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The Internet

Broadband Obstacles 374

Strange Beer writes: "The Washington Post is running a story discussing many of the roadblocks and speedbumps that Telcoms and ISPs have encountered while trying to rollout broadband. Not surprisingly, most of the obstacles were built by them." The government approach is dysfunctional. Broadband prices are going up - 25% or more in the last six months. Simultaneously rollouts have stopped except in metropolitan areas, and the Bell monopolies are busy finishing off the last independent DSL providers. This is the "free market" in action (government-sponsored monopolies crushing independents), and therefore unquestionable in the US today, and it's also the reason why people aren't getting high-speed access. The only solution suggested in this article is to essentially browbeat citizens into overpaying for high-speed service that they don't want and probably isn't offered in their area, solely so that the MPAA can sell us movies on demand, if they ever decide to do so. What exactly is the thought process here?
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Broadband Obstacles

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  • by skrowl ( 100307 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:48AM (#2841532) Homepage
    don't you?

    In a free market system, monopolies NATURALLY result from good business practices. Having a monopoly is NOT illegal. What is illegal is using unfair trade practices to keep others out of the market, thereby extending or maintaining a monopoly. The bell DSL providers are doing better because they provide the service at a lower cost to them, with higher quality service.

    I'd also like to point out that rr.com is doing pretty well for itself, despite being national. Why was it not mentioned?
    • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:55AM (#2841573) Homepage Journal

      Having a monopoly is NOT illegal.

      Quite so. And having a totalitarian form of government does not necessarily mean a bad government, either. Benevolent dictators are as possible an outcome as benevolent monopolists. But real world outcomes in either case are mostly different, and to the detriment either of the governed or of the marketplace.

      If you believe strongly in the free market system, you will, sooner or later, have to contend with the issue of monopolies. And, I think most students of economics will tell you that markets dominated by a monopoly are imperfect, with all that such imperfection implies.

      • And having a totalitarian form of government does not necessarily mean a bad government, either. Benevolent dictators are as possible an outcome as benevolent monopolists. But real world outcomes in either case are mostly different, and to the detriment either of the governed or of the marketplace.

        Even when you get a benevolent dictator one thing dictatorships are very poor at is producing good sucessor candidates. So if a benevolent dictator dies or steps down the result can be chaos (even civil war.)
        Similarly if you have a monopoly be it Microsoft or a public utility replacing it with a non monopoly which actually works is not at all easy.
      • by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:01AM (#2841964) Homepage

        having a totalitarian form of government does not necessarily mean a bad government

        It may not lead to bad government, but it does lead to a bad economy. The problem is simply that centralized control is inefficient and subject to corruption.

        Not that business is immune from corruption, but no business can survive in a truly free market unless it has customers who buy their products. That's the basic beauty of the system.

        Actually, there is another ways to survive, and that is to obtain some government protection... They can be guaranteed customers through regulation (utilities and telecom monopolies are an example), they can obtain relief from competition (such as trade restrictions).

        In the telecom sector, they're supposedly deregulating, but the FCC is so involved in making the process work smoothly and trying to direct the outcome that only an fool would call the current situation unregulated... I'm sure they're trying really hard, and their intentions are basically benevolent. But it's not immune to influence, either... since it's staffed largely by veterans from the industry, they inevitably think along the lines of the established companies, and they have friends who are still in the industry. Regulatory agencies always turn out this way... the only way to avoid it is to staff them with people who have no experience, and that wouldn't be much of an improvement, if any.

        But the real problem with regulation is that it preserves the status quo. This can be okay in some areas where there's not much change. Electric utilities work fairly well, they've been providing the same product for a hundred years or so, and they do that well. On the flip side, they cost more than they should and they're a haven of hack jobs for the nephews of politicians. But they do provide the service, and the extra costs aren't as high as they might be in other industries.

        But in a dynamic market, no government agency can foresee the outcome... indeed, most investors can't. Technological progress is in many ways a process of trial and error. Venture capitalists try a number of different business models, and most fail. Some succeed, and those become the roadmap for the future. A couple of years ago, they tried building a bunch of dot-coms, it seemed like that was going to be the way of the future. It wasn't, but the beauty of the system is that they've all closed down now. If the government had started building dot-coms in 1998, they'd still be running them fifty years later.

        The Internet highlights this process more than any phenomenon I've seen in my lifetime... there is so much that is new, so many possibilities. Nobody, no matter how smart, can foresee exactly what the most efficient way to organize it will be.... should we have small ISP's or big ones? Should we have a lot of wireless or a lot of wires? The market sorts these things out... often in a way that pleases no individual person, but in a way that compromises among the various desires of many people.

        If you believe strongly in the free market system, you will, sooner or later, have to contend with the issue of monopolies.

        Wrong. Monopolies are created by economic friction, by impediments to competition. If the myth were true, then why isn't there a single company that runs all the dry-cleaning shops in the country? Why aren't all the convenience stores run by one huge ConvenienceCo? Why are there 20 brands of VCR's on the shelves instead of one?

        The myth that captalism leads to monopoly is utter and complete nonsense, and dangerous indeed. In every case, monopoly power can be traced to some form of govenrment protection. And what makes the "monopoly myth" so dangerous is that it is used to pass more of the same regulations that caused the problem in the first place. The FCC is a shining example of this... they have forbidden competition in some areas because they don't think it will work. They are so involved in regulating the process of deregulation that they've made a mockery of the process, and we see the results... there's some fairly simple and extrememely useful technology that can't get to consumers.

        • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:16AM (#2842033) Homepage Journal
          The myth that captalism leads to monopoly is utter and complete nonsense, and dangerous indeed. In every case, monopoly power can be traced to some form of govenrment protection.

          Capitalism doesn't lead to monopoly, nor does it prevent it. What government protection led to Microsoft's monopoly of the desktop OS market? Or the office suite?

          The only thing I can think of is the normal copyright protections, and also the laws preventing us from storming Redmond and killing them all :-) (I have some friends there I do hope we really wouldn't take out our ire that way)

    • by bricriu ( 184334 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:05AM (#2841633) Homepage
      If you think Verizon is providing good service, think again. I had to wait a month for them to put in a PHONE LINE. Not a DSL line, not ISDN, a simple phone line to an apartment in a well-populated part of New Jersey's 2nd biggest city.

      And if you think it's low cost, sorry. With all options turned off, no long distance, the most basic of basic service, I was still paying $40 a month. Which is nuts.

      Verizon sucks. No-one in NY/NJ will contend that. Their basic service makes people want to hit things, and their broadband TOS are unconcionable (as well as their 96 kBps upstream limit). And even if I were to go with Covad, I'd still have to deal with Verizon for the dual pair to my house... and they drag their feet to such an extent that they've been fined for it by the government... all to no effect.

      So, to review: 100% monopoly on basic phone services + gov't deregulation in the 90's = high rates, shoddy service, illegal activity, and nowhere else to go.
      • That's what? 2 buildings and a public outhouse?

        Yes, it's a joke.

        New Jersey statistics:
        Area, 7,836 sq mi (20,295 sq km).
        Pop. (1995 est.) 7,945,000;
      • I'm a small ISP offering DSL, and have to agree that most telco's pretty much suck. While the DSL service is our product, we have to rely on the telco's for the lines to be installed. Unfortunately the two telephone companies in our area (Verizon and Ameritech) drag their feet so much that the customers finally give up waiting and switch to another provider, usually the telco, who can magically get the line installed within a couple of days. Tell me how it's a good thing when "monopolies" are taking away our choices by forcing small business like mine to close up shop, especially when we can offer as good or better customer service.
    • What is illegal is using unfair trade practices to keep others out of the market,


      Well, yeah, but the problem is that an unfair trade practice is rather broadly defined. For example, patents are considered fair to have by a small business to protect its R but they become unfair once the owner company gets too big. So when the DoJ goes to trial over monopolies, licensing patents at a much lower price to competitors is often part of the deal when settling out of court. Another example is bundling, eg selling someone a piece of hardware, and including the software and service/maintenance as part of the deal. Again, that's a good business practice to win customers, but when you get to big the argument is reversed, and suddenly you find yourself "unfairly blocking people who want to compete on just the software".


      I don't have a monopoly myself, I learned this by reading these :) Father, Son and Co [fatbrain.com] (IBM's Watson biography), Barbarians led by Bill Gates [fatbrain.com] (Basically Marlin Eller's story but also describing Bill's surprise at the case).

    • In a free market system, monopolies NATURALLY result from good business practices

      And in a free market system technological innovation, development and low prices NATURALLY result from competition. You seem to be arguing that the one offering the best services will eventually triumph over the competition and be the only one left on the market. This is sometimes true, but it does not mean that monopolies are always the best thing for a free market system. Once a monopoly is achieved it causes stagnation because of the absence of competition. Monopolies are very profitable and the monopolist is better off jacking up prices and keeping production costs low at the expense of quality.

      • In a free market system, monopolies NATURALLY result from good business practices

        And in a free market system technological innovation, development and low prices NATURALLY result from competition. You seem to be arguing that the one offering the best services will eventually triumph over the competition and be the only one left on the market. This is sometimes true, but it does not mean that monopolies are always the best thing for a free market system.

        This is why completely unfettered, unregulated capitalism (lassaiz-faire capatilism a la the 19th century) is as contradictory and self-destructive as communism: the inherent dichotomy of the free market system requiring competition to work properly but yielding monopolies comes to the fore, short circuiting and ultimately destroying the very market that spawned it.

        Capitalism only works over the long term in a situation where its most destructive positive feedbacks (of which the "natural" formation of monopolies from previously free markets is but one example) are mitigated through regulation.

        There was a time, up through about the 1940, when western capitalism, particularly in the United States, was on a routine boom-bust cycle punctuated not by recessions, but by multi-year depressions. Note the plural. We grow concerned when growth slows and joblessness rises to the point where we have to endure up to 16 months of recession (usually lasting much shorter than 16 months). Our great-grandparents in the 19th century routinely suffered through multiple depressions, an effective "rebooting" of the economy reminiscent of a Windows NT server. This was a natural consiquence of lassaiz-faire capitalism's inherent internal contradictions and resulting instability.

        As much as we like to bitch about government regulation (and it is true that bad regulation can be as bad or worse than no regulation, and that regulation is not needed in many circumstances, but certainly required in many others), ever since the government (and the Federal Reserve) have been proactively regulating the market through both legislation and control of the money supply, our boom-bust cycles have diminished to minor fluxuations, where the worst we have to fear is a few months of slowdown.

        Unfortunately, with the government's reluctance to enforce anti-trust regulation (while zealously enforcing mandated monopoly rights such as copyrights and patents) this balance is shifting, with all the potential for economic havoc that implies. This sort of thing happens when you have legalized bribery and a voice in politics defined by and limited to the depths of your pockets, of which a living human's will never be so deep as even a relatively impoverished corporation's, and as such regulations are ever more weakened in the persuit of next quarter's profits the long term stability of our economy, and our society, becomes ever more fragil, and ever more ignored in the rush of cheaply-purchased politicians to quid-pro-quo that last campaign contribution into another law designed to prop up an outdated business model, to deregulate another area of business in the name of short term profits at the expense of long term stability or, in some cases, consumer protection (which arguably amounts to the same thing), or even to simply bail out an entire industry for having chosen, years earlier, to ignore its customers safety and pocket the change saved by not implimenting the kind of security their fudiciary responsibilities to both their stockholders and their customers required.
    • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:11AM (#2841669) Homepage Journal
      In a free market system, monopolies NATURALLY result from good business practices.

      Sometimes they do, more frequently an oligarchy (small number of dominant players, like the "big 3" car makers in the USA). The phone company did not arise naturally, it was one of many competitors. It convinced the government that the many phone companies would never interconnect and the USA would be stuck with lawyers able to contact lawyers and doctors being able to contact doctors, but the lawyers not being able to call doctors. Oddly enough by the time it finally convinced the government to grant them a monopoly the existing phone companies were already interconnecting (after all lawyers frequently want to talk to doctors and the services that can do that makes more money...)

      So in fact we had a government granted (aka unnatural) monopoly for about 100 years. Then AT&T was broken up and long distance was no longer a monopoly, however the RBOCs still were. They had all the hard to reproduce physical assets. There is some modest competition for local business service in very populated areas, but not much else...unless you count the woefully few cablecos who are providing local service.

      So you have unnatural access to the wiring from one party...

      The bell DSL providers are doing better because they provide the service at a lower cost to them, with higher quality service.

      Yeah, but it is widely asserted that the RBOCs provide the service cheaper because they don't charge themselves as much for access to the copper. It is widely asserted that their service is better because they control the line techs that check the problems, and keep their competitors at the end of the line. It is also widely asserted that in the greater DC area they strong arm their competitors into agreeing not to serve anyone more then 18k feet away.

      To me that sounds a wee bit like:

      unfair trade practices

      At least if it is true.


    • Firstly, a monopoly by definition is not a free market. In free market I can buy/trade with anybody, in a monopoly I don't have that choice, therefore it's not free.

      Having a monopoly is NOT illegal.

      Perhaps this is true in the land of corporate greed, but monopolies are illegal in nearly every civilised/developed country.
      • Perhaps this is true in the land of corporate greed, but monopolies are illegal in nearly every civilised/developed country.

        Unless you are trying to imply that the USA is uncivilized it may come to a shock to hear that monopolies are legal in the USA.

        It is legal to have almost all of a market. What's illegal is to act in anti-competitive ways after you are a monopoly, but not before. It is legal for a small player to try to keep other out of a market, but if you are almost the only player it is illegal to do most things that keep others out of the market.

        It would be hard to make having 95% of the market illegal, after all the first company in any market has 100% of that market! Also it shouldn't be illegal for a company to beat other inept companies, right?

    • In a free market system, monopolies NATURALLY result from good business practices.
      Rather they can result from good business practices. They can just as easily result from a variety of other things including very bad (i.e. criminal) business practices.

      The bell DSL providers are doing better because they provide the service at a lower cost to them, with higher quality service.

      Is this because their busines is more efficent or because they have the advantage of inheriting a system created by a state sponsored monopoly?
    • In a free market system, monopolies NATURALLY result from good business practices.

      No they don't - look at any number of industries: gasoline, groceries, pharmaceuticals, etc - in all of these sectors consumers benefit from healthy competition between several major players using good business practices, with room for many minor local businesses. Even in media you have a choice of radio, tv stations, isp's, movie studios. What the big difference is in 'technology' markets that makes them so suceptible to monopolization is the ability to obfuscate your techniques so that people can no longer distinguish "good business practices" from "unfair trade practices". If the Exxon corp. put some special secret ingredient in their gas so that once you used it you could never use a competitors product without major engine damage (or forced you to change to an Exxon gas tank that only works on Exxon pumps) it would clearly be a case of "unfair trade practices", yet the major technology businesses do this all the time, make heaps, and it's suddenly (according to employees, stockholders and their lawyers) "good business practice".

      Have you ever delt with a telco? They're full of people who resort to tachnobabble at the drop of a hat to get out of work, knowing full well that they can never lose business to any competitor.
  • No it's not! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Perrin-GoldenEyes ( 4296 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:48AM (#2841538)
    This is the "free market" in action (government-sponsored monopolies crushing independents)


    No...it is not. The idea of a "government-sponsored monopoly is anathema to the free market. The whole idea of a free market is that the government keeps its dirty hands OUT of the market. No sponsoring business. No squashing it with excessive tax burden. This doesn't seem to difficult to understand.
    • Re:No it's not! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chris Feddern ( 545893 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:01AM (#2841614)
      That's why he put the phrase "free market" in quotation marks. Can you say, "sarcasm"?
    • The idea of a "government-sponsored monopoly is anathema to the free market. The whole idea of a free market is that the government keeps its dirty hands OUT of the market

      The idea of a "free market" dosn't work very well for providing utilities. Especially since the capital investment required is huge.
      The only way any kind of "free market" appears to work here is through resellers. Where there can be some very big problems too.

      No sponsoring business.

      The results of government sponsership can last a very long time. Especially where these are abstract things, such as wayleaves.
      • Some of these comments were very interesting, others were hype of the higest order.

        Can a fair market include a monopoly? Absolutely. A monopoly simply means that a company has essentially an entire market segment to itself. That doesn't mean, however, that other companies can't try to compete in the same space. It's harder, to be sure, but in the end, consumers will vote with their dollars. If a product is better in the eyes of consumers, then it will eventually win against the established monopoly, as long as the monopoly is acting legally.

        Now, has Microsoft, for example, used untoward means to maintain its monopoly? The courts have unequivocally said yes. However, bear in mind that, in general, it achieved it's OS monopoly fair and square. If Apple hadn't stumbled after Jobs left in the 80s, well, we might be bellyaching about the Beast from Cupertino instead of the Beast from Redmond.

        My point is, monopolies are not bad, nor do they innately destabilize fair and free markets. It's when the company that has the monopoly takes illegal means to maintain it does the market suffer.

        And one thing that, I think, most /. users don't recognize -- the market leader is almost NEVER the best technology available. Market leading products are the best marketed, relatively easy to use, and nearly always appeal to the broadest segment of consumers, also known as the least common denominator.

        Of course, that's my opinion. You may now set your flamethrowers to "high burn" and have at me.
        • Absolutely. A monopoly simply means that a company has essentially an entire market segment to itself. That doesn't mean, however, that other companies can't try to compete in the same space. It's harder, to be sure, but in the end, consumers will vote with their dollars

          It may well be impossible for a startup utility to compete against an already existing utility. Not only do they have to make a huge investment before they have anything to sell they also have to convince land owners (and government) to let them install pipes, cables, etc. When they are likely to get the response "there already is electricity, gas, drinking water, telephone,etc there".
          • Parallel distribution systems for natural gas and electricity make little sense. However, multiple sources of natural gas and electricity make a lot of sense. Where a monopoly is the only practical solution, you need to minimize the monopoly to solve the problem required.

            In telecom, that should be "the last mile" so to speak. We aren't even close to there yet. There are a whole lot of problems which will not be solved until we let people make a lot of money from solving the problem.
          • Not as long as there is sufficent regulation to allow compition, you can currently set up solar panels to generate more electricity than you need, and you will get paid for the extra electricity that gets pumped into the system. Anyone, and I mean Anyone can start their own long distance company, there are even a few competitors in local phone service. There is absolutly no reason there can't be compitition in broadband markets, sharing the same lines. But the regulations to force the big providers to open up their lines don't exist yet.
            "there already is electricity (been done), gas (been done), drinking water (could be done, but why?), telephone (been done),etc (working on it) there".
  • I had to cancel my "unlimited" ADSL 1.5Mbit with iPrimus, in Melbourne, Australia, because I believe Telstra forces impossibly high data charges on the other carriers...

    The effective price of the service jumped 400-800%, making it impossible for me, a programmer and web designer earning higher than average wage, to afford. Between Telstra and the Aust Govt, broadband is being prevented here.
  • by InterruptDescriptorT ( 531083 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:49AM (#2841542) Homepage
    ...watch for the available content to become more and more dictated by the broadband providers. They had to sink a lot of money into building the networks (billions upon billions of dollar), and expect to recoup the cost somehow. One thing they can do is push their content (and thus the advertising space they sell) on you by limiting access to other sites via slowdowns or other disincentives. Imagine not being to access CBSNews.com [cbsnews.com] or drudgereport.com [drudgereport.com], but having to get all online news from CNN.com if you're an AOL/Time-Warner company, of which CNN is a part.

    This is essentially the argument that Lawrence Lessig makes in his latest book, but I suspect that if you see broadband growth progress slowing with falling profit margins and bigger expenditures to (slowly) expand the network, you'll begin to see this technique used a lot in the future.
    • watch for the available content to become more and more dictated by the broadband providers. They had to sink a lot of money into building the networks (billions upon billions of dollar), and expect to recoup the cost somehow.

      Part of the point with the likes of ADSL is that the difficult bit of building the network "piggybacks" on to an already existing network. (Similarly with cable modems).
  • by wayn3 ( 147985 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:55AM (#2841571)
    I live outside Boston, MA where AT&T Cablevision and RCN compete for broadband and cable services. RCN, being #2, has been very competitive and they've provided me with great service.

    Your town may not be able to have two cable wire systems running throughout, but there is an alternative: have your town own the wiring, and force your cable company to lease them on a yearly basis. This has worked for some MA communities.
  • Broadband (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Heem ( 448667 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:56AM (#2841578) Homepage Journal
    We as the 'power user' community, ie, the 3% that the companies talk about that actually USE the product that they sell to us, need to be heard on the issue. If a company could provide us with and IP address, and a relatively high speed pipe, for a fair price, we could keep the cost to them down by not needing any of the BS that they waste so much money on. I don't need someone to sell me 'video email, only with this company' blah blah, i can do video email with any company, AOL if i wanted to. Rediculous. Put a wire in my house with an IP address. I'll pay what it is worth. The only reason I'm upset about paying $50 for the cable service I have now is that they whine and cry about every little thing I do. I'd easily pay $100 for something that was under my control, I could have control over the dns, etc. 4 sets of numbers. That's all I want/need to ever hear from the provider.

    • They don't want us (Score:5, Informative)

      by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:44AM (#2841856) Homepage
      To be honest, they don't want us using their service, but we're a necessary evil. We actually USE the product, and that's a problem, since it costs them money to provide it. They'd much rather have Joe Homeowner who pays $50 a month and uses it like a dialup account, going and visiting the provider's sites, etc, etc. (Think @Home's Excite pages). That's basically free money. No slowdowns due to overusage, no pesky NNTP servers needed, just a web site and a modicum of bandwidth. The geek community is a problem: we drive a lot of business their way, but we're also the most vocal about problems.

      There's a lot more money to be made from the ignorant than from the informed.
    • Isn't this what a business account is for? What is it that the company is whining and crying about? Are you running P2P or servers? If so, then get a business account and put your money where your mouth is.

      Not a personal slam, just quit whining about paying consumer prices and wanting a business plan (as defined by the provider)
  • What free market? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stripes ( 3681 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:56AM (#2841579) Homepage Journal
    This is the "free market" in action (government-sponsored monopolies crushing independents)

    How can it be a free market operation when it includes government-sponsored monopolies? This is pretty much not a free market, it involves those government-sponsored monopolies controlling most of the resources, and government regulations that in theory force them to share. (And I'll note that is mostly in theory, not practice)

    This isn't a failure of the free market any more then Microsoft attempting to port the GIMP to MacOS and failing would be a failure of the open software community.

  • Waiting Period (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nzhavok ( 254960 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:57AM (#2841582) Homepage
    I think one of the largest problems is the waiting period. Realistically people just don't want to have to wait so long to get up and running with a broadband service.

    My personal experience was with satellite broadband, I had to wait 4 weeks before the dish can be installed and then the installer couldn't configure the card properly in my PC.

    The second problem I've encountered has been bandwidth caps. I'm back to a 56K now since the satellite company put a download cap of 500MB/month (yes MB). which meant I could blow through the monthly cap in about, oh, 40 minutes!

    The end result from this is that people who have had experiences like me will recommend that others don't get broadband because it's not worth the hassle right now.
  • To borrow a line from an NPR car show, this is an example of public and private policy "unencumbered by the thought process". Which is a fairly common practice, now that I think of it.

    unless of course, you look at places like this [opensecrets.org], and see just how much money people are getting. Either way, long term planning suffers, and the situation acts like a monkey trap [powerpointers.com]

  • Free market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:57AM (#2841587)
    This is the "free market" in action (government-sponsored monopolies crushing independents), and therefore unquestionable in the US today

    It's not a free market. A free market would mean that government-sponsored monopolies would have been stripped of their protected status, and had to compete on equal terms with wholly-private enterprises. The matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that a lot of the existing infrastructure was created and is controlled by the state monopolies. There's no straightforward way to transfer that to the private sector, and no straightforward way to replace it, because that would mean that every operator would have to lay their own cable infrastructure. That's just not economically viable.

    I suspect that the majority of the bad press free market capitalism gets is because people bandy the term about without understanding it. This isn't a problem of the free market, it's a problem of the government. But somehow, the free market gets blamed and the government called to intervene - again. And it's odd that the GPL-loving slashbots would oppose free - not as in speech or as in beer, but freedom to enter into business relationships - just as important.

    What good is free speech, Mr Andersen, if you can't act on your words?

    And did you really mean "unquestionable"?
    • Re:Free market (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fajoli ( 181454 )
      I can understand your frustration with goverment sponsored monopolies. However, without government sponsored monopolies, how would these companies coerce landowners to allow these wires to cross their property? As a landowner, I would have a problem with the wires being handed to a private entity without compensation from the private entity for traversing my property.

      As painful as state monopolies are sometimes, I don't think there are viable alternatives. Negotiating with millions of landowners would be prohibitively expensive. Griping about how state monopolies don't support free-markets does not provide an alternative to this situation.
    • Re:Free market (Score:3, Interesting)

      to transfer that [existing infrastructure] to the private sector...every operator would have to lay their own cable infrastructure.

      What do you mean exactly?

      Here in Australia, we have a large company named Telstra [telstra.com]. The Government spun off Telstra as a private company a few yeara ago and plans to completely sell off its remaining 51% in the near future.

      The question is - why didn't the Government swallow the national infrastructure of bandwidth through cables, phone copper lines, exchanges, the whole lot -- and just sell off the operational company? Such an arrangement would mean that the government could restrict the possibility of monopolistic or oligopolistic behaviour should it ever emerge, while leaving the market to decide how it was going to self-assemble when competitors were introduced?

      Those companies could then fund the collective growth and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure through public works. Bandwidth supply and demand would truly then be controlled by the market and the general affluence of the population.

      Trucking and other transport companies work this way by paying taxes to the Government that maintains roads. Nobody minds that. What's so bad about transport as an industry model, that corporations need to own their own permanent copper cabling?

      I am not an economist, I warn you. ;)

      • The question is - why didn't the Government swallow the national infrastructure of bandwidth through cables, phone copper lines, exchanges, the whole lot -- and just sell off the operational company? Such an arrangement would mean that the government could restrict the possibility of monopolistic or oligopolistic behaviour should it ever emerge, while leaving the market to decide how it was going to self-assemble when competitors were introduced?

        You are correct; but I am operating on the assumption that the government would not be operating any sort of monopoly in the sector.

        In some cases, taxes maintain roads, and in some cases there is a toll.
        • I think we're coverging. I suggest that infrastructure isn't a sector -- that it is removed from the market and becomes a common entity, like weather.

          Taxes and tolls are the same trick played at different speeds... Big cable rollouts for example, could be levied or taxed separately as and when required :)

    • A free market would mean that government-sponsored monopolies would have been stripped of their protected status, and had to compete on equal terms with wholly-private enterprises. The matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that a lot of the existing infrastructure was created and is controlled by the state monopolies. There's no straightforward way to transfer that to the private sector, and no straightforward way to replace it, because that would mean that every operator would have to lay their own cable infrastructure. That's just not economically viable.

      Even if there was a straightforward way to transfer it. It took around a century to set it up in the first place.
      Transfering public utilities into private ownership has been tried in several parts of the world, using various means (some of which look wonderful in theory but just don't work in practice).
  • The problem with Broadband is with the lack of demand and the lack of "killer" application to create the "demand".

    When I am browsing at home I am not doing so for "entertainment" purpose -- for that I have the TV, DVD, Cable, Music, etc. and above all, I have my family to chat with.

    So don't expect me sitting by myself all alone next to the monitor downloading movies. However, expect me (and my family) browsing the net for information gathering occasional chats and email reading from friends that I don't see very often.

    In this scenario, do I need a Broadband? No, my house has been doing just fine with a 56K modem for years now and we find it fast.

    PS: If you ever see AOL add on TV, you will see they are selling you two key things: email and chat. Do I need a broadband for that?!
    • ... about "demand"

      Perhaps in more ways than you realise, since I feel pretty confident that Content on Demand systems like this (www.kitv.co.uk) are the Killer App you are talking about.
    • Precisely! I was all ready to buy broadband when I decided to finally upgrade to a "real" computer. Then I saw how my brother's 56K dial-up service did just fine, at a fraction of the cost. I strongly suspect a lot of people upgraded their access and their computers at the same time and fail to realize that the processor improvements have as much to do with how much better their internet is as the broadband does. Media Kings have made it clear that the price of content online is going to be THEIR digital rights management on your machines, THEM calling the shots about how you can use - even within the non-commercial bounds of your own home - THEIR bought and paid for Congressional sorties against the Constitution. Why the hell should I encourage that?


      Meanwhile, they're suing Napster (not that they didn't deserve it) but can't get it together to offer any comprehensive on-line music service that isn't a flat-out lousy deal. I'm supposed to cough up 50 (or even thirty - 3X a dial-up fee, plus the special equipment, plus the high potential for service hassles) in faith I'll be able to download movies "someday?" When I could basically bet a million dollars that they'll charge more than the video store, even though they're incurring minimal overhead shipping bits over a line I'M paying for - for the, ahem, convenience. I'm fat enough as it is, I think I can hoist my lazy ass off the sofa and waddle around the video store for half an hour, thank you very much. Plus I can pick up some tacos on my way back.


      To me the idea of the internet was to make information - mostly text and music, although video and interactive environments seemed a burgeoning possibility - more accessible by overcoming the economies of scale of material production. Instead the best idea these yahoos can come up with is to feed us the same damn content we already have available with rotten economics forced by the artificial scarcity of intellectual property - and a ton of baggage from their piracy paranoia to boot!


      Saving 4 or 5 hundred bucks a year is not insignificant. It can mean a serious computer upgrade, a serious upgrade to teevee service (with them premium movie channels where the movies are actually, like, available), a video game console and several games. I fail to see what broadband has to offer me of comparable value right now.

    • If you ever see AOL add on TV, you will see they are selling you two key things: email and chat. Do I need a broadband for that?!

      No, you don't need broadband speed for that. The thing that you will want is the always-on nature. I personally would be fine with a 256k line that had 30ms latency and always worked for $30-40/month

      Seriously, if I ran a server that needed any kind of reliability, I'd build a 1U box and ship it off to a hosting facility.

  • Qwest ISDN, Northpoint, Rythms, Excite, then AT&T.
    Two backrupcies, one buyout, and employer's
    directive about service to use. The startup costs
    themselves would pay for three years of service.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:04AM (#2841627)
    IMO, it's that last mile, from the CO to your home, that's the most critical in the broadband arena. Right now, the problem is that that last mile is owned by the same people that want to sell you services over it, and thus are going to do as much in their power in order to make sure only their service is used over their wire.

    What needs to be done is to force these phone companies to divest themselves of the last mile ownership, and instead treat that as a utility, thus which may be handled by a city, or by a small company or the like. Because it's a utility, the only care they have is to hook one end to your house, and provide several outlets at the other end (phone, cable, broadband, etc); you then simply sign up for the services at that other end, paying the phone or cable or broadband company for that service. This way, the last mile utility cannot control what goes in that pipe, only that you pay to maintain it, and that suddenly phone companies will find themselves in competition again with other service providers. That would clear up the pseudo-monopoly that phone co's have right now, *and* may be incentive enough to get fat pipe to every household in American by some means, including urban and rural areas. This could also mean the development of wide-area wireless communication hubs that might serve a small, rural city, since effectively that's much easier to get the last mile than wiring it.

    Again, the key here is that the only service that the last mile utility can be concerned with is to make sure that what goes in one side of the last mile wire comes out the other. They cannot provide a service lest they give up their right to control that pipe, otherwise we're right back to square one.

    • What needs to be done is to force these phone companies to divest themselves of the last mile ownership, and instead treat that as a utility, thus which may be handled by a city, or by a small company or the like. Because it's a utility, the only care they have is to hook one end to your house, and provide several outlets at the other end (phone, cable, broadband, etc); you then simply sign up for the services at that other end, paying the phone or cable or broadband company for that service.

      This is one of the ideas which sounds good, but is complex to get to work.
      The utility company would also need to operate all the telecoms hardware too. Otherwise you'd end up with all sorts of issues of duplicating kit and contractual issues over who has access to which kit.
      • Yes, but if the problem can be reduced to an engineering problem, we are home free.
      • by scoove ( 71173 )
        ...treat that as a utility, thus which may be handled by a city, or by a small company or the like

        I'd be very cautious about the "handled by a city" part - this is often done via a municipal arrangement which sounds well intentioned, but ends up really mucking things up.

        In my parts, there are a few municipals that were chartered initially to provide a utility (usually electrical and/or water). Because of the way municipals are managed, the lack of accountability to the city (you typically can't elect/fire them, you can't affect their budget, etc.), they tend to normalize as a mini-monopoly agency with no profit focus and no accountability.

        Most in our parts have taken on service after service due to the eagerness for more revenues, power and control. They'll add natural gas service, propane delivery, fuel oil, then migrate into communications: cellular, telephone, cable TV and broadband Internet.

        Unfortunately, as they're not market-driven entities, they don't have the natural correcting forces that ensure efficiency. They make up for inefficiency by subsidizing them in their other monopoly areas - e.g. electric rates.

        One municipality in the area has hiked their electrical rates to about $0.12/kilowatt hour, whereas the electricity offered just outside town by a coop is $0.06 (with discount programs offering $0.03).

        The impact to the town doesn't stop there, either. All of the municipal's services are lousy, but since they have such an established base and the ability to subsidize from their other products, competitors have simply stayed away. The result is quite comperable to the goals of socialism: everyone is equally miserable.

        So... get yourself some competitors in your community. Make it easy for them to get in, and don't buy from them if they are lousy. But don't lock yourself into one solution either through the error of municipals or by denying entry via towers and right of ways.

        *scoove*
    • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:24AM (#2842071)
      are going to do as much in their power in order to make sure only their service is used over their wire.

      Not only is this very true, but the same people are making sure their wire is the only way to get any service to your home or business.

      We've seen numerous legislative efforts pop up to block tower construction projects and were surprised at the apparently sudden interest in "protecting property values," "saving children from evil RF rays" (as claimed by a Missouri congressional fool) and "preserving the environment."
      What seemed odd was that while communication towers of any height were targeted, high power transmission lines were not. If RF "evil waves", property values and environmental issues were the focus, you'd expect transmission lines to be at the front of the list.

      Then we started to see an interesting parallel: the same congressional sponsors were receiving outstanding support from incumbant local telephone companies. In one case, research briefs used by the congresscritter were prepared by a southwestern bell staffer.

      The conclusion? Incumbant telephone companies were attempting to kill cellular and fixed wireless broadband competition, while pushing legislation in various states claiming that there was no way they could upgrade their ancient network without taxpayer money.

      Once a monopoly, always a monopoly, apparently. The best we can do is watch these corrupt pols and work to throw them out (or at least expose them) when we discover they're using their position to redirect our tax money for the protection of these incumbants.

      *scoove*
    • That's what was supposed to happen in the UK.

      When the government sold off the company years ago, BT were allowed to keep their monopoly in certain areas, provided that after a certain time period elapsed, they open up all of their exchanges to co-locs, and unbundle the local loop.

      Unfortunately for the consumer, BT dragged their heels so much on the unbundling, that all the other companies pretty much lost interest, and at the same time, BT started aggresively(ish) rolling out their own ADSL service, while trying every trick in the book to stop other companies from doing the same thing.

      Thus in the UK, the situation is that BT *still* has a monopoly, only now it is a monopoly on ADSL.

      I was one of the lucky ones, as I lived in an area with pretty good cable coverage, so I used that instead.

  • Lack of reliability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmuth ( 14143 ) <doug.muth+slashdot@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:05AM (#2841630) Homepage Journal
    I think that part of the problem with the lack of consumer confidence in high speed Internet Access (especially DSL) is the lack of reliability with these services. DSL outages are something that many folks complain about, and in severe cases, such as when Northpoint went bankrupt [cnet.com], service was cut with little or no warning. Having to put up with things like this make me think twice before getting broadband to my place.

    Personally, I think one way to prevent problems like this from happening again would be to have DSL lines regulated by each state's Public Utility Commission [paonline.com], just like POTS and T1s are. With those lines being under their current regulations, getting disconnected suddenly will result in the ILEC landing in very hot water with the PUC. But when Northpoint decides to go belly-up and screw hundreds of thousands of people, they get away scott-free.

    That's my $0.02, feel free to mod up or down as appropriate.

  • Municipal utility? (Score:5, Informative)

    by truesaer ( 135079 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:06AM (#2841637) Homepage
    After the chaos that Comcast has caused by switching from Mediaone's network (who they bought out, at least in this area) to theirs, my city (Ann Arbor Michigan) has begun to consider regulating them as if they were an essential utility like electric or phone. They seem to understand that this would be something that may never have been attempted before, and could be tough considering the FCC does regulation of them.


    But, when the franchise for cable was given to Comcast, they had made all these promises that they would be a lot better than mediaone, provide better customer service, better actual service, etc, etc. Instead, it has been a disaster in terms of service, they've reduced the features you get with your service, and increased the price.


    Frankly it would be nice for the city to be able to dictate certain reasonable conditions. And this would be negotiated when their contract expires in about a year. Here is an article [mlive.com].

  • Here in Austria each Town has it's own private cable provider. They get their channels via sat and broadcast via cable only in their region. They choose if they wish to provide broadband to their customers.

    Basically they have only a small network, a more or less fat uplink to our country's backbone. They do everything inhouse, with a small crew.

    The logical consequence is that they kick the shit out of the big companies by making special agreements like
    "We have #N Mbit to the backbone and #M customers, so the bandwidth for an individual is N/M Mbit. If the useres increase, we will upgrade our pipes. Fair use."

    Sure it's a bit more expensive, but who gets 2Mbit down/512kup to his home for like 35$?
    DSL services in my area would cost the same but would only provide me with 512d/64u/1GB traffic included...

    So, I can't imagine that this works in a country where monopolism is more or less perfectly legal, but not in the states...

    So, no small towns with small cable providers?
  • by egburr ( 141740 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:12AM (#2841670) Homepage
    I wish the big bells (and all the other DSL providers and ISPs) could get it through their heads that all I want is the connectivity, not all the extra services. Give me the wire and a static IP address, and no blocking of services. Give me the basics and throw out the fluff. I don't need them to provide DNS, mail, spam, news, a web portal, etc. I can provide or find all of that I want on my own. Offer me just that and for a reasonably low price, and I'll be happy. This would negate much of their costs, including tech support.
    • Sounds like Bostream in Sweden. ADSL. 2.5mbit down, 0.75 up. static IP. no extra services.


      ~$25/month (a bit less)

    • That's a very good point and explains the downfall of @home: spending money on useless services that nobody wants/needs/uses.

      An ISP should provide:
      connectivity, POP/SMTP/NNTP/DNS (things that NORMAL people don't host themselves), and some form of customer support.

      An ISP should not provide:
      Portal services (there are enough out there as it is), custom browsers (that they either won't support or require FOR support), and anything that is a useless extension that can be found elsewhere. Don't bloat the bill.

      But these big companies are used to being a one-stop-wh0ring... umm... shopping place for all your Internet needs. In fact, they'd probably ship the Internet to you on CD or DVD if you asked nicely enough.
      • An ISP should provide:

        connectivity, POP/SMTP/NNTP/DNS (things that NORMAL people don't host themselves), and some form of customer support.

        No, an ISP should not provide connectivity. That should be handled by any one of several competing entities (the phone company(s), cable company, satellite, wireless - whatever), while the ISP provides services. Then I, as a consumer, can select connectivity from the best provider of connectivity and services (if I need them) from the best provider of services.

    • yeah but the problem here is that it seems like most people want the "fluff". They see DSL as AOL w/a fast connection.

      Working in customer service for a broadband ISP I see plenty of people who never have gotten off their homepage (portal) other than what links are on the page.

      When a certain large provider went out and it changed hands one customer complained about no longer having the "Internet" and now only having "MSN".

      He said, "I am not an MSN customer, how did I get their Internet".

      As far as blocking of services. Again, another bit of fluff for you but not for most.

      DSL and Cable are low cost already. 768k is about 1/2 of a T1 which costs $500+ I don't see you paying $250/mo for your DSL and in my case w/DSL I have used in the past 75 - 80k/s is worth the $50/mo I was paying. Now I use RR which even though the ping response really sucks the downloads are wicked fast. 200 to 350k/s is nice for $50/mo.

      Stop whining.
    • by Genom ( 3868 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:01AM (#2841968)
      Speakeasy. Sysadmin package. Around $100 a month for 1.5/384 ADSL, 3 static IPs, no filtering, and unlimited dialup (in case the DSL line goes down). They've done right by me, and until they go out of business, they're the way to go, IMHO. They've only been down for any signifigant period of time once in the 8 months we've had them (they were down for 12 hours due to a cable cut in/near DC) - all other downtime was planned, short, and during off-hours. They never had a problem with servers being run, never gave me a hassle about running an alternative OS, and have always had a response time of a couple hours by email, or a couple minutes(!!) by phone. The install itself took less than 2 weeks from my order to the IPs becoming active.

      Contrast this with the shoddy service the local cable monopoly (AT&T) has given us - took them 3 months (!!) to even get a cable line to our apartment building, after which the connection suffered random, intermittant packet loss past the 2nd hop to anywhere. Spent over 2 hours on hold on the phone twice before getting to someone who would acknowledge that there was a problem that didn't lie with my network settings. (Let's not mention the fact that if you so much as breathe the word "Linux" they will hang up on you) They refised to send someone to the apartment to diagnose the problem - always claimed it was "maintenance in your area" (basically a copout to get you off the phone) - claimed that they would call me back, and never did. Gave me fake names and useless "Ticket numbers" that were, of course, never in the system. We cancelled our cable modem service with them once we got DSL, yet every month, they try to bill us for it, and every month I have to spend another hour on the phone arguing with them over whether the service was cancelled or not.

      The problem also manifests itself in out digital cable as 1/2-1 second "blackouts", which again, they refuse to acknowledge.

      If another cable company offered cable service on our area of MA, we would gladly ditch AT&T altogether. As it stands, in order to have cable, we have to go through them. The city won't even entertain the prospect of allowing another company to sell cable - they're that far in AT&T's pocket.

      Telcos don't want to provide good service - they want to take your money, and provide you with as little service as possible.
    • I don't need them to provide DNS, mail, spam, news, a web portal, etc.

      I agree with you on mail and web portal, but not on dns and news.

      One of the problems facing the 'Net is congestion, and one the easiest solutions to this, is to have as much nearby caching as possible.

      When you access the DNS roots yourself (I admit I'm guilty of this as well) instead of using a nearby caching resolver that your neighbors also use (e.g. the ISP's resolver), or when you access a news server 20 hops away, not only do you get degraded performance, but you're also causing a little more performance degradation for everyone else who uses the networks in between. Now, it's not a big deal that you're doing it, but when everybody does it, it all adds up. There was a story on Slashdot a few days ago about what happens at universities when thousands of people run filesharing/piracy apps that all use the outside link instead of having a cache inside the university's network.

      I know there are always gotchas (e.g. your ISP's DNS resolver doesn't do the namespaces that you want, their news server doesn't carry the groups that you want), but those gotchas are what need to be addressed or partially worked-around, instead of just giving up. (e.g. run nntpcache and configure it to use your ISP for the groups they carry, and a further away news server for the groups that the ISP doesn't carry.) (And then share your nntpcache with your neighbors, please. :-)

      Having certain services within just a couple of hops (BTW, I think caching web proxies should be included in this too) isn't just an ISP control-freak thing. It is also just good sense and the Right Thing to do.

  • No Real Broadband (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Detritus ( 11846 )
    To me, "real broadband" has the following characteristics:
    • symmetric bandwidth
    • static IP numbers
    • no restrictions on servers, services, VPNs
    In other words, IP dialtone. Transport the bits from point A to point B. Everything that I have seen that is marketed to the "consumer" is crippled in one or more ways. The only way that I can get IP dialtone is to buy a T1, for more than I pay in rent for my home.

    Availability and reliability are also needed for a broadband service that can be part of the national infrastructure. If I order telephone service, the telephone company does not say "too bad, you are too far away from the central office, and besides, we don't market telephone service in your (scummy) neighborhood." If my telephone service goes out, which is a rare event, it gets fixed in a day or two.

    • Speakeasy pretty much gives me an IP Dialtone and was able to get DSL to my house with Covad (US West'd been jerking me around for over a year.) About the only restrictions they have on the service are you can't run porn servers and you ostensibly must keep your system secure. As to the porn servers bit, if you're running one of those you should be bringing in enough to affort a T1 anyway. As for keeping your system secure, we're all trying to do that right? Though I do get a lot of cmd.exe scans from within Speakeasy's address range, so I can't imagine they enforce it too tightly.

      They'll sell you a T1, too. Their web page says those start at $399. At that price you could drop a T1 in, network to a few friends (Hang ethernet out the Window or use dry copper) and split the cost down to something reasonable. I don't know if you can run a T1 to your house, though.

      • Re:No Real Broadband (Score:2, Interesting)

        by warpSpeed ( 67927 )
        You can get a T1 at home, I have three. Two upstream providers and one frame line for resale. Since T1s are "regulated" lines they have to provide them where you want them. You have to pay bell a healthy price, but you can get them to your house.

        Also UUnet is/was offering a deal on a 1/2 T for one year. 635/mo depending on location (local loop charge). It is essntialy a full T1 that is regulated via the Frame Cloud. It is a good deal.

        Check out the guys at bandwidth.com - No I have no finacial interest in this group. They seem to be on top of what is avaiable.

        ~Sean
  • Over here in Belgium, broadband is doing just fine. People generally pay $35 a month for a 10Mb cable-service with a 10GB monthly volume limit. ADSL users pay about the same, but they only get a 1Mbit line, which is technically dedicated to only them.

    Before that, we had to pay about $1.50 an hour for the phone over 56K. I'd say we're pretty happy. Still, some lusers are still complaining about that 10gig limit though. But that's because all they do is share DivX files all day.

    Dave
    • That seems kinda wierd - you get a 10Mbit connection, but only 10 Gig a month? (I know, 10 gig is alot, but it goes kinda fast when you're downloading ISOs) - That's only about 3 hours download time, assuming max speeds. Why bother providing 10Mbit if you can only DL 10 gig a month?
  • One of the parts of the equation for a free market is that you have a fully informed consumer. Most consumers buy based on advertising and don't really know anything about the product and it's competitors.
  • While some of you know and suffer from high-speed ISPs who cap your speed and limit your monthly downloads, you haven't heard the best one yet. What these ISP's, content providers, microsoft, and other software application people really want to do is to charge you per packet and per application for what you actually do. There is a consortium of companies, identified at www.ipdr.org, who are designing and developing the modifications to internet protocol, operational support systems, and billing mechanisms to facilitate this.

    It might well be that communities of users like ourselves may want to do what it takes to build our own networks in our own communities and then expand further into a secondary nationwide network.
  • Cisco's new technology

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/01/03/2039 21 8&mode=thread

    http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/ts_122701.html

    that provides 10MB/sec Ethernet over existing phone lines ought to make the entire broadband issue a done deal. What am I missing?
  • Lawrence Lessig (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:29AM (#2841766) Journal
    Had an op-ed [washtech.com] a few days ago in the Post about this.
  • 10% of who? (Score:2, Informative)

    >To date, roughly 80 percent of the country's homes have broadband service available to them -- via cable lines, satellite or souped-up telephone lines (known as digital subscriber lines, or DSL). Yet only about 10 percent, or 10 million homes, have signed up.

    I hate stats like this. 80% of homes have broadband access. So what? How many of the country's homes have a *computer*? Get that right, *then* tell me what % of those have broadband. Sheesh. I mean c'mon, there are still people that don't even own 1 computer, let alone 2 or more that need to be NAT'ed! ;P

    I would like to see the economy turn around just as much as the next person. Problem is, the PC market is saturated in North America. With no killer app(s) driving hardware and OS sales, the push for broadband appeals only to kernel geeks, warez kiddies, and pr0n lovers. Dial-up suits alot of peole fine. They get home and want to play with their kids, make love to the wife, watch a chop-socky movie, or have a nap. Most people dont even *like* computers <shock! gasp!> Personally, I would rather see a huge push for Linux in the Enterprise, (as in management discovers MS is expensive and a security liability) and an associated drive for linux admins and techies in the workplace. But that's me, I want a better job...

    From what I can see, it's the UK and Europe that need broadband. The public there are asking for it, and it sounds like the market (yeah right, like the telcos are a market in any sense) could care less.
    If there was a need for more broadband in NA, the public would pay for it. If $40/month isn't too much, you go for it, otherwise you stay on AOL. That's the other thing: for many people, AOL *is* the internet. I've actually dealt with a *lot* of people who tried out cable (Canadian cable is a helluva lot faster than its US counterpart btw) for FREE for a month, and then switched back to dial-up!!! wtf?

    I (reluctantly) spent 2 months on dial-up after almost 3 straight years of fast-ass cable. Let me tell you, never again will I abuse myself like that again.
  • Checkout http://www.stillwater.org/extras/appa.htm
    and http://stillwater.brightok.net

    The former is a dated document, but the project is still ongoing. The fiber loops are complete and the city of Stillwater and it's tech partner, Chickasaw, are still rolling out fiber to each neighborhood, "one at a time." One of the sweeter things about it is that the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (SBC) is not a part of it and powerless to stop it. That's particularly interesting 'cause Stillwater's SBC office has such [phone] connectivity that Creative Lab's N. Am. Tech support is there.

    DSL (and phone) service thru Chickasaw won't be in my 'hood for a while, but their wireless net is.

    All this is really groovy to talk about, but the bottomline? The price is still too high.
  • The Bells are not finishing off the independent DSL providers. Some providers are going under because they are not making money!



    If the problem is government sponsored monopolies, should we solve that by creating more government assisted businesses, or should we solve it by removing government sponsorship?



    Sorry; I'm borderline libertarian. Does it show? ;)

  • I don't get it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SevenTowers ( 525361 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:43AM (#2841849) Homepage
    I'm in Quebec and my cable provider is Videotron. The price hasn't moved since at least 2 years : $35 canadian (that's about $22 US). The service is great, unlimited download-upload; 16kB/s upload and I often reach 350kB/s sustained downloads.

    Recently, the speeds were dropping and the pings going up. We called up videotron (we have 3 cable modems in the house) and they came in and replaced the whole wiring from the street, putting in a new solo cable for each modem and upping the signal, free of charge. The problem is fixed.

    In Sweden, large apartment complexes can get 10 or 100Mbit ethernet (if upwards of 80% of the people want it) for $20US per month. Government subventions.

    Why is the US in such a weird situation? I mean, lots of people want the product, the law of demand/offer states that the prices should go DOWN not up!
    • I mean, lots of people want the product, the law of demand/offer states that the prices should go DOWN not up!

      No, if demand goes up, so do prices. If supply goes up, prices go down. If they both go up, prices pay go up or down

  • Covad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peterdaly ( 123554 ) <petedaly.ix@netcom@com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:47AM (#2841878)
    As an interesting sidenote, Covad's stock price is back up to $2.75, from $0.34 earlier this year. They fell off the Nasdaq many months ago, they are on Nasdaq's Bulletin Board exchange. Most nasdaq quote services can still resove them (COVD).

    They are not down for the count yet.

    -Pete
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In case anybody missed it, the folks you're complaining about are in the financial waste bucket. Their stocks on the tank, they're bloated with long term debt, and they have miles of dark fiber sitting useless in the ground. It'll take 2-3 years for them to get healthy again, at which time they'll start fighting for market share again.

    Why? You can argue about the details, but the bottom line is that they spent a bunch of money hoping for a 2-3 year return (which is required by US investors), and it didn't quite work that way.

    So, sit back for 2-3 years and enjoy what options you have.
  • by Bookwyrm ( 3535 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:52AM (#2841908)
    I suspect a major issue is that bandwidth is not as cheap as people think/desire it to be. Look at all the places that advertised 'unlimited' usage, then went back and added usage caps -- look at the price to actually have 'unlimited' usage.

    Up until this point 'unlimited' usage has worked because the statistical multiplexing of the traffic functioned to give the illusion of unlimited usage over the avaiable networks. As usage has increased and the need for consistancy of service, quality of service has increased, the illusion that the statistical multiplexing of the packet traffic in the network is failing.

    Fast, good, cheap -- choose two.

    If people want fast (broadband) and good (QoS, reliability of service, and not to be run into 50:1 broadband/last mile DSL concentrators feeding out into a single T1), it is not going to be cheap. What people have had so far is fast and cheap -- but no one noticed at first because having it at all was better than nothing.
  • Glasgow KY (Score:4, Informative)

    by DontCallMeShirley ( 551071 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:00AM (#2841957)
    Anyone heard of Glasgow KY? Probably not unless you happened to see a story about them years ago on one of those Dateline - 20/20 type shows. Glasgow is a small farming town, so you wouldn't think they would be on the forefront of technology. But back around 1995 (maybe even earlier) their local Utility company, that had already started up their own cable tv division because of complaints about the local cable company and already had fiber run throughout the town, made broadband internet access available to virtually the entire town. And what's more, they didn't look to profit from it, instead they offered it at "cost" because they saw the benefits to their town by everyone being able to afford access. I believe the rate was $22 a month back then, and is probably still pretty close to that even now. So i guess my point is, there is no excuse for it to not be available to everyone in every town at this point, if a small town like Glasgow has had broadband widely available for 6+ years.
  • Canada is generally better off when it comes to Broadband access. All of my friends have access to broadband by way of DSL or Cable, and at a cost of $40.00. As in Forty Canadian Dollars.

    It seems that every reasonably well off country has better consumer BroadBand service then the US with the exception of Australia. For many businesses, it might be easier to start up in Vancouver or Toronto then in LA or New York. The only obstacle I can see is the tendency for such businesses to want to be nearer other similar established businesses.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • Ireland Offline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bfree ( 113420 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:36AM (#2842133)

    Here in Ireland we have no consumer broadband. If I want to connect to the Internet I can:

    1. Dialup at up to 56k for $0.6 - $2 per hour + $15 per month line rental
    2. ISDN 64k for $0.6 - $2 per hour + $35 per month line rental
    3. ISDN 128K for $1.2 - $4 per hour + $35 per month line rental + $25 per month IP connection
    4. Leased Line (about $10k per annum for 128k)
    It's so bad the incumbent monolpoly telco [eircom.ie] launched it's Hi-Speed Internet service about 2 years ago ... ISDN (with a reduced installation charge)!! Then they annouced I-Stream (ADSL) with a launch of October 2nd 2001 ... HOWEVER they knew full well they would not actually be allowed to launch at that time, and simply announced the date (and pricing, but NO conditions and STILL no conditions) so as to ensure the service would be stopped and dragged through litigation by it's competitors and the regulators. In the meantime the jokers [tmok.com] are raking in the cash while soiling the market for any other potential competitors (the main candidate being ntl [ntl.com] who paid (at the time) the highest price per subscriber ever worldwide for the largest Irish cable tv network (which was semi-state at the time and had hyped it's price by talking about cable modem trials which were very small) and who are completly cash strapped having rolled out (allegedly) maybe a POTENTIAL couple of thousand nodes for cable modems (I have yet to find a single person I know who could actually avail of it).

    So now we have Ireland Offline [irelandoffline.org] trying to act as the voice of reason our politically appointed department of Telecommunications Regulations [www.odtr.ie] should be, but neither have any real teeth. Just to top it all off, after NTL bought Cablelink (cableTV) the next government sale came up, Telecom Eireann which was floated to the public with guaranteed share availability to each member of the public, and everyone encouraged (banks throwing money at them) to buy at the government set price. So Eircom was launched (of course they had to rebrand it) and proceeded to lose most of the country some of their hard earned cash (but not the country's "vice prime minister" who was/is on the board who claimed at the first agm/lynching after the floatation that "he had no money to buy with" HAHAHA (insider trading cough cough) HAHA). So after a failed floatition that lost most of their customers potential loyalty (most people even had to deal with a share split as the mobile division was sold off, so they ended up with some vodafone shares) the company went through an incredilby public bidding war resulting in the purchase of the fixed line division by a private group which now has a £2billion+ loan to cover .... so they are going to launch a cheaper service for anything .... I think not ... they will unbundle the local loop now (only 1 year after the EU deadline) and risk losing some analogue call revenue ... NO

    To anyone in this thread who has complained in any way about price, quality of service or availability of service I suggest you thank your lucky stars you aren't stuck with 56k (I'm actually extremely lucky that I availed of an offer a few years ago to get unlimited free off-peak net access for $25 per month from one of their competitors who no longer allow people to sign up AND who kicked of many users for over using the unlimited service!) and go search google for errorcom to see just how popular eircom are! I think GPRS will be my first "broadband" connection .... Go 2002!!!

  • by larien ( 5608 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:39AM (#2842151) Homepage Journal
    Here in the UK we have several providers of ADSL, quite happily competing. In fact, I get my ADSL connection from a comparitively small firm, Nildram [nildram.co.uk]. This is despite the incumbent telco monopoly of BT [bt.com] doing its best to screw it up and Oftel largely being a wet fish.

    Availability is less than stellar, but it's getting better.

    NB: UK users should check ADSLGuide [adslguide.org.uk] for info on ADSL in the UK.

  • I have to admit, I find the attitudes of the people described in this article hard to swallow. I can't imagine life without broadband; I consider it as vital as electricity. $40-$50 is expensive?! No way! If consumer broadband went away, I'd probably give some thought to getting a ~$500/mo T1.

    When Northpoint went out of business I was stuck with a modem for about three weeks. It was absolute and total hell; I have no idea how anyone uses the Internet with just a modem.

    While I agree that the stuff that's been going on (phone company monopolies, little guys going out of business left and right) are not good for consumers, some broadband is certainly better than no broadband. The situation is not nearly as grim as this article seems to imply.
  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:59AM (#2842265)

    Basically they want money for nothing. You can see the mentality as companies divest themselves of pretty much everything physical and become "Intellectual property owners" with multiple levels of subcontractors, each taking a cut.

    I believe it's to do with the rise of the MBA. People who know nothing but the theory of business but not real business, just, the way they wish it could be.

    Anyway, why aren't people buying broadband? Because it's too fucking expensive with the telcos trying to force their blended, homogenised crap "content" which they think is so wonderful down our throats.

    I want a fast line to everything. I don't want to be forced to an ISP, I don't want "premium entertainment", video on demand but only from the tel/cable co. I don't give a flying fuck about 500 TV channels. Give me the fucking line and then get out of my way.

    Basically, I want infrastructure. All the rest is frothy shit on top. Unfortunately, commercial organisations aren't very good at providing infrastructure. All they can think of is the frothy shit.
  • The article states that 80% of the US is served broadband acrosss the US. However, that 80% is mostly the sattelite broadband, I'd wager.

    I'd like to know how much percentage is wired. Sattelite broadband (I'm talking 2 way here) is usually costing the customer upwards of $500 for initial equipment (versus $150 for other services) and $60/month (versus $40 for other services). Installer prices are about the same, if not slightly higher.

    With these differences, it's no wonder people choose wired over sattelite.
  • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @12:35PM (#2842996) Journal

    The competitive aspects of the market are generally a great way to drive innovation and ensure that individual companies within an industry offer good value for the price. But at the same time, if such companies have any sort of monopoly (and in the telcom business they most certainly do have local ones) they always overcharge, and that same competitiveness can cause balkanization of the market where those monopolies are granted, and thus holding back innovation and usefullness of the industry. Therefore, the government should always consider setting standards where monopolies are granted. And they out to step in now and take action. The US has fallen embarrassingly far behind other countries in the usefullness of high tech.

    The broadband market is a good example - companies were allowed to merge with wild abandon, and the quality of service only went down. Users have little or no choice of service, and it's expensive. The other key example is the mobile, wireless, and broadcasting markets - several companies with incompatible systems (so that even SMS won't work together), including legacy systems that are no longer desirable but are kept around for backwards compatibility, using up the fundamentally limited resource of EM bandwidth with gross inefficiency. It would be far more efficient might actually be CHEAPER if the government were to step in, set up a couple of modern standards for local and long-range one-way and two-way communication (perhaps using 802.11 [slashdot.org] or UWB [slashdot.org], and satellites, Metropolitan Area Networks, and ad-hoc adaptive wireless networks using directional antenna), and subsidize the transition for all households. Just think how much bandwidth you could free up for communication if you eliminated the TV and radio bands and delivered those via satellite instead.

  • by Restil ( 31903 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @03:10PM (#2844261) Homepage
    This is probably the biggest issue. People aren't eating up broadband in droves because simply there just aren't that many legitimate needs for it.

    Note I point out "legitimate". I know of plenty illegitimate uses for broadband which would be difficult if not impossible without it. Excessive mp3 downloading, movies, tv shows, software. Broadband makes these activities simple.

    The problem is, because of the RIAA and MPAA and others' stalling, these services simply aren't offered in a way that makes any sense, and those of us who have the means would rather do it our own way, even if that means that the feetdraggers miss out on the opportunity.

    Granted, not everyone who has broadband is using it illegally. A lot of people like the always-on capability. A lot of people like their webpages loading super fast. But fact of the matter is, most of those people don't NEED it. Its merely a convienence, and they wouldn't hesitate to move somewhere that it isn't available, where thats the first question I ask after "how much does it cost?"

    -Restil

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