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While Daddy was getting booed in South Africa...

By Wah in Internet
Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 10:26:28 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

..lil' Mikey was getting the same treatment here at home.  The New Republic is carrying this article about FCC Director Michael Powell's mishandling of this nation's telecommunication infrastructure.  The long and short of it can be understood with this excerpt,

South Koreans, for instance, are currently four times more likely to have broadband than are Americans; and South Korean telecom companies are now in a position to leapfrog their American competitors in Internet technology in much the same way American telecom firms leapfrogged the once-formidable Japanese during the '90s.

The main problem is that Bush's, err, Powell's policies have continuously favored big entrenched companies, removing any need for innovation and discouraging competition.  To wit..

In Virginia, when one small town, Bristol, wanted to set up its own broadband system, Verizon lobbyists persuaded the pliant, Republican-controlled state legislature to pass a law prohibiting any town from doing so.
The FCC could fix this by calling a snake a snake and classifying broadband as a telecommunications service, but they have opted to call it an "information service" which removes any possible government oversight.  So, for those of you that love the word deregulation, I hope it keeps you happy while you dial in to the Internet at 56K and this country lags behind the great country of South Korea in telecom technology.  

I should also mention that I feel this pinch particularly strong as I live in Dallas, home of the Telecom Corridor (Richardson is a suburb of Big D), which has an absolutely devastated tech job market due to the collapse of the telecom industry.  Oh, and there's no one who offers broadband to my house (why rush? it's in a monopolized service area).  

Yea, so Michael Powell....you suck, and I hope you heard me.  


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
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Do you support a nationwide initiative to provide broadband Internet access to Everyone living in the United States?
o Yes 35%
o No 21%
o Why would I care about the U.S.? 23%
o Die Yankee Pig Dogs! 19%

Votes: 194
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o mishandlin g of this nation's telecommunication infrastructure.
o Telecom Corridor
o I hope you heard me
o Also by Wah

Display: Sort:
While Daddy was getting booed in South Africa... | 36 comments (23 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
I'd love to know more about Bristol. (5.00 / 4) (#2)
by rodgerd on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 11:18:58 PM EST

Well, here 'tis. Pro-business, anti-citizen legislative madness.

Ask away (5.00 / 4) (#4)
by farmgeek on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 11:35:19 PM EST

I live about 10 miles from Bristol (TN).

Bristol VA and Bristol TN are the same town, except it just happens to be sliced down the middle by an inconveniently placed state line.

The company I work for also has a number of offices in the area that we link to via high speed lines (leased line, fiber, dsl, etc).

Actually, I'm still trying to find the cash to start up a wireless ISP.  Most of the towns and cities around here are built in the valleys, usually with quite a few good locations for a tower to cover the major business areas.

[ Parent ]

Wireless ISP (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by wiredog on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 09:13:44 AM EST

InfoWest, an ISP in southwest Utah, does that. They are also in an area where people live in valleys, or out on the flats anyway(basin and range country), with high mountains available for siting transmitters. From what I've heard (I lived in Cedar City for ten years) it works fairly well. Except during heavy rain or snow storms.

Earth first! We can mine the rest later.
[ Parent ]
A bit unfair (5.00 / 5) (#3)
by blakdogg on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 11:33:27 PM EST

It seems unfair to blame Micheal Powell for the unavailability of broadband. Broadband was lacking before the Bush administration was elected, and in the US government the power of appointed officials is restricted ... in short there is plenty of blame to go around +1FP anyway
Woe be onto the United Nations, there nothing but a front.
True (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Wah on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 09:51:44 AM EST

It seems unfair to blame Micheal Powell for the unavailability of broadband.

This is true. However, I am blaming him for not making progress fixing the problem, rather than the problem itself (I'm not sure if that is clear in the very brief article).  It is unfortunate that I don't know the names of every person who has influenced his decision making, but as far as telecom infrastructure goes, I'm assuming the buck stops with him.  At least in the arena of government influence on the market.
Where'd you get your information from, huh?
[ Parent ]

It's fair enough (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by pyro9 on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 01:46:12 PM EST

Yes, broadband was lacking before. Then Powell and the Bush administration then did EXACTLY the opposite of what was necessary to fix things.

The problem before was that while the baby bells were technically required to allow competition, they often throttled it creatively.

For example, a CLEC (such as Covad) would request provisioning of a local loop in order to provide DSL to a home. The ILEC (baby bell) would dutifully accept the order and dispatch it, at the lowest possable priority. There are reports that loops would be 'inadvertantly' disconnected from DSLAMs by the hundreds, and would then, after recieving the trouble report, would put them back ASAP (considering that it's time to blow the dust out of those old phones agtain, all techs are busy).

Instead of forcing the ILECs to actually do what they were legally required to do in the first place, the FCC decided to just let them drop all pretense of cooperation.

This is a move that makes no sense from a standpoint of capitolism. It makes plenty of sense from a standpoint of corporatism or chronyism.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Beating around the Bush (2.71 / 7) (#5)
by MeanGene on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 11:36:20 PM EST

Now, how come Powell Jr.'s escapades in the world of rich white men are to be blamed on another son of a rich white man?

According to his official biography, he was nominated by the *ahem* previous president way back in 1997.

Get your facts straight first - then try to make sense of them!

When did I say.. (5.00 / 6) (#8)
by Wah on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 12:50:01 AM EST

..that I was a Democrat?

It's an unfortunate state of public affairs that when one criticizes one type of administration they are taken praising the "opposite" side.

The Telecom Act of 1996 (which has been problematic because of selective enforcement, as mentioned in the article) and the DMCA were both created under the watch of Willie "BJ" Clinton.  However, this is more a general criticism of the FCC under Powell.  I was a rather big fan of the previous chairman, who said this at one point [among other things].

Universal service is not just a telephone to every home--it is, and it should be, universal access to advanced services from every community. The bottom line is that we must have the courage of our convictions to find ways to facilitate the deployment of new technologies and to ensure that these technologies are available to everyone--all Americans--particularly to the students from economically disadvantaged homes who don't have access to advanced communications technology, and who won't be able to compete with the students from affluent homes who do. And without these investments, we face the very real prospect that our high-tech economy will find itself without hundreds of thousands of desperately-needed skilled workers.
And you might also want to check that link you used.  This was the third sentence.

He was designated Chairman by President Bush on January 22, 2001.

He was on the commission in 1997, but didn't take over until appointed there by his dad's boss.
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Regulation and deregulation... (4.66 / 3) (#6)
by seebs on Wed Sep 04, 2002 at 11:45:37 PM EST

What makes this difficult is the strange combination of regulation and deregulation we see, so that it's very hard for companies to compete, because they have to be regulated entities to even get into the market, but then the regulation stops, having preserved a nice monopoly for those in the business already.  Arguably, this made sense when the alternative was that most people wouldn't get phones at all, because there was no business model for running phone lines outside the cities; it may be less sensible now.

The situation is way too complicated to naively blame this on regulation, or lack thereof.  Other issues (such as problems with investment and business models, as well as technical barriers) are relevant.

The comparison with South Korea strikes me as deeply irrelevant.  Most of South Korea didn't have phone lines installed long enough ago to have the kinds of compatibility problems the US telcos do - to say nothing of differences in population density!

The business model (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by wiredog on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 09:15:50 AM EST

There still is no business model for running comm links outside the cities. People who live in deregulated rural areas in the US are quite well aware of this. Some people are still on party lines, others have found cell phones the least expensive solution. Some live without.

Earth first! We can mine the rest later.
[ Parent ]
Most peculiar... (5.00 / 5) (#11)
by Gooba42 on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 12:59:48 AM EST

What I find most strange out of the whole deal is that the people who voted for their local government to offer such a service are being told that their vote was not only wasted, but that it was wrong.

The message, loud and clear, is that Verizon knows what's good for us better than we do and that if necessary the government will step in to make sure we're not acting out of (Capitalist) self interest and should instead rely on existing monopoly to "come around".

Of course, the talking about the economy is beating a dead horse these days anyway. Who's up for a revolution?

With this DRM craze... (4.66 / 3) (#18)
by Echo5ive on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 09:37:53 AM EST

...the US is starting to fall behind other countries. The RIAA/MPAA mafia is busy lobbying for laws that force the IT business to uphold their deteriorating business model for them, building DRM (Digital Rights Management) into everything so RIAA et al can keep an iron grip on their property (even though you've paid for it), fair usage rights be damned.

And while everyone is building fair usage-restricting DRM into your toasters, innovation is ignored.

IMO, capitalism is starting to erode itself. Many companies are starting to forget that the consumers are the ones who create the market, and want to write their own rules for how they want the market to be -- the suggested royalties on used CDs is one crazy example. If you've bought a CD, it's yours to do whatever you want with, within definitions of fair usage. Including selling it to a friend, without having to pay RIAA twice.

Uh. This turned out to be more of a DRM rant than a monopoly abuse rant, but you get the idea.

Now excuse me, I have to go find my asbestos underwear for dodging the inevitable flamefest.

Frozen Skies: mental masturbation.

Not so much a flame as... (none / 0) (#33)
by beergut on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 02:09:24 PM EST

... okay, well, yes. It is a flame. Not a big one, but hey...

You are an idiot.

RIAA, MPAA, and the like are not engaging in the "market", but in "stifling innovation by means of government intervention".

This is not a fault in capitalism, but in government regulation - the opposite of capitalism.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Poll comment (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by kphrak on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 01:47:20 PM EST

Do people need nationwide broadband? Consider the phone system -- every time the government mandates a feature or plan, the providers use that as an excuse to raise fees on everything (I just got a notice regarding this kind of thing from QWest, one of the major wellsprings of EVIL in the world ;)). Phone lines are quite cheap, and so are 56k Internet providers; is the average family who checks their email maybe once a day (and might have broadband at work anyway) going to take kindly to increased rates as a result of implementing this? I don't think so.

Broadband is a luxury, not a necessity. Many on K5, including myself, feel that it's a necessity because we spend a large portion of our lives on the Internet. I sprang for the $70 business-class DSL (and promptly shared it with two others, bringing the cost down), but the truth is, it's for heavy use. You don't need 56k to check your email, surf the web, or even stream music (I used to do this on 56k without any breaks in connection).

Now here's my response to the article:

I feel for the person who posted this, since I've gone through the same experience and know how much it sucks not to have broadband available, but it really isn't Powell's fault, Bush's fault (Mike Powell's a CLINTON appointee), or even the telecom's fault. It costs something to run those lines, and if their research doesn't indicate that enough people will want them to justify it, I can understand why they wouldn't.

My only advice would be to A. Check out AT&T (I hate those guys, but you're in a major city, and if you have cable in your area, they'd probably offer broadband to you), or B. Talk with your neighbors and see if they would want it; if enough people want it, any telecom company would put it in; they make a profit that way. They do NOT make a profit by letting people use the flat-fee voice line they already pay for to connect to a free provider somewhere. A final option is to check out "mini" telecoms that lease from the big companies. Integra Telecomm in Portland, OR did this over QWest's lines (this is my provider). This may cost you extra, but if you have even a few neighbors who want broadband, it's time to break out a box of cable, PVC pipe, and your Pringles cans, and make some side arrangements. Soon the huge Internet bill will be whittled down to a more reasonable size.

Anyway, my sympathy...but don't bitch, use your ingenuity. Many people have conquered this problem and you should find a lot of help online.

Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.

Basic disagreement (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by Wah on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 05:59:52 PM EST

Broadband is a luxury, not a necessity.

I disagree with this.  My main argument would be similar to the one offered by the previous FCC chairman, Kennard, in that the digital divide is severely hampering learning for those without useful access to the Internet.  As anyone who has had it and lost it knows (cough), dial-up is not the Internet.  When one takes into account that it takes upwards of 5-10 minutes to check email when it should take 5 seconds, the difference is vast.

There is also the cultural interaction argument.  A broadband connection allows one a far greater freedom to read the press.  More resources from a far greater variety of sources.  Cable or satellite come close, but offer nothing that isn't available online. And this is before any file-sharing prospects come up.  Here a "priveleged" child has access to software worth upwards of $50,000 at their fingertips.  This is also an interesting angle for anyone that wants a high paying technical job in the future.  It's a hell-of-a-lot easier to do so when you've been playing with that pirated version of Photoshop or XP since you were thirteen than having to try and learn this technology at an older age.   When you can learn these things as a child you work to learn them without even knowing you are doing so.  Having to do so later becomes prohibitively (word?) difficult.

(Mike Powell's a CLINTON appointee)

Yes, Clinton put him on the FCC, Bush put him in charge of it.  There's another comment around here about that.  What I didn't include in the article is the nearly 5 years I've been following FCC regs and watching the lobbying as a media insider (I worked at a company that worked for major media clients across the nation and read various industry rags regularly.  It was during this time that I formed my opinion of Powell, this is not an isolated incident).

It costs something to run those lines, and if their research doesn't indicate that enough people will want them to justify it, I can understand why they wouldn't.

Yes, this is why there is an appeal in the poll to make it a national priority.  There is no market incentive to offer service to any but the most tightly packed people.  This creates a number of additional problems, not the least of which includes excluding "rural" people from the technological present.  To say nothing of the future.  My hope would be that we could see spending government money (i.e. ours) as an investment in the future, very similar to the national highway system.  It would serve a similar purpose, providing freedom of movement (telecommuting), personal liberty, and would be an excellent boost to the economy (especially for people who do professionally what I did before a couple of lay-offs).  There is some self-interest here, so I won't act like there isn't.  Public works are not evil, especially when they would help to serve as a general opportunity equalizer among all the citizens of the nation.

Also, as to my personal bandwidth situation, none of those "mini" services offer their wares to my location.  I went through the DSLresports dance and was rebuffed at every level (current residence is roughly 20,000 ft. from the nearest CO).  It will take either new technology or new investment to provide access at my current residence (this isn't too bad since I'm moving in the near future and have access at work, which this post is evidence of.)

hmmm, maybe I should have included this in the article.  I guess I will if it doesn't make it in the current form.   Thanks for dragging it out of me.

Where'd you get your information from, huh?
[ Parent ]

Not exactly... (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by mattwnet on Thu Sep 05, 2002 at 06:11:29 PM EST

Phone switches aren't cheap. I'm not sure on this, but I read somewhere that a standard switch to support 65,000 POTS users cost around $3 million. Then they have to run wires and maintain everything. As more and more people get/get rid of second lines and get DSL, they probably have to upgrade. To me, $20/mo for basic service sounds like a bargain. My phone company (Ameritech) just recently came out with DSL in the area. (Hint: I'm more than 20000 ft away from the CO.) I'd think that might cost them something to implent, so $50 activation doesn't sound too expensive. AT&T Broadband is far from being everywhere - most of Northeastern Ohio has Road Runner from Time Warner avaliable. And Ameritech is offering DSL to areas who otherwise wouldn't be able to get it.

[ Parent ]
The Great Obstacle (5.00 / 2) (#28)
by Znork on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 05:03:15 AM EST

The greatest obstacle to broadband in the US is... Unmetered local calls. Or, more to the point, one of the major reasons for high adoption rates elsewhere is metered calls.

Here, I used to have a phone bill ranging between $400-$500 quarterly. Most of it in local calls to my ISP. Eventually I managed to obtain flat-rate dialup access for $60 per month. And then enter broadband... lower latency, far higher speed and above all; $30 per month flat rate access. Had my local calls to the ISP been free already... I would not have been nearly as quick to adopt broadband.

The lobbyists from the large telcos are certainly part of lowering the adoption rate for broadband in the US, but dont underestimate the incentive of extortionist pricing on plain old modem connectivity elsewhere.

That's at least half of it. (none / 0) (#29)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 09:47:16 AM EST

For me, the other half is the miserable experience I had trying to move to DSL two years ago. I still get flash backs of yelling into the phone at the Flashcom people.

The only salve to my torn and tortured soul was that their billing system is was so fscked that they eventually ended up refunding me more money than I actually paid them.

Anybody want a never-actually-used DSL modem?

So many freaks, so few circuses.

[ Parent ]

Not completely (none / 0) (#34)
by chigaze on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 02:17:11 PM EST

I live in Canada (Edmonton to be exact), our local calls are not metered, and I've had some form of broadband (first cable, then DSL) since 1995. I believe there is high-speed access in all our major municipalities (that'd be three) and the gov't is embarking a project to bring broadband to rural areas as well.

I am not sure what the impetuous for early broadband deployment was here but it definitely was not not cost of phone calls.

-- Stop Global Whining
[ Parent ]
w00t! (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by pb on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 10:15:57 AM EST

Can you hear me now?
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Deregulation (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by avdi on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 12:38:54 PM EST

You said:
for those of you that love the word deregulation, I hope it keeps you happy while you dial in to the Internet at 56K
But earlier, you quoted the article as saying:
In Virginia, when one small town, Bristol, wanted to set up its own broadband system, Verizon lobbyists persuaded the pliant, Republican-controlled state legislature to pass a law prohibiting any town from doing so.
The problem here is not deregulation, it's regulation! The fact that it's regulation by a state government rather than the FCC doesn't change it's effects. As long as government is allowed to have the power to decide who can sell what where, big business will do it's very best to control said government. It's just good business sense - if one company doesn't, another will. And there is absolutely no way to make politicians immune to the temptation of large sums of money. Take away the politician's power institute monopolies however, and you take that power away from corporations as well. Real deregulation, that is, a free market in which anyone can offer a service but no company is specially priviledged, would solve this kind of problem.

Oh yeah? (none / 0) (#35)
by cameldrv on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 04:33:34 PM EST

How do you address the problem of the natural monopoly of the last mile in telephone service? The thing that makes DSL economically viable is that the telephone infrastructure is already there. The thing that makes cable modems economically viable is that the cable lines are already there. In fact, it's more than just the lines, it's the entire infrastructure of people, equipment and knowledge needed to support the lines. The Sherman anti-trust act prohibits denying essential services which are a natural monopoly. The classic example of this is the railroad that also is in the steel business refusing to transport the other steel company's product.

The Sherman act is regulation, and it is regulation that promotes efficient markets. If this were applied to the phone company, they would be forced to provide dry pairs to DSL providers. Unfortunately even though the telecom act required this, they have refused to do so in a reasonable manner. The cable companies have never been forced to share their infrastructure, and they have declined to do so. With a duolopoly in which both parties only view Internet as a sideline to their main business, you don't get a big incentive to drive down costs and improve service.

[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#36)
by K5 Demon on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 08:17:27 PM EST

People in the "last mile" that have to use dial-up should either have to deal with monopolies or move. Keep government out of business, and we'll all be better off.

[ Parent ]
While Daddy was getting booed in South Africa... | 36 comments (23 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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