Legislation 2.0: Getting our discussion underway

by: Dick Durbin

Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 14:25


(We will be blogging on this subject for the rest of the day - promoted by Chris Bowers)


Hello, I'm Senator Dick Durbin. I'm looking forward to our first discussion, in this four-day process, about what should be included in America's national broadband strategy. 

My hope is that over these four days, I will receive comments and suggestions that will help me draft legislation that will make the United States more competitive in terms of broadband access.  Following this process, I will draft legislative language, which will be posted online, for all to view and comment on prior to its introduction.  To my knowledge, this method of drafting legislation - soliciting public comment, translating it into legislative language, and requesting comments prior to introduction - has never been attempted at the federal level.

Dick Durbin :: Legislation 2.0: Getting our discussion underway
I think this is a unique experiment in transparent government and an opportunity to demonstrate the democratic power of the internet.  If we're successful, it could become a model for the way legislation on health care, foreign policy, and education is drafted in the future.

There are several reasons why I chose America's broadband strategy as the ideal issue for this process.  First of all, those who are active on the issue of broadband policy and have the knowledge and experience to help me draft this legislation tend to leverage the power of the internet for advocacy efforts.  This is the perfect forum for this issue.

I think this is one of the most important public policy questions we face today.  Over the last year, I've held regional broadband summits in Southern and Central Illinois that assembled various leaders in health, education, government, and business to discuss the importance of broadband access. At each summit I heard the following: This issue is not about luxury, but about having the tools necessity to compete in the 21st Century.

Businesses, hospitals, schools, and even communities, regions, and states are better able to compete if they have access to or can offer broadband service.  A 2006 report by the Department of Commerce shows that broadband access enhances the economic growth and performance of communities.  Broadband communities significantly outgrow non-broadband communities in terms of employment, the number of businesses overall, businesses in IT-intensive sectors, and property values. Various other case studies comparing similar communities with and without broadband access confirm these results. 

This makes sense. The economic viability of communities is often directly related to that community's public infrastructure.  Good schools, adequate roads and transportation, access to affordable health care, and quality of life factors play a role in whether communities will attract new businesses and residents.  Like traditional utility services, broadband is a key part of this infrastructure.

However, I'm concerned that the United States is falling behind our peers in terms of our per capita access to high speed internet access.  One report showed the United States falling from 4th in the world in broadband access per capita in 2001 to 12th in the world in 2006.  The International Telecommunications Union listed the U.S. as 16th worldwide in terms of its broadband penetration rate, behind South Korea, Belgium, Israel, and Switzerland, among others. We can do better.

In today's highly competitive international markets, our children, businesses, and communities are competing with their peers around the world for jobs, market share, and business attraction.  We are falling behind in an area in which we should have a natural advantage.  Lagging behind in broadband means our children are less able to access the full set of tools and resources available online and communities are less able to attract businesses or high quality employees considering relocating.

It is especially troubling that many families living in rural parts of the United States still do not have access to high speed internet service.  The digital divide is real. Rural broadband deployment continues to lag behind urban deployment, even as overall broadband usage has grown significantly in our nation.

According to a 2004 report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, only about 25% of rural households that use the Internet have broadband access, compared to over 40% of the same households in urban areas.  The USDA's 2005 report found that farm households have home access to broadband at almost half the level of all U.S. households.  The Pew Internet and American Life Project found similar results; only 18% of rural adults reported a home broadband connection, compared to 31% of urban adults.

All these studies point to a consistent conclusion:  Americans living in urban areas are almost twice as likely to have home broadband access as do their rural counterparts. And the main obstacle for rural broadband adoption is the availability and price of broadband service in these regions.  Even when broadband service is available in rural areas, frequently this service is considerably more expensive and of lower quality than broadband offered in more populated areas. 

We need to make broadband access a national priority. Many of you probably recall that in early 2004, President Bush called for universal and affordable access to broadband by the year 2007. Unfortunately, that goal is not even close to being met.

I think this issue is important enough to demand that we have a concerted federal strategy.  Among the questions we'll discuss over the next four nights are what are the right mix of incentives to build broadband infrastructure, how should we manage public resources like spectrum, what is the role of community and regional broadband projects, do we need a Federal Highway System or Rural Electrification Act for broadband, and what policies are necessary to ensure open debate and innovation.

My core principles at the start are that:

  • Broadband must be universal and affordable;
  • We must preserve an online environment for innovation; and
  • We must ensure that this technology allows more voices to be heard.

Over the next few nights, I've enlisted a number of experts in their field to get discussion started but I'm most interested in hearing from you. 

As I said at the outset, this is an experiment. Drafting a bill like this has never been done before.  Some people think it won't work.  I have a feeling we'll prove them wrong.


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Wireless phones (4.00 / 1)
Senator,

I'm primarily concerned with the contracts wireless carriers force consumers to join in order to access their service. I am locked into a two-year commitment that would cost me $250 to get out of while my cable and internet bill is month-to-month and I can change to a satellite service at anytime and pay no penalties. How can we level the playing field?


IMT-2000 stds (0.00 / 0)
are generally not being quickly deployed in the US and this is one of the major reasons.  The US carriers have a terrible business model and pricing methodology and we need something more along the lines of what is in the EU and Japan.

US carriers will fight with every corporate lobbyist army they can get I'm sure having the US government in this space but wireless networks are the future and hence a major communication network and access needs to be examined.

NoSlaves.com  


The Economic Populist


[ Parent ]
But satellite does have contracts (0.00 / 0)
So, if you try to terminate that contract, you'll be looking at a penalty $150 or so. I know this isn't totally relevant, but what needs to happen with cable is unbundling. I should be able to pay $1.50/month for each of the 10 channels on cable, and a nominal service fee for the broadcast channels. Why do I have to pay for Nickelodeon, the Golf Channel, and the Soap Channel, when all I really want to watch are ESPN, ESPN2,..., and CSPAN?

As for wireless phones, it is clear that is past time to require common carrier on wireless service, just like we did for local and long-distance, and hopefully what will happen with the net.  Why can't we just let the competition blossom, instead of stacking the deck for the current carriers?

Calitics.com: The progressive community blog for California.


[ Parent ]
and it is going to get worse with consolidation (0.00 / 0)
Everytime I hear, "Cingular is now AT&T" I cringe.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

[ Parent ]
Free national wireless, please (0.00 / 0)
Senator,
In the 1950s and 60s, the federal government built a comprehensive network of interstate highways that drove the post-war boom. All Americans have free access to those highways, and they form an integral part of our lives. It's time to do the same with wireless internet access.

I'm not familiar with the financial or technical hurdles, but I imagine they can't be bigger than building actual highways across the country.

Obviously, there are political hurdles to overcome: There wasn't a massively powerful private-toll roads lobby to block the creation of the national highways like there is a telecom lobby to block universal free wireless access. But you're asking for our suggestions -- and it's very possible that free internet access for everyone would be a  hugely popular and politically winning initiative.

And in my view, little would do more to drive innovation, commerce, access to knowledge, and civic participation in our country over the next century then a powerful wireless system that is accessible by anyone for free.


I agree, we need to think big (0.00 / 0)
We don't need infrastructure that is better than what we had a decade ago, we need infrastructure capable of providing Americans maximum ability in the decades to come.

In San Francisco, I've had a front-row seat to see what NOT to do and you are correct that the "toll road" lobby is main barrier right now.

However, I think that there is an important role for the private sector, but not in an ownership capacity. Public ownership with private (contracted) implementation would provide a smart solution and effective vehicle. But there needs to be a sense of urgency and pushed correctly I have no doubt the private sector would step up much like they did in WWII.

On twitter: @BobBrigham


[ Parent ]
Legislative clarity on public/municipal broadband (4.00 / 1)
The large providers have been very active in the state legislatures in an effort to make it difficult for municipalities to roll out broadband for their citizens as a public project.  In some places they have sought to make it illegal for government to do this at all, in others they've succeeded in setting the rules such that a local government must first let the private sector give it a go... even if going public is really in the communities best interest.

So, if you're a mayor or a city council member and you would like to try municipal broadband... you can't turn to a ready pool of experts who have experience doing it a million times because every place is different.  You always have to start from scratch.

It would be nice to consolidate those regulations at the federal level.  For one, we can make sure that municipalities are are on certain legal ground regarding their options.  And also, the body of knowledge and expertise may be able to realize an economy of scale.


[ Parent ]
It'll cost a lot less than Iraq (4.00 / 1)
The cost to deploy fiber to most homes in the nation would likely be $1k-$2k per home, depending on how and where you do it. Assuming roughly 125 million households in the country, that's $125-$250 billion to extend fiber's virtually unlimited capacity to virtually every home in the country. 

To achieve this with wireless (e.g., using the 700 MHz and "white space" spectrum I discuss in a comment below), would be a lot less expensive, maybe $200 per home passed, or roughly $25 billion. This could be done along with the fiber deployment, to add a wireless overlay that would support mobility and outdoor use.

So, for $150-$275 billion, we could build ourselves a universal future-proof 21st century equivalent of the "post office and post roads" cited in the Constitution as fiscal responsibilities of Congress, and of the 20th century road network that supported massive industrial growth (but also massive pollution) in the 20th century. 

And because a ubiquitous high capacity network could help reduce automobile and air travel, it would help reduce pollution, global warming, the high cost of road improvements, and the expense, wasted time and aggravation associated with traffic congestion.  It could also provide a universal, high capacity communication infrastructure to support innovative solutions to our nation's healthcare crisis, as well as a healthy "democratizing" counterbalance to some of the unhealthy distortions that have festered within our nation's political and mass media sectors.

This cost is a lot less than we've spent on the disastrous war in Iraq and contributed to drug company profits from the Medicare drug bill.  In fact, if we cut the war short by a year or two, we'd be able to finance the entire network buildout from the savings.

We might, as a thought exercise, compare the level of national security our nation has achieved (or should I say lost) from our Iraq "investment" versus the security, prosperity and other benefits we'd gain from a ubiquitous fiber and wireless network based on the open access principles that have made the Internet the most innovative, productive, empowering and democratizing development in the history of the world.

I believe the broader message our nation is sending to Congress is to please get our nation's priorities straight.  Internet and communication policy is one key example of this.  Thank you again Senator for listening and engaging with us.  Weâ??re available anytime.


[ Parent ]
Sharing access (4.00 / 1)
Seantor,

I am concerned that local communities do not have the right to create their own ways to distribute broadband access.

For instance, lawsuits against cities offering universal wireless.

Likewise, it makes no sense at all for multiple providers to each build their own broadband infrastructures?  In this building phase, why wouldn't we have one wireless infrastructure that all providers lease space on and then resell to the public?  This would also allow local govrnments to require low or no cost service to areas of poverty.  In fact, one could envision, like the old empowerment zones, zones with free broadband access as an incentive for businesses to locate there. 

Right now, the big broadband providers have no will or incentive to allow competition from small innovators, to distribute broadband to underserved areas and in fact use every tactic to thwart innovation and competition.


Senator (4.00 / 1)
what are the prospects of regulating broadband connections like any other utility?  It was proposed several time in your thread yesterday as being the best way to solve both the broadband access issue and net neutrality.  See more here.

Two principles (4.00 / 1)
1) Competition in the pipe industry.

2) Content neutrality for people wanting to send and receive stuff through the pipes.

Visit DebateScoop for political candidate debate news and analysis.


Philadelphia Experience (4.00 / 3)
Senator Durbin, thanks for doing this. I wanted to talk a little about what has happened in my hometown, Philadelphia, and how a national broadband policy needs to do better than what happened here.

Two years ago, the city of Philadelphia passes a proposal to provide free wireless access to the entire  city. However, the state legislature intervened when Verizon objected. After months of intense lobbying, we were able to save the plan in Philadelphia. However, the state mandated that any other city or town in Pennsylvania that wanted to provide free wireless access to all of their residents would have to get Verizon's approval first. It was a straight-up corporate giveaway, and a clear snub to the residents of the state.  Corporate interests were put before the educational and communication interests of the rest of the state.

I wanted to ask / plead with you: please, please make sure that a national broadband program does not turn into a corporate giveaway to huge companies like Verizon. Don't repeat Pennsylvania's mistakes. No government--local, state or federal--should be mandating that corporations control access to the internet. Localities like Philadelphia that wish to pursue free wireless programs should be free to do so without the consent of the Verizons of the world. Please, as you craft this legislation, don't let private gateholders control who has access. To make a double Al Gore reference, a wonderfully free medium like the Internet should be fostered to become the province of the people, not the powerful.

Thanks in advance for your time.

Keeping the Internet free of discrimination (4.00 / 1)
Whenever the issue of Net Neutrality is put before the public they respond with overwhelming support. More than 1.5 million wrote Congress last year. More than 95 percent of those commenting in the FCC's "notice of inquiry" spoke out in favor of Net Neutrality. We want to stop Internet service providers from blocking or degrading our access to Web sites of OUR choice.

Companies like ATT, Verizon and Comcast have made clear their intention to discriminate, and have even sought out vendors such as Cisco to provide them with technology that filters out Web content that we might prefer.

Despite the public outcry, Washington seems fearful to put in place meaningful Net Neutrality protections. I suspect this fear is due entirely to the strength of the phone and cable lobby -- which has spent tens of millions of dollars to discredit this democratic ideal and cloud the debate with spin.

There should be no question about allowing phone and cable companies to discriminate. It undermines the Internet's democratic brilliance to create gatekeepers where none are needed. We need a national broadband policy that has Net Neutrality as its founding principle.


Technological advances (0.00 / 0)
Senator,

One thing that I think is of critical importance for this particular legislation is the fact that technology will be changing rapidly. In order to be effective over a long period, any legislation along these lines must necessarily be written so as to adapt to these emerging technologies. This may particularly be the case with reaching rural households. The necessity of laying cable or other hardware costs to reach these individuals may be real, but are increasingly being rendered as less and less important. Subsidies to encourage corporations to extend these existing technologies may not only be unneeded, but may actively discourage innovation. What we don't need is legislation that not only will be obsolete in a few years, but will be used by corporations for years to come as tax loopholes or unneeded subsidization.


Equality of Taxation of "Communications" Services (0.00 / 0)
Dear Senator Durbin:

I suppose one of the most positive developments in recent news concerning broadband is the announcement of the Community Broadband Act of 2007 introduced by Senator Lautenberg on July 23, 2007.  This simple "leveling" of the broadband playing field is precisely what is needed.

On a different, though similar, tangent is the discussion of how "communications" services are "taxed."  I put the word taxed in quotes because, when it comes right down to it, franchise fees paid to offer video services are essentially taxes.

As an example, AT&T is assessed a 6% telecommunications tax on phone services, Comcast pays 5% franchise fees, while providers are not taxed for internet access services or satellite television services.  This creates a disparity when a provider of a service can then attempt to argue, "I'm not offering traditional cable services; I'm offering IP enable television services which are not subject to state or local taxes."

The most clean cut way to remedy this (it would seem) would be to flatten the tax rate on "communications" services, regardless of what that "communications service" is. 

For example:

Let's say a 4% percent tax is levied on internet access - not internet purchases (an entirely separate issue), but internet access.

Then let's drop the standard telecommunications taxes to 4% also. Cellular, VOIP or landlines are all treated the same.

Not to mention, franchise fees on traditional cable. Also set them at 4%. However, apply the same rate to IPTV and satellite as well.

That way, any "communications" service is dealt with on the same level. This would hopefully encourage technologists to develop "apps" with the most efficient transport method or technology in mind, rather then jumping to the "well it's VOIP so it's not telephone" approach.

Video regardless of how it's delivered - 4%
Phone regardless of how it's delivered - 4%
Internet Access regardless of how it's delivered - 4%

This step alone would insure that those taxing bodies affected would retain about the same revenues, while consumers would continue to pay essentially that same as before.

Perhaps it seems rather simplistic, but I think this would drive the growth of technology, and in turn jobs, etc…

Regards,

Peter I. Collins

President
Illinois Municipal Broadband Communications Association
913 South Sixth Street
Springfield, Illinois 62703

And

Information Technologies Manager
City of Geneva, Illinois
22 South First Street
Geneva, Illinois 60134
Phone: 630.232.1743
Email: pcollins@geneva.il.us


Riiiiiggghhht... (0.00 / 0)
...So if I pay for DSL access to my home and decide to put a wireless access point on it to share with my neighbors... you want me to pay a tax.

Seems to me that would kill the community wifi and ad-hoc peer based WAN projects around the country.  Basically this favors people who have money to pay taxes (the carriers) and punishes citizens efforts to provide an alternative to incumbent providers.

It would mean that only companies could provide communications infrastructure and individual citizens would be locked out.


[ Parent ]
How would this kill com wifi (0.00 / 0)
My suggestion would tax any provider supplying any communications service for a fee equally.

[ Parent ]
because I would be a provider (0.00 / 0)
You don't define "provider". In the instance above, I would be providing communication service to people. You have to explicitly state that I'm not a provider in the context of the regulation otherwise I'm subject to the tax.

[ Parent ]
Provider (0.00 / 0)
I don't define provider, but I do define whether or not you're providing the service for a fee.

If I loan someone my cell phone to make a call, I'm still paying taxes because I've chosen to make the service available to myself.  The person that uses my cell phone gets that service free.

If I loan my $29.95 DSL service for use for a public wifi connection, I'll be paying $1.20 in additional taxes at 4%.

Yes, it's an increased fee but if we got that far, we've leveled the playing field so that the best technologies will be used, rather than the ones with the best tax incentives.


[ Parent ]
Another alternative suggestion. (0.00 / 0)
Senator, (et al)

With all due respect, I see the point that Peter is trying to make but I believe there is another model that would work to everyone's satisfaction.

For the purpose of this discussion I am going to separate this explanation into four categories.

1.) The First Mile or what might also be referred to as the national backbone.

2.) The Middle Mile or how do we address the issue of getting very large connections to most of the country.

3.) The Last Mile - or how do we deliver connectivity to the end user.

4.) The Business Model - or how do we pay for this build out in a way that is acceptable to everyone.

Please forgive me as I attempt to fit all of this into a somewhat condensed post.

1.) The First Mile or the national backbone.

This problem is in many ways already solved. As incredible as this may seem this country has fiber running all over the place, much of which was laid down along rail transportation right of ways, along the electric utilities' right of ways and in some cases we don't even know where much of these assets actually are located.

I would suggest that we mandate a national inventory be assembled of these assets and build a complete map as to where dark or dim fiber can be located and put to use.

If we can find acceptable incentive for the owners of this infrastructure to open them up, even if this means tax credits, we should look to making this happen. Let's face it, these assets have already been built and in many cases sit fallow in a time when we desperately need them in use.

2.) The Middle Mile

Again, here we should be looking to leverage the fiber we have that is dark but we also need to look at what other assets, such as city, county, state and federal locations could be utilized for wireless delivery and make those assets available, in an affordable manner, to any entity that will demonstrate that they can and will deploy connectivity.

Specifically, we have E911 towers all over the country that could handle more microwave equipment then these towers currently carry. There is power at these sites and these assets were already paid for by the tax payers, let's use them to provide more value to this country.

3.) The Final Mile

I would suggest that we will need to use every technology at our disposal to bring pervasive connectivity to the entire population of the United States. In fact, I believe we can all see that only having one choice for connectivity is not enough, we need to have competition in this area.

I believe that this might be encouraged by creating a one time tax credit, available to each property owner (perhaps $300 per structure) which will serve two purposes. The first would be to encourage a broadband provider to deploy connectivity in rural areas where this might otherwise be impossible because the numbers do not add up. I believe this would also be an excellent incentive for providers to light up poorer, inner city neighborhoods that have been "redlined" again because the cost to supply connectivity to these areas is simply too high to make the business model work. I would like to add, that these tax credits would be available to any entity that can provide coverage without restriction and I look forward to support from both the Cable Providers as well as the Telecommunications Industry for this proposal.

4.) Where does the money come from?

Well, no matter how you look at it, the money is going to come from us, the American people. And you know what? We're actually happy to pay for it, in fact, we already are, we're just not getting what we want yet.

Right now, the average American household is paying in excess of $30.00/month for telephone service, minimum - with businesses paying nearly double that number per line. The average cost of broadband (if you can call single digit megabits broadband) is somewhere between $25.00/month (with all of those little fees) and $65.00/month.

Now, if we were to include mobile voice, data and video services, we could easily assign another $50.00/month for those services.

In other words, roughly 50% of Americans are paying in the area of $100/month for telephone and broadband services yet they are getting very little in return without any fee included in that amount for mobile service.

Add to that the cost for police, fire and ambulance service. Let's take a closer look at our first responders and how they would benefit from this proposal. Once built, a national carrier grade network could provide two way, voice, video and data communications which would increase not only the efficiency of these services but their safety as well. There is funding for this in the Department of Homeland Security and I believe that this funding should be looked at as one more pool of money we should be using to build this universal network.

The last pool of money we could look at "adopting" would be the huge number of disparate technologies and services, such as paging systems as well as what it costs (aggregate) to build thousands of television and radio broadcast facilities as well as thousands of Cell Phone locations.

The point that I am trying to make is that we are already building these infrastructures but we are doing so in dozens of very expensive and incompatible ways that are costing us more than it would cost to do the job once and do it right.

One final thought, while the programs I am suggesting do have an associated cost, I would like to point out that these costs will be more than offset by the combined boon we will see as people go to work building out this country's infrastructure - which will then come back to the public coffers in the form of tax revenue. But all that pales to the boost this country will get from the economic development that this infrastructure will create.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you.


[ Parent ]
my thoughts. (4.00 / 1)
Hello Senator, thank you so much for engaging us in this manner. It is very refreshing to have somebody engage the netroots as something other then an ATM machine or as righteously indignant attack dogs.

How far are you willing to go with this?
We run the risk of running up against some deeply entrenched power structures, such as the Telcom providers and things of that sort.

My suggestion is this:
Go big.
Bigger then you could ever hope to actually pass.

Introduce the bill, and get every credible supporter of net neutrality and poverty issues to speak out about it in the same week, tieing it into equal rights.

The internet is information and communication, plain and simple... and a tiered structure sets up a stratified social class that resembles the caste system.

An electronic plantation if you will.

-C.


furthermore (0.00 / 0)
This isn't for the telcom companies to give us, it's for us to decide if the telcom companies get the bandwidth.

Include open source bandwidth standards.
Federally mandate that municipalities CANNOT ban municipal wifi, while at the same time give incentives for them to do the same (i'm not a tax code expert, so I can't say how to do that)

And... bread and butter issues.... Danny's comment about cell phone contracts... harp on that. Make that and internet access for ALL the watchwords of the campaign for this legislation.

It is not a privilege as our friends on the right say... it is a right! We are one of the richest companies of the world, and we need to ensure that the American dream of equality exists for all, not just those that can afford it.

Framing is key here, it is a right.
Let the opponents try to argue about how poor people should not have access, make that argument sound as non-sensical as it is.

-C.


[ Parent ]
thanks for the shout-out. (0.00 / 0)

You mentioned ATMs in describing how some pols treat the blogs, and that reminded me of something from comedian/senate candidate Al Franken's book Why Not Me when he secured the democratic nomination by running on a "no more ATM fees" platform ... while the book is hilarious, it reminded me of what a joke ATM fees are and how banks have engineered products specifically for profit, (payday loans) not for profit and service (like take-out food).

[ Parent ]
Who, if anyone, is against... (0.00 / 0)
Who, besides lobbyists for the big Telcos & executives for big Telcos, is against your legislation?

Regulatory and advisory bodies (0.00 / 0)
Senator,

A further issue that is becoming more and more relevant, and is no less of an issue here, is in the politicization and corporatization of the regulatory and advisory bodies. I think that the means of crafting this legislation is noble, but it is important that any ongoing advisory and/or regulatory bodies that the legislation requires be free from politicization and, if not free of corporate influence, at least open to consumer/public advocacy.

Thanks for your outreach on this issue. 


A Right, Not A Commodity (4.00 / 3)
Dear Seantor Durbin:

I heartily applaud this effort both for its substantive goal and for the process.  But I want to call attention to a problem with one of the core principles:

    * Broadband must be universal and affordable

The problem?  People use the same language to talk about health care.  But other countries provide universal health not by making it affordable, but by making it a right.  By de-commodifying it.  There are several different models for doing this, but all are dramatically different from the various half-measures promoted to "fix" health care under the "universal and affordable" rubric.

The same applies to broadband access, which is, I would argue, analogous to universal public education, and to the functioning of a free press, even more than to the interstate highway system.

The breadth of public education in America was one of the core civic strengths on which our nation was founded, along with freedom of the press.  The lack of both in the South was one of the great hindrances associated both with slavery and the long aftermath of segregation, whose scars are still visible today.  By treating broadband access as a right, we will establish a basic level of common participation in the shared life of the nation.  This is the right and proper thing for government in the 21st Century to do.

Doing this will cost a few actors monopolistic business opportunities, but they have already proven themselves incapable of truly serving the public good.  At the same time, by ensuring a high-level floor of common access, it will vastly increase the potential benefits to be realized.  There will be many more business opportunities created by raising the floor than we are even capable of imagining today--just as the internet today was unimagineable 15 years ago--so it isn't a matter of business concerns vs. human or civil rights.

Regarding broadband access as a new electronic commons will benefit the American people both as citizens and as economic actors. It is not an either/or choice.  Rather, it is a choice between the monopolistic interests of a few vs. the general good of all.  America was born in revolt against the power of monopoly to crush, control and oppress.  It put us on the right side, the leading side of history, which is where we belong today, as always.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


The "last mile" (0.00 / 0)
The highway analogy is even more apt when you consider that the "last mile" challenge is the biggest hurdle in providing broadband access.

There's no profit in running wires (be they copper, fiber, or other) out to every rural homestead, just as there's no profit in paving roads out to those houses. This is a role for government, providing a service that is necessary for its citizens but not profitable for any private enterprise.


[ Parent ]
Yes! (4.00 / 1)
Totally.

I must add that once all those roads and wires a built, they become economic infrastructure that allow for all kinds of previously unimaginable private enterprise.

Me | My Work | Future Majority


[ Parent ]
Infrastructure is exactly it (0.00 / 0)
This is why Google's offer for the 700 band is such a big deal. A healthy and open infrastructure is key to economic development, and every chance we have to strengthen our infrastructure - whether it is roads or wires - is a chance to invest in our future economy.

[ Parent ]
yes -- a right (0.00 / 0)
I agree wholeheartedly.  ONe of the earliest steps we should take would mirror that taken by the NAACP before the Brown decision -- measure the exact status of the people who are not able to have those rights.  They did an enormous amount of sociological research into the actual status of African Americans, and we need to do the same kind of research into the people on the Other Side of the Divide.  What those studies will reveal will help us mobilize the public and define the best policy steps we should take.  Industry does a very good job of tracking the early adopters; the public sector should focus on those who have no access to advanced ICT -- are all the barriers economic?  No -- there are rural issues, accessibility, and behind them all, a kind of cultural resistance and lack of awareness and confidence.  We can address and eliminate all those barriers, but first we must know what their dimensions are.

[ Parent ]
Three synergistic proposals (0.00 / 0)
Senator,

Below I briefly describe three related policy suggestions.  They are designed to individually and synergistically lead to:  1) increased consumer choice;  2) expanded broadband network availability and capacity; 3) widespread availability of advanced open-access networks;  4) incumbent service providers being free to pursue their preferred business model within a healthy competitive market.  I urge Congress to pass legislation on all three proposals and, where appropriate, provide the FCC with clear guidelines for implementation rules and procedures.  Its important to note that the first two proposals are the focus of pending FCC proceedings.

1.  Open up broadcast â??white spaceâ?? spectrum to unlicensed use to the maximum extent possible.  For portions of this spectrum that the FCC concludes require extra levels of interference protection for incumbent licensees, usage rights for this spectrum should be assigned to local governments.  The latter would be authorized to deploy (either directly or indirectly through private contractors) open-access municipal wireless networks, and would be the responsible party in terms of working with incumbent licensees to manage interference issues.  The white space spectrum represents a huge swath of spectrum--as much as 100-200 MHz or more, depending on the market.  And it has excellent propagation characteristics, which makes it far better for wide-area muni-wireless networks than the Wi-Fi spectrum currently used for such purposes.  As such, it can play a key role in providing alternative open-access networks and business models that are technically and financially sound and, in doing so, help insure healthy competition and innovation in the market for next-generation broadband services.

2.  Mandate all four â??open platformâ?? requirements supported by a wide range of companies and public interest groups for at least 22 MHz of the 700 MHz broadcast spectrum to be auctioned next year.  This will have effects similar to and synergistic with opening up the white space spectrum.  Together, these two spectrum blocks can provide a powerful platform for insuring that the Internetâ??s proven capability to promote innovation and value creation can be fully and freely applied to next generation broadband networks and services.

3.  Pass a bill along the lines of the bipartisan â??Community Broadband Act of 2007â?? introduced by Senator Lautenberg and co-sponsored by Senators Smith, Kerrey, McCain, McCaskill and Snowe.  This will insure that states do not restrict the rights of their citizens to join together and with private companies to use available spectrum (including the white space) and/or deploy fiber optics to address their broadband connectivity needs in an increasingly competitive global information economy.

Thanks very much for taking this step to open up an expanded dialog on these issues that are so vital to our nationâ??s future.


Important provisions (0.00 / 0)
The other comments contain all the provisions I would suggest, such as allowing public entities  like public utility districts, to provide broadband, save one.

Any federal legislation MUST include a provision pre-empting any legislation from the states (such as that already in place in Pennsylvania) which would contradict the federal legislation under the Supremacy Clause.  Otherwise, the telcos will simply fight (and win) this battle at the state level.


Hear Hear! (0.00 / 0)
My outlook on this is that we need to lay down a set of national standards (protocols, for all you network nerds) under which states can operate. This is how you get a lively and effective market going.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
Rural and Small Community Access (4.00 / 1)
Dear Sir,
Although I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination on the subject, I have been concerned by the difficulties that many rural communities are having supporting internet access -- specifically, barriers put in place by state governments in collusion with telecom providers.  For example, one more informed than I writes:
The all-mighty telecommunications lobby continues to dictate to Nebraska legislators, who have followed Governor Dave Heineman's lead in forsaking our state's economic and technological progress by closing off every avenue to public high-speed Internet service. Under the guise of protecting competition and the free market, our elected representatives continue to leave the people of Nebraska under-served and over-charged with few options and no incentive for the telecommunications industry to improve upon their wretched rates and worse service - especially in rural parts of the state.

Just as rural electrification was not accomplished without government direction and support, I do not think that the "free market" (at least as practiced in Nebraska and other predominately rural states) will effectively provide broadband access to rural communities.  Denying broadband -- the actual result of considerable legislation in Nebraska and other states -- to rural communities deprives communities of an important tool for economic development as well as deprives citizens of important educational, cultural, and civic resources.
Thank you for your time and attention.

I would support provisions in federal legislation which encouraged or insured the extension of broadband access to rural areas, particularly if it could be written to allow rural communities to mount and support their own initiatives.


Netizens (0.00 / 0)
Thanks for engaging the public like this; hopefully this exchange will be remembered as a trend-setting experiment in the revitalization of our democracy.

There have been many great policy points already that I would echo: universality of access, neutrality of content delivery, and really upping the definition of what qualifies as "broadband."

If we're going to cut it in the 21st Century,wWe need to move towards true Universal Service as an economic platform, transcending the current model where foundation-level services are seen as the end of the economic chain.

I urge you to go further in enlisting the Public in this process, not just in the discussion, but also in the implementation, maintenance and oversight of our national information infrastructure. The government has lagged in it's comprehension and use of internet technology. This time is now to take the lead! There are 100s if not 1000s of intelligent professionals out here, and we want to help.

The future of our democracy demands the kind of national on-demand transparency and decentralized participation that only networks can enable. I would really love to see this National Broadband Strategy be a first step in making our government(s) truly internet-savvy entities.

Finally, it seems vitally important that this project is carried forth as a standard-bearer for "What Good Government Can Do." This is something we've largely lost track of over the past 20 to 30 years, and there are few better initiatives (the only better one would be to build a real health care infrastructure) for refurbishing the role our government has to play in public life.

Me | My Work | Future Majority


I appreciate this transparency... (4.00 / 2)
but aren't you're meetings with telecom lobbyists not so transparent?

I'd urge you to tell telecom interests - and all other corporate interests that wish to lobby you - that as a condition of your granting a meeting, you'll require that it be webcast...

And then I'd like you to agitate for legislation that would require your colleagues in both houses of Congress to do the same thing...

Yeah, I know... This is a crazy idea with no real chance of implementation...  But hell, that says something about the process, doesn't it?

Anyway, thanks for engaging with us.  As cynical as I am, I appreciate the appearance of having a seat at the table.


The Lobbying Channel (0.00 / 0)
Mike...I like it-- "The Lobbying Channel" (or maybe The "Sausage-Making Channel"). 

Instead of just watching Congressional speeches (usually to empty chambers), technology now allows citizens in a democracy to electronically "attend" any meeting with lobbyists, even if we'd only get to listen, not talk (though the latter could be accommodated to some extent).  Its a broad and deep extension of C-SPAN..and one that underscores the value of a high-capacity open Internet.


[ Parent ]
This would be lovely (0.00 / 0)
As you say, it's a nice dream.

[ Parent ]
Get the Word Out (0.00 / 0)
I would like to make the Open Left community aware of the fact that in many states, public utilities have tried to make broadband available to consumers, only to have their efforts thwarted by state legislatures, who are lobbied to kill these efforts by Verizon and the cable companies. 

I just got off the phone with my local PUD, who put me in touch with their guy who was headed up the statewide effort here in Washington State to allow them to provide access.  Until he received my call, he was unaware of this forum.

I would therefore suggest that everyone who cares about this issue take the time to call their local PUD, and make them aware of this forum, particularly if they have ever tried to provide access either wireless or via a hookup to the home.


Short Term (0.00 / 0)
Unfortunately, the grip that the telephone and cable companies have on legislation would probably stifle any real progress in this area, and until that changes any substantive planning for a 'National Broadband Strategy' is going to be futile.

However, in the short term I would suggest various modifications to the 'Broadband Access Loan' program through the USDA. Since its inception the number loans has remained low, partly because of the stringent requirements for obtaining them, and also because very few people know about them.

Additionally, since broadband access is essentially regulated by lobbyist for big business, perhaps they would provide greater rural penetration in exchange for tax breaks, or possibly utilize the RUS loan program themselves.

In the larger view, South Korea is the model on which to build a 'National Broadband Strategy.' However, the South Korean government has taken steps to ensure that the big telecom companies could not interfere, and built a separate broadband network with government monies. I see little chance of this happening here due to influence of corporate dollars.

The most significant aspect of the South Korean strategy is competition. In fact, there is so much competition, and prices are so low, that many broadband providers in South Korea are struggling to break even. This is the way it should be here if the United States hopes to compete in the information economy on a scale comparable to South Korea.

As is evident, I hold a cynical view on such things because of the overarching importance of corporate dollars in legislation. As Chris mentioned above from his experience in  Pennyslvania, the state intervened to stifle the free broadband project in favor of Verizon. We see similar influence in Washington. Until this situation changes, there is little likelihood for a viable 'National Broadband Strategy.'


Information for ALL (0.00 / 0)
We made a terrible mistake when we gave the airwaves to private interest in the name of free market capitalism.

We are not well served by the media which uses the spectrum for radio, and TV and now satellite.

These all and now broad band MUST be owned by the people and NOT FOR PROFIT driven by market forces.

The government needs subsidize the cost of associated with the development, installation and management of broadband access.

We, the people, own the roads and highways, the waterways and the airways.  What we need to own is the air waves and the pathways that digital information flows.

Private interests can USE the public ways... waves etc, but NOT CONTROL THEM as they now do. 

Our government must begin by back charging the telecoms for fees for the use they have made that is charging the consumers for the past 20 years.  In lieu of this they can simply turn over the broad band infrastructure to the government.

Yes another bureaucracy, but we have an army, navy, police, libraries, public hospitals and so forth.

It's well past time to get corporate America out of the tel com and information industry.. where it is used for crass commercialism and propaganda... and did I mention enormous profits?


Legislation 2.0 (4.00 / 3)
I want to remind us all of Timothy Berners-Lee's gift to the world:

"Berners-Lee made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. The World Wide Web Consortium decided that their standards must be based on royalty-free technology, so they can be easily adopted by anyone." (Wikipedia)

Not anything new, but I wanted to reinforce the importance of this concept.



The net as a vehicle for civic engagement (4.00 / 1)
Senator, thanks so much for pioneering this model for public discussion of legislation.

The arguments for broadband access tend to focus on supporting economic growth, competitiveness, and opportunity -- and I'd add civic engagement to that mix as well.

All of us here at ActBlue really appreciated your enthusiastic support of our work on Blogosphere Day -- and you can't go anywhere these days without seeing commentary on how the net is making it easy for more people to educate themselves, interact with lawmakers (like this!), organize with those of similar views, and debate those with a different perspective.  But if communities in our country don't have access to modern communication tools, then they won't have access to modern mechanisms of organizing and exercising political power. 

Thank you for your work ensuring that everyone in our country has the technological resources they need to come together for the common good.

Want Blue States? ActBlue.


Wireless All the Way (0.00 / 0)
We need to developed wireless high speed capability which any citizen can reach when he can see the sky... satellites.

Cables and fiber optics are already outdated and prone to all sorts or problems and enormous expense in laying and maintaining them'

With multiple redundant satellites and the technology to move data fast updating the infrastructure is as simple as a satellite launch.

As we the people developed and paid for GPS and the constellation of satellites, we must develop the Data Satellites which anyone with a "transponder" can uplink and down load to.

Wires and cables are an environmental nightmare... especially power cables strung on utility poles.  We need to clean this all up and wireless, developed, owned and operated by the people is the way to go.

All the old copper can be recycled and the un recyclable glass fiber can be abandoned before we drown in it.


Which committee will Sen. Durbin work this from? (0.00 / 0)
Sen. Durbin is on the Appropriations, Judiciary, and Rules & Administration committees and several subcommittees.  It seems curious that both my US senator & representative are members of technology & communications subcommittees, yet they seem not to have any connections with this process. 

Is Sen. Durbin working at this from "Agriculture--Rural Development" or "Terrorism, Technology & Homeland Security" subcommittees?

Does Sen. Inouye, Commerce Committee chairman, have massive influence on this process, as per Broadband Data Improvement Act (S. 1492) and all related legislation on broadband technology?

"Broadband communications are fast becoming the great economic engine of our time," said Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii). "The first step toward securing broadband for all Americans is getting better broadband data."

Are the telecommunications giants & K street lobbyists working one group of senators & representatives while Sen. Durbin is attempting to open the system & generate broadbased broadband from the point of view of actual internet users, bloggers & affiliated technutz?


Basic Broadband Principles (0.00 / 0)
I couldn't seem to get this into the comment thread, so I just posted it as a separate diary:
http://www.openleft....

Senator Durbin, thank you for taking this opportunity, and I look forward to watching new ideas develop from this dialogue.


[ Parent ]
Wifi and terms of service (0.00 / 0)
What's really interesting is that the carriers provide net access to homes and businesses and once you get the internet into your building, you're able to extend the Internet from that location.  It's like the carriers are the spinal cord and consumers are the nerve endings... and can grow more.

The problem is though, that carriers have in the past sought to use service contracts or terms of service to restrict users from sharing access.  For instance, you can have as many phones in your house as you wish on the same phone number.  But some net providers require you to pay for an individual IP address (like a phone number for your computer) for each computer in your home.  That's more restrictive than phone service.  Especially since it's easy for many computers to share one IP address.

So I think that we should carve out spectrum for unlicensed/open use of wireless data communications.  So people can extend the internet like they do with wifi routers in their house, but there's better spectrum available and by extension, even better ways people can share access with one another.

However, for people to be able to take advantage of that spectrum, we need to ban restrictive terms of service in contracts that enjoin users from taking full advantage of the possibilities that spectrum provides.


Some thoughts (0.00 / 0)
First, let's get away from this concept that unregulated duopolies are a form of competition that will provide any type of market that will benefit consumers. No one can point to a single market where this form of competition has provided any meaningful price competition. Instead, there are endless promotions and marketing, but almost identical longer term pricing structures.

We previously acknowledged that monopolies were private corporations with such power that they demanded a certain degree of regulation in return for a guaranteed return on their investment. Basic responsibilities include lifeline rates, minimum standards of service, universal coverage and nondiscrimination. Extend this concept to both the telcos and the cable companies, and do it with local regulation where the constituents can have much more direct access to the policy makers and the pots of money are smaller.

Next, let's look at the concept of how we license the spectrum where wimax can thrive without stepping on existing home wifi networks or other communications.

Instead of auctioning this off nationally, take proposals for local utilities which will use the spectrum to provide both inexpensive high speed wireless access and wifi phone service. This will provide a local utility which can compete with both the cell phone companies and the hardwired companies.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it's imperative that the telcos and cablecos not have the ability to control what's going through the tubes. Although there is some logic for charging for bandwidth, the charges should be distributed through the system so there is equality of access by content providers, not another place where content can be monopolized by giant media corporations.


End the monopolies (0.00 / 0)
Senator Durbin,

Thank you very much for coming here and giving us the opportunity to dialogue with you about this.

The first thing I want to say is that net neutrality must be protected. It will be absolute disaster for the internet if we allow telecoms to manipulate traffic at any level outside of the internet protocol. I actually would not be that rabid about net neutrality except for the sad fact that our nation's broadband access is basically controlled by two monopolies: the cable companies and the telcos. There is no choice and that means if one (or most likely both) of these carriers decides to ignore network neutrality, I have nowhere to go. I am a 30-year old California resident who lives in the suburbs. I live in a fairly dense area and have three choices for broadband: Verizon FiOs, Verizon DSL, and Charter cable. All 3 of these services are priced within a few dollars of each other and all offer very low value for the money. I say "low value for the money" because I know a few people who live in Europe or Japan, and they get a lot more "bang for their buck" in terms of broadband speed and access.

I think the best thing to do would be to end the local monopolies granted to these companies and allow others to compete with them. Monopolies breed corruption and incompetence. I don't think more government intervention is the answer. A law such as, "If you build infrastructure out, you have 15 years to use it, then it becomes a common carrier". Sort of like a patent for wiring, to encourage companies to create while preventing them from gouging. That may be a hare-brained idea, but it's a start.


Critical Infrastructure Protection, and Improvment. (4.00 / 1)
As mentioned earlier by AdyBarkan the federal government has played a major role in driving our economy throughout our short history. Federal projects have developed key infrastructure such as: Highways, Rail, FAA, FCC, etc. Today while our economy shifts toward service so does the infrastructure necessary to drive our economy.

South Korea realized this a few years ago and deiced to create over 300,000 jobs to build a National Next Generation Network Infrastructure. This project was estimated to cost nearly $300 Billion USD. However, the government feels that they will realize over $1 trillion in private business over the next ten years.

We have push back in the US from industries that are afraid of regulation. And, rightfully so they have plenty of fodder to point to against federal involvement in their trade. The most recent attempt was the 2004 run up to the internet tax moratorium. People were scared into thinking that home rule local governments were going to tax email as the federal government taxes US postage. Today it's time that we take a new deal look at the state of our national assets.

The Federal Government can give US businesses a competitive advantage if they are allowed to become a top-tier provider of "the tubes" in the words of the Senior Senator from Alaska. The US can have a second mover advantage in the creation IPV6 networks ahead of even China and Korea. But it takes citizens willing to admit that this is a priority investment.

One issue that has not been addressed in this ongoing conversation is the current state of critical technology infrastructure security. We have been very fortunate that in the last few years we have not had a coordinated cyber-attack on the US.

You were brave to call for a "Manhattan project" during the creation of the Homeland Security department. (HB5005)Your bill would have created a working standard for interoperable enterprise networks between the 22 agencies integrated into DHS.

We hope that the catalyst for change in public and private technology is people like yourself, rather than a legislative reaction to a cyber-attack in the future.

Thank you Senator Durbin for engaging this conversation we look forward to your thoughts  here at Hi Tea in your state. 

http://www.hiteachic...


Enforceable Net Neutrality requires structural separation (...delaminate 'em (4.00 / 1)


The rest of the message (4.00 / 1)
Darn. I accidentally hit the enter key and sent the msg before I'd even finished the subject line. A new record for idiocy :(

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you, Senator, for engaging with us, and hope you will consider strong measures to give the Internet the economic model it needs to serve the public good. We have enough experience to be able to predict that the incumbents will doff their hats at Net Neutrality if Congress requires them to, but they'll then merrily go ahead and violate it. The only way to get Net Neutrality that we know will work is to structurally separate those who sell us access to the Internet from those who sell us content and services over the Internet. Europe is ahead of us on this.

For more, please see Susan Crawford's Moving Slowly in the Fast Lane [1], David Isenberg's Making Network Neutrality Sustainable [2], and even my own derivative effort, "Delamination Now."

Thanks again...

[1] http://scrawford.blo...

[2] http://isen.com/blog...

[3] http://www.hyperorg....


[ Parent ]
Broadband Rankings (0.00 / 0)
Senator Durbin,

It has been widely reported that the United States is falling behind in international broadband rankings. I am connected at work, and since Iâ??m here most of the day I do not subscribe at home. By OECDâ??s math I am not a â??subscriberâ?? but I certainly feel â??connected.â??  I would venture that there are a substantial number of people like me that â??skewâ?? the data, and our decisions arenâ??t based on either access to technology or cost of the service.  How will Congress account for this in its efforts to bridge the broadband divide?


I like the sound of this (0.00 / 0)
Thank you for soliciting input on this from people who are interested and know something about the topic, as opposed to lobbyists who only know what is good for the people who are paying them.

I don't have a lot to add that hasn't already been said. I think it's essential that the ISPs, wireless carriers and the like be treated as common carriers, who are required to carry everyone's traffic regardless of origin, destination or content. The alternative is to allow a few big companies to be gatekeepers of what those of us who are paying for the content are allowed to see. Imagine a network equivalent of Diebold, owned by a major Republican contributor who would filter out communications between Democrats. Imagine a network owned by Disney that filtered out any packets to/from CBS-owned properties.

Even with a system like this there would still be room for entrepreneurs to make money. More so than under a traffic-blocking ISP, because entrepreneurs wouldn't have to worry to pay for special access to their customers' terminals. Even the "big players" would make money. A system that gave you an IP address and nothing more would allow those of us who are net-savvy to bypass content portals and "drink from the fire hose," while the AOLs, Comcasts, and other similar companies would exist for people who don't want to have to worry about subnet masks or ping latency.

Senator, I urge you to do everything in your power to restore and require common carrier status for those handling the nation's information infrastructure. Thank you for your time.


Telecommunications Act (4.00 / 1)
Since the most recent Telecommunications act, I've been very concerned with the creeping concentration  of ownership of media and communications mechanisms into the hands of a very few. I believe Congress should revisit this legislation. It has become obvious that this concentration of ownership and power in the hands of a few has been detrimental to the free flow of factual information and now, those same few are making their move to control internet access. I already pay for access to the internet, and it was my taxes which helped fund the research and development that made the internet possible. I agree that the internet should be as much a part of our infrastructure as our interstate highways. I have no objection to paying a company to maintain those highways, but I don't want them to control when I travel and where I go.

"Free Market" (4.00 / 2)
With the trend over the past 40 years to allocate everything to the private sector looking for government to take a bigger role in telecom is going against the tide.

We have seen water, electricity and now even roads sold off to private interests. We have subcontracted schools, prisons and even parts of our current wars.

The most important thing to me is not which specific provisions should be included, but to deal effectively with the political philosophy which says the "free market" rules.

I think part of the discussion (and hearings) need to hear from experts who will testify as to when public policy must be controlled by government, whether this is through regulation or through publicly operated services.

There are plenty of examples in our past from the TVA to rural electrification to point to.

Policies not Politics


It's a Trust Issue (0.00 / 0)
What a wonderful venue, here.

Mr Senator, I hope you will understand when I say that I don't particularily trust the government to do this right. There is just too much money involved and too many 'paid for' special interests.
That said, I sincerely hope that the end-game on these issues will be something that comes out 'fair'. By that I essentially mean - fast speeds at reasonable cost. BUT that's not all - toss in VoIP to the deal at no extra cost. If you really want to have some fun... individual TV channels over IP, but I'd pay for those.
I *really* like the idea of totally wireless cities where only one ISP gets paid, no matter whose hardware is used. That would make life really easy.
I'm seeing a lot of concentration on handheld devices, but please don't forget us folks with stationery computers and/or a laptop out and about town. We typically have hi-res needs, so we need serious bandwidth. I'd love to be able to download videos and streaming TV/Video while having a latte down town.
Gee, they do it in most European cities right now...

 


The telcos got a $200 billion tax break to provide 2nd generation broadband (4.00 / 3)
to all Americans. Note that I said 2nd generation - in most developed countries, the 1.5 mbps low-end broadband rate Americans get is considered equivalent to dialup. The telcos got a massive tax break to provide us with broadband pipes to every home and business capable of streaming HDTV movies in real-time and providing other services it takes serious broadband to get. Which one can get in the First World, but NOT in America.

OTHER countries have them, at a monthly end user cost lower than Americans pay. We're just beginning to see fiber-to-the-home rollouts in "selected areas".

The telcos want to get special treatment on the Net? Before demanding favors from Congress, you guys need to make them deliver on what the American taxpayer has bought and paid for. They pocketed the tax break, WHERE'S OUR SERVICE?

Until we get what we paid for, Net Neutrality should be a slam-dunk. After we get the high-speed broadband we paid for, the telcos STILL have to make a case that anti-Net Neutrality will help consumers. . . and all they've pitched is smoke and mirrors.

From: $200 Billion Broadband Scandal
http://www.newnetwor...

  * By 2006, 86 million households should have been rewired with a fiber optic wire, capable of 45 Mbps, in both directions. -- read the promises.
  * The public subsidies for infrastructure were pocketed. The phone companies collected over $200 billion in higher phone rates and tax perks, about $2000 per household.
  * The World is Laughing at US. Korea and Japan have 100 Mbps services as standard, and America could have been Number One had the phone companies actually delivered. Instead, we are 16th in broadband and falling in technology dominance.
  * Harm to the economy. Five trillion dollars was lost because new technologies and services that America would have developed, happened in Korea.
--------- end quote
There's a lot more, the above is a fair usage quote. Go to the URL for more info.


already supposed to have BROADBAND (4.00 / 1)
Hi alizard,

Wasn't that the agreement in the mid 1990s?  Talk about renegging on an "agreement"


[ Parent ]
Senator Durbin's staff (0.00 / 0)
Hi all, my name is Dave and I'm a staffer in Senator Durbin's office.  The Senator is running a couple of minutes behind but will be with us shortly.  Thanks for your patience.

Senator Durbin's staff (0.00 / 0)
Is the Senator coming on this evening?

[ Parent ]
Krugman articles (0.00 / 0)

Hi Senator Durbin,

First, THANKS MUCH for your initiative with S.1035.

Have you seen these two articles by Paul Krugman July 23?

http://economistsvie...

http://wealthyfrench...

Krugman on the Digital Robber Barons
http://www.pkarchive...


Is this working (0.00 / 0)
Has the discussion started?

Usability and Accessibility (0.00 / 0)
All the broadband in the world is useless without the applications that bring us to the Internet in the first place: email, IM, video, VoIP, etc.  It's true that lack of technological access is a barrier, but so many of those applications are hard to use, or even impossible to use for people with some disabilities.  Usability and accessibility should become part of our broadband strategy.

Visit the site of a new organization seeking to extend access to 21st century telecom technologies: http://www.coatacces...


Senator Durbin (0.00 / 0)
Hi all,
Dave from Senator Durbin's staff again - we just got word that the Senator will be with us to begin the discussion in less than 5 minutes.  Sorry about the delay!

Access and Content (0.00 / 0)
Creating a broadband infrastructure that serves to connect all people is incredibly important, but I am afraid that most people are overlooking the importance of organizing  networks that advance culturally-relevant, civically-responsible, and educationally-vibrant information.  Where is the coherent effort to make sure that the most viewed Internet content is not the same mindless, commercialized content that deteriorated old media? 

Please address the digital divide between communities with money and those suffering from poverty (0.00 / 0)
First, thank you Open Left and Senator Durbin.  This process represents the democratic potential of the internet.  I hope we find more ways to keep it going beyond this week. 

I'm amazed by the level of insight and analysis in these posts.  I just would like to add a comment/question I've already raised in comments to other posts.  What can legislation do to help bring internet accessibility and literacy to communities suffering from poverty? 

I'm not sure how to solve this problem, but I think these two aspects of the problem of the digitial divide--access to the internet and internet literacy--represent significant lost opportunities in communities that are desperate for political, economic as well as general creative potential for which the internet is so well suited.  It seems to me that if we take this issue seriously--that the internet can be a way in which to create opportunity in communities plauged by poverty--we might have to do more than just make the internet cheap, powerful, and accessible for all Americans.  We may also have to create targeted plans with specific measures to help people who have been left behind.

-From Poverty to Opportunity Campaign: Realizing Human Rights in Illinois
povertytoopportunity.blogspot.com


Yes! This Has To Be Top Priority (0.00 / 0)
It's a large part of why I stressed that broadband access should be regarded as a right.

"Affordable access" is meaningless for people who are paying over 50 percent of their incomes for rent, people trying to raise a family on a minimum wage job in a neighborhood where there are no supermarkets and food costs are higher than in more affluent neighborhoods, etc., etc., etc.

We need a policy that brings all Americans together, not one that deepens the divides that already exist.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Sen. Durbin's Arrival??? (0.00 / 0)
Dave, has the senator arrived yet?

Greetings from Senator Durbin (0.00 / 0)
Hello everyone. As this thread is getting a bit full, we're going to continue the discussion here: http://www.openleft....

re: Formalize a more realisitic definition of broadband (0.00 / 0)
Senator Durbin,

Thanks for joining us in this virtual forum.  I'd like to suggest one thing.  One thing I've noted in FCC policy about broadband is that their definition of "broadband" is embarrassingly low -- just 200 Kbit/s.  Internationally, that would be embarrassing -- and practically impossible for many or most internet-based media and applications.

My idea would be to formalize a definition of broadband that is much higher than that (at least 20 MB/s, though some may argue for higher numbers, and reasonably so).  This would be so that the FCC and other policy actors would be forced to abide by and keep to a consistent standard, rather than move the goal posts to no end.

I'll refer you to this excellent article that spells out some of the issues:

http://www.freepress...

Speaking of the FCC, the FCC will be holding a hearing in Chicago on September 20.  That hearing will be about the FCC's controversial, though I suspect that broadband access will also play a role there since all of our media in the not-too-distant future will come via digital means, and that means that the internet and broadband will play a critical role.

Will you plan to attend the hearing?

Sincerely,
Mitchell Szczepanczyk
Chicago, IL
http://www.szcz.org


Oops... (0.00 / 0)
Note: One of the sentences should read "That hearing will be about the FCC's controversial media ownership rules, though I suspect that broadband access will also play a role there since all of our media in the not-too-distant future will come via digital means, and that means the internet and broadband will play a critical role."

Thanks.


[ Parent ]
Internet in the Sunshine (0.00 / 0)
[A lighter take, but no less sincere, on what the "Tubes" should be.]

Make it free, other than paying "service providers" (whose charges must be regulated and standardized) to both the consumer and provider of content on the Internet.

Make it universal and wireless; rural communities don't have broadband, regardless of what the telcos and cablecos "are lying."  I live within 35 miles of Miami in a sparsely populated rural area and don't have broadband, only dial-up.  The telco says I live too far away from the "booster stations" and they're not going to change my circumstances by undertaking infrastructure investment.

Make it Republican-proof, otherwise they'll sell the "information highway" to the highest bidder because they can't sell the paved highway and because they want to downsize government until it goes down the drain in the bathtub on the way to enriching them.

Simply put: Make it like sunshine.


Technology Platform for Presidential Candidate Barack Obama (4.00 / 1)
Many of the issues associated with this discussion have been addressed in a draft Technology Platform initiative developed back in February 2007 after Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the Preseident of United States. The Technology Platform is online here: http://obamafortechn... under the "Platform" tab.

http://obamafortechnology.com

SPEED MATTERS (0.00 / 0)
Thank you, very kindly, Senator Durbin for your foresight into this issue. In truth, this is an unprecedented initiative. Confronting the issue itself and the means by which you have done so have together marked you as a forerunner in progressive politics and your leadership in this arena, I am sure, will not be soon forgotten. I wish you much success in this campaign.

To this issue itself, it must be said that there are two general concerns that must be addressed: internet access and connection speeds. My impression is that solving problems associated with the former will be far more difficult than solving problems with the latter. Therefore, I will confine my discussion to that of connection speeds and allow more educated people to offer suggestions as to how best we can more widely  proliferate internet access.

My current ISP is Comcast. According to their contractual promises, I will get at least 8megs down and 1 meg up. In reality, I consistently enjoy unadvertised speeds of up to 16 megs down and 2.5 megs up. My guess is that this places me far above the national average and well into the upper twentieth percentile--if not in one regard, certainly in the other.

At the same time, however, I can assure you that less than one year ago, these speeds were not available here in Detroit, MI. As a matter of fact,the top speed offered by Comcast at that time (I believe) was closer to 5 or 6 megs down and about 512k up. Yet, during that same period of slower connections here in Detroit, I had reports from New York that their advertised MEAN download speed was  about 14 megs down (I didn't get any upload comparisons, even though I am sure these were commensurate and congruous with what is to be reasonably expected given my earlier-stated dowload/upload ratios). To be sure, I am almost frightened, therefore, to wonder what these New Yorkers were ACTUALLY getting over and above what was advertised and promised. What is my point? It is simple: I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT AT ANY GIVEN TIME COMCAST CAN SEND A SIGNAL TO MY HOME THAT WOULD UNCEREMONIOUSLY FRY ME, MY EQUIPMENT, AND EVERYTHING WITHIN THINKING DISTANCE OF MY MODEM.

So why don't they do it? Well, here again I defer to more educated minds. I just pose the question. My opinion? I think that everyone already connected to the internet ought to have the same (or similar) connection speeds.  That they don't is attributable to the monetary advantages ISPs enjoy when they are able to divide the buying public according to what they can afford. After all, I must admit that I have often bragged about my connection speed and have (equally as often) felt myself to be a bit more fortunate compared to those with far slower speeds. This marketer's play to priceless "snob appeal" is indeed ingenius, but arguably NOT in the national interest.

Thank you, once again, sir. 


Universal Broadband (4.00 / 1)
Most of the country is rural, geographically. Low population density, low profit margin. Monopolies like Fairpoint communications, ATT and others are ultimately businesses. Their primary goal is to maximize profit, to make their shareholders happy. Some companies will buy up rural service providers to squeeze out government subsidies as profit, without the desire to invest in those areas for the public good.

Without some measure of enforcement, the best rural customers will be able to get will be substandard service at vastly inflated prices.

Case in Point: 768Kbit DSL being sold for $45.00 per month to upstate NY customers, while that same speed of DSL in urban areas serviced by Verizon costs only $19.95 per month. These same upstate NY customers don't even HAVE Mbit broadband available to them at that price point, while the above mentioned Verizon customers can get 3Mbit for just $34.95 a month. These are regular prices, mind you. Some urban areas are getting 5-8Mbit service for under $50.00 per month - at least that certainly qualifies as broadband.

What is worse, frequent and severe outages can occur - I personally experienced one lasting a week and a half just this past month (my entire area was affected), with no credit for the time lost as of this writing. And this was the 20th outage I have experienced within the past 2 and a half years from this telco-provided DSL.

I live 200 feet from a fiber optic line that I have learned will eventually connect Rensselaer county to Westchester county, (it is apparently being laid down parallel to the  fiber-optic going to my dslam). I have no reason to supsect that it will improve the situation for upstate rural customers, however. And the situation that I'm experiencing I'm sure is mirrored all over the country - people are underserved and overcharged, if they are served at all.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving forward, providing true broadband to the people, with minimal cost to those same people. Cable, DSL and fiber-optic technologies are being utilized and expanded.

Our nation used to lead, but now we aren't even following - we're standing still. This is NOT a left wing issue, or a liberal issue, it's a NATIONAL issue. It affects our children's education, our medical practice, our business (locally AND globally), our families, everything in this nation. As long as companies are free to gouge their customers mercilessly without even reasonable service in return; as long as rural areas are ignored while urban centers get 3,4,5 or more options; as long as there is no real and reasonable requirements in place; no modern definitions (200Kbit? are you Kidding?); there will be no fix for this problem.

Our nation needs universal true broadband availability.


YOUR INSIGHT IS CERTAINLY RECOMMENDED (0.00 / 0)
I was surprised to see as many incoherent submissions on this issue as I have seen since having created an account on this blog just yesterday. My assumptions were that (since we are dealing with such an "intelligent" issue) I would have noticed a lot more critical thinking and educated perspective. Instead, I have seen a lot of entries that were (it appears) written so the writers could tout their knowledge of the internet and related issues, versus providing cohesive thoughts geared towards supporting ideas that Senator Durbin already knows and understands.

Your entry has underscored a sort of "simple and bottom line" approach that demonstrates your profound understanding of what the issues really are here: internet access and connection speeds. If we pound the table on this issue and stay focused with what we want, it will be pretty darned hard for anyone (including the ISPs) to cloud the reason of politicians and the buying public. After all, "red herrings" (being the diversionary tactics that they are) are insulting and foster only circuitous, useless conjectures that are meant only to prolong the arrival of solutions that are really quite SIMPLE for those of us who see what should be done. I applaud you for your focus.


[ Parent ]
True "Internet" Access (4.00 / 1)
As I prepare to purchase FIOS access, I am concerned that so-called "Internet access" may not be that at all. I understand the "Internet" to mean, by definition, true access to the Internet. But closed and limited LAN "services" such as IPTV or other "premium" material my ISP may want to push in front of me seems likely to gobble up that precious bandwidth, so that when my ISP advertises a certain bandwidth of "Internet access" it is really that MINUS the bandwidth it is reserving for its own LAN or "preferred" content (or "pretend Internet"). Congress should make it, by definition, an unfair and deceptive trade practice to advertise as "Internet access" anything short of complete and unfettered access to the Internet (which, by definition, means NEUTRAL connectivity).

Senator, it is refreshing to hear your views. Thanks.


"Internet" = dynamic platform for innovation (0.00 / 0)

Yes, exactly.  That's precisely the point of the Dynamic Platform Standards Project, at http://www.dpsprojec... -- which has been endorsed by many who recognize the nature of the Internet platform, including those who originally developed it.

:-)

Seth


[ Parent ]
Availability (0.00 / 0)
I am also in support of Sen. Durbin's desire to  create a fair distribution of high speed net access throughout the country.  It is vitally important that, as this *new* technology becomes more ingrained in our society, we as a body politic decide to make this available to all.  Much like the airwaves, the internet provides an opportunity for those who might otherwise be left out of discussions to be heard and recognized.

Sen. Durbin - I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor!


Broadband should be city infrastructure (0.00 / 0)
I think every town and city in America should provide broadband wireless as city infrastructure, it would be the least expensive way to extend coverage to every citizen.

At this time, the internet access companies have lobbied to make this solution against the law. Please write it into your bill that if a community wants to, it can do this. Internet access companies who can offer better service than the city would be welcome to offer their services to anyone who wanted to pay for them.


Core Principles and Business Realities (0.00 / 0)
  Senator Durbin's three core principles:
- "Broadband must be universal and affordable;
- We must preserve an online environment for innovation; and
- We must ensure that this technology allows more voices to be heard."
are not compatible with any private business model I know. 
  If we continue to rely on the private for-profit sector to build, maintain, and operate critical infrastructure our system will continue to be managed according to four very different core principles:
- Service only for those who can pay the most
- Proprietary lock-in to maximize profits and remove the threat of innovation
- Managed access to 'serve' consumers better by limiting confusing choice
- Keep the congressional campaign contributions coming from lobbyists to preserve this way of life.
  Why not try to limit the damage by making agreements that can't be transferred and that need to be recompeted every five years - almost an eternity in wireless technology but long enough to keep the interest of a monopolist?

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