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The Internet Networking

Time Warner Cable Won't Compete, Seeks Legislation 621

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-sure-seem-to-like-bad-publicity dept.
narramissic writes "The good people of Wilson, NC pay $99/month for 10/10 Mbps internet service, 81 TV channels and telephone service. How'd they manage that, you ask? Well, the city-owned and operated cable service called Greenlight came into being when the City of Wilson approached TWC and local DSL provider Embarq and requested faster service for the area. 'TWC refused the request. And so Greenlight was born,' says blogger Peter Smith. 'Now Time Warner Cable and Embarq are upset that they've got competition, and rather than try to go head to head with Greenlight on price and service, they've instead been lobbying the state government of NC to pass laws to put Greenlight out of business. Apparently they're having some success, as the NC State Senate has proposed bills that would do TWC's bidding.'"
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Time Warner Cable Won't Compete, Seeks Legislation

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  • Convert? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:37AM (#27688177)
    Would it just be easier to convert Greenlight to a citizen run corporation or make it a utility?

    I am not a legal eagle on NC law, but I would think it wouldn't be that difficult to convert to a citizen run profit/nonprofit corporation and then TWC is effectively screwed.
    • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Informative)

      by kid_oliva (899189) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:46AM (#27688341) Homepage
      That is exactly what they did in Wadsworth, where i used to live. They made it a utility. TWC bitched and the town said screw you. I worked as a night auditor back then in 2000 and told our management we should switch because it would be cheaper. We looked into and did. TWC threaten us with litigation, we told them to go fornicate with goat and our lawyers took care of it. This is ridiculous when a private company is stifling competition. More communities need to do this. If they would not have wasted the 250 billion given to them by Clinton, they would be having this issue.
      • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Funny)

        by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:10AM (#27688771) Homepage

        go fornicate with goat and our lawyers took care of it

        Now THAT's money well spent!

        captcha: shocker

          shocker [wikipedia.org]

      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:11AM (#27688793)

        we told them to go fornicate with goat and our lawyers

        How rude!

        we told them to go fornicate with goat[,] and our lawyers took care of it.

        Oh. I liked the first one better.

      • Re: Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:13AM (#27688827)

        This is ridiculous when a private company is stifling competition.

        The benefits of competition are only of interest to companies as a mantra for getting government regulations eliminated. No company actually wants it.

        • Re: Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Touvan (868256) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:49PM (#27690759) Homepage

          Exactly, especially when the regulations are not beneficial. In the case though, TWC is looking for regs that harm their competition, and that they are ok with. The same goes for bailouts, which are a form of regulation. Real companies have never behaved as though they want real, fair markets with free access. They just want to win, and are happy to have that win handed to them by the government.

          This should all be plainly obvious at this point, and anyone who thinks that mantra has any meaning beyond a marketing ploy to fool citizens into working against their own interests, well, there are some painful conclusions to draw about those people.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DarkOx (621550)

            That is a problem with government not with businesses. Business should be seeking to win government should not be enabling them to cheat! Certainly not explicitly in the form of bailouts and granted monopolies. Ideally government would seek to avoid being gamed, where regulatory legislation is passed to that is more beneficial or less harmful to one player than others.

            The problem is the government is currupt through and through, its structure, our constitution, and stat constitutions are probably fine but

      • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Narpak (961733) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:14AM (#27688843)
        If the companies delivering internet doesn't deliver the speed or quality desired by the citizens of a region or city; then I see absolutely no problem with the people taking matters into their own hands. In fact I would call it democracy in practice. TWC trying to push legislation should be ruled as anti-competitive behaviour and they should be heavily fined.

        If anything should be done it might be the privatization of the newly created service provider. The city should retain a minority controlling share, impose oversight and fair rules; and then let the company exist as a competitor. If TWC want to gain back their customers they should perhaps try to actually provide the services people want, at fair prices and with good service. Instead of using resources that could be better spent trying to hinder and punish citizens who's example should be honoured, respected and emulated.
        • Re:Convert? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @01:01PM (#27691035)

          If the companies delivering internet doesn't deliver the speed or quality desired by the citizens of a region or city; then I see absolutely no problem with the people taking matters into their own hands. In fact I would call it democracy in practice.

          It's more like socialism in practice. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but let's call it what it is.

          Ok, there's a bit of a distinction here. "Citizen-owned" and "City-owned" are two different things. A "citizen-owned" entity would just be a corporation like any other, subject to the same rules as Time Warner. Time Warner itself is "citizen-owned". But such a competing corporation couldn't operate in most cities because of franchise rules that on the one hand keep there from being a tangled mess of wires and torn-up streets everywhere but on the other hand also sanction monopolies.

          This is a city-owned entity. It is a government organization that is undercutting a private company by selling its products and services at cost. There's no way for any private for-profit company to "compete" with that. Socialism is not about competition; it's about government providing services at the lowest cost possible. Businesses exist to be profitable; they're not charities. The goal of a business is to sell products for the highest price possible, not the lowest.

          Now, I'm not arguing that there's anything wrong with what this city is doing. But I wonder how many people who are criticizing Time Warner over this really understand what they're arguing in favor of. They're arguing in favor of an economic system that is designed to be anti-competitive and to provide services for less than a private company ever could. Given that most seem to be criticizing Time Warner for "not competing", I would say very few understand this.

          • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @01:12PM (#27691259)
            Democracy means you get to choose *either* the socialist or the capitalist solution. As the health care system, the banking system, the real estate market and cable de-facto monopolies have shown, capitalism is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution.
          • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Narpak (961733) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @01:23PM (#27691479)

            But I wonder how many people who are criticizing Time Warner over this really understand what they're arguing in favor of. They're arguing in favor of an economic system that is designed to be anti-competitive and to provide services for less than a private company ever could.

            This is conjecture. Just because people are critical of the way TWC have handled this case, and just because they took matters into their own hand to find one solution (temporary or permanent}; does not mean that it have to lead to the implementation of a socialistic economic variation. Even if you accept that the solution they adopted here is moving into one of the fundamental concepts upon which the numerous variations of socialistic philosophy is based.

            I would urge you, and others, to keep in mind that reality is not easily put into one category or another. Socialistic and Capitalistic concepts and ideas are not all Either Or; one or the other. What matters is practical implementation of ideas; something that makes no distinction between the various ideologies behind the implementations chosen or attempted.

            While they people in question here might have taken the path the did because of perceived flaws in the system in place; does not mean anyone is advocating a total replacement of the system; or that following up on what they did with Greenlight will necessarily lead to the total implementation of a variant of a socialistic economical model; or that all socialistic economical models are hostile to all sorts of competition.

            Of course on the last point I will agree; very few seem to understand this; or that reality is not easily divided into ideological camps. Few things are black and white, one or the other. Our society and government(s) are what we make them, shaped by our ideas and actions.

          • Re:Convert? (Score:4, Informative)

            by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @01:44PM (#27691943)
            The fact the the government is selling services "at-cost" does not preclude the possibility of a private organization offering the same services and making money. First, they could simply charge more and try to be enough better/different that people are willing to pay. Second, they could operate more efficiently than the government so that they have a profit margin at the same retail costs.

            I'm not saying either thing would be easy, but the only way that the a government-run organization prevent private competition is through regulation. If there are no laws protecting the government-run company then there's no fundamental reason that private businesses couldn't compete; the government's lack of profit motives if no different than having access to lower-priced source material -- it's a competitive advantage, but it's not a guarantee against all competitors.
          • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by the_B0fh (208483) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @02:41PM (#27692899) Homepage

            Excuse me, english is my fourth language, so, pardon my french, but what the fuck are you talking about?

            TWC was invited to come in and provide the service. They refused. So the city built its own. And now you're saying TWC can't "compete" with that? Well, too bloody bad. The government offered it to TWC, and TWC turned it down. And now they want to cry "bad city"? Well, I'd like a pony with that too.

        • Re:Convert? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by aaandre (526056) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @02:24PM (#27692643)

          Unfortunately corporations are structured in a way that only benefits greed and shareholders, not stakeholders. If bullying, corruption and toxic law promise a higher profit, even by a margin, that's where these entities put their efforts. Better service and healthy competition do not guarantee profits higher than the promise of competition-killing laws.

          If corporations were truly persons, many of them would be in jail or mental health institutions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ccandreva (409807)

      Not only easier, but fairer.

      I have no love for TW -- I run a small ISP. But a government-run business charging break-even prices is not fair competition for any business. I would certainly be complaining if it looked like my taxes dollars were being used to compete with me !

      So let them turn it private. If they can THEN charge break-even prices great. More likely, they'll find they can't. Either way, it's then fair competition.

      • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:19AM (#27688963) Journal

        But a government-run business charging break-even prices is not fair competition for any business.

        So?

        Seriously, if the people choose to provide the services themselves, why should they be prohibited from doing so?

        I know, it's anathema to free-market idealists, but the end result is... better, cheaper service.

        TWC does not have a right to make a profit. No entity does. If they can't compete with government-provided service, then they should rightly have no presence in the market.

        Unless of course, you choose to ignore the economics of the issue... please recall from Econ 101 that in an ideal free market, profits will approach zero anyway. TWCs profit is a sign of market inefficiency. The ideal outcome is for both (or more) competitors to fight over minimal profit.

        • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by broen (1197939) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:44AM (#27689451)

          I know, it's anathema to free-market idealists, but the end result is... better, cheaper service.

          I would suggest that this is completely in line with free-market idealism. They found a better solution and decided to go with it. The only thing anathema to a free market is coercion (i.e., punishment). For example, if they found a better solution but were prevented by law. In that case the punishment is fines or imprisonment. And that is exactly what TWC is doing: using the government to punish the free-marketers who found a better solution.

          The only thing anathema to a free market is coercion.

          (repeated for emphasis)

      • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NormalVisual (565491) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:20AM (#27688973)
        Time-Warner had their chance to provide the service, and refused to do so. I personally think that communications/data connectivity needs to become a utility, just like power/water/sewer especially in light of the ridiculous amount of subsidies the phone companies/cable companies receive in the form of rights-of-way, easements, exclusive franchise agreements, etc.

        Perhaps a more efficient way of doing things would be for the city to maintain the physical infrastructure, whereas smaller ISPs like yourself would lease bandwidth on the public lines.
      • Re:Convert? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:32AM (#27689223)

        Yeah, I own a private road business, and all this government owned and operated road business cuts into my profits. We should make government owned roads illegal, that way I can charge everyone who uses it as much as they will take short of a revolt and make a tidy profit.

        Seriously, these guys are producing poor results and charging a ton of money for it. This is pretty standard, but suing public townships who try to set up public works their citizens strongly favor so that the money will flow in their direction is extremely damaging. I cannot abide by that.

      • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by faedle (114018) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:33AM (#27689255) Homepage Journal

        Except, if Time Warner is like most cable companies, they are not operating on a level playing field either. Most cable companies get a tax break on personal property taxes, often have subsidized costs on rights-of-way (because they are using municipally-owned RoW for their cables), and often had many of the startup costs subsidized by municipal and regional governments as part of the franchise agreements.

        You, as a business owner, don't have a right to make money. For a group of citizens to invest their tax money to build infrastructure, it means the broadband providers have failed as business people.

        TWC had a chance to provide the service, they declined. At that point, their moral right to complain disappeared.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tgd (2822)

          Actually in most cases cable companies lease pole and underground conduit space from the power company... the same as the telcos do.

      • Re:Convert? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:48AM (#27689537)

        But a government-run business charging break-even prices is not fair competition for any business. But a government-run business charging break-even prices is not fair competition for any business.

        It's not fair competition because it's not competition: time warner refused to give them fast service, THEN greenlight was born. Furthermore, TFA points out that tax money is NOT used!

        What is happening here is TWC offering B, the community wanting A and making it themselves, so TWC is trying to ban A so everyone has to buy their B.

        Anyway, even if this were not the case, who cares? Maybe my pink roots are showing, but if the people of Wilson are getting a better deal, so what if it's not strict capitalism? I don't think most of us are capitalist because we think that's what God wants us to be. The only reason to go with capitalism is because it's generally more efficient. In cases of monopoly, like this basically is, it apperantly isn't more efficient. So why not do this?

        And it's not like government goliath vs david TWC. TWC has way more money to invest, they have much more of an advantage than this grassroots organization. That they're unable to compete is all their failure and they should eat it.

  • What crap... (Score:5, Informative)

    by xgr3gx (1068984) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:40AM (#27688241) Homepage Journal
    The US needs competition for all these Cable/ISPs. I just read an article about how most countries with high-speed internet offers about 50Mbps for the price I pay for 10 Mbps.

    It's mostly because of the competition among the providers.
    What's the matter TWC, afraid that your archaic bloated business model couldn't compete?
  • Total BS (Score:4, Funny)

    by Deflagro (187160) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:41AM (#27688261)

    So is this proof that the Gov't is run by Corporations? Like we really didn't already know but come on...

    If all lobbying was eliminated, we might have a semi-fair and equal system but that won't be happening while the politicos keep getting free vacations and money to line their bentleys.

    • Re:Total BS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:56AM (#27688487)
      Yeah! Without lobbyist, the politicians would have to do their own research and make decisions for themselves! Just think of it, people whose area of expertise is in law and politics would be deciding laws in all sorts of fields they have no understanding of! And, er, wait...
      • Re:Total BS (Score:5, Funny)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:01AM (#27688595)

        You may be sarcastic, but it does beg the question: Isn't that what we pay those people for? Isn't it their damn job to investigate what to do and what laws to pass? Isn't that basically their only reason to exist, to find out what's "best" for what is considered the common good and act in this manner?

        If they cannot act that way, fire them. Yes, fire them. Out of a cannon if necessary, but they are essentially our employees. If I'm not satisfied with the performance of an employee, I send him packing and hire someone who can do his job.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by NormalVisual (565491)
          Yes, fire them. Out of a cannon if necessary

          I'd pay to see that. In fact, that could be a monthly event the community could rally around.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jeffmeden (135043)

          You may be sarcastic, but it does beg the question: Isn't that what we pay those people for? Isn't it their damn job to investigate what to do and what laws to pass? Isn't that basically their only reason to exist, to find out what's "best" for what is considered the common good and act in this manner?

          If they cannot act that way, fire them. Yes, fire them. Out of a cannon if necessary, but they are essentially our employees. If I'm not satisfied with the performance of an employee, I send him packing and hire someone who can do his job.

          You have a chance every 1, 2, 4, or 6 years (depending on the position) to do just that. Fire them! Get a new guy! Of course, you can't make the decision by yourself and need to get the agreement of a plurality of your peers... but hey how hard could that be? It's funny how we really do get just the system of government which we deserve. Except by funny, I mean heartbreaking.

  • by Erie Ed (1254426) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:42AM (#27688263)
    This is why TWC needs to be investigated for their practices. It seems to me that the NC government just wants to roll over to TWC wishes. I for one applaude that community that actually went out and did something to improve their service. Also I believe 10/10Mbps for $99 is a fair price as long as the quality is there.
  • Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:44AM (#27688295)
    It's sickening to watch massive corporations give up on the ideals of commercialism (competing for the consumer's dollars on the basis of quality, service, and price) and instead simply doing business through legislation (make it illegal for your competition to exist...). I feel like I'm watching someone's Cyberpunk or Shadowrun campaign come together as megacorps take control of governments... It's all sickening...
    • Re:Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:00AM (#27688565)

      We let that sort of thing happen every time we concede more and more to the government in terms of providing services for us. With all of the extra money and the ability to represent everyone, you suddenly realize that corps don't have to care what individuals want any more, they only have to care what the government wants.

      And the advantage from their perspective is that unlike in the market, where they have to serve millions, when you play to the government, you only have to satisfy a few hundred legislators and bureaucrats. And bribing/lobbying a few hundred people is honestly a lot cheaper than bringing a quality product to market.

      So, if you were a corp, what would you do?

      Government regulation and lobbying controls aren't going to do diddly until people realize the problem isn't with the lobbyists, per se. It's due to the fact that we've created the perfect customer for these corporations. It has incredible amounts of money to spend, not very high standards, a preference for a centralized and monolithic "low bid" sorts of vendors, and of course, it is easily and efficiently manipulated by controlling just a few key people.

      The only question is whether the multinationals need the bloated government or if they can someday discard its bloated corpse and operate like the dystopian sovereign megacorps that you refer to.

      • Re:Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:31AM (#27689207) Journal

        We let that sort of thing happen every time we concede more and more to the government in terms of providing services for us. With all of the extra money and the ability to represent everyone, you suddenly realize that corps don't have to care what individuals want any more, they only have to care what the government wants.

        Hogwash. We let that sort of thing happen every time we concede more and more to the corporations in terms of regulation and oversight.

        The problem is not big government providing services. The problem is failure of public (government) oversight and regulation. And the reason this has happened is because the public has handed control of their government to the big corporations, by failure to exercise due diligence in electing officials, and the failure to practice due diligence in overseeing the actions of their elected officials. Largely this is an issue of scale -- on average, a US Representative is responsible for something like 560,000 constituents. There is no way to have personal accountability. Even on the state level, it's impossible. NC, the state in question here, has 50 assembly members for a pop of 8 MM -- that's 160,000 constituents per Assemblyman.

        No, my fried, the problem is not allowing the government to provide services. The problem is allowing the government to NOT oversee and regulate monolithic corporate entities.

        Even if we had a small government that didn't get involved so much, we'd still have the problem of the government being bought by corporations... it would be even worse than now, since in some cases the government can and does provide cheaper and better service than private entities would.

    • Re:Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Keith_Beef (166050) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:18AM (#27688919)

      It's sickening to watch massive corporations give up on the ideals of commercialism (competing for the consumer's dollars on the basis of quality, service, and price) and instead simply doing business through legislation (make it illegal for your competition to exist...). I feel like I'm watching someone's Cyberpunk or Shadowrun campaign come together as megacorps take control of governments... It's all sickening...

      A corporation that exists to make profit will use any means available to make those profits. If lobbying and back-room deals pay better than R&D, then that's where the corporation will put its efforts.

      I don't like that any more than you, but we have to face the facts: that's how it works.

      If you want corporations to compete on value (i.e., cost/benefit for the consumer), then you need a system where R&D gives better returns than lobbying.

      This kind of stuff has been going on for ever. In feudal times, there were monopolies, guilds, charters; in the renaissance there monopolies, guilds were less influential, but there were still charters; in the 18th century, businessmen like Boulton and Wedgwood would petition parliament for extensions of patents in order to corner markets and build monopolies... TWC is behaving somewhat like the Dutch or British East India Companies... just taking care of business in the most efficient way that the system allows, and if that means using political influence then so be it.

      You can't wish it away. If you want to think of TWC as the enemy and defeat it, you need to understand the strategy and tactics available to your enemy and adapt your own strategy and tactics in consequence. If TWC has access to those who write and enact bills, then get access for yourself, or block TWC's access to that resource.

      K.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:44AM (#27688297) Journal

    They have Greenlight and Time-Warner cables running in parallel to one another? Good!!! I wish more communities would do stuff like that. If every city had TW, Comcast, Cox running 3-4 cables in parallel, then the power would be in the hands of the People to choose which one they like best.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:10AM (#27688761)
      Probably not. I'm guessing with a $28 million initial cost, the city wanted to run fiber. TWC and Embarq refused saying it would cost them too much. By the way, federal taxes since 1995 have paid something on the order of $202 billion to these companies to put in fiber but they have taken the money and have never installed it. So the city took it upon themselves to run fiber. So TWC and Embarq cannot compete since they are most likely using copper. What TWC and Embarq would like to do is put Greenlight out of business then take over their lines. Then they could offer higher speeds. Of course they will charge their customers double the price Greenlight was charging even though they paid nothing for the infrastructure.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:44AM (#27688301) Homepage

    But only when it is convenient. When it isn't convenient, they expect the government to prop up their business model in order to ensure that their profits are maximized and that their competition is none.

    This is an extremely ugly an hypocritical face of modern business today. People want lower prices and more affordable services and if they have to build it themselves to get it, they should be allowed to do it.

    This is not an entirely new story as other communications/media companies have sued municipalities to prevent them from making competitive progress in areas where they otherwise did not want to compete or operate. And these companies won. I am a little lost on what legal justification was used in winning their cases though... anyone have any insight?

  • Surprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by immakiku (777365) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:45AM (#27688325)

    This has happened before, for a municipal-sponsored project.

    From the project manager's blog, some of what they are doing is actually fair: not allowing cities to price below costs. This makes a lot of sense and is actually good for competition. Not allowing subscription fees to pay for other city projects - this on the other hand is not necessarily fair. Ideally TWC should be pricing their service competitively to Greenlight such that no extra profit is left over to fund other city projects. But they don't want to do that. They just want to minimize the threat from Greenlight given that they can't get rid of them. In my opinion, though, a public service using public resources should not overcharge to begin with - it should charge all subscribers a fair rate so that it's a self-contained project which provides exactly the service it was created to do.

    • Re:Surprised? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:52AM (#27688423)

      Not allowing subscription fees to pay for other city projects - this on the other hand is not necessarily fair.

      This is insanely stupid from TWC's point of view. If I can't charge a little bit extra for my muni broadband to pay for extra police (or a new SUV for myself, or whatever), then I'll just lower my rates to breakeven.

      Which will just make it harder for TWC to compete, since they have to make a profit, and I'm forbidden to make a profit.

  • Old Practice (Score:5, Informative)

    by mlingojones (919531) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:46AM (#27688347) Homepage

    ISPs and cable companies have a history of trying to avoid competition like this. A similar municipal wi-fi initiative was stifled in Pennsylvania a few years ago [wired.com].

    The result of the duopoly that currently defines "competition" is that prices and service suck.

    Amen to that.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:47AM (#27688359)

    Bubububbut I thought the market decided these things! I guess I didn't realize that the legislature was on the market as well.

  • by JDAustin (468180) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:51AM (#27688415)

    Corporations have always used the power of government to stifle their competition. It has been this way especially since the advent of mercantilism 400+ years ago.

    It was this way when the East India company was importing tea to England. It was this way with the railroads in the 1800's. It was this way under FDRs New Deal (which had the gove help big corps and put policies in place to screw over smaller ones). Its that way now.

    The product may change over time but the methods used to bury your competition are ancient.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:54AM (#27688459)

    Do you really think that $99 is a good deal?
    How much does TWC charge for similar service?

  • by alexandre (53) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:55AM (#27688473) Homepage Journal

    It does seems like it from the few working experiences that we have around the world [1,2]. I hope this is realized that we do need to guarentee a public network, maybe along the private one but nonetheless a good public network!

    We need ISP agnostic fiber to the homes, now!

    For those in Canada (note the "eh" in the title :P), give your voice below, the CRTC is asking for advise (for what it's worth...):

    http://isppractices.econsultation.ca/ [econsultation.ca] (english)

    http://pratiquesfsi.econsultation.ca/ [econsultation.ca] (franÃais)

    [1]. http://cis471.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-is-connectivty-in-stockholm-so-much.html [blogspot.com]

    [2]. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/04/shocker-aussies-to-build-own-open-access-fiber-backbone.ars [arstechnica.com]

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:00AM (#27688557)
    These are the same companies that scream "socialism" every time the government even HINTS at nationalizing anything, but the second they face any REAL competition they run screaming to the government to give them special protected status (with campaign donations and other bribes in hand). Their "free market" means "free for us to rape anyone we want market" and alternatives be damned.
  • by tacokill (531275) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:11AM (#27688785)
    Do you want private companies having to compete with the government? Generally, past history suggests that is a bad idea. The government is a special entity with special powers so you have to be very very careful when you allow government to go into "profit based business" - which is what this is. Tax spending on services/infrastructure is one thing. Profit based business is an entirely different animal.

    I have no problem with the idea of busting up the monopolies but you don't do that by making your government compete with private industry. No, instead you encourage OTHER private players to come in and compete with the monopoly (or you pass legislation, tax cuts, or whatever that does the same). If you insist on putting your government "in business", then you will eventually drive out all the other competitors aside from the government. Remember, the government can do LOTS of things that private industry can't so, by default, it's an unfair playing field. Look no further than the banking system right now for an example of how that plays out. Government was never designed to "be in business".

    For a bunch of tin-foil hat guys, the slashdot crowd really puts a lot of faith in government solutions of all kinds.....
    I hate Comcast as much as the rest of you. But I cringe at the idea of my city government being in the ISP business.
    • However, due to government provided monopolies given because businesses are allowed to lobby the government, this doesn't happen.

      The best solution is probably to strip the cable and phone providers of its guaranteed monopoly and let other businesses compete.

    • by TinBromide (921574) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:02PM (#27689813)
      I think people have forgotten the difference between government at the township level and government at the state/federal level. The local government is mostly residents who are ignored by lobbyists and do their best to make the town thrive. Yes, I am saying that if it is the people wish that the government should make their lives better, they should be able to use government to make their lives better. (Provided, of course, that they are educated and not being hoodwinked into giving up rights). Also, however, the township should not enforce the monopoly and if a small ISP wants to use the lines to compete with the township, they should have access to the lines. (Perhaps they want to offer 2mbit for $20 a month?)

      This situation is similar to the people forming a co-op to provide themselves with network connectivity, only corporations are crying foul because instead of forming a co-op to get things done, the citizens (not subjects in this case) went through existing channels (local government).

      This is precisely the kind of grassroots involvement that I LIKE to see because if people believe they can change the local government, they might believe that they don't have to lie down when corporations make their state and federal government steamroll them.

      A government should, ideally, stand back and let private citizens do their own thing, but thats not happening, not at the state level, not at the federal level. TWC has lobbyists, the township citizens did not. Until the township has the same pull as TWC, the local government needs to step up and fight fire with fire.

      We are well beyond a free market economy, and while its nice to think about what government would look like without the past 233 years of corporate influence, that's not the world we live in. The only way to get a free market economy would be to abolish corporations, abolish the current government, demolish the infrastructure, and start from scratch. Why? Because for every email, vote, and action taken by a citizen, a corporation will pay X dollars to a lobbyist to drip honey in senator's ears. To get a free market economy, you'd have to get rid of lobbying, all of the laws influenced by lobbying, the lobbyists, and all of the senators who were put in place by campaign contributions from corporations.

      Besides, as long as there is a system to game, people will game it, why shouldn't the local government game it for the direct benefit of its citizens?
    • by kindbud (90044) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:42PM (#27690615) Homepage

      Do you want private companies having to compete with the government?

      Sometimes yes and sometimes no. In this case, yes. Municipal internet is a great idea just like municipal water, fire, police, trash collection, etc. I like my utilities to be provisioned at cost. Private enterprise won't do that.

      Generally, past history suggests that is a bad idea.

      Can you provide an example and explain how it applies to this case?

  • by Lendrick (314723) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:11AM (#27688795) Homepage Journal

    After all, Greenlight, being government-run, is by very definition grossly inefficient. Time Warner ought to be able to beat them on both performance and price and still have a wide profit margin.

    Either that or maybe sometimes the government can actually provide decent, efficient services...

  • That's so AWESOME! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CHK6 (583097) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:15AM (#27688867)
    My city only offers water, emergency, and trash services. I have to come up with sewage, electrical, and gas services for myself. Never once did it occur to me to have internet service provided by the city.

    But for the residents of Wilson, NC, the city to offer cable, internet, and telephone services too on a voluntary subscription base. That's FREAKING AWESOME! That's not only money well invested into the city infrastructure, but money the city can use after the initial investment has been paid for for other city services.

    I might be a federal and state Republican, but I'm a local Democrat.
  • Utter BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by ady1 (873490) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:17AM (#27688909)

    here is the link to the actual bill: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S1004v0.pdf [state.nc.us]

    In essence, what the bill is saying is that a govt provided internet service should be self-sufficient, unsubsidized and be applicable to all costs and taxes that a private organization is. It is not trying to establish a monoply but instead trying to take the unfair advantage away from a govt sponsored organization.

    Here is the text from actual bill:

    Requirements. â" A city that operates a public enterprise under G.S. 160A-311 that provides communications services to the public for a fee over a communications network that is directly or indirectly owned or operated by or provides a financial benefit to the city or another city shall meet the following conditions with respect to the provision of communications service:
      (1) Comply with all local, State, and federal laws, regulations, or other requirements that would apply to the communications services if provided by a private communications service provider.
    (2) Establish a separate enterprise fund for communications service and shall use this fund to separately account for revenues, expenses, property, and source of investment dollars associated with the provision of communications service.
    (3) Shall not subsidize the cost of providing communications service with funds from any other noncommunications service, operation, or other revenue source, including any funds or revenue generated from electric, gas, water, sewer, or garbage services. In complying with this requirement, a city owned communications service provider shall not price any communications service below the cost of providing the service.
    (4) Shall, in calculating the cost incurred and in the rates to be charged for the provision of communications services, impute: (i) the cost of the capital component that is equivalent to the cost of capital available to private communications service providers in the same locality; and (ii) an amount equal to all taxes, including property taxes, licenses, fees, and other assessments that would apply to a private communications service provider including federal, state, and local taxes; rights-of-way, franchise, consent, or administrative fees; and pole attachment fees.
    (5) Shall annually remit to the general fund of the city an amount equivalent to all taxes or fees a private communications service provider would be required to pay the city or county in which the city is located, including any applicable tax refunds received by the city owned communications service provider because of its government status and a sum equal to the amount of property tax that would have been due if the city owned communications service provider were a private communications service provider.
    (6) Shall prepare and publish an independent annual audit in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles that reflect the fully allocated cost of providing the communications service, including all direct and indirect costs. The indirect costs shall include amounts for rights-of-way, franchise, consent, or administrative fees, regulatory fees, occupation taxes, pole attachment fees, and ad valorem taxes. The annual accounting shall reflect any direct or indirect subsidies received by the city owned communications service provider, and any buildings, equipment, vehicles, and personnel that
    32 are jointly used with other city departments shall be fully allocated to the city owned communications service. The North Carolina Utilities Commission may adopt rules and regulations to ensure compliance with the provisions of this subdivision, and all records demonstrating compliance shall be filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission and made available for public inspection and copying.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:04PM (#27689837) Homepage

    I'm not defending TWC in any way, but municipal Internet systems are generally a bad idea. They don't keep pace with technology improvements and the cross-subsidy from the grants and what not tends to drive all the commercial systems out of the community.

    Altoona PA was a good example. They created a municipal dialup system in the mid-90's because they thought that $20 was too much to pay for dialup. They were still stuck with it in the middle of this decade because they'd driven out the ISPs who would have brought in DSL and Cable modems.

    Municipal physical infrastructure (like Utopia out in Utah) is a somewhat better idea. There you reframe the competitive process without ending it.

  • by sjames (1099) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @06:30PM (#27695967) Homepage

    This should be a big clue to the pro privatization crowd who routinely claim that government provided services are inevitably many times more costly or much poorer quality than what a corporation would provide.

    TW clearly doesn't believe it can compete with what is already offered. If they did, they'd just compete Greenlight into the ground and save the legal fees.

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