A public utility for the benefit of all Americans
November 25, 2017 12:22 PM   Subscribe

“Last Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission, led by deregulation zealot Ajit Pai, presented a plan to dismantle net neutrality in America. Not only must we fight to prevent that from happening, we must ensure it can never happen again.“ Nationalize The Internet - Brendan Gallagher, Daily Dot.
posted by The Whelk (86 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Internet as a public utility has made sense to me for a long time now. That others don't view it as such is a problem that I hope can be overcome, but there's not a lot of hope there.

We should have nationalized the telephone system, too. That would have avoided the current-day problem of Centurylink. Holy shit.
posted by hippybear at 12:32 PM on November 25 [17 favorites]


Just not sure I'm comfortable with a fully nationalized communications infrastructure. The obvious control dangers but also we'd probably use rotary dial phones to access the computers and be happy about it at 14.4. I still do a little dance to the modem handshake tones.
posted by sammyo at 12:55 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


At what point does the nationalised internet turn into private internet? Like does this include cell phone towers? Hotel wifi?
posted by Jimbob at 1:02 PM on November 25


Given what a disaster my public utilities are, this proposal just seems silly.
posted by twsf at 1:06 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


Given what a disaster my private internet is (compared to my public utilities), this proposal just makes sense.

Especially given past strenuous efforts in my own state to suppress even municipal broadband.
posted by sysinfo at 1:14 PM on November 25 [42 favorites]


I'm not sure of all the specifics of this, but the spirit is right fucking on. We can't just play defense all the time. We've got to shift the Overton Window too.

I mean, it's ludicrous that the FCC is planning to hand even more power to Comcast etc. when they are obviously monopolies. So, if we have to push for nationalizing the Internet in order to make breaking up super corrupt and ridiculous and unpopular monopolies seem like the reasonable compromise, I'm in.
posted by overglow at 1:16 PM on November 25 [11 favorites]


“Let’s put Donald Trump in charge of the internet” sounds a touch less appealing.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:25 PM on November 25 [18 favorites]


[The is similar to the prior thread, which is about the upcoming decision, but focuses on this article, which is about nationalizing the Internet. Meta-complaints go in the contact form or MetaTalk, thanks.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:27 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


“Let’s put Donald Trump in charge of the internet” sounds a touch less appealing.

Just yesterday I read a comment on an alt-right website about how Trump should turn the internet into a public utility and take the power away from the left leaning silicon valley companies like google and facebook.
posted by 445supermag at 1:32 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


Enjoy FALC!

100% on board with this.
posted by mwhybark at 1:33 PM on November 25


Sorry, but that's a stupid article. In a lot of cases (pretty much utility other than water), it's already a highly-regulated private provider, not a public one.

Beyond that, we can't get the FCC or Congress to act on properly classifying ISPs today, so what chance nationalization?

Even beyond that, the problem the article misses is not that we're asking for the wrong rules; the problem is that the assholes in charge are running things in bad faith and nothing we can do short of getting them out of office is going to have an effect. There's nothing wrong in arguing about policy when both sides have broadly similar goals (e.g., if both sides are in favor of fast internet access for all, a policy discussion about private vs. public is valid), but when one side is arguing for the benefit of all people and the other doesn't give a fuck about people other than the owning class, talking policy is a distraction at best.
posted by Ickster at 1:46 PM on November 25 [9 favorites]


I don't totally understand what nationalize means in this context. He says that water and electricity should be the model, but I don't think that either of those is nationalized in the U.S. Water is a public utility, but it's a local public utility, not a national one, right? And my electricity is provided by a private company, albeit a highly regulated one, which I don't think is atypical in the US.

I definitely think we need to start treating the internet as a utility, but I'm not sure beyond that what this article is arguing for.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:48 PM on November 25 [6 favorites]


I want an alternative internet that lets packets hop from house to house over home wireless routers.
posted by pracowity at 1:51 PM on November 25 [7 favorites]


Given what a disaster my public utilities are, this proposal just seems silly.

Deregulation has fucked over a lot of them in places like California, thanks to rich libertarian assholes who think electricity is a luxury and clean water is an imposition on the rights of polluters.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:56 PM on November 25 [20 favorites]


Err... RE-nationalize the Internet.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:57 PM on November 25 [41 favorites]


Remember that story from years ago where a unknown hacker discovered a flaw in a ton of ubiquitous routers and instead of exploiting it for his own gain, he wrote a worm (or worm-like thing) that used the flaw to patch the vulnerability?

It'd be interesting for someone to do something like that but basically overhaul the "global" router network to enable mesh networking.
posted by glonous keming at 1:58 PM on November 25 [8 favorites]


You don’t need to nationalize something to effectively regulate it on an allowed return basis.
posted by JPD at 2:00 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


I want an alternative internet that lets packets hop from house to house over home wireless routers.
This. Fifteen years ago I would've wanted internet as a utility. I think decentralization should be the push now, more than nationalization.

Given what a disaster my public utilities are, this proposal just seems silly.
Yes, and the answer should be 'Then vote the bastards out and vote in people who will fix the disaster of public utilities!', but seeing how the current regime is hip-deep into mass disenfranchisement, and will no doubt be a model for future regimes to follow, spreading control of the internet to the masses seems to be the only way for us to assure proper functioning and allotment of a resource that is quickly becoming synonymous with free speech. If we lose control of the internet, we lose a lot more than cat videos: I hate that it's the way the alt-right is spreading their message, but it's also spreading #metoo, UBI, and holy-fuck-climate-change-wake-up-sheeple.
posted by eclectist at 2:07 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


If the danger is that some internet companies could become too monopolistic, why is the solution to hand the internet over to the biggest monopoly — the government?

As noted in this post by Tyler Cowen, there already are laws against monopolistic practices, yet those laws seem to be routinely ignored in the net neutrality debate. We shouldn't craft public policy as if antitrust law didn't already exist.

If you think that expanding government involvement in the internet is going to eliminate "unfair … advantages for large companies," I have two words for you: regulatory capture. Big corporations have the money and clout to lobby government to make regulations favorable to them; little indie companies don't.

The internet seemed to be fine before the net neutrality rules were introduced a couple years ago. I'm not that worried about the upcoming repeal.

Trump opponents should be careful not to predict that everything connected with the Trump administration will lead to horrible things, lest they fall victim to The Boy Who Cried Wolf problem.
posted by John Cohen at 2:19 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Darkly amusing that the very next article is "Twitter says it's been blocked by the Pakistani government."

I'm not sure what the best model is, but going forward, we need to think about reactionary-proofing our institutions. The solution to Ajit Pai threatening the Internet is surely not to just let him run it instead.
posted by zompist at 2:20 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


We need to build a citizen internet
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:25 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


We don’t require commercial utilities. P2P decentralized Internet is just a clustering and node aggregation solution. The tech is easy.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:26 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


The tech is easy.
For everyone, or just for people who live in densely-populated areas?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:34 PM on November 25 [13 favorites]


It'd be interesting for someone to do something like that but basically overhaul the "global" router network to enable mesh networking.

We need to build a citizen internet

A truly decentralized internet is the only option. Not the complete opposite of nationalization, but rather a situation like what was originally envisioned for the internet, where if one node fails, all the others will fill in the blanks and make the whole system work even without the one missing link in the chain. You could still potentially use a taxation system to fund it, but it would need decentralization of control. Because while people think it's impossible to un-nationalize anything, look at how badly flailing in the water the US Postal system is and by comparison how well FedEx and UPS are doing (and Amazon I've heard wants to make their own delivery services as well). The idea that nationalization can't be "undone" is short sighted. I've seen plenty of things privatized in my lifetime. I'm sitting here worried about our national parks getting gutted and privatized and people are trying to tell me nationalizing is somehow the permanent solution.

Mesh networks of devices are the way forward.
posted by deadaluspark at 2:47 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Isn't this the plot of an old Cory Doctorow book?
posted by elsietheeel at 2:51 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Rather than reform our dysfunctional political system so that small groups of individuals can’t fuck over everyone else, let’s just invent a technology to get around the problem.

How American.

We have to wish into existence entire technologies to circumvent the fact that we can’t interact with each other without trying to rip each other off.

See also: Transit.

But yeah, blah blah blah regulatory capture, or something.

It’s like a bank robbery looking at plans for a bank and saying: Don’t build that, I’ll just rob it!
posted by eagles123 at 2:59 PM on November 25 [15 favorites]


The internet seemed to be fine before the net neutrality rules were introduced a couple years ago. I'm not that worried about the upcoming repeal.

Right, because Comcast wasn't throttling bit-torrent with Sandvine in 2007. They weren't stacking courtrooms to their advantage by paying homeless people to show up and "support Comcast" to keep people who wanted to join the public commentary from actually participating. Because Tom Wheeler came to his position with pro-Net Neutrality policies and everyone loved him right away. /s

This shit that grinds my gears about this the most is this isn't even that OLD. You can dig up reddit threads from three and a half years ago lighting a fire under Wheelers ass about net neutrality. It wasn't the government swooping in, deciding that they had figured out the right way to handle this, it was actually the people of the internet, standing up and making themselves heard, because they had been dealing with horseshit from ISP's for decades, and they wanted more regulation and protection. Like, if you're talking about this shit, you lived through it, and you have zero fucking excuses for peddling this horseshit that somehow things were okay before 2014. Net neutrality totally didn't start with bit-torrent and the Pirate Bay getting blocked and throttled because companies wanted to de-prioritize them and what they did. (Also, the current repeal by Pai starts with reversing the decision to not allow Comcast to block bit-torrent from 2008, so he's well aware of the history too, and how angry the people were back then, and he gives no fucks.)

But sure, keep spouting this bullshit fucking historical revisionism to prop up the conservative position that "nothing was wrong before 2014" and that it was totally just a power grab by the Obama administration and not actually one of the few times in modern fucking history that the US government has actually listened to the concern of its constituents.

I see the same boy who cried wolf shit with the Trump administration, but considering this is an issue that Trump himself has had basically fuck-all to do with, it's a really disingenuous way to present your argument. The person who I have a problem with is firmly Ajit Pai, who himself is no different than Wheeler was when Wheeler took the position.
posted by deadaluspark at 3:00 PM on November 25 [44 favorites]


As noted in this post by Tyler Cowen

I like Tyler Cowen, used to follow his blog, but I think he's stumbled out of his area of expertise there. The water company analogy shows clearly where he misunderstands the situation. Net neutrality would not be a zero price for water in that situation. It wouldn't even be an equal price for regular water and Perrier. It would be the water company that serves the last mile charging the same price for delivery of whatever type of water flows to a particular house. They'd have no legitimate reason to care what type of water it might be, so long as it flows through the pipes just the same as any other. His mistake makes one thing clear, though: In addition to giving their own vertically integrated water supplier an unfair advantage, that water company also wants to use your water preference as a signal to trigger price discrimination. You want full-speed access to the parts of the web related to financial market news? Those will be some high-priced bits. Perhaps the electric company can get in on the game too, charging more or less depending on which TV channel it detects you watching, or whether you're using a microwave oven.

Anyway. Do check out Australia's NBN if you want to see the wrong way to go about nationalizing the ISP business. You should probably figure out how to get your government to stop trying to outlaw strong cryptography, first.
posted by sfenders at 3:05 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


As someone living in a rural state with awful "broadband", I'm tempted by this from sheer desperation.
posted by doctornemo at 3:14 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


Some links to back up the assertions in my previous comment RE: "things were fine on the internet before 2014." All of these links are from prior to the order to switch to Title II classification. But sure, "everything was fine" before that. It was only four years ago, people couldn't possibly remember! /s

Comcast hit with class-action lawsuit over traffic blocking

Comcast Hires People Off The Street To Fill Seats At FCC Hearing

An FCC Commissioner’s Reddit AMA Went About as Terribly as You’d Expect

FCC Proves Yet Again That It's Out to Kill Net Neutrality

Net-Neutrality Advocates Angered by FCC's Planned New Rules

And for fun, a meme shitpost hating on Tom Wheeler for being anti-net neutrality in April 2014 from the /r/conspiracy subreddit:

Hi, I'm Tom Wheeler, former Cable and Telecom lobbyist. - Hi, I'm Tom Wheeler, new FCC Commissioner who just ended Net Neutrality | This is what treason and sedition look like
posted by deadaluspark at 3:15 PM on November 25 [8 favorites]


I think a lot of people are genuinely missing that the repeal of NN opens with undoing the 2008 court decision preventing Comcast from blocking bit-torrent. Bit-torrent is just a communication protocol, just like HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) or FTP (FIle Transfer Protocol) or IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Opening the door to blocking specific types of communications protocol is abso-fucking-lutely opening the door to all kinds of blocking and censorship. It literally gives them carte blanche to block any services they don't like. Suddenly, the Web and "apps" in some giant corporate ecoystem are all you have. You know after bit-torrent they'll be gunning for Tor next.

Someone try to tell me that allowing blocking of specific protocols can in any way be a good thing because I don't fucking buy it.
posted by deadaluspark at 3:32 PM on November 25 [16 favorites]


I'm sitting in a trailer in rural South Carolina. I've always always struggled with internet...wireless and satellite garbage that hardly works and is massively expensive for crap performance because there is no other option. Or WAS no other option.

I got a flyer from my power company one day, telling me that they will soon be offering their own internet service, just for their members. So I sign up. I sign up on the spot, practically sight unseen, because it already promises to be better than what I have. They are willing to wire up the neighborhood, and it has to be better than what I have now. A few months later, they are stringing up along the power poles, and not long after that, running FIBER, directly into the room of a mobile home, in the middle of a cow pasture in rural South Carolina.

I'm typing this to you, at around 950mbps, after thinking it would never happen, because my power company, a NON PROFIT CO-OP wired me up. Fibered me up? A co-op founded in my home town, in 1940, after receiving a rural electrification loan after FDR signed the New Deal.

I'm watching Netflix in 4k High Def now, because Franklin Delano Roosevelt and congress signed a bill in 1935, creating the REA, to help some rural people get electricity who wouldn't have gotten it other wise. It's the kind of forward thinking that is completely absent from our government now. This would have never happened, if left to the "Free Market".

(Unless someone rich moved into my neighborhood... I've heard that some of my richer neighbors further on down the road from me have had high speed internet from AT&T for quite a while now, but I'm pretty sure even they are probably jumping ship now. Which is why AT&T and Comcast and Spectrum are so desperate to stop things like this from happening.)
posted by FireballForever at 3:33 PM on November 25 [114 favorites]


I'm watching Netflix in 4k High Def now, because Franklin Delano Roosevelt and congress signed a bill in 1935, creating the REA, to help some rural people get electricity who wouldn't have gotten it other wise. It's the kind of forward thinking that is completely absent from our government now. This would have never happened, if left to the "Free Market".

This might be one of the best anecdotes ever in relation to this discussion.
posted by deadaluspark at 3:38 PM on November 25 [15 favorites]


And one other thing, also. The installers who ran my fiber were very forth coming, and said they were actually having more trouble running it to the suburban areas...because of right of way issues and property issues. In the rural areas, they only have to drive alongside their power lines and string up fiber because there are no right of way issues since they own the poles. This means it is actually EASIER for them to bring fiber to the rural areas, first.
posted by FireballForever at 3:40 PM on November 25 [12 favorites]


I want an alternative internet that lets packets hop from house to house over home wireless routers.

that's right - we don't need to nationalize the internet, we need to localize it under our power, not the government's
posted by pyramid termite at 4:01 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


This means it is actually EASIER for them to bring fiber to the rural areas, first.

True story: When we first moved to our small town in eastern WA in 2003, the big story was that the telecom that existed back then was going to wire the entire town of 10K people for fiber.

They started out by wiring the city hall and the police station and the university administration building with fiber. And then they announced that the project wasn't going to be profitable and there has been no other fiber laid in the town since. That was ~2004, 2005.

I think the telecom at the time was Qwest, and then that merged with Centurylink.

We get snail mail advertising bullshit all the time from Centurylink advertising fiber. Every time we get one of these, we call about it because we'd like higher internet speeds. They tell us every time that they aren't offering fiber in our small town, just in the neighboring big city. They refuse to delete our zip code from their mailing advertising list. They continually advertise products to us that we cannot purchase.

If it were so easy to provide fiber to what you call rural areas, then Hughes Internet wouldn't exist. We'd have fiber at our house (which happens to be only 2 blocks from the police station and 4 blocks from the city hall and 6 blocks from the university administration building, all of which have fiber service and have had for over a decade).

Telecoms don't expand fiber because they don't want to be bothered. They don't expand it to places just "because it's easier". They just don't expand it, period.
posted by hippybear at 4:02 PM on November 25 [9 favorites]


Anyway. Do check out Australia's NBN if you want to see the wrong way to go about nationalizing the ISP business. You should probably figure out how to get your government to stop trying to outlaw strong cryptography, first.

Probably the best argument against nationalization, period. At least with National Security Letters we can still (maybe? somewhat?) count on warrant canaries. Who do they even need to give the national security letter to if its nationalized.

However, as FireballForever pointed out, you don't need full nationalization. A system of co-ops could easily create a nationwide mesh network of services.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:05 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


The way to get Congress to actually enact NN is to find out just how much it would cost for Comcast, Verizon et. al. to block twitter for a week. Invent a competing service and sell it to Comcast or Verizon or whichever huge provider. They then block twitter, trying to get people to jump over to their new platform. Suddenly, people cannot see the unhinged verbal diarrhea of our current president. Make Julian Assange's warning about Net Neutrality come true. Once the congresscritters realize that some disgruntled billionaire can finance their loss of an internet presence, they will shape up.

Until then, well, I'm glad that I'm getting my access through a university, even if it does have it's issues.
posted by Hactar at 4:07 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


happybear, Washington is a special case because Comcast lobbied our state government for big contracts in the 1990's "fibered up" our state capitol (heh, Fireball) and were able to get some very nasty anti-consumer laws passed in 2000 in relation to ISP's and municipal broadband and the like. We got screwed before the horse was out of the gate because ISP's took special attention to Microsoft and Boeing being located here, both big tech businesses with big government contracts and lots of need for security around government secrets. It really is surprisingly better in some other states, especially ones you wouldn't expect (like South Carolina.). Also, they got scared early on by the success of the municipal cable TV that was for a long time quite successful in Tacoma. They hit hard against citizens making their own services here in Washington after that.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:07 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


I'm basically 300 miles away from anything you just mentioned. I'm so glad those laws (which you don't mention in detail and I'm not doing research about) are screwing our household here. Yay!
posted by hippybear at 4:11 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Yep, that sounds about how most folks in Eastern Washington feel about the coastal cities, considering their outsized influence on the politics of the state. I honestly can sympathize with that position, Eastern Washington is different enough that it could easily merit being its own state. A lot of the laws that "work" for the West side don't work for the East and that really sucks.

Although in this case, it doesn't work for anyone.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:13 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


To end this derail: I don't actually feel that way about most things. We've had tax dollars thrown at us for infrastructure development that we are struggling to spend, and the quality of life here (especially in regard to traffic congestion) is light years better here than on the West side. There's a lot of "the West is too permissive and we don't like it that way here" attitude present here but I'm a bluebird living in a land of blood-red cardinals, and so I'm okay with that. I don't know much about the ISP laws you're referring to in your comment, but I do know that there's a possibility for better internet in my small town that isn't being given to me despite it already being present in the town. And the whole "it's easier to lay fiber in rural areas than in cities" argument presented above strikes me as false, and that's what my initial comment was about.
posted by hippybear at 4:17 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


I don't want nationalization. I want trustbusting. I want non-profit co-ops competing against each other, and two if one isn't enough to scare the for-profits into building the future and charging more for above-baseline services.

Is that too much to ask? Is it? I don't care. Do it or get out of my government, Ajit Pai (my autocorrect tried to type Shit Pai, which I also feel belongs somewhere in this conversation, but I'm not sure where).
posted by saysthis at 4:44 PM on November 25 [6 favorites]


look at how badly flailing in the water the US Postal system is and by comparison how well FedEx and UPS are doing

I wonder how hot FedEx and UPS would be doing if they didn't have the USPS to outsource a shitload of their last-mile deliveries to.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:51 PM on November 25 [40 favorites]


The postal service is only flailing because republicans hamstrung it, and forced absurd antiunion provisions.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 4:57 PM on November 25 [43 favorites]


I wasn't clear enough, but the act of them flailing due to decades of purposefully screwing them to make their private alternatives seem better by comparison was kind of my point about the idea that nationalization is some kind of "permanent" solution. The Republicans have spent decades de-funding public programs and then saying they are terrible and privatizing them. That's exactly how they get away with it and that's why I wouldn't trust nationalization to be any kind of permanent solution that wouldn't just be like the seemingly endless fight it already is.

You can't call it a permanent solution if it can be defunded until it's useless.
posted by deadaluspark at 5:11 PM on November 25 [6 favorites]


South Korea seems like an interesting case where even though there's only three major internet providers, there's still plenty of competition and internet service is both faster and cheaper than the US.

And of course, caveats include that the US and Korea are not the same country, but maybe the US model of federalization could allow some of these ideas to be applied on the state and possibly city level.
posted by FJT at 5:12 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


orthogonal to hippybear and deadaluspark's discussion but related, Seattle in the '90s was a hotbed of microproviders, including Speakeasy, (uh, memory fades) IXL, and Eskimo. All of these oldtimey ISPs directly inherited Seattle socialist genes and ideas, and as consolidation and time took their toll, they went away. I concur that the early anti-public-utility rules passed here, statewide, were due to careful attention to our state's socialist heritage, something we stand in danger of losing today. Nationalize it.
posted by mwhybark at 5:27 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


If the danger is that some internet companies could become too monopolistic, why is the solution to hand the internet over to the biggest monopoly — the government?

Telecommunications is a natural monopoly. The issue is that private monopolies use their position to extract rents at the expense of everyone else - thus it is an appealing solution to make them public.
posted by atoxyl at 5:49 PM on November 25 [9 favorites]


Anyway. Do check out Australia's NBN if you want to see the wrong way to go about nationalizing the ISP business.

On the contrary, the Australian model is exactly how you want to nationalize the last mile. Every ISP besides Telstra was for it because it would decouple the entire of the country from Telstra strangling the last mile. I know because I lived through their reign of terror with my colleagues.

The essential problem with the NBN right now is that the conservative government decided to cut corners and save money by stopping the rollout of FTTP and instead put in some bastard child of FTTN using the old and unreliable copper. So the thing has denigrated to complete fucking garbage in some areas. There’s some other minor issues like way too many POIs for smaller ISPs to compete effectively (NBNCo really should have provided an AGVC back to the capital cities but all in all it’s a minor disaster) but it’s a hell of a lot better when Telstra was providing retail services lower than the wholesale port cost and pretending that there was no conflict of interest going on with a straight face. But that’s the result of importing US CEOs into something that requires good faith interaction so our bad I guess.
posted by Talez at 6:27 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


If it were so easy to provide fiber to what you call rural areas, then Hughes Internet wouldn't exist. We'd have fiber at our house (which happens to be only 2 blocks from the police station and 4 blocks from the city hall and 6 blocks from the university administration building, all of which have fiber service and have had for over a decade).

Telecoms don't expand fiber because they don't want to be bothered. They don't expand it to places just "because it's easier". They just don't expand it, period.

I think we're talking past each other and apples and oranges here and I probably should have been a little bit clearer, but my UTILITY is DODGING telecom right of way issues and suburb HOA access issues and things of that nature. It's ridiculous how discreet they've been trying to be with this install, to the point of unmarked plain trucks, vans and civilian pickups. If I'm not mistaken they are contracted out with a Canadian company that is doing the install. They rent a house near the neighborhoods where they are working and park the trucks behind it. That's why they were rolling out to areas where the only access they needed was to thier own power lines and power poles. I wasn't trying to imply that it was always going to be easier to roll out fiber to rural areas, but in this case they are trying to dodge things that could land them straight into a court fight with another ISP like Spectrum or Comcast.

Trust me, I've been calling AT&T since they were called "Bellsouth" trying to get a dsl line run from the end of my street, and the only answer I would ever get if I EVER got an engineer is, "we will run a feasibility study to see if we can run access into your neighborhood" which basically translates to "call back when you can guarantee there will be either many more customers, or one who is rich enough to pay for the install."
posted by FireballForever at 6:55 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


I think there’s a huge hole in the market ready to be filled. There are providers out there with fiber runs along major routes which you could tap out and run unlicensed wireless spectrum off a local tower. Yes the US is spread out but most of the spread is along transit routes so if you just get allied fiber to drop a PoI off at the town, buy some transit from L3 and then run the last mile over some Ubiquiti gear you could bring high speed Internet to isolated communities cheaply and quickly using co-ops.
posted by Talez at 7:25 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


Electric coops have been doing fiber projects for years. The coop in the small town I mentioned in the last NN thread started their FTTP project in 2002, IIRC. Even with eRate, CenturyTel was overcharging the local schools so much that the board of the electric coop figured they could help out since they were stringing fiber along a bunch of their poles for their own internal use anyway.

As smart grid stuff becomes more common, more coops are stringing fiber up for their own purposes and using it to offer FTTP to their customers. And yes, this is much easier in rural areas where the coop or customer own all the poles in question, the coop's existing customer agreements allow them to use customer owned poles to service other customers when necessary, and there's no arguments over zoning and the even trenching when necessary. Most people out in the country don't give a shit if you need to run a ditch witch across their field to bury something that isn't carrying hazmat as long as you put their fence back when you're done and you don't let their livestock roam free.

The problem for private ISPs is that the customer density is so low it's hard to justify the buildout since the return on capital will be in the low single digits at best. It's far cheaper to run the fiber but you need more equipment per customer. When you're already providing electric service, the incremental cost is tiny, especially if you're running all the trunk lines anyway. Not so much when you're starting from scratch.

That said, I've long thought municipal broadband makes by far the most sense. Wires and pipes are natural monopolies. There's a reason why municipal/county water systems are so common. The nice thing about broadband is that it's easy for more..market-oriented..locales to allow multiple providers to compete over the wire and for other places to choose to have only the municipal ISP or to have a combination with a public option. It's not nearly as stupid as multiple electric providers or water providers or whatever since it is possible for different ISPs, phone companies, MVPDs, or whatever to provide differentiated services. It isn't as much of a commodity, even with strict net neutrality.

The point being that IMO encouraging electric coops and municipalities to provide the underlying wires at least is the most sensible option. Sadly, at&t and Comcast are too stupid to give up their biggest expense. Never mind that if they supported and participated in such schemes they'd almost certainly remain the dominant players in an expanded market since they have so much mind share. They'd be able to offer better service to more people with less expense on their part, yet they resist.

Even most libertarians are ok with government owned wires as long as there is competition in the service provided over them. They understand and appreciate the concept of a natural monopoly. The only people that are against it are the oligopolists, their paid stooges, and their useful idiots.
posted by wierdo at 7:56 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


Lots of things need to be nationalized, the internet is just one of them, but this requires the GOP stranglehold be obliterated along with the crooked redistricting that helps enable it. I just hope I live long enough to see it happen.
posted by Beholder at 8:12 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


The best solution is going to be multiple independent solutions -- let the internet route around problems. I want fiber to the house (for typical high-speed media coming in), internet options in the electricity coming into my house, wireless house-to-house packet exchange options (for communicating even when all lines are shut down, assuming you also have off-the-grid electricity), direct to and from international satellite options (so we can avoid national regulations), and any other methods people can come up with.
posted by pracowity at 1:20 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


I would just like to say, God DAMNIT 2017. FUCK! Carry on.
posted by hexaflexagon at 1:38 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


Just not sure I'm comfortable with a fully nationalized communications infrastructure. The obvious control dangers but also we'd probably use rotary dial phones to access the computers and be happy about it at 14.4. I still do a little dance to the modem handshake tones.

I am positive I can still whistle a 2400 baud connect tone.
posted by Samizdata at 3:27 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


We don’t require commercial utilities. P2P decentralized Internet is just a clustering and node aggregation solution. The tech is easy.

Yeah, no. I live in an apartment building. Recently had to do a fresh Win 10 Creator's install and it decided to no longer acknowledge my onboard Ethernet. After about a month of trying to run my desktop on a Wifi connection less than 5 feet from PCI adapter to the gateway, I finally gave up and had to go wired again. My building is a freaking wireless swamp of misconfigured routers and crap. You think I want to dip my toes in that on a day to day basis just to get online? Yeah, no, a second time.

And I am not even going to begin to approach the issues with individuals being targetted for carrying illegal packet data as part of the mesh. You and I both know the government is always looking for excuses...
posted by Samizdata at 3:32 AM on November 26 [5 favorites]


South Korea seems like an interesting case where even though there's only three major internet providers, there's still plenty of competition and internet service is both faster and cheaper than the US.

And of course, caveats include that the US and Korea are not the same country, but maybe the US model of federalization could allow some of these ideas to be applied on the state and possibly city level.


The issues with that start out with the maxim that it is easier to do the job right after someone else has done all the stumbling, or, "The pioneers are the ones with arrows in the backs". Then we go on to analyze the fact that since they were second comers, they could build out infrastructure correctly the first time instead of having to patch together a bunch of dissimilar legacy crap like here in the U.S. Yeah, a pack of misfits can't always save the day...
posted by Samizdata at 3:35 AM on November 26


If there's anything we don't need, it is for internet protocols to be under the direct control of the US government.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:07 AM on November 26


You can't call it a permanent solution if it can be defunded until it's useless.
“That’s amazing! What do you call your act?”

“‘Social Democracy’!”
posted by indubitable at 5:28 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


You don't go to China. Hyper-China comes to you.
posted by runcifex at 6:06 AM on November 26


This might be one of the best anecdotes ever in relation to this discussion.

See also: this comment about Faroese Telecom, which is state-owned and concentrated entirely on the Faroes. Co-op and state-owned services make sense when you're talking about anywhere outside of a major metro area, and providing service to poor people, because private companies can be regulated to be "fair," but they'll scream and kick (but you know, with lawsuits and PR stunts) to fight against providing affordable services to everyone.

Or even upgrading their services to be competitive with other countries.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


Samizdata, you speak to firms' strategies to enter a market --offering any commodity to any buyer. The buyer may be another firm ("producer") or an individual ("consumer"), the mystical arms-length, unemployed or self-employed party to a sales transaction who said to possess perfect knowledge of qualitative and quantitative resource supply and demand.

Firms claiming "arrows in the back" (substantial sunk costs, Plant & Equipment (P&E) investment, R&D including P&L advertising expenses) are known as the "incumbent" firm, sometimes "loss leaders," sometimes "innovator", always "entrepreneurs," usually "first-movers" in the litchitchure of economics, finance, and free trade. Each term is loaded with connotations of virtuous, or not, "fair" trade in "competitive" marketing among firms.

Second comers to market entry> are any firms said to "leap frog" (sic) incumbents' so-called incremental market knowledge (R&D) and minimum investment to create the market for an offering. This term is loaded with connotations of "unfair" competitive "advantage" obtained by a new entrant's observation of incumbents' market failures/successes in developed, or saturated, markets and acquisition of "technologies" believed to be owned by incumbents. It appears --explicitly and tacitly-- most often in litchitchure comparing market shares of new entrants and incumbents within developing, or emerging, markets which west world firms would penetrate. That is Rest of World (ROW) eg. Asia, peripheral Americas, and Africa: the "equilibrium" achieved with industrial policies in the Koreas is a wonderful example of "leap frogging" west world trade hegemony in telecommunications marketing infrastructure.

So too is the case with China and continental Africa, where everyone pretty much skipped PC devices to provide and acquire cellular services decades ago. At the turn of the century the adoption data and trends were public knowledge, eg. OECD, to anyone searching for it, ironically termed "knowledge transfer". What knowledge that could have been shared has since degenerated into a popular consensus throughout west world that ROW "steals" intellectual property and competitive advantages ... unless the populus adopts Facebook and Google balloon information services. Ha!

they [did] build out infrastructure correctly the first time
given all prerequisite conditions of limited resources and moral imperative.

Not so in USA, for example, since 1934. I think, there are commentors on this board who cannot recall life before the PUHCA or even mandated (enacted by law) digital transitions of the 1990s first in the EU and, eventually, in the USA.
posted by marycatherine at 8:20 AM on November 26


weirdo, I noted with interest your reply in the other thread.

I am aware of coop (mostly BPL) and municipalities struggles to conform with state and federal laws (sanctions and agency funding, grants or no-low financing) to provide utilities (especially BPL, satellite, line telecommunication service areas) to residents in in rural and --hold the phone-- metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). I discovered a while ago how congress, through USDA (sewer), permits arbitrage along MSA boundaries to award monies and promotional services to bogus "start-up" operators. These are a couple reasons why I harp on language, objectives, interpretations, and implementation of deregulated PUHCA and Telecommunications Acts, amended. Some people here need to examine energy utilities by ownership type, codified by the USC, in order to apprehend priority of order and motives in "lobbying" for so-called privileges and privatization of domestic commodity marketing.

It has never been the intention of congress to assure "universal" or equal "access" to utilities for "consumers". This nation lives and will die by rules of competition in every domain of living and an extremely perverse attention to comparative "advatanges" among "special interests", misplaced precision; because so few comprehend the benefits of cooperation.
posted by marycatherine at 9:04 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


that's right - we don't need to nationalize the internet, we need to localize it under our power, not the government's

THIS IS A DEMOCRACY, WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT

WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND?
posted by biogeo at 9:08 AM on November 26 [6 favorites]


WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND?

I would prefer to eat my children.
-- J. Swift
posted by marycatherine at 9:10 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


Firms claiming "arrows in the back" (substantial sunk costs, Plant & Equipment (P&E) investment, R&D including P&L advertising expenses) are known as the "incumbent" firm, sometimes "loss leaders," sometimes "innovator", always "entrepreneurs," usually "first-movers" in the litchitchure of economics, finance, and free trade. Each term is loaded with connotations of virtuous, or not, "fair" trade in "competitive" marketing among firms.

My point was attempting to point out that comparing places like South Korea to the U.S. was rambutan to apples. We Americans are left with the fragmented shards of a badly aging infrastructure because the classic American corporate scamming and keeping build costs to the minimum to keep profits/salaries high without risking losing Federal loopholes. And, until we can lick that problem, it's not going to get any better.

As it stands, most of the second comers will generally get frozen out by the stagnant incumbents if they try anything interesting anyway, with said freezeout making infrastructure buildout/interoperation difficult at best, especially when coupled with the difficulties of property law (see the cellular industry). Perhaps the public utility shift might help with that. Especially as we already have applicable precedent with the idea of retail wheeling in the power industry.
posted by Samizdata at 1:29 PM on November 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah, sorry, the status of Amercian telecom is a hot-button topic for me I thought I had forgotten about.
posted by Samizdata at 1:45 PM on November 26


THIS IS A DEMOCRACY, WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT

WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND?


because we're a republic, not a democracy and the lobbyists and corporations who are paying the representatives are the government, and WE AREN'T THE ONES DOING THAT

WE ARE NOT THE GOVERNMENT

this is hard for you to understand because the fixers want it to be

unless you're seriously going to argue that trump is acting in all of our interests
posted by pyramid termite at 1:57 PM on November 26 [3 favorites]


HEY, DIPSHITS. TRUMP WILL NOT ALWAYS BE PRESIDENT. CONGRESS WILL NOT ALWAYS BE REPUBLICAN. THE PARAMETERS OF GOOD GOVERNANCE ARE NOT DEFINED BY WHO WON THE LAST ELECTION.

Besides which, do you know who this "ALL GOVERNMENT IS UNIFORMLY BAD FOREVER" talk benefits? The "drown it in a bathtub" folks. The guys who joke about "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help". You know, the very same fucking Republicans you're so fucking scared of.

If your only contribution to a frank discussion of what's wrong with a given aspect of America in 2017 is "DON'T LET TRUMP CONTROL IT!!!", then you're not only not contributing anything constructive, you're actually supporting the Republican cause.

I mean, you wouldn't want Trump in control of the national parks, would you? Get your government out of my parks!

You wouldn't want Trump in control of health insurance, would you? Get your government out of my Medicare!

Believe it or not, nobody in this thread has actually forgotten who the fucking president is. Wielding his name as a cudgel just to undermine the idea that the government can do anything good for the people it represents is some low-down dirty ratfucking Republican bullshit.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:43 PM on November 26 [7 favorites]


if some people in a city or neighborhood can establish a network with their own resources, why shouldn't they? why should they have to rely on the government to do it for them if they want to do it themselves - even if the government has nationalized the internet?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:55 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


if some people in a city or neighborhood can establish a network with their own resources, why shouldn't they? why should they have to rely on the government to do it for them if they want to do it themselves - even if the government has nationalized the internet?

Because there is a fair to middling chance that group will get sued into oblivion by larger ISPs or denied decent connectivity by other providers under spurious anti-competition claims?
posted by Samizdata at 5:41 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


the network i'm talking about would be a bunch of people connected to each other, not the internet - it's technically possible and could actually be fairly large - and if no one is in charge of it, who are you going to sue?

(and this talk about ISPs suing these networks means the government would be acting against this kind of thing using the court system - which pretty much explains why one would want a local net without the government running it, doesn't it?)
posted by pyramid termite at 5:53 PM on November 26


who are you going to sue?

What is this? You sue whoever owns the node that has transit.
posted by Talez at 6:23 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


Providers don’t give a shit about neighborhood Ethernet because it’s not competition. A local network is practically useless without transit.
posted by Talez at 6:24 PM on November 26 [1 favorite]


My home town (Thunder Bay ON) is a city of approx 110,000, that's hundreds of miles from any city of comparable size.

The city's phone company, TBayTel, has been independent of the major corporations, and in 1970, was put under the control of the city. They provide good phone, cell and internet service, AND they return revenue to the city.

That's the model to follow: municipal. Like city streets, telecommunications is vital to all citizens of a city. If a city isn't large enough to support genuine competition between commercial providers, that city should set up their own provider of phone, cell and internet.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:59 PM on November 26 [5 favorites]


if some people in a city or neighborhood can establish a network with their own resources, why shouldn't they? why should they have to rely on the government to do it for them if they want to do it themselves - even if the government has nationalized the internet?

I don't think any of us arguing for nationalization are arguing that ad hoc networking initiatives, or private startups, or whatever sat-mesh blah blah blah thing might be technologically feasible and technically interesting should be made illegal or discouraged by making rules against it or anything, I mean, *I'm* not making that argument.

I'll definitely concede that a FALC utility model that includes highspeed internet access reduces market demand for competitors to deliver incremental service variations, which means to me that the hypothetical mesh-alt providers are by definition not motivated by market forces - which to me makes their hypothetical services infinitely more interesting and worth investigating.
posted by mwhybark at 9:56 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


I remember a few years (I refuse to say how many, pleading vanity) back creating a proposal for the city I live it to blanket a certain part of downtown with free limited-area WiFi intended to encourage people to spend more time downtown (and, in theory, more money). I dropped the idea because, at one point, I think it was Pittsburgh that was working on local downtown WiFi and got heartily sued by one of the big ISPs. I think it was Verizon. And, again, they don't have to sue. All I need is for one of the local telecoms to deny me connectivity, and the plan is stillborn.
posted by Samizdata at 9:32 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Exactly. That's why there needs to be a nationalised backbone infrastructure that municipal projects can hook into.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:18 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Exactly. That's why there needs to be a nationalised backbone infrastructure that municipal projects can hook into.

I mostly agree, except you and I both know there would be an awful lot of filtering. Because "Think of the children" and "Think of the terrorists" and...
posted by Samizdata at 12:57 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


The solution is to keep title II regulation and encourage competition through other means to break their pricing power. Returning to the days of NSFNet is not what we want. I remember the terrible congestion due to delays in getting bigger pipes. Over and over again.

Even Comcast usually does better and that was with people who actually wanted to keep things working.
posted by wierdo at 1:37 PM on November 27


I've seen a few people in this thread, and elsewhere, suggest that the ideal solution is to build some kind of decentralized wireless peer-to-peer system. As a techno-utopian fantasy, it sounds great, but in practice it would be a lot like replacing all the country's highways and arterial roads with two-lane residential streets, complete with stop signs and speed bumps. Everything would slow to a crawl because of congestion. Making it work as well as 90's dial-up service would be a major technological challenge.
posted by shponglespore at 5:41 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


I've seen a few people in this thread, and elsewhere, suggest that the ideal solution is to build some kind of decentralized wireless peer-to-peer system. As a techno-utopian fantasy, it sounds great, but in practice it would be a lot like replacing all the country's highways and arterial roads with two-lane residential streets, complete with stop signs and speed bumps. Everything would slow to a crawl because of congestion. Making it work as well as 90's dial-up service would be a major technological challenge.

Not to mention at some point, people are going to have to start paying for kit, and in happy anarchies like the one described, you end up with 30 different spec standards so nothing works QUITE right, and, oh, Bob ran out of cash because no one decided to kick in enough this month, so we lost our fat pipe....
posted by Samizdata at 12:27 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


A member of Congress tweets a chart labeled "WHY WE MUST SAVE NET NEUTRALITY," inadvertently making the case against net neutrality.
posted by John Cohen at 11:06 AM on November 28


Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica: Ajit Pai blames Cher and Hulk actor for ginning up net neutrality support
Internet users have made it clear to US telecom regulator Ajit Pai that his proposal to scrap net neutrality rules is unpopular with the masses. But with two weeks left before the Federal Communications Commission votes to eliminate net neutrality rules, Pai today blamed actress/singer Cher and other celebrities for boosting opposition to his plan.

In a speech hosted by conservative group R Street and the Lincoln Network, Pai also addressed criticism from MCU actor Mark Ruffalo, actress Alyssa Milano, former Star Trek actor George Takei, and Silicon Valley actor Kumail Nanjiani. Pai also claimed that Twitter and other Web companies pose a greater threat to Internet freedom than Internet service providers like Comcast.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:43 PM on November 28


« Older The javelin throw is outlawed in 36 states as a...   |   How to make seven really large mirrors Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.