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United States The Media

More on Media Consolidation/Deregulation 337

I'll try to accumulate some links not previously posted. William Safire comments. The Register has an editorial; see also The Guardian for more on the British perspective. Associated Press story. The Washington Post has a good and lengthy (and rare) piece. The phone companies are making a cynical political announcement that they've agreed on a standard for fiber-to-the-home; that doesn't mean they'll ever use the standard, and indeed they've already promised *not* to roll it out anytime soon. Note that the FCC is removing any requirement for the Bells to share their fiber, so if Verizon runs fiber to your house, you'll be able to get Verizon service or none at all.
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More on Media Consolidation/Deregulation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:05PM (#6079976)
    I'm looking to buy all Slashdot ID #'s in the 200,000-300,000 range, and post as one mega user. Anyone willing to sell?
  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:07PM (#6079994)
    They spent the money to run it. I work for a CLEC and we have our own phone switches. If VZ jacks up the prices on their circuits, it will only hurt us for a little while since we flip customers to our own network. I doubt the telecom act of 1996 was meant to create an industry that relied on cheap prices by the bells and only on reselling. If you want to be a player in telecom then you need to invest in some infrastructure.
    • by u19925 ( 613350 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:41PM (#6080319)
      many counties and cities have laws which will not allow you to lay a fiber into homes if similar thing already exist (even if it is owned by some monopolist). this means they will keep the prices so high that the total of (price*subscriber - cost) is the highest irrespective of what the price should have been if it were open market. Let us say, their internal research says following:

      1) at $300 rate, we can get 10000 subscribers
      2) at $30 rate, we can get 100,000 subscribers.
      3) the cost per subscriber is $10

      Now guess, what route they will take? obviously the first one. if competitors were allowed, you would see about $12-$15 rate, but thanks to monopoly; the rate is now $300!!!

      Some cities may have some oversight commission which will prevent such high prices, so they may settle slightly lower price. but they can always lie and say their fiber maintanance cost as $200.

      this is not my invention; this is exactly what is happening in local phone and cable market. i have exaggerated the figures in the example but overall the strategy is same. look at how the long distance rates have fallen over time (my per minute cost for long distance is 60% lower than decade ago) while local phone rates are going up (i am paying 40% more).
      • many counties and cities have laws which will not allow you to lay a fiber into homes if similar thing already exist (even if it is owned by some monopolist).

        Exactly right. What we need is deregulation at the local level.

        Remember though, that local governments get a lot of money because they
        allow local monopolies.

        Where I live, they get 5% of the cable company's GROSS.

        You think they're going to give this money up just to allow competition?
        • Or perhaps we should realize that they are natural monopolies and stop pretending that they are anything else. Deregulation has been a huge failure. Look at the manufactured California energy crisis.

          Look at the airlines. If they only reason they exist at all is because the federal government keeps pumping billions of dollars into them, why should we pretend that they should be private industry?

          Some things just make more sense to be handled by the federal government.
      • but they can always lie and say their fiber maintanance cost as $200.

        Reminds me of the time the SBC rep told me what a deal I was getting on voice-mail, since it cost SBC 'almost $100' for each account to be set up with it. That must be one very expensive technician doing that work to set it up. :P
    • by kableh ( 155146 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:47PM (#6080362) Homepage
      They've been subsidized by the government for years, and they have right of way on public lands to lay their fiber and copper. I'd say the networks are just as much ours as they are the phone companies. That was the arguement for the open access provisions of the Telecommunications Act.

      And yea, if you want to be a player in telecom you have to make that investment, but do you really think that even the Bells have the clout to purchase all the right of way and coordinate with thousands of different buyers to lay the networks by themselves? That was why the government stepped in and helped, and that is why we demand a return on OUR (the taxpayer's) investment, namely, a competative market for the consumer.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:47PM (#6080365) Homepage Journal
      I work for a CLEC

      I doubt that.

      The "infrastructure" you speak of was built on public property with monopoly protection. It really belongs to everyone. Just giving it to one company gives that encumbent company the ability to rape the public who get to pay the cost of creating uneeded duplicate ifrastructures while suffering the use of ageing equipment. When you live by public protection, you die by it as well. I'd love to see just anyone able to build infrastructure, but I don't think that it's either possible, permitted or required. Alternate networks will be built and we will all pay for them and then the bells will buy the up when they fail because they don't have to co-operate now. Ready for another century of pay per minute rape telco service?

      I doubt the telecom act of 1996 was meant to create an industry that relied on cheap prices by the bells and only on reselling.

      No it was not. But my fiber that runs from one side of my house to the other and can't hook into the network everyone else is using does me no good. A network only works if the players co-operate. The Bells have promissed us Broadband Stagnation [slashdot.org]. This is all just more of the same.

      Society is really screwed up when this [slashdot.org] what we have to do to escape such a rape.

    • Whats stopping another smaller company actually paying Verizon who have the equipment to lay the wire?
    • by drgroove ( 631550 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:37PM (#6080773)
      There is an inherant flaw in the concept that any of the 'Baby Bells' actually built their networks.

      Keep in mind that once upon a time, the Federal Government controlled all telephony.

      The Fed deregulated their telephone infrastructure, creating a monopoly - AT&T.

      Eventually, a Fed antitrust suit via the DOJ broke AT&T into several 'Baby Bell' phone companies; each taking with them the network infrastructure for their specific geographical location.

      However, as the original network was built by the Federal Government, the funding for that network could only come from one source - taxpayer dollars.

      The networks have obviously been rebuilt several times since then; however, the point remains that the US telephony infrastructure had its genesis throught public funding.

      The current system does not work. Why? Because phone companies - which inherited their networks from the breakup of AT&T - are running their business with an inherant conflict of interest. Each Baby Bell has been asked to both provide telephony service, as well as to allow 3rd party companies access to their networks, in order to provide competitive telephony service.

      The model needs to be changed.

      In order to be completely impartial and competitive, a separate company or companies should be established, which manage only the network infrastructure for the phone system.

      Then, any company which wished to 'lease' or 'rent' the network for the purpose of providing telephony service to consummers would be able to do so.

      In this way, there would be a two-stage system, with a central governing body which controls the infrastructure, and separate service providers which charge consummers access to that infrastructure. This would eliminate the conflict of interest that is present in the current system, where the owner of the network is also a service provider to consummers, and therefore in direct competition with others who wish to sell telephony service.

      The idea that more companies should invest in additional infrastructure does not make sense for local telephone service. This concept, if carried out, could have dire consequences on the environment (ie, imagine a 10-fold increase in the number of telephone polls and wires across a city!). A network already exists in each city in the US - the problem is the way control of the network has been established.

      This same concept could theoretically be applied to all communications systems. Cable lines, cell towers, long distance satelites - all of these could have a controlling body, which impartially allows any number of resellers to use their infrastructure to offer services to consummers.
    • by lobsterGun ( 415085 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @07:02PM (#6081339)
      I wrote a really smarmy reply to this post, but have decided just to sum it up instead.

      Verizon lays it's fibre in the public trust. They run it across the yards of countless homeowners and through countless miles of public land. That gives the public some say in what Verizon does with that fibre. So when you say, "So what if Verizon doesn't have to share..." I say, "Then get that fibre off that fibre off my land."
  • Verizon's Fiber (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Klerck ( 213193 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:07PM (#6079999) Homepage
    ...so if Verizon runs fiber to your house, you'll be able to get Verizon service or none at all.

    Isn't that how it should be? If Verizon foots the cost of rolling out thouands and thousands of miles of fiber, shouldn't they be the only ones who can use it?

    That's a bit different from phone lines which were subsidised through tax money and therefore should be open to all. If Verizon is the one paying for the fiber, then it should be theirs to use alone if they please.
    • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spytap ( 143526 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:11PM (#6080034)
      Doesn't the problem then become that Verizon can charge whatever they want becaus eno other company can then also lay wiring to said houses? If you have someone right where you want them, would you trust a company whose primary objective is to make profits and become larger to do what's right for their customers or for themselves?
      • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:3, Insightful)

        by alen ( 225700 )
        Isn't the goal of all companies? Defeat your competition? If verizon can't make a profit on the fiber who in their right mind will loan them the money to pay for it?

        If someone wants to lay fiber then they need to figure out a business model and then sell some bonds to pay for it. That is the way capitalism works.
        • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @06:04PM (#6081003) Homepage
          Try reading Adam Smith sometime. He not only laid out the market rules for business: he laid out warnings for monopoly and abuse, and the need to control business to prevent such.

          Capitalism is a zero sum game. A GAME, not a way of life. We live in a real world, and we need to control gamers so that they do not own everything worth owning, including our futures.

          A privately owned network can not only freeze out competition and hike prices. It can progressively control free expression on its network, clamping down on opposing voices and smothering democracy.
      • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cyberdyne ( 104305 ) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:21PM (#6080129) Journal
        Doesn't the problem then become that Verizon can charge whatever they want becaus eno other company can then also lay wiring to said houses?

        Why not? With the existing infrastructure - electricity, cable TV, telephone - the government prohibited competition. This, obviously, created a monopoly for each utility; all the regulatory effort of the last decade or two has gone into reversing the damage from that. With fiber, however, who is prohibiting some other company from laying fiber just like Verizon?

        If you have someone right where you want them, would you trust a company whose primary objective is to make profits and become larger to do what's right for their customers or for themselves?

        The answer is not to let the government (or their favored company) get you right where they want you. Don't let Verizon be given a monopoly in the first place!

        If the infrastructure is too expensive for one company to afford, let them group together to build a shared local network - much the same way Internet peering points work: each ISP wanting to hook up has to pay their chunk of the running costs. That way, nobody gets screwed.

        • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sabalon ( 1684 )
          With fiber, however, who is prohibiting some other company from laying fiber just like Verizon?

          Your local corrupt city council, who has been greased quite well by Verizon (or whoever) to somehow assure that the needed permits for company #2 never get issued.
          • Your local corrupt city council, who has been greased quite well by Verizon (or whoever) to somehow assure that the needed permits for company #2 never get issued.

            That's exactly what went wrong last time round; local governments basically said "OK, rape the customers all you like, as long as we get a cut..." Hopefully this time round, people will push hard enough to avoid repeating that mistake!

          • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:5, Informative)

            by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:44PM (#6080337)
            Not all local governments are corrupt in the manner you describe. On the San Francisco Penninsula there is the San Mateo County Telecom Authority (SAMCAT) that encourages multiple telecom and cable companies to offer service throughout San Mateo County. The major hurdle here is not getting local governments to grant multiple franchises in the same geographic area (this has already been done on multiple occasions), but getting the competing telecom and cable companies granted a franchise license to actually spend the money on infrastructure to offer competing services in the current down economy. In most communities there still is only a single choice because the established provider is the local 800lb gorilla, but at least there is some hope for real competition once the industry starts growing again.
        • Another option is to set up a compulsory licensure for the lines. Anyone is allowed to use the fiber that Verizon lays, but they must pay Verizon (for some *limited* time, mind you) for access. That way, Verizon is not allowed to lock out their competitors to establish a monopoly and the public interest is served because anyone is free to develop new and better uses for the lines, but Verizon still gets some compensation for the expense of laying the fiber.

          Verizon isn't likely to agree to this though, nor

          • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:4, Insightful)

            by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:20PM (#6080623)
            How does what you say have any basis in fairness or common sense.

            Company #1 spends BIG MONEY to physically lay tons of wire. You then force that company to give away their hardwork - for sometime for a fee and then eventually for FREE - as soon as its done?

            That is stupid. STUPID. I'd like to find out where you work, force you to give me 50% of what you make for free. That's what you are suggesting.

            Verizon is proposing a big fiber network. Lots of expense. Lots of money. This time around with this telecom network there isn't the government granting them automatic monopolies. If Company Y wants to create a competing network, LET THEM INVEST THEIR OWN MONEY.

            Forcing companies to materially help and support the competition is wrong, immoral, and bad for commerce AND the consumer. It forces higher costs, discourages innovation and risk taking, and stigmatizes the development of new technology. Who wants to create something new and exciting if the government is just going to force you to give it away before you recoup your investment?
            • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:4, Insightful)

              by stand ( 126023 ) <stan DOT dyck AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:57PM (#6080943) Homepage Journal
              Company #1 spends BIG MONEY to physically lay tons of wire. You then force that company to give away their hardwork - for sometime for a fee and then eventually for FREE - as soon as its done?

              I'm not suggesting they give it away. I'm saying they must be prevented from locking out competition. Competition is good, right?

              Verizon is proposing a big fiber network. Lots of expense. Lots of money. This time around with this telecom network there isn't the government granting them automatic monopolies. If Company Y wants to create a competing network, LET THEM INVEST THEIR OWN MONEY.

              We're talking fiber to the home networks here. Are you proposing that company Y run a second line into my house to compete with Verizon's line? That is stupid.

              Forcing companies to materially help and support the competition is wrong, immoral, and bad for commerce AND the consumer. It forces higher costs, discourages innovation and risk taking, and stigmatizes the development of new technology. Who wants to create something new and exciting if the government is just going to force you to give it away before you recoup your investment?

              I'm curious to know how allowing a single company to dictate the terms of my connection to the Internet is good for me, good for competition or good for commerce. There's no doubt it would be good for Verizon.

              Again, I'm not saying the Verizon shouldn't be compensated for their efforts to connect us with a high speed network, that's why others should be forced to license the lines from Verizon to use them, but neither should they be entitled to recoup that investment in perpetuity. Nor should they be allowed to selectively lock out whoever doesn't play by their rules simply becase at one time they invested in laying some fiber.

              We must realize that Verizon (or any one company) is not going to act in the interest of the public good. If we want the Internet to remain the medium of openess and innovation that it is, we must demand that those interests be balanced with those of the companies that build the infrastructure. Otherwise the Internet just becomes a world wide shopping mall.

            • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @06:00PM (#6080971) Homepage
              I'll take this one, begging the original poster's pardon.

              How does what you say have any basis in fairness or common sense

              Whenever I see the phrase "common sense", I mentally reach for a shotgun.

              What you say makes "sense", if you selective the proper facts and ignore all others that contradict you. It's not common sense, or economics: it's economic theology.

              A private company is not an entity in a pure economic thought experiment.

              For one, Verizon is government subsidized. Yes, I said they are welfare recipients. For, every dollar they weepingly spend on infrastructure, they DEDUCT FROM THEIR TAXES. When you or I buy a car to go to work, we don't deduct the finance charges, actual payments, refinancing costs, or debt sale costs that Verizon does. Verizon gets this government handout so that it may... actually, I never did understand why. They are powerful, and they get to do this. Period.

              Secondly, if Verizon screws up, they DEDUCT THEIR LOSSES FROM THEIR INCOME TAXES. The "risk" that they take is government insured, because the taxpayers will be further taxed to make up for the money Verizon will not pay if they screw up.

              Third, Verizon may or may not be granted tax relief from local governments for installing various doodads. Another taxpayer-paid welfare grant.

              Fourth, when you create a network that is essentially granted to you by access and rate giveaways by the Federal government, you can set up an effective monopoly -- not only over physical infrastructure, but over the content that is provided over that network. Powell has many times indicated that political bias is hokey-dokey in a medium, because so many other media exist to balance it. So, an ISP who is also a provider can control the messages going over its network. Not only a physical monopoly, but a political one as well. Somehow this would be a bigger showstopper for Powell if that bias was not hard-right, I think.

              Now, this monopoly does not have to exist. But Powell's economic theology insists that it must, because, like most libertarians, ignores all factors that do not bear on the illusion of a clean sheet economic problem, ie, a company provides a service, competition can try to compete, all is good. His ideology ignores back room dealings (mainly because he is a consummate backroom artist, being a lobbiest for the telecom companies in his off time!), nasty business manipulation, predatory pricing, in short, all the nasty, dirty tricks that were rampant in the old Standard Oil trust days that have come again.

              And, the standard isn't recouping investment. Businesses are there to take over a market, not make back their money. They have no limits.

              Private busineses are there to steal a much as possible. This is balanced by government elected by the people which regulates the rascals.

              What has happened is that Bush's people have appointed the industry lobbyists to be the regulators of the industries they represent. The rights of the people to actual competition for services is being ignored: businesses are treated as feudal lords who should bear no oversight.

          • Another option is to set up a compulsory licensure for the lines. Anyone is allowed to use the fiber that Verizon lays, but they must pay Verizon (for some *limited* time, mind you) for access. That way, Verizon is not allowed to lock out their competitors to establish a monopoly and the public interest is served because anyone is free to develop new and better uses for the lines, but Verizon still gets some compensation for the expense of laying the fiber.

            You get most of that already. The services will b

            • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:3, Interesting)

              by stand ( 126023 )

              For telephone, Verizon are already required to interconnect with other telcos, at regulated rates: the only monopoly element would be line rental/local calls.

              Internet/data traffic: Not regulated per se, but if Verizon change their peering arrangements it'll be big news. Until then, you're free to access anything you want over it.

              This is true, but (correct me if I'm wrong here) aren't the telcos demanding an end to this arrangement as a condition for the expense of improving the infrastructure? Tha

        • As much as I'm against big government, it seems like the highway* and road system works pretty well. If they owned the "fiber highway", they could more easily guarantee competition without forcing companies to invest in other companies futures.

          They could. But they probably wouldn't. Anyways, it'd be nice...

          * Of course, I don't mean the way they're paid for - that is done very poorly, and harmfully.
    • Maybe it is time for telco serive or at least the lines to be government regulated-sort of like the roads. Since EVERYONE uses highways as a metaphor, why not let the government/states/local governments create the telco highway landscape? Then the phone companies can complete on service and price vs who gets to tear up your lawn.
      • Because the government has completely screwed the highway system?

        Not the system itself, but they've used it as excessive leveridge (sp) to introduce things that are of questionable benefit. They get to say just who, and what, can drive on the roads. They can even mandate how the roads are driven on because it's a privilidge and not a right. Do you *REALLY* want your government to control who you can communicate with?

        I do agree that the 'last mile' infrastructure should be made/controlled by an unbiased 3r
        • Its even worse than that. The fed also has a habit of using the threat of cutting highway funding to presure states to pass laws that would not be constitutional for the fed to pass itself. The states usually bow to this presure because interstate highways are so important for their economies. I'd be reluctant to give them another set of thumb-screws.
          • This is silly true. Its such a sad teastament. The Feds have used 'voluntary' funding and matching funds to states as a sort of highly addictive crack to control them.

            A perfect example is state drinking laws. The Feds have presurred states again and again to raise the drinking age to 21, the blood-alcholol legal limit to .08, and to enforce a strict speed limit. The 'carrot' has always been highway funding. The Feds know damn well that there is no way a state could simply absorb that cost into their
        • Um...

          Do you actually think a private company would control who or what drives on a road in a less obsessive fashion than an elected government?

          How do you vote the company out of office?

          Think of this: a few months ago, a man who bought a peace-now T-shirt in a mall was arrested - ARRESTED - because he refused to take it off.

          Apparently over the last 80 years, several stupidly pro-biz Supreme Court decisions have made businesses lords and gods of their private countries. First amendment rights do not apply
    • Re:Verizon's Fiber (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gotih ( 167327 )
      do you want fiber access from your house or do you want verizon to make lots of money?

      what incentive do they have to provide you with servce?

      the incentive is profit but that means that they could provide access only to the most well off and make a profit. if working so you can pay for overpriced services is your thing this is good. it's bad for me.

      what is needed is a third party to lay the lines then lease the lines to many providers at cost. a government agency (or something wihtout profit moti
  • by tbase ( 666607 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:07PM (#6080001)
    The FCC is set to vote on their secret-none-more-secret changes to the media ownership regulations on Monday. If you like the direction commercial radio has taken in the last few years, don't worry about it. If not, moveon.org [moveon.org] has some good resources for who to call.
    • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:26PM (#6080665) Homepage Journal
      That line of condescending BS from Powell towards the end of the article regarding the fact that he doesn't really see public comment having much anything to do with public policy really burned my bacon, to the extent I felt compelled to address it directly in my comments to the FCC (just submitted).


      "Let me also add a comment in direct response to the comments of Mr. Powell to the effect that "You don't govern just by polls and surveys." Public comment is neither a poll nor a survey, it is a vital element of democracy, required by law. And it is apparently critical as the FCC has clearly lost the understanding that their mission is to serve the American public. If the representatives of government choose to treat the voice of its citizens as unimportant, the its citizens will replace these representatives."

      • If the representatives of government choose to treat the voice of its citizens as unimportant, the its citizens will replace these representatives.

        Unfortunately, Chairman Powell is not a representative of the public. He is an appointed, nepotistic bureaucrat out of our reach come election day.

  • What the ?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:09PM (#6080014) Journal
    How am i supposed to comment on such a confusing news item referencing several external news sources without making clear what is going on?

    Oh wait...

  • by jdunlevy ( 187745 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:09PM (#6080022) Homepage
    The Washington Post also has an opinion piece by Ted Turner on the approaching FCC decision on media owner ship [washingtonpost.com] (decision on Monday). Among other things, he writes:
    I am a major shareholder in the largest of those five corporations, yet -- speaking only for myself, and not for AOL Time Warner -- I oppose these rules. They will stifle debate, inhibit new ideas and shut out smaller businesses trying to compete. If these rules had been in place in 1970, it would have been virtually impossible for me to start Turner Broadcasting or, 10 years later, to launch CNN.
    • by Zirnike ( 640152 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:36PM (#6080260) Journal
      I like this. The dude knows how to separate his professional responsibilities from his personal ones. A lot... and I mean A LOT... of politicians could take a hint from him. I can't say that I support his views on a lot of things, but I think I can respect this comment, at least.
    • I oppose these rules. They will stifle debate, inhibit new ideas and shut out smaller businesses trying to compete.

      I'm quite impressed with this statement, coming from somebody who would greatly beneficiate from such rules being passed.

      We surely need this kind of thinking to be expressed a lot more in the IT business.

      Imagine what would be of the software world if Bill Gates had made that statement when Microsoft first had the chance to stablish a monopoly:

      "I remember where I came from, and if these pra
      • coming from somebody who would greatly beneficiate from such rules being passed.

        It is safe to say that he would also benefit from such rules being passed. That is, in addition to the beneficiaticizing he would already be doing.
    • Great to hear a media "mogul" weigh in against the further consolidation of media in America. I had some dealings with Ted [cornells.com] during my college radio days and he's a straight shooter. Back in those days he was battling to make a mark with his "Superstation" via cable distribution. Now, people like Murdoch just buy more stations if they want to reach new markets.
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:09PM (#6080024) Homepage Journal
    Well, looking at the cable industry I can only say that deregulation has simply resulted in higher cable bills. Prior to deregulation I paid $9.95 U.S./month for cable, now I am looking at $51.00/month and the only new channels available to me now are things like shopping channels, multiple MTV channels and other crap I have no interest in. In fact, what they have done is packaged channels I did watch into more expensive premium packages meaning I can no longer get Speedvision or others I am interested in without paying even more.

    The technology exists for us to be able to purchase channels ala-carte yet we still have to pick "packages" and only have access via the cable companies or the dish companies. Perhaps Apple could help things out the way they have the music industry?

    • by zztzed ( 279 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:16PM (#6080086)
      It's not the cable companies preventing you from ordering these channels a la carte, it's the channel owners. The packages are sold to cable companies as packages, and they're required to be sold to consumers as a package.
      • by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:30PM (#6080212) Homepage Journal
        It's not the cable companies preventing you from ordering these channels a la carte, it's the channel owners. The packages are sold to cable companies as packages, and they're required to be sold to consumers as a package.

        To what end? To me this is the same logic the RIAA and the record companies were using to prevent folks from getting the songs they wanted ala-carte. These guys don't have to worry about piracy in the same way and if I want the history channel, a couple of discovery channels, local and national news with some sports channels for equestrian stuff and motorsport, I should be able to order and pay for just those channels. No shopping channels, no pop culture channels, etc...etc...etc...

        • The end is that say.. Disney gets to charge the cable companies more by offering 15 channels instead of 10. The cable companies know that people want ESPN, so they bend over, take it for a few seconds, and then it on to the end-consumer (pun?).

          Channels a la carte would be marvelous. I watch maybe 5 channels, through my TiVo. I'd sure save a lot.
    • The reason they don't go for the ala-carte system is that it wouldn't give them any guarentees.

      When some channel approaches a cable company they say "how many households am I going to be seen in?"

      What the cable company doesn't want to say is "Well, it depends on how many people put you in their package".

      What they say is, we'll you'll be in 67% of our customers homes.

      Personally, I agree. I don't have cable (or watch any TV) because it's so shitty. Yeah, I miss SG-1 and Enterprise, but it's the small pr
    • Dish Network allows you to purchase individual channels for $5 each. You can get their Top 50 package w/ locals for $30 (One receiver) and then add Soap Channel (In the top 150) for $5.

      Easy enough.

  • by Flabby Boohoo ( 606425 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:13PM (#6080055) Journal

    NPR ran an interview with FCC Chairman Michael Powell this morning, it is available here [npr.org].

  • by Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:13PM (#6080056) Journal
    When was the FCC sold to the telco's and the media?
  • Register hypocrisy? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyberdyne ( 104305 ) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:15PM (#6080073) Journal
    It will difficult to exercise democracy when the ubiquitous national oracle propagates only those biases that four or five multinational conglomerates wish to see propagated, and which are backed up by co-owned newspapers and radio stations.

    Compared to the UK situation, where 2 of the 5 analogue broadcast channels are part of the tax-funded BBC? (Along with 5 or more national radio stations, a couple of magazines, a serious web presence, and a newspaper with a very similar agenda).

    I really don't think having "only" four or five different TV companies available (to non-cable/satellite subscribers) is a problem - especially when so many people have cable or satellite, giving them literally hundreds of different channels to choose from. Not to mention a huge number of newspapers and magazines, and of course the Internet!

    Keep this in mind: For years, the UK had just three different TV companies - the largest one state-owned, and the smallest subsidised. No cable (that came in the 80s), no satellite (same). With or without these changes, US viewers without cable/satellite will have more choice than UK viewers. I'm not holding the UK up as some sort of media Utopia, but it's hardly the disaster area these guys seem to predict!

    • It seems to me, and I may be wrong living on the other side of the pond, that the BBC is more willing to go against their purse-string-holders than US media corps do. Maybe the government is more willing to allow free speech regarding their motives than a profit-mongering board of directors? They are more in the public eye...
      • Not only doesn't the British government not "own" the BBC, it is legally prevented from interfering with its operation.

        The BBC, IIRC, is overseen by a board of 12 governors, who are appointed by Parliament's upper house. These appointees are drawn from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. The governors act as the corporation's shareholders; setting and monitor targets; hiring and firing management; and generally making sure that the population gets its money's worth. The governors don't have any say in
    • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:43PM (#6080326)
      Having lived in both countries, I would say the UK system is better. TV is of higher quality. It's also vastly cheaper. The TV license fee isn't a tax per se - it doesn't go in to the government's coffers. As it is, your numbers are a bit low.

      At about £10 per month (USD$16/CAD$23) it's really excellent value for money - I was paying (I ditched it) nearly CAD$70/mo for cable (basic cable is something like CAD$44), and ended up mostly watching the BBC or a couple of channels I could watch for free over the air. This license fee doesn't just pay for the 8 television channels [bbc.co.uk], but also 10 national radio networks, 50 local radio stations, and more. I don't know if it includes the World Service too. One has to admit that the BBC's web site is one of the best news sources on the internet. On top of that, the UK has better broadcast quality too having gone wide screen years ago, and now free digital services too.

      The BBC is high quality and provides tough competition for the other commercial channels who would otherwise slip in to the low-quality mediocracy that plagues N. American "free" TV. In fact, some of the newer channels like Channel 5 could very well be American. Personally I didn't like having the choice of hundreds of channels on digital cable here in Toronto... most of the time there was nothing on, and flipping through the channels provided mostly adverts. Bah!

    • " I really don't think having "only" four or five different TV companies available (to non-cable/satellite subscribers) is a problem - especially when so many people have cable or satellite, giving them literally hundreds of different channels to choose from. Not to mention a huge number of newspapers and magazines, and of course the Internet! "

      Yes, that is the exact argument Michael Powell of the FCC is making. But the flaw in that argument is that the same four or five large media conglomerates control

    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:52PM (#6080895)
      Compared to the UK situation, where 2 of the 5 analogue broadcast channels are part of the tax-funded BBC?

      It's not exactly a tax. The government has no control over how it's spent for one thing, and changing it is very hard.

      Keep this in mind: For years, the UK had just three different TV companies - the largest one state-owned

      The BBC is not state owned. I don't know why people think this. The government have no control over it, short of a somewhat mythical (and in the Dyke era almost certainly dead) old-boys network.

      Rather, the BBC is controlled by its Director General, and there is a controlling board too. Major changes, like launching new channels, have to get the approval of the media/culture secretary iirc.

      So, the state acts as a check/balance. It cannot influence journalistic integrity however.

  • by aquarian ( 134728 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:15PM (#6080077)
    They just covered this topic on Ted Koppel's Nightline. Barry Diller (who is *against* this deregulation, BTW) appeared along with 1 or 2 other big players. Michael Powell was supposed to appear too, but conveniently cancelled. I say "conveniently" because I really think he's trying to quell the debate now that it's gathered steam, and move forward June 2 with no resistance.
  • Support costs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Malc ( 1751 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:22PM (#6080134)
    "so if Verizon runs fiber to your house, you'll be able to get Verizon service or none at all."

    I would have thought a telco could make lots of money by rolling out fiber connections and then leasing them wholesale at above their costs. They won't have to support end users and the costly call centres, services, network infrastructure and bandwidth that that involves. They'll just have to provide the same infrastructure services that they need to provide anyway.

    Where I live, I can get DSL from the my local telco for CAD$45 (1.2mbs), or from a small ISP for $50 (3.5mbs). Apparently the local telco charges ~CAD$20 for DSLAM port leases. I'm glad I'm not paying for useless tech support or a heavily subsidised ISP portal that I would never use. It's easy money: I think they only support the CO, and line from there to the outside of my house.
  • Media stranglehold (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mtcrowe ( 86952 ) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:22PM (#6080136)
    Usually, I'm a big free market proponent, but even I can see how media consolidation is a bad thing for the average American consumer.

    Right now, we have four major television networks: ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS. Watch each network's nightly news broadcasts; they're not all that different. And although news organizations like to say that they're unbiased and "just reporting the facts, ma'am", the way in which you present "the facts" gives a strong indication as to your opinion of it.

    "Republicans Hand Wealthy Americans Large Tax Break" vs. "American Citizens Will Pay Less in Taxes" gives a pretty good impression of what the writer thinks of the tax breaks.
  • HA! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s4m7 ( 519684 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:30PM (#6080215) Homepage

    Does anyone still remember when the FCC was supposed to HELP the consumer, by regulating the communications industry on our behalf?

    now, the FCC serves to help monopolies, by regulating the consumer on the industries' behalf. Why is it that mechanisms to prevent consumers getting screwed always wind up being used against us?

    • Simple. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:13PM (#6080577) Homepage
      The answer is very simple: our government is for sale.
    • by John3 ( 85454 ) <john3@cornell s . com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:29PM (#6080697) Homepage Journal
      When I was in college radio at MIT [mit.edu], we were so paranoid about the FCC. Did we run enough public service announcements (PSA's), were we serving the community, did anyone play anything offensive on the air, etc. Your station license was up for renewal every year, and you spent weeks before the renewal running announcements about public comments and other BS just in case someone wanted to try and grab the frequency from you. Now (from what I understand), renewals are every five years, and I can't remember the last time I heard a TV or radio station mention that their license was up for renewal. So much for public ownership of the airwaves. Support your local stations [wfuv.org] and pirate radio.
      • Along the same lines, it seems like radio stations are getting away with a lot more nowadays when they're owned by big companies. Clear Channel (everyone's favorite group of oligarchs) owns many of the stations here in LA, including Star98.7, the one I listen to the most. Their morning show, Jamie and Danny (starring Danny Partridge), is getting worse and worse about calling people "assholes" on the air. Personally, I don't care. But you just know there's some little old lady in Pasadena, having a conniptio
  • key point missed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Uhh_Duh ( 125375 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:33PM (#6080238) Homepage
    I don't understand how forcing a LEC to share their infrastructure promotes growth. It does the opposite.

    Would you pay billions to deploy an infrastructure if you were going to be forced by the FCC to let your competition use it? Hell no.

    Come on people. Forcing businesses to share what they build is only going to make them not build it in the first place. Letting them keep what they build will encourage competition and give multiple carriers a fair shot at the same market. Granted, the little guys aren't going to be in a position to deploy billions of dollars in Fiber to homes that are only willing to pay $50/mo for service (I don't see this as a winning venture no matter HOW you look at it) but that's what VC's are for I guess.

    If it's a profitable venture, the money will be on the table for more than one person to go after it. If it's not profitable (once again, Fiber to the home at $50 a month? Sorry kids, this isn't magic fairy land) then nobody will touch it anyway.

    Capitalism is a beautiful thing.
    • Capitalism is a beautiful thing.

      Uhh_Duh you don't get it.

      Capitalism work great for some things, but is terrible for others.

      Capitalism is terrible in monoply situations. If you bothered to learn some economics, you would learn about the concept of "monopoly price".

      These companies own sole rights to run the fiber. How many set of telephone poles go by your house? Exactly. Capitalism (in the sense that you're talking about) is a terrible thing is this situation, because even if someone else is wil
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:35PM (#6080252)
    I'm sick of the BS "I own the network and don't want to play nice with others" argument the Bells push. It's about time to remove the Bells ability to do things like that. What it should be is, for all phone, internet, cable, or other such services, there should be one player that owns the network and make the equipment investment. But they would not be allowed to sell any of it to regular consumers. Instead, they should only be allowed to lease the use of the equipment to anyone that wants it...the Bells, private ISPs, private cable companys, anyone. That way there is no conflict of interest that there is in the current system. All the companies are on equal ground. Consumers have a true choice on who to use. You don't like one company, move on to the next one. It won't matter, because the service is all on the same network, just different content. Interoptibility is flawless. There would finally be true competition to provide the consumer with the best experience.

    But unless MAJOR restructuring happens, we'll never see this. The consumer is just the ragdoll being fought over by dogs. Only one dog is a terrier and the other is a rottweiler. Either way, the consumer still has teeth sunk into them.
  • by cheezfreek ( 517446 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:40PM (#6080301)
    Note that the FCC is removing any requirement for the Bells to share their fiber, so if Verizon runs fiber to your house, you'll be able to get Verizon service or none at all.

    And this is better than a public, government-run-and-regulated monopoly how exactly?

    • There is more than just the one choice: commercial monopoly or government monopoly. REQUIRE sharing the infrastructure, period. Then provide tax incentives for all of them to get together to pay for laying fiber/ugrading the system.

      In any case, government monopoly is better than commercial monopoly because it is almost invariably cheaper.

      Better still, take infrastructure out of the hands of the telcos and hand it over to another body that is required to lease the lines on an equal basis to any takers.

  • FCC... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:41PM (#6080316)
    Why do we even _have_ the FCC?

    I mean, sure, I know why they exist, and why they were created. (And yes, we'd probably be worse off without them, but still, I don't think I'm the only one frustrated with their recent behavior) They were created to regulate and designate the airwaves in the public interest. Except lately they seem to have forgotten those last two words. Cable deregulation was not in the public interest (unless people are interested in paying higher prices). Massive media conglomerates are not really in the public interest.

    Seems the FCC is more concerned with helping the big Telcos and special interest groups, instead of caring about what the people have to say.

    But I guess that's par for the course in today's government.

  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:46PM (#6080358) Homepage
    But the new developments and apartment buildings will probably get fibre because its cheaper for the telcos.

    We've been paying a surcharge for years for this and there's zilch implemented. My old building that was built in 1949 had twisted wire pair clad in cotton. I thought it was the wire for the friggin' door bell.

    The newer ones have had four condictor plastic clad wire sincethen until now. As for fibre to your house, or even street switch box... Fuggedaboudit...

    They wait until the infrastructure suffers an irrevocable breakdown (like a pole falling over, an underground pipe getting a back-hoe through it or fire and explosion at a CO,) before replacing a foot of wire.

    And even then they're going to use left-over copper wire until its all gone.
    • Good thought. I think I'll rent a backhoe and repeatedly cut their phonelines around the local area until they run out of twisted sister pair and put in the good stuff.


      Perhaps I could keep frying their lines by pumping power outlet juice down the wire periodically when there are storms in the broad vicinity so it can get blamed on lightening strikes.

  • by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @04:48PM (#6080372) Journal
    To the FCC chairman? This will create a monopoly and hence drive up prices...As an analogy in my apartment I can only get DirecTV and boy, they are so expensive! Not sure if cable has changed, but I was paying about $30 ess for the same service.

    Now it looks like fiber to the home is going the same way, huge price and with little choice.

    Chairman of the FCC should be given two choices; Resign or be fired.

    StarTux
  • While Powell said he values public input on the rules, it ultimately will be of little help in crafting ownership laws that stand up in court.

    "You don't govern just by polls and surveys," he said. "We have to exercise difficult judgments and abide by the law. If all of our rulemaking was just a case of put them out and take a referendum, things would be a lot easier."

    referendum

    \Ref`er*en"dum\, n.; pl. -da. [Gerundive fr. L. referre. See Refer.] The principle or practice of referring measures passed

  • by Sara Chan ( 138144 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:00PM (#6080461)
    In most big cites in Canada, CanWest Global Communications [canwestglobal.com] owns at least the dominant newspaper and one of the top television stations. In Montreal, the second-largest city, it owns the lone English-language daily newspaper as well as one of two private English-language television stations. In Vancouver, the third largest city, it owns both daily newspapers and two of the top three television stations. It also owns numerous other newspapers [canwestglobal.com], including the major daily in the Canadian capital (the Ottawa Citizen), as well as television stations reaching 94% of English-speaking Canadians [canwestglobal.com].

    The owner is staunchly pro-Israel (his name is Israel Asper): so all CanWest media must provide pro-Israel news coverage of the Middle East. Journalists who don't follow this can be fired or suspended. And all CanWest newspapers are required to print company editorials on national and international issues. Even worse, CanWest is pro the current Liberal government: so the government has done nothing during the past few years while CanWest spread.

    The Economist [economist.com] had story last year [economist.com] and another story the year before [economist.com] giving details.


    __________________________
    "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." --Goethe

    • Even worse, CanWest is pro the current Liberal government

      Wow. You must be watching a different Global than I watch ... Kevin Newman (and the rest of Global News) has such an anti-liberal slant it's not even funny. Have you EVER watched the segment called "The Last Word"? I would guess that the CanWest Global network is far more right-leaning than pro-liberal.
  • So, instead of just feeling bad, powerless, screwed, angry about this mess, do something about it. I did. Go to ACLU Action page [aclu.org] to send nice boiler plate text e-mail/faxes to each of the various decision makers in this process.
  • Fiber monopolies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:19PM (#6080612)
    I see alot of people here debating the monopolistic impacts of a single company running fiber to a house. Just because Verizon runs fiber to your house doesn't mean they have a monopoly on the data services comming into your house.

    Go outside and count the number of cables comming into your home. The average home has three types:

    Non-twisted copper pair (voice grade).

    Coaxial cable (rg-59 or rg-6).

    3 phase 220 power lines.

    Data can be transmitted on all three types without fiber. The coaxial cable option will definitely give fiber a run for its money. The new DOCSIS 2.0 spec is 30 Mbps symetric!

    I'm already getting 10Mbps/1Mbps across my cable connection without fiber to my home. By the time the telcos get their act together cable will have scaled to double or triple its current speeds. Granted, it's not as "cool" as saying you've got fiber, but i'll tell you i prefer surfing the web over my cable connection versus the fiber T1 at work.

    There is always competition to supply where there is sufficent demand.

    -ted
    • by praedor ( 218403 )

      Nice, for you privaledged city-slickers. Fuck the many citizens in rural areas. I suppose we should be happy we got power (only because the government forced it, 'cause no company would EVER have run power lines to rural areas if allowed to merely base such decisions on profit motive). Fiber would benefit rural and city dwellers equally. We (rural-ites) would be able to get the same high-speed telecom that city dwellers take for granted. Satellite doesn't count because it is 1) overpriced, and 2) suffe

  • by panaceaa ( 205396 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @05:21PM (#6080631) Homepage Journal
    FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell apparently thinks "democracy" is great when it applies to elections, but not to government policy. In his '99 FCC Commissioner statement [fcc.gov], he said:
    The Commission here avowedly promises ... to initiate public debate on "whether, and how, broadcasters' public interest obligations can be refined to promote democracy and better educate the voting public."
    However, after Bush has appointed him as chairman and he's no longer at the whim of an election, he changes his story. Here is his quote in the Washington Post article:

    "You don't govern just by polls and surveys. ... If all of our rulemaking was just a case of put them out and take a referendum, things would be a lot easier."
    It seems to me he isn't following his "promise" of promote democracy.

    I would understand if he called the US Government a republic. But why do so many public figures, elected or appointed, praise the ideals of a democracy but insist on following the processes of a republic? If he wants to promote democracy, he should listen to the petitions and keep the restrictions on entertainment conglomerates.
  • by Popsikle ( 661384 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @06:06PM (#6081014) Homepage
    While Powell said he values public input on the rules, it ultimately will be of little help in crafting ownership laws that stand up in court. "You don't govern just by polls and surveys," he said. "We have to exercise difficult judgments and abide by the law. If all of our rulemaking was just a case of put them out and take a referendum, things would be a lot easier." - From the Washington Post Article... Isnt that the point of a Democratic Government? We the People, For the People, By The People? Or am I on crack, and thats not the way It it supposed to work!
  • Good luck getting any real pro-tech stuff passed with Team Bush running the show. These people are the apotheosis of cronyism. In spite of this getting a little media attention, I think the whole thing will go down to the liking of the big corporations (Fox, ClearChannel, Disney, Verizon, etc). The haggling will be over who in the corporate club gets the choice concessions, not over whether "the public" has any rights to be considered.

    If you ask me, government should have a stake in infrastructure to keep costs down and competition open. This consistantly proves to be the best model for entrepreneurial economic success by the most parties. Look at how the national interstate highway system (which costs billions a year to maintain) is such a success, vs the railroad system. I expect nations with nationally supported (and open) tellecommunications infrastructure will weild a significant economic advantage over those which rely on profit-based monopolies/oligargies to move their bits around.

    I would advise slashdotters to get involved in the upcoming political process (the 2004 presidential election) if they care about the future of technology vis-a-vis regulation. To my mind, the only thing that can stop the person-centric information revolution and kill the end-to-end net is crony regulation that will force people to use non-open software on non-open networks to do the important things (e.g. transactions, contracts, digital media, etc).

    Currently I like Howard Dean [outlandishjosh.com], who hopefully will be maneuvered into becoming The Internet Candidate [blaserco.com]. It's an exciting time. Participate!
    • Um while I'm not a huge supporter of the republican party, I also am not foolish enough to think that a democrat is going to be such a better thing for my interests in tech matters... I watched the Democratic debates & they were a bunch of losers who couldn't stand up for an issue one way or another...

      Unfortunately though no other party or platform would ever get voted in these days... Which is kinda funny since until about the 40's it was unheard of for the USA to have only 2 parties... Often their we
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @06:29PM (#6081162) Homepage

    The AT&T breakup was wrong. It was done the wrong way. A breakup was needed. But it wasn't obvious at the time the way the breakup needed to happen. The way it should have been done, which is more clear now, is to totally separate the infrastructure from everything else. And it is still possible to do this now with the coming fiber infrastructure.

    What we need is an infrastructure company that does nothing else but infrastructure. That company would own the infrastructure and the access point facility. But they would not be allowed to be in any level of business beyond that in exchange for having the infrastructure monopoly. They would not provide dialtone. They would not provide IP routing. They would also not provide point to point circuits except to common carrier businesses.

    Every common carrier would pay the same price to have access to the infrastructure. There would be one price for full dark fiber. There would be another price for partial bandwidth on a multiplexed fiber. Homes should have a minimum of 7 fibers, and businesses of course would have more as needed. But 7 is enough for a massive amount of service in today's terms. One fiber can run hundreds of TV channels and gigabits of digital bandwidth.

    The advantage of this split, is it separates the infrastructure monopoly from fair competitive information and communications services, allows choice, and even allows multiple concurrent services. The big money is in the information and communications services, so this will help boost the economy, too. The infrastructure company would be allowed to charge actual costs plus a reasonable profit for a stable long term return on investment.

  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @06:31PM (#6081172) Journal
    It's nice to see the washington post for regulation. They've got quite a media empire: [corporate-ir.net] 3+ newspapers, newsweek magazine, 6 over-the-air tv stations, a large cable network, Kaplan, and several internet ventures, including part of BrassRing.com

    It's a nice media empire that fits well under the old FCC rules. There is little overlap in the markets served. The tv sations are all in different cities, and the newspapers serve different locations and formats.

    I wish them success in overturning the new fcc rules bought by bush's corporate supporters.

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