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The Internet Network United States

Why America Won't Match Sweden's Cheap, Fast, Competitive Internet Services 346

ashshy writes: Swedish Internet services run both cheaper and faster than American ones. For example, many Swedes can pay about $40 a month for 100/100 mbps, choosing between more than a dozen competing providers. It's all powered by a nationwide web of municipal networks in direct competition with ex-government telecom Telia's fiber backbone. The presence of regional government in the Swedish data stream makes many Americans uncomfortable, to say nothing of the very different histories between these backbone buildouts. The Motley Fool explains how the Swedish model developed, and why the U.S. is unlikely ever to follow suit.
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Why America Won't Match Sweden's Cheap, Fast, Competitive Internet Services

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  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @11:52AM (#48092591) Journal

    TFA asks the following question in the headline...

    How Come My ISP Won't Increase Internet Speed and Lower My Bill, Like They Do in Sweden?

    then asks later....

    So why isn't America following the municipal path to high-speed bliss? ... it's complicated

    is it?

    is ***profit*** for Verizon & other teleco's really that complicated?

    they don't lower our rates or give us better service b/c they have a *monopoly* and no competition or incentive to give us anything other than the bare minimum ammount of service that we will tolerate!

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @11:58AM (#48092685) Homepage

      is ***profit*** for Verizon & other teleco's really that complicated?

      Considering that US has private prisons while Sweden is closing its prisons, you have a point I guess...

      http://www.theguardian.com/soc... [theguardian.com]

    • by invid ( 163714 )
      I'm tired of the fact that the United States, a country that spans a continent and contains more than 300 million people, is constantly compared to countries with populations comparable to New York City. If you are going to compare anything infrastructure related in the US to another country, make sure that country has at least a hundred million people.
  • It's time to make peer-to-peer mesh networking a viable technology.
  • Money money money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Coditor ( 2849497 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @11:54AM (#48092629)
    Profit is king in the US. Providing for your citizens is king in Sweden. Apparently those are unrelated concepts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      if you would just stop meddling the invisible hand of the market would provide a solution!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh, Sweden is a socialist hellhole. Obviously you're not a Republican and you hate freedom.

    • by mi ( 197448 )

      Profit is king in the US. Providing for your citizens is king in Sweden. Apparently those are unrelated concepts.

      It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

      Adam Smith [brainyquote.com]

      You are a fool, if you expect more from a politician, who needs only your vote every few years, than from a capitalist, who wants your money to make profit every day.

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        Indeed. Sadly, we have no real chance of people getting into office who will do the right thing because it makes them feel good to help their fellow citizens.

        • by mi ( 197448 )

          Sadly, we have no real chance of people getting into office who will do the right thing because it makes them feel good to help their fellow citizens.

          And nobody ever had such a chance. On rare occasion a person might appear combining the desire to do such good with the capacity for fulfilling it and the drive to achieve the necessary power, but any political system designed to expect a sufficient number of such people is doomed to fail.

      • While you can always reach for a pithy quote to support an attitude of mistrust of government by misportraying Adam Smith as calling for the state to stay completely hands off, actually reading the man's work [gutenberg.org] reveals that he too saw a need for some degree of state regulation to avoid problems like monopolies. The man saw the benefits in a more laissez faire system, but he also foresaw pitfalls that have come to plague us today.
        • by mi ( 197448 )

          While you can always reach for a pithy quote to support an attitude of mistrust of government by misportraying Adam Smith as calling for the state to stay completely hands off, actually reading the man's work reveals that he too saw a need for some degree of state regulation to avoid problems like monopolies

          The quote I offered does not contradict the problems of monopolies. As soon as the mentioned butcher, brewer, or baker become the sole supplier you can pick, the quality goes down and the prices go up.

          Th

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:36PM (#48093221) Homepage

        And, quite frankly, you're a fool if you believe that capitalism doesn't devolve into oligarchy, collusion, and people generally not playing by the rules which are intrinsic to the assumptions of capitalism. Because, despite these wonderful assumptions, companies will lie, cheat, steal, manipulate the system, hide information, or generally do anything they can do skew the system in their favor.

        Politicians can be voted out. The growing oligarchy cannot, and has no interest in doing anything unless it's on terms they dictate, and not on terms the 'free' market is supposed to provide.

        The oligarchy is just the next set of feudal lords.

        Over the long run, pretty much any system of government devolves into tyranny ... the only issue is who is in charge. A hereditary ruler like Assad or Kim? Self appointed revolutionaries like Mao? Or cartels of corporations like you're seeing now?

        Because, right now, corporations have more say in government that citizens do.

        And as long as people continue to believe corporations and capitalism is a system which achieves optimal outcomes for any but a few, it will continue.

        In Adam Smith's day, those entities had to compete for your business, and provide a quality product at competitive products. These days, it's whatever the hell we put in the EULA, and whatever the hell we feel like.

        As currently practiced, capitalism is a complete lie. As described and pitched, it has never existed, and never will.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        If you will read the whole book instead of the quote you'll see that he went on to point out the necessity of government regulation in the market and that corporate charters are a great danger to civilization and so should be granted only as a last resort.

        He understood that the quote you put up only works if Me, the butcher, the brewer, and the baker are on roughly equal footing in terms of financial power. When all of them but me are billionaires, it all falls apart.

        REALLY, read An Inquiry into the Nature [gutenberg.org]

    • by Minwee ( 522556 )

      Providing for your citizens is king in Sweden.

      No, that's Carl XVI Gustaf.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @11:55AM (#48092645) Homepage

    I'm guessing "anything which would ever smell like socialism and not guarantee the profits of huge corporations simply will not fly".

    Sweden made a choice which will benefit all citizens, and uplift them.

    There would be political opposition to anything like that, and some will truly believe not having a corporation making obscene profits and being entrenched monopolies would be immoral.

    My guess is, the same people who oppose socialized medicine, would disagree on the same premise. Because they somehow feel society is best left to rot as long as they've got their pile of money.

    • Yeah, to have local governments build and maintain networks that serve all comers, commercial and private, while recovering all costs from usage-based user fees would be, dare I say it, socialism! Next thing you know, the socialists will even propose to have local governments build and maintain roads for the public good!
    • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:04PM (#48092765) Homepage
      Or everyone in the US just got swindled out of billions that was supposed to give us real broadband, to the tune of 300 Billion [newnetworks.com]
    • I'm guessing "anything which would ever smell like socialism and not guarantee the profits of huge corporations simply will not fly".

      Close.....the actual article suggested that Americans would not be willing to pay tax dollars for that. Which is not a real argument, since we've already spent billions of tax dollars on high-speed internet. The problem there was poor management, with the money mostly being wasted (poor oversight, misplaced trust).

      The main difficulty, AFAIKT, is that local governments have set regulations to prevent competition. In places where that's not a problem, there is Google Fiber, for example

      • In other places, local governments have tried setting up municipal broadband networks only to be tied up in court by the big ISPs. Many times, those big ISPs actually refused to serve those areas, but didn't want the competition should they one day decide to possibly serve the areas.

  • It's not just Sweden (Score:5, Informative)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:00PM (#48092725) Homepage

    It's already been a decade that I've had fiber to my door here in Romania for about $15/month. Recently the ISP started offering gigabit for only two or three dollars more. And it's really reliable high-speed too: no throttling, even when I torrent hundreds of gigabytes a month of films. Show Americans how it works in Northern Europe and they might chalk it all down to the unusual social harmony there. That even villages in a corrupt Eastern Europe country have better and cheaper internet does more to underscore a deep problem with US broadband.

  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:02PM (#48092739)

    Most Americans would love to see government with municipal broadband. It would save them money despite typical government waste simply because of how much the incumbent ISPs are gouging with their ridiculous pricing structure. We can't have it because politicians are controlled through lobbying to eliminate new forms of competition and it flies in the face of populist "small government" ideology.

    • and it flies in the face of populist "small government" ideology.

      I'm not sure I buy that. Here in the Bay Area, broadband speeds are crap, even in San Francisco. And that despite the fact that many people around here actually are socialist, not embarrassed about it, and most people are liberal. So there's something more to it than that.........

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      I think the idea of hating government roots from an inherent fear of losing control. If you have no idea how to control (or even get involved) with your political process, how can you ever hope to control it? Hint, making the government smaller won't be the magic bullet that will bring happiness to all. It won't fix your disproportionate financial disparity, it won't help the cycle of violence that is now almost institutional in some parts of America.

      Maybe instead of bitching about your government , you act

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      And it could be setup to be compatible with capitalism.

      If the municipal fiber only provides the layer 2 component with layer 3 and up provided by people who buy access so they can sell services, it's hard to see how it would kill whatever passes for innovation in the ISP space. You could even pass a law barring the government from selling services on the municipal network, only providing local layer 2 connectivity to the hub.

      It doesn't seem like it would be all that different from roads. Tax dollars build

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:03PM (#48092757)

    Motley Fool.

    I've read their "analyses" on things I actually know about. You might as well get your advice from Yahoo answers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:05PM (#48092779)

    The building I live in in Stockholm has a deal with the ISP Bredbandsbolaget where everyone (ca 200 apartments) pays 15 USD/mo for 100/100. For an additional 10 USD/mo they upgraded my connection to 250/100. My summerhouse in the middle of nowhere has a 100/100 via fiber for about 30 USD/mo.

    Sometimes socialist Sweden is nice =)

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      I'm so tired of Sweden being singled out as a "socialist" country. Sweden is not more "socialist" compared to its neighbours in northern Europe.

      While the local "Labour" party ("Social Democrats") has ruled in most of the last hundred years (because of winning elections), the Labour party of today is not that much different from the Labour party in e.g. United Kingdom. We now have a Labour/Green coalition, since a few days.
      The last government was a econoliberal/conservative coalition that rules for eight yea

      • by bungo ( 50628 )

        You have to take into account that there are no absolutes in politics, except at the extreme ends.

        Slashdot is a US website, and most of the people here have a US perspective. From the average person's perspective in the US, Sweden, and most of Europe is socialist.

        A lot of people in the US truly believe that Obama is socialist (esp. w.r.t. Obamacare), where as in Europe, Obama is more to the centre-right.

        cheers,

  • Everyone talks about download speed but the goal of internet connection shouldn't be how many 4K movies can you stream at a time. For a true Internet, one not dominated by a handful of big name services, we need upload speeds to be close if not symmetric with download. Unfortunately upload speeds are abysmal for even most high-speed lines.
    • For a true Internet, one not dominated by a handful of big name services, we need upload speeds to be close if not symmetric with download.

      No, we don't. We just need them to be adequate for most purposes. Colocation and hosting solve this problem. You can get hosting for less than coffee money per month.

      We also need the speeds to be adequate, period. The fastest ISP I can get since I live in the sticks and only AT&T has fiber into town is a shitty WISP which promises 5 Mbps down and 1Mbps up and for the last couple months hasn't even been able to provide that.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns ( 17740 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:10PM (#48092869)
    While politics and profit, lack of competition all are major factors in our crappy broadband options, we have to keep in mind that the US is vastly greater, and far more spread out then many countries we are being compared against. The cost to wire up rural areas, hell even some of teh suburbs of major metro areas is significantly more that it is to wire up more densely populated areas. These are businesses after all, they are out to make a profit, and honestly, I do not have an issue with that. What I do have an issue with is companies lobbying for anti competitive laws that prevent local governments from doing what the for profit companies won't do. Trying to wring every last cent out of us. They make billions, yet refuse to upgrade because that will eat into their profits, and the lack of competition between what is essentially a duopoly. And while there is no concrete proof (ie written documentation), it appears that collusion between those duopolies is the name of the game, prices never come down, only go up. Then there are the un fees, below the line fees made to look like regulatory and gov fees, but really are just a way of jacking up the price, without actually having to hike the base price. Almost 30% of my bill is just fees. I could go on, but you can go peruse dslreports/broadbandreports if you really want to know more.
    • And yes, I read the article, and I know it says the exact opposite about population density, I disagree with it.
      • And yes, I read the article, and I know it says the exact opposite about population density, I disagree with it.

        It would be more interesting to hear why you disagree with it than that you disagree with it.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      While politics and profit, lack of competition all are major factors in our crappy broadband options, we have to keep in mind that the US is vastly greater, and far more spread out then many countries we are being compared against..

      Then how come places like NYC don't have internet connections on a par with those in Japan with lower population densities?

      Sure you can argue population density in the rural areas, but that does't account for the lack of service in the populous areas.

    • Population density is a problem of backbone infrastructure, not last mile infrastructure. The US is on par or better than most nations in the world when it comes to our backbone infrastructure; it's our last mile that equates to a 3rd world internet (at above first world prices). You have only 1 or 2 companies to blame which vary depending upon your market, and that is exactly the problem.
  • To start with, I have no idea what the answer to this question is with regards to the Swedish system, but I've found that in many cases of solutions like this the "cost" paid by end users is heavily subsidized in other areas (in the US it's so common it can almost be assumed). So if the $40 / month pays for all of the capital costs, maintenance, depreciation, etc. then wonderful. Otherwise it's just accounting slight-of-hand - put a happy number out for the public, and if somebody digs and puts together re

    • On the other hand, in the US most major metropolitan areas (there are exceptions) have sold monopoly or duopoly franchises on internet service, which also distorts prices horribly and in other directions. I live in one of these areas, as do most of the people I know (I get to chose between mostly tolerable but pricey Cox, and utterly abhorrent AT&T - for practical purposes just one choice).

      It's _extremely_ unlikely that your area has a legal duopoly or monopoly. Those arrangements have been banned for years now. No doubt, there's a natural (i.e. economic) duopoly, but that's different.

  • Just because two systems are structured differently doesn't mean they both can't be efficient. The world is full of many different ways of doing things. And many of them are competitive with each other.

    The primary problem in the US is regional monopolies. They don't expand because they have no competition. And they don't lower prices because they have no competition.

    So in OUR system the solution would be to increase competition by removing artificial barriers to new competitors which should drive down price

    • I'm curious - what are these artificial barriers? In essentially the entire US (with a few very tiny exceptions), if you want to build out your own fiber and offer internet access, you can. You'll need to show financial viability (i.e. you have the resources to do the buildout), so the municipality doesn't end up with stuff strung on their poles rotting away, and half-dug trenches), but you can do it from a regulatory perspective.

      The barrier is economic - it's a terrible business model. You're looking at

      • by ADRA ( 37398 )

        One could rightly argue that the 'artifiicial' comes from the fact that many of the fixed costs associated with the build were paid with taxpayers dollars and yet given almsot absolte control over by the providers. This is what you'd call artificial barriers. If said lines were offered access to equally based on subscriber %, you'd at least have an even (or at least much closer to) 'even playing field. I have no problems with a big provider investing $600 or whatever it is to provide service for a household

        • If anything, the costs decline for additional providers, since the poles are in place, the conduit (if it's underground plant) is often in place, etc.

  • Apparently Motley Fool is a Stock Pumping organization, and here I though they were just some folks that showed up on NPR once a week

    OK, let's watch the video. Turn off the sound; it's a powerpoint anyhow...
    Oh my fsm it's still going on will you get to the fscking point! Geez, I give up. Google for it. It's Sierra Wireless (SWIR).

    Apparently they make those little yellow balls-on-a-stick that Howard Tayler puts on all the smart devices over at schlockmercenary.com
    Oh, and when I try to leave the page, a s

  • by Scot Seese ( 137975 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @02:00PM (#48094403)

    Government owned utilities using tax dollars to massively build out last-mile solutions do not have a "..Fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value."

    The Swedish internet model used taxpayer money to build out a massive national network providing excellent last-mile broadband, which all private competitors are now entitled to ride over.

    I remember the first time I visited Gothenburg in 2001, and people had full Video On Demand, digital cable and bundled services. Thirteen years ago.

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @06:54PM (#48097785)

    Even without the historic spaghetti of regulations and the lobbyists for the big players there is a fundamental difference that makes Sweden much easier to layout: geography. Many of the USA homes are simply further away from nodes and the USA is a far bigger country.

    There are many places in the USA, even in backwoods Vermont, where they have 100Mbps. But those places are more localized because there are large areas between them without good connectivity. The result is that because many people live further from those high speed notes we just don't have the more urbanish resources. That's life.

    There are also plenty of spots in Sweden that don't have cheap, fast competitive internet service. This doesn't tend to get mentioned. It is not universal.

    It is to be noted how comparisons like this are made to selectively targeted countries who have good connections. In other words, this is spin, not science.

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