of skilled labor to assemble. Check it --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronja [wikipedia.org]

    The good news about FSO costs is, the network can start small and add one node at a time, and not have to pay the full up-front costs of something like laying fiber.

    The other problem is that FSO has limited range and is strictly line-of-sight. Depending on terrain, trees and buildings, you may have to be pretty ingenious in placing the transceivers, and you might need towers or repeaters in some instances.

    I am looking forward to Wi-Max, by the way. That's another technology with potential to change things.
  • by Bookwyrm (3535) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:07AM (#15642528)
    If you ask techies about the issue, they suggest more/bigger/better technology. If you ask business folks about the issue, they suggest pricing and features and rates. If you ask legistlators about the issue, they suggest regulation.

    This isn't exactly any of those as much as PEBCAK. We're leaving the world of computer-to-computer communications behind and it's becoming one of people-using-computers-to-other-people-using-compu ters communication.

    Let me see if I can offer some food for thought --

    Within the realm of automobiles and driving, a driver has immediate feedback from how s/he is driving, can see other drivers and how they are driving, has turn signals, horns, and can also see things like traffic jams, ambulances, etc. Even outside of any legal regulations, a given area can develop certain common behaviors among drivers because they will learn from each other, consciously or not, purposeful or not, about what to do, what not to do.

    Within the realm of net-usage, there is no feedback for the end users on whether or not how/when/what they are doing on the network is affecting anyone else or what is going on. It's like everyone is driving bumper cars without vision, hearing, or any sort of feedback, and the only control is the gas pedal. You just floor it and hope you bounce around to where you want to go. Maybe you do, maybe you don't.

    Without any sort of feedback, no 'rules of the road' or such things like "slower traffic keep right" (for US drivers) can develop. The users can't tell what's going on and adjust. So, various parties are trying to 'help' the users:

    Business: "We will make separate lanes for separate speeds, and people will pay for the speeds they want."

    Techies: "We don't want separate lanes - we will make the roads bigger until the problem goes away! Or make roads so cheap the users can have their own!"

    Government: "We will regulate the roads to keep the users safe from one another."

    In all cases, third parties are trying to 'help' the average user because each of them think they know best. Whether or not any of them actually do know best is a secondary issue to the one that each of them probably does know *more* than the average user about what is going on.

    If every user had some sort of feedback as to how they were affecting other users, then I suspect that in most cases the users would manage to work things out one way or the other among themselves. Because the user base cannot, everyone is suggesting solutions to take care of the problem without seeking real input from the major stakeholders -- the users, who are simultaneously the source of the problems from their usage of the network taken as a whole.

    Regardless of solution chosen or what actually happens, the lack of feedback to the users and user controls (outside of, say, trying to force a web page to (re)load) would suggest that none of the solutions will truly solve the PEBCAK issue because there's no way to really involve the users as a whole in any of the solutions... or, if you will, we tend to call them 'network users', not, say 'network citizens'. (Heck, few ever refer to them as 'people', they're just faceless 'users'.)

    'Citizen' suggests a level of responsiblity and participation within the overall process that is not currently possible because they have been insulated from almost all useful feedback about the results of their own behaviors, so they cannot learn/adapt/take responsibility on their own. So various people (techies, businesses, governments) try to help do it for them. Empowering the people doesn't work because without the feedback they can't learn how to treat the extra power to get along with each other. Charging the people more doesn't work because without feedback people can't easily tell if they're getting what they're paying for. Adding more laws doesn't work, because without feedback people can't tell what they're doing at all, never mind if they're doing something wrong.

    As such, I find most of the suggestions from various talking-heads well-meaning but tiresome.
  • WOW was doing this prior. Basically, they had a model of providing the last mile and only the last mile. But they appear to no longer be doing. The funny thing, a number of folks, including myself, have been saying this for years. It is nothing new. The general idea is to make the monopoly go to the lowest level possible. Once that starts, then real competition will happen and we will have loads of bandwidth at a fraction of the current price.
  • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:20AM (#15642563)
    End-user ownership is a cornerstone of a proposal and a more recent white paper by a committee of IEEE-USA. See

    http://www.ieeeusa.org/policy/positions/broadband. asp [ieeeusa.org]

    and

    http://www.ieeeusa.org/volunteers/committees/ccip/ docs/Gigabit-WP.pdf [ieeeusa.org]

    The fact is that the US is being dumbed down with respect to broadband technology. The Washington Post recently had an article stating that Koreans feel like they are going back to the past, telecommunications-wise, when they come to the US.

    Real broadband is gigabit or better, bidirectional, to the end user. Ownership by end-users may be the only way we can achieve it. Content and bandwidth should be separated, with nobody other than end users allowed to provide both.
  • Own it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:10PM (#15642687) Homepage
    First off, we already own the last mile. That's why its called a "public right of way." Just like a public park, it belongs to all of us. The problem is that our pussy politicians (especially the Republicans) aren't asserting our rights to it. Companies using the right-of-ways are being permitted to tie the associated services with other more expensive and more restrictive services that aren't associated with the right-of-way. Want that to change? Vote Democrat. They're not perfect, but they do believe in actually regulating the companies that consume public resources.

    Frankston points out that we build and finance public infrastructure in a public way using public funds with the goal of benefiting economic, social, and cultural development in our communities. So why not do the same with the Internet, which is an information infrastructure?

    Because:
    a) Networking technology continues to undergo rapid change.
    b) Even the experts don't understand the 50-year requirements very well.

    Public infrastructure projects work OK when the technology is stable and well understood. Like roads and bridges. They're a disasterous sinkhole for cash the rest of the time. That's why the money disappeared. 20 years from now when half the politicians are folks who grew up with the Internet and the networking experts can clearly articulate an infrastructure that with reasonable maintenance will remain appropriate and cost-effective for 50 years, then maybe we can look at it as a government infrastructure project.

    In the mean time, we should assert our rights to the public right-of-ways. The price of access should be that the companies which use it don't get a unilateral choice in how the resulting products are sold.

    The cost per fiber drop, according to Bill's estimate, is $1,000-$1,500 if 40 percent of homes participate.

    There have to be some crazy assumptions behind that. Taking 12 strands for a mile with no stops is $15k in ideal circumstances. In downtown DC its $175/foot. If your ISP is not the phone company then there's about a 90% chance that its nearest office is more than 10 miles away. Even for the best case the numbers don't compute... And that's without considering the cost of maintenance and equipment to light the fiber.

    Fiber works for the phone company because they multiplex it at about a 16:2 ratio within a few hundred yards of your home and then trunk that cable back to an office that's within about 3 miles. Even then they're banking on your purchase of phone, Internet and TV at $150/month to recoup the cost over the next 10 years.

    $1500/customer? That's off by at least an order of magnitude. $1500 might cover the raw cost of the cable itself, but that's about it.
  • Billable Events (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Restil (31903) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:49PM (#15642784) Homepage
    The reason ISPs don't generally want you to share your connection with the rest of the world, or even the rest of your neighborhood, comes down to two things. First off, they charge you a residential rate at a certain speed with the expectation that the average consumer will use an average small fraction of that actual capacity. You may have 4mbps of downstream, but the average consumer won't use all of it, and in most cases, won't even get close. This means they can actually offer you 4mbps and you'll have it available for those brief moments when you want to download that huge file quickly.

    Once you start sharing your connection outside of your household, you increase the average bandwidth that gets used for your connection. Granted, on a case by case basis, this doesn't amount to much, but if they allowed it for one, they'd have to allow it for everyone, and eventually that would cut into their bottom line. Many ISPs DO allow to to purchase a resellable connection, where you can hook as many computers up as you like and you can, well, resell the bandwidth to your neighbors, if you want. You'll also pay at least 5 times as much for the privelage, or so has been my experience. The porch light analogy doesn't work either. That would be the equivalent of me downloading an email, saving it to my network, then having someone via wifi access that saved email, which the isp would certainly be ok with. The porch light doesn't use more electricity if someone else is utilizing the glow, but someone sharing your wifi connection does use more bandwidth.

    The second issue is one of liability. With a simple "your connection, your responsibility" system, any problems are your problems. If someone using your wifi creates a problem, the isp doesn't want to have to expend resources determining who's at fault, nor do they want to get involved in determining who's legally responsible should law enforcement ever get involved. It's much easier to just say, it's THAT house right there, go get them. If they ALLOWED you to share your connection with the world, then they'd be put in the uncomfortable position of having to help determine the exact source of the issue.

    As for co-oping a neighborhood, good luck with that. I've made inquiries in the past for such a project, and people are generally not interested. They MIGHT be interested after the service is already in place, but as long as there is any type of broadband available, you'll be unlikely to find more than a small handful of willing participants, and certainly even fewer willing to pony up any money in advance. It's one thing if there is NO broadband available and there's enough people in the community who want it, you could be reasonably assured of a return on your investment. But the installation is an unrecoverable cost. You'll spend a small fortune putting in the lines, and networking the neighborhood, and just hope you bring in enough revenue to cover the costs of the loan payments, let alone pay someone to stay on call 24/7 to fix physical problems with the network and field calls from morons who can't figure out how to get their email. You'll need at least $3000-4000 a month in revenue just to cover the operating expenses, over and above whatever the upstream provider will charge, which is not likely to be cheap, especially if you're expecting to use the capacity of that fiber.

    I'm not saying it's a bad plan, overall. In the long run, it has a reasonably good chance of success. But, as with any business, there's also a reasonably good chance of fantastic and dramatic failure. You'll want to offer more than just basic internet service though. You'll need a full range of extras. Integrated VOIP, a license to offer streaming TV channels, perhaps a blanket agreement to the RIAA & MPAA to distribute digital music freely within the confines of the neighborhood.... legally, SOMETHING that would give you an upper edge over any local competing provider, besides just speed, because, lets face it, the guy who just checks his email won't really care about that anyway.

    -Restil
  • CLEC (Score:3, Informative)

    by tedhiltonhead (654502) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:49PM (#15642788)
    Assuming we're talking about America, what you're talking about is becoming a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier). The idea is you rent the ILEC's copper pairs and provide your own DSL/phone service. Companies do this all the time... what's the question?
    • Granted I didn't RTFA, the idea is not to rent the ILEC's wires, which they keep trying to make harder and harder, the idea is to buy the last mile (or however many miles you need to reach the backbone providers) outright. And given that much of the local communications infrastructure was laid using emminent domain of municipal grants of right-of-way, it probably would not be too much of a stretch to use local powers of emminent domain to seize the last mile connections, with just compensation, for transfer
  • Wake up to WiMAX (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darth Cider (320236) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:49PM (#15642789)
    Slashdot has carried very little news on the deluge of WiMax products announced this year, which make Cringely's article look behind the times by at least 5 years. Normally, he's the first to advocate wireless, so I'm puzzled why he'd pitch this idea now. He ought to look into the spectrum federally allocated to schools, which the schools unwisely license to telcos, and how combined with WiMAX that spectrum could truly liberate communities, without a trip to the bank.

    Dailywireless.org [dailywireless.org] is the best source for WiMAX news. Every day is an eye-opener. Sometimes every hour.
  • Those of us with QWest DSL, particularly those of us who opted out of MSN and use a local ISP, are certainly interested in what the new service agreement coming in mid-November will bring. Rumours range from a lock-in by MSN to a ban on vanity web servers to download limits to all of the above since it is an agreement to a fluid agreement. For good and bad, I can see the last mile becoming a wifi network something like other coops.
  • In a sense Microsoft is a lot like the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire's growth and economy was driven by conquering and plundering neighboring regions. Within the Empire they created a sort of safe economic zone where commerce could work and technology could be developed. However, that came at a price, as they tended to destroy everything outside the empire as it grew.

    Right, What of the Romans ever done for us? Besides the roads, sanitation and commerce?

  • by WordOfReason (986296) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @04:20PM (#15643388)
    I am a capitalist, but I have strong socialist tendencies when it comes to infrastructure. There are camps that would argue in a free society with little intervention from the government, the drive for wealth spurs innovation and that the market itself is a balancer between those that produce and those that consume.

    To begin an argument that the internet, its infrastructure and its service providers on top, should be managed by the government begins by looking at another feat of the government arguably one of the greatest wonders of the modern era - the interstate highway system. Initial estimates cannot begin to measure how the interstate highway system has spawned billions if not trillions of dollars in the economic wealth of the United States. A system in which on every exit, capitalism is freely excercised as both large and small business take advantage of the rapid and ease of transportation. Yes, undoubtedly maintaining this infrastructure is quite expensive, but to allow private enterprise or even state governments to maintain such a critical asset to the American economy would only become a set back to the economic greatness of this country. Similarly, the next great advancement and opportunity for capitalism to spread is the internet and why the government should own this infrastructure and through taxation of public companies that benefit from its service make the internet free for all citizens.

    My argument rests on the following points:

    • Companies that invest in this infrastructure want return on their investment similarly to the way pharmaceuticals demand patents rights for R&D dollars spent on the next breakthrough in medicine
    • Once companies have spent the billions of dollars in establishing the infrastructure they are less likely to invest additional dollars in improving that infrastructure
    • Companies whom own the rights to the infrastructure are reluctant to open up that infrastructure to potential competition
    • It is the duty of society to make this important communication mechanism available to all social/economic classes

    As this infrastructure increases its important within the American economy it also becomes the target of cyber-thieves and terrorists. As such in order to protect the majority of society the need to ensure the internet infrastructure is safe from attack as well as to protect citizens from being exploited by clever thieves is an expensive burden that society must take. At the same time, the constitutional rights of citizens to use this as mechanism of freedom of speech must be maintained. Does privitization guarantee this safety? How does the government encourage innovation if there is no monetary incentive to do so?

    Let us look at other examples in the world in which because of the privatization of our communication infrastructure the American economy has suffered at hands of other countries who don't have the baggage hindering innovation. Without a doubt our wireless infrastructure is this country is years behind the rest of the world such as China and Japan. Only recently as cellphones have begun to proliferate have large telecoms shifted gear and began investing in our wireless infrastructure mostly driven by technology created overseas. As this technology advances we still see limitations in service between telecom companies as simply driving across one's own city, you may experience outages and/or leave the area covered by your cell carriers service. Wouldn't it be nice if you could purchase a cellphone from any vendor of your choosing and it would function on any network? If the government owned this infrastructure it could force companies to adopt standards that favor consumers. Would we have digitial television had the government not forced the broadcast companies and television companies to adopt the new standard?

    Companies have repeatedly demonstrated in the past the reluctance to spend money on infrastructure or innovation unless given authority by the government to mo

  • I like the general idea. And my first thought reading the /. summary was about how phone companies used to own even our phones, and that's changed to where they only own up to the box.

    I'm curious about practicality, though. It's very easy to see how this already works in some apartment complexes. It's even easily conceivable in condominiums and certain neighborhoods where a neighborhood association is already involved in managing the group buying power.

    On the other hand, I live in a neighborhood without suc

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