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The Internet Government

To Save the Internet We Need To Own the Means of Distribution 338

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the you-might-be-a-communist-if dept.
indros13 (531405) writes "Net neutrality took a hit when the FCC gave its blessing to "Internet fast lanes' last week and one commentator believes that the solution is simple: public ownership of the hardware. 'Owning the means of distribution is a traditional function of local government. We call our roads and bridges and water and sewer pipe networks public infrastructure for a reason. In the 19th century local and state governments concluded that the transportation of people and goods was so essential to a modern economy that the key distribution system must be publicly owned. In the 21st century the transportation of information is equally essential.'

Is the Internet essential infrastructure? Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access?"
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To Save the Internet We Need To Own the Means of Distribution

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  • Yes, totally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:07AM (#46866641)

    I mean, just look at how great things are now that the FCC regulates the internet. Can't wait to have more business-owned politicians to mingle in the foundations of the internet.

    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      This AC was modded as troll, but I think ve is just assuming that politicians would try to take advantage of the infrastructure... in my opinion improbable, as it would be a much more explicit level of corruption than the regulatory capture we have nowadays.

      I think the best would be for cities to own the fiber that interconnects to their direct neighbors, and inside the city anyone could establish a mesh network. Something like some guys in Afghanistan did [fabfolk.com]. The cost would be ridiculously lower, the quality

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jhon (241832)

        "This AC was modded as troll, but I think ve is just assuming that politicians would try to take advantage of the infrastructure... in my opinion improbable, as it would be a much more explicit level of corruption than the regulatory capture we have nowadays."

        I'm less worried about direct corruption and much more worried about neglect. Privately owned, there is an incentive to fix damage and maintain infrastructure. Publicly owned, the money that would otherwise be used here would be redirected to someone

        • Re:Yes, totally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Pizza (87623) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:55AM (#46866973) Homepage Journal

          Privately owned, there is an incentive to fix damage and maintain infrastructure. Publicly owned, the money that would otherwise be used here would be redirected to someone's pet project.

          Oh, you mean like the incentives that Verizon et.al. have had to fix post-Sandy damage and maintain their DSL infrastructure? Face it, when there's no meaningful competition, there is no incentive to do any more than the legal minimum. There's far, far, far more accountability at the local governmental level.

          • Re:Yes, totally (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:00AM (#46867023) Homepage Journal

            No I mean like the 90 years it'll currently take to repair the sidewalks of Los Angeles. Or the potholes in the roads and highways causing residents to sue city and state to repair car damages. Or the bursting of 100 year old water pipes that haven't been maintained.

            Yes ... "far far far" more accountability at the local government level.

            • Re:Yes, totally (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Pizza (87623) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:19AM (#46867185) Homepage Journal

              No I mean like the 90 years it'll currently take to repair the sidewalks of Los Angeles. Or the potholes in the roads and highways causing residents to sue city and state to repair car damages. Or the bursting of 100 year old water pipes that haven't been maintained.

              Yes ... "far far far" more accountability at the local government level.

              I think what you're pointing out is the inability of governance and accountability to work beyond a certain scale. Which, unfortunately, is usually due more to corruption than anything else. One could argue this same corruption (albeit more likely at a county or state level) is why the reason why private last-mile monopolies are particularly awful.

              I know folks who live in places where the municipality is their ISP and TV provider. They consistently pay less (and get better service for their money!) than I ever have. I also know folks who are forced into using a specified ISP/TV provider by their HoA or Apartment -- they consistently may more and get far worse service than even the local telco would provide, if that was even an option. (I've had to put up with that too, FWIW).

              Moral of my rambling? Monopolies are generally bad, but if you're going to have one, put it in the hands of an organization that is *supposed* to be looking out for the public interest, rather than explicitly seeking to milk the public for everything it can.

              • by ZahrGnosis (66741)

                I disagree that it's "usually due more to corruption than anything else". I consider the problem one of accountability and politics (but not the corrupt type)... in the short term politicians are glad to have their names associated with grand projects -- building a new city-wide WiFi would be a boon, just as a new bridge, new bike paths, and other projects are. But long-term maintenance may get whittled away when the economy tanks, or due to other high priority budget concerns. As long as the politician

                • Re:Yes, totally (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Pizza (87623) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @10:18AM (#46868361) Homepage Journal

                  None of that is necessarily corrupt, it's just short-sighted. Most cities "need" to replace their plumbing infrastructure, repair and replace roads and sidewalks, shore up levies, and at some point they'll need to upgrade internet infrastructure.

                  And there are pretty easy solutions to that sort of thing too. For eleven years, I lived in a town which had its own municpal water system. While ostensibly under control of the city, it was a legally and financially a separate entity. Its operational finances were handled by use fees, and capital expenditures were primarily financed using municipal bonds, which were repaid using a variety of sources ("profits" from use fees, state/federal grants, etc).

                  A municipal ISP could easily be set up the same way, Assuming my state hadn't already effectively banned municipal ISPs in the name of "leveling the playing field." Yay for corrpution. Oh, wait, I meant lobbying and campaign contributions.

                  • by Jhon (241832)

                    "And there are pretty easy solutions to that sort of thing too. "

                    Come to California and implement these "easy solutions".

                    If there is an enormous amount of evidence of the public sector universally botching infrastructure, you are basically just wrong when you say they are "far far far" more accountable. It's simply not true.

                    Elected officials just need to finish their term and move on before a 'disaster' hits. Tony V, our ex mayor was in the hot-seat when a few "chickens" came home to roost on his watch.

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Who do you think does a better job of managing their municipal assets.... Los Angeles City or Compton? I'm not saying either are the best, but some of the smaller suburbs definitely maintain their infrastructure much better.

              Regardless, I think you would find it much easier to complain to a local city alderman and getting them to take your phone call rather than trying to get some member of congress to help you out because the assets are owned by the federal government. I shudder to think of what it would

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You mean like the incentive to fix broken privatized railroads in the UK?

      • This AC was modded as troll, but I think ve is just assuming that politicians would try to take advantage of the infrastructure... in my opinion improbable...

        Right. Because politicians rarely ever use public infrastructure to suit their own goals or vendettas.like this [huffingtonpost.com]

      • Re:Yes, totally (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@ n e tzero.net> on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:42AM (#46867401) Homepage Journal

        The key is local control. I live in a city where the municipal government owns the power company. While there certainly is some local corruption and some problems with how politically correct the investment into electricity generation facilities happens (for example, investing in a solar & wind farm instead of a coal plant... you may even agree with the decision of the municipal government on this issue), it really does help that the local "board of directors" for the power company has to face a general election every four years among ordinary voters.

        I certainly prefer this arrangement for a power company than what neighboring cities deal with, where I seriously doubt that the board of directors for that company has even heard of those towns in the first place (and happens to be Warren Buffet with his Berkshire Hathaway company). Given the alternatives, I really do like the local control much better.

        • Re:Yes, totally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BVis (267028) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @09:08AM (#46867595)

          On the flip side, our water is provided by a private company. They are terrible. They're a classic example of a private company cutting every corner it can find, legal or not. We can't even fine them effectively, since business-friendly regulation allows them to simply pass on the cost of the fine directly to the customer, with no government oversight or influence. They have to lobby the town for rate increases (which they get, much to the voter's chagrin most of the time), but they can tack on all the fees they want to recover fines. Their infrastructure is totally inadequate and has about 4 hours of water in it in the case of a single pump failure. They're breaking the contract by doing that and numerous other things (for example, not having contract-mandated disaster plans written up and waiting to be used) but they have no competition and no incentive to improve. They're no better than a municipal service, and in some cases a lot worse. We had a boil order a few years back that went on for nearly two weeks.

          They have no incentive to improve; so long as they have the contract (and how is anyone supposed to enter the market to compete with them), they have guaranteed business with no market pressure. At least a municipal service could have its house cleaned out by elected officials. There's actually talk of the town buying them out. Short of that, what are we going to do? They have a stranglehold on a vital town service and have no incentive to do anything other than make money.

      • One of my long standing proposals for covering this, and the whole Content distribution problem itself, is to have a Municipality own and manage the local Fiber to the Premisses (last mile), and bring everything into a COLO facility. Once in the COLO, patching goes direct to the service provider of the CUSTOMER'S choice. The technical issues would be minor, and the service providers would compete on a variety of metrics (Price, Content, QOS, Speed etc). This would eliminate the Cable single franchise typica

  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KraxxxZ01 (2445360) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:08AM (#46866647)

    "Is the Internet essential infrastructure? Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access?"

    Yes.

    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by njnnja (2833511) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:25AM (#46866765)

      Yes, but...

      The question of whether the Internet is essential infrastructure that should be run as a public utility does not resolve the question of net neutrality. It simply changes the process by which the question gets resolved.

      In fact, if the internet was run as a public utility, I think that it would be less likely to support net neutrality, for 2 reasons. First, net neutrality tends to level the playing field between large companies and small start ups. However, large companies tend to have much more political power than smaller companies, so if the question of net neutrality was determined purely in the political realm then net neutrality opponents would appear to have an advantage.

      Second, net neutrality tends to favor content owners over distribution channels. If content owners were still private companies, but the distribution channel was publicly owned, I think the public would tend to side more with giving power to the publicly owned internet utility companies and demand that companies like Disney or Google or What's App pay to play.

      However, in a world where the benefits of getting rid of net neutrality went to your local city instead of, say, Comcast, the decisionmaking calculus of whether net neutrality is a good idea or not might change substantially.

      • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@ n e tzero.net> on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:59AM (#46867545) Homepage Journal

        If you are worried about smaller companies being represented, you really want municipal governments involved. They tend not to be concerned at all with regards to large multi-national companies, but they do care about local businesses (as do their constituents). It is possible for a large company to dominate the local politics, but such companies "own" the town anyway in a number of ways and usually means the employees of that company are the ones who mostly dominate the local politics too (as opposed to the CEO).

        A big company like Comcast is likely to lose an argument in terms of throwing their weight around in local politics, but they definitely are able to control the discussion when done on a national level. That is the reason why the fight in the U.S. Congress and with the FCC is happening at all, because it isn't being controlled at the local level.

    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Informative)

      by NotDrWho (3543773) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:31AM (#46866817)

      My local government doesn't have that option. My state actually outlawed municipal ownership of ISP's. So did a lot of other states.

      Good old lobbyists, always thinking several steps ahead.

      • My state actually outlawed municipal ownership of ISP's.

        I don't know how viable that is for your particular situation, but some people are willing to choose a different state over this.

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:09AM (#46866651)
    However, given local and national governments' propensity to legislate the way the political donors dictate, it would seem on reflection that not much would change.
    • by goombah99 (560566)

      Furthermore, the monopoly backbone owners would love it if governements paid for all the expensive local distribution and then they could just charge a fee for connecting to their backbone. That's what happened to Netflix and L3.

      • Problem is, this proposal would also cover all of the backbones in the jurisdictional areas - so L3 would cease to have any privately owned infrastructure.

        This proposal goes much further than the last mile, its top to bottom, otherwise it won't work as the "fast lane" is created at the border of the ISP and the central carriers, so the local and national governments would have to essentially nationalise the ISPs, the backbone carriers, and more besides.

        Thats a heck of a lot of nationalisation going on...

        • Beyond that, the internet exists out of the jurisdiction of the US.

          • A portion of the internet does, but remember that this story is a reaction to the ruling of an American government body, the FCC, which applies to American internet service providers, Comcast et al, requiring American content distribution companies, Netflix et al, to deliver to one of the largest internet demographics, Americans.

            This has a very big impact overall, especially as Americans are one of the biggest audiences for non-US content distributors as well so the US ISPs can still require payment from no

      • Isn't the expense of local distribution the reason for a lack of competition? Competition between ADSL providers here in NL worked well after the government forced the (formerly state run) PTT to share the local loop with other providers for a nominal fee. Since then we've seen the inevitable consolidation, with smaller ISPs being bought up by the larger ones, but even today, the barrier to entry for new ISPs isn't all that high, and competition between ISPs remains reasonably healthy.
        • The UK has something similar - BT, the major incumbent, is required to sell access to the local loop at a similar rate to which it would charge itself cost wise, and is also regulated on how much it can charge for central line access etc. It seems to work very well - as you note, there has been a period of consolidation over the past decade, but competition is still fierce.

          For example, today I have Sky internet and telephone, run over the same phone line that BT installed 25 years ago. On that same phone

    • by dsginter (104154)
      Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of c
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:18AM (#46866715)

    Here in the US, local governments are a large part of the reason we have such poor competition for internet service. Many municipalities grant franchise agreements to ISP, allowing them to operate as the only service provider in a given area. To be fair, these do include *some* incentives for the service provider to provide a good service (often in the form of a "Good Service Bond," money the service provider only gets back if they do a good job in the eyes of the local gov't). However, despite these incentives, I feel consumers would get better service if there were actual competition for their business. To address OP's question: local government has already stepped in, and has been a part of the problem thus far.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:19AM (#46866717) Journal

    I love it when some utopian statist poses such a question - "should the government take over X for the benefit of all?" - as if government is a neutral, rational entity that has the best interest of the public at heart.

    Local governments (still, one might put it, "within arm's reach of the voter")? Very likely so. I know lots of people at the local government levels that work their asses off to do the right thing and the best thing for their communities.

    But what has been abundantly proven over and over from the food industry to the car industry to the power industry to the cable tv industry is that larger scales of government are ever-more corrupted/corruptable to the point that at the highest, federal level, it's lobbyists, private interests, and power-brokers all the way through.

    I used to be a starry-eyed idealist, and was insulted when Jackie Chan commented to a Chinese paper that "America is more corrupt than China". I still think he's wrong in an absolute sense, but the more I try to look clearly and skeptically at my own country and government, the more I'm repulsed by the greed and nepotism at the highest levels and am, perhaps finally, beginning to admit that it may not be fixable.

    • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:30AM (#46866805)

      I'll add to your sentiments by pointing out that at the local level business is often steered to the old boys' network. The Mayor's golf buddy gets the contract for the line maintenance, the councilman's brother-in-law gets the billing contract, etc. And the new guy in town who has a great business that competes with them has loads of trouble with the permitting process and the zoning board.

      At every level, power corrupts. Even if most folks are basically good people trying to do the right thing, the constant pressure of vested interests trying to use that power to their benefit tends to move things in an unfair direction.

      I tried to reform some of the IT processes in our local government - it was highly fragmented and inefficient - and got no interest at all. I finally talked to someone who had a little insight into the problem - he pointed out just how many different businesses had contracts with all these little agencies and offices. So if you try to upset that apple cart you'll have all of those small business owners complaining to their councilmen about how they are being negatively affected. Nobody is agitating on the other side at all. (well, except me). So the chance of fixing the problem is pretty much exactly zero.

      • by mellon (7048)

        Huh. The town I live in just refused to approve the budget proposed by the selectboard because they felt there was too much fat in it, and the selectboard is now scrambling to figure out what to cut. If it's not like that in your town, maybe you should run for office.

      • he pointed out just how many different businesses had contracts with all these little agencies and offices.

        So when we set it up in the usual means of centralized efficiency it costs less because they are fewer vendors and more money goes to a smaller group of people.

        Then we complain about the problems of income distribution and wonder how we can use government to redistribute income.

        Maybe this is just a kind of organic income redistribution. Maybe people, when given a choice, will choose a certain level of

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'm repulsed by the greed and nepotism at the highest levels and am, perhaps finally, beginning to admit that it may not be fixable.

      No government can ever work when the people sit back and simply let it. Eventually, such a situation will always be taken advantage of by evil men. But we can solve this problem simply by saying no. No, I won't participate. I'm going to fuck off to another country, or whatever. For those who still have the means to get out before this place goes down in flames, it's already a good idea!

      Of course, choosing someplace that won't be invaded and land-grabbed by the USA is about a bitch.

      If we really want to fix i

      • You sir, are correct, if not a bit cynical.

        Of course it can be fixed. It's an entity made up of men and woman, so people are ideally suited to repair it.

        As for being shot at, well, it's not like it couldn't happen, but one recent American event showed a little promise. The federal showdown with Cliven Bundy went off without the kind of jackbooting reminiscent of Waco and Ruby Ridge, so we could optimistically infer that government can still be taught, and change.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          As for being shot at, well, it's not like it couldn't happen, but one recent American event showed a little promise. The federal showdown with Cliven Bundy went off without the kind of jackbooting reminiscent of Waco and Ruby Ridge, so we could optimistically infer that government can still be taught, and change.

          Sure, as long as you outnumber the cops. But they brought in tanks with flamethrowers to set the compound in Waco on fire, and parked a tank on top of their escape hatch. They had clear military superiority, and they used it in classic USA fashion.

      • If we really want to fix it, first we have to stop fighting each other, and then we have to show up on their doorsteps en masse. Sure, they can shoot a lot of us, but if not today then tomorrow. Best to take a chance that you won't get shot for standing up than the chance that the government won't become more corrupt, because it will.

        That's so 20th century. That will never work, because that's what the elites think would happen, so that's what they're prepared for, hence the militarized police.

        The attack on the system must come from where they do not expect it and where they cannot fight it. It must come from leveraging the connecting power of the internet to wrest control of local governments via the ballot box. We need a national "Internet Party" wherein the candidates pledge to vote the way citizens direct him through internet-enable

        • by Xest (935314)

          An easier solution might be to try and setup a national organisation for technology workers and arrange strikes.

          The government and business folks will sit up and take notice when no one turns up for work to keep their computers and networks running one day.

          The economic impact would be too much for them to accept.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Third parties don't work because have to work within the system, and the system is controlled through a media which can tell lies like that third parties ruined an election for the less-bad guys, or whatever.

          It's better to choose and promote alternatives rather than feeding into the system. By all means, some people have to play the political game to represent the voice of sanity (whatever that means to you) but most of the rest of us just need to vote to give the appearance of caring and to make our opinio

    • Layers of abstraction in democracy also provides layers of abstraction in morality.

      You can quote me on that.

    • I am less concerned on who ones the hardware but who ones the wires.
      The problem sense technology improved to give average citizen high speed internet. We have lost option.
      Back in the day of the late 1990's while we had slow dial up, we had a choice of ISP's. We had the big names like AOL, MSN, Compuserve, Prodigy where you pay a premium for extra features. But we also has a slew of independent ISP local to you area. Because to become an ISP you will need a T1 line and a PC with a digiboard and extra modems

  • Common carriers (Score:5, Informative)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:19AM (#46866721)
    Would classifying broadband providers as common carriers not be an effective solution to this as well? There's a WhiteHouse.gov petition [whitehouse.gov] circulating that so far has surprisingly little support.
    • There's a WhiteHouse.gov petition circulating that so far has surprisingly little support.

      I think that's because most people have seen through the Emperor's new clothes, and have become dismayed with the "new", yet status quo, style he's wearing.

      • by davecb (6526)

        The price of liberty is eternal vigilance (variously attributed to Thomas Jefferson and others)

        Besides being vigilant, you have to "petition the King for Redress of Grievance", well as pressure the commons (legislature) to strengthen the law, lean on the police to enforce the law that already exists, write amicus curia letters to the courts and burn the occasional monopolist at the stake (;-))

        In Canada, the local hydro companies are regulated monopolies already, own half the poles on the streets and al

  • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:21AM (#46866733)

    Is the Internet essential infrastructure? Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access?"

    Yes... the internet infrastructure is essential. That is why nobody should own or regulate it.

    Personally; I would rather see the government give each internet service provider a choice whether they will be a common carrier or not. If they choose NOT to be a common carrier, then that ISP may not be a licensed telecommunications company --- that is, that company is not given the right to install or own copper or fibre optic cabling installed on any public right of way ----- in other words, this "NOT a common carrier" option should not be open to any ISP who is also a Cable company or telco.

    If an ISP or cable company chooses to be a common carrier, then they are subject to network neutrality and many other regulations. They are then allowed to be a licensed telecommunication carrier, and they are then allowed to own or install fibre optic cables, copper, other data cables, and IRUs (indefeasible rights of use) for data/telecom cables in a public right of way.

    BUT: they are then subject to network neutrality and other regulation. At a bare minimum, they should be required to lease data access ("IP networking connectivity") to ISPs of all types on a fair and nondiscriminatory basis.

    Remember what makes the internet work at all and work so well is that government is not involved in its administration. Every private entity can build their own network, AND they cooperate to interconnect and form internet.

    The moment the government starts owning significant pieces, they will be subject to lobbying by special interest groups and start passing laws to regulate and control usage of it or insert web filtering to protect the children.

    In other words: government ownership could be the undoing of open and free internet.

    This could be much worse than what corporations will do.

    After all... The internet was around and survived a long time with no "network neutrality" rules.

    On the other hand: it is good and great if local municipalities own the last mile infrastructure. Like your municipal water authority installs and owns the pipes.

    As long as the municipality does not decide they want to regulate what kind of information you can view, and start inserting web filters and censorship... which is much less likely, than if a powerful government entity begins to own internet exchange points and other critical internet infrastructure.

    • by Xest (935314)

      What you describe is similar to the issue we had in the UK. In the UK we had the problem that BT was previously publicly owned and ran the whole UK telephone network before being privatised. That meant we had a single telco with a monopoly on all the copper and fibre in the country. To a large extent this is still somewhat the same (though there are actual infrastructure competitors now in some areas) but it's not too much of a problem because our competition overseer enforced the following:

      - Forced BT to r

  • I'm for net neutrality but "To Save the Internet We Need To Own the Means of Distribution" is a little over the top.

    The Internet has grown despite of restrictions from ISPs since day one.

  • While I agree that there would be considerable benefit from this, I think that there's a whole mess of tinfoil hat issues here. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that my government is spying on me (not specifically me, but in general). Giving them all the hardware means no more negotiating with service providers (at any level).

    No more sneaking around what is or isn't okay. "This is my hardware, and to protect my hardware, I have to install this additional monitoring." There's the whole "If you aren'

  • How do you convince everyone to participate?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The main issue with that is backbones to node put into suburbia. The cpu power, ongoing costs and access to rooftops for well placed hardware can be difficult.
      Can it be done for 100's of homes with free/hobby spectrum use ie no costly "licence"? Yes.
      Beyond that every connected home would need very well crafted networking software and be ready for speed drops as limited bandwidth gets shared as more people join.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:27AM (#46866777) Homepage

    Also please take a minute to promote the petition for net neutrality [whitehouse.gov] and the petition for common carrier [whitehouse.gov]. Promote them on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or wherever you normally put such things. The signature count was climbing fast last week, on track to hit 100,000 within a week, but over the weekend they fell below the fold on most of the news and social networks. We need to get the traffic numbers back up.

  • The best way to run Internet access would be to have the infrastructure e.g. fiber lines to every household) owned by the government (and run under a cost-recovery model only) and then any ISP that wants to being allowed to come in and run services over that link. The government would not be allowed to offer its own service over the links.

    Its the best answer because:
    1.You dont get any issues with lobbyists pressuring the government into doing stuff (e.g. political pressure from a special-interest-group to b

    • Sounds good. We can repurpose the existing Post Office infrastructure and employees to run the internet infrastructure.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Yes that would work. Every ISP becomes a true provider vs a classic copper telco network owner. You roll out optical into suburbia once per gerneation and then offer any service you want as just another layer.
      Any plan you want from a vast array of different porviders. Some offering top speed, great service, HD media, games, just bacic net/alarm/voice/fax, good backhaul around to the world or just low cost with low cost on over subscibed networks.
      The consumer would be in control making informed selectio
  • by x0 (32926)
    After all of the revelations by Snowden, I find it incredulous that people still think the government should have greater access and ownership over our data.

    Really?

    m
    • by swillden (191260)

      I find it incredulous

      "It" (meaning the state of the world) cannot be incredulous (in a state of being unable to believe). What you mean to write is "I find it incredible that..." or "I find it unbelievable that..." or "I am incredulous that...".

      Vocabulary quibbles aside, I agree with your point. Mostly. There's no guarantee that privately-owned networks will fight government surveillance, or that government agencies will facilitate it. But I think it is more likely. What's really needed in both cases is really strong whistleb

      • by swillden (191260)

        But I think it is more likely.

        Sorry, that wasn't clear. What I meant to say was that I think the former -- private networks fighting government surveillance -- is more likely than the latter -- government agencies fighting government surveillance.

  • Indeed. (Score:2, Funny)

    by nospam007 (722110) *

    "We call our roads and bridges and water and sewer pipe networks public infrastructure for a reason."

    We need not only crumbling bridges, pothole roads and leaky sewer lines, we also need the Internet nailed to dry-rotten, termite-ridden wooden poles in our possession to be happy.

    • Re:Indeed. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by whistlingtony (691548) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:54AM (#46867505)

      well, if conservatives would stop lobbying for lower and lower taxes(but only for the rich), maybe all our infrastructure wouldn't be crumbling.... You'd think people would get that crumbling government is EXACTLY what conservatives want. They even SAID SO. They are actively trying to starve the government so it shrinks and they can point to all the badness and say "See! We told you government sucked!" even though they're the ones that caused it all.

      "Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." - Grover Norquist

      What do you people THINK happens when you keep cutting taxes. Guess what. You can't pay for things. Military has to be paid for. debts have to be paid for. Social Security has to be paid for (because it's OUR money). Roads? Bridges? Those can wait a few more years...

  • The author is recommending that local government own and control "the internet." He uses public roads as an example of local government ownership -- potholes and all.

    When communities own their roads they can and have established the rules of the road. This is why the average speed and carrying capacity of these local roads have skyrocketed in the last two decades.

    Local government ownership of public schools has given us a fine education system turning out young adults that know far more and are more prepare

  • Comparing the internet to roads is a false analogy. A road takes up significant physical space, and has a significant impact on its surroundings. On the other hand, fiber and other internet infrastructure takes up negligible space, can be out of the way underground, on poles or wireless.

    But most importantly, multiple internet "roads" can occupy the same space and terminate at the same places. If you must have an analogy, then imagine having five alternative roads from your driveway, though your neighborh

  • by fygment (444210) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:08AM (#46867093)

    Look at our bridges and infrastructure ... potholes, rusting out, replaced/repaired on an irregular basis, usually years after they should have been EXCEPT toll brigdes and highways. Those keep up to snuff pretty well.

    So yes make the internet public infrastructure with a toll on it's use. NOT taxes alone. That doesn't work (see above statement), but use a toll booth model where the funds go directly to maintain the specific infrastructure.

    Note however that as a result, the infrastructure will NEVER be cutting edge. It will ALWAYS lag technology and if the wrong decisions are made, it may become too inflexible to adapt to future technologies (like our power grids).

    Hmm .... doesn't sound so appealing does it?

    • So.... if the internet was publicly owned, it wouldn't be cutting edge (like it is now under private ownership), it will lag technologically (like it is now under private ownership), and the wrong decisions might be made (like now, under private ownership). Frankly, I think the public power grids are holding up rather well. Yes, they need updating, but I take them for granted every day, which I consider a sign of success.
  • Government owned distribution has its drawbacks, but what about a public owned cooperative? It would operate like a corporation except that the shareholders are also the customers. There are two sticking points to this approach though- initial capitalization and competition. Startup costs for this kind of enterprise are not insignificant, and even if a cooperative could be established, existing providers would slash their fees (to the point of taking a loss) to insure that a cooperative would not gain marke
  • by rossdee (243626)

    Who's We?

    Don't forget the Internet covers more than 1 country (Unless of course you count "The Earth as one country, and Mankind its citizens")

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @08:29AM (#46867289) Homepage

    The supposed solution here in order to guarantee net neutrality -- public ownership of the hardware -- is overkill. Other countries have net neutrality without that, so why can't the United States do the same?

    Because almost all of US politics on the federal level is corrupt. Or else, how an earth did Tom Wheeler [wikipedia.org], a former lobbyist for the cable and telecommunications industry, ever get to become the current chairman of the FCC?? Because our politicians were paid by the industry to let it happen. And the worse thing about it is that the Supreme Court says this is perfectly legal these days (talk about activist judges). So, where previously the communications industry may have been reasonably well regulated, it's not anymore.

    There is only one solution to this problem: get big money out of politics. And we can actually do this.

    It would be difficult a thing to do in any other country with such a thoroughly corrupt political system, but lucky for us the United States Constitution includes Article Five [wikipedia.org], which describes an alternative process through which the Constitution can be altered: by holding a national convention at the request of the legislatures of at least two-thirds (34) of the country's 50 States. Any proposed amendments must then be ratified by at least three-quarters (38 States).

    Is anybody working towards this yet? Yes. WOLF-PAC [wolf-pac.com] was launched in October 2011 for the purpose of passing a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will end corporate personhood* and publicly finance all elections**. Since then, many volunteers have approached their State Legislators about this idea and their efforts have often been met with unexpected bi-partisan enthusiasm. So far, 50 State Legislators have authored or co-sponsored resolutions to call for a Constitutional Convention to get money out of politics! Notable successes have been in Texas, Idaho, Kentucky and Illinois.

    However, if the State Legislators are also corrupt, why are they helping us? Well, maybe they aren't as corrupt as you think. And even if they are, the important thing is that they seem to be just as fed up with the Federal government as we are -- so much so that they seem quite happy to help out with this effort. After all, it's a pretty simple proposal that speaks to both Democrats and Republicans.

    If you think this idea makes sense, you can sign this petition [wolf-pac.com], donate, or even take action by personally contacting your favorite State Legislator and asking for a meeting. It's easier than you might think and as a result we might be able to change this awful situation sooner than you think.

    .

    *) Over the years this has become the source of a problem that has lead to a series of bad Supreme Court decisions equating money to free speech. The decisions include Buckley v. Valeo [wikipedia.org] in 1976, First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti [wikipedia.org] in 1978, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [wikipedia.org] in 2010 and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission [wikipedia.org] in 2014, but there are probably more. Yes, legal personhood is important in that it provides a way to safeguard personal assets against the claims of creditors and lawsuits, but the truth is that if legal personhood were to be revoked we could simply pass a law to provide this protection in some way other than personhood.

    **) At the State level, more than half of all political campaigns are already publicly financed in some way, so there's nothing strange about doing the same for political campaigns

  • Is the Internet essential infrastructure? YES

    Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access? YES

  • Instead of public net backbone, we might end up with private bridges and private highways.
  • I posted [slashdot.org] on this in Sept 2012. Best to use a coop to keep the ownership of the pipes out of the hands of the government (prevent censorship and conflicts of interest). You could even bundle up the electrical lines to keep overhead low, reduce conflicts over who owns & controls polls, line positioning, etc, and even bundle the two bills together to make everybody's life a little easier.

  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @09:05AM (#46867575)

    I'm seeing a LOT of "Government BAD" comments here.

    I was around in the early days of the internet. It was a happening time. There was practically an ISP on every block back in the dial up days. Dial up service was CHEAP, it was ALWAYS upgrading, there was TONS of competition. It was awesome. Sure, speeds sucked, but it was what we had. Half the internet wasn't flash ads either, so it wasn't all that bad. The point was there was LOTS of competition and you could choose the big ISP or the small neighborhood ISP. The small neighorhood ISP could actually survive because the government told the Big Boys to play fair with the lines (that tax money subsidized). I was in a small town and we had several local ISPs. We had choices.

    Know why? Common Carrier rules. Government regulation of critical infrastructure for the benefit of everyone. And it was AWESOME.

    All these people whining about how the government is bad and always screws things up are just flat out WRONG. They're either too young to remember the age of dial up, or too ideologically opposed. Worse, they're LIVING In a privately controlled and unregulated internet. And it SUCKS and it's getting worse, and they're STILL defend it because they've been brainwashed. It turns my stomach....

    You've seen the internet grow up under regulation. You've seen the competition and thriving it caused. Now you're seeing what happens when we take away the regulation. We're seeing the decline of competition. You're seeing, for the FIRST TIME EVER, that speeds are going DOWN while prices go up. Put 2 and 2 together, sheesh....

    • To summarize, previously there was no vertical integration. ISPs didn't own the last mile. And I think that's the model we need to go back to.

      Suppose ISPs no longer own the last mile. That's either a government or even any 3rd party. All an ISP needs to do to provide service to an area is to run a fiber to the main patch panel for that area. Suddenly it's easy for more players to get in to the ISP business and offer service to an area.

      My main point being is that the last mile infrastructure is a natura

  • It pisses me off that I've been arguing for this same genuine network neutrality here for years and yet this latecomer to the idea gets front-page attention. Still, maybe you'll listen now and start the literal revolution that will be required to wrest the wires from the grasp of corporate overlords? The FCC is staffed by cowards and revolving-door shills who won't even suggest it much less help make it happen.

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