Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
The Internet

The Coming Internet Monopolies 371

scrm writes "'The Federal Communications Commission is quietly handing over control of the broadband Internet to a handful of massive corporations according to this Salon article." Very important stuff; Slashdot has covered this before, but this is a great article which sums up everything that has gone on over the past few years.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Coming Internet Monopolies

Comments Filter:
  • about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tps12 ( 105590 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @08:33AM (#3659029) Homepage Journal
    I prefer the Internet be controlled by a couple greedy corporations that by a single greedy government with armed forces to back it up.

    Call me paranoid, but I'm sticking with Linux, where I know I'm secure.
    • Re:about time (Score:3, Insightful)

      I prefer the Internet be controlled by a couple greedy corporations that by a single greedy government with armed forces to back it up.

      I am not so sure about that. At least in a democratic society you can vote what your government does with such resources. When things get handed to a corporation you can only vote if your wallet is big enough. If you don't think corporations don't have armed forces, then you have never met an angry hord of lawyers ;)
      • by DEBEDb ( 456706 )
        When things get handed to a corporation you can only vote if your wallet is big enough.

        s/corporation/Congress/

      • Re:about time (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sql*kitten ( 1359 )
        When things get handed to a corporation you can only vote if your wallet is big enough

        I think you will find that corporations are far more answerable to customers and even small shareholders than governments are to voters.

        You "vote" every time you do business with a company - or choose not to. McDonalds and Starbucks are popular because lots of people freely choose to spend their money there. If people decide en masse not to do business with McDonalds, there's nothing they can do, they'll simply go bankrupt. If lots of people decide they don't want their government... well, ask the good "citizens" of Syria or Cuba what happens then.

        You get to vote for your government every 4 years. Once they're in, 4 years is long term. Corporations, on the other hand, have to keep you happy every day, forever. Corporations, especially these days when brands are so important, are massively concerned with what people think of them, and if they're unpopular, they'll change. Governments know that no matter what they do, they'll get back into power eventually.

        If you don't think corporations don't have armed forces, then you have never met an angry hord of lawyers

        I've never heard of lawyers physically assaulting people and destroying their property. Governments do it all the time.
        • by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:29AM (#3659372)
          So you either pay up, or go without. How many here would actually give up the internet in protest? Round about none I'd wager.
          • How many here would actually give up the internet in protest?

            An interesting question, but how about this one instead:

            How many here would actually give up BROADBAND internet in protest?

            I seriously considered sticking with my narrowband ISP in protest of the madness that's going on in the cable/DSL industry. Yes, I love high bandwidth, but I love the security / stability / competition / freedom that narrowbanders provide a wee bit more. In the end I went with getting a cable modem once it finally reached my suburb, but if I have to drop it in the future to avoid censorship issues and price hikes and copyright baron monitoring... I will.

            The Internet is only as free as the next link up the chain, folks. Be careful who you latch on to.

          • Most of us would much rather create our own new "internet" infrastructure than handle the one we are currently stuck with. Software autorouting radios and other similar advances in the 2.4 and 5GHz bands (with 900MHz long-range support) should soon allow us to create grids independant of both wires and the "internet". Internetworking these grids would be a relatively trivial task, now that it's been done once (Internet). Such grids could run any protocols we see fit, and hopefully we will have the sense to not let another ICANN ocurr.
        • You get to vote for your government every 4 years. Once they're in, 4 years is long term. Corporations, on the other hand, have to keep you happy every day, forever. Corporations, especially these days when brands are so important, are massively concerned with what people think of them, and if they're unpopular, they'll change.

          Oh really? If what you say is true, then please explain to me how microsoft's behaviour is consistent with your argument. If you have time, I would also like to hear how the MPAA and RIAA are concerned with what people think of them, and I am anxiously awaiting them to change for the better...
        • I think you will find that corporations are far more answerable to customers and even small shareholders than governments are to voters.

          You're clearly too young to remember AT&T before deregulation. You couldn't plug anything into a phone socket that they didn't own. The popular variant of their marketing slogans was "AT&T: we don't care, we don't have to."
          • You're clearly too young to remember AT&T before deregulation. You couldn't plug anything into a phone socket that they didn't own. The popular variant of their marketing slogans was "AT&T: we don't care, we don't have to."

            AT&T before deregulation was a government-sanctioned monopoly. You're just proving my point that governments don't need to care what people think about them. After deregulation, AT&T improved drastically, because the market forced them to.

            By definition, a private corporation in competition with other private corporations couldn't have survived behaving that way. Witness the intense competition between and well-staffed call centers of the various mobile telcos.
            • Re:too young (Score:3, Informative)

              by blamanj ( 253811 )
              AT&T before deregulation was a government-sanctioned monopoly.

              AT&T had acheived monopoly status by the 1930's. It chose to submit to a set of business restrictions (primarily other markets, e.g. computers) in order to be allowed to remain a monopoly in 1956. It was hardly a passive entity, before or after.

              By definition, a private corporation in competition with other private corporations couldn't have survived behaving that way.
              By definition, a monopoly isn't in competition, leaving very few mechanisms for "forcing them" to do anything.
        • You "vote" every time you do business with a company - or choose not to. McDonalds and Starbucks are popular because lots of people freely choose to spend their money there. If people decide en masse not to do business with McDonalds, there's nothing they can do, they'll simply go bankrupt
          Or they can change their name to McDonalds.com and get a $1billion VC funding, that way you don't need customers. What a brilliant idea.

          Oh wait...

        • Re:about time (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Beliskner ( 566513 )
          You can mod me to troll for saying this, but at least this happened now when everybody *expects* a free Internet where their daughter can put up a website about ponies and can go into chat rooms and not get heavily censored China-style. Now that the majority of customers expect this product (the free Internet as it is today, just faster in broadband) if you take away this product you will seem totally stupid. What company no matter how big ever pulled their best-selling product? If this had happened a few years ago we'd all expect a padded room-censored Internet.

          FCC - Pandora's box is already open, this is a pitiful attempt to close it. Next time I'll vote Democrat, trouble is I'm not in the US, but anyway they have my karma vote.

      • ... Or you haven't watched enough episodes of Total Recall 2070, Nagel: "We at Recall corporation are performing our own internal investigation. You cops are required to share any information you've found with us."

        Alriiiiight at least the time-old philosophical question is going to be answered within 30 years - Is rule by a handful of megacorporations more or less oppressive than a Communist Government/Dictatorship?

        I get the feeling the FCC ruling isn't that bad, it doesn't affect dial-ups status of Telco-rule-protected so people that *really* want freedom have that alternative. I now expect CDBPPTA to be shelved, there's no need for CDBPPTA compliant routers to replace the existing dumb packet forwarding Cisco/more advanced SONET infrastructure.

    • Me too...linux! Wait, what was the subject again?
    • I prefer the Internet be controlled by a couple greedy corporations that by a single greedy government with armed forces to back it up.

      When the coporations control the government, isn't this just a distinction without a difference?
  • Isn't long distance telephony infrastructure also controlled by a few massive corporations? Equal access carrier laws and preventing a single company from owning the whole thing has fostered enough competition to really hammer AT&T, for instance.
    • Isn't long distance telephony infrastructure also controlled by a few massive corporations? Equal access carrier laws and preventing a single company from owning the whole thing has fostered enough competition to really hammer AT&T, for instance

      Yes, but read the article.

      1. FCC recently ruled that cable companies don't need to make their infrastructure available to competition for broadband purposes. This was discussed on slashdot a while back. This is a horrible decision that should be rescinded, IMO. Local gov'ts generally give cable companies monopoly rights, rights to tear up streets, etc.
      2. FCC is currently considering if equal access applies to DSL over telco lines.
      3. FCC might not require equal access to apply to spectrum-based broadband.


      In order to be a more interesting read , Salon takes a "sky is falling" approach to points 2 and 3.
  • " They warn that if the FCC goes through with its plans, cable companies and the Baby Bells will quickly establish a monopoly on broadband service over their own networks."

    The quote in the article states that this could give the Cable companies a monopoly on broadband.. This I see as bad because there is no compeition (locally) for cable companies. you get what is there, I see it bad for pricing/monitoring

    you get 1 choice of cablemodem (cable company) or 1 choice of DSL (local phone company) or satelite (not great for gaming) and no real competition. Who wants to bet that Innovation in this field is the next to die?

    • More likely this will spur innovation in the wireless field. SO if you have cable and dsl and both are just stagnating with high prices and restrictions it gives another company prime opportunity to come in and sell bett, cheaper wireless access and make a lot of money.
      • Are you sure about that?
        I was wondering about doing an ISP in an area that was a bit removed from a big city in California after I found that Tsunami unlicensed 5Ghz Microwave bridges were only five grand and they claimed they could do forty miles with line of sight.
        So, I had my connection out to this remote community and all I needed was my connection to the fat pipes. Well that should be easy right. The Tsunami model I was looking at used a DS3 connection. So, I googled DS3 in California and found that there's only one source. Hmm, that's right, it's one of these here Baby Bell thingamajigs.
        Well no problem, I was gonna pay for it. I figured I could go up to a thousand bucks a month easy and still make it profitable, maybe even two grand. After all with these 10GbE switches on dark fiber going for just a few grand how much could a measly 60Mbps cost?
        The answer is five thousand bucks a month. I was astonished. How could it be so expensive when ethernet technology had dropped in price so far? The answer is easy and has been rehashed on Slashdot many times. They insist on quality of service QOS for their other services that have nothing to do with ISPs like voice and a bunch of vaporware shit they say is going to make them rich in the future. See, because of this future need to fuck everybody they use only very expensive ATM and Sonet equipment rather than these cheap fiber Ethernet switches we hear so much about.
        It's not quite as simple as wireless is the answer. This is about who controls the backbone.
    • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) <gpooponNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:23AM (#3659331)
      The quote in the article states that this could give the Cable companies a monopoly on broadband.

      Yeah it does, but I'm not so sure that this is all that bad. Everybody flame me if you want, but at least let me explain my reasoning. Right now, my local telco has an absolute stranglehold on service in my area. Forget about DSL -- not even available here. My cable company has a stranglehold on TV (never mind the fact that I actually like my cable company -- it's a rather small one). For the first time, though, my cable company is planning on offering telephony over IP, which will provide direct competition with the behemoth that runs the phone service. Cable is the first technology in decades that poses a threat to the rather well entrenched baby bells. I can easily see how forcing them to share their infrastructure will reduce the short-term profitability of providing these services.

      Now, here's what I'm hoping will happen: My cable company picks up steam and goes head to head in competition with my telco. Prices drop in the battle, and service improves. Then, the FCC reconsiders its decision (because my cable company is now providing phone service too), and forces the cable company to allow startups a chance to get into the business.

      On top of all of this, I believe that startups should only be allowed access to an existing companies equipment for a specified period of time. I believe this will provide incentive to build their own infrastructure.

      Finally, I'd like to submit one last idea. Right now, there are three technologies that are capable of providing good TV, Internet and Telephony services. That would be the telephone companies' copper (or fiber), the cable companies' coax (or fiber) and wireless broadband. If all of these technologies can provide the same services, I really don't care if each is a monopoly. As long as they compete with each other, prices will go down and service will go up. What I don't want to see is one company controlling all of these technologies in the same area.

      OK. Am I wrong? Correct my thinking if I am.

      • On top of all of this, I believe that startups should only be allowed access to an existing companies equipment for a specified period of time. I believe this will provide incentive to build their own infrastructure.

        I'm not so certain about everyone building their own infrastructure - seems like a waste of resources. What would have happened if every auto maker had to build their own highways?

        I don't claim to know how the details would work, but it seems the information infrastructure should be public domain. Perhaps the feds should reimburse companies for existing infrastructure and contract with private entities to provide maintenance, upgrades, and expansions. That way, startups wouldn't have to undergo the horrendous process of petitioning monopolies and/or the courts for access rights.

        My $0.02 US worth.

        • What would have happened if every auto maker had to build their own highways?

          Our national rail infrastructure wouldn't have been destroyed. Hazardous materials could be shipped more safely. There would be far less pollution. And all our base wouldn't be belong to the oil companies and the countries that drill for it.

          Doesn't sound too bad to me.
      • Good God, can you imagine the hassle if there are 5 or 6 startups all wanting to lay cable/fiber/etc on your street and across your property? Especially since they won't all come at the same time.

        What is needed is one company controlling the local infrastructure, and charging for access to it. The access cost would have to cover the cost of installation, maintenance, and upgrades.


    • All of the access lines should be in the public domain, property of everyone, since content access (internet, phone, etc) is almost becoming a necessity any more. The situation is quite similar to roads. Everyone needs to use roads, and if they need to get to some specific area, someone's house, a local business, they shouldn't be barred from doing so because the road systems are privately monopolized. People need to access information and get online, and their access should not be based on how much a few private companies want to charge them to use the system to get to the information. Now, this isn't to say that the government should take complete control over all access lines, as they would go into disrepair just as many of our roads have, but the government should have complete control over the lines, and should allow anyone access to them should they wish to provide a service over them.
  • Two problems need active correction:

    The decision in March to let cable companies exclude competitors does seem to violate common carriage and will probably disappear after either a short or long series of appeals.

    Likewise with the cable companies deciding what content is allowed on their pipes. I can't see that holding up under scrutiny either.

  • Great... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday June 07, 2002 @08:42AM (#3659080) Homepage Journal
    Despite those dire warnings, the FCC's policy on broadband enjoys strong support. Companies with a stake in the matter are gung-ho for it, at least for their own networks

    In other news, several CEOs were recently admitted to the Mayo clinic with an unusual condition that caused their eyeballs to actually turn into small dollar signs. When asked about his condition, once CEO could not stop laughing manically long enough to answer.

    A spokesman for AOL/Time Warner said he was quite willing to accept customers from price gouging DSL monopolies into his price gouging Cable networks. Comcast could not be reached as their network was apparently down yet again.
  • This is why it is imperative that with like 802.11[a|b] start becoming more prevalent. Net access may be a privilege not a right (for now), but it is becoming more and more necessary to have it in order to function in a technological society. Having a few uber-greedy corps control the access we have to this increasingly-critical medium, is becoming less and less acceptable.
    • Re:Actually (Score:3, Interesting)

      by scoove ( 71173 )
      This is why it is imperative that with like 802.11[a|b] start becoming more prevalent.

      And other wireless point-to-point and point-multipoint technologies. When I see articles like this one in Salon, it actually encourages me more about competitive service. Being responsible for a broadband network covering half of a state now, here's why the ploys by Congressfolks on incumbent telco payroll doesn't work:

      - it encourages greater ILEC (incumbent local exchance carrier; e.g. your Bell or other quasi-monopoly entity) laziness. Competition is the only thing that gets these inefficient sloths to move, and these recent regs make them feel even safer and lazier. Let their managers spend their days at the golf course, not worrying about CLECs or such sneaking up on them. I can't tell you how many towns I've dealt with which have been told for years by their local carrier or cable TV provider that "broaband is just too expensive for your little town," only to scramble and race to provide broadband service when we activate our service.

      - it forces the competitors to develop a competitive alternate local/regional backbone and last mile: Fixed wireless vendors we work with cannot keep product on the shelf now. The money is pouring into this segment (even though it hasn't caught the attention of Wall Street very much). Manufacturers are racing along with non-line of sight innovations, conversion of multipath into a benefit instead of a problem, etc. Costs for equipment are spiraling downward. This all creates an opportunity for a cost-effective alternative network. Incidentally, futurist talks of "radically cheap fiber" never did explain what catalyst would force carriers to slash their fiber capacity pricing - here's your answer. My microwave backbone covers half a state and costs me a hundredth or less what the same capacity would run leased on a carrier's fiber.

      Bet on more local incumbant and longhaul fiber carrier bankrupcies, as more and more capacity fires up that has costs at a fraction the retail rate offered. And per Salon's worries, regulation of this sort has only fueled circumvention before. People want reasonable cost broadband and no fat, dumb and happy incumbant is going to tell them otherwise.

      *scoove*
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The article describes oligarchy, not monopoly. "Monopoly" has more emotional impact, and it is used just for this effect. Either that, or those with limited vocabulary do not even know what an oligarchy is.

    This might be nitpicking, but for this item, the error is right there in the title (the word "monopolies")
    • Either that, or those with limited vocabulary do not even know what an oligarchy is.

      Or those with limited vocabulary are missing
      a word such as "oligopoly".

      Oligarchy effectively describes current US
      political system anyway, though.
      • Heck, oligarchy describes nearly every large political system ever.
  • SHHHHH (Score:3, Funny)

    by Metaldsa ( 162825 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @08:54AM (#3659153)
    "'The Federal Communications Commission is quietly handing over control of the broadband Internet to a handful of massive corporations "

    SHHHH!!! They are doing it quietly dammit! Pass it only in notes with codes or you'll blow the whole thing!
  • bundling lawsuit? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aeryn_sunn ( 243533 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @08:56AM (#3659171)
    I know in my area (that being Atlanta), one cannot get DSL without having a landline or a Cable Modem without getting cable

    I was wondering if anybody sees this as the same type of monopolistic behavior MS was convicted of when they bundled IE with the OS?

    For example: I have no need for a landline as I have a cell phone plan that gives me more than enough minutes, yet I have to shell out an extra 45 (lets face it, one can barely get a bare bones phone line for less than 45 bucks when all the extra taxes, fees, etc are tacked on) for a phone line so I can have a DSL line. A phone I really never use. Thus my DSL cost is really 85 bucks instead of just 40

    isn't this the one of the issues this article might allude too? shouldn't the government bring a lawsuit against the cable/telcos accusing them of bundling? or forcing their un-related product on us just as MS was accused of?

    Just wondering.....
    • by Phroggy ( 441 )
      I was wondering if anybody sees this as the same type of monopolistic behavior MS was convicted of when they bundled IE with the OS?

      Technically, you cannot have DSL unless you have a phone line. It doesn't have to have voice service on it, but you must at least have a copper pair from your house to the DSLAM (usually to the central office, sometimes to a remote terminal if you're lucky, with a fiber line from the RT to the CO). Since most phone companies keep track of DSL lines based on your phone number (it's basically used as a database key), it would be awkward for them to provice you DSL service without you having a phone number assigned, which you normally wouldn't without voice phone service, but if they had a way to reference it, it could be done.

      But, the cost of a DSL line (usually around $30/month not including the ISP cost) is based on the idea that you already have voice phone service, so some of the costs of providing DSL service (such as physical wire maintenance) are covered by the money you pay for voice phone service.

      It should be possible for you to get a dry line (a phone line with no dialtone) and put DSL on that. This would be cheaper than phone service, but there would still be a charge for it. However, since demand for this is very small, phone companies have no incentive to offer it.

      Does that answer your question?
      • Bullshit. I have Bellsouth FastAccess in Atlanta. I have fiber running through my front yard with an ethernet switch burried across the street. It's 4 wire ethernet running to my switch running PPPoE as the transport protocol.

        So I could cut the phone line and still have Bellsouth's fast access service. I'd still have to pay for it though.

        In addition, I couldn't "opt" out of the installation fee, even though they wouldn't do the installation for my Linux Firewall for me. They wouldn't even give me phone support when their switch had a faulty card because I didn't have Windows 95 installed on my PC. I finally went out to the switch, broke the locks and yanked the $15,000 board out of the switch and called them and told them that the problem was. I didn't tell them I yanked it out, but I did tell them it was "damaged". Fixed the problem tho.

        :)
  • When clicking the link in the story, I was sent to a page with a huge animated image. It went like this:

    (blurred animated shot in skin tones)

    Some text floating over the picture:
    "Oh... Yes! Oh yes!"
    "Oh... Lower!"
    "Lower!"

    Then the text "Need new glasses? Buy progressive glasses blah blah"

    It was just funny to see how it linked to the story about broadband internet, when the ad content was so similar to what it's mainly used for.
  • Monopolies plural? (Score:4, Informative)

    by GMontag ( 42283 ) <gmontagNO@SPAMguymontag.com> on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:01AM (#3659196) Homepage Journal
    Okay, first stop misusing the word "momopoly", it is defined as ONE entity controlling a market.

    Second, figure out what market you are talking about. If it is high-speed data access then one company owning the local/regional/national cable infrastructure is not a monopoly IF (as is the case) there are DLS and other providers within that territory. Lookup the famous monopoly case against Celophane, the Celophane manufacturer won because the market was wrapping material, not the fact that one manufacturer makes one wildly popular product.

    Look folks, the more we keep bastardizing the language the more confusing it will be to communicate.
    • In MANY cases, the companies ARE monopolies, because they DO control the entire market in an area. For instance, Comcast is the only cable internet service provider in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so they have a monopoly on that market.

      The term is used correctly, and just because there are multiple companies doesn't mean there can't be multiple monopolies.

    • Okay, first stop misusing the word "momopoly"

      "momopoly"? Is that a monopoly on momo or a monopoly controlled by momo? [www.momo.it]

      Or are you reffering to your mom? This is utterly confusing, I am afraid...

      Sorry... Couldn't resist! =)
    • I'd take it a step further to look at all ISP's together. You've got your dialups, who (some of them) are cheap, reliable, and compatible with any old computer. Their weakness is their speed, but they're still great for news, email, and instant messaging. Then you've got your cable modem provider - fast and always on, but expensive as hell.

      So even if there's only one broadband provider in your area, it's not a monopoly at all as long as there are other people offering you access to the Internet. If people want to yell at the government about lack of competition, they should complain about handouts of huge chunks of spectrum to broadcast networks for HDTV while there's no decent wireless ISP.
      • If people want to yell at the government about lack of competition, they should complain about handouts of huge chunks of spectrum to broadcast networks for HDTV while there's no decent wireless ISP.

        1) While TV stations will get extra bandwidth during the DTV transition, in 2007 all analog activities must cease, and existing analog channels will be returned. The FCC will then auction off cleared spectrum in the upper UHF band.

        2) No one is watching DTV, so it isn't like there is a cash cow there yet.

        3) DTV may provide opportunities for high-speed Internet service [deltav.tv]
    • by JohnDenver ( 246743 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @10:53AM (#3659949) Homepage
      First, Let's refer to...

      Marriam-Webster
      1. exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action
      2. exclusive possession or control
      3. a commodity controlled by one party

      Notice the word exclusive as in exclusive ownership, exclusive control, exclusive possession

      Litmus Test

      Q. Do the Baby Bell's have exclusive control over the publicly owned telephone telecommunications infrastructure?

      A. No, They currently have Primary Control now as they are required to share thier control with other providers.

      Q. If the current FCC proposal allowing Baby Bells to deny access to the network access, will the Baby Bells return to thier Monopoly status?

      A. Yes, The current FCC proposal will give EXCLUSIVE rights to the public infrastructure, making the Baby Bells Regional Monopolies. IE, No more Covad or Flashcom.

    • Look folks, the more we keep bastardizing the language the more confusing it will be to communicate.

      And that would be doubleplusungood!
    • Okay, first stop misusing the word "momopoly", it is defined as ONE entity controlling a market.

      As has been pointed out by others, many markets are monopolies--there is one and only one company which provides the desired type of broadband.

      Would you prefer the term 'collusive oligopoly'?
    • The word monopoly can be used in a plural context by referring to firms with "monopoly power". Yes, the correct noun for such a situation might be "oligopoly" (which can be just as bad or worse than a monopoly) but in general allowing a firm to have monopoly power is bad.
  • More and more internet access is a nececary thing to people and companies alike. I think govenment's should treat the backbone connections like a road system, public funding and public access. Think about the economic effects of all highways having unregulated tolls, do we want this for our data?
    • Think about the economic effects of all highways having unregulated tolls,

      Yeah, people who never drive would never have to pay for something they don't use. Sounds like a good deal to me.
    • Thats a terrible idea.

      Ask anyone that owns a car with expensive wheels shod with low-profile tires what they think about how the govenrment handles public roads. One pothole and its a bent wheel and an annoying steering wheel vibration until you replace the wheel.. usually at a tune of several hundred dollars.

      Or think of this - the roads are perpetually underconstruction to provide work for the latest general contractor who had a 500 plate at the latest politicians power-lunch.

      Government is the most inefficient possible action agency. It has the curious talent of doing the pathalogically worse possible thing in all situations. Destryoing roads that are good, never fixing roads that suck, always destroying traffic flow for months at a time (i have NEVER seen a sign saying 'fines double in construction zones' and actually seen construction WORKERS in said zone!)

      So, imagine what internet access would be like if the govt managed the last mile. It'd take 3 days for someone to walk over to the dslam and notice that now _both_ power supplies had failed (the primary having failed 6 months prior and no one cared at the time). it'd take another 2 weeks to get someone from the Power-Supply-Installers union to replace them both (finding this person would require 2 or more layers of contracting agencies).

      I dislike big corporate involvement in my data access. I dislike big government involvement in anything. I can choose a different big company, or i can choose no company at all.

      When you try and choose no government at all, you usually end up getting shot.

      • Ask anyone that owns a car with expensive wheels shod with low-profile tires what they think about how the govenrment handles public roads.

        Expensive wheels and low profile tires will lead to damage eventually no matter what the condition of the road. In fact, I'll wager that the probability of damage converges on 100% as the tire height approaches zero. This is the price you pay for having low profile tires. Everybody else with properly sized tires gets along on the road just fine.

        Hey, if I have to take your bitching about my SUV, you have to take my bitching about your low profile tires. That's all there is to it.

      • So, imagine what internet access would be like if the govt managed the last mile. It'd take 3 days for someone to walk over to the dslam and notice that now _both_ power supplies had failed (the primary having failed 6 months prior and no one cared at the time). it'd take another 2 weeks to get someone from the Power-Supply-Installers union to replace them both (finding this person would require 2 or more layers of contracting agencies).

        You described almost perfectly my nine days of downtime on a DSL line provided by... Ameritech, in Ohio.

        It's not being the government that causes such inefficiency. It's the lack of competition. Or are you used to getting spectacular service from your privately owned cable company?

  • Choice Paranoia (Score:2, Insightful)

    The majority of consumers can take their pick from 2,3 & 4 broadband providers right now (not resellers). WiFi and 3G will add additional choices. Seems like competition to me - how would a few shoddy DSL resellers improve the situation? I know I *loved* my DSL through Flashcom & Northpoint.
  • Another good reason to use the Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol [salon.com] (yeah, correct link, it's *also* on Salon.com - how convenient). The details here [ietf.org].

    Transmitting IP Datagrams over Avian Carriers simply has to be a way to avoid these mega corporations getting control over these common, often fiber based transmission techniques.

    But I'm sure there will soon be a Pigeonsoft breeding huge amounts of pigeons for the sole purpose of pissing of others. And of course, the technique of training them to carry datagrams will be patented. And if you try to understand how it works, you'll be sued by the PPAA (Pigeon Protocol Association) for "infringing on intellectual property". They will use the PMCA (Pigeon Master Copyright Act) to support this claim in court.

    That's the world we're living in.
  • Ye Olde Newse (Score:2, Interesting)

    This has been goiong on for a while now, and in all but a few big cities, a single company has the monopoly on broadband... If it's even availible.

    Something we need to realize is how the companies veiw this situation (which the salon article does a wonderful job of NOT exploring). Most comapanies who provide broadband service are not making any money off of it yet. The demand is high, but the cost of bandwidth is currently higher. Many of these companies see the only way that they can turn a profit is to be the sole provider in a service area; which, to an extent, is viable.

    I saw another comment which touched on the long-distance carriers. This is a perfect example of what may or may not go wrong. On one hand long-distance service is cheaper and more versitile than ever, but on the other hand these companies have had a similar situation to their current on for some time now, and it has only been recently that the large carriers are providing the 'low, low rates' that one sees today.

    It's hard to say whether or not deregulation like this could bolster the industry. On one hand the demand exists everywhere, while at the same time the per capita demand is often not great enough to warrant a company to provide service in an area (as with ruby ranch). On the other hand, deregulation could spawn an explosion of service in areas which the cable companies and 'baby bells' (which aren't small in any sense) in areas they once thought to risky to warrant the investment of time and materials.

    I'm all for it, because I know that a big part of what's holding back many telco's and cable companies in rural areas is the fact that they have to share their lines (which means they make the investment, but get no return). These companies could make an investment and have a guaranteed return, (provided their business analysts have studied an area well enough).

    Hopefully, regardless, cable internet service will be availible in my area by the end of september, after 6 years of 'cable for christmas'.

    • ...a big part of what's holding back many telco's and cable companies in rural areas is the fact that they have to share their lines (which means they make the investment, but get no return)....

      Incorrect. The ILECs can and do charge for line-sharing, often to excess depending on the pliability of state regulators.

  • Well, I know what it'll eventally happen.

    We'll have a few large mega-corps do ISP jobs and backboning strcture. Well, eventaually be slapped down by a shitload of consumers, finding out they can't even have "servers". Lots of people run P2P, well that's half server/half client.

    I see bandwidth being charged in the same wasy as electricity is today. However, in the 'packet' system, you pay only for packets sent out, not in (EG: the Snail Mail system). Since somebody's paying to send those packets to you, they're paying. That also eliminates hackable heuristics on wether packets are a flood/DDoS/whatever.
  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:17AM (#3659288) Homepage Journal
    There will be several "competing" giants, but in your neighborhood, you'll only be able to subscribe to one of them. They'll tell you the price, take it or leave it. All ports will be blocked on your end, so you won't be able to put up your own "content". It will only exist so that you can connect to commercial sites.

    Also, as in the first century of the phone system (and most current cable TV systems), it will be illegal to connect anything not on the approved list. This list will include the latest releases from Microsoft, and nothing else.

    If you don't like it, well, you don't have to use it. Connectivity is a privilege, not a right.

    Then, after maybe a century, we'll have some new laws making it legal to connect your own equipment that runs unapproved software. At that time, we'll see a huge expansion of the Internet, as the first innovations in many decades hit the market and the companies upgrade the lines to more than 100KB.

    Remind yourself that if the old Bell monopoly were still in place, we'd still be using the old black rotary phones, one per customer unless you pay a surcharge for an extension line. Also, note that right now most of the cable companies are blocking port 80, preventing customers from being "producers" and limiting them to a "consumer" status. And we've read the reports that MSN has been buying up ISPs and blocking email access to everyone but Windows users.

  • The Federal Communications Commission is quietly handing over control of the broadband Internet to a handful of massive corporations

    "All the better to monitor you with, my dear."

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:29AM (#3659370) Homepage

    ...for unfiltered IP access. As the article so insightfully points out, the issue isn't cost or even availability, it's that pretty soon the companies that rent you a cable modem or DSL connection will be the same companies that own (or have an interest in) a whole stack of content. These are the people who bought the DMCA, the people who want to buy DRM legislation like the SSSCA in its various incarnations. Now they will control the creation, the ownership, the distribution and the delivery of content. So much for the original intent of copyright law.

    Ask yourself this: when your choice of access is a subsidiary or partner of either Disney or AOL-Time Warner, why would they even need to buy legislation? For your safety and convenience, they can just block everything except port 80, map that to their caching proxies, and firewall off any part of the 'net that challenges their profit models.

    You think they won't or can't do it? Why not?. The FCC's position is that competition should be across technologies, not within technologies, and they seem to be lumping cable and DSL in as one technology. The cable/DSL providers could offer (e.g.) filtered 2048/64 cable modem or DSL for a giveaway price of $10 a month; if the competition is $100 a month 512/128 satellite service, or a range limited and contended 2.4Ghz wireless service, then that will just about kill off the idea of unrestricted residential (not consumer, dammit) broadband. That's quite apart from rate/bandwidth capping and billing depending on whether you're downloading content that you've bought from your provider, or if you're daring to go out onto the big wide internet.

    Yes, I know that we've no right to demand cheap unrestricted content, and that we should vote with our wallets and so on. But here's something to think about. If you truly believe that an unregulated free market will take care of this, then you wouldn't object to a shell corporation representing the Chinese government buying AOL-Time Warner or AT&T-Comcast and owning 40% or more of the cable networks in the USA, right?

    I use that example because the free market, in its purest sense, means that anyone who can afford to buy or do something should be able to do it. The assumption is that purchasing power is obtained through persuading people to give you money of their own free will, and that your actions will continue to be along those popular lines. There are holes big enough to sail an oil tanker through in that theory, the biggest being that once you get in a position to demand money, or you sell a service that has no effective competition, or (my example) you are spending the taxes you collectd from taxing a billion people, then you can continue to leverage that hold indefinitely, especially if there's a large capital investment cost to entering the market.

    Capitalism suffers from exactly the same problem as communism: it works great in theory, because it assumes that people are basically good and honest and will cooperate with the spirit as well as the letter of the system. In practice, any system of human governance or interaction requires constant vigilance to prevent tyranny, even if that tyranny comes wearing a pair of big friendly round Mouse ears. I think we need to be asking our government if they understand that the whole point of the Constitution and of the American State is to prevent situations where We, the People can be oppressed and (de facto) taxed without representation. I'd say we're well past that point already; the only question is how far we'll push it before we either see mass civil disobedience, or we tear up the Constitution and start over with a political version of an End User License Agreement, complete with all the usual disclaimers of warranty.

    • by 5KVGhost ( 208137 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @11:38AM (#3660217)
      Capitalism suffers from exactly the same problem as communism: it works great in theory, because it assumes that people are basically good and honest and will cooperate with the spirit as well as the letter of the system.

      You are very mistaken. Capitalism works precisely because it does _not_ assume that people are good and honest. Capitalism assumes that people will act out of self-interest, which is usually true.

      If a broadband provider in your area is charging too much or blocking access to things people want, then it's only a matter of time before another alternative is developed to take its place. Someone else will see that there's an opportunity to make some money or spread some goodwill. Intelligent regulations don't make these corrections happen (they happen anyway) they just keep things moving a bit more smoothly.

      The subject under discussion is specifically an example of what happens when capitalism is not allowed to correct the problem. The cable companies and other broadband providers got where they are because they were granted an artificial monopoly where competition was prohibited by the government. Some would claim that those were necessary incentives to encourage the huge investment needed to create the infrastructure needed, and that may have been true. But removing those antiquated regulations would change everything. Adding more won't change anything, at least not for the better.
      • by warpSpeed ( 67927 ) <slashdot@fredcom.com> on Friday June 07, 2002 @01:19PM (#3660936) Homepage Journal
        This is good in theory, but if the local provider has a lock on the market, and is blocking content, there is not going to be much you can do. You are dealing with a high infrastructure cost medium. There is a high barrier to entry into the market.

        If (and this is a big if) some other provider wants to get in on the action, the first provider (for all intents and purposes a monopoly) can easly squeeze the new provider by dropping thier price and or loosening up the control over the content to passify their current clients.

        Even if a second provider wanted to get into the local market they would have to be highly capitalized and would probably resort to the same tactics (almost collusion) that the first provider resorted to.

        Just look at all the CLECs carcases near the baby bells. Do you think that Verizon, and all their evil bretheron, just passivly sat by while new competition was gaining a foot hold. Hell no, they fought them every step of the way, in the courts, with predditive pricing, and sloppy/incopentent service.

        I hate to say it, but there needs to be strong regulation of at least the last mile or there will never be any competition.

    • If AOLTW were to block its competitors from sending content to its users that would be a gross violation of anti-trust laws. I for one am becoming less libertarian and more conservative the more I contemplate posts like yours (which is a good thing, most conservatives do support anti-trust law).
  • The Internet? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Epeeist ( 2682 )
    The article is important and Americans should be concerned about it. However it has nothing to do with The Internet, it has to with American access to the Internet.


    Seemingly unbeknownst to many in the USA we actually have access to the Internet here in Europe. I believe it is available in Australia and Japan too.


    Certainly in the UK we have similar sorts of difficulties with broadband access, with an effective monopoly supplier in the shape of British Telecom. However, I wouldn't glorify this with an article containing a line like "BT is taking over control of the Internet". Hyperbole anyone?

  • Let's remember.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:37AM (#3659447)
    That the Internet and the networks that happen to make up the Internet themselves are fundamentally two different animals.

    Remember the roots of the word. An internet is a network made up of a bunch of networks.

    The reason the internetworking in general, and the Internet in particular, work, is because we all agreed on some standards, and a global addressing scheme that ensured unique, routable address space.

    Far more important in the long run is making sure that address allocation is impartial and open to everyone. Even now this is erorded.. for reasons that seem unavoidable at present.. but it's still eroding.

    You see, before, you could get a block of address space assigned to you, whether or not your network was hooked to anyone elses. Why would you do this? On the mere POSSIBILITY that one day you would hook it up.
    Everyone could get unique address space, and network together at will.

    Now.. you ahve to prove your precise need for those addresses, and you must get them from your isp. This makes sense if you consider the increasing scarcity of addresses.. but there is a quality that is being lost.

    My point is.. we have to make sure that, regardless of who is offering what, that global IP routability is still there, and that Joe Farmer, if he invents a new transmission method, can get routable address space.

  • by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @09:43AM (#3659485)

    If the government steps aside, they say, robust competition will develop between different technology "platforms" such as cable, phone, satellite and local wireless, giving consumers plenty of choices and stimulating a build-out of broadband infrastructure at the same time.

    "If you have competition between platforms, consumers will be better off," says Randolph May, a communications policy expert with the Progress and Freedom Foundation. "The problem is that [regulation] impedes investment and new entrants to the market."

    Yet:

    Separate platforms exist for separate purposes, and have separate capabilities. While I am as enamored of Bluetooth as anyone it is not the same as a fat cable pipe.

    The FCC rulings do not (as I understand them) prohibit one company from owning multiple "platforms" If the local wireless net, and cable, and DSL all come from the same source then nothing has been gained.

    In any location where one company has a monopoly on most services such as broadband, etc. Where is the incentive to develop a new "platform"? If a town has cable and DSL controlled by AOL then I have little or no incentive to develop a wireless alternative there. The startup costs will be (as they are for anything) huge. In order to break even (until I get a lot of subscribers) I will have to charge more than AOL can charge. So, while I am depleting my cash reserves trying to undersell them they are a) selling at a fraction lower than me, and b) blocking my ads from running and my web page from working on "their" lines and c)running news on their service saying that I torture kittens in my spare time. Then once I'm gone they can jack up the prices again.

    Where is the incentive to invest in infrastructure going to come from? Once you have a service that "works" and are facing no competition, why upgrade? Why waste your cash reserves on making life better for your captive audience when you could be working on expanding your audience.

    Monopolies are only good for themselves, and the economists that they pay.

    • Where is the incentive to invest in infrastructure going to come from? Once you have a service that "works" and are facing no competition, why upgrade? Why waste your cash reserves on making life better for your captive audience when you could be working on expanding your audience.

      This kind of reminds me of Ameritech's excuse for wanting to keep people out of the market in Indianapolis. They feel that other companies should have to invest in infrastructure and not be able to use what Ameritech already has in place. Of course, this creates a huge barrier to entry into the market, thus leaving Ameritech to continue with their poor services.

      This past week there was an interesting protest by Ameritech employees during lunch hour that really screwed up traffic downtown. They drove around in their trucks and blocked traffic and people marches with signs; but they were protesting because they say that forcing them to open their networks to competition would: Raise prices to consumers by 40% (ha!), and result in some 5,000 people losing their jobs.

      I don't quite understand how it is going to cost me 40% more if they have competition, and I believe said competition will need plenty of employees as well. If they lose 5,000 people it's because everyone will switch services when they realize how much Ameritech has been ripping them off. Like when they charge me $60 each time I move for 'setup' fees, and how they can take 4 weeks to set up anything.
    1. The link leads to a splash advert and not to the story
    2. The link on the splash advert page that leads to the story has a popup advert
    3. After all that the story was only of importance to US citizens
    4. Couldn't [back] to /. after not reading past the first paragraph of the story
  • from the article Now, eight cable companies will decide what the public will be offered

    Thats 7 too many companies for a monopoly! People say monopoly way too much.

    • Thats 7 too many companies for a monopoly! People say monopoly way too much.

      Perhaps they do say monopoly way too much, but the word is still appropriate here. In the US, it is generally the case (in fact, always the case, as far as I am aware) that each local market is a monopoly. There are 8 companies in the US for cable, but only one in any given service area.

    • Simple, really. How many cable companies offer service in your area? If the answer is "1" as it is for most people in the U.S., then you have a monopoly.

  • Or just act like one.

    Nationwide fiber-optic networks going for pennies on the dollar! Worldcom's price/book ratio is only 0.08 right now. That means you can buy the company Bernie Ebbers so lovingly assembled for only eight cents per dollar of net assets.

    So, if anybody has $4.4 billion to spare, email me and we can be oligopolists too!
  • The idea with platform competition - that is to say, that cable broadband competes with DSL - is that it's only partially true. There are high costs to get equipment, so that once you have cable, for example, you are unlikely to switch to DSL (with the attendent $200 installation if you can't find a deal). Also, since all of the broadband services look at their competition only within their platform when it comes to services and prices, the services tend to be poor and the prices high, since most broadband providers have no competition within their platform and service area.

    On the other hand, I suspect that this will drive the community network connections forward, which is a good thing. Many developers in my region (DFW) are now building their developments with the homeowners' association controlling a preinstalled network with usually at least a T3 out (for about 100 houses), and sometimes more. All the houses are pre-wired, and you pay for the service monthly, at generally very low rates.

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @10:47AM (#3659906) Homepage
    Under current conditions, anyone who can get a good SDSL connection (for instance, Covad/Speakeasy, available in all the major population centers) can, for a bit over $100 a month, run a medium traffic Web server, ftp, a listserv, dns.... You can't do that over cable, and you can't do that over telco ADSL.

    Now, you can do that by renting space at a server farm somewhere, but then you'll also need broadband to administer that at all efficiently. On the low end you can match that $100 a month, but in the middle range - say you want to have lots of content available, multiple URLs, custom configurations of Apache and whatever, you're talking about something over $200 a month for a dedicated server, plus your own broadband - tripling the price. So you significantly raise the bar for citizen participation in Internet publication. Where's the public interest in this? It's like giving the dominant newspaper control of the price of paper and ink.

    As a small note: cable isn't even in the picture if you don't have cable - and some of us out here have no interest in $35 a month for basic cable - the effective cost of cable broadband is that much higher if you don't want that crap.
    ___
  • SPAM... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @10:49AM (#3659925) Homepage Journal
    The large ISPs also promote spam. Consider Qwest, Verio, and UUNET just to name a few. These companies are so large they know they cannot be blacklisted, so they just keep on selling the pink contracts and to hell with the rest of us.

    Unforunately, at this point it look like only a national law will even begin to bring those companies to heel (and a law will only affect companies with a significant business presense in the country that has the law...). I hate saying that - I dislike the "There outta be a law...." types, and any anti-spam law will have severe negative consiquences, but this is the direction we are being driven in.
  • The FCC is a corrupt PoS. Not only do they "control" who gets to broadcast what/how/when and where, they want to limit the wire bandwidth to only companies that pay them the most money and sit on the FCC's "advisory" boards. What a self-serving crock of crap!

    Shit, why the hell don't municipalities start non-profit NGOs to install/maintain another set of wires (or fiber)? Maybe with another type of utility, we can get the Bells off our collective backs. Btw, who needs local telephone service anyhow? It seems that alot of cell phones are cheaper than long-distance in most cases, and with a high-speed conxn, VoIP would be essentially free.

    I vote that we scrap the FCC and start over, because they are NOT serving the people, only themselves and the big oglopolies.

    P.S.: "Deregulation" means fewer rights for consumers, and more market power for "Baby" Bells (SBC == 4 Baby Bells).
  • Political control... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:07PM (#3660396) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    But the far more urgent concern is that media conglomerates will use their control over broadband pipes to restrict access to content, information, or technologies that compete with their own content or otherwise threaten their interests.

    In a democracy, those who control the flow of information control the country. Grassroots movements can't get started without free communication, and as the Internet is becoming an increasingly used political sounding board, this deregulation will give the media companies more power than we realize. Unlike the government, which is required by the Constitution to allow free speech, the media companies have no such requirement - they can deny access to anyone without any justification whatsoever. Those with views unpopular (say Jews, Christians, or Muslims...) or critical of the ISP, may find themselves silenced without any legal recourse.
  • Consolidation is OK so long as individual users mostly have choices on an individual basis. Despite media consolidations, there is more real
    media choice today than ever.

    Not long ago, I saw a talk on broadband connectivity here in Texas, especially with reference to rural communities; there are alot
    of mighty small and isolated communities here in this state. Surprisingly many had access to broadband. Communities of any size at all had access to actual choices - two of cable, DSL, or wireless. Communities which only had one of those did so only because of widespread satisfaction with the 'monopoly' provider. It seems reasonable to believe that competition will spring up if satisfaction thins with that provider.

    And, of course, everybody has access to satellite, but it doesn't seem to be needed in surprisingly many places.

    Here in Austin, we have monopoly cable companies, and we have DSL mostly provided by a single cable company. Two near-monopolies in terms of individual technologies, but they do compete. Their prices are competitive; they don't dare let their service departments go too far south; they are always running TV ads blasting each other.

    And if it doesn't work out, we can always reregulate. No matter what people say about money and politics, democracy will not be suspended
    as a result of this decision.

Somebody's terminal is dropping bits. I found a pile of them over in the corner.

Working...