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back to article Official: America now a nation of broadband whingers

In popular mythology, the British are a nation of whingers, while Americans get on and fix things. This was certainly my experience of crossing the Atlantic to live in the USA. When a London Tube train came to an unexpected halt, you would brace yourself for a malevolent explosion of spittle. The exhalation was a short hand for …

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What a load of whinging about whinging

The article is basically a whinge about people in the US wanting more. The truth is that most of us, in the US and Europe, are annoyed with out broadband options because things aren't nearly as good as they would be if the last mile wasn't controlled by monopolies that have no incentive to bring down prices or provide the speeds that are possible.

Given how expensive building out a new fiber infrastructure would be, we're probably stuck being reamed by these guys unless wireless can start to offer competitive speeds/volumes and/or powerline becomes feasible (seems unlikely at this point).

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Meh

Re: What a load of whinging about whinging

If you don't like in the big cities then Internet access is pitiful - I'm in Baton Rouge and get decent (for the US) DSL at 6Mb for which I pay $55/month - but my in-laws, in Mississippi get 13kbs - yes that's a k, not an M - and that's the best they can get at this time of year - it improves to about 21kbs in dry weather. Cable and DSL simply are not available when you like a couple of miles outside town.

Oh, those Microsoft Updates every month .... forget it.

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Re: What a load of whinging about whinging

The truth is that most of us, in the US and Europe, are annoyed with out [sic] broadband options...

Is that true? Have a methodologically-sound study you'd like to cite? Most of the people I know seem to rate "faster Internet access" pretty low on their personal priority lists, and "more competition in Internet providers" even lower. And these are people who use their home internet access every day, for work and entertainment.

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Meh

Hughesnet Satellite... small office package, 2watt HS700S, 550MB download limit per day FAP. On a good night we can play Everquest with 800-1200ms latency.

Been on waiting list for DSL for six years now.

<cries>

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100Mbit fiber NBN

Suck that bitches

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550MB per day for fapping?

You've got a problem mate.

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Re: 550MB per day for fapping?

"You've got a problem mate."

Not enough bandwith?

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To be fair

It only makes sense to whinge since once you get past the edge of big city markets, it really isn't anything worth crowing about and in the fringe where urban and suburban overlap it's pretty much shite. The big (read only) players don't want to spend the money on infrastructure because the population density isn't high enough to totally clog the system but the current bit pipes are certainly overloaded for anything really high speed. It actually improves as you move to more rural areas where the infrastructure is newer and the population density is low enough to allow fairly decent speeds. Of course if you go too far you're looking at a choice of cable or a satellite to break dial up speeds.

The essence of Crawfordland is that it looks like a rich vs poor scenario. Consider that housing prices in the "big city" tend to be high and that price dips as you move farther away until you getting to the expensive suburban-rural areas with larger and more expensive yards and homes but still inside a reasonable commute radius then price falls off as you go further into rural areas where there are rusting cars parked in front of the mobile home. In general, in the expensive areas the broadband connections are better than in the less expensive areas. If you can afford to, why would you choose to live where only poor connections existed? If you can't afford to, you don't really get to pick and I'll wager two pints that is what Crawford et al. are whinging about.

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Re: To be fair

Consider that housing prices in the "big city" tend to be high

Eh. Move to Lansing and buy a 5-bed, 2-bath house for $40000. Various Internet options too.

Of course, in Detroit you can pick up that sort of place for a mere $14000.

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WTF?

Huh?

What has Google got to do with this? Why would it want a monopoly in broadband??

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Coat

typical bloody whinging poms...

...oh wait...

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Is this what Americans really want?

Google controlling the wire? I think not. It is already bad with Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-Verse and Comcast's XFinity. Not too many alternatives, as most don't overlap. Trade it for Google doing the job. Not today!

Now that Comcast has gone in and taken control of the content (it now wants to have all of a national broadcast network), things will get a bit sticky.

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Go

Re: Is this what Americans really want?

I'd be happy having Google do that.

Roadrunner/TimeWarner are obnoxious shit in my area. AT&T's U-Verse sales practices were so bad I dropped my landline just to sever my business relationship with AT&T, and friends are getting bent over by Comcast. I bought a Google Nexus 4 and was happy to have a phone that didn't work on Verizon's network.

Given all my Google stuff mostly works, which is a lot more than I can say for the above 4 companies, I'd take a local Google monopoly in a heartbeat!

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Re: Is this what Americans really want?

Funny thing, being able to pick your monopoly means it isn't a monopoly and a cartel pretty much means your pick doesn't matter so maybe being able to pick the GOOG would more closely approximate competition than the current situation.

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Coat

Re: Is this what Americans really want?

apparently a third of Americans want to have their cavities searched before being allowed to board an aircraft...

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Coat

Re: cavities searches

Hey, whatever gets you off, buddy.

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Facepalm

Is this what we Americans want? I dunno - let me Google that.

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Boffin

Population density quite different

One main reason for the difference in broadband connectivity is that America's population is far more difficult to reach than Europe's.

Europe's population density is around 72.5 persons per square kilometer, whereas the US has only 34.2 people per km^2.

The vast American West contains only 30 persons per km^2. Some very large Western states have tiny populations, such as Wyoming, with 2.2 persons per km^2, Montana, with 6.86 people per km^2, and the Dakotas - North Dakota (3.83 per km^2) and South Dakota (4.13 per km^2). Then there's Alaska - an enormous tract of land larger than all but 18 sovereign nations in the world, and bigger than the 22 smallest US states combined - its population of 0.26 persons per km^2 is flung out over vast, areas, many of which can only be reached by small airplanes.

Wiring up this huge distance for, in many cases, such small and remote populations is a very difficult proposition. Even in the much more highly populated Eastern US, many rural areas are in mountainous areas that are so hard to reach that satellite is the only feasible method for delivering HD television or broadband of any sort.

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Happy

Re: Population density quite different

"One main reason for the difference in broadband connectivity is that America's population is far more difficult to reach than Europe's.

Europe's population density is around 72.5 persons per square kilometer, whereas the US has only 34.2 people per km^2."

Here in Bumfuck Australia, with a population density of 0.98 persons per square Km, we have upgraded our broadband from cotton string and tin cans, to nylon monofilament and tin cans.

It's great to have upgraded to fibre optic connections.

The repeater stations are now every 50 meters apart, and data through put is 200BG (Bits of Gossip) per day.

Hail the modern technology.

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Re: Population density quite different

Nylon! What a luxury! When I lived in the northeastern US we'd love to have something as resilient as nylon during snowstorms that would tear down every piece of copper hanging over head. If it wasn't the heavy wet snow then the heat of the sun would cause the thermal expansion differential to take down the connection. It wasn't only the ancient cable and telephone lines but also the power lines so on a perfect day either bad weather or really good weather all three would fail together and it would take weeks to get all three fixed because you wouldn't know the internet was out until the power came back on. On the upside, we could always move things from the refrigerator to the snow bank if the power was out for more than a few days.

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Joke

Re: Population density quite different

When I were a lad, cup of cold gravel, etc.

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Re: Population density quite different

Europe's population density is around 72.5 persons per square kilometer, whereas the US has only 34.2 people per km^2.

Yes, but here in the US the average person is twice as voluminous as the average European, so it all works out.

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my experience in the US

Is totally the opposite, the people here (or at least in my social and economic circles) whinge and whine all the time and never lift a finger to fix anything (unless it has a payout attached to it) and the people I used to deal with in the uk would make MacGyver look like a amateur lego builder.

I guess the whole broadband thing is all to do with money (and afore mentioned payouts) since it is not economically viable (read makes a metric crap-ton of profit) to run high speed out to even some areas in a city then they don't it has nothing to do with urban and suburban sprawl, however since the government do not lay the cables and infrastructure first the companies are not really willing to invest (most of them barely invest in the current infrastructure until they can up the price to cover the cost of an ageing and almost broken system, yet still insist on massive profit margins and tax breaks/subsidies from the government. investment is now an expense to be paid for by the consumer not to be paid for out of existing profits (or investors whine because well, they invested and want their money to work harder then they do)

there are too many local monopolies, but I guess that's the way it should be, they got there first or have the most money so can dictate who gets what. it does not help that many of the permits required to lay say a new fibre line get happily refused by local government because they are happy with the current status quo ( and probably had a visit from a nice man/woman from the current monopoly provider with financial "incentive" for them to remain in control.

that said, I can't really complain I do not have a public sewer but I can get broadband, and a few people I know do not even have public water and can get broadband so I do not think it is all that bad, the classic line is, if you do not like it, move!

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The assertion that there exists a cable/fibre duopoly is very much subject to question. While there are two large cable operators -- Comcast and TimeWarner, they do not compete, so that leaves fibre providers, of which Verizon is the only significant one, and it doesn't offer service in the vast majority of the country, which leaves the idea that there is a duopoly impossible to sustain. This isn't whinging, it's just knowing a little about the subject.

More troubling, and the real justification for the monopoly label, is that we-the-people don't want competition for the last mile; we want the "natural monopoly" of having just one set of lines to our homes. This is reasonable, because no one wants dozens of poles draping cables across the skyline or permanent excavation on the streets as multiple vendors maintain their connections.

And that's all well and good, provided there is competition, and there just isn't. When Google tried to obtain cable TV programming to supply as part of their fiber installation, the TV suppliers refused to supply the programming at anything close to the same rates that the installed cable operator pays.

That's understandable: TimeWarner is one of the alleged cable duopoly (actually the geographically diverse monopoly), and they can control the cost of a lot of cable TV programming BECAUSE THEY MAKE IT.

So what the likes of Google (and many other, smaller, businesses) want is access to the fibers and the content at the same rates. This is nothing more or less than net neutrality taken to the last mile, which is what was supposed to have happened as part of deregulation of utilities.

The accusation in the article of "sock puppeting" would appear to be valid against Mr. Orlowski as well, but he isn't saying for who he is a puppet. My guess would be Comcast.

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Headmaster

Comcast and TimeWarner *do* compete

I have TimeWarner and Comcast moved into my area in the past year. Several of my neighbors & friends have them.

I complained about TimeWarner doing DNS highjacking, and they called me to say "everyone does it, the FCC has not said it's a problem, fuck you, and we don't care if it screws your samba DNS/WINS resolution"

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Caveat

The real caveat here is "Tough regulation should ensure customers can switch easily." Tough regulation of ANY industry hasn't happened in the US during the entire Internet age. The FCC in the US, and many other "regulators" and even Congress itself are in the back pockets of Big Cable and Big Telco and there isn't much hope for innovation, competition or any other consumer benefit.

Congress and the "regulators" are more interested in keeping the flow of campaign cash and in issuing a license to print money for the chosen few.

Not much hope here.

Uncle Ron

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Re: Caveat

Wrong location for the service providers buying politicians. It happens at the last mile, not the FCC level, which actually doesn't have the authority to regulate internet services despite their claims.

All of which is part of the reason I have no sympathy for the whiners who are only missing their French cheese to to with their song and dance.

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Who wants a federal monopoly?

What a weird strawman, Mr. Orlowski. I don't think any reasonable person wants a federal monopoly. I certainly don't want the same organization that gave us the TSA to give me last-mile Internet. What I tend to hear is that Google, et al, want the last mile of Internet access to be regulated and opened to competition, but still privately owned and maintained.

Orlowski says Americans have a reputation for being doers instead of whiners, but existing regulations mean we just aren't allowed to do. As a resident of San Francisco, I'm sure you know of Monkeybrains' attempt to bring micro-trench fiber to the city. Well, they couldn't figure out how to file the paperwork to get their construction approved. Sonic.net is able to move forward only by turning themselves into a phone company and adopting all the regulations that are involved with that, which means no naked DSL.

I suspect that Cyrus Farivar at Ars is a bit anxious about the Comcast thing because it's a 6-month or 12-month promotional deal. At the end, he'll have to face the choice of paying 2-3 times as much for the same service, or having his service cut to 1/2 or 1/4 of its current speed. He knows he won't get anything comparable from AT&T, so he can't threaten to leave to get better prices. Also, frankly, $45 for 24 Mbps is pathetic compared to many other places.

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Re: Who wants a federal monopoly?

I don't think any reasonable person wants a federal monopoly.

I don't think the article was about reasonable people.

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Pass the (data) potato

You still get the issue of packet hot potato where customers' packets go careening off into random places so ISPs can pass off the packet to someone with a peering agreement or play hot potato until someone bites the data bullet. There's a reason they affectionately call Philadelphia "Comcast Country".

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Mushroom

Re: Pass the (data) potato

They call it comcrap country because the city tried to hold up verizon to giving them all kinds of "freebies" and verizon said, "no thanks" and refused to fibre up the city. hard to know which is the bigger douchbag there.

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Devil

Come to New Zealand

Yes, come to NZ if you want to see piss poor broadband and related service.

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For a decade all we've heard is how bad our broadband is compared to other first world countries

So it is not surprising that people eventually have come to believe it, even though the situation has begun to improve more recently.

I don't know how what I'm paying for DSL compares to those elsewhere ($65/month for 20M/5M uncapped if you're curious) but I'm sure what I pay AT&T for cellular service is a ripoff because I've seen the tariffs being advertised in the UK and Europe, and they're about half what I pay. That's with me getting off easier than most since I'm grandfathered in with 1000 texts/month and 200MB of data. If I signed up now I'd pay $15/month more since the cheapest options require unlimited texts for $20/month and a 300MB data plan for $5 more.

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London?

I really do hope that you're not touting the population of London as being representative of the British people. A more pampered, arrogant, overpaid, useless lot, in the main, that it's possible to imagine. The further you go North (and West), the more patient, polite, friendly and long suffering the population becomes.

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Re: London? @ G R Goslin

Patient, polite and friendly? You must mean Iceland or Greenland. Oh - just checked the link in your later post and apparently you don't. I don't see any evidence for the patient, polite and friendly in there. If you mean long-suffering - well, landslips and other flood- and weather-related shenanigans have caused problems all over Britain recently. Clear the children out of the cotton mill's gears, have some black pud and chill out ...

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Re, London

If you want an example of what I mean, have a look at this link

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-21441070

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WTF?

Missing the mark

This "article" completely misses the mark. The Ars piece points out that what is perceieved as a duopoly is actually a monopoly. Fiber is non-existent in most of the country, DSL is laughable, and the other "alternatives" are a non-starter. In my neck-o-the-woods, the choices are Cable (bloody expensive but intermittently fast), DSL (reliably fast, but limited to town centers), WLAN Wireless (reliably mediocre), satellite (ha!), or dial-up (HA!). This leaves cable with the "broadband" monopoly. I've had to settle on WLAN Wireless, with speeds that a Japanese or Swedisd phone would consider an error. I ask Andrew to come live in North-central Minnesota for a week and carry the same tune.

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Re: Missing the mark

Agreed with that Michael.

I recently discovered that my area basically got effed over by the NBN rollout, telstra was mere months away from upgrading my local exchange to expand the DSL ports available. Of course, now that NBNco is buying up the infrastructure, Telstra have halted all upgrades to exchanges. in the meantime, my area is slated for the NBN rollout more than 8 YEARS from now. (We're not even on their rollout map)

My choices for internet? 3G broadband (what I'm using), intermittently acceptable, and insanely expensive, Satellite (BAHAAHAHAHA), or dial-up. Of course, the 3G connections are owned by the absolutely marvelous duopoly of Telstra/Optus, meaning i get gouged a tidy $79 for 20 gig of data per month, charged at 25c per MB if I exceed that cap. I dare the americans who are whinging about their situation to come live where i live and deal with my internet for a few months....

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I'd have to agree my experience of both countries is the opposite. What might get passed off as 'whinging' is usually sarcasm (a national sport in England) or just jokes. We do tend to make plenty of excuses about certain sporting losses which is mostly what the Anzacs refer to, but this is mostly because they spent many years being considerably better than us at Rugby as we needed excuses even more than an Arsenal manager.

As for America, there is an element of entitlement creeping in (actually gushing in) which is resulting in more whining and less doing, but by and large I have always respected America for its ability to get stuff done by sheer might. Living and working in America really opens your eyes to whats behind the misconceptions many people have of America and Americans.

Generalizations fail miserably though, they are usually based in some element of truth over a certain percentage of a group but normally only enough to get noticed rather than enough to reliably be used.

Different countries do tend to have a different approach to problems. Take the Dambusters raid. We know the British approach, find a simple method of solving the issues of altitude and distance, spotlight altimeters and simple wooden bomb aimer that lined up with towers on the dam. Now had the Americans been conducting the raid I believe their approach would have been simple, send 20x as many bombers, using their advantage in size and basically just used brute force and sizable manufacturing resource. Had the Japanese been doing it I believe they would have probably had a fairly complicated manual timing system (watches and adjustment tables) or just simply flown the planes into the dam. The German's would likely have a similar timing system to the Japanese but based on a mechanical timing system that automatically factored in wind etc. None of them are bad \ better \ worse (unless you happen to be on team Japan as a suicide pilot), but countries tend to develop techniques for solving problems that play to their strengths be it industrial strength, ingenuity or a powerful devotion to a leader.

Just as we do that, we have different attitudes to problems, some joke, some are sarcastic, some quietly fix things, some whine. I would never underestimate the Americans. Piss them off and they can get stuff done and still do if politics isn't involved.

Must go, the cat just 'cut the cheese' (in American parlance) in the office.

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The fact that the DSL-rated phone cable turns down a dirt road about a quarter-mile north of my house--due to a certain politician living on that dirt road--instead of being run straight down a paved road means that I pay $59.99/mo for a 1.5mbps satellite connection via Wildblue, instead of 35.99/mo for 25mbps DSL. As soon as I acquire a Death Star, I'm nuking north Florida from orbit, just to be sure.

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duopoly my hiney

In goodly parts of the US there is NO duopoly at all; you are lucky to have ONE provider of high speed (??) internet and if you aren't lucky, you have nothing. Furthermore, for those providers of "high speed", most provide the poor country cousin of actual high speed and at exorbitant pricing. wankers, one and all. The folks doing that "study" are bought and paid for by the incumbent network providers (who have one desire...excess profits for as little as possible for the "customer"). Bend over America; here it comes again.

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reason to whine

Living in a city of ~70k I've got two choices for 'broadband' - aDSL from AT&T or cable from Time Warner. Satellite can be done, but it's pricey and there are issue with latency and signal degradation due to weather and number of current users in area. (The latter condition applies to cable as well, of course.)

So, I can pay the telco ~$25/month for "up to" 3 down, up not given, if committing to a one year contract that includes voice services (price not given.) Or I can pay Time Warner ~39/month for 7 down, half up.

Speed tests show 10-14 down, and as high as 1 up; in real life down speed varies, usually it's around 1-3, and upload around a half.

Some competition, eh? In some states it's illegal for cities to offer their citizens municipal broadband. Most places, only one cable company is allowed. While the ISP biz units might not be flush, the parent companies are having record profits. Since many companies now supply content, the situation won't improve until the Internet connection is separated out as a public utility such as water or electricity. So yeah, we whine.

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Re: reason to whine

Same here, one cable co (decent speed, high price), one traditional telco (bankrupt, slow, cheap) and the usual slew of wireless efforts. Sat is out due to HOA's from hell banning anything that upsets their demented angry retired asses.

I do kind of understand the logic behind offering markets and exclusivity with cable but when you effectively give a monopoly to a company then you have to be able to force them to update services and monitor pricing, as happens with water and power (at least in theory, in practice they do what the hell they want and the PUC rubber stamps it and collects the brown paper bag).

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Whinge: The facial expression you make when you realise you were sold a box of shit.

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Stop

Not until internet access is considered a public utility.

mjones52 got it in one, for the U.S. ... "the situation won't improve until the Internet connection is separated out as a public utility such as water or electricity. So yeah, we whine."

In the early days, postal service was considered so essential to the well-being of the nation that a universal service was mandated by Gov't decree. BTW, the U.S. Postal system is a chartered service, not a Gov't agency. Currently it's being strangled to death by Congress so private (read: lobbying) corporate vultures can pick its bones and hi-grade the market, but that's another issue.

Electrical services were private utilities that refused to service anything outside the largest urban centers, so the Rural Electrification Act (REA) was mandated so rural areas could form cooperatives, get low-interest Gov't loans, and build their own electric distribution systems. Only AFTER these were built and the rural service established, did private corporations begin swooping in, attempting to force a take over. Again, lobbyists swarmed the hallowed halls of Congress, screaming of unfair REA competition.

Telephone service soon followed on the REA path, through the same mechanism. Ma Bell, the Bell Telephone Monopoly, refused to service entire rural regions of the nation for the same reason. Local independent telephone cooperatives sprang up to serve enclaves of rural residents, but couldn't interconnect to accomplish universal service. Again, the low-interest REA loans provided the life-blood of capital investment to build the rural infrastructure. Later, the breakup of the Bell monopoly brought affordable, universal long-distance connectivity to rural America.

I know of whereof I speak: I've lived through the experience, on both sides of the situation. I've lived in rural areas of the Western U.S. that struggled to get power and telephone service until the REA made cooperative service possible.

HOWEVER, the moral and community mindset that made universal postal service, and cooperative, Gov't-aided electrical and telecommunications service available across the U.S, simply does not exist today. The U.S. is currently engaged in a political civil war, promoted by corporate and financial interests who are conducting a massive raid on the public purse. The REA has been demonized for decades as a "socialist" intrusion into private enterprise that has outlived its usefulness. There will likely never be a similar program to establish affordable, universal access to hi-speed internet service.

One thing the article fails to explain is the issue of municipal franchise. One corporation is franchised to provide cable internet service in the municipality. No other need apply. The franchise grants a licensed monopoly. Same goes for the DSL service. There is no requirement in the franchise to provide universal service. Wherever the poles/cables happen to go, determines the coverage. Local residents have little voice or choice.

That's the whinging in America. If conditions that existed in the 1900s up through the 1960s had depended upon corporate benevolence, most Americans outside the major metro areas would be burning kerosene lamps and calling over hand-cranked battery-operated party-line telephone lines to Western Union to send a telegram to their big-city cousin.

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"nationalised telcomms infrastructure"

Um, why? Because it worked so well for Australia? The only thing worse is when they go and denationalise it again, making the fustercluck even worse.

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Devil

Google wants to become an ISP ?

I didn't know that, but it is hardly surprising if you think about it for a second.

Right now, Google has to wait for you to go to its search service and get a query to know what you're up to.

If Google starts serving broadband as ISP, you can bet your children's future that Google will be indexing every single http request coming from your line and thus getting a level of scrutiny of your life that would make the NSA green with envy (that is, until they get a warrant to pilfer that data, which should take around, oh, two seconds in the current US-centric paranoia climate).

So yeah, I can believe Google wants to be an ISP with all its might, and that is not something to laugh at at all.

Big Brother ? Pah ! It had to have cameras to guess at what you were doing. Big Broogle is going to know what your next request is before you do, thanks to statistical analysis and petabytes of data about you, your car, your phone and every place you've been.

All that in the hands of Eric Schmidt - now isn't that a warm, fuzzy thought ?

Oh well, at least disk prices will drop even more once Broogle data centers hoover up all 6TB disks in existence and demand more. Looks like the HDD/SSD industry is going for a boom in a little while.

Hey, they might even finally get holographic storage working at the consumer level.

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Whingers Erwacht

America is the Protector of Capitalism. And capital, not ingrates and kvetchers, determine who gets high speed and who gets drag ass internet. Get over it.

How can you look in the mirror in the morning and claim that high speed internet service is as important to survival as water, electricity, and gas? That high speed is an utility sina qua non for existence?

And why? So you can chat faster and more frequently with that 13 year old girl who thinks you're a 15 year old swimming star?

What will you want next? Pizza delivery within a half hour of every dwelling in America? And if it's late its free?

We know who you are, you selfish socialist dupes, and we will drone your butts when we find you!

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