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Networking Businesses The Almighty Buck The Internet

US ISPs Using Push Polling To Stop Cheap Internet 417

An anonymous reader writes "What happens when a new ISP is started somewhere in the United States that completely blows out of the water all the other ISPs in the area, in terms of price and performance? Apparently, that question is being answered in North Carolina, where Greenlight Inc., a company started by a city government, is trying to offer faster, more reliable, and cheaper Internet service to the local residents. Time Warner and Embarq can't compete. So they are not only lobbying the state government to destroy the upstart competition, but are now using push polling methods to gain support, across the two cities that could benefit from the new ISP, for the 'Level the playing field' legislation they got introduced in the legislature." A local news outlet provides coverage more friendly to the incumbents' point of view.
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US ISPs Using Push Polling To Stop Cheap Internet

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  • Well yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:18AM (#27757735) Homepage

    Surprise someone finally realized that the last mile is a natural monopoly and should be a utility.

    This totally ruins their business model of selling something that costs almost nothing for a lot more than nothing.

    Of course they're going to pull out every stop to well stop this from happening.

    • Re:Well yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RemoWilliams84 ( 1348761 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:22AM (#27757767)

      They can pull out every stop if they want. But with an economy that sucks, even if most of it is in peoples heads, people are looking for every way they can to save a penny.

      Now would be the perfect time for some upstart companies to gain some market share by simply pricing themselves $10 or so cheaper than the competition. Throw in the added bandwidth and its a no-brainer. The biggest hurdle is getting your name out there. They need to make sure they budget for the right kind of local marketing for it to work.

      • Re:Well yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:25AM (#27757789) Homepage
        The reason that nobody has done that is actually very simple. The initial investment in infrastructure is at a minimum in the tens of millions of dollars, and too make that even worse the credit markets are currently frozen so good luck getting a loan.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SpiderClan ( 1195655 )
          But in this case, they've already laid out the infrastructure, so that's not an issue. The only issue here is that they're competing with corporate lobbying.
    • by transporter_ii ( 986545 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:54AM (#27758015) Homepage

      What really stinks, especially in rural areas, is that you have to buy your back-end bandwidth from a person you are competing against.

      They get their money either way, charging a fortune for a 1.5 Mb T1 line, again, especially in rural areas.

      So they make a killing off of a bunch of bonded T1 lines or a partial DS3, and then you have to compete with them against their own offerings (i.e. 19.99 and 29.99 a month DSL).

      So you get the headache of customer support and make a little money, and the phone company does good either way. Your niche market in a rural area is areas not serviced by the phone company, which means when the phone company does go into a new area, you lose your customers in that area because you can hardly compete with the people who own the infrastructure.

      Again, I know there are more options in larger cities, but there is a reason a business likes to be a monopoly.


      • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:16AM (#27758239)

        A similar thing happened to some "community internet" initiatives in the UK. In villages where there was no broadband, people costed out getting a T1 line to their village and splitting the cost. It usually came to slightly more than broadband from the big providers - but with the choice of that or dial-up people would sign up for the service.

        The community projects would get the money together and order the T1 line. What British Telecom did, of course, was install a much bigger trunk than needed for a single T1 line, as the extra cost is pretty low and then offer broadband in the area. Many people would then say "I wouldn't have signed for the community project if I knew that broadband was coming here anyway" and try to get out of their commitment. Usually after a year which people had signed up to the project would fold because everyone would switch to BT rather than renew. So BT gets paid to install a line and then uses it to give cheaper competition.

        • Couldn't that have been avoided with better oversight on the project you are paying them for? Althoguh, it seems to have worked out in the end if you end up with lower cost internet overall.
          • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

            It's standard practice to install more capacity than necessary, the extra cost is marginal if you already have the streets dug up and it makes it much cheaper to service upgrades in the future.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jlmale0 ( 1087135 )
            Better oversight? Oversight of whom? It's not clear, project oversight or telecom oversight?

            Regardless, while people feel cheated I think they're looking at the situation wrong. Inherent business conservatism keeps BT from putting fat pipes to all the little villages. However, if said village shows the initiative to back their grumblings for better service by seeking it out themselves, BT knows there's a market. Digging up the dirt, and not the fiber itself is the cost in growth, so naturally they're
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by xaxa ( 988988 )

              Back in about 2002, a small print shop in the village I lived in put a sign in their window. It said something like "We have asked for broadband, but BT say they don't have evidence of demand for this village. If you want broadband, phone BT on xxx and request it. When they get 400 requests, they will install broadband to the whole village".

              We got broadband a few months later.

              IIRC, BT had a counter on their website for every exchange in the UK recording demand, the higher the demand the sooner ADSL was inst

              • by HeronBlademaster ( 1079477 ) <heron@xnapid.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @12:09PM (#27760387) Homepage

                As a counter-example, my dad's office building is in the middle of Midvale, Utah, which is effectively part of Salt Lake City. He wanted to get Comcast internet service for his office building. They wouldn't provide it, because they would have had to run a cable across the street (literally). He offered to pay for it himself, and they still said no.

                Instead, they wanted him to get some percentage of the tenants of that business park to sign up for Comcast - they wanted him to do their marketing for them! As a busy accountant, my dad hardly has time to do that kind of thing.

                He ended up getting Qwest DSL instead.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smoker2 ( 750216 )
          The place my father lives had no phone lines, let alone broadband. He asked BT how much to run a line to the village, and they asked for £20,000. There was no way my dad was paying that by himself, so he got maybe 20 others together and tried to raise the money that way. In the end after negotiation with the BT rep. it turns out that the £20,000 was a headline rate and with grants and subsidies from BT themselves it worked out substantially less, around £2000.
          Spread between 20 people this
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zerocool^ ( 112121 )

        This happened at a place that I used to consult for.

        We would pay verizon about $30/mo per customer to get access to the physical infrastructure, and on top of that, we had to pay for the throughput bandwidth and support costs. We sold DSL at about $50/mo.

        Then Verizon came in and started direct selling DSL to the customer for $30/mo.

        I mean, we were paying them for local loop access, AND we were buying our upstream bandwidth (a fractional DS3, i think?) from them.

        They get their goddamn money either way.


      • by Shark ( 78448 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:25AM (#27758351)

        Actually, our company is in exactly this situation. But there are other factors that you do not take into account. Large companies also like to screw their own customers. We found that plain hatred of the competition has driven a lot of customers our way, merely because we like to treat them like human beings.

        Very large corporations also compete within their own department. Our bandwidth salesman makes zero money off of his company's DSL customers. Any customer we get is more bandwidth sold for him and he gives us a very decent deal.

      • What really stinks, especially in rural areas, is that you have to buy your back-end bandwidth from a person you are competing against.

        That's not just a problem in rural areas. In everyplace I've ever been in the US (including some major cities), all Internet connections go over either the cable infrastructure or Verizon's infrastructure. So any other ISP is basically paying Verizon to be able to provide DSL or a T1 or whatever else, and meanwhile they're competing against Verizon's offerings. In some cases, the ISPs are buying access from another company that's buying access from Verizon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jellybob ( 597204 )

        At least in theory this was dealt with in the UK by making BT (the company which maintained the infrastructure, and worked as an ISP) split out the infrastructure side into a separate company (BT Openreach) which is required to sell bandwidth at the same price to BT and their competitors.

        As with anything like that it hasn't been a complete success, but on the whole it seems to be working, with some excellent competition between providers.

    • by fishdan ( 569872 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:13AM (#27758205) Homepage Journal
      Read the senate bill: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S1004v1.pdf [state.nc.us] I hate the telcos as much as anyone, but this bill says that when the city enters into the communications business, it should have to pay all the same taxes and fees as private business would, and be burdened with the same oversight. They also say that other fees the citizens pay (trash, water etc) cannot be used to fund the communications business. I don't see how this bill is unfair at all. The telcos are essentially saying "If we didn't have to pay any fees to the city to provide service, we could be competetive." If government wants to set up a business, they should have go compete with other businesses on a level playing field. If municipalities want to open up their own ISP, I am all for that, but then they should stop collecting fees and taxing the other ISPs they are competing with. Municipal government should not be using taxes and fees to provide a commercial advantage for themselves. I think the "level playing field" is actually a good title for this bill, and not an unreasonable request. We're all hopped up on this because it's something that's near and dear to us, but imagine if the city set up a taxi service, but then did not have to pay gasoline tax or hackney licenses. Obviously it benefits the public who uses taxis, but is it fair to the taxi drivers and cab companies that they now have to charge more than the city taxis.
      • by schon ( 31600 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:26AM (#27758367)

        I don't see how this bill is unfair at all.

        I guess you missed this bit:

        Establish a separate enterprise fund for communications service and shall
        use this fund to separately account for revenues, expenses, property, and
        source of investment dollars associated with the provision of
        communications service.

        Is a telco or cable company required to keep separate accounts for their internet service? Why are they not required to keep their internet and other services separate? Why is a cable company allowed to leverage it's existing monopoly by subsidizing it's internet service (like it might do to drive it's internet competition out of business), but a city isn't?

        If it was *REALLY* about "leveling" the playing field, I would assume that the bill would say that *ALL* internet providers would be subject to these rules, not just cities.

        • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:52AM (#27758663)

          And there's the rub.

          When I was growing up, we used to have two choices for cable TV - Warner Cable (later became Time Warner) and Viacom Cable.

          Warner was the "newcomer". They started running "specials", subsidized by their monopolies on OTHER cities. For a while, you got a basic cable package for $15/month and the pay channels like HBO for another $5 or so.

          Then, Viacom folded. They couldn't compete any more, they were losing customers in droves to the "specials" because at that price, Warner was actually selling the service below cost (but claiming it was a "special" and a "sale", so getting around state laws against below-cost permanent pricing).

          What did people find out once Viacom was dead? TW did what they do to everyone once they have a monopoly - they started running TV ads with the "happy king" declaring "I declare Warner Cable for my entire kingdom!" with a shit-eating grin on his face.

          Meanwhile those "special" $15/month rates were expired out, and within 3 months the base price was $80/month.

          Look at the prices you're offered for ISP service. If you are in a "competition" area, one of the lucky SOB's on a border (and the borders move as they put each other out of business), you can probably swing some ridiculously cheap pricing. Otherwise, what do you get? Comcrap pretty much has a monopoly on our area. DSL service is technically "available" if you want roughly the same data rate as a pair of 33.6 phone modems (no seriously: they haven't upgraded their equipment in 10 years or more).

          Comcrap, 10 miles down the road, offers their "high tier" speed at $40/month. For us, "low tier" is $50/month. That's because 10 miles down the road, Verizon owns the lines and is offering FiOS to compete with Comcrap. Meanwhile, Comcrap's own internal memos show that they could double the speed to EVERY USER IN THEIR NETWORK, both up and down, for a mere $6/customer one-time cost, and they refuse to do it.

          That's the kind of shit you deal with. They all want a monopoly so they can gouge the crap out of you.

          • by fishdan ( 569872 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:32AM (#27759129) Homepage Journal

            I'm with you on this -- the monopoly is completely anti-consumer. The problem is that with significantly lower operating costs, the city will be able to drive the telcos out, and then THEY will be the monopoly. I hate private monopolies but I hate the state as monopoly equally. Simple solution here. Tell the city they cannot collect fees/taxes on the ISPs we're all good. I definitely want the city to come in and bust up the Telco monopoly -- I just don't want one monopoly to be replaced by another.
            I agree the way the telcos are going about this is wrong though. I'd rather see legislation like: Where municipalities set up their own ISP, they cannot assess city taxes or fees on competing ISPs."

            It's all about operating costs -- make those as equal as you can, and THEN let everyone compete.

            • by DarkBlackFox ( 643814 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:13AM (#27759647)

              From the techjournalsouth article-

              "If the cable/phone companies really want a level playing field, they'd open their books just like we do in the spirit of open meetings and open records law. They don't want a level playing field. They want to be the only team on the field."

              It seems the community internet operating books will be transparent, so people can see what costs are, and where the money is going. It's a public service, not a for-profit business like Time Warner is.

              While it's true a monopoly is generally anti-consumer, a publicly open/owned monopoly is far less likely to be in a position to price gouge for crap service, where the larger, established private monopolies already are.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dcollins ( 135727 )

        Read the senate bill: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S1004v1.pdf [state.nc.us] [state.nc.us] I hate the telcos as much as anyone, but this bill says that when the city enters into the communications business, it should have to pay all the same taxes and fees as private business would, and be burdened with the same oversight. They also say that other fees the citizens pay (trash, water etc) cannot be used to fund the communications business. I don't see how this bill is unfair at all. The telco

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:17AM (#27758251)
      The funny thing is that almost all of these ISP's (cable providers, telco's) already HAVE government-granted monopolies themselves. Time-Warner has certainly never objected when a city has granted them an exclusive monopoly to provide cable service to a city (such agreements cover close to 100% of their market), nor has AT&T ever been shy about their monopoly. If these companies were so serious about "leveling the playing field" how about they agree to lease those cable and phone lines to competitors and forgo those exclusive agreements with cities and counties?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rickb928 ( 945187 )

      "Surprise someone finally realized that the last mile is a natural monopoly and should be a utility."

      Um, when I moved in to the house I own now, it had two cable services and a telecom service entering the house. No monopoly that I can see, though I am lucky enough to live 1500 feet from a switch and my DSL service was very hot.

      Then the 2nd cable company was bought out by Cox. A monopoly emerged. SO I'm down to two 'last miles' entering my house. I don't see Cox and Qwest getting together anytime soon.


      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jonbryce ( 703250 )

        My house has two different telecommunications cables - from BT and Virgin. Pretty much everyone in the country has access to BT, except in Hull where Kingston provides it instead, but only about half the population has access to Cable, mostly Virgin, but there are about two places where Wight Cable provides it. If you have a large business in the centre of London or some of the other large cities, you might find another company that will supply you with a pipe.

        Virgin, or NTL/Telewest before them didn't ca

    • Re:Well yeah... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Narpak ( 961733 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:31AM (#27758415)
      This might be slightly unrelated. But the Norwegian Government decided in 2006 that full broadband coverage should be a goal for the near future. Norway is a long coastal country with some people living in places that are way into the middle of some mountainside; and villages and towns with low population here and there. However eventually it was decided that Internet was pretty much required for modern live, and in fact; was more essential the more in the middle of nowhere you live.

      The immediate goal was 98% coverage by the end of 2007 and 100% as soon as it would be possible to get there. At the moment the coverage is at about 99.5% with an estimate that they will reach practically 100% by the end of the year. To achieve this goal they have so far given local governments 850 million NOK to build and improve infrastructure; and ISP and local commercial interests have contributed to; in total about 1.5 billion NOK has been spent.

      If you can read Norwegian www.regjeringen.no [regjeringen.no] has more info.
      Here is a quote from 2007 by the then Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy; Åslaug Haga [wikipedia.org]
      The quote is in Norwegian [regjeringen.no] so I have tried to translate as best I can.

      Creation of a broadband infrastructure is an important part of our [the party coalition in Government] goals for the districts. We can not accept that anyone in this country becomes losers in the digital evolution. Broadband also gives opportunities for economic development and growth. To ensure full broadband coverage the Government has decided to stimulate faster expansions of the infrastructure; especially in those areas were it isn't commercially profitable to do so.

      Think of this as you will; but despite my disagreements with some of the things said and done by various ministers and the government in general; at one point I agree. Full broadband coverage is essential to modern life. It is a means of communication, of gaining information about what is happening, of paying your bills if the nearest bank is a day away, or an important tool for education or self-education. And much much more. Providing full coverage with affordable broadband should be a goal for any country that wish to ensure their citizens grain a high degree of familiarity with technology; and wish to remain competitive in the global market.

  • Push Polling (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:20AM (#27757745) Homepage Journal

    Because I had never heard of the (incredibly vague) term, I RTFS and found in the comments a description:

    Push polling is done wherever the incumbents want to inject BS in to the conversation without "owning" it...In Lafayette, La they asked a series of questions about what would people "thought about" BS like the city "rationing broadband access like they do water" and silliness about banning religious channels. It was downright embarassing.

    The story submission is lame, and the story it's about is too. Anyone have a link to a good story on the same subject?

    • Re:Push Polling (Score:4, Informative)

      by zigmeister ( 1281432 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:54AM (#27758009)
      How about Wilson, NC's Public Affairs Manager's blog [wordpress.com] It's got some decent posts, and some boring stuff. More about the push polling on the front page [wordpress.com]
      • There's less about the push polling at your link than there was in the inadequate original story. And there's NOTHING about it at your other link. I think what we've learned from this is that when your submission isn't really about the story, it needs more original material.

    • Re:Push Polling (Score:5, Informative)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:30AM (#27758409) Homepage Journal

      Because I had never heard of the (incredibly vague) term

      Example of a push polling question: "would you still vote for Joe Candidate if news of his secret heroin addiction were to become public?" Basically, it's a speech disguised as an opinion poll.

      • Re:Push Polling (Score:4, Insightful)

        by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:23AM (#27759009) Journal

        Better yet, it's usually structured as slander with a built in escape clause:

        "Would you vote for Joe Candidate if it turned out he was hiding a secret cocaine addiction, paid for by ongoing embezzlement at his current job and a flourishing side business in white slavery?"

        When the inevitable crapstorm starts, push poller can say "Hey, I never said he did blow and pimped whores, I was just asking a hypothetical!"

    • Re:Push Polling (Score:5, Informative)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:03AM (#27758779) Homepage

      Well if you want to know what a "push poll" is, you could have googled it and the first thing up would be an article on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

      But anyway, the basic idea is that polls should properly be designed to be impartial in themselves. If you're really trying to find out what people think about the President's performance, for example, you might call people and ask, "Do you approve of the President's performance so far?"

      If, on the other hand, you aren't interested in what people think, and instead you're hoping to influence opinion, then you might ask something like, "Doesn't it bother you that the President is doing such an obviously awful job?" or "Aren't you bothered by the outrageous amounts of money the President is spending?" That's push-polling.

      In the 2000 election, Bush's campaign called around asking something like, "How would you feel if you found out John McCain had an illegitimate black baby after an affair with a black woman?" Now that didn't happen, but the question was defended as "hypothetical" even though many of the people called didn't believe it was hypothetical.

      Sometimes when doing a push poll, the idea is to affect the results of the poll so that they can publish them and say, "See, [X]% of the people see thing my way!" But then sometimes, they don't even bother to record the responses because the point is just to try to influence opinion under the guise of a poll.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There was a case about 5 years ago...I think it was Verizon then, fighting a Chicago(?) suburb that was trying to get fiber-to-the-door paid for through tax bonds. They called everyone in town and asked them how they felt about their tax money going to provide child pornography.

      There was a more recent one in Louisiana where Cox and Bellsouth (now AT&T) called around and said that the town would start rationing TV if they owned the lines.

      It's real shady crap. It's usually done politically. The biggest po

  • Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capt James McCarthy ( 860294 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:21AM (#27757753) Journal

    Any company started and run by any Government is not a "level playing field" IMO. It may be a way for Government price manipulation, but then that's not letting the market determine price.

    Secondly, since it is started and run by the Government, wouldn't this be considered a public service instead?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)


      The government either has a role in the business of internet service providing or it doesn't.

      By putting the government in direct competition with private enterprises, the government is both pricing these companies out of the market and erecting a monopoly where natural competition would be the norm.

      Now, you can say that TWC dropped the ball by refusing to pick up these subscribers, but is it really the government's business to wire these folks? And if it is, how should the government turn over these s

      • Look at it a different way: why shouldn't people be allowed to build their own network if they want to? If they donate their time are they stealing from a big, for profit firm?

        The article implies that the city made a profit on their network, so subsidies didn't come into it.
        • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

          But people ARE allowed to build their own network if they want to. It's called a Co-Op. If the local townspeople want to start a community ISP, they can do so in the PRIVATE sector by forming a Co-Op that anyone in the community can join by buying shares. That Co-Op ISP can then market for capital, hire technicians (bonus for creating local jobs without wasting tax dollars!) run lines, build a datacenter, and get started. If people REALLY want to do it, they can. There isn't a need for the government

        • There's nothing wrong with people coming together and building an alternative network if the commercial ISPs aren't good enough for whatever reasons. This is pretty common here in the Czech Republic, and wile I can't find any general info pages in english, there's a map that outlines the major network nodes in Prague [czfree.net], and similar are available for other locations. These networks are nonprofit organizations which depend solely on their members and volunteers to survive and provide service. You buy your own e

      • Re:Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:39AM (#27757893) Journal

        My (admittedly thin) understanding is that the people of the town were fed up with TWC, got together, and made something happen. That's what government is for: By the people and for the people. Of course it has its limitations, but when corporations have a stranglehold it is actually refreshing to me to see that the government is still a way for people to take a stand, even at a tiny local level.

        I think the precedent is a great one. If it shoes people that they really can do something, rather than being squashed by a big corp, then great.

        Also, the all-or-nothing argument seems a bit much. Do you just propose that people continue to live under the current oppression?

      • Re:Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:43AM (#27757915)

        You should understand two things here.

        1) The government is NOT using taxpayer money to fund this.

        2) They are PROFITABLE

        It's not like their selling low, and then subsidizing the costs with taxpayer money. They're selling the service at the price they sell it, and STILL MAKING MONEY.

        I think that's the bottom line here.

        I see Broadband as no different an essential service to live these days. I certainly couldn't live without it, my job depends on it.

        If public companies refuse to provide this, then it should be the governments responsibility to step in and provide this service.

      • No Sir! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:51AM (#27757985)

        The government here is in the wrong for poking its nose where it doesn't belong. Either the entire ISP business should be under government control or none of it should be. By cherry picking certain parts, the government has made a very bad decision with long term ramifications for all business in the state.

        Then let's privatize the Fire Department and all other services exclusively run by government.

        Or even better, let's put the entire issue to a public vote. This would be the ultimate form of democracy. How about that?

        You are one of the folks that thinks that anything run by government is bad as if, when you find yourself on the death bed...being bamboozled by insurance companies...as if who provides the service you need at the material time matters. What would matter to you is how you can get the help you need. I do not care who provides a service as long as I am satisfied.

        People with your thoughts are partly responsible with the current financial crisis. It's insane. I would like you to call for a referendum on this issue instead of ranting around here.

        Remember, a drowning man will cling to a reed with the hope that it will offer a lifeline of some sort.

        • People with your thoughts are partly responsible with the current financial crisis. It's insane.

          You forgot to call out the GP for his false "all or nothing" dichotomy.
          I swear, sometimes the intellectual dishonesty displayed by free marketeers is stunning.

          And even that ignores his bit about cherry picking, which is exactly what private ISPs did until local/state government forced build-out requirements upon them.

          I would like you to call for a referendum on this issue instead of ranting around here.

          As we're seeing with the slow-motion implosion of the Republican party, given enough rope, the ideologically pure would rather hang themselves than use the rope to make a bridge off their moun

      • Re:Merit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cjsm ( 804001 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:58AM (#27758065)

        You know, socialism isn't outlawed by the U.S. Constitution. I'm in favor of the government doing whatever it can do better then big business, e.g. replace the joke of a medical insurance system with a single payer government run system.

        Admittedly socialism doesn't work well in many cases because the process is corrupted by the rich and powerful and special interests. But on the local level, a socialized industry might work better then on the national level, because the people will have more influence to avoid corruption then they do on the national level.

        If cities can provide broadband service cheaper then private companies, I want them to. As long as its self supporting and not subsidized.

        I'm tired of CEOs making millions of dollars for doing nothing unique or that a lot of other people making far less couldn't do.

        And the telecoms are among the worst of the bunch in undeserved profits.

        • Re:Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:17AM (#27758937) Homepage Journal

          I'm in favor of the government doing whatever it can do better then big business, e.g. replace the joke of a medical insurance system with a single payer government run system.

          - that would be a mistake, I live in Canada, it's no joke. Our cancer patients have to wait for over 70 days now to start getting critical treatment, our emergency rooms are filled with people who are waiting for 8-16 hours to get service and half of our people do not have a physician, forget about getting an appointment with a specialist in less than 3-4 months (sometimes 6-9 months).

          You do not want to remove competition, what you do want is to add competition.

          Have the government run a competing system, then you'll get somewhere.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bziman ( 223162 )

          You know, socialism isn't outlawed by the U.S. Constitution. I'm in favor of the government doing whatever it can do better then big business, e.g. replace the joke of a medical insurance system with a single payer government run system.

          I've no particular problem with socialism in general, nor the government providing more and more services. However, the Tenth Amendment [cornell.edu] specifically states that any powers not granted to the Federal Government by the Constitution are reserved for the States or the People

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mysidia ( 191772 )

        If we had adopted that thinking in other areas, half the country would still be in the dark, or only have access to 2 AMPs of power, when the areas with densest population had 20 AMP service.

        The government either has a role in the business of electric power delivery or it doesn't.

        By putting the government in direct competition with private enterprises, the government is both pricing private companies out of the market and erecting a monopoly where natural competition would be the norm.

        Now, you can say

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drjzzz ( 150299 )

        Either the entire ISP business should be under government control or none of it should be.

        Why all or none? Both capitalism and government can be powerful forces for good and evil, depending entirely on how they are managed. A local government or semi-public cooperative might work very well as an ISP.

      • but is it really the government's business to wire these folks?

        Yes. Otherwise you likely wouldn't have electricity, phone service, gas, sewage, or running water today.

        The Internet is an important part of our economy. While it is not treated as such, it is an important utility. Even worse, in many places, ISPs (cable companies and/or phone companies) are getting legal monopolies as any other utility but are not pricing them as a utility - rather they are priced as a monopoly because nothing requires otherwis

    • Re:Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:28AM (#27757821) Homepage

      "The Market" was rejected by the monopoly players in this case. If you had been following the story, the local government requested better service and lower prices and they simply refused. There are times when "the market" (aka, "the people") need to push ahead instead of "waiting for the leaders."

      This story is quite similar to others where these players in the ISP game quite frequently refuse the requests of municipalities resulting in the municipalities building their own infrastructures which then results in the communications companies filing legal actions against it. I find it most profound when it happens that a given company doesn't want to offer ANY service to an area and yet will fight tooth and nail when a local government wants to build its own.

    • Re:Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:36AM (#27757875) Homepage Journal

      Hmmmm...here's some food for thought: city governments already run trash collection services, schools, snow removal services, real estate brokerages, electrical services, cable TV services, electric utilities, water utilities, etc. There are private equivalents for all these services (and more) that city governments provide. (Yes, including water utilities and trash removal. If you don't believe me, I will show you my water bill and trash removal bill) and in some instances these even compete in the same community.

      I don't see anybody fighting over that. How is running an Internet service provider any different?

    • Re:Merit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by deleveld ( 607488 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:44AM (#27757925)

      It is only a non level playing field if the government *loses* money in their own ISP but keeps it afloat anyway. If the government ISP company *makes* money using the same business processes that the industry would (or could or should), how can you talk about a non level playing field?

      If the governemnt ISP makes a fair and honest profit, then the ISPs have no right to complain. But of course it makes business sense for them to complain anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by azadrozny ( 576352 )

      Secondly, since it is started and run by the Government, wouldn't this be considered a public service instead?

      I find this an interesting argument. Where is the line between an essential public service, like water and electricity, and something that is less essential like an Internet connection? The electric company in my area is a non-profit electric cooperative. It was started in the 1930's to supply power to what was then a very rural area. Electricity at that time was about the same as the internet is today, can you get by with out it? Yes. It is a boost to your standard of living? Yes.

      I do not think there

    • What is 'the market' though? Isn't it the people who are paying for the service? Or do you think 'the market' is the list of current firms providing a service?

      I argue that in 'the market' the buyers are at least as important as the providers if not much more important. If the providers do everything in their power to limit the choices to the people (to 'the market') then shouldn't the people attempt and get their choice of service somewhere else? If that means that the people have to get together and st

    • It may be a way for Government price manipulation, but then that's not letting the market determine price.

      Letting the corporation determine the price ain't so hot either.

      Market price normalization only really comes into effect when there are a ton of competition and practical barriers of entry into the industry. First prices start really high... then they get really low when a flood of companies launch themselves into the industry... and then they balance out at the normalized rate when the inferior companies get squeaked out of the market because their prices were either too low or too high.

      We had a "Leve

  • The corporation is just using the tools available to them to maintain a favorable condition. I've seen Time Warner use its 24 hour news program to push its agenda in a dispute with content providers over fees. Same with the content providers scrolling messages at the bottom of the screen. While questionable ethically, the real problem is we have a government structure where it is too easy to "bribe" legally. Campaign donations and lobbyist activity craft nearly every bill, and when something passes that
    • I think you need a different country. This one has been the way it is for a long time, and there isn't any motive force for change, despite B. Obama's fine rhetoric.

      A more populist government, it seems, would naturally follow from changing the voting structure to something other than FPTP. The chances of that are negligible, as are the chances for any real change in the causes of the issues you name. I think it's more significant even than 'the devil you know'; the corporate culture has become a cornerstone

  • How can they win? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:35AM (#27757867) Journal
    It sounds to me like internet is becoming more and more of a "needed commodity" than it used to be. Consider, if you will, roads. The taxpayer dollars go towards those and in turn, the government hires private contractors to do the work - this article doesn't sound much different.

    However, this would make the internet a public service more than a paid for service, so, unfortunately, there is a large gray area there - and the companies making the pretty penny are going to fight in that gray area.
    • Re:How can they win? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ritchie70 ( 860516 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:46AM (#27757941) Journal

      Its not just roads. As an earlier post pointed out, many city or county governments handle garbage collection, electricity, and/or natural gas.

      All of these are handled in other places by private companies.

      City of Chicago handles garbage collection.
      In the city of Darien, BFI handles garbage collection.

      City of Naperville does electricity.
      ComEd sells me my electricity.

  • Corporations trolled (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zsub ( 1365549 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:38AM (#27757883)

    And I fucking RAGED.

    *You* didn't want the customers, fuckers, *YOU*. They came to you begging for service. You denied. Now they did it themselves and you blame unfair competition? Go jerk off in some cold closet, incompetent bastards...

  • Tried to RTFA, but blocked from work as P2P.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You ring lots of people on the pretence that you want their opinion. Then you ask leading questions like Would you vote for candidate X even though he has voted for higher taxes in your city, or some such. The idea is to promote an idea about candidate X, not to find out where the votes are going.

      It is a very popular political tool.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mysidia ( 191772 )

      It's a "political poll" delivered under false pretense with prejudiced questions.

      A poll designed not to collect your answers but to feed you misinformation (FUD) and influence your opinion.

      Generally, they are very effective. People investing time in taking a poll believe the pollster is an authority on the subject, so there is a strong tendency tend to believe all the misinformation, and many people's opinions can be influenced dramatically.

      (Especially if they were neutral on or unaware of the subje

  • I talked about this before, but its a real shame seeing this sort of behavior out of companies. I know they're backed against a wall a bit, but really, if they'd been taking the time to upgrade and provide better service all along then they wouldn't be in this position in the first place. It's almost as bad as giving people a crappy service and then trying to charge people for "extra" bandwidth...
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @08:50AM (#27757975) Homepage Journal

    At least in the Triangle area in NC, TW pays the local municipalities a bribe, I mean an "Access Fee" that can approach something like 15% of the revenue. While their methods are all unsavory, they are rightfully angry that their bribe is underwriting a competitor.

  • They should not set up a single company which brings the service. Instead, set up a monopoly that does the fiber from a block (or possibly subdivision) green box, AND a separate company to connect these that will have future competition. If they approach it in that fashion, then new tech can be brought in quickly and cheaply, EXCEPT for the link to the home. But with a small limited monopoly, it would be possible to do that when new tech requires it. In fact, the could simply make that box-home connection
    • by Phroggy ( 441 ) <.slashdot3. .at. .phroggy.com.> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:22AM (#27758305) Homepage

      The city of Ashland in southern Oregon operates a fiber-optic network that's open to multiple ISPs. The city does not operate its own ISP at all, and they don't sell Internet access directly to residents; you have to sign up with an ISP, and the ISP pays the city for access to the fiber network. The city sets the speed and charges the ISP more for faster speeds, but the ISP provides the Internet connection, tech support, etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Isn't that exactly what the city offered?

        They built the infrastructure nescesary and then went to the incumbants saying "we built this nice fat infrastructure, and we'd like to let you use it if you give us a better service than we're getting right now".

        The companies declined this offer and then gut pissed that the city decided to use the infrastructure anyway.

  • Greenlights rates (Score:3, Informative)

    by SpzToid ( 869795 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:14AM (#27758215)

    So this is what they are offering, at a profit right? (No govt. subsidies putting TWC out of business in the area, right?)

    http://www.greenlightnc.com/home/internet/internetonly/ [greenlightnc.com]

    $59.95 for 20 mbps UP AND DOWN? 2UP? And they do this profitably right? Then is it possible everyone else is getting screwed over by their ISP Monopolies/Duopolies?

    "The 20Mbps speed includes both uploads and downloads and is the fastest residential speed available anywhere in North Carolina."

    Go Greenlight go! I wonder what the real estate is like in the area served.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      If you go to Time Warner Cable website [yourtwc.com], enter the area code and order just Cable and High Speed Online, the total price is around $102.85 month (Digital Cable + Road Runner Turbo @ upto 15 Mpbs download / 2Mbps upload).

      Now, despite being begged to introduce Cable service in this area, Time Warner refused. Now they are being undercut by someone offering a better service for half the price. No wonder they are steaming.

  • When free market capitalism lets you kick competition out of business -you support it.
    When free market capitalism lets competition kick you out of business -you fight it.

    It all makes so much sense.
  • "Time Warner and Embarq can't compete"

    I could be wrong but I read that the city running Greenlight asked Time Warner Cable if they would offer better, higher speed service to the city and when they didn't the city started their own ISP. It seems like they aren't interested in competing.
  • by randomaxe ( 673239 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:53AM (#27758675)
    Most of us are outraged about this, but few of us can do anything about it. If you live in North Carolina, I urge you to contact your state congresspeople and let them know just how you, as a voter, feel about this.

    The bills in question are NC Senate bill 1004 and NC House bill 1242. You can find contact information for your state congresspeople here:

    http://www.votesmart.org/index.htm [votesmart.org]

    And remember, even if you're a NC resident who doesn't live in Wilson, this is a *state-level* issue, and your opinion counts. Not only that, but if these bills pass, it means no cheap internet for you, either. Be heard now, while it matters.
  • by J'raxis ( 248192 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:10AM (#27758859) Homepage

    Has anyone actually bothered to read the bill [state.nc.us] in question? All it's doing is making sure the city-owned ISP isn't---or doesn't in the future---engage in the kind of abuses I just posted about. It's specifically to make sure they can't lower their rates by subsidizing themselves with tax dollars, exempt themselves from paying telco taxes, and similar. Here are the relevant pieces:---

    (1) Comply with all local, State, and federal laws, regulations, or other requirements that would apply to the communications services if provided by a private communications service provider.

    (2) Establish a separate enterprise fund for communications service and shall use this fund to separately account for revenues, expenses, property, and source of investment dollars associated with the provision of communications service.

    (3) Shall not subsidize the cost of providing communications service with funds from any other noncommunications service, operation, or other revenue source, including any funds or revenue generated from electric, gas, water, sewer, or garbage services. In complying with this requirement, a city owned communications service provider shall not price any communications service below the cost of providing the service.

    (4) Shall, in calculating the cost incurred and in the rates to be charged for the provision of communications services, impute: (i) the cost of the capital component that is equivalent to the cost of capital available to private communications service providers in the same locality; and (ii) an amount equal to all taxes, including property taxes, licenses, fees, and other assessments that would apply to a private communications service provider including federal, state, and local taxes; rightsofway, franchise, consent, or administrative fees; and pole attachment fees.

    (5) Shall annually remit to the general fund of the city an amount equivalent to all taxes or fees a private communications service provider would be required to pay the city or county in which the city is located, including any applicable tax refunds received by the city owned communications service provider because of its government status and a sum equal to the amount of property tax that would have been due if the city owned communications service provider were a private communications service provider.

    (6) Shall prepare and publish an independent annual audit in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles that reflect the fully allocated cost of providing the communications service, including all direct and indirect costs. The indirect costs shall include amounts for rightsofway, franchise, consent, or administrative fees, regulatory fees, occupation taxes, pole attachment fees, and ad valorem taxes. The annual accounting shall reflect any direct or indirect subsidies received by the city owned communications service provider, and any buildings, equipment, vehicles, and personnel that are jointly used with other city departments shall be fully allocated to the city owned communications service. The North Carolina Utilities Commission may adopt rules and regulations to ensure compliance with the provisions of this subdivision, and all records demonstrating compliance shall be filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission and made available for public inspection and copying.

    Anyone opposing this is basically saying, "I want cheap Internets by making you pay for it."

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