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Broadband Rights & the Killer App of 1900 565

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 Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:22AM (#30430570) Journal

    I have horrible service, only one company to choose from, and my DVR is a piece of shit.

    The market already provided a solution [] to this particular problem. Yes, it'll cost you more, but most things worth having do. If you buy cheap (cable company DVR) you get what you pay for......

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:24AM (#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 WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:27AM (#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.


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

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:29AM (#30430664)

    Uhh, What you have described is exactly what we have now with private health insurance. Unelected officials determining what care you get (check). Freedom of choice constrained (try to go to an out of network doctor. Being forced to purchase insurance, the insurance is paid for by your employer whether you want it or not. Want to get out of it and take the extra cash? Sorry, the employer's rates are contingent upon all employees being enrolled. The same cost for one kid or eight? Once again we have that now.

    I know your hatred for Obama is blinding you but could you please try to put some thought into what you write before you spew such easily refutable garbage.

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:32AM (#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 Peregr1n ( 904456 ) <> on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:38AM (#30430782) Homepage

    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 everyone has not only rights to free speech, but rights to housing, food, clothing and clean water. These are commodities. The right to express yourself politically (vote) is also critical; as is the right of equal access to public service in your country. These require a communications network. This means broadband to me. Sure, you don't have to FORCE broadband on somebody; plenty of people don't invoke their right to free speech, but are very glad they have the right should they want to. In the same way, I'm fine with the fact that my parents live in the back of beyond and don't want broadband, but I'm glad that they COULD get it if they need it.

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

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:41AM (#30430822) Journal

    Uhh, What you have described is exactly what we have now with private health insurance.

    Not quite, as I currently have the choice to buy a high-deductible policy or even to go without insurance altogether. I won't have either of those choices under the bills currently under consideration in the Congress.

    Want to get out of it and take the extra cash? Sorry, the employer's rates are contingent upon all employees being enrolled.

    That's up to your employer, not the government. My employer will pay me the money they put into health insurance if I ask them to do so. Of course I'll then be paying taxes on it, but that's the government's fault, not theirs.

    I know your hatred for Obama is blinding you

    Who said anything about Obama? I don't hate him or anybody. I think he'll make an awesome President -- just as soon as we get rid of Nancy Pelosi.

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

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:48AM (#30430902) Journal

    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.

    And how is that relevant to the bills currently pending before Congress? They do nothing to address the underlying structure of our health care system. In fact they take everything that's wrong with it and codify it into law.

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

    Again, how is that relevant to the bills currently pending before Congress? They do nothing to address costs.

    Yes, I realize this doesn't match your map, so thus

    You didn't answer a single one of my points. Will I lose the choice I currently have to purchase a high-deductible policy or go without health insurance? Yes, I will. Will my insurance company be forced to charge me the same rate as they charge a chain smoker? Yes, they will.

    Pointing out that the current system sucks != justification for why I should support the current legislative proposals. When will you people understand that?

  • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:51AM (#30430942)

    Funny you should mention the competitive disadvantage US companies have because they have to pay American employees' healthcare, because it's actually even worse than that! Many US companies pay for all their employees' healthcare regardless of where they live.

    I live in Australia but work for a major US software company, which laughably gives me the best of both worlds but must be a tremendous drain on my company's bottom line. Here's the situation...

    Australia has universal healthcare. The system works like this:

    - Healthcare is free or very cheap via the universal public healthcare system.

    - This universal system is funded by a surcharge on top of your standard income tax, but only if you make a moderate to high amount of money. Poorer people don't pay a cent, and still benefit from the system. Wealthy people pay essentially 1 or 1.5% extra income tax which isn't a huge deal in the scheme of things.

    - However, you can avoid some or all of the surcharge if you take out private health insurance. The existence of a public/universal health care system does not mean there is no private option, and indeed Australia has a thriving private health insurance industry. Thus, those that can afford private healthcare are encouraged to purchase it, because it reduces the drain on government money, and also means you don't have to pay the healthcare-related surcharge on your taxes.

    Australian employers therefore do not, and have never, paid for healthcare. Healthcare is NOT tied to your employer, even if you have private insurance (you pick a company and buy that insurance yourself, just like car insurance or house insurance). And if you don't have private insurance ... the public system will still cover you.

    However, the American company I work for, apparently because it is too complicated to set up different HR regimes for each country, pays for private health insurance for me and my whole family, even though that is virtually unheard of for companies in Australia to do. So basically - my company pays for a (expensive high level) health plan for me, I enjoy the coverage of that plan ... AND I make a saving in my taxes because I'm avoiding the surcharge for the public system (because I am covered by a private fund and not draining the public one).

    Great for me! But wow, that must cost my company a lot to do that everywhere in the world, when really they only need to do it for their American employees ... lol.

  • by tcounts ( 121551 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:55AM (#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.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:55AM (#30430974)

    Uhh, What you have described is exactly what we have now with private health insurance. Unelected officials determining what care you get (check).

    Yes, but at least you have the FREEDOM to choose which unelected officials - you can always switch plans.

    Freedom of choice constrained (try to go to an out of network doctor.

    Not at all... try paying cash. Works wondwers. They'll even let you negotiate the cost if there's no paperwork involved.

    Being forced to purchase insurance, the insurance is paid for by your employer whether you want it or not.

    No, you are not FORCED to take the insurance. You can quit & find another job. Try that with a government-run bureaucracy that will actually put you in jail if you want to opt out.

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

    by gedrin ( 1423917 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:31AM (#30431396)
    Broadband access, via Hughes as just one of several options, is currently available in the following areas:


    Given that anyone, anywhere in the above location, already has access to an internet connection of 1Mbs+, why is such a law needed?
  • by Narpak ( 961733 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:39AM (#30431524)
    Statements by Norwegian Minister for Government Administration and Reform [] Heidi Grande Røys [] and Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development [], on the subject of internet policy.

    (Poorly) Translated by me from the following Press release, 04.09.2009: []

    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" [] (only in Norwegian so far). "Goals and means for broader broadband."
    A rapport from 07.07.2009 [] (also only in Norwegian); estimated that the coverage of broadband in Norway (defined as minimum 640 kbit/s capacity) was now at 99,9%. A few years back it was decided that full internet coverage, or as close as it was possible to get (Norway have some mountainous areas that are devilishly hard to cover), should be official policy of the Norwegian Government.

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:45AM (#30431624) Journal

    Not quite.

    I lived on a street once, down in Florida, that had a dozen houses. It was across the street from a new subdivision. Our street did NOT have cable service, either TV or Internet. The subdivision did. I lived on the corner, and the main junction box was across the street from me, MAYBE 40 feet from my house. The cable company refused to run cable to our house, saying that most people on our street already had satellite dishes, it wasn't profitable. No, I couldn't pay for it, they just refused to do it at all. They can do that.

    The electric companies CANNOT REFUSE to run you power. They can bill you the tariffed rate, which was set by the gov't, but if you are willing to pay it is ILLEGAL for them to refuse to run the lines. Ditto with telephone service or any tariffed variation like a T-1 line.

    That is the difference we're talking about. []

  • Re:Bah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:02PM (#30431888)
    "Any bird who's willing to tie herself to my railings and 'suffer-a-jet' movement is all right by me!"
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <`moc.stiucricve' `ta' `ive'> on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:04PM (#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 westlake ( 615356 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:18PM (#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 []

  • by Wannabe Code Monkey ( 638617 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:48PM (#30432410)

    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 [] (warning, PDF):

    410.250: Habitable Rooms Other than Kitchen -- Natural Light and Electrical Outlets
    The owner shall provide for each habitable room other than a kitchen:
    (A) transparent or translucent glass which admits light from the outdoors and which is equal in area to no less than 8% of the entire floor area of that room.
    (B) two separate wall-type convenience outlets, or one such outlet and one electric light fixture. The outlets shall be placed in practical locations and shall insofar as practicable, be on different walls and at least ten feet apart. (See 105 CMR 410.351.)

    The document also goes into outlets and lights for bathrooms and kitchens. And for those who own, I'm guessing there are laws regulating utilities that require them to provide you service.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson