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To Save the Internet We Need To Own the Means of Distribution

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the you-might-be-a-communist-if dept.

The Internet 338

indros13 (531405) writes "Net neutrality took a hit when the FCC gave its blessing to "Internet fast lanes' last week and one commentator believes that the solution is simple: public ownership of the hardware. 'Owning the means of distribution is a traditional function of local government. We call our roads and bridges and water and sewer pipe networks public infrastructure for a reason. In the 19th century local and state governments concluded that the transportation of people and goods was so essential to a modern economy that the key distribution system must be publicly owned. In the 21st century the transportation of information is equally essential.'

Is the Internet essential infrastructure? Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access?"

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Yes, totally (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866641)

I mean, just look at how great things are now that the FCC regulates the internet. Can't wait to have more business-owned politicians to mingle in the foundations of the internet.

Re:Yes, totally (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | about 7 months ago | (#46866891)

This AC was modded as troll, but I think ve is just assuming that politicians would try to take advantage of the infrastructure... in my opinion improbable, as it would be a much more explicit level of corruption than the regulatory capture we have nowadays.

I think the best would be for cities to own the fiber that interconnects to their direct neighbors, and inside the city anyone could establish a mesh network. Something like some guys in Afghanistan did [fabfolk.com] . The cost would be ridiculously lower, the quality would improve, but then the fat cats would not be able to extort money from the population... so not happening any time soon.

Re:Yes, totally (1, Insightful)

Jhon (241832) | about 7 months ago | (#46866947)

"This AC was modded as troll, but I think ve is just assuming that politicians would try to take advantage of the infrastructure... in my opinion improbable, as it would be a much more explicit level of corruption than the regulatory capture we have nowadays."

I'm less worried about direct corruption and much more worried about neglect. Privately owned, there is an incentive to fix damage and maintain infrastructure. Publicly owned, the money that would otherwise be used here would be redirected to someone's pet project.

Re:Yes, totally (5, Insightful)

Pizza (87623) | about 7 months ago | (#46866973)

Privately owned, there is an incentive to fix damage and maintain infrastructure. Publicly owned, the money that would otherwise be used here would be redirected to someone's pet project.

Oh, you mean like the incentives that Verizon et.al. have had to fix post-Sandy damage and maintain their DSL infrastructure? Face it, when there's no meaningful competition, there is no incentive to do any more than the legal minimum. There's far, far, far more accountability at the local governmental level.

Re:Yes, totally (3, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | about 7 months ago | (#46867023)

No I mean like the 90 years it'll currently take to repair the sidewalks of Los Angeles. Or the potholes in the roads and highways causing residents to sue city and state to repair car damages. Or the bursting of 100 year old water pipes that haven't been maintained.

Yes ... "far far far" more accountability at the local government level.

Re:Yes, totally (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866995)

Private ownership does not create an incentive to fix damage and maintain infrastructure. Quite the opposite: Those are costs, and profit is revenue minus cost, so the lower the cost, the higher the profit. The thing which creates those incentives is competition.

Re:Yes, totally (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#46867117)

How is meaningful competition possible when digging up the road to install conduit more than once is cost prohibitive? And how is meaningful competition possible when only a small amount of radio frequency spectrum is made available for lease? I don't consider competition that lets all four major carriers raise their SMS rates at once to be "meaningful".

Re:Yes, totally (3, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 7 months ago | (#46867123)

Sorry, competition is a word into disuse in the current capitalist model.

Re:Yes, totally (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46867089)

You mean like the incentive to fix broken privatized railroads in the UK?

Yes. (5, Insightful)

KraxxxZ01 (2445360) | about 7 months ago | (#46866647)

"Is the Internet essential infrastructure? Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access?"

Yes.

Re:Yes. (0)

Mike Frett (2811077) | about 7 months ago | (#46866707)

Actually no. Food and Water are Needs and are essential. The Internet, Phones, Game Console etc are Wants and are not essential for survival.

Re:Yes. (3, Insightful)

felipou (2748041) | about 7 months ago | (#46866761)

Exactly. Just like electricity.

Re:Yes. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866773)

The internet is not about games and shit anymore. People do online banking and pay bills etc some companies even charge for paper bills, so being online is pretty essential.

Re: Yes. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866787)

By that argument you could say that electricity isn't essential. I would argue that internet is essential for a functional modern economy just as electricity is.

Actually yes (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866795)

The question is not if the Internet is essential for survival, but rather is it "essential infrastructure". In that sense, I think most here would agree; yes. Roads are not necessary for survival in the same sense of food and water, but are clearly considered "essential". Game consoles are not essential anywhere, as they serve primarily as an entertainment device.

Re:Yes. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866797)

In the same way a high school education is not an "essential". Our entire economy is based on "wants". If we lost "Internet, phones, game consoles, etc", our economy would crash over night and people would starve and die because they couldn't make money and because no one could grow their own food in a city.

So yes, the Internet can be considered a "need".

Re:Yes. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866801)

Well, communications save lives. This is why old cell phones still have 911 access without a subscription. VOIP and education via internet i argue are essential. Public schools are public because education is important. The internet has all the information we have compiled, and as such is a resource that should be public.

Re:Yes. (2, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#46866823)

Essential infrastructure for what? Roads aren't essential for survival. Electricity isn't essential for survival. But essential for modern life? Essential for sustaining the economy? Essential for military security (that's the initial reason for public roads and the internet).

Re:Yes. (1)

Misagon (1135) | about 7 months ago | (#46866829)

Neither are roads, bridges, railways, airports and sports arenas, yet many are funded by public money because a large portion of the public thinks that they are important.
Essential for survival, no. Essential for the community to thrive, yes.

Re:Yes. (4, Insightful)

edcalaban (1077719) | about 7 months ago | (#46866871)

If you're taking an extremely narrow understanding of essential, then yes. However, there are other reasons things might be essential - take Reverse 911 [wikipedia.org] for emergency awareness (requires a phone). More generally, in this case essential infrastructure is actually being used like the term critical infrastructure [wikipedia.org] . Some examples (cribbed without shame):
  • electricity generation, transmission and distribution
  • public health (hospitals, ambulances)
  • water supply (drinking water, waste water/sewage, stemming of surface water (e.g. dikes and sluices))
  • telecommunication

So the question becomes, "is the Internet critical infrastructure", not "is the Internet essential for survival". Personally, I think it falls quite nicely under telecommunications.

Re:Yes. (4, Insightful)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | about 7 months ago | (#46866909)

Seeing as how I cannot actually do simple things like paying my state taxes without the internet these days and companies certainly don't even want to mail me a paper bill... Then yes the internet is a need.

Re:Yes. Bravo. (1)

KraxxxZ01 (2445360) | about 7 months ago | (#46866927)

Now notice how you don't eat and drink roads and sewage.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46867019)

Electricity is not a must for needed for survival. I propose putting it in the Wants column.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46867033)

True, assuming you define survival as 'alive but unemployed and homeless' - In a lot of places, the state mandates that taxes, auto and real-estate titles, medical info, etc. is handled exclusively over the internet (ostensibly to save money, although it always seems to end up with the fat-cat outsourced IT company getting payed the difference and then some).. ;-)

Re:Yes. (3, Insightful)

BlueMonk (101716) | about 7 months ago | (#46867107)

That view is way oversimplified and completely ignores how our evolving society has changed the rules. If Internet and phones disappeared tomorrow, people would likely start dying in much greater numbers in the not-too-distant future. We now depend heavily on this sort of communication to know where food and water needs to be. People don't live near sources of food and water any more because they don't need to any more because other technologies have sprung up to make it possible to survive without doing so. If those go away, so do the people.

Re:Yes. (3, Interesting)

njnnja (2833511) | about 7 months ago | (#46866765)

Yes, but...

The question of whether the Internet is essential infrastructure that should be run as a public utility does not resolve the question of net neutrality. It simply changes the process by which the question gets resolved.

In fact, if the internet was run as a public utility, I think that it would be less likely to support net neutrality, for 2 reasons. First, net neutrality tends to level the playing field between large companies and small start ups. However, large companies tend to have much more political power than smaller companies, so if the question of net neutrality was determined purely in the political realm then net neutrality opponents would appear to have an advantage.

Second, net neutrality tends to favor content owners over distribution channels. If content owners were still private companies, but the distribution channel was publicly owned, I think the public would tend to side more with giving power to the publicly owned internet utility companies and demand that companies like Disney or Google or What's App pay to play.

However, in a world where the benefits of getting rid of net neutrality went to your local city instead of, say, Comcast, the decisionmaking calculus of whether net neutrality is a good idea or not might change substantially.

Re:Yes. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866775)

Indeed. In fact my pathetic 3Mbps link is literally discrimination and should be considered a hate crime. All we are saying is give 10Mbps a chance.

Oh yes, and I also demand my right to air conditioning, a gas 6 burner cooktop and Waygu beef, oh yes and MTV and an iPad.

What is more the 2nd amendment gives me the right to a state supplied M4 complete with 500 rounds of target ammo and 100 rounds of self defense ammo per month.

I love this whole 'making up rights thing so we can steal the rich mans shit' deal. When can I expect delivery?

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866831)

Please stand outside your trailer, we will commence delivery of the bullets shortly, one at a time.

Re:Yes. (3, Informative)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46866817)

My local government doesn't have that option. My state actually outlawed municipal ownership of ISP's. So did a lot of other states.

Good old lobbyists, always thinking several steps ahead.

I like the idea... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866649)

...but you forget that the (U.S.) government is owned by the corporations, not the people.

Re: I like the idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866743)

This all the way. There's been enough public funds dumped into building Internet infrastructure as it is, with few results to benefit the actual people. Do we want the same people dumping our funds into the toilet at a faster rate? Who do you think the government will hire with those funds? The same people already wasting then!

Eat we need is truly publicly owned, as in mesh crowd sourced with a little pro backbone here and there. Not more court protected money wasting.

The quick answer is yes. (5, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46866651)

However, given local and national governments' propensity to legislate the way the political donors dictate, it would seem on reflection that not much would change.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 7 months ago | (#46866665)

Furthermore, the monopoly backbone owners would love it if governements paid for all the expensive local distribution and then they could just charge a fee for connecting to their backbone. That's what happened to Netflix and L3.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 7 months ago | (#46866713)

Problem is, this proposal would also cover all of the backbones in the jurisdictional areas - so L3 would cease to have any privately owned infrastructure.

This proposal goes much further than the last mile, its top to bottom, otherwise it won't work as the "fast lane" is created at the border of the ISP and the central carriers, so the local and national governments would have to essentially nationalise the ISPs, the backbone carriers, and more besides.

Thats a heck of a lot of nationalisation going on...

Re:The quick answer is yes. (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#46866727)

Beyond that, the internet exists out of the jurisdiction of the US.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 7 months ago | (#46866779)

A portion of the internet does, but remember that this story is a reaction to the ruling of an American government body, the FCC, which applies to American internet service providers, Comcast et al, requiring American content distribution companies, Netflix et al, to deliver to one of the largest internet demographics, Americans.

This has a very big impact overall, especially as Americans are one of the biggest audiences for non-US content distributors as well so the US ISPs can still require payment from non-US content distribution companies in order to not throttle them at point of entry into their network.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866845)

Beyond that, the internet exists out of the jurisdiction of the US.

Yeah, who fucking controls ICANN then?

Who gave the fucking Americans permission to spy on the world?

Fuck the US and their self entitled bullshit.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866859)

"Last Mile" is implied because it is common knowledge that the issue is not the backbone but the local ISPs. There is no monopoly issue once you get past the last mile.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 7 months ago | (#46866887)

But yes there is - Comcast don't throttle Netflix at the last mile, they filter it in their network, so unless you want to buy your internet service from Netflix using a liberated last mile link, there's nothing stopping whomever replaces Comcast as the link between the last mile and the internet proper from doing the same thing as Comcast...

Even if you managed to get your last mile connected directly to a backbone provider, such as L3, there's nothing stopping them from screwing with your traffic on a source/destination basis.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (2)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46866955)

Comcast couldn't meaningfully throttle Netflix if they didn't own the last mile, because if they did, a competitor could easily steal all their customers simply by offering the same service for a lower price. It's the cost of duplicating the last mile that leads to monopolies.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 7 months ago | (#46866745)

Isn't the expense of local distribution the reason for a lack of competition? Competition between ADSL providers here in NL worked well after the government forced the (formerly state run) PTT to share the local loop with other providers for a nominal fee. Since then we've seen the inevitable consolidation, with smaller ISPs being bought up by the larger ones, but even today, the barrier to entry for new ISPs isn't all that high, and competition between ISPs remains reasonably healthy.

Re:The quick answer is yes. (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 7 months ago | (#46866815)

The UK has something similar - BT, the major incumbent, is required to sell access to the local loop at a similar rate to which it would charge itself cost wise, and is also regulated on how much it can charge for central line access etc. It seems to work very well - as you note, there has been a period of consolidation over the past decade, but competition is still fierce.

For example, today I have Sky internet and telephone, run over the same phone line that BT installed 25 years ago. On that same phone line I can get decent broadband from Plusnet, Pipex, or a whole host of others, each with their own offers, deals, limits and benefits.

Or I can go with Virgin, who aren't required to sell their connectivity to third parties...

Re:The quick answer is yes. (1)

dsginter (104154) | about 7 months ago | (#46866931)

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others. --Thomas Paine, Common Sense [ushistory.org]

fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866655)

We can't trust the government anymore then we can trust corporations. Do we really think they won't capture all the information being delivered to us?

Re:fail (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 7 months ago | (#46866903)

In case you didn't notice, they're already doing that, and we don't have net neutrality to show for it...

Re: fail - talking in circles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866943)

True, but if we hand all the infrastructure over to government, government that just shot down net neutrality what does it gain?

Private roads returning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866671)

Without commenting on the desirability of the change, I'll note that some areas are reverting to privately financed and owned roads, with significant tolls (that tend to creep up). Probably a way of coping with reduced transportation budgets.

Re:Private roads returning (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46866853)

The private corporations already own Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. May as well own the rest of it too.

Re:Private roads returning (5, Insightful)

laird (2705) | about 7 months ago | (#46866869)

Privatization is a scam. Governments sell off public assets that are needed long-term for a short-term cash boost, but then the public pays more forever for the use of the assets. So it makes one year's budget look better but is a *terrible* deal for the public. But if the local government is full of self-centered people that don't care about the long-term, they'll make that tradeoff. It's easy to come up with examples: water, roads, parking meters, mercenaries replacing soldiers, you name it - letting private, for-profit businesses take over what should be public infrastructure has consistently been a disaster for everyone other than the business' investors, as the businesses always deliver as little value as possible while jacking up prices, because that maximizes investor ROI. Public infrastructure should be run to maximize value delivered to the public, not ROI to the investors. And the two motivations, public service vs. private profit, are in direct opposition, which is why it fails every time.

As for network, I'd suggest that very much like water, postal service, etc., that the city should run a public networking utility, and people who want more/better can use private services. That eliminates most of the overhead from the equation, letting the engineers focus on delivering services efficiently. For example, if you look at telecommunications generally, the actual cost of delivering the voice/data is a relatively trivial cost. The complexity of metering usage and billing for it, marketing, sales, distribution deals, executives, etc., is the large majority of the costs. So if everyone got, say, 100 Mbps for a flat fee, paid for by splitting the cost and covering them with no profit margin, the cost per-person would be much, much lower than what we're paying now for service. And because it would be publicly managed and audited, anyone can inspect the books, and voters can control the policies. Very different from private business, which can hide their costs and do anything they like with the traffic.

And if a private provider can come in and compete with that, great! Competition is good! It's just for-profit monopolies that are bad.

Go go gadget Marx! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866697)

This is basically Marxism with 'means of distribution' replacing 'means of production', and I thoroughly approve!

SOCIALISM! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866705)

This is nothing but thinly veiled Socialism. The free market always will provide a superior solution ... and probably already has. I am not interested in a step backwards and I am definitely not interested in a step towards the European or Russian model. Fuck. Go back to New York or California.

Re:SOCIALISM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866967)

...but I'm already in New York

They've done pretty bad so far (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866715)

Here in the US, local governments are a large part of the reason we have such poor competition for internet service. Many municipalities grant franchise agreements to ISP, allowing them to operate as the only service provider in a given area. To be fair, these do include *some* incentives for the service provider to provide a good service (often in the form of a "Good Service Bond," money the service provider only gets back if they do a good job in the eyes of the local gov't). However, despite these incentives, I feel consumers would get better service if there were actual competition for their business. To address OP's question: local government has already stepped in, and has been a part of the problem thus far.

Except, government ISN'T government (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#46866717)

I love it when some utopian statist poses such a question - "should the government take over X for the benefit of all?" - as if government is a neutral, rational entity that has the best interest of the public at heart.

Local governments (still, one might put it, "within arm's reach of the voter")? Very likely so. I know lots of people at the local government levels that work their asses off to do the right thing and the best thing for their communities.

But what has been abundantly proven over and over from the food industry to the car industry to the power industry to the cable tv industry is that larger scales of government are ever-more corrupted/corruptable to the point that at the highest, federal level, it's lobbyists, private interests, and power-brokers all the way through.

I used to be a starry-eyed idealist, and was insulted when Jackie Chan commented to a Chinese paper that "America is more corrupt than China". I still think he's wrong in an absolute sense, but the more I try to look clearly and skeptically at my own country and government, the more I'm repulsed by the greed and nepotism at the highest levels and am, perhaps finally, beginning to admit that it may not be fixable.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866789)

Yay! A convert. Give more money to the government to solve ANY problem and now the government has even more resources to unfairly distribute, corrupt, buy votes with, etc. which increases special interest, lobbying, etc.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (3, Interesting)

Cytotoxic (245301) | about 7 months ago | (#46866805)

I'll add to your sentiments by pointing out that at the local level business is often steered to the old boys' network. The Mayor's golf buddy gets the contract for the line maintenance, the councilman's brother-in-law gets the billing contract, etc. And the new guy in town who has a great business that competes with them has loads of trouble with the permitting process and the zoning board.

At every level, power corrupts. Even if most folks are basically good people trying to do the right thing, the constant pressure of vested interests trying to use that power to their benefit tends to move things in an unfair direction.

I tried to reform some of the IT processes in our local government - it was highly fragmented and inefficient - and got no interest at all. I finally talked to someone who had a little insight into the problem - he pointed out just how many different businesses had contracts with all these little agencies and offices. So if you try to upset that apple cart you'll have all of those small business owners complaining to their councilmen about how they are being negatively affected. Nobody is agitating on the other side at all. (well, except me). So the chance of fixing the problem is pretty much exactly zero.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (1)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46866983)

Huh. The town I live in just refused to approve the budget proposed by the selectboard because they felt there was too much fat in it, and the selectboard is now scrambling to figure out what to cut. If it's not like that in your town, maybe you should run for office.

Maybe its just organic redistribution (2)

swb (14022) | about 7 months ago | (#46867137)

he pointed out just how many different businesses had contracts with all these little agencies and offices.

So when we set it up in the usual means of centralized efficiency it costs less because they are fewer vendors and more money goes to a smaller group of people.

Then we complain about the problems of income distribution and wonder how we can use government to redistribute income.

Maybe this is just a kind of organic income redistribution. Maybe people, when given a choice, will choose a certain level of level of inefficiency to achieve some level of fairness over some measurement of efficiency that seems less fair.

And who knows, maybe its more economically beneficial overall to do it this way versus a government driven scheme to redistribute income directly.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46866893)

I'm repulsed by the greed and nepotism at the highest levels and am, perhaps finally, beginning to admit that it may not be fixable.

No government can ever work when the people sit back and simply let it. Eventually, such a situation will always be taken advantage of by evil men. But we can solve this problem simply by saying no. No, I won't participate. I'm going to fuck off to another country, or whatever. For those who still have the means to get out before this place goes down in flames, it's already a good idea!

Of course, choosing someplace that won't be invaded and land-grabbed by the USA is about a bitch.

If we really want to fix it, first we have to stop fighting each other, and then we have to show up on their doorsteps en masse. Sure, they can shoot a lot of us, but if not today then tomorrow. Best to take a chance that you won't get shot for standing up than the chance that the government won't become more corrupt, because it will.

Now, how to convince people that the government is their enemy, and not their neighbor...

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46867057)

You sir, are correct, if not a bit cynical.

Of course it can be fixed. It's an entity made up of men and woman, so people are ideally suited to repair it.

As for being shot at, well, it's not like it couldn't happen, but one recent American event showed a little promise. The federal showdown with Cliven Bundy went off without the kind of jackbooting reminiscent of Waco and Ruby Ridge, so we could optimistically infer that government can still be taught, and change.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46867069)

As for being shot at, well, it's not like it couldn't happen, but one recent American event showed a little promise. The federal showdown with Cliven Bundy went off without the kind of jackbooting reminiscent of Waco and Ruby Ridge, so we could optimistically infer that government can still be taught, and change.

Sure, as long as you outnumber the cops. But they brought in tanks with flamethrowers to set the compound in Waco on fire, and parked a tank on top of their escape hatch. They had clear military superiority, and they used it in classic USA fashion.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (2)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 7 months ago | (#46867139)

If we really want to fix it, first we have to stop fighting each other, and then we have to show up on their doorsteps en masse. Sure, they can shoot a lot of us, but if not today then tomorrow. Best to take a chance that you won't get shot for standing up than the chance that the government won't become more corrupt, because it will.

That's so 20th century. That will never work, because that's what the elites think would happen, so that's what they're prepared for, hence the militarized police.

The attack on the system must come from where they do not expect it and where they cannot fight it. It must come from leveraging the connecting power of the internet to wrest control of local governments via the ballot box. We need a national "Internet Party" wherein the candidates pledge to vote the way citizens direct him through internet-enabled direct democracy. We need these candidates running in every city and county election. Then we get the word out again via the internet. Just like we stopped SOPA, we can spread the word about actually changing the system via social networking, twitter, facebook, youtube, etc. Funding via kickstarter.

And the only thing that's telling the militarized police which way to point their guns is those pieces of paper in the law books. So, rewrite the laws. Each city and county we get has a budget and a militarized police force that can then be used to further our agenda. Next get the state legislatures and re-gerrymander the districts so our candidates get the house seats and the democrats and republicans are left fighting for the scraps.

It can work, and something like this will happen. It must, because that's the cycle of history. Polybius tells us that after oligarchy comes democracy.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 7 months ago | (#46866991)

Layers of abstraction in democracy also provides layers of abstraction in morality.

You can quote me on that.

Re:Except, government ISN'T government (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#46867073)

I am less concerned on who ones the hardware but who ones the wires.
The problem sense technology improved to give average citizen high speed internet. We have lost option.
Back in the day of the late 1990's while we had slow dial up, we had a choice of ISP's. We had the big names like AOL, MSN, Compuserve, Prodigy where you pay a premium for extra features. But we also has a slew of independent ISP local to you area. Because to become an ISP you will need a T1 line and a PC with a digiboard and extra modems. If you had a hundred customers over 25 nodes you still charging $15 a month you still broke even. Normally a small ISP had 250 customers over 100 nodes and was able to run as a small business.
Today we don't have the wired infrastructure to allow multiple ISP. We have Mostly Cable, DSL hasn't caught up to well. And very limited deployment of fiber. So in a city you may be lucky to have a choice of 2 or 3 ISP's, and it goes down to 1 very rapidly.

I want the ISP to be independently operated, however we need a government infrastructure to handle the wires so they get to everyone, and allow us to choose our ISP's again, and possibly allow use little guys to play in the same field again.

Common carriers (4, Informative)

barlevg (2111272) | about 7 months ago | (#46866721)

Would classifying broadband providers as common carriers not be an effective solution to this as well? There's a WhiteHouse.gov petition [whitehouse.gov] circulating that so far has surprisingly little support.

Re:Common carriers (1)

StormReaver (59959) | about 7 months ago | (#46866827)

There's a WhiteHouse.gov petition circulating that so far has surprisingly little support.

I think that's because most people have seen through the Emperor's new clothes, and have become dismayed with the "new", yet status quo, style he's wearing.

Re:Common carriers (2)

davecb (6526) | about 7 months ago | (#46867003)

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance (variously attributed to Thomas Jefferson and others)

Besides being vigilant, you have to "petition the King for Redress of Grievance", well as pressure the commons (legislature) to strengthen the law, lean on the police to enforce the law that already exists, write amicus curia letters to the courts and burn the occasional monopolist at the stake (;-))

In Canada, the local hydro companies are regulated monopolies already, own half the poles on the streets and all the electrical cables on the poles. If they owned the fibre on the poles, we'd be in a distinctly better state, somewhat like parts of the EU.

Essential, BUT we want govt to just enable it (2)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#46866733)

Is the Internet essential infrastructure? Should local governments step in to preserve equality of access?"

Yes... the internet infrastructure is essential. That is why nobody should own or regulate it.

Personally; I would rather see the government give each internet service provider a choice whether they will be a common carrier or not. If they choose NOT to be a common carrier, then that ISP may not be a licensed telecommunications company --- that is, that company is not given the right to install or own copper or fibre optic cabling installed on any public right of way ----- in other words, this "NOT a common carrier" option should not be open to any ISP who is also a Cable company or telco.

If an ISP or cable company chooses to be a common carrier, then they are subject to network neutrality and many other regulations. They are then allowed to be a licensed telecommunication carrier, and they are then allowed to own or install fibre optic cables, copper, other data cables, and IRUs (indefeasible rights of use) for data/telecom cables in a public right of way.

BUT: they are then subject to network neutrality and other regulation. At a bare minimum, they should be required to lease data access ("IP networking connectivity") to ISPs of all types on a fair and nondiscriminatory basis.

Remember what makes the internet work at all and work so well is that government is not involved in its administration. Every private entity can build their own network, AND they cooperate to interconnect and form internet.

The moment the government starts owning significant pieces, they will be subject to lobbying by special interest groups and start passing laws to regulate and control usage of it or insert web filtering to protect the children.

In other words: government ownership could be the undoing of open and free internet.

This could be much worse than what corporations will do.

After all... The internet was around and survived a long time with no "network neutrality" rules.

On the other hand: it is good and great if local municipalities own the last mile infrastructure. Like your municipal water authority installs and owns the pipes.

As long as the municipality does not decide they want to regulate what kind of information you can view, and start inserting web filters and censorship... which is much less likely, than if a powerful government entity begins to own internet exchange points and other critical internet infrastructure.

INDEED (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866747)

It would be a step in the right direction. However, political corruption will not allow it.

Save the internet? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 7 months ago | (#46866749)

I'm for net neutrality but "To Save the Internet We Need To Own the Means of Distribution" is a little over the top.

The Internet has grown despite of restrictions from ISPs since day one.

Ehh, No (1)

VorpalRodent (964940) | about 7 months ago | (#46866753)

While I agree that there would be considerable benefit from this, I think that there's a whole mess of tinfoil hat issues here. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that my government is spying on me (not specifically me, but in general). Giving them all the hardware means no more negotiating with service providers (at any level).

No more sneaking around what is or isn't okay. "This is my hardware, and to protect my hardware, I have to install this additional monitoring." There's the whole "If you aren't doing anything wrong..." argument, but let's not assume that giving the government the "means of distribution" is going to be all sunshine and puppy dogs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy that service providers can do whatever they want, but at least then the competition drives them to all be the best (well, we're assuming that "best" and "most profitable" are related). The government has no such goal. It's possible this would even backfire completely and the government would let it languish - they've got dial-up, so our job is done, etc.

Is the time for MESH networks now? (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 7 months ago | (#46866771)

How do you convince everyone to participate?

Re:Is the time for MESH networks now? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 7 months ago | (#46867067)

The main issue with that is backbones to node put into suburbia. The cpu power, ongoing costs and access to rooftops for well placed hardware can be difficult.
Can it be done for 100's of homes with free/hobby spectrum use ie no costly "licence"? Yes.
Beyond that every connected home would need very well crafted networking software and be ready for speed drops as limited bandwidth gets shared as more people join.

Promote The Petitions (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 7 months ago | (#46866777)

Also please take a minute to promote the petition for net neutrality [whitehouse.gov] and the petition for common carrier [whitehouse.gov] . Promote them on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or wherever you normally put such things. The signature count was climbing fast last week, on track to hit 100,000 within a week, but over the weekend they fell below the fold on most of the news and social networks. We need to get the traffic numbers back up.

whitehouse.gov petitions are a waste of time (0)

grepninja7 (966645) | about 7 months ago | (#46866819)

These petitions have been mostly worthless in the past. See this previous petition about net neutrality:
https://petitions.whitehouse.g... [whitehouse.gov]

The FCC is nominally an independent agency so the best way to make yourself heard is to file a comment on Proceeding 14-28 at:
http://www.fcc.gov/comments [fcc.gov]

Re:whitehouse.gov petitions are a waste of time (5, Informative)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 7 months ago | (#46866975)

These petitions have been mostly worthless in the past.

The purpose of the petition is double edged. They communicate the will of the people, and if they are ignored, they document the failure of government.

The FCC is nominally an independent agency

The chairman serves at the discretion of The President, and The White House's official statement includes the following:

Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries. The resulting decline in the development of advanced online apps and services would dampen demand for broadband and ultimately discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. An open Internet removes barriers to investment worldwide.

The President would be entirely within his authority to direct the FCC to reclassify data carriers as common carriers, and to terminate Tom Wheeler when he refuses.

the best way to make yourself heard is to file a comment on Proceeding 14-28 at:

That's good, too, though my tendency is to think Tom Wheeler is doing exactly as he intended. Obama is blowing in the wind. There is no chance with the former, the latter might work. More likely both merely document the failure of our government, which is the first step to reforming it.

Government will deliver! (1)

BlazingATrail (3112385) | about 7 months ago | (#46866791)

Obama announces the NSA will take over all internet delivery. The net stays neutral, secure and free from corporate greed. In other news, tin foil has been banned by the EPA.

Common Carrier (1)

grepninja7 (966645) | about 7 months ago | (#46866793)

They don't need to be publicly owned (think the government snoops now?) but they do need to be designated Common Carriers:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

If you read that and agree, consider filing a public comment on Proceeding 14-28 at:
http://www.fcc.gov/comments [fcc.gov]

The best way to run Internet access... (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 7 months ago | (#46866799)

The best way to run Internet access would be to have the infrastructure e.g. fiber lines to every household) owned by the government (and run under a cost-recovery model only) and then any ISP that wants to being allowed to come in and run services over that link. The government would not be allowed to offer its own service over the links.

Its the best answer because:
1.You dont get any issues with lobbyists pressuring the government into doing stuff (e.g. political pressure from a special-interest-group to block porn or other "nasties")
2.You have fast efficient infrastructure with no incentive for the government as infrastructure owner to mess with things or be non-neutral in any way since they get no benefit from being non-neutral
3.Because there is competition at the retail level (and because the barriers to entry for new players would be low since the new player doesn't have to build actual infrastructure to people's homes) there is a disincentive for the retail ISPs to be non-neutral or to block things or whatever because if any ISP becomes sucky, people can switch.

Re: The best way to run Internet access. (2)

grepninja7 (966645) | about 7 months ago | (#46866855)

Sounds good. We can repurpose the existing Post Office infrastructure and employees to run the internet infrastructure.

So far, no lessons learned... (1, Insightful)

x0 (32926) | about 7 months ago | (#46866835)

After all of the revelations by Snowden, I find it incredulous that people still think the government should have greater access and ownership over our data.

Really?

m

Wha? (1)

Mycroft-X (11435) | about 7 months ago | (#46866837)

Let me get this straight --- you want to either nationalize or purchase (Verizon, Comcast, etc. are already publicly owned -- about $50 gets you a vote in what they do) the infrastructure so that governments can treat it like they treat roads?

You want them to be able to extend the network into new areas with the promise that once the infrastructure is paid for the higher rates they are charging those new areas will go away?

You want them to supposedly spend use fees on maintaining the infrastructure, but through slight of hand actually use it to pad underfunded pension programs?

You want your internet service to be as smooth and reliable as the average downtown public road?

Re:Wha? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 7 months ago | (#46866917)

Let me get this straight --- you want to either nationalize or purchase (Verizon, Comcast, etc. are already publicly owned -- about $50 gets you a vote in what they do) the infrastructure so that governments can treat it like they treat roads?

You've confused publicly traded with publicly owned. Verizon, Comcast, etc. may sale their stocks to the public but it is privately owned by its stock holders and works on behalf of its owners and not the general public at large.

Oh no (1)

dannns (1180389) | about 7 months ago | (#46866851)

Unless we want to go back to dial up speeds and introduce a whole bureaucracy this should never happen. I imagine the internet would freeze and never improve, and also we would get express lanes with toll. This would never be a good idea. At least in the private sector customers have a voice; but in the public sector corporations are the only ones with a voice.

Indeed. (1, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about 7 months ago | (#46866863)

"We call our roads and bridges and water and sewer pipe networks public infrastructure for a reason."

We need not only crumbling bridges, pothole roads and leaky sewer lines, we also need the Internet nailed to dry-rotten, termite-ridden wooden poles in our possession to be happy.

Crumbling Infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866873)

While I do believe the internet is essential infrastructure, so are phones and electric and those are not publicly owned. Considering the reports of up to 30% of the bridges in the US being deficient, I'm not sure government does a much better job maintaining the infrastructure it's in charge of. Pot holes from this winter 2 feet around and a foot deep are still lingering in my area which leads me to believe broken internet lines wouldn't be fixed all that quickly for residents either.

No way.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866879)

Absolutely NOT. Local governments have their own agendas which would not align with the public good of the internet. Case in point roads and bridges crumbling.

firSt post? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866881)

It worked for landlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866901)

Yes. Here is the reason why: in the US, landline phone service achieved 98% market penetration in only a few decades. It was able to do this because the benefits to everyone being able to access the system were so obvious, the government heavily regulated the phone companies to ensure that everyone received access, treating access as a public utility rather than a private good. Via regulation, the US government forced the phone companies to build out their network into low density rural areas, where there were so few subscribers the companies could never hope to recoup the cost of installing the infrastructure.

Everyone hated Ma Bell, but here is the simple truth: Ma Bell worked to provide everyone with access. The reason Ma Bell existed was government regulation; the goal of that regulation was to give everyone access to the system.

Fiber and high speed internet are the same deal. Look at the history of high speed fiber: broken promise after broken promise from companies like AT&T, who has received tax break and other incentives on the basis of a promise to lay high speed fiber for the masses, a promise they have never fulfilled. Or Verizon, who received enormous tax breaks in New Jersey to provide the entire state with broadband access, a promise Verizon is now trying to renig on.

The bald economic and geographic facts say that companies will NEVER extend high speed internet to low density areas, because these areas will never be profitable for companies. This is sound economics, but shitty public policy. Add to the fact that big communication companies like comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have proved consistently willing to pocket record profits rather than reinvest them into infrastructure, and the answer s clear:

If the US hopes to remain competitive in a global economy where high speed access is important, then high speed access needs to be regulated by the government as a common good, just as landline phones were.

With guaranteed feeds to NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866919)

I realize that, with a little work, the NSA can get all the metadata they want. If the government owns the infrastructure, though, then "with a little work" would quickly become "with no work at all" and "metadata" would become "anything".

Local Government Control (1)

jamesl (106902) | about 7 months ago | (#46866937)

The author is recommending that local government own and control "the internet." He uses public roads as an example of local government ownership -- potholes and all.

When communities own their roads they can and have established the rules of the road. This is why the average speed and carrying capacity of these local roads have skyrocketed in the last two decades.

Local government ownership of public schools has given us a fine education system turning out young adults that know far more and are more prepared for good jobs than 20 or 30 or 50 years ago.

You can fire your local cable provider and stop paying if you don't like the product. Try to stop paying taxes sometime.

By the way, in most places the local cable provider has been handed a franchise by the local government. Clearly they (the government) was knowledgeable and able to specify a high performance product at a fair and reasonable price before awarding the franchise. Weren't they?

A fast lane by any other name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866953)

Is called a car pool lane. Sorry, making internet a public owned infrustructure will not help. Free market competition is always better than government regulation.

Figured Cyber-Marxism wasn't too far behind... (0)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | about 7 months ago | (#46866987)

Almost borrowed the words straight from the Communist Manifesto. Read it; it's free on Amazon Kindle. We haven't learned from almost every aspect of life that public utilities always under perform compared to privately-owned utilities dollar-for-dollar. Here we go again...

USA is an oligopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46866999)

The USA is not a democracy so don't think that this will ever happen.

Poor Analogies Lead to Poor Conclusions (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 7 months ago | (#46867009)

Comparing the internet to roads is a false analogy. A road takes up significant physical space, and has a significant impact on its surroundings. On the other hand, fiber and other internet infrastructure takes up negligible space, can be out of the way underground, on poles or wireless.

But most importantly, multiple internet "roads" can occupy the same space and terminate at the same places. If you must have an analogy, then imagine having five alternative roads from your driveway, though your neighborhood, on the highway, to your parking spot at work. This means that the internet is not a natural monopoly. The only reason it may become a monopoly is because of government intervention in the form of onerous regulations, permits and sundry protection of incumbents.

The task of government should be to do everything possible to facilitate competition, disruptive technologies and laugh when companies that are too big to fail, fail.

There And Back Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46867017)

Continuing the trend of evolving away from the medieval tradition of every strech of road or river, no matter how large, depending on the whims and ways of the local feudal lord - or robber baron.

The splintering of territory and states over generations meant that by the 1790s in the German-speaking Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe, there were approximately 1800 customs barriers. Even within the Prussian state itself there were at the beginning of the 19th century over 67 local customs and tariffs with as many customs borders. To travel from Königsberg in East Prussia to Cologne, for example, a shipment was inspected and taxed 18 times.[2] Each customs inspection at each border slowed the shipment's progress from source to destination and each assessment on the shipment reduced profit and increased the price of goods, dramatically stifling trade.

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zollverein
Self hating crony capitalists?

Public IXPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46867061)

Well, the only way to fix that is to have a LOT of public IXPs. Inside a public IXP, two things happen:

1. open, free peering (often multilateral using a shared VLAN)
2. transit contracts.

And you don't pay much to the IXP. Free (as in beer) IXPs will not give you any SLAs and are operated by not-for-profit organizations. Paid IXPs will give you great SLA, and absurtly good money for bandwidth ratios. Such as less than US$ 1k per 10Gbe. Trafic within the IXPs are *never* mettered.

But you will have to lay the dark fiber to the IXP.

Usually, you actually have distributed IXPs, that are interconnected, so that one lays fiber to the closest peering point of that IXP, and all traffic within the IXP (including the traffic across facilities) is not mettered.

The reasoning on public roads is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46867077)

Public roads are public roads because it is simply to much of an impediment to have toll-roads everywhere. Delaying the speed of travel and hindering trade that way. There was no practical means to meter road usage without putting up a toll booth and stopping all the traffic on a road. Therefore to speed travel the government at various levels took on care of the road network and removed tolls.

This is very different to simple metered services like internet data. Where the access and metering can be easily and centrally controlled and the customer only deals with it as a monthly bill. Therefore there is no increased impediment to internet usage apart from the actually cost.

Yes and yes but using a Toll Booth model (2)

fygment (444210) | about 7 months ago | (#46867093)

Look at our bridges and infrastructure ... potholes, rusting out, replaced/repaired on an irregular basis, usually years after they should have been EXCEPT toll brigdes and highways. Those keep up to snuff pretty well.

So yes make the internet public infrastructure with a toll on it's use. NOT taxes alone. That doesn't work (see above statement), but use a toll booth model where the funds go directly to maintain the specific infrastructure.

Note however that as a result, the infrastructure will NEVER be cutting edge. It will ALWAYS lag technology and if the wrong decisions are made, it may become too inflexible to adapt to future technologies (like our power grids).

Hmm .... doesn't sound so appealing does it?

Public owned cooperative (1)

wezelboy (521844) | about 7 months ago | (#46867101)

Government owned distribution has its drawbacks, but what about a public owned cooperative? It would operate like a corporation except that the shareholders are also the customers. There are two sticking points to this approach though- initial capitalization and competition. Startup costs for this kind of enterprise are not insignificant, and even if a cooperative could be established, existing providers would slash their fees (to the point of taking a loss) to insure that a cooperative would not gain market foothold.
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