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What's Holding Up Broadband in the U.S.? 548

ProfBooty writes "A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post discloses that the broadband could potentially aid in the economy's recovery (and that Canadians are 2x as likely to have it, South Koreans 4x), but it's not regulation that is the hold up, it's *surprise* content holders' fears of 'piracy' as well as unwillingness to adapt to new markets. Also discusses the governments of Canada and South Korea and how they were involved in bringing broadband to the people. In additon discusses how in the past, Congress would pass laws as to protect innovators as well as the old guard." The article's by Lawrence Lessig.
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What's Holding Up Broadband in the U.S.?

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  • by bamberg29 ( 240460 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:23PM (#2805541)
    "What's holding up broadband in the world?"

    Mostly last mile issues. Here in Germany DSL is available in larger cities, but little towns like mine will never get a taste for broadband since DSL is pretty much the only option for now.
  • by satsuke ( 263225 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:23PM (#2805545)
    Lets see ..

    1. The Drought of VC money of late.
    2. ILEC's / MSO cable operators not opening access lines easily
    3. Cost - for smaller operators, the mantra of "stick new headends on either end of the fiber" is true, except those digipeaters are $$$$.
    4. Incremental need, People are not making quantum shifts in usage, it grows over time .. that is unless some person finds usenet / IRC for software / MP3s / video / anime / P2P usage.
    5. Virus threats are contained quickly anymore by most people, so the network crawling to a halt because of traffic is a temporal thing.

    Here in Kansas city we actually have a company called that has done a full overbuild of some of the cable infrastructure in the area. phone, Long distance, cable modem & television on a competing / seperate wire. Imagine that. .
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:40PM (#2805670)
      > 4 Incremental need, People are not making quantum shifts in usage, it grows over time .. that is unless some person finds usenet / IRC for software / MP3s / video / anime / P2P usage.

      (Umm, you forgot pr0n ;-) And that is why there's a lack of demand.

      While copyright infringement may be the "killer app" for broadband, it's not the content industry that's killing broadband. It's the fact that the ISPs can't profit from these users.

      From the ISP's point of view, transiting hundreds gigabytes of data per month per user costs money. Your $50/month broadband connection doesn't cover the ISP's transit costs if you keep the pipe saturated. Until the ISP can find a way to make you pay for the transit cost of the data, the ISP will not want you to keep your pipe full.

      (Side note: I believe this to be a defence of USENET -- it may well be cheaper for an ISP to transit in 300GB per day once, and then all your multimedia downloaders can l33ch from your NNTP server, which is on your local network, than to l33ch from P2P users that may not be on your local network.)

      The original business plan ("Gee, our market research shows we have users interested in online music and video!") was for the ISP to sell you streaming audio/video subscription services. As we all know, the content offered was, and is, laughably inadequate, copy-controlled, and more than often, both. (No, Mr. Eisner, I don't want a copy-crippled .WMV or .RM stream of whatever ABC deems "must-see TV" this season. I just want my fscking DiVXs of Futurama and Babylon 5!)

      Since there's no money in giving customers what they want, that leaves the not-for-pay "killer apps", for which the ISP receive no revenue.

      None of this changes the fact that Messrs. Rosen and Valenti would love to kill broadband outright. I merely dispute that they're the ones at fault in this particular instance.

      • I agree, but why don't they charge me 20 bucks for a decent speed, and say, 500Mb of download,
        The charge 10 cents per for every full Meg after that?
        When Streaming content arrives with decent content, and a decen format, let market forces set your prices.(as long as there are at least 3 competitors!)
        • Because then people in the US whine and bitch about how flat rate is a Constitutional right.

          Well, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but a glance over the history of Cable/xDSL stories on /. will reveal the outrage whenever a company attempts to make their offering profitable with caps and volume charging.

          • Well, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but a glance over the history of Cable/xDSL stories on /. will reveal the outrage whenever a company attempts to make their offering profitable with caps and volume charging.

            No, the outrage comes from the service providers failing to live up to their (possibly implied, via advertising) contractual obligations. If I sign a contract with an ISP stating I'll give them $50/month for the next twelve (or more) months, and in return they'll give me "always on, 1.5 Mbit speed, blah blah blah" they'd better live up to it. They're the ones that wrote up the service agreement, right?

            I write this as one unable to get DSL, but I can throw a rock from my house to the wirecenter. I was -->right out. I could get Earthlink cable I suppose, but I'm not sure about the service people at TWC; they'd be the ones doing the hardware.
      • Economies of scale & all that (you know the only Oz state that has had problems like California is Vicoria which just happens to be the only Oz state to have privatised it govt Electricity utility

        Really you can't beat govt Telco monopolies - look at Nokia & Singapore Telecom.
    • by bricriu ( 184334 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:57PM (#2805803) Homepage
      You know what the killer apps for broadband are? They're what are prohibited by my TOS.

      I want to LAN my home, I want to use a VPN, I want to run an FTP server and a ShoutCast server and have a firewall and do my Morpheus thing and maybe a little httpd. But you know what? I'm not allowed.

      A killer app is something that you're going to use. But broadband providers don't WANT us to use all our bandwidth. That's how they make their dough: promise 1500 kbps for each & every subscriber -- I'm talking cable here, folks -- and then damn you if you use it, because, surprise, there's not enough for us all.

      If people found out how easy it is to run those apps named above, then maybe we WOULD have a quantum shift.
      • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @11:27PM (#2807709) Journal
        I strongly agree with bricriu's [] comment. [] But I'd extend it beyond that - the TOS-don't-provide-any-services rules prevent development of other interesting services as well as preventing development/delivery of interesting content. Some applications get developed anyway, particularly at universities that have ethernet-wired dorms, such as Napster and its clones and followons. Some get developed even in the dialup world, like Cu-SeeMe and ICQ. Some of them have been around since the beginning - it's silly to go through the complication of uploading your vacation pictures or pictures of your kids or cats to an advertising-run web server offering 20 meg of free space when you've got 20 GIG of space on your disk drive. Sure, the commercial service may have better bandwidth and reliability, and may be a good place for a front page pointing to your home system, but most pictures you'd want to serve will work just fine in a low-throughput environment, because most people's home sites don't get heavy use. (Obvious exceptions are music-sharing, but the systems that have sufficiently scalable indexing can put up with slow uploads.)

        What kinds of applications would people develop if it only took creativity and technical skill and wasn't forbidden by usage policies? Most interesting applications include at least some kind of server somewhere - even an ICQ or IM "client" is technically a server, because it's sitting there on your system waiting for people to connect to it, and it's often advertising its presence using some kind of presence server (the ICQ login stuff or Napster index servers or whatever.) Some successful applications were carefully planned by a small or large group of people, but many of them just happened - somebody tried it, and a few people liked it, and it caught on. And the more opportunity you have for people to develop things that probably won't catch on, the more chance that somebody will develop things that DO succeed. Maybe it'll be a "neighborhood watch" or "home traffic/weather cam" application, or maybe cheap cameras and better PC audio will allow the ICQ-phone to replace large chunks of the phone company (so duhh, either team with a gateway company like Net2Phone or a long-distance phone company to profit from professionalizing it), or maybe simply getting $40/month instead of $80/month from people working at home over VPNs is enough to be happy with, or maybe you can provide a $5/month IP relay service an 802.11 client software so that wireless users will become paying customers instead of service-stealing evil leeches. Or maybe it won't come from home developers, it'll come from game developers, like the integration of networking, Dancepads, and Quake into Combat Aerobics, or the World Wide Rave Network, burning its 15 minutes of fame before something else takes over. Whatever. More likely, it'll be something I haven't thought of, and much more likely, it'll be something the cable companies haven't thought of, because it's a decentralized decision-making process, not central planning.

        But if you're a cable modem company desperately needing enough customers to sign on to pay for growing your infrastructure, decreasing the chances of potential customers finding the killer-for-them app that makes *them* want to buy service from you is really, Darwinianly stupid.

        Cablecos do have things they're legitimately afraid of, though it was worse in the past than today. Upstream bandwidth is still limited, and people running popular amateur porn or warez websites on their cable modems could dog down performance for their neighborhoods (unlike commercial sites, which need better performance than the typical 128kbps upstream of current cable modem.) And that gives them a bad reputation for performance, and encourages the local phone company to run "Web Hog" ads taunting them. And Napster and Movie-ripoff-ster and other copyright-violation-promoting services directly hurt the business of their major business partners, so they need some way to discourage them. And the band on "email servers" is partly driven by fear of spammers, though it's largely driven by the sheer corporate greed assumption that if it's a mail server, it's either a business that you'd be willing to pay more money for or that you're taking away potential cablemodem customers instead of encourage more people to get cable. But blanket "can't serve anything because we don't want to monitor your content or upgrade our hardware to meter" policies are just stupid.

        Moore's commentary on Sturgeon's law says that the 90% of stuff out there that's crap keeps doubling every 18 months, and typical Freshmeat experience says that lots of projects will die out before they reach usable stages. But that's ok, and if we're lucky many of them would be in the 90% and not the 10%, or that the ideas in the good ones will get recycled by somebody else.

    • Not to be antagonistic, but your first reason is wrong. The people in control of whether or not services get offered don't rely on VC investors. They already have lots of their own money, they just don't want to part with it on a gamble.

  • It blow my mind... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RareHeintz ( 244414 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:23PM (#2805550) Homepage Journal
    It's just amazing to me that content control freaks can actually impede the progress of broadband network access in the U.S., yet people still oppose vigorous anti-trust enforcement (e.g., keeping the same people who collude to control content from colluding to control the pipes) and campaign finance reform (i.e., the outright purchase from legsliators of a desired regulatory environment).

    BTW: I know the blurb above says that regulatory issues aren't the problem, but I don't buy it - not while content-control interests can buy something like the DMCA.

    And of course, I can't get to the article at the post - likely because they can't get enough cheap, high-bandwidth connections. Who says irony is dead?

    - B

    • It's just amazing to me that content control freaks can actually impede the progress of broadband network access in the U.S.

      As much as I'd like to think the big content companies are behind the crap rollout of broadband, I think Mr. Lessig is stretching it here. I find it a little hard to believe that the likes of Disney, Universal, et al are getting Mafioso on the likes of Verizon, et al.

      I chalk it more up to economics. It ain't cheap rewiring the world, and the Phone/Cable companies of the world will go as slow as the market allows. Cable's a great example. Cable service (at least around my parts) all of the sudden got A LOT better when satalite and (the failed) Telco companies started eyeing their turf.

      For the average person there's no compelling reason to get broadband. Now, once you have it its hard as hell to go back (I have DSL) but at $40 a month you need a 'killer app.' of some sort to justify it.

      I'm still hooking my shingle with cheap wireless networks. I think they're now in the same position as ISPs were in the early 90s. Tonnes of them are going to spring up, offer good enough / cheap enough service to give other broadband services a kick in the pants. I know of a couple of companies out in my area that are going after the middle/upper middle class neighborhoods that the phone/cable companies have been telling "broadband's coming in a few months" for the last three years. I suspect if they do well (and I think they will) it'll be amazing how fast Comcast and Verizon will be offering broadband.
      • by mwa ( 26272 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:27PM (#2806095)
        I think your missing the point of the argument.

        Powell is making the same case that you are: There's no compelling economic reason for consumer's to get broadband. But he goes farther, saying that the reason there's no compelling content is that content holders are unwilling to risk their "intellectual property" by making it available. IOW, if the content owners loosened their grip and made stuff available, people would get broadband so that they could access it.

        I just keep remembering VHS tapes going for >$100. Nobody bought them and lot's of people copied them. As soon as they came out ~$20 people bought way more then 5x more and (home) copying virtually stopped. As soon as some daring content provider makes comes up with a novel way of making broadband content worthwhile, they'll make a fortune. What these providers need to understand is that all the consumer wants is economic and convenient entertainment. If they're willing to provide it, they'll get our business. If they're not, people will either find some other form of entertainment, or find a way to make the existing entertainment more convenient.

      • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:28PM (#2806110) Homepage
        the compelling reasons are "always on", and not tying up an expensive phone line.

        When you think about it, dialup is a fucking pain in the ass. You have to try to connect, then you sit and wait for the fucking modem to dial, and handshake, which takes MINUTES, and only IF it's successful, and about 1 out of 10 times when it fails, it fails in a way that hangs a lot of low-end systems. (in my experience).

        Then, you're tying up your phone line, or you've had to pay the phone company for a second line.

        Plus, configuration and troubleshooting is a no-brainer for broadband, compared to troubleshooting and configuring a modem.

        For DSL and cable, it's not so much the speed, as it is the convenience.

        By the way, PacBell is phasing in $50/mo as the DSL rate.
        • the compelling reasons are "always on", and not tying up an expensive phone line.

          For you and I, yes. For someone who doesn't sit in front of their machine a lot, I don't think so. Not yet at least.

          I also find the 'always on' aspect of my DSL is more compelling than the speed, but I'm a power user. I apt-get like crazy, surf a lot, VPN to work sometime, and a goober computer lover. That's not the average computer user though. To check mail and do some lite surfing dialup is fine. It may be a bit of a pain and tie up a phone line, but people will put up with it and save $40 a month. As I said in a previous post either the price has to come down or a "killer app" that makes you want to be online / suck bandwidth needs to come along.
  • It doesn't help that AT&T gambled and lost hugely by jumping into cable broadband with both feet. As a result of that experience, most providers are probably wary of getting into the game, and most consumers probably think that broadband internet is slow and unreliable.
    • Yes, but did they loose because the market wasn't there, or because they placed unnecicary and unacceptable restrictions on their service. We will never know.
  • 3 Year Waiting List (Score:2, Interesting)

    by piecewise ( 169377 )
    I've been on waiting lists for DSL or cable service for about years now. First @HOME, then Earthlink, and now also Comcast Cable. I live in a relatively higher-income area and every neighbor I've spoken with says that he or she would be interested in this service too.

    But it's useless. Despite repeated phone calls, Comcast and Earthlink still say service in my area is "a year or two out". This is pathetic, truly.

    They say it's "too expensive" to branch out into new areas -- but surely it's less expensive then not reaching new customers! I wish there were a solution. Europe's way ahead in wireless technology, too.

    I'm buying one of those new iMacs. They're amazing. But you know what? I'll still only have a 56k modem to use with it. Something's not right with that.
    • If you live in a wealthy enough neighborhood you could probably get everybody together and build your own mini-ISP. Somebody here I am sure has the link to how to do it. Something about ordering twisted pair from the phone company from a place that has high-speed to your house and then doling it out to you neighbors either wired or wireless.
  • by electroniceric ( 468976 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:26PM (#2805564)
    Can't help but think that part of this is due to the LACK of regulation rather than regulatory delays. Thanks to careless deregulation (read Reaganomics), the telcos have merged with the content providers, and as a consequence the new behemoths are hedging, looking to provide a utility service at luxury-good prices.
    • Careless deregulation? Don't you think deregulation is why we have low priced long distance, cable, and now broadband?
    • Through a strange series of events we have ended up with unregulated monopolies. SBC controls almost every aspect of telecommunications in California, for example, but there is almost no oversight or regulation of their activities.

      Consumers have been the victims of this unfortunate series of events. I don't know when things will change - we are looking at three companies - Verizon, Qwest, SBC, carving up most of the markets in the country in the next few years, and it seems they will be content to simply milk money from the services they currently offer instead of innovating.

      • Through a strange series of events we have ended up with unregulated monopolies.

        For many observers, there's nothing strange about that at all. Many types of service favor a winner-take-all scenario in the market, and naturally tend towards monopoly. Operating systems are a good example: if you control 60 percent of the market, it is far easier to get the next 30 percent than it was to get the first thirty percent, because of network effects (networkability, standardization, etc.) Utilities, which usually have somewhere a bottleneck in distribution which can allow only one "gatekeeper," also fall into this category.

    • I think that government should keep to a minimum of regulation. Regulation is something that fundamentally stifles some area of the organic system that exists and needs to be justified.

      That being said, there are very good reasons for anti-trust law, and other forms of government regulation. What you are complaining about is not a lack of regulation but rather an imbalance of regualtion (not regulating where you should while regulating where you should not).

      And it does not take a constitutional lawyer to see that the current copyright regs make a mockery of the intent of the constitution. (IANAL)
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:27PM (#2805575)
    Many telcos are still holding back updating signal repeaters until some of the fiber equipment becomes more advanced, and much cheaper. There is very little motivation for telcos to make investments in expensive first generation equipment- since they have tacit monpolies in their districts, they can simply wait for cheaper hardware to make its way on to the market.

    That said, some telcos are making the investment, particularly in new neighborhoods.

  • Uhm..right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Enry ( 630 ) <> on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:28PM (#2805577) Journal
    Looks like it's already /.'ed, so I'll punt.

    If what is described is the case, then why is AOLTW selling broadband? Why isn't TW's Road Runner shutting down instead of expanding?

    The problem is that phone lines have never really been built to handle DSL and the phone companies don't want to spend a lot of money to upgrade (see Robert X. Cringley's comments). The cable companies have only so many houses hooked up, and satellite has too much lag and often requires a phone line anyway.
  • by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:28PM (#2805579) Homepage
    The demand is there, but I think there are people who would rather go through a root canal than put it with all the BS associated with getting DSL or cable installed.

    DSL, with its ridiculously long install wait time, crappy PPPoE platform (In other words, shell out another $100 for a router that will do it for you so all your machines can have a 'normal' connection), and a general lack of value (+$15 for a static IP? Get real Ameritech)

    On the other hand you have cable, which @home and all their partners managed to bumble enough to make people stay away from cable for a LONG time.

    The content is THERE, these pundits are screaming that there is no killer app for broadband, as if having it will make things easier for users.
    • DSL, with its ridiculously long install wait time, crappy PPPoE platform (In other words, shell out another $100 for a router that will do it for you so all your machines can have a 'normal' connection), and a general lack of value (+$15 for a static IP? Get real Ameritech)

      On the other hand you have cable, which @home and all their partners managed to bumble enough to make people stay away from cable for a LONG time.

      I believe this is what the discussion is all about. Why is it that broadband is so hard to come by in the US and if you can get it, why is it so bad? (BTW, I didn't read the article cuz it has been /.'ed already, so work with me here)

      I'm Canadian and I think I'm the luckiest person in the world! For $20/month I have a choice of a 3Mb cable connection or a 1.2Mb ADSL connection. They have to fight for my business, and it's now down to $20/month. (Well, for 6 months anyways, reg. price for me is $35/month). But still, from what I here you get for $150/month in the US, I'm laughing! Why is it that Rogers (one of the Canadian providers of the @home service) was able to switch over to their own backbones after the excite@home fiasco and still give me this great service at an unbelievable price (I do believe it's the cheapest in the world!)

      I thought the US had more money AND technology. They also have more people and assuming relatively simular needs to Canadians, they'd have a much bigger demand!

      I don't claim to know the answer but I'd thought I'd share with you Americans the experiences I get up here in the great white north in my igloo with a 3Mb connection for $20/month. :)
  • by renehollan ( 138013 ) <> on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:30PM (#2805589) Homepage Journal
    ...and it is expensive and hard to get.

    I pay around $80 a month for 768 kb/s downstream, 384 kb/s upstream to Internet America []. $15 of that is for a dedicated pair they lease from SW Bell because, at 15.6 kft from the CO, ADSL is not guaranteed to work piggybacked on a POTS line.

    But even at $65 a month, that's way too expensive for most people.

    Now, it is true, that I can get SW Bell's offering for around $50/month, but it is PPPoE hell with lousy TOS (in my opinion) -- my neighbor suffers with this. (Internet America) has no problem with me running an "smtp" server to sink my email (of course, they appreciate that I do not relay) or any other server as long as I do not have "excessive" upstream bandwidth. Other ISPs freak at the mere suggestion of doing something like that. On the PPPoE issue, "we looked at that and held our noses" was their unoffocial comment. SOLD!

    In short, I am a satisfied customer.

  • I predict that in the not-too-distant future, broadband Internet access will be considered a utility like power and water, and will be treated by most governments as such. Hell, I *already* find it indispensible; there's no way I could go back to using a dial-up connection now. There's nothing better than an always-on, FAST cable modem :)

    Man, I'm glad I'm Canadian :)
    • a utility like power and water

      the utilities you mention are metered, which means charged for actual use of the service (watts and gallons become bytes). and this is, i think, the kind of plan which has to happen to save broadband providers from themselves. of course we, as (ab)users of the system like our unmetered, wanton ways, but how many gigs of porn and divx would you be downloading if it was costing you.

      the best comparison i think could be to cell phones. you pay X for service, you have Y bytes per month, and if you pay extra you get unlimited nights and weekends. this is the kind of thing which can give the broadpand providers an actual business model to get the service out the door. then, like cell phones, they can offer special things to you based on a model like USENET, where they have the content locally, you are just saturating the pipe to the provider. you can pay Z per month to get unlimited access to local content.

      but the 'logical' comparison is to a service like cable TV. you pay your X per month, and you can watch as often as you like, unmetered. unfortunately that model simply doesn't work for broadband, because that does not reflect the manner in which THEIR costs are incurred, which is by your downloading gigs of porn and divx from the internet at large, meaning they get to pay THEIR providers for that usage.

      There's nothing better than an always-on, FAST cable modem :)

      how about an always-on, LOW LATENCY DSL modem :) i visited my parents for xmas, their cable modem had decent download times but there was this feeling of 'lag' which i just can't stand. give me 256Kbps downloads and 40 msec ping time rather than 1Mbps downloads and 400 msec ping time ANY day. well, except the days i am the one downloading all the divx and porn...

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:31PM (#2805602) Homepage

    Straight up, when I saw "holding up", I read it as meaning "propping up".

    When you look at the beatings that broadband providers are taking, it seems like the only thing keeping the whole broadband "revolution" going is the mindless optimism of marketing droids, based on the mythical "average user" spending all of their time (and disposable income) sucking down advert laden pay-per-stream postage stamp sized Britney Spears videos from the provider's portal. It's insane (gee, do I pay-per-view for a postage stamp, or do I pay-per-view to the same provider down the same cable, but have it go to the big widescreen TV on the other side of the splitter?) but it seems to be the only thing keeping the rollouts going.

    This is an interesting piece, but it doesn't address the basic problem of broadband. Those of us who already have it know exactly why we want it: we want a fat and unmetered pipe to go find and create our own content with. But the pricing is aimed at bringing in Ms Average User. Frankly, I just don't think that's going to happen, not until the price is way down (in which case you've got to gouge that bit deeper on the pay-pers), and sooner or later broadband providers are going to give up this nonsense about selling content, and are going to have to start charging a sustainable amount for a sustainable service. And those of us who have got used to (fairly) affordable broadband are going to catch it right in the shorts. Oops.

    • > When you look at the beatings that broadband providers are taking, it seems like the only thing keeping the whole broadband "revolution" going is the mindless optimism of marketing droids, based on the mythical "average user" spending all of their time (and disposable income) sucking down advert laden pay-per-stream postage stamp sized Britney Spears videos from the provider's portal. It's insane (gee, do I pay-per-view for a postage stamp, or do I pay-per-view to the same provider down the same cable, but have it go to the big widescreen TV on the other side of the splitter?) but it seems to be the only thing keeping the rollouts going.

      Or do you pay-nothing (apart from a flat monthly fee for the pipe) to download the full-screen DiVX, VCD, or MPEG-2 video once, and keep it on your hard drive, burn to CD-ROM or DVD-Whatever, and play on your widescreen at will?

      I agree it was the mindlessly-optimistic marketroids who got the rollout started. I just happen to think that the providers finally realized that due to the third option (pay nothing and get pretty-damn-good multimedia from copyright infringers) the marketroids were wrong, and as a result, the rollout has stopped.

      As you put it:

      > Those of us who already have it know exactly why we want it: we want a fat and unmetered pipe to go find and create our own content with.

      Absolutely. And also, as you correctly point out, if that's the future, it's gonna get expensive, because it costs the ISP serious money to haul those kinds of quantities of data around without the advertiser dollars originally envisioned by the postage-stamp-video-portal business model.

  • Canada and the US (Score:5, Interesting)

    by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:33PM (#2805612) Homepage
    I've been thinking about broadband (here in Canada - I'm Canadian). What most Americans don't know is that Canada's Confederation (in 1867) was based on the promise of a coast to coast railroad (that is, the Atlantic and Pacific coast).

    In a country as large, unpopulated, and diverse (geographically, lingusitically, and culturally) that connection is very important. Recently, the Canadian government started rolling out a very fast fibre optic network that was put in the ground along the (surprise surprise) railroad.

    Broadband is a tool to further our national identity.

    In addition, thanks to near monopolies in telephone and cable, we have homogenous suppliers of DSL and Cable broadband. And, despite what most people think about monopolies, my DSL costs $25 US a month for 1.5 megabits, and my phone line costs $30 US a month for basic access and voice mail.

    It almost seems that the extra competition in the US has ultimately led to the failure of broadband.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      no, when competition was hot,broadbands growth was pretty large. Only the buying of the menas competing smaller copanies use for it has slowed it down.
      There are very few companies that offer braod band, and all of them are in bed wiht each other, so to speak.
      I used to get 768 DSL 29.95 per month. The the phone company got bought, jacked up my provders costs, which forced my provider take it in the short from people who had a 29.95 contract, AND charge new cutomer 49.95 for 128!
      Thus the stiffling of competition is what is killing broadband. If they went back to charging 29.95 you would see a large swelling of broadband users.
      Now, if they would only open up the cable lines to competitor, we could get subscription service we want.

      Persoanlly I would like the government to put in place an open national broadband system in the US.
    • After reading this note about Canada, you might say "gosh we've got lost of flat stretches of railroad land, why doesn't someone run fibre under it?"

      Someone already has. Qwest was founded to take advantage of this opportunity. The funny thing is that no one bothered to take note that the railroads only had the surface rights to the land- which means that all those lines are running through land that Qwest doesn't own. Now there's a liability that I bet they don't put on their balance sheet... I wonder if buying US West with their over-inflated stock gave them the assets needed to survive such a fiasco.

    • Re:Canada and the US (Score:2, Informative)

      by Malc ( 1751 )
      As a Brit whose lived in Canada and the US, I can tell you that the US doesn't have much competition. When I left Britain, I could have chosen from 11 phones companies for my local service. My experience in the US (Denver) and Canada (London, ON) indicates that there is virtually no local competition in the telco market. (there is in long-distance, hence the really cheap prices there).

      It seems in the US, competition in broadband has been along technological lines, e.g. cable vs. DSL vs. wireless, etc. I'm now living in Toronto, and I can tell you in contradiction to your statement that there is plenty of competition just within DSL in parts of Canada. In this case, all of the ISPs (including Bell's Sympatico) lease DSLAM ports in the CO. Some of the ISPs go a step further and install their own equipment, which is why IStop has maximum residential speeds of 3mbs/800kbs, and business speeds of 6/1mbs.

      Now, can somebody explain how the DSL "resellers" work (worked?) in the US? Is that like here, where they lease DSLAM ports, or is it truly the "reselling" of the service? I've been gone from the US for over 2 years, so is my impression of competition just within DSL out-of-date?
    • When people refer to competition being superior to government owned monopolies they ususually are talking with regard to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. What is important in this dissertation is that competition can only happen if the number of suppliers is great enough for the price to come to equilibriam based on market demand. Unfortunately, with mega-mergers competitive markets are rare indeed. Thus, in the U.S. telco market, we don't have competition which Adam Smith talks about. And therefore, the entire idea that commercial markets are better than government operated markets have no founding in reality. What's nice about a government monoploy, is that competition can occur at a lower level... suppliers, employees, etc. Thus competition doesn't disappear, it just re-emerges in a different form.
  • Canada eh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sinistermidget ( 73363 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:34PM (#2805621)

    I hate to boast, but a broadband over cable only costs $CDN 29.95 per month up here in Frezzeyerassoffland. Since our dollar continues its slide against the mighty greenback, that works out to about $US 19.25 per month.

    When you combine that with the fact that I don't have to put up with strip searches [] when I fly off to Moosejaw, it just proves the point that Canada is the best country in the world for high speed internet users that like to keep their clothes on in public places.

    • I suggest it's something other than the Internet that prompts Frezzeyerassofflandians to keep their clothes on in public places.
  • that most of the average users don't care. They are happy with their dial up AOL and don't see a reason to pay another $20 a month for broadband.
    • by Da VinMan ( 7669 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:45PM (#2805709)
      Because many, many people who use AOL also have a second phone line to support their AOL connection so the phone doesn't get tied up. At something like $15/month (YMMV) for the phone line too, you're actually talking about $23/month for AOL (correct?) + $15/month for the phone line = $38/month for just AOL. If broadband is $46 month for them, like it is for me, then that's just another $8/month.

      Hell, that $8 will be more than made up for in the sheer number of other things I *don't* spend money on because I'm too busy online.
  • Economics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NiftyNews ( 537829 )
    The reason broadband isn't more widely accepted is simply supply and demand. Remind yourself that we all read /. and therefore are tech savvy. Tech savvy people crave bandwidth and will purchase it when available.

    Sadly, the average person usually has to know a tech savvy person and hear the beenfits firsthand before honestly considering getting cable or DSL service. Sure the commercials are flashy, but consumers quickly do the math ($40 + 5 modem rental = $45 x 12 = too much $) and skip over it. They are paying AOL and they like it, and most don't know that AOL will still work over the cable modem.

    It's too bad, really. Demand would be there if it was $20 a month, but until they get more subscribers there is little incentive to roll out the backbones quickly.

    It will be a slow crawl until that magic $20 price point is hit and things start snowballing. Don't believe me? Think back to these devices and their magic price points. When these things got cheap enough, Joe Average ponyed up the cash:

    CDR drives - $200

    DVD Players - $125

  • by mttlg ( 174815 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:37PM (#2805649) Homepage Journal
    It's because of those horrible people who give away things that most people wouldn't pay for in the first place that we can't have nice things. Those pirates who "share" the quality musical works of "artists" like N(insert random punctuation here)Sync, Britney Spears, and whatever celebrity or his brother/sister/child/neighbor/dentist/etc. feels the need to shout at the general public... Pirates who have the nerve to try to watch movies from other parts of the world, use alternate DVD player software, or copy still images or audio or video clips from a movie... Pirates who can't be bothered to buy a new copy of a movie or audio CD in the event that the original is lost or damaged, or every time the version of the movie or CD won't work right with a player... Now it's their fault we can't get decent broadband access. The solution is clear - we can't allow the pirates to get access to this "broadband." We must thoroughly regulate it to make sure that no improper files are transferred and no protected materials are recorded, or even remembered. Only then will we be safe from overdue market corrections, um, I mean evil, naughty pirates.
  • They have far to many and too strict regulations. If they would loosen up a bit we all could have broadband.
  • If I understand correctly, broadband service is now a "commodity" - a product sold with faily low mark-up over cost.

    Given that offering broadband services requires fairly substantial infrastructure upgrades (costing a pretty penny), why would any provider in their right minds jump into the market now?

    I was part of a hole-in-the-wall company that was looking at getting into the ISP market shortly after it stabilized as a commodity (back in the days of 33.6 modems). Our conclusions were that we'd make very little money from offering Internet service, and that we'd only make money at all if the service we offered was lousy. And that was with our upstream connection mostly paid for by other means.

    Could it be that there is no conspiracy?

    [Disclaimer: I am not intimately familiar with the economics of offering broadband. If you have more detailed information, by all means post it.]
  • by Sunken Kursk ( 518450 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:42PM (#2805687) Homepage

    Broadband is not available everywhere in the US. I've noticed many people post stating that they have several broadband options available to them. I don't doubt that's the case, as where I currently live I have both cable and DSL options available for me. Of course, I also live in a major metropolitan area.

    However, let's take the case of my parents that live in a small town in the Shenandoah Valley. They've been asking about broadband options for their house for several years now. They own a Bed and Breakfast, and a dedicated high-speed Internet connection would definitely be a benefit for them. Every time they inquire at the local Cable provider, they're told that "We're still testing it in the big town up north." Whenever they go to any DSL provider, they're told "We haven't upgraded the hardware in the area for that. However, we can offer this 64k ISDN line at 3x the going DSL price, or a fractional T-1 at 10x the going DSL price."

    I doubt it has much to do with hardware or anything like that. It has more to do with the following lines of thought...

    • "Country Bumpkins" don't care enough about that fangled Internet thing to demand Broadband.
    • Even if they do care enough about it, they're not educated enough to know that a 128k ISDN line is not the same as a DSL line. We can get away with charging the uneducated heathens more for installing the line, more for delivering the service, and more for any support that needs to be provided.
    • Even if they are smart enough not to fall for our ISDN trap, they're in the major minority and we can simply blow them off. What are they going to do, take their business elsewhere?

    So long as the major broadband providers can get away with pushing around the local carriers, nothing's going to change. Even when the major broadband providers are responsible for delivering the product direct to the consumer, there's not much difference. Verizon has long waiting lists to get DSL in their service area's (Oh, and they don't allow smaller local carriers to gain access to their DSL lines. They pay the minor fines and screw the competition until it dies and Tauzin-Dingle passes/goes into effect.) Cox Communication is the monopoly Cable Internet provider for Fairfax County, VA. Their Road Runner service is notorious for outtages, high latency, dropped packets, etc. Do they care very much? Not really. So long as customers are willing to pay them $50/m for crappy service, they will continue to provide it and stuff their wallets with their massive profits.

    • actually, no company really cares if there selling to bumpkins or not, they care about the dollar.
      In major metropoiton areas, you make more money per square mile, then you do in rural areas.
      So I can charge X, but in a switch(oir what ever) and get 1000 customers, but if they put in a switch in a rural area, they might get 50 people in that same area.
      Number are rough, I know, but for DSL, got to where they would put the switch and see home many customers they would have within 15000 ft, then do the same thing in a metropotin area, you'll see what I mean.
      Interesting staement about RoadRuneeer, because it was the best sevice I ever got with any technology product. of course I was the only one on my node....
  • by Zoop ( 59907 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:44PM (#2805705)
    If the local Bells didn't have a monopoly on the last mile of copper and cable companies didn't have monopolies on the last mile of, er, twisted copper, all of LL's concerns would be dealt with.

    But the simple matter is that the Bells were allowed to drive out 3rd party DSL, Congress regulated internet service on cable INTO bigger monopolies (at least local cable companies had to compete with DSL).

    Of all the reasons I've heard for people not going with "broadband" (and little since my inital experience on a cable modem has truly been "broadband"), I have never, not once, heard anything about content. In fact, I've wanted to do things for people with dialup access that I couldn't do because downloading that nifty new 13.4 MB program was just too long to tie up the phone line.

    Lessig is an interesting writer, but he really pushes his arguments into places they just don't work.
  • These experiments in innovation [refering to Napster and] are now over. They have been stopped by lawyers working for the recording industry. Every form of innovation that they disapproved of they sued. And every suit they brought, they won. Innovation outside the control of the "majors" has stopped.

    This is a subtle clue as to why broadband isn't being bought. Broadband is all about my having the resources to run my own web pages or FTP site or MP3 stream. If I can't do that without the fear of the RIAA (gotta pay royalties!), FBI (think Linux is warez) or whoever patented hyperlinks (whatever happened to "non-obvious"?)breaking down my bedroom door, then I sure don't have any reason to invest in that big a connection.

    Come on, broadband isn't about how much I can suck down at once, it's about being able to produce my own content.
  • by Jimmy_B ( 129296 ) <{gro.hmodnarmij} {ta} {todhsals}> on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:45PM (#2805712) Homepage
    The site's not responding for me (Slashdotted? big site for that), so I'm going by the summary, which *completely* misses the mark with broadband's failures. Broadband in the U.S. is failing for two reasons: the infrastructure is owned by companies who are neither competent to nor motivated to provide broadband, and population densities are such that updating antiquated infrastructure is expensive.

    Consider the telcos, who are responsible for providing DSL. They want DSL dead, because it cuts into their massive-profit sales of T1s. They're also big, lumbering bureaucracies, which deal badly with change. I won't recount my own DSL horror stories, but there are plenty to be had at DSL Reports []. Technically DSL is functional and capable, but the businesses behind it, and the support bureaucracies, are not.

    Cable has different problems. First, there's the cable companies; in my area, and in others, cable Internet is simply not an option because the local providers don't offer it. There's also the problem of bandwidth sharing. It's true that DSL bandwidth is also shared, but it's shared at a central point, which is easily upgraded; with cable, mis-estimation of demand or usage can leave people drastically short on bandwidth. (DSLReports again for horror stories).

    Finally, consider the population layout in the US, as compared to elsewhere. If you have population-dense cities, surrounded by low-density farmland, you can provide access to most of the population simply by providing short-range access in the cities. In the US, most of the demand is in the suburbs, which involve much longer distances and are, therefore, much harder to provide for. (This is especially true in my home state of Massachusetts, where economics are such that the demand and the money is all in the suburbs).
  • TOO MANY TOYS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clinko ( 232501 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:47PM (#2805723) Journal
    I think Broadband hasn't caught on because it's the fact that the U.S. has too many toys right now to pay for. Something's got to be cut out.

    1. Cable TV $40
    2. Car Note $250
    3. Car Insurance $100
    4. Regular Phone $30
    5. Cell Phone $45
    6. Tivo $10
    7. Cable Modem $40

    That's $515 a month and it's missing the cost of 2 little of things:

    1. FOOD

    2. SHELTER

    It's easy to say something like:

    "Well, I could get AOL for 20 bucks less, I don't use the internet that much anyway." --Quote from my Mother.
    • let's see, as a typical US citizen:

      1. cable TV $0 (pirated)
      2. car note $0 (stolen)
      3. car insurance $0 (who needs it, and do you have ANY idea how HARD it is to insure a stolen car?)
      4. regular phone $0 (don't need it, have a cell phone)
      5. cell phone $20
      6. tivo $0 (don't have one, don't need one, don't particularly want one)
      7. broadband $0 (can't get it without a phone line or legal cable)

      now despite the falsehoods in my list, point 7 is important. you can't get DSL without an actual regular phone line, and since i'm well covered by the verizon monopoly, no thank you, verizon, i'd even go without broadband rather than deal with you EVER again.

      so i guess i'm waiting for some REAL broadband company (qwest fiber to your house, anyone?) to offer residential services, or for a local ISP to offer wireless broadband so i can enjoy it for a few months before they go bankrupt.

      ps - the truth? i have bunny ears on my TV, a crappy used car which is overinsured in the hopes it catches fire spectacularly, DSL and a regular line from Verizon. only points 5 and 6 above are true :)

  • Lack of Choices (Score:4, Interesting)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:49PM (#2805738) Homepage
    Having been a cable modem customer, and now a DSL customer, I've had mixed experiences.

    With cable, until the @Home debacle, I had 3 static IPs and ran my domain off the cable modem. I had decent performance, but the it was expensive, not as highly available as I would have liked, and I knew that I could lose access at any time for running a server.

    Now I have DSL, albeit the consumer service. Soon, it will be set up with static IPs and my domain will be back up (grumble). It will be even more expensive, for probably less performance, but is supposed to be more reliable (certainly has been so far), and I won't have to worry about running the domain (plus I'll get another pair of static IPs).

    Both cable and DSL share a common downfall, and it is the reason that most dial up customers I've talked to are slow to switch: no choice of ISPs. With a phone line, I can sign up for any ISP, and can leave for another if I don't like the service I'm getting. With DSL or cable modem, I get one ISP, and cannot switch providers and keep my connection otherwise. There is therefore no price or service incentive for the vendor to improve.

    For me, I'd select no ISP. My wife would use AOL. My father-in-law would use his current local provider, and my Dad would be happy just to get broadband at all. The imposition of service has nothing to do with the architecture, and everything to do with decisions made by the broadband access providers. However, as a consumer, I am forced to pay for services I do not want and will never use.

    Certainly, content should not be a problem: every web designer out there seems to assume that you are plugged into the server room judging by the amount of bloated Flash and Java pages out there.

  • Reading some posts from people in the states made me think of how cheap broadband in Canada is.

    Here in Toronto, cable (300KB/s max downstream, ~45KB/s max upstream) is only $40.00cdn a month.
    That comes out to $25usd a month (assuming 1.6 exchange rate).

    Maybe us canadian's are more likely to switch because it's so cheap. As for americans, is there a reason why you guys are paying 2-3 times what we pay?
  • Thank you Canada! (Score:2, Informative)

    by ADRA ( 37398 )
    I would just like to say I am very happy with the broadband services provided in Canada. I am in Vancouver, where I can get Cable or (A)DSL. Both services have become very stable over the last year, and their availabilities are almost limitless. A very affordable $40CDN a month is pretty cheap for 400kps cable service that I get now.

    The Cable companies Shaw and Rogers support internet basically everywhere you can get regular cable tv. It is fast, and they have scaled reasonaby to meet customer demand. I used to find rogers (when they were in vancouver) a little flaky, but that has all gone away now..

    I think adoption of canadian broadband has been sucessful because:

    a: Cheap
    b: Reasonable to Excellent Quality
    c: Availability

    Keep up the good work guys!
  • i've watched a few interviews with lawrence lessig (stanford law professor) and have come away with mixed feelings. on the one hand, sometimes he seems to 'get it' as far as what open source and free software are about (the former about the business model, the latter about the freedom). on the other hand he seems (at least to me) to misrepresent the importance of napster at any opportunity (but then again, that is the only topic i've seen an interviewer ask him a question about).

    all in all he actually does good things, and i like the thought of someone like him teaching at the best law school in the country. maybe the next generation of IP lawyers will know which side of the fence to stand on.

    but then again, with stanford tuition being what it is, and the MPAA/RIAA paying what they do, don't count on it, i guess.

  • First, as an AT&T Cable Internet subscriber, I don't see a holdup. Okay, I'm a "have" and you're a "have-not" so that twists my view on this a little. But only a LITTLE.

    I'd rather have DSL service here. I liked it better. It was more reliable and I like the company who provided the service better. But when I moved a mere 3 miles from where I was, DSL was no longer available to me. Thankfully, however, Cable internet (which wasn't available to be at the previous location) was available when I moved. (Side note: "The grass is always greener...until you've visited both sides and you can tell the difference first-hand." I like DSL.)

    Okay, that said, it SEEMS like the problem is area availability unless I am misunderstanding the article. The article does seem to confuse the matter by discussing "many channels with nothing on them." So are they talking about broadband cable TV or broadband internet? Or maybe I'm stupid enough not to realize they are one in the same..?

    Now as far as that goes, I can MAYBE so some reason for the slowdown of progress and availability being made, but I don't believe it yet. I see matters progressing as the various providers have mapped them out. I once followed cable internet deployment in my local area when I didn't have it and now I follow DSL deployment. So far, both have remained adherant to their schedules.

    Where is the PROOF or any indication that it's copyright holder issues slowing down the installation of DSL/Cable or other broadband internet technologies? I have read nothing about that... maybe I'm a bad reader.

    Simply put, I don't see the connection between the slow-growth of broadband internet technologies available to consumers and copyright holder interests. What's the connection? Where are the stops being put into place? How are they being put into place?
    • Broadband in many cases is both Cable TV and internet, as well as Voice over IP (telephone) and other services. Most of the time when people are talking about data and broadband, they mean internet service.
  • Wake up America!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NOT-2-QUICK ( 114909 )
    Perhaps I am biased through my involvement in the I/T industry, but I find figures such as the one quoting Koreans having 4X greater access to broadband than Americans simply appalling...if not completely unbelievable!!!

    Not that I have anything against the Korean citizens or believe that they are any less entitled to fast internet access (as are we all...). I am simply in utter disbelief that a once war-ravaged, divided country whose population indulges primarily in farming is in such a position of dominance over the United States in this respective area. For all intents and purposes, any comparison in terms of technological and/or economical dynamics would be heavily weighed in the favor of the United States. And yet, the Korean government and industries have been able to provide this amazing level of availability of the Internet to it's citizenry.

    IMHO, anyone whom can be presented this fact and not arrive at the simple conclusion that there are evil corporate powers at work hindering the acceptance of broadband within the U.S. is simply not trying to see the truth or being paid off by big corporate money!!!


    • Farming is an indulgence? ok ot sorry
    • Remember that South Korea is a small geographic area compared to the US. 99,373 square km. That's about the same size as Oregon, yet it's got about 1/7th the population of the whole US. That means that any installation of communications is going to be much cheaper & easier than in the US.
    • Korea had no infrastructure when broadband got big. The USA had 100 years of infrastructure with it being common for 1940s era switches to still be in use.

      What we need is a good civil war to destroy all that infrastructure. Then we could start over with fibre all the way around. But what can we do to piss the south off this time? Maybe ban high school football?

  • I think Broadband companies may be waiting for the government to subsidize the cost of rolling out the infrastructure needed for service. The risk is too high for many of these companies right now especially, with people cutting back on spending across the board.
  • Population density (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Saeger ( 456549 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {jllerraf}> on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:56PM (#2805786) Homepage
    Here's the obligatory post to note that a major reason broadband is slowed up in the US is due to population density. It's far easier to rollout and maintain a network in Canada or South Korea because they live packed together like sardines relative to the urban sprawl of the US.


  • by haplo21112 ( 184264 ) <[moc.anhtipe] [ta] [olpah]> on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @04:57PM (#2805798) Homepage
    ...I know whats holing it up in New England, its spelled V-e-r-i-z-o-n...
    Amoung other interested companies, why provide high speed service to the customer, and better infrastructure, when you can turn enormous profit and treat the customer like shit,because well where else they gonna go. Even Broadband modem is just plain stupid, they can go much faster, and this game playing with TOS contracts, and you can do this but not that is rediculous. Stop protecting the entrenched old guard, give us high speed connections(fiber, they can do it they just don't want to) to the home, let us buy IP6 Schemes(more than enough space there) to put on them, nd get out of the way. I should be able to get 100mps to the home, cram all the data I want down that pipe, and support everything I want to do(Telephone, Servers, Video, etc) off the one line or a 39.95 flat rate. If the local Telco won't do it the Cable-Co should, hell they are putting fiber on the Poles to support Digital cable, just tkae it to the next step. 'nuff said.
  • The reason Canadians are so likely to have it is the price! I used to pay CDN$40 (ca. USD$25) for a 1mbs connection. It's so cheap here, if want the internet, you might as well have broadband! For people who have dial-up and a dedicated phone line: it's a no-brainer!

    Right now, I'm with []. If you own your own modem, they offer a 1184/160kbs DSL connection for CDN$30 (ca. USD$19). To put it into perspective, that's less than the price I payed for dial-up when I lived in the US! This company also offers 3mbs/800kbs (CDN$99), and if you have a business line, 6/1mbs (CDN$195).

    For myself, I have their 1.2mbs service + ethernet modem rental + static IP, all for ca. CDN$40. I can run any server I like - it's unrestricted access. The HTTP proxy is optional. If I exceed their 20GB monthly limit, I get charged $3/GB for excess (apparently this will be dropping in the future to $2/GB). THE PRICE IS RIGHT!
  • ... I can support the fact that broadband here is very available and fairly cheap. And it's been this way for about 3 years at least.

    I've had a broadband connection with Rogers Cable since early 1998. Granted, my neighbourhood was one of the test zones, and I was one of the first people who got it in my area. At that time it was not available in the entire Greater Toronto Area. But for quite a while it's been available pretty much anywhere Rogers has TV cables installed. The service is pretty good, although I've had more than my share of problems, it's fast but most of all, it's cheap.

    The other alternative in Toronto (and I guess the rest of Canada) is DSL. Bell Sympatico is the widest spread one, since they have the phone line monopoly. But they do lease the lines at decent prices, since there are at least 4 other companies offering DSL in my city. Again, a few years back DSL was not available everywhere, but now it is.

    The funniest thing is that when I have on-going problems with my cable, I can threaten Rogers that I will move to DSL, and magically these problems get fixed. For example, I used to have a LanCity modem, which is very old and very sensitive to cable noise. I called them a couple of times, asking for a replacement from another manufacturer, but nothing happened. As soon as I mentioned Sympatico DSL, I had a Terayon modem installed by the next day.

    I also mentioned the fact that broadband here is cheap. Well, on average it's about $60/month including the modem rental. That's Canadian funds, or about $40 USD. There are occasional promos, price wars, etc so you can get even better deals (sympatico had/has an offer for CAD$20/month for the first 6 months).

    My point is that I enjoy my broadband connection. :)

  • DSL and cable TV Internet services are not worthy of the name "broadband". They are more aptly described as modem++.

    Real broadband would be fast enough to bring in at least two stream of decent quality video (which I define as being at least 4:3 DVD quality and really ought to be 16:9 HDTV quality at full frame rates and resolutions - I'm talking rates on the order of 6 to 20+ megabits/second per stream.)

    And a real "broadband" service, even if it has asymetrical bandwidth, ought to be at least capable of supporting things like servers for small businesses. The "mostly-in" paradigm of most of today's DSL and cable services just creates a caste system.

    We really need fiber optics to every home and business. At a minimum cities ought to require that every time a trench is dug in a roadway or to a house, that an empty conduit be installed and connected. That way, over time, a conduit system would be created so that the conduit system would be there when we are ready to install the glass itself (after we've figured out the patching and packet routing mechanisms that need to go along with the actual fiber.)

    I'm not sure that people are aware of the efforts of the Cable TV and telco industries to prevent the installation of municipial fiber optic utilities. There are efforts underway at the State level to enact laws to prevent cities from installing city-owned fiber optic cable plants because that would cut into the near-monopoly services of the phone and cable TV companies.
  • Also to blame are the stupid idiots who have no business using computers in the first place. Nimda, CodeRed, CodeRed II, Melissa, I_LOVE_YOU, Gone.scr and that one that sends out your My Documents files are a few other reasons.

    Do we really want these people to have big connections?

    Technology can be dangerous. Those with the ability to widely distribute broadband should be wary of putting it in the hands of irresponsible people. Perhaps there should be a clause in the service agreement that they protect their systems from trojans and such or else face losing their connection. Maybe there should even be a credit-report style tracking system in place to enable ISPs to know who is a menace and charge them more money for a connection.

    At this point, i think that neither broadband nor end users are mature enough to cooperate. Slow connections for Joe Sixpack, fast connections for Joe Sysadmin.

    Sorry about my vulgarity and intensity, but i just got the butt end of a DDoS attack. Someone did a big DDoS attack using my ip address as the spoofed source for all the packets. Not only did it flood my feeble 1.5 Mb/s connection with SYN/ACK packets, but it got my ISP really pissed off. They were getting all kinds of threats of legal action. There was nothing anyone could do.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:14PM (#2805945) Homepage
    The mass market for broadband will come only when it can deliver video. That currently requires 3mb/s sustained per screen. While both DSL and cable modems could in theory deliver that data rate, they're not usually provisioned for more than about 25% of that rate, if that.

    Cable companies don't want to merely be the last mile for unconstrained flat-rate video streams. They want to be in the pay-per-view business. Telcos don't want to be merely the last mile for third-party DSL providers. And content owners are terrified of systems that let anyone pass video around.

    The game industry wants a general-purpose wire with low latency and high bandwidth, but doesn't have the clout to get cable and telco plants rebuilt to support it. Web advertisers play a lesser role than they did two years ago, and the pressure for high bandwidth ad delivery is down. So the pure-Internet mass market applications don't really need much beyond minimal DSL bandwidths.

    And finally, if a new infrastructure is to be deployed, it should have the capacity for real HDTV, or it will be obsolete by 2006.

    That's closer to the real problem than what Lessig says.

    Establishes a direct connection from your wallet to our bank account!

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:15PM (#2805952) Journal

    I Trust Lessig and the WP About as far as I can throw them. Larry writing for the WP? That's like putting a red star on a red flag, if you catch my drift.

    I live in NoVA. The reasons we don't have broadband are simple. We got analog cable before internet. Cox is struggling to upgrade all the analog stuff. Then of course DSL just sucks, but it sucks everywhere.

    Wanna lay fiber in DC? The city slapped a moratorium on digging because they couldn't coordinate digs properly. Before, company A would lay fiber, then a week later company B would tear up the same street that was just patched. Residents and businesses said "enough is enough" and justifiable so. Now they have to coordinate through the city, but that takes time. DC has some infrastructure that dates back to the Civil War, and a government that is just beginning to recover from being run by a mayor who smoked crack. Literally.

    If you want to look for reasons why broadband isn't making it in the US I'm sure there are plenty of them, but this business of suggesting that "content providers" are totally to blame, or even partially to blame seems like a stretch. This just smacks of political posturing and disinformation from the radical Leftist AIP movement, of which Lessig is a leader.

  • by Doomdark ( 136619 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:21PM (#2806028) Homepage Journal
    I have seen a few insightful and dead-on-right comments, but really, if I had to give one sentence summary of why broadband is still not ubiquitous like it ought to be (ie. only slowly crawling from under the rock), that would be:

    It's telcos, stupid!

    All the Qwest and Verizons are neither skilled nor motivated enough to change the situation.

  • [Admitting right off tht this is probably a rant in disguise. And that most of my points are from memory and may not be 100% accurate -- feel free to correct at will and I thank you in advance]

    Before the investment bubble burst last year, an unbelievable amount of fiber optic telco cable was laid, and IIRC, a lot of these lines have not even been activated, and won't be. Company after company has gone bankrupt trying to provide broadband and make money, even though most of us want the service.

    Trouble is the damn RBOCs have managed to not only keep their local service monopolies pretty much intact but to strangle the up-and-comers at the connection point --- which was supposed to have been opened up by the 1996 telecommunications reform bill. Some legislators at the time grumbled that they had been sold a lie by the big telcos about the reforms, and promised to revisit the issue in the very next Congress... So here we are five years later... these same politicians continue to feed on the lobbyist cash cow, the RBOCS continue to rake in the profits on their existing poor service, and we wonder why nothing changes?

    While some of Mr. Lessig's points strike true, in my view more of the problem has to do with big money corrupting the U.S. political process than any stranglehold on content because many of us would provide the content if we could get fairly priced access through-out the whole telco system.

  • by DirkGently ( 32794 ) <dirk.lemongecko@org> on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:27PM (#2806098) Homepage
    All these ideas about cheap broadband for the entire country are great. I love them. Heck, I'd *love* to have inexpensive ($30/mo) broadband where I live (rural WI)...but I don't see it happening soon, unless a lot of unavailable tax dollars are thrown at it.

    It's the same basic reason that broadband came to metro areas first: they can afford it and most of the neccesary infrastructure is already there. Now take an area like a town in the midwest with a population of around 15,000. Even better, a town that used to have a thriving industry at some point (be it a steel or paper mill or whatever). What reason does a cable company (or phone company to get the people just outside of town) have to offer broadband? The meager monthly charges coupled with the lower population density just cannot justify the huge costs of implementation.

    Well, maybe it *could* justify the cost, if utility companies were willing to look 5 or 10 years ahead. Over that stretch of time, the costs could be recovered, but that's a *very* long term investment, especially with the bad case of the flu dealt to the US economy of late.

    Again, I'd love to have cheap broadband everywhere, but let's get serious. It ain't gonna happen by some altruistic whim. Somebody in DC is going to have to get it into thier head that this is a Good Thing and push to see it happen. But then again, the FCC has been trying to get HDTV adopted as well for 5 years now, and it'll be surprising if we make *that* deadline 5 years from now.
    • Why should the government pay for you to have broadband? More apatly, why should I and your fellow citizens pay for YOU to have broadband?

      This isnt the telephone. This isn't running water. This isn't electricity.

      You said it yourself, the benefits dont justify the risk. Why should the rest of the country bail out you? So you can read slashdot at high speed? So you can download more MP3's for your Internet buck?

      To wrap up, anyone in the lower 48-states can get high-speed two way satelite. Its something like $79/month - but its available.
      • Whoa. Slow down. Assuming that the government (and in turn, you, I suppose) pay for broadband, *gasp* you'd have access to it as well. And tax money is used for stupider subsidies than broadband.

        This isn't running water or telephone or electricity...but in some ways broadband is indistinguishable.

        All 4 are services that are provided by a seperate, usually private entity. Actually, no! Please tell me how your telephone service is different from broadband (besides the obvious talk-on-one-gank-mp3s-on-the-other). Both are services you pay for, yes? The installation of telephone lines was once subsidized by the US government, wasn't it?
  • I am an about-to-graduate college student at Appalachian State, a universty of meager endowment and funds (due to the NC state budget crunch). I and millions like me are absolutely spoiled rotten by the 100 Mbps campus networks hooked up to gargantuan pipes, not to mention the cheap 802.11b access that floats around in many college towns for those who want to live in apartments. We exist on our peer-to-peer apps and our gratutious bandwidth consumption - personnally, I'd rather stream the headlines from CNN or MSNBC with my PC than have to reach 3ft. for a remote control.

    My point is that in the next 10 years, a huge hunk of the workforce will have attended schools with broadband. Broadband is like crack. If I ever have to dial pu with a 33.6 modem again like I did last summer I am gonna go nuts. That huge hunk of workforce is going to be a major part of the constituency of our democracy, and if broadband isn't cheap and available, we will demand it be so (just like cable TV, which operates under heavy price controls in many places).

    I predict the Internet will become like the roads and sewers of the nation - it will become public infrastructure. See Chicago MAN project article. []
  • I gave up submitting this broadband-related stories to Slashdot along the lines of Lessig's article when I realized that the prevailing ideological hegemony against government regulation was causing people to become blinkered.

    We have all this dark fibre running between cities. We have all these consumers. We have intransigent telco ILECs and monopoly coax cable companies blocking consumer access to the dark fibre.

    One way around this would be for regulatory agencies to step in, ala great public works projects of the past such as the Hoover Dam or universal dialtone access, and seize control of the last mile to mandate real broadband, fibre, connections between consumers. If this means appropriating incumbent's assets, then so be it. They have proved themselves to be a liability and are now impeding economic and social progress.

    If the current state of lethargy is allowed to continue, then within a generation the global centres of broadband usage and economic development will not be within the US. They'll be in Canada, Singapore, Holland, Sweden, Korea, and so on.
  • by Alcemenes ( 460409 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:51PM (#2806280)
    Why does everyone expect to receive a T-1 in their home for less than $50/month? It costs MONEY to deliver bandwidth. It costs money to lay fiber and copper. The technicians earn a wage to install the fiber and copper. The wages they earn is what it is because they have to be trained and have to learn how to install telecommunications equipment. This is why local loop charges can end up in the thousands of dollars range. Port charges for a T-1 are about the same between providers. If a broadband provider pays $1500/month for a T-1 and then resells that for $50/month there has to be a limit somewhere or one person could hog the entire pipe and end up causing the provider to spend $1450/month to server one customer. $50 per month for a 768kbps pipe with 5GB of monthly transfer is more than fair. NONE of our current subscribers use even 1GB in a month and most of them are businesses with multiple computers. Sure, I could sell less bandwidth with unlimited transfer but people want a fat pipe. You sell the fat pipe with unlimited transfer and a couple people can monopolize the entire pipe. Clauses in contracts stating that people who abuse the bandwidth will be charged extra are futile. Get with an attorney and draw up a contract stating they get X amount of bandwidth for X amount of dollars per month. DSL and Cable aren't going to cut it either, you have to include wireless and I don't mean these community FREEnets. ISPs are in business to make money, not to convenience people. Until this is realized by more people broadband access will be limited to certain markets where a provider is guaranteed to make money.
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @05:53PM (#2806290) Homepage Journal

    ...has tended to throttle the rapid development of broadband.

    To wit, the last mile of wire to the house is owned by a heavily regulated monopoly.

    Hence, said owners of last mile wire can do weasily things to anyone that wants to put boxes in the central office.

    Hence, said owners of last mile wire, when attempting to offer service themselves, are subject to all kinds of litigous cries of unfair advantage, have they provided comparable service in high cost rural areas, etc.

    The net result is higher costs and slower roll-outs of new technology.

    It's a mess.

  • by AnimeFreak ( 223792 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @07:58PM (#2806988) Homepage
    I am currently on Telus.NET ADSL. This is what I get in my package.
    • 1640 Kbps Down
    • 640 Kbps Up
    • 5 E-mail addresses
    • Two dynamic IP addresses
    • A VERY cool TOS/AUP
    Guess how much I pay? $35.99/month CAD. That is $22.30/month USD. For Shaw High-speed Internet (Cable), it comes with a higher speed and costs about $5 more ($40.99 CAD which is $25.40 USD).

    After seeing some people pay $49.99 ($79 CAD) for Cable Internet, and about 10 bucks less for dial-up, I am sure as hell not going to move to the Internet with Internet rates THAT high. Hell, you can get 56.6 Kbps Dial-up for $6.30 USD/m.

    You Americans are getting ripped off or we're getting a pretty impressive deal.
  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2002 @10:49PM (#2807590) Homepage
    Back in ancient times, there was ISDN (It Still Does Nothing). ISDN was deployed extensively in Europe, but there was a very slow rollout in the US. In the beginning, it was overpriced and offered speed that most people didn't need. Back in those days, people used terminal emulation, and 9600 bps was just fine. By the time anyone wanted 128K bps, ISDN was STILL overpriced, and dialup speed eventually hit 56K for a fraction of the cost & hassle.

    Twenty years later, the telecom companies are only a little smarter. This time they know broadband has to be priced right to avoid "ISDN syndrome", but they will only commit the capital to deploy it where there is (1) a sizeable market, and (2) lack of competition. This leaves out huge sections of the country. As an added bonus, many of the prime customers live in areas with a low population density.

    Here in the US, the government doesn't make the telecom companies do anything they don't want to do. That means broadband is only going to be delivered in the most lucrative markets. None of this has anything to do with copyright issues.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.