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How Can the Stimulus Plan Help the Internet? 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the daddy-needs-a-new-pair-of-e-shoes dept.
Wired is running an article raising the question of how a US economic stimulus plan could best help broadband adoption and the internet in general. We discussed President-elect Obama's statements about his plan, which would include investments in such areas, but Wired asks how we can avoid the equivalent of the New Deal's "ditches to nowhere" without more data about where the money would actually make a difference. Quoting: "... the problem is that no one knows the best way to make the internet more resilient, accessible and secure, since there's no just no public data. The ISP and backbone internet providers don't tell anyone anything. For instance, the government doesn't know how many people actually have broadband or what they pay for it. ... In September, the FCC found that its data collection on internet broadband was incomplete and thus ruled that AT&T, Qwest and Verizon could stop filing some reports — because the requirements did not extend to cable companies, too."
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How Can the Stimulus Plan Help the Internet?

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  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:37PM (#26250305)
    Totally offtopic, but what does the red titlebar mean for a story on the index which just went up? I didn't see any reference to this story being a story "in the future" so I'm not quite sure what it is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by corsec67 (627446)

      That happens when the future is now.

      • [Watching "Spaceballs: The Movie". They reach "now" in the movie.]
        Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
        Colonel Sandurz: You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now is happening now.
        Dark Helmet: What happened to then?
        Colonel Sandurz: We passed then.
        Dark Helmet: When?
        Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We're at now now.
        Dark Helmet: Go back to then.
        Colonel Sandurz: When?
        Dark Helmet: Now!
        Colonel Sandurz: Now?
        Dark Helmet: Now!
        Colonel Sandurz: I can't.
        Dark Helmet: Why?

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:42PM (#26250359)
    Central planning will always lead to ditches to nowhere. Without an ability to perform rationale economic calculations, an economy cannot function. Any effort by the State to manipulate or direct economic planning will lead to increasing economic irrationality and inefficiency. The only way to maximize the efficient use of resources is to remove government coercion from the marketplace, and let voluntary cooperation and aggregate individual choices locate the closet to optimally possible solution to any problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by giorgiofr (887762)
      E.g: get rid of the regulations and red tape preventing communities from building mesh networks and most cities will be covered faster than you can say "gov't managed central planning always fails".
    • by Rinisari (521266) * on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:00PM (#26250531) Homepage Journal

      Exactly. The consumer will direct the market based on the availability of competing, cheaper services.

      The $200 billion that the telecoms got in the 1990s to wire America was squandered, and very little was actually done with it (arguably kept prices for existing services at the same level instead of having them go up, but not more than that).

      This is where municipal government--boroughs, villages, city sections--could play a hand in essentially buying groups--"aggregate individual choices"-- for broadband service, but still allow residents to choose their own provider.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Existence of rampant corruption is is not a reason to discard economic theories... Get rid of the corruption and try again.

        • Reply for a mail regarding my comment:

          If the central planning continuously evaluates the input, output and outcomes. Market economics is just one of the ways in which this can be performed.

          I do agree that centralization is not optimal for many tasks involving increasing efficiency. However, your example with the government giving telco's money to build out infrastructure is not an example of centralization.

          Rather, it is a very good example of privatization and decentralization failing. Not because those are

        • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @04:24PM (#26252059)

          Existence of rampant corruption is is not a reason to discard economic theories... Get rid of the corruption and try again.

          So your proposal is to eliminate all human life, for as long as you have humans by any definition of "human" we have now, you will have corruption.

          If you want to eliminate rampant corruption, you should try compartmentalizing the potential damage from the corruption of one person, and that means elimination of central planning where power naturally coaleses into the hands of a few.

          Any other notion of merely "eliminating corruption" by pretending any group of humans can be trained to not be corrupt - well that's just a fantasy that ignores all of human history and observation.

        • I know what you mean, but in this case many of the theorists are promoting theories that allow their brand of corruption.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Iamthecheese (1264298)
          You're right! We need an immediate return to communism!
      • The $200 billion that the telecoms got in the 1990s to wire America was squandered, and very little was actually done with it (arguably kept prices for existing services at the same level instead of having them go up, but not more than that).

        Actually, looking at historical rates [consumersunion.org] before and after the 1996 telecom act show that local telecom rates increased at the same rate as the CPI, long distance telecom rates started to increase but remained at very competitive rates for consumers, and the local cable rat

      • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:34PM (#26250769)

        Right because people don't choose to pay for Windows over Linux, a more expensive carrier of cell service over a less expensive option or reward monopolist misbehavior.

        Seriously though it really depends greatly upon the situation. Central planning is very important when the service needs to work coherently across myriad municipalities providing that it is done in a sane way.

        Assuming that market forces are going to work all the time is what got us into the current meltdown of both the economy as well as the internet hardware.

        And even without that, there's no particularly good reason to believe that infrastructure building is going to result in anything other than additional spam and larger DDOSes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MSTCrow5429 (642744)

          Assuming that market forces are going to work all the time is what got us into the current meltdown of both the economy as well as the internet hardware.

          This quite simply is a canard. The main impetus of the current state of the economy is the boom and bust cycle created by the Federal Reserve, the central planner of the monetary supply in the US. The Fed greatly inflated the money supply through artificially low interest rates, reserve rates, and the direct creation of new money. Combined with Congres

          • Talking points, talking points, talking points. Blah...blah...blah...yada...yada...yada!!

            Cut the crapola, already, you don't sound even moderately educated when you repeat the mindless corporate blather. The list of colossal financial fraud is most obvious: Commodity Futures Modernization Act, InterContinentalExchange (And Ice Futures, formerly International Petroleum Exchange), SwapsWire, Markit (which later purchased SwapsWire, renaming it MarkitWire, collusion of Standard and Poor with the Bush Adminis

            • by cayenne8 (626475)
              "Study the uses of offshore finance centers in the area of "money laundering" and why fewer and fewer taxes paid by the corpations in America and Europe have corrosive effects everywhere. Read, study and learn."

              Got any links on this? Is this available to the normal small guy or small business?

              :)

          • by dargaud (518470)

            Since 2001, there has been a 70% increase in new regulations that are "economically significant" [...] and the number of pages in the Federal Register listing all new regulations reached an all-time high of 78,090 in 2007, from 64,438 in 2001.

            Why isn't there something in the constitution (no less) that states that when you vote a new law, you need to remove an old one ? I mean who can seriously be expected to know the law ? Even experts can only have a vague idea of what is in those 78 thousand pages.

            • Why isn't there something in the constitution (no less) that states that when you vote a new law, you need to remove an old one ?

              No. There is a course in law schools called "Conflict of Laws," although I think that deals with conflicting State/State and State/Federal laws, not conflicting Federal/Federal laws. I honestly don't think any of the Framers, even Hamilton, ever thought the Federal government would end up what it is today.

            • Oh, oops, thought that read "isn't there something..." not "why isn't there something..."
        • "Assuming that market forces are going to work all the time is what got us into the current meltdown of both the economy as well as the internet hardware."

          Exactly, market forces [google.com.au] are defined as "the interaction between supply and demand". That interaction at it's most basic level is provided by "property rights" (ie: market_forces == regulation). The word "free" in the term "free market" does not mean free of regulation since that would translate to "regulation free regulation" which is either anarchy or
      • by gad_zuki! (70830)

        >This is where municipal government--boroughs, villages, city sections--could play a hand in essentially buying groups--"aggregate individual choices"-- for broadband service, but still allow residents to choose their own provider.

        You mean the municipal morons who gave comcast or at&t a monopoly in their towns and these companies promptly stopped building out infrastructure and improvements because they had no competition all of a sudden?

        I know here at slashdot the myth of the liberarian/unregulated

    • except of course intervention in the case of protection of property rights, prosecution of fraud and antitrust... after all there is no competition when a single entity uses its economic power to destroy potential competitors... right now I can see *fraud [unlimited access where that isn't true] *anticompetitive practices [locking out competitors as in fairpoint] the market isn't free in a complete absence of government intervention, only through minimal intervention to protect rights could the market ev
    • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:57PM (#26250921) Homepage Journal

      Central planning will always lead to ditches to nowhere.

      [citation needed]

      Without an ability to perform rationale economic calculations, an economy cannot function. Any effort by the State to manipulate or direct economic planning will lead to increasing economic irrationality and inefficiency.

      The perfect efficiency that markets try to approach is short-sighted (this also makes them unstable, with a tendency to collapse to monopoly/oligopoly). Some diversion of resources towards longer-term goals is useful, why do you think any country has a public education system?

      The only way to maximize the efficient use of resources is to remove government coercion from the marketplace, and let voluntary cooperation and aggregate individual choices locate the closet to optimally possible solution to any problem.

      You also have to eliminate all other forms of coercion and tying and collusion, and provide everyone with perfect information and zero transaction costs. And you still end up with that short-sightedness.

    • by sjames (1099) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:57PM (#26250927) Homepage

      Yeah, I don't know why they don't just dynamite that useless Hoover Dam and those useless interstates.

      I fully agree that a centrally planned economy doesn't work well, but that doesn't mean that centrally planned projects or public works don't work. Sometimes when a market settles into a local minimum, only a swift kick from outside can get it seeking an optimal solution again.

      Another case for a public project is when the market players are too localized. The telecomms will never in a bazillion years sacrifice even a fraction of a percent of their profit even if it would double the profitability of every single player in every single market but theirs. Not even if after 5 to 10 years it would probably come back and double their profitability as well (you see, a voluntary loss of .0002% profitability wouldn't look good on the quarterly report).

      One of the axioms of any market based economy is that entities ALWAYS make rational economic decisions. I have my doubts. Actors in the economy mostly make knee-jerk heard mentality decisions.

      It may be that a market solution IS better in this case, but 'market=good, public work=bad" is not a reason, it's an unsupported conclusion.

      • by MtViewGuy (197597)

        Sometimes when a market settles into a local minimum, only a swift kick from outside can get it seeking an optimal solution again.

        A great example of this is the Tennessee Valley Authority, which built a series of dams on the Tennessee River to provide irrigation water for farms and hydroelectric power. Indeed, much of the industrial revival of the US Southeast couldn't have happened without those TVA dams.

      • But the Hoover Dam, TVA, and Interstate system is not the same as broadband to every home. Those are true public works, greater than private business could create and serving the common good, not individuals directly. Federally built trunks across the country would be close in comparison, and let local ISP's spread out from there. The FCC is a more fair comparison to a "broadband for every home" project. The FCC controls who gets what, and how what they get may be used.

        With federal planning comes fed

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sjames (1099)

          The best answer would be a network of last mile fiber and a mesh of inter area fiber. A nice thing about fiber is that it can carry many channels at different wavelengths at the same time. Perhaps a default frequency would peer you with the government provided ISP but leave the option to use other frequencies to connect up with various private carriers you might sign up with.

          So, much like you sign up for cable internet or DSL and they send you a 'connection kit', you sign up for fiber internet and they send

    • by MarkusQ (450076) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @02:18PM (#26251103) Journal

      Any effort by the State to manipulate or direct economic planning will lead to increasing economic irrationality and inefficiency.

      This is undoubtedly true, as long as you define "rational and efficient" in terms of the non-colluding well informed self interested rational agents that make up this hypothetical market. It's the same as saying:

      Any effort by the User to manipulate or direct the flow of electrons in the CPU will lead to increasing the operating system's irrationality and inefficiency.

      So, obviously, true.

      But if the assumptions behind this implicit definition break down--if the market participants are themselves irrational, inefficient, short sighted, gullible, or just too damn busy to read every piece of fine print they are faced with--then your conclusion falls apart. The market will become unstable and result in a few players subjugating all the rest, and the system as a whole will cease to do anything beyond satisfying the whims of its masters.

      Unless you are foolish enough to fancy yourself as one of the eventual masters, you should not be rooting for this outcome.

      --MarkusQ

      P.S. One way to resolve the problem is to impose some sort of progressive dampening on the system which recirculates wealth. But doing it by fiat (e.g. welfare) generally damages the value of the currency (loosely, why work if you can get money for free?) so demanding something in exchange (job creation programs) is much better. Even better is when these programs can produce something of lasting value, and better still if it's something of widely acknowledged long term value that "the market" would never have produced since it wasn't in anybody's short term interest.

      Fixing our infrastructure, obtaining energy independence, building a permanent moon base, bringing global CO2 levels back to normal, any of these things would be ideal--no private entity could accomplish them, but collectively we could, and be much better for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      The only way to maximize the efficient use of resources is to remove government coercion from the marketplace

      First, that assumes a real free market. Most people think that the important part of a "free market" is that there are multiple providers, and say, "Hey, there's cable and the phone company. You have 2 companies, so you have competition!" However, those two companies have a duopoly over the infrastructure, and so aren't really subject to the market forces that exist when you have a "free market".

      The real important part of the "free market" is the low barrier of entry for newcomers, i.e. the ability for

    • Friedrich Hayek won a Nobel Prize demonstrating the impossibility of central planning to obtain necessary market information, yet we still haven't learned. The market process is far from perfect, but it's nothing compared to the ineptitude of central economic planning. Sure the government can pay people to dig ditches, but dig them to where? And how much to pay them? Should we recruit diggers from technology fields or manufacturing? What level of education should diggers have? How much is a ditch worth? A m

    • by westlake (615356)
      Central planning will always lead to ditches to nowhere.

      The legislation that launched the TVA was signed in 1933.

      In ten years the TVA was generating the limitless amounts of electric power demanded by Oak Ridge and Alcoa.

      Oak Ridge alone drawing down as much power as New York City at its peak - 1/6 of all the electric power being generated in the U.S.

      The TVA was about rural electrification, flood control and conservation. None of which promised a quick return to commercial developers then or now.

      The on

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      Any effort by the State to manipulate or direct economic planning will lead to increasing economic irrationality and inefficiency.

      This sentence entirely ignores a reality of economics: economy is a product of government.

      Economy is a balance; on one hand you have private efforts which maximize personal profits at cost of the public good (see the tragedy of the commons [wikipedia.org] and on the other hand you have social "public entities" like governments which seek to preserve the commons.

      In truth, there is no such thing a

  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:44PM (#26250375) Journal
    ...is to get rid of the whole "stimulus plan" to start with. Lower taxes rather than collecting them and redistributing to chosen pet projects (with an appropriate cut for the voracious appetite of Government to waste).
    • by isdnip (49656) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:09PM (#26250593)

      Then, when the Second Great Depression leaves a 40% unemployment rate, you and your few remaining rich friends with their inherited cash and other still-liquid assets will have a really easy time getting lots of servants to work for you for a pittance!

      • by jwiegley (520444) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @02:49PM (#26251331)

        So you suggest that instead I be punished for managing my affairs well?

        For saving my money, for doing my investment research, for planning my retirement, for getting good grades, for sticking with jobs, being competent and all the other items that I put personal effort into making my finances secure I should pay for other people's mistakes? That I should shoulder a larger tax burden than another man? I should be legally coerced to support and fund organizations and corporate strategies that I fundamentally disagree with? Is that it?

        People that think that's better is why we're in this problem in the first place.

        See my sig and learn a lesson.

        • Amen, but us savers have to watch out. The incoming Obama administration is about to pull the inflation ripcord big time in an ill fated attempt to devalue our existing national debts and spend our way out of trouble (which too much credit and spending got us into in the first place). Now is the time to invest money in tangible assets when prices are low and before the coming inflationary government spending policies. It is tempting to hold on to cash like everyone else, but the Fed is going to shake that c
        • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:52PM (#26253509) Homepage

          I'll see your sig, and raise you a "then you're a hypocritical bastard":

          "When someone works for less pay than she can live on - when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently - then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life.

          The 'working poor,' as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high.

          To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else. As Gail, one of my restaurant coworkers put it, 'you give and you give'" (Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001, p. 221).

          You claim that nobody lives for you. Tell that to the guy who made way less than minimum wage picking the fruit you eat, or the woman who cleans your office, or the guy who bags your groceries, or the sweatshop worker who made your shirt. Each of them makes a tiny contribution to your own happiness, success, and comfort, and each is rewarded with a lifestyle that ranges from boring and degrading to borderline slavery. You take their contributions without hesitation or thought, while whining and sniveling about how unfair it is that you should be asked to give back in a small measure.

          If that isn't asking somebody else to live for you, then what is?

        • by aepervius (535155) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @11:23PM (#26254651)
          Despite whatever economic propaganda you might subscribe to, there is always a "socialist/wealth redistribution" component in the most stable society, a redistribution of wealth from the richest to the poorest, and yes, you can see that as a punishment for your success to reward the loss of other. Society which do not do that, create a split between the poorest (which will tend never to accumulate wealth, live day to day and are at the mercy of any conjuncture change, loss of job etc...) and the richest. Once this gap increase beyond a point where the strain on the society are too much, you know what happens ? Societal breakdown. Possibly followed by civil war and / or revolt/revolution. And at THAT point, you will regret bitterly not having given enough from the richest most successful to the poorest, when you are put in a guillotine or put to the wall. In other word it is in your interest to share a bit of your success, to make sure you KEEP being successful (and alive). Now call me a kook if you want, but I tend to keep my eye open to the truism "the truly desperate has nothing to lose". The successful instead has everything to lose. Keep that in mind next time you grumble you don't want to share your success.
          • by SoulRider (148285)

            there is always a "socialist/wealth redistribution" component in the most stable society, a redistribution of wealth from the richest to the poorest, and yes, you can see that as a punishment for your success to reward the loss of other

            This is pretty much part of the definition of "Society".

            Unfortunately there is always a segment of the wealthy in every society that this seems to allude and they think that they are somehow entitled to horde all that the society they live in has generously given them, hence

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by roman_mir (125474)

        I am very sorry for the people, you know, I feel terrible that such bad times are coming. But they are coming, there very very close and no amount of regulation and spending by the government can do anything about it.

        Government can never do anything about economy except for making things worse. For some reason, which still eludes me, many people believe that government must have a role in economy. This is perplexing, after all, the government is not supposed to be a for profit outfit. They are supposed

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Unless we control spending, lowering taxes won't help. The 'first' world is reaching the capacity for other nations to support our borrowing. Note: I blame MOST first world nations because most all are carrying similar debt to GDP levels as the USA.

      It's one thing to borrow money to build a dam that will produce revenue generating electricity, that will prevent floods causing millions/billions of dollars of damage. It's quite another to fund operating costs that way. Right now we're funding stuff like p

  • AT&T (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mi (197448)

    Because we need telephone to reach the poor and the rural communities... Because market is failing to address this need...

    We must centrally plan this vital piece of national infrastructure. (Oh, and Libertarians are all lunatics.)

    • Oh, and Libertarians are all lunatics.

      Reading the first 10 comments to the story - well, maybe they aren't, but they sure do try hard to make such an impression!

    • We must centrally plan this vital piece of national infrastructure.

      That's not really correct. There was no "central planning". At that was done in the Communications Act of 1934 was to require that AT&T provide universal coverage as a cost of doing business, and as a condition of being granted the national telephone monopoly. The buildout itself was planned and executed by AT&T, not Congress.

      Good regulation, not central planning.

      • by mi (197448)

        The buildout itself was planned and executed by AT&T, not Congress.

        It does not have to be Congress to be "central". As long as it is a monopoly, it qualifies as "central planning".

        Good regulation, not central planning.

        Good?!? You, actually, consider AT&T's monopoly — which, you know, had to be forcibly broken up decades later — an example of "good regulation"? Wow...

  • by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:46PM (#26250395)

    How Can the Stimulus Plan Help the Internet? It can't! Already more money has been dumped into this stimulus plan that has been spent on all the major wars this country has fought.

    Demand side economics is not the right solution at this time.

    • Where are you getting your statistics?

      Adjusted for inflation, the cost of WWII was about 5 trillion dollars.

      The Iraq war has already cost nearly 600B, with some estimates of the eventual costs being upwards of 3 trillion.

      The best estimate I've found of bailout spending [cnn.com] claims that 2.7T has been spent. But that does include a lot of collateralized loans, equity stake purchases, etc., so the taxpayers may be able to recoup quite a bit of it.

      I'm not convinced that the bailout is being handled properly, or tha

  • by kabloom (755503) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:49PM (#26250423) Homepage

    It's time to start lobbying for an internet question (or two) on the census.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by canuck57 (662392) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:50PM (#26250439)

    .. the problem is that no one knows the best way to make the internet more resilient, accessible and secure, since there's no just no public data.

    I dispute that. The internet is a collective effort by many technical people past and present that develop it's potential. The only hinderance is politics, useless patents, corporate monopolies and the like. It is a truly free media, unencumbered by undue influence by anyone or any special interest group.

    Keep the internet free, and it will serve mankind very well. The interent does not need stimulus, it needs net equality of access not dominated by any one.

    Any solutions for reliability, useability will be provided as needed. Very efficient model too. For example, it does not depend on any one operation system for it's existance, even though some would have it otherwise. Maybe even open up some of that TV channel bandwidth for the internet without the ownership and licensing issues, allowing any company to provide WAN access.

    The internet is truly a democratic collective. Work with it and don't let secular forces pervert it. Doesn't cost much either to do this.

    • The interent does not need stimulus, it needs net equality of access not dominated by any one.

      Sorry, but the Internet infrastructure in this country does need some stimuli. If you think broadband Internet is doing well enough on its own, then I think you're not paying attention. The "fast" Internet connections in this country generally aren't fast enough, and they certainly aren't ubiquitous enough. It's not strange in this country to live in a major city today and still be unable to get an upload rate above 512kbps for under $100 a month. That's retarded.

      We can argue about where you want to pla

      • by canuck57 (662392)

        ....It's not strange in this country to live in a major city today and still be unable to get an upload rate above 512kbps for under $100 a month. That's retarded.

        I agree. But that is because in North America we operate unregulated monopolies and pay the price. Oh, they may say they are being regulated, but not for us, for city profits, franchise fees. It is the system of how they operate that is not in our interests.

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:56PM (#26250491)

    Right now, we have a serious problem with Telephone companies and cable companies attempting to squander and rip apart the Internet. The Internet would only continue to expand and new innovations would take root. But the problem is that local monopolies are standing in the way of that. There are entrenched intrests on many sides that want to fragment and censor the Internet, and people are too lazy and stupid to stand up and protest these actions. Its not government regulation thats the problem, and its not the "free market libertarians" that are the solutions. Its a couple of very corrupt, very ARROGANT shareholders that need to go to PRISON for what they are doing.

    The Internet like Water, like Electricity, is becoming a public utility, it should be transparent in an transparent manner like one. And to the Cable Cos and the Telcos, no its not your network anymore.

    • The Internet like Water, like Electricity, is becoming a public utility, it should be transparent in an transparent manner like one. And to the Cable Cos and the Telcos, no its not your network anymore.

      True, but do you really want it to become the 'governments' network again? Setting it free is what made it the resource it is today.

  • by NaCh0 (6124) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:03PM (#26250553)

    For instance, the government doesn't know how many people actually have broadband or what they pay for it

    Wait, I thought telcos giving the government open access to their records was a bad thing.

    Come'on folks. You know anything the government touches will be abused. Stop giving these appointees more power for next to no real gain.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      For instance, the government doesn't know how many people actually have broadband or what they pay for it

      Wait, I thought telcos giving the government open access to their records was a bad thing.

      Come'on folks. You know anything the government touches will be abused. Stop giving these appointees more power for next to no real gain.

      You don't see a difference between "Here's a log of all calls to/from 555-1234, registered to Joe Nacho" and "here's a list of how many subscribers we have at each speed in each zip code"? I tend to see personal information as rather different from statistics.

  • by pyite69 (463042) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:03PM (#26250555)

    It is ridiculous that we let the telcos drag their feet so much.

    We need to understand the failure of the Clinton/Gore attempt to wire the country with fiber, and make it happen for real. This will mean a lot of shared sacrifice for the local phone monopolies.

    • This will mean a lot of shared sacrifice for the local phone monopolies.

      Yes, well, they're not very good at that.

  • Just say NO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by larry bagina (561269)

    I guess the bank bailout, auto bailout, hedge fund bailout (it's coming), and credit card bailout (it's also coming) aren't enough, we need a pork bailout (aka "stimulus").

    Remember the .bomb bubble? People bought overpriced stocks on the theory they'd be even more overpriced later. That didn't work out, so to soften the landing, the federal reserve kept interest rates low, which moved money into housing.

    Remember the housing bubble? People bought overpriced houses they couldn't afford on the the

    • Remember the .bomb bubble?

      Yeah, a bunch of Hamas guys in Palestine followed that career path last week, and look where it got them.

      Worst. Bubble. Ever.

  • by isdnip (49656) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:19PM (#26250671)

    The problem with current telecom policy is that it presupposes that the old incumbent telephone companies (ILECs) "own" the wires that they installed with monopoly-ratepayer money, but due to the presence of nominal competition (cable), they no longer need to be regulated as utilities. So giving them more money simply raises their profits. It raises the price they pay to buy each other up. Right now the going rate is around $3000/subscriber to buy up a rural telephone company that gets >50% of its revenue from government subsidies. They're simply bidding on the present value of these entitlements. It goes straight to the investment bankers (Goldman Sachs has been making a lot off of the subsidized-ILEC business.)

    The FreePress plan is awful too. It simply ignores the ILEC networks and supposes that a few billion dollars could create a "third path", another closed, propertarian network. Of course they also want Internet content to be regulated, so their plan loses on both angles. They just hate the cable industry and collaborate with the Bells against it, consumers being a low priority.

    So what might work? I suggest that the feds use the money to finance the spin-out of the ILECs' outside plant -- the loops and short-haul links between their central office buildings -- into neutral "LoopCos". They would provide wholesale access to any LEC, ISP or cableco, including their former owners, on vendor-neutral terms. LoopCos would be strictly regulated utilities (like telcos 25 years ago), forbidden from competing with their customers. Then the stimulus money could be used to finance (low interest loan, subsidies in high-cost areas) an upgrade of their legacy networks to provide (dark) fiber to the home.

    The old legacy LEC (ATT, VZ, Q) shareholders would win, because a lot of their debt would move to the LoopCos, where it would be diluted by stimulus money. The Internet and its users would win because we'd have real open-entry competition, not a duopoly.

    • "third path", another closed, propertarian network.

      I don't know that word. Does it mean "Proprietary Libertarian"?

      • by isdnip (49656)

        Propertarian: A belief that private property has primacy over public good. In telecom it is the notion that because the wires on the poles are the nominal property of the telephone companies, those companies should be free to do with them exactly as they feel. Utility regulation and hundreds of years of related laws (bailment, etc.) are discarded in favor of declaring everything to be somebody's property, and thus theirs to use as they feel free.

        That is the philosophy that Kevin Martin and Michael Powell

  • Peace dividend (Score:4, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:26PM (#26250715) Homepage
    The best thing that happened to the Internet was when Clinton exploited the Peace Dividend and starved the military, and thereby the defense contractors, and they (and their employees who sometimes left to form their own companies) had to figure out how to produce for civilians rather than for the military. Without government interference and malinvestment, the people will figure out the most useful and profitable businesses.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "The best thing that happened to the Internet was when Clinton exploited the Peace Dividend and starved the military, and thereby the defense contractors, and they (and their employees who sometimes left to form their own companies) had to figure out how to produce for civilians rather than for the military."

      Except that he didn't starve the military, which had been living on the boost it got in the Reagan Era and was drawn down starting during the reign of Bush the Elder prior to Desert Shield.

      BTW:
      The bipar

  • Lay fibre (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:31PM (#26250747) Homepage

    The government should get fibre to every home. Doesn't matter if they do it or they help/force the incumbent telco or a cable provider to do it, it is just what the economy needs.

    It would stimulate the construction industry. Lots of digging and laying cables, building up local offices.

    It would help IT with new equipment being required and migration of customers from older systems.

    It would help broadband companies who now have a new, faster platform to sell.

    It would bring new business opportunities like HD video on demand, DVD/BluRay download stores, even more random TV channels etc.

    In the long run, it will bring the country into the 21st century.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by isdnip (49656)

      What good is fiber to the home if it's closed?

      The Bush FCC (Powell/Martin) deregulated fiber to the home, even if the incumbent Bell pulled it and cut the old copper wire. So the telephone company is the sole ISP, the sole content provider, and the sole telephone service provider. They have (for various legal and political reasons) not exercised their full rights yet, but they are studying ways to make fiber to the home about as useful and free as the WAP browser on your wireless handset, just with better

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Obviously the fibre has to be open to any ISP that wants to use it. BT has already been forced to open it's copper network and the government has stated that it would expect a fibre network to be the same.

        • by isdnip (49656)

          Yes, BT's model is good. It's functional separation, not structural: They're separate subsidiaries of the same corporate shell, so the debt is consolidated under the same stock. But it still is open and accountable, so the infrastructure could be done by an OpenReach-like operation. BT seems fairly happy with it; it actually improves bottom-line profits.

          The American phone companies, of course, are totally aghast at the idea. They're more into control than profitability.

    • I think the problem with your idea is that it while it would add to the internal busy-ness of our country, and to our own entertainment, you haven't listed anything that would help us with international trade.

      I think with our unimaginably huge year-to-year trading deficits, we should focus on building infrastructure that actually helps our country get out of foreign debt, which means the investments should help us produce products or services that other countries want, or let us produce products/services fo

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        A high speed BB network would help develop products that are wanted world wide.

        Look at mobile phones. Why are all the leading phone manufacturers based in the far east or Europe? US mobile phone systems are well behind the curve, so phone manufacturers target the leading markets and everything trickles down to the US. We have a similar problem in the UK.

        There are exceptions though - Apple's iPhone and the Blackberry. Neither of those would be possible if it wasn't for the networks developing to they point t

  • loan part of that 700 Billion package to Internet companies to lay down more broadband.

    Right now nobody knows what the banks are doing with that money. Could be spending it on hookers and booze for all we know. :)

  • by leereyno (32197) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @02:19PM (#26251107) Homepage Journal

    ...government is the problem.

    Government regulation and got us into this mess. There is no reason to believe that more of it will get us out.

  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @02:23PM (#26251147)

    My unscientific analysis caused me to conclude that the intent of economic stimulus plans is to help the wealthiest people get back on their feet, so that then they would once again feel generous enough to not fire people or reduce their wages and the like (a sort of reverse trickle-down, if you will). Us poor folks are supposed to be thankful for their crumbs and hand-me-downs, so we should rush to send them gifts when they're not feeling the love? Doesn't that sound a bit like the baronies our ancestors were trying to escape in the first place?

    I refused my $300 stimulus check from the IRS early this year, for exactly this reason on principle: it wasn't really intended to help me in the first place. I despise disingenuousness [disingenuity?], especially if it's perpetrated by my own government.

    I frankly don't see what such an economic stimulus plan has to do with furthering broadband availability. It sounds like someone promoting their own brand of pork.

  • by fermion (181285) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @02:34PM (#26251231) Homepage Journal
    I look around the united states and see that the places that are doing OK use the money of the 90's to diversify, while the places that are not doing so well are still making cars. It makes me think that what the money is spent on specifically is not so important so long as it is not spent on refurbishing buggy whip factories.

    We wasted huge sums of cash in the 90's, but we came out the other end with many profitable long term ventures that set up growth or the US economy. Of course some people, comfortable with their 10 million dollar a year jobs did not embrace such a path to growth, and spent most of the past decade fighting or perverting the change that would cost them their jobs and often fraudulent pay checks, so the path to the next big thing is not clear. It never is, especially when we just do the same old thing . What is clear is that we are wasting out money helping old line and fraudulent businesses [nytimes.com]. For instance, for the amount of money we are giving to the automakers, who knows how much will just go to bonuses, and accounting costs for the planned elimination of half the line workers jobs, we could have a lottery to give away coupons for 80% discounts on American cars for at least 200,0000 people, thus clearing the backlog. You see, innovative ideas for innovate futures, but of course such an idea has not bonuses for the bosses.

    The United states has technology for renewable energy, but very little money. Someone is going to make a lot of money on this, and the oil comapanies will lose a lot of money, unless they stop selling buggy whips. Even now I wonder if there is well in the US that can be profitably drilled for $40 a barrel. Someone is going to make a huge amount of money delivering content using TCP/IP, but the broadcasters and cable will lose money, unless they get off their butts and do it. The nice thing about this is that the middle man can be cut out, and the US can distribute to the world, if we have the bandwidth to not only deliver such content to the US population, but also to the world, which we don't.

    I don't know what else the US can do, but it has to be more than selling poorly engineered cars and fraudulent financial services. Of course a work ethics that promotes such innovation will have to encouraged, which means that some of he easy jobs, the ones like the we heard about prior to the collapse of the USSR where people got paid to sit around, play chess, and drink vodka all day, will have to go.

    • by SoulRider (148285)

      the middle man

      The middle man has just shifted from providing the trucks to providing the trunks. Akamai is an example of the new middle man. Anything that can be digitally shipped no longer needs to be physically shipped. Yet we insist on supporting businesses that have no right to be in operation any longer. All I can see us doing is stifling progress. How are these dinosaurs convincing our law makers that the economy would fold if they left the market? Where are the young guns promoting the new busine

  • Many of those poor out of work bankers etc who lost my retirement funds could be put to work watching the content. That would please all the upstanding citizens of decency trying to reign in the pesky civil liberties those hippies won over the years.

    Put it in tv format with two buttons, yea and nay. Add a third button for buy, and everybody wins.

  • If you want more efficient allocation of funds and avoidance of make-work projects, use the 'stimulus' money to cut taxes on capital gains, preferably to zero. Even at zero, people aren't going to purposely throw money at loser investments. You'll get the most efficient allocation of that money possible (i.e. no bureaucracy scraping its take off the top and deciding who gets the money based on political considerations), and to those things that will yield the best returns.

    • Cutting taxes would mean, that the government would have to admit, that it has no idea what to do with all that money, that it is fleecing off the taxpayers, in order to fix the economy's problems.

      Ain't gonna happen.

      And giving *all* taxpayers *some* chump-change back as a check, didn't work either.

      So I propose, that instead of giving a bit back to everyone, the government should give *a lot* back to a few. With a national PowerBall lottery. You don't need to buy any tickets, having a Social Securit

  • This story is asking an irrelevant question.

    A more correct question would be this: in the world where the main currency is failing, dying actually, in the country where government regulations have destroyed the monetary system, the education system, created the credit bubble, helped creating a number of generations of people, whose only purpose seems to be the sense of entitlement in itself, in this world and country, how can the existing Internet be used finally to remove this crappy government from power

  • Stimulate my what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Larryish (1215510)

    The stimulus plan will go the way of the last cash-injection-for-infrastructure... it will disappear down a lot of corporate rabbit holes and the U.S. will still have substandard broadband.

    I wonder if we will receive any disclosure as to the recipients, or will it be another "disappearing money" trick like the $700 billion shenanigans.

  • Define exactly what you mean by "The Internet", "Internet Service", "Broadband", etc. Then worry about funding it. Otherwise, we'll end up pouring cash down some proprietary, filtered (i.e. not Net Neutral), marketing channel run for the benefit of a few corporations.

    While you are at it, make sure you identify the difference between the common carrier bits of the 'Net (which should be subsidized), directory and similar support services (which also should be supported), and commercial services that use the

  • To date, the only effective government mechanism to help the economy in a time of recession has been monetary policy (such as FDR's devaluation or Paul Volker's fight against stagflation).

    There is no evidence that fiscal spending stimulus has ever been effective in helping the economy.

    Christina Romer, Obama's pick to chair the Council for Economic Advisors, has done research [berkeley.edu] that shows that tax cuts can provide some short-term help to the economy.

    So for short-term help to reduce joblessness, I suggest lower

  • No data? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Blairius (1437019)
    What data are they looking for? Most of the broadband data can be found easily on the annual reports of the publicly traded ISPs. The actual customer counts have always been something ISPs have publicly bragged about. It seems like there are several sources for the data if they want to look for it. Internet usage is prone to fashion and trends so any spending should just be based on dumb fast reliable pipes to as many people as possible.

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