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Should the government make broadband available to everyone?

By istevens in Op-Ed
Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:26:32 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

Last week, the Canadian government released a report entitled The New National Dream: Networking the Nation for Broadband Access outlining plans to "ensure that broadband services are available to businesses and residents in every Canadian community by 2004" at a cost of $CAD4-billion. Initial articles are available at The Globe & Mail ("National link to Web would cost $4-billion") and The Toronto Star ("Cross-country Net access may cost $4.5B"). This seems like great news for those living in Canada, but is it the government's place to use taxpayers' money to fund internet access for everyone, regardless of need or quality?


On the surface, this seems like a wonderful initiative promising cheap broadband access to an entire population, but there are a number of issues to consider. First, is it really the government's place to fund this kind of program? Second, should the public be footing the bill? Third, is it really necessary and does it make sense?

Should the government be stepping in to grant low-cost broadband access to all its citizens? I would like to tackle this point by using roads as an analogy. Canada is a nation where a large portion of its population lives near urban centres and so it makes sense to build roads between those urban centres as they will experience frequent use. However, what about remote areas in the north? Is it worth building highways to reach them so that they may experience the same mobility than those living in urban centres? What about if this means that those in more populated areas subsidise roads for less populated areas? I think that many will agree that everyone in a country should have access to the same degree of mobility as this translates into access to goods and services. Many will probably still agree that the government should distribute public funds in order to make equal access to mobility a reality. Does this translate into broadband? The internet provides access to goods and services much like roads do. It would be very expensive to provide the same level of broadband to those in remote regions that those in more populated regions enjoy. While those in populated regions can afford high-speed internet access, those in remote areas probably cannot. If broadband in the future is to become what roads are in the present then it is the government's responsibility to ensure equal access as the private sector, acting on its own, would largely ignore remote areas as they are unprofitable.

Which brings me to my next issue: Should the public be footing the bill? Continuing with the road analogy, those living in high-population areas already subsidise access to remote locations. Closer to the issue of broadband, Bell Canada (Canada's local telephone service provider) uses revenue from high population areas to subsidise telephone access in remote areas. However, I should point out that Bell Canada does this only because the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada's regulatory body) requires them to do so. Why can't broadband fall under the same regulation? If there is to be an organisation of major internet access providers, why not force them to provide equal access across the nation with government subsidies rather than having the public pay the entire $4-billion tab? If access to remote communities is a large issue, why not do as the Globe & Mail article "How far does Ottawa go for broadband access?" suggests and "encourage smaller, alternative carriers to step into the market" as is currently the case with cable television. Working together with the private sector could do well to lessen the burden on the public while still maintaining a reasonable level quality for all. This has worked for the telephone system in the past, why not broadband?

Putting forth the vision and the money is one thing, but does Canada really need universal access to broadband? It is no question that the internet provides unparallelled connectivity between people but is this kind of initiative really necessary to make all Canadians truly connected? In remote areas, where many people might not even have enough money to buy a computer, will this do them any better than, say, improved roads or living conditions? Do people even want it? Mathew Ingram of The Globe & Mail puts it well in his article "Ottawa's broadband plan is dumb and expensive":

"Some people are probably more than happy to be without it, in the same way that some people are quite happy to live without cable television. Why not pour billions of dollars into ensuring that every Canadian has access to gourmet coffee, or that every rural resident can afford to buy a new truck once a year? That $2-billion could be spent on better roads, or even upgrading the regular old rural telephone system."
It is a good point but, then again, you could have said the same thing about the telephone fifty years ago. You could also say the same about any number of existing government programs as Ed Rousseau says in his rebuttal, "Broader perspective". People may not want or need broadband now, but in ten years it might be just as important as the telephone is now. A government plan such as this would be able to force the infrastructure so that it is ready when it is needed.

Which leads me to another question: Does this make sense on a technology level? The report seems to focus on DSL and cable, but what about other technologies? Three years is a long time and other, more viable alternatives might surface, such as satellite-based broadband which is starting to come into being in Canada. The problem with forward-looking plans like these is that they cannot accurately predict the future. In three years, everything might change and this report may look like an artifact from a prior era.

All-in-all government initiatives like Canada's plan to provide universal access to broadband are a good thing in that they look towards the future. There is no question in my mind as to whether it is the government's place to propose such an undertaking. Whereas the private sector is only interested in profit and affordability, plans like these tackle the social issues of broadband access. Whether or not the internal workings of those plans make sense or whether it is worth the public funding is a completely different story. Canada's report has good intentions but its implementation might be better thought-out to include the private sector in order to reduce costs to the taxpayers.

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Poll
Should the government fund broadband access for all?
o Yes - 100% from public coffers 26%
o Yes - but only as subsidies to the private sector 21%
o No - it is the private sector's responsibility 13%
o No - broadband is not a right 38%

Votes: 65
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The New National Dream: Networking the Nation for Broadband Access
o The Globe & Mail
o National link to Web would cost $4-billion
o The Toronto Star
o Cross-coun try Net access may cost $4.5B
o How far does Ottawa go for broadband access?
o Ottawa's broadband plan is dumb and expensive
o Broader perspective
o Also by istevens


Display: Sort:
Should the government make broadband available to everyone? | 83 comments (81 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Well, (4.00 / 4) (#1)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:53:01 PM EST

I think that it's perfectly acceptable for the government to subsidise broadband to remote areas. Broadband is vital if you want to run a net-based business, or expand your old-economy business onto the net. It's important that you should be possible to run a business from remote areas of the country.

I live in a central area of Scotland, and certainly wouldn't mind paying a little extra tax to bring decent broadband to the Highlands and Islands.


--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
It seems that.. (2.71 / 7) (#3)
by Vesuve on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:56:43 PM EST

While you're perfectly willing to pay 'a little extra tax' to bring broadband to your front door, why on earth should you expect others to do the same to subsidize your business?

This is a horrible, almost criminal attitude. If you want it so badly, pay for it yourself. Don't expect others to, and don't ask your government to force them to.

[ Parent ]
Um... (4.33 / 3) (#4)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:27:06 PM EST

I think you missed the point of my post. I don't live in the Higlands and Islands. I live in a central area. I can get broadband already. I would be willing to pay a little extra tax in order to bring broadband to my fellow countrymen further North.

So I don't see my attitude as "horrible" or "criminal". Please reserve your flames for a more deserving target.


--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
[ Parent ]
do your countrymen want it? (2.66 / 3) (#8)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:38:59 PM EST

I dont know about europe, but here in the U.S. if you want rural broadband, theres satellite access (much like DirecTV) for it. Why pay a tax for things your more rural countrymen dont want/need? For marginal-quality government service... just let companies come in to fill whatever demand exists rather than forcing it down everyone's throats with a tax.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Aha (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:56:57 PM EST

Many businesses (and presumably some individuals) in the Highlands do indeed want broadband. The problem is that the Highlands are quite sparsely populated, so any broadband provided commerically with no subsidy would cost a small fortune; actually, the companies involved seem to have decided that it's simply not economically viable. To my knowledge, no-one is currently providing sattelite broadband to Northern Europe.

So if the government doesn't help out, people in the highlands will have no broadband. As the economy becomes ever more information-driven, that would lead to a further collapse of the economy in the North of this country, and most likely even more depopulation than has already taken place. That would be a tragedy. The government's job is to make society work for all it's people, not just those who live in areas with a high population density.


--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
[ Parent ]
supply & demand (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:30:52 PM EST

If the demand were high enough, there will indeed be companies rise to meet it. This may come at higher cost however, which many businesses simply will be unwilling to pay. Laws of economics dont lie :)

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Precisely! (none / 0) (#37)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:42:57 PM EST

This is exactly my point. Thanks to the low population density, there simply is not the necessary level of demand to make broadband profitable. But those who live in these areas still want it, so it makes sense for the government to subsidise it.


--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
[ Parent ]
not really. (none / 0) (#44)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:53:51 PM EST

Well, unless everyone likes taxes. Why should you pay for what other people want but are unwilling to pay the high costs for?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Because you're paying for other things. (none / 0) (#60)
by ambrosen on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:43:59 AM EST

The thing is that to avoid the Highlands becoming a place uninhabited by anyone (and thus unusable for weekend enjoyment by us in Edinburgh :) ), it may be necessary for the national government to reach into its pocket and ensure that everyone across the country has an adequate standard of community.

Look at it this way. Either you have the upheaval (and effect on productivity ensuing) of everyone moving around the country chasing the best infrastructure, or you fund improvements, and have more productive workers not moving house and paying more taxes, so you can afford a better infrastructure. I'm not saying that's the whole story, but it's a part of it, and it ameliorates the economic effects of subsidised infrastructure.

I think a workable economy in the Scottish Highlands is something that the government (or rather Executive) is willing to fund, for a variety of reasons, including tourism, diversity of the economy, nice smoked salmon, avoid overcrowding in the cities and historical reasons. And I think that the people will agree with them on most of these issues.

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]

re: It seems that.. (2.40 / 5) (#5)
by two step on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:27:49 PM EST

yes you hit the nail right on the head with your comment, people like to believe they can get what they want by asking their government to force people to give them things when it actually does not work at all like that, people should not expect money to start up a businessa and the government should never give business startups money to start their businesses with. fortunately it is just a minority of small number of businesses that get funding but most people want to stop even this and i think we agree that this minority should stop getting our money. i know we are tired of money going to the minority criminals who want free money even though they do not do anything to deserve it. you said it very well though getting these criminal minority's out of the country and off welfare is the only solution

tamed and living; living tamed.
tame the living? sad dreams we have...
[ Parent ]
tax money for *broadband* (3.33 / 3) (#20)
by coffee17 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:56:12 PM EST

Sorry, but I think that you give horrid reasons. Broadband is not necessary to run a net business, you just host it someplace else... heck, if I had a "real" business, I wouldn't be running it off of a cable modem or dsl line. Similarly with net connections in general. You can get *a* line thru dialup, and I could see it as valid to make sure that there is a phone in every house that wants and can afford one (if it's not already so), and that there is an ISP in every area code. But broadband is not a necessity.

-coffee


[ Parent ]

You're stuck in the present. (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:19:29 PM EST

What a phone line is now, broadband probably will be in ten or twenty years.

[ Parent ]
possibly (none / 0) (#80)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:18:30 AM EST

But until that one can demonstrate that in 10+ years the prevailing protocol which replaces smtp will require about 10M of traffic per email, and that there will be no useful pages for download approaching that, I think that phonelines are enough. Heck, some rural areas don't even have paved roads; we certainly will not be building paved 3 lane highways to everyone's house. There is some sacrifice which I think one must take when getting the benefit of living far away from people. Part of the remoteness is that your communication is hurt. While one can argue that part of the beauty of the internet is that suddenly one can make communication so much easier, I still think it should be at a cost to the person living remotely.

In short, one can get much of the content from the internet over phoneline. If you absolutely need streaming video/audio, get a TV or radio. Also, there are other existing options (sattelite) which offer better downstream bandwidths than dialup while still not costing as much time and capital.

-coffee


[ Parent ]

Think ahead. (none / 0) (#81)
by hansel on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 10:31:08 AM EST

We're not talking about getting current content much faster; we're talking about the progression from small to large capacity in data transfer, and the unimagined applications that will take advantage of it if it's there. 50 years ago, did the guy stringing telephone line to remote areas imagine the ISPs that would make use of it?

[ Parent ]
only *potential* "need" for large bandwi (none / 0) (#82)
by coffee17 on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 01:23:48 PM EST

We're not talking about getting current content much faster; we're talking about the progression from small to large capacity in data transfer,

I agree. Thus I was questioning about just what the killer app will be which would require switching from html and text content emails into such a huge bandwidth sync. I don't think the people living out in boonie vale need great ping times. they need (well, deserve might be more appropriate) connectivity. If one browses thru lynx and doesn't get mailed mp3's on a daily basis lynx and pop3 and other such things work fine. If you need more data, consider the adage 'never underestimate the bandwidth of a truckload of tapes', colocate and burn cdroms and have your ISP mail them to you... at expense to you of course. I think that people should get connectivity at taxpayer expense. They should not get luxory at tax payer expense. Until there is some situation where suddenly one needs a 1.5mbit line in order for the net to be usable, I do not see justification for universal broadband.

And Yes, I'm sure that as more bandwidth is available they'll be new killer apps which take advantage of it, but are those killer apps luxory or necessity. Heck, even phone lines are necessary; one could argue that if one can't pay enough to motivate the phone company to give one service, that you should consider not having a phone or not living out in the boonies.

Heck, I lived for several months without a phone; it's not a necessity. Food, water and shelter from hostile elements are necessities. Currently in our country people are not even guaranteed these.

-coffee


[ Parent ]

One example of a justifiable large bandwidth app (none / 0) (#83)
by hansel on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 02:22:28 PM EST

One of the reasons that high bandwidth is useful is distance medecine. The population in the north of Canada (hell, everywhere that isn't within 200 miles of the U.S. border) is extremely sparse, and good medical services are very difficult to obtain. There've been experiments with locating mobile labs connected by fiber or satellite to a network connecting doctors in large cities, allowing those doctors to practice medecine and run tests with the help of a local assistant via real-time video conferencing.

We're not talking about mailing out government-issued cable modems here; we're talking about last mile infrastructure.

[ Parent ]
subsidies (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by Delirium on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:04:04 PM EST

See the problem with that is that you're saying "I live in some place that's expensive to bring broadband to, and I don't want to pay for it myself, so how about we have the people who live in more convenient places subsidize it."

[ Parent ]
Well, yeah (none / 0) (#32)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:18:29 PM EST

That's almost exactly what I'm saying. And I don't see what's wrong with it. The only correction is that I can get broadband; I'm prepared to subsidise those in more remote areas, for the common good.


--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
[ Parent ]
subsidies (none / 0) (#40)
by Delirium on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:32:34 PM EST

I don't see why that makes sense. If you choose to live in a difficult-to-reach area, then you should be prepared to pay to support your lifestyle. If you cannot, move somewhere more convenient like the rest of us. I don't see why, for example, someone in Chicago should subsidize the internet access/electricity/roads/etc. of somebody living on a resort island off the coast Florida.

[ Parent ]
no access at _any_ price (none / 0) (#52)
by Rande on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 06:26:07 AM EST

ok, maybe I'm exaggerating, but where I live (yes, in a built up area in the UK), I cannot get broadband at any price because the local council does not own the road to my house.

I get a phone connection because by law I must be provided with one, and this overrides any other considerations/complaints by the owners of the road

A right of way law for cable access as well as the current one for car and pedestrian access would be nice.

[ Parent ]

right of way (none / 0) (#67)
by Delirium on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 01:20:34 PM EST

I'd support that; a right of way law doesn't seem entirely unreasonable, given the increasing importance of internet access. That's not the same thing as the government actually subsidizing the construction of the cable access though.

[ Parent ]
Government subsidies (4.00 / 5) (#2)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:53:51 PM EST

I would be against this on the face of it, but you do make a good argument about it being similar to roads, or the rural electrification project in the US. However, as a staunch market capitalist, I'd have to say that you'll soon find that ways will be invented to accomplish the same thing without government intervention. Dish Systems already has broadband access that can come down through their satellite systems. Sprint is putting in line-of-sight microwave systems for areas without digital cable or DSL access here in the States.
So, while parts of Arkansas still don't have broadband, or, indeed, any form of internet access, I'm not really for the government doing anything about it.
Very well written piece, though...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
precisely. (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:35:57 PM EST

if there is demand, by laws of capitalism (which amazingly, work all the time) then someone will come to supply it.

Satellite internet came for that very reason. It takes alot of time for cables to be laid out to areas, especially rural ones. Satellite fills that void.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Quake (2.83 / 6) (#10)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:40:37 PM EST

But dude, the latency totally kills any chance of decent game of Quake. ;)
--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
[ Parent ]
heh.. (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:43:23 PM EST

i imagine you'd have the same latency problem by running cables out to the middle of nowhere. One of the downsides to living away from everyone else - the speed of light only goes so fast.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Geosync latencies (5.00 / 3) (#27)
by sigwinch on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:34:15 PM EST

The altitude for geosynchronous satellites is 36,000 km, with a round-trip latency of 240 milliseconds (not including the latency of the land line to get to/from the network exchange point). A typical 1000 km cable has a latency of 13 milliseconds. These are 'bare' latencies not including routers, but router latencies should be similar between the two technologies. So satellites are about 20X higher latency than cables.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Speed of light (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:39:05 PM EST

Actually, the speed of light doesn't move at all.

Light itself, however, goes at about 3*108m/sec in a vacuum.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

eh.. (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:32:23 PM EST

well, from air to space, the speed does indeed change. So its a move, in a sense.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Not really (none / 0) (#41)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:06:23 PM EST

The speed of light is technically the same no matter what... it's just that in non-vacuum substrates it loses some speed from being constantly reabsorbed and reemmitted by the substrate. I'm not entirely sure how refraction factors into that though (it's been a long time since my dad, who has a PhD in optics, explained this stuff to me).
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

You're kidding, right? (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:06:11 PM EST

by laws of capitalism (which amazingly, work all the time)

[ Parent ]
no, i'm not kidding. (2.00 / 1) (#33)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:28:48 PM EST

Capitalism, while not perfect because it can allow things like monopolies to exist, the laws of supply and demand, if left alone will work flawlessly. Planned economies dont work - never have, never will.

However, if there is a demand, a company will rise to meet it. That much is definately true.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

I am not an economist, but... (none / 0) (#38)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:04:44 PM EST

  1. Aren't monopolies a natural product of unfettered supply and demand?
  2. Is the flawless action of the laws of supply and demand guaranteed to be best for the people in the short and long term?
  3. Is there a useful middle ground between unfettered free market capitalism and planned economies?


[ Parent ]
economics (none / 0) (#46)
by rebelcool on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:09:03 AM EST

Aren't monopolies a natural product of unfettered supply and demand?

Not at all. Monopolies are from human greed. Monopolies defeat the purpose of supply & demand in fact, and are very inefficient, making them anti-capitalistic. Take communist nations for instance, generally they have One Very Big company producing things and the only producing of things like autos, batteries, toilet paper and so on. Monopolies not a product of capitalism, but can exist within capitalism (and is one of few reasons why laisse-faire isnt a good idea)

Is the flawless action of the laws of supply and demand guaranteed to be best for the people in the short and long term?

Well, depends on what you consider 'best for people'. Capitalism provides for competition and choice, which I believe is perhaps the greatest freedom for man. The fact I can go to walmart and have a choice of 10 different brands of toilet paper is true freedom. The same goes for telephone and cable service. It leads to cheaper prices, better service and in the end, greater prosperity. Some people fall through the cracks in society, but no socialist or communist country has solved that problem either.

Is there a useful middle ground between unfettered free market capitalism and planned economies?

If by 'unfettered' you mean laisse-faire (i know im misspelling this). That's one extreme of the side, and not good. The government does need to regulate some aspects of it. Monopolies are bad things and should be illegal. There are a few other things the govt should keep an eye on. However, I think if the market is left alone to compete fairly - no need for excessive regulation or government ownership of widespread utilities - that the best service and prices can be attained. And the freedom of choice, is a true freedom indeed.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Capatalism is not always best (none / 0) (#53)
by zakalwe on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 06:46:33 AM EST

Not at all. Monopolies are from human greed.
So is capatalism. In fact this is the whole point of capatlism, providing an incentive (money) to get people to produce. If capatalism inevitably leads to a monopoly and I think for some situations it can), then the monopoly is a product of capatalism.
Monopolies defeat the purpose of supply & demand in fact, and are very inefficient, making them anti-capitalistic.
This is a no true scotsman fallacy. Capatalism is a system which is good in a lot of situations, but it is not a guarantee of efficiency. You can't just backwards define anything inefficient as "anti-capatalistic."

I agree that some form of capatalism is best, and than laissez faire is not it, but I'd probably lean further to the left than you. Some amount of socialism is a good thing in many situations (Education, public infrastructure, and other places where the common good does not run paralell to the aims of capatalism.)

In some respects internet connection does fall into both the education and infrastructure categories, so I think it is reasonable for the government to consider it, but must admit that perhaps a better solution is a much more limited form (public access in librarys, schools etc meets many of the same goals much more cheaply)

[ Parent ]

hmmm (none / 0) (#59)
by rebelcool on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:32:17 AM EST

So is capatalism. In fact this is the whole point of capatlism, providing an incentive (money) to get people to produce. If capatalism inevitably leads to a monopoly and I think for some situations it can), then the monopoly is a product of capatalism.

I dont know where you learned your brand of capitalism, but in real economics you'll see that it's about competition, choice and most importantly, efficiency. The ever-present strive for zero-economic profits which stems from competition. You can't just backwards define anything inefficient as "anti-capatalistic."

Anything that limits choice and competition (such as monopolies) are indeed, anti-capitalistic since capitalism is about competition and choice. Monopolies are inefficient as well, and that's another problem with them.

I agree that some form of capatalism is best, and than laissez faire is not it, but I'd probably lean further to the left than you. Some amount of socialism is a good thing in many situations (Education, public infrastructure, and other places where the common good does not run paralell to the aims of capatalism.)

Those are public goods, something of which is taken into account by any rational capitalist. There's no way to derive monetary value from those, therefore they should be left to the government to provide. Noone is arguing against that. However, bringing broadband to people who have little need and desire (otherwise, companies would long be there..) for the services, theres no need for everyone else in the country to pay for them in taxes.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

roads, education, etc (none / 0) (#66)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 01:04:20 PM EST

Those are public goods only if the civil sector fails to provide them. Let government run schools and see how long it is before they go nuts with it, such as zero-tolerance rules...
Roads are another area of contention. If the I-35 Turnpike Corporation had competition from the Alternate NorthSouth Route Corporation, I'm certain we, as the consumers, would benefit. It would certainly cost less (government unions are notoriously over-zealous), would be better maintained (tort law would see to that), would allow higher speed limits (no reason to limit speed when having higher speeds is a point of competition), and would probably be better at keeping junk off the road (any car failing a spot check can be refused access to limit liability).

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
various things.. (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by rebelcool on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:01:01 PM EST

the govt does run schools. Local government, yes. With the exception of private and religious schools, they are not for-profit entities. The US govt also has education administration.

As for roads, id prefer the government administer them. If someone breaks a speed limit or law on those private roads - who will enforce the laws? Corporate police? Yikes! Try challenging a corporate-issued speeding ticket in 'court'.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Definition of capatalism (none / 0) (#79)
by zakalwe on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 08:07:42 AM EST

Anything that limits choice and competition (such as monopolies) are indeed, anti-capitalistic since capitalism is about competition and choice.
I disagree. Competition and choice are often cited benefits of capitalism, but these are not the goals of people in a capitalist society. Capitalism is a system which involves private ownership of the means of production, and bases standing on the accumulation of capital.

In many cases, this system will lead to competition, choice and a generally beneficial system. In others it won't. Both outcomes are from capitalism, and to describe one as "anti-capitalistic" is equivalent to calling red tape "anti-bureaucractic" (after all, the goal of a bureaucracy is to make things run efficiently). The best you can argue is that it is contrary to the goals we are trying to accomplish using capitalism, but capatalism is just the means, not the end.

[ Parent ]

So then... (none / 0) (#54)
by hansel on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:15:17 AM EST

Okay, so laissez-faire capitalism is not the be-all and end-all of social organization. Good, we've got some common ground.

Given that a certain minimal amount of government interference is (or can be) beneficial, what's wrong with government stepping in and forming crown corporations (or state agencies, or whatnot) to provide services and build infrastructure that the private sector hasn't, and then privatizing those entities? Canada's telcos were privatized in the the late eighties, I believe. There's no reason that the broadband infrastructure wouldn't be sold off, repaying the government's investment.

Seems like the best of both worlds to me: investment is made that the private sector probably wouldn't ever do, at least on the scale the government would, or as quickly, and once the investment is made, competitive forces are allowed in to regulate the marketplace.

[ Parent ]
there's no need (none / 0) (#58)
by rebelcool on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:26:41 AM EST

if the demand truly exists, then businesses will rise to meet that demand. The people who will pay for the services are those who want it.

With the government, everyone pays, in the form of taxes. Why should I pay for them to build fiber pipes to far off parts of the country where there is such low demand, that not even entrepreneurs find it feasible to go there?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

You should pay because (none / 0) (#62)
by hansel on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:36:02 AM EST

As demonstrated with telephone services and bank machines and roads, the initial infrastructure creates demand for higher level services. Entrepeneurs may not find it feasible to do something until after the government has provided basic things like fat pipes; afterwards, though, they are interested, and the economic pie grows as a whole. The government (i.e., the taxpayers) gets their money back, the entrepeneurs have new markets to explore, and the economic quality of life of the people in those remote areas is improved.

This seems to me like a the best possible form of government intervention: creating opportunities for businesses that make communities viable, rather than propping up non-viable communities.

[ Parent ]
regulation != planning (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:58:27 PM EST

Regulation is something governing bodies routinely do. Planning is something many routinely do, but generally very badly. Morals impinge and you've got waste like you wouldn't believe, not to mention the fact that you have people being forced to fund morals they don't believe in.
Anyway, as I said, there is no reason to fund broadband, as any part of the US and Canada, indeed, the world, can be reached by satellite systems already in orbit that would end up costing around $45 per link or so, which is pretty much what I pay for a cable modem.
The technologies are as follows: raw satellite, which several companies make, which requires a large dish and a local ISP. Totally turnkey; one company even supplies the computer hardware preloaded with a Unix-based ISP. Total cost is rather reasonable, if enough people got together.
Satphone: very expensive to operate, but works everywhere. ISDN-level speeds are available. $5 per minute usage charge tends to impede widespread acceptance.
LEO satellite. Dish Network has a system whereby standard sat tv dishes (the little ones on houses everywhere these days) can be converted to two-way sattelite internet systems. MSN has an ISP that is heavily pushed by Radio Shack. Cost for the equipment and the connection is around $45 a month, and it is available anywhere on the North American continent.
Now, given that the third option already exists, I really don't see why government should be laying miles of cable to duplicate what some entrepreneur already has done.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Economic benefits of government intervention (4.75 / 4) (#11)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:42:48 PM EST

One aspect of the road argument that wasn't mentioned too much is that building infrastructure encourages later development by private industry that should, in the long run, more than pay off the public investment. Building roads allows more goods to be transported to and sold in areas that were previously disconnected; likewise, building widespread broadband access increases economic opportunities in Northern communities that are severely depressed. Yes, they need food and electricity, but to provide them with only that almost guarantees a subsistence level of development.

There's the education factor to include as well: widespread broadband access in the north exposes the inhabitants to opportunities like distance learning. Overall, it could raise the level of education, which in turns pays off in better trained workers. Imagine a technology industry in Yellowknife or Whitehorse; imagine buidling a server farm in the Arctic (oooh, cheap cooling).

Perhaps the free market would eventually take care of it; perhaps not. I see this as a financially painful first step that's probably too painful for profit-driven companies to take.

[ Parent ]
roads are public goods, internet is not. (3.60 / 5) (#15)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:47:45 PM EST

With a road, it makes little sense for a company to build it as anyone can get on them. While you can have turnpikes and tollroads in some areas, it makes little sense to have them EVERYWHERE.

Much like public parks - theres no way to make money from them.

Now, what a government CAN do is provide public internet access in public places (this already exists in public libraries). However, for personal access, that should be left to companies because they're in a better position to satisfy consumer demand.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

This is infrastructure, not service (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:55:09 PM EST

Well, maybe the service would be subsidized. But the main thrust of the iniative is to put the broadband infrastructure in place: first, and already accomplished, is major fiber-optic backbones between major cities; second is tackling the last mile problem -- getting fat pipes to people's homes.



[ Parent ]
internet (1.50 / 2) (#29)
by Delirium on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:02:58 PM EST

The main difference I see is that this is not important. Roads are necessary; internet is not. Plus everyone can get on the internet with a modem anyway; the only thing broadband does is let you download movies, porn, and music. Is that a public need?

[ Parent ]
That's pretty cynical (4.50 / 2) (#31)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:16:34 PM EST

When the Canadian government built fiber backbones between major cities, part of the reason was to allow things like streaming movies from the National Film Board and distance medicine technologies for remote communities.

You think of porn and mp3s only because the real advantages of broadband aren't widespread or invented yet. Trans-atlantic flights were a luxury fifty years ago; now they're an integral part of a lot of business. Fax machines were a clever toy twenty years ago; now most businesses have them. Email was a fad ten years ago; now people are throwing away their telephones.

That broadband isn't immediately and pragmatically beneficial now means nothing.

[ Parent ]
can the govt provide good access? (2.66 / 6) (#6)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:33:43 PM EST

Quality is everything. Even cable modems can be slowed to a crawl through mismanagement and shortage of equipment. And govts as we all know, are incredibly slow in responding to problems. What options do you have if you have poor service?

There is a reason why america always has the newest services first. The government doesnt try to come in a meddle with the market. Instead companies rise up to compete, and listen to what consumers want and the high quality they demand. Tell me, in europe do people still have to pay per minute for local calls over land lines?

Sure, it sounds nice for 'social' reasons, but I imagine this is just something for politicians to gloat over, while it marginalizes quality.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

America's not usually first. (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:49:17 PM EST

America doesn't always have the newest services first. Canada had bank machines and telephone services like caller display in widespread use ten years before the U.S. Partly that's because it's easier to deploy technologies in Canada, where the infrastructure is lighter and more flexible (imagine rewiring the telephone system in New York); partly that's because large companies like the telephone companies or the banks in Canada (which has only national banks) can perform nation-wide deployments (where regional American companies can't).


[ Parent ]
hum... (2.50 / 2) (#36)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:35:46 PM EST

(imagine rewiring the telephone system in New York)

Assuming that the telephone system was actually 'wired' still... since switching to computers with upgradable software, this isnt really relevant anymore.

The problem with canada is of course the socialistic tendencies. In some areas, the govt may be able to latch onto and deploy faster. Assuming that people actually want/need the services. However, in america, things are determined purely by demand. Why spend money on things people dont want or need?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

The point remains ... (none / 0) (#39)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:20:39 PM EST

...that services and technologies were deployed by national governmental/semi-governmental organizations in Canada before the free market in the U.S. did.

The city of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan is entirely fiber-optic. No copper anywhere. Imagine doing that in New York.

[ Parent ]
saskatoon is how big? (1.50 / 2) (#43)
by rebelcool on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:51:39 PM EST

Ive never even heard of it. Heh. Then again, I dont know my canadian geography.

Perhaps a few services make it out first, however, vastly more services and technology get deployed in the U.S. first. Of course, this probably has to do with the fact we invent it all, but the free market has to do with that as well...

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

So dismissive of other ways of doing things... (none / 0) (#45)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:59:28 PM EST

Saskatoon is a city of 200,000. That was part of my point about things being easier to deploy in Canada: there's not so much rewiring to do.

I would say that ubiquitous ATMs and the usual telephone services like call display, three-way calling, and centrally hosted voicemail aren't minor quirks that Canada happened to stumble over first.

Of course, this probably has to do with the fact we invent it all

You need to swivel your head outside your own borders, my friend.



[ Parent ]
Per minute local calls ... (none / 0) (#42)
by istevens on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:37:52 PM EST

Tell me, in europe do people still have to pay per minute for local calls over land lines?

Here in my part of Canada where we have had a government-regulated local telco monopoly for quite some time, we have *never* had to pay per-minute for local calls over land lines. The telco used to subsidise local calling with revenues from long-distance rates, which was probably a government restriction.

In addition, Canada has some of the best telephone lines in the world, even in rural areas. Do you think that would have been the case if there wasn't government regulation? Back in my BBSing days, I would always connect at the maximum rate of my modem but heard stories of the poor quality of lines in the States. I was living in a rural area at the time, during which Bell Canada had a government-regulated monopoly over local and long-distance service. I would not have been so lucky if a private company decided it wasn't profitable to serve me with state-of-the-art service.

ian.
--
ian
Weblog archives
[ Parent ]

Europe and unmetered (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by amanset on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:53:30 AM EST

Tell me, in europe do people still have to pay per minute for local calls over land lines?

For voice the answer is still generally yes. For internet access it depends on the country. My native Britain has many schemes from different companies (but they all have to buy from BT in the end ...) where you can get quite cheap unmetered access. In fact, the campaign for unmetered access in Britain (I've forgotten their name) recently announced that they were closing down operations as they believed their work was done.

[ Parent ]

Americocenticsmm (none / 0) (#56)
by priestess on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 09:05:39 AM EST

There is a reason why america always has the newest services first.
That reason being that the people and media in America are so insolated and bigoted that they don't think a thing is invented until they have it at home. America itself was, many Americans belive, descovered by Columbus. Ha! The people already there didn't count it seems.

In short, America doesn't get everything first, I doubt it even gets most things first. Not only are the new Mobile Phone techs way behind Europe, they still don't have a proper public health system!

Tell me, in europe do people still have to pay per minute for local calls over land lines?
Nah, mostly we pay per second now. It's a matter of opinion as to whether a subscription system is better than a metered one. Personally I don't use the phone much, I'm better with unmetered Cable Modem access and per second phone charges so that's what I've got.

Pre...........

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
now now.. (none / 0) (#78)
by rebelcool on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 06:47:09 PM EST

Take a look at your desk. Specifically, your computer. While most of the parts on it may be made in taiwan, i assure you that most of the hardware was developed by american companies. Of course, much of pre-hardware work stems from the clever brit Alan Turing & co, but i digress.

In short, America doesn't get everything first, I doubt it even gets most things first. Not only are the new Mobile Phone techs way behind Europe, they still don't have a proper public health system!

Yes, because we dont pay per-second charges for local phones (i think that may be an option..hardly anyone uses it though). If there was no billing difference between landlines and cell phone, I, like europe, would use a cell phone instead and completely do away with my land line. However, since its cheaper for me to use the land line for local, America has them.

And if by 'proper public health system' you mean a socialized system, you're completely right that we dont have one of those. Thank god.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Why shouldn't it be the governments place. (3.00 / 4) (#9)
by dram on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:39:49 PM EST

...but is it the government's place to use taxpayers' money to fund internet access for everyone, regardless of need or quality?
It sounds as if you are speaking from a very american viewpoint. Canada is not a capitalist country. It is socialist (not in the Marxist sort of way though). I think this is a perfectly acceptable way for them to spend taxpayer monies. If it were America I would not say this. But since it is not I feel differently.

Disclaimer: I do not know much about the Canadian governmet and did not put much thought into weither is it or isn't the governments place to fund a project like this. I am sure that there are better arguments for and against this than I know about. This was just my impression while reading the story.

-dram
[grant.henninger.name]

Canada isn't socialist (3.16 / 6) (#18)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:52:35 PM EST

It's a parliamentary democracy that leans much further left than the U.S. ever would, but it's still a capitalist country, not a welfare state.

[ Parent ]
No, I am Canadian ... (4.40 / 5) (#25)
by istevens on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:20:13 PM EST

"It sounds as if you are speaking from a very american viewpoint."

Actually, I live and work in Canada, which is evident in my Canadian references. By being more general in my argument, I wanted to entice discussion about different parts of the world, not just about Canada. Also, I didn't want to take the "yes, this is an excellent idea" route because, well, it just isn't.

Government-run businesses can work well for necessary services (eg. Bell Canada before it went public) or where a monopoly exists which needs a competitor (eg. Petro Canada, CN Rail, I believe) but not in this case. There are already numerous players in the broadband market in Canada and broadband is hardly a necessity, although it will quickly become a vital service. Government subsidies to equalise the cost and make it more viable for companies to sell to a remote market are the way to go as well as public funding for infrastructure (laying down cable, putting in relay stations). At this point, I don't think it makes sense for the Canadian government to go into the broadband business but I would like to see it ensure that everyone gets equal access.

As someone pointed out earlier, Canada is not socialist but its policies are more left-leaning and its citizens are more likely to ask the question "How does this benefit us?" rather than "How does this benefit me".

ian.
--
ian
Weblog archives
[ Parent ]

what about universal food, housing, healthcare? (2.25 / 4) (#14)
by enterfornone on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:43:27 PM EST

Damn some governments have messed up priorities. It's only a very small set of people that actually want broadband, and for the majority of them it's a luxury serivce that they could do without. Why should the taxpayer be subsidising your counterstrike habit?

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
First piss in the pot (4.00 / 3) (#17)
by hansel on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:51:04 PM EST

Public development of infrastructure usually leads to private development of the economy. It's the government coughing up to get companies interested, which in the long term is far better for poor, Northern communities than making them all dependent on welfare.

[ Parent ]
Um, no. (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by RangerBob on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:52:50 AM EST

First off, if you're going to develop an infrastructure, develop one that feeds people. Develop one that builds homes for people who have to live on the streets. Build one that keeps children from being abducted and killed. There are FAR more important things in this world than ping times or qucik downloading of porn.

And when are people going to realize that companies don't do a thing for the poor. Keynes has been proven wrong so many times now that it's not even funny. It's all good to want to support corporations and the rich, but for all the big corporations and wealthy people in the world, there sure seem to be a lot of people dying of hunger these days. Let's face it: the weathy have only their own interests at heart. Donating small pittances isn't going to help things.

And, at least in the US, if the government started doing this, there would be a pissing contest about "Big Government" and how they shouldn't be doing things like that. Then again, we Americans also have a habit of complaining about the government taxing us while we get upset that we can't get our social programs.

[ Parent ]
Um, yes (none / 0) (#64)
by hansel on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:54:34 AM EST

The surest means of keeping northern communities in Canada in poverty and dependent on government welfare is to directly feed, clothe and house them. These communities have high suicide rates, high rates of alcoholism and domestic abuse, and high rates of medical problems directly attributable to poverty.

Without economic development of the region (i.e., without getting businesses interested in the area), these communities will always be like that. With economic development comes jobs and higher education and the viability of the community overall.

The territory we're discussing here is tundra. You can't economically develop farming. It's too far to build factories there. Technology infrastructure is the best possible development for those areas, where the geography becomes irrelevant. These communities could build data centers. They could build programming centers. They could build call centers. They could train technology workers.

Technology doesn't care about the reasons that these communities were economically marginalized in the first place. It's an ideal solution to the problem.

[ Parent ]
economics (none / 0) (#72)
by conraduno on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:57:48 PM EST

Wasn't it Keynes who advocated government subsidized programs, and the classicals who want the corporations to take action? Maybe I missed something from economics, but I think you might have confused names there.

Anyways, it could be argued that the internet will in fact help bring about all of these wonderful social changes you are parading, as what is the single most powerful thing a person can have? Knowledge. The internet is the single largest knowledge base available to anyone, and I know that at least I have matured and developed myself incredibly from merely "browsing the web". From reading essays on Kuro5hin to finding papers on graphics programming to checking discussions on literary works, I have found the internet to be the most important tool to developing my mind. And a developed mind will go far. How many times have I heard the argument that we should combat crime and poverty by increasing schools? Hundreds, thousands... from police cheifs, politicians, and even wealthy friends... it is generally agreed that knowledge is the greatest deterrant to crime and the greatest motivation to rise up from impovershment.

So maybe in the short run there are more important things than allowing everyone to be an LBP, but the long term impact (after a generation is raised with this access) could be astounding.

non.
[ Parent ]
Good idea! (sacastic response) (3.00 / 7) (#22)
by Sheepdot on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:58:06 PM EST

Yeah. I think that my headaches with Qwest/@Home are horrible, so the natural solution is to have the government pay for this. I mean (in the words of the guy on Donahue, who actually got cheers from the audience by saying it) "Why do the American people have to pay for it? Why doesn't the government pay for it?"

Think about how nice it would be: we could all pay five bucks a month for cable, or DSL, I guess we'd have to figure out which one is better cause we wouldn't be able to have both with the government handling it. Then we could all get it installed, have the government guys come out and install it for us within a few months. (waiting doesn't matter cause Qwest and @home take so long anyway)

Then if the service went down we'd be able to bitch to the goverment about our problems. Y'see, the government responds so much faster and more openly to those of us with problem than those evil corporate capitalist fat bastards do! They are only out to make a buck, damn them!

What we need is a *fair* system, so those with all the money aren't able to get their problems fixed faster than those of us that can't. That's just not fair!

Yeah, this is great! I say get the government on it right away! What you need my suport? Well, just do it and tell me when you get it done, I'm busying watching TV right now. I might want to get on the Net soon though, so get it working ASAP.

Benefits of broadband (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Wah on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:13:16 AM EST

First off, I think this is a good idea. There's a lot of talk here about letting market forces take care of this problem, but in my experience, I haven't really enjoyed how the market forces me. Especially in the area of broadband and general telephone connectedness. Personally I think this should be a goal for the U.S., too, but then again, I don't think money is god, so I'm in a small minority here.

The benefits of broadband are not to be overlooked. First off, we have a medium that is by definition a "pull" technology. This allows citizens to surround themself with media that they find worthwhile, rather than only what is available through broadcast outlets. While some use this power to pull down pr0n and mp3's, those that aren't teenagers can find a multitude of alternative and mainstream messages that are available for, and can mold to, their own schedules. This allows for a more efficient use of time and cultural interaction.

Second on this list are the multitude of time savings that come from broadband. This time alone would more than make up for the price of installation *if it is used*. This is most important to any business that wants to make money. Information is power, and being able to obtain that information at 10x speed is very important. The difference between a task taking 5 minutes and 50 minutes a day can truly be appreciated when the cost of that task is calculated over a year.

And finally, the issue of control. This is the hidden cost that we just don't know about. This is where stuff like corruption and deceit come in. One thing that worries me here is that the producers of our content now control the method of distribution. They are a few tricky scripts away from slowing down the entire internet that they don't own. There will most likely be a nice, paper thin, but still backed by guns, rule that makes this legal. Something about providing a higher level of service to their special customers would probably cover it.

Of course I'm biased. The wonderful market forces here have given me (as a small example) a $2\mo. phone surcharge because I don't want long distance. It can't be too long before cable modems here cost twice as much for non-AOL cutomers. I'd much rather have my Constitution regulating my internet access than an EULA.
--
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP

Constitution? (none / 0) (#57)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:19:54 AM EST

I'd much rather have my Constitution regulating my internet access than an EULA.

Where is it in the Constitution that says we have a right to broadband? I must have been asleep for that lecture...

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Where... (none / 0) (#77)
by Wah on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 09:00:07 AM EST

...does it say we have to pay income tax?

It doesn't say that (obviously) but I think it is a worthy goal for a country, very much similar to our (U.S.) highway system. Just wait a couple years until sysadmins are a dime a dozen, our economy continues to slow, and then think that maybe some public works projects might help things get kickstarted after private industry has squeezed the market to stagnation (check the first comment for the conspiracy theory).
--
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]

It figures that libertarian tech dorks like us.... (3.00 / 2) (#48)
by ssweens on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:45:57 AM EST

...as main readers of this site would lead to the poll results leaning towards "No - broadband is not a right". This scares me. I'd rather not go down the "libertarian vs. govt" rathole of a discussion, but rather emphasize one issue - Should it be a fundamental right that all people can access and use the internet? Should a poor inner city child and a wealthy businessperson be granted equal access? I wouldn't want ot be the person to tell them no. If anyone remembers Roosevelt's freeway funding, it (with other factors, of course) helped dig the US out of it's deep depression.... I think our economy could use a little boost right now, too.

As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain but death and taxes. If we'll be paying taxes, why don't we route some of that money to pay for ours and our families internet access. Hopefully, they could route some funds from the Post Office to pay for it :) Seriously! We could train citizens to be government network techs instead of mail delivery people! Why use government funds to train people for archaic jobs?!

It's time for our countries to take a lead and provide broadband for the masses. Please help swing the poll above so I can restore my faith in the technical community!

yes no maybe so (none / 0) (#63)
by MicroBerto on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:51:34 AM EST

First off, you must remember that the Internet is a great source of knowledge, although we only think of it as entertainment sometimes. Seeing that argument, I think everyone should have the right to access.

However, I'm a bit against having it become a national matter, since it might balloon out of control. Perhaps each province can do its own thing, and have some good admins hook it all up.

Now, way offtopic, I would argue about FDR's road building projects. They created jobs, but also created deficit - and I think it's safer to say that WWII is what got the US out of depression. All the spending seemed to go nowhere with the economy's confidence.

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

Libertarian tech dork response (none / 0) (#76)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 03:53:12 AM EST

[libtechdorks on k5] would lead to the poll results leaning towards "No - broadband is not a right". This scares me.
Really? How would you define a right?
Should a poor inner city child and a wealthy businessperson be granted equal access? I wouldn't want ot be the person to tell them no.
The latter statement is nowhere near an answer to the question. Rights have absolutely nothing to do with "what seems fair."
If anyone remembers Roosevelt's freeway funding, it (with other factors, of course) helped dig the US out of it's deep depression.... I think our economy could use a little boost right now, too.
Yeah, that's why the depression vanished by the end of '33 ... what's that? It lasted throughout the '30s? Oh. ... ... Our economy would get quite a boost if our government didn't take its cues from the Great Spender FDR.
If we'll be paying taxes, why don't we route some of that money to pay for ours and our families internet access.
I may prefer the person robbing me to spend the stolen money on widows and orphans, but that is a far cry from justifying the robbery.
Please help swing the poll above so I can restore my faith in the technical community!
I'm afraid there are too many tech dorks who realize that the tech they love is best served by freedom for that to happen, sorry.

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

[ Parent ]

Uh, Bell who? (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by ZanThrax on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:13:24 AM EST

I think I remember getting a long distance service spam from Bell a while back, but they certainly aren't the local provider to Canada. Hell, the idea of a "local" anything to Canada as a whole is very strange. Local to Ontario maybe, or wherever the hell the author is, but Bell sure as hell isn't the local provider in every province. I know for certain that they aren't in BC, or here in Alberta, beyond that, I don't know, and I don't make stupid fucking assumptions either...

I wish I'd got to this while it was in the queue, 'cause I gave up on the article right there. I would have sworn this was written by an American, but the author says he lives in Canada, so I don't know what his excuse for cluelessness is.


If there's nothing you'd die for, then what do you have to live for?


Sorry ... (none / 0) (#75)
by istevens on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 01:52:58 AM EST

Living and growing up in Ontario and Quebec my entire life, it was easy to forget that other provinces had different telephone service providers. It was just a slip I made while writing the article, which doesn't hinge on that one incorrect statement.

If I could, I would rewrite the part in question to read:

"Closer to the issue of broadband, each of Canada's local telephone service providers used revenue from high population areas to subsidise telephone access in remote areas."
Is that better? As far as I know, local telephone service across Canada was not deregulated until very recently and so there was only one provider per province.

ian.
--
ian
Weblog archives
[ Parent ]

subsidizing who, exactly? (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by gibichung on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:53:50 AM EST

I'm a bit suprised to see that so many people here don't understand how this works: Cities are not self-sufficent. How many suburbs grow enough food to feed themselves? If you feel like denying the countryside modern utilities and infrastructure, then the people "who choose to live that lifestyle" as someone further down said might not have much incentive to keep feeding you. It's a lot easier to subsist on a farm than in a condo...

Yeah, I know. I'm just sick of 500ms pings in Quake.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Bullshit (none / 0) (#61)
by trhurler on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:26:49 AM EST

Without the production of those cities, your farm would be producing a fraction of what it does, and you would be without electricity, running water, and just about every other modern convenience. You wouldn't have gas powered vehicles. You'd be using horse drawn plows, a well, and you'd be working so much that you wouldn't have time to play Quake, even if you DID have a way to do so, which you would not. Forget pesticides or genetically engineered crops. Forget any fertilizer except whatever manure you could scrape together. Forget paved roads. Forget irrigation. Guess what? You'd be lucky to grow enough to feed yourselves and maybe sell enough to pay your property taxes. Maybe. Probably not.

Obviously farms are necessary, but it is foolishness to pretend that you could "subsist" in any way you'd prefer to being dead without all this stuff. (Yeah, 12 hour days don't sound so bad - until you realize that this is for the rest of your life, or until you're so worn down you can't do it anymore, at which time you become a burden upon those who can. All of a sudden, you come to the realization that this is life, and it sucks, and it will NEVER get better, but it will get worse. Good luck!)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
really? (1.00 / 1) (#69)
by gibichung on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:18:40 PM EST

Without the production of those cities, your farm would be producing a fraction of what it does, and you would be without electricity, running water, and just about every other modern convenience. You wouldn't have gas powered vehicles. You'd be using horse drawn plows, a well, and you'd be working so much that you wouldn't have time to play Quake, even if you DID have a way to do so, which you would not. Forget pesticides or genetically engineered crops. Forget any fertilizer except whatever manure you could scrape together. Forget paved roads. Forget irrigation. Guess what? You'd be lucky to grow enough to feed yourselves and maybe sell enough to pay your property taxes. Maybe. Probably not.

Couldn't we just come take them out of the cities after everyone there has starved to death or been killed in riots? I mean, what do dead people need with all that stuff? Sorry, heh. But, it could be argued that without external support cities could never have set up the manufacturing base that they currently have.

I don't pretend that life would be better without cities, only that the people who live in them shouldn't pretend that they don't need anyone else. It simply isn't commercially viable to provide utilities to rural areas without government help. And the government should help. It took long enough to get electricity, running water, and modern roads to all of the country, and as much potential as the internet has, why should we repeat the mistake? Developing rural land benefits everyone...

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]

No:) (none / 0) (#71)
by trhurler on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:46:48 PM EST

Couldn't we just come take them out of the cities after everyone there has starved to death or been killed in riots?
Do you really think you could maintain them without the industrial base that created them? Do you think you have the expertise to run and maintain power plants, acquire, refine, and distribute fuel, and so on? I grant that farmers are not stupid people, but there is a question of division of labor here that you are not considering, not to mention the fact that industry has built up our present technology generation upon generation; you can't just lose all the people responsible and somehow keep the results. It would fall apart quickly.
It simply isn't commercially viable to provide utilities to rural areas without government help.
This is only true because the government is willing to help. Furthermore, that same government help creates railroad syndrome. People blamed railroad owners for screwing farmers in the 1800s - why didn't they blame the g-men who created monopolistic railroads by gifting certain men with so much government-provided land and money that nobody could possibly compete with them? The same happens today. Middle Illinois people are well and truly fucked for phone service - thank the government. There are dozens of examples like that one. (Missourians living in rural areas have been screwed about 10 times now by government sponsored "modernization" plans, among others.)

As long as people think taking money from the g-man is an acceptable alternative to actually solving their problems in some reasonable way, no problem will ever be solved in a reasonable way. You're right about that much.
It took long enough to get electricity, running water, and modern roads to all of the country
Actually, due to government interference, it "took" a lot less time than it probably should have, and as a result, 500 years from now, people in those areas will STILL be paying too much, getting too little, and whining about it. Thanks, g-man. Of course, there's a "solution." Go get the g-man to make more regulations. Then, those will fuck something else up, and we can solve it with - that's right kids - MORE regulations! Pretty soon, g-men will be regulating whether you can take a piss during even numbered hours of the day based on the first letter of your last name, and you'll wonder why. (And no, this isn't a slippery slope argument - it is an argument for an infinite procession of events, but each is caused by the former, rather than merely made easier.)

Anyway, when you can show me why the typical citizen, regardless of his nationality, needs broadband access to the Internet in the same way that he needs running water, at least your argument will be logically correct, even if it will not be possible to implement such a plan reasonably. As it is, you have an absurdity built on absurdities, designed to allow us to reach an absurdity.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
flame (none / 0) (#70)
by conraduno on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:43:13 PM EST

Humans have lived that way for thousands of years.. cities are only a recent development. Even 1000 years ago, the city was nothing more than the housing places for the serfs who went out in the day to farm the land. I live in the city, and I love the city, but bullshit to anyone who tries to play down the importance of farmland.

But now that I'm done responding to flame, I dont know if I agree with the need to lay this infrastructure now. 4 billion is a heafty tax to lay on those who live in the city. This is why I think we need to have more regional taxing, and take care of this on a region by region basis (exact same for cities subsidizing rural roads). If a rural (or urban) community wants better internet access, then they should have to pay for it, not the surrounding areas. I would gladly pay an increase in taxes for broadband access if I lived in a rural area, but I would feel it unfair if everyone else paid for it for me.
non.
[ Parent ]
You missed the point! (none / 0) (#73)
by Stevie_G on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:03:21 PM EST

National infrastructure should be national.. to regionalize the infrastucture going to be very counter productive. I think that it should be the choice of the local community to decide if they want to upgrade, but nationally we need to have a baseline. Your right that 4 billion is a significant amount, but if we spent it on road constuction we wouldn't have thought twice. It's good to know that Canada is at least willing to look at broadband as a necessary utility rather than a commidity.

[ Parent ]
Not just for personal use (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by red on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:06:15 PM EST

If Canada (and Canadians) foot the bill for this, it's not just going to be so everyone can get personal Internet access (if they can pay for it). However, the bonus for the average person will be easy access and ability to use net services like online shopping (useful if there are no malls unless you're willing to drive 3 hours).

It will not just be for Businesses either. Business benefits, and indirectly employee benefits, include the ability to locate in areas where they may not have considered before - and create jobs there. With better net access, certain businesses can feasibly work in a more remote locale.

However, you also have to remember that Canada is a country where Health Care is Public, along with Education, and there are a much larger number of Social Safety net type services via both Federal and Provincial governments. Canada is also a country where, while most of the population is in concentrated urban areas, groups of us are scattered in more distant locals with little access to many urban services.

Broadband access will allow for hospitals and schools to communicate more effectively and better use web based technologies to enhance their services (electronic document sharing and storage, internet training, etc). These are things that will be of particular importance if schools or hospitals/clinics are in distant, non-urban locations. The same goes for people needing access to government services, but living FAR from any <pick a ministry> office.

Should the government make broadband available to everyone? | 83 comments (81 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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