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The Almighty Buck

Verizon's Solution to Terrorism: Eliminate Verizon Competitors 209

The New York Times has an article about Verizon lobbying for rate increases and to remove all requirements that Verizon provide telecom services to competitors, claiming that being a large, sluggish monopoly is somehow advantageous in responding to disasters, although Verizon hasn't managed to restore phone and data service in large areas of Manhattan yet. In a related story, an association of small ISPs has surveyed its members and come to the revelation that the Bells are stifling competition.
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Verizon's Solution to Terrorism: Eliminate Verizon Competitors

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  • God, Verizon is pretty much the equivilant of Microsoft now, but not as powerful. I can't stand that company, and espically the way they control the DSL in my area. Pay about 40 dollars a month for 640/90 where I can get 6000/1000 cable for 30, they really need to shape up, I'd like a nice dsl line...
    • by sbrown123 ( 229895 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:42PM (#2708519) Homepage
      Get cable. Sounds like in your area its cheaper and more powerful. Why even bother with Verizon? I have them in my area and picked cable instead of their poor DSL.

      This is not a troll fighting that cable is better than DSL. I support cable since its an alternative and forces the phone companies into having to compete which, in the long run, should allow for cheaper DSL and better service.

      If you have an alternative than take it.

      As for Verizon using the 9-11 terror attack as an excuse to stiffle competition: what a bunch of B.S. Greedy companies will use anything to get ahead. Microsoft was all behind calling computer viruses terrorist activity just to try to avoid fixing the problems they were having. Lord forbid they spend more time making their products more secure!
    • I really hate to have to support large business, but for a moment I have to..

      Can any one count the number of articles we have read here in the last 6th months about broadband companies going out of business or filing bankruptcy?

      I for one would be willing to pay a $ or 2 more a month for reliability and stability to make sure my provider does not go out of buisness.

      Honestly as more and more of the competition goes down the tubes I would expect to pay more.

      As DSL and cable providers get there equipment paid for and the number of users starts to stabilize a little the prices will go back down.
      • I agree, but to support broadband, should you have to suffer with a slow and unreliable connection, waiting for the possibility of them actually getting it working right?
        • OK, this I will agree with..

          If you are not getting the services you should be getting you would want to let them know and tell them your intention of moving to a differnt provider if they do not solve the problems.

          Contrary to what most people think, if every one that is having problems does this and starts switching to cable the problem(s) will be fixed.
          • The only thing wrong with that is, well, contracts. You get forced into a two year contract, so you get the modem for free, thinking it's gonna be good. People, espically most adults I know, won't change off of it because they're in contract. Basically, once you're locked in, they figure they don't need to do anything. Sadly, not enough people switch, so the point doesn't get across.
    • Of course, inorder to get that $30 cable modem, you have to get the digital cable. Which means you must purchase "Music Choice", the hispanic transsexual channel, and CSPAN 1&2. Sounds like that friggin' X-box deal to me.

      Letting the phone companies and cable companies "Own" the telephone and cable infrastructure would be like letting GM "Own" the roads. You can still drive on them with a Honda, but GM gets 50% of Honda's profit when they sell you that car. (Road licensing fees)

      Microsoft is an active monopolist for the simple reason that the price of entry for a competitor is so small. They control the OEM channels which are the roads to the average consumer. The phone companies don't have to stifle competition, because not only do they own the lines, but a competitor would probably never even be able to run lines even if he could afford it.

      This is the main reason that so many companies are finding the wireless option so attractive, even though the reality is that wireless sucks for anything beyond hooking up a laptop to the company hub.

      I personally believe that all critical infrastructure should be the property of the people. The roads, the electric wires, the plumbing, Mae east and west, all of it. The government paid for most of it to begin with.

      I also believe that proprietary software has no place in our govt.

      • I personally believe that all critical infrastructure should be the property of the people. The roads, the electric wires, the plumbing, Mae east and west, all of it.

        I tend to agree. But the key issue isn't whether something is 'critical', it's whether it's a natural monopoly. The street in front of your dwelling, for example, is. If it were owned by a private company that could charge you anything they want for driving on it, you'd be screwed. Capitalism works well when people have choices. When no choice is possible, socialism helps prevent abuse.

        As for internet infrastructure, I believe governments should build out the manholes and ductbanks, and allow private competing providers to rent ducts and pull their copper/fiber/whatever. The portion of infrastructure owned by the government should be minimized, because government is slow-moving, inefficient, and motivated by the wrong factors (pork barrel). The government should own just enough to insure a level playing field.
  • by nbvb ( 32836 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:33PM (#2708502) Journal
    It doesn't mean that Verizon is right in wanting to squash all competition, but there are things called natural monopolies.

    Your electric company is one. Water services.

    I don't know what anyone else in the US is going through, but here in NJ, the electric company (PSE&G - Park, Sleep, Eat, & Go Home) for all their faults, works. My electricity is reliable as can be. And when it does fail, they're out here _immediately_ to fix it!

    Natural monopolies, as long as there's oversight and consumer protection, can work.

    In fact, sometimes it's BETTER to have a monopoly than not. Look at the mess in California's power when they tried to introduce competition.

    Letting companies like Microsoft (which is NOT a natural monopoly) run around, are bad. They're just an unchecked bully.

    Anyway, back to my point... I don't think Verizon being the only game in town is necessarily a bad thing... as long as they're kept in check, rates are kept reasonable, customer service is a MUST, and they provide the services required.

    And they may have a point --- if all the equipment in the facilities were theirs, they could certainly have it back up and running quicker than following some silly FCC rules & procedures for working with other companies....
    • I don't have a link on this, but I've heard that California did not, in fact, have competition in the electricity market. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I heard.
      • What happened in California was that the price of electricity to the power companies was allowed to change, while the price to the consumer was not. At one point when power supplie did not meet demand prices jumped dramatically for the power companies. But the consumers still payed the same rates. So the companies supplying the electricity were required to sell it at a loss. Since being forced to operate at a loss is antithetical to their nature. The electricity companies nearly went bankrupt which would have really trashed California. Other states have implemented deregulation of electricity without any of the problems California had. The fact is the system was over regulated from the beginning.
    • by gr ( 4059 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:50PM (#2708552) Journal
      Your electric company is one.
      No it isn't. My electric company (PECO in Philadelphia, PA) is required to provide me with notification of the availabity of other companies from whom I could be purchasing power rather than them. The system is arguably even more difficult for PECO than what Verizon has been told to make available to consumers, since PECO is the one who has to pay for the mailings to tell me about their competitors.
      Anyway, back to my point... I don't think Verizon being the only game in town is necessarily a bad thing... as long as they're kept in check, rates are kept reasonable, customer service is a MUST, and they provide the services required.
      You're forgetting the fact that Verizon didn't get where it is any more naturally than Microsoft has. It is one of the Bells, you know, the original case study for why monopolies should be broken up? And it just recombined with a long distance carrier to expand its still-extant monopoly vertically.
      • by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @04:41PM (#2709037) Homepage Journal

        Reading straight from my Microeconomics textbook, "A monopoly is a firm in an industry where the entrance of competing firms is blocked."

        From the article:
        In Washington, Verizon lobbyists have asked federal regulators to make it more difficult for competitors to lease space on its network, arguing that its success in restoring phone service in Lower Manhattan proves that only a big company could handle maintenance, recovery and security in the wake of such a disaster.

        Looks pretty cut and dry to me.
    • It doesn't mean that Verizon is right in wanting to squash all competition, but there are things called natural monopolies.

      Your electric company is one. Water services.

      Uh, no. Electric and water companies are NOT natural monopolies. They are creations of the state. The gov't decided that they were essential utilities that required a huge capital investment. Thus they'd grant a monopoly: they'd provide the exclusive rights to a market in exchange for total coverage of that market.

      A natural monopoly is one that comes about in the marketplace not by gov't intervention but simply thru market forces. Actually, Microsoft is closer to a natural monopoly than the Electric company. Think the reverse of the chicken and egg problem: the more popular a platform is the more economic sense it makes to develop software for it, and the more desirable software available for a platform the more appealing it comes to the buying population. Now, I'm not saying MS hasn't done illegal things, but I am saying that Windows on the desktop is more of a natural monopoly than your electric company.

      In fact, sometimes it's BETTER to have a monopoly than not. Look at the mess in California's power when they tried to introduce competition.

      One datapoint does not make a trend. Penn. has a deregulated market and it has worked a hell of a lot better than Cali.
      • mmmm... you make good points, but you are not exactly correct here. Just because utilty monopolies were granted by the state does not mean that they were not natural monopolies at the time they were created.

        Think about it: if I have wires strung all over a neighborhood, total sunk cost, how are you going to justify stringing a second set of wires if I promise to price cut you to death? And in fact, the populace should not rationally be asked to pay for 2 (or more) expensive sets of wires when they simply need 1. Even if we start out with 3 full sets of wired networks competing, over time it makes sense for one company to acquire the others and maintain those wires or (fewer of them) because it's cheaper that way, and cheaper for consumers too... till one company emerges and starts raping them.

        The utility sector of the economy is definitely governed by the theory of natural monopoly, regardless of the regulatory enviroment.

        • Its still not natural. A natural monopoly is one that happens due to market forces. For instance 5 different companies/products started in the product space and for whatever reason one came out on top (the Microsoft case).

          The thing you bring up--cost of infrastructure--is exactly why electrical, water, etc are not natural monopolies. 1st, municipalities deemed them (correctly IMHO) utilities that needed to be available to everyone (i.e. a company couldn't pick and choose areas to serve to maximize profits). Thus, the cost of total coverage vs return on investment is (or at least was at the time of conception) so prohibitive that no market would have sprung up naturally in the first place. That's why a monopoly was created by the gov't. An exchange of a monopoly over a local market in return for total (or at least near) total coverage of that market. These are not natural by any stretch of the imagination. They were created by local municipalities to serve a purpose.

          Now, I'm not saying that such monopolies are necc. a bad thing, but they're not necc. good either. For instance, changes in technology have allowed for competition to exist in the electrical utility marketplace. Penn. is one pretty good example of that. Also, I have a hard time seeing how cable TV is a necc. utility. Technology has advanced where new "cable" companies could deliver thier service without having to lay so many wires (fixed wireless, etc) but are hamstrung by local laws / contracts that protect the incumbant cable companies.

          The utility sector of the economy is definitely governed by the theory of natural monopoly, regardless of the regulatory enviroment.

          A natural monopoly comes to be when the market decides that a single product is more advantageous than a diverse one. The OS example is a pretty good one. There were advantages from application development, training, standardization of hardware on having a common operating system, and MS took advantage of it.

          I have a hard time seeing where in a totally open market only one electrical company would be left standing. I do see where there would probably be two or three, each doing deals with large communties/companies, laying lines out to those that are profitable, thus leaving those who are too small or too remote to be profitable shit out of luck. Municipal planners saw this too, and thus traded an open market for a highly regulated one that serviced the entire communtiy. This is by no means natural. Like I said, I'm not saying its a bad thing, but it isn't a natural monopoly.
          • A natural monopoly comes to be when the market decides that a single product is more advantageous than a diverse one. The OS example is a pretty good one. There were advantages from application development, training, standardization of hardware on having a common operating system, and MS took advantage of it.

            Except that they did so by bending and occasionaly breaking the law. So it's hardly the case that the market decided. For that to have happened there couldn't have been things like the exclusive OEM contracts...
            • If you read the above post you would have seen that I said they also did illegal crap as well... but the fact of the matter is they didn't get where they were simply by illegal means. Natural selection in the market place helped a whole bunch.
      • A natural monopoly is one that comes about in the marketplace not by gov't intervention but simply thru market forces.

        In that case, all monopolies based on copyright or patent rights are by definition not natural. Copyright and patent laws are a method the government uses to interfere with the natural markets. They are, in themselves, a kind of economic regulation.

    • In fact, sometimes it's BETTER to have a monopoly than not. Look at the mess in California's power when they tried to introduce competition.

      Actually, no. California's problems were to due to the goverment stupidly stoping the market from working by preventing the energy companies from raising their prices when their costs raise.

      The energy companies were required by law to sell power at a loss if the costs exceeded their prices. If the market had been truly open and competitive, prices would have risen to match the cost of goods, demand would have dropped and the companies would still be in business instead of going bankrupt. Instead the taxpayers were gouged for millions of dollers to pay for energy on the spot market and companies went bankrupt.
    • In fact, sometimes it's BETTER to have a monopoly than not. Look at the mess in California's power when they tried to introduce competition.

      I see this and cringe to think that people use this as an example of competition being bad. What happened in CA to the electricity market is that the govt. deregulated the wholesale market, but still forced a cap on consumer rates. So when the wholesale rates shot through the roof (remember, the rates had been kept down forcefully by the govt. for years), and the companies couldn't recoup their costs by charging higher rates to consumers, they folded, one by one.

      That is what caused the snafu in the CA electricity market, not the introduction of competition. Once again, govt's attempt to control the market failed miserably and we all suffered for it. Remember, competition good, govt. market manipulation bad.

      • A coupla axioms courtesy of goodwid:

        1. Remember, competition good, govt. market manipulation bad.
        2. So when the wholesale rates shot through the roof (remember, the rates had been kept down forcefully by the govt. for years), and the companies couldn't recoup their costs by charging higher rates to consumers, they folded, one by one.

        It's unfortunate (and shoddy thinking) when only one aspect in a very complex situation is presented as a first cause. However, in this case, the poster's wrong-headed axiom in item 1 leads to the even more wrong-headed axiom 2. Here's a clip from a previous post of mine de-bunking another market uber alles stalwart's assertion that Cali De-Reg was de-regulation in name, but not in fact. Keep in mind, and as noted elsewhere in this thread, in the Cali debacle the wholesalers and the retailers were often siblings of the same corporate family; losses incurred to the one were profits to the other (and the twain meet upstream at the holding company -- see PG&E):

        "It most certainly was 'power De-regulation.' The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulated all aspects of electricity generation in Cali before DeReg, including price. After DeReg, much less control from the PUC (including price). From a highly regulated environment (State-sponsored Monopoly subject to oversight) to the less regulated environment now (retail rates, service guarnatees via the ISO, etc) qualifies as 'De-regulation.'

        "I'll try to head few counter-claims off at the pass...

        "The canard about artificially low retail rates and naturally high wholesale prices is exactly that, a canard. The high wholesale prices are a result of market manipulation by a handful of the largest players. The retail price 'cap' was originally a price 'floor' intended to guarantee the pre-existing Utilities (who crafted the plan!) a pre-determined rate of profit for a pre-determined period. Power supply in the west was way Way WAY beyond demand for the last fifteen years (one of the reasons the De-Reg plan was hatched). The so-called energy supply crisis is way over-blown and mostly the result of plants (in California, but owned by out of state operators -- another result of De-Reg), being taken off line for maintnenace at inopportune times. One aspect of De-Reg not often commented on: In the Past, Utilities had to ask the PUC before taking a plant offline. The PUC could then coordinate maintnenace and maintain capacity across the system. After De-Reg, maintenance scheduling was left up to the market players. An interesting effect of the DeReg has been the increasingly rigorous maintenance schedule of Cali based power plants.

        "If you want to define De-Regulation as No Fucking Rules at all (or whatever..), go right ahead. I'm curious how it might work."

        Naturally, there's considerably more involved than energy industry collusion (the pols who voted Yea on this thing, for one), but reducing the problem to one of inefficient communication between sectors (retail to wholesale), won't help us get where we need to: a reliable, cost-efficient power system.

    • Last year I had the bad misfortune of moving to a new house while Verizon was on strike. It took approx. one month to get my telephone service turned on, all the while James Earl Jones was on TV commercials all day long trying to get me to buy Verizon DSL. Did I mention I was out of work and really needed a telephone so I could hear back from prospective employers? I had to go out and buy a cell phone.

      Of course, water, gas, and electric took all of one day to get turned on. No problem there.

    • The problem with the California power companys was not competition. The law with allowed them to compete also barred them from making long-term energy purchasing contracts. They were forced to bid for energy day to day on the open market. That open marked saw its prices grow exponentially. Consumer rates, at the same time, were fixed.

      This was not a problem of disolving a monopoly. It was a problem with poorly thought out, legislated pseudo-competition.

      Natural monopolies almost guarantee poor quality of service. The only businesses that I deal with that are not pleasent to deal with are the public utilities, local phone company, and the government.

      The government may be a monopoly that is unavoidable but the utilities and phone company can certainly use some competition to increase quality. My cell phone provider is a joy by comparison because the first one sucked so I dropped it and got another. Now they compete for my business.

      That is capitalism.
      • You are absolutely correct. Propbably the first comment do far that deserves +1 Insightful.

        People were wrong about thinking that half-assed competition in California would be a good idea. The were wrong again when they thought that competition caused the crisis.

        In true developed countries, there has been deregulated full-competition energy supply for a meny years now. And before they got that far, there was public debate about the pros and cons,
        and care was taken to avoid pitfalls.

        US politics is different. Powerful lobbyists can butter up legislators to stall the process or get it their way. In other countries we have the occasional kickback or bribe scandal. In US politics you rarely have a curruption scandal, because it's all legalized. One may bribe openly by contributing to campaigns. I laugh everytime an american is shocked about corrupt politicians in African countries.

        In an advanced, modern nation, suppliers, brokers and delivery companies are free to trade contracts on different markets. The spot market which takes care of short term supply, to balance the grid, the short term market, which has a horizon of a couple of weeks, and the long term market with a horizon of a couple of years. On the spot market you can get energy almost for free when there is a surplus, but prices can easily jump to 10x regular prices in a crunch. End consumers get to chose their provider, and can bind their contracts to the long term market, or chose to pay a variable market rate.

        The only thing the california crisis proved, was that legislators are incompetent and currupt, consumers are stupid, and that energy companies are greedy. We surely did not learn anything new.

        But we all digress. On Verizon, it is no coincidence that they put forward these proposals now. They have all their ducks lined up. The current FCC board is very friendly with the baby bells, and so is Bush's government. If you want to get to the bottom of this, follow the money.
    • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @02:48PM (#2708717) Homepage Journal

      Natural monopolies, as long as there's oversight and consumer protection, can work.

      Your qualifying clause in the middle there is, of course, the key to the whole thing.

      You may perhaps be forgetting that the telecommunications industry was ostensibly deregulated around 1996. That was the huge omnibus Federal legislation that included, among other things, the Communications Decency Act. It was touted as being a massive win for consumers as competition would emerge for all services, driving prices down, and help spur the development of new services. "Your cable company and phone company will compete with each other! Prices will fall! What could possibly go wrong?"

      What went wrong is that the telecomm companies started merging. Before "deregulation," this was prohibited. Now, rather than engage in the messy and uncertain business of actually competing with each other, they just became the same company.

      Now, let's say you're an ILEC. Someone walks up to you asking for a high-bandwidth digital connection. Naturally, you're going to steer them toward your T1 and T3 offerings which are pure profit for you. "But that's ridiculously expensive!" you protest. "Tough sh!t, where else ya gonna go?" they reply.

      The ILECs didn't start offering DSL until the CLECs, like Northpoint and Covad, did it first. xDSL service from the CLECs continues to suck because... Well, why aren't you buying a T1?

      In fact, sometimes it's BETTER to have a monopoly than not. Look at the mess in California's power when they tried to introduce competition.

      Kuro5hin is currently down, or I'd point you to a most excellent article there explaining why this happened. Basically, the deregulation plan in CA was completely botched. They made the power delivery company (PG&E) buy power in the most expensive manner possible, then imposed consumer price caps, disallowing them from passing on those costs to consumers.

      However, it should be noted that PG&E used to be both power generation and transmission (the plants and the wires). After deregulation, PG&E split into a power generation arm and a transmission arm, both wholly owned (but separate) subsidiaries of a parent company. So while the transmission arm was going $5 billion into debt paying for power, much of that money was being paid to the power generation arm, which reported record profits. When asked, "Why aren't you cross-captializing?" the parent company had no coherent reponse. There were also other little shenanigans going on, such as power plants taken offline, ostensibly for maintenance, to make power scarce and drive the prices up. And don't ask what happened to the State of California's budget surplus.

      So, yes, natural monopolies are fine, iff (if and only if) they are well-regulated.


      • by G Neric ( 176742 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @03:02PM (#2708784)
        So, yes, natural monopolies are fine, iff (if and only if) they are well-regulated.

        no, natural monopolies are not fine. The point about natural monopolies from econ 101 is that they are inevitable (because economies of scale make the biggest producer the cheapest), and therefore they require regulation for any hope that the market price will be close to marginal cost. But that regulation is guaranteed to be imperfect (political rather than economic) and somewhat static or at least "behind" and is no substitute for actual competition.

      • Basically, the deregulation plan in CA was completely botched.

        Yes. But it's the deregulation plan the utilities wanted.

        With rate-of-return regulation, power prices may be 10% or so higher than they need to be, but they're stable. With competition, prices oscillate wildly, because there's no inventory in electric power. Stablilzation using futures contracts was supposed to substitute for inventory, but that was a flop.

        • The company doing most of those futures contracts was Enron. The company which cratered harder than any 10 (or maybe 100 (1000?)) dot coms combined.
      • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @05:19PM (#2709116) Homepage Journal
        Basically, the deregulation plan in CA was completely botched. They made the power delivery company (PG&E) buy power in the most expensive manner possible, then imposed consumer price caps, disallowing them from passing on those costs to consumers.

        I remember the fight over the CA deregulation bill very well - PG&E fought FOR it and was in favor of the rate caps (really fixed rates), the consumers groups fought against them - PG&E spent a lot more money (millions!) and won. Any other story is just revisionist history

        Why did they do such (now obviously) silly thing? because at the time energy prices were low and the fixed energy prices were low and the fixed prices that they got the state to put into law gave them a fixed profit - they were trying to extend their monopoly for a few years in face of deregulation. They took a bet that energy prices would remain low - it was a business decision, they didn't have to force through the fixed prices into law. As we can all see now it was a bad business decision and they are now in bankruptcy court - it serves them right - they were greedy and screwed themselves. Personally I have no sympathy.

        • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @06:39PM (#2709294) Homepage
          Regardless of who lobbied for the flawed deregulation scheme, it wasn't just the "greedy corporate overlords" who were hurt. It was also PG&E workers, small stockholders and pension funds. The State of California, and its citizens, deserve much of the blame for not taking corrective action in a timely manner and letting the utilities slide into bankruptcy.
          • Stock holders and pension funds knew what they were getting into when the bought the stock. The State of California has no libility because they made a bad investment. Companies go bankrupt. It happens, it's part of the game called business.
      • However, it should be noted that PG&E used to be both power generation and transmission (the plants and the wires). After deregulation, PG&E split into a power generation arm and a transmission arm, both wholly owned (but separate) subsidiaries of a parent company. So while the transmission arm was going $5 billion into debt paying for power, much of that money was being paid to the power generation arm, which reported record profits.

        In other words, PG&E split into two parts. One part made massive profits, while the other part went into debt, got subsidized and is probably gonna end up in the hands of the government, continuing to pay profit into the half that stayed in the hands of the parent -- because it is necessary, and no private investor is going to buy that half after what it went through.

        I think that PG&E may have gotten their cake and are now eating it -- while California picks up the tab.

    • Hold off the -1, Troll and -1, Flamebait for a moment. The definition of a natural monopoly is that being big only means getting bigger and bigger until you're the only company left.

      Actually quite a few electric and water companies are *granted* monopolies because that's socially more economic than letting them compete.

      In fact software is the most natural monopoly, as the selfcost is practicly Development / No. of users. If there are two competitors they together have more development costs, but the same no. of customers, and thus higher selfcost.

      Of course the natural monopoly can afford to be both inefficent and overpriced once it has the monopoly, but it's natural that one company will "win" and become that monopoly.

      However, the lack of replication costs also means there's a cumulative amount of free software that will never get less, which is unique compared to other goods. What will win of those two forces is a good question, and IMO still unanswered.

    • It always seemed to me that in cases of natural monopoly the sensible thing to do would be to nationalize the service or otherwise turn it into a public utility. I'll take a public utility over a single corporation any day as one's mission is to provide a service vs. the other's goal of making dollars.

    • Natural monopolies, as long as there's oversight and consumer protection, can work.

      In that case, you should ask your Congressperson [] to oppose Tauzin-Dingell []. One of its provisions is that neither the FCC nor state governments would be allowed to regulate broadband -- Verizon and friends would be answerable solely to Congress.

      At least, that's according to a few of [] their opponents [].
    • You mistake what the natural monopoly is.

      There is a natural monopoly -- extremely difficult barrier to entry due to the cost of entry vs. economies of scale -- in one major sector of the phone market. That's the local loop to residential and non-huge business locations. You can't just string more wire in hopes of getting market share: The cost is largely per home passed, and if you string second wire, you'll start with a lower market share and thus a higher per-subscriber cost. You basically can't win unless the incumbent (monopoly) really screws the pooch.

      But everything else is not a natural monopoly. Services are not. DSL, dial tone (switching), and other services delivered over the wire are not natural monopolies. Congress recognized this is 1996 when it passed the Telecom Act, which called for the network to be unbundled. Thus competitors can lease VZ's wires, and the wires of every other incumbent telco, at a rate based (per the law) on cost plus a reasonable profit. And btw in order to use the wire, the competitor needs collocation rights in the central office where the wire ends.

      What the despicable scum running VZ want, however, is to be relieved of their obligation to lease the raw wire. Not that there have ever been terror attacks by competitors' technicians. Not that competitors are subject to loose security; indeed, they can only get unescorted access to the CO if they are accessing a collocation room or cage separate from VZ's own equipment. Competitors don't get to touch VZ's gear.

      Without access to the loop, "competition" will be limited to cable companies, cellular companies, and huge customers who can justify trenching fiber optics to their site. Except for the cableco, consumers will be left with a monopoly of VZ's frequently awful service.

    • Anyway, back to my point... I don't think Verizon being the only game in town is necessarily a bad thing... as long as they're kept in check, rates are kept reasonable, customer service is a MUST, and they provide the services required.

      Competition is definately NOT a bad thing, and for Verizon, its is a very good thing.

      Turn on NJ 101.5 FM radio and you'll probablly hear a Verizon ad spreading FUD about what they're not allowed to sell long distance service in NJ. They claim that accorging to projections, their being in the long distance market in NY will eventuall save the typical phone user $20-$300 a year on long distance and urge that New Jersey consumers demand to their lawmakers that Verizon be allowed to enter long distance in New Jersey.

      What they don't tell you is that the reason that they are not allowed to sell long distance service in New Jersey is because they have yet to open their phone system to competitors as they are required to do by the Telecommunications Reform Act FIRST. New York looked the other way on this and allowed them to get into long distance. New Jersey did not. New Jersey is holding them to the federal regulations that they are required to follow.

      No matter what it has been, Verison, formerly Bell Atlantic, formerly Bell Atlantic and NYNEX, formerly New Jersey Bell, New York Telephone, and etc... has dragged their feet on everything. They should not be rewarded for that and be required, nay FORCED, to compete on a level playing field.

      And as for restoring phone service in lower Manhattan... Whop-de-friggin-do. So they reconnected the phone lines in one building (the New York Stock Exchange) over a weekend. Does Verizon deserve a metal? No... they's what they are being paid to do... provide the phone service.
    • Natural monopolies, as long as there's oversight and consumer protection, can work.

      Georgia dereged natural gas. Before it was just Atlanta Gas & Light, now it's tons of companies.

      Used to be during the summer, my gas bill was around $8-10. After the dereg, there is a $15 Atlanta Gas & Light meter reading fee, an $8 passthrough charge, and a $4 service fee. So, now in the summer my minimum gas bill is $27, plus $8 for actual usage.

      But there is competition now, which in theory should bring the prices down.
  • When the rates that the LECs could charge CLECs were first announced, the CLECs couldn't make a buck of off a subscriber then. Now that most of the carriers are gone, what do the LECs do, they jack up prices. Standard monopolistic practices. Why am I not supprised.
  • God, that comic says it all. I was actually wondering about that. Didn't the airline industry get huge ammounts of money from the government to help them keep their employees, and then went and laid off a bunch of them anyway? I would make them pay back that money if I was the gov. This is a bit off topic but, personally, I think the government should not help the airline companies. They provided shitty security, and are going out of business because of it. Isn't that capitalism? Their service sucked, so now people aren't going to buy it. I see that as just deserved. Sure it might cost people jobs, but that's how the economy works. They'll find other jobs. I know it sucks, (hell, I'm unemployed myself), but that's how it works. Anyway, don't want to rant too much. Just my thoughts.
    • The airline industry is run just incredibly poorly. Look at how they react when a new carrier tries to move into a new route; they lower their prices to force the competition out of business, taking a big loss, then raise them once the comptetion leaves. Doesn't matter if they lose a tremendous amount of money doing so, they think it's worth it. They care nothing about customer service, they are frantically and constantly changing prices to what they think they can get customers to pay, they will spend money on totally useless things (no, I don't need peanuts, and unless the flight is more than 5 hours, I don't need a meal either), then cut costs by squeezing as many seats as they can into their planes. They alienate customers, go into debt to force competition out, and then complain that their industry needs help? They can go to hell as far as I'm concerned.
  • You know, three years ago when the U.S. was economically prosperous and business was booming, we could afford to attack our best corporate performers with regulation. But right now, our economy sucks. People are being laid off all over the place.

    Now is not the time to stifle the natural monopolies. Face it. It's inefficient to run more than one line to every house in America so that the consumer can decide which jack to plug their phone into. Phones lines, electric lines, gas lines - these all dictate a natural monopoly. Verizon is just one of them.

    Sure, there's some confusion right now because more & more new things are coming into your house over that twisted pair of copper. It may take people a long time to accept that soon a single company will own everything that comes through that wire - your long distance & local calls, your videoconferencing, television, 3-d imaging, the news, the weather, your Operating System patches, your personal documents and consumer profile - but the consumer has shown a remarkable ability to adjust.

    Seriously, relax and go with the flow.
    • by gr ( 4059 )
      Seriously, relax and go with the flow.
      Oh, okay, thanks for the solid advice, Attorney General.

      Now is especially the time to defend a US citizen's basic freedoms, of which purchasing in a free market (controlled neither by the government nor by an oppressive marketer) is one.
      • Wow that's very patriotic. How about this idea. Why not form a consumer advocacy group that will publicly make available all of Verizons short commings. Sure they will make money off basic phone lines but off the exotic stuff like cell phones, text messenging, call forwarding, etc.. People will decided "they can live without them" if the service sucks.

        Like another poster said, things like gas/telephone/water/power should not be in a open market. They should all be "grade-A" services regardless of who provides it. As such it should matter little the name of the company.

        I think if for example Verizon becomes a monopoly and they screw up big time then the Government can step in and ensure it maintains a level of service.

      • Sorry (Score:3, Interesting)

        by none2222 ( 161746 )
        Now is especially the time to defend a US citizen's basic freedoms, of which purchasing in a free market (controlled neither by the government nor by an oppressive marketer) is one.

        I'm sorry--I don't recall any protections against "oppressive marketers" in the Constitution. I do recall a bill of rights, which includes an amendment reading "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Among those rights retained by the people, is the right to start a business, buy and sell as you please, and not be punished by the government for being successful. A century and a half bad laws, and two centuries of supreme court corruption, do not change the meaning of the constitution.
      • by zmooc ( 33175 ) <(zmooc) (at) (> on Saturday December 15, 2001 @02:14PM (#2708623) Homepage
        Just a thought... what most western governments are trying nowadays is to control the infrastructure of a country by regulation of natural monopolies. Why? Because they want an "Open" market. But that's not what I would call this; this is totally artificial and in a way unfair to the company that "happens to own the infrastructure". In my opinion this behaviour shows pretty cleary what the ideal situation would be: the government should provide the infrastructure by itself, just like roads etc. The services ran over these infrastructures (phone, internet, traffic, trains, blabla) can then easily be provided in a rather open market with multiple companies.

        This can in a way even be extended to file formats, protocols and even API's but that would cripple development (so there should be legislation that all file formats, protocols and API's have to be open:)).

        Anyway...we don't live in utopia, so don't bother...

        • I really wish someone in government would wake up to this reality. Network infrastrcuture is a critical resource and it should not be in the hands of one company, not just for economic reasons.

          It amazing that the giverment sees this with a raod network, but not communications. How will it feel when we wake up one day in the future and realise the phone company owns the driveway to our houses and will charge us whatever they like to use it and also control who may drive on it.
    • You know, three years ago when the U.S. was economically prosperous and business was booming, we could afford to attack our best corporate performers with regulation. But right now, our economy sucks. People are being laid off all over the place.

      Now is not the time to stifle the natural monopolies.

      He's right. Monopolies help the economy in ways I can't even begin to describe. Just look at Japan, land of big business, for an example [] of how good monopolies are for a country [] - I mean - more yens per dollar equals more yens for everyone, right?
    • You know, three years ago when the U.S. was economically prosperous and business was booming, we could afford to attack our best corporate performers with regulation. But right now, our economy sucks. People are being laid off all over the place.

      I think you're confusing forced competition with basic customer service. At any rate, I can accept a Telco monopoly, but if Verizon or anybody else wants to lobby for and get exclusive market share then they'd damn well better be prepared to have a state public utilities commission oversee their activities and make sure they're providing decent QoS and services in a manner consistent with their customers' needs.

      This attitude that broadband providers have that we should all just surf the web and not use any other protocols or run servers has got to go. A byte's a friggin byte of data, so get over it. Verizon and their ilk that want to implement draconian AUPs while lobbying to be monopolies need to learn they can't have their cake and eat it too. Customers, especially geeks, are tired of being bent over and fucked up the ass.
    • everything is in flux now - it's the perfect time to make changes and challenge assumptions. that's exactly what the gubmint is doing right now: we've assumed we'd always be free to speak and act and think essentially as we pleased, but it seems that's all up for grabs now, doesn't it?

      so what better time to challenge the idea that we, as end-users, will just accept whatever's put in front of us? what better time to replace 'consumer' with 'person who keeps our company afloat?'

      that aside, the idea of the free market is to allow the best ideas to survive. market darwinism. in the natural world, genetic diversity is the recipe for survival; so, in what way could shutting out competition - decreasing the diversity of ideas - be beneficial over time? there may be a short-term gain for one entity, but far more - and sometimes better - lose out. (think beta vs. vhs, for example.)

      if the market rewards a company for, in effect, behaving badly, there's something wrong with the market - witness the ms antitrust, for one. there is a difference between 'attacking our best corporate performers with regulation' and allowing the rules that govern the marketplace to evolve with an eye to ensuring fairness and diversity of ideas; that's the idea behind antitrust, and it's why not allowing verizon et al. to force out their competition is a good thing.

      the economy will always leave people wishing for things to somehow get better. so by your reasoning, it seems there would never be a 'good time' to mandate fair play. i don't buy it; i think it's a perfect time.
  • Large areas? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jordang ( 31620 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:43PM (#2708524)
    Not that I'm a fan of Verizon, or use them for any type of service whatsoever, but to say that large areas of Manhattan are still lacking phone service is quite an exaggeration.

    According to the NY Times article, only 10,000 of the 300,000 (or 3%) damaged lines have not been restored, most of those in Chinatown the surrounding area. I personally live only a few blocks south of where the WTC once stood and never lost phone service for a second, and everyone else that I know in NYC that had lost service had it restored very quickly. I see Verizon workers working 24/7 in this and other areas trying to restore lost services.

    Sure, Verizon is no angel, but gimme a break

    • only 10,000 of the 300,000 (or 3%) damaged lines have not been restored, most of those in Chinatown

      Chinatown is a couple of neighborhoods away from the WTC site. While it's below Canal Street, it's on the east side of the island, while the WTC was on the west. There was no direct damage there. Would it be cynical to suggest that Verizon said, "Who has the least political power, who we can restore last?" Chinatown has taken a hard economic hit from the fall in tourism, plus the difficulty for some weeks of even getting to the neighborhood. And there are still 10,000 phone lines down, because "We don't care. We don't have to. We're Verizon."

      I'd put this as an example of why Verizon should be taken over by the state or city, if it weren't that the state and city also scrimp on services to Chinatown. It's certainly no reason Verizon should be trusted on anything.

      • Re:Large areas? (Score:2, Informative)

        by jordang ( 31620 )
        Normally I would be very cynical of Verizon (I even use AT&T for local phone service - I won't give Verizon any business), I've witnessed what's going on first hand on a daily basis. The east side of lower Manhattan south of Wall St (where I live) was largely uneffected by outages, but north of there, and south of Canal, seem to have face difficulty. I think what's happening is that Verizon (who I see every night working their butts of and have talked to many employees of in the last three months) has given priority in restoring service to their business rather than residential customers.
        For example, my father's law firm, which is about 5 blocks north of my apartment, lost service for a few weeks but it was restored....and I'm still able to order in delivery from restaurants in China Town.

        Like I said, I see these guys out 24/7 and have even given candy out to them....they just seem to be prioritizing business over residential lines

  • Michael, please refrain from pushing your political views on others through your position as a slashdot editor.

    "claiming that being a large, sluggish monopoly is somehow advantageous in responding to disasters, although Verizon hasn't managed to restore phone and data service in large areas of Manhattan yet. "

    On the one hand, you claim that changes in the rules would be bad. As evidence of this, you use an example of what Verizon is able (not able, rather) to do under the current oppressive regulations.

    Verizon never asked to eliminate its competitors. It merely asked to be allowed to compete on a level playing field. The laws that say Verizon must sell capacity to its rivals are outrageouly biased. What, just because Verizon is winning the competition, the government gets to tell it who to do business with? Slashdot has a pretty large monopoly as far as "geek" weblogs go. How would you like it if the government told Slashdot it had to run pro-Microsoft stories?

    Price caps are outrageously misguided to begin with. The California power crisis was a direct result of that type of economic micromanagement by the government. Or, how about rent controls in New York. That's a great idea, no? Oh, unless you want to rent an apartment any time soon; or you're a land lord who would like to be able to make market value off his holdings.

    If Verizon wants to turn into a "sluggish monopoly", why not let it? Its more nimble competitors should then be able to run rings around it, no? Unless Verizon keeps doing its job as a premier telecommunications provider.

    Michael, please take the misinformed commentary elsewhere.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe you need to stop pretending slashdot is an objective news site, and start reading it for what it is: commentary on news.

      This is not your daily newspaper. Opinions are allowed. Do you get pissed everytime Salon writes something with (*gasp*) a liberal slant?
    • by Corgha ( 60478 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @02:41PM (#2708698)
      Verizon never asked to eliminate its competitors. It merely asked to be allowed to compete on a level playing field.

      This does not to me seem possible.

      Now I am no expert on the history of utilities in the U.S. (maybe someone with a Ph.D. can shed some light on this), but it seems to me that many people seem to forget that Verizon and other utilities have the advantage of huge amounts of existing infrastructure. (In fact, "Verizon" didn't even install a lot of it -- they inherited it from AT&T in the breakup.) Not only that, but this infrastructure was installed with the aid of and through countless special arrangements with local and larger governments (e.g. the U.S. Federal Government's Rural Electrification Act of 1936).

      These governments realized long ago that it was in their best interest to aid utilities in building public infrastucture, whether through loan guarantees, municipal franchises, or other means. Although private firms played a much larger role in the U.S. than they did elsewhere, the utilities' monopolies are nevertheless to some degree government-granted.

      While one might suggest that governments simply give the same aid to competing utilities in running another set of lines/pipes to every consumer, that is not only a very wasteful suggestion, but also one that ignores the fact that times have changed and it's no longer so easy to install the infrastructure. (I certainly don't want the streets torn up any more than they have to be.)

      It is so unreasonable, then, that we ask these utilities to provide other companies access to the infrastructure that we helped them put into place? (...without dragging their feet and making every install from a competitor take gratuitously long)

      Finally, while I agree that some things, like the maintenance of the two copper wires that run from my apartment building to the CO, lend themselves well to natural monopolies, it's not clear that all the other things that Verizon tries to do (Internet access, long distance service) should fall under the same umbrella.

      The free market is a great ideal, and I'm all for it, but there are some circumstances where practical concerns make it unattainable and outside interference is required to prevent abuses. Pretending those practical concerns don't exist does not make them go away.
    • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <> on Saturday December 15, 2001 @02:43PM (#2708704) Homepage
      Michael, please refrain from pushing your political views on others through your position as a slashdot editor.
      Editor: One who writes editorials

      Editorial: An article in a publication expressing the opinion of its editors or publishers.

      Slash is an editorial web log. Repeat this to yourself over and over: "Despite all claims to the contrary, Slash is an editorial web log. Slash is slanted toward what its readers want to see and believe. Slash is not a news site."

      • (All definitions from Merriam-Webster [])

        Editor: someone who edits especially as an occupation

        1 a : to prepare (as literary material) for publication or public presentation
        b : to assemble (as a moving picture or tape recording) by cutting and rearranging
        c : to alter, adapt, or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose
        2 : to direct the publication of

        I don't see anything about editors opinionizing. It is a newspaper convention to offer opinion, often written by the editor. But this opinion is (ideally, anyway) always clearly marked as such. Not slipped in among news stories.
        • When's the last time you picked up a newspaper, o great dictionary man.

          Go find one, turn to page 2, and read. Then come back, and tell us if the editorial expressed an opinion or not.

          Maybe you will find that Websters explanation is not complete.
          • I picked up the newspaper. What do I see on page two? Weather forecasts. Be more specific next time, we don't all read the same newspaper as you.

            Now assuming your refering to the opinion page, you're just being a moron. Traditionally editors wrote most opinion articles, this is by tradition only, it is not part of the job description.

            It is also considered extreamly bad, as a reporter or editor, to mix your opinions into the news anywere but the opinion page. This is what Micheal is doing. He is not editing (well, he might be), he is opinionating in a news piece. This is bad, and it deserves a good bitching.
    • by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <.bgtrio. .at.> on Saturday December 15, 2001 @02:52PM (#2708739) Homepage Journal
      Michael, please refrain from pushing your political views on others through your position as a slashdot editor.

      Yes, please, if you wish to editorialize, become an edito... oh wait.

      I mean, you can't be so opinonated when you are working for a respectable news service as opposed to a narrow interest-group related news-gathering site... er, wait...

      I mean, you have a priveleged voice as editor, it's not like I can just post a comment and disagr... er, um...
  • by pres ( 34668 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:45PM (#2708531)
    For things like power (though now we do see power generation buy third parties) and water and even the phone where you have to run copper wires this is true. No one else could afford to run all this stuff and once one company has run it, getting it to give access to others will almost never work out (would you give it up if you had it).

    However, while there are usually strong laws requiring these companies to provide good basic service, there is nothing requiring them to add new services. Sure it would be nice if they added DSL, and if every company had their own copper lines EVERYONE would be offering DSL because they would want the customers. But there is no drive for these companies to offer things like DSL until it is clear there is a HUGE market and it will be worth these while. They have no drive to start offering it until then.

    So these monopolies are great for a while but at some point things break down. I am hoping the wireless world will fix this at some point. If you have a large amount of bandwidth that you can use without having to run actual cables but just have some central access points we could see other companies actually break in (ie. we do at least have some actual choice in wireless plans, not just having the same company providing the service regardless of which long distance company we choose).

    • We have a natural monopoly that works pretty well. You use this natural monopoly every time you leave your home, every time you get a package in the mail (or via UPS or FedEx).

      Its called a road, and whether it is the driveway to your front door, your street, or the expressway over the hill, it can get you from virtually any single place in the country to another.

      However, there is not an overregulated/underregulated/poorly regulated company or "industry" setting up toll gates every three miles, forcing you to run a guantlett every day to work, nor are there ten competing streets running up to your house.

      Why? Because for all of its deficiencies things like roads work best when they are treated as public works rather than private feifdoms. It is true that government is imperfect, subject to political graft and other foibles (and themselves have stupidly set up tollgates on some major thoroughfares despite having tax money to cover the costs), but despite this the government is by far a better steward of our highways than any private company would be, if for no other reason than that it insures a free market, and equal access, to those whose business requires the use of said highways. Imagine how different it would be if Verizon owned the highway system. Think you'd still have a choice of using FedEx, UPS, or the US Mail? Maybe, if regulations required it, but what is the likelihood that the competing services would enjoy the same quality and cost of access to Verizon Highways and Streets that the Verzion owned mail service would?

      Telefon wires and power lines are the same, and the only way to avoid Verizon-style monopolies and oligarchies is to nationalize the copper going to our homes and allow all competing services access to the wire under the same conditions. Anything else is inviting disaster, as we've already seen numerous times with the DSL and broadband collapses.

      Democracy may be an imperfect check and balance on the government, but it does work a damn site better than a profit-driven monopoly dancing around and, in some cases, writing the very regulations that are supposed to restrain it and prevent it from doing precisely what Verizon and other telcos are doing: using their monopoly on infrastructure to destroy competing services.
  • Verizon is just looking out for Verizon. The only monies they generate are in the areas where they leverage their monopoly. All the remaining areas where they have these grandiose dreams of ASP, and hosting, or whatever, are ALL losers. They are too old, and too slow to compete with other tech companies.

    Pay a visit to their tech/data center in Tampa, it's like visiting a nursing home.

    How do I know? I work there.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      (Posting anonymously for a reason)

      That's because within a year, GTEDS is going to be shut down.

      We've moved all the important stuff out of there. :-)
  • Natural monopolies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psicE ( 126646 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:47PM (#2708538) Homepage
    Phone lines running to your house are natural monopolies. Phone companies providing services and billing you for your calls are not. Before making any regulation, make a distinction between the two. The phone lines and dial tone can be provided best either by a single company that's heavily regulated, or by a municipal line-rental company (think Tacoma's municipal cable). The service and billing of calls, however, is in no way a natural monopoly, and eliminating choice in this will not help anyone.

    Another interesting thought, though - phoneline-providing companies are not completely natural monopolies. I have AT&T Broadband for my local phone company, which means that my phone service comes over cable lines, which I'd have running to my house anyway; so if Verizon didn't have any competition in local phone that used its lines, or if there were no local phone lines at all, I could still have AT&T.
  • no-reg link (Score:2, Informative)

    by h4x0r-3l337 ( 219532 )
    The editors should just include the registration-free link []...
  • I'm currently employed as an engineer in the IT group of a behemoth in the banking/investing industry. Needless to say, along with the human impact of September 11th, we suffered a huge infrastructure as well. In a nutshell, we don't have a big footprint in the Verizon network directly, but basically they have the "last mile" monopoly in Manhattan. Even before this unpleasantness, they were unresponsive, generally un-knowledgable, and highly disagreeable to deal with. God help us if they gain anymore ground as a monopoly. MCI and World-Domm were ok until they they have the "my way or the highway" mentality. Apparently customer service. common courtesy and knowledgable staff aren't tenets that the TeleComm industry find antiquated.
  • Stifling competition (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:55PM (#2708571)
    I work for a small clec and the survey comes as no surprise to me. I may be paranoid but it always seems like Sprint is trying to screw us. If something goes down and we enter a trouble ticket on it they just say something to the effect of "Well there's nothing wrong on our end." If we pursue the matter further they say "Well, we looked and it must be you." By some mystery of nature after they "look" what ever outage has occured will start working again. We have to request that they hook up customers so we can provide dsl service. Half of the time they record the work as done and when we go to setup the customer on site it's not. Of course if we request they fix any of these things they just look, it magically starts working and we get charged. It makes us look like idiots to our customers when it's really a situation that is out of our control.

  • by Multics ( 45254 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @01:57PM (#2708579) Journal
    I think Verison did a so-so job recovering from 9/11. There are still gobs of data circuits that are not up and have no scheduled ETA for being back. Ditto 10k or so voice circuits. We'll sadly never get a fair accounting of Verison vs Other connection delays.

    That said, it is an enormous undertaking rebuilding around several large central offices that were simply obliterated. In the bad-old-days where there was mother AT&T, this kind of mess would have brought people from all over the country in to fill the gap in raw bodies. We're left with the impression that this particular disaster was nearly 100% covered by Verizon people. Would calling for help to other operating companies have expidited the return to service?

    All that said, at the beginning of deregulation was a proposal (squashed by lobbying) that central offices become 'open facilities' and all the copper in the street also become 'open'. Then these facilities would be serviced by a separate regulated monopoly which would level the playing field between the big, the small and the miscellaneous. Then outages like 9/11 would be dealt with by the 'open network operating company' as well as all those firms that provide dial tones.

    I think it is probably time to revisit this as the ONOO would have sufficient scale to deal with network failures while still keeping real compition alive.

    -- Multics

    P.S. I have customers in Verizon and Ameritech/SBC. Give me Verizon *every* time. Ameritech genuinely sucks -- there are now times that simple things simply can't be done because there is no one left with the knowledge of how the damn system works.

    • Ameritech is incompetent (they don't even have an ATM network); that doesn't make them evil. Verizon is evil.

      I work for a national DSL ISP. We opened a trouble ticket with Verizon for a no sync issue. They dispatched a field technician to verify sync at the NID. The field tech closed the ticket, marking it "No trouble found - OK per customer." The end user says he never spoke to the tech (though he did see him), and it still doesn't work.

      So, I called Verizon and was fortunate enough to get one of their non-evil techs on the phone. He ran some tests, and concluded that the field tech LIED. If he had actually verified sync at the NID, the test results would have been different. They're sending another field tech out.

      To the tech I spoke with on the phone: thank you so much for being honest, and really doing your job. I really appreciate that. We need more like you.
  • The dragon, the system.

    Money wins wars.

    Monopolies make money better than other systems.

    But the truth is that once a company establishes itself as out of control, the government should SIEZE it. Control it more as a public good, and take in revenue.
  • first off i have verizon for my land lines and they are ok... i prefer them for my cell phone even. I HATE THEM FOR MY DSL! it's not the service i signed up for a little over a year ago (and yes, i figuring out who to switch to). a few months ago verizon made a move to "eliminate spam"..... the smtp servers only allow mail with a @verizon or @ bellatlantic return address. if they host your website, then you can get access to an smtp server... but for those of us with a few email addresses, unless they included an smtp server... we can not send mail from them. not too long after this they started blocking ftp access to certain places. the email blockage is explained on the website, basically their solution is to switch your hosting to verizon (um, no). as for the ftp blocking, i got a vague response from tech support about some anti-spam measures or something. what? at first we though something went haywire in our router, but we checked that out. it's odd... it's not everywhere, and it only blocks uploading. but the places it blocks are places i need to get to. it really sucks when some of the blocked places are ones that host websites i do work on. argh!
    so what do people think of earthlink dsl? how about direct TV? they seem to be out only options. our cable co is *working* on bringing in cable modems, but they are so terrible about everything else that i dont think we want to be mixed up with them anyway.
  • I noticed a small, probably typographic error when reading the site today. If possible, could you please correct it by reposting this article under the category "It's Funny. Laugh." ? Thanks for your time.
  • But not for phone...for internet.

    We were perfectly satisfied with Mindspring, except for some odd reason, every 5 minutes, we would have a 30-second period of null activity. This started occuring a few weeks after we got their service. After a few months, our connection just died. After a week, BellSouth admitted to rerouting our lines to their servers instead of Mindspring's, claiming we had asked them to. We tried twice to have the lines rerouted to Mindspring, and each time, they rejected the request without notifying anyone.

    Finally, we were able to talk to BellSouth's local VP. He told us it would take a week to stop it from pointing to their servers, and another to point it back to Mindspring. Now, we aren't stupid. We know that it's simply a keystroke or two they need to enter into their computer, but their almost refusal to change us back finally made us just give up and accept their service.

    Oh, and while we didn't have service, I used a friend's BellSouth service, since I figured they owed me anyways for the hassle they were putting us through. I still had the odd 30-second null activity. Oddly enough, within five minutes of signing up with BellSouth service, this went away, and all that they had done was simply give us an account.
    • Now, we aren't stupid. We know that it's simply a keystroke or two they need to enter into their computer, but their almost refusal to change us back finally made us just give up and accept their service.

      From what I understand, that's not true. Provisioning a line for DSL actually involves physically plugging wires in. True, plugging them in only takes a few minutes, but the task has to be assigned to a technician who also has a lot of others to take care of. You really don't want them to mess it up, either. In addition to plugging the wires in, they also have to send a request to another technician to enter some numbers into a computer system, and that technician also has others to do. I'm sure there's something else that must be done as well - I don't work at a telco, so I don't know. Of course all of this is after the slot/port on the DSLAM has been allocated. I'm sure none of this is very optimized and could be done much more efficiently, but why bother streamlining?

      Deprovisioning is the same process in reverse, and takes just as long.

      My recommendation: document everything fully, and complain to your local public utilities commission.
  • 300,000 phone lines were knocked out, including severe damage to major telecommunications hubs. The kinds of repairs that are really needed, like a new central office, don't just happen! Especially if you can't just cut everything off to replace it. There's probably still water coming in from the World Trade Center as well. They were literally next door to ground-zero. Not to mention the billions it will take to rebuild. It wasn't too long ago that people on Slashdot were asking why wasn't there enough redundancy. As a regulated utility, the profits Verizon can make aren't all that huge. Economic factors are cutting into their money makers, like DSL and second phone lines. We know why lots of CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) are really suffering: bad business plans.
  • Believe me the Bells want competition. They've been through the whole company split thing before. You know, about 15 years ago. Now the real problem with services offered by most CLECs is that they have to run it on some infrastructure of lines and switches. Of course, the Bells already have this large interconnected set of phone lines criss-crossing our country, so what's easiest for a CLEC to do, rent the Bell or long distance infrastructure already in place.

    If CLECs really want to compete with the Bells, they need to become independent of the Bells.

    • Yes, the Bells want competition. About as much as Fidel Castro wants free elections. I know well; I work with CLECs, write business plans for them, work on the interconnect agreements between CLECs and Bells, etc. The Bells do every trick in the book, and then some, and know that they can get away with flouting the law by using political influence.

      The Bells are the holders of the former AT&T local monopoly. AT&T got the monopoly in 1876 via the patent. When that expired, they bought another patent (Putin's, for the loading coil) that gave them a monopoly on calls of more than ten or so miles. When that expired, they already had a huge advantage over their many, many competitors (CLECs were common as dirt ninety years ago). They then agreed to become a regulated monopoly, and the other local phone companies either accepted a buyout, shut down, or stayed out of Bell territories (whose territorial borders, most of the urban/low-cost-to-serve areas, were then blocked from expansion). So we ended up with multiple local monoplies.

      Those days are over. VZ wants it all, minus the regulation. Whatever works for CLECs, they'll come out against it. Count on it.
  • I think they should break up all telco's into two entities. The first being one which provides the infrastructure and which is regulated. The other the services offered ontop of this infrastructure which will not be regulated. Regulated rates should be established to connect to the infrastructure. Any one can offer their services to the general public. Joe public will pay the individual service providers for telephone, long distance, internet, TV etc... The infrastucture co will charge the service providers per connection based on the regulated rates.

    One infrastructure that all can share which was by the way developed as a monopoly.

  • Exploitation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @02:51PM (#2708733) Journal
    Am I the only one who is REALLY bugged by this? What bugs me isn't that Verizon wants to eliminate competitors, but that they're doing it under the guise of "preventing terrorism."

    Everyone and their cousin seems to be using the tragic events of September 11th as a way to push their laws, change their polices, etc. For example, I've noticed that movie theaters make a big deal about you bringing in bags. Is Osama bin Laden going to come to a tiny movie theater in the middle of nowhere? I doubt it. Is it going to make it harder for people to bring in their own food and put more money in the pockets of the movie theater? Yup.

    I assume I don't need to mention all of the insane laws that have been passed to give the government more power to eavesdrop on inoccent people ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H spot terrorists. Nor do I need to mention that more than 1,000 Muslims are in jail on no real charges at all, but the government seem to think that being Muslim means that they must be connected... I'm not saying that they don't have some possible terrorists, but, umm... I have my doubts that there were 1,000 people involved. I'd rather see a potential terrorist go free than a perfectly innocent person rot away in jail only because he's from the Middle East.

    My intent isn't to bash the government, but merely to comment on how sick and disgusted I am by all the people profitting from the attack.

  • Old news (Score:2, Informative)

    by filtersweep ( 415712 )
    (or rather deja vu?) ... although wrapped in red-white-blue bunting.

    Qwest was sued locally for taking their sweet time setting up DSL that was run through different ISPs (then sold all their ISP customers down the river to MSN). There have been all sorts of problems as well with local phone service that is provided by "competing" companies- which oddly all seem for business, not residential service.

    I'm sitting here wondering (and unable to access the NYT story) if a utility carries any insurance for such disasters.

    Finally, I'm morbidly amused at how airlines that were struggling BEFORE 911 have been (relatively) bailed out... while a local ad agency who's primary clients involve the travel industry had mass layoffs- no charitable aid for those employees (the ripple traveled far and wide).

    The media has avoided talking politics or partisanship in their efforts to front a "unified America"- but Republicans have been longtime supporters of deregulation and corporate welfare. This is business as usual, but we all somehow feel better about it as we carpet bomb the Taliban (as if shady business practices are bin Laden's fault).
    • What is "locally"? Because Qwest fucked us around for over a month after the promised hookup date for DSL going through a local ISP (not, and not MSN). This was in addition to the router coming two months late due to multiple cases of stupidity at their warehouse, then getting charged full price for the router in one payment, though they told me I would get the promo price spread out over 12 months.

      Yep, I love Qwest. I get to call them every week to argue about new DSL charges they told me I wouldn't see.

      Last time I called the billing office and told them I had an issue with a DSL charge, they gave me another number to call. I called the number and got MSN customer support. Thanks, Qwest! You incompetent morons.


  • An ISP perspective.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by defile ( 1059 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @03:15PM (#2708832) Homepage Journal

    We probably took part in this survey, and we concur with most of the results. As a small NYC based ISP, we depend entirely on Verizon to conduct our business. Perhaps I can lend some views from the inside.

    1. When the dialup market was worth being in, Verizon (which was once in part Bell Atlantic, which was once in part Nynex) took years to increase capacity to our office. We just could not add dialups fast enough to meet the demand. There were many periods where our lines were hopelessly busy and there was very little we could do but harass Verizon.

      This is important. We had to work extra hard around Verizon's deficiencies to provide a reasonable quality service. Eventually capacity was increased, but by the time that happened, the dialup market had dried up. Oh well.

    2. We depend on Verizon to network our offices. One business we're involved with is "lighting" buildings with T1s and sharing it with tenants for a reduced price.

      Lately, Verizon's been pretty stable and we haven't had any major catastrophes. Several years ago the story was much different. T1s would constantly go down. Adding redundant lines to different locations was in many cases useless (since the redundant lines went down at the same time!), and often quite expensive.

      Verizon definitely knows that this is a business they should take care of. They're much more responsive to T1 problems, but there's still room for improvement. They are getting better though. Perhaps we're just lucky?

    3. Our adventures in DSL-land have been.. interesting. We resell Verizon ADSL (but provisioned to our network) and the rate it's sold to us leaves us no choice but to price it higher than Verizon's offerings. This isn't that bad since our customers come to expect that they pay a little more for higher quality service from us, but it must be nightmarish for ISPs trying to sell it as a mass-market commodity.

      The most significant value-added feature we offer over Verizon ADSL is that when it goes down, customers simply report it to us and we take care of harassing Verizon to get it fixed. Then we get back to our customers with the progress that's been made.

      Talk about innovation!

      We partnered with NAS to provide SDSL, and they seem to be the only major DSL carrier that can narrowly avoid bankruptcy. Verizon now offers SDSL though (to us, for resale) for significantly less, so NAS's future is still uncertain.

    Verizon's quality of service has improved noticably in the past few years. It's still very substandard, but they're much more attentive to problems now. Maybe we're just having a good year. Keep up the complaints people, they might actually be listening.

    Oh, also! We're lucky enough to be one of the few ISPs to partner with AOL Time Warner. We could be selling cable internet by sometime next year.

    But the FTC has to approve the deal. Our tiny less than 20 employee company was being grilled by FTC officials on a whole range of issues. Apparantly this looks very suspicious to them.

    AOLTW execs explained to us that they see sound economic advantages in partnering with small ISPs and want to do it despite FTC interference. Whether this is genuine or not will remain to be seen.

    But I've already said too much.

    Shameless plug time: If anyone's interested, we're New York Connect.Net, Ltd.

  • by ethaz ( 413842 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @03:39PM (#2708904)
    The RBOCs, all of them, are supporting the Tauzin-Dingell Bill which will allow them into the high-speed, long distance data market without opening up their local markets to competition. This way they can be the only national backbone providers and still use the local monopoly to stop local competition.

    In five years time, the RBOCs will have succeeded in either bankrupting or buying AT&T, WorldComm/UUNet and Sprint. I suspect Level 3, XO and some of the other small players will just be bankrupted. XO is close to that now.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Once upon a time there was a really good phone company called the Bell Telephone Company. It's employees were highly skilled, highly trained, selected from the cream of the crop.

    Then thanks to the lawyers, where I live the company came to be called The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company. Still, standards remained somewhat high, although there was a decline in customer service.

    Then sometime later, after another round of lawyers, this once fine company slipped another notch and became known as The Bell Atlantic Telephone Company. Standards were lowered once again. Unskilled contract workers replaced highly skilled in-house technicians. But more sad news was yet to come.

    Another round of lawyers later and this company became known as Verizon. Standards were lowered yet again. A once proud technological giant was now being maintained by trained monkeys and ex-cons with GEDs and a tool belt. Service went to hell. Local offices completely disappeared. Customer service amounts to recorded messages accessed by touch-tone codes.

    Give me back the Bell Telephone Comany. Give me back real operators, and real technicians. We loved the Bell Telephone Company. They did things right.

  • For a while I've been saying that as soon as I had an alternative I'd gladly drop C & P / Bell Atlantic / Verizon, and their "We don't care. We don't have to. We're The Phone Company" attitude.

    There's a CLEC in the Baltimore area, Cavalier Telephone []. I was going to wait until they'd been around for a little while to make sure I wasn 't jumping from one bastard to another, but this has pushed me into making the jump. Bye bye bastards.

  • I certainly take exception that the competitive companies didn't do much getting the lines and service back on, that they were insignificant. So what? They were required to lease the line. The lines are still owned by Verizon and it's THEIR responsibility for getting them back in service. As for the actual services provided down that pipe, I've got clients in lower manhanttan with other providers, and they returned to service at about the same time as Verizon's service. I knew Seidenberg and cronies where a bunch of a-holes, but I didn't know they were quite as arrogant as they have come out to be. Their timing, attempting to gain from the disaster is absurd, and deserves PR, hopefully all negative. It certainly supports the idea of competition. As for getting the services back and the hoopla, they did get the services back. But it was done by the old time telco line employees, just the ones that Ivan & Co have made their best attempt to downsize. It wasn't the groups hired since that they hope to replace those folks with at a huge ratio as far as persons as well as cost. I still think the only way to get real competition is to have a breakup ala AT&T. Let the 'last mile' and physical CO's (the buildings, not the switches) be retained as the regulated monopoly and let every service provider, including Verizon, compete for services over that pipe. It's the only way we ended up with real competition in long distance and I think it's the only way we'll have any real competition in local service.
  • by primenerd ( 100899 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @07:16PM (#2709376)
    I've heard him... Vader does the voiceover for the commericals! Verizon is part of the Empire!

    "People everywhere just want to be free" (of Verizon)
  • I'm in an area that for quite some time did not have DSL available. I tried filling out the "contact me when it's ready" forms at Verizon (then GTE), Covad and lots of local ISPs. Nobody ever emailed, called or sent a letter. I assumed I'd never get DSL in my area, and I had a high speed wireless service that was working ok, as well as an (expensive) low speed fractional T1 circuit.

    Several times people told me that they thought DSL was available in my area, or as least "should be". One day, I checked back at the Verizon web site, and the status had changed from a definate no to the web page not responding.

    So, I called my favorite local ISP (who has great service and only a slightly higher price). They took several days and eventually emailed back saying that DSL was not available in my area. I tried the Verizon web page once more, and the complete lack of response from their server has turned into an error message page which said the database wasn't working for my area and suggested calling Verizon.

    Natually, I called Verizon and the woman I talked with tried to look up my number but could not tell if DSL was actually available in my area or not. Our conversation proceeded something like this:

    Verizon: Do you want my to put the work order in anyway?
    Me: What does that mean?
    Vz: (Some jargon about their system and accounting proceedures)
    Me: So what will really happen?
    Vz: A technician will be scheduled to make the installation.
    Me: Will I have to pay if they can't install it?
    Vz: No, the order will be canceled, do you want me to put it in?
    Me: Sure, why not?
    Vz: Which service do you want
    Me: What's the best one
    Vz: 1.5 Mbps down and 384 kbps up, for $79 (and a bunch of stuff about the others, which I ignored)
    Me: Only $79, that's great. Do I get a static IP number?
    Vz: That's another department, would you like me to transfer you?
    Me: NO! I mean, no, you've been very helpful and I'd like you to just put the work order in for me and we'll see how it if they manage to install it.

    A couple weeks later, the box with the DSL modem showed up, and another week after that someone called to let me it was connected.

    I checked back with their website a few weeks after the installation, and the page still said they could not determine if DSL was available in my area.

    I don't see an antitrust conspiracy here... I think it's just a careless mistake on Verizon's part that their database doesn't properly reflect the status of DSL availability in my area. However, the net effect is that I can not get DSL service via my favorite local ISP (who I would gladly pay a bit extra to), but I can get it from Verizon... though perhaps only because I was lucky enough to have my call answered by a woman who cared so little that she'd just toss the work order in without being able to check wether the service was even available.

    One final note: I had expected Verizon's service to be terrible based on all the problems Robin (girlfriend) has with their billing on her cell phone and all the DSL horror stories. In fact, the service was excellent. Someone called to let me know it was connected, and someone else made a followup call a few days later to check if it was working (I hadn't plugged the modem in yet). When I finally did hook it up, the speed was 1.5Mbps/128kbps. I called the toll-free tech support number and I got a real person within 1 minute. He was a front-line guy who trasfered me to a real tech, who picked up after only a few rings. I talked with the tech for a few minutes and she believe me and said she'd re-provision the line. She called back 20 minutes later to verify that the line had come back up and was running at the correct speed. It's been running well ever since, with only a few small outages, 10-15 minutes every couple weeks.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman