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Former FCC Head: "We Should Be Ashamed of Ourselves" For State of Broadband 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the feeling-bad dept.
An anonymous reader writes A group of internet industry executives and politicians came together to look back on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and to do a little crystal-ball gazing about the future of broadband regulation in the United States. Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps was among the presenters, and he had sharp words for the audience about the "insanity" of the current wave of merger mania in the telecom field and the looming threats of losing net neutrality regulation.
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Former FCC Head: "We Should Be Ashamed of Ourselves" For State of Broadband

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  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:07AM (#47270667) Homepage Journal

    It took 18 years for them to figure this out? Whiles some grandmother in Sweden had 40 GB back in 2007?

    When can I get mine? And can I choose from more than one provider? And, most importantly, will I really get 40 GB?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you mean 40 GBps, then no: AFAIK no one gets that yet.
      If you mean a 40 GB cap thn I have news for you: Most of Europe (and I assume Sweden too) don't have data-caps on broadband anyway.

      Capping for max data is ridicouls anyway, you pay for bandwith not data, if they can't handle you streaming your bandwith they're not delivering what they should. And sure, they oversell because almost no one streams that much, but that doesn't mean that when you do, and they messed up their overhead that you as the consum

      • Re:About time (Score:5, Informative)

        by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:27AM (#47270765) Homepage Journal

        I wasn't talking about caps [theregister.co.uk].

      • by mcfedr (1081629)
        Maybe thats what they tell you, but I get near to 80 Gbps - here in eastern europe.
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Capping for max data is ridicouls anyway, you pay for bandwith not data

        And the bandwidth you pay for is an average bandwith of 600GB/month (Comcast), or about 230kbps sustained. But you get the option of using more in bursts, you have to make up for that later, though, to keep the average about the same.

        but that doesn't mean that when you do, and they messed up their overhead that you as the consumer should be the victim

        The consumer would be "the victim" if most people were forced to subsidize an infrastruc

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Everyone messes up the overhead, because the bandwidth usage is not constant. It may even quadruple in one year as a bunch of people start discovering TV over internet. Sharing the bandwidth is good, and the caps allow the people with moderate usage to get their data even if their next door neighbors are downloading 24/7. This is like the early cable modem internet where speed was awesome, if you were the only guy on the block or apartment building using it, but over time that fast low latency network st

        • But the point is that the cable provider is collecting probably $60 per month from every person on the plan. So if there's 500 homes sharing your connection and hogging the bandwidth, the cable company is collecting $360,000 per year from your neighborhood. They could replace all of their copper wiring with fiber and upgrade your connection speed so that everyone in the neighborhood has all the connectivity they can use, and recover the cost of their investment within a few years and have plenty of happy
    • Perhaps somebody of importance started reading slashdot.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      40gbs or 40 GB of data / month. If the later you probably already have more. If you have less, are you kidding. That's an incredibly fast pipe. Some grandmother does not have that kind of speed anywhere.

      • Re:About time (Score:4, Informative)

        by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:33AM (#47270807) Homepage Journal

        Yes, some grandmother does [theregister.co.uk].

        I realize that's not typical, but it does illustrate what other nations are doing to continually increase their capabilities. Faster, no caps and lack of monopolies seem to be the norm for all developed nations except than the US.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          Read the article. She's buying commercial internet. That was a consumer grade service, he just put a commercial grade line into a house. You can get 40gbs most places in the USA providing you are willing pay for it too. That's not really relevant to discussing consumer speeds.

    • Re:About time (Score:5, Informative)

      by RavenLrD20k (311488) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:00AM (#47270973) Journal

      Actually, Copp had this figured out for quite a while. Being slashdot and all, I understand the general inability to RTFA, so here's the pertinent part about this guy's history:

      Copps has been a longtime pro-consumer advocate. He was the lone member of the five-person FCC to vote against the merger of Comcast and NBC, and since the 2010 net neutrality rule was vacated in February he has been urging the FCC to reclassify broadband ISPs as a common carrier service. He has also advocated against continued media consolidation and big telecom mergers.

      The general gist of the rest of the article goes on to say how the rest of the suits were congratulating themselves on a job well done with the Telecom Act in '96 and generally celebrating the current state and where they see themselves going... until Copp takes the stand and gives everyone a verbal bitchslap:

      He led off by agreeing with the several executive speakers that true competition is the way of the future, and the best way to serve consumers. “But we haven’t given competition the chance it needs,” he continued, before referring to how poorly U.S. broadband compares on the global stage. “We have fallen so far short that we should be ashamed of ourselves. We should be leading, and we’re not. We need to get serious about broadband, we need to get serious about competition, we need to get serious about our country.”

      What I take from this is that this guy is a single life jacket trying to defend us in a sea of self-serving destruction bound sharks. Good luck to us all.

    • It took 18 years for them to figure this out? Whiles some grandmother in Sweden had 40 GB back in 2007?

      When can I get mine? And can I choose from more than one provider? And, most importantly, will I really get 40 GB?

      If you actually read the original article:
      http://www.thelocal.se/2007071... [thelocal.se]

      You'd find that having a son who is a Fiber optic researcher/engineer that wanted to demonstrate a new technology would help quite a bit. i.e. you fell for a publicity stunt.

      To make it even more silly, read the followup article:
      http://www.thelocal.se/2008033... [thelocal.se]

      Where it's revealed she didn't really use it much. The equipment was so large, and hot, she actually used it to dry her laundry.

      • I didn't fall for anything. I was using an extreme example of research being done in other countries to push the boundaries of bandwidth. I know she is not typical and I too found the laundry thing amusing along with the rest of /.

        My point is that most of the developed world continues to improve their internet infrastructure while the vultures in our country continue to fight over the week infrastructure we've built here and how they can squeeze even more money out of it without doing anything to improve it

  • WCIA 2 time champ, too. We all understand the mergers are about extending monopolies and gaining power, the better to gouge consumers.

    And what will be done about it? Nothing, as usual. Our national government will even help the poor things gouge us harder. Give them lots of infrastructure, redefine broadband to include even slower speeds, and keep squashing competition from local governments because it's unfair that they should have to compete against a government.

    Oh, and Net Neutrality? Just a bar

  • It's a problem... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:18AM (#47270709) Journal
    There seems to be some sort of cultural tipping point, among those at the important levers of a given nation's economy, between wanting to be captains of industry in a first world nation and being more than happy to help build a third world one, so long as they get to be members of the oligarchy in it.

    It's not as though our industrial titans were actually nicer in the past; but they didn't seem to have the same spirit of "Well, the bean counters say that just doing bare minimum upkeep and making oligopoly margins has a better ROI than actually building anything, so fuck trying and let's see about a bonus." Back in the day, when you rolled up your sleeves and got ready for a hard day of ruthless exploitation and wanton destruction, it's because you had some sort of grand plan in mind.
    • by Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:27AM (#47270771)
      Well, that's the core problem of post-industrial society vs. industrial society. Maybe even post-modern world vs. modern world. Maybe people like Elon Musk (sorry, I know that everyone are already grew tired of his name, but I can't take another example from the top of my head) can renew the popularity of actually achieving something, rather than "great, we've secured the profit for our shareholders for the next quarter, fuck everything else". I, for one, would really love to see a beginning of a "neo-modern" era.
      • by bberens (965711)
        While I have an emotional bond to the idea of "accomplishing something" I don't think it's all that important economically. To turn the tides we need to re-empower the blue collar worker. In the past this was done primarily via unions and maybe that will be how it's done again in the future. Something's going to give, just not sure we're at the point where people are fed up enough to organize in a meaningful way.
        • Well, to really succeed, this process has to start from the both sides: some well-motivated guys on top have to support some blue collar workers, who, in turn, have to use this power in constructive way. You know, when every one, from the "big boss" to the last janitor's assistant would be really proud to do they work, create something meaningful, help to build better future, etc. Not so likely in current conditions. And that's not even bringing in the problems of outsourcing jobs or even eliminating them c
          • by godefroi (52421)

            Ah, that's not what unions do. They guarantee that no matter how poorly you do your job, you can't be fired, because that's not fair. Pride in your work and building a better future is a whole other thing.

            • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

              That very much depends on who is running the union. And a proper union should be run by it's member workers, not some fat cat who is brought in from who knows where to run it. Sadly far to many american unions went capitalist and started to be run by people who didn't care about the workers and instead only cared about the money. Properly run unions are effective counters to abuse by corporations and business owners and are not corrupt rent seeking agencies that make it hard to fire people who do no work.

            • No, you're describing what unions do today. What they were started to do was protect workers from employer abuses like being worked to death, having to work in hazardous conditions, being denied pay and medical coverage when injured on the job, being disciminated against or fired because you refused to let the manager screw your spouse or refused to clean his house on the weekends.

              But somewhere in the second half the 20th century many unions switched from "protect members against abusive employers" to
        • by ahodgson (74077)

          Unfortunately, in today's America pretty much everyone is looking to screw everyone else, and do as little actual work as possible while doing it. Blue collar workers included. We just notice the guys at the top more.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          While I have an emotional bond to the idea of "accomplishing something" I don't think it's all that important economically.

          That's all well and good if your only hopes are economic. I, for one, would like to see the human race move forward rather than simply stagnating and waiting for a big rock.

        • Something's going to give, just not sure we're at the point where people are fed up enough to organize in a meaningful way.

          The problem is that it's a lot easier to organize a bunch of people together as a lynch mob or revolutionary cadre than as a union. God knows how our country came out of the thirties without a revolution. I don't think we could this time. I'm thinking democracy's time has finally come, overwhelmed by the power of inequitable wealth distribution (exacerbated by improved technology deval

      • I think you're looking in the wrong places then. While Comcast and Verizon are content to legislate their positions so they can rest on their laurels and get fat by fucking consumers, companies like Amazon, Walmart, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are doing the same kind of empire-building that happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are arguably more ethical about it than Walmart and Amazon, but in all five cases the companies are relentlessly trying to extend their busin
        • Wait, are you implying that Bezos and Musk are the same? Well, why not just throw in Larry Fucking Ellison - great futurist and visionary. Amazon and Walmart are working hard on becoming the monopolies, using so many dirty tricks in process it's mind-boggling. They are on the level of Monsanto now. While Tesla opens up their patents, Amazon still holds it "one-click buy" stupidity as a Holy Grail. And you think that future with this kind of people at the helm would be bright? Sorry, no sell.

          We don't need
          • fuzzyfuzzyfungus was just asking for modern empire builders, not ethical modern empire builders. So I responded with modern empire builders.

            Obviously I would much rather see more people like Elon Musk and fewer like Ellison, Bezos, and the Waltons.

            My belief is that the world is loaded with people like Elon Musk, but in most industries they get plowed under by people with similar goals and fewer morals. I have no suggestions for fixing that aspect of capitalism, to me it seems to be inherent to the
            • Yeah, no argument here. I'm afraid that for the equation "most ethical business = most profitable (or should we say most rewarding?) business" to work we'll need a different society. More insightful, more long-term thinking as a whole. But I don't think that even the best engineers in the world could manage such an accomplishment.
  • So close, and yet... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:18AM (#47270713) Homepage Journal

    But we haven't given competition the chance it needs

    So very true. Most of the impediments are about pole-access for community broadband, and that's at the State level. So many attempts at competition have failed at the pole-access level (which suits the incumbents just fine!). Sure, if you have Google money you can get through all of it, but even they only have a handful of cities, a drop in the bucket. Inequitable pole access is one of the reasons for the meager success of WISP's, and though I wish them well, spectrum is limited, glass is not.

    Whose internet is it anyway? And whose democracy is it anyway?

    And then he goes off the rails. It's a republic, for Pete's sake, and it's the Internet of whomever builds it. The interconnection of many and varied private networks is the model that has led to the most successful technological innovation in history. Mess with that at your great peril. Yes, the too-big-to-fail fascist/corporate model is attractive to miscreants, but fix that, don't wreck the Internet.

    He seems to be concluding that Congress is in a smarter position to fix it than the entrepreneurs who know what needs doing but are held back by the government regulations. Congress couldn't find its way out of a box unless K-Street told them where the exit was. Patching bad code with more bad code is not the way the Internet wins, either in a router or in the CFR. The odds of additional regulation from Congress not making things worse are slim to none.

    I'm pretty sure that he just made things worse by correctly identifying real problems and then prescribing unicorn farts as the solution from his bully pulpit.

    • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:24AM (#47270745)

      And then he goes off the rails. It's a republic, for Pete's sake, and it's the Internet of whomever builds it. The interconnection of many and varied private networks is the model that has led to the most successful technological innovation in history. Mess with that at your great peril. Yes, the too-big-to-fail fascist/corporate model is attractive to miscreants, but fix that, don't wreck the Internet

      Except for the places where they use different models than the US, and also seem to have faster speeds and less bullshit.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But we haven't given competition the chance it needs

      So very true. Most of the impediments are about pole-access for community broadband, and that's at the State level. So many attempts at competition have failed at the pole-access level (which suits the incumbents just fine!). Sure, if you have Google money you can get through all of it, but even they only have a handful of cities, a drop in the bucket. Inequitable pole access is one of the reasons for the meager success of WISP's, and though I wish them well, spectrum is limited, glass is not.

      Whose internet is it anyway? And whose democracy is it anyway?

      And then he goes off the rails. It's a republic, for Pete's sake, and it's the Internet of whomever builds it. The interconnection of many and varied private networks is the model that has led to the most successful technological innovation in history. Mess with that at your great peril. Yes, the too-big-to-fail fascist/corporate model is attractive to miscreants, but fix that, don't wreck the Internet.

      He seems to be concluding that Congress is in a smarter position to fix it than the entrepreneurs who know what needs doing but are held back by the government regulations. Congress couldn't find its way out of a box unless K-Street told them where the exit was. Patching bad code with more bad code is not the way the Internet wins, either in a router or in the CFR. The odds of additional regulation from Congress not making things worse are slim to none.

      I'm pretty sure that he just made things worse by correctly identifying real problems and then prescribing unicorn farts as the solution from his bully pulpit.

      And so he extolls the virtues of private enterprise, without acknowledging that there wouldn't even BE an internet without the government (DARPA).

    • by JigJag (2046772)

      [...] it's the Internet of whomever builds it

      If only! But the reality is much different when you look at those laws that forbid municipalities from laying their own fibers or operating their own network. How many stories on Slashdot have we had about this issue already?

      No, rather, it's the Internet of whomever greases the palms of lawmakers the best, at least in North-America (Canada included of course).

    • by sjames (1099)

      Everywhere a community has tried to build community internet service, the big telcos have fought it tooth and nail in court. You can't blame the local government for that one. That might actually be a good place for the Feds to do some real good and explicitly permit any community to build a co-operative provider (with or without the local government).

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Yes, the too-big-to-fail fascist/corporate model is attractive to miscreants, but fix that, don't wreck the Internet.

      "too-big-to-fail fascist/corporate model" is a great description of the USA's existing internet infrastructure.
      So according to your logic, the internet is already wrecked.

      Sure, there are tens of thousands of companies involved in "the internet," but if you look at the core, it's one or two dozen major corporations that control the vast majority of back hauls, interconnects, and last-mile infrastructure in the USA.

  • What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedata.[ ].eg ['net' in gap]> on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:28AM (#47270777) Journal

    a group of internet industry executives and politicians came together...

    Did this individual seriously believe he could make this audience of industry executives and politicians feel shame? What next? Will he tell a serial rapist to feel remorse? Will he tell a psychopathic murderer to feel empathy?

    These people are incapable of feeling shame. It's what's made them so successful in the first place.

    • Do you remember the days when a politician would do something slightly out of line, he'd get caught, and then he'd resign? Well, I'm only a touch over 30, so I don't remember that happening but I know that it used to happen. Modern politicians seem to have no shame, no honor, no integrity; they will say whatever is required to get elected, do whatever they want while in office, and tell you, "Yeah? What are YOU going to do about it?" if you call them out on it.

      The worst part - the absolute worst part - is t

      • The trouble is that the R's keep putting in people who look worse and worse to D's and vice-versa. Hooray for the gerrymander. And, since we have FPTP voting, any vote against the guy who barely acknowledges your point of view is automatically a vote for the guy who actively works against your views. From the point of view of the incumbents in safe districts, this is a win. For everyone else? Not so much.

        You want to actually have people vote for someone on the other side? Start having the other side stop pa

  • by jonwil (467024) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:32AM (#47270799)

    It all comes down to one thing and that is a desire to make sure that pay TV (cable/satellite/fiber/whatever) isn't killed by the internet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pay TV is already dead. Do you know when it died? It died when I bought a Nintendo in 1988.

      I've never been bothered by not having cable TV, which is amazing when you consider that I grew up in a rural town with only 2 broadcast TV stations. Once I found that there was a machine that let me control the story, all of those non-interactive stories became less interesting. I watch TV for the local weather report and an occasional baseball or hockey game ("if available in my area", which is another bullshit poin

  • Cities and towns that create better internet infrastructure should rise as natural software company hubs. If they want the jobs offer utility like internet at a reasonable cost. Get rid of the media managed connection model and special individual company tax incentives in exchange for better connectivity.
    • One of the problems is that cities and towns that have tried this have found an unexpected expense: Legal bills from fighting against the lawsuits that the Big ISPs start to prevent these projects. This is even the case when the Big ISPs don't server those cities/towns. To hear the ISPs put it: Competition from the government is unfair and if they don't serve that area then it is still unfair competition since they might, some day, decide to maybe serve it.

      • by Bengie (1121981)
        Those legal bills are so BS, they should just have a vote. A city could do something like pass an ordinance stating an ISP that does not have a popular vote does not get right-of-way access to private property without the owner's permission. And not having signed permission while having infrastructure or equipment on their property is trespassing.

        That would make things interesting.
        • I'll agree that cities shouldn't have to fight these legal battles, but once an ISP files one of these lawsuits, the city can either fight back or roll over and accept the ISPs' demands. What is needed is clear indications from the FCC that municipal broadband is completely legal - with the backbone to stand up to the inevitable ISP complaints.

      • That's why they ISP/Cable companies can only be either a wire company or a media company but not both. FCC needs to declare wire companies common carriers and let the media companies fight it out. What if 3 or 4 electric companies wanted to run wire in your town?
      • Why is it that one of the few instances where the argument "we have sovereign immunity; go fuck yourself" is legitimate is one of the few instances where they don't use it?!

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:46AM (#47271413)

    The real issue here is that we have far too many unanswered questions when it comes to broadband internet. The biggest, of course, is who regulates ISPs and internet as a service (rather than the content on the internet). To this day, we STILL don't know the answer. Plenty of people have tried (and failed) to answer it.

    The FCC tried to initially regulate them as a Title I "information service", but that led to a bunch of lawsuits and eventually the Circuit Court of Appeals stepping in and saying that no, they couldn't regulate ISPs (especially in regards to network neutrality) under Title I. Now, years later, there's a debate over whether the FCC should step in and regulate them under Title II - something that the courts said would probably be in line with the legal authority given to the FCC by Congress. To this day, there is still no hard legislation as to who should regulate them, so it may very well be that even if the FCC regulates ISPs under Title II, a lawsuit by the telecos/cablecos could reverse the whole thing.

    The same thing is true of the "last mile", where supposedly it's regulated by local government.. but in practice it's ruled by Big Telco/Big Cableco and their constant lawsuits used to wipe out the competition. They can do this because there is no strong legislation preventing them from doing so, and until there is a law that provides immunity to competitors from being sued simply because they want to compete and prevents local government from signing all of the infrastructure away to Big Telco, lawsuits will continue to be the law of the land.

    We need to answer these questions first. Then we can start improving broadband in the United States.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Right, that's where all the companies got deregulated... so that they could merge, leading to just a few fighting it out to be the new, but *unregulated*, Ma Bell.

    Enjoying the ever-increasing bills for the same service, kiddies?

    And make no mistake: that Bill was bought and paid for by the telecoms, including in ways most of you never heard of... like me: I was working for Ameritech, one of the Baby Bells, and our *corporate*, not division, president *ordered* us all to write letters to our Senetors and Cong

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