Congress Agrees To Make It Harder To Get Competitive High Speed Broadband

from the because-who-wants-that? dept

Earlier we wrote about Rep. Marsha Blackburn adding a terrible amendment to a House appropriations bill that would block the FCC from preempting anti-competitive bans on municipal broadband. Unfortunately, despite some noise about it, the amendment it was approved 223 - 200 in the House. While Blackburn (falsely) spun the bill about letting local governments make their own decisions, that's flat out wrong. As others have pointed out it's exactly the opposite. The FCC's plan would be about giving power back to local governments to allow them to make their own decisions about whether or not they wanted to offer municipal broadband.

What's really incredible here is that, as we noted this morning, one of the most successful muni-broadband projects in the country is in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- not far from Blackburn's district. Tennessee, however, has an anti-muni broadband law that is preventing Chattanooga from actually expanding its service and offering it to more people. The utility that runs the Chattanooga fiber project recently made it clear it would like to ask the FCC to preempt the law that's currently blocking it from expanding its service. So, Blackburn is directly telling people in Tennessee that they can't get faster, cheaper broadband, and that their local governments can't help, because of a lobbyist-fueled bill in the state capitol.

If I were a constituent of Blackburn's, I'd be pissed off that's she is fundamentally blocking a path to faster, cheaper broadband. Thankfully, her amendment would have to be matched in the Senate, and that seems unlikely. But it still should make Blackburn's constituents question whom she's really representing here. The people who elected her, or the big cable company lobbyists? Wait, you don't have to answer that, because David Sirota has the details.
Such an outcome would be a big win for the private telecom industry, which might explain Blackburn’s central role in the fight. According to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, two of Blackburn’s largest career donors are employees and PACs affiliated with AT&T ($66,750) and Comcast ($36,600). Those are two of EPB’s private-sector competitors in Chattanooga. Blackburn has also taken $56,000 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the lobby for the big telecoms.
So, that kind of answers that question, doesn't it?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 1:13am

    Is there nothing that can be done against purposely misleading people when a bill is being pushed through?
    Surely there's an expectation from the bill sponsor and in cases where they willfully mislead (read flat out lie) there should be some legal pushback to stop this crap.
    Try misrepresenting people as a citizen and see where it gets you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 1:18am

    So yet another "FREE MARKET" loving republican, making sure that there will be no competition in that market unless the players pay her more. She sold out her office for just under $160K.

    something something takes money from rich men to make them happy...
    (this is WAY tamer than the original way I went.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 1:19am

    Re:

    You kidding, if politicians weren't allowed to lie or mislead people, they'd never say anything at all.

    ... wait, you might be on to something here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 2:46am

    Re:

    Nah, Blackburn isn't free market - she's just free money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 2:47am

    Lying is only a crime if your under oath. Oh wait... I forgot about James Clapper. I guess it's alright to lie under oath too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 2:56am

    Re:

    It does let the local politicians make their choice, and that "local" was at the state level which said no. The house member isn't lying, but certainly isn't telling all of the truth, which is shameful.

    It is equally shameful that state legislators are passing laws which are purposely blocking competition in the market place. However, with the number of failed muni deals already, you have to wonder if it's the real direction to go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 2:56am

    Re:

    Well obviously you need to prepare the 'free market' beforehand, putting in place the right laws and regulations(while making sure to block the 'wrong' laws and regulations, those that are aimed at 'regulating the market for the protection of the public'), so that only the desired results can come about, doing it otherwise, and letting businesses live or die solely on whether or not they offer a service that people want and are willing to pay for, rather than based upon whether or not people have any other options, why, that would just be anarchy! /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 3:01am

    Re: Re:

    As opposed to the failed 'deals' the large companies make with states/towns, where they promise to do X in exchange for a monopoly on the service in that area, and/or cash/tax breaks, never fulfill those promises, and then keep the monopoly/cash/tax breaks anyway?

    Really, if they're passing laws/rules that are blocking competition, you can bet it has nothing to do with protecting the public, and everything to do with protecting the profits of the company involved.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    andypandy, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 3:01am

    Senate!!!

    And if the republicans get the Senate they will pass this as law.

    I pity those that understand these laws but there are just too many that believe the lies.

    Hopefully with the new groups fighting money in politics they will be able to encourage people to demand change like Obama promised.

     

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  10.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 3:44am

    Roll Call

    In case anyone's interested in the roll call, i.e. which representatives voted for or against the amendment, here it is.

    It turned out to be a party-line vote, with GOP reps voting for the amendment and Dem reps voting against it. The exceptions include Dems Barrow of Georgia and Matheson voting for it and GOPpers Boustany, Brooks of Alabama, and Fleischmann voting against it.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 3:57am

    Re: Senate!!!

    You mean the change he promised but only delivered for the worse when he actually did deliver any change? No thanks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    SolkeshNaranek (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 4:20am

    What the...?

    You folks are acting like she's the only bought off scum bag politician to back stab her constituents you've ever heard of.

    Reading back over political news article from the last hundred years or so, you will see she's "business as usual".

    The USA has the best corporate representation that money can buy... and it's all concentrated in D.C.

     

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  13.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 4:48am

    No surprises. Money is so entrenched into politics nowadays that this has become the standard. No wonder people are protesting and trying to get money out of politics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 5:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    THANK YOU.
    *as if* Big Media is serving our interests *now* and 'giving us what we want'...
    *snort*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hope this makes into the most insightful. It's amazing how full of bs he is. Acting as if the private option is much better...

    Here we got an awesome boost to our connections. After a new player came into the market offering insanely fast broadband for cheaper prices. The magically every other company started offering much faster options for lower prices. Go figure, competition.

     

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  16.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 5:40am

    Re:

    "Is there nothing that can be done against purposely misleading people when a bill is being pushed through? Surely there's an expectation from the bill sponsor and in cases where they willfully mislead (read flat out lie) there should be some legal pushback to stop this crap."

    It wouldn't be a problem if the politicos actually READ the bills they were signing, instead of listening to a description of the thing. Then again, the don't need to hear the description, either - they've already been tld how they're going to vote.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 5:54am

    Re:

    Nowadays?

    There was never a time it was not.

    The difference is us! We have capitulated and accepted this, not the pukes up in office. Back when we used to tar and feather their asses they just didn't LET the money influence them to the point of getting a little slice of mob justice pie served up cold!

    Look at it this way.
    All of the people that did not help when changing the country peacefully was possible, DESERVE to be ground up like meat when the natural cycle of rebellion against a repressive government descends upon our heads like a plaque! The true horror will only be the children that never had a chance to change their future that have to suffer through the most typical of human violence!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:04am

    The benefit of competition is obvious, but the same can be said of pushing back whenever the federal government attempts to encroach upon what has historically been a matter under state purview.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:26am

    Conservatives were calling to primary her years ago when she was supporting SOPA. They ought to go back to that plan and do just that now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:50am

    Re:

    This *EXACT* scenario is why this is successful: https://mayday.us/

    She received $160,000 to BLOCK or PREVENT improved Quality of Life in her area...for her people.

    Now, the next guy has to promise to NOT block improvements in Quality of Life her area. How much can that cost? $150,000? Less?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    The two biggest lies in US politics:
    1. The Republicans are against government power.
    2. The Democrats are against corporate power.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:58am

    The MayDay PAC is looking for particularly egregious money-in-politics representatives to take on this election cycle. Blackburn might be a good target, as she spuriously added an amendment that directly harmed her constituents to help a loathed corporate interest. She's in no way unique, but the corruption is obvious and extremely easy to convey.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:58am

    Almost as much of a cunt as Feinstein. Almost.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 7:14am

    Re: Washington

    Congressmembers also have to realize that Washington is a pit of snake-oil salesman. The onion describes Washington best here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 7:17am

    Is there a link?

    I'm curious to see the break down of the 223-200.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Re: Is there a link?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You guys are funny. I didn't suggest that the private option is "better" (didn't even mention it), rather that the current hodge podge attempts at muni deals seem to be on par with the Springfield Monorail. It seems to be mostly a way to seperate the towns from their money with the least actually accomplished and the most long term liability for the towns in question.

    The magically every other company started offering much faster options for lower prices. Go figure, competition.

    Yup, and competition tends to drive certain companies out of business because they end up selling below the costs that they can really maintain, and you end up back with a monopoly or near monopoly, and the prices rise up again.

    The real solution will come when everyone finally sits down and decides how to properly set up the last mile in a way that can be shared by dozens of different competitors in the phone, internet, and TV sectors, such that rather than having to build it out multiple times for each provider, that a unified solution can be found that also opens up the field for competition.

    One solution may be to allow the incumbent players to install fiber and define a method by which competitors can "hop on" the line. It could be using a common neighborhood head end area where all competitors would have equal access, as an example. It may be equally interesting for the state to finance such a build out as a public works project, retaining "ownership" with the state and selling access to anyone who wants to offer services.

    Private or public, the true solution would appear to be doing to work once and not having to do it for every player who wants to serve customers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 7:40am

    Re: Roll Call

    I forgot that Rogers of Alabama is a GOP representative who voted against this amendment. Oops.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 8:41am

    Thanks!

    sigh, figures it was along party lines. =/
    Fricken Repubs.

     

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  30.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I didn't suggest that the private option is "better" (didn't even mention it), rather that the current hodge podge attempts at muni deals seem to be on par with the Springfield Monorail.

    Fair enough. You are ignoring that there are also quite a few examples of municipal enterprises that did well. Your tonne suggests that public is bad and private is awesome and this is empirically false.

    Yup, and competition tends to drive certain companies out of business because they end up selling below the costs that they can really maintain, and you end up back with a monopoly or near monopoly, and the prices rise up again.

    And then other companies take advantage and offer sane prices that also allow investing in expansion and things get back to a competitive market. Unless there are artificial, Govt imposed monopolies at play.

    The real solution will come when everyone finally sits down and decides how to properly set up the last mile in a way that can be shared by dozens of different competitors in the phone, internet, and TV sectors, such that rather than having to build it out multiple times for each provider, that a unified solution can be found that also opens up the field for competition.

    Now you are talking. A Government provided structure and even the final service can help here. And can boost competition. If the ISPs didn't care about competing with crappy Govt services they wouldn't be lobbying hard against municipally powered broadband.

    I'd argue that if any company wants to add their own infra-structure in a determined area then simply go for it be it the municipality, the Federal Govt or Jesus Christ Himself. Just don't enact laws blocking it because some incumbents want. Which is the original point of the article.

     

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  31.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re:

    True enough. But many are simply being manipulated so there's that too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'd argue that if any company wants to add their own infra-structure in a determined area then simply go for it

    It would be nice if they did so, but in a sense they become part of the problem, which is money spent on a solution that would only apply for their customers, and would not foster more competition in the long run.

    The real problem is the last time. It is actually fairly easy to get the rights to run fiber on the poles in most places (or underground where permitted). It's expensive but doable to run a big fat (but really skinny) fiber to a neighborhood and get it within a few thousand feet of a bunch of households. But it's infinitely more complicated to actually get a single fiber into each of those houses, run back to wherever you have managed to set up your head end, and get them actually connected. It's expensive enough that you won't install fiber until a customer actually requests your service. Lacking enough potential customers, it's very hard to justify that big fat (but really skinny) fiber that you ran to bring network to the area.

    Chicken and the egg, right?

    So the solution lies in how you address the last mile. Paying incumbents to upgrade their network is a dead end play, because they don't share and won't share without laws being passed that force them to - and it will never work well. So you have to find a better solution, one that fosters competition on a meaningful level and done in a manner where you can get TV, internet, phone, and security services for any number of providers AT THE SAME TIME IF YOU WANT. That is not a solution that any incumbent will install, it's against their nature.

    As for not mentioning successful muni fiber programs, it's mostly because there are very few. It appears one of the oldest and most successful is the BVU optinet thing in Virginia, but when they want $300 plus a month for residential gigabit service, I sort of shake my head. Their system is also closed loop "you gotta buy service from us" with no provision for competition, which makes them into another monopoly service, which is what nobody wants to see.

    It shows perhaps that there is a very big need to separate the final mile from the service providers. Build it and lease it to them, heck, make it mandatory for them to use it (eliminating more overhead wiring and maintenance). Win Win for everyone, no?

     

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  33.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    The way it works.

     

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  34.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Everything you said about the difficulty of installing fiber still doesn't justify laws preventing municipal broadband. I'm not sure how it's gonna play out but the largest infra-structure holder here in Brazil is Telebrás. The Government came up with a plan to let private entities use that structure to offer broadband at popular prices. At the moment the popular prices go at $20 for 10mbit. That extra infra-structure will not prevent bad customer practices in regions where only one company provides broadband (read: almost everywhere outside of metropolitan regions). In any case the Govt stepping in did greatly decrease the price (I used to pay $80 for 10mbit 2 years ago now I'm at $40 for 50mbit for example). Even if it didn't solve the quality problem. So maybe there are other measures that could be adopted to further increase the quality but I'm not entirely sure how broadband works here or even if it is a concession like telephony.

    successful is the BVU optinet thing in Virginia, but when they want $300 plus a month for residential gigabit service

    Aha, Gigabit is still high end man you need to compare apples with apples so we need to go for the average speed. A Gigabit connection here costs $1500 to install plus $700 per month.

    It shows perhaps that there is a very big need to separate the final mile from the service providers. Build it and lease it to them, heck, make it mandatory for them to use it (eliminating more overhead wiring and maintenance). Win Win for everyone, no?

    I'd go further, I'd offer that and let the ISPs build their own infra-structure if they want. Including municipalities.

    Again, this does not justify laws against municipal broadband.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The real problem is the last time. It is actually fairly easy to get the rights to run fiber on the poles in most places (or underground where permitted). It's expensive but doable to run a big fat (but really skinny) fiber to a neighborhood and get it within a few thousand feet of a bunch of households. But it's infinitely more complicated to actually get a single fiber into each of those houses, run back to wherever you have managed to set up your head end, and get them actually connected.

    The final connections are so complicated and expensive, especially if he underground option is taken, that a rural community can do it for themselves. Having negotiated the rights of way for over 150 miles of fibre, and learnt all the skills needed to install it.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:12pm

    They elected her, and will probably re-elect her. They deserve highly priced low bandwidth internet service.

     

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  37.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A Gigabit connection here costs $1500 to install plus $700 per month.

    yeah, well... my gigbit costs (calculator out) about $30. Different world, I guess. Your gig is expensive because it's a one off installation, reflecting the true costs of stringing a fiber over a distance to get to you, because they generally aren't in your neighborhood. I was very surprised when I saw a few years ago that outside of FTTN type services, many ISPs were only running 100 meg to their neighborhood head ends. Piss poor planning for sure!

    Everything you said about the difficulty of installing fiber still doesn't justify laws preventing municipal broadband.

    I agree - but at the same time, since many of the muni fiber things have turned into either abject failures or monopoly situations, it may not be to anyone benefit to move forward with a hodge podge approach. Just banning it is silly, framing it with a set of parameters and operating process would be better.

     

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  38.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Rural is the easiest by far. The distances are big, but since fiber is pretty good over medium distances, it's not hard to install when the only thing you are disturbing generally is a bit of cow poop and dirt.

    At the other end, cities with underground infrastructure are also easier in a sense, because you have access to the buildings usually already created and going to a central passage or pipe.

    The real hard one, and the one that most ISPs face is the 'burbs. Private land, hundreds and thousands of individuals land owners, air rights, ground rights, criss crossing gas lines, phone lines, and so on - and most houses don't have ready access to get another cable inside. So each installation is work, trenching the back yard, drilling access into the house, suitably locating the client side end, etc. Those are the painful, labor and contract agreement intensive deals that are hard to do. Oh, and you have to negotiate with each land owner (plus whoever manages common area land or air rights in the area).

    The program you cite (farm rural) is easier and more expensive per hookup, but probably many more times rewarding, considering these people likely had piss poor service before that. Even then, it's sort of a fail because it's "our internet only", another monopoly.

     

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  39.  
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    nasch (profile), Jul 20th, 2014 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The real solution will come when everyone finally sits down and decides how to properly set up the last mile in a way that can be shared by dozens of different competitors in the phone, internet, and TV sectors, such that rather than having to build it out multiple times for each provider, that a unified solution can be found that also opens up the field for competition.


    It's nice when you discuss things not directly mentioned in the article. Then rather than having to come up with a way to disagree, you can just say something reasonable, like the above. I think you should strictly stick to tangents in the future so you can make high quality comments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    nasch (profile), Jul 20th, 2014 @ 8:22am

    Re: What the...?

    You folks are acting like she's the only bought off scum bag politician to back stab her constituents you've ever heard of.

    Who is making any such implication?

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Perry Berens, Mar 10th, 2015 @ 9:14pm

    why not implement and modify rules on rural co op electric to internet

    Being a member of a rural electric company. The rules in the beginning to supply power to customers meant the government supplied start up cash. To a company. A company that once profitable had to pay back the government and pay customers dividends above operating expenses. That was the taxpayers reward for having the government loan money to electrify rural areas. It would seem the internet would fall under the same national interest of; " everyone should have internet access". I feel the government should declare the internet a utility. Non profit and pay dividends to customers on line once profit in any area becomes a reality, in that area. If that makes sense. I miss my annual rural electric profit check. It wasn't much. But we had a board we as customers could vote in or out if we suspected malfeasance of fiduciary responsibilities by locally elected boards across our nation. Autonomy. We need that and utility.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 11th, 2015 @ 7:16am

    Re: why not implement and modify rules on rural co op electric to internet

    It would seem the internet would fall under the same national interest of; " everyone should have internet access".

    There were similar programs for broadband, but the big ISPs took the billions of dollars and mostly didn't invest it in infrastructure. Then the legislatures and regulators didn't do anything about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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