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ISPs Fight To Keep Broadband Gaps Secret 170

Posted by kdawson
from the where-their-bread-is-buttered dept.
Aaron writes "Broadband Reports notes how Maryland was working on a law that would force ISPs to show exactly where they offer service and at what speed. The goal was to help map coverage gaps, since FCC broadband data is worthless for this purpose. Cable and phone company lobbyists have scuttled the plan, convincing state leaders the plan would bring 'competitive harm,' 'stifle innovation,' and even close local coffee shops. Of course the real reason is they don't want the public to know what criteria they use to determine the financial viability of your neighborhood — as they cherry-pick only the most lucrative areas for next-generation services. The Center for Public Integrity is trying to obtain the unreleased raw FCC penetration data, but these companies are also fighting this tooth and nail."
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ISPs Fight To Keep Broadband Gaps Secret

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  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:09PM (#18444477) Homepage Journal
    Provide some "test your download speed here" app, collect zip code & ISP of person testing, map results. If one can garner enough mindshare, one could build this map without forcing the ISP's to disclose anything. Reverse engineering, in a manner of speaking.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      If they weren't a complete joke, that is. Three of the last four locations I've lived couldn't actually deliver what the speed test showed, two couldn't deliver at all.
      • by ePhil_One (634771)
        Three of the last four locations I've lived couldn't actually deliver what the speed test showed

        The speed test works by timing a download/upload from your machine, by default it can only report slower speeds than the link is cpable of (it can be thrown off by other downloads or simultaneous traffic). If one were clever, I guess you could "fool" the test (proxy the test file so its local, use QoS to prioritize speed test traffic), but that would be pretty out there.

        • by Kjella (173770)
          Ah, maybe I explained myself poorly. I'm talking about the ISP sign-up tests, "How fast broadband can you get?" which is what you get when you enter an address/zip code. Those are the ones that are wildly misleading, actual speeds don't seem too far off from the advertised.
    • This only covers the companies that already have penetration down to a partcular user, so it hides newer companies (especially since a lot of loyalty tends to accrue in this unless you're referring strictly to dialup-to-DSL conversion).
      • by winkydink (650484) *
        As solving the problem for dialup-to-dsl would address probably 80% of the problem, yes, I would define that as a successful outcome.
    • by MrShaggy (683273) <`moc.hsuh' `ta' `nosredna.sirhc'> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:43PM (#18445049) Journal
      Broadband reports already does this. they already have huge number of users, and a way to put in your zip-code, so that you can be compared to others in the area. They could do a simple database scant that would do the research, as long as everyone opted for it. But then you still have the whole zip-code penetration issue. i don't understand how you could get any further, without a huge privacy issue with the users. Can you gurantee that no-one will hack your severer knowing thousands of addresses are on it?? Not to mention their ip number?
    • On the surface, this seems like a reasonable suggestion ... until you consider that any number of factors (like seeding BitTorrents or playing WoW) will skew the results.

      Also, this method only provides a measure of what you're paying for. It can't provide any insight into what the service provider's network is capable of, or what packages/plans they're offering. If they're offering 3Mbps DSL, but you only contracted for 768k, your 768k "measurement" only indicates what you paid for. You can't extrapola
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by element-o.p. (939033)
      Hmmmm....you mean kind of like what http://www.dslreports.com/ [dslreports.com] does? 8)
    • by Creepy (93888)
      That would miss what I think is the crux of the problem - the phone company does not have to list any companies using their central office (COs) for broadband (at least in my state) or the rates of service they offer. This is unlike the requirement that they show all local phone providers in the area (good ol' two faced FCC). Online sites like Broadband Reports only list competitors to the incumbent because they rely on the providers to list with them, and not all competitors are even listed (for instance
  • Marketability? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foodnugget (663749) <eric-slashdot@er ... m minus caffeine> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:11PM (#18444503)
    Shouldn't the ISPs roll out innovative service in areas where it is likely to catch on, and not areas where it is likely to be unused? I'm all for the ISPs having to commit to/document the speeds they're offering, however. Furthermore, can't you call an ISP and ask if they have service in a certain area at the moment?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zoney_ie (740061)
      High-speed Internet connectivity should be regarded as a public service that should be provided to all in the interests of offering equal opportunity. Whether private companies or state organisations are used to provide is not the main concern, but where everything is wholly in the hands of private companies, there should be a means of laying a Universal Service Obligation on the main players or those with regional monopolies.

      This nonsense of leaving everything up to the free market will only result in an i
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by iminplaya (723125)
        This nonsense of leaving everything up to the free market...

        We never had a "free market". That does not exist. What we have is a series of protected monopolies. And we're not allowed to apply the rules of Christianity to our leaders. They only apply to the worker bees.
      • by BobPaul (710574) *
        The only problem I have with government regulations guiding a sector is that it generally leads to that sector providing the minimal of service.

        Take health care, for example. Whenever Medicare says they're going to provide this level of service, all of the insurance companies flock to that level of service. It used to be that patients spent the night in the hospital, where the nursing staff could ensure that they didn't eat/drink anything they weren't supposed to, etc. Now you had a hospital full of patient
        • Re:Marketability? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @04:09PM (#18448855) Journal
          You raise some interesting points, but your example is flawed. I'm from Canada where we have Universal Health Care and regulated Telecoms. To me, these are both decisions based on the same level of social responsibility. We regulate health care to ensure that there's no free market influences which will drive the cost of health care up for anyone. A good example: someone has a rare disease, which only a very few doctors in the entire world will likely be able to be cure. My understanding is that in the US, a fund-raiser coupled with large amounts of media publicity is the only way for anyone but the wealthiest citizen to be able to afford the doctor's fee, and any travel/hospitalization expenses, etc. Even if cured, the individual will have had her privacy invaded for many years hence. In Canada, even the poorest family would be provided with coverage for the expensive, experimental treatment. They wouldn't even need to show up in the newspaper.

          The idea of regulated telecoms comes from the same school of thought: allowing large monopolies to control such important infrastructure AND set the price on the lease of said infrastructure inherently favours the wealthy. If telecoms were allowed to provide higher quality service to only the wealthiest neighbourhoods, then the poorest neighbourhoods would have only the worst service. Having used both the best service (business DSL) and the worst (@Home network), I'd say that the gap is nearly 10 years of technology. Given that the current privatized telecommunications industry in Canada was built from huge amounts of Public (i.e. paid for by taxpayers) infrastructure, there'd be a LOT of pissed-off people when they found out that the money they'd paid for Internet and telephone service was being used mostly to fund development in rich neighbourhoods. Everyone paid equally for the infrastructure right up until the late '90s. There's no way some gigantic monopoly that appeared out of the blue should be able to keep all that infrastructure away from the people who paid for it.

          Regulation is always a poor choice; it's more bureaucracy and it stifles development. However, modern society is built on the Internet. Keeping it in the hands of the commoners allows a society to succeed as a whole rather than by a few elite individuals. Unless you're one of the 0.000001% of the population in that elite group, regulation favours you in this case.
      • by mpe (36238)
        This nonsense of leaving everything up to the free market will only result in an increasingly dysfunctional state, even if some people do become very wealthy as a result. It is not like you need to resort to complete socialism just because of placing restrictions on the private sector, providing some public services, and mitigating the more problematic aspects of capitalism.

        Public untilties are never "free markets", they are actually what are known as "natural monopolies". Because if you actually had a "f
    • Controlling the flow of information is profitable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EtherMonkey (705611)

      Shouldn't the ISPs roll out innovative service in areas where it is likely to catch on, and not areas where it is likely to be unused? I'm all for the ISPs having to commit to/document the speeds they're offering, however. Furthermore, can't you call an ISP and ask if they have service in a certain area at the moment?

      Telcos and Cable Companies have, for years, promised faster, cheaper, more innovative and more widespread services in exchange for deregulation, rate increases, and government-approved monopo

  • money well spent (Score:5, Informative)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:12PM (#18444529) Homepage
    Good thing we gave them $200 Billion http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060131/2021240_ F.shtml [techdirt.com]
    • Re:money well spent (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Paladin144 (676391) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:26PM (#18444733) Homepage
      Excellent point. Talk about the scam of the century. Is there no one in Washington with the balls to stand up the cable companies?

      I'm currently experiencing blinding, piercing rage at Comcast. First they "traded" Time-Warner for all of the subscribers in the Twin Cities (for some other city) and the next thing they did was jack up their prices for high-speed internet-only subscribers by 18 dollars a month. Unless I can talk them down I'm going to go with DSL -- no matter how shitty it is -- simply out of sheer spite (and the whole blinding, piercing rage thing).

      These ISPs are out of control. They're abusing the system every single way they can think of (Network Neutrality might be a necessary evil), and no one seems to be able to stop them. I think city-run wireless might be our only defense because it makes the ISPs howl with pain at the very idea of competition. Can somebody tell me with a straight face that this is what capitalism is supposed to look like?

      • by sconeu (64226)
        First they "traded" Time-Warner for all of the subscribers in the Twin Cities (for some other city)

        That would be Los Angeles, and a local VP of T-W had to commit corporate seppuku (aka "spend more time with his family") because of the way T-W mismanaged the Comcast acquisition.
  • Funny thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AnswerIs42 (622520) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:13PM (#18444555) Homepage
    I had that figured out 4 years ago. I have been waiting 4+ years for some kind of broadband to get to my location.. and all I get from Verzon is "we are expanding to your area by the end of the year" .. for the last 4 years. While they keep improving the areas where they make most their money.

    I am sure once more "City Folk" move out by where I live, broadband will come flying in and those poeple will only have waited maybe a year and think it is "Amazing how fast broadband came here!"

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You're sitting outside the broadband donut, but the same problem exists inside the donut hole. We're apparently never going to have our lines upgraded to support DSL, etc.

      Apparently, our subdivision is too close to low-income areas. We were among the very last in town to get cable internet access, and we were literally right across the street from the cable company's center of operations. (I could have run ethernet through the storm drains and not been out of spec!)
      • Same here. But what's worse is that Verizon and Comcast can't keep up with the demand because of the large number of college students, and yet still aren't rolling out faster speeds.

    • Cox Cable gave Gloucester, VA roughly the same treatment. They started promising cable internet when I was in high school, and didn't deliver until my last year of college (roughly a 6 year gap). Cox is alright comparitively though, the real bastard provider in VA is Adelphia out in the western bit.
      • The local cable provider where I live is just now rolling out broadband in my neighborhood. I live in a downtown area (friggin 5 blocks from city hall!) and they are just now getting it going in 2007??? Not only are then about 5 years late, the pricing is going to be off the scale. Have had DSL here for years and while it was kinda slow early on, it's up to 3M/512K real max speeds now (6M/768K advertised) and relatively inexpensive in comparison to cable. Meanwhile the local telco is quietly rolling out
    • by nortcele (186941) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:28PM (#18445945) Homepage
      My parents live a very rural part of Idaho. 22 miles from the nearest town (and by town, I mean one of 700 people. The next closest is 36 miles in the other direction. Albion telephone provides the phone service to the area. I figured he would never see broadband before 2010... and even then it would have to be in some wireless/satellite form. The good folks of Albion telephone spent some serious time putting on and taking off various things in the phone switching boxes in the path to the house. Long story short, they figured out how to get DSL broadband stretched several miles beyond the normal limit. And the cost? Same as if he had been in town. Where he used to be lucky to get a 26.4k connection, it's nearly 500k.

      The small companies know how to treat small customers. They know you personally and care. To Verizon/Sprint/AT&T - you're just a number with a dollar sign behind.
    • by Rick17JJ (744063)

      High-speed Internet access finally became available where I live a few months ago when the telephone company finally began offering DSL in my neighborhood. Up until then I had been using dial-up at 26.4 K, because the local telephone lines where only good for 26.4 K connections. For years, I had been seeing the QWest commercials on TV avertising DSL, but it was never actually available in my neighborhood. They finally installed some new conduit and telephone lines (or whatever) in a several mile long di

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:26PM (#18444731) Homepage Journal
    Has anybody here successfully negotiated a franchise agreement which specifies universal coverage, especially in more rural communities?

    A friend pointed out to me that the companies running these networks only have so much money to invest, so to the extent that they're allowed to, they will *always* invest money in areas with higher returns over areas with lower returns, which means there's *never* going to be rural investment while they have other opportunities and no requirements. Phone service and electric service are everywhere because they have to be and that's good for society. This is one case where the guiding hand seems to be important.

    I know innumerable folks around here who would happily pay the monthly bill, if only the [cable/phone] company would run a cable up the street. The streets aren't that long, the population isn't that sparse, and the net is short-term profitable -- only it's less profitable than running FiOS in urban centers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thegameiam (671961)
      FiOS isn't actually being run in urban centers: it's too hard to dig up city streets. Verizon is putting it mostly in the new-ish suburbs. At least, that's the way it is in DC...
      • Fair point. Same goes for Southern NH. I hear Verizon really, really, really, wants to sell video service, so I expect the downtown areas of cities are coming, but the suburban areas are probably more profitable, at least initially, so that's where they invest their limited capital.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Electric service is not everywhere. I have seen places where you had to pay by the foot to get an electric line run to your house from the main line that was 1000 feet (or more) away.

      Telephone they would run if it was available in the community because that is a requirement.

      Electric service is a lot more like cable. You have to pay to get connected.
      • Electric service is not everywhere. I have seen places where you had to pay by the foot to get an electric line run to your house from the main line that was 1000 feet (or more) away.

        That's true but there's a requirement that they hook you up if you ask and are willing to pay for it. They also have regulators making sure that the cost per foot isn't astronomical. I've seen cable companies quote customers up to 3X market rates (from an independent subcontractor used by said companies) for making such conne
        • by drinkypoo (153816)
          I do have to wonder if we would have seen more local and rural power generation if not for that particular piece of meddling. And by the same token, I've seen internet scarcity produce co-ops... most all of which were eventually bought out by larger ISPs. :P
          • I do have to wonder if we would have seen more local and rural power generation if not for that particular piece of meddling.

            That's an interesting question - 1936 was 30 years after many cities were electrified - my gut is that anybody who could have afforded a co-op would have bought in by then. It costs $1000 to buy into my mini-WISP co-op up here, and that's just covering materials costs.

            And by the same token, I've seen internet scarcity produce co-ops... most all of which were eventually bought out by
  • Of course the real reason is they don't want the public to know what criteria they use to determine the financial viability of your neighborhood -- as they cherry-pick only the most lucrative areas for next-generation services

    Welcome to capitalism. Every corporation does that. That's why you don't see a "The Sharper Image" in the middle of Compton. You sell your product in markets that are going to buy it.

    Believe it or not, companies are out to make money. That means not providing residential fiber to n

    • by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:28PM (#18445951) Homepage Journal
      You'd be right if it were not for the fact that they got a ton of taxpayer money [techdirt.com] to assist in rolling out broadband 'everywhere'. Not to mention that in many cases (as with cable) they are granted 'franchises' (read: effective monopoly) in certain regions by local governments.

      It's a scam, plain and simple. If they were financing it all themselves in a totally free market then I'd agree that it's just capitalism at work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NMerriam (15122)

      Welcome to capitalism. Every corporation does that. That's why you don't see a "The Sharper Image" in the middle of Compton. You sell your product in markets that are going to buy it.

      Capitalism also requires open competition and equal information between buyer and seller so that an informed choice can be made. The article is about broadband providers trying to avoid having to provide information to customers. Much like the cellular companies several years ago, where it took a law to force actual coverage

    • by fishybell (516991)
      Oops...nowheresville, UT already has residential fiber. See http://www.utopianet.org/ [utopianet.org] and http://www.iprovo.net/ [iprovo.net]
  • The Harsh Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nuintari (47926) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:36PM (#18444913) Homepage
    Glad to see the world is still convinced that universal broadband is a) cheap, and b) a right. Got news for you, it is neither, and this bill is such a complete and utter waste of time. Want to know why you can't get broadband? Because you live in the middle of nowhere! Here is how it works.

    DSL only goes so far along the copper wire from the DSLAM in the phone company central office. If you are past 11-12000 feet, you can kiss ADSL goodbye, past 18000 ft, you can forget about SDSL. If you live further than that, no amount of, "we are expanding into your area" is going to happen. Unless the LEC builds a new CO, closer to you, and has all of your copper terminate there instead of the old place, then, you might be able to get DSL. But for the most part, if you can't get DSL now, you can't get DSL ever.

    Cable costs thousands of dollars to grant access to an entire street, whether it has houses on it, or not. Generally, cable companies, in this area at least, have always been willing to build out for any customer with the cash in hand. If it is rural, they want you to help cover the installation cost. Buckeye Cable in NW ohio generally says, "if it is not a densely populated area for us, we need $10,000 up front to guarantee a return on our investment." Heaven forbid they make money, heaven forbid they not build out for one customer, at huge expense to themselves, so they can earn 69.95/month for basic cable and inet service off of one, maybe two customers.

    If you live in the middle of nowhere, either find a solid WISP, fork over the cash for expensive telecom, or quit your bitching. It is not the faceless phone company's fault that you can't get the same internet as someone in the burbs can. No amount of putting all this data on a map is going to change any of this.
    • Re:The Harsh Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The_Rook (136658) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:59PM (#18445397)
      agreed, but the real problem is when communities, frustrated at cable and telco's unwillingness or inability to bring in broadband (justified or not), decide to create their own community broadband networks and are blocked by the very telco's that don't want to spend the mony themselves. the ilecs have copped an atitude that they will provide broadband, if they decide it's worth the investment, and no one else will.
      • by mpe (36238)
        agreed, but the real problem is when communities, frustrated at cable and telco's unwillingness or inability to bring in broadband (justified or not), decide to create their own community broadband networks and are blocked by the very telco's that don't want to spend the mony themselves.

        The "problem" is that these operators would have a tough time competing these kind of operators. So they need to block them before they are in a position to threaten their monopoly/duopoly.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Glad to see the world is still convinced that universal broadband is a) cheap, and b) a right. Got news for you, it is neither, and this bill is such a complete and utter waste of time. Want to know why you can't get broadband? Because you live in the middle of nowhere! Here is how it works.

      Then why is the bill a waste of time? If we can identify the people in the midddle of nowhere with no other options, then someone can see if they can economically serve them. It can only help the consumers and only h
    • Re:The Harsh Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:04PM (#18445495) Homepage Journal

      It is not the faceless phone company's fault that you can't get the same internet as someone in the burbs can. No amount of putting all this data on a map is going to change any of this.

      Here's the problem with your argument: This is in response to companies claiming to have access in places in which they do not. They publish these color-coded "coverage" maps that say they have coverage all over a particular county, for example. But as anyone knows, there are holes in that coverage. Is it unreasonable to force the providers to announce where they don't have coverage, if they can reasonably know where they do or do not have coverage?

      It's [relatively] easy to figure out places you don't have coverage when you deal with GPS or TDOA-tracked phones. If a phone is reachable in two places, but not the place in between, there is a possible hole there. If it happens regularly enough, then it's a real hole. Big deal. That covers wireless. For street coverage, the provider has a map of where the cable is laid. For DSL, you can just measure feet of wire from the CO to find out where they will willingly sell you service. But let me just go back to something ignorant you said in your comment, higher up;

      DSL only goes so far along the copper wire from the DSLAM in the phone company central office. If you are past 11-12000 feet, you can kiss ADSL goodbye, past 18000 ft, you can forget about SDSL.

      That is a bunch of shit. First of all, I don't know the current limit, but last I checked (~3 years ago) SBC sold DSL to 14,000 feet. Second of all, back when they were pacific bell they sold to 17,000 feet. I used to live in a house in Santa Cruz at about 17,500 feet that they gave service to anyway, and we were able to consistently reach our peak speeds downstream.

      The reason they don't sell to the maximum range is that the FCC started fining the shit out of telcos that provided spotty DSL access, and they don't want to do trial provisioning and shit like that. So unless you're very close they simply refuse to sell you a product that may very well work flawlessly.

      In any case, in the case of the telcos, we helped pay for that copper and we have a right to know what services we can get where. In the case of the cable company AND the telcos, our government has granted them a monopoly on the right of way, enabling their business model. The least they can do is tell us where we are able to pay for the benefits of this monopoly. (Even if there's two cable companies overlapping, they tend to have their own right-of-way, and only so many cable companies can be there...)

      • by edunbar93 (141167)
        Hi, I work for an ISP that provides ADSL. We're not a wholesaler though, so we have to go through the local incumbent to provision it. And I'm going to take exception to one particular bit of ignorance you are spewing into /.:

        First of all, I don't know the current limit, but last I checked (~3 years ago) SBC sold DSL to 14,000 feet. Second of all, back when they were pacific bell they sold to 17,000 feet. I used to live in a house in Santa Cruz at about 17,500 feet that they gave service to anyway, and we w
    • by bradsenff (1047338) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:09PM (#18445583)
      Wow. Have a slice of bitter pie.

      I've spent more than a decade running ISP services for residential customers. Both big metro and extremely rural areas.

      These maps would be a *boon* to the ISP's who want customers, and are willing to invest for them. We had nothing but problems trying to figure out where we COULD find customers, because the rural telco was actually doing well running lines. But they were extremely poor with giving out that information. Heck, I would have taken the information just to know where they put their DSLAMS so I could target OTHER areas they weren't.

      Bottom line, rural does not mean "more than 20 miles between humans" - there are areas that have the density to support expansion. The problem is, it is tough to justify.

      THAT is the real reason you don't see it going rural. It is indeed a situation of "Hmm I can pay $10k to drop a DSLAM and equipment to service a potential of $20k a month, --OR-- I can drop that SAME equipment, in an area that will support $75k/mo".

      The equipment is under-powered and will need to be upgraded, but in every case that situation is a potential I was told: "Well hell my boy, we would LOVE to have that problem"... and when they DID have that problem it took a while to actually fix it.. profits ruled the roost.

      As far as I am concerned, compel them to publicly post the information. Without it, there will be nobody providing service in those areas. There is no reason the public has to suffer and wait until they are "ready" (ready in this context means: "we have exploited all of the higher margin areas, time to start scraping the sides & bottom of the barrel")

      -bs
    • Re:The Harsh Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Deagol (323173) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:20PM (#18445743) Homepage
      Heaven forbid they make money, heaven forbid they not build out for one customer, at huge expense to themselves, so they can earn 69.95/month for basic cable and inet service off of one, maybe two customers.

      Isn't that what all those federal funds tacked onto each phone bill supposed to support? Getting telcom infrastructure out to those of us in the sticks? If the telecom market were totally "free", I'd agree with you. However, there are so many subsidies and weird spaghetti bowl of forces at work by the governments and the companies themselves, I don't feel that any governmental nudge to force these giant companies to serve outlying areas is out of line.

      Oddly enough, there's a small regional telco out here in Utah that services the areas Qwest (formerly US West) has decided to ignore. I have a decent DSL connection on the outskirts of a town of about 200 residents, located ~35 miles from the nearest "real" city. I can't complain. The extra $25/month on my phone bill was a steal when compared to the satellite options was expecting I'd need to utilize when I moved out here.

    • by Qzukk (229616)
      If you live in the middle of nowhere

      Nowhere by whose standards? The phone company is refusing to tell us where "nowhere" is. How am I supposed to make informed purchasing decisions in this case, since I wouldn't want to accidentally end up "nowhere" and not find out about it until after I have moved there.

      There is no reason for these maps to remain secret. Unfair competitive advantage? God forbid someone competes with them for services they don't even provide. Maybe they're just afraid that a company w
      • by mpe (36238)
        Maybe they're just afraid that a company will come along and figure out how to wire up a street for less than $10,000. If they can provide "nowhere" customers with service that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, just think what will happen to the "somewhere" customers when they discover they're overpaying for their service.

        That is probably the sort of thing they are afraid of. If they allow a "nowhere" company to get established they they are likely to lose customers (or potential customers).
    • DSL only goes so far along the copper wire from the DSLAM in the phone company central office. If you are past 11-12000 feet, you can kiss ADSL goodbye, past 18000 ft, you can forget about SDSL. If you live further than that, no amount of, "we are expanding into your area" is going to happen. Unless the LEC builds a new CO, closer to you, and has all of your copper terminate there instead of the old place, then, you might be able to get DSL. But for the most part, if you can't get DSL now, you can't get DSL

    • by Renraku (518261)
      Fair deal I suppose. Spend a good third of your yearly income, plus $60 a month, and equipment purchases. Just to have cable modem service. I guess this is a way to tell the complainers to put-up-or-shut-up. If you think about it, all industries could do this.

      "You want air conditioning in your car? Pay us a few million and we'll start offering with air conditioning. We have to cover our costs, ya know."

      "You don't want your food to contain lumps of processed animal shit? Fine, couple hundred thousand
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      It's not just a problem with the "middle of nowhere." You think these companies are falling all over themselves to get broadband to the projects or to poor neighborhoods?

      Ain't no job searches on a computer with no internet connection!

  • woh (Score:5, Funny)

    by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:41PM (#18445025)
    the unreleased raw FCC penetration data

    I just snagged a torrent of Unreleased Raw Penetration Data 7. It was amazing.
  • Yes, well, those are the ones with enough money to pay for the hardware to support new services. Rolling out, say, a fiber optic line costs money. If enough people in the neighborhood to pay for the fiber aren't going to sign up for it, then there's no sense in running it.

    Unless you want to charge for access based on how many people sign up for it.

    • And under your criteria, places without a certain level of income-density aren't going to EVER get true broadband. And so you'll have people with high incomes leaving those areas for places where the services dominate, and lead to an underclass.

      Capitalism is AWESOME.

      • Well ,to some extent. My Dad lives in an area that hasn't got, and will probably never have, real broadband. He's rich by local standards. But he moved there when he retired. In,say, Montgomery County Maryland, he'd be considered lower middle class.

        A round-about way of saying that some people value some things above broadband.

  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:59PM (#18445381) Homepage Journal
    I'm all for ISPs restricting themselves to wherever they like -- provided they don't obstruct others providing Internet access in those regions they aren't so bothered with. (The number of fights over metropolitan networks - cabled or wireless - is astonishing.) If the ISP wants to limit itself, then it should have zero rights outside of the area it has limited itself to. Pure and simple.

    Secondly, ISPs have no business restricting what can be published about what is provided. Actually, it would be good if we could see not only the performance of the network provided but also how the downstream performance compares with the upstream pipes. (Are they at capacity? Are they oversubscribed, and if so, by how much? What do customers really get for their money? What services or benefits do the ISP get that are NOT passed on to consumers?)

    This information can't possibly put them at risk. What puts ISPs at risk is incompetency so great that if anyone actually knew the details, the ISP's customers and possibly shareholders would launch an all-out rebellion. Secrecy for an established service - as opposed to one that is new and vulnerable to the unreasonable and unreasoning excesses of the market - exists only to hide the skeletons in the closet and brush the mountains of dirt under the carpet. It has no legitimate basis.

    Now, that's very different from publishing internal documents on why certain decisions were made or other internal matters. Those things probably should stay confidential within the corporation. I think it would be a mistake to confuse information that is of genuine value in making a sensible decision with information that is only useful in slamming others for making what they believe to be sensible decisions.

    (Having said that, if a newspaper's investigative reporter digs up such information as part of an investigation into fraud, abuse of consumers, or something similar, then that should be entirely fair game. Companies that use reasonable protections in an seriously unreasonable way - concealing anti-competitive actions, price-gouging, illegal wiretaps, unreasonable denial of service, etc. - then the company's interests should be secondary to the needs and rights of consumers and authorities alike.)

    You'll notice I specifically mentioned what the ISP gets versus what the customers get - not just bandwidth but any service or benefit. If the ISP is passing on the costs of their upstream line(s) to their consumers, but the sum total of what the customers get is significantly worse than the sum total of what the ISP gets - whether that is protocols, service guarantees, bandwidth, latency, capabilities, fault-tolerance, or whatever - then the customer should have the right to know that what they are getting is substandard. The customer should not have the automatic right to know why - that should be a private matter for the ISP, unless the ISP decides otherwise. But customers cannot compare two options if they have no metrics by which to make such a comparison, which means there is no real market, no real customers - consumers, yes, but not customers, there are only smoke and mirrors.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:01PM (#18445423) Homepage
    The goal was to help map coverage gaps, since FCC broadband data is worthless for this purpose. Cable and phone company lobbyists have scuttled the plan, convincing state leaders the plan would bring 'competitive harm,'

    hehehe. "You see, senator, perfect information is a fundamental underpinning of efficient capitalism. That is because perfect information supports perfect competition. That perfect competition, while great for the consumer, would harm us. That is, it would bring competitive harm, to us, the people who buy you boats."
  • I like how the article author uses the phrase "cherry pick the most lucrative areas" as if that is a bad thing. I might have used the phrase "compete in the most viable markets".
    • by Dog-Cow (21281)
      It's a bad thing when public money has been given to them just so they wouldn't do that. In other circumstances, they would be known as thieves. In Corporate America, it's just business.
  • First, you have a pipe going to an end node; it has a top-end, given protocols, in each direction, else it's symmetrical.

    Then you have a neighborhood. Each home/business can be serviced by BoPL, FTTP, cable data, DSL, satellite (think HughesNet), or even simply tip-and-ring. Go ahead and assay *that*. Take each provider, then assay what their actual aggregate non-cached throughput is (or does cache count?), then assay the community, region, political subdivisions, etc.

    This isn't easy. A few have proposed ta
  • I've never really run into problems until we've started to look at buying a house. Both the missus and I want to live "out in the country", ie, not in a subdivision, with some land for ourselves. We want some room to stretch. But as we're looking at places, house after house has a small satellite dish, and one place I called the cable company about they said they didn't go out that far. DSLReports has some mapping info, but it's far from complete and useful.

    How is it 2006 and we still have widespread te
  • Are we supposed to be mad that broadband providers don't install their services in areas where they're not likely to sell?

    Seems to me that *not* setting up shop in those areas is the smart move.
  • I am so fed up with high speed internet!

    I am ready for a choice! For those that think that 2 high speed internet providers == choice, check this out. I had 2 providers of high speed (Southwestern Bell (SBC) and Comcast)

    SBC Bought AT&T (Now AT&T.)
    Time Warner bought Comcast. (At least in my area)

    AT&T and Time Warner are partners!

    So my two choices are AT&T (DSL) or Time Warner (Cable) and they are in bed with each other. Look it up...

    I hope they get them to open the records. Let the light of da
  • by Thaelon (250687)
    Why wouldn't they cherry pick lucrative areas?

    Would you rather try and sell something to a few people that you know won't buy it, or to a lot of people that probably will?
  • This is bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:30PM (#18445989) Journal
    The FCC is a tax funded entity. With the exception of data that would compromise national security, they should be obligated to make all data publically available.

    Too bad if the data makes the cable companies look bad. It's their fault for making (obstensibly) smart business decisions, now they'll have to defend their decisions.

    It would be nice if just once they'd come out and say "Look, that block is a ghetto full of poor people who're on welfare, do you really think we're going to get a return on investment by wiring the whole place? At best we'll end up with tons of people who'll get service and never pay their bills!"

    It's not fair and possibly it might not be right, but in a market driven economy, you live by the blade, but die by the bullet.
  • by Kumba (84067) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @01:31PM (#18446011)
    Considering I live in MD, Southern MD, to be specific, I would LOVE to know what broadband providers are nearby. Comcast has an exclusive lock on my region, and to make things worse, we have an ongoing return-path/upstream signal issue that has, so far, been traced back to the main tap that they've grudgingly done a few tweaks to. Likely just to get us to shut up. Yet the problem keeps coming back. Verizon and their vaunted Fios service is no where to be found. Hell, we don't even have DSL from Verizon available. When I actually called them up on this, the decision was made to avoid upgrading our local CO and go straight to a fiber upgrade in another few years.

    Really, Verizon could come down here and own Comcast simply because it'd give people a choice for once. Choice is a GoodThing(TM). So what are they waiting for?

    Guess I'll have to write my reps on this one...
    • by jonwil (467024)
      The problem is that if Verizon upgrades the CO, they have to let other companies come in and offer service over that equipment (which means less profit for Verizon and less ability to control what people do with the service).
      Fiber on the other hand Verizon controls completely and doesn't have to let anyone else on it.
  • If I'm Verizon and I'm having to put a $1000+ worth of fiber terminating equipment on the outside of a house I'm going to put it in markets where I have a chance to make the money back not have it stolen.
  • It makes perfect business sense if you're a DSL or a cable outfit to ignore less-populated areas. The cost of developing wired broadband is very high - digging fiber, installing DSLAMs or cable concentrators. DSL and cable have an approximate 5 mile radius (wire distance, not line of sight) per pop. Doing this in rural areas will eat your lunch, since potential customer density is low, unless you count internet-savvy livestock.

    Wireless broadband companies on the other hand can make a killing in rural areas
  • If they map it, the WiFi guys know where to drop in a next-gen WiFi (WiMax?) node for a couple hundred bucks and take 100% of the market.

    And if you need to know before buying a house (something noone with a brain would do until the housing market bottoms out in 3 years) just goto the local school, ask the science teacher if they teach creationism. If they do, you're NEVER GETTING BROADBAND.

    Everything else should be OK :)

  • New Media (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @04:33PM (#18449269) Journal
    I don't understand why everyone is concentrating on the economic factors and nothing else. Watching Canadian society change in the last 10 years as our regulated telcos and cable companies rolled out thousands of Gbps in bandwidth across the country to all but the most rural farms has been simply amazing. The Internet is a medium. Just like it's a benefit to a government to have televisions and radios in every house in the country, it's a benefit to have high-speed Internet as well.

    My lifestyle has changed significantly. Other than the time my employer pays me to be in the office, I do what I want when I want. I don't have to worry about remembering to record a television program I'm not around to watch; someone else will do it and I can download it later. Or go to the video store and rent it on DVD. I don't tune into the evening news; RSS feeds come straight to my desktop. The CBC has become the same Juggernaut on the Internet as it remains on public airwaves. Public transit is filled with people texting and e-mailing each other on the way to work: even commuting time is productive now. Our society truly does work smarter, not harder. Using my PC and network and a few automated tasks has made keeping current a natural state, not something you need to work at.

    But American society seems stuck in it's rut of being a TV Nation. Sorry, but television is too slow and prescriptive. I need to watch the show at the same time as everyone else and be exposed to the same mind-numbing advertising (or remember to set up my recording device). Political campaigns stick to traditional media, as do the pollsters who monitor the results of the campaign. Plus, there's no good search feature. There's a whole new medium to conquer for the government who's progressive. Ours already owns our Internet and the results have been truly beneficial, IMO. America as a whole can certainly afford to catch up with the rest of the world in a big hurry. Unfortunately, your wealthy have decided to bicker and negotiate for top dollar rather than take the opportunity to provide a new opiate to the masses.
  • My father in-law-lives in a densely populated, if not particularly affluent, Baltimore neighborhood. Not long after he moved in, he got DSL through Verizon (the local phone company). After a few weeks, it suddenly cut out. When he called their tech support, they informed him that Verizon did not offer DSL in his neighborhood, and never had.

    After quite a bit of runaround, eventually, he got someone who said they'd fix it, and the it came back on again (without anyone ever coming out to the site, mind you).

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