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Hundreds of Cities Wired With Fiber, But Telecom Lobbying Keeps It Unusable 347

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-case-you-went-a-day-without-hating-your-ISP dept.
Jason Koebler writes: 'In light of the ongoing net neutrality battle, many people have begun looking to Google and its promise of high-speed fiber as a potential saving grace from companies that want to create an "internet fast lane." Well, even without Google, many communities and cities throughout the country are already wired with fiber — they just don't let their residents use it. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and Verizon have signed agreements with cities that prohibit local governments from becoming internet service providers and prohibit municipalities from selling or leasing their fiber to local startups who would compete with these huge corporations.'
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Hundreds of Cities Wired With Fiber, But Telecom Lobbying Keeps It Unusable

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  • Annoying. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:35PM (#47167879)

    The core issue is whether a government should be providing a service. But that should not be an issue.

    The government should provide the pipes (fibre or copper or whatever) to the houses that it covers. Paid for by taxes.

    The pipes terminate at a government facility that the government leases space at to ANY AND ALL companies that want to provide ISP services over those pipes. As cheap as possible but without allowing one company to lease ALL the space.

    Then switching between ISP's should be as simple as moving a patch cord.

    Your taxes pay for the pipes and their maintenance and the facility and its maintenance (minus the lease revenue).

    • Re:Annoying. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by burne (686114) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:51PM (#47167961)

      The core issue is whether a government should be providing a service.

      Is a road, street lighting or waste disposal a 'service'?

      Is intarwebs a service?

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

        by Solandri (704621) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @12:15AM (#47169375)
        Those are services, but the means to provide them are pretty clear and straightforward. That wasn't the case with Internet service. Nobody was really sure what was the best way to provide Internet: ISDN/DSL over phone lines? Cable modems? Satellite? Fiber?

        In cases like this with unclear optimal solutions, the government gets out of the way and lets private industry pick the horses. The government provides the easement for placing the lines, but responsibility for constructing and maintaining the lines rests with the private companies. That way a wide variety of solutions are tried, not on the government's dime, and over time it becomes clear which solutions are superior.

        At this point though, it's pretty clear that fiber to the home is the future. There's still some uncertainty about exactly the type of fiber interfaces, but for the most part changing those won't require burying completely new cable. So while I think it was necessary to have the intermediate step where private companies offered different types of Internet service, I can also agree with now having the government provide Internet service over fiber lines. (Well, provide the fiber lines. The service itself along with any peering agreements should be offered by private companies, since it's not at all clear what arrangement of peering agreements is optimal.)
    • I love the idea, until those patch cables get moved over to a black MITM box with the NSA logo all over it. No sir, I don't like it after all.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        >he thinks the NSA doesn't already have black boxes in private datacenters already.

      • Are you actually suggesting the current situation is different? We already know all our traffic is being fed to the NSA.
      • by anagama (611277)

        I'm SOOO glad that AT&T operates room 641A and not the city of San Francisco. That makes it all so much better. Plus it costs more! Another bonus (for somebody).

      • You are aware of course that about every ISP already has those capabilities, right?

        (legal or otherwise).

      • I would say you have a far better chance of your local government standing up to the NSA goons. It's a states rights vs fed rights pissing match. Your local government has it's own goons with guns (and lately a token APC), so you have a far better chance of things getting worked out by the courts than guys with guns. Elected officials often have shield laws protecting them from incarceration/civil suit for doing what they were elected to do. They have big pockets by way of taxes to fight in the courts.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      The core issue is whether a government should be providing a service. But that should not be an issue.

      It's not an issue because providing whatever internet connection is popular this year is not what government is for.

    • see iProvo (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Provo, Utah tried this approach: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IProvo [wikipedia.org]. Unfortunately, it didn't work out too well, and Google had to come save the day...

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Provo paid for the lowest bidder, who so happened to have a history of messing up fiber Installs. If you're going to outsource your work, get someone competent.
    • by Ichijo (607641)

      The government should provide the pipes (fibre or copper or whatever) to the houses that it covers. Paid for by taxes.

      Why taxes? My water bill pays for the pipes, my phone bill pays for the phone line, my electric bill pays for the electric wires, and my cable ISP pays for the coax. Should someone who doesn't use the service be forced to help pay for it through their taxes?

      No, just require that anyone who provides the pipes has to allow third party ISPs to provide service over them and charge them a fair p

      • Re:Annoying. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @08:19PM (#47168439) Homepage Journal

        Because with taxes it will be cheaper, the people will have a larger say, and it is beneficial to all people.

        Interesting anecdote:

        I worked for a Water Bureau. The number clearly show that taxing people instead of having a water bill would be substantially cheaper for everyone.
        I mean 20% cheaper, if not more.

        But if you mention it to the public, when they hear 'taxes', the well off scream bloody murder when though it would also be cheaper for them as well.
        With taxes, you no longer need a billing system. So you loose the expense of that, the infrastructures for that, the expense of maintaining PCI compliance, accountants, taking people to court who don't pay there bills, cut down on meter reading, paper.

        " Should someone who doesn't use the service be forced to help pay for it through their taxes?"
        you mean like the taxes used as subsidies for you phone infrastructure?

        • by Ichijo (607641)

          I worked for a Water Bureau. The number clearly show that taxing people instead of having a water bill would be substantially cheaper for everyone.
          I mean 20% cheaper, if not more.

          That's what wealthy people often claim when they advocate for regressive taxes. Anyway, would I be correct in guessing that water was not very scarce in that area?

          With taxes, you no longer need a billing system.

          If you are correct that taxes collect themselves, then why couldn't billing use the same technology?

          • by Pulzar (81031)

            If you are correct that taxes collect themselves, then why couldn't billing use the same technology?

            I think the point is that there is a tax collection system in place already. Adding a line item on the form to cover water is not going to increase the cost and complexity of the system.

            • by swillden (191260)

              If you are correct that taxes collect themselves, then why couldn't billing use the same technology?

              I think the point is that there is a tax collection system in place already. Adding a line item on the form to cover water is not going to increase the cost and complexity of the system.

              Does that tax collection system meter water usage and adjust the tax bill accordingly? It's the metering and allocation of costs to individual households that's the expensive part, regardless of whether you do it on the tax form or via another billing system.

              Note that I don't object to municipal fiber, but this argument about water via taxes rather than monthly billing is silly.

    • Fiber, because CDWM is cheap and lets multiple ISP's connect to everybody at the same time. Hell it lets the muni potentially deliver a shared layer 2 to allow multiple ISP's to provide services with just a single connections to the muni. Businesses and people could mesh together allowing for new innovation. A default L3 network could let people reach the muni, schools, libraries, each other and local businesses.

    • Re:Annoying. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Enigma2175 (179646) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @10:10PM (#47168911) Homepage Journal

      The core issue is whether a government should be providing a service. But that should not be an issue.

      The government should provide the pipes (fibre or copper or whatever) to the houses that it covers. Paid for by taxes.

      The pipes terminate at a government facility that the government leases space at to ANY AND ALL companies that want to provide ISP services over those pipes. As cheap as possible but without allowing one company to lease ALL the space.

      Then switching between ISP's should be as simple as moving a patch cord.

      Your taxes pay for the pipes and their maintenance and the facility and its maintenance (minus the lease revenue).

      This is how my fiber network [utopianet.org] is operated. The 15 member cities contributed to the network and their residents are seeing the benefits. I can choose what ISP I want (but I would probably never change because I LOVE my ISP) and any ISP, telephone or TV provider can provide service over the network. If my ISP starts any Comcast-style extortion shenanigans with service providers then I can simply switch, there aren't constraints on who owns the wire like private cable/telco networks.

      If course Comcast and US West/Qwest/Century Link fought tooth and nail against the network and they are fighting it still. I think the last tactic was getting a bill introduced in the state legislature to prohibit the Utopia network from selling any network service in cities that border Utopia cities. This is just a long line in bills written by the cable lobbyists but so far the cities have resisted [crosses fingers].

      So if 15 cities can get something like this done in Republican dominated, pro-business Utah then what's your city's excuse? It's not that hard to get something done on a city level if you can get a few voters on board. The Internet has quickly become an almost indispensible part of life and a majority of a person's day-to-day business (paying bills, communicating with friends, scheduling appointments, etc.) is conducted over the network. It has become important enough that cities should treat it like the utility that it is. Put pressure on your local elected officials to get your own network and bypass the attempted takeover of the Internet by Comcast.

  • by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:44PM (#47167923) Homepage Journal
    More cities need to treat internet access as a utility. It's the best way to break the current monopoly.
    • by tomhath (637240)
      What utility is not a monopoly? Besides, most city dwellers have the choice of cable, DSL, or wireless.
      • by JeffOwl (2858633) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:26PM (#47168179)

        Oddly enough electricity providers in parts of Texas and not completely monopolies. There is still a company that maintains the lines and infrastructure but you buy your electricity from one of several providers who compete with each other on price and plans like "nights or weekends free." So that's great.

        However, the phase of the development in which I live only has DSL. Two streets down or over and they also get the option of cable. Not on my street though. Not sure how that happened.

        The city has a municipal monopoly on garbage collection

        • by B33rNinj4 (666756)
          Exactly. I live in Texas, and use a co-op for electricity. It's been much better than when I was in Nevada.
      • by PPH (736903)

        choice of cable, DSL, or wireless.

        Cable: I can have TV and broadband. But in spite of advertisemsnts for a bundle of three services, telephone is not available in my area. Agreement with the telco.

        DSL: Not offered for years. FiOS was coming. When it finally arrived, broadband and telephone was available. But the TV offered was les extensive than what my rabbit ears pick up. Agreement with the cable company.

        Wireless: Too slow and intermittent for streaming video or VoIP. Broadband is slow, but useable for simple web pages. I'm not supposed

    • The "monopoly" (which is not what it is at all) is the only way a phone company can be profitable and the only way they will maintain the network. If the city doesn't like it they're welcome to maintain it themselves. Several have tried and after bankrupting the city re-signed their carrier agreements. Copper networks are hugely expensive to maintain. The only way they are profitable is because the phone company can spread the rates out to everyone in town. The people in the cheap areas to server pay more t

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:47PM (#47167931) Homepage Journal

    Screw the consumer. Its how barely regulated (virtual) monopolies, that are out of control, operate.

    Break them up, jail the board of directors. Return control to the people.

    • Screw the consumer. Its how barely regulated (virtual) monopolies, that are out of control, operate.

      Break them up, jail the board of directors. Return control to the people.

      Barely regulated? The telecom industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country. I work for a telco. We've got an entire floor of people dedicated to regulatory compliance. It's a huge cost to every telco out there.

      Cable companies, however, are barely regulated at all. That's real problem. You need to either regulate them or deregulate telcos. If you don't most telcos will be bankrupt in a decade or two. Every major Telco out there is selling off exchanges as fast as they can. They're

  • A war well waged (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dega704 (1454673) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:08PM (#47168065)
    In my view municipally run fiber networks are an inevitable necessity, whether they are open-access or the service is run by the city. Internet access has become a vital utility and becomes all the more so every year; and fiber networks are the only viable way to provide it and grow with future needs. I wish the average person could understand this. Competition doesn't happen partly because building multiple physical network infrastructures in the same place makes no more sense than having multiple electrical or water systems. The only reason there are two hardwired Internet providers in any place to start with is because two completely unrelated infrastructures(cable and phone) were converted to provide service; both of which, ironically, have been made obsolete by the Internet. It worked for a while, but it has been obvious for years that it is time to move on. That is why so much fiber infrastructure was built in the first place. The incumbent ISPs know this, and are terrified by it. Hence why they have gamed the entire system and greased legislators with bribes---excuse me--"lobbying money", and done a very thorough job of it.
  • Because my city council demands that any new company providing cable TV commit to wire every home and apartment building before getting permission to operate in my town, Nashua, NH, Verizon FIOS was driven out of town. As it happens they sold what fiber they'd laid down to a regional operator, so I can get fiber Internet, but not TV.

    I'm not saying that Comcast lobbied hard and spent a lot of money to get this rule enforced, but obviously this kind of barrier to entry benefits Comcast or any incumbent ISP
  • by Krishnoid (984597)

    Who will invest in the Internet infrastructure that we badly need, indeed [slashdot.org], and who will go out of their way to hinder its operation?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:24PM (#47168163) Homepage

    Community Wifi is also targeted with this. My experience was from Comcast targeting the one community WiFi project we had running and was shut down.

    we were illegally providing internet service for free without paying franchise fees to the local government to the tune of $10K a month.

    It's a fucking Mobster kickback is what it is...

  • And Outside the U.S. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fullback (968784) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:38PM (#47168223)

    I'm moving and my new place has 200Mbps down/100Mbps up fiber, so that's an upgrade from the 100Mbps I've had for about 15 years. And the price is going down to about US$38/month. Not bad, huh? I could choose 1 Gbps, since everywhere has been upgraded with it for years now, but it would only be useful for content inside the country. The infrastructure is far more advanced than the U.S.

    Of course there are no caps and no provider-conspired speed throttling. I've never had a provider-caused outage in 20 years of internet service.

    That's that service level and pricing that competition has created over time in Japan. I'm in a small town, so don't even think about the "U.S. is too big" reply. Every time I go the U.S. I'm shocked at the level of service. You are really under the thumb of the internet provider mafia.

    You need to vote in representatives that will actually to start representing you. I don't see any hope for you without that.

    • must be nice. My apartment complex has been enforcing an illegal "exclusive" were only AT&T is provided, even though recently they said "whatever", now I face the task of trying to convince Cox to come in. I get a HUGE 2.4 down, 712k up. Kazakhstan has faster speeds than my apartments, and I have the "fastest" business connection available. Once AT&T got the place locked in, why ever upgrade?
  • Again with this one-sided uninformed bullshit. Why did the city sign those agreements? A gift to the telecom? It's a joke. City after city trys to install their own network and gets their ass sued by their local telecom. And they lose... every time. Why? Because it's breach of contract.

    Those telecoms agreed to maintain the cities aging copper network in exchange for no direct competition for teleco services. Maintaining that network is hugely expensive. The city comes in and plans to install fiber which wi

  • they want to get rid of copper and replace it with 4g/lte with low caps and $10 a gig for going over.

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