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If You Lived In Riga, You Wouldn't Bother To Cut the Cord 195

lpress writes "If you lived in Riga, Latvia, you would not have to 'cut the cord' to see video entertainment at a reasonable cost. You would simply get a triple play subscription with 20 Mbps up and 5 Mbps down from service provider Balti-Com for $25.43 USD. Balti-Com had the lowest triple pay price in a New America Foundation report, The Cost of Connectivity, which compares prices charged by 885 ISPs in 22 cities worldwide. The report found that five of the cheapest 15 triple-play offerings were in Paris — the fruit of competition between ISPs. With the Telecommunication Act of 1966, the U.S. Congress hoped to foster similar competition, but failed. As study co-author Benjamin Lennett says, U.S. telephone and cable companies have arranged a 'negotiated truce' in which cable incumbents enjoy a de facto monopoly on high-speed broadband service, while Verizon and AT&T focus primarily on their wireless platforms."
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If You Lived In Riga, You Wouldn't Bother To Cut the Cord

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  • Typo folks (Score:5, Informative)

    by webjedi ( 106085 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:22PM (#40730111) Homepage

    That's the Telecom Law of 1996, not 1966

    • by Shatrat ( 855151 )

      There's also a pretty complete misunderstanding of that act and telecom in general. There is tons of competition out there now if you want a T1, DS3, OCn, carrier Ethernet. That doesn't change the fact that DSL still can't compete with Cable in the last mile. That's why Verizon has started building out fiber to the home in the first place. There are also plenty of local telephone companies with no wireless component that still can't compete head to head with cable on bandwidth terms.

  • by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:30PM (#40730157) Journal

    while Verizon and AT&T focus primarily on their wireless platforms.

    So they don't know who sells FiOS?

    • by geoskd ( 321194 )

      while Verizon and AT&T focus primarily on their wireless platforms.

      So they don't know who sells FiOS?

      Apparently nobody sells FIOS. They allegedly cover the area where I live, but the price they quoted me is double what the Cable carrier charges, the bandwidth is less, and they want $750 to hook me up because I would have to pay for the stretch from my house to the nearest drop. On top of all that, they don't offer FIOS TV here which is thanks to that very same telecom act of 1996... Congress hasn't been able to do anything right since the 50's and 60's, and Verizon doesn't appear very capable either.


      • Bizzare.. I guess only in california is verizon expanding fios. I keep getting FiOS spam in my (US mail)box every month, seems like. And this is when I'm aready a customer :-} I signed up within the last 12 months. Free installation, and around $75 a month for internet and landline phone.
    • My understanding is this 'truce' is not because companies like each other, they would all stab each other in the back if they could. It happened because in many municipalities, one cable operator came in, and negotiated with the local government to get an exclusive deal.

      So even though congress allowed competition, in many places the cities have disallowed it.

      My question is, why do we have such lousy internet in the Silicon Valley region? I thought all my internet problems would be over when I moved her
      • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @11:18PM (#40733433) Homepage

        I owned a regional ISP for a decade. The '96 telco act was great. It forced the legislated monopolies to interconnect with new local exchanges. Suddenly an ISP could easily do business with a non monopoly telco and gain access to all exchanges in an area code (or a state/region) at one set of equipment instead of paying high foreign exchange rates or having various rack space spread around the countryside. Then.. Bush got elected, Powel's Kid was put in charge of the FCC, and the FCC became very big business oriented. They rolled back the telco act - the baby bells did pay huge fines for not following the act by being competitive but the FCC got more and more lenient. After a few years under Powel the FCC said the free market would handle such things and the act went away..

        You saw the near instant collapse of the small ISP and regional CLECs. The thousands of companies that got people online either folded or sold as there was no way to stay competitive against the monopolies. For example wholesale costs for bare DSL lines were often higher than the companies were selling retail. Etc. Of course this wasn't just the FCC. My local fed house rep was sitting chair of the telecommunications subcommitee and he was all for big monopolies. (Interesting correlation with his voting record and his donations record too). His pat response was the big monopolies were holding back from infrastructure improvements because why build out when they may just lose money? Of course once they got their monopoly back it never happened...

        With 300 billion documented of broken promises and failed tax breaks given to the telcos it would seem like someone would look into it. But we still haven't seen a single person charged with a crime by outright lying on wallstreet and causing economic damages so what's some broken telco promises?

        • That's depressing. Almost makes you want to be a libertarian.....if the government doesn't have any money, it can't give it to special interests.
        • Right, I remember those days fondly. I had several friends and co-workers who started up their own ISP's, sometimes with just some networking gear and a few servers in a room in their basement. It was great because they were all under-bidding each other. Prices kept going down. Then as you say, That Cunt Powell and his corporate overlords undid the "Free Market" they love to tout as a reason for undoing the real competition.

          It is really is amazing how out of control the American political system has
    • FiOS (Verizon) or uVerse (AT&T) are wireline products. If you look at wireline growth in the 2-4% year over year versus wireless in 20%+ range, there isn't a big incentive for the telco's to invest in wireline upgrades. Look at FiOS - there are no new markets or expansions that Verizon wishes to do. Why? Because the capital invested in a wireline plant doesn't have nearly the same return on capital invested that upgrading a market to LTE does.

      Granted wireless is saturated on the voice call component, bu

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:41PM (#40731855)

      while Verizon and AT&T focus primarily on their wireless platforms.

      So they don't know who sells FiOS?

      Verizon has not done any substantial FIOS build outs since 2009. Since then, they've colluded with comcast. [] Comcast gets a promise from verizon not to build any more fios plants and verizon gets some wireless frequencies that comcast has been sitting on for like a decade. Hell, verizon is now bundling comcast catv service with their dsl packages.

    • by Rhys ( 96510 )

      AT&T was, in theory, building uverse out in my community (midwestern university town, >100k pop). That was two years ago. Not a peep since then. Supposedly a couple places have it, but I can't get it where I am. I'm stuck with comcast and their terrible network maintenance. They have a leak (classic sense: water infiltration) somewhere. Good soaking rain means 25%+ packet loss, multi-second ping times for a few days.

      Of course by the time I'm through their "service" org far enough the central line tec

  • by acidfast7 ( 551610 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:35PM (#40730187)

    that includes mobile phone service (since 20 channels of TV are public anyway) where we get some good deals.

    For 24.99€/mo with no contract (can cancel immediately), we get 16/1 service (including a WLAN router), standard telephone (anywhere in Germany free to a land line) and the O2 mobile phones for free (we choose to pay an extra 5€/mo for 500 minutes to the EU/US long-distance because I call the US quite often), and 4 SIM cards with numbers and .15€/min and .15€/SMS.

    If you agree to a 24-month contract the price is only 14.99€/mo


    • In Bucharest, I already have 100mbps Internet (optic fiber) and 70 TV channels for less than 20 bucks. I could get phone as well for 5 dollars more but I am not interested. Bonus: free 3G USB dongle with unlimited data transfer.
      Beat this, Riga!

      • but to be fair, you should compare the average salary of Frankfurt to that of Bucharest :P
        • by Erpo ( 237853 )
          Thank you both for sharing. As someone who pays $150/month in the US for no-frills TV, telephone and 10/1 Internet with a 50GB/month transfer cap, it's eye-opening to read about conditions in other parts of the world. Also, I'm sorry about how the United States has been behaving towards other countries for the past decade or so.
        • I agree, you also shouldn't expect the same prices in Bucharest and Frankfurt for laptops, MP3 players, TV sets... oh wait...

  • I always said that the original break-up of the legacy Ma Bell did not go far enough. It was broken up into local and long distance entities, with local telcos providing local telephone service, and AT&T long distance providing long distance service.

    The problem is that the ILECs ended up owning both the physical plant, and the voice/data service. The breakup should've had its bar pushed even farther down the line. Specifically down to the last mile, and not an inch above that. The local telephone compan

    • It was broken up from one large monopoly, to a bunch of local monopolies. Even your cable company has a local monopoly. Go check it out. As long as they can keep the local government renewing their local monopoly, they don't really compete, they just pretend to, and not very well at that.
  • Because, you know, all your eggs, one basket, single point of failure etc.

    I for one would love to lose my phone, cell and TV connection too whenever my ISP has one of their "little technical difficulties".

  • There's another name for that: market rigging. And it's illegal.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @01:35PM (#40730615) Homepage Journal
      It's only illegal if you get caught!

      Doing illegal things as a corporation works kind of like raising in poker. In poker, if you raise you have two ways to win. You could have the strongest hand, of course. That one's pretty easy. But you could have a weaker hand than your opponent and he might still fold because he's not confident he can beat you.

      It's a little different as a corporation, but if you do something illegal you could just get away with it and make a ton of money. Or you could get caught and fined. From what I've seen, the fines are always less (sometimes FAR less) than the illegal profit you made. Something to keep in mind when, as a CEO, you're faced with a choice between contaminating an entire town with asbestos and making ONE BILLION DOLLARS...

      • "It's a little different as a corporation, but if you do something illegal you could just get away with it and make a ton of money. Or you could get caught and fined. "

        And that's the problem with our laws today: the entire current "punitive damages" arrangement.

        The first problem is, when corporations are fined by government or regulatory agencies, the money doesn't go to the people who were actually defrauded. When a corporation is caught doing something like that, they should be forced to make every effort to discover who was actually damaged, and recompense them, BEFORE any "fines" are even considered.

        Then, and only then, should punitive damages be levied. And the

        • I think that the problem is actually the other way.

          Corporations get fined first and THEN sued by their victims.

          And since government fines have higher priority than restitutions, there's little incentive to report a company if the feds will get their pound of flesh before you get compensated.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @01:13PM (#40730477)

    Average salary in Latvia is about ~620 $ per month (~7440 $ per year). If you're an entrepreneur - someone working for you with salary 620 $ per month costs you about 1050 $ per month (all taxes that you have to pay for the employee included) (12600 $ per year).

    One of the largest and most expensive local telcos offers 100 Mbit / sec FTTH + TV solution for 40$ per month. Or 50$ per month for 200 Mbit/sec goodness + HD channels for your TiVo-style-over-the-internet-TV that comes with this package.

    On a spammy and off-topic sidenote - best of the breed software engineers would cost you no more than 5000 $ per month (or 60 000 $ per year; all possible taxes included). Something you'd pay 200 000 $ for in US I suppose.. So if you want to get in touch with local freelancers (I'm a software engineer myself), drop me a line at spiritus [dot] emortus [at]

    • I can't speak for Latvia, but guys I have worked with in Tallinn, Estonia were good. I apologise for the drunken English tourists on stag weekends :)
  • I wouldn't claim to know, since I have no inside knowledge, but I had assumed there was some kind of behind-the-scenes agreement among ISPs. Verizon has seemed to give up on rolling out FIOS. There's essentially no competition in NYC right now between ISPs. Once you know what your needs are, there is usually only one vendor who can provide that level of service.

    Since they're monopolies, these companies should be regulated at least as strictly as the companies providing electricity. In my opinion, they

  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @01:58PM (#40730725)

    It's so obviously collusion. In my neck of the woods, no two cable companies compete. You can get one if you live HERE and the other if you live THERE. This is not capitalism and they should be forced through legislation to compete.

    It's called "regulation" .. aka law and order for corporations. Sure, criminals don't like law and order.. so what's new in that? They'd much rather be left alone to play freely in a green field of their id's desires.

    From financial deregulation, deregulation in other industries and a general lack of oversight and enforcement we have gotten the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl , the S&L melt down, the Long Term Capital Management melt down, the 2008 crash and global warming. The cumulative bill to the rest of us so some tiny minority can profit obscenely runs into the trillions, a bill the rest of us have to pay.. This is also known as a Grover Norquist Tax, the tax the rest of us pay for deregulatory policies and the destruction they cause. .

    Well, I've been taxed enough. I'm sick of paying the bill for dereguation and I WANT MY MONEY BACK from the small set of libertarian and conservative personalities and lawmakers that took it away and gave it to the coke snorting class.

    • It's so obviously collusion. In my neck of the woods, no two cable companies compete. You can get one if you live HERE and the other if you live THERE. This is not capitalism and they should be forced through legislation to compete.

      It was legislation, not collusion, which gave you just once choice in cable companies (unless you're talking about collusion between the government and the cable company). To lay down cables in the U.S. normally requires crossing private property. To avoid having to get permi

      • Thanks for the info. +1 informative. It's not the government's fault the cable companies wanted to be monopolies and extorted that as the price of doing business. .. it's what all companies want . Too bad they felt like they had to give it to them. Cities give Walmart, the biggest company in the world. financial concessions all the time. You have to look at the details to know why corporations are able to extort munis in this way.

        In a perfectly free market we'd have what we have when the oil and gas com

      • I cant speak to what happened in your suburb of Boston but your post inspired me to look a little deeper into the issue and this paper kept my interest - []

        Once the cable digital migration is accomplished, the cable companiesâ(TM) big pipes will be filled with virtual, highly-compressed digital âoechannels.â Three of those, or so, may be devoted to Internet access.

        The real growth area for cable is âoebroadband,â but very little of âoebroadbandâ will be recognizable as Internet access.

        The rest of the transmissions filling the pipe will use the Internet Protocol but will be thoroughly managed, monetized, prioritized, filtered, packaged, and non-executableâ"much like traditional cable television today.

        When a monopoly cable provider can allocate just two or three of its hundreds of virtual âoechannelsâ to Internet connectivity, and when only that provider can sell you video-strength speeds, net neutrality becomes a subsidiary issueâ"a tiny white bird landing on the back of an enormous hippo. Net neutrality matters, but it is a sideshow. As one content executive told me, âoeComcast owns the Internet.â

        II. What Happens Next

        We are about to confront a well-coordinated cabal of local monopoly cable providers. When it comes to affordability, ubiquity, and nondiscrimination, we could decide to take a lesson from a host of other developed nationsâ"particularly Australia.

        As a report from the Berkman Center made clear earlier this year, policies requiring line-sharing at regulated rates have played a central role in the spread of low-priced, nondiscriminatory, very-high-speed access in many other nations.[20]

        Australia has recently cleared an important final hurdle towards rolling out a publicly-funded fiber network that will be open to all ISPs: By having its Senate pass a bill that will decommission old copper-wire (and hybrid coaxial fiber) infrastructure and separate its monopoly provider into wholesale and retail operations, Australia has ensured the construction of a new National Broadband Network that will connect 93% of Australian homes and business at speeds of 100 megabits per second.[21]

        Another lesson: Leadership played a central role in this major Australian initiative. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been leading the reform effort since 2005, and said recently that ââ[n]o other sector has been held hostage by a market structure that has been such an impediment to genuine competition and innovation

    • It's called "regulation" .. aka law and order for corporations.

      I prefer a non-regulatory way to solve the problem: Municipal fiber. Have your city drag fiber from a central data center to everyone's homes. They rent you a pair for $10/month or so. At the data center you get cross-connected to any of a dozen providers who will sell you TV, IP, and telephone service in any combination you desire.

      There's no need to regulate once you take away the natural monopoly held by the telcos/cablecos. Once you have a bunch of companies competing to have the other end of your f

      • Yeah well if we could do that then we'd have single payer health care too like other civilized societies.

        What I am saying is to conservatives what yo're describing is Socialism which is like Communism (in their minds) except it's still alive.

        Conservatives have a shit fit if you try to have muni broadband , because that's government... Big government.

        • I know it's still a hard sell, but I think conservatives will find it much more palatable to have a "city-run utility providing access to a free market" than "more regulation".

          • Well why just wonder what they'd say when you can ask them directly? Just ask a conservatard if they like the idea of a local government supplying their population with municipal WIFI or broadband and see what reaction you get. Or just ask Mr Google what the conservatards thought of your little socialist plot.
  • Latvia is a poor EU country but that's not the main reason why broadband prices are relatively low. It is all because of competition. Latvia had poor phone infrastructure and after the Soviet era the government decided to give a monopoly to Lattelecom and as a result the prices for local call were unreasonably high. Internet, however, remained unregulated. The opportunity was immediately seized by small entrepreneurs who bought one high speed link from the Telecom and connected local apartments in the compl
  • by degradas ( 453730 ) <degradas@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:52PM (#40731021)

    I live in Vilnius, Lithuania (neighboring Latvia, for those who can't be bothered to look at the map) and pay 22 USD/month for 100 Mbps FTTH, no download caps. For additional 15 USD or so I can get cable TV with HD channels from the same provider.

    But who the hell needs cable when torrents download at 70 Mbps or so? :)

  • by __aajwxe560 ( 779189 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @03:11PM (#40731137)

    U.S. telephone and cable companies have arranged a 'negotiated truce' in which cable incumbents enjoy a de facto monopoly on high-speed broadband service, while Verizon and AT&T focus primarily on their wireless platforms.

    Mainstream media is starting to pick up on this same very notion, with Verizon's latest quarterly report covered by the Boston Globe here [] which basically highlights the fact that Comcast and Verizon are getting cozy rather than competing. "Verizon Wireless struck a deal to market cable broadband from Comcast and Time Warner Cable in its stores, a move consumer advocates see as a capitulation by Verizon that will leave many areas with just one viable choice for home broadband: cable."

    We as taxpaying Americans supporting these monopolies lose out on both fronts while this trend continues ....

  • And fading fast. With any luck AT&T and Verizon will be the only wireless companies in the US soon and prices will skyrocket as service sinks to war torn African nation quality. In the meantime cable providers like Time Warner are debating how to offer slower service at higher prices and with even worse uptime stats.

  • A million reasons why: []
  • How do these cities solved the "last mile" problem? Do the telecom's own the cord going into the house? Does the residence own the cord? Does the city own the cord and the telecom's rent the cords from the city?
  • The U.S. Congress considered several bills to foster similar competition, but decided they like the large campaign donations incumbent ISPs can afford because their near-monopoly positions allow them to impose huge economic rents.


  • First, slashdot, that's 1996, not 1966.

    Second, it was rammed through by the telecoms, who wanted out from under the controls that the 1984 breakup of Mother Bell kept them under. Yes, I know what I'm talking about: 1995-1997, I worked for Ameritech, one of the Baby Bells now swallowed by SWBell (which then swallowed AT&T, and tail wagged dog). That was explicitly one branch of the business plan - I was in a "startup" division that would be their entry in the long-distance sweepstakes. I, personally, alo

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.