Monday, April 21, 2014

Seattle Times Newspaper: Portland’s foray into getting Google Fiber problematic

I think the Seattle Times' article points out how universal service for broadband internet in not something private companies are interested in actually delivering. "Cherry picking" the best neighborhoods in Kansas City is a good example.

The article is intended to motivate Seattle to observe and learn from Google's demands in Portland, and the actual delivery in Kansas City, but the article may have fallen short.
The article probably should have come right out and mentioned municipal broadband as an alternative. A public utility would be compelled by the citizenry to avoid the errors other cities make in dealings with large corporations. 

Corporations are not automatically required to provide universal service. Those that have not will continue to get less, and where Google, Comcast, and CenturyLink have contracts with cities to provide service they have fallen short.

(Here is an excerpt.)

Portland's being a pushover to snag Google Fiber | Seattle Times Newspaper

If there really is a crisis, and broadband has become a critical service on par with water and electricity, cities should consider providing the service directly as a public utility.

Perhaps it's also time for the federal government to classify broadband as an essential public service that must be available to everyone.

After phone lines were deemed an essential service, the government required companies to provide "universal service" so everyone was served.

Broadband was exempted from universal service requirements, support for which has eroded since telecom deregulation took hold in 1996.

With telecom companies in the driver's seat, and elected officials begging them for a ride, universal service seems off the table. It's treated as a dusty, antiquated concept that will impede progress and the arrival of sexy new products like Google Fiber.

Google Fiber is appealing and has plenty of cheerleaders on social media and at City Hall.

Yet Google is a mixed blessing. The majority of residents in any city would probably rather get broadband service from a public utility that's accountable to them, instead of from a fairly opaque company that makes its money delivering hypertargeted advertising.

Privacy concerns are offset by the prospect of a wealthy company stepping in to help address a complicated infrastructure challenge. Still it's a business, not a gift, and city officials should push to make sure all of their residents benefit from the deals they make.

That's not going to happen in Portland, apparently. As it has in other cities, Google is retaining the right to pick and choose which neighborhoods get wired and which are left behind.

This is couched in clever, Google-y terms — the service is coming first to "fiberhoods" that express interest in the service.

But the effect is to pit neighborhoods against each other and enable the company to cherry-pick lucrative pockets of a city where people are willing to pay $70 a month or more for broadband.

This approach is also tilted in favor of residents and neighborhoods that are already the most tech savvy. They'll get service first — and perhaps exclusively — because they can best use the Internet to call attention to themselves.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Does Rodney Tom eat kittens?

I'm just asking the tough questions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vox | Why the government should provide internet access

You should read the entire article.

Susan: What happens is that we deregulated this entire sector about 10 years ago and the cable guys already had exclusive franchises across across the country. They were able to very inexpensively upgrade those to pretty high-speed internet access connections. Meanwhile the telephone companies have totally withdrawn. They have copper line in the ground and it's expensive for them to build and replace it with fiber. Because of both deregulation and sweeping consolidation in the cable industry we've ended up on this plateau where for about 80% of Americans their only choice for a high-capacity internet access connection is their local cable monopoly.

Ezra: What do you think is the political circumstance under which a project of the size you're talking about could happen? Historically, what have been the forcing mechanisms that have made it possible to make these tremendous investments and changes in the way we deliver fundamental infrastructure?

Susan: This is fundamentally a question of leadership. Without Eisenhower, the federal highway system wouldn't have happened. In the absence of Roosevelt — who really took on the electrification special interests and decided that he was going to fix this situation — it wouldn't have happened. The first step is actually leadership and someone who understands this issue and understands that we're falling further and further behind and is concerned about our future as a nation. This requires long-term thinking.

These infrastructure issues are not partisan by nature. The free market only functions if it has these level playing field inputs that are in place like electricity, communication services and roads. It isn't at all unusual for the state to get involved in these kinds of things. You add together leadership plus great unhappiness on the part of the American people plus some ability to tell the story plainly so people understand and they're not confused and I think in time you'll see quite a movement towards mass fiberization of the United States.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker
Seattle, Wa

My only concern now is that people will dream too small.

Sent from me to you.