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Comments on news posted 2005-07-21 15:06:36: The question of whether or not broadband qualifies as a utility, luxury, or even right - pops up every month or so, and our readership is pretty evenly split on the subject. ..

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Hazelwood, MO
reply to Skippy25

Re: Infrastucture is a utility, Service is a luxury



Belvedere Tiburon, CA
reply to Anubis Prime

The Government has to fund RIGHTS.....

A more important fact:

If something is a RIGHT, the government has to fund it for those who can't afford to buy it themselves. Examples include public school fees and lawyers for those accused of a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Basic telephone service is not (yet) a RIGHT. For heaven's sake, grow up people. Your compulsive needs to game and flame aren't sufficient justification to call BB a right.

VoIP--the death knell of remaining voice monopolies!


Hazelwood, MO

Infrastucture is a utility, Service is a luxury

I posted this once and it shows up in My: Post but does not appear in the thread. So I apologize if some see it twice.

Broadband should be considered a utility for 1 reason; barrier of entry. Look at anything that is currently a utility and you will find there is generally one player in town, sometimes 2, and if you are really lucky 3. Sometimes they may even share infrastructure. It is like this simply because you generally can't have 10 electric companies, 10 phone companies, 10 sewer companies, 10 water companies and so on. Economics of the industries, whether it be money or simply the lands ability to support such a thing just isnt there. I predict (hope) broadband will be the same some day for that very reason and the providers of the bandwidth will be completely independent of service providers.

With that in mind I don't in any way shape or form believe it should be subsidized. I fully support the "broadband utility company" fully wiring every home and business. However, being that it is a luxury item and always will be regardless of how much some of you try to say it is soooo important to life it doesnt get turned on if you can't pay the bill. Broadband simply is not and never will be "needed to survive" regardless of how better off you may or may not be with it. Beyond food, water, and air EVERYTHING else is a luxury. One only has to look at nature itself and see how any other animal of this earth lives to know that.


Hazelwood, MO



? ? ?
Premium,ExMod 2003-06

Right now...

Currently broadband is a luxury...

In the next few years, its going to become a utility as we begin to see network convergence and IP networks begin to carry voice, video and data.

I think that the ability to access the internet is a right, but connectivity (which is what broadband is) is not a right and shouldn't be.


It's a utility

Phone is a utility, broadband is a utility.

I need all my utilities... Electric, Cable and broadband (screw phone im cool with my cell).
foamy | I'm psycho

reply to ylen131

Re: A Right!

said by "ylen13":
luxury, person can survive with out it.
What about a postal mailbox? Is that a luxury? Or is it an essential component of a free state / free population, in order to exercise their essential political rights?

Let's face it, *everything* is "on the internet" these days. It is (mostly still) a very democratizing medium. In fact, many gov't services and documents are available over the internet. Even more, some of those are going to be made internet-only, for the most part, within 10-15 years, if only for reasons of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. If that happens, then a citizen not having internet access, would be very disenfranchising, I think. As much so as not having a postal mailbox, if not actually more so.



more than just a 'utility'

certainly NOT a luxury. luxury is a relative concept, and depends from person to person.

now, those people who are drawing comparisons between 56K and 10MBPS, are deludeded and hypocritical when they say, well 56k is a necessity, but the latter is a luxury.

if you go to 3rd world countries, then screw 56K, even proper electricity and running water are considered a luxury, because they have none of that right now.

so, who do we draw comparisons to? draw intelligent and relevant comparisons please, and in doing so, you will come to the unmistakable conclusion that 10 MBPS, or 10GBPS, it will never be a luxury, but will always remain a necessity for the people concerned, the very people who are buying or thinking of buying it in the first place.

so stop with the morality BS.

wifi rocks

reply to G_Poobah

Re: A Right!

said by G_Poobah":
The government subsidised UNIVERSAL phone service. Can you say that the internet is different? not really. Both were considered 'luxuries' when they started, but today you can't survive without a phone (except for some very rare obscure area's). In subsidizing phone service everywhere, the early adopters were forced to pay more to make up for the unprofitable customers. Do we want to do that again for broadband?

The problem is simply wires. It costs a LOT of money to run wires everywhere. Running fibre to obscure towns, obscure roads in those towns, and widely distributed houses on those roads would be a very very expensive proposition. But is it fair to them that they don't have it? I mean, the government gave the cable and phone companies HUGE subsidies to build out in the populated areas (i.e. right of way, etc). Doesn't that free subsidies give the companies a legal obligation to support EVERYONE then? I would argue yes, since the telco's and cableco's have gotten subsidized by the government, they have an obligation to run wire everywhere.
Here's a wild idea - you know that "Federal Universal Service fee", that most DSL subscribers get charged (cable is currently exempt, being just an "information service provider", not having anything to do with telephony)? Instead of the ILEC charging that (and not doing much with it) - why not allow for the possibility for the subscriber themselves to help assist in providing that "universal service", and in the process, obtain a credit that cancels out their having to pay that fee? What I'm suggesting is that - using Verizon DSL subscribers as an example here - customers should run their own WiFi "hotspots", on behalf of "universal service"-type benefits to their neighborhood and society at large.

Here's how it could work technically, in order to ensure that too much paying-subscriber bandwidth isn't used up, and that their own personal computers are protected: 1) first, rate-limit the (public) wireless connections in the router firmware, either in the DSL modem or the wireless router, and 2) allow the "public access" wireless connections, to use a secondary PPPoE session connection / secondary IP address, different than the customers, and from the POV of the customer's computers or the dynamic IP address that they recieve from Verizon as an authenticated paying customer, those wireless connection IPs would be just another random "outside" IP on the internet at large.

If Verizon were "nice" about this, they would even provision the DSL subscriber's lines for a small extra potential bit of bandwidth on their ATM network, such that only those (public) wireless users could use it, but the subscriber couldn't. So the customer still gets their 1.5Mbit or whatever, and if the line can support it, an extra 128-256Kbit for any potential passer-by wireless users.

Even *better* than that - I've been thinking recently about all of the possible uses for portable, WiFi-enabled "web pads" (and variants thereof). Verizon could sell WiFi enabled portable devices, that could be used to: 1) surf the web (say, a small 640x480 LCD / touchpad), or 2) place VOIP calls (kind of like a cell-phone, but WiFi-enabled), and 3) buyers of these devices, could use them in conjunction with public-access-enabled customer-run WiFi "hotspots"! (As well as potentially publically-run ones as well.)

This sort of joint private ownership of access infrastructure is easily possible, given the technology of today, and given appropriate safeguards, could be done in a way which does not technically nor legally "endanger" the private owners of this infrastructure.

It would be somewhat similar to those people that have their own power-generating equipment on-site, and in some cases, instead of drawing power from the "public" grid all of the time, sometimes they actually can contribute power back, and get paid a credit for doing so. I have no idea how common that currently is, but I've heard of that being the case in some places.

It would be conceptually similar to the telco installing a wire-line telephone to a private user, and also taking the opportunity to string a second phone line to the premises, and with the homeowner's permission (and proper credit), attaching a local-usage "mini cell tower" to the property as well. Shared joint ownership of infrastructure. It *could* work, should people be forward-thinking enough to accept it.

In fact, it's not a whole lot different than the current situations regarding publically-accessable payphones, and public postal-deposit boxes that you can place mail into. And better still, there is no "physical" issue with regards to security or access, with WiFi. As you as you have the device on and broadcasting a signal, that's all you need!

wifi rocks

reply to Mrq5

said by "Mrg5":
Broadband is a normal progression from speech, writing, Pony Express, horse & buggy, electricity, running water, automobiles, flight, etc...

At one time all of the above was NOT a right. All have proven to provide a much better quality of life which quickly transformed into a RIGHT rather than a luxury for the wealthy. Its only logical that Broadband should be next. Broadband offers a much better quality of life for all that use it.
That does make a lot of sense, even if that viewpoint has a slight "liberal" leaning to it.

How do you define "broadband" though? As any sort of faster-than-dialup internet access? "Always on" internet access, perhaps regardless of speed?

Perhaps a contrasting POV:
Even homeless bums can beg enough change to use a pay-phone though, they don't get a free phone-line installed just for them or their own street-corner.

So I guess my POV is somewhere in-better. Internet access in general is a very democratizing thing, and valuable to increase the quality-of-life for society. So many things are being done "on the internet". So I think that there should indeed be either "universal", or at least inexpensive public access to the internet. Whether that involves connecting cheap low-end access terminals to pay-phones, or what, I'm not sure. But it will eventually happen.

Westminster, CA
reply to Brownbay

Re: is the telephone a Luxury or necessity

Century-old telephone tax may finally be repealed
(Washington, D.C.) Rep. Dave Camp today voted to repeal the three percent federal excise tax on telephone bills and other telecommunications services.

Congress first enacted a telephone excise tax to help pay for the Spanish-American War in 1898. Back then, this "temporary" tax amounted to one penny on long-distance phone calls costing more than 15 cents. Over the years, the federal phone tax has survived several attempts to phase it out and scale it back. Congress made it a permanent 3 percent tax on telecommunications services in 1990.

“The Spanish American War Telephone Tax is a relic of the 19th Century -- back in the days of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders," said Camp. "It's time to make the phone tax surrender after its 102-year battle with the American people. The tax is unfair and this repeal provides direct tax relief to almost every household."

The tax applies to phone services such as subscriber line charges, add-on features like call-waiting and caller ID, toll call services, directory assistance, and long distance and wireless. “This is just another example of how Washington DC has taken the taxpayer’s money for a war that started in 1898 and ended over one hundred years ago. I am pretty sure we have paid off the Spanish-American War, ” Camp said. “The last time I checked, the telephone was a necessity, not a luxury.”


wifi rocks

reply to Jason Levine

Re: BroadBand is a luxury moving towards utility

said by "Jason Levine":
Broadband is still a luxury, IMO, but it is quickly moving to the utility stage. Many services are beginning to assume that you have high-speed Internet access. This, combined with the growing broadband-enabled population percentage, means that a person without broadband is going to be significantly "left behind" from society at large. I don't think we're quite at that point yet, but in a few years we just may be.
You make some very good points there. I just wanted to throw something else out - what about health care? In terms of the overall good of society, and not creating an arbitrary set of "haves" and "have nots" - shouldn't we be worried about such far more basic quality-of-life type things like health care, before we care about whether or not we have higher-speed access to the internet? Just a thought, even though it is slightly OT for this thread.

Honesdale, PA

Rural electricity anyone?

Dear Friends,

For anyone dealing with educating children, the concept of having haves and have nots is heartless.

I argued here in the covad vs monopolies days, and still argue that because of the access to materials providing palpably better education, the state needs to intervene as it did in the rural electrification and telco acts to demand that companies owning basic infrastructures create facilities for the indigent.

x is the design flaw of an answer to a question no sane person would ask

wifi rocks

reply to fiberguy

Re: I say it's an OPTION.

said by "fiberguy":
I don't think it's a utility, a luxury, and ESPECIALLY a right.
I will add this, though.. I think that with more business pushing people to use the internet for services, in some cases penalizing people for not using the internet like the airlines do (...)
Here's an interesting question - what if the primary means for a citizen to interact with the services of their govt', is through the internet? Doesn't or wouldn't that change your view of whether or not such network-based access, is a "luxury" versus a "right"? Every citizen should have the basic right to access / interact with their gov't. They should have to pay a fee to do so. (The "poll tax" was found to be unconstitutional, if I have my history right. It was originally intended to deny the right of sufferage to slaves, because they couldn't afford to pay the tax in order to vote, while rich white slaveowners of course had no problems in doing so.)

Should the majority of gov't services be moved primarily or exclusively "on the internet" (and many already are doing so), then for internet (broadband) access to remain the province of the wealthy (as a "luxury"), then a significant portion of the citizenry would be effectively defacto disenfranchised, and this would end up being a modern-day "poll tax", under a different guise. For the good of the stability of society, that cannot be allowed to happen. (That is more-or-less what the "digital divide" is truely all about, btw.)

boogi man

Jacksonville, FL
reply to Mrq5

Re: A Right!

except that not all that you have listed is a constitutionally protected right

at this point alot of us would have a hard time getting by without broadband service some would have to actually commute or move because of the ability to telecommute and dev work done from home. thats not to say it can't be done without though. the public libraries in my area are doing a bangup job of providing that highspeed outlet to the public with existing tax dollars

i really dont see broadband as a right. perhaps we should focus our activism on things like healthcare, public transportation, the homeless epidemic, abused children i could go on.

Do It Now, Do It Right
reply to Brownbay

Try having this argument with say a Kalahari Dessert tribesman, a Bangladeshi tsunami victim and a hobo; don't think they would consider it at all let alone give the topic a rating out of 1 to 10.

Get serious folks.
Who was that masked man?


reply to Brownbay

more than just a 'utility'

certainly NOT a luxury. luxury is a relative concept, and depends from person to person.

now, those people who are drawing comparisons between 56K and 10MBPS, are deludeded and hypocritical when they say, well 56k is a necessity, but the latter is a luxury.

if you go to 3rd world countries, then screw 56K, even proper electricity and running water are considered a luxury, because they have none of that right now.

so, who do we draw comparisons to? draw intelligent and relevant comparisons please, and in doing so, you will come to the unmistakable conclusion that 10 MBPS, or 10GBPS, it will never be a luxury, but will always remain a necessity for the people concerned, the very people who are buying or thinking of buying it in the first place.

so stop with the morality BS.


reply to Anubis Prime

I'm glad to know that you consider poor people to be expendable. I'll be sure to remember that, so that if I ever see you in a difficult situation, I'll supress my good samaritan urges and spit in your face.

By the way, housing and healthcare ARE neccessary for survival, Knuckledrag, which is why they are rights. I suppose next you're going to argue for privatizing Social Security, because old people can live off cat food just fine.



1 recommendation

reply to IamZed

You could live without an education, too.

Given the tenor of his post, I suspect that he already does.


reply to G_Poobah

You're very right about LEO satellites. In fact, as I recall you can do it with just 288, plus on-orbit backups, and it covers the entire world (Minus parts of Antarctica, but who cares? The penguins prefer WiFi.). As great as fiber is, offering effectively unlimited bandwidth, someone should have done a sat network first, to offer service to all the parts of the US that won't see fiber for 5-15 years, and all the non-industrialized parts of the world that won't see fiber for 150-200 years.


Southfield, MI

1 recommendation

reply to Shadow01

said by Shadow01:

said by carlinniss:

I learned myself using the Internet.

Is this proper English?
No butit proves his point even more. He has assholes like you to teach him better.

Anubis Prime

Pittsburgh, PA
reply to FightingBlue

Uh, no housing and healthcare are not rights. If they are then I am due for refunds for my insurance premiums and mortgage. Have you read the Bill of Rights? Some people just can't get over the fact that they not entitled to a living provided to them by the government. Public housing and Social Security in their CURRENT forms are disasters.

Does the history of the United States only begin after FDR implemented his WPA program? Did old people just curl up and die before FDR was president?

I would argue that privatization in some form, Socialist, is NECESSARY for the solvency of the Social Security program itself. Bill Clinton warned that there was a problem, and everyone agreed. Nowadays though...that same party of opposition spoon-feeds people the "there's nothing wrong with Socal Security" line.

I wouldn't expect you to understand anything about economics or how the government works, but since you probably believe that there really is a Social Security "Trust Fund" let's make it clear that it there used to be, but there is no more. There was nothing to put in a "Lock Box".

Furthermore, no sensible person has a problem helping or funding programs for the elderly or sick/orphaned children. The problem is that your argument is a paper tiger. You see, you can collect a "Disability" check because oh...you drink too much, happen to put a heroin needle in your arm, or decide to eat a nourishing meal and throw it up afterward. Soon, you will be able to eat yourself into one as "obesity" will become a disability. Hell, physicans will readily admit that fake/phantom wastebasket diagnoses such as "fibromylagia" only exist to save them from being sued by patients who are actively seeking disablity.

Problem is--retired Mr. Jones on social security in the hospital can't get test X or physical therapy paid for. Not enough money to go around no matter how high you, Karl Marx or anyone raises taxes. Too many people have their hands in the pot.

If the original idea of FDR's Social Security is to remain feasible, we have prune the life-sucking vines that Lyndon Johnson's Great Society have grown.

Obviously broadband internet isn't a "right".
Quinn's First Law: Liberalism always generates the exact opposite of its stated intent.

All noise, no signal.
Jamestown, NC
reply to Shadow01

said by Shadow01:

You can still access the Internet without BB. Dialup will allow access to all that you have stated.
Well why don't you go try it again for a few months? Ever try to accomplish anything on the internet in the past few years without broadband?

Hell, we had a 768Kbps SDSL line at work that was painfully slow until a few months ago and our current 3Mbps Biz Class Cable line is getting there.



Is Broadband a Utility? A Right? A Luxury?

It's all three, 1) It's a "Utility" (Cable Company), 2) It's "Right" if it were not availible to all it would be discrimination, 3) It' a "Luxury" You can live without.

wifi rocks

reply to wifi rocks

Re: I say it's an OPTION.

Oye vey. Minor correction.

"They should have to pay a fee to do so." should read
"They should *NOT* have to pay a fee to do so."



In my case...a DREAM

I'm about 3900 feet from the end of the line of Time Warner cable...out in the sticks. $6000 to get the line run to my house...*sigh* No DSL available...30000 feet from the CO. No Wireless available...in a tight valley. And modem connections are AT BEST 24000. Yeah, I know...satellite...but ugh...higher cost and latency for crappy bandwidth...

Saint Louis, MO

Not a Utility YET

Broadband's not a utility yet, sure there are many apps, services in the making that will launch once broadband's widely available and accepted (e.g. smart house), until then, however, broadband will remain an accessible luxury

UWB over Wire is the future!

reply to Anubis Prime

Re: A Right!

Right, but the problem isn't grotesque government intervention (in the case of health), its grotesque overdevelopment of the industry itself. Too many people providing too little for too much. When one doctor's visit has to provide for several people's salary for two hours than the system is bloated. Its privatization, not public taxes, destroying the medical/tech sector in America.

I'll use a classic example I've used often to explain how tech and capital don't get along.


Drug company A makes 16 drugs to treat X. Drugs 1-16 are one of the companies main source of income. Researcher at drug company A finds a single drug/method to treat X. However, if the single drug is marketed, it will put the company out of business. Therefore, as far as capital is concerned, and stockholders are concerned (as an opaque headless whole) marketing the drug is bad. So head of the board doesn't want to be broke, HE doesn't have X. May as well suppress the drug, afterall, its good for the economy.

Okay, so yeah. Capital is not very benevolent. Duh. We know that. However, its actually malicious. It actually prevents progress in certain instances. Of course, then we'd have to define progress and I'd like to see you try that.

And disability. Yeah, what an awful idea huh? Give people less than $500 a month and ask them to live on it when they are mentally retarded. Provide almost no social service help so that these individuals can figure out the complicated disability/tax laws that they need to understand to survive. Don't allow them to make more than $100 dollars a week of their own income in addition to what you give them. Keep them stuck on a system that demeans their quality of life. Oh, but wait the system MIGHT be exploited, better to let a few hundred thousand people with serious needs die than allow the system to be exploited at all. If you had your way, my mentally disabled brother would be dead. Afterall, "he's bad for the free market."

Funny, its projected that the world will run out of oil reserves (if the rate of consumption continues) before social security runs out. But finding an alternative energy resource (which, by the way, has already been theoretically found several times over but thanks to the impossibility of a start up resource production company in the current old boy oligarchal market) is less of a priority. Social security, as an issue, is a drop in the ocean. Gi ahead and privatize it, as long as those over a certain age receive all of their back social security owed in a lump sum (with inflated modern value of course). I mean, or else the government IS stealing from them, something hardline laissez-fairests always seem to think the government is doing anyway. For once, they'd be absolutely right!

So fine, let young people waste their extra 75 bucks a week, wooey, big friggin' deal. Just don't take from those who had it stowed away by the government all these years.

charlie hp

reply to broadbanderexpanderc

You can get broadband now for under $40/month in pretty much every metropolitan and suburban location in america. Thats cheap. Hardly more than an average dialup ISP ($15/month) and a dedicated phone line ($20+/month after taxes and fees). Even if you're not making a lot of money, if getting broadband is one of your priorities, its not a problem. You'd be surprised at how many people under the poverty line actually have basic cable, which costs about as much. One of the saddest sights I see are the satellite dishes hanging near the windows on "projects" in chicago. They're living a building paid for with taxpayer money, they're kids probably arent getting what they need to succeed in school, and they're spending $60/month to get HBO so they can watch the "Kings of Comedy" specials. Great.

And if the burger flipper was a college kid then he would have internet in his dorm. Bottom line is that anyone who wants broadband can already afford it if they're willing to pay for it. People who work in america really arent that poor. And if you're so poor and decrepit as to be unable to afford $40/month max even as you really want it, then I stick to my point, you're probably beyond help.

What you people are saying is like saying "we should subsidize buying cars because people need cars to get to jobs and to school" or "we should subsidize shoes, he's missing out on so many opportunities".

I wonder why they aren't getting what they need to succeed in their urban area public school but schools like the public school in West Chester, PA and Longmeadow, MA and other suburban communities get plenty of funding?

Oh yes! Because we allocate our government spending in ridiculous ways that promote the status quote and insure that certain people remain poorly educated so as to provide the unemployment pool that keeps laborers hinged to an exploitative market, hoorah! The schools that need national funding are ignored and not given the hands-on approach needed to make them work. Teachers in wealthy suburbs make more than urban and rural teachers. Ridiculous. The government passes standards (No Child Left Behind) but than illegally demands states fund the programs to pass those standards. Blah, blah, blah.

Frankly, I think giving away cars and shoes to everyone in the world would be fantastic. I don't know why you hate free stuff so much!

"Beyond help." Hmmm ... never heard that one in economic theory before. I think you're being a bit unacademic there ...


Let's look at my statement again ...

"And as for your ideas on the cheapness of broadband... That is the LOWEST possible price for broadband in the country, where in places like Korea its the norm. Please give the percentage of individual households in the country who have the option of paying $15 for broadband. Then, when/if you do find them, and they change your mind about what you've posted, please compare those figures to other nations. Then, post them here. Oh wait, you'd find your argument has been proven fallacious and most American households, I'd say upwards of 24/25 or more CAN'T get broadband service for the $15 per month you're advertising."

You have not done what I asked, at all.

Show me the exact percentage of houses who can get broadband for that rate. Heck, show me the numbers fo $40 and compare it with other countries. And I don't mean slow satellite times, I mean broadband and broadband speeds.

Why do you act like my issues are with exclusively urban poor? My issue is with rural areas as well. My issue isn't with "you should be able to afford it" its with "look at other countries' prices" in comparison. My issue has NOTHING to do with subsidies. You don't buy broadband cheaper for people. You make it cheaper in the market. You don't have to subsidize it. You stop the price-gouging of exploitative companies. You promote profitable municipalization.

Tell me this, if an IOU can build a system, maintain that system, provide service AND make a profit, than logically, can't a "city" "or (individually-owned utility) do the same thing cheaper? Afterall, it doesn't even want to make a profit! It can charge the lowest price possible. Woot. Woot. Seems other countries figured that out to solve rural area penetration problems, didn't they?

Its not about subsidization in anyway. Its about fostering lower prices. A profit is still a profit even if its a more reasonable profit.