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View Diary: Close the Broadband Gap? Phone and Cable Giants Just Say 'No' (56 comments)

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  •  I'm sorry you're not convinced, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, thethinveil, yaque, AguyinMI

    Verizon wireless (and the other existing wireless carriers) are not an acceptable broadband solution.

    For one thing, they have a 5gb/month cap on their service.  Anyone attempting to use this solution for anything other than casual web browsing and the occasional video is going to have a problem.  It's not acceptable for power users or telecommuters not to mention the business and municipal needs that are going unmet.  The reason for this cap is that the service degrades greatly if it's being used by all the subscribers who are entitled to use it.

    For another thing, the speeds come nowhere near what's needed for acceptable use even for power users and telecommuters, not to mention small businesses, municipalities, colleges, and hospitals.  The network throughput is also highly dependent on the number of people using the tower at the same time.  This is not a robust technology for large-scale use.

    I've been in the industry a long time, and it would take a lot more than a couple end-user's reports of personal success with that solution for me to buy into it for anything other than light personal use.

    •  Should we? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AguyinMI

      As a society how much do we gain by wiring those with dial-up only access for broadband?  Does it outweigh the prohibitive cots involved?  Should the benefits of a rural life have no costs?  At what point should rural Americans subsidize the prohibitive costs of urban rent?

      I'm mentally dancing back and forth on these issues.

      A call for government to "simply" do something, simply means you don't get it.

      by DCJackass on Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 05:02:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Electrification, roads, and mail service (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clues, DCJackass, thethinveil, yaque, AguyinMI

        to rural areas have on the whole worked out well.

        Remember, they don't just benefit the rural users, but all the other citizens who want to talk to them.

        We can start by getting broadband to every school in America. A school by definition involves a cluster of users and families at the very least.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 11:43:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And this is what I'm playing with (0+ / 0-)

          I honestly do not know the answer to the questions I posed.  In a vacuum "all people should have broadband" sounds great and I think everyone would be for that.  But there are substantial costs involved, and costs that might be so great that private companies will only undertake the task if government subsidizes the work.  Is it worth it to undertake that subsidy to upgrade from dial-up to broadband?  What about then broadband to fiber?  Again, I really don't know but I wanted to pose what would certainly be an unpopular question just to get the thought process going beyond the vacuum reaction of "this is an outrage!"

          A call for government to "simply" do something, simply means you don't get it.

          by DCJackass on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 08:25:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  If you truly want to ponder that (0+ / 0-)

            I suggest you look up the history of rural electrification.

            Start here:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/...

            Note in particular the similarity in "We don't want to cover those people, it's too expensive" with the simultaneous outcry if government attempts to set up those networks.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 09:48:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Is there a difference (0+ / 0-)

              When the trends are towards people leaving rural communities in favor of cities (in fact, unlike during rural electrification, more people now live in cities than in rural areas)?

              A call for government to "simply" do something, simply means you don't get it.

              by DCJackass on Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 06:32:53 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Your experience seems to be in the east (0+ / 0-)

                where little towns are dying, but here in the west, most rural towns are fairly stable.

                Indeed, I grew up in a rural town that now has a population of 200,000.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 09:56:26 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Green Acres (0+ / 0-)

        Should the benefits of a rural life have no costs?

        This sounds vaguely like a "morality argument" to me.
        The benefits of rural life have costs the same way that the benefits of city life have costs.

        You should know that when we are talking about rural broadband, for the most part, we're talking about communities, not individual houses 50 miles from anywhere.  

        should rural Americans subsidize the prohibitive costs of urban rent?

        No.  Should city dwellers do without fresh food?  That might be one cost to living in a city.

        I'm not sure exactly where you're going with this.  In your ideal world, does everyone live in cities?

        Rural communities make just as great a contribution to our society as cities do.  If we want to live in a world where locally grown food is the norm then we need rural communities for that.  Otherwise all your food comes from massive factory farms in the midwest.  These communities need small businesses, hospitals, schools, and the infrastructure to support them as much as cities do.

        In addition, stimulus plans are intended to create jobs.  That's the point of economic stimulus.  If a program to provide broadband services to underserved areas not only helps bolster business and education in those communities, but provides jobs as well, then it's serving its purpose.

        It sounds to me like you think that rural and village life is so grand that the people who enjoy it should pay their taxes to support the poor slobs who live in the "horrible" cities.  If that's the case, I suggest you move.  You don't seem happy with your choice.

        •  Definitely not a morality argument (0+ / 0-)

          I was reading the diary and going back and forth in my mind whether this is a good thing.  I certainly have no problem about using government to bust monopolies preventing broadband from reaching rural communities.  My point was in using government funds to subsidize upgraded technology that (1) will be obsolete in a few years, and (2) that isn't commercially viable absent government funds.  I question supporting rural broadband if those questions are not fully fleshed out.

          Obviously we need food in the cities (although I disagree on your vision of local food, I'd prefer to have that grown in cities to decrease the time to plate and transportation costs).  And rural citizens need the technological advancements developed in cities.  It's a mutual relationship that is a good thing.

          But what about the dying rural town?  What about the former mining town that once had a robust 10,000 person population but now has an aging 3,000 person population?  As the last major employers move out should we maintain this town that can no longer support itself?  I want to emotionally answer, "yes of course we should!"  but logically I question the investment.  I do not think the answer lies in moving everyone to a city, but I think it's a part of a bigger question that we need to consider and at least talk out from both an emotional attachment to what was as well as a logical detached standpoint.  Is that fair?

          A call for government to "simply" do something, simply means you don't get it.

          by DCJackass on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 08:51:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I get where you're coming from (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, DCJackass

            but I'm not sure you understand the specifics about the issue.

            First, many of these projects ARE viable financially.  The problem is that the large telecoms aren't interested in moderate profits, they cherry pick for the big money.  At the same time they're doing this, they lock out smaller providers who want to service those areas.  At this moment, however, many of these smaller companies need some help in getting these projects started.  The economic situation hasn't been good to them, and they've suffered under the heavy hands of giant telecoms for a long time.  

            Also, I'm not sure that fiber will be obsolete in a few years.  There's always something better coming along, and cities do get first crack at the new tech, but fiber will allow smaller communities to take advantage of distance learning, and distance-enhanced medicine.  It will also allow businesses in those communities to participate in world markets (at least to the level of some third-world countries who now have better broadband than much of the US!)

            Dying coal and mining towns are probably a very small minority of the communities that would benefit from a broadband expansion, but they may be part of an interesting point.  You mentioned that tech advances happen in cities.  That's no longer true.  With decent broadband capability, people are more free to locate their businesses where they want.  Many cutting-edge technical development shops are located outside of cities, and they can do this because they can connect to the world via fast broadband.  As various industries die (or get moved offshore), how are these places to adapt and continue to compete when they haven't even got the basic 21st century utilities?

            As I said above, if the object of stimulus is to actually stimulate the economy, there's a good payback to be made in the form of business development by allowing people outside of cities to connect to the world.  Not only does a broadband expansion project provide immediate jobs, but it fosters new centers of business and technology to create on ongoing lift.

            You have to equate broadband expansion with the electrical and telephone projects of the past.  Broadband access is the new utility, without which an area quickly becomes a second-rate player in nearly every arena that counts.  In the same way that federally-funded projects provided electricity and telephone service to much of the country, they also need to do this for broadband.  The alternative is to have millions of pockets of second-rate citizens in the US, and millions of people unable to compete or participate in the 21st century.  

            It's not good for our economy and not good for the future of progressive politics to deny a significant portion of our country access to the basic tools enjoyed by the rest of the world.  Sometimes you have to engage in projects that are good for the long run.  We've not done that in a long time, with current business and political interests being centered around quarterly returns and election cycles.

            •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

              I do appreciate you expounding your argument to enable a better decision making process on this issue.

              I'm not sure you understand the specifics about the issue.

              I'll be the first to admit this!

              First, many of these projects ARE viable financially.

              And that's why I've said that if it is merely an issue of a telecom monopoly blocking a company willing to wire, then I'm all for the full force of government breaking that monopoly.  This is a very different issue than government paying for the infrastructure for rural broadband.  It also takes us to the issue of why can't existing cable (for cable modems) & telephone lines (DSL) be used?  That takes very little infrastructure and sunk costs.  I could certainly get behind the government backing private loans to companies willing to make that investment.

              As for fiber, that is the next generation and currently about the same speed as cable (varies by market and technology).  I think I am absolutely against government paying to lay fiber optic lines to rural communities when most suburbs and cities still do not have the technology.  If fiber broadband = increased job growth then it's far better to invest in the areas where more people are affected (assuming the infrastructure has a similar cost regardless of location then $x-million dollars servicing 1-million people is a better investment than $x-million dollars servicing 1-thousand people).  To be clear: I have no beef with rural communities getting fiber before cities, unless rural communities are getting fiber before cities due to government subsidies.

              As I said above, if the object of stimulus is to actually stimulate the economy, there's a good payback to be made in the form of business development by allowing people outside of cities to connect to the world.

              Yes this is absolutely true.  I'm curious as to your thoughts when we compare this to arguably the best (best as in the biggest increase of jobs) use of stimulus dollars: mass transit.  Far more jobs are created by highspeed rail projects between metropolises, improving light rail in major cities, and/or increasing subway links.  Mass transit also enables more suburbanites to work in cities with higher pay, and effectively extends the suburbs into the near-rural areas.  When we have a finite amount of stimulus dollars, isn't it better to invest in the projects that affect the greatest number of people?

              Dying coal and mining towns are probably a very small minority of the communities that would benefit from a broadband expansion

              These are the rural communities I am most familiar with.  The towns where a paper mill closes and takes 60% of the local jobs.  These towns remind me of a late stage in the development of ghost towns in the Old West.  Sure there were some gorgeous buildings, and many families had put down roots there, but should those towns continue to exist past the expiration of whatever industry led to their creation?  Again, I do not know the answer to this.  I do know that if we do nothing then many of these towns will not exist in a century.  So should we artificially maintain those towns through something like rural town welfare?  I don't have an answer much less a good answer.

              You have to equate broadband expansion with the electrical and telephone projects of the past.

              I'll expose my ignorance by disagreeing with your analogy.  It's more like saying that rural areas need a vacuum tube mail delivery service because pony-express is too slow.  Sure people would pay for the service, but not enough to recoup the costs of installing it -- the mechanics of installing the infrastructure are mind boggling.

              It's not good for our economy and not good for the future of progressive politics to deny a significant portion of our country access to the basic tools enjoyed by the rest of the world.

              Alternatively, is it good to maintain a sizable rural population beyond what is necessary for agricultural and mineral production?  That is would the nation be better off ecologically and economically if 90% of our population was anchored around one city or another?  Obviously not something we can achieve this even if we answer in the affirmative, but if the current trend towards city living is a good development then perhaps we shouldn't artificially slow this process down.  Of course, I'm just as open to an argument that the current trend is a bad thing and should be reversed (or even that neither extreme is good).  Then again, I'm also willing to concede that this may be too much thought for a subsidy that costs mere hundreds of millions of dollars as that just isn't that much money any more.  I think we can both agree I'm all over the place here.

              A call for government to "simply" do something, simply means you don't get it.

              by DCJackass on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 01:23:09 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  These are places where there is no cable (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Clues, DCJackass

                and too far out from a central office for DSL. If they did have cable, then they would have broadband.

                These places aren't even necessarily that remote - I live in one, and I can be in San Francisco in two hours. There are places between here and there that also are not served by any form of broadband.

                Bringing fiber into our town would allow our school to connect to the high speed network, which allows our advanced high school students to take college level classes (we don't have enough money to support AP classes for the few students who are ready for that level), and it allows all kinds of other collaborative projects. One of the teachers has students hanging out on internet forums and chats in foreign language, tuning their vocabulary with native speakers their own age. It allows us to do more with the resources we have, so that kids who go to school at our tiny elementary school can end up at elite universities (some do) and hold their own.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 10:03:13 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Opinion vs. Educated Opinion (0+ / 0-)

                I guess it's a good thing that so many people are interested in the topic, but it would be much better if everyone did a little reading or asked the pertinent questions before forming opinions on it.

                If it were me, I'd ask, "Why are these companies considering fiber and isn't that a lot more expensive?", rather than saying -

                As for fiber, that is the next generation and currently about the same speed as cable (varies by market and technology).  I think I am absolutely against government paying to lay fiber optic lines to rural communities when most suburbs and cities still do not have the technology.

                Fiber is not the same speed as cable, in practical terms.  (speaking of throughput here)

                Here's the latest on fiber vs. copper -

                "The material, labor costs, and skills required to install and maintain copper cable supporting 100-Mbit/s transmissions have increased, while costs for fiber cable installation and maintenance are declining," says Dan Orband, senior program administrator at IBM. "As a result, a fiber plant capable of supporting up to 1-Gbit/s transmissions can be designed and installed for prices within 30 percent of 100-Mbit/s copper systems," Given that price difference, the decision to install wiring with a fairly limited shelf life doesn't make much sense.

                If you are going to install something where nothing previously exists, then it makes no sense to go with copper.

                Now this...is just so far out there it's hard to even respond to it:

                Alternatively, is it good to maintain a sizable rural population beyond what is necessary for agricultural and mineral production?  That is would the nation be better off ecologically and economically if 90% of our population was anchored around one city or another?  Obviously not something we can achieve this even if we answer in the affirmative, but if the current trend towards city living is a good development then perhaps we shouldn't artificially slow this process down.

                The US census from 2000 showed that roughly 40% of our population does not live in urban centers of 200, 000 or greater.  Are you suggesting that 40% of the population should be encouraged to move to their nearest urban center?  I'll agree with you that this will never happen, but I'll disagree that it's even a desired outcome.

                By your logic, we could also save a lot of money on high-speed rail by eliminating all these widely spread urban centers and making everyone move to one big city.  That way no one would have to travel anywhere.  We could put it right in the middle...Kansas or someplace like that- one big 500 sq mile anthill ought to do it.  

                Yeesh.

                There's no reason not to do broadband expansion AND high-speed rail as part of the stimulus.  Suggesting that either one or the other project can happen but not both is somewhat of a strawman.  So far, stimulus money has largely been spent on repairing roads.  That needs to be done, but it's nothing that will provide jobs or a sustained economic lift.  The stimulus funds for expanding broadband are also available to urban projects, by the way.

                There's a project in Maine that recently received 25 million in stimulus money.  That's not a lot of money.  With it, they are going to start a project called Three Ring Binder.  This project will lay a backbone of 1100 miles of fiber, and enable last-mile providers to begin service to 100 rural communities, including 110,000 households, 600 community institutions, and 38 government facilities.  Now compare this to a 64 million dollar grant to upgrade plumbing and ductwork in the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in NYC.  Both are useful projects, I imagine, but claiming that high-speed rail will have to be jettisoned because of the broadband expansion projects is really a stretch.

                I think what's happening is that you are using your own personal experience of the world to formulate your arguments, but that your own experience and observations fall short of the data needed to make reasonable statements on the topic.  You need to broaden your understanding of the environments under discussion, the technology, and the economics involved if you're really interested in the topic.

                •  Down with strawmen. (0+ / 0-)

                  I think what's happening is that you are using your own personal experience of the world to formulate your arguments, but that your own experience and observations fall short of the data needed to make reasonable statements on the topic.  You need to broaden your understanding of the environments under discussion, the technology, and the economics involved if you're really interested in the topic.

                  Well yes I am.  How many comments have you read (ever) that are not formulated using one's personal experience?  And this is why I am asking the questions.  I felt the diarist skipped over the "is this necessary" and "is this a good idea" to move straight into "outrage!"  The questions I'm asking may not betray where I personally will eventually fall on my own insignificant support / lack of support for this project, but they still need to be asked.  That is how one broadens their understanding.  Worked for Socrates and it's working pretty well for me.

                  Here's the latest on fiber vs. copper

                  I actually have a substantial knowledge base on this argument, and let me just say that anyone who believes it is absolutely clear which is "better" are fooling themselves.  Right now it appears that long term fiber should offer higher speeds, but the replacement/maintenance costs will (for the foreseeable future) out pace copper.  Right now, in many markets, copper beats fiber in speed, and the maximum capabilities of copper have not yet been tapped despite those more likely than not being slower than fiber.  That being said, you have an excellent point about putting in fiber as it has the future capability to be faster provided that we're not duplicating copper lines.  But therein lies the problem -- what percentage of households receive cable already and what would be the costs of extending copper to significant unserviced communities be versus running (in some parts) entirely new infrastructure for fiber.

                  is somewhat of a strawman.

                  Strawman is definitely the word most in need of being banned on DailyKos (seriously it's more over used, and usually improperly, than umbrage was to the '08 primaries).  I did not make the strawman argument that you created.  I never said it was one or the other.  What I did ask was whether, since you get more bang for your buck on these mass transit projects and since stimulus money is finite, shouldn't almost all of it should go to things that create the most jobs like mass transit.

                  The US census from 2000 showed that roughly 40% of our population does not live in urban centers of 200,000 or greater.  Are you suggesting that 40% of the population should be encouraged to move to their nearest urban center?

                  Since you're using 2000 Census data, it is probably important to note that 200,000 is not the figure the Census uses to define urban areas (strawma-- no, I won't).  According to the Census, in 2000, 80.3% of Americans lived in metropolitan areas.  But that doesn't tell the whole story, 9.1% of that 80.3% are classified as rural areas of the metropolitan area -- so lets exclude them from our calculation.  Now of the 19.7% of the people living in non-metropolitan areas, 8.1% still live in an urban area and 11.6% live in a rural non-metropolitan area.  So according to the 2000 Census, absent your artificial 200k modifier, 79.3% of Americans live in urban areas.

                  What does this mean?  Well I see a few ways of slicing the data.  First, we can safely assume that the non-rural metropolitan area people already have access to broadband (71.2% of Americans).  Now how do we interpret the remainder of the data?  I would assume that at least half of the urban non-metropolitan areas already have access.  And again I would assume that a decent percentage of the rural metropolitan areas have access.  

                  All this shakes out so that I think we can make an educated guess that roughly 80% of Americans have broadband access (or the means to obtain it even if they do not have the money/need/desire for it).  Indeed one of the sources linked to in the diarist's article stated that only 20-million people lack a single broadband provider -- which is roughly 6.5% of America, so perhaps my assumptions are overly generous.

                  Now you cited to a program in Maine to bring the backbone of broadband to 110,000 households (with an average Maine household of 2.39 people that is 262,900 people).  That program cost $25-million.  At that rate it would cost $1.9-billion to bring the backbone of broadband to those who lack it (according to the diarist's numbers), or $5.8-billion to bring it to all rural Americans (or substantially the same to bring it to all non-metropolitan Americans).  

                  What is the point to all this?  Well first, that we're not talking about 40% of Americans.  We're talking about at most 20% of Americans, and even then we're likely talking about 6.5% of Americans.  Yet we're still talking about billions of dollars to bring broadband within 1-mile of this 6.5%.  Further, I'm willing to bet that a substantial percentage of this 6.5% does not need broadband for education or business -- which further reduces the number.  Additionally, if rural America continues to shrink then the value of this investment also decreases.  

                  Given all this, the question I asked was while this is a noble goal, to be sure, is it worth it?  Or are the funds better spent on other projects that may create more jobs or alternatively subsidizing the costs for the poor who already have access, but cannot afford it.  It's a good question to think about instead of dismissing as a strawman argument.

                  A call for government to "simply" do something, simply means you don't get it.

                  by DCJackass on Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 09:39:58 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

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