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Lessig on Broadband
Editorial on unbundling, net neutrality...
by Karl Bode 10:07AM Monday Jan 16 2006
"Broadband is infrastructure," argues Larry Lessig in a blog post about net neutrality and broadband deployment, "like highways, if not railroads. If you rely upon “markets” alone to provide infrastructure, you’ll get less of it, and at a higher price." He continues: "Verizon’s entry-level broadband is $14.95 for 786 kbs. That about $20 per megabit. In FRANCE, for $36/m, you get 20 megabits/s — or about $1.80 per megabit. How did France get it so good? By following the rules the US passed in 1996, but that telecoms never really followed (and cable companies didn’t have to follow): “strict unbundling.”

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Noah Vail
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Lorton, VA
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Yea But.........

I have questions about the quality and reliability of France's broadband system. My experience is when "That Which Must Be Obeyed" sets up and tightly regulates a system, that system fails in quality. It becomes huge, plentiful.....and of poor quality.

Public Schools and Canada's health care come to mind.

NV

R4M0N
Brazilian Soccer Ownz Joo

join:2000-10-04
Glen Allen, VA

1 recommendation

Re: Yea But.........

I agree with you. We can all complain about how other countries have cheaper broadband, but we also must look at the quality of service AND how the service is paid for. Are they paying higher taxes to subsidize the cheaper broadband?

I'd love to have "free" health care like canadians do, but I'd hate to have the quality of care they have and I'd hate to pay the taxes they have to pay.

maartena
Elmo
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Re: Yea But.........

said by R4M0N:

I agree with you. We can all complain about how other countries have cheaper broadband, but we also must look at the quality of service AND how the service is paid for. Are they paying higher taxes to subsidize the cheaper broadband?

I'd love to have "free" health care like canadians do, but I'd hate to have the quality of care they have and I'd hate to pay the taxes they have to pay.
The companies that deploy broadband in France, such as France Telecom are partially state owned, that is they are large shareholders. But that only gives them some power in the decission making process, they aren't getting any subsidies from the government, they are a money-making and money-spending cooperation, just like any other company.

In other countries, such as the UK and Netherlands, their major telecom companies haven't been state-run for more then a decade, and they didn't start with broadband services until they had been privatized completely for quite a while.

The reasons why Europeans pay more taxes is because of their social systems, their healthcare systems, and other government entities, not because of broadband.

Besides, Canadians may pay more taxes but their broadband is often more lousy then here in the US.
--
"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." - Bush, May 2004.

tuna hp

@covad.net
On one side, I totally agree that it would be disastrous for the government to be handling ISPs like they do abroad. There needs to be competition. On the other hand, I do agree with Lessig that the physical "lines", ie the copper, cable, or fiber, are definately infrastructure. The property and scale barriers to creating competing information networks means that the government might want to have some part in it.

Don't get me wrong. I used to be a staunch libertarian/laissez-faire capitalist and still believe heavily that the government should stay small and shouldnt do much. But in an industry where the government all but built the phone and cable company's for them, they should be providing an avenue for turning the ISP business from being a monopoly or duopoly into something more commoditized and price competetive.

They could do this by building or even just facilitating the building of an independent network (probably fiber) that wouldnt transport its own services, but only be hired out by ISPs that would all pay a per/megabyte rate to carry data over the network.
wtansill
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Falls Church, VA

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This may at times be the case, but that's not what we're seeing here. When "Ma Bell" was heavily regulated, the United States was widely acknowledged to have the best phone system in the world.

Fast forward a few years:

1) Universal Service is dying (despite the fact that we all pay the fee on our phone bill).
2) Many times the service we pay for is sub-par.

Case in point -- I spent yesterday afternoon at a friend's house helping her untangle some computer-related issues. She has Verizon DSL, advertised at 768k. I ran a speed test here on DSL Reports. She is actually getting 122K down and 133K up -- or just over 15% of her advertised speed (yes, yes -- I know that VZ advertises "up to" 768k). And that's after running some of the tweak tests here and using Dr. TCP to adjust settings. She mentioned that whenever someone has to work on the outside pole, they say it's amazing that her phone works at all, indicating to me that the external infrastructure is falling apart. This BTW is in Northern Virginia, in a close-in suburb of Washington DC.

Please -- remind me again how good deregulation is for us?
--
That which does not kill me merely prolongs the agony.

ronpin
Imagine Reality

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Huh?

The Telecom Act of 1996 UNE-P rules were clearly a disincentive for the private sector to build fiber FTTP infrastructure -- only to be shared with the competition (I'm no *&^% conservative either )

Yeah it'd be nice if governments were smart enough to invest in FTTP infrastructure (like France, Japan and Korea) -- but by the time our few muni's "got-it" it was too late and their voters were still to dumb to get-it. Our losing the UNE-P rules allowed Verizon to build FiOS and SBC to start LightSpeed. I'll take it.

'Funny how our Federal Gov. has $500 billion to waste on a needless "war of choice" (and errors)-- but $200 billion to fiber-up the last mile in America is "unthinkable"
--
"...lacking a [U.S.] military option, that leaves only a diplomatic option..."(Andrea Mitchell CNBC's Hardball 1/12/06 on Iran nuke buildup)

R4M0N
Brazilian Soccer Ownz Joo

join:2000-10-04
Glen Allen, VA

Re: Huh?

Everything Goes back to Bush, doesn't it?

ronpin
Imagine Reality

join:2002-12-06
Nirvana

Re: Huh?

Actually it was the Clinton Admin (with a Republican Congress) that passed the Telecom Act of 1996. The only good thing I can say about the Bush Admin is that the Telecom Act was essentially dismantled during his tenure. I do fear the next Telecom Act will reflect the Republican incest with big business -- the opposite extreme of the 1996 act.
--
"...lacking a [U.S.] military option, that leaves only a diplomatic option..."(Andrea Mitchell CNBC's Hardball 1/12/06 on Iran nuke buildup)

rit56

join:2000-12-01
New York, NY

Re: Huh?

ha ha ha a reference to Clinton.... typical Republican who can't take responsibility for this administrations failures. thanks for the laugh this morning.

ronpin
Imagine Reality

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Nirvana

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Re: Huh?

Wrong -- oh so very wrong...(did you even read what I said?)

tapeloop
Not bad at all, really.
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Re: Huh?

Congrats ronpin! You just got bashed from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum! Welcome to BBR!
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calvoiper

join:2003-03-31
Belvedere Tiburon, CA

Re: Huh?

Yeah, but let's keep in mind that the destruction of the Telecom Act of '96 started with Clinton forcing Reed Hundt out of the FCC chair and replacing him with Kennard, who quickly put the brakes on pro-competitive enforcement and unbundling activities.

(This comment is not meant to start another UNE vs. non-UNE debate, but to point out that if you agree with Lessig here, as I do, that it wasn't Bush who turned us off the proper course. He just reinforced Clinton's push in the wrong direction.)

If you don't believe me, you should review Reed Hundt's book, You Say You Want a Revolution : A Story of Information Age Politics.

calvoiper
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nasadude

join:2001-10-05
Rockville, MD

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said by R4M0N:

Everything Goes back to Bush, doesn't it?
no, he's just one in a long line of presidents that didn't really give a sh1t about the internet, because he doesn't use and doesn't really understand what it is.

I must say however, if he thinks he can just promise that everyone will have broadband by 2007, he better demand that something different be done than is going on now.

My guess is that the U.S. is even worse off than it seems, because the FCC defines broadband as "at least 200kbits/sec, both ways". By any stretch of the imagination, this is a ludacrous definition of broadband in the year 2006.

maartena
Elmo
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Orange, CA
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Greed.

One word: Greed.

Why give people what they want for less money if you can squeeze dollars out of them by giving them a lousy connection?

The United States of America is great when it comes to developing technology, but when it comes to applying them other countries often take the lead.

A few examples:

- NO American Airline has adopted Boeing's Connexion, which is broadband access on board of their flights, with Lufthansa adopting it first (Germany's main airline) and several other Asian and European airlines now are using it too.

- Most European Cable providers (and I am not even talking about Japan or Korea) started to change their upload speeds along with the download speeds when their broadband battles raged. Not just the download speeds such as here in the US. My parents in The Netherlands has a 1 Mbit/s upstream connection and 4 Mbit/s down, and they are on the "budget" plan. Getting 1 Mbit/s up on DSL (there is a technical limit there) or 2 Mbit/s on Cable isn't all that difficult in Europe. In the US, you may be grateful if you end up with 384 kbit/s up or 512 kbit/s up, and only a few markets surpass that. And often only when there is FIOS.

- I can purchase a usenet service with unlimited downloading for EUR 7.50 in Europe. (and good speed, 30 day retention) American services such as Giganews often charge that amount for a limited connection, such as 10 Gb download only, and you will have to whip out $25 a month for the unlimited version.

- DSL2 and Docsis 2.0 are being widely deployed. The UK announced their nationwide DSL2 network in 2005, and so did The Netherlands and France, albeit in the last case not quite nationwide yet, but they plan to upgrade their areas that are still on DSL1 to DSL2 soon.

- Japan and Korea are way ahead of the US in fibering up the homes. Europe is somewhat behind on the speedy delivery of fiber by Verizon, but unlike Verizon who seems to only deliver in rich areas first, there are several European cities currently deploying a citywide fiberoptic network. For everyone. Although it will take a few more years to be operational.

In general, the U.S. and U.S. companies are lagging behind in broadband deployment, the prices for it, and the speeds with which broadband is delivered. And in my humble opinion, it all comes down to one single word: Greed.
--
"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." - Bush, May 2004.

Scott W
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Re: Greed.

said by maartena:

Japan and Korea are way ahead of the US in fibering up the homes.
While I agree with your accusations of greed on the part of the American Broadband companies, don't forget that Korea and Japan have houses that are a lot more densely packed in the cities and it's a lot easier to reach more homes more quickly with fiber. While lots are getting tiny and houses more numerous in metro areas here, we still are spread out compared to typical Japanese and Korean situations.

rit56

join:2000-12-01
New York, NY

Re: Greed.

no he is right with his greed argument ESPECIALLY due to your statement. based on what you said why are American teleco's only wiring "rich" areas and not major cities? due to density as you state New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia etc, etc should all be wired at this point with fiber because we live so close together. we will likely be the last to get it. sorry my friend. it is pure greed.

maartena
Elmo
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said by Scott W:

said by maartena:

Japan and Korea are way ahead of the US in fibering up the homes.
While I agree with your accusations of greed on the part of the American Broadband companies, don't forget that Korea and Japan have houses that are a lot more densely packed in the cities and it's a lot easier to reach more homes more quickly with fiber. While lots are getting tiny and houses more numerous in metro areas here, we still are spread out compared to typical Japanese and Korean situations.
I have heard this argument time and time and time again about Japan and Korea, and although you are right about the amount of people they pack in a square kilometer, it doesn't mean deploying fiber is a whole lot cheaper.

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles, at least they are in most of the greater Los Angeles area, except for the downtown areas of some cities because there is no more room for poles. Not having to dig to deploy your fiber makes deploying it actually significantly cheaper.

On top of that, there are areas that are fairly rich (such as downtown San Francisco or downtown New York), have a density equal to a city in Japan with their highrises, and even if a highrise appartment building in New York wants to fiber up their own residents at their OWN COSTS, they often get hassled by telecom companies because they claim to be deploying new technologies "soon" for years now. There's a few appartment buildings in downtown New York that got tired of waiting, placed a satellite dish on the roof, fibered up their own building, and connected it to a leased line just so they can get something faster then your average DSL or Cablemodem. Essentially, those buildings are starting to be their own ISP, and you often even can't GET DSL anymore because their building has been fibered up, and DSL doesn't run through that. But their internal digital phone system does.

Point is, in a large metro area like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, New York or Houston, just to name a few.... fiber CAN be deployed for an amount of money that would give them profit after a number of years.

Furthermore, I don't want this to become a political topic, but I will just bring it up to compare:

The esitimated costs of fibering up the whole city of Paris, France (est. 6 million or so inhabitants) will cost about 1 billion euro, or about $1.3 billion dollars. The estimated costs of fibering up Amsterdam, The Netherlands (est. 1 million or so inhabitants) will cost about 300 million euro or about $400 million dollars.

The war in Iraq has cost us about $350 BILLION dollars in tax money. Now I am NOT advocating the federal government should deploy fiber, but even if it would cost TWICE as much to fiber up a city with the same amount of inhabitants of those two European examples, in the amount of time that this war has been going on, we could have deployed fiber in the 100 largest cities in the United States, assuming it would cost 3.5 billion dollars per city to deploy. And that is a very conservative estimate, because it would probably cost less and be more comparible to a spread out city like Paris is.

People always defend Japan's and Korea's broadband with being less costly because of population density. They also pay a lot less for that broadband, so in the end it should work out just fine deploying it in large urban areas in the U.S.
--
The Republican Party is a party of BAD ideas. The Democratic Party is a party of NO ideas. Every now and then a Republican stands up in congress and says: "I got a really BAD idea!", to which a Democrat reponds with: "And I can make it shittier!"

Megadeth5150
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Japan Inc.

Re: Greed.

said by maartena:

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles
Wrong. In japan, most of the cables are placed on poles, not underground.
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rideboarder
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Snohomish, WA

Re: Greed.

said by Megadeth5150:

said by maartena:

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles
Wrong. In japan, most of the cables are placed on poles, not underground.
His argument still stands correct as far as Europe is concerned.

Cuchulainn
The Roar of the Masses Could be Farts

join:2000-11-09
Chevy Chase, MD

Re: Greed.

said by rideboarder:

said by Megadeth5150:

said by maartena:

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles
Wrong. In japan, most of the cables are placed on poles, not underground.
His argument still stands correct as far as Europe is concerned.
Uh...not as far as the UK is concerned.

1. Cable upload speeds still crap. I'm sitting on 10 meg down, 512k up and that's currently the best that Cable in the UK can offer.

2. Usenet access is crud too. Most relevant newsgroups are blocked. Sure you can get alt.obsessive-fan.jamiroquai.s**ks, but as for Usenet anyone actually reads, it's poor.

3. Gov't/BT (same bloody thing) have announced a lot but they rarely deliver.
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rideboarder
welcome to the social
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Snohomish, WA

Re: Greed.

said by Cuchulainn:

said by rideboarder:

said by Megadeth5150:

said by maartena:

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles
Wrong. In japan, most of the cables are placed on poles, not underground.
His argument still stands correct as far as Europe is concerned.
Uh...not as far as the UK is concerned.
Well the UK is a mini USA anyways. I'm talking about the real Europe here.

Cuchulainn
The Roar of the Masses Could be Farts

join:2000-11-09
Chevy Chase, MD

Re: Greed.

said by rideboarder:

said by Cuchulainn:

said by rideboarder:

said by Megadeth5150:

said by maartena:

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles
Wrong. In japan, most of the cables are placed on poles, not underground.
His argument still stands correct as far as Europe is concerned.
Uh...not as far as the UK is concerned.
Well the UK is a mini USA anyways. I'm talking about the real Europe here.
Your argument still doesn't hold any water, no matter how cute you try to be.
--
Why should the Israelis care about a brain-dead leader? Bush is in his second term! NO Bush NO Sinn Fein/IRA

maartena
Elmo
Premium
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Orange, CA
kudos:3
said by Megadeth5150:

said by maartena:

In Japan for instance, (and most of Europe) cables are placed into the ground, whereas in most of the US the cables are placed on poles
Wrong. In japan, most of the cables are placed on poles, not underground.
I will give you that. I have lived in Europe for 28 years though, have been to MANY big European cities including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich, Edinburgh, Bordeaux, Bern, Geneve, Milan, and god knows how many more other cities, and they only place I have seen cables on poles was in the Scottish northern highlands.

If European Cities can do it, so can American cities. But since greed is also responsible for the Los Angeles Metro to stop THREE MILES BEFORE the Airport, I would not be surprised if big telecom companies would keep cities from deploying. God knows they are trying in small communities, I betcha corporate HELL would break loose if the city of Chicago would announce a city wide fiber network funded by the city.
--
The Republican Party is a party of BAD ideas. The Democratic Party is a party of NO ideas. Every now and then a Republican stands up in congress and says: "I got a really BAD idea!", to which a Democrat reponds with: "And I can make it shittier!"
flushls

join:2004-11-02
Joyce, WA

Little Companies will lead the way long term

I live in the sticks (fcc definition of sticks)
I have 5.5/3 MBS 39.95 a month all built with private funds.

The point of the aurgument is letter invention/inovation take its course in the end it will be better.

Flushls
jdracer47

join:2005-10-16
Auburn, PA

I have to agree on this one

Sorry but even as a staunch Republican I have to agree on this one.

The area I live in is fairly Rural, Verizon when it comes to POTS supplies bare minimum here. No freedom packages and no voice mail. Also my community has 1100 homes in it with no DSL. I got into this argument with our IT guy, his comment was that if it isn't cost effective then why should they do it. I would agree with him on this if Verizon wouldn't fight every Muni broadband initiative out there. Think about it, "we don't want to serve the area but we don't want anyone else doing it either!"

Now people complain about Comcast all the time too, but I have a friend that lives in an area even more rural than mine and he receives the same speeds that people in the cities do. He receives this even with no DSL competing against it. Maybe Comcast isn't as good as 100MPS Japanese providers but at least they attempt to provide decent service to ALL of their customers, not just the ones they elect to serve like Verizon does(REDLINING!!!!)
jp10558
Premium
join:2005-06-24
Willseyville, NY

Re: I have to agree on this one

quote:
I would agree with him on this if Verizon wouldn't fight every Muni broadband initiative out there. Think about it, "we don't want to serve the area but we don't want anyone else doing it either!"
And this is the problem, capitalism/market forces only work if competitors are allowed in the area.

I mean, it's as ludicrious to me as if Safeway didn't want to build a supermarket, but could prevent Wegmans or Shure Fine or Joes market from building a store to see if they can make money there.
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XBL2009
------

join:2001-01-03
Chicago, IL

American Broadband @ 100 Megabits

Ford and GM did not build the highways and they don't maintain them either. The only way we will see 100 megabits or more is for the government or one corporation to own and maintain a backbone to home fiber network.

Another way would be to force the current companies that own the Last mile to upgrade their networks to 100 megabit+ with loans or financial incentives.

Either way they need to start to upgrade their networks to fiber in order to compete with each other.

I still find Regional monoplies to be sad and broken and am shocked that Americans put up with them.

calvoiper

join:2003-03-31
Belvedere Tiburon, CA

3 recommendations

On the Baby Bells killing the 'Net....

In his blog, Lessig makes the point that if the Bells had been able to, they would have killed the Internet early.

He's right. Recall their ISDN products. Their world view was one where when you wanted a broadband connection to Amazon, you would dial Amazon's phone number and then you would be connected. After that, you could dial ebay or Overstock or whoever else you wanted to.

Each a separate call.

Each billed separately, over and apart from your monthly service charge.

(Oh, and of course, the merchants you wanted to call could provide a toll-free number for you, if they wanted to pay for it.)

Fortunately, this didn't happen (yet), but allowing the extortion of protection money from content providers will put us in about the same place if we let it.

calvoiper
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VoIP--the death knell of remaining voice monopolies!