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The Problems with Broadband in America 800

Posted by Zonk
from the i-want-service-dangit dept.
Tenken writes "Salon has an article about the state of broadband in America. After seeing what many other countries have accomplished with their broadband markets, namely Japan, Korea, and (gasp) even Canada, the current state of affairs in the U.S. is looking pretty dismal. I'm sure I'm not the only one tired of paying $45 a month just for cable internet." From the article: "Across the globe, it's the same story. In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here. In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita. While other countries are taking advantage of the technological, business and education opportunities of the broadband era, America remains lost in transition."
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The Problems with Broadband in America

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  • by Knight Thrasher (766792) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:22PM (#13820355) Journal
    If you suddenly had a better alternative to paying $45 a month for your cable or DSL internet, you'd take the alternative. Instantly. I know I would, without second thought. There's just nowhere downhill to go, without going back to dialup.

    That means the existing monopoly corporation providing broadband to you would suddenly have to invest major capital into revamping their business to approach a competitive edge with this new alternative that everyone smart like you and I would switch to immediately. This would cut into profits. Businessmen like their profits, so they look for an alternative, hmmm, how not to have to revamp their networks, think think think...

    So the company instead pays out campaign donations the right people in senate and congress, hires some lobbyists to naysay revamping impractical and backwards laws, say if they do change the laws the terrorists will get us over the intrawebs on their haxxor boxenz and copyrighted material will be given away on the street corners. And the people of the country that invented and played a major part in developing the internet into what it is today, lose out to nations with 1/100th of the population and GNP.

    God Bless America. What would Liberty be like without a caring, guiding corporate hand to slow things down to maximize their own profits? I rarely rant on like things about this, but let's face it; American broadband users are sheer cash cows to their ISP's.

    • by Alaren (682568)

      Let me first establish that I agree with your sentiment and I wholeheartedly believe that corporations are part of the problem. Their never-ending efforts to shut down municipal efforts, to preserve their monopolies, and to create a "delivery system" rather than a "networking system" (4MBits down, 256kbits up, anyone?) are a blight on our great (if, sadly, not as great as once it was) nation.

      However.

      With the exception of Canada, the countries mentioned have a tremendous advanage regarding broadband pe

      • "extra infastructure cost"

        Sure, but aren't you suppoed to have "extra money" to build it, compared to a small country like France ?
        • by sheddd (592499) <jmeadlock@perdid ... .com minus punct> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:21PM (#13821080)
          Sure... lots more area to cover, though

          France 2004 gdp: ~1.7T
          USA 2004 gdp: ~11T

          France sq miles: 211k
          USA sq miles: 3537k

          France gdp/sq mi: $8M
          USA gdp/sq mi: $3M
          • by Ghorin (633504)
            What you say is right but you have to correct USA sq miles by putting off all no-people areas like deserts, huge national parcs and huge mountain regions. In this areas where virtually nobody lives, you don't have to invest money to put broadband service. On the contrary while in France we have one of the largest countryside area (in percentage) of Europe, there is very few area empty of people and we have to dig broadband cables everywhere.
            • Okay, cut the US area in half to account for these 'no-people areas'. (I seriously doubt that 50% of the US doesn't need high speed infrastructure, but just for the sake of it)

              France sq miles: 211k
              USA sq miles: 1768.5k

              France gdp/sq mi: $8M
              USA gdp/sq mi: $6M
      • by RobinH (124750) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:59PM (#13820866) Homepage
        With the exception of Canada, the countries mentioned have a tremendous advanage regarding broadband penetration, and that is relative population density.

        As has been pointed out many times before, Canada is actually more "urban" than the US. Something like 3/4 of Canadians live in cities whereas about 2/3 of Americans do, or something like that. Yes, queue jokes about huddling together for warmth, etc., but the facts are there. It helps that only 20% of Canadian land is "habitable" (meaning you can grow crops on it), which is the type of land typically settled on hundreds of years ago. So, Canada has an easier time hitting more of its population with broadband due to population density.

        Also, Canada has certain government initiatives to get broadband access to the more remote parts of Canada, such as the far north. Canada has always been on the leading edge of communications technology, and is actively trying to stay that way. The first commercial communications satellite was Canadian owned, as was the first national coast to coast microwave telephone network. This is all because the politicians realized from the start that the only thing stopping the small relatively isolated colonies that became Canada from being absorbed by the US was to overcome the vast communication and transportation obstacles that separated them. Those ideas continue today.
        • by Erioll (229536) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:54PM (#13821462)
          I have no doubt your numbers are correct, but at the same time can the 2/3 vs 3/4 difference in urbanization really account for the difference in penetration and pricing? I would argue not. While there has been a focus on greater communications infrastructure by government (just look at Alberta Supernet [albertasupernet.ca] for a dramatic example. Services every community in the province with high-speed internet that has any of a school, a library, or a medical centre), IMO it definitely was the co-location and promotion of competition that made the REAL difference. Telus (as well as the other big incumbents in Canada) fought tooth and nail against co-location, but it NEEDED to happen, and it has succeeded (somewhat).

          But this gets into a bigger discussion about government involvment in industry. Personally I think government's main role in the market should be to encourage competition, and BREAK UP monopolies, not encourage them. With almost-no exceptions, there are always better results from MORE competition, and MORE players in the market, rather than fewer. And when the "natural" market starts creating dominant giants, either introduce factors to break their monopoly with new initiatives (mandating co-location would be one example of such), or break the companies up (more extreme, and necessary only when the previous option fails). But above all they should be ENSURING that meaningful competition always occurs.

          Governments have an essential role in economies completely seperate from government spending and federally (or provincial/state) run companies. More competition is almost always good, and should be the government's PRIMARY responsability (aside from money flow), not encouraging monopolies.
      • wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:14PM (#13821018)
        I just came back from a vacation in france, at my parent's house, in a lost "village" in the middle of the alps. There are maybe 4 farms on a square kilometer. What do you know, over there I had 20meg dsl line with wireless hotspots. Their cost: 12 euro a month (around 15 bucks).

        Why do I pay 40 bucks in LA for a crappy connection ? The US has guaranteed local monopolies to corporations who have zero interest in investing anything in infrastructure when they can bring it insane profits on obsolete products. Telcos in the US function like energy and healthcare companies. They are not a public service like in most european countries, it's a racket that gets blank support from politicians to milk a captive market as much as they can.
        • Re:wrong. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by glaucopis (874967) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:31PM (#13822430)

          Rural areas in the US can have good connections, too -- most of Vermont, for one, pays less and gets more than those of us in urban areas.

          VTel [vermontel.net] offers 1.3 Mbps DSL throughout nearly all of Vermont and is introducing 8 Mbps DSL into the state for $34.95 a month. Whether you get the 1.3 or 8 Mbps for the price depends on whether 8 Mbps is available in your area yet; you get the highest speed available. And they often offer promotional two year contracts at a substantially lower rate. Not as good as your French connection, but (depending on your location in the 1.3 vs 8 Mbps rollout scheme) either better than average or wildly good by US (urban) standards. And connections are available just about everywhere; my parents' summer place at the end of a gravel road on a lake 30 minutes from the nearest town and 50 from anything that could be called a city has access.

          And note that Vermont is an extremely rural and extremely mountainous state, to the point where cell phone coverage is pretty spotty at any distance from major highways, and yet they still have excellent internet coverage. I think I heard that VTel got some grants initially to put in all the infrastructure, which explains the good coverage, but for some reason they persist in offering their service at a reasonable rate and in rolling their profits into actively upgrading that infrastructure. It seems almost un-American.

      • by thisissilly (676875) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:27PM (#13821149)
        If population density were #1 factor in cheap-high speed Internet, why are there not cheap fiber connections for everyone in NYC and NJ?

        France has a population density of 284/square mile.
        South Korea has 1275 people/square mile.
        New Jersey has 1133 people/square mile.
        New York County, which includes Manhattan, has 66950 people/square mile. No, that's not a typo.

        Obviously, NYC and NJ have "a tremendous advanage regarding broadband penetration". So why don't we have cheap broadband?

        • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:56PM (#13821488)
          New York County, which includes Manhattan, has 66950 people/square mile. No, that's not a typo.

          In fact, New York County is only Manhattan. (Queens is Queens County, Brooklyn is Kings, Bronx is Bronx, and Staten Island is Dutchess.) So that number is a bit skewed - Manhattan is far denser than any other borough in New York City or any part of New Jersey.

          According to Wikipedia, NYC's population density is 26403 people/square mile (that's rounded up just to match the look of your number). Newark, NJ's population density is 11400 people/square mile and Jersey City's is 16093 people/square mile. Other areas close to NYC in NJ have lower densities (those are the two main "cities" in NJ on the edge of NYC). So the average of the whole NY metro area would be a lot lower than 66950. And nobody's going to bother laying infrastructure for a single borough, although typically the telcos and cablecos will start with one borough and work their way out.

          Just to compare, Tokyo is similarly difficult to calculate (it depends on if you're talking the 23 official wards of the city, the prefecture of Tokyo, or something else), but the 23 wards have a density of 34734 people/square mile. So, both cities are pretty dense, but NYC is not even close to twice as dense as Tokyo, which your numbers suggest.

          I do sort of agree with your main point, though, which is that there's no real reason why the Northeast Corridor, the California Corridor or the cities of the upper midwest shouldn't be wired up better, if population density is the problem. The USA is extremely regional, and there are whole areas that are just as urban and just as large (in terms of population) as all of South Korea, for example. The NEC has a greater population than South Korea in a smaller area, so it should be theoretically cheaper to wire up on a per capita basis.
      • by EiZei (848645)
        With the exception of Canada, the countries mentioned have a tremendous advanage regarding broadband penetration, and that is relative population density.

        I wonder how many times I have said this.. but just about any nordic country has lesser population density than the US and our population is quite spread out. You know, telecom corporations used to be in a similar monopoly position like in the US but our broadbands got a LOT cheaper when they were forced to share their copper.
    • by LilGuy (150110) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:03PM (#13820902)
      Believe it or not they're working on it. SBC is currently in the process of rolling out fiber to the home in Houston. They plan to have everyone in the city connected up to the new equipment within a couple years. I asked the technician that was out at my house how much they planned on charging for their new "limitless" connection and he said it was going to run the same as what we were currently paying.

      I found it hard to believe at first, but now I see they really have no choice. DSL can only go so far, and Time Warner was running them out of the internet biz by ramping up speeds. So in the end everyone will end up with uber-fast fiber connections and pay about the same $40-$60.

      Then again, that was Houston. There are quite a few cities nationwide that aren't nearly as cut-throat. Some that have only 1 "high-speed" option, that isn't really even high-speed.

      But I'd say, once the word gets out about those new blazing fast connections, EVERYONE is going to want one, and the demand overcome the cost of all the telcos upgrading their lines and equipment.

      All this IMHO
    • I'm sure I'm not the only one tired of paying $45 a month just for cable internet.
      I envy you my brother, paying $45 for cable internet. My cable internet is also about $45, but you can't get it without cable TV... So my cable bill, for TV I rarely watch and internet is around $99 a month.... If they would unbundle the cable tv and net, I would get rid of the TV and keep the net.
      (My other option is DSL, but I dont have a home phone- just a cell, which equals no telemarketers, plus, most of the people I c
  • by fragmentate (908035) * <jdspilled@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:23PM (#13820364) Journal
    Other countries are claiming [slashdot.org] that the U.S. has mismanaged the internet. Which has led to broad speculation that the internet will splinter soon while those other countries work on their own "Internet."

    If one were to judge our use (read: underuse) of the internet on the public level... well, that's just a whole new angle on our lack of efficacy in educating our own. Think about it, at $50/month for a typical broadband connection in this country it's cost-prohibitive for a large segment of the population to access the internet regulary. Sure, there's dialup, but the frustration involved in dialup could discourage an internet "newbie" from using it. Let us also not forget that many, many metro areas have horrible phone lines. Our infrastructure in the U.S. is sad when you consider the fact that we're still (for now) the largest economy in the world.

    The best way to build your population up intellectually is through information. The undisputed king of information is the "Internet." Imagine all the eyes that could be opened. Mixed in, of course, with all the idiocy, smut, and exploitation...

    But some locales are contemplating making wireless accessible [azcentral.com] to the general public. So there is a movement. It's just a shame that in the most mighty economy in the world the cost is still prohibitive for a good segment of its population.

    Keep squeaking about it... perhaps the corporations will grease the wheel. But I doubt it. What we need is a brave provider to go for the quantity, and not the quality (I never thought I'd say that) -- in other words, make the pricing attractive for everyone.
    • by amliebsch (724858) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:30PM (#13820455) Journal
      Our infrastructure in the U.S. is sad when you consider the fact that we're still (for now) the largest economy in the world.

      It's the curse of the early adopter. We were among the earliest to go whole-hog into telecommunications, especially in the urban centers, then spent a fortune bringing it to the rural areas, and we have been coasting along on legacy infrastructure for a long time now while other countries have been building more modern networks from scratch.

      The problem here is obvious. Infrastructure needs upgrading, and the U.S. having a relatively low population density makes this much more expensive. Somebody has to pay those costs, and fairly enough those who actually use the new infrastructure pay the costs.

      Anybody who thinks that passing a law or breaking up a company will make infrastructure cheaper is fooling themselves.

      • by jeriqo (530691)
        "It's the curse of the early adopter. We were among the earliest to go whole-hog into telecommunications, especially in the urban centers, then spent a fortune bringing it to the rural areas, and we have been coasting along on legacy infrastructure for a long time now while other countries have been building more modern networks from scratch."

        Like we didn't have dial-up here in France..
        Well, we still have it (regular phone anyone ?)

        We are just, like, you. Admit it.
      • by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:58PM (#13820847)
        >and fairly enough those who actually use the new infrastructure pay the costs.

        no, the last mile problem must be shared by all of society, as those who are most expensive to reach are the most expensive to, as well as the least profitable.

        thats why utilities (electric, phone) were government granted monopolies who were mandated to wire this last mile. the companies were guaranteed to recoup their investment in infrastructure through regulated rates.

        it is absolutely imperative that these costs are shared fairly throughout society, and in the past always have been, see the TVA for a prime example.

        its not about making it "cheaper", its about laying the most expensive bit of wire, to the least profitable customer, and making sure that it gets done, so that all citizens in this country are treated equitably.
    • Interestingly enough, you cannot compare things based merely on price. You have to look at the relative price of that thing. If we use some numbers [cia.gov] about GDP per capita in various countries we find that (in 2004):

      country broadband/per-capitaGDP = per-capita relative cost of broadband
      The US: $600 / $40100 = 1.50%
      France: $38 x 12 = $456 / $28700 = 1.59%
      S.Korea: $360 / $19200 = 1.875%

      So, we see that the US really isn't that far off in terms of cost of broadband when you scale it to average income Yes, t

    • The best way to build your population up intellectually is through information.

      I think this is a common misconception. Widespread internet service is a good thing, but it does little but distract in today's educational system. The hard work of education: mathematics and literacy, require a pencil and paper, time, and a decent instructor. Sadly even these necessities escape many students in our horrendous public educational sytem.

      • by Vancorps (746090) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:24PM (#13821121)
        wow, this is so wrong its amazing. As a product of the public education system I am offended by your statements. You also seem to be confusing a broken system with a broken implementation.

        We had a single 56k line at my high school which I later helped them shotgun 4 ways. Now they have a T1 but the point is that information does help and the Internet is the fastest way to find the information you're looking for. How did I get through calculus? Studying my math book all night every night? Most definitely not, I used Drexel's math forum. It got me through many a math class and my mother is a math teacher.

        So you say its a misconception? How exactly is it a misconception? Tell me, how many 5th graders were doing Algebra 40 years ago? I would tend to say that kids take in a lot of information about a very broad range of topics these days. Granted its been a few years since I've been in school, but my hs prepared for me college. I got my bachelors in two and a half years.

        So to your comment I respond by saying that you shouldn't make judgements about an entire system. Go to any community where parents are involved in their children's upbringing and you will find great schools teaching kids both the traditional way and using new tools like the Internet. Seriously, why should I be forced to look through an encyclopedia for an obscure topic when I can just google it and find it in seconds? Isn't that the most efficient use of my time? I can even cross reference what I find on google with other online resources.

        So please, watch the generalizations, they perform no good for anybody.
  • Cable internet (Score:2, Informative)

    by zeke-o (595753)
    You have cable? Must be nice. All I can get is satellite, and this post probably won't even go through because of all the jerks on direcway :(
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:24PM (#13820376)
    I'll bet that if MY DSL were 100 times faster than my current DSL, I would have gotten first post.
  • by CyricZ (887944)
    A decision must be made whether to cater to the very few and very rich media moguls, or whether to cater to the interests of the other 99.99% of Americans. Indeed, at this time the development of basically the entire American citizenry is being arrested by an extreme minority. American as a whole should be willing to trade a small increase in piracy for the vast other opportunities that widespread, extremely highspeed broadband Internet access would bring.

  • by MicroPat (895649) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:24PM (#13820384) Homepage
    More importantly: How can we, as consumers, change this in America?
    • by Skater (41976) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:31PM (#13820469) Homepage Journal
      Wait. Is it a problem? 10 times faster doesn't mean much to me, since almost all of the delays I experience now are the remote server being slow to respond rather than a pipe that's too small. I have 4 megabit download speed, with the option of going to 5 megabit, and I've never felt like I need it any faster.

      I don't download large ISOs or anything very often, but maybe if I did I'd feel differently.
    • Don't buy it. I still pay $13/month for dialup, and did an entire Gentoo installation through it a couple years ago (just left it going all night for a few nights!). Sometimes, I'll do a large download at work and stick it on a USB drive or CD.

      I'm hoping that community wireless becomes available before I finally get fed up enough to pay the price for DSL.
    • first, by not calling ourselves "consumers".

      in a business transaction, there are merchants/vendors then there are customers.

      citizen might be a useful alternative if you equate consumer with "anyone who does business with corporations and has no control of their "representatives"
  • by danielos (791072) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:25PM (#13820396) Journal
    has anyone stopped and thought about how big america is?

    It's going to take awhile to replace all the old infrastructure in america...
    that's why many smaller countries have already have newer systems in place.
    • Not as big as (gasp) Canada!

      http://www.cylist.com/List/400300113/ [cylist.com]

      Although, to be fair, most of Canada's population is within 500 miles of the US/Canada border.
    • by mrchaotica (681592)
      Even in major cities we only get crap Internet access. I live in metro Atlanta. When I can get 10Mbps downstream and upstream for $40/month, then you can use that excuse to explain why people can't get broadband in Boonieville, North Dakota.
    • has anyone stopped and thought about how big america is?
      It's going to take awhile to replace all the old infrastructure in america...
      that's why many smaller countries have already have newer systems in place.


      Canada is bigger than the United States of America AND is in America, you know, just FYI.

      So, *gasp* indeed! ;- )
    • Very similar complaints are raised all the time about US literacy rates, per capita health care or pharmaceutical costs, and so forth and so on. Any small and more homogenous country with a top-heavy government is going to seem "better" by these measures than the US, often, first of all, because the US is a motley collection of seriously varying communities, with a relatively weak and small central government. What works for and is valued by urban New York City twentysomething hipster stockbrokers is not
    • This is a good point. Geographically speaking, the U.S. is huge. Only Canada and Russia and China are bigger. Of those, Canada does well with broadband, and 90% of Canada's population lives within 50 miles of its southern border, so they escape their geographical problems.

      Another related issue, is geographic distribution of population. The U.S. population is still 50% rural. IIRC, all the countries on the list have population distributions that are far more urban than the US (I could be wrong about Sw
  • The Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:26PM (#13820403)
    Free American broadband!
    In France, you can get super-fast DSL, unlimited phone service and 100 TV channels for a mere $38 a month. Why does the same thing cost so much more in the U.S.?

    By S. Derek Turner

    Oct. 18, 2005 | Next time you sit down to pay your cable-modem or DSL bill, consider this: Most Japanese consumers can get an Internet connection that's 16 times faster than the typical American DSL line for a mere $22 per month.

    Across the globe, it's the same story. In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here. In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita. While other countries are taking advantage of the technological, business and education opportunities of the broadband era, America remains lost in transition.

    How did this happen? Why has the U.S. fallen so far behind the rest of its economic peers? The answer is simple. These nations all have something the U.S. lacks: a national broadband policy, one that actively encourages competition among providers, leading to lower consumer prices and better service.

    Instead, the U.S. has a handful of unelected and unaccountable corporate giants that control our vital telecommunications infrastructure. This has led not only to a digital divide between the U.S. and the rest of the advanced world but to one inside the U.S. itself. Currently, broadband services in America remain unavailable for many living in rural and poorer urban areas, and remain slow and expensive for those who do have access.

    For instance, when farmers gathered at this year's Iowa State Fair to discuss their policy concerns with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, the topic on the minds of many was broadband. And for good reason. Twenty-five percent of Iowa's rural communities have no access to high-speed Internet service, and over half of the remaining rural communities are serviced by only one provider. Those lucky enough to live in areas served by Iowa Telecom can pay as much as $170 per month for a DSL line.

    President Bush has called for "universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," and Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin recently declared broadband deployment to be his "highest priority." Martin recently took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to tout "the dramatic growth in broadband services." In his editorial he boasts of "fierce competition" among broadband providers and tells us we're "well on our way to accomplishing the President's goal."

    The facts tell a different story. Today, major cable companies and DSL providers control almost 98 percent of the residential and small-business broadband market. This trend is the direct result of FCC policies that fail to encourage real competition among broadband providers, giving free rein over the market to the cable and DSL giants. The corporate giants are also vigorously fighting to stop cities and towns from building "Community Internet" systems -- affordable, high-speed broadband services funded in part by community groups and municipalities -- even in places where the cable and DSL companies themselves don't offer service. Yet, like rural electrification projects in the early 20th century, today's Community Internet projects offer the best hope of achieving universal broadband service.

    Like so many other challenges faced by the Bush administration, the response to the growing digital divide has been to redefine success and prematurely declare victory.

    In the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress directed the FCC to oversee the timely deployment of Internet services that "enable users to originate and receive high quality voice, data, g
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:28PM (#13820432) Homepage

    The US has lagged lots of the "new economy" networks. Mobile phones in the US are behind the networks in Europe, and miles behind Japan. Even basic technologies like SMS are only just being adopted in the US. And now with broadband a similar picture is evolving of other markets seeing the opportunities for MASS adoption rather than trying to fleece people with a few high cost offerings.

    Considering that the US is the leader of the market economies, something the French detest, its amazing to note that in many ways market economics is working more effectively for consumers in France than they are in the US.

    Has the US gone too far towards corporate economics and too far from consumer economics?
  • by haplo21112 (184264) <.moc.anhtipe. .ta. .olpah.> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:28PM (#13820433) Homepage
    In most of those places, the government either owns or has significant control over the Telcoms industry.
    • by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:39PM (#13820602)
      What are you talking about????

      Let me see the countries that were mentioned in the article: Japan, France, Finland, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong... control over telecom? owns telecom?

      You're almost right in one respect, but I don't think it's how you intended it to be. The reason why many of these places are successful are NOT because the government owns the telecoms but because the government regulation is better. The reason why we've failed here is because if big money interests that have bought lobbyists and support in the FCC. It's not that they own the networks, it's that they have better regulation.
    • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:55PM (#13820800) Homepage Journal
      In most of those places, the government either owns or has significant control over the Telcoms industry


      In the US the Telcoms own or have significant control over the government! Damn, when did we become a Soviet Russia joke?
  • Other Countries (Score:3, Informative)

    by stanmann (602645) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:30PM (#13820456) Journal
    Last I heard, most of these countries have per minute phone service, and bandwidth usuage caps as low as 6G per month. Also, in the US, High speed internet is considered a luxury. Of course, I also know of people who spend $100(US)+ but the extra $25-30 for Internet is too much.
    • Re:Other Countries (Score:5, Informative)

      by jeriqo (530691) <jeriqo@COUGARunisson.org minus cat> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:04PM (#13820915)
      "Last I heard, most of these countries have per minute phone service, and bandwidth usuage caps as low as 6G per month. Also, in the US, High speed internet is considered a luxury. Of course, I also know of people who spend $100(US)+ but the extra $25-30 for Internet is too much."

      *Gasp*

      Here in France, we have unlimited phone service, unlimited 20Mbits bandwidth usage, 100+ TV channels.. ALL for 30 Euros / Month.
      No extra charges.
      Oh, and the modem is given for free, and is a wifi access point.
    • Re:Other Countries (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tom (822)
      Last I heard, most of these countries have per minute phone service, and bandwidth usuage caps as low as 6G per month.

      Welcome to 2005, it's been a nice year so far, and here are the local updates:

      * 6 Mbit ADSL connection
      * Flatrate, no limits whatsoever (and hey, on good days I pump those 6 GB in 48 hours)
      * free local (on-net) calls
      * optional (10 extra) country- or europe-wide voice flatrate

      And this is very common over here (Germany). It's not a luxury, it's pretty much standard issue for anyone with serious
  • The Megababy Bells (Score:5, Informative)

    by KiltedKnight (171132) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:30PM (#13820458) Homepage Journal
    They're the ones who maintain the hardware that goes from the central offices to our homes. They're the ones who used a concept known as FITL (Fiber in the Loop). Sure, this will improve phone service, but it screws people over when it comes to DSL.

    With FITL, it's fiber optic cable from the central office to a "lightspeed box" in your neighborhood, where it gets converted to copper wires to go to your home. If you're lucky enough to be in a FITL neighborhood, the best you can get is IDSL (aka ISDN). The Megababy Bells insist on putting the DSLAMs in the central office, when they could put it out in the lightspeed boxes, thus creating IFITL (Integrated Fiber in the Loop). By pushing the DSLAM out to the neighborhoods, a vast majority of people could get broadband... but that means opening up the lines to competition, which I know Verizon doesn't want to do... thus the concept of FIOS... which takes advantage of a loophole in the law, allowing them to maintain total control/access of those fiber lines because they've put brand new ones out there from the central office to your home.

    Since nobody other than your local power company, local cable company, and local phone company can put lines up on the phone poles (or in the conduits, if you have underground lines), they're going to kill off the broadband companies.

  • Conversion? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:30PM (#13820462)
    In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here.

    Yes, and in China you can buy a house for a couple thousand dollars. That doesn't mean that houses here are overpriced.
  • by xutopia (469129) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:32PM (#13820477) Homepage
    Is it too hard to fathom that Canada exceeds the US in something?
  • Preach on, Brother! (Score:3, Informative)

    by lobsterGun (415085) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:33PM (#13820495)
    Broadband in America is fucked.

    I live in Ohio. I've had DSL for about 5 years. In two weeks, I'm moving. I'm moving less than 10 miles away from where I live now.

    I checked into getting DSL at my new home. It isn't offered. The CO hasn't been upgraded.

    I looked into getting a cable modem. Cable isn't offered.

    I checked into getting ISDN. It isn't offered.

    I even checked into getting a T1 business class line and starting a coop. It isn't available.

    I asked them (SBC) when the CO is going to be updated. Their answer: They have no plans to upgrade that CO.

    Aside from dial up, satellite is really my only option (they can't take the sky from me - but lets face it, satellite internet sucks).

  • Piracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:34PM (#13820524)
    My thinking is that the issue is political. With the MPAA/RIAA cartels in place with their hooks buried deep within our government, who in their right minds would risk offering consumers with high enough broadband speeds, making their system efficient enough to transfer high quality content in mere seconds? Knowing our legal system, they'd probably get sued for facilitating large scale P2P file sharing of copyrighted materials.

    That's not to say, of course, these services are entirely innocent of playing games with the consumer. By trickling higher bandwidths to us slowly over a period of several years "for $10 more" each upgrade, they stand to make a huge fortune off the generally ignorant population we have here.
  • They forgot Sweden (Score:5, Informative)

    by Psionicist (561330) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:34PM (#13820525)
    We've had 10 mbit up/down no caps since the 90's, 24 mbit for several years and you can also get 100 mbit connections (both up and down, no limitations or caps) for a mere $30 / month in some places. I myself live in a very small town of 3000 people in the middle of the woods, and almost all of us have 8 mbit, or at least 2 mbit. It's even better in the universities.
  • by saskboy (600063) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:35PM (#13820536) Homepage Journal
    Canada has long been a telecommunications leader. It's 50%+ the site for the world's first trans-atlantic wireless communication on Signal Hill in Newfoundland. It's had a transcontienent microwave network for phone and TV communication since at least the 1960s [and possibly longer I don't recall], and it's the home of Nortel Networks, and Research In Motion [makers of the Blackberry email device PDA].

    Even lowly Saskatchewan has had broadband in smaller markets [compared to US markets of similar size], since the late 1990s.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:37PM (#13820562)
    Folks, this whole thing has been rehashed a thousand times. It's very simple.

    The United States is very, very big. It has a population density nowhere NEAR Korea and Japan, the posterchildren of "supermegaultra internet to the door".

    You can afford to run fiber, switchgear, etc if you get a lot of customers for your effort. Japan is 145843 square miles and 127M people; New York state is a THIRD of that alone (54471 sq miles) and has 19M people.

    Let's think that through- Japan has about half the US population, yet is only about 3 times bigger than NY state.

    PS:I had to post this from home via an SSH tunnel because I've been "downmodded too much". I have mod points, but I can't post from work. Funny that. Can't get more than a form-reply from "Robert Rozeboom", either...which consisted of: "You have been downmodded too many times and are in timeout for a bit."

    • Er... Canada is even bigger and an order magnitude lower population density and has cheaper and superior broadband and telecommunication services. There's more than "the country is too friggin' big" going on here and it has to do with the inefficiencies of the partially (de)regulated Baby Bells and cable fiefdoms in the US...
    • France: 259596 square miles, 62M people, so roughly 238 per square mile.
      NY: 54471 square miles, 19M people, about 348 per square mile.

      So, your argument does certainly not hold for New York state. Sweden for example has a very low population density, so this can't be the only answer.

      The current deal here (Germany) is something like 30 Euros for 6Mbit DSL + 30 Euros for telephone (includes flatrate for calls to all landlines).
  • Faulty conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Keeper (56691) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:46PM (#13820675)
    The article fails to seriously consider the following factors accounting for the cost, speed, and availability of internet service in different regions:

    * Population densities
    * Area to cover
    * Income levels & cost of living differences
    * Government subsidies, taxes, and regulatory costs

    It does, at points note that some of these are arguements against his point, but the author fails to adequately address them. (Ex: while arguing against the area factor, he uses san francisco as a counter arguement, while failing to provide any information about how SF is performing more 'poorly').

    The article jumps to the conclusion that "the man" is trying to screw you. This may or may not be true. However, without accounting for the above factors the author doesn't have a logic basis in making that conclusion and is just ranting.
  • by cpu_fusion (705735) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:51PM (#13820741)
    What, you say two established monopolies (cable/phone) don't truly "compete" when you put them against each other in a doupoly?

    The next things you'll tell me is that:
    1. Pepsi and Coke are behind fizzy water costing 50 cents for 12 ounces,
    2. Republicans and Democrats collude to keep everything "right vs. left",
    3. Management vs. labor is an illusion, and
    4. Good vs. evil is too black and white!

    How un-american! Two competitors makes a market or you support terrorism. AND AT A TIME OF WAR!!

    (Hey, what are those free market regulators we pay to work in Washington up to anyways?)
  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... Hl.com minus cat> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:08PM (#13820956) Homepage Journal
    The US seems to have stagnated in its own corporation architecture.

    First they were the most innovative country (technologically speaking). But upon their technological advances, they built a structure conformed by companies, associations and organisms (The FCC, RIAA, MPAA, the Patent Office, and yes, even political parties). But they became more and more powerful, inhibiting the growth of additional economical resources. Sooner or later, their inner resources will exhaust. And the U.S. will be left with nothing.

    In other words, the U.S. has become a corporative timebomb.
  • SEE THIS PICTURE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:18PM (#13821058)
    Take a look at this picture [nasa.gov]. See the problem? Compariing the US to a densly populated and wealthy small country is not valid. It might be valid to compare NY to France. But revamping the US infrastructure to support this stuff and maintain backwards compatability takes time. Plus companies have to earn back their investment in the current infrastructure. I lived in Bahrain in theearlly 90's and they were one of the first countries with cheap handheld cellular. Revamping that country's infrastructure amounded to replacing a handful of towers. Imagine what it would take for the entire US. Still, I don't see why select US cities don't push to be on the bleedign edge of comms infrastructure expecially since it would likely lead to more hightech jobs.
  • by slapout (93640) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:20PM (#13821074)
    I would gladly pay $45 a month for a high speed connection if they WOULD JUST MAKE IT AVAILABLE TO ME!

    Want the price to go down? The company needs more customers. How does the company get more customers? Make it available to more people!
  • by suitepotato (863945) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:45PM (#13821363)
    Ten times faster than what? Up until the telecom collapse there were a number of CLECs deploying DSLAMs with ADSL with a max speed of 7MbpsX1Mbps. Most have cut back on speed offerings due to lack of takers. The phone company offers maybe 3Mbps with a premium price paid and you have to be on top of the CO to get it.

    Cable? I get 15MbpsX2Mbps which is about the speed of the big fiber push from Verizon. I pay $65 a month and it is totally worth it to me given the speed, reliability, and price. I looked at every option and this was the best one.

    Ultimately, that is what it comes downt to. The paying AVERAGE consumer and NOT the whiny "I want everything for free" brigades and they're the loudest complainers, not the ones who've already adopted and been paying for years. I have had a cable modem for years, worked in DSL installation and tech support, and cable modem installation and tech support, so I know the relative strengths. I don't own a laptop and won't until milspec ruggedized books come down in cost (my big performance vs. reliability vs. cost concern is hardware not connections).

    If you want T-1 speeds with the guaranteed SLAs, fine. Pay for them. Or don't. Hundreds of thousands already do just as I pay for the modem I've got at the service level I get. It is up to the end users.

    As of now, there is no financial incentive for broadband to jump in speed and fall in cost for the purveyors that they themselves don't create such as several cable providers jumping their speed ahead of schedule in areas that Verizon and company hadn't bothered pushing fiber to yet, thus cutting them off at the knees by providing it early to an already existing audience at the same speeds and nearly the same price point. The lack of need to change e-mail addresses and networking specifics is an added bonus. Why save $5/month when it would cost me weeks of downtime making the transition and changing all my network set-ups and accounting?

    Again, my decision. Not whiny pontificators in magazine articles. Seems like another bs article designed to arouse and anger the same usual suspects and not a serious delving into why the broadband scene is the way it is.

    The kids going on about greed and corporations should grow up already. Their hypocrisy is showing when they spend 9/10 of their Internet posts on tinfoil hat rhetoric about government censorship and interference with "their internets" but then suddenly are all hot to toss total Internet access control over to the government as long as they get taxpayer funded "free" net access. Yeah, let the same government you despise, distrust, and live in fear of control your access to the net.

    When pushed, what is the theory? That what they browse won't get banned or be interferred with. Of course a similar theory was had by many during WWII regarding the Nazis and who would be come after and saying nothing until they came after that last group. Everyone is fine as long as its free, and they ain't the ones being oppressed. Well the world works thus: the nail that sticks up gets pounded down; when the only tool in your box is a hammer everything looks like a nail; the only tool of government is a hammer. Sooner or later government run Internet will screw you and you'll wish you'd paid for it in a proper economic relationship.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:11PM (#13821653) Homepage
    The high cost and low speed are not caused by high infrastructure costs, or low population density. The telcos and cable companies have plenty of cash to lay down fiber to the home. They spend it on acquisitions of competitors and huge payouts to executives. It's not a problem of population density differences between, say, Tokyo and New York. If that were the rule, NYC would have 10 dollar a month fiber connections for everyone in Manahattan. They keep the prices high because they can.

    The difference between Japan and the U.S., between France and the U.S., between Canada and the U.S. is this: they still have a liberal social policy -- the concept of the public good. They spend tax dollars and regulate providers so that the cost of high-speed telecom stays very low indeed.

    The U.S., in what can only be called the era of Bushism -- he didn't invent it, but he is the shining avatar of all that it embraces -- has gone Ayn Rand, and no longer has a core concept of the public good, with perhaps the exception of highways and of course the military. We don't have an emotional understanding of why regulation of commerce is needed, or why taxes sometimes should be spent to build things that private corporations simply will not provide at a reasonable cost.

    After all, if you, in your car driving from your suburban home to your job, had to pay a private corporation to build and service every inch of asphalt from your driveway to your job -- how much do you think you'd be paying? Oh baby, I'm clenching thinking about it. Protect us, O Lord, from the thieves in the broad daylight...

    They'd be the cheapest crappiest roads they could get away with. They'd lobby Congress to exempt them from liability from death and damage caused by baseline maintenance. Look at what happened in Ohio -- that massive electrical blackout was caused by a conglomerate cutting powerline maintenance beneath the bone to pump up profits. Private companies SUCK at that sort of thing. All the drive for higher profits at all costs. Since the people who actually run corporations have no personal responsiblity for their actions, they have no sense of same. Elected officials at least can go to jail, lose their jobs, be exposed as lying jackasses. Companies are faceless machines which just don't care. ESPECIALLY when they are monoplies. We practically fought a civil war to disable the trusts in the early 20th century for just that reason.

    Most technologically advanced countries have good public health care, fast internet, and good highways because they still adhere to the concept of the public good overriding the possiblity of someone making an immense profit. It's as simple as that.

    • Since the people who actually run corporations have no personal responsiblity for their actions, they have no sense of same. Elected officials at least can go to jail, lose their jobs, be exposed as lying jackasses.

      Is this a joke? Are you saying that leaders of corporations can't go to jail (Martha Stewart), lose their jobs (Worldcom leaders - also went to jail), or be exposed as lying jackasses (Enron leaders - also are on their way to jail)?

      I'm happy that I have fairly high-speed internet access fr

  • Don't Complain (Score:3, Informative)

    by squidsoup (145936) <kitsune@@@nocturne...net...nz> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:25PM (#13822378) Homepage
    You think you have it bad in the US? In New Zealand, we only have one telecommunications company essentially - New Zealand Telecom. There are other broadband providers, like Telstra-Clear and Orcon, but because NZ Telecom solely own and operate the exchanges the competition is pretty much irrelevant.

    I pay 45$ a month, for 1Mbps ADSL with a monthly cap of 1GB. That's the best deal going in the country. Australia, is somewhat better off.. but not significantly.

    At any rate, for those of you in the states that think your broadband providers are lousy.. you've actually got it reasonably good. Not south korea good, but good all the same.
  • by theolein (316044) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @09:00PM (#13823088) Journal
    When I saw compared negativley with I expected the usual bout of trolling, defensive excuses and outright off topic criticism of those other places, but this really takes the cake. What is it, in this day and age, that makes so called educated americans who use the internet, so utterly unable to comprehend that some little thing, somewhere else on the planet might be better than in their country?

    Why do they use the excuse that America is much bigger and more rural than any of those countries and simply ignore Canada sitting right next door with routine 2mbit connections in towns 400 kilometers from anywhere else in a country that is bigger than America and has a far smaller population? Why do they make up utter bullshit statements about so called socialist governments and other crap.

    The simple answer would be that realising that you are in a unfavourable position is the first step to changing it. Denial, however, never helped anyone.

    For the record, I live in Switzerland, which, while having one of the highest rates of broadband penetration is ridiculously expensive and the only cable company, which has a total monopoly on cable connections, has only just introduced 6mbit connections at around $60 per month. That's the best you can get here. And switzerland is ridiculously capitalist and has very little in the way of regulation, just like the USA. Just across the border in France, an hours drive from where I live, you get 20mbit access, free phone use and free wireless modems for around $20 per month. And while the telcos are all privately owned, there is market regulation.

    Think about that. It has nothing to do with socialism or size of your penis. It has a lot to do with regulation keeping the market free of monopolies who can and do abuse their positions if left unchecked. If you're still unsure about what I mean, ask someone here about Microsoft.

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