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Baby Bells Victorious Over Sharing Rules 312

An Anonymous Coward sent in somewhat troubling news for people who like high-speed internet access at reasonable prices: the Baby Bells have won their legal challenge of FCC rules requiring them to accomodate competitors providing high-speed internet access. The FCC has already been moving toward this on its own (the FCC is headed by political appointees appointed by the President), but this court decision will accelerate it: neither the current FCC nor the courts are going to stop the Bells from squeezing out their competition. There's a CNet story and the decision is online.
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Baby Bells Victorious Over Sharing Rules

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  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:14PM (#3581025) Homepage
    BellSouth, Verizon and SBC Communications hailed the decision as conforming with FCC Chairman Michael Powell's plans for the industry.

    Powell's job must be so easy - just let the market decide! Then take a nap. If anything really important comes up ask Dad in the State Dept, he'll know what to do.

  • I think companies here in North America still have a lot to learn about cooperation as a method of business. I mean, we have incompatible cell phone standards, lots of proprietary interfaces, etc. The real value in any economy comes from trade - which is basically different things interacting. The more we create closed off little worlds, the worse we do, and yet it seems that's all North American businesses are interested in these days!

    Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon []
    • "I think companies here in North America still have a lot to learn about cooperation as a method of business."

      I think they know how to co-operate all too well. Just look at the RIAA or the MPAA. Price fixing, ripping off artists... etc.
    • Last time I checked, you and I live in a Capitalist society, not Socialist...

      Businesses aren't supposed to cooperate, they are supposed to compete, and to the victor goes the spoils. You build a product, I build a product, and the consumer chooses which one they like, and the loser either comes up with a BETTER alternative or goes out of business.

      The problem with modern society is that the losers are refusing to sit down and, well, lose. These cable providers are providing CRAPPY service at high rates, yet you all complain because the little fish might get gobbled by a big fish, a big company who DOES have the resources to provide a standard interface at low bulk prices.
  • In Ontario at least you don't have to get your DSL through the phone company.
    In larger areas you can choose from cable or DSL through either hte phone co or someone else.
  • by donnacha ( 161610 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:17PM (#3581039) Homepage

    "...troubling news for people who like high-speed internet access at reasonable prices..."

    It's also bads news for freedom of speech

    Whereas in a competitive environment ISPs can compete for savvy customers by touting their lack of restrictive practices (such as server-side censorship software that eliminates client-side choice), now they'll be more worried about not offending the big-hitters like the Christian lobbying groups who have the Washington-level power to disrupt their cosy monopolies.

  • In Lexington, KY, my only options for broadband are Verizon DSL or Insight cable. So I'm already locked in. I would have dumped Verizon had Insight not changed its cable modem service to DHCP only. That makes hosting from home a lot tougher.

    Fortunately, I've been able to run with a local ISP,, on top of that DSL line. They're top drawer. Call their office and you get a technically proficient human being. You all know well enough what Verizon is like...

    This sucks, but not as bad has shutting out a local ISP. The day I have to sign up Verizon as my ISP is the day I move to the China moonbase.

    • by SaDan ( 81097 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:37PM (#3581146) Homepage
      Try Qwest. They lie about everything, make you wait forever for anything to get accomplished, and their billing department has to rival the IRS when it comes to complexity of an organization.

      I've had Verizon (DSL, home phone, still have Verizon Wireless). I've had Qwest (DSL, home phone). I had good service from Verizon, and most definately did NOT from Qwest.

      As soon as AT&T digital cable is rolled out in my area, I'm dumping my landline and going with AT&T phone service over cable. Qwest will not get another cent from me, ever again.

      It's a shame Qwest won't have to share their lines... Anything to make those bastards work for their money is fine with me.
      • I hope Qwest dies of gonorrhea and burns in hell.

        I've had several service snafus with Qwest, and it boggled my mind that every single person I talked too was as incompetant as they were. And, in the end, I was horribly ripped off.

        Unfortunately, the broadband in the neighborhood (AT&T cable modem service is available 3 or 4 blocks down the road) is Qwest copper...and they won't let you have DSL if you're not a Qwest phone customer.

        If you have a choice, never, never give Qwest a dime.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:18PM (#3581049)
    Powell's strategy at the FCC has been to basically accept that cable and phone companies have de facto monopolies, and to allow them to work unfettered without having to subsidize their competitors.

    Comeptition is reduced, but it is his opinion that progress will occur more rapidly nonetheless. It is certainly true that PacBell was in no rush to distribute new equipment and services that would enrich Covad (hence the "cancellation of Project Pronto).

  • Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkusH ( 198450 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:19PM (#3581062)
    If a person or group of people wanted to set up their own broadband wiring throughout a small town, what would be necessary?

    I'm not talking about the physical components (the wiring, the routers, etc). Are there any legal requirements that have to be met? Do you need to get eminent domain to run over (or under) roads, or simply get permission from the land owners? Is there any way we can bypass the bells entirely?
    • There are various wireless networking projects going on throughout the country. Start one up.

      If you have a home owners association try and see if you can set up a meeting for a community intranet or something.

      There are a few (and i mean few) books on building wireless communities on amazon, I think slashdot ran a review of one of them but im too lazy to check.
    • You have to talk to each city/township/county/state individually. And note that not just one of the above, you may have to convince several to let you through. Many cities granted a cable company a limitless cable monopoly if they would bring cable in, and internet might apply to that grant, depending on the lawyers.

      Fortunatly there is wireless compitition in all areas for both cable (satalite and VHF/UHF) and phone (cell). Internet also has some compitition, but it remains to be seen how much. (cell modems are not broadband today, but your have 802.11, cable, DSL, and satalite for compition) Federal regulations make it illegal for a town to prevent you from putting up satalite dishes. (often towns make it difficult though) 802.11 antennas can often be hidden.

      Your best bet if you want to compete with the local monopolies is wireless. Copper is expensive, and breaks even after it is in the ground. Wireless is cheaper (once you buy the license if applicaable)

    • You need to coax whatever pesky government beurocracy covers utilities in your area.

      You see, it is the government that is the roadblock here, not the corporations. The government (pick a level) has the final authority, not any corporation.

      Folks can shout all they want about "secret" payoffs, purchase of politicians, et. etc, but the bottom line is the politicians can ignore the business folks, just like they did with Enron. Noooo, not the Enron myth, what happened for real. Note the Enron is bankrupt now, no larger a bazillion dollar firm. If they really got any meaningful help they would still be a huge firm.

      Bottom line is, the government made the decision in this article and they would also call the shots on the utility that you theorize too.
      • Note the Enron is bankrupt now, no larger a bazillion dollar firm. If they really got any meaningful help they would still be a huge firm.

        Note that the top Enron execs made out like bandits. If they had really received no help, they probably would have lost their shirts too. The only help they needed was to delay the news long enough for them to cash out.

    • It's not going to be cost effective to run your own wire. Even for a point-to-point connection you're probably talking millions of dollars in permits, wire, and labor (unless you fancy digging trenches yourself).

      This is exactly what the ruling is about... The phone companies (or the ILECs -- Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers) own the lines. Unless you run your own copper, you have to deal with them if you want to roll your own bandwidth.

      Except maybe Wireless Community Freenets []?! That's what I'm betting on...

      • Yes it could be cost effective because you would be able to sell phone services.

        The problem is that you will never be able to get the permits/approval to run your own wire. The market is closed to any newcommers. It does not matter how much money you have because you will never get the permit.

        • Sure you could sell phone service, but that won't be enough to recoup your costs when you're attempting to compete against a well entrenched competitor. The Bells never would have made it if they hadn't been handed a monopoly over service.

  • Duh. But seriously, the courts broke up the bells for a reason, and it wasn't so they could be all bought out into a monopoly again. Forcing 3rd parties to lease their networks will kill the 3rd parties.

    Competition will be destroyed. This could easily lead to a situation within a year that leaves SBC/Verizon as the only dsl carriers, and only 2-3 overpriced cable carriers for the nation.
    • But seriously, the courts broke up the bells for a reason, and it wasn't so they could be all bought out into a monopoly again.

      Yes, that reason was that the Bell system asked to no longer be a regulated monopoly utility. The breakup was part of the remedy.

      Granted, the breakup was not so they could reform and be an unregulated utility and they were resricted from certain business areas until competition took hold, but if they prove enough competition is out there they do not have to become a monopoly-regulated utility any more either.
  • The problem is.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RailGunner ( 554645 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:22PM (#3581073) Journal
    That technically the Bells own the wiring. In fact, there was a time when the copper in the wiring was worth more than AT(and)T! Someone could have conceivably bought AT(and)T in that time, dug up the wiring, sold the copper, and turned a profit.

    But the point is - the telecoms own the wiring from the switch to your house. Why should government dictate what the owner of that wire has to do with it? Allowing other DSL providers to use that infrastructure is going to cost the Bells money. So I really feel that the court is correct in this matter.

    However, I don't want to pay exhorbitant amounts of money for my DSL line. And I think the way to do this is to offer a true competitor.. maybe it's the cable companies and cable modems, maybe its 802.11 wireless, maybe it's satellite transmission, maybe it's something that hasn't even been thought up yet, but there will be a competitor.

    And I don't think this is a monopoly any more then I think DISH Network is after buying Direct TV.. they still have to compete with cable companies.. much the same way DSL is still going to have to compete with cable modems, etc. They're selling broadband access, and there will be multiple ways to get it.

    This court decision is not the end of the world, folks.

    Now I just have to prepare myself to be modded down.. ;)

    • by Telastyn ( 206146 )
      No, it is not, but there will not be a competitor for a few years. How long do you think it'll take to lay a few million feet of cable/wire, even if a mythical company existed that could afford it? Or to send up enough satellites or towers to do wireless?

      By then it is too late. The bells will have all the customers, or countries with more foresight (Canada?) will have passed the US by.

      It is not the end of the world, but it's likely the end of US leading the way.
      • > No, it is not, but there will not be a competitor for a few years.

        there already is competition. I have high speed broadband (2048/384k) and i dont buy from a bell. Where i live i have a choice from DSL, Cable and Satelite.

        > How long do you think it'll take to lay a few million feet of cable/wire,

        my guess is that the wire is already in the ground, seeing as how i (and many many other people) are getting high speed connections that arent through DSL.

        > even if a mythical company existed that could afford it?

        is $45/month affordable for you? it is for me.
        • Do you think cable will stay at $45/month if they don't need to compete with non-bell dsl?

          Do you think that's really 2048/384 on a cable or satellite?

          Don't think that if you don't have dsl you're safe from the repercussions of this ruling (if it stands)
          • my 2048/384 is on cable, time warner austin. Thats the speed my cable modem tells me i'm capped at, and the speeds i actually get. apt-get dist-upgrading with 250kB/s from the debian mirrors at nice. I will admit i get closer to 35kB/s when people are uploading from me, but that is probably due to the fact that i run a couple other things taking up bandwidth, so they dont get all 40kB/s.
        • Does your provider actually own the wires? In my neck of the woods I have a non-Bell DSL provider, but the Bell still owns the wires. With this decision, the chances of my provider sticking around in the face of the Bell deciding it wants to be a jerk about it are about nil.
      • Re:The problem is.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kir ( 583 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @06:30PM (#3581639) Homepage
        It is not the end of the world, but it's likely the end of US leading the way.

        The U.S. hasn't led the way in broadband for a while - Japan has.

        In my area alone (Tokorozawa, which is no megapolis), there exists a ridiculous amount of ADSL providers for me to choose from (ISPs - GOL, BigLobe, SoNet, OCN, YahooBB, etc. "loop" providers" - Eaccess, NTT, ACCA, DION, etc.). Of course, NTT owns the copper to my house, but they get their cut. NTT charges an "access fee" (about 180 yen a month) for the use of the "last mile" copper for something other than telephone service. In total, I pay a little under $40 a month for 8Mb ADSL (<=8Mb down, <=1Mb up).

        Then there is cable TV access... oh yeah... and a huge initiative that's coming to my area soon... FTTH - Fiber To The Home. 100Mbs of broadband lovin (too bad about them bottlenecks).

        Broadband internet access has become like telephone or cable TV service... it's just something you have. I don't know anyone here, none of my friends, none of my co-workers*, that doesn't have some form of broadband.

        From what I read here and from talking with friends in the States, quality broadband is hard to find. It's definitely more expensive. It's sad that I live in arguably the most expensive country in the world, yet I pay less for my broadband than anyone I know in America (does 8Mb ADSL even exist there?).

        * Some of my friends live in Yokota AB. That place is NOT Japan. It's little America. The sole ISP there is fully taking advantage of it's monopoly. If you live on the base, you pay $35 a month for 56k dial-up that's limited to 90 hrs a month or you go without, which in today's world, isn't an option when you're thousands of miles away from home. Poor bastards!

    • Re:The problem is.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by billnapier ( 33763 )

      This court decision is not the end of the world, folks.

      It may be if you're a DSL customer. They are using the popularity of cable modem service to indicate that there is enough competition in the high speed internet market to indicate that now anti-monopoly restrictions should be placed on DSL service. In the past, you could get DSL from Covad (or somebody else) because the FCC foreced the ILEC's to open up the unused frequencies of the local loop to CLEC use. It sounds like the FCC is going to be forced to change their mind on this matter and will no longer have to allow CLEC's access to the non-voice portion of the local loop.

      It sounds like if you want to get DSL service from sombody besides your local RBOC, you'll need to completly change local providers (ie. you new local provider would have full access to the local loop (all frequencies) and they could offer you DSL service). Anybody else have a different interpretation?

    • Why should government dictate what the owner of that wire has to do with it?

      Because the government dictated that in exchage, that company is the only company that gets to run a wire to your house to provide cable or phone services. That's what a monopoly is. We hoped that the monopoly would be benevolent, but, then we found that they weren't, so we de-regulated, and found that without rules, they wouldn't play nice anyway. So, it's back to the not-quite benevolent monopolies.

      Most places get 3 wires and 2 pipes to their house. Phone, Cable, Electric, Gas, and Water, but only one company really gets to provide the services for each of these.
    • While the Baby Bells own the last mile to the customer they own the cables because the states where they operate allowed AT&T to have a Monopoly on the telephone infrastructure. This monopoly was granted to avoid the requirement for multiple incompatible telephone competitors in each market and in return the state/local government got to regulate the industry.

      So while the Baby Bells own the copper wire that connects the customer to the central office that copper was installed under monopoly conditions, and in return for regulation. Now that the regulators are trying to restore competition they are attempting to balance the head start that the Baby Bells got using the government granted monopoly with equal access to facilities. If the Baby Bells (or their parent AT&T) got a leg up to enter the market place (i.e. the monopoly) why shouldn't the competitors get access to that infrastructure during the transition period to even the playing field.

      I think a better way to handle all of this is to move the last mile assets into a wholesale infrastructure company and make both the Baby Bells and the new competitors pay to access the last mile.
    • Well here is where I have to agree. We should dismantel the FCC and allow anyone who wishes to run their own cable/line to do so.

      Their is no need to interconnect telcos. As a metter of fact long distance carriers should not have to provide service to Baby Bells they should run their own wire for long distance to the home.

      The Baby bells should create their own network for long distance.

    • Re:The problem is.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by flatrock ( 79357 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:52PM (#3581243)
      That technically the Bells own the wiring.

      Technically this is true, but it's not that simple. Bell telephone was granted a monopoly by the government. They were given exclusive rights to porvide telephone service to people. In exchange for that monopoly, they had to accept government oversight of how that monopoly is used. When you went to have telephone service hooked up at your house you didn't have a choice who's wiring used. The government granted exclusive rights to one company to run that wiring to your house. This servers a purpose in that you don't want dozens of companies putting up telephone poles and runnign wires everywhere.

      The Bells do own the wiring, but how they can use that wiring is regulated by the FCC. The government can't just take the wiring away from them, but it can tell them they have to share. If they refuse to share, I would assume that the govenment could fine them or even force them to sell the wiring.

      As other options become available such as wireless or options over cable TV networks, the monopoly of the telephone company becomes less important. Because of this it may be reasonable to give the Bells more leeway so that they can compete with other technologies. The problem is that from what I've seen, some of them make Microsoft seem like a team player.
    • They should have to share for the same reason that they need to share the phone lines with competitors, for the same reason cable companies have to allow competitors to sell cable, and power companies have to allow competing companies to sell you power. Its a utility, and that changes all the rules.

      Imagine if every new company had to dig up the whole damn city to install their infrastructure.

    • Who marked this guy as insightfull? He sounds like a stock owner to me :D Companies like telco, gas, power, etc are called "natural monopolies". In exchange for the government allowing thim to have this natural monopoly, they are supposed to accept regulation and such ...

      Do you remember before long distance de-regulation paying 40c/min to call then next city over? I sure do. A call from Hemet, CA to Riverside, CA cost 40c a minute. In alot of cases it was cheaper for me to *drive* the 30 miles (2$ worth of gas round trip) round to talk then talk on the phone for 5 minutes. Now the calls cost like 7c ... thats deregulation. I already pay *50* bucks a month for the base DSL package from Verizon, the service is awfull, tech support is a joke, and half the time the thing dosen't work. Allowing them to be the only company offering DSL isn't gonna help.

      • Sorry, I don't own any stock. Yet...

        Look, I am a free market capitalist. And I'm not crazy about there being only one service provider in town - but that's just it - there isn't. If Bell pisses me off then I'll call the local cable company and get a cable modem. If that doesn't work then I'll take a hard long look at wireless providers. I really think a lot of us are making a mountain out of this molehill.

        I also see a HUGE business opportunity for an alternative broadband connection. Especially if it's cheaper then DSL / Cable... 802.11 may be it, it may be something else.

        • .. because you are obviously very young and VERY naive.

          As others posted, the Baby Bells were GRANTED monopolies. The huge opportunity is already there.. allow others to give you broadband over land lines. DSL/Cable is expensive because each carrier has a defacto GOVERNMENT enforced monopoly.
    • technically the Bells own the wiring

      Technically I rent that wiring. Shouldn't I have a choice has to who provides my service at the other end?

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @06:41PM (#3581690) Homepage Journal

      That technically the Bells own the wiring.

      There are two strong mitigating factors. First, they were granted the special privilege of being a monopoly, and two, they were granted the special privilege of mandated right of way.

      If they wish to be freed of the special conditions that went with those two valuable grants, they should be freed of the grants as well.

      Imagine if they had to pay property owners if they needed to dig up the yard for repairs! For that matter, if they were forced to pay yearly rent for the right to bury wires on people's private property!

      Yes, they would go bankrupt overnight, and yes, that would be bad for everyone.

      So perhaps a compromise is in order? They get to leave their lines buried on my property and I won't shoot them as trespassers if they have to do some digging for repairs, BUT I get to use a portion of them (one pair to be specific) to connect to someone elses DSLAM if I want to. Just to sweeten the deal, I will pay them a reasonable monthly fee to be my telephone provider.

      Otherwise, they should come and get their wires out of my yard before I declare them to be abandoned and remove them myself.

      In other words, the people have cut them slack (through the government) since day 1, they could at least do the same in return.

  • by mqatrombone ( 306870 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:22PM (#3581076)
    Why should the baby bells have to provide the infrastructure for their competition? This decision is actually better in the long term. In case you haven't noticed, customer service has gone way down since the bells were forced to open their phone lines up. What happens when an entire neighborhood no longer uses a bell? Why shouldn't bell just pull out of that neighborhood and no longer support those lines? Then what happens? Yep, the company leasing the lines can't help the customers because they don't know what they're doing or they don't have the knowledge the bells do of the system in place.
    Broadband suffers from the same thing. If you want cheap broadband, wait 20 years. If you want high speed access now, expect (and be willing to pay). And if you want competition, then be willing to pay higher (should be only to begin with) prices while infrastructure is being laid. The baby bells should not be required to lay the infrastructure for their competition. If someone wants to compete, that's fine, but they should also be willing to put down the money required and set up their own infrastructure, instead of trying to build on top of the bells' hard work.
  • The court also overturned a 1999 rule that required the dominant carriers to share a portion of a local line into a home so that the customer could have a different provider for DSL (digital subscriber line) service, but keep their local telephone provider.

    I wonder how often the existing line was suitable for DSL anyway. Didn't seem like it was the case in SNET country, anyway. If they are saying that you have to run a separate copper line, that's not such a big deal except that I expect that, in areas where they can get away with it, bells charge a lot more for a second line that will be used for DSL than they do for one that will be used for POTS, even if they would be conditioned the same in either case

    "The commission's own findings repeatedly confirm both the robust competition and the dominance of cable in the broadband market," Williams said.

    So they are trying to look at the total competition picture rather than just DSL vs. DSL. Probably a good idea. The problem with all this is that telcos have all kinds of weird deals with state and local gov'ts for what can be provided, etc. There are all kinds of unintended consequences whenever changes are made that end up muddying the waters. Sucks. It also sucks a lot to have to depend on your competitor for your service to work. As long as the bells get to own the wires and sell networking that runs on the wires, providing DSL will be messy.

  • competition? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:25PM (#3581090) Homepage Journal
    completely failed to consider the relevance of competition in broadband services coming from cable (and to a lesser extent satellite). We agree.

    Cable is absolutely NO competition for DSL. My requirement was

    1) static IP
    2) low price
    3) allows servers. I run mail and http servers.

    My directtvdsl is $49 a month with a static IP. If they take this away, I'm screwed. I'll have to pay a bundle to get the same service from the phone company.

    • My directtvdsl is $49 a month with a static IP.

      I _had_ for $72 per month... now the same level of service with the regional bell costs me $178 per month... for less bandwith.
    • The requirements you list have nothing to do with the underlying technology and everything to do with the policies of your ISP. Cable ISP's tend to be more fascist about servers and statics, but that's not because of any intrinsic flaw in the technology.

      The point is that most users in most areas have a choice between cable and DSL, and those that don't are likely to get that choice soon. The fact that a few people with niche requirements (and I'm sorry, but static IP and running servers are niche requirements for home broadband) don't have multiple choices doesn't necessarily prove that the market's uncompetitive. DSL and cable both serve the average consumer quite well, and so it seems to me that this is enough competition to falsify the claim that heavy-handed regulation is needed to combat the lack of consumer choice.
      • If the Bells weren't being handed their monopoly back, the whole market could be served because niche providers would pop up to serve those with needs greater than the Bells can meet. The fact that this will no longer happen proves that competition is not sufficient, and it's obviously due to the fact that the Bells control the copper. They city should control the copper and all comers should be allowed to provide service over it. Anything else would be stupid.

    • No cable ISP that I know of allows any kind of commercial use of their facilities. Contrary to what some of the above posters may think, some of the reasons are technical, going back to the infamous "shared bandwidth" issue. With the lack of competition from DSL, I don't see this changing any time soon.

      There are other issues. If the rule is changed substantially where I live, I will be forced to go with MSN as my ISP, something I really don't want. If somehow the rules still allow competition on dry lines, then I suppose I could drop my voice service and only use cell for that. Gee, that would mean I wouldn't ever get a QWorst bill again ;-).
    • Cable was no competition for cable *for you*. That means two things:

      1) You needed the specific features. Some people do not. In that case, cable is competition for DSL.

      2) Where you are, cable does not offer static IP or the ability to run servers. That is not a limitation of IP over cable, but rather policy set by your local cable company.

      In other words, you are making generalizations based on *your* specific case.

      Are the moderators on crack for marking this Insightful?

      I still see very little reason for people to run http servers off of what should be basic access. Quite a few DSL and cable companies throw in server space with the deal to keep people from doing this.

      The ability to say "Hey, I am running my own server" does not justify it.

      If there is some actual commerical or hobby need for it, I am positive that a dedicated server (either co-lo'ed or shared) would be a much better idea.
  • One of the biggest barriers of bringing DSL to my community (other than it's small size) is the fact that after investing a rather large chunk of capital in equipment, the phone company would have to share access to competitors.

    I'm all for competition, but when that very competition is delaying rollout by years, I see this as a partial win.

    For those who already have the access they want, they probably have options such as DSL and Cable, and maybe even Wireless. I have none of those. When the phone company already has to compete with Cable and Wireless, they won't even enter a market when they have to make the investment in equipment that other get to use to add to the level of competition.
  • by teambpsi ( 307527 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:33PM (#3581130) Homepage
    This is really troubling. As an ISP in QWEST territory it might spell trouble for us in terms of the Internet service we provide to our clients.

    All they have to do is declare us a competitor instead of a client, and poof! there it goes.

    Furthermore, lets not forget that the BELLS get huge tax breaks and subsidies to build out the wiring to provide service.

    All those Universal Service Fee's we pay on our lines to help make sure that EVERYONE gets phone service.

    I think to some extent that this will eventually get challenged and reversed. Much in the same way MCI and Sprint and the cast of THOUSANDS of small long distance providers have the right to serve your LD needs on your ILEC provided lines, so should the physical plant be open as well.

    Of course, you're getting this IMHO from a guy that thinks the cable companies should be open as well, given THEIR tax breaks etc.

    Then again, this might help force Neighborhood Wireless Access Points to more of a real thing....then again we have other special-interest-group-companies that want to block up the airwaves and control them. Anyone remember XM's challenge to 802.11 that got essentially rejected?

    </flame off>

  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:37PM (#3581148)

    The obvious answer is just move to cable, since cable companies want to provide phone service you should be able to choose who gives better service. Now if cable companies weren't even more evil that the worst baby bell.

    Still, it is worth your while to keep checking out the compitition. If the bells see everyone switching to cable modems and cell phones they will respond (eventially). There are local 802.11 (and other licensed band are possible) networks to connect to. Satalite works great for some people.

    Remember, you can turn this into a non-issue, but only if you tell everyone you know that there are options and they should check out cell phones (my cell phone is more talk time then I need, free long distance all for what a land line would be.) Cable is trying to get into the phone market. Let everyone blindly use the phone company, and the phone company has won. Tell people to compare service, and the phone company will start losing. Not everyone, but enough to affect the bottom line, and that is what will bring service to your neighborhood.

  • by yzquxnet ( 133355 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:37PM (#3581153) Homepage
    How would competition and QOS differ if instead of the phone company owning the wire, the consumer was able to buy that last stretch of cable to your home. Ignoring all bad factors such as having to replace a crappy cable yourself. What would the benefits be? You would be able to dictate what you wanted to run on the cable, who you wanted to run it and a variety of other things. People who want to replace their cables with optics could hire an 3rd party to replace their cable for them. Instead of hasseling with the phone company. Who more than likely won't replace your cable unless your whole neighbor needs replacing. People who want the good stuff can get it and those content with shitty copper can still have it.

    Am I off my rocker or is there something to this?
    • In Illinois, when you pay to have a line installed, you bought the local loop(s) for however many pair they charged you to drop. I think the subloop (pole to your house) can be claimed by you. The rest of the loop is a grey area owned mostly by the phone company, but held in public trust by the charter granted to the phone company.

      Can anyone refute/substantiate this?

      • Re:Halfway there (Score:2, Informative)

        by bwohlgemuth ( 182897 )
        In Illinois, when you pay to have a line installed, you bought the local loop(s) for however many pair they charged you to drop. I think the subloop (pole to your house) can be claimed by you. The rest of the loop is a grey area owned mostly by the phone company, but held in public trust by the charter granted to the phone company.

        Umm, no. The ILEC (usually) owns the pole, the wire to your house, and the little box on the wall on the outside of the house (called a demarc). You connect your wiring to that box. That's why when a tree knocks down the wire after a storm, you don't get a bill for $3,000.


  • Note Covad's stock dropping 12.5% on this announcement, their days must truly be numbered now...

    Also note the previous weeks price erosion (no doubt the cronies running the FCC/judiciary getting friends & family to sell short before the press release...). Why oh why can't I be a crooked public official on the corporate payroll!?!? :-(
  • ADCo (Score:2, Informative)

    Maybe this might encourage someone to start up an ADCo [] or maybe 802.11 [] will create some more competition.

    I'm just glad I live in Canada where I have the choice between 3 different DSL providers or cable at about $35US/month. It seems like the states has really fumbled the ball when it comes to providing high speed Internet to everyone. The FCC should be creating more competition not less.

  • Some background on Michael Powell's "strategy":

    The Media Borg's Man in Washington []

    Their Man in Washington []

  • Which is interesting, since "free trade" was a key part of his election platform. Since getting into office, he's slapped tariffs on steel, signed a huge farm-subsidy bill, and made a bunch of other dumb decisions which benefit the people who funded his campaign at the expense of free trade and fair competition. This move is just another drop in the bucket.
    • I always wondered what would happen if a politican accepted all that money from people and then just turned around and did what they wanted to. It's not like they have a binding contract to make something a law because someone gave them money. Might not be able to get funds the second time around, but it's still worth a try.
      • actually, this happens quite abit.
        they use to say to Jr Senators:
        "If you can't take there money, drink there licquer, and fuck there women, then vote against them, you are in the wrong line of work."
  • by aphor ( 99965 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:48PM (#3581218) Journal

    Unless I'm reading this wrong, you don't have to worry unless you have only one pair of telephone wires run to your house/office. The decision says it removes the "line sharing" stuff from a list of services that must be offered to CLECs without bundling. This is that the phone company can deny CLECs access to the loop already providing your voice phone service. They hinted at, but ultimately balked at deciding to throw out the whole unbundled service mandate list. It looks to me that Covad can demand a local loop to your house if there is a dry one available. Go to your box and find out how many pair you have!

    Accordingly, the Line Sharing Order must be vacated and remanded. Obviously any order unbundling the high frequency portion of the loop should also not be tainted by the sort of error identified in our discussion of the Local Competition Order and identified by petitioners here as well.

    Petitioners also claim that the Commission without explanation reversed a prior decision that a portion of the spectrum of a loop cannot qualify as a "network element." The Commission urges that any language suggesting such a view is explicable as simply reflecting a judgment on technical feasibility, which it here reversed on the basis of a reexamination of the facts. Line Sharing Order, 14 FCC Rcd at 20942-43, p 63. We think the Commission's view is convincing.

  • Bad news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by willmc ( 167287 )
    I know for a fact that this is really bad news for the city that I live in. Sprint owns all the phone lines here, and are notorious amongst local residents and (especially) businesses for being extraordinarily slow (as long as weeks) making installations and repairs. While Sprint does offer DSL in town, they masquerade IPs and have rather unreliable speeds. A regional telco exists that provides almost flawless service (less than an hour of downtime in the past two years) and gives you real IPs so that us geeks can operate servers and other nonsense on them. Suddenly, it appears as if this telco may no longer be able to service us and we'll have no comparable alternative to it.

    When I signed up for their service, they had me a modem at my house and another ready on their end within 24 hours. I then sat for nearly THREE MONTHS waiting for Sprint to get off its ass and turn over the phone line, which as I understand it is a completely computerized process that requires almost no effort on their part. Sprint wouldn't talk to me because I wasn't technically a customer (the other telco was, they said) and all the other telco could do was keep asking them over and over to turn over the line. Finally, after running around in circles for months I had a lawyer friend of mine fax them a letter threatening legal action, whereupon the line was turned over less than 24 hours after sending the fax.

    Since then, the wait hasn't been as long, though it's still generally between two and three weeks, which is unreasonably long for a 5-minute (if that) action. I can't imagine what it would be like here if Sprint wasn't even forced into competition with this other telco.
  • I'm all for competition, but it seems to me that the flavor of "competition" these rules were designed for foster is an awfully strange beast. I can't think of any other industry where the larger firms are required to share their facilities with smaller competitors.

    I think the basic problem with this approach is that someone has to decide what a "reasonable" price for access to Baby Bell lines is. If that price is too high, baby bells will be able to undercut them and they'll get driven out of business. However, if the price is set below the market rate, then the upstarts will forever be living parasitically off the efforts of the local Baby Bell, and will never have any incentive to build infrastructure of their own. As a result, the "competition" between the Baby Bell and the upstart competitors will be fought in the political arena over access to shared resources, rather than any sort of competition in the open market.

    What ought to be happening is upstarts should be putting their own coax or fiber in the ground. Then there'd be no issue of who has to share their lines with whom. The problem is that state and local governments make this almost impossible, by signing exclusive contracts with a single cable or phone company and giving that company a de facto monopoly. Clearly all the regulatory hurdles to start a competing network is all but impossible.

    It seems to me that the efforts of the geek community should be aimed at breaking down those political obstacles to new development, not taking sides in the pointless battle over how much the Baby Bells should have to "share" their facilities with competitors. As long as such "sharing" is the basis for competition, the Baby Bells will continue to dominate the market, and competing carriers will continue to place their stock in lobbying for more "access" to the entrenched monopoly's facilities rather than focusing on building competing infrastructure.
    • Actually, I think that multiple sets of coax/fiber/etc lines is counterproductive.

      What we really need is to seperate the people who put the wire in the ground from the people who offer service on said wires. This creates an environment that preserves freedom of service (i.e. the ability for you to choose Speakeasy instead of the mass-market ISP you get by default) while not forcing the ILECs to aide their competitors. Plus you give the wiring providers an incentive to offer fiber to the curb, etc.
      • If you separate the provider of the wire from the provider of the signal on the wire (and prohibit the wire provider from being in the signal providing business), then any time there's anything wrong, won't each blame the other, just like when the software company blames your hardware and the hardware company blames your software?

        Of course if the wire provider is also in the signal business (phone company, cable company, electricity company), then they will have an incentive to make sure that the wire works so that they can sell the signal, but only as long as you are buying the signal from them and not from some other signal selling company.

    • what you have here is a "natural monopoly". The thing is that you dont really need to have incentives for others to make their own infrastructure. Making ionfrastructure is very expensive, and doubling would just be an enourmous waste.

      You just need companies to compete over the quality and price of services over this infrastructure.

      Such an arrangement is not as strange as you say. It often happens with natural monopolies. for example when the electrticity market was being deregulated nobody seriously suggested that different power companies should build different powerlines.

    • Wow, just what I want. My road being dug up several times a year as upstart telecom. companies go in and out of business.
  • Let's get rid of the *rest* of the 1996 TCRA.
  • but this will most assuredly go to the Supreme Court. No way will this be allowed to stand without a fight.
  • here's a solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mqatrombone ( 306870 )
    government should own the landlines. kinda the same way they own the roads. most people would consider telephone/broadband wiring essential infrastructure nowadays. So why don't we have the government treat it as a utility and the different companies compete for repair and lease rights?
    • by Insanity ( 26758 )
      I would take the worst commercial monopoly over government control any day. A government organization would make the telco's look like friendly and efficient organizations. The enormous overhead would result in higher prices: if not directly, then through taxes.

      If govt were to own the wiring, the quality of service would vary from year to year depending on how much tax money is diverted to the War on Something. There are a lot of roads in fair or poor condition around the country, but at least a road is still a road, even if it's a bit rough. DSL or cable, on the other hand, just doesn't work if the lines aren't in near-perfect condition.

      Finally, I can think of no justification for siezing control of billions of dollars in wiring from the company that laid it. Regulating a business is one thing, taking all of its assets is another entirely.

      Phone lines are a natural monopoly, we just have to accept that. Any attempt at forcing competition is artificial and thus doomed to failure. The same can be said of power and gas distribution. One need look no further than Caliornia to see the spectacular failure of unnatural competition, and if you consider the slow growth and unreliable nature of DSL under this system, it too is an example of a large-scale failure.

      To reiterate: phone lines are a *natural* monopoly, and if you think about it, the idea of competition is completely absurd. The only solution is regulation of the kind that is currently done for standard voice lines.
  • What's really needed is for the phone-lines and cable-lines to be opened up. Cable companies should be forced to share their cable lines just the same as should phone companies.

    These organizations were granted monopolies by the government. They would not own all of the lines if the government hadn't granted them monopolies. So, yes, the government does have the right to regulate tehm.

    Lawrence Lessig really has the right idea on this. Law-makers on Capital Hill and these pin-head judges who keep on issuing backwards decisions should listen to him.
  • Yes the phone companies own the wires. HOWEVER.

    Using precisely the arguments which won this case the regional Bells can now put every other dial up ISP out of business. You will use your local Bell for your dial up or you can kiss your internet connection good bye. Since AOL etc. are dial up ISP's they're gone too. We'll shortly be back to the days of "We're the phone company - we don't care, we don't have to."

    The free market breaks down when you are dealing with a monopoly because - by definition - there is no competition to keep them in line.

    This is blindingly obvious - but somehow that point seems to elude most people's mental grasp.

    No structure created by mankind reaches to infinity, and that includes the idea of a free market. There are boundary conditions under which the free market breaks down and becomes destructive; it is important to understand what those failure conditions are.

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan