A Progressive Broadband Agenda

Ev Ehrlich, a former  Clinton Administration Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs who frequently contributes to this blog, has outlined an Internet policy agenda for progressives in a paper sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute. The paper, titled “Shaping the Digital Age: A Progressive Broadband Agenda,” argues that progressives have a choice to make regarding broadband and Internet regulation. While the Clinton Administration’s Internet policy was focused on competition and innovation, in recent years there’s been a concerted effort by some who would lay claim to the progressive mantle to discard this essentially deregulatory approach in favor of a framework that pours Internet policy into the bottle made to contain the monopoly telephone network in the 1930s.

Arguments for “net neutrality” and “common carriage,” limits on spectrum transactions and mandated spectrum sharing are actually attempts to treat the broadband network infrastructure as if it were the same sort of seamless monopoly that telephone service was in the 30s. They can only succeed to the extent that their advocates can convince regulators that the old “stovepipe” systems that applied a unique set of rules on each communications technology from application to network still make sense. This is a hard case to make in today’s world, one in which Internet Protocol is the lingua franca of electronic communication and multiple applications run over multiple network technologies thanks to the integrating power of IP.

What’s at stake here is nothing less than the opportunity to innovate. Of course, clever entrepreneurs took the PSTN well beyond its original purpose by replacing telephone handsets with modems and implementing fax machines, auto-dialers, security alert systems, and transaction terminals in the 1970s and ’80s. But this kind of innovation hit a wall twenty years ago when the PSTN’s basic inability to deliver high bandwidth to dial-up modems became a limiting factor. We’re now facing constant increases in bandwidth, reductions in latency, and increased ubiquity in networks all over the world, and a corresponding explosion in applications that use the new capabilities.

While some argue that we can simply do away with regulation altogether and rely exclusively on market forces to drive network utility everywhere, Ehrlich maintains that a “middle way” between too much and too little regulation is the right path. That’s the line that ITIF takes as well, and it’s the only sensible approach to a vitally important technology that is the focus of substantial competition in nearly every market. In fact, the attempt to impose telephone-era regulations over competitive infrastructure is nothing more than a swing and a miss. There isn’t a monopoly deal for guaranteed profits in exchange for universal service any more, and there’s not going to be one in the future. We wouldn’t want that dynamic even if it were on the table since it would foreclose too many better alternatives.

Ehrlich is mainly an application-focused analyst, who quite correctly roots for more and better ways to use networks in the reasonable expectation that application requirements and appeal are the best ways to shape future networks. He calls this “cage-match competition” where the focus is to build the next platform that applications are written to; a platform these days is more likely to be something like Twitter or Facebook than a specific network.

The cage-match vision accomplishes something that’s pretty exceptional by making the middle of the policy spectrum exciting. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of people or three kinds of views about the future: in the middle, there is a relatively small group that wants to be told that things are going well when they are going well, and also wants to be told when things are not going well so that something can be done to turn them around. This group is flanked on the one side by the pollyannas who simply want to be told that everything is going to be fine regardless, and on the other by a group that’s firmly convinced that we’re all going to hell unless we change our ways.

The trouble with policy is that all the melodrama is on the extremes, and the boring middle tends to put people to sleep. Ehrlich enlivens the middle by drawing out the competition and the drama of real entrepreneurial life that takes place in platform competition.

Understanding his vision takes some work, however. It’s much easier to follow the Tim Wus, Susan Crawfords, and Harold Felds on the extreme left who are so over-concerned about the little things we lose when we improve our technologies that they end up retarding the pace of progress; it’s also easy to go with the free market libertarians and authoritarians on the right who insist that we lose nothing at all than to take the more sober and reasonable path down the middle.

In fact, there is very little about the dynamics of the network marketplace to distinguish it from any other market. Over time, fortunes will be won and lost as new products and services become dominant and old ones recede and die. Fax machines were a big deal in the ’80s and early ’90s, especially in Asia where non-Roman alphabets made the telex hard to use. Back in those days, I was an engineering VP at a fax modem company, but today I don’t even own a fax machine, fax modem, or any other kind of fax device. I have the constituent parts, however: a scanner, a laser printer, and a network connection, so I can do the things I used to do with a fax machine by scanning, printing, and emailing attachments. You probably do too. The fundamental platform for post-fax machine document scanning and transmission is Adobe’s PDF format, Acrobat reader, and PDF printer. We can enjoy all the advantages of paper documents with none of the disadvantages.

Yet the hard core network policy theorists on the left – especially Feld – are up in arms about the inability of Verizon’s Voice Link system to support obsolete fax machines across post-Sandy Fire Island. At a policy discussion of the IP transition at the Center for American Progress today, Feld bashed Voice Link for its inability to perfectly replace the legacy PSTN, ignoring its transitional nature. This is like a defense attorney trying to free his client from a murder rap on a technicality, a very poor way to make policy.

Contrast that backward-looking view with Ehrlich’s view of wireless technologies:

In fact, in direct contrast to the advocates who claim that only wireline will suffice for such future applications as telemedicine, remote education and training, job search, and the like, all of these could end up on mobile platforms in coming years, while the exceptionally high speeds only available through landlines could end up being a specialized, premium product. Wireless is already a growing medium for such tasks as watching video and doing homework. And as it grows in power and popularity, it would be irrational to believe that employers, retailers, schools, service providers, and other institutions won’t figure out how to configure their services so that they can be provided over wireless networks and devices. Thus, while activists claim that only a high-speed, wireline connection will suffice, consumers are moving in an entirely different direction, towards wireless.

Night and day, isn’t it?

The choice for progressives is between a vision of the Internet that sees it as simply a faster telephone network and one that sees it as the enabler of more rich set of networks and applications that are, in many cases, impossible to dream up on the old telephone network at any speed.

So the battle isn’t just about faster networks, it’s about more kinds of networks that let us do more things. Speed is simply a side-effect of building network to serve innovation. Check out the paper, it’s a good read.

  • Johnny Broadband

    Hey I can’t get the internet where I live other than dial up. I dont live in the boonies, there are 29 homes within 1 mile of mine. If broadband were regulated everybody would have an equal opportunity to participate in the digital age. It’s only a matter of time. Go ahead and keep blasting your propaganda. I hope the telcos are paying you well cause I honestly don’t know how you can sleep at night knowing that millions of Americans can’t get the internet for the sake of a few to be rich beyond imagination.,,,

    • Richard Bennett

      You can get satellite and LTE in most places. I’d be surprised if you can’t.

      • Johnny Broadband

        Wow for being such a renowned expert such as yourself you seem to pretty misinformed. Allow me to let you in on a little secret most of you city slickers are oblivious to. If you ever happen to venture outside the city limits LTE services become pretty spotty, and are even nonexistent in some cases such as mine, regardless of what a providers coverage map shows. And if it truly were available to me let us not forget I’d be slammed with exorbitant overage charges if I were to go over my limit set before me by the data lords of Verizon. Heaven forbid people receive to much information and education. But no Verizon Wireless is allowed to do this seeing as they’re in a deregulated market where as VERIZON isn’t allowed to cap how much data received via phone line since that is a regulated market. It’s no wonder they want to entirely abandon their landline services in Fire Island and eventually all of America. Why settle for one flat rate when you can nickel and dime people for each and every byte they consume?
        And do I really have to bore you with another satellite internet horror story? Of course satellite is available to me but I choose not use it. Do you use satellite? I didn’t think so. You’d be the only city dweller in America that does. Satellite is my one and only option besides dial up and they know it. So no they don’t offer it at a competitive price. And I thought an expert such as yourself would know that the tremendous latency that occurs due to the fact that the satellite is 40000 miles away in orbit renders it useless for modern day applications. If it were a practical way of accessing the Internet you wouldn’t be having this argument with millions of people now would you?

        • Richard Bennett

          My little brother dropped DSL for satellite recently, and he loves it. He lives in a rural state, Texas.

          And the satellites are 22,000 miles way. The first one – Telstar – was launched for Transatlantic voice.

          • Johnny Broadband

            “And the satellites are 22,000 miles away” Oh well excuse me, then in that case it’s a 44,000 mile round trip and not 40,000 meaning….. It hardly works! Thanks for arguing that satellite is further away than I thought.

            The argument of your brothers is entirely hearsay therefore making it invalid. Myself on the other hand has used four different satellite providers; Hughesnet, Exceed, Wild Blue, and Via-sat each one as useless as the last. You’re going to get 1200 milliseconds of latency at best on a good day. Good luck with YouTube, Skype, Hulu, or any other video service. In fact I’ve seen Facebook pages take a half-hour to load. First hand Richard, not my little brother. If its a cloudy or rainy day don’t even bother turning on your computer, because after all who really wants to surf the internet on a rainy day? If a bird flies by forget it… error 404.

            And Telstar did launch the first satellite. In 1962 and it’s no longer functional. Whats your point? That we should rely on this technology of the past for applications of the future?

          • Richard Bennett

            Both Wild Blue and Hughes upgraded their sats to 15 Mbps recently, and I’ve yet to hear a complaint about the upgrade.

            But there’s no denying that people in the boonies are never going to have broadband as good as the folks in San Francisco high rises get: 1 Gbps for $135/month. But you have low rent and fresh eggs, so there’s that.

  • marciamarciamarcia

    OMG, what hyperbole – “Knowing millions of Americans can’t get the internet for the sake of a few…” WHA?? Virtually anyone who wants broadband can get it, and at increasingly competitive prices. And, no, I don’t work for a telco. Europe is totally stagnating under hyper regulation, yet some people persist in wanting that here. Quick! let’s get in that race to mediocrity!

  • Johnny Broadband

    “Europe is completely stagnating under hyper regulation” Really?  Then why is it that we we look at Mr. Bennett’s famed Akamai report it has the Czech Republic ahead of the U.S.? this of course is cherry picked data used by Mr. Bennett to add to his propaganda. If we look at more concrete data from say netindex.com, a website that bases its results on actual user data across the globe, we would find the U.S. is currently 27th in download speeds, 42nd in upload speeds, 16th in quality, and 19th in price per megabit. But regardless of which data we choose to look at you have completely contradicted yourself in saying Europe is completely stagnant when every chart has members of the European Union beating us. And as far as “race for mediocrity” I don’t think you or Mr. Bennett could be anymore mediocre in you approval of Americas middle of the pack status.

    • Richard Bennett

      Some European countries are progressing, but as a whole US broadband speeds are higher. If you compare the Czech Republic to Vermont, a fair comparison, Vermont wins. Akamai says the US has the ninth fastest average broadband speed in the world, behind some boutique countries such as Hong Kong and Korea. No nation or region of America’s size has faster networks.


      • Johnny Broadband

        Sorry for what? You just agreed with me on the fact that the E.U. is in fact NOT “completely stagnating under hyper regulation” and some of it’s countries DO have faster networks than that of the entire U.S. Thank you.

        And then you whine that it’s not fair for us to compare the U.S. with other nations like Hong Kong because the U.S is much larger geographically. Instead we should just focus on one state, Vermont, the 43rd largest state in the nation because it’s network is fast…..hm can you say double standard?

        As a matter of fact I’m glad you brought up Vermont’s fast network because remember when you accused rural Americans as being “heavily dependent on the kindness of strangers.” Because some of its electrical and telephone services are subsidized? And that “There is a role for rural-focused businesses that depend at least in part on subsidies, but the programs that support these businesses need not represent the bulk of American broadband policy.” But that’s exactly what Vermont did. In 2009 Vermont ranked 45th in the nation for internet speeds and was falling. This was because “Vermont — like all rural states — has higher fixed costs of providing service,” Polly Brown, president of Verizon Vermont told the New York Times. So the American government had to step in and SUBSIDIZE 116 million dollars of the American Recovery and Reinvestment and USDA Rural Utility Service funds. If Vermonters hadn’t “relied on complete strangers” ,as you like to put it, for their broadband subsidies how else would they have jumped from 45th to 1st in the nation? It certainly wouldn’t of come from the friendly monopolies of Verizon and Comcast. Not when they’re publicly announcing that the higher fixed cost is more than they’re willing to spend.

        So now you’re going in circles Richard. On one hand you tell us that the bulk of American broadband policy need not be dependent on subsidies but when anyone points out how poor American broadband is worldwide because it’s been monopolized your defense is Vermont. A state that since 2009 when it relied on 116 million dollars in subsidies went from 45th to 1st. It makes me laugh how you can’t make two statements in a row without them conflicting with one another.

        • Richard Bennett

          Sorry, but you’re not understanding what I’ve written about broadband at all. I say that market competition is the most desirable way to ensure that supply keeps pace with demand, but it only works in the cities and the suburbs. I’ve always said that rural broadband needs subsidies.

          I’ve also said that it’s not fair to compare the US with Hong Kong as one is a large nation and the other is one of the most densely-populated cities on the planet. I think it’s fair to compare Vermont with the Czech Republic since they’re comparable in terms of density.

          Finally, I’ve never said that every single city and country in Europe is stagnating, I’ve said that Europe as a whole is stagnating compared to the US as a whole.

          I hope this clears things up.

          • Johnny Broadband

            I don’t think you’re understanding what you’re writing about. Not if you have to constantly backtrack and explain yourself.

          • Johnny Broadband

            No it doesn’t clear things up. Its kind of like a riddle at this point with no answer. Once again, you say “that market competition is the most desirable way to ensure that supply keeps pace with demand, but it only works in the cities and the suburbs.”
            But then you use all of Vermont (Which has cities and suburbs in case you were unaware) to compare to other nations even though Vermont’s success had nothing to do with market competition at all. The president of Verizon Vermont publicly announced it could NOT meet the demands of the state and the only reason why it’s faster than The Czech Republic now is because it had to be heavily subsidized with more than 116 million dollars.
            There has to be more to your argument than this Richard because this is way too easy.

          • Richard Bennett

            The nations with the highest broadband speeds have all achieved their speed by heavy subsidies. That’s how this game works on the wireline side. On the mobile side, it’s a whole different story, however.

            It’s not too complicated, if you care to understand it, you can.

  • Johnny Broadband

    Good. I’m glad to see you’ve changed your standpoint yet again from:

    “market competition is the most desirable way to ensure that supply keeps pace with demand”


    “The nations with the highest broadband speeds have all achieved their speed by heavy subsidies.”

    Completely night and day but I couldn’t agree with you anymore on your new found position. And I think we can both agree that the wired side is heavily subsidized because of its expensive fixed costs and high barriers to entry as is the case with all natural monopolies. And as FDR said “natural monopolies need to be either run directly by the government, or so heavily regulated that it amounts to the same thing. ”

    And let’s determine where exactly it is you stand on your wired broadband policies before we start formulating any new wireless broadband policies.

    • Richard Bennett

      No, that’s not a flip-flop. The subsidized networks are much faster than they need to be. There are better uses for tax dollars than arbitrarily fast networks that congest as soon as they leave the neighborhood.

      It’s misguided to base a national broadband strategy on bragging rights.

  • Johnny Broadband

    Yeah you’re right. Americans shouldn’t strive for the title of Worlds Fastest Network. That would be thinking too progressively.

    • Richard Bennett

      Contrary to popular belief, wasting money is not a progressive value.

  • Johnny Broadband

    Investing in basic infrastructure is a progressive value and it’s not “wasting money”. It’s actually a pretty common practice for developed nations to make public investments especially if private providers are openly stating that the higher fixed costs of providing the service is more than they’re willing to spend. It’s sort of like the rural electrification of America back in the 30’s. I know you view this kind of practice unfavorable, but that’s your opinion. Most people, conservatives and liberals alike, would agree that the availability of electricity to all Americans was a necessary achievement unless of course, you’re Amish.

    I’m surprised to find that an organization by the name of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is advocating we should refrain from investing in information technology. Contrary to the itif’s beliefs, innovation is actually about fostering the advancement of technology not keeping it the same. Maybe the ITIF ought to consider changing its name to the Information Technology and IDLENESS Foundation.

    You wrote an article titled A Progressive Broadband Agenda. Then argued that networks are becoming “arbitrarily too fast” and that investing in broadband was “wasting money”. What a paradox. That would be like a NASCAR driver complaining his car’s too fast.

  • Richard Bennett

    Neither ITIF nor I is opposed to subsidizing rural broadband, sorry to burst your bubble. The dispute would be what constitutes “basic infrastructure.” You don’t need a NASCAR-grade automobile to take your kids to school.

    There are many, many demands on the treasury that are more compelling than fiber to the farm: food security, health care, highways, education, etc. So we need to avoid over-spending in any one area.

  • Johnny Broadband

    The first messages were transmitted in the 1970’s using fiber optic cables. How many decades have to go by until you consider something “basic technology”? The first floppy disk was also invented in the 70’s. Do you consider this to be cutting edge technology that would be impractical for everyone to own?

    It’s 2013 and 19 million Americans still lack access to a fixed broadband connection. Even the FCC concluded that “Broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion.” Sorry Richard, but if the U.S. treasury has all these things like food security, health care, and education on its plate to worry about it’s just common sense to invest heavily in broadband. A farmer can use broadband to research and buy up-to-date farm equipment to increase food production; telemedicine can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities; people can receive a college education through online courses; and so on and so forth. These reasons and many more should be enough justification to reclassify internet access as an telecommunications service. This would not be a “socialist” approach. On the contrary it was Adam Smith-the father of modern economics and capitalism that said that the role of government is ” to provide public works, institutions or services which are too expensive for a single individual to undertake, but which would benefit greatly society as a whole.”

    The benefits broadband has to offer every citizen is far and wide and shouldn’t be reserved for those in the city, it’s not only unfair but as a whole the country will make improvements when we all can access this utility equally. And if we’re going to build something why not do it right the first time? Fiber optic data transmission surpasses that of any other technology right now, and in a world when technology is constantly improving why not be ahead of the curve for once? It’d be foolish to construct any other network besides fiber in areas where there are none.
    There is no job big or small do it righ or not at all.

    I’m pleased to see the government is providing fiber to unserved areas instead of some obsolete technology. It’s a step in the right direction, not a waste.

  • Richard Bennett

    Broadband is nice, and there are many good reasons to build broadband networks everywhere. But your fallacy is in the assumption that all terminal connections need to be made through fiber. Even in data centers, where speed is king, most 10 Gbps Ethernet connections are made over twisted pair copper wires because it’s easier to deal with and more tolerant to being unplugged and replugged. You can do perfectly fine shopping, video conferencing, and distance learning over a copper or wireless connection as well.

    The US is installing close to 20 million miles of fiber every year, so it’s not like network operators don’t know what it’s good for.

  • Johnny Broadband

    Cool story. I’m not quite sure how a those random, uncited statements relate to what we’re talking about,  but I’m beginning to realize your chronic logorrhea causes you to frequently go off on a tangent. Quit trying to distract. Never once did I describe a scenario in which all terminal connections are made via fiber. Those are your words not mine. Nor did I insinuate that network operators didn’t know what they were doing because they weren’t installing enough fiber, in fact it was you who stated there’s more important things than “fiber to the farm”. And we’re not talking about IT centers with wires that needs to be tolerant of being unplugged and plugged back in numerous times. Most people never change the location of where their broadband connection enters the home so it’s irrelevant.

    We’re talking about America’s wired broadband policy. Focus. 19 million Americans, and counting, still don’t have it. That’s a big deal when so many aspects of education, employment, ect. revolve around it’s use. Those that are fortunate enough to have access  typically have no more than two providers to choose from so forget “competitive” prices or service. The only competition that exists is that between customer and provider. Satellite doesn’t count. Telling somebody who doesn’t have broadband to get satellite is like telling somebody without a vehicle to get a horse and buggy. It’s not practical anymore. Thankfully the FCC realizes this in their considerations when will you?

    Why are there no choices? How come so many have been left out? Why are prices so high and quality so low? Because the American wired broadband market is monopolized of course, you know that. That’s because the FCC has it classified as a class one informational service and therefore is not subject to common carrier regulation. This is great news for the for the provider, not so much for the consumer since it creates a natural monopoly. And they’re making money hand over fist because of it. Comcast is wealthier than McDonalds and Home Depot. They have a 30 billion dollar free cash flow and they’re not going to build out to not-so-rural America. It will literally take an act of Congress before those people are brought into the 21st century. If I’m wrong why has the government had to chip in so much?

    This kind of practice has happened all throughout our history. Corporations will constantly pinch the most amount of pennies out of customers with the least amount of investment. It actually works out to everyones advantage in most markets, not here though. Nor did it work for telephone, railroads, and oil. And just as we look back on those markets today and wonder how and why we allowed things to get so bad we’ll wonder the same about broadband years from now. The answer to that question will be people like you Richard.

  • Richard Bennett

    According to the Pew Research Center for Internet and American Life, 95% of America’s young adults – people aged 18 to 30 – use broadband at home, and they don’t count satellite connections. It’s there if you want it.

    See this post for details: https://hightechforum.org/95-of-americas-young-adults-have-home-broadband/

  • Johnny Broadband

    So are 8-tracks, VHS tapes, and the typewriter, but I prefer not to utilize outdated technology. I’m sure you enjoy the nostalgic feeling you get from using old fashioned things, but not everyone wants to experience what it might have been like growing up in your generation. Some of is are looking ahead.

    And try to show a little class Richard, even Bill O’Reilly gives his guests the last word.

  • Richard Bennett

    So your claim is that LTE and smartphones are outdated technologies? That’s an interesting spin.

  • Johnny Broadband

    I was referring to satellite not LTE. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused you.

    • Richard Bennett

      That’s no better.

      • Johnny Broadband

        The FCC and Pew Research Center tends to think so.

        • Richard Bennett

          Not really. The FCC is still protecting satellite spectrum, even when users misbehave as John Deere and Trimble have done.

  • shielia

    You know Richard Bennett I have been reading this blog off and on now for awhile and it appears you know very little about rural communities and there people. I myself come from a small town where the farmers that you appear to have such little respect for are college graduates, have college educations and are not anywhere near as stupid as you seem to think they are. These farmers who provide you with well just about everything you need to eat are people to and it makes them no less worthy to having broadband. I mean your nonhumorous jokes just show how narrow minded you really are. There are school in these rural towns with children and young adults who want to achieve more but are at a disadvantage due to this. So Richard maybe you could put a little more thought into what you say about rural communities and the people that live in them there a lot smarter than you give them credit for.

    • Richard Bennett

      Thank you for stopping by. To clarify one thing, I think most people have average intelligence, regardless of where they live.

  • Johnny Broadband

    I don’t think Shielias assumption of your overall opinion towards people in the country was too far off. You’re not fooling anyone.

    Here are just a few instances where Richard has shared his views on rural Americans:

    “Rural folks pull water out of wells, buy natural gas from a truck, process their own sewage, and often deal with their own garbage. Their electric and telephone service is subsidized, and they expect that their broadband should be subsidized as well. They’re also quite fond of farm subsidies.”

     “Rural America prides itself on its self-reliance, but the rural lifestyle is heavily dependent on the kindness of strangers.”

    “most of the critical comments my column elicited were from folks out in the boondocks where speeds are low, reliability is poor, and prices are perceived to be high.”

    “There are many, many demands on the treasury that are more compelling than fiber to the farm.”

    “But there’s no denying that people in the boonies are never going to have broadband as good as the folks in San Francisco high rises get: 1 Gbps for $135/month. But you have low rent and fresh eggs, so there’s that.”

    And his latest. ” The FCC is still protecting satellite spectrum, even when users misbehave as John Deere and Trimble have done.”

    So you consider all people of average intelligence to be “heavily dependent on the kindness of strangers”? There is no sense in trying to backtrack now Richard, your condescending insults make it quite clear that you have very little respect for rural Americans, and I truly am sorry that you feel this way towards us.

    I’m also sorry for the 19 million Americans (that the FCC knows about) that don’t have broadband, and even for the ones that have access but are at the mercy of one provider. Broadband has become a public servant to the people and is a basic necessity for every American these days. It’s not a luxury; it is a public utility and every citizen deserves it equally regardless of population density.  Like Shielia said there are many children and adults that are put at an extreme disadvantage because they live in one of the Telco’s “unwanted” areas. Most of them are only a half hour outside the city and are by no means in the “boondocks” (even if they were they still deserve good broadband). The Telco’s are never going to expand into rural or not-so-rural America because they’re not going to make millions of dollars overnight and the people there will go on being left in the dark unless we reclassify internet as a telecommunications service just like the phones were. It’s just common sense.

    • Richard Bennett

      I’m quite astonished by the dishonesty of this comment, “Johnny Broadband”. The factual statements I’ve made about the subsidies for rural life don’t reflect poorly on the intelligence of those who receive the subsidies; to the contrary, they indicate a high degree of intelligence. Who’s smarter: the taxpayers who support the rural life or those who enjoy its benefits?

      It’s not correct to say that some large number of Americans can’t buy broadband at a fair price, of course. Broadband is universally available in the US, and those who see its benefits subscribe and those who don’t don’t. I’ve never maintained that rural subsidies should be ended, I simply question the value to the taxpayers of spending the incredible sum that it would take to provide gigabit to each farm, ranch, and mountain-top cabin.

      The National Broadband Plan estimated a price tag of $350B to connect the most remote two percent of America to the fastest and best broadband technology, and I don’t see a willingness on the part of city dwellers – many of whom are poor – to pony up that kind of cash.

      You can distort my analysis until you’re blue in the face, but you’re not going to change the public interest calculus by such means.

  • Johnny Broadband

    How can you accuse me of being dishonest when all I’ve done was quote your statements word for word? Now you’re excuse is  to say those comments compliment the intelligence of rural Americans because we’re cunning enough to rely on the support of the taxpayer? How kind of you.

    It IS correct to say that some large number of Americans can’t buy broadband at a fair price, of course. Broadband is unavailable to 19 million people in the US. And Contrary to the ITIF’s assertions, the many Americans that don’t subscribe to broadband aren’t unaware of it’s benefits, it is because many of them aren’t going to buy a polished turd.

    350 billion dollars was probably the highest possible projected estimate you could find. It would be petty of me to dispute an estimate, but what I can say is this: In the second round of the Connect America program 385 million was spent to reach over 600k unserved homes. So I think if you do the math at that rate, its only somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 billion. And again I just want to point out that I think your perception of these areas that are currently without broadband is disingenuous.

    I’m not trying to change my publics interest. They’re interested in getting modern day technology at a fair and reasonable cost. You’re the one being paid to try and convince them otherwise.

    • Richard Bennett

      Out-of-context quotation is considered dishonest. Similarly, it’s dishonest to say wireless broadband is not broadband, and to say that the average cost of broadband subsidized by Connect America is the average cost of wired broadband to all areas that only have wireless coverage today.

      So yes, you’re a dishonest commenter. As you seem dedicated to the endless repetition of misleading remarks, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

  • Johnny Broadband

    You are free to try and put your statements like, “Rural folks pull water out of wells, buy natural gas from a truck, process their own sewage, and often deal with their own garbage. Their electric and telephone service is subsidized, and they expect that their broadband should be subsidized as well. They’re also quite fond of farm subsidies.” into a context that’s not condescending if you wish. It would be entertaining to see you try.

    [Richard: You’re changing your story. Originally, you alleged I was saying rural people are stupid, and now you’ve changed that to my being condescending. In fact, neither is true and I’m simply pointing out the inconsistency in demanding equal infrastructure for broadband in rural areas when we don’t supply rural folk with equal infrastructure in other areas. Why is broadband more special that water?]

    I never said wireless is not broadband. I did however make comments that question its effectiveness outside the city limits, especially in rural areas. Also the fact that wireless providers set a limit that can be easily exceeded if it were a citizens’ only option, puts these people at a severe disadvantage. Wireless is nice to have when you want to check your emails on the go, not for someone’s one and only broadband access. This would explain why 83% of smartphone users also subscribe to wired broadband as well.

    [Richard: You followed the lead of those who refuse to count wireless broadband connections even when they offer superior speed to wired broadband. Carriers are building specialized wireless broadband networks in rural areas and other countries have incorporated fixed wireless as part of their national broadband plans; Australia for one.]

    I offered a comprehensive approach to try and calculate how much it might cost to provide broadband to every unserved American based on actual data from the past. You just went ahead and quoted the highest projection. The FCC estimated that the national broadband plan could cost somewhere BETWEEN 12 and 350 billion so it was misleading of you to simply say it’s going to cost 350B.

    [Richard: The National Broadband Plan correctly shows that service costs are a function of population density, distance from exchange points, and topography. It’s not revelation that it’s cheaper to connect a high rise than a farm to an exchange in the basement of the high rise. The Plan’s price variations depend in the percentage of residents to be connected by wire. Try not to waste time here.]

    It’s also dishonest for you to say that ALL these areas that the Connect America Funds would serve already have access to wireless. This is dishonest because the FCC has already concluded in its eighth broadband progress report that 19 million Americans still lack access to broadband at threshold speeds. Is the FCC being dishonest too?

    [Richard: The numbers in that report were already out of date when published, and are more out of date today. The true number of Americans with no access to broadband is 1 – 2%, or 3.5 – 7 million.]

    I find it amusing that you of all people can sit there and call me dishonest. You ought to take a good look in the mirror before you start accusing others of being misleading.

    [Richard: Silly personal attack.]

  • Johnny Broadband

    [Richard: The numbers in that report were already out of date when published, and are more out of date today. The true number of Americans with no access to broadband is 1 – 2%, or 3.5 – 7 million.]
    Johnny Broadband says: HAHAHA, oh my word, is that the best you could come up with? All measurable data is out of date when it’s published, that’s one of the concepts of time.
    So you’re saying that since the FCC released it’s report in August of this year, in three months time the private sector miraculously constructed a network that reached out to an additional 12 – 15.5 million people? Well hallelujah! At that rate every American from corner to corner ought to have broadband by the end of next week. I also find it interesting how you were able to discover such a substantial change in the FCCs’ original estimation of un-served Americans but still used the higher, original estimation of 350 billion they quoted the Connect America Fund would cost to reach the original 19 million people. After all this estimation would have been out of date when published too right? How come you were able to discover that the number of citizens without broadband has been substantially decreased by more than 50 percent but still chose to cite the highest estimated quote to reach the original 100 percent? Wouldn’t the cost also decrease proportionately with the number of homes that have recently got service? Surely if it costs 350 billion to service 19 million Americans it’s going to cost significantly less to reach 3.5 – 7 million.

    And I’m not even going to begin to dispute these magic 3.5 – 7 million numbers you just pulled out of thin air. I’m sure that there is some ill-conceived industry method used to come up with such a low number of un-served Americans. Oh well you have your sources (ATT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) and I have mine (the United States Government). After all they’re only estimates. I don’t care if you could point to propaganda that estimates that only 100 people across the country don’t have broadband at the home. If they’re willing to buy it at a fair and reasonable cost, and contribute to society, then they deserve it just as much as the next American.

    [Richard: You followed the lead of those who refuse to count wireless broadband connections even when they offer superior speed to wired broadband.]

    Johnny Broadband says: No I’ve followed no ones lead. I’m only speaking from personal experience. At my home, right now, I’m getting speedtest results of .92mbs down and .28mbs up on your so called “superior” technology. I wish I were spinning the facts or presenting the extremes as you so often do, but sadly these results are typical where I live. You’ll get the same results from any house in this neighborhood, and contrary to your portrayal of un-served America, my neighborhood doesn’t consist of a “farm, ranch, and mountain-top cabin.” There are 335 homes within 40 miles of each other to be exact, and most of them would like the same opportunities broadband offers you. So yes there is a demand, and no it is not being fulfilled by the private sector. Cable and DSL is unavailable here (regardless of what the National Broadband Map and State Broadband maps show). Wireless is barely better than dial-up, not to mention most average users would frequently exceed their data limit if it were their one and only internet connection. Sure it’s reliable and sometimes even faster in areas that get good service, but just like the wired providers, wireless providers only target areas with dense populations to get the biggest bang for their buck. So once again we find ourselves in a situation that would drive any city dweller mad.

    [Richard: I’m simply pointing out the inconsistency in demanding equal infrastructure for broadband in rural areas when we don’t supply rural folk with equal infrastructure in other areas. Why is broadband more special that water?]

    Johnny Broadband says: Wait a minute. So the reason we shouldn’t subsidize one infrastructure is because we don’t subsidize another? So while urban Americans go about their lives getting most utilities subsidized AND be provided with modern day broadband, rural folks don’t deserve to have their broadband subsidized because their water isn’t. Not only would this policy be extremely unfair, to compare broadband to water is one of the worst analogies I’ve heard anyone make. The water out of my well is perfectly fine, but no matter how deep I drill I’m never going to find quality broadband.

    [Richard: The National Broadband Plan correctly shows that service costs are a function of population density, distance from exchange points, and topography. It’s not revelation that it’s cheaper to connect a high rise than a farm to an exchange in the basement of the high rise. The Plan’s price variations depend in the percentage of residents to be connected by wire. Try not to waste time here.]

    Johnny Broadband says: It’s these kinds of statements, right here, that crack me up the most about you. You’re just throwing a whole bunch of words together that hardly address anything we’re talking about, and you try to make it sound sooo complicated. Yes Richard, we all know it’s cheaper to provide service to the cities than it is to places in the country (see it’s not that hard to say ;). That’s the whole problem. How does that have anything at all to do with your misleading remark that the CAF costs 350 billion? And that ending is simply hilarious. “Try not to waste time here.” Yeah as if we’re in some kind of race or something.

    [Richard: You’re changing your story. Originally, you alleged I was saying rural people are stupid, and now you’ve changed that to my being condescending.]

    Johnny Broadband says: When did I EVER allege you were saying rural people are stupid?

    Shielia alleged you were saying rural people are stupid. That’s why she said: “and [rural people] are not anywhere near as stupid as you seem to think they are.” I’ve always said you’re being condescending and have little respect for rural Americans. It’s right there in black and white.

  • Richard Bennett

    Why do you want to waste my time repeating the same tired old falsehoods, anonymous commenter? Your comments may be exciting to you, but to me they’re just nonsense.

    What exactly to you want from your government, free broadband to your rural dwelling? Good luck hoping for that, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    And BTW, I can tell by the IP addresses that you and “Sheilia” are the same person.

  • Johnny Broadband

    Don’t be ridiculous. I have no idea who Sheilia is nor have I EVER posted a comment under that name. You’re a liar. Why would I even do something like that? Just because you have to stoop to such low standards to try and get your point across doesn’t mean the rest of us do. What a despicable accusation. Go ahead and try to convince people of something I didn’t do with “IP addresses” only you can see. It doesn’t matter to me, for we both know the truth.
    And don’t think for one second that the time won’t come when you’ll have to atone for your dishonesty. Hells doors are always open to foolish souls like you that make this assumption.

  • Richard Bennett

    Your IP addresses bounce around a bit, but you’re both Verizon customers in Western Massachusetts and at least neighbors if not sock puppets.

    Thanks for you concern about my immortal soul. I’ve been looking at properties in Boulder County, Colorado recently, and I’ve found a number of homes where 100 Mbps broadband is available but natural gas, water and sewer service is not. In the overall scheme of things, I suppose that’s a compromise that many people are willing to make.

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