doctorow at May 7th, 2014 13:06 — #1
aetius at May 7th, 2014 14:24 — #2
This is a really terrible explanation of the problem - it ignores middlemen like Cogent in the Netflix situation, and doesn't ever bother to explain that the reason Comcast has a monopoly in their areas is their good friends in government. Capitalism can't be applied to the situation because the government doesn't permit it. Why on earth would you want to hand the keys to the chicken coop over to the wolf and his friends?
tlwest at May 7th, 2014 16:27 — #3
Isn't the monopoly situation more a result of the sort of business that cable companies are in rather than government deals? Much like local roads, etc, it isn't practical to have many different competitors with a physical presence to your house.
Of course, such natural monopolies do require regulation, a situation that seems to have failed here.
The only thing I haven't figured out is how to provide incentive for the cable companies to upgrade their lines. In the absence of competition, why bother spending billions to improve bandwidth? I'd argue a government provided service, but I've yet to see a government ISP monopoly that residents were happy with. The only solution I see is phone vs. cable to introduce some competition.
unclegeo at May 7th, 2014 17:17 — #4
This is a huge sleeper issue; many people not in the tech world have no idea why this is so important. That's likely because Network Neutrality means absolutely nothing to them.
It's important we call this something else that gets people's attention -maybe the The Great Internet Giveaway or Corporate Takeover of the Internet.
joey_bladb at May 7th, 2014 19:05 — #5
As a left handed person it gives me a headache watching her use her right hand to draw stuff. Plus the Sharpie fumes must be pretty strong.
boundegar at May 7th, 2014 21:39 — #6
No. Once upon a time, most big cities had many ISP's, and even competing cable companies. But the big fish ate the little fish, and grew even bigger, and bought some politicians and strangled the competition completely.
The City of Philadelphia had a plan to bring free wifi to the entire city. It was a sensible, cost-effective plan, and so Comcast purchased the Mayor, who vetoed the plan.
This is not a "natural monopoly." In fact, nearly every so-called "natural monopoly" is an example of one corporation buying political power to force the competitors out of business, or to allow them to break enough rules to make competition impossible.
jhbadger at May 7th, 2014 22:09 — #7
Well, all these "local ISPs" were really just resellers of existing fiber -- it wasn't as if competing companies actually wired up their own networks. The analogy of a utility like water or electricity really is applicable. Of course utilities don't have to be run by a company -- many utilities are run by the community even today.
milliefink at May 7th, 2014 22:50 — #8
Indeed, but they make you draw and talk so much faster and faster and fasterandfaster!!
tlwest at May 7th, 2014 23:26 — #9
Actually, the multiple local ISPs I remember are from the modem-age. They died with the modems.
One could regulate the cable industry to basically provide a dumb-pipe which could then attach to any number of ISPs, but once again we're then stuck with the fact that the cable companies then have no incentive to spend large amounts of cash upgrading our facilities. Took 40 years for the water utility to upgrade the pipes to our house as well .
As far as cable companies go, I'm not familiar with any case where they didn't have a monopoly in a given area. The merging of cable companies allowed them cover larger areas, but they were never competitors with each other in the first place.
Again, the only way out of the mess (that I see) it to have a viable competitor, and the propensity of North Americans to live in spread out suburbs (unlike South Korea, etc.) makes competition a lot less attractive. Google has got municipalities lined up begging for it to come and bending over backwards to help it, and even so it's not particularly economically viable (which is why they're so slow to expand). I wouldn't bet my business on Google still being an ISP in 5 years.
kimmo at May 8th, 2014 05:52 — #10
Nationalise the lot of them.
Competition applied to the provision of utilities via physical infrastructure? I can't imagine a more absurd confection. Neo-liberal jive turkeys have to bend over backwards defending it.
Why should private interests control anything that is intended to serve not just anyone but everyone in society, ie anything fundamentally public?
Oh right, I forgot, the plutocracy. Because fuck you, that's why.
boundegar at May 8th, 2014 07:52 — #11
I completely agree. I misunderstood the point @tlwest was making; I thought he was arguing that it was completely "natural" for Comcast to rule the world.
wrecksdart at May 8th, 2014 12:46 — #12
On the good side, promoting such a thing to Congress would make the heads of nearly the whole GOP caucus (and some Dems as well) explode in a prismatic shower of blood, brain, and bone. The downside of such a proposal is that it would be laughed out of Congress by the remaining (headed) politicians.
'Merica can't prop up a huge corporation for a limited time, even with repeated assurances that it will be returned to the stockholders (or whoever), without many Congresscritters' heads becoming nearly overpressurized. The likelihood that they'd nationalize anything today is...well, at the same odds that the pigs that fly out of my ass will then, in public, be shot, butchered, and eaten raw by the board of PETA.
markstephan at May 8th, 2014 13:01 — #13
Over 13,000 comments on the FCC site so far... I added my 2c
kimmo at May 8th, 2014 13:34 — #14
It seems to be the case that the direness of need for any given policy is inversely proportional to the likelihood of it being given any credence by the supposedly serious adults running the show...
jeaguilar at May 8th, 2014 13:51 — #15
I agree with Aetius. The delivery truck metaphor is flat-out wrong.
tlwest at May 9th, 2014 08:04 — #16
I quite trust the government to run all sorts of things, and if this was a matter of guaranteeing a low level of service to everyone, I'd quite agree. But I have to say that I'm not confident about its ability to constantly spend the billions necessary to continuously upgrade the cable system to the speeds I consider worthwhile.
The reality is that fast Internet is not considered a necessity by the vast majority, and the idea of the government spending billions just so I can have my "luxury" is going to fly like a lead balloon.
(My analogy would be "How much would I support the government spending money to smooth highways so that sports cars can travel 200 mph?" If I'm not okay with that (and I'm not), I doubt the majority are going to be okay with spending so that I can get 25+MB/s. In fact, I could easily see a philosophical argument for the government to offer only one speed that fits the lowest needs. After all, it doesn't allow me (nor should it) to pay more money for different schooling.)
On the other hand, guarantee that everybody can get 10MB/s? Sure. If the infrastructure only has to be upgraded every 5-20 years? Sure. Areas where progress and innovation could have a catastrophic effect (banking?). Sure.
If I'm pessimistic, it's perhaps because I pitied my friends in Britian and Australia that essentially did have a government monopoly at the beginning of the Internet (dial-in) era. They were a very unhappy lot.
wrecksdart at May 9th, 2014 09:05 — #17
I think your statement is inscribed on the pamphlet, "So you're new member of Congress--what happens next?"
kimmo at May 10th, 2014 01:17 — #18
Your analogy falls down because speed limits on the roads don't increase exponentially with time.
tlwest at May 10th, 2014 17:05 — #19
First off, my modem I bought is still exactly the same speed as when I bought it. Bandwidth and speed don't increase automatically, they increase when large amounts of money are spent to upgrade old equipment. What's wonderful about technology is that the amount one has to spend to get an increase might not go up, and might even go down. But there's still spending.
The cable companies aren't withholding bandwidth. It's that they're not making big new investments to take advantage of technological advancements.
Second, technological advancement makes the government option even more difficult. I want something close to the current technological limits. However, while 90% of the population might have wanted something close to that limit 10 years ago, with each passing year, the average user needs (and more importantly, what they're willing to pay for in their taxes) only goes up a little bit. This means that meeting my demands becomes more of the technological elite such as myself demanding that the average tax payer pay for increased bandwidth they don't want.
Also, I'm not sure that government could withstand the pressure when inevitably bad things are done using the Internet. Suddenly it becomes "bad things are being facilitated by the government". There's already pressure on governments to "do something" whenever the Internet is a conduit for bad (not necessarily illegal) activities. How much worse does that get when the government is seen as an active agent in the perpetration of those activities. I can already here the demands that government "get out of the porn business" or "stop paying for pirates" with mandatory controls, or at the very least less bandwidth (since according to the news, what would people use all that bandwidth for except piracy and porn...)
I'm just not certain I'm happier with my Internet controlled by the median voter than I am with it controlled by a corporation.
kimmo at May 10th, 2014 22:11 — #20
Who gives a shit what the average taxpayer wants? If they don't want to pay for stuff like universal healthcare, fuck 'em. They have to pay for that sort of thing because it's a net benefit to society at large.
Much like allowing technological elites to do their thing unfettered. Surely I don't need to waste any breath pointing out that more bandwidth is better for society, whether everybody uses it or not - the mere fact that some will use it, and do so in newly-productive ways, justifies the investment entirely. To do otherwise puts the brakes on innovation, which is obviously retarded in every sense of the word. You'll be left behind by nations like South Korea, who consider the internet in its proper light, rather than a series of bridges to accommodate trolls.
And if you leave such heavy lifting up to the private sector, it just won't happen, at least without extortionate gatekeeping that will rule out contributions from all but the biggest players, perhaps even anyone not belonging to the same conglomerate. As long as it's governed by consideration of shareholder profit and nothing else, the private sector is a malevolent stain.
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