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Government Power The Internet United States Technology

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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  • Bah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:59AM (#30430378)
    The killer app was stereoscopic pictures of women showing their ankles.
    • Re:Bah! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Culture20 (968837) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:43AM (#30431592)

      The killer app was stereoscopic pictures of women showing their ankles.

      Oh, hot! She's voting! Yeah, you break all the rules.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        "Any bird who's willing to tie herself to my railings and 'suffer-a-jet' movement is all right by me!"
    • by Chemisor (97276)

      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 cave

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        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 eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:02AM (#30430408) Journal
    The thing about electricity is that people couldn't see that it would service more than just lights. But there were a few people out there (like Edison's lab and Tesla) that could see innumerable uses awaiting. The people just couldn't comprehend it or were rightfully dubious. I mean, traveling scam artists were well known to people at the time (probably even far before) just look at what Mark Twain was writing a decade before [pbs.org].

    If we follow through with this analogy the solution is simple, you merely need to tell us about and convince us that the "inalienable right to broadband" will indeed herald a new era of empowerment--or at least will be easily worth the cost it's going to take getting an infrastructure up that will cover the nation. Unless you have some WAN technology I don't know about or are accepting the issues of broadband over power, I think it's hard to convince someone that a traditional infrastructure covering--say--all of the Ozarks is going to be worth a whole lot more than the few towns and cities in it that are already covered. And you'd be out of your mind to ask a taxpayer in the farmlands to subsidize via tax dollars some infrastructure their not going to gain anything from.
    • by lannocc (568669) <shawn@lannocc.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:32AM (#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!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sakdoctor (1087155)

        Everyone benefits from fast pr0n. It's our birthright.

      • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:55PM (#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 minsk (805035) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:45AM (#30430872)

      "I mean, traveling scam artists were well known to people at the time"

      Little did they know that electricity, and the ensuing advances in technology, would remove the need for scam artists to travel :)

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        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.

        It may not be an inalienable right guaranteed in the constitution, but it is a de facto right. Additionally, many states elevate it above simply de facto. Try renting an apartment to someone in Massachusetts without electricity http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dph/regs/105cmr410.pdf [mass.gov] (warning, PDF):

        410.250: Habitable Rooms Other than Kitchen -- Natural Light and Electrica

    • by lwsimon (724555) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:27AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kalirion (728907)

        The government lacks the legitimate moral authority to confiscate an individual's property to provide that property to someone else.

        Tell that to the people who lose their homes through "Eminent Domain" so that Walmarts can be built their places.

      • by westlake (615356) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:18AM (#30432084)

        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.


        The geek resident in the Ozarks is essentially the product of economic development projects funded by the federal government.

        Here is a little bit about what the Wikipedia has to say about the Ozarks:

        Ozark-St. Francis National Forest was created by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. In 1939, Congress established Mark Twain National Forest at nine sites in Missouri. In 1976, Congress established Hercules-Glades Wilderness, the first of 13 designated wilderness areas in the Ozarks. In 1986, Congress established the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Oklahoma.


        The United States Army Corps of Engineers lakes that were created by damming the White River beginning in 1911 with Lake Taneycomo have provided a large tourist, boating and fishing economy along the Missouri-Arkansas border. Six lakes were created by dams in the White River basin from 1911 through 1960.

        The Lake of the Ozarks, Pomme de Terre Lake, and Truman Lake in the northern Ozarks were formed by impounding the Osage River and its tributary the Pomme de Terre River in 1931, 1961 and 1979 respectively. Grand Lake in Northeast Oklahoma was created in 1940. ... Most of the dams were built for the dual purpose of flood control and hydropower generation.


        The Buffalo National River was created by an Act of Congress in 1972 as the nation's first National River administered by the National Park Service. In Missouri, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, was established in 1964 along the Current and Jacks Fork River as the first US national park based on a river system. The Eleven Point River is included in the National Wild and Scenic Riverways System established in 1968. These river parks annually draw a combined 1.5 million recreational tourists to the least populated counties in Arkansas and Missouri.

        The Ozarks [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by im_thatoneguy (819432)

        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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Narpak (961733)
      Statements by Norwegian Minister for Government Administration and Reform [regjeringen.no] Heidi Grande Røys [wikipedia.org] and Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development [regjeringen.no], on the subject of internet policy.

      (Poorly) Translated by me from the following Press release, 04.09.2009: [regjeringen.no]

      If cities and districts shall have equal broadband access then everyone should be able to get high-speed broadband with a minimum capacity if 50/10 Mbit/s and mobil broadband with minimum 8/1 Mbit/s.

      -A well-developed broadband nett is a precondition for the development of welfare services, economical development in the districts, and to ensure all citizens equal access to information. Broadband is a fundamental infrastructure of society, equal with roads, water and electricity.

      These statements followed the release of a report "Mål og virkemidler for bredere bredbånd" [regjeringen.no] (only in Norwegian so far). "Goals and means for broader broadband."
      A rapport from 07.07.2009 [regjeringen.no] (also only in Norwegian);

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:02AM (#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.
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:07AM (#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 IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:26AM (#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 Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:36AM (#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.

      • 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 Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:35AM (#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?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by StellarFury (1058280)

          In Europe, your countries tend to be roughly the size of a larger state in the US. You simply don't have the same geographic and logistic issues of deploying infrastructure that exist in the US.

          • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:54AM (#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 guruevi (827432) <eviNO@SPAMsmokingcube.be> on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:04AM (#30431910) Homepage

            Even though the Scandinavian countries are less densely populated than many states in the US, they all have massive broadband infrastructure (100Mbps in some remote places). I live in a well-off, densely populated, city with a couple of Universities and a handful of colleges. I myself make a good dollar and I spend almost $150 with TWC every month. Yet, the best broadband I can get is 3Mbps which at most times has only 1Mbps available even though specific taxes are levied on my cable bill in order to expand their networks. The biggest problem is that VoIP, BitTorrent and streaming traffic gets throttled to about 300kbps and that this has been the case for the last 6 years I have been paying for their expansions with no notion of either costs going down or speeds going up or anybody I know that live in a rural area not so far away getting broadband any time soon.

        • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:45AM (#30431612) Homepage Journal

          While true in some economically depressed areas, there are quite a few areas in the States where people choose to live to "get away from it all" (noise, pollution, crime, etc.) that are "out in the sticks" but not economically depressed. These seem to be the people who make the most noise about wanting broadband, paved roads, no critters eating their vegetable gardens, rapid emergency response, schools that teach advanced topics and not just agricultural subjects, etc. That is, they want all of the conveniences of city life while living in the country and they want the other rate payers to subsidize their lifestyle choice to make it happen.

          I won't argue the merits of government intervention to provide additional services for disadvantaged areas. I will argue against blindly building out broadband given the above. Also, there are options such as satellite services that don't require any build out and are available regardless of location.

          BTW, I live in an area (Colorado near Denver) where this debate keeps coming up. People keep moving out into what were once small farming communities to "get away from it all" but then make all sorts of noise because they still want some of the things that they didn't realize that they were also "getting away from." And, of course, they want the other rate payers to help them pay for it.

          Cheers,
          Dave

      • by tcounts (121551) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:55AM (#30430968)

        I understand that most of the population on /. is not rural, but your blatant stereotypical prejudices are amazing!
        "rural sticks?"
        "move to civilization?"

        I live in what you would call the "sticks". Do you think we live in shacks, don't wear shoes, and cook over the fireplace?
        I am lucky enough to not be one of those that "have to rely on satellite" , in fact I have the choice of DSL, Cable, and fiber to my house (I chose the fiber drop), I know that I am the exception, but let me straighten out a few other things...

        Taxes are higher because I live out in the sticks? Really? I don't have to pay taxes / fees for any municipal offices or services, just county, and the last time a major tax hike was instituted, the entire incumbent county council was booted from office.
        I pay LESS for water than when i lived in "civilization"- I only have to pay for the power on my well pump. The septic system is well balanced and is basically no maintenance.
        Roads are maintained by the county, they get the same round robin updates as the rest of the county, except with less traffic, they are not as damaged.

        There are competing LP distribution companies to keep LP costs in check, but we use energy star electrical appliances, so I can't comment on any cost/benefift analysis on LP/NG.

        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.

        So let me sum up:
        If you want clean air and open spaces and LOWER COST OF LIVING move to the country.

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:05AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jo_ham (604554)

        I think that works if there's no inherent advantage to having the broadband over not having it.

        Here in the UK if you file your tax return online you have extra time to get it in (the postal deadline is earlier), and while you don't need a broadband connection to do that you do actually need an internet connection. Government services having an advantage if done over the net is hardly a reason to subsidise internet for everyone, and we're not quite there yet with internet being required for a "standard" life

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arpad1 (458649)
      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
      • by icebraining (1313345) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:33AM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:36AM (#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 Cimexus (1355033)

          Mod parent up ... a rather nice summary of the difference between interpretations of the word 'right' in the US vs. elsewhere, and unfortunately doomed to be buried since it was posted as an AC...

        • by fredjh (1602699) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:53AM (#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.

    • I live two miles from the city switch. and all I can get is a stink'in DSL.

      I am sorry the FCC needs to rethink House top routers and put the "last mile providers" out on the street, unless the people with the wires can offer something better.

      House top routers would for sure make your cell phone time charges obsolete. You would be better off paying up front for your hardware and not some inflated plan for air minutes.

      Its time to enter the 21st century.
    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cimexus (1355033)

        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 v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:06AM (#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.

  • One step. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:07AM (#30430454)

    A step in the right direction.

    1 - Right to broadband.
    2 - Human right to broadband.
    3 - Human right to porn.
    4 - Human right to 3D multi-sensorial porn.
    5 - Ascension of mankind to a new state of consciousness and peace with the universe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dpilot (134227)

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

      Be excellent to each other.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:08AM (#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 WillAdams (45638) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:27AM (#30430642) Homepage

      Yep. Wasn't that long ago one of my uncle's decided to give in to my aunt's request that he arrange for their house to have electricity, so he paid the electric company to run copper from the valley all the way up to the top of the mountain on which he lived --- and immediately after that, all the land along that lonely mountain road was bought up by people who promptly hooked into the wire which he had paid for --- didn't get a kickback from the electric company or anything (it wasn't even a co-operative unfortunately), just lots of neighbors which he didn't really want.

      William

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:08AM (#30430458) Homepage

    If electricity hadn't become ubiquitous, we'd have a lot less carbon being emitted today from power plants.

  • You need not go back to electricity; phones will do. We have already decided that communications are something we need to deliver to everyone, and the internet is the new communications medium.

    Arguably, the government should stop promoting television and radio, and should put the effort into figuring out how to make the emergency notification network work on the internet... railroading connections and returning "DISASTER IN PROGRESS" errors, whatever. Then we could [eventually] reclaim all spectrum used by broadcast media for a more noble use: bidirectional communications permitting collaboration between humans. It's not like the shitty ol' push media can't be distributed via internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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!' H
  • by KalvinB (205500) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:13AM (#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 Sockatume (732728) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:24AM (#30430612)

      "Right of access" is the issue here. There were communities who would've paid for electricity if the power company had been willing to run a line to them, much like there were people who would've paid for sewerage or clean water if the infrastructure had been provided, and much like there are people who would pay for internet access if the lines were laid out. They still have to pay for the service.

    • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:32AM (#30430698)

      Electricity is not a right. It will get cut off if you don't pay the bill.
      We must be pretty well off in this country when we can start calling commodities and the inventions of men "rights."

      You may have not thought to consider what We gave the power companies. The People, in granting right-of-ways and providing a limited monopoly for the product gave up some of their tangible wealth in the form of unencumbered land and pseudotangible rights in the form of our right to associate with a different company.

      The trade-off for ceding these collective assets/rights is something that we negotiated in the form of universal access.

    • by Shawn Parr (712602) <parr @ s h a w nparr.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:36AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JesseMcDonald (536341)

        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

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:38AM (#30430780) Journal

      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.

      So I can have guns even if have no money? Hurray? Where do I collect my Beretta? I am going to call it Sweetness. You can't copyright that name, Steven Colbert!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Peregr1n (904456)

      This is what amuses me about America. In one post, you argue without a hint of irony that a) rights are endowed by a creator, and not inventions of man; and b) you have the right to bear arms.

      But more seriously, I would take exception to your argument that rights are not given by man. It is only by becoming civilised that we can share equal rights. No matter how loudly you shout about your rights, they only exist if others recognise and respect them.

      The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ever

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JesseMcDonald (536341)

        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 t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by whisper_jeff (680366)

      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KevinIsOwn (618900)

      "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 t

    • free speech (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bobs666 (146801) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:03AM (#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 elrous0 (869638) * on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:17AM (#30430522)
    Advocates for public education once had to deal with basically the same arguments. And, it's certainly true that a free basic education is not a necessity in the same way that food, water, and shelter are--but very few today would dispute that it's a necessity in the sense that, without it, an individual is at a serious disadvantage in life. It's the same with the internet. Sure, you don't NEED it, but it's going to be very hard to live a normal life in an industrialized country in the future WITHOUT at least basic access to it.
  • by Nautical Insanity (1190003) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:17AM (#30430526)

    let's compare when we threw money at corporations to upgrade our infrastructure to when we did it ourselves. [wikipedia.org]

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:25AM (#30430620)

    Part of the problem here is that the language of "right" doesn't really capture what we ought to be capturing here. Webster's defines a right as "something to which one has a just claim." And that is the right way to look at things like employment discrimination, etc.

    But when we start talking about universal access to services like broadband, healthcare, electric, I think it's much better to speak of it in terms of what's best for society. Simply put, our society as a whole is better off with a healthy work-force. Businesses will have more predictable costs, and the playing field between large and small companies, as well as government, will be leveled substantially, promoting innovation. Likewise, it promotes economic development for everyone to have electricity, not to mention public health--it's no accident that regular bathing became much more popular once everyone had a water heater. And, in a democracy, isn't the publics access to information equally vital? Isn't the ability for all members of society to communicate on a somewhat equal footing a useful social function? In other words, let's not talk about this as a moral question, but as a pragmatic one.

    High speed Internet is infrastructure. Maybe it's not a "right". But if you don't have it available to all of our population and all of your competitors do, then watch out!

  • by FriendlyPrimate (461389) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:49AM (#30430912)
    The libertarian side of me says that maybe providing broadband to all isn't necessarily a good thing. Likewise, maybe providing electricity to all back in 1900 wasn't necessarily good either. In the end, we didn't just provide poor people in the country with power. Instead, we provided an incentive for people to move out into the country, leading to sprawl, demand for more roads, foreign dependence on oil, etc... From a pure efficiency point-of-view, living in the city is much more efficient than living in the country. So providing all these services to the country leads to a very inefficient system. One of the reasons why infrastructure in cities is falling apart is because we use all of our resources building infrastructure out to every rural corner of the country, when really we should be concentrating on putting our resources where it affects the most people...in the cities.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:05AM (#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.

  • Why do this? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gedrin (1423917) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:31AM (#30431396)
    Broadband access, via Hughes as just one of several options, is currently available in the following areas:

    Earth

    Given that anyone, anywhere in the above location, already has access to an internet connection of 1Mbs+, why is such a law needed?
  • by tjstork (137384) <(todd.bandrowsky) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:56AM (#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.

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