Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
blair levin, broadband, competition, fcc, larry downes

Companies:
google



Google Fiber's 'Failure' Succeeded In Shining A Light On Pathetic Broadband Competition

from the mission-not-accomplished dept

We've mentioned several times how Google Fiber's promise to revolutionize the broadband sector never really materialized. There's a long list of reasons for that, from incumbent ISPs suing to stop Google's access to utility poles, to Alphabet executives suddenly getting bored with the high cost and slow pace of deploying fiber and battling entrenched monopolies.

As it stands, Google Fiber's expansions are largely on pause as company executives figure out how much money they're willing to spend, what the wireless future looks like, and whether Alphabet really wants to participate. That said, while Google Fiber's actual footprint pales in comparison to the hype, the service was a success in that it generated a quality, nationwide conversation about the sorry state of U.S. broadband competition, and spurred some otherwise apathetic incumbent ISPs to actually up their game, as countless cities nationwide decried the terrible state of existing service.

That point was driven home this week in this piece by Blair Levin and Larry Downes. In it, the two quite correctly note that Google Fiber not only pushed incumbents to expand more fiber, but also resulted in incumbent ISPs offering dramatically lower rates in markets where Google Fiber was deployed. This is, as you may already know, how real competition is supposed to work:

"It stimulated the incumbents to accelerate their own infrastructure investments by several years. New applications and new industries emerged, including virtual reality and the Internet of Things, proving the viability of an “if you build it, they will come” strategy for gigabit services. And in the process, local governments were mobilized to rethink restrictive and inefficient approaches to overseeing network installations."

I wrote something very similar on this subject back in 2015, noting that Google Fiber (read: actual competition) did more for broadband in a short period than the FCC's 2010 "national broadband plan," a collection of politically-timid policy goals set forth by Obama's first FCC boss, Julius Genachowski. Like most of the things Genachowski did, the plan carefully avoided offending anyone, barely addressed the overall lack of competition in the market, and (as the FCC likes to do) set forth a number of policy "goals" that would have been met with our without the plan's guidance.

Levin, who played a starring role in crafting that plan, sent me numerous e-mails complaining about my original piece, yet several years later returns to make many of the same points. That said, Levin and Downes go on to notably oversell the lasting impact Google Fiber's effort is going to have on the (still quite broken) U.S. broadband market. There's an odd effort to suggest the broadband market has been permanently fixed by Google's now-shelved ambitions. Case in point:

"Though Google appears to have paused future deployments, the broadband business has permanently changed. Fiber investments by former telephone companies have accelerated or restarted. More advanced DSL using fiber-copper hybrid technology was rushed into operation, as were new fiber-to-the-home services from AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier. Cable companies once again upgraded their technology, accelerating deployment of gigabit-capable standards. New technologies — including low-orbit satellites and “fixed wireless” — were developed for remote and rural locations.

The two-tiered market of high-speed cable and lower-speed DSL broadband has given way to a free-for-all, forcing adoption of more disruptive strategies by incumbents and new entrants alike. The result is increased competition between providers and among cities and regions eager for game-changing private investment."

Reading that, you'd think it was mission accomplished. But Levin and Downes fail to even mention how incumbent ISPs continue to sue many cities that try to modernize their rules if they favor competition. They also ignore how many potential Google Fiber customers are immensely frustrated by delays, cancelled installations, and empty hype as Google Fiber figures out what it wants to do next. But most importantly, the piece ignores that despite Google Fiber, the broadband competition problem in the United States continues to get worse in many markets.

One, without Google Fiber or an equivalent prompting them to, most telcos have refused to upgrade aging DSL lines to fiber at any real scale. That has resulted in cable incumbents like Comcast securing a bigger monopoly than ever across a huge swath of the states, and numerous areas where fast broadband simply doesn't exist (especially if you're poor). And while Downes/Levin look to wireless to magically fix this mono/duopoly, companies like AT&T and Verizon still enjoy monopoly control over the backhaul fiber used to feed cellular towers (and everything ranging from ATMs to schools).

So yes, Google Fiber helped generate a conversation about broadband competition, and even helped address the problem in a few areas. But we've taken numerous steps back since Google Fiber's heyday. Especially given the Ajit Pai tactic of simply gutting most consumer protections and insisting that's going to somehow magically fix the problem of natural broadband monopolies (another issue the authors just kind of casually ignore as if it's not relevant to solving the current problem).

The broadband market is a complicated mess, and is going to require an ocean of creative solutions, from serious policy that encourages competition, to local public/private partnerships where local governments play a role in improving connectivity to lower ROI markets. Yes, Google Fiber highlighted the problem. But its solution was a temporary one, and most would-be competitors lack the resources allowing them to bang their heads against a regulatory captured, broken market. So yes, Google Fiber taught us some valuable lessons, but it's entirely unclear if those lessons have actually been learned.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    D Big Googly-Eyes, 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:40am

    In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

    "... on wireless service and fiber to the home":

    https://www.techdirt.com/blog/netneutrality/articles/20151001/06351732404/isp-announces- blocking-all-facebook-google-ads-until-companies-pay-troll-toll.shtml

    After I've asked several times, you HAVE NOT and CANNOT show me "billions", meaning at least two. That was all lies.

    NOW you're pretending you knew wasn't going well, saw all the problems (blame them on existing ISPs), and weren't BLATANTLY cheerleading for Google.

    And since apparently out of safe topics, you're back with another re-hash with focus on defending Google.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:48am

      Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

      Why do you care?

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        D Big Googly-Eyes, 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

        Why do you care?

        I'm for Truth and against corporations and globalism.

        Now YOU: WHY are you sniping at me to defend lying minion / shill and the mega-corporation that at least indirectly pays him? HMM? C'mon. I answered you "AC" who's probably a minion astro-turfing? Now YOU state something rather than just ad hom.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:24am

          Re: Re: Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

          ... and this (posting on TD) is the way you intend to make a difference with your attempts at remedying the world's problems?

          Presumptuous accusations are the norm with some posters here, are you one of those?

          I asked a simple question, why are you so defensive?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

          I answered you "AC"

          You do realize that unless you create an account and post using that, you're an "AC" too. You just changed the text that gets displayed.

          Hypocrite much?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      D Big Googly-Eyes, 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:50am

      Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

      Little tidbit: the "JohnFen" who comments on The Reg is with ME:

      JohnFen Re: Remove Google from the Net? **I am with everyone who considers Google to be a threat.**
      https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/3606091

      If same person, then the incessant Google promotion here would explain why "John Fenderson" eventually quit commenting here.

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

      • identicon
        Wilbert E. Clark III, 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:57am

        Re: Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

        I have no life and go around searching google (the irony) for every username and if there just so happens to be one alike across the interwebs BAM!!! There ya go. It's them.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:12am

        Re: Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

        Really, "random anonymous bloke who comments on a different website agrees with me therefore I'm right" is your standard for facts? No wonder you're always wrong, all you have to do is find someone equally wrong to fall back on when the facts don't agree!

        As for your original question, try this as an example:

        https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/26/ruth-porat-on-google-fiber-pause.html

        "Alphabet cut its Other Bets capital expenditures from $1.4 billion in 2016 to $507 million in 2017 because of a reduced investment in Fiber."

        In other words, the Fiber investment was likely around $1 billion in 2016 alone. There's not individual breakdowns for Fiber alone from what I can see, but there's no reason to believe that the original statement was wrong, no matter how much you wish it were.

        "If same person, then the incessant Google promotion here would explain why "John Fenderson" eventually quit commenting here."

        Please join them, so that people can discuss verifiable facts and documented reality instead of incessant whining from a liar and fantasist.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re: In 2015, you stated "Google, which is spending billions..."

        That windmill over there is looking at you in a very evil way.
        Just sayin'

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:06am

      "Google, which is spending billions..."

      This has actually been proven to be a true statement on multiple occasions. And also has no factual bearing on this article.
      You are, in fract, trolling a minor point from an article in 2015 to make an irrelevant point.
      Please, show us on the doll where Google touched you?

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

  • icon
    Zof (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:50am

    People forget

    People forget how Google basically was Elon Musk before Elon Musk. They used to do all kinds of awesome things. But then they started getting punished for their kindness and success. Now the establishment is attacking Elon. People don't keep doing nice things for you if you kick them in the teeth a few times.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:02am

      Re: People forget

      "Now the establishment is attacking Elon."

      I suppose that's partly true. But it's pretty clear that Musk is also attacking himself, working toward suicide-by-media through bad interviews and "pedo" attacks. He's not exactly coming across as a rational, thinking CEO whom I'd want to entrust with millions of my cash. (if I had that lol)

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

      • icon
        Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re: People forget

        In addition to tossing around weird accusations, engaging in union-busting, safety hazards and tweeting SEC violations (all things that are on him, not some conspiracy attacking him), many engineers have come forward to explain that his cars have a shitty fit because he ignored industry machining practices. Because he had a "better idea" that just didn't work.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 1:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: People forget

          Agree, he has shot himself in the foot on multiple occasions.

          That said, weird accusations and union-busting are not inherently wrong or illegal. Many would argue unions have their place, but not universally, and in some places do more harm than good.

          And despite accusations of his cars being crap, they are still popular.

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

          • icon
            Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 1:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: People forget

            Actually, weird accusations are also known as libel, and that is illegal. (And wrong.)
            As is firing someone for being pro-union. There are actual laws about that.
            So I'll stand by my claim and say inherently wrong and illegal.

            As for krap cars, they are popular. And he has made a great fight against car dealerships. But the flaws in his cars were caused by his ego and could have been avoided if he listened to people with actual experience making cars.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2018 @ 10:41am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: People forget

              No, there is nothing illegal about weird accusations. Accusations you know to be false, yes, absolutely.

              Not illegal:

              1. I accuse you of picking your nose and I honestly believe you do it because of xyz reason, but in reality you've never picked your nose in your life.

              2. I accuse you of picking your nose because you do and it's true.

              Illegal:

              1. I accuse you of picking your nose and I know for a fact you do not.

              2. I accuse you of picking your nose and I have no idea if you do or not, but I do it anyway because I want to cause trouble for you.

              As is firing someone for being pro-union.

              Yes, but it is not illegal to warn your employees that unionizing isn't beneficial to them, or warning them that unionizing would cause you to shut down your plant, or lay off workers because you can't afford it now that they've unionized.

              That has happened, not all the time, but occasionally. Unions come in, convince workers to unionize, then the company folds, or closes the plant because they can't afford the union dues or whatever other additional costs are levied on them by the union.

              It's not illegal to talk against unionization, and it's not even illegal to fire people because you can't afford to keep them on after unionization, it's only illegal to fire them in retaliation for unionizing.

              But the flaws in his cars were caused by his ego and could have been avoided if he listened to people with actual experience making cars.

              I guess I'll have to have evidence of this to agree. Not saying you're wrong but he has built a popular car and company, not to mention he also founded SpaceX, which is hugely successful. Granted they are two different technologies, and maybe he learned from the mistakes of Tesla and listened to his engineers who know how to build rockets but honestly, I find it unlikely that he would be able to have done all the things he's done, if he wasn't willing to listen to his engineers.

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

    • identicon
      alternatives(), 19 Sep 2018 @ 11:21am

      Re: People forget

      Your premise of Alphabet == Elon Musk isn't a good one.

      If you want to think corporations do things because of kindness or that corporations do things 'that are awesome' just because they are awesome you might not have the level of understanding of the system you think you have.

      Elon Musk understands to get a hunk of the resource pie 'outer space mining' will have you can't just do an IPO on such a topic. But if you have a way TO space along with an understanding of crushing rocks (boring co), how to provide motive power (electric motors + controls -> tesla) and the AI needed to run such devices (again tesla) you can get there from the here and now.

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

    • identicon
      i have no name, 24 Sep 2018 @ 10:49am

      Re: People forget

      Google was not doing anything "awesome." Fiber was subsidized. Google bought up existing fiber networks for a "nominal fee" (which means $1) or suckered municipalities to pay for construction, give free rights of way, pay for power, or all of them.

      Google's business plan is to do what is good for google. Getting government to pay so Google could get more customers who would buy more crap from Google is "awesome" as a business strategy (and the same one Musk employs), but it is far from "awesome" in terms of social benefits.

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

  • icon
    Zof (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:05am

    The Best Money Can Buy

    Warren Buffet buys a whole bunch of Apple Stock. Waits a day, tells the world to buy Apple Stock. Now, if you and I did that we'd go to jail. But you and I aren't Warren Buffet. So Buffet has his media empire trash Google and coddle Apple for months now, despite Apple's failure in the smartphone market, falling to third place. Better, Xiaomi and the BBK collective (OnePlus,Oppo,Vivo) are nipping at their heels. There's every indication Apple will fall to 5th or 6th by this time next year. And that's going to be glorious. You are going to see a tech media contort themselves into knots trying to pretend Apple is doing ok, and it doesn't matter. Like they are trying to pretend Apple shedding market share doesn't matter, or that they are trying to sell a 250 dollar phone for 750 dollars and it's not going well.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:15am

      Re: The Best Money Can Buy

      Warren Buffet buys a whole bunch of Apple Stock. Waits a day, tells the world to buy Apple Stock. Now, if you and I did that we'd go to jail.

      What? No, it's not remotely illegal to tell people you've bought or shorted a stock (unless you didn't) and they should too. Nor is it illegal to publish an opinion about any stock, unless you have inside information.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:24am

      Re: The Best Money Can Buy

      Given that warren buffet is not on the board of or employed by Apple, his statements do not represent a securities violation unless he has insider knowledge.

      You try to represent that Buffet was attempting to manipulate the value of the stock, an unethical move if not illegal, but don't highlight the key factor - if Buffet sold after the stock price jump from his statement.

      Without that, he bought apple and told people he believes in apple. Nothing to see here.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:52am

        Re: Re: The Best Money Can Buy

        You try to represent that Buffet was attempting to manipulate the value of the stock, an unethical move if not illegal, but don't highlight the key factor - if Buffet sold after the stock price jump from his statement.

        Even that wouldn't be a strong case. It's "pump and dump" if fraud is involved, but it could well be that Buffet buys at $210/share, tells people it's worth $230, and sells when it gets above that price. If that's an honest opinion about value there's nothing wrong with it.

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

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 11:06am

          Re: Re: Re: The Best Money Can Buy

          I agree. I just was noting that even by his standard, he failed to state the full case.

          It might still be considered unethical for him to make that statement with the intent of selling even if he believed it. But i agree its not illegal.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 11:45am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The Best Money Can Buy

            It might still be considered unethical for him to make that statement with the intent of selling even if he believed it.

            How would it be unethical? If he says "I believe it's worth $230", I'd infer an intent to sell once it's above that price. That's just common sense—why wouldn't you sell an overvalued asset you don't need? Likewise, I'd expect him to buy if it's $229 and he's got money he doesn't have a better use for.

            Limit orders are actually making the same statement. If you have level 2 stock quotes, you might log in right now and see the equivalent of "I'll sell 1000 shares of AAPL as soon as they're each worth $220" (they're near $218 now, and you'll see that people are buying at that price).

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:34am

    Correction

    with our without

    With or without? Makes more sense in the sentence.

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

  • identicon
    Jim, 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:50am

    Google, yeah!

    Personally, I like Google. I've had rr, att, and a private isp. Google works. My wife can stream, to the TV what she wants to watch, I use my tablet or laptop at the same time to watch what I want, or play online games. At the same time for the same price that I got that whirley on with the others. I get instant access to what I'm looking for, none of the delaysed dropouts, and when company comes over, I can pause and no delay restarts. I cannot do that when I travel, timeouts and delays are the norm here. Oh, and I'm on their business class service. I pay that extra, for bandwidth because I use it. And no one else comes close. For the same price. Right now, even with the upcoming 5g, that would bog me down. No comparison.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:51am

    The government NEEDS to step in. Because companies are unable/unwilling to do it, that is when the local/state/federal governments have to step in.

    I think Neil DeGrasse Tyson is right, Governments are the primary drivers of innovation and business. Followed by competition.

    Consider this, the EIC was not the first ones to reach the new world, largely because it wasn't discovered yet. The Portuguese crown had recently went around the tip of Africa to the east indies, so the Spanish crown went west. THEN the EIC came in.

    United Airlines didn't just spring out of the ground, The US Army needed a large plane to deliver bombs over Germany and Japan. So Boeing and other manufacturers supplied those planes. Then someone said, "Hey, instead of bombs, we can carry people!" and then the Modern Airline industry was born.

    The First Transcontinental Railroad was financed by State and Federal Subsidy bonds, Hell the B&O Railroad itself was financed by the State of Maryland.

    In 1936, the Congress endorsed Roosevelt's action by passing the Rural Electrification Act. At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places. -- Rural Electrification Act, Wikipedia

    Does THIS sound fucking familiar? WITH ELECTRICITY! Later it was amended to include TELEPHONE services. Yes, Local co-ops is what is needed, maybe some some state/federal programs to "strongly encourage" (read: severely punish if they take the money and run) ISP's to enter into these markets.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      This is a great idea in your rose coloured world. Reality is, the entrenched ISPs have made this illegal with their bought laws.

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

      • icon
        Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re: Laws

        So let's discuss the bad laws, and push for better ones.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:34am

          Re: Re: Re: Laws

          Won't work. And you don't know why or you would not have said that.

          Politicians bread and butter are about writing laws that look good on paper but screw the people instead.

          Go ahead, discuss as much as you want, it will just be noise in machine.

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

          • icon
            Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Laws

            Ah, good point - no more discussion of laws.

            Please back up your weak words with violent action immediately or admit you are a slave and a sheep.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Laws

              "Ah, good point - no more discussion of laws."

              That's right, you first need to solve the problem of the politicians taking advantage of your gross ignorance. Once that is done, THEN you can have effective discussions.

              "Please back up your weak words with violent action immediately or admit you are a slave and a sheep."

              Sheep? No. Slave? sure... just like you. Someone tells you what to do "or else", the question is "who" is doing that telling.

              The first sign of a sheep, someone who thinks they are or can be free and then starts talking about "laws".

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

              • icon
                Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:46am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Laws

                Yout empty SodCiv dogma is just hot air without action.

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

                • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 12:56pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Laws

                  lol thats funny, i am not a sovcit but you are dumber than one. I am okay with certain forms of government, just ones that focus more on liberty instead in the vein of America's founding fathers.

                  Regardless of what government model you want, you have to be truly stupid to think that discussing laws will have any meaningful impact while you do nothing about the corrupt people involved with the creation of those laws.

                  How does it feel to be dumber than a sovcit? Ignorance is truly bliss. Just do us all a favor and shut the fuck up when you get your comeuppance. Just keep spinning your wheels loser.

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 1:14pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Laws

                    Sorry Gary. This ones not a sovcit. Though he does have a strong hankering for paint chips. Which makes him forget things. So we have push his shit back in every time he hears the words regulation. Don’t worry all the lead has left him anemic and unable to do much more than flail about and toss grade school insults with his grade school logic.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:25am

      Re:

      I am not so sure that Governments are the primary drivers of innovation. They certainly contributed to the financing of innovative ideas that came from elsewhere, but that makes them abettor's, not drivers.

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

      • icon
        Ryunosuke (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:23am

        Re: Re:

        fair enough

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:07am

        Re: Re:

        Here's how I look at it:

        Private industry gave us AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy, and GEnie.

        DARPA gave us the Internet.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There is a certain amount of truth to that. It seems to me however that the Government funded DARPA, then got out of their way (though DARPA is still government). Then DARPA along with a bunch of universities created the Internet. I don't know enough about the actual goings on back then to know where the 'innovation' came from, but the inclusion of the universities makes stating that DARPA created the Internet all on its own...suspect.

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

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 11:45am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It's reductive, certainly.

            The TCP/IP stack originated with the government. Tomlinson's work on the e-mail stack was done at BBN -- which is a private company, but which was under contract to DARPA. Early significant developments occurred at UCLA (a public university) and Stanford (a private one).

            The Web was invented at CERN (an intergovernmental agency) and given to the public domain; HTTP development continued at MIT (a private university), and the graphical Web took off with the Mosaic browser, created at UIUC (a public university). The commercial web took off in the mid-1990s; the W3C was created in 1994, and it's fair to say that development of Internet technologies have been largely driven by commercial interests in the years since -- though certainly governments, universities, and private foundations continue to play a role.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 12:06am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "The Web was invented at CERN (an intergovernmental agency) and given to the public domain"

              ...and this is the real key. Had it been locked up under some proprietary licence, it would have been an extremely niche technology at best. It's the utterly free aspect of it that allowed it to thrive and change society.

              That's why I always mock those who use it to complain that government can't do any good or socialism is evil or other nonsense. Sadly, they're usually too stupid to understand the irony of their statements.

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

              • icon
                Thad (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 10:29am

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

                Right; that's really what I'm getting at. There were plenty of private, proprietary networks in the '80s and the '90s. They all eventually failed, because openness, interoperability, and standardization simply make for a better way to build a network. (Those things aren't necessarily synonymous with "government" or "academia", but you're a lot likelier to get them from government or academic projects than from for-profit corporations.)

                AOL still exists, in name, at least; it's a throwback punchline. The rest are all but forgotten. If I start talking about the old Prodigy days in most company, I have to start by explaining just what the fuck Prodigy was, because outside of places like Techdirt it's safe to assume that whoever I'm talking to has never heard of it.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 4:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Actually, regardless of the success of the Internet, TCP/IP was not the best choice for network stacks at the time.

            IMHO, the government backing of TCP/IP was actually a hindrance because it didn't allow competition to advance the better ones. Had we chosen something more like the OSI stack, we wouldn't be having these V4 vs V6 growing pains, we'd have better security at the network level, etc.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              TCP/IP has one huge advantage over the alternatives, it was open source, and anybody could implement it. No licenses to negotiate; and a means to have input on its development, via RFC's.

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

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:57am

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

                I came in to say something similar - a "better" solution may have incurred licencing costs, be controlled by a proprietary vendor, not have been compatible between vendors and various other things. It may have been the imperfections that in part drove it to become so popular to begin with.

                A good parallel in that regard would be the home video market - sure, Betamax was technically superior, but it was more expensive and locked to Sony, so VHS won out. Any "what ifs" regarding how much better things could have been if only people stuck with Betamax are irrelevant, and in fact the market would most likely have been much smaller had Sony remained the only game in town.

                Whatever their flaws, the free and open nature of the technologies involved in creating the internet are a primary reason why it exists in the form we know today. A "better" technology may have kept it as a niche academic medium, where its superior nature would be enjoyed by many less people.

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

                • identicon
                  i have no name, 24 Sep 2018 @ 11:14am

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

                  Beta's recording time and smaller cassette made it very difficult to increase length of magnetic tape.

                  Recording length was pretty important. Revisions to both formats focused on increasing recording time through long play and super long play mode (and whatever B2 and B3 called them).

                  No matter how much better Betamax was in other areas, it was not as convenient as VHS.

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

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 25 Sep 2018 @ 3:05am

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

                    You're missing the point.

                    "it was not as convenient as VHS"

                    ...because it was a proprietary format strictly owned and controlled by Sony, which meant that it was not only more expensive, but that companies could not make their own modifications.

                    "Recording length was pretty important"

                    In the US, non-NTSC regions didn't have the same battle based on run time as the US did as the different formats didn't make the difference so pronounced. Unless I'm mistaken, the markets elsewhere were somewhat more focussed on the rental market rather than the home recording aspect, making it a different set of problems.

                    The point is, while it's generally a more complicated story, the basic lesson of the era is that the technically superior format lost out to the one that was more open and not controlled by a monolithic gatekeeper.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There is a certain amount of truth to that. It seems to me however that the Government funded DARPA, then got out of their way (though DARPA is still government). Then DARPA along with a bunch of universities created the Internet. I don't know enough about the actual goings on back then to know where the 'innovation' came from, but the inclusion of the universities makes stating that DARPA created the Internet all on its own...suspect.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 11:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            AIUI, university researchers convinced DARPA that internetworking would help with their DARPA-funded research projects, so DARPA gave them money to set it up. The idea of internetworking wasn't even really innovation by then, it was just an idea that was "in the air" (as is often the case with ideas). The funding pushed it over the tipping point, then DARPA let it go.

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

    • icon
      NeghVar (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:29am

      Re:

      Government involvement is a double-edged sword. You can have laws that benefit the people such as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Or laws that benefit large corporations such as these state laws the ISP's are buying to prevent competition.

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

    • identicon
      Wilbert E. Clark III, 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:31am

      Re:

      Dont forget the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.

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

    • icon
      Ryunosuke (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:05am

      after digging around a bit...

      I found this -- This is a really good read on what is happening right now... 100 years ago... in regards to the topic in question.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:03pm

      Re:

      "I think Neil DeGrasse Tyson is right, Governments are the primary drivers of innovation and business. Followed by competition."

      That's a gross simplification and an immediate self-contradiction. Specific branches of government, such as the military, have bankrolled innovation specifically and literally due to competition - due to any and every other country competing to win the next war, dominate the next industry, control the next resource.

      Competition doesn't follow government in innovation. Competition is the reason for innovation.

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

      • icon
        Ryunosuke (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:32am

        Re: Re:

        nope, businesses don't like to do things that are largely unknown and could cost them a lot of money or their existence. Businesses like things safe.

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:18am

    “This is, as you may already know, how real competition is supposed to work:”

    And I wish it would work like that across all industries. The difference here is that Google had the resources necessary to fight against the incumbent ISP’s and force their hand. Entrepreneurial new comers in other industries that threaten the status quo may not have the resources to fight the baseless litigation of the big boys of that industry. Unfortunately, too often, instead of fighting in the marketplace, the incumbents launch baseless lawsuits knowing that the new comer cannot afford to defend themselves. And are thus forced to file bankruptcy.

    And the tactic is nothing new. In the History Channel mini-series “The Men Who Built America” There is a conversation between J. P. Morgan and George Westinghouse.
    Westinghouse owns the patents for AC current, courtesy of Nicola Tesla.

    J. P. Morgan: I here you won the Niagara contract. I taking you to court for patent infringement of AC current.
    George Westinghouse: Why spend millions of dollars on a case you know you will lose?
    J. P. Morgan: You don’t have the resources to defend yourself.
    George Westinghouse: What do you want?
    J. P. Morgan: You know the answer.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 8:22am

    Reality is, those laws can be challenged, repealed, or amended. Not easily, but there's been progress. Look at Colorado, where people have voted to overrule state restrictions on municipal broadband—consistently and thoroughly.

    Even Google were unwilling to do what Google promised, which was to build open-access fiber networks.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:13am

    Google?

    I wonder if Google could make a go of fiber now? Considering all the attention it's been getting for there data gathering and privacy concerns.

    You can clean everything Google off your devices and never use and block Google but if everything you do is going through Google as your ISP...?

    Not that your current ISP isn't harvesting all your info but they aren't being spotlighted like Google.

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

  • icon
    tom (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:40am

    I found it interesting that once Google announced that OKC was on the list to get Fiber, all of a sudden, both Cox and AT&T started pouring a lot of effort into upgrading service in OKC. When Google announced a halt in OKC, almost to the day, both AT&T and Cox radically slowed both upgrades and advertising. The Gigafiber coming soon signs in my neighborhood had just gone up when Google made the halt announcement. They quickly disappeared. AT&T fiber service wasn't made available until this year and started at 50Mb.

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

    • identicon
      Archillies, 19 Sep 2018 @ 10:53am

      Re: Pole access

      In that same vein, I find it funny that the FCC is addressing the pole access issue now that it is cities regulating against ATT and Verizon installing 5G antennas anywhere and everywhere they please. All of the sudden that "light touch" on poles is nice idea after all... <Grins>

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 11:34am

      Re:

      And even Google, though it had billions to invest, eventually bogged down because the cards are so highly stacked to disengage all competition. All the more life threatening it is to local businesses, which might also burn some tax payers money in the process. That happened a few times already here in Germany: a city, which wants to help its citizens to broadband, would do the sensible thing and deploy fiber. The project might be privately funded, but at least a portion would come from public means. As soon as the streets have the fiber in them and the surface is closed again, the incumbent ISP, Deutsche Telekom, barges in, rips up the street and puts their own fiber right next to the first. This is enabled by a law that's designed to spur competition. Usually it would be good, but in these cases it's competition against a public project, thus burning money. Luckily a law is underway that would prohibit this kind of behavior against publicly funded projects. The incumbent ISP btw usually has no plans to invest in these cities, before they try to help themselves.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re:

        "cards are so highly stacked to disengage all competition."

        This is what regulation causes. Why do you think Google, Microsoft, Apple, Elon, and several other high tech industries are calling for regulations on the tech sector.

        They saw what regulation did for the telco sector, it enshrined the monopolies and created the problem we have right now. there are few politicians and regulators to pay off than consumers.

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

        • icon
          Ryunosuke (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 2:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Wrong wrong wrong wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong. You're wrong, You're wrong, You're wrooooong.

          Regulation did not create the current isp monopoly problem (which you have just admitted IS a problem). It's that regulations did not go far enough to ensure proper competition of the Baby Bells when they broke up Ma Bell. That led to local monopolies rather than a national monopoly. Now these local monopolies consolidated into 3 major ISP's: Verizon, AT&T and Century Link.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 2:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          They saw what regulation did for the telco sector, it enshrined the monopolies

          Wrong, almost every country in the world regulates telcos as a natural monopoly, and most do a much better job at it than the US does. Until you understand why they are natural monopolies, you will not understand the why they need regulating.

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

  • identicon
    Wade, 23 Sep 2018 @ 11:00am

    Great look at fiber deployment via Google

    Karl, I saw some people didn't like the article, I thought it was well done, thanks for taking the time to point out how Google advanced the fiber deployments but didn't have the stomach to keep going. At least, that's how I read it. I appreciate the effort and time you put into this article and the original. I agree with you, by the way, Googe did more than the FCC did to accelerate deployments, yet the competition wore them down on the existing tules where they could. I think of Nashville, it was tough for Google and I think it was one of the last markets they did. They have the backing of the city, yet AT&T and Comcast were able to stop them cold. What a shame, but if they can legally block competition, then they will do it. Thank you for putting this out.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.