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The Internet Networking The Almighty Buck United States Technology

Fixing US Broadband Would Cost $100 Billion 484

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "According to a new report from EDUCASE (pdf), it would cost $100 billion to wire the US with fiber optics and keep our infrastructure from falling behind the rest of the world. Specifically, they recommend what has worked in many other countries — government investment and unbundling — which are often criticized by free market groups, even though those policies have resulted in faster, better connections for smaller total costs. Ars Technica mentions in their analysis of this report that the President will be releasing a report on US broadband today, too."
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Fixing US Broadband Would Cost $100 Billion

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  • yet more money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:04PM (#22252310) Homepage Journal
    yet more money which the US could afford if they stopped wasting it on playing war games.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:21PM (#22252624)
      Nice response.

      Seriously, this would have cost 10% of that back in the '90s when we ALREADY PAID FOR THIS as part of the Telecom Act of 1994. The telcos simply have not delivered what they promised for receiving deregulation and all those tax breaks.

      Or maybe this is where that imaginary $9B that Worldcom has went.
    • Re:yet more money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Naughty Bob ( 1004174 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:22PM (#22252656)
      $100 Billion is an inconceivable sum.

      It's also 10 Months in Iraq (and that's 10 months above and beyond the ongoing cost of maintaining the world's most powerful army, so doesn't include the costs the US would incur if all those soldiers/tanks/bombs were sat quietly at home).

      Bargain. And remember, most of that money is flowing out of the US public purse, straight into the hands of... Bush's golfing buddies.

      It's only the internet I suppose.
  • bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:05PM (#22252340)
    Okay first of all, if it's government run you know they're gonna spy on everyone everywhere with it. I won't be able to ping a website without it getting permanently logged. And secondly, if I recall, it'll take about the same $100 billion to fix our ridiculously outdated, inefficient, unreliable, unadapting power infrastructure too. I say we do that first. If my computer's got power at least I can play Oblivion but what can I do with no power and an internet connection?
  • by spleen_blender ( 949762 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:08PM (#22252392)
    How much do we spend yearly on the pentagon again?
    • by TheWizardTim ( 599546 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:38PM (#22252950) Journal
      The most important part of the statement is taken from "1984" by George Orwell.

      If you have $100 Billion to spend, and you build tanks, bombs and combat jets, you are helping the economy, but only a small amount. Once you use a bomb, it will not add value to the economy. When you build a combat jet, it will not add (much) to the future economy. A bullet shot, is worthless.

      If you use that money to build a road, then people will use that road to go to school, work, and shopping. If you use that $100 Billion to build a network, people will read news, buy products, start businesses, and other net related acts. If you use that $100 Billion to build schools and pay for teachers, you get students the get better jobs, pay more taxes, add more to the economy.

      I am not saying we should not fund our military. But saying that spending money on war helps the economy, well it does, but in the long run. By using that money to better the countries roads, power lines, water supply, hospitals, whatever, you will get a return on your investment.

      If you borrow money to make a bullet, your money is lost forever. If you borrow money to build a road, then you will get your worth.
      • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:56PM (#22257482)
        "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

        -Dwight D. Eisenhower
    • How much do we spend yearly on the pentagon again?

      The Death and Taxes Poster [] breaks up all government budget outlays greater than $200 million. The link provided is a Flash Movie (so you can zoom in) but it takes a super-long time to become clear enough to actually read (at least for me).

      You might find "The Total Budget" section with the Penny in the bottom-right corner to be helpful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Samgilljoy ( 1147203 )

      How much do we spend yearly on the pentagon again?

      Well, as to what is officially acknowledged by the DoD Budget Office... I can't say I understand the differences between Direct Budget Plan, Budget Authority, and Outlays exactly, since the chart includes this year, and they must all be estimates of something then, but I'll give you the lowest numbers, which are marked Outlays.

      FY 2006 : 499.277 Billion (what a bargain, a whole empire for only 499 instead of the usual 500)

      FY 2007 : 516.508 Billion

      FY 2008 : 459.754 Billion

      You were probably asking a

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:10PM (#22252418)
    A preview of the report to come from the President today:

    Tax breaks for the ISPs, particularly the telcos.

    A hands off business approach, let them do with the money (and the consumers, a.k.a. taxpayers) whatever they want.

    • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:22PM (#22252644)
      > Tax breaks for the ISPs, particularly the telcos.

      Tax breaks for any industry sucks. So I oppose these.

      > A hands off business approach, let them do with the money (and the consumers, a.k.a. taxpayers)
      > whatever they want.

      This would be exactly right if not for one glaring problem. The government can't take a hands off approach to government created and controlled monopolies. In the US today, competition is defined as two government chartered monopolies fighting each other through a maze of government regulation. In one corner, weighting in at eight hundred pounds, is the Phone Company! A truly formidable government monopoly almost a hundred years old. And in the other corner, weighing in at six hundred pounds, is the new scrappy government monopoly, the Cable Company!

      What needs to happen is a new breakup, but done right. Recognize where the monopoly actually exists and can't really be fixed. The last mile. Break that part of both the phone and cable company off and leave them government chartered monopolies. Utility companies who own and operate the physical plant from the end user, through the government granted right of ways to the central office/plant. But forbidden to offer ANY actual service over it, instead forced to sell access to all at non-discriminatory prices.

      As for the thrust of this slashdot post, whinging for a government run Internet.... no fscking way! If you utopians think a government run Internet would be net neutral think again. A network run by the same assholes who gave us the DMCA in the first place is going to let 'yall sit around all day running bittorrent and happily building out ever more fiber for ya to do it on? Riiight.
    • by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:22PM (#22252652) Homepage
      But the rest of us continue to pay taxes (and will probably pay more to make up for the lost in tax revenue)? It's constantly amazing how many people can actually argue with a straight face that the poor corporations should pay less taxes "because it's easier to make a profit" and that they, generously, will pass those profits onto you the employee. As if a corporation running business is actually more important than having employees working and consumers spending. Trickle-down economics is a load of crap our rent-a-legislators and their buddy rich folks use to convince the masses that, somehow, taxing the rich less than the middle class is actually beneficial.

      Middle class spending (i.e. not being taxed to death) is what drives business and the economy. I will agree that taxing a corporate entity may not be the best solution as really, you should be taxing the shareholders. If this discourages all the traders on Wall Street they can go find other jobs just like everyone else and still pay taxes. Hell, it might leave only the prudent investors who aren't just looking to make a quick buck overnight but actually invest in businesses in the long haul behind. Then maybe we won't have this volatile gotta-raise-the-bottom-line mentality that corporate CEO's use to gain short-term profits but sacrifice any long-term business growth.
      • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:26PM (#22252724) Homepage Journal
        The real solution is to tax wealth rather than income, so that investment becomes the best strategy for tax avoidance.
        It also just happens to be fairer: you get taxed in proportion to what the government is keeping the poor people from taking away.
      • You know, this is off-topic, but I'm tired of hearing about people claiming the employees never see the benefits of tax breaks. Even if they don't get paid more and the product doesn't get cheaper, the employees can BUY STOCK in their company and reap the benefits of greater profits from less taxes. Why does anyone not own any stock in the company they work for??
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Waffle Iron ( 339739 )

          Why does anyone not own any stock in the company they work for??

          Probably because they can see first hand how their company is run, and it's usually not pretty.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ThePlague ( 30616 ) *
            Also, it's putting all your eggs in one basket: the company fails, not only do you lose your job, you lose your investment. Didn't people learn anything from the dotcom era?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Qzukk ( 229616 )
              the company fails, not only do you lose your job, you lose your investment. Didn't people learn anything from the dotcom era?

              Or the Enron era?
  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:11PM (#22252428)
    . . . but didn't we already pay $200 billion to get 45Mb/s fiber starting in the late 90s? I seem to remember how the telecomes complained that they didn't have the money to do it. And Congress passed the Telecom Act of 1996 to allow them to charge fees to help fund an infrastructure upgrade. Ten years later we barely have fiber and that fiber is dramatically slower and more expensive than promised. And you have to pay for it to be installed.
  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:11PM (#22252430) Homepage Journal
    Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't the cable companies, et al. already receive many billions of dollars from the government that they have seemed to squander away on their CEOs and crappy advertisements?
  • We have lagged behind the rest of the world in terms of (private home) bandwidth and cost for a WHILE. Granted, many other areas of the world are more densely populated and thus are easier and cheaper to wire up, but's kind of embarrassing how far behind we are when it comes to the tubes that reach our homes.
  • Iraq (Score:4, Insightful)

    by greg_barton ( 5551 ) * <> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:13PM (#22252474) Homepage Journal
    Yes, it's appropriate.
    • by The-Bus ( 138060 )
      If this NY Times article [] is to be believed, $100Bn is what we spend in six months in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      As much as it would be neat to spend $100Bn on broadband, I'm sure there's better uses for the money. Again, according to that article, that would be enough to more than double funds for cancer research for the next decade.
  • Fool Me Once (Score:5, Informative)

    by HunterZ ( 20035 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:14PM (#22252502) Journal
    From the discussion at Ars Technica:

    Originally posted by aix:
    WTF!!! :mad:

    We already paid 200 billion for fiber optic to the home, but never received it. Just search for "200 billion dollar broadband scandal". But here's a clip:

    Starting in the early 1990's, the Clinton-Gore Administration had aggressive plans to create the "National Infrastructure Initiative" to rewire ALL of America with fiber optic wiring, replacing the 100 year old copper wire. The Bell companies - SBC, Verizon, BellSouth and Qwest, claimed that they would step up to the plate and rewire homes, schools, libraries, government agencies, businesses and hospitals, etc. if they received financial incentives.

    Kushnick's "$200 Billion Broadband Scandal" says the government was promised 86 million households with fiber wiring delivering bi-directional 45 Mbps speeds, capable of handling 500 channels by 2006. He calls it a fraud case, with deft omission in the annals of the FCC, that cost households at least $2000 a piece but got nothing in return.

    I think there were subsidies to the telcos as well as tax breaks and incentives .... and what do have to show for it ??

    BUPKISS! Freaking nothing, zilch, nada, zip, zero, goose egg, F%&KING damn 20th place :mad: :confused:

    And yes I'm going to point out it was the dems who were in the seat when this happened. Only to show that both parties are really different sides of the same coin.

    Originally posted by :
    I'll ignore the billions spent, and the billions we still have to spend in Iraq...

    I'll ignore the other major issues that maybe this country needs to spend 100 Billion on first...

    And now, baring all of that...
    Any of you know this story? [] [] []

    In short, Verizon, ATT, SBC and the other big TeleComs were supposed to do this, FOR US, in the last 10-15 years.

    They got major tax breaks and government handouts to do this.
    So where is it?


    16th in the World in Broadband

    This is one of the largest scandals in American history.

            * By 2006, 86 million households should have been rewired with a fiber optic wire, capable of 45 Mbps, in both directions. -- read the promises.
            * The public subsidies for infrastructure were pocketed. The phone companies collected over $200 billion in higher phone rates and tax perks, about $2000 per household. ....
    and more from --> []

    Reports like this piss me off, cause the first thing I think of, knowing the history of How we're already supposed to have fiber to the home, is who paid for the report? and what is it really asking for?
    Hear hear! I can't believe noone brought this up sooner, or even in the article. There's pretty much no hope at this point for the US to have a globally competitive broadband Internet infrastructure.
    • Re:Fool Me Once (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:48PM (#22253186) Homepage

      I think there were subsidies to the telcos as well as tax breaks and incentives .... and what do have to show for it ??

      Hidden Bandwidth caps, data manipulation, throttling, filtering, traffic shaping, release of our private info to the RIAA, less service quality, higher pings, higher latency, more jitter and finally. Promises they cant keep.

      They spent that money, just not on what everyone though it was for..
  • We can get ultra-fast point-to-point connections using directional wireless. What's all this about "wires"? That seems like such an outdated concept.

    Maybe it's because it's harder to get a government-funded monopoly if you push forward in directional high-speed wireless for backbone links?

    OK, sure, there are reliability problems with wireless, but in most of the USA you could set up a huge network using relays on existing cell towers. Shoot, cell towers already use directional high-data-rate wireless

  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:18PM (#22252572)

    which are often criticized by free market groups, even though those policies have resulted in faster, better connections for smaller total costs.
    The same criticisms were leveled at the United States when the Soviet Union was, for a time, "ahead" in the space race, but when one considers the difference between the market and central planning (i.e. government control) it is easy to see how things can, in some instances be done more quickly by the command and control method rather than the market. It is sometimes easier to get things done when you can tell people what to do and force them to do it while disallowing any dissent or alternatives. However, one must be more careful about the total costs of central planning command and control vs the market approach. The Soviets had many firsts in the space race, but in return other parts of the economy suffered tremendously and people went without a lot of things, some of them necessities, so that additional resources could be poured into the government run space program. In the same fashion one must consider the opportunity costs [] of government spending and control. If the government increases taxes or debt to build out the system quickly then that spending takes away from immediate or future alternative investments of those funds by the private sector. Generally speaking, the more often the government does this the more funds are diverted and the opportunity costs spiral ever higher as we give up increasing amounts of alternative goods and services in exchange for what may turn out to be a fast (hopefully, but even that is not guaranteed when one factors in innate government inefficiencies) but ultimately very costly rollout of better high speed networks, or faster progress in the space program, or whatever else the national attention is focused on at that moment. Beware when advocates of government spending proclaim lower total costs. They are frequently neglecting the opportunity costs in their analysis of the costs.
    • by spazdor ( 902907 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:19PM (#22253772)

      The Soviets had many firsts in the space race, but in return other parts of the economy suffered tremendously and people went without a lot of things, some of them necessities, so that additional resources could be poured into the government run space program.
      People go without necessities in a free market all the time. The difference is that in a market economy, they can be blamed for their own plight. We starved plenty of kids in order to beat the Russians to the moon, it just wasn't so obviously the government's fault.
  • Ummm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    I'm confused here. Won't the market demand better service when it is needed? Sure $100 billion sounds like a lot, but when it's taken in smaller increments by the free market it's honestly nothing.

    Yes the US is probably lagging behind some other countries, we are much more spread out and thus it requires more $$ for the same service, but I don't see a reason for the government to step in and "fix" something that isn't broken and is improving by itself already.

    It seems the only reason this is proposed is
    • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:29PM (#22252772)
      The market can't demand anything that isn't offered. In this case, there is essentially no compitition in most of the USA for internet providers. The way the market would demand something is by having people switch to faster providers, showing they are willing to spend the money for speed. In which case companies would then try to make their networks faster, to attract more customers.

      But in the US, there is no one to switch to. So the market can't demand anything.

      'Unbundling' as they call it in the article is always painted as anti-capitolistic, and as ending market forces. In fact, it is the opposite: It would allow market forces to work again, by giving people a choice of networks.
  • We can spend who knows how much money on a pointless and widely unpopular war over in Iraq...but we can't get better tube materials for our internets?
    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

      We can spend who knows how much money on a pointless and widely unpopular war over in Iraq...but we can't get better tube materials for our internets?

      lol. That's what I love about us computer nerds, our priorities. Like, you just realised that something was wrong because so much money was spent on war during the 5 years it lasted and little can be spent on Internet's infrastructure, when black babies have been dying with no healthcare for the whole time.

  • So like one month in Iraq? Of course... I guess it doesn't sound so expensive when you put it that way, huh?
  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:19PM (#22252602) Homepage
    Americans for the most part are perfectly willing to suffer for the "free markets" rationale.

    -Mobile phones (multiple, incompatible networks)
    -Health care
    -Data infrastructure

    In other areas, we are quite happy to nationalize,
    Railway services
    Interstate highways. "free" too.
    Social Security (just try being the elected grinch that cuts that program)
    and most recently, education with no child left behind.

    Depending on your politics, some of these issues cannot be discussed with any civility whatsoever.
  • It will help with their plan to wire all of our houses with HiDef telescreens.

    (Crap, I've got to stop giving them ideas.)
  • by Toasty16 ( 586358 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:21PM (#22252640) Homepage
    Seeing as the telecoms gained about $200 billion in increased fees and tax breaks since AT&T's breakup in 1984. That money was supposed to be used to upgrade the entire nation's infrastructure from copper wiring to fiber optics, but was instead used to pad the pockets of executives and shareholders. Find out more here [].
    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:59PM (#22253446) Journal
      Everybody talks of tax breaks and say that it will help, but only in specific cases does it do so. For example, when 9/11 occurred, W. paid the airlines a load of money post 9/11. It was to be used to help the airlines recover. Instead, it was sent directly to the CEO bonuses as well as stockholders. After that, the airlines had tough times, so was given more tax breaks. Instead, we (America) should have offered to pay 80% of the ticket costs for domestic traveled, and then dropped it monthly (60-40-20-0). It actually would have been much cheaper to America AND would have gotten a lot of ppl to get over their fears. The Tax breaks that W. gave to the oil company has not helped one bit. They actually targeted the large companies who have been drilling at the same rate as before. It is just that they have bigger profits. If America really wants to make a difference on this, then what is being suggested now should be skipped. Instead, it should be to minimize the monopoly. It should be JUST from the house to the green box. Once that is done as fiber, then allow anybody to hook up.
  • And how much have we spent on the war?

    Everything we need to fix seems small in comparison to that.
  • Specifically, they recommend what has worked in many other countries -- government investment and unbundling -- which are often criticized by free market groups, even though those policies have resulted in faster, better connections for smaller total costs.

    Of course the "free market" groups don't like it. They hate the idea of consumers getting more for less, because the lower cost is coming at the expense of corporate profits. That's because most of those "free market" people don't really want a free m

  • Broadband is a good example of a classic argument: should we let private industry meet the demand for an essential public service?

    Private industry, in theory, is supposed to be more efficient and more innovative. The problem is, the data just doesn't support this for most essential public services because the monolithic nature of these industries lend themselves to monopolies, oligopolies, cartels and market failure. Looking at data from all over the world and not just from the US, it is pretty clear that

  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:33PM (#22252834) Homepage Journal
    If you pay a phone bill, you've been paying for internet infrastructure for years. You've been paying for this for years.

    Instead of double dipping and asking for more money to upgrade/create internet infrastructure why don't they start spending the money they already collect IN THE RIGHT PLACE?

    The goals of Universal Service, as mandated by the 1996 Act, are to
    promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and
    affordable rates; increase access to advanced telecommunications
    services throughout the Nation; advance the availability of such
    services to all consumers, including those in low income, rural,
    insular, and high cost areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to
    those charged in urban areas. In addition, the 1996 Act states that all
    providers of telecommunications services should contribute to Federal
    universal service in some equitable and nondiscriminatory manner; there
    should be specific, predictable, and sufficient Federal and State
    mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service; all schools,
    classrooms, health care providers, and libraries should, generally, have
    access to advanced telecommunications services; and finally, that the
    Federal-State Joint Board and the Commission should determine those
    other principles that, consistent with the 1996 Act, are necessary to
    protect the public interest.

    The Universal Connectivity Charge is 9.25% of state-to-state and
    international long distance charges, and on Internet circuits. (ATM,
    Frame Relay, Private Line, Internet Access and SDSL)
    [NOTE: This may be the local number portability surcharge - ED]

    E911 SURCHARGE []
    The surcharge shall
    3 21 be collected as part of the access line service provider's
    3 22 periodic billing to a subscriber. In compensation for the
    3 23 costs of billing and collection, the provider may retain one
    3 24 percent of the gross surcharges collected. If the
    3 25 compensation is insufficient to fully recover a provider's
    3 26 costs for billing and collection of the surcharge, the
    3 27 deficiency shall be included in the provider's costs for
    3 28 ratemaking purposes to the extent it is reasonable and just
    3 29 under section 476.6. The surcharge shall be remitted to the
    3 30 E911 service operating authority county auditor or the
    3 31 auditor's designee of the county in which the subscriber
    3 32 resides for deposit into the E911 service fund quarterly by
    3 33 the provider. A provider is not liable for an uncollected
    3 34 surcharge for which the provider has billed a subscriber but
    3 35 not been paid. The surcharge shall appear as a single line
    4 1 item on a subscriber's periodic billing entitled, "E911
    4 2 emergency telephone service surcharge". The E911 service
    4 3 surcharge is not subject to sales or use tax.


    This should be the federal excise tax


  • 100 billion ? That's peanuts compared to recent tax cuts, see []

  • They're proposing to spend billions of dollars to run wire/fibre all over the place? Haven't they heard, everyone is going wireless []!
  • Only 100 Billion??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zenyu ( 248067 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:43PM (#22253046)
    I have a difficult time believing that such a paltry sum could build a real high speed network throughout the country.

    That's like $8/month per tax payer spread over a decade. At that level of cheapness every ISP would be running fiber to the curb, I would have 20 fibers running in front of my house already. Heck, they telephone or cable company could just charge some exorbitant amount for plain old telephone service or cable tv, like $10/month, and pay for this thing! :)

    If they had thrown out a figure of 10 trillion dollars I would have been the first on the bandwagon telling my government that they must spend the money now, but a 100 billion is just not a believable sum. I'm sure you could wire up a small portion of the population living in densely populated areas for that amount and then use a small tax on those connections to slowly reach rural populations, but then you have to convince rural states that the investment is still a good idea and that the project won't stall after that first 20% is covered.

    Also 100Mbps? If you're building it now you should set the speed at 10Tbps and then try to upgrade it later when faster speeds are cheaper. The short distances you are dealing with in fiber to the curb allow for multi-mode fiber which gives you a bit more leeway for expansion, but you still need the network design and the physical fiber itself to allow for the future speeds you will want to introduce.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:44PM (#22253058) Homepage Journal
    $100B spent on improving US broadband infrastructure would have instant payback in the US economy. First, most of the labor would be Americans, so the expense would create jobs. Second, the US still has most of the industry making most of the profits on the kind of broadband equipment we're talking about. There's no reason that the purchases couldn't prioritize vendors which keep more of the money paid them inside the US.

    And that labor and equipment expense would make US labor and equipment compete to get it, and improve their quality offering, which makes them more competitive overall. It would jerk lots of talent and productivity away from lots of less productive efforts, like pursuing BS defense and "homeland security" contracts that wind up sending lots of profits overseas, lots sunk into rich pockets that pay either little/no taxes (especially the corporations), or even ship those profits offshore.

    And it would boost America's workforce of exactly the kind of skills and products the rest of the world is looking for now. That are already associated with the "America" brand, since everyone still remembers we invented the Internet.

    And then of course we'd have all the economic value of actually using that broadband infrastructure to produce even more, to make even more money with it (including designing and deploying the next $100B in broadband buildout).

    It's as if the US invested $billions in the auto industry back during the Great Depression. Which is exactly what we did, by joining WWII which demanded $billions in cars, trucks, tanks, planes, and ships. But this time we're not going to send them all out to be destroyed, and to destroy the territory we'd capture when we win. Instead we'd increasing the value of everything we got to buy with our increasing profits, and bringing the world together instead of blowing it apart.

    Congress is about to pretend to stimulate the economy with about $65B sent out in little $600 checks to every taxpayer. Who will mostly spend it on gas and Chinese-made TVs and crap. If they were really visionary, and really wanted to boost the economy, they'd make local governments and corporations match that expense only 1:2, and actually rebuild this country as the 21st Century is so clearly begging us to do.
  • its all in control of large companies who have a vested interest in not fixing it.
    At least because its an unnecessary cost as users don't have any real alternative.
  • So for a 1/10 of the cost of the war we get nationwide fiber optics which would improve infrastructure and create new business opportunities and benefit most citizens. Essentially for what the war is likely to cost we could have solar panels on every home in the US, allowing us to shut down some coal plants rather than build more and have fiber optic cables to most homes providing high speed internet and HiDef video. If we put the better than a trillion dollars the war is running into replacing the oil and
  • This is only about a quarter of what we spent on defense last year.
  • Since there is only one broadband provider in my town, the Capital of Illinois, the free market doesn't apply.
  • I can so see the MPAA and RIAA getting behind this one.
  • Is it really 'that' broken? Last weekend, we visited some relatives in rural North Carolina. Foothills of the blue ridge mts. Hardcore trailerpark Appalacia. Redneck central. (They aren't rednecks, they just live there)

    Everything worked. Sat TV? Check. Cell phone? Check. DSL line for his MacBook/AirPort? Check.

    By all rights, that should be one of the least connected areas around. But they were just as connected as anywhere else.

    We can quibble about 5MBps vs 20 (or 50), or the price. But for 'beyond dial
  • by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <david@d a s> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:59PM (#22253434)
    Wow. The EDUCASE proposal, at least according to the Ars article, seems to be pretty much what I've been saying for at least a decade. A quasi-private gov't agency to build the infrastructure, neat little boxes at the house to convert fiber to POTS, Ethernet, and CATV (this was before HDTV :) ), and bandwidth rented to whomever's got a service to sell.

    In theory, such a system would let you call your cable company, tell them "Screw You!", hang up, call a different cable company and say "I wanna give you my money!", hang up, and in 5 minutes turn on the TV and watch with the new company.

    The really interesting thing this go-round is that the technology now exists -- the Verizon FIOS boxes are pretty much exactly what I had in mind, give-or-take. Now we just need some kind of opening that up to competition and we've got it. (with appropriate broad-market penetration and upgraded backbone, naturally).

    I'm not sure there's an easy way to convince Verizon to do that, but I suppose that there could be a government agency that'll take over "ownership" of the lines, and then they simply contract back to Verizon (or someone else) for maintenance of it. To pay Verizon back for all the investment they've made, maybe they have "free" bandwidth on the system for, say, 10 years, after which they pay whatever their competition is paying.

    In the meantime, the new agency continues to deploy FIOS-like services as widely as possible, Verizon is no longer saddled with the cost of expanding the infrastructure, competition flourishes, angels sing, and the US resumes its rightful place at the top of the geek pyramid.

    Never happen. We as a country are way too tied to the "let the market decide" way of doing business, and it's shoved us backwards in the Cellular Phone world, and now in the broadband world. Sometimes we're really our own worst enemies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by praksys ( 246544 )
      In theory, such a system would let you call your cable company, tell them "Screw You!", hang up, call a different cable company and say "I wanna give you my money!", hang up, and in 5 minutes turn on the TV and watch with the new company.

      Sounds great. What do you do if you're unhappy with the service you get from the giant state-owned monopoly that actually provides your cable connection? Vote libertarian?

      Most of the stuff people don't like about cable companies in the US results from the lack of local comp
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:06PM (#22253568) Homepage
    I agree with required unbundling: any entity with a controlling power over systems that consume public right-of-ways should be required to unbundle those components to the maximum extent technically feasible. Its impractical for everybody to build infrastructure and unhealthy for the economy for one or a small number of organizations to have a lock-in on the infrastructure that does exist.

    I don't agree with the government investment part. That would be better handled by reclaiming the universal service fund. It was corrupted in the '90s to support computers for schools and libraries, but that's not what it was originally for. Originally, the USF was used to pay for the additional cost when a telephone company installed a rural telephone but charged the rural user the same price as the city user. It worked well for telephone service and would work fine for fiber-to-the-home broadband if it was allowed to do so.

    Besides, everything the US Government does costs 5 times as much and works half as well as comparable operations by small business. Haven't you figured that out yet?

  • by Bob-taro ( 996889 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:37PM (#22254108)

    ... just possible, that the reason we're behind in broadband is because there isn't enough demand? Sure, in all those other countries the government stepped in and built something and now we're "behind". So what? I love a fast internet connection as much as the next guy, but I'm not ready to have the government make YOU help pay (via taxes) for the build out to my rural neighborhood. Nor am I ready to help pay for the build out to the old farmer down the road who doesn't even have a computer. People who want government to step in where business isn't "getting the job done" should ask themselves first WHY business isn't getting the job done. If you see fast internet as a NEED, then I guess you have a case, but I don't see it that way. Sounds like people are upset that we're not "keeping up with the Joneses".

Disks travel in packs.