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Broadband Rights & the Killer App of 1900 565

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the same-song-different-name dept.
newscloud writes "Tech writer Glenn Fleishman compares the arguments against affordable, high speed, broadband Internet access in each home to arguments made against providing for common access to electricity in 1900 e.g. '...electric light is not a necessity for every member of the community. It is not the business of any one to see that I use electricity, or gas, or oil in my house, or even that I use any form of artificial light at all.' Says Fleishman, 'Electricity should go to people who had money, not hooked up willy-nilly to everyone ... Like electricity, the notion of whether broadband is an inherent right and necessity of every citizen is up for grabs in the US. Sweden and Finland have already answered the question: It's a birthright.'"
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Broadband Rights & the Killer App of 1900

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:02AM (#30430410)
    Let market forces decide who gets it. Forcing buildouts to the far corners of rural America will just inflate everyone else's prices.

    In Soviet Russia, broadband comes to you ...but this is not Soviet Russia.
  • Birthright? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by megaskins (199874) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:05AM (#30430440)

    Birthright? WTF? Don't call it that, you dumbass - next thing you know the Government pricks will be confiscating more of our earnings to provide our "birhtright". Jesus, you people...

  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:06AM (#30430444)

    I have a serious problem with the government spending my tax dollars on rural broadband lines, and then still enabling the dumb cable companies to monopolize and charge whatever they want for internet service.

    If we are paying for the infrastructure, we should own it, and we should be able to share it. Sure, there will be costs. But let's share the costs then, not pretend some capitalist market magic will make us all happy with great service, healthy competition, and constant innovation. I have horrible service, only one company to choose from, and my DVR is a piece of shit. It freezes for 5 seconds then goes through every button I pressed all at once.

    Man, am I proud to be an American.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:07AM (#30430448) Journal

    Forcing buildouts to the far corners of rural America will just inflate everyone else's prices.

    Sadly you are doubtless going to be modded troll, but really, what's wrong with this? If you want to live out in the rural sticks then you should be prepared to pay the cost of doing so. It will cost you more money in taxes, more money for running water (pump and septic system upkeep), your roads will be less maintained, you may not have access to cable and will have to rely on satellite, you'll pay more for energy (having oil or propane delivered vs. natural gas out of a permanent connection), more in gas money to get places, blah, blah, blah.

    This notion of subsidizing lifestyles is really annoying. If you want cheap fast broadband move to civilization. If you want clean air and open spaces move to the country.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:08AM (#30430456)

    Electricity isn't a right in the USA. There are plenty of places without electricity that people still live. There are even more places without safe, drinking water and indoor plumbing.

    Universal access for telephones is the law, but it doesn't apply to everyone either.

    When you don't have safe running water, internet service is really, really low on the desired rights list.

    Pull your heads out from where ever you've had them shoved please.

  • by KalvinB (205500) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:13AM (#30430484) Homepage

    Electricity is not a right. It will get cut off if you don't pay the bill.

    If electricity is a right like free speech then at some point maybe we'll get to cut off free speech because it's a right just like electricity. Forget to pay your free speech bill and off it goes.

    We have inalienable rights endowed by a creator. In other words, not given to us by men and as such cannot be taken away by men.

    We must be pretty well off in this country when we can start calling commodities and the inventions of men "rights."

    "Materialism" is not a right. You do not have a right to stuff. Free speech, the right to bear arms, a common trait of all things that are actually rights is that they do not cost money. They are intangible.

    You do not have a right to tangible things. They cost money. All you can do is help lower costs so you can afford them.

  • by arpad1 (458649) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:16AM (#30430514)
    I think we may need a new word because "rights", at least in my humble opinion, don't lay an obligation on anyone else or society in general, to fund. If you desire to express yourself by yodeling on a street corner you come fully equipped to do so and society has no obligation to buy you a megaphone or lessons.

    If anything, this issue is more about those asserting the right; about their assumption of a right to impose their views on others or assuage guilt for being relatively wealthier, then about those who are supposed to enjoy the right to free internet access.
  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:17AM (#30430524) Journal

    Seems to be some folks attitude to universal healthcare too.

    Except it's not universal healthcare. It's "universal what-uncle-sam-thinks-you-need care". The future of government run health care is the future of unelected bureaucrats deciding whether or not your treatment is "cost effective". Care that may have saved your life might not be covered if it doesn't meet the cost benefit analysis. The best and brightest will have less incentive to enter medicine when their salaries and reimbursements are slashed by Uncle Sam in an effort to rein in costs.

    Your freedom of choice will be constrained by government laws and regulations that proscribe what kinds of insurance policies can be sold. Want a high-deductible policy with an HSA? Sorry, our "Health Insurance Choice Commissioner" isn't going to allow those types of policies to be sold. Here's a nice PPO policy that costs three times as much. Don't worry though, your $80 office visits will now only cost you $20. No, you can't refuse to buy it, else we'll tax you more. What, you make less than $250,000 and thought Obama wasn't going to raise your taxes? It's not a "tax" silly, it's just money collected by the IRS under penalty of law. Ante up or go to jail.

    Maintain a healthy weight and abstain from tobacco use? Sorry, we can't offer you a cheaper policy, because everybody has to pay the same. Have fun subsidizing the people who live off beer, big macs and marlboros. Have only one kid? Sorry, we can't charge you any less. You'll be paying the same rate as octomom.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:19AM (#30430546) Journal

    Seems to be some folks attitude to universal healthcare too.

    It's a good job that these people usually get overridden in the end.

    The key difference between broadband and health care being that with health care, some people absolutely need it to continue to live. I know this is going to be a very unpopular statement on Slashdot but you can live without broadband. It's possible. Some of us old timers did it for many years back in the day. I'm all for my taxpayers helping out people to an extent but there's a line that will be crossed sometime. Your sentiment could be expanded to everyone needing a car so let's setup a plan to make sure everyone has a car via our tax dollars. I mean, we're all buying one anyway, right?

  • Let market forces decide who gets it. Forcing buildouts to the far corners of rural America will just inflate everyone else's prices.

    Differentiate between the right to get broadband and the right to get broadband cheaply. The former makes sense, and the latter is just uneconomic; an unjustified subsidy of rural areas by urban citizens.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:21AM (#30430558) Homepage Journal

    one person's right to health care is not the same as another.

    I prefer the right to access to health care, however the one item left out of most every discussion I see is the requirement to actually lead a healthy life. Sorry, but why should the majority of people pay for other people's health problems caused by known bad habits, like smoking, drinking, and over eating?

    The real problem with health care is that too many people willingly take on a car payment and exorbitant cell plan yet are offended they have to pay to take care of themselves. Too many put more effort in taking care of their cars than their own health.

    Once someone can define universal health care in appropriate terms instead of just being a buzz word maybe those of us who don't favor the idea will think twice. Until then, try spending some of your own money on your health and quit expecting me to cover it while you eat out.

    (and yes I know there are hardship cases, but this isn't what the current debates are turning into)

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:21AM (#30430562) Homepage Journal

    I have a serious problem with the government spending my tax dollars on rural broadband lines, and then still enabling the dumb cable companies to monopolize and charge whatever they want for internet service.

    This makes me think the government works with the policy "built by the government, screwed by the corporations, but at least its not socialism". The thing is that getting a country working for its people may sound like a socialist approach, but heck isn't that the purpose of government? Corporations should be forced to compete with government. If the corporations don't like it, then f*** off, or offer a better service and "let the market decide" - you can't have it both ways (though apparently they can thanks to screwed up policies and lobby groups).

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:26AM (#30430630)

    This notion of subsidizing lifestyles is really annoying. If you want cheap fast broadband move to civilization. If you want clean air and open spaces move to the country.

    I'd expand on that and say that the notion of anti-subsidizing lifestyles is equally annoying. Adding taxes to 'unpopular' activities or products has the same effect of subsidizing the popular lifestyle.

    If a tax were levied that placed a $1000 burdon on anyone who drives a red car, it is effectively a subsidy on the non-red car population. In this case, the non-red car population ends up $1000 ahead of the red car population.

  • by Cimexus (1355033) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:30AM (#30430688)

    Well depends what you define as broadband I suppose.

    It's quite easy to get guarantee that ~everyone~ can get ~some form~ of broadband. You just need a satellite or two. Two-way sat connections can provide pretty decent throughput to any spot in the country, which more than satisfies the definitions of 'broadband'. Expensive though ... and the latency is terrible which makes it impossible to use for many of the applications you'd traditionally think of when you thought of a broadband connection.

  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@gmaiCOLAl.com minus caffeine> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:32AM (#30430700) Journal

    In Europe this kind of thing is seen as helping the development of economically challenged regions. The EU has been spending lots of money on that kind of things for a while, and it started long before broadband. But BB is obviously now a part of the solution.

  • by lannocc (568669) <shawn@lannocc.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:32AM (#30430702) Homepage

    But there were a few people out there (like Edison's lab and Tesla) that could see and profit from innumerable uses awaiting.

    There, as is the custom on /., I fixed that for you. It's worth paying attention to who will profit from a massive rollout of new infrastructure. Your main point still remains valid, that the masses need to be convinced of all the new empowerment (pun intended?) they'll receive from the new technology, and I would simply add that part of that convincing needs to show how everyone can profit. If not everyone can profit, it might be socialism!

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:33AM (#30430704) Homepage

    If anything, this issue is more about those asserting the right; about their assumption of a right to impose their views on others or assuage guilt for being relatively wealthier, then about those who are supposed to enjoy the right to free internet access.

    Who said it has to be free? In Finland, for example, you have the right to have access to an Internet connection in your home. No one said it needed to be free.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:34AM (#30430722) Homepage

    The curious thing is though, that the terrain fails to match your map. Usually, the terrain is right.

    Fact is, US healthcare is more expensive than healthcare just about anywhere else on the planet, including countries where doctors-salaries are higher than they are in the USA. Fact is, despite this you score badly, not only on longevity, but also on stuff like 5-year survival-rate of various cancers, risk of dying in labour, etc.

    Demonstrably, mind you, not according to some theory. You -actually- end up paying more, and getting less.

    Yes, I realize this doesn't match your map, so thus, "can't be". But as I said, when the terrain and the map don't match, usually, the terrain is correct.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:35AM (#30430738) Journal
    There is already a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. Yes, a nameless, faceless bureaucrat. But this guy works for the private health insurance company. He knows you get your insurance from your employer and you don't have the freedom to dump him and his company and switch your providers, without also ditching your job. You don't know what his pay, compensation and incentive plans are. How much he will make if he denies you coverage for this procedure or that medication.

    The reason why the health reform as proposed by the Dems lacks popular is because, it does not go far enough. No chance to escape from whatever your employer dishes out in the name of health care. No recourse if your employer decides suddenly to drop health coverage from the compensation. Have to just bear it if your "contribution" is increased, your copay is increase and your doctor is dropped from the list of preferred providers.

    No relief to the employers either. They are competing with Europe and Japan and their competitors do not have to pay for health care. If GM did not have to pay 2000$ per vehicle to provide for health care for its 1 million employees and retirees between 1990 and 2004, it could have competed effectively with the imports.

    Already there is public option in so many areas where the private sector refuses to serve. National Flood Insurance Program to insure homes that can not get private insurance. Postal service to serve mail and parcels to places where FedEx and UPS wont go. The examples are endless.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:35AM (#30430742) Journal

    In Europe this kind of thing is seen as helping the development of economically challenged regions.

    Just because a region is rural does not mean it's "economically challenged". Many of the households around here in the rural sticks are fairly well off -- they have to be in order to afford the insane property taxes levied in NYS. There are less well-to-do people in the rural sticks too but you can find them in the city just as easily.

    In any case, what's the problem with having a "US-centric" view on an American political issue on an American website?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:36AM (#30430752)

    This is actually a big issue when talking about 'Rights' across national borders.

    The US has historically stuck to negative rights (ie rights of non-interference). The virtue has been that the burden such rights impose upon others is limited (ie the government just has to not go out of its way to impinge upon your 1st amendment rights).

    Internationally, a lot of 'rights' talk is based in some way on (or related to) the human rights movement and positive rights (the right to something which must be provided by someone). Such rights inherently impose an obligation upon some party which is far greater than an obligation to NOT do something. This works, to an extent, in European nations because they have 'big government' traditions.

    If you are serious about bringing positive rights to the US, you need to have a serious plan for changing the consensus view in the US for the role of the state in the day to day lives of the citizenry.

  • by Shawn Parr (712602) <parr AT shawnparr DOT com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:36AM (#30430754) Homepage Journal

    "Materialism" is not a right. You do not have a right to stuff. Free speech, the right to bear arms, a common trait of all things that are actually rights is that they do not cost money. They are intangible.

    You do not have a right to tangible things. They cost money. All you can do is help lower costs so you can afford them.

    Wow, contradictory much? Arms are tangible items. I have to buy I gun one isn't guaranteed to be given to me at birth.

    This is actually a great example of the 'rights' to electricity and to broadband. The right doesn't mean you will get it, it means you will be able to get it. Just like your right to bear arms doesn't mean you will at all time walk around with weapons, it means that you have the right to purchase, own, and use weapons within the law.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:36AM (#30430756) Journal

    I'd expand on that and say that the notion of anti-subsidizing lifestyles is equally annoying. Adding taxes to 'unpopular' activities or products has the same effect of subsidizing the popular lifestyle.

    I'd concur with that. Vice taxes in particular annoy the hell out of me.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:43AM (#30430850)

    Yes, because no one would pay for their own treatment if they were wealthy enough and didn't like what the public system offered them. And hence there'd be no money in medicine at all...

    The *entire* idea of universal health care is to provide a bare minimum level of health care to *everyone*. A level which should be minimum enough that those with the resources will go elsewhere.

    Just like the "universal school system" in which public schools are for everyone but those with the resources tend to send their kids to private schools.

    Restrictions on what insurance companies can and can not offer as health insurance has *nothing* to do with universal healthcare. Sure the idiots in the US only kjnow how to fuck things up, so they'll find a way - but that's not due to anything fundamental with universal healthcare itself.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:2, Insightful)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:46AM (#30430882) Homepage

    That's true. But insurance is only paid for by your employer because the government provides tax incentives to do so. Get rid of government interference in healthcare and those other things go away too. Choose your own health insurance free of government subsidies and market manipulation and you'll be able to get the options you want.

  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:48AM (#30430908)

    Free speech, the right to bear arms, a common trait of all things that are actually rights is that they do not cost money.

    Ok, I'll preface this with noting that, yes, I'm Canadian so feel free to dismiss my thoughts as those of a (as an American friend likes to joke) "tree-hugging Commie". You put free speech along side the right to bear arms as inalienable and "intangible" rights that do not cost money. The right to bear arms? Are you kidding me? You want the government to start handing out guns for free because it is a right that you were given by birth?

    Look, I don't give a rats ass about the arguments for or against the right to bear arms but to imply that those rights and the right to free speech are somehow similar rights - rights that one possesses simply by the virtue of being born - is laughable.

    Like I said, I'm a tree-hugging Commie so feel free to ignore, as you desire.

  • by KevinIsOwn (618900) <.herrkevin. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:49AM (#30430920) Homepage

    "Materialism" is not a right. You do not have a right to stuff. Free speech, the right to bear arms, a common trait of all things that are actually rights is that they do not cost money. They are intangible.

    If the common trait of all things that are actually rights is that they do not cost money, then why do you include the right to have weapons on your list? Last time I checked, they were far from free, and shouldn't be on your list at all. Furthermore, I'm going to ignore all of your god talk, because these rights were indeed invented by men. The idea of free speech is a concept dreamed up by man. It isn't tangible, so obviously man did not build it or make it, but I do not require God to have the right to free speech, life, etc.

    I agree that materialism is not a right, but lumping electricity in with the right to buy stuff is a stretch. I have never seen an electric bill that doesn't include provisions for people who do not have to pay it under certain circumstances. For example, families with small children in the house, the elderly, (there are more exceptions) can request to not have their electricity cut off even if they can't pay the bill.

    That example demonstrates that as a society we value electricity as something more than just a materialistic indulgence, and that's how it should be viewed. Electricity is necessary in the modern world to survive, and if we value some other rights such as the right to continue living, it is easy to extend a right to electricity to certain people in dire need of it to survive.

    To bring this back onto the topic of broadband, in many ways it should be viewed as a right, but not in that everyone deserves to have access to it in their home. Internet access is an important and enriching aspect of our lives, and denying it to someone just because they are poor will simply create a knowledge gap between those who can afford internet and those who can't. But, as I said earlier, this doesn't mean everyone necessarily has a right to free internet in their home. We can satisfy the right to free internet by providing access in public libraries and schools, and ensuring that all communities and people have access to these resources.

    Ultimately my argument comes down to one of a right to knowledge. Whether it is from books, classrooms, or the internet, this is an undeniable human right. And if the internet is the primary way to gain knowledge in our times, then we should ensure that people have access to it.

  • Re:One step. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:54AM (#30430958)
    Indubitably. Provide a capitalist with a public service that benefits everyone, and in a week he'll have shouted for deregulation and the free market, taken over said service, and then charged the public for the privilege of using his exclusive private service.

    --

    Social Justice: When a conservative gets robbed

    (come on now, blind party loyalty isn't getting us anywhere. Put down the froth and let's work solutions.)
  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:54AM (#30430964) Journal

    The *entire* idea of universal health care is to provide a bare minimum level of health care to *everyone*. A level which should be minimum enough that those with the resources will go elsewhere.

    That bare minimum level of care already exists. No ER can turn you away. Charity hospitals and clinics exist with the express mandate of serving those that can't pay. Even most other institutions will treat those that can't pay up front -- you'll just wind up indebted to them afterwards.

    Just like the "universal school system" in which public schools are for everyone but those with the resources tend to send their kids to private schools.

    Bad example. Public education in this country is a joke. It's held hostage to the demands of a small constituency (teachers unions) while producing worse and worse results year after year. Taking the money we spend on each kid and giving the parents a choice of where to spend it would seem like a better idea, at least from where I'm sitting.

  • by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:59AM (#30431022) Homepage

    Humbug.

    Why do you USians always bring up that idiotic argument? Have you ever looked at the terrain and population density of places like Norway and Finland. The North American continent isn't the last wild untamed continent on this planet, contrary to how you would like to see yourselves.

    Yet we still have cheap and universal coverage for mobile phones and broadband.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:00AM (#30431032)

    People lived without health insurance back in the day as well.

  • free speech (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobs666 (146801) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:03AM (#30431062)
    When this Country was created and you wanted to share your views and exercise your freedom of Speech you went to the town square and spoke. This was what free speech was all about.

    Where is the town square in the 21st Century?
    Where do we share our views?

    Why Its right here at shashdot. Yes its on the Internet.

    Now we pay the ISP's for Speech. Thats not the Free we should be talking about. The ISP's want to block traffic they do not like, traffic that does not make them cold cash, we have to watch this closely.

    The founding fathers could not have invisioned that speech would stray into the gigahertz bands. But if they had, Some of that bandwidth would have been by law given to the people. Other parts reserved for the public good, like the military and fire/police etc. Come to think of it, a working radio infrastructure would also be useful to the fire/police.

    We should have the right to own the infrastructure. We should have the right to put a radio router on our roof. And share the connectivity. We are talking 300 megabit channels, in the GigH. frequency ranges. How many places do you go where there is not a house with in 5 miles. Its like a Gun, you have to buy it and buy ammo. The same is true for a radio router, You have to buy it and feed it electricity. But we should have the right. Not be ignored by the FCC for the good of the duopoly's/monopoly's.

    A radio last milewould give ISP's a level playing field And There could then be 100s not 1 or 2 ISP's to provide backbone connections. It might even be better if the backbone was public as well. Its infrastructure like the Highways. It can make or break this country.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:05AM (#30431076) Journal

    I understand that most of the population on /. is not rural, but your blatant stereotypical prejudices are amazing!

    Your outrage is wasted. I grew up in the rural sticks. My town had a population of 500. It had so few people that not only did we have a single telephone exchange but we all had the same first four numbers, i.e: 895-6XXX. The nearest grocery store was 14 miles away. The nearest gas station 8 miles away. The nearest traffic light was 10 miles away and was only a flashing light at that.

    Do you think we live in shacks, don't wear shoes, and cook over the fireplace?

    Where did I say that?

    Taxes are higher because I live out in the sticks? Really?

    Around here they are. Most people who live in rural areas where I'm from do it so they can own a decent amount of land. Having a large amount of land in NYS will raise your property tax bill above and beyond that of someone in the city, even though you aren't paying for all of the services and extra government of the city.

    OK maybe it costs more in gas... nope .. S.C. has some of the lowest prices of gas in the country, and gas is usually 5-10c cheaper near my house than in the city.

    I don't know the particulars of your situation but my point was that you'll usually have to drive more by virtue of living in the country. My point wasn't that the price of gas is higher in the country. Driving more miles will cost you more in gas money.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:05AM (#30431078) Homepage

    Says Fleishman, "Electricity should go to people who had money, not hooked up willy-nilly to everyone...Like electricity, the notion of whether broadband is an inherent right and necessity of every citizen is up for grabs in the US.

    Same arguments being thrown at health care. But every week I help load someone exercising their right not to have health care in an ambulance because they collapsed. Even loaded one of them into a helicopter for a $10,000 trip to the ER. Unless you're prepared to stand by and let people die for lack of emergency care, then what we're doing now doesn't work. Otherwise we end up taking them to ER, with no insurance and no real income and the prices go up for the rest of us.

    You could make the same argument for electricity. I have a friend building a homestead in that bastion of liberal thought we call rural Georgia. The state made him get a rental this winter or they threatened to take his kids and put them in a foster home. The state of Georgia doesn't view electricity as a luxury if you have kids. Any one you teabaggers want to argue we don't really need child protective services? Go on, make that case. Demonstrate how far gone intellectually you really are.

    As technology changes what in one time was a luxury becomes an integral part of everyday life. At some point there's a blurry line between necessity and luxury. Making those choices from the perspective of some Grizzly Adams isolationist doesn't really account for the real world consequences.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:05AM (#30431080) Homepage

    > Have you ever looked at the terrain and population density of places like Norway and Finland.

    What? You mean vast frozen wastelands that have a few small population centers?

    Sounds more like Alaska than New York or even Indiana.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:07AM (#30431096) Journal

    Well, when a significant portion of your population is becoming temporarily and/or permanently useless thanks to vice-related illnesses, the decision not to tax certain vices can become an anti-subsidy of its own.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:09AM (#30431122) Journal

    Sorry, but I fail to see how 'going without insurance' would fit the definition of 'choice'.

    Let's say I have $1000. I can pay it for health insurance premiums, or I can go without health insurance and spend the money on whores instead. That's 'choice'.

    If the government tells me I have to use the money for health insurance (the "individual mandate") or they'll take it away, that's not choice.

  • by Demonspawn (187073) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:20AM (#30431256)

    Perhaps the writer overlooked this one little fact: Since when did we have a right to electricity? We don't. His argument is a non-starter.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:22AM (#30431284) Journal

    Well, when a significant portion of your population is becoming temporarily and/or permanently useless thanks to vice-related illnesses, the decision not to tax certain vices can become an anti-subsidy of its own.

    Only if the people who aren't useless decide to support the people who are.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:25AM (#30431326) Journal

    Domain Name:SLASHDOT.ORG
    Status:OK
    Registrant Name:Host Master
    Registrant Organization:Geeknet, Inc.
    Registrant Street1:650 Castro St.
    Registrant Street2:Suite 450
    Registrant City:Mountain View
    Registrant State/Province:CA
    Registrant Postal Code:94041
    Registrant Country:US

    Got any other "insightful" observations to make, asshole?

  • by lwsimon (724555) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:27AM (#30431350) Homepage Journal

    Living in the rural Ozarks, we have decent broadband, with the exception of one provider that absolutely sucks.

    It eventually comes down to property rights, though. The government lacks the legitimate moral authority to confiscate an individual's property to provide that property to someone else. Taxing one person to provide for someone else is theft, pure and simple.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NiteShaed (315799) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:30AM (#30431390)

    Let's say I have $1000. I can pay it for health insurance premiums, or I can go without health insurance and spend the money on whores instead. That's 'choice'.

    Presumably though, when you're older and less indestructible, you'll want to enroll in health insurance though, right? The way insurance functions is that young healthy people are effectively subsidizing those less healthy, and then when those people eventually need that care, the new crop of young healthy insurance payers are effectively subsidizing their care. Keeping your money now to "spend on whores instead" short circuits that system, and puts you in the position of burdening everyone else by never having payed your share earlier.
    Unless of course you intend to never have insurance, and just die as soon as you get a little older and can't afford medical care. In that case, go for it.

  • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:31AM (#30431398)

    Are you seriously suggesting that the solution is that everyone just move to the city, and anyone who doesn't is either wanting to be subsidized for their lifestyle or should be forced to pay more for basic utilities?

    Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that some industries only exist in rural areas? Farming and agriculture, for example, is not going to happen in urban areas. It's not just about a bunch of people wanting to live like country folk. Economics, education, opportunity, feasibility of certain industries, security and yes sometimes cultural inclinations are among the many factors of why someone would live in rural areas.

    To say we can solve the problem by everyone moving out of rural areas is just boneheaded.

  • Re:One step. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dpilot (134227) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:33AM (#30431422) Homepage Journal

    You forgot the universal right/need for "Wyld Stallions" music.

    Be excellent to each other.

  • by icebrain (944107) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:38AM (#30431490)

    The real problem with health care is that too many people willingly take on a car payment and exorbitant cell plan yet are offended they have to pay to take care of themselves. Too many put more effort in taking care of their cars than their own health.

    Sums up my views pretty well. I have a hard time finding sympathy for people who claim they "can't afford basic health care" when they could obviously afford things like a computer, jewelry, a fancy cellphone, beer/liquor/cigarettes/recreational drugs, or designer clothes. Apparently they stopped teaching about needs vs. wants in elementary school or something, cause it seems to me that your first priorities should be providing for the basic necessities: water, food, shelter, healthcare. Only after those are taken care of can you start buying other things.

    Conversely, if you can afford things like a new car, a cell phone, etc., then it would follow that you obviously have taken care of your basic needs first.

    I don't have a problem with helping people out who truly need it. I do have a problem when that assistance is used to subsidize non-necessities. It's like seeing those people at the grocery store who use food stamps to feed their children, but then turn right around and buy cases of beer, cartons of cigarettes, etc., all the while yapping away on their iphone. I worked at a grocery store for a couple of years, and saw plenty of this.

  • by Xtravar (725372) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:42AM (#30431572) Homepage Journal

    Vice taxes don't deter vices. They just cause more problems down the line. So now a particular subset of the population not only is addicted, but also is poor and perhaps driven to crime. Taxes are simply a means of revenue in this case, since the demand is inelastic due to addiction.

  • by fredjh (1602699) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:53AM (#30431756)

    If you are serious about bringing positive rights to the US, you need to have a serious plan for changing the consensus view in the US for the role of the state in the day to day lives of the citizenry.

    And if there's any reason left in the world, you will fail.

    Declaring something a "positive right" means you are declaring a "right" to a portion of someone else's life.

    No. Just no.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:54AM (#30431768)

    And yet every country in western Europe has these things so why cant every state in the US have them? It isn't as though cost and complexity go up exponentially with the size of your project (in fact, they should go down relative to size). Even if the cost spiralled out of control for large projects it would be trivial (compared to the other problems that we, as a nation, have dealt with over the years). Divide the effort into several small projects integrated together, probably similar to how it is done in Europe.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowskyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:56AM (#30431798) Homepage Journal

    Electrification of the USA was not mainstream in some areas until the 1950s. My late grandmother in law told me that she didn't get electricity until well after the war. Frankly, for her, it wasn't even really that big of a deal to have it.

    Bottom line is, a lot of people didn't get electricity not because it wasn't provided, but because they just simply didn't want to have it. It's like, if they were content with life without it, why have it?

    It's the same deal with broadband. Everyone keeps saying that broadband should be everywhere, but, really, does everyone want it? There's enough of a sense that when choosing a place to live, the availability of broadband is a consideration. If people are choosing to do without it, well, maybe they just don't need it as much as the corps we work for would make them think they need it.

    For the most part, for many people, broadband is just entertainment.

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:06PM (#30431940)

    So what does that have to do with the grandparent's complaints about subsidizing broadband to rural homes? And what is an "anti-subsidy"? If it is merely not paying someone for their economic choices, then it doesn't have the effect of subsidizing the popular lifestyle. Else every dollar you spend on something other than me is an "anti-subsidy" which I really wish you'd stop.

    This guy has Lifestyle A. I have lifestyle B, and that guy has lifestyle C. A, B, and C pay the same amount of taxes.

    For some reason, the government decided that Lifestyle A is best. And it subsidizes that by providing X to anyone who meets the Lifestyle A conditions. X could be in the form of a direct payment, or like above, a payment to someone else to help implement Lifestyle A.

    An anti-subsidy is when the government has determined that Lifestyle C is bad. We have decided that somehow That Guy uses more than his 'fair share' of government services. Instead of charging usage fees for government services, we have decided to hide the cost into the general budget. Therefore anyone following Lifestyle C doesn't have the option to pay directly for their lifestyle, and anyone following A or B is paying a bit more than what they use.

    Therefore the government levies a tax on some aspect of Lifestyle C that is distinct from both A and B. As a result, A and B think this is a great idea, since their taxes remain the same. Lifestyle C now has a supplimental negative factor applied to his lifestyle. That is what I meant by calling it an anti-subsidy. You aren't encouraging A or B, but you are penalizing C.

    The issue is that it is one of the tools which the government uses to obsfucate the taxes which it levies on a person, and without a clear idea of what you are paying to the government, it is easier for the government to abuse you.

    It also creates a new class of crime, and an erosion of your rights. It would be unconstitional to say that C could no longer consume an unhealthy diet, but it is somehow constitutional to say that C must pay more because of that diet?

    One of the reasons why I oppose any sort of Federal Healthcare is because the Federal government hasn't shown that it can be trusted to not use even the slightest power responsibly. I'm just not ready to throw it in and have the individual reclassified as a Serf yet again.

  • by MattSausage (940218) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:10PM (#30431968)
    Ummmmmm.... so taxes are completely unlawful? Because I am having a hard time imagining a situation where you or I pay a tax, and that tax money isn't used to help someone who paid less taxes than us. School tax? Support the military? Welfare of any sort? Corporate Welfare? Paying government salaries? Building roads?

    All these things could potentially be used by or used to better the life of someone other than myself.

    In your view is there such a thing as a lawful tax?

    Also, I realize that you may well be a rightwing extremeist, and in that case, I'm sure your mountainside compound completely cut off from electricity and public road access is a great tax shelter and I applaud you for living up to your own principles.
  • by Oligonicella (659917) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:18PM (#30432076)
    He said legitimate moral, not legal.
  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:33PM (#30432240)

    Sorry about that. I misunderstood what you were saying. I thought you meant that because Lifestyle A or B is normally more expensive, then not subsidizing it is the "anti-subsidy".

    No worries. I'm sure that there is some formal term that an Economist PhD has coined that I am not aware of. Maybe negative-subsidy?

    I was trying to differentiate it from a fine or penalty, because a fine implies that someone broke a law and was being penalized for doing so. In this case, the individual has not broken a law, but is being penalized anyway.

    It scares me because they may be used in a way to restrict/encourage behaviors that would not normally be even legally regulated by the government.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:43PM (#30432344)

    Every generation acts as if it were the first to invent sex. Maybe it's because parents are so good at forgetting what they were like at 19... But every history geek ought to know that there were plenty of times in history when sexual mores were as free and relaxed as they are today. And no, your generation did not invent pictures of naked women either. Porn was around for as long as photography, and before that there were painters who could do much better than the porn you had in 1993. And heck, I bet cavemen painted pictures of naked women too, and had way more sex and you do today.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:55PM (#30432530) Journal

    Vice taxes don't tend to have much of an effect on the addicted (the addiction outweighs long-term financial concerns), but they tend to drive down usage of those not addicted, but using regularly. It can help prevent another addiction case.

    It doesn't always work (especially if not carefully considered), and rarely if ever does it work perfectly, but it can have positive effects.

  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NiteShaed (315799) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:56PM (#30432538)

    Why should people who are young and healthy have to subsidize those who aren't?

    Do you intend to die as soon as you cease to be young and healthy? That condition is not going to last forever, and "I'll just stay in perfect health all my life" is a pretty stupid plan.

    Health insurance is a for-profit industry. If the only people who subscribe to their services are making claims, where do you think the money to pay the claims comes from?

    As for car insurance, the payouts for a healthcare insurer are inevitable, they aren't for a car insurance company. That's one of the reasons I hate the idea of "healthcare insurance". Most people don't make major claims against their car insurance company. Those that do are comparatively rare. In healthcare, as long as you have a plan, you can consistently be expected to make more claims against it as you grow older. Even if you live a healthy lifestyle, the likelyhood of needing care go up as you age, plain and simple.

    If you really want nothing to do with that system, fine, but I suspect that as you get older, you'd be regretting having no healthcare option other than to pay for everything out of pocket.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:56PM (#30432548) Journal
    Who gave you the authority to question Australian constitution? Australia is a democracy, pretty decent one at that. If they want to tax the rich 1.5% more to provide for universal health care it is their right. If you think that is a bad idea and that will sap the enthusiasm of the whole population, demotivate them to earn money and in general lead to general lethargy and lack of industriousness, you should rejoice. You would be able to show 10 years down the line how moribund Australian economy has become and use that as a real life example of what happens when people ignore the supply side economic principles. If you are so confident supply side economy is the best there is why are you so insecure?
  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:04PM (#30432676) Journal

    How much does the government own of me? Can I buy it back?

    This isn't the government we're talking about here, it's the general population. Yeah, and like it or not, they own a small piece of you. And you own a small piece of them.

    You live in a society that has to work together, and your actions and choices have consequences to people beyond yourself. Sometimes, your choices may feel good to you, but they come at the expense of others.

    Sometimes those consequences are so bad that the original choice is banned. Some other times, the choice is not so bad to be banned, but it hardly becomes fair that everyone is forced to pick up your slack.

    Deal with it.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:05PM (#30432678) Homepage

    The right doesn't mean you will get it, it means you will be able to get it.

    Not quite. It doesn't mean you will be able to get it—the government isn't required to sell you a gun even if no one else will. Rather, it means that the government can't interfere with your right to make/acquire, possess, and use weapons per se. They are permitted to interfere with attempts to harm other citizens, of course, but that is entirely independent of the weapon(s) used (if any). Similarly, the right to free speech doesn't mean they are obligated to provide you with a forum, but rather that they can't prevent you from speaking (again, per se), or punish you for it after the fact.

    An analogous "right to broadband" would change little, as there are currently no laws prohibiting the provision of broadband. It would invalidate actual monopolies granted by law, if there are any, but would not automatically provide new would-be ISPs with permission to run lines through others' property (right-of-way), which is where most state- and local-level exclusivity agreements originate.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:10PM (#30432766)
    Building a system for delivering such messages couldn't possibly go wrong... except I remember all the spam that came to my Windows boxes back in the day before I turned off the service for NET SEND messages (ironically most of the spam was from people trying to sell the directions for turning off NET SEND messages).

    I, for one, can't wait until C3r34l_K1LL3r hijacks the INTERWEBS EMERGENCY BROADCASTING SYSTEM and says to everybody 'for more details on the current disaster, go to goatse.cx immediately!' HILARITY ENSUES.

    (For any interwebs n00bz, don't actually go to goatse.cx. Really.)
  • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NiteShaed (315799) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:11PM (#30432776)

    yeah yeah yeah, paying insurance premiums is slavery, paying taxes is slavery, paying into social security is slavery blah blah blah.

    A slave is forced to work. You can quit your job, you can live in homeless shelters, you can sit by the side of the road and count cars all day. Nobody will *force* you to work. Nobody will whip you for dropping out of your formerly productive life. Your lifestyle will suck, but to suggest that paying taxes, or insurance premiums, or any other fee is the same as slavery means you haven't the vaguest concept of what it means to be a slave.

    Slaves don't get to quit being slaves. You can go live in one of the paradise spots where nobody has to pay taxes, or insurance, or any of that stuff, I hear Somalia is nice. Slaves don't get the choice to pack up their belongings and leave if they want. You choose to live in a society like the ones in the U.S. or Europe. Boo-hoo, you have to pay something into the system to continue to live your chosen lifestyle in that chosen society.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:27PM (#30432982) Homepage

    The problem with positive rights is that they cannot be guaranteed except at the expense of other rights. Commodities and services are not superabundant abstract goods in the manner of negative rights; someone has to provide them. More specifically, to the extent that you rely on their status as "rights", someone must be forced to provide them, thus violating their right to self-determination—which includes both self-ownership and ownership of property. For this reason the positive-rights aspects of the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights carry very little weight within the United States, where the right to self-determination is considered far more fundamental.

    From another point-of-view, in a relatively wealthy society it's easy enough (though thoroughly immoral, IMHO) to wave your hands and declare "let everyone have broadband", and dismiss the consequences as only impacting those richer than yourself. However, even if you're willing to violate equality under the law in this manner, your "rights" can only exist so long as the wealth holds out. What will you do when everyone has been brought down to the same level, and there are no more "rich" for you to leach from?

  • Does TiVo yet work with digital cable, including encrypted subscription channels , hd, etc? (It didn't several years ago, when I last looked.)
  • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:55PM (#30433316)
    Bravo, sir, for backing into the real issue here - who "owns" the infrastructure. Like all utilities which must be delivered over a physical infrastructure that must be built within a limited right-of-way, or delivered over a limited band of the radio spectrum, the operation of a broadband infrastructure is a "natural monopoly". As such it needs to be heavily regulated, or better yet, owned and operated by the people it serves. Open it up to all comers as a platform to deliver service, but take away the ridiculous telecom monopolies.
    Look, I can't speak to world where there is not a telecom monopoly, but I can when it comes to electricity. I come from a part of the country where the electricity (usually) delivered by a public utility. Service there is exemplary. I could count on one hand the number of outages in a decade. I now live in a place where one for-profit company owns the wires and there is a pretend "free market" when it comes to choosing electrical companies, all of whom "deliver" over the same infrastructure. The service is universally shitty. Brown-outs, surges, and outright blackouts are common weekly occurrences. The physical infrastructure is a joke. Poorly maintained would be generous description of it. This condition will not change because there's not enough money in doing it right and more importantly, because there is no alternative.
    Again, when it comes to utilities, free market = fail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @02:18PM (#30433536)

    Totally Agree.

    My job, unfortunately, relocated me to the Indianapolis area from the not-so-rural Terre Haute area of Indiana. My housing costs alone are insanely higher now. I now am paying more than twice my former mortgage payment for a house on 1/6th of the property, with a 30-year mortgage vs. the 10-year mortgage I had previously. My choices were limited though, since there just aren't that many jobs that pay as well in Terre Haute, and the boss of the division won't allow telecommuting. I do have better broadband access (AT&T U-Verse vs. Verizon DSL) at a cheaper price, but that's the exception. My drive to work is shorter (12 miles vs. 35 miles) but now takes longer due to traffic. My taxes are more than triple what they were, and I now also pay a "membership fee" for a "homeowner's association" that as near as I can tell provides a community pool I will never use and a newsletter filled with ads mailed once a year, and tells me what I can't do with my own yard.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @03:26PM (#30434374) Journal

    And heck, I bet cavemen painted pictures of naked women too, and had way more sex and you do today.

    Well yeah. It's easier if you can club the female and drag her away when she says "no" as opposed to bowing your head in shame and returning to the table with the rest of your equally unlucky friends ;)

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday December 14, 2009 @03:40PM (#30434516)

    Every road you drive on was probably someone's property at some time and they probably didn't want to give it up.

    If you want to live in a forest full of anarchists be my guest. For the rest of us we realize there is a moral authority that sharing and cooperation is a net benefit to each of us.

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

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