What should we include in our national broadband strategy?

By Senator Durbin Posted in Comments (211) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »


[Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome Senator Durbin to our front page and I'd like to ask each of you to be mindful that this is an experiment in bipartisanship. Please keep your comments relevant to the topic at hand. Senator Durbin will be live blogging this issue this evening. Thanks, Erick]

“We may not agree on a lot of things – but if we never talk, never exchange ideas, we're limiting ourselves to only a share of the debate.”

Hello, I’m Senator Dick Durbin. I’m looking forward to our discussion about what should be included in America's national broadband strategy.

But before we get to any of that, let me deal with the 800 pound elephant in the room. What the heck am I doing blogging or even posting on RedState? And what do I hope to gain from it?

The answer is simple: different perspectives, different ideas, more people with a seat at the table. My hope is that I will receive comments and suggestions that will help me draft legislation that will make the United States more competitive in terms of broadband access. That’s not a partisan idea, but there are real questions that deserve to be addressed from a variety of ideological viewpoints – what are the right mix of incentives to build broadband infrastructure, how should we manage public resources like spectrum, what is the role of community and regional broadband projects, do we need a Federal Highway System or Rural Electrification Act for broadband, what role should the government and/or the private sector play and what policies are necessary to ensure open debate and innovation?

Following this process, I will draft legislative language, which will be posted online, for all to view and comment on prior to its introduction. To my knowledge, this method of drafting legislation – soliciting public comment, translating it into legislative language, and requesting comments prior to introduction – has never been attempted at the federal level.

I think this is a unique experiment in transparent government and an opportunity to demonstrate the democratic power of the internet. If we’re successful, it could become a model for the way legislation on health care, tax policy or education is drafted in the future.

Please read on below the fold . . .

There are several reasons why I chose America’s broadband strategy as the issue for this process. First of all, those who are active on the issue of broadband policy and have the knowledge and experience to help me draft this legislation tend to leverage the power of the internet for advocacy efforts. This is the perfect forum for this issue.

Secondly, I think this is one of the most important public policy questions we face today. We need to make broadband access a national priority. Many of you probably recall that in early 2004, President Bush called for universal and affordable access to broadband by the year 2007. Unfortunately, that goal is not even close to being met.

Over the last year, I’ve held regional broadband summits in Southern and Central Illinois that assembled various leaders in health, education, government, and business to discuss the importance of broadband access. At each summit I heard the following: This issue is not about luxury, but about having the tools necessary to compete in the 21st Century.

Businesses, hospitals, schools, and even communities, regions, and states are better able to compete if they have access to or can offer broadband service. A 2006 report by the Department of Commerce shows that broadband access enhances the economic growth and performance of communities. Broadband communities significantly outgrow non-broadband communities in terms of employment, the number of businesses overall, businesses in IT-intensive sectors, and property values. Various other case studies comparing similar communities with and without broadband access confirm these results.

This makes sense. The economic viability of communities is often directly related to that community’s public infrastructure. Good schools, adequate roads and transportation, access to affordable health care, and quality of life factors play a role in whether communities will attract new businesses and residents. Like traditional utility services, broadband is a key part of this infrastructure.

However, I’m concerned that the United States is falling behind our peers in terms of our per capita access to high speed internet access. One report showed the United States falling from 4th in the world in broadband access per capita in 2001 to 12th in the world in 2006. The International Telecommunications Union listed the U.S. as 16th worldwide in terms of its broadband penetration rate, behind South Korea, Belgium, Israel, and Switzerland, among others.

In today’s highly competitive international markets, our children, businesses, and communities are competing with their peers around the world for jobs, market share, and business attraction. We are falling behind in an area in which we should have a natural advantage. Lagging behind in broadband means our children are less able to access the full set of tools and resources available online and communities are less able to attract businesses or high quality employees considering relocating.

It is especially troubling that many families living in rural parts of the United States still do not have access to high speed internet service. The digital divide is real. Rural broadband deployment continues to lag behind urban deployment, even as overall broadband usage has grown significantly in our nation.

According to a 2004 report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, only about 25% of rural households that use the Internet have broadband access, compared to over 40% of the same households in urban areas. The USDA’s 2005 report found that farm households have home access to broadband at almost half the level of all U.S. households. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found similar results; only 18% of rural adults reported a home broadband connection, compared to 31% of urban adults.

All these studies point to a consistent conclusion: Americans living in urban areas are almost twice as likely to have home broadband access as do their rural counterparts. And the main obstacle for rural broadband adoption is the availability and price of broadband service in these regions. Even when broadband service is available in rural areas, frequently this service is considerably more expensive and of lower quality than broadband offered in more populated areas.

I think this issue is important enough that we have a concerted federal strategy. And that strategy has to be rooted in principles. So let me tell you my starting point:

1) I believe that broadband must be universal and affordable;
2) I feel we must preserve an online environment for innovation; and
3) I want to ensure that this technology allows more voices to be heard.

So that’s where I start, but I’m most interested in hearing from you.

As I said at the outset, this is an experiment. Drafting a bill like this has never been done before. Some people think that a Democrat reaching out to RedStaters is crazy. I joked with my staff that I may become nothing but Tuesday’s serving of RedMeat on RedState. I hope that’s not the case. We may not agree on a lot of things – but if we never talk, never exchange ideas, we're limiting ourselves to only a share of the debate. The process in which we're engaged tonight is an experiment for gathering opinions on the best direction for the future of our country.

So tonight, I am asking for your insight, your ideas and your help. I have a feeling we’re in for an interesting discussion.

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What should we include in our national broadband strategy? 211 Comments (0 topical, 211 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

The rural electric model is actually a good one.

I realize electric membership cooperatives are not a "conservative idea," but then people forget that in the 1940's people weren't interested in whether it was conservative or liberal, they were only interested in getting lights on across the country. The REA did that.

Instead of a new REA, why not just empower local EMCs and rural telephone cooperatives to undertake this endeavor? Provide low cost loans to them.

EMCs are the embodiment of what President Bush calls the "ownership society." Government helps them through loans and, in some cases, power supply, but then individuals come together and work to build their infrastructure and technology within the private sector.

They are excellent organizations and the model has worked well when exported to other countries. Already, here at home, a lot of them are trying to meet the needs of their member/owners with regard to high speed internet. We should give them the incentive to do so and keep the government's hands from mucking it up.

I believe the question really comes down to: how do you encourage telcos and/or other carriers to build out broadband infrastructure in locations where they don't have a business case to do it otherwise? Low-cost loans are certainly one aspect of this. Another poster elsewhere on RS mentioned that telcos currently must depreciate their equipment over a very long period of time, which affects the balance sheets for years...perhaps that can be changed for rural buildouts. Or tax credits can be applied.

I definitely think there's a problem with rural coverage, based on personal experience. The question is: how to fund it. I think the best approach is to motivate (using "the carrot") private enterprise to do the job. In fact, that's probably the only practical way of doing it, since the government isn't exactly in the telecom business.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

As long as the telco and cableco OWN the wires , you will NEVER have competition. I only have ONE phone wire , and ONE cable wire. Yes, they are now sort of offering phone over cable and DSL and maybe movies over phone.

But they are not really the "same" thing.

I want One or Two wires and they be opened up for ANYONE to offer a service.

Think opening the wires as a "highway" model. Not paid for by taxes but more of an Access fee to maintain and upgrade them by a Utility type org set up.

Even if the cities allowed more than one cableco, there would likely be no takers...the cost of dragging wires through the city would be to high without a guaranteed monopoly like the first cableco had when it entered. The new one would not be guaranteed a certain amount of subscribers.

This problem was largely solved long ago with the railroads, trucking companies, airlines, etc. that own infrastructure but use either public assets or governmental power to operate that infrastructure. A railroad owns the tracks and, maybe, the locomotives, but in order to be in business, it must provide access to that infrastructure to anybody's freight and, somewhat, do so with non-discriminatory rates. Analogously, a cable company uses a lot of government power to get its wires run; it should have to allow anyone's "freight" over those lines, the only issue being how much it charges the shipper.

In Vino Veritas

______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

RFYoung
You realize, I assume, that the REA is still in existance and funding movie theaters in State College, PA. otherwise wasting tax dollars.

be sunseted. There should be a specific program goal and an end date so we're not, as RFYoung notes funding projects that have nothing to do with the original program 50 years later.
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CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

First, I would like to thank the Senator for coming on RS to get input about an important issue like this. I don't think many Senators would have the strength of their convictions to do so.

Second, I wanted to ask for some clarification on the technical aspects. Are we looking at a wireless or hard-line model? From my experience, expansion of broadband access into rural areas is much faster and cost effective through the promulgation of wireless repeaters than thru the expensive expansion of hard line networks.

The huge bandwidth gap will still be there. Sure, it is cheaper to install, but POTS lines are even cheaper since they are already in the ground. If the goal is simply some kind of internet connection availability with very limited bandwidth, dial up already meets that need.

512k will become the equivalent of 56k today at some point in the not so distant future. We started not so long ago with modems that ran at 0.3k. Technology marches forward. The infrastructure would have to be capable of growing with it, for this to serve any purpose.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

If I thought that input from RedStaters would actually inform Senator Durbin's deliberations, I'd eat my hat. I fear that we're doing nothing but offering cover to an opponent, so that when we get the heavy handed regulation that the Senator surely desires, he can offer it to us with a smile, "well, I did ask the other side!"

But to answer one question, do we need a Rural Electrification Act for broadband? A thousand times no. As with every federal program, (and the REA itself, for instance) it will simply take on a life of its own with a lifespan of...well, forever.

This is all about long term regulation and Congressionally mandated "solutions."

the "solution" for obtaining "universal" broadband is the free market. It's what got broadband to the level it is at today and it is the solution that will get it spread even further.

When liberals progressives talk about "national" strategies and "universal" anything what they mean is government directed and taxpayer subsidized.

John
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Why would God invent something like whiskey? To keep the Irish from ruling the world of course

We'd like to see less regulation of the telecommunications market. Specifically, we support breaking down barriers to entry for new companies and doing away with "build-out" requirements.

We have also been fighting against heavy-handed "net neutrality" legislation in various states and on the federal level.

Here is a study of that issue:
http://www.freedomworks.org/informed/issues_template.php?issue_id=2871

1) I believe that broadband must be universal and affordable;

With all do respect, Senator, I believe you have conflated a nicety with a necessity. I like having cool things like broadband Internet. I'd also enjoy driving a Porsche. Neither is a necessity for me to lead a happy and fulfilled life. Let's keep taxpayer funded mandates from being used to redistribute income from taxpayers that gets spent on nice things rather than necessary things.

2) I feel we must preserve an online environment for innovation; and

There could be a certain role for the government on that. I think of it as more of a research role, rather than a mass infrastructure role. Besides, if we build $1 Tril. of Broadband Internet infrastucture and are wrong, wow are we wrong! I think we do better letting the market sort out the infrastructure that best serves our country.

3) I want to ensure that this technology allows more voices to be heard.

I don't think our country necessarily suffers from a lack of available speech. In cases where our speech is curtailed, I tend to think these are overregulation problems, not technological ones. Lack of available speech is an issue for a different thread on different topics. Thank you posting, Senator.

"Scott Thomas" - The New Republic's Winter Soldier

I really just don't see the need for government intervention, here. Right now the proliferation of internet access, and even broadband internet access, is progressing pretty well via the free market. I am therefore suspicious of government attempts to "fix" a problem that does not exist. Wherever broadband internet is not proliferated via landline, you can still get DirecWay or HughesNet or whatever it's called now via sattelite. And even if that weren't true, broadband internet is not really analogous to electric services.

Furthermore, unlike the provision of electric power, I've yet to see any remotely convincing analysis which shows that the provision of broadband internet is a natural monopoly (in fact, quite the opposite), and it is not subject to "network effects" like in the early days of telephone service, unless the cable companies somehow figure out a way to prevent their customers from accessing any internet site not hosted by them - and at this point, such a decision would be disastrous for business in any case.

I understand that people have a visceral reaction to paying more for their iTunes or whatever, but they had this same sort of reaction toward telephone rates in 1917, and then the Post Office nationalized the telephones and rates were hiked nationwide over 25% within the first six months and people found out the hard way that when the government tries to force prices down, bad things inevitably happen. I've not been convinced that the current effort is any better.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

But its very easy to create it as one.

In most areas the choices are cable(by cable co) or DSL (by phone co). Spectrum for wireless broadband is usually gobbled up by traditional cell phone companies.( They do so to limit supply and control the market).The last thing the cell phone carriers want to see are wifi phones that will give unlimited calling for the cost of a wireless internet account.

We really are lagging behind other nations in advanced telco services and its because the market is not feeling the pressure to innovate.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

But its very easy to create it as one.

From an economic perspective, a given market either is a natural monopoly, or it is not. Either a single firm can supply the entire demand in a given market at below marginal cost, or it cannot. Natural monopolies can't be "created," they simply exist. Of course, I await Adam coming along to correct this simplistic analysis, but that's always been my understanding.

We really are lagging behind other nations in advanced telco services and its because the market is not feeling the pressure to innovate.

Well, the best way to make sure that never happens is to introduce artificial price controls like net neutrality into the mix.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

Have government granted monopolies. If you go with a competitor your service will be worse.

And yes once again they aren't a natural monopoly in the textbook economic sense. They are close enough though that all it takes is a little suppression of competitors to keep them as monopolies.

If the cable cos and the telcos want to send video down the wires thats fine. They shouldn't be allowed to chose who doesn't get through though.

The consumer has paid for the bandwidth with the expectation they will have access to the internet. Not with the expectation that they will get to see what ATT lets them.

I point out that most of these organizations lean liberal. Redstate and the Herritage Foundation could both be on the receiving ends of shakedowns to get their messages out.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

They had to enter into a consent decree for that kind of behavior that was probably not very pleasant for them.

And yes once again they aren't a natural monopoly in the textbook economic sense. They are close enough though that all it takes is a little suppression of competitors to keep them as monopolies.

So then we agree that they are not natural monopolies, and that only government intervention can make them monopolies. I don't know what we're arguing about, then, except that I seem to be more convinced of the fact that more government intervention will only make the problem worse.

If the cable cos and the telcos want to send video down the wires thats fine. They shouldn't be allowed to chose who doesn't get through though.

Why not? Should a web hosting company be allowed to take down jihadist websites, as we discussed on the front page earlier this week? What about a television station? What justification is there for the government telling a cable of phone company what sort of messages they have to promulgate or allow to be promulgated? Isn't that the fairness doctrine writ internet?

The consumer has paid for the bandwidth with the expectation they will have access to the internet. Not with the expectation that they will get to see what ATT lets them.

If their expectations are thwarted in this regard, I am confident that an alternative will be available, and if one is not, that one will arise.

I point out that most of these organizations lean liberal.

I point out that most of these organizations have stockholders they must answer to, and therefore, they have a fiduciary duty to make money.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

I've yet to see any remotely convincing analysis which shows that the provision of broadband internet is a natural monopoly (in fact, quite the opposite), and it is not subject to "network effects" like in the early days of telephone service, unless the cable companies somehow figure out a way to prevent their customers from accessing any internet site not hosted by them - and at this point, such a decision would be disastrous for business in any case.

Well actually it is a duopoly which is probably even worse.

And ISPs most certainly know how to prevent customers from accessing any internet sites not hosted by them. That would be trivially easy. They also know how to "rate limit" sites not hosted by them or their preferred partners so that you would be able to access the site but it would be unbearably slow. You wouldn't even know it was happening and since they aren't required to show how their routers are configured you would never know.

Net neutrality isn't about controlling pricing. It is about preventing ISPs from restricting or reducing access to sites based on their own business deals that you are not even aware of.

I see no compelling reason why ISPs should be allowed to control what sites I can and cannot access.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

Currently are supplying all the demand in a market does not indicate that the market is only capable of supporting two firms. And I have no idea how a duopoly de facto is supposed to be worse than a natural monopoly.

And ISPs most certainly know how to prevent customers from accessing any internet sites not hosted by them. That would be trivially easy. They also know how to "rate limit" sites not hosted by them or their preferred partners so that you would be able to access the site but it would be unbearably slow. You wouldn't even know it was happening and since they aren't required to show how their routers are configured you would never know.

I presume, with the proliferation of information that exists out there, that if you were really motivated to know, some website would arise which would tell you. But this all goes to the last point:

I see no compelling reason why ISPs should be allowed to control what sites I can and cannot access.

I see no reason why not. If I own a radio station, I see no reason why the government should be able to tell me what kind of music I have to play for my customers.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

Currently are supplying all the demand in a market does not indicate that the market is only capable of supporting two firms. And I have no idea how a duopoly de facto is supposed to be worse than a natural monopoly.

Only 2 companies have copper/fiber running to the home. A cable company and an Telecom. It may be POSSIBLE for other carriers to enter the market but it isn't likely. The costs of extending wiring to the home are extreme especially if you don't have existing right of access agreements with the municipalities.

I presume, with the proliferation of information that exists out there, that if you were really motivated to know, some website would arise which would tell you. But this all goes to the last point:

Not very easy to do at all. The website wouldn't be able to track the path you take or your PC or anything else. It would be no more than a guess.

I see no reason why not. If I own a radio station, I see no reason why the government should be able to tell me what kind of music I have to play for my customers.

Uh they already do. The FCC regulates content over the airwaves.

Of course that is a poor comparison. Radio stations are content providers they are not access providers.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

Only 2 companies have copper/fiber running to the home. A cable company and an Telecom.

You forgot one, the electric utility company. I've heard, in the past, they could use their lines.

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Vista really sucks!

You can thank government for that.

Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

Hooray!

Can we at least agree that the system, as it is now, is broken in terms of allowing local service providers to have effective monopolies, to the detriment of the market and consumers?

We may not agree on what the solution to that problem is, but hopefully we can at least agree on the problem. That's a starting point.

Many ISPs already block ports to prevent you from, say, using a mail server that's not hosted by them. They claim it's an anti-spam measure, but it's really a revenue generation measure. It would be pretty trivial to expand this to other things, like VoIP. They don't even have to outright block VoIP, they can just degrade the performance to rival VoIP services so it becomes unusable.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Yep by Catsy

I recently had an incident with Comcast where I stopped being able to get my email. I don't use Comcast's email account, I use the mail server at the hosting company I've had my domain with for almost ten years. When I called them, they first tried to claim that they had permanently blocked port 25 on my account because of spamming. When I pressed them on the impossibility of this and threatened to take it to the state Attorney General and the CPD, they changed their story and said they were slowly implementing port 25 blocks on all user accounts, and that we had to either use their mail server (and, of course, their email account, since they won't relay) or contact our hosting company and demand they open an alternate port.

Taking my business elsewhere was not an option. I cannot get DSL where I'm at, and no other broadband solution is viable for me. Comcast knew I had no alternative but to suck it up.

Eventually I was able to resolve this with my hosting company, who was willing to work with me and open up port 26 for my use. Most people will not be so lucky, or will not know their options. And within a year or less it will be impossible to use anyone else's mail servers on any Comcast network.

They claim it's to prevent spamming, that port 25 is too well-known and exploited by spammers and that everyone should change to a different port, but this is a ridiculous argument. If everyone uses a different port, configuring mail clients will become a nightmare, and if everyone switches to a new standard port, the spammers will just attack that one instead.

Its aptly named. You call, they abuse.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Given how many people out their choose to run the spammer's haven that is Microsoft Windows, and on top of that running arbitrary code downloaded from who knows were, essentiially handing their comptuers over to spammers to use in their spam networks, if ISPs didn't do that blocking, their whole networks would end up on anti-spamer blacklists.

Given the choice between blocking port 25 and being RBLd to oblivion by the anti-spam zealots, they like many big corporations choose the PR move and just block port 25.

Hooray!

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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Sending spam would be outgoing, obviously. That's what some spammers do: distribute a virus or trojan horse, take command of a network of the computers of ignorant users on the internet, and then spam with those computers.

Hooray!

Users with compromised computers are still a major problem that ISPs have to deal with. Blocking port 25 outbound doesn't cure that problem, or even help to alleviate it. They can get a pretty good idea who is compromised just by looking at the traffic, though, then cut them off and tell them to fix their system.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

If people can't run mail servers, they can't spam. If they can't contact port 25 outside the network, they can't send spams.

Hooray!

People need to be able to access mail servers somehow. Comcast won't allow them to relay their personal domain through Comcast mail servers, nor should they. If they can't run their own, then the only alternative is to use an external mail server. What you propose, if universally adopted, is the practically the death of personal domain email.

So what's your alternative? Pick another port arbitrarily for SMTP? As soon as it becomes a standard, spammers will attack it--whoops! We're back where we started. Since you know so much about the problem, I'd like to hear your proposed solution.

So they block port 25. Comcast is already doing it; within a year it will be impossible to use port 25 on their networks for anything other than their own mail servers, which don't relay (and shouldn't). What's next?

People still need to be able to get their mail, and a sizable portion of them use an external hosting company. One of two things is going to happen: either every hosting company picks an arbitrary port that isn't blocked and has their customers use that, or a new standard SMTP port will be chosen that isn't 25.

In the former case, you have an absolute nightmare for anyone picking a service or setting up a mail client, a lack of standardization that is antithetical to nearly every principle that makes the internet work.

In the latter case, trojan and worm designers and spammers will adapt to the new standard, and within days the entire exercise will be moot--port 917 will be the new port 25, the same problem with a new number.

The only real, serious solution is the widespread adoption of a secure alternative to SMTP that eliminates the relay loopholes and other vulnerabilities of SMTP on port 25. As long as SMTP is used in its current form, it doesn't matter what port-of-the-week is used, it'll still be the same problem.

Comcast is inflicting a tremendous inconvenience on their customers for what amounts to a very temporary band-aid of the real problem.

The only real fix is to open up competition, and we're only going to get that with massive deregulation, not New Deal style programs.

Hooray!

Deregulation, even assuming it enables the kind of meaningful competition you predict, has absolutely nothing to do with the issues surrounding SMTP and spamming. At best, it would allow customers to switch to another provider if their current one blocked the SMTP port-du-jour--and that's no guarantee that they won't all block it, thus putting us right back at square one. It certainly won't enable or encourage companies to adopt any kind of sensible standard that eliminates the problem.

The only real solution to the SMTP problem is, as I said, widespread adoption of a secure alternative standard. Any other solution, including the moronic band-aid of blocking port 25, is just inconveniencing customers with very little impact on the spammers and hackers, who will find a workaround in short order. It's a solution based on the creating appearance of doing something useful rather than the reality.

You keep repeating this mantra of "deregulation, deregulation" as it it's some kind of universal fix-all for the market. It's not. Some government regulations are good, and some are bad. Some market problems are corrected by the right regulations, and some are made incalculably worse by deregulation; the converse is also true. The only constant you can count on is that successful corporations, absent any checks on their power, will do everything in their ability to stifle competition and increase their bottom line. They're not wrong for doing so; it's what makes them successful. But it does mean that if they are not kept in check, it will almost always be bad for the consumer. Carte blanche deregulation makes that tendency worse, not better; massive deregulation of cable and telco infrastructure will make them more powerful, not less; this will harm competition and diversity of customer choice, not aid it.

If we had a market with more ISPs, we would see some differentiation of service, and find out if people actually are interested in getting port 25 opened or not. People would have options.

Hooray!

First of all, you're not answering the arguments I'm actually making. I wrote:

Deregulation, even assuming it enables the kind of meaningful competition you predict, has absolutely nothing to do with the issues surrounding SMTP and spamming. [...] It certainly won't enable or encourage companies to adopt any kind of sensible standard that eliminates the problem.

Deregulation has nothing to do with this, and neither does this response of yours. Nor does your premise make any kind of sense: of /course/ people are actually interested in having port 25 open. Believing otherwise would require a tremendous amount of ignorance about how third-party email hosting works, and just how many people use it.

Nor, for that matter, did what you wrote even attempt to address the heart of the problem: the "deregulation" that you so desire won't actually result in more options for the consumer. It won't result in more ISPs, more choices. A lack of regulation of the telco and cable markets will empower the companies who own the infrastructure to engage in anticompetitive practices to shut out rivals--which they have a /demonstrated history/ of doing. Correcting that was a significant driver behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996--a bit of government regulation that made the industry more competitive, not less. Consumers don't have a lack of choices because the industry is regulated--they have a lack of choices because the local current laws don't go far enough.

Sorry I'm not going to get into a threadjack over the inefficiencies of SMTP, an old protocol that assumed a controlled, friendly Internet.

Hooray!

Feel free to ignore the rest and enjoy the rest of the thread.

It irks me that so many right-wingers have fallen into this trap of regulation when it suits them...

Hooray!

It's not that I'm for regulation when it suits me, it's that I'm for whatever the appropriate level of regulation is to solve problems. If that's none, that none; if that's a lot, that's a lot. I don't really have an ideological attachment to it either way. Sorry if I gave you that impression.

"Net neutrality" has nothing to do with preventing ISPs from restricting access. There's no way any ISP is going to prevent you from viewing a web site (although AOL is the only one to my knowledge that actually has been known to censor certain sites). In reality, it would be suicide for an ISP to force you to access their own content over another host.

Telcos/ISPs simply want to offer more bandwidth to those who are willing to pay a premium for it. This has nothing to do with blocking anybody. Yet the myth lives on...

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And "Net Neutrality" is just an attempt to block the telcos/cable cos from charging appropriately for extra use of the service they provide - it's an artificial price control, and an especially insidious one because it states, effectively, if I may analogize it to price controls on gasoline, that a person should be able to keep their gas tank full for $100 a month no matter how large their gas tank is or how much they drive.

If that's how the cable cos and telcos want to provide service, that's fine, but I'm opposed to the government making them do it that way.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

Looking at webpages... uses LESS bandwidth than downloading gobs of videos from Google or Apple! Who knew?

Hooray!

You are given a limited amount of bandwidth to work with. How you use that bandwidth is none of their concern. If you have 512kbps, you can use that 512kbps to talk over VoIP, to download videos, to browse the web, or to read email. It makes no difference to the service provider... unless their goal is to steer your usage to their "premium" customers.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

The way most broadband works, you have that much access IF the lines aren't too clogged up. Charging people more for clogging up a communitiy's lines is quite reasonable.

That would be called false advertising.

You sign up for a service. They say they are offering a certain amount of bandwidth to you.

Why is it the customers responsibility to determine how much bandwidth the ISP allocates collectively?

The funny thing here is that an ISP wouldn't dare dream of pulling this garbage with an enterprise customers. They have actually service level agreements that GUARANTEE the bandwidth offered is the bandwidth received.

Yet apparently the consumer doesn't deserve such guarantees. Not only that they should be intentionally throttled if they try to achieve the levels they are offered.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

that enterprise-level customers get treated differently. They also pay for the privledge.

My wireless broadband service promises squat, except that I can cancel the service if I don't like it. I'm given a nominal service speed, but that means exactly what it says - "in name". What I actually get on any given day is a different matter. But I get it without paying a couple of hundred bucks per month.

Really, the presumption that line capacity is effectively infinite, or even built around providing full service to every customer simultaneously, is false. Sure, it's possible, but that's not necessarily something people are willing to pay for. Targeting payments toward regular high-capacity users is not unreasonable.

If a provider says that they can offer you 1 Mb/s in download speed why should they be allowed to charge me more if I actually use 1 Mb/s in download speed?

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

It's not like they're going to set up a dedicated DSL circuit for little ol' you.

Truth is, the last few broadband offers I checked over, no speeds were guaranteed at all. Upper bounds were advertised, lower bounds were never discussed. Please, let me know where I can sign up for a guaranteed three megabaud connection on a consumer rate.

At least as I've understood it, most net neutrality proposals would do a nice job of nuking QoS routing, among other things. That may sound like a wonderful idea if you're the schmoe on the block eating up bandwidth with BitTorrent (or whatever), but it looks decidedly less ideal if you've ever had to be the guy who can't get to CNN because there's somebody else saturating the connection. (In the last year or two I spent in college, the on-campus Internet connection was abominable because something like 75% of the available bandwidth was being absorbed by three users on a campus of 1500 people.)

To a telephone company decided to make connections to numbers on rival telephone companies unreliable, unless the rival telephone company paid they a kickback for the "premium" level service. In some cases that "premium" level of service might be priced such that nobody can afford it... except themselves, of course. So if you want to use VoIP, you end up with one choice... the same monopoly you get your broadband service from. They just leveraged their monopoly in broadband to monopolize another, unrelated market. That doesn't have to end with VoIP, either.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

So if you're downloading lots of things from some company on another ISP, racking up costs, who should pay for that? Should everyone else's rates go up to subsidize you?

Hooray!

If they feel they can't afford to support that amount of bandwidth, they need to 1) buy more bandwidth from their service provider or 2) sell less bandwidth to their customers. If they want to promise some crazy bandwidth like 20megabits, knowing they don't have the ability to support anywhere near that, that is their problem. Nobody is forcing them to promise that kind of bandwidth to their end users.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

ISP peering agreements are generally no cost crossconnects. There certainly aren't any total bytes used costs.

If an ISP sells you a service claiming that you can get 1 Mb/s service why does that mean that you should expect LESS than 1 Mb/s service simply because carriers expect you to?

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

You're dreaming if you think big ISPs are stupid enough not to charge of thise crossconnects aren't symmetrical.

When big ISP meets little ISP, little ISP pays big ISP for the privilege. And if household ISP's customers are all downloading gobs of data from commercial ISP's MegaVideoService customers, then household ISP is going to have to pay for that.

I don't want to subsidize your iTunes usage, thanks.

Hooray!

Do not sell your service at a certain rate if you are not willing to provide that rate.

And, ftr, we aren't talking about small ISPs here. We are talking about ILECs and Cable companies. These companies comprise about 80% of our internet bandwidth.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

The deregulation of the telco industry has already eliminated this particular network effect as a natural incident of telephone service. Thus, a telephone company certainly could engage in that sort of behavior, but since they have to make their network elements avaiable (bundled or unbundled) to competitors, this would merely constitute financial suicide. This conclusion applies a fortiori when there are not one but two access infrastructures over which broadband access may be provided, and we're not even counting sattelite.

And also, I would refer you to Verizon v. Trinko, in that any telco engaging in such behavior would promptly find themselves on the wrong side of multiple millions of dollars of "fees" paid to the FCC.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

I'm sorry but you guys are way off on this.

It is NOT about bandwidth usage. You pay X dollars a month for Y Megabits/second. If an ISP wants to change their billing model to a total bytes per month, that's their choice as well.

We are talking about selectively choosing which sites you can and cannot go to based on ISP business arrangements that you are not involved in and probably not privy to.

They have tried this before. And they are almost CERTAINLY doing it now. But of course there is no way to know.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

To continue this discussion ad infinitum today, so I'll just say that I endorse the basic tenets of this article wholeheartedly.

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This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

-Edmund Burke

But he makes a lot of flawed assumptions.

I for one have no problem with ISPs offering access tiering. They already do this, particularly on the enterprise level.

But his understanding of how the Internet works seems a little off. You can't realistically build 3 last mile networks for 3 types of service. You CAN provide 1 last mile network that can provide 3 types of service. They already do that.

His argument that content providers would not be motivated to come up with new access methodologies if net neutrality were passed is true. But I fail to see why that is a good thing? So we should not pass net neutrality because that would provide the very large content providers from leaving their core businesses because their suppliers are cutting them off but not their competitors? Gee sounds great.

I find it ironic that he does note the case of a rural ILEC blocking content to push people to their own products and notes...

At most, then, concerns about website blocking would support limited regulatory intervention that would only prohibit vertically integrated network owners from blocking content and applications that competed directly with their own offerings. It would not support the type of blanket restrictions on discrimination associated with network neutrality.

So, IOW, if there is already clear evidence of the providers being anti-competitive we should stop that. But we shouldn't worry about potential measures they could easily implement because there is not evidence of them doing it.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

...if competition were a practical reality in the broadband market.

What everyone (and not just the telcos) has suddenly become very frightened of is Google. The CEO of one of GOOG's competitors once told me that about half of all searches are to find products to buy. Given that GOOG has a huge share of the search market, they're in a strong position to influence not only bandwidth requirements but also marketing itself.

The cables/telcos are against "net neutrality" partly because they want to get back a certain amount of pricing power and influence in their markets, by making sure they can get paid extra for carrying the kind of tailored content that GOOG has been quietly shopping around to corporate marketers. They risk getting beaten down nearly to commodity status otherwise.

But the fact remains that for a lot of reasons, the incumbent telco/cable providers face very little competition in the local-access market. Their privileged legal status erects major barriers to entry for competitors. And the telcos themselves are strongly disincented to innovate, because of accounting rules which require them to write off their capex for copper infrastructure over several decades. Much of the copper that's in the ground today won't be amortized for another eight to ten years.

Although I'm fully sympathetic to your argument in principle, I think the practical realities here argue against it. Local access is now de facto a government-provided service, if you take the view (as I do) that the privileges enjoyed by the telcos/cables make them something like government entities, and not fully-private ones. We don't want to give them more power because there are no competitive forces to balance against them. (More specifically, it won't really be possible for the market to provide "net-neutral" alternatives even if the market wants them.)

What blackhedd said.

Relates to this discussion a little bit, regarding network neutrality. In this case, one business - Google - is attempting to make sure that other businesses don't throttle access.

Starts out with:

"This week I was supposed to explain why U.S. broadband prices are so much higher and U.S. broadband speeds are so much lower than in most other developed countries, but then Google made an unexpected reckless move in the wireless bandwidth market and here I am trying to explain it."

Interesting read.

There's no way any ISP is going to prevent you from viewing a web site (although AOL is the only one to my knowledge that actually has been known to censor certain sites).

Why? If Disney pays Cablevision a bunch of money to "prioritize" their websites and Cablevision "prioritizes" them by rate limiting other sites, how would you even know?

ISPs aren't going to force you to access their own content. Content providers and ISPs have already separated.

Telcos/ISPs simply want to offer more bandwidth to those who are willing to pay a premium for it. This has nothing to do with blocking anybody. Yet the myth lives on...

You are simply wrong. NO ONE is suggesting that ISPs shouldn't be allowed to charge more for more bandwidth. The market is quite efficient at determining those costs.

We are talking about ISPs prioritizing certain websites based on deals they made with them while suppressing, but not blocking, other websites because of that deal.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were and ask why not. - Robert Kennedy

OK either I'm not getting what you're saying or someone (appearently a lot of folks) is terribly paranoid.

Please tell me when was the last time you went to www.__________.com and could not access the content you wanted? Just WHO is getting blocked?

I've NEVER heard of any ISP blocking a particular website (except for 1 or 2 very unpopular/controversial sites AOL deliberately blocks their customers from). And yet according to some folks, if we don't have "net neutrality" then I won't be able to visit certain websites. Hogwash! How long do you think an ISP would last if they wielded that kind of power?

www.scottbomb.com
Click here to donate to the Fred Thompson campaign.

And it already happens. It's very commonplace when it comes to external mail servers. It's been done with VoIP as well. The ISPs last just fine. You got no other choice in the matter. If they tell you you can't use your VoIP provider any more and that you have to use their VoIP service, you'll have no choice but to follow their instructions or do without VoIP. If there's a competitor in town, they will probably mirror the restrictions. After all, they got their own VoIP service to hawk as well. It's a no-lose situation for the ISP and a no-win situation for the customer because of their monopoly status.

It would be like the electric company only allowing you to plug appliances purchased from them into their grid. What choice would you have, but to buy all your appliances from the electric company? They have a monopoly. Barring regulation, that monopoly is pretty easy to extend into other areas.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

I am not a Libertarian, but I am a conservative and a product of a household with two hard-working, honest entrepreneur parents.

A key element of problem-solving is to get to the right question before coming up with "answers".

I would begin with: what does the Government (politicians) NEED to do? What can be done locally, where politicians are generally more accountable? How can we limit the period of interference from afar?

I abhor putting systems into place and creating beauracracies with control based in Washington DC, where change is sluggish at best and the money syphon only gets turned off when everyone who supported/benefitted dies off. There are things that need to be done in Washington, but then less is more.

On a positive note, genuine attempts to make *good* legislation based on the wisdom of the people are definitely a step forward. Especially in the current political environment.

Broadband, as it exists now, is provided to the average residential customer in one of two ways: Cable or DSL. The former is considerably superior to the latter in terms of throughput and reliability, and is provided by your local cable company. In most places, you have only one to choose from.

DSL is provided over the same copper wires that your telephone service uses, typically by relegating the data signal to the high frequencies and the voice signal to the low frequencies. Its availability is highly dependent on distance from the nearest TX, and can be entirely blocked by load coils or other filtering mechanisms. If there is any fiber optic bridging in your neighborhood--as there is in many--DSL is flatly impossible, as the signal will not travel over fiber.

The upshot of all this is that it is impossible to get DSL in many areas, and the technology is impractical for the very customers a "rural broadband" effort would be trying to reach. That leaves Cable, which for all intents and purposes /is/ a monopoly in most areas.

There are many problems the market can solve. I do not think this is one of them.

A solid change of pace from providing guaranteed revenue and profits to the current monopoly/duopoly carriers in most locations.

Currently the FCC is in the process of auctioning remaining parts of the spectrum. Requiring that the bandwidth go to providers in competition with existing services would certainly generate diversity that allowing existing carriers to further monopolize their positions would.

For carriers in monopoly or near monopoly positions some form of common carrier non discriminatory pricing model would be a must. Most of the telco/cable companies exist because of government grants of monopoly. Thats all well and good. Whats not good is when they attempt to extend their monopolies into controlling the services that can reach the consumer or the content the consumer can access.

If a company wants to enjoy a government granted monoply on providing the wiring, they should not be allowed to use that monopoly to control the consumer.

______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

For carriers in monopoly or near monopoly positions some form of common carrier non discriminatory pricing model would be a must. Most of the telco/cable companies exist because of government grants of monopoly.

Precisely. BellSouth has done a lot to keep affordable broadband away here; sure, other companies can provide you with DSL over BellSouth's lines, but what happens if there's a problem with the line? They're held hostage to a service company that gets a direct benefit from providing crappy service, since BellSouth would much rather you get your high-speed access through them. I've heard more than one tale of people whose DSL performance is just abysmal, so they cancel their service and sign up with BellSouth, and magically the line quality suddenly becomes much better. (Some have even signed up for BellSouth DSL then cancelled after a month after BellSouth fixed their line, and resubscribed with their old DSL carrier.)

This kind of crap should not be allowed to keep happening.

---
(Formerly known as bee) / Internet member since 1987
Member of the Surreality-Based Community

What does it mean to say broadband must be affordable? The same cost as cable TV? $50 or $20 a month? Something determined by the market or by the government?

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
Ronald Reagan

as Joliphant has addressed, the affordability question becomes somewhat moot. Take cable television for an example - in locations where CATV competition exists (there are a few), rates are substantially lower than in areas where franchises have been awarded. Rates then become more of a function of affordability than charging what the market will bear.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

But I think we need to find out what Sen. Durbin thinks of as affordable, and how he wants to enforce it.

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
Ronald Reagan

Oh I think the markets should probably decide that, but my guess would be whatever you're paying for cable or phone.

That's why I like the rural electric model -- let locales build it themselves.

With federally supported prices and a competitive advantage.

Depends on which ones you are talking about. Not all EMCs exist off the TVA and other government infrastructure. And there really isn't a competitive advantage.

As one of your constituents I thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Regarding broadband access, I'll first tell you that I work in the computer industry and rely on broadband access to be able to do my daily work. Without it, I would be living in Colorado instead of Illinois and would work in an office with a commute instead of from my home. I do have a VERY direct stake in whatever action you take in this area.

I would like to state that I believe the government should be VERY careful in whatever it decides to do in this area. Government intervention tends to have effects that are unintended. I'm concerned that government regulation may actually lock us in to technology that may look good at the time, but will not keep up with inovations. If the market is left free, the best technologies will be adopted as they become cost effective. So I beleive the best way the government can help is to remove regulations that block the adoption and deployment of new technologies. I understand there are such regulations blocking the deployment of certain fiber technologies.

Something to keep in mind when comparing our high speed access to the access available in other countries is distance and population densities. The fastest network connections work best over short distances. A compact, densely populated country like Japan will be able to deploy high speed connections to large numbers of people at relatively low cost per connection. As the distances increase, the cost per connection for such technology increases exponentionally. They are just not practicle to deploy when connections are miles or tens of miles apart. As you know, outside Chicago, Illinois has nothing even close to the population densities of Japan.

There are broadband technologies that are available in rural areas. For about $50/month a satelite connection is available (Wildblue). For more money, higher speed connections are available (other satelite links, T3, etc). Connections become a tradeoff off between speed vs cost.

Finally, I don't want the goverment providing a home service that is best done in the free market. If you believe that the government should provide free internet access, that is best done by providing the service at facilities such as public libraries.

Thank you,

Brian Hibbert
East Peoria, IL

Socialism doesn't work. It looks nice on paper, but it's been tried and it's failed miserably every time (usually accompanied by widespread death and suffering).
Proud member of the V.R.W.C.

There are broadband technologies that are available in rural areas. For about $50/month a satelite connection is available (Wildblue). For more money, higher speed connections are available (other satelite links, T3, etc). Connections become a tradeoff off between speed vs cost.

I wouldn't classify satellite as an acceptable access method. You specifically mention your VPN usage... something that does NOT work over satellite due to the extremely high latencies involved. For things like VPN usage, 56k dial up is actually superior to satellite access at 512k or whatever. I can't imagine what installing a T1 at a farm would cost. The infrastructure isn't out there to support one.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Some of my co-workers use satelite connections for VPN connects though I don't know who the providers are. The Wildblue service I mentioned is probably too asymetric (upload/download) to function well in VPN though.

What works best depends on where we are physically located. I use a cable modem. Other people use various wired formats (Cable, DSL, T1, satelite, WiFi even dial up) depending on costs and availibility.

That's the main point I was trying to make. Different technologies are cost effective in different settings. Providing a fiber link to a farm 20 miles from the nearest town is not "affordable" no matter who's paying for it. The same technology may be the most effective in a high density appartment building (or at least cheap enough per connection to be "affordable").

I don't want the government stating that fiber (or any other technology) MUST be made available to everyone at the same price. That would either raise the costs for the people where the technology is truely affordable to cover the costs where it's not. Or it would make the whole system so expensive as to be not implemented anywhere because it can't be provided to everyone equally.

Socialism doesn't work. It looks nice on paper, but it's been tried and it's failed miserably every time (usually accompanied by widespread death and suffering).
Proud member of the V.R.W.C.

I don't want the government stating that fiber (or any other technology) MUST be made available to everyone at the same price.

The goal is to encourage businesses to build out their networks, using whatever broadband technology, to reach people who are not being reached now. There's nothing here about ensuring the service is going to be priced the same for everyone across the US. We don't all pay the same for electricity. Different areas have different densities and maintenance requirements and different sources for power, and that is reflected in charges on the bill. Broadband wouldn't be any different.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

implementation of laws intended to reach that goal.

If Sen. Durbin uses tactics that allow the free market to build acceptable networks at affordable costs, then I'm all for it. If instead, the regulations impose restrictions on ISPs that require them to provide similar services to both rural and urban areas when the technology doesn't support it then we'll probably end up with a dumbed down service that provides mediocre service to all. I DON'T want that (and I suspect you don't either). I also don't want the government to take my money to build a very high speed network for all that costs WAY more than alternative technologies even though they may be slower. I also don't want to dump billions into an infrastructure that is likely to be obsolete in a few years.

I actually USED those 300 baud accoustic couplers and was thrilled when I got a state of the art 1200 baud modem. 2400, and 9600 and 19.2 and 56K all seemed to be unachievable remote speeds at times (short of leased lines). All of these have become unusably slow and replaced with better in turn as will our current concept of "high speed" internet. I don't want government roadblocks to new infrastructures imposed because of the investment that was required to build what at the time looked like a fast connection.

And not to seem callous, but if people absolutely REQUIRE high speed internet access for some reason, they should either pony up the money to provide it in their area or move to somewhere that has the infrastructure that supports their need. (And yes, that is a factor when I and many of my co-workers decide to move.)

Socialism doesn't work. It looks nice on paper, but it's been tried and it's failed miserably every time (usually accompanied by widespread death and suffering).
Proud member of the V.R.W.C.

And not to seem callous, but if people absolutely REQUIRE high speed internet access for some reason, they should either pony up the money to provide it in their area or move to somewhere that has the infrastructure that supports their need. (And yes, that is a factor when I and many of my co-workers decide to move.)

We could've said the very same thing about people who REQUIRE electricity, telephone service, roads or mail delivery. And I think we would have all been the poorer for it. All that stuff has been subsidized by urban dwellers, but I also think having large areas of the country cut off from critical infrastructure is not in the best interests of anybody, urbanites included. The internet is rapidly becoming critical infrastructure, if it isn't there already.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Some of my co-workers use satelite connections for VPN connects though I don't know who the providers are. The Wildblue service I mentioned is probably too asymetric (upload/download) to function well in VPN though.

It's not primarily the asymetical nature. It's the high latency. You go from a 20ms round trip on cable/dsl to a 200ms round trip on dialup to a 2000ms round trip on satellite. That's a big deal. You're talking about 50-100x longer for a packet to get to point A to point B and back compared with any decent broadband service.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

I haven't used a satelite link myself, but I know that there are some satelite services that are workable for a VPN environment because I know people using them. I'll have to ask them if they made some tweeks to the timeout settings on the tunnel or if they had some other issues that needed worked out...

Socialism doesn't work. It looks nice on paper, but it's been tried and it's failed miserably every time (usually accompanied by widespread death and suffering).
Proud member of the V.R.W.C.

Senator,

My hope for national policy when it comes to Internet access, would be that we take steps to increase competition and reduce subsidies of any kind.

Subsidies always make things more expensive not less, because the drive of cost cutting is eliminated. Local monopolies and duopolies make it even worse, because the drive of competition is also muted or eliminated.

So if we can figure out a good, Constitutional way to discourage local governments from using franchise agreement structures to limit local competition in the ISP market, and minimize regulations on ISPs that would make startups and new competitors impractical, then that would go a long way toward making high speed Internet access accessible to more people.

I believe also at the same time, a low regulation, high competition market would aid rural Internet access. More competition leads not only to more innovation, but also more flexibility for competitors to expand to new markets, or even for a community to form their own collective ISP and pay for it themselves, perhaps in conjunction with an existing company.

I would suggest that for reaching rural areas it is vital that in particular there be no regulations on price. We may not like it, but it's inherently more expensive to get Internet access by wire when you're in a sparsely populated town far from a major city center than it is when you're in that city center. The infrastructure costs can't be made to disappear with government action, so it's just a fact of life that the people in those rural areas will have a higher initial cost of getting to the Internet.

So deregulate, encourage competition, allow startups for competition and local joint efforts to share the burden of rural startup costs, and we should be great.

And P.S.: Please, if we want good high speed Inernet access, don't pass any form of "Net Neutrality" law. Paying for the Internet resources we use is the fairest way to do things, and also best for all of us because it both encourages and funds network upgrades where they are actually needed.

thank you,

Hooray!

I believe also at the same time, a low regulation, high competition market would aid rural Internet access.

There is no such thing as a high competition market in rural areas. The costs are too great to take a risk when turning a profit would require nearly everyone in the coverage area to purchase the service.

I think the only thing that is going to help rural connectivity is a breakthrough in wireless distances.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

How about allowing small businesses to write off their broadband connectivity costs? Right now we use Vonage VoIp and Cox Cable as our ISP. One thing that might encourage me as a small-business owner to expand my broadband connection would be the ability to write off the cost of that connection.

Personally I can't back any subsidy, because it won't really help increase competition and lower prices.

Hooray!

I'm saying that the government help ameloriate some of the cost involved in expanding a high-speed connection for small businesses (you'd still have to pay the ISP) by allowing them to write off a portion of that on their taxes. How is that a subsidy? The money is going to *me*.

If you get a tax reduction that corresponds with the amount you spend on Internet access, that subsidizes your Internet access, and goes a long way toward removing the need for you to price shop.

Hooray!

I've shipped 30GB upstream for my business in the last week. I could use a subsidy, heh.

Hooray!

It would apply to whatever company I used for broadband access. In the end, no matter which one I choose it would benefit the expansion of broadband services because if Verizon came up with a better package, I'd buy it, and I'd still write it off. And in the interim I'd take the tax savings and use it directly in my business.

You're saying that the cheaper the service, the less my write-off would be so I wouldn't be inclined to shop around, but that's not true. I have to pay my broadband service charges once a month and I'd love to be able to write off several thousand dollars a year in taxes. I'd take that money and invest it directly in my physical plant, including better/cheaper/faster broadband access even if it meant a reduction in the tax write-off over time. The goal is to give me the power to maximize my resources instead of handing the money to the government.

You have to consider what the impact of this subsidy would be on the big companies who won't blink at paying double what we're now paying, and the impact those big companies will have on the business-oriented Internet market.

Hooray!

The tax break or "subsidy" shouldn't apply to them. Somebody more creative with tax law than me could certainly come up with a workable threshhold and a means for enforcing it.

Maybe instead of a yearly break it could come in the form of a one-time write-off to allow small businesses a bit of a cushion to purchase the best services and compete effectively. For example, you newly incorporate and you get a [x amount] tax break because you need to set up your network. It would have helped me.

I live in a relatively rural area of Massachusetts and until very recently Cox Cable was the only business in town when it came to Internet services. We had no choice but to pay them when it came to internet service, and it's expensive.

On the other hand, if I could have counted on a tax break for buying broadband services, I would have socked that money into the bank and used it over the past year. I would have purchased the broadband service at the best available monthly cost regardless, but it would have taken some of the pain out of my bottom line as a startup.

Hello Senator Durbin, welcome to our side of the Big Ditch™. :)

One of the first things I'd like to suggest when we talk about broadband access (which I agree should be more of a priority than it is now: "Broadband" in the United States is really "Kinda-Broaderband Than It Would Be but Not Really Broadband" is that the government give *incentives* to companies to build out and expand their broadband networks.

And I also think it's super-important to prevent this conversation from becoming a "haves vs. have nots" political circus that blames the technology industry for creating a two-tiered society or somesuch other class-warfare baloney.

I'll tell you why: there is no other for-profit industry in the history of Humanity that has done more to bring affordable, powerful resources to people than the modern semiconductor and computer industry. Over the years my father and I have owned, installed and maintained multimillion-dollar IBM mainframe equipment that can now be replaced (in terms of raw processing power) by a desktop machine that anyone can purchase at WalMart for about $500. And they can use it without being trained at an IBM school for two or three years. It makes him sit back in slack-jawed amazement that AMD/ATI's latest graphics card for computer gaming features a processor with more than 700 million transistors and retails for less than $400. USB flash memory drives with 1 gigabyte of memory or more are now so inexpensive that companies are *giving them away* as promotional items. Broadband access is lagging a little in comparison to some places in the world but I think that above all else:

Our priority should be for the government to have an exceptionally "light" touch on the innovators and to instead provide *incentives* to accomplish in connectivity what has already been accomplished in hardware.

Our priority should be for the government to have an exceptionally "light" touch on the innovators and to instead provide *incentives* to accomplish in connectivity what has already been accomplished in hardware.

Agreed.

I think the government has a role by providing incentives to the private sector, not actually doing the building itself.

Many are concerned with good reason when the government wants to get involved in a big direct way. Often times programs being implemented morph over time beyond their limits and become entitlements.

The government can do what it can to provide a great ENVIRONMENT for private business to thrive and solve problems. Remove barriers which limit competition. Ongoing government control usually turns out to be less efficient. Govt help to provide the right environment for business to build out the network is one thing but I don't want the government to have the keys.

"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Ronald Reagan

Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you. Washington Elected Elite

I'm a Republican, so I must say I was somewhat shocked when I heard that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin was going to be posting here about how best to write legislation for a national broadband strategy.

But he has, and there are a few points that I want to make about his efforts to communicate with his constituents -- even the conservative ones.

Durbin's YouTube message recorded specifically for this Redstate post -- was an extremely smart use of Senate resources which are available to all Senators. Clearly his team has a good understanding of messaging and effectively communicating. We can only hope that our conservative allies in the annals of Congress follow this example.

Second, these two paragraphs really stand out to me as someone who helped author the Open House Project, a bipartisan project to help "open" the U.S. House of Representatives through a smarter embrace of available technology:

"Following this process, I will draft legislative language, which will be posted online, for all to view and comment on prior to its introduction. To my knowledge, this method of drafting legislation ­ soliciting public comment, translating it into legislative language, and requesting comments prior to introduction ­ has never been attempted at the federal level.

"I think this is a unique experiment in transparent government and an opportunity to demonstrate the democratic power of the internet. If we're successful, it could become a model for the way legislation on health care, tax policy or education is drafted in the future."

Isn't it great that citizens now have the same access to the process as the lobbyists?

It's refreshing that Durbin -- to his credit a fiery partisan -- can stand above politics every now and then to help encourage an honest and thoughtful dialogue. And from a quick read of the comments, it looks like his time was well spent.

Revolution,

David All

===================
David All Group
TechRepublican
Slatecard
===================

Wubbies World, MSgt, USAF (Retired):
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("An argument is a sequence of statements aimed at demonstrating the truth of an assertion.); }

Thank you, Sen. Durbin for coming to RS for a look at how the other side views the role of government in these types of questions. A word of caution, though. Don't stay too long. We have some pretty persuasive people over here. Who knows? You might find yourself agreeing with us after a while.

Now to the point of your piece. The proper role for the Federal government in this is to stay out of it. I wholeheartedly endorse the comments of .cnI redrum above where he says that boradband is a nicety, not a necessity. The market should and will take care of the connectivity issues.

Just as a small example: I live in northern NJ. Hardly rural today, but at one time, my part of the state was not serviced by electric lines. The local utility, which serviced the southern part of the county, refused to run lines to the relatively unpopulated north. But a NY company saw a demand and a growth opportunity and invested in the infrastructure. So today, I live in a very small slice of NJ serviced by a NY utility company.

The same will happen with broadband. When the demand in unserviced areas reaches a tipping point, private equity will finance the infrastructure improvements necessary. No federal government action will be required.

I understand how tempting it is for lawmakers to do something, anything, to fix a perceived problem or inequity. But that is because most of you politicians measure your success on things you do rather than on things you don't do. When the government acts in areas it is not intended to, the people lose freedom. Sure, they may gain a short term benefit, but in the long run, they lose. Be it in higher taxes, or burdensome regulations, they lose.

Senator, let this be the time that you stay the hand of the Federal government and let the market act freely. Boradband access will become universal just as soon as the people want it to, and not a day before. Government action in this area may serve to give politicans a resume enhancer, but all the people will get is another government induced headache.

-----------------------
Develop alternatives to existing policies and keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable. Milton Friedman

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
Ronald Reagan

if people don't want to pay for broadband service, I don't see why the government should pay the bill for them.

Broadband is not a necessity of life. I have it only because it's useful in my profession. Kids would arguably be better off reading books, but modem access to the Internet can serve what educational needs they have.

I admit there is a problem in that some communities don't have access to broadband. So regulate and tax industry less. People will build the necessary cables, wireless systems, and/or satellites when they see it's profitable.

I was initially very taken aback when I saw you posting here. I guess shocked would be a better term, but once I got past that, I was very impressed. Thank you for coming here.

I do believe that broadband access is quickly becoming a requirement in accomplishing may of life's pursuits, especially within the work environment.

In pursuit of expanding access, I would strongly encourage a free market incentive based implementation. All that needs to be done is to give companies incentive to provide cheap access, and the more access, the better the incentive. Private companies will respond quickly and with more efficiency if given a reason to do so. Rules and regulations, compounded with disincentives in the form of tax burdens, will slow the process. Remember the earthquake in California in 1987? How did the Governor get the state back up and running by replacing infrastructure? He temporarily suspended rules and regulations and gave bonuses to the companies that exceeded the deadline requirements. If you really want to expand broadband penetration, I would look at that template. It is much faster, responsive, and efficient than a government beaurocracy that takes years to have hearings, meetings, pass legislation, formulate rules, survive the law suits, and only then start to put the infrastructure in place. As fast as technology changes today, after the government gets up and puts on it's shoes, the plan is outdated and they need to start over again. Then nothing gets done.

Wubbies World, MSgt, USAF (Retired):
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("An argument is a sequence of statements aimed at demonstrating the truth of an assertion.); }

Senator, you have certainly taken a big step in reaching out over here and for that you should be commended. It really is an act of leadership.

However, is this not something that individual states can address on their own, by offering incentives to the carriers in their areas?

You will find a great measure of concern here for strong federal involvement in any major part of American life and while I agree that broadband access enriches American life, it is better left to states and individual communities.

Thanks again for seeking our input.
__________________________________________
First State Politics

But, I think we need to keep in mind that we're dealing with a lot of interstate players who are regulated by the federal government and not the state goverment. In fact, I'd offer just a guess that the economies of scale make it work better for interstate players to get involved, unless there are some heavy incentives at the state and local level, where there may not be the budget to handle the project.

Here's a rare case where I'm for pre-emption. Scrap the freaking cable franchise garbage. Everywhere. Get rid of the silly (and ridiculously high) barriers to entry in this market and let people lay cable wherever and whenever the market provides.

100% on board with that. The cable franchise no longer serves any purpose other than as a barrier to entry. All one need do is point to Comcast's use of it to keep FiOS out of local markets.

Of the many and varied fundamental flaws with today's Federal politician and their perspective on the role government is supposed to play in the governance of America and Americans, the idea that we are better off with ANYTHING universal and affordable is perhaps the worst.

While (as many here have already implied) it might be "really cool" to have access to things like broadband, via wireless routers OR land lines, it's just not, as you say, a "a national priority."

The inherent bureaucracy, red tape, effects in the food chain of service provision, employment,management, oversight, the typically-required Unions that must be afforded access to the new enterprise, and the likelihood that by its very size it will suffer enduring cracks and fissures in its effectiveness for the end user, we the people that actually USE AND pay for these services, it simply is NOT appropriate for the Federal Government to "put upon the taxpayer.

I would support legislation that enabled new businesses, relaxed restrictions for access to the bandwidth(s) for private companies to acquire and facilitate access to users, tax breaks, etc...but we can not realistically believe this belongs in Washington.

The percentages quoted for rural access are NOT fairly being represented in the "access to service" context. Many people are too poor to afford a computer in these more remote areas. Are we to offer a supplemental in the next election cycle that touts a "computers for everyone" approach? Will we be arguing Dell vouchers for the poor?

In some of the regions in the country, people that MIGHT be able to afford a computer might NOT be sufficiently literate to use it. Will we next go after Federal programs to bring everyone, universally, to the internet kicking and screaming and at the collective taxpayer expense?

Some still don't WANT computers...or may be struggling to hold on to their family farms and just plain too tired to be bothered to get on instant messenger at 9 pm when they have to get up at sunrise and start the new days' chores. The examples are limitless, but the solutions don't reside on Capitol Hill.

If you MUST generate legislation to address a non-national-priority, PLEASE...legislate such that the Federal government will get the heck out of the way and provide for a business model that facilitates the private sector's engagement with the supposed end-users...tax breaks, softening of FCC regulations, new small business and entrepeneur incentives, and the like.

The best service the Federal Government can provide us is to trust in the economy to take care of itself, and NOT intrude on our pursuits with layer after after layer of bureaucracy, red tape, and heavier taxation burdens.

With all due respect of course.

haystack's 12th:
Conservatives (and Presidential Candidates especially) shall offer no aid and comfort to the opposition in times of legislative conflict (and ensuing political campaigns).

Anything past investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation will be counter-productive. Conservatives believe in giving business opportunities, liberals believe in giving business requirements.

Envisioning when all that is Left is the Right.

[Do not push this any further. There are posts here and here for complaints. Use. Them. - Moe Lane]

This isn't KOS and we should treat our guests with a little courtesy.

Socialism doesn't work. It looks nice on paper, but it's been tried and it's failed miserably every time (usually accompanied by widespread death and suffering).
Proud member of the V.R.W.C.

The Fuzzy Puppy of the VRWC. I've been usurped!

(definitely not State College), and we have broadband here through cable. It took a few years for us to catch up, but that was preferable to having the Feds move in with some big program.

I'm not sure I see anything that requires government assistance or a big program. I would prefer to let the market make the decisions and the Feds stay out of it. And keep your hands off the internet. The next step after intervention and regulation will be imposition of the "Fairness Doctrine" or somesuch nonsense restricting free political speech. We don't need to provide Congress with an excuse for that.

The main issues, as I see them, are this:

Currently, the United States has an average broadband speed of 1.9Mbps, versus that of Japan's 61Mbps and Sweden's 45Mbps (1). We need to offer more incentives to the broadband companies that are currently in America to upgrade their systems, many of which are now becoming old and essentially archaic.

Also, there is a lack of choice in many situations. For example, where I live (Elk Grove Village, Illinois), we do not have a true choice as far as broadband goes -- the village has chosen Comcast to be the sole provider of cable-based communications, including TV and high-speed internet. We do have the option of DSL from AT&T, but as you may know, it is approx. 1/3rd the speed of Comcast, and has a higher outage rate. We need the government to basically step in and block cities from forming such deals with a single cable company.

Third, broadband providers need to remove restrictions on what can and cannot be done with their service with regards to the hosting of personal servers and websites. The beauty of the internet used to be that anyone, if they had the equipment, could plug in and host a website, blog, forum, or anything else. Several broadband providers, however, no longer permit the hosting of private websites on personal accounts... instead, they require you to pay outrageous rates for corporate connections, which in reality still connect to the exact same internet, through the exact same datacenters, with the exact same equipment. I believe this is a limitation on free speech, more than on web hosting. And while it may be a private, corporate decision to require users to pay more to host a site, it still seems to me like a violation of the First Amendment.

Senator, I thank you for taking the time to listen to all viewpoints. I may not vote with you, but I do have a bit more respect for you now.
-- Wingzfan99 --

Why should I, currently shipping gigabytes a day upstream and frequently runs some heavy bittorrent work, pay the same as some family who just checks their email and looks at a few webpages?

Hooray!

I dont think you quite understood what I meant. Many of the major broadband companies (Comcast being the largest) do not allow the hosting of anything on their private accounts. And if you do manage to get a server set up, they block DNS requests to it, so that any domain name you point at it will simply not work. That, as I see it, is the main issue. I should still be able to host a website or a file, with a domain, just like the larger companies. Sure, they can limit my speeds if they want, but it should still be just as easy for people to access my site as it is for them to access Google. They shouldn't have to type in a long IP address with multiple directory names after it, just to get to the homepage.

-- Wingzfan99 --

Let me get this straight: you want GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF ISP PORT BLOCKING?

Hooray!

No sir, I simply dont believe that if I am accessing the exact same internet that the corporate accounts are accessing, that I should be limited in what I can do with said access. I don't care about speeds, I understand that those are limited by how much I pay (which really is quite affordable). But if I want to host a website, and I have paid for the hardware and software to do so, I don't think I should have Comcast telling me that I need to upgrade to a corporate account just to get my Domain pointed at my server.

-- Wingzfan99 --

If there were any kind of meaningful market competition for broadband internet, your outrage would be appropriate. That way, if I disagreed with the ports my ISP chose to block, or the usages they would and would not allow, I could simply give my money to a company that met my needs. The market would do its job.

But that's not the case. In my area, like most others, Comcast has no competition. If I want to run a server off my line, or use a third-party mail server, and Comcast prohibits it, I have no recourse, no alternative. DSL is unavailable and unsuitable anyway, and nothing else has the bandwidth.

If the government is going to allow monopolies and duopolies for broadband companies, then yes, they need to regulate what those companies can and cannot do, and require them to allow customers to use their line for any legal purpose. If you don't like that regulation, then your alternative is to make changes that enable meaningful market competition.

Your point is taken, but it's my philosophy that you don't get out of a hole of government regulation by digging deeper.

Hooray!

Net neutrality still allows ISPs to sell different amounts of bandwidth for different amounts of money. That's fine. Nobody (or at least nobody sane) is arguing with that. What's not fine is telling me that I can get "premium" service if I use the VoIP service they are selling while I get suck service (or no service at all) if I try to use a competitor's VoIP service.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that The Internet is a monolithic entity, that just exists, and ISPs exist just to hook you up to it.

That is not the case. ISPs have costs to connect you to other people off their own entworks, and they have to pay for htat privilege too.

So no sir, I do not want Senator Durbin to write a law mandating that I subsidize your mega video downloads, thanks.

Hooray!

Huh? by zuiko

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that The Internet is a monolithic entity, that just exists, and ISPs exist just to hook you up to it.

Not sure what gave you that idea.

That is not the case. ISPs have costs to connect you to other people off their own entworks, and they have to pay for htat privilege too.

Well, obviously. What do you think you are paying the ISP $60 a month for? Just a connection to their private network? No. You are paying for the whole enchilada. Interconnects and all.
---
Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

So think about this: If you see that you're paying for interconnects, think it through.

If some customers make those interconnects MORE EXPENSIVE than others, why shouldn't those people with more expensive usage patterns have to pay for that privilege? Why should the customers with cheaper usage patterns have to subsidize those people?

Hooray!

Think of it this way:
You have a semi and a car. The car carries less stuff than the semi, and much of what it carries is less important than what is in the semi, but it still drives on the same expressway as the truck. Nobody tells the car that since they're not important, they have to take the surface streets. The trucks just pay a higher toll, since they are using the road more and putting a higher strain on the road. They don't really get any special privelidges.

-- Wingzfan99 --

What is at stake is precisely the right of ISPs to require people who are driving the semis of the internet (streaming media services) to pay a higher toll (switch to a difference service tier).

So-called Net Neutrality laws would prohibit that.

Hooray!

You and I each have a cell phone. I use about 15,000 minutes per month. You use about 60. The phone co. is prohibited from charging us different rates based on our usage because, according to our contracts, they provide us with access 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I like my phone bill. Yours stinks.

I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100 percent.

That the ISPs can't charge for different throughput (as they do not) or even by the byte (like the cellphone guys sometimes do). I know I was offered a half dozen levels of service with price tags that vary 100% when I signed up with my broadband service provider, depending on how much bandwidth I wanted, and whether I wanted symmetrical upload speeds. Net neutrality wouldn't do anything about that. So I can't really see how it is analogous.
---
Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

---
Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

If what you're arguing against is ISP's bundling their services (TV, Internet, and Phone), then that makes no sense whatsoever. They have just as much right to bundle their products as McDonalds does. Isn't the #6 meal cheaper than getting all of the components separately? I think so.

-- Wingzfan99 --

I got no problem with bundling at all. I do have a problem with offering degraded performance to your certain sites for the purpose of extending your monopoly or for the purpose of generating kickbacks from those sites, however. None of this would be an issue if 1) there were no broadband monopolies and 2) this prioritization was fully disclosed. Neither is the case today.
---
Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Well, I agree with you that we need to eliminate the broadband monopolies. Here in the Chicagoland area, we've already seen at least one utility monopoly go bad (ComEd has a stranglehold, and they're raising the rates again. But of course, we've got nowhere else to go, since they're the only power company allowed to service the area).

-- Wingzfan99 --

First it is good to hear from you especially since you are one of MY two senators.

I must first confess to being a total nitwit when it comes to technology. I do know something about government regulation and interference. Much of what you said went way over my head however there were a few things that troubled me. For instance, you believe that broadband should be affordable to everyone. This sounds all good and well, however it isn't especially if you think the government should impose affordability. Frankly, from my perspective the less you the government does in this field the better. I know for certain that we citizens do NOT have a RIGHT to affordable broadband and when I hear populist statements like that I get scared very scared.

Most on this board are probably sick of the quote I am about to use, however you may have not heard it, and so Ronald Reagan once said, "the nine most dangerous words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

For me, the less the government does in this area the better. Please be very careful as far as how much the government interferes. I think we can all safely say that as far as the internet goes the industry has gone through tremendous growth without the government stepping in. Please do not rush to please the masses by imposing the government's will on the entrepeneur in the misguided if not well meant hope of providing, "affordable broadband for all".

www.proprietornation.blogspot.com

government is the most efficient and will serve the most people.

1. Deregulate and don't regulate the industry.
2. Encourage competition through the marketplace. (see #1)
3. Address the business tax structure by scrapping the current personal & corporate tax system and adopting a flat/fair tax model.
4. Do not create and REA model. The original program is still with us, at least 30 years after it should have been shuttered.

Thank you for stopping by, Senator.
____
CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

I have to drive 40 miles to go grocery shopping, or shopping of any kind. We have a traveling barber that comes here once a week, and an air ambulance (helicopter) from a hospital that needs to be dispatched in case of an emergency.

The crazy part is that I have a 15 MB per sec data connection attached to my house. It transmits telephone, cable TV and internet all through that connection. I have a 768k broadband connection for my computer. Well, actually it connects to a router and I have three computers, but that is splitting hairs.

I have a dual ring OC24 fiber optic cable buried in the street in front of my house, with a single OC12 backup fiber optic ring.

It's not too bad for living out in no-mans land on the prairie.

Wubbies World, MSgt, USAF (Retired):
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("An argument is a sequence of statements aimed at demonstrating the truth of an assertion.); }

and you're also a part of a tiny minority of rural residents with good coverage.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

The questions are: How is that possible? Is it a profitible venture? And, how can that be replicated to other rural areas?

Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you. Washington Elected Elite

... or I should say we don't have the regular big telecommunications companies as you would know them for profitability reasons. We have one big company called SDN that runs the statewide infrastructure. It is a private company, and they bought up a bunch of infrastructure from Quest Communications.

However, locally, we only have our rural coop Valley Telecommunications. It is a private non-profit cooperative. They bought up almost all the local infrastructure from the previous company, and I believe it was MCI or World Com when they went bankrupt. It was in really bad shape and it was very unreliable and outdated infrastructure. Since taking over, Valley Communications has embarked upon a major system rebuild to all the infrastructure in this area. How they financed it, I am not sure, but I know some of the people who work in the regional office in a nearby town, and the upgrade is paying off. Most of the people who use to use Dish Network or Direct TV have switched over to their new cable system, and most of the people who use to have Quest DSL, or other services have switched to their internet service as well. They have a far more reliable system and far better service. In effect, they delivered a better product and got the customers to switch over to their service.

Wubbies World, MSgt, USAF (Retired):
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("An argument is a sequence of statements aimed at demonstrating the truth of an assertion.); }

and there is an undersea fiber optic cable to the Lower 48. That said, it was all piggybacked on huge expenditures in telecommunications infrastructure by the federal and State governments. The USDOD spent massively here during the Cold War on the White Alice communication system to link DEW Line radar sites with NORAD. Even so, when I first moved to ANC in the '70s, there was NO live television, the six pm news was at 7:00 am - IF the Seattle plane got in, and long distance telephone service was hideously expensive, poor quality, and unreliable. My communication with my son at a FOB in Afghanistan today is better than my communications with my family in the Lower 48 were until well into the '80s. The State built a satellite earth station, microwave and landline network in the '80s so that phone and live television would be available to the whole state. Now the telecons have piggybacked on all that to give pretty good telecommunications to all but the most remote areas of the state - using population density to define remote rather than physical location. The "last mile" service to the small villages will have to be wireless in the future because of the huge distances and other economic and regulatory barriers wire or fiber optic. All it takes is money, and in this case, it was, at least in the beginning, all government money.

In Vino Veritas

Thank you Senator for posting here at Redstate --- truly refreshing.

However, I submit that your time would be better spent addressing those things which actually require a national strategy and attention. For example, how about addressing manpower and resources for our Army, Navy and Coast Guard? We need a permanent larger Army, more manpower and ships for the Navy and especially our badly strapped Coast Guard

Broadband is nice, but it is not a necessity of life. Private enterprise got us to the current level of broadband penetration, it will get us to where the demand may point us. The Congress needs to spend the taxpayer's time and money on those areas not addressable by private enterprise.

John
----------
Why would God invent something like whiskey? To keep the Irish from ruling the world of course

WiMax will solve some access issues but Cable and DSL will still be needed in areas where carriers to not deploy any "wireless" access solutions. Speeds will only increase as new technology is developed and delivered to the end user. One area that does not get much attention is "satellite". For the folks who have no way of getting cable, DSL, wireless - satelitte is the only solution. Satelitte is still more expensive than your digital cable or DSL lines. Big issue with Satelitte is it's ability to handle VPN's. The speeds are nice but once you establish a tunnel then the speeds drop like a rock.

Just remember, if your topic is "broadband" then let's don't leave out the satelitte providers.

Satellite is actually inferior to dialup in many way. Its latency is through the roof, making it almost useless for VPN, P2P, gaming, remote desktop, or any other usage that is utterly broken by high latency.

Its only real advantage is its portability. It's a very, very poor fallback for people in remote areas, and should not be considered as any kind of an argument against building the infrastructure for landlines or wifi.

and thank you for visiting us, Senator.

Economic opportunity was first predicated on the ocean bays, then the rivers, then the canals and turnpikes, then the railroads, then the interstate highways and federally funded airports. The future of economic endeavor clearly seems to center on those places with broadband access AND the intellectual capital to use that capability. Broadband has divorced place from productivity; one no longer has to live in the factory town or near the company office. Attached to this cable modem, I can do most of my work without ever seeing my clients or by seeing them only on video if they are so equipped. When I worked for the State of Alaska, I had the capability to put on full scale adversarial hearings completely electronically, including evidence production, with one party in Juneau, another in Anchorage, and the trier of fact somewhere in the Lower 48. This was a vital boost in productivity because of the costs in time and money of physical transportation in a far-flung place like Alaska. This was only possible because both the State and the communications providers spent an awful lot of money on stringing fiber optic cable.

Unlike some of my compatriots here, I see broadband regulation as a federal issue just as was river navigation and harbor access or many of the other issues that legitimately involve interstate commerce. While I am a strong supporter of state sovereignty, on matters that involve interstate commerce, states have as much power to do ill as good and it is extraordinarily unlikely that a state will do anything other than protect its own interests even if it does so at the expense of other states or the nation as a whole.

As Erick has suggested, there are ways that the federal government can facilitate private endeavor in this regard, and facilitation of private endeavor should be the primary federal role. Likewise, the federal government should use its power to regulate interstate commerce to insure that state and private endeavors are not anticompetitive. For this reason, I also oppose a direct federal involvement beyond incentives and facilitation and appropriate regulation to insure a competitive environment. A direct federal role will turn the whole thing over to the best paying lobbyists and whomever has the best lobbyists will get to write the laws and regulations that will put his competitors out of business.

In Vino Veritas

Waterways are natural, finite resources.

The Internet is a manmade resource that is privately owned and can be expanded privately to meet people's needs as they come about.

You can't open up a competing river. You can open up a competing Internet service though.

So I think government coming down will only hurt Americans more than we've already been hurt by the existing government sutpidity in the field.

Hooray!

control is exactly the same as a waterway where a state or an owner has the power to control/regulate/tax access. That is my point. Sure it is possible for a competitor to come in and supplant an ineffectual or uneconomic provider, but if that provider has the ear of a local or state government, or has bought enough legislators, that potential competitor won't be allowed anywhere near the place.

In Vino Veritas

...if that provider has the ear of a local or state government, or has bought enough legislators, that potential competitor won't be allowed anywhere near the place.

But this isn't a matter of national broadband "strategy" matter, it's a matter of government corruption.

John
----------
Why would God invent something like whiskey? To keep the Irish from ruling the world of course

isn't necessarily corruption, although buying legislators is. Both problems can be mooted by the federal government determining that such matters are inextricably linked to interstate commerce, and therefore no local or state government may interfere with free commerce in broadband infrastructure. That is do away with the ability of local governments to grant local monoplies to a service provider.

It doesn't have to rise, or sink if you will, to the level of true corruption for anyone doing business in a regulated environment to use the power of government in an anti-competitive way. In fact, most people who do business with government try to do just that.

In Vino Veritas

Senator Durbin:
Let me echo the others in saying thank you for reaching across the aisle to RedStaters.

I think in this issue we need to get some more details on the table. When we say 'national broadband infrastructure', are we talking about miles of federally owned fiber optic cable? Or do we mean a backbone of WiMax towers that have shared access?

The Telecom Act of 1996 is largely responsible for the boom in the cellular phone industry. For those who don't know, the Telecom Act mandated that owners of cell towers share their infrastructuer with other firms (they could however, charge for the privilege). As a result competition exploded and new cell phone firms sprang up overnight. Today's cell phone industry has consolidated itself among a number of national players (Sprint, Verizon, etc.) and a number of regional firms (Alltel, etc.).

If we're talking legislation, I'd like to see an update of that bill as being part of the solution, wherein we encourage competition nationally. Today the consumer has limited choices of home broadband: In high-tech Seattle, where I live, I can have Comcast digital cable or I can have Qwest DSL, or Clearwire. That's is.

Legislation that would enable enhanced competition would incentivize firms to build out more extensive broadband networks, as profits would be there for the taking. Today there are too many localized monopolies that are able to have too great a pricing power. Increased competition will be better overall for the nation's broadband capacity and for the consumer.

The legislation shouldn't be limited to wired services, though. As has been mentioned above, WiMax can solve the 'last mile' problem in rural areas and can be deployed much more cheaply.

Again Senator, thank you for spending time with us here on RedState ;)

Many Seattle neighborhoods, such as parts of Northgate, are on fiber, which makes getting DSL an impossibility.

As for Clearwire, it's a great idea but not really scalable without a considerable further investment in infrastructure by the company--the throughput suffers dramatically from shared service saturation.

Hello Senator Durbin,

I live in Northern Minnesota (registered dem), which is mostly rural. Many people up here are limited to an unreliably 14.4 Dailup connection. It would be nice for them to have more options. However, getting broadband to many of these rural areas is a very tricky and expensive problem, and perhaps may not be one worth solving.

In networking, distance is everything. In order to cover distances, you need some expensive hardware every couple miles. Wireless can only get a couple miles with a line of sight, which requires towers due to trees, hills, etc. DSL has to be within a couple miles of a DSLAM, which is an expensive piece of equipment. Finally, cables can cover longer distances, but still require boosting and are expensive to run.

All the top countries in that study are either small, densly populated, or both. That makes connectivity easy and affordable because there are enough people on each "transmitter" to distribute and justify the cost. However, some areas of the use would require several signal boosters and/or miles of expensive cable just for one house.

Take for instance, grandma's house, she is many miles from any broadband. The nearest town is Warba, a town of 180 people. Even the town itself does not have enough people to justify the expensive networking equipment. They do not need it. Since congress saw fit to eliminate online poker, they don't even want it very much.

In my opinion, the costs of getting broadband to every corner of the US are just not justified.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

"they do not need it"? You? Your perspective is apparently limited to grandma. And I think you stereotype rural residents as poor hoosiers who only want to play poker. Rural people don't watch movies? Work anywhere other than Elmer's Garage? Telecommute? Ever seen the high-tech equipment that farmers are now using to track their planting and harvest patterns? How about access to weather information for farming or other activites? Electronic commerce? Ever tried looking at a page of bids on eBay on a 56kb dialup connection?

The availability of high-speed network access also opens a wide variety of options for commerce and growth in an area. For example, today the US is dealing with offshoring of technology jobs to countries with a low cost of living. It would be quite intriguing to grow a business of "onshoring" of jobs in communities where the cost of living is relatively low (for example, some of my in-laws live in a small rural town where a $40K house is a mansion). Without a robust communication infrastructure, this is not possible.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

If you are a telecommuter, you likely need broadband access. That restricts you from living 50 miles from civilization. It is not up to taxpayers to spend a hundred thousand dollars to get you that connection.

You do not need broadband to get the weather or make ebay bids online and sophisticated equipment does not mean broadband access is required. Once again, the hardware is very expensive. It should not fall upon taxpayers to pay for it because someone who chooses to live out in the country can't place an ebay bid as fast as they would like. Perhaps taxpayers should by me a large field here in town, since I can't enjoy that kind of space where I live.

I mention online poker only as a jab because I think it was a horrible decision. Even idiotic considering betting on online horse races was given an exception.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

Note that they also gave fantasy sports an exemption.

So ten people can pay $5.50 ($5 for the prize pool, $0.50 for the host) to play a nine man fantasy sports game with first place receiving $22.50, second place receiving $13.50, adn third place receiving $9. But make it poker instead of fantasy sports, and es ist verboten.

Hooray!

most of the argument by cherry-picking things that you can snidely respond to. You apparently have not recently experienced the joys of trying to access applications on the Internet using a connection that is dial speed or slower. I have. It doesn't work.

There are many reasons that people live in rural areas. They don't all "chose to". Your townie-centric view of life has clouded your perspective on how the rest of the world lives. You take a blase view of rural life and assumes that anyone who needs to live in the 21st century needs to move to the big city. By your standards, I suppose those who must live in rural areas should be disqualified from the benefits of technology. Perhaps electricity and running water should have been restricted to the "haves" in the city as well...after all, the taxpayers shouldn't be required to pay for those stupid rubes to live in the country.

As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, there are occasionally infrastructure requirements for life in this country that require motivation to move forward beyond the forces of the "free market" - electricity and interstate highways, for example. The motive of profit does not always benefit everyone. In this case, with few exceptions, the profit motive leaves those in rural areas out in the cold. An intelligent broadband policy can not only benefit existing rural residents, but residents across the US as a whole by strengthening the economy with growth beyond currently-served markets.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

Well guess what: You get the advantages of living in a small town, you pay the costs, too.

Nobody's restricting you. We're just expecting you to pony up for yourself.

Nobody's restricting you from moving toward a city center if you want the benefits of living near a city center, you know.

Hooray!


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

Then I suppose that if you want to eat that you should move to where there is a farm within walking distance, or that if you want to drink that you should move to within walking distance of a clean water source.

I have both thank you, what I do not have is broad band, high speed internet access.

Furthermore, Verizon, my POTS (plain old telephone service) recently said to me " well we don't provide DSL in your area because nobody else does either". Ironically, there are no other providers of telephone service in my area. Perhaps your area is different.

I think that all of you that live in the cities ought not to have any further enhancements to your broadband, high speed service, until rural America gets at least basic high speed service.

I dont' have massive government subsidies invested in trucking companies, buying them free trucks, in order to get me things trucked from across the country, thank you very much.

Hooray!

those trucks run on, a more apt analogy. I'm not an advocate of a publicly held or publicly financed Internet, but I do think it should operate more like the common carrier model. There is no doubt that to do so would turn it into a commodity and reduce profits for the owners of the infrastructure in the same manner that deregulation dramatically reduced airline profits and tariff equalization under the ICC reduced railroad profits to a level just barely adequate to keep them running. There is the downside; not enough profit to inspire innovation.

In Vino Veritas

There is a reason that rural areas have dirt roads. For the few people that live down them, it doesn't make sense that we should spend vast amounts tarring them. Same with rural broadband. They get dial-up, it just doesn't make sense to make everyone pay extreme amounts for the very few people it would service.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

There are many reasons that people live in rural areas. They don't all "chose to". Your townie-centric view of life has clouded your perspective on how the rest of the world lives.

Remember, I live in Northern MN. I am closer to Canada than the Twin Cities. If you think I am not well versed in rural life, you are mistaken. I also have personal experience in setting up wide-area networks (wireless) up here. So I know what I am talking about when it comes to the hardware involved.

I have also spent many years doing computer repair/setup on the side. Much of it housecalls to rural residents, so I also know what their computing needs are. Yes, some of them would like to run home-based businesses or other web sites. That can still be accomplished by using a host with a better connection. If they truly need real-time updating, they'll have to buy satellite broadband. Wires are pretty much out of the question. Just too expensive.

I am a tax and spend democrat, that is not to say I find all spending justified. In this case, the cost on all of us would be too great to justify it for the benefit of too few. It is a nice thought, it really is, but the costs would be enourmous. And it's not like someone can use the same modem/other hardware for 50-100 years like we can with our power grid. Whatever we put in would be woefully obsolete before it was even completed. It's just not a good idea to take the same approach we take with highways/power.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

IS flyover America. The cities have become all but uninhabitable and broadband makes it possible to separate Place from Productivity. Broadband enables communities to develop based on interest and so long as there are reasonable social amenities available, the community members can aggregate where they can be comfortable, not where they have to be because the headquarters or the factory is located there.

I am like many Boomer Aged retirees and am seriously looking to relocate to an area that is truly rural but which would give me city amenities with an hour or two drive. I'm currently working out the business plan for a tourism related business in an area that because of airports and interstates has become all but uninhabited. My primary criteria for where I base that business is broadband access and a less than one hour drive from a jet-served airport to that location. I suspect we will see many, many businesses using similar criteria in the next decade or two.

"On-shoring" is already happening, e.g., Jet Blue's reservation system, and the predicate is good telecommunications and the low costs of rural areas so long as those rural areas can muster the necessary intellectual capatal.

In Vino Veritas

Exactly by bs

And unless you are intimately familiar with the situation like Achance here is, and about half of my family, I don't think you get an appreciation for it.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

So is it your belief that anyone who has an appreication for that MUST therefore agree with government subsidies for moving away from city centers?

Hooray!

bs, but I haven't advocated any role for the federal government other than using its power to regulate interstate commerce to insure a competitive environment. Whether state or local governments choose to use public funds for such a development is up to the people of that area. As an example, the government of my home county in Georgia used some government money and government power in the form of emminent domain to get a right of way for a T-1 line to a big league hunting and fishing resort in a very rural area, one that hardly had phone and electric service, because the developer required it, and the people were willing to put up the money for the economic development that would result.

In Vino Veritas

Empowering the free market to solve the problem is the best solution. Unfortunately, I smell yet another "telephone" tax that puts an inefficient government in charge of high tech solutions. (And for more than 20 years the government can't even get the FAA updated with new hardware and software to keep airplanes safely apart).

If we stop worrying about AT&T and the big boys taking this on then they'll solve the problem.

And Senator, don't be a short hitter here! Along with broadband comes Skype. Skype is an internet based voice transmission that replaces terrestrial telephone systems. Universal and easy access to broadband will eventually supercede line phone service (which is subsidized to some extent for the so called "poor") and some cellular.

So along with broadband access should come the realization that internet based voice communication, Skype, and similar enabling services will cause economic impact on all terrestrial and cellular telephone system providers.

The best thing congress can do is take the cuffs off AT&T and Verizon and the others that can make broadband access happen because they will be doing it to ensure their own growth and economic survival in the future. There is no more powerful a motivating force than survival. Government (driven by politicians) doesn't feel that pressure and consistently fails time and again to do things quickly and right. Subsidies and other tax schemes won't do it.

...are more interested in preserving their monopolies than in expanding service or access. I'm all for the free market; I just think that one shouldn't defend monopolies by invoking free-market capitalism, because the concepts are simply not related.

My community, Lafayette, LA, led by the initiative of its Republican mayor, is about to embark on a community-wide "Fiber to the Home" initiative. The financial engine that makes it possible is the city-owned electric utility. Part of the sales pitch was the success of community-owned high-speed internet in Cedar Falls, IA. (Now it's several years down the line; Cedar Falls' ability to create jobs should be measurable by now.)

Although I am a conservative by nature, there are circumstances when government involvement in infrastructure development can be effective; the interstate highway system is an example. Lafayette's electrical utility is another; if they had waited for private capital to develop a power system, it would have been a generation later.

The goal of wide broadband access should be economic, and measurable in terms of job growth or other economic metrics.

In a perfect world, I would rather see private capital competitively develop the national infrastructure. Congress has the best tool in the world to motivate greedy capitalists: investment tax credits. Use them wisely.

Thanks, Senator, for your time and your attention.

It's such a fine line between stupid and clever. - David St. Hubbins

I too do not favor Gov't setting policy on any broadband policy. Let the market and the consumer handle this issue. Regardless we do have options. I migth not like them but I'm not willing for any fed dollars go into any more big goverment meddling.

So, as they say down here on the farm - "THANK YOU VERY MUCH".

Don't try to ride that unicorn into my backyard! By the way, my backyard happens to be almost just as big as Belgium and half the other countries with better broadband penetration.

Hands off!
__________________________________________________________
Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the Gods, and the judge of words...-Inscription on the Royal Tombs at Thebes

I appreciate the visit and hope it is more than just a form of doing the motions and that we can truly be an asset for you and provide substance which may be used.

My main concerns as a small business owner and citizen are two fold. I am concerned about possible government control of content and its ability to provide the right type of environment to grow business.

I worry that if the government spends money to improve our broadband infrastructure it will feel a certain right to regulate its content. What can be done to address this and keep government out of the business of censorship and allowing citizens their to excercise the first ammendment to its fullest?

You see Senator, after you made a recent speech in favor of returning to the "fairness" doctrine I have concerns about this.

Secondly regarding cultivation of business infrastructure with broadband - I wonder again if government will use this as a method to tax businesses or individuals?

Simply put, I am concerned that instead of allowing the free flow of commerce and industry that once involved, government will seek to use this new found reach to take more of what we as citizens work hard at earning to provide for our families.

Senator Durbin, if you could address these two concerns I would be appreciative.

Again thank you for taking the time to drop by Redstate. I hope you prove our skepticism wrong.

First off, let me thank the Senator for having the courage to come to a den of conservatism such as this and ask for aid. It is an admirable quality, despite the cynicism of the motives expressed by a few above.

However, I feel as though this conversation may ultimately be unproductive; it seems as though the Senator and the commenters may be talking past each other. The goals proposed by the Senator are of universality, affordability, innovation, and discussion. He proposes a government-run and/or legislative solution to this matter, and wants our input into what solution he should draft. The opposite is the solution which is required in the broadband internet access market. Below I shall critique why I believe his would-be solution is fundamentally incapable of addressing his concerns, and end on a brief positive note about what might actually work.

Thus brings me to my first critique of the Senator's request: he wants universality. This, while certainly sounding quite nice on first glance, is not economically desirable. Sure, someone in downtown Tokyo might get extremely fast access for $30 a month, while a rural school would have to pay thousands of dollars. That's because of population density, not some evil corporate desire to stick it to the children. Infrastructure investments increase drastically with increased distances. Not everyone will want to pay the money to make it worth bringing them access. Having the government (ie, other folks through taxes) pay for them to receive what they would not otherwise pay for has another name: social dead weight loss.

So onto the second critique: the Senator wants "affordability." What this means is beyond me. Price controls? I won't go into a lecture about the horrors New York City housing market here -- suffice it to say that price controls never end up well. Subsidy? But why should I have to pay for someone else to have a faster internet connection than they think it's worthwhile to pay for in the first place? Let someone else be the master of their own household decisions for internet access.

The issue of wanting to hear more voices is a platitude I won't even touch, so that leaves us with the goal of innovation. Excellent, don't we all? When speaking of innovation in hi-tech areas, though, you need to be very careful that you don't let your technology go obsolete before you've even built it. Government programs are well known for slow progress -- if you can't finish building a bridge on schedule, how can we expect this broadband network to be done before broadband is obsolete?

I have skipped another important point, however, and also wish to end on a positive note. As far as innovation goes, there could be a role for government. Research grants for lower-cost alternatives could potentially meet the afore-stated goals, without the need for government getting rigorously involved. If there were a place to act, this would be it. Keep the government's hands off of the market as much as possible -- add a few incentives to lower cost of investment and infrastructure, though, and you might see the (perceived) problems disappear on their own.

Finally, there is another important area that government hands might be needed. The government should be taking in this issue is to ensure that competition exists in the market; it should stop any artificially constructed barriers to entry by the would-be-cartel of telecommunications.

Wow, that was entirely too long.

1) Keep Internet access in the private sector. I don't want the government running it, or regulating it so tightly they are effectively running it.

2) Competition drives down prices. The biggest inhibitor of the competition is the ability of local governments to create local monopolies for companies, be they big or small. From the broadband perspective, I'm fortunate to live in the metropolitan DC area where I have a choice of service providers. I couldn't tell you what my broadband access costs me per month, because it is bundled with a very nice phone package, and I think the marginal cost to have FIOS was around $10/month compared to what I once paid for 56K dialup ($10/month access fee + $20/month minimal phone line service). But I doubt I'd be getting those prices if Comcast weren't competing with them, as well as a number of other phone service providers and internet service providers. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the beltway, I know people who couldn't get reliable internet service because the local government grants a monopoly to an incompetent cable company.

3) Building and Maintaining the infrastructure for an evolving internet infrastructure will be costly in terms of total dollars, especially in an industry that evolves so quickly. Update the accounting laws to account for this. It may be reasonable to write off a drill press for a manufacturer over a 10 or 20 year period, but for computer equipment anything over 5 is just nuts, and I suspect 3 is closer to reality.

4) There is probably a need to upgrade the FCC's ability to investigate shenanigans mopolistic providers provide. In addition to the Bell South stories above, a friend of mine once tried to change DSL providers. He figured out by calling different numbers but getting the same person, that there was only one switching facility. Which meant that as soon as his connection for the current providers was "disconnected" there would immediately be one for his "new" service. But the new service couldn't get a "connection" for at least 30 days.Also, the tech company I work for once tried to resell internet connections. Our preferred provider who had to use the local Verizon wired infrastructure to sell his broadband could never seem to get a connection in less than a month. But if the customer contacted Verizon, they could almost always get the same kind of connection in a week. We would already have more serious competition in these areas if that kind of crap had never taken place.

5) Finally, leave the question of net neutrality out of this bill. Personally, I'm with the people who favor it (charge me for the broadband pipe I use, don't tax me with side deals from content providers that I don't participate in forming). But from a small 'd' democratic perspective, the question is equally divided at this time.

Being good Republicans we are all for competition arent we? Right now the ATT and Verizons can not compete nationwide. The only way then can expand their service offerings are to merge and take out any competition since we are tied to ONE wire into our nome. I want them to be able to compete with each other and nationwide. Plus any newbies or mom and pops should also be able to get in the mix.

With control of the ACCESS to your home , NO ONE can enter the fray. So....what to do??

We cant get competition since we only have ONE WIRE for phone and ONE WIRE for Cable TV..and they are OWNED by the service provider. And we are not about to allow 5 wires to be drug through the streets and have them torn up for years.

So...lets see how to do this...we will make the wires resemble the Highway system...open them to ALL. Think Utility here.

Well lets set up a UTILITY company that will take over ownership of ALL WIRES, Cables, Fibers etc. This Utilitie's SOLE purpose will be to maintain, manage and upgrade the systems. They will NOT provide any service.

Each home will pay an "Access" fee, then they can purchase ANY amount of "Serivce" they need, from ANY Telco, Cableco, Netco they want...could be all kinds of new inventions once the system is opened up to all.

Then all the service providers can now have access to EVERY HOME IN THE US. Not just a certain region where they own the ACCESS wires. We can buy as much service from anyone we desire. We can get phone from anyone that has or wants to have a phone service. Maybe some new types can now flourish since they now wont have to drag wires to my home.

And with the new opening of the 700 mhz spectrum the rural areas should be much more in play. Remember how far the old Analog TV signals can go with your old antenna...? If the FCC would pull their head out and open the spectrum up to OPEN ACCESS and not allow it all to be gobbled for controlled access. They need a certain portion to be open access for open devices.

No interest in having government try to regulate all Internet access into my home more than it already does, thanks a bunch.

Hooray!

He's not talking about the government regulating internet access, he's talking about regulating the infrastructure that internet companies use to provide that access so as to enable more market competition and more choices for consumers, not less.

Or most of it, anyway. Once we nationalize that, it's all over but the red shirts and may poles.

Hooray!

I don't know how much you know about the underlying technology, so please don't get the impression that I'm trying to condescend or insult you. It's just that what you said is not true at all.

The infrastructure--and by that I mean the switches, routers, DSLAMs, exchanges, and copper wires--is part of what makes it possible to provide the service. So are the load balancers at the ISP, the modem/router/device on the client end, the call center that handles the ISP's customer support, the ISP's mail servers and databases, and much more.

Some of these things can be provided by any company with sufficient resources to go into business as an ISP. The servers, the client device and software, the customer support, all of that has a cost, but the cost is such that it is not an insurmountable barrier to market entry, nor is it exclusive in any way to one company or another. This is why despite market consolidation, local ISPs are still viable, and there is still vibrant competition in the national ISP market.

The same is not true of the copper lines, the DSLAMs, or any of the other telco/cable infrastructure. A given stretch of this infrastructure is owned by one entity, and one only. The capital required to build competing infrastructure--in the few places where this is even possible--is astronomically high. There is no free market solution to this. This part of the infrastructure is, to use a time-worn but extremely accurate analogy, the highway.

We could have fleets of trucks, a car in every garage, and billions of dollars of commerce ready to use these roads--the service, if you will--and it would not matter without the infrastructure. This infrastructure has a prohibitive cost in up-front investment and ongoing maintenance, and without taxes a company would have to find some other way to pay for it. Every road would be a toll road, causing shipping costs to skyrocket. Wages would have to rise to compensate for the costs of commuting, depressing corporate profits and causing a further rise in the prices of goods and services. Leisure travel by car would drop sharply, with all sorts of secondary effects. The working poor would barely be able to drive at all. The cutting of the nominal taxes we currently pay for road maintenance wouldn't even come close to compensating for the consequences. A company who had to build and maintain all of our roads for profit would have little incentive to build roads to rural areas of a few thousand people, as there just wouldn't be enough traffic to pay for itself. And that's not even getting into the power said companies would have to enact anti-competitive business practices. People would not be able to just take their business elsewhere--it's not like there would be an alternative "road service provider" that will get you from your home to your job.

We do not privatize the building and maintenance of our highways and roads, and for good reason. The arguments for nationalizing our broadband infrastructure are very, very similar.

The service at issue with respect to "Net Neutrality" is the use of the network of connecitivity infrastructure that major ISPs build.

Proponents of Net Neutrality don't want individual customers to have their use metered with respect to when their packets stay on their own ISP's network, versus their packets going to and from other ISP's networks.

Proponents argue that because in the past, major ISPs have at times made mutual peering agreements that are free of charge, that these ISPs should be forced either to

a) Continue to do that, no matter how asymmetrical the traffic gets in this era of widespread streaming high definition media

b) Subsidize the users of off-network streaming media by raising costs on ALL customers.

Nationalizing the infrastructure and charging everyone is just unacceptable, but I guess it would achieve the same result that the lefty originators of the Net Neutrality movement wanted.

Hooray!

We do not privatize the building and maintenance of our highways and roads, and for good reason. The arguments for nationalizing our broadband infrastructure are very, very similar.

Actually, this is done quite often. Private companies bid on government contracts to build and maintain highways and roads all the time. What is NOT privatized is the ownership of the highways and roads--the access.

Private companies bid on government contracts to build and service military hardware too, but that doesn't make the military privatized in the way that I was talking about. In the end, the bill is still paid by the taxpayers, and the government still owns and administers.

They are also REQUIRED to allow ANYONE on the road...at the same price. If you drive a Ford or a Chevy you get on. If its a Truck then you pay more..but not based on the BRAND of truck.

What if Ford owned to road to your home...and only allowed Fords on it.

So if you drive a Chevy, you say you want to build another road to your home.??

NO, we only need one road...for ALL to get on. Then charge for how much you want or what type of service you want.

And no...Net Neutrality has nothing to do with how fast the END customers connection is. You and I have always paid more or less depending on speed we want/need. That will not change with net neut. It has to do with allowing ATT or Verizon to offer to let Amazon bits go through FASTER than Borders bits..if they pay more they will let them get in line firster and faster. Prioritizing data from farther upstream

Were you under the impression I was arguing /against/ Net Neutrality and regulation of the infrastructure? Because it sure sounds like we're actually on the same page.

you mention at length.

The very first sentence of your second paragraph contains the fundamental mistake in your thinking: "copper wires"

I can have copper wires, fiber, and wireless connections to a variety of services where I live. Having the government select "copper wires" as the basic medium of exchange for the internet limits the potential innovation of new companies.

I have found it useful enough in my travels that I am seriously considering letting it replace my cable access at the house.

They have not only competed with cable in my home, they probably have won.
___________________________________________________________
Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the Gods, and the judge of words...-Inscription on the Royal Tombs at Thebes

that's close to a cell tower, you can get pretty good performance from such a connection - almost equivalent to 768kb DSL. And you can buy a WiFi router that allows you to plug the Verizon (or Sprint, for that matter) PCCard in and share the connection with other computers. A friend of mine who lives on the outskirts of the area does this - she can get 3G broadband but NOT DSL or cable! A rather unique situation...


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

Unfortunately, the very areas that would most benefit from some kind of a national broadband initiative, the "left behind" areas of rural America in terms of internet access, are no more able to take advantage of broadband WiFi. You still need a considerable investment in infrastructure--in this case, relay towers--that in many areas just isn't profitable.

Yep by bs

You're exactly right. And that's what I've been saying through this entire thread (and the one yesterday). If we want to flippantly write off a significant amount of the United States for broadband access, then we will simply depend on business to fix it. Here's a news flash: they won't, as long as there's no profit in it. The margins are not there to install wireless towers or DSL infrastructure or cable broadband. The answer to this from many here has been "well, just move to the big city where you can get broadband service". Fine, if a) you're not a farmer and cannot move, b) you can afford to do so, unlike many who barely get by in low cost-of-living rural areas, or c) you aren't in a business that serves those who live in those areas. That attitude basically writes off about 70% of the real estate of the USA and says "too bad folks, you will just have to do without." I'd hate to think about how that would have worked had we done that with electricity.

Sometimes the government does provide a useful purpose. One does not have to dogmatically cling to a principle (in this case, unrestrained capitalism) come hell or high water to be a conservative. It is possible that there are exceptions to the free market rule. I believe this happens to be one of them. Some sort of incentive needs to be put in place to offset the lack of profitability in areas beyond medium-to-large cities. Otherwise, the have- and have-not gap simple increases. And from a political perspective, who loses? We, the Republicans do. The Dems, Senator Durbin included, are making an effort to address this problem. And it so happens that the rural communities have traditionally been Republican strongholds - my state of MO is a primary example of this.

So if you want to lose even more votes, Republicans, just ignore this problem and let the Democrats swoop in and be the heroes. Once again we'll get the reputation as the bad old greedy bums who don't care about the little people and we'll lose more votes from our traditional strongholds. There have been those who have criticized me for holding onto my social conservative ideology to a point where I would not vote for a Republican candidate if they were not pro-life - that a position like that compromises our success in the future. Well, here's another example of the same thing: we can stand on our 100% free-market principles right up to the point where the rest of the Republicans get booted out of office for not listening to their constituents. But we did stand for our conservative principles....

I think we can get creative enough with legislation and financial incentives that we can stick somewhat close to our principles and still provide the kind of motivation to the telecomm industry to serve the areas that are unserved and still preserve fealty to the free market.


...when they see me they'll say, "There goes Loren Wallace,
the greatest thing to ever climb into a race car."

suspicious. Could it be that the most partisan senator comes knocking on the first door on the right?

An oxymoron:

1. I'm here from the government.
2. I'm here to help.

If you really want to "help":

1. Eschew government regulation.
2. Embrace open, honest competition.
3. Hammer those that don't comply with above.

--------------------
Vista really sucks!

It's pretty simple. There are penalties for putting broadband in new places.

1. Depreciation rules require infrastructure to be depreciated over 30 years or so. That means that a company won't know for 30 years whether it will make its investment back. This prevents any companies but huge companies, or companies with monopolies, from being able to afford to pay the upfront costs of installing the cabling. Telecom Depreciation needs to be rolled back to about 5 years. Raise it to 10 years after a sunset period about 20 years out. Depreciation of computer and other semiconductor-based equipment needs to either be scrapped, to allow companies to expense computer equipment, or changed to a 3 year schedule. No more than that. This would help a lot more than just the telecom industry.

2. Pass a law preventing localities from signing monopoly agreements for telecom services, and dissolving all existing monopoly agreements after a brief but reasonable amount of time, 2-5 years sounds about right.

3. Pass a law banning localities from charging telecom providers extortionate fees for right of way. This alone will make it much cheaper for providers to get telecom infrastructure through several small towns and out to underserved rural areas.

4. Pass a law that gives telecom providers some kind of exception to nuisance environmental lawsuits filed by well-meaning luddites who want to protect tufted titmouse habitats or other negligible issues.

5. Change whatever regulations are required to allow electric companies to enter the telecom market. But not as monopolies. They have a lot of infrastructure in place, and are *great* at getting cabling to end-customers.

6. Allow telecom companies to provide different service levels. Do not impose any government mandates other than "cooperate fully with law enforcement" and "cooperate fully with other telecom providers." Have an oversight board to adjudicate disputes between telecom providers.

7. Stop threatening to destroy telecom business models with censorship, fairness doctrine, net-neutrality, and other fascist government plans.

--
Wolf Pangloss

of course, but nothing to disagree with there.

In Vino Veritas

We've had some sharp exchanges at times, but I think a good 80% of our disagreements are mostly in style and tone, not in any principled differences.

Hooray!

I am sure most conservatives will support you wholeheartedly.

One--Support net neutrality.

Two--Put explicit language in the bill banning censorship. The temptation will be to ban hardcore porn or Nazi propaganda.
Don't give in, because the precedent will do damage.

Three--and this may be the hardest--Focus on affordable options in the free market, not government-sponsored internet. Information should not be under the control of the government, to shut down when it sees fit. I truly believe the internet will replace television in time as the primary source of news, and even if I trust you and others in our government not to abuse the internet power, I do not want to give any president or agency the opportunity to create a total media blackout at whim.

Thank you for your time posting here and possibly (hopefully) even reviewing comments, Senator Durbin. I hope Republicans follow your example, and receive a similarly respectful response.

www.explorehuckabee.com

I disagree about conservatives and 1 and 2.

#1 the net neutrality bill is just another expansive government program along the same lines as the fairness doctrine. It's bad.

And some conservatives are going to be in favor of censorship. "It's for the children." I'm not one of them, tending towards the libertarian side instead and letting parents police their home computers. But I'm realistic about it.

--
Wolf Pangloss

I work in telecomm.
providing service to rural areas by means of installing "longhaul" cable (main trunk lines) is not supported
initially by a profitable user base.
there doesnt need to be any government program other than a tax relief to offset the cost of constructing and maintaining the systems 'till a profitable customer base develops...however long that might be.

in short, all that needs doing is for you lads and ladies in government to get your hands off the wallets of private enterprise measureably enough to encourage this expansion.

I mean no disrespect, but it is commonly known that the words no business owners or free citizens are made comfortable by are: "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

I think this is the most important part of the discussion:

"1) I believe that broadband must be universal and affordable;"

Why? Not to be a punk, but I always get suspicious when people start talking about how something must be universal. When they add affordable I get extra suspicious. Usually it means that we are substituting our preferences for the preferences of others.

Now I certainly want broadband access, and I want to get it as cheap as possible- but my preferences are not normal. In fact, the preferences of those of us online do not accurately represent the majority of Americans. Lots of Americans are not using broadband. Not because they can't afford it, not because they don't understand it, but because they have other priorities.

The important thing in life is spending time with your family, and being able to provide them with food, clothing, shelter, and other material things in life. A desire to spend time in online discussion- political or non-political is not a high priority to a large number of people. Perhaps I realize this because in my community I'm the oddball. I'm a useful oddball, because whenever they do want to know what's going on in politics they usually just call me up and ask me- but many people are not interested. Sure, they'll take broadband if you provide it cheap enough, but they are not deprived because they don't have broadband.

The second statement also concerns me. Does affordable take into account the cost of building the infrastructure, and providing the service? The free market is the most efficient means of making those determinations. What is the specific externalities and/or market failures that justify government intervention?

All of us would love to pay less for the same level of service- but that almost never happens. Usually service gets worse if you don't pay the full cost. I fear a system that is underfunded and constantly breaking down.

Furthermore, I don't feel that Americans are really deprived of broadband service. If you want access to the internet, you can get it in America. I know plenty of poor people who have broadband.

"2) I feel we must preserve an online environment for innovation;"

I agree- and I think the best way to do that is to keep government as far away from the internet as possible.

3) I want to ensure that this technology allows more voices to be heard.

I also agree- and think that the best way to this is to re-affirm that the freedom of the press is a right of ALL Americans, not just journalists, followed by the recognition that the internet serves as the modern printing press, and should included under those Constitutional protections.

I am grateful that Sen. Durbin is willing to approach the public, including those not of his party or ideology. Thank you Senator.

However, I respectfully feel that your legislation is prompted by a false premise that the government can be beneficial to the spread of the internet. I feel that whatever small good might be done by government intervention is far outweighed by the harm (even if unintentional) that government usually brings with it.

Sen. Durbin, you cite the fact other countries are ahead of the US in broadband and other internet infrastructure. This does not concern me. Other countries have different needs than the US. As connected as we are to the global economy, the United States is far less dependent on foreign trade than probably any other country in the world- maybe China is less so. This means that many businesses and individuals in the US can compete without the internet connections that other countries have. That is why we have not spent as much money to invest in those structures: We Don't Need It.

When we do come to need it, individuals will make the decision to invest in those infrastructures. America's economic strength has never been in centrally planned investments. We have always had our greatest successes come from individuals make individual decisions. We should continue to rely on and have faith in the individual investors of America.

First of all, thank you for coming into this forum and letting us comment upon your proposal.

I have read all of the comments to this time and think that they are mostly productive.

I am not a "techie" although I have had a computer since the old "CP/M" days.

The issue for me is that modern technology is crucial for economic development in rural areas. Those that live in the cities, for whatever reason, are well served for the most part, that is not true for rural America.

The county I live in, in California, has populated areas that do not have plain telephone service. Those of you that do not have to put up with that have no idea what that means. No emergency communication, no call to the ambulance company, no call to the police, fire department or any other safety organization.

So I do not have a lot of patience for those whose argument is that "you chose to live there".

I choose to live where there is clean air, clean water and where I can grow food. I don't require you to move to the "country" so that you can enjoy those amenities. And yes, your food, water, air and safety organizations are subsidized. So please don't tell me that rural america ought not have similar subsidies.

I actually don't need subsidies. What I need is effective competition for my broad band, high speed dollars. I don't need to subsidize your telecom services by paying $6.00 a month for "Interstate non-primary access".

What I need is for someone, to require the providers, whether that is Cable or Telecom, to either provide service to all within it's service area, or get the Hell out of the way of someone that will provide the service.

End of rant.

JP

Seems the prospect of open spectrum has vanished. Just going to allow some type of a few open devices. But they did allow Anonymous bidding. Maybe this will stop the Telcos from buying it all up and putting it in a drawer so no one else can use it.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070731-fcc-sets-700mhz-auction-ru...

Excerpt:

"But for consumers, the most exciting action concerns the commercial block—62MHz of spectrum due to be auctioned off in various sizes and regional divisions. This is where companies like Google hoped to see four conditions applied: open applications, open devices, open services, and open networks. Income and telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon generally don't want any such restrictions placed on the spectrum."

Now this word (RESTRICTION) is a word we see a lot here and with net neutrality. How on earth is allowing an OPEN Net, OPEN Device,OPEN Service,OPEN Apps...in anyway construed as being a RESTRICTION...? It isnt, the only thing that may be "restricted" would be the Telcos bottom line and their monopolies of ACCESS CONTROL.

"We want complete open competition and an open highway...open to all not controlling by sheer access. No one should decide who gets on the highway by mere ownership for such an important national infrastructure. It should be a common carrier.

Neither side got exactly what it wanted. The FCC has decided to support two of the open access principles—open devices and open applications—but they neglected to open up the underlying networks by requiring the spectrum winner to resell its bandwidth in the wholesale market.

Open access was supported most strongly by the Republican Chairman, Kevin Martin, and by the two Democratic commissioners, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps. The other two commissioners, both Republicans, were not enthusiastic about the idea. Deborah Taylor Tate announced that she was "very lukewarm on open access," and Robert McDowell expressed his own desire that regulation be kept to an absolute minimum.

According to McDowell, wealthy corporations don't need government regulation in order to do what they want—a clear shot at Google, who is free to bid on the spectrum and offer it at wholesale rates if it chooses to do so. As Copps pointed out, though, incumbent businesses are generally willing to pay a "blocking premium" in order to keep new players from entering a market, and would no doubt attempt to pay a premium simply to keep a company like Google from doing this.

The FCC did adopt a set of auction rules, though, designed to prevent some of these problems. All bidding in the auction will be anonymous, which makes it more difficult for companies to know which competitor is currently leading in the bidding (unless the companies are colluding, of course).

So now we know: the rules certainly are a step forward for consumers, but they may or may not prove to unleash the promised wave of innovation. We'll have to wait and see how the auction develops early next year—who wins, and exactly what they choose to do with the spectrum. It's worth noting that the open access rules proposed for the auction will have no effect on existing cellular networks, though if the new network becomes attractive to consumers, it could put pressure on other operators to adopt the same conditions voluntarily. "

Yes, I'm neutral. I am fascinated by over 200 posts here - and while my head is swimming at all of the data, views, opinions, technical jargon and pros and cons, I'm not sure Senator Durbin is going to be able to draft anything from this!

So let me ask the question...what is this "broadband"? : )

I'm on dial-up! It's easy - comes right from the phone company, plug into any wall connection and you're here on Redstate! Sure, it might take a little longer to view that video of Senator Durbin but perhaps we are all too much in a hurry anyway. Perhaps this broadband should be treated as a luxury, yes?

Finally, I'd like to invite Senator Durbin back to Redstate in September - not so much to reveal the first draft of his Broadband draft but to get input from us here as to next steps after the report from General David Petraeus. Now THAT would qualify as an "experiment in bipartisanship."

Hello everyone. My name is Russ - I'm a staffer in Senator Durbin's office. We've started our discussion here:

http://www.redstate.com/stories/congress/senator_durbin_live_at_redstate

Looking forward to talking with you all. Thanks for having us.

[We were explicit: this was a thread explicitly on broadband, and a thread on broadband it will stay. Understand? - Moe Lane]

I just found out about this experiment recently. I hope someone reads this ...

Sen. Durbin:

Broadband policy IS a bi-partisan issue. I'm glad you came.

I am not concerned about "rural" communities not having cheap access to broadband. Laying infrastructure is expensive, which means I expect it. Everything in life is a trade-off, and the government should not be in the business of "compensating" people for making choices and reaping the reward. For instance, I lack wide open spaces for my kids to play in, but the government doesn't compensate me for this "imbalance" in access to fields and streams. There are costs to living in the city, urban areas too, and it's not the government's job (or even within its power) to make us all equal. We will decide for ourselves what's important to us, and then live wherever we can get that.

Additionally, the Universal Service Fund has been a disaster, and a source of waste and corruption. If we hadn't had the USF we would have had cellular build-out and innovation much, much sooner. The USF stifled innovation and investment by subsidizing inferior technology. Today third-world countries have better cellar coverage than rural America, and that's both pathetic and our own fault.

That being said, we do need a Broadband Policy, and one not driven by lobbyist interests. The Broadband Policy should protect consumers from predatory practices by the large corporations (open access, open networks) while not stifling innovation or investment (favor ends, not means). Let the private sector handle and choose technology, but protect my basic Liberty - once I have purchased bandwidth and a connection from an ISP, I should be free to do with it as I choose, limited only from invading the equal rights of my fellow citizens. No ISP should have the right to say which websites I can visit, or charge for the value I derive from the site, rather than the cost of delivering the packets to my computer. Honda has no right to say where I can drive, or who can ride in my car, or what songs I play on the radio. Once I've bought the car, it's mine; and I am only limited by the government's speed limits, traffic laws, etc. which are a function of other people's right to safety.

Most importantly though, the Broadband Policy needs to be flexible. Technology is a moving target. If you specify "cable" for "fiber", you be using dated language at some point. Better to use more abstract language (but with clear intent as to outcomes) so that Courts can flexibly apply legislation written today to tomorrow's best technology.

 
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