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Rural Broadband to Replace POTS As Beneficiary of US Gov't Subsidies 208

Posted by timothy
from the hello-sir-wondering-which-bribe-you'd-prefer dept.
IDG reports that "The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted to overhaul a decades-old system of telephone subsidies in rural areas, with the funding refocused on broadband deployment. The FCC's vote Thursday would transition the Universal Service Fund's (USF's) high-cost program, now subsidizing voice service, to a new Connect America Fund focused on broadband deployment to areas that don't yet have service. The FCC will cap the broadband fund at $4.5 billion a year, the current budget of the USF high-cost program, funded by a tax on telephone bills." That cap, says Reuters, is "the first budget constraint ever imposed on the program."
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Rural Broadband to Replace POTS As Beneficiary of US Gov't Subsidies

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  • by MetricT (128876) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @04:13PM (#37860766) Homepage

    I have been trying to get broadband for my parents for years. They live a mile off the main road in a deep valley. Thus far...

    * No ISDN. A year or two ago Tennessee decided it no longer had to be a tariffed service, and AT&T burned their ships behind them as rapidly as possible, because I was told our CO no longer has ISDN hardware (it did back in 2001-2002).

    * No DSL. AT&T has a cluster of SAI cabinets 1 mile from their driveway, but no free ports on their DSLAM, and no intention of adding new ones. I've voluntered to *BUY* them a frickin' VDSL2 DSLAM and give it to them, but I've never heard back from them on that or any of several other offers. AT&T is a bigger information sink than /dev/null

    * No Fiber. I have asked Charter if they could provision single-mode fiber if I pulled it to the road. I was agnostic about whether that's a pure FTTH setup, or just a cabinet by the road with a cable modem and a fiber converter. Nope. They cannot provision my fiber under either scenario, but they *can* provision fiber they lay themselves, which strangely costs roughly "one new car" more than doing it myself. Which is kind of hard on retired fixed-income folks.

    * No cable. Their house doesn't have cable coax. See Charter's idea of fair price above.

    * No cell. The valley effectively blocks all signals. I have maps of every cell tower in a 10 mile radius, and never found a useful signal on any of them.

    * No satellite. They don't have line-of-sight with geosynchronous orbit, and even if they did, the satellite providers in our area aren't accepting new customers right now.

    I mean, what can you do at this point? My next step is getting two 2 watt Wi-Fi routers and a couple of high-gain antennas, setting up a couple of passive repeaters between them and my house (very NoLOS), and hoping I can set up a wireless bridge. My next step past that is contacting CERN to see if they can beam internet over neutrinos.

    The last time this issue came up on Slashdot, the (L)ibertarians came out of the woodwork, blaming my parents for building a house somewhere where there's no broadband, despite the fact that they built the house in 1985. Which is about as rational as blaming settlers in the 1700's for not building cities where the interstates were going to be.

    They also pounced on me for wanting something subsidized. Except you're not subsidizing me one thin dime. The phone cable is already in the ground. All I need is a DSLAM in the local SAI cabinet, *which I volunteered to purchase myself*. No go. A free market only exists when the buyer actually has a choice (see "healthcare" for another example of your economic ideologies colliding with reality).

    Freshman economics tells you that some business don't behave well under the usual free-market rules, and thus need to be heavily regulated. Those business are called "natural monopolies", which is why gas, electricity, sewage, roads, phone (hah!) are provided by either public utilities, or publicly-regulated private utilities. A utility only needs one set of physical plant, one set of staff, one set of senior management. Multiple companies waste megabucks on multiple plant/staff/management. They waste further megabucks on advertising, trying to steal profitable customers from each other in a zero-sum game. All that needless spending increases your costs, increases the necessary rate of return before they will provide internet, and ends up marooning a lot of marginal households on the wrong side of the digital divide.

    In the middle 2000's several underserved TN cities and utilities got tired of being ignored by the AT&T and Comcast's of the world and were looking at getting into the game themselves. And then in 2008 our state politicians decided to actively hinder the formation of municipal internet and the entrance of local electric utilities (existing ones got grandfathered in), in the name of "encouraging compet

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