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Former FCC Chief Touts "Big Broadband" 417

Anonymous Coward writes "Reed Hundt has a vision about building a 10 to 100 Mbps network for every household in the U.S. He makes a great case for why it should be done and how we can pay for it. What's interesting about this piece is that Hundt advocates a new approach to universal service. Instead of giving away broadcast spectrum (for HDTV) and maintaining (ancient, inflexible) phone lines, we should spend money on building out a next generation fiber network to every household, and run both HDTV and phone over that network. Then we can stop funding the phone network (which is pretty much maxed out anyway) and sell off the HDTV spectrum for 10s of billions of dollars."
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Former FCC Chief Touts "Big Broadband"

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  • Doubtfull (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kris Thalamus ( 555841 ) * <> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:39AM (#8304927)
    It may sound like a good idea, but with so many politicians indentured to big media corporations, I have a hard time imagining that this will turn into anything other than ill-conceived pork-barrel spending.
    • Re:Doubtfull (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fleener ( 140714 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:43AM (#8304969)
      As someone who no longer watches TV, and only grudgingly pays for a cable modem, it'll take a lot of convincing that I should spend any of my money to increase the GIGO throughput to my house.
      • Re:Doubtfull (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ratamacue ( 593855 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:21PM (#8306049)
        it'll take a lot of convincing that I should spend any of my money

        Don't worry, the government will decide that for you.

        • Whoever modded the above a troll is ignorant of the legislative process. We are not living in a direct democracy. Our elected leaders DO decide a lot of things FOR us. How else do we explain the existence of the IRS?
          • Re:Doubtfull (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Threni ( 635302 )
            > Whoever modded the above a troll is ignorant of the legislative process. We are
            > not living in a direct democracy. Our elected leaders DO decide a lot of things
            > FOR us. How else do we explain the existence of the IRS?

            Yes and no. It's like the UK. We have a Parliamentary Democracy. We elect members to Parliament, and they scurry around doing stuff.

            Having said that, if the people really didn't like something, they're more than capable of forming a new party and voting it in. It's ignorance, and
          • Re:Doubtfull (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ween ( 13381 )
            You are right, I pay almost $20 a month in taxes and fees on my phone bill. In fact, I pay as much in taxes and fees as I do for the phone line itself. To make matters worse, you cannot get out of paying these fees. No amount of complaining and arguing will do any good. So the dilemma is, do I use cell phones only and pay the cable man for crap I dont want so I can have cable internet, or do I pay the phone man for crap I dont want so I can have DSL. Either way, Im screwed out of my hard earned money.
    • I agree, and wince at some of the outcomes.

      One GOOD outcome would be that if the dirty politicians were busy with the fiber network, they might be a little less involved with plain old broadcast TV, and stop forcing changes there.
    • Re:Doubtfull (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MichiganDan ( 720608 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:47AM (#8305026)
      The Iowa Communications Network provides an interesting case study in ways that networks, concieved by politicians, can indeed be built without excessive pork attached. Governor Branstead pretty much put himself in charge of it. It has revolutionized educational communications throughout the state and brought theretofore unheard of opportunities to small colleges and high schools.

      So, in a word, it *can* be done without the pork and failure. *Will* it is a different issue.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:49PM (#8306363)
        MichiganDan writes:
        The Iowa Communications Network provides an interesting case study in ways that networks, concieved by politicians, can indeed be built without excessive pork attached.

        This is absolutely incorrect. ICN has been a terrible failure, and is actually being prepared to be sold off to rid the state of Iowa of the nightmare. Here in Des Moines, it has become a third rail in the legislature for many years because of the increasing budget impact. It already takes much of the state's cigerette settlement as well as a large demand on the general budget. Worst of all, it's so poorly run and the fiber technology increasingly outdated that there is no end in sight, other than dumping it.

        Some facts on the ICN disaster:

        1. It's just about to be put on the block. See the ICN website [] for details on legislation being drafted to sell off the pieces of the ICN to whoever will bid on them.

        2. It has been an administrative mess. ICN has had issues in the past several years with telecom fraud (they apparently weren't equipped to prevent toll fraud). Their IP service to schools has been so poor (due to budget issues, inefficiencies, competence challenges) that many schools have simply left, only to find faster service at lower costs from the private sector. My children's school has a T1 connection through ICN, but sees typically 50-80 kbps speeds on the ICN piece (as tested from their router - we had to look at why the classrooms were getting faster speeds on dialup). Upstream, the word is that ICN just hasn't purchased the necessary capacity to service what they have sold. This is further indication that they are not truly representing costs, even though they're terribly in the red.

        3. The original design was a pork barrel benefit, which doomed the project out of the gates. I worked for a carrier that was asked to bid on the original RFP in the early 1990s. The RFP was puzzling - it appeared that it was intended to fail. Upon further inquiry, we learned that a coalition of incumbent telephone providers had manipulated the RFP design in a manner to ensure the project would fail. They expected they would end up with the network (built at taxpayer expense) in a few years. Given the present asset sale proposal, this may indeed be finally happening.

        it *can* be done without the pork and failure.

        ICN is nothing but pork and failure, unfortunately. Please, don't make our state's mistake in yours!
    • Re:Doubtfull (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wayward_son ( 146338 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:12PM (#8305260)
      Graft, corruption, pork, and incompetence must be factored into the cost of any Government project.

      That being said, I think it's a good idea. There are many rural areas of the country where broadband could be useful, but it is not profitable to run or maintain a connection out there.

      The old REA (Rural Electrification Administration) was highly successful in bringing telephone service and electricity to rural America. Something similar could be done for broadband.

      If you were wondering about paying for it, that's simple: cut agricultural subsidies, especially for ethanol. Those are a massive waste of money, and cutting them while providing rural infrastructure would be at worst a wash for rural America, and at best a better deal.

    • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:59PM (#8306501)
      It's ill-conceived. He makes a lot of statements that are merely conjecture, and that completely sidestep reality. For example:

      This network would be optimally efficient. It would be a platform for new innovative services, such as rich interactive gaming.

      We already have rich, interactive gaming. And ironically, the more "rich" and "interactive," the more it will cost- not just a "buy once play as many times as you want," but "but once, and keep paying" a la Planetside, Everquest, the upcoming World of Warcraft, etc. Further, it's not going to be cheap to install and maintain the infrastructure necessary to support "rich" and "interactive" gaming- for either side. Even if you had a network that could handle whatever you throw at it, say, a stream of 10K vs the typical 5K for an online multiplayer game, it won't do any good if the indivdual's computer can't handle it.

      It would greatly increase e-commerce, producing higher gdp.

      Nice thought, but he says nothing about how this would actually happen.

      It would create new jobs in the United States.

      See above.

      It would ensure broadcast penetration
      at nearly 100%, local voice penetration at nearly 100%, and push Internet access at least to 90% if not 100%.

      See above.

      The other thing he neglects to mention is that a significant part of the cost of certain broadband services are derived from fees and taxes. That will not change merely because the method of delivery has changed. Another real downside is that as providers gain and weild more and more control over what travels across those wires, I see the potential that everything will be commoditized - down to the individual protocol.
      • What really got me was not the issues you point out, but the fact that of "all this money" he claims to see as "available" for this conversion, very little of it really is .... most of that $400billion or so is going to have to be paid into the current system to keep it operating AT THE SAME TIME as the conversion is being made. We can't just turn off the current systems for five years, keep paying as if we are using them, and then turn on a brand new system. It just doesn't work that way....

  • I live in the SF Bay Area and they placed fiber up and down most of the streets around me... LIKE THREE YEARS AGO. This seems to be a very slow procedure.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Never mind. That was just some crazy bag lady unrolling yarn everywhere. And you thought it was hi-tech.
    • Re:WHEN? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:51AM (#8305068)
      Some of the newer housing complexes near me (not my own home) were built with local fiber networks connecting the neighborhood (~= 25 houses). They all have internet access this way. But what's even better is the bandwidth they enjoy within the neighborhood.

      It's overkill if you ask me. But they seem to be having a great time downloading from each other's computers and playing multiplayer games with no lag time.
  • Telcos (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:41AM (#8304953)
    The telco lobbies will be swift and vengeful.
    • Possibly not... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Svartalf ( 2997 )
      If they're the ones rolling out the bandwidth, they win- BIG. In a 100Mbit situation, you're looking at video on demand, VoIP, etc- all of which works in a manner much like what people really, really want. Bill it in some flat rate per block of bytes, give everyone a base free amount of bandwidth, and tell them to go play. The company that can manage all of this without going broke in the rollout and sets the billing properly, will win big.
  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:41AM (#8304956) Homepage Journal
    They promised me a flying car!

    Goddamned Tom Selleck told me I would be able to watch any movie ever made anywhere, anytime. I should kick his ass!

    And what about that moon city?!!! The moon belongs to America! And clean, cheap fusion power stations are only 10 years away!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:42AM (#8304958)
    The FCC gives an excuse to the morality police to control content. I don't want the government or politicians going anywhere near my network. I'll just say no, thank you.
    • by GreyWolf3000 ( 468618 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:46AM (#8305005) Journal
      That's why we should all say just say "no" to the FCC to do it, and rally our local government to say "yes." That way it would be decentralized, easier to maintain, and far more likely to be interested in our say.
    • Yeah - just look at DARPAnet for how badly governments can screw up when they try and set up networks ... oh, wait ...

      (As a side issue, in the UK at the moment there's a particularly annoying British Telecom/Yahoo broadband advertisement in which "Mikey" and "Jimmy", two circa-1970 geeks, talk about their hopes for the "Internetwork". I'm finding it really difficult to think about the Internet historically without calling it the "Internetwork")

    • by Valdrax ( 32670 )
      Better Uncle Sam than Comcast, in my opinion.

      Of course, in the modern-day push to privatization, the most likely outcome of any such measure to "help" US citizens would be to fund billions of dollars of construction on the taxpayer's bill and then immediately turn control of it over to a profit-maximizing local monopoly to further soak money out of all the new utility's customers. (... Make that "consumers" -- customers are people you have to treat with dignity.)

      I'd rather have the government in control
  • but..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xao gypsie ( 641755 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:42AM (#8304960)
    that has hidden and surprise costs written all over it. also, i ahve a feeling something like that wouldn't really get near to completion until my children are in highschool (i am as of yet unmarried).
  • Sign me up! (Score:4, Funny)

    by TrollBridge ( 550878 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:42AM (#8304965) Homepage Journal
    Ahh yes, universal broadband, complete with government beaurocracy, paid for by taxpayers, funneled directly to the wallets of media industry campaign contributors' wallets.

    Where do I sign up??

    • Re:Sign me up! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:58AM (#8305130) Journal
      Ahh yes, universal broadband, complete with government beaurocracy, paid for by taxpayers, funneled directly to the wallets of media industry campaign contributors' wallets.
      However horrendous the service that state companies or state-run programmes provide, there is one thing that they are actually quite good and even efficient at (at least over here): building and running a public infrastructure. State companies so far have been able to provide excellent infrastructure for electricity, telephony, gas, and public transport.

      Since a few decades, more and more of such utilities have been turned into private enterprise. The result? Prices have not gone down a lot, and in some cases (railways), the physical infrastructure has suffered. The notable success of privatisation has been in the level and quality of service, something that state companies are notoriously bad at. So all in all, I do think privatisation has been a success.

      I'm very much a believer in the free market, but I think that there is something to be said for state-run infrastructure: for example, a high-speed Internet network to every door. Let private enterprise provide the backbone networks, the services, and so on, but let a state-run company take care of the connection to each house. Our government should have done this with the old telephony network... paid-for by taxpayers, but now in the hands of the formerly state-run PTT, who wilfully and blatantly frustrate any attempt by other companies to enter in the voice telephony business, since that is still their own core business as well. Mark my words: if one company is offered the job of hooking up everyone to this fast Internet (or perhaps everyone in a particular region), you will see that they or a sister company will want to undertake offering the actual Internet service to customers as well... it will be in their own best business interests to thwart other companies offering competitive services.
  • Just like (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ymiris ( 733964 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:43AM (#8304966) Journal
    UTOPIA, which still has yet to make an entrance in Utah...will this ever come?
  • A regulator's dream (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The G ( 7787 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:43AM (#8304975)
    "Then we can stop funding the phone network (which is pretty much maxed out anyway) and sell off the HDTV spectrum for 10s of billions of dollars."

    Thereby assuring that fast internet access is delivered over a single-point-of-regulation and allowing government licensure to determine how we get the internet for the next five decades.

    And this is supposed to be a good idea?
    • by leerpm ( 570963 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:57AM (#8305115)
      You are confusing the notion of access service providers with utility providers. Stop thinking about Internet access as something you get from a specific telephone or cable company. Think of it like electricity. You can have competing billing providers all offering their own distinct plans. But just one 'utility' that builds and sells the physical access wholesale to the access service providers, who then resell it to the end-users.
    • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:20PM (#8305347) Journal
      You'd prefer AOL to keep being the provider of first resort?
    • by $ASANY ( 705279 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:37PM (#8306979) Homepage
      I'm surprised there isn't more comment on this supposed 10s of zillions of dollars that we can supposedly obtain by auctioning off spectrum allocated to HDTV. Given Reed's history in FCC auctions, I'd think there's be a lot more skepticism.

      I was part of the team that built the FCC auctions system, back in the "C" block days of the mid-1990s where we would set a new world record in auction "revenues" every few months. This was the initial cell phone stuff that gave us Sprint and the other early wireless providers. We talked about balancing the federal budget solely with FCC auctions revenues for years to come, FCC economists painted rosy pictures about the tsunami of revenue providers would make with all the new services this spectrum would allow, and made these companies think it was worth pledging billions of dollars in order to get their hands on that spectrum. They were heady days.

      After these record breaking auctions, where fledgling companies would have to make humongous down payments on their licenses out of their seed capital, these companies built out their networks and started marketing to consumers. The only problem was that they couldn't possibly generate enough revenue to cover their FCC obligations, and they started to default or disappear altogether. Then there was the little matter of the FCC yanking back licenses without following the rules about defaults and auctioning off the defaulted licenses only to have the courts order that spectrum be restored to the appelants after it had been transferred to new licensees.

      In the same way that AOL put the screws to the internet revolution with it's "fsck 'em" mentality of squeezing every last dollar from everyone they could mug, the FCC mugged the telecom/wireless industry for everything it could possibly extract and left the industry in the same ruin that AOL helped to create in the dot-com implosion. But this was government, with much bigger weapons to employ in it's greedy neo-capitalist slash-and-burn strategy.

      So Reed Hundt wants to do the same with spectrum pledged to the broadcast media to entice them to roll out HDTV, and then squeeze every last dollar possible out of whoever might be interested in using that spectrum. Who's going to finance this? How many investors are eager to finance businesses that have as their only substantial asset an FCC license?

      Be very wary of Reed Hundt prognosticating a windfall of billions, and suspicious of any company that thinks it's going to make a good return on investor's money used to buy spectrum at astronomical prices. There was no free money then, and there's certainly not going to be any free money with this same failed idea in the future.

  • by GrepTar ( 690496 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:43AM (#8304978)
    How much for the visible light part? If someone bought that part, could they sue you for seeing?
  • by GreyWolf3000 ( 468618 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:43AM (#8304979) Journal
    But I'd rather see this come from local communities. They could vote on who they outsource the labor to, how much they are willing to pay for, allow people who don't want to participate to "opt out," and also allow communities that want the Internet, but not the HDTV, to have it "their way."
  • good idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spectrokid ( 660550 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:44AM (#8304985) Homepage
    and create a HUMONGOUS monopoly which would have made Ma BELL look tiny... Cut one cable and if 9/11 happens again more then 10 miles away, you'll never know it....
  • Highly unlikely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CyberHippyRedux ( 687568 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:46AM (#8305008) Homepage
    Though this sounds like a perfect wet-dream for us all, there's far too much money riding on the current infastructure for this to happen.

    Not to mention the political impetus of the anti-big-government crowd, and the rising budget defecits. I believe this prospect would be DOA in any legislature for many years.
    • Re:Highly unlikely (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Threni ( 635302 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:01PM (#8305164)
      Given that many, many families in the US are below the breadline, surely ensuring that all families have enough fresh fruit and other handy items rather than an effecient porn and warez deployment mechanism would be a better idea?

      Check out: .htm
  • Yeah, whatever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:47AM (#8305016) Journal
    Is a 10 to 100mbps network fast enough to carry a few dozen HDTV streams, two or three voice conversations, and still have enough bandwidth left over for the interweb to be considered broadband?

    Would even a gigabit pipe to my home have enough bandwidth for all that?

    Did the submitter misquote, or is this another career politician blowing words out his ass that he doesn't really understand?

    Old folks are like that. I have one politician client who's convinced that the quarter of a T1 he shares with the rest of the county is "way fast".
    • Re:Yeah, whatever (Score:4, Insightful)

      by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:56AM (#8305108) Homepage
      a T1 probably isn't, but 100 megabits should be plenty. We'd need to light a bunch more fiber in the big backbones if we were looking at universal 100megabit connectivity, though.

      On the other hand, if we rolled that out we'd have alot more decentralized fast networks and the internet could be about connected peers again instead of the consumer/producer model we've got now.

    • Re:Yeah, whatever (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SandHawk ( 15347 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:05PM (#8305206) Homepage
      Why do you need more video streams than there are people in the house?

      • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:17PM (#8305316) Journal
        Because it's labor day, and every cable channel is running a marathon of some sort (twilight zone on sci fi, simpsons on fox, monster garage on discovery, etc, etc) and my future megativo 3000 is set to capture them all for me.

        If I have 15 VCRs I can record 15 channels, why would I lose that ability on the ubersystem of the future?
    • RTFA. The network he proposes is a "next generation fiber network". The idea is that each home will be able to get about 100mbps at least. Fiber bandwidth is much higher than 100mbps, and that's quite an understatement.

      100mbps *is* enough for you. A couple of HDTV streams would take at most 10mbps (I'm sure it's a lot less than that, but let's give it the benefit of doubt). Voice conversations..puhleeze, I get crystal clear quality from Vonage running at 96Kbps either way. I could handle 30 of those comfor
  • Censorship (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyrl ( 741628 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:47AM (#8305022) Journal
    And with one big network, that should make it easy to regulate, RIAA, MPAA, whomever else wants to restrict access
  • by ajayvb ( 657479 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:49AM (#8305052) Homepage
    Take a look at this; [] The government is funding research to build and roll out such networks. My question is: where are the applications? The biggest driver for bandwidth I've seen so far has been KaZaa and the other P2P stuff. Nothing else seem to have spurred bandwidth demand otherwise. I mean, isn't that the only intensive stuff people run on DSL /Cable even now?
    • Nope (Score:3, Interesting)

      Nothing else seem to have spurred bandwidth demand otherwise. I mean, isn't that the only intensive stuff people run on DSL /Cable even now?

      Nope. If you count cable, it's definitely TV, which runs on the same pipe as your broadband. I don't mean that to be a smartass comment, because on the proposed network, they plan to carry a lot of HDTV. Read uphill a bit from your comment, and there's a guy wondering if gigabit would be enough to carry all that.

      I don't know which of the two of you is right, though

    • It seems to me that part of the problem is that small websites can't afford to provide high-bandwidth services. At US$1 per gigabyte transferred (at least this is the case for the small and unrepresentative number of hosting providers I have looked at), there is virtually no way a hobbyist could afford to provide broadband content to any significant number of people. The obvious solution would then be to have visitors contribute something to the site, but as of yet there is no viable micropayment system.
    • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:30PM (#8305490) Homepage
      Standard chicken and egg problem... No one's going to invest in developing a product that requires 100Mbps to the home because it will take years or decades for that to become widespread. And since there are no applications that require that much bandwidth, there's no demand for 100mbps to the home, so no one will invest in it.

      However, you're right that the ideas in this article would have much more merit if there were even *plans* for such services on the drawing board. Our current voice and cable networks are apparently "good enough" for the vast majority of users, and VOIP and TVOIP would not be that much better than current services to justify the cost of switching. Hunt is also neglecting the fairly large time during which *both* networks would have to be maintained; the old voice and cable networks couldn't be shut down until the new 100Mbps network approached their penetration levels, which would take years or decades.
  • by i)ave ( 716746 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:50AM (#8305055)
    ...that the best way to fund the current HDTV rollout was to force every consumer who buys a new 25"+ Television after 2004 to spend an extra $300 for the built-in (mandatory) terristrial HDTV tuner even though they may not want it or even need it? Thanks, but no thanks.
    • by oldave ( 160729 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:10PM (#8305251)
      No, that was Michael Powell, the current chairman.

      To be clear, it's not an HDTV tuner that's required, but an ATSC tuner - a digital tuner, in other words.

      Television broadcasters are on the air in many locations with digital signals that you can't receive with standard analog tuners. In order to reclaim the spectrum from the analog stations, it's necessary to reach a "critical mass" of digital tuners in the field.

      Basically, it's the chicken/egg thing all over again.
  • by seichert ( 8292 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:50AM (#8305059) Homepage
    Besides the obvious civil liberties issues, the government does not have a good history of running networks. Just look at Amtrak [].
  • Hmm.

    1. Government mandates what you can watch (ala v-Chip).
    2. Government installs super-high-bandwidth pipes to every home in America.
    3. Government mandates that your consumer electronics contain "monitoring equipment" to ensure that you are not harboring terrorists.

    Too much government.

    ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT BIG GOVERNMENT. Take action in your community. Compete with the government for provision of social services. Ween your weaker neighbors off of Government handouts! Support personal responsibilit
  • by Lord Haha ( 753617 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:52AM (#8305074) Homepage
    My parents live in Northern Virginia, where you can get your phone line in the house replaced with cat6 wires. Basically you get a fancy connection point o the wall and a "smart" box (which is basically a router) in the basement.

    The system works quite well, but when it came to home networking, we avoided it, because high-speed internet for us was cable (not using cat anything there) and then we went for a wireless router so that I/my father could easily use our laptops in the house.

    Overall Nice idea, but with wireless networking becoming cheaper and cheaper, and is heading towards matching 100mps wired connection speeds, a more realistic thing to do would be to getting digital cable or dsl repeaters out in the world and let home users network however they please.
    • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:41PM (#8305620)
      Your wireless network is not switched. Your cable couldn't deliver a good HDTV stream (well no cable modem I've heard of, the cable itself is capable), if you are the luckiest person going it just might handle a full quality DVD stream/DVB broadcast in PAL (8mbs). You also cannot compare the speed of your wireless lan with the speed of a potential wan connection, it's like someone saying, now I have a 10mbs hub, there's no need to upgrade my 19200baud modem, there just isn't a connection or if there is one it has the opposite effect of what you want, where the desire is to have a wan connection as broad as your lan could take! Finally the difference between a symetric network and a asymetric (like dsl) cannot be underestimated, it makes the difference between having a network of peers or a network of leeches. Do you want to be able to use your hdtv videocamera for a video call?
  • Let me guess.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dawn Keyhotie ( 3145 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:53AM (#8305081)
    Does Hundt work for or own a fiber-optic cable manufacturer?

    Don't mind me, I'm just naturally cynical.

    That being said, I do believe that FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) is where we will eventually end up. THe question is, do we make that our goal now and move directly to achieve it, or do we wander around aimlessly in the broadband desert for forty years, waiting and suffering through every concievable combination of DSL, vDSL, Fixed wireless, satellite, cable, and carrier pigeon, before we get where we're going.

    I prefer the direct route.


  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sentosus ( 751729 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:53AM (#8305085)
    Why not just provide more spectrum for wireless and lets eliminate the mass of cables for a central source for maintenance and upgrades?

    It is a good idea to provide that much bandwidth, but it really shouldn't be wasted on TV Signals. Why not add in a free open library of educational materials? Why not allow it to be used as a replacement for public schools where a student can watch a full video of a teacher without the distractions of a classroom environment?

    My biggest issue is that we (Americans) should be more interested in wiring up a good portion of the population to high speed (Always ON) service before we worry about upgrading the network for more bandwidth. Every town over 1500 people should have a high speed connection instead.

    HDTV is Less Imporant than 256k Up/Down FOR 90% POPULATION is my Motto.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iwadasn ( 742362 )

      The answer is simple, wireless will never be a viable solution for lots of people needing lots of bandwidth, end of story.

      Don't believe the long winded philosophers, useable spectrum is scarce. If everyone in the country wants to connect to the tower ten miles away at 100 megabit speeds, it's just not gonna happen. There is too little spectrum. Cell phone reception is bad enough, internet, forget about it. My wireless router is almost worthless due to interference from my neighbor's cordless phones or hair
  • Maxed out? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @11:56AM (#8305107) Journal
    Can anyone tell my just why our (i.e., the US) phone system is "almost maxed out"? The US system has 10 digits (including area code). Even with fax machines, mobiles, and computers, how are we anywhere close to maxing out the 10^10 numbers available? (that's 10 billion numbers, folks - about 1.5 for every person on the planet, or about 33 numbers for every man, woman, and child in the US (using 300 million as a population - which is a slight overestimate).

    I know that some area codes are "reserved" but each area code is only 10 million numbers. Does anyone know why there is such a number crunch? I would wager that it is due to poor allocation of numbers rather than a shortage of unique identifiers. (For instance, I've heard rumors of making US phone numbers 11 digits - do we really need 100 billion domestic phone numbers?)

    Do we have such poor resource management? (This is even worse than the IPv4 running out of space, which I know is due to allocation and because 2^32 is not even as large as the planet's population).

    Comments? Questions?

    • Re:Maxed out? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:02PM (#8305176)
      The US telephone numbers are allocated quite well, based on size of population. For instance, there is one area code for the whole of Wyoming, because few people live there (I understand there are some big hills...).

      Conversely, the UK system was based on *centres* of population. So a small market town gets as many numbers as a medium-sized city. This is why UK phone numbers have had to be rehashed a couple of times. We were very close to running out of numbers in London, Reading, Leicester, Bristol etc.

  • by planetmn ( 724378 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:01PM (#8305165)
    I thought the article was interesting, but I have a couple of questions that the writer completely ignored.

    First, as someone above mentioned, if the FCC were to regulate this in any way, would that mean that they could impose decency standards to the content delivered? I would hope not, but I can see the FCC trying to do it.

    Second, would the services coming over the physical medium be purchased from the group that maintains the physical structure? Or would you be free to shop around? Would we have cable providers or would you order your channels directly (e.g. directly order HBO, comedy central, etc. seperately - a la carte)?

    Third, what about tying in cellular phones? Basically like using VOIP and wireless access points. If you have the fiber everywhere, just add the access points to act as cell towers.

  • by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:02PM (#8305174) Journal
    Talk about old news... or maybe just good predicting - this was part of my networking class 10 years ago.

    First, there was supposed to be FTTC (Fiber To The Curb) and then FTTH (Fiber To The Home) to replace the telephone network. FTTC has been partially implemented in some areas. The Cable company has moved on this much faster than the phone company, though. FTTC is basically fiber optic cable to a neighborhood, and POTS (Plain Old Telephone System for the acronym impared) from there to the home. The shorter distance to the digital switch (the fiber) allows faster connections on the local line - sorta how 56k modems required a certain distance to the CO(Central Office of the phone company) to get their speed boost - basically, the signal can only run at a certain speed for a certain distance before getting distorted and unusable.

    FTTH would be great, but I'm not counting on it anytime soon - I saw the estimated cost years ago, and I could see why FTTC was deemed feasible and FTTH not.
  • by BarFly143 ( 725933 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:03PM (#8305192)
    It only cost me a one-time $23 investment for my UHF RadioShack antenna that delivers all the OTA HDTV programming I want from ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS. Why would I want to start paying a monthly fee again for some highly-regulated, monopolized system that will most assuredly introduce a whole new slew of security issues?
  • by WTShaggy ( 608944 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:11PM (#8305258)
    We have fiber to the building from our local provider in Sweden, Bredbandsbolaget (lit. broadband company). Right now they only run fiber to apartment buidlings due to cost issues, and the cost of installation depends on the number of households in the building that agree from the start to take the service. (It's not outrageous, but I don't remember what it was.)

    It's very, very nice. We are supposed to get 10 Mbps symmetric, but typical speeds are a bit lower (something like 7-9). Granted that is somewhat confabulated by our use of WiFi at home as well. (Streaming full screen video to your laptop in bed... so what are YOU watching, eh?) Bandwidth-intensive applications were encouraged, last time I checked. Some TV stations are available as are movie downloads (real VoD!) and telephony.

    Cost is similar to DSL or cable here and is around SEK 400/mo or about USD 55. (Current exchange rates make that look higher than it feels here.)

    There is a similar service in Italy from Fastweb and in Iceland (I think by Reykjavik Energy).

  • "We"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gandy909 ( 222251 ) <> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:14PM (#8305285) Homepage Journal
    "...we should spend the money..."

    Who is "we" here?

    "...we...sell of the HDTV spectrum..."

    Who is "we" here?

    I'll wager the first one is the Joe Taxpayer, and the second is not, no matter how they spin it.

  • redundancy is good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MagicM ( 85041 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:14PM (#8305287)
    Cable, phone and internet over the same line?

    Does it come with a free carrier pigeon to contact tech support when there are problems?
  • by DocSnyder ( 10755 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:15PM (#8305301)
    One of the US' largest broadband ISP, Spamcast^WComcast [], is unable to stop thousands of trojaned Windoze boxes [] flooding the worldwide Internet with spam, worms and DDoS attacks.

    Now imagine every household being connected to the Internet with a permanent broadband connection. Most people use unpatched Windoze boxes and don't get the idea that their infrastructure could do any damage to the Internet. With broadband access and powerful PCs, they don't even notice any abusive performance loss or bandwidth consumption. Not to speak of Windoze Media Center, which barely requires any IT knowledge to operate a PC.

    So broadband access for every household might be a good idea, but only if infrastructure is safe enough (e. g. require routers/firewalls) and ISPs' abuse staff would be able to prevent trojaned customer boxes ASAP from polluting the Internet.

    • Windows XP's upcoming service pack will enable ICF by default, and Lookout Express is becoming more secure (as stupid "features" are patched away) all the time. Frankly the lack of a firewall and the use of lookout are the two biggest ways that this shit seems to spread, they really ought to cut down considerably. Meanwhile people just aren't used to having to think about this, network security for the home user has been only a minor issue until recently, because broadband has only received wide adoption re
  • by frankie ( 91710 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:23PM (#8305378) Journal
    I, for one, support our new infrastructure overlords. Seriously, I do.

    Taking care of public networks -- whether they are roads, water, power, telecomm, etc -- is exactly what local/regional governments should do (preferably with federal support). They have the necessary scope for the job, and unlike commercial interests they don't have disincentive to spend money on routine maintenance and expansion.

    Let private enterprises compete fairly at the back end to provide whatever goods and services are sent down the pipes. Let government provide said pipes for all to use, unlike our current highly cutthroat but also highly inefficient networks.
  • If it aint broke. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StillNeedMoreCoffee ( 123989 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:31PM (#8305501)
    When the power goes out in your house. You can still pick up the phone and call, assuming you have some phones that don't rely on house power. When the phone drops on the floor, it still works. The wires are in place in your home and to the switch.

    There is a place for a stable tried and true technology for basic communication.

    Although the internet seems very stable the local distribution systems are suseptible to network hanky panky that the current system is not.

    The ability to listen in and record your conversations and transactions and internet queries would be enhanced. Now with the Patriot Act (actully a misnomer) there is a much higher probablility that your life will be scrutinized by those currently in power without your knowlege and more importantly without oversight or accountablilty. That is an extremely scary and dangerous thing.

    I would imagine that the current power structure would love to have a central control of all communications you recieve, be able to monitor all communication you give. What a wonderful world. First the courts and then the media. 1984 where are you.

    And I remember when the electro-magnetic spectrum was public domain albiet regulated. Now with legislation it is sold and owned and it is illegal for you to even listen to certain frequencies. Radio's can't be sold in the US if they can tune certain frequency bands. Who are these people?
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:31PM (#8305503)

    Or maybe cableless since fiber isn't necessarily wire.

    I want my laptop online no matter where I go (bus, train, airplane, local park, home, or office. If they make it cheap enough I won't bother with a home network anymore, even my desktop systems should connect to it. And of course the TV, game machine, PDA, and toaster will all connect to it. (Though I still haven't figured out why the toaster needs a net connection)

  • by iainl ( 136759 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:45PM (#8305665)

    And once we've all got bandwidth coming out of our frickin' ears thanks to a 100Mb connection to our home, who exactly is going to be prepared to spend 10s of billions on that part of the spectrum?

    Because its not the TV companies (who will use the network). Nor 4G phones, as there are bound to be plenty of spare wi-fi sites around once no-one cares about how much bandwidth is being stolen by them.

    The bubble seems to have burst on the 'selling your spectrum' bonanza, as it was only mobile phone companies doing this, and half of them are broke after getting carried away with 3G licenses and overvalued mergers.
  • Utopian troubles (Score:5, Informative)

    by wasatched ( 726651 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:48PM (#8305699)
    The UTOPIA [] optical-fiber-to-home plan for Utah seems to be a sensible business plan for using public bonds to bring fiber to 18 cities, but it is (surprise) getting hammered by representatives from the local phone and cable companies, Qwest and Comcast. While their representatives [] don't seem to mind driving to legislative hearings on public roads, they do seem set against [] letting this project go ahead.

    One of the two area papers, the nominally non-LDS, liberal-ish one that is dominant in the affected metro area, doesn't like UTOPIA either, and thus covers it from that perspective [].

    In another current, pressing theme, local politicians and newspapers fret over how to best bring high-paying high-tech (back) into the state.

    Does anyone have good examples of good high speed networks that bring in or otherwise enable the formation and growth of new industry? I would like to have these to forward to the UTOPIA folks and key legislative offices. (Disclosure: I am an ECE prof. at a U in the UTOPIA footprint.) The Utah legislature [] is in session for another couple of weeks.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:03PM (#8305844) Homepage
    If you look at what's actually happening with DSL and cable, the trend on bandwidth delivered to the end user is downward, not uppward. When DSL first launched, a typical product was SDSL with 1.5Mb/s in each direction. Now, entry level is 384/128Kb/sec, and you can't get more than 384Kb/s upstream DSL at any price. Even though the technology is symmetrical.

    Cable modems show a similar trend, as cable companies hang more people on without adding more cable segments, routers, and fibre uplinks.

    This is a marketing decision, not a technical one.

  • by bratmobile ( 550334 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:04PM (#8305868)
    Who writes this bullshit? The "phone system" is definitely NOT "maxed out". In the 1990s, telcos put many, many miles of fiber in the ground, and in general increased the capacity of their switching stations. At the same time, research in fiber optics lead allowed them to increase the bandwidth of EXISTING cables.

    The long-haul telcos are sitting on far, far more bandwidth than they have consumers for. That's why the telco industry has been in a slump for years -- they invested tons of money in capacity (during the .com booom), and now there isn't ENOUGH demand for it.

    Yes, we would all like to have 100Mb/s to the desktop. However, part of being an adult is realizing that wishing doesn't get you jack shit. Money does.
  • by LinuxParanoid ( 64467 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:03PM (#8306538) Homepage Journal
    Color me cynical, but I suspect we won't get true broadband (10Mbs to 100Mbs) to the home any time soon (by 2010 years, for under $50/month, in any reasonable US geographic region) for the following reasons:

    1) The cable guys don't want to cannibalize or lose control of the distribution channel for TV/HDTV video which requires such bandwidths.

    2) The telco guys don't want to cannibalize their business T1 sales.

    3) The satellite guys can't provide that bandwidth on a bi-directional, many-to-many basis.

    4) The wireless phone guys may get there someday, but it'll take a while to improve their network bandwidth 1000x to do this.

  • by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:48PM (#8307138) Homepage
    Original meaning of Broadband: Broadband refers to telecommunication that provides multiple channels of data over a single communications medium, typically using some form of frequency or wave division multiplexing.

    Only recently has some morons (fcc) decided that broadband = fast. That couldn't be further from the truth. Simply put, broadband = multiple channels of analog signaling (frequency division multiplexing).

    Chances are if we do get 10/100 access at home it won't be broadband. It will be baseband, which would be multiple channels of digital signaling (time division multiplexing).


  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:54PM (#8307204) Homepage Journal
    I get worried whenever Internet access gets put into context with TV and voice delivery by the "wrong" people. To those people, uplink is how you transmit your requests for data to be shipped down. To those people, highly asymmetric links are just fine because they're all that anyone "needs," even good because it limits the bandwidth resources available to crackers and spammers.

    The Internet was originally about end-to-end, and peer communication. Some peers were bigger, and had more connections than others, and were called servers. But in a more fundamental way, they were still peers.

    Look at Wondershaper. It exists because cable (at least, don't know about DSL) ISPs have broken the end-to-end model. Cable ISPs "optimize" for download to the point that multiple streams have difficulty sharing the link. It's tweaked and tuned to become a 'broadcast on request' medium.

    I have little hope for "Big Broadband" to be significantly better. That's in nobody's interest except us rabble.

It isn't easy being the parent of a six-year-old. However, it's a pretty small price to pay for having somebody around the house who understands computers.