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FCC Commish - US Playing 'Russian Roulette' with Broadband 290 290

LarryBoy writes "In a speech given at the YearlyKos Convention in Chicago, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps lambasted US broadband policy, saying that the US is 'playing "Russian roulette with broadband and Internet and more traditional media."' Copps also took issue with an op-ed piece ('Broadband Baloney') by fellow commissioner Robert McDowell last week. 'In his speech, Copps didn't mention McDowell by name, but he did claim that broadband in the US is "so poor that every citizen in the country ought to be outraged." Back when then OECD said that we were number four in the world, he said, no one objected to its methodology. Copps also had fighting words for those who blame the US broadband problems on our less-dense population; Canada, Norway, and Sweden are ranked above us, but all are less dense than the US. Besides, this argument implies that broadband is absolutely super within American urban areas. Copps noted, though, that his own broadband connection in Washington, DC was "nothing compared to Seoul."'"
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FCC Commish - US Playing 'Russian Roulette' with Broadband

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  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:10PM (#20107223) Homepage Journal
    Some of that is technological. If you are on a cable modem then any upstream bandwidth has to be basically carved out of the downstream bandwidth. Providers tweak their upstream caps as low as possible to free up as many timeslices as possible for download content. You may argue with this (I know I do), but it's the way the technology works. If you wanted more upstream bandwidth, you'd have to take a hit to your downstream bandwidth (which is the number the cable company actually advertises when trying to get you to buy their service).

    I'm pretty sure my FiOS connection is the same (more lambda for downstream than upstream), but I don't know exactly how it is set up. Either way, with 5mb up, I don't have much room to complain, at least not like the local cablemodem users who are still stuck at 128k/256k up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:16PM (#20107317)
    I recall reading about how 10's of billions in tax breaks to the bells or whatever media companies was never used for the intended purpose of building a super fast american infrastructure. I guess we'll have to wait for google to do it.. and they can put the bells out of business.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:20PM (#20107377) Homepage

    If my mother can download her web page in 3 seconds instead of 5, I am not sure she really cares.

    High bandwidth isn't for loading a web page faster, it's for something that actually uses high-bandwidth like streaming video.

    Also, with a high-bandwidth video connection and IP-multicasting, you could have practical internet TV stations with a million listeners.

    The internet is a hell of a lot more than just a series of websites, but without the truly fast connections most people will never get to see that. To a large degree I feel like the basic functionality of the internet hasn't changed since 1995 or so when browsers became commonplace. Sure, websites have gotten MUCH better and actually provide content, but for the most part the content is still relatively low bandwidth text, and still pictures. (we all know there's people that download video, but it's about at the level that trading pictures/text was before HTTP was invented, mostly for techno-nerds).
  • by asabjorn (903413) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:36PM (#20107581)
    From my experience I agree fully with Copps that the state of broadband services atleast here in the San Francisco Bay Area is abysmal. When I lived in Norway I shared a 2 mb/s DSL line with 38 students and that connection was about 10 times faster at peak times than my private Comcast "5 mb/s" connection in the middle of the night. As stuedents in scandinavia tend to do a lot of P2P filesharing I expected this to be the other way around when I moved here. The things that annoys me the most is high latency, slow speeds and my FTP/SSH speeds. Judging by how my download speeds decline over time I believe Comcast is shaping traffic and btw it sometimes takes much longer than it should to get my search results from google. There are probably countless reasons for why the broadband is so much faster in Norway than in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the most noticeable difference is that the broadband competition thrives in Norway (ADSL, SDSL, VDSL, Cable, Radio Broadband, Fiber Optic, 3G Broadband etc. (and I am just listing technologies here, not providers) ) I effectively (and practiacally) only have two choices here (Comcast Cable and ADSL from AT&T + peers). In the so-called internet mecca of the world nobody offers me VDSL or fiber-optic broadband! That is not good enough. Where do you think the next google will come from? and that
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:38PM (#20107601) Homepage
    I guess when I'm talking video, I'm not talking about a low-quality, 2 minute clip shot by a 13 year old, replicating the mentos+coke video. Youtube is an interesting experiment, but at least it's current incarnation is little more than a fad.

    I'm actually talking about a high quality video feed produced by professionals that would play on my IP-TV capable television.

    Right now that doesn't exist, and the closest we come to that is people downloading TV shows with bittorent (who are the afformentioned techno-nerds).
  • OECD numbers flawed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:40PM (#20107627)
    Exhibit A for the alarmists are statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD says the U.S. has dropped from 12th in the world in broadband subscribers per 100 residents to 15th.

    The OECD's methodology is seriously flawed, however. According to an analysis by the Phoenix Center, if all OECD countries including the U.S. enjoyed 100% broadband penetration -- with all homes and businesses being connected -- our rank would fall to 20th. The U.S. would be deemed a relative failure because the OECD methodology measures broadband connections per capita, putting countries with larger household sizes at a statistical disadvantage.

    The OECD also overlooks that the U.S. is the largest broadband market in the world, with over 65 million subscribers -- more than twice the number of America's closest competitor. We got there because of our superior household adoption rates. According to several recent surveys, the average percentage of U.S. households taking broadband is about 42%; the EU average is 23%.

    Furthermore, the OECD does not weigh a country's geographic size relative to its population density, which matters because more consumers may live farther from the pipes. Only one country above the U.S. on the OECD list (Canada) stretches from one end of a continent to another like we do. Only one country above us on this list is at least 75% rural, like the U.S. In fact, 13 of the 14 countries that the OECD ranks higher are significantly smaller than the U.S.

    And if we compare many of our states individually with some countries that are allegedly beating us in the broadband race, we are actually winning. Forty-three American states have a higher household broadband adoption rate than all but five EU countries. Even large rural western states such as Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and both Dakotas exhibit much stronger household broadband adoption rates than France or Britain. Even if we use the OECD's flawed methodology, New Jersey has a higher penetration rate than fourth-ranked Korea. Alaska is more broadband-saturated than France.

    The OECD conclusions really unravel when we look at wireless services, especially Wi-Fi. One-third of the world's Wi-Fi hot spots are in the U.S., but Wi-Fi is not included in the OECD study unless it is used in a so-called "fixed wireless" setting. I can't recall ever seeing any fixed wireless users cemented into a coffee shop, airport or college campus. Most American Wi-Fi users do so with personal portable devices. It is difficult to determine how many wireless broadband users are online at any given moment, since they may not qualify as "subscribers" to anyone's service.

    In short, the OECD data do not include all of the ways Americans can make high-speed connections to the Internet, therefore omitting millions of American broadband users. Europe, with its more regulatory approach, may actually end up being the laggard because of latent weaknesses in its broadband market. It lacks adequate competition among alternative broadband platforms to spur the faster speeds that consumers and an ever-expanding Internet will require.

    Europe also suffers from a dearth of robust competition from cable modem and fiber. Cable penetration is only about 21% of households. In the U.S., cable is available to 94% of all households. Also, the U.S. is home to the world's fastest fiber-to-home market, with a 99% annual growth rate in subscribers compared with a relatively anemic 13% growth rate in Europe.

    In fact, the European Competitive Telecommunications Association reported last fall that Europe is experiencing a significant slowdown in the annual growth rate of broadband subscriptions, falling to 14% from 23% annual growth. Growth stalled in a number of countries, including Denmark and Belgium (4% in each country). And France -- a relative star -- exhibited just 10% growth. Yet all of these nations are "ahead" of us on the much-talked-about OECD chart.

    Here in the U.S., the country that is allegedly "falling behind," broadb
  • by jc42 (318812) on Friday August 03, 2007 @05:57PM (#20107889) Homepage Journal
    A couple hours ago, NPR had an article about the practice of US government agencies intercepting communications between people in various other countries. Part of the explanation was that communications (both Internet and phone) in a lot of the rest of the world go via the US because in so many countries, the connections to/from the US and internal US connections are so much faster than the internal comm systems within the country, and the comm stuff generally picks the fastest available routes.

    During the article, I kept wondering why we Americans can't use that high-speed comm gear.

    One obvious theory is that the high-speed stuff was installed explicitly for espionage purposes, with no intention of letting mere citizens use it. Is this too cynical? How else can you explain all the "dark" fibre that has been installed, at great expense, and then (supposedly) not used? What other theories, in addition to sheer stupidity, can explain it?

    Is it tinfoil hat time here? Is it true that, whatever your country, your local government and commercial comm traffic is mostly being relayed through American routers, for the purpose of intercepting and analyzing the content? Maybe you should ask your local ISP and phone suppliers about their routing ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @06:09PM (#20108023)
    I used to work for a local ISP that had to lease lines through Qwest for DSL. Qwest basically aggregated all the DSL traffic into a pipe and sent it our way.

    Many of our customers complained about the high latency average of around 72ms just from the DSL modem to the Qwest aggregation point.

    So we started doing some poking and found out they were using Stinger DSLAMs. We got a copy of the DSLAM configuration manual and found out that the whole problem was *1 simple command* on the DSLAM and it would have dropped the latency by 60ms!! (30 there, 30 back)

    We petitioned Qwest to do it for us, but they refused.. In short they really didn't care because it wasn't "their majority of customers" that was requesting it.

    Long story short, Qwest sucks; always has, always will.

  • by MyrddinBach (1138089) on Friday August 03, 2007 @08:14PM (#20109127)
    In Moses Lake, WA the did a huge fiber build out there a while ago for the entire County. My friend, who lives in Ephrata, has a FIOS connection out there. He has Fiber to his HOUSE! AND they now have 3 companies that provide regular telivision via this Fiber connection. I tested up/down speeds when I was there and he can get like 30-40MB/sec both UP and DOWN. Also, as far as crappy ISP's with their upload and download BS - I used to have an SDSL connection with Speakeasy (best ISP in the US at the time - and they still might be) - that was 768/768 - and it was only $150/mo. Now that's is not terribly fast, but it was 5 years ago too. They still offer SDSL service at least up to T1 speeds (1.5/1.5) and its WAAAY cheaper than T1. At the time they also didn't care what I did with my connection as long as I didnt inerfere wiht other people's stuff. The reason I got it was so I could have a cheap way of running my own web and dns server - which I did. I had 4 static IP's with the service and had my own OpenBSD web server and OpenBSD DNS server. Also with the SDSL I got an 80% throughput guarantee, although I never it saw it drop below 95% on my metrics. Of course it helped that they are actually a Tier 1 provider - unlike most ISPs. You can find some quality ISPs out there who will let you get SDSL and run your own servers and do whatever the hell else you want. Check out Speakeasy.
  • by devilspgd (652955) * <slashdot@devilspgd.net> on Friday August 03, 2007 @08:20PM (#20109185) Homepage
    In the cable modem world, yes, they are related and a trade-off -- DOCSIS 1 imposed some additional restrictions, but it's all a matter of "the way the channels are allocated" and DOCSIS 2 is far more flexible and can offer true symmetrical connections if the cable company so desires.

    Nothing stops the cable company from re-allocating the channels. Most consumer broadband cable companies are running their entire data services in what amounts to the same frequency allocated to a single analog channel 2-13.

    The other cool thing, DOCSIS 1 and DOCSIS 2 can coexist on the network, they just have to be given different frequency space to work with, so the migration doesn't need to be overnight for the networks with mixed devices.

    In my case (Shaw), most if not all of the devices are already DOCSIS 2 -- Shaw started out with the CyberSURFR line, and skipped early DOCSIS deployment entirely, by the time Shaw started selling DOCSIS modems, they were already DOCSIS 2 capable. Additionally, Shaw does not activate third party devices, so there isn't a huge consumer base out there that will need to be changed. (Shaw does sell the modems for $60, and then you get a $5/month discount, with a 1-5 year warranty depending on when you purchased. Asking someone if they own their equipment or rent it is like an IQ test.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @10:29PM (#20110113)
    The business leaders of the telecom industry were quite willing to provide fast broadband in the 90s. Guess what, consumers didn't want to pay for it. The market crashed. Consumers voted with their dollars and got what they voted for.
  • by devilspgd (652955) * <slashdot@devilspgd.net> on Friday August 03, 2007 @11:42PM (#20110579) Homepage
    My cable company is already selling several different levels of service without any pain -- The network itself runs much faster and the modems themselves do the rate limiting.

    Any speed up to the local plant's restrictions are possible, all you need is a customer interface.
  • by LintheSwithD (1130595) on Friday August 03, 2007 @11:47PM (#20110609)
    I sell Verizon FiOS 6-days a week and talk to at least 40 new unsuspecting people everyday. I can tell them that I'm saving them money and giving them a much faster internet (20/5 Mbs) that operates at a much more consistant speed than their current Cable/DSL provider. After which, the objections most often heard are "No, I think I'll just keep my Internet the way it is" or "Its fast enough already". I thought this was America? I thought better, faster, bigger, etc were the main components of our vocabulary. We are then confronted with the two main issues preventing a Broadband overhaul in this country - #1 - Fear of change in technology & #2 - Limited dependence on the net. When we slash-dotters discuss these issues, we forget that the vast majority of this fine nation are, well... computer illiterate. They cannot see the benefits of an improved broadband network, mostly because they have no need for it. We need to quit gripping about how 10% of our population is disappointed in the broadband in this nation, and figure out how to rally up the other 90% to actively participate in intergrating the internet more into their daily lives. Until there is a product/site/service that appeals to the greater percentage of our population, the hopes of a better Internet can be kept in a jar on the shelf.
  • by devilspgd (652955) * <slashdot@devilspgd.net> on Saturday August 04, 2007 @02:58PM (#20114909) Homepage
    Well... Ignoring what is possible or isn't possible, my cable company currently sells the following services;

    POS: 256Kb / 128Kb (2:1)
    Lite: 512Kb / 256Kb (2:1)
    High: 5Mb / 512Kb (10:1)
    Xtreme: 10 Mb / 1Mb (10:1)
    Nitro: 25Mb / 1Mb (25:1)

    So in the real world it is possible to offer different ratios.

    How do they accomplish this? Simply, there is enough upstream and downstream frequency allocated to provide enough bandwidth, and they let the modems themselves do the actual rate limiting.

    This is fairly trivial, and is sufficient to offer the original poster what they want, the ability to to set their own bandwidth rules.

    (Being the original poster, I know exactly what he wants) -- Have the cable company provision for 25Mb/10Mb service, let the customer buy whatever speed they want (either in 512Kb increments, or some fixed packages, 384Kb for lite, up to 26Mb/s for "nitro") and also give the customer a sliding control that sets the percentage allocated to upstream vs downstream.

    What the actual frequency spectrum does has little bearing on what the modem caps are, and as long as each of those have the capacity, the result is that the customer could have whatever they want.

    I am quite willing to pay reasonably for this service, even a couple hundred a month is not an obstacle to me -- If they're willing to sell 25Mb/1Mb for $100, getting a 10Mb/5Mb for $200 shouldn't break the bank, and if enough customers are paying that $200/month premium, it will pay for the additional gear required to expand the network. If not enough customers are willing to pay the premium rate, the network wouldn't need expanding, and life is good.

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