back to article Big Cable tells US government: Now's not the time to talk about internet speeds – just give us the money

Big cable companies have told the federal government that "now's not the time" to talk about US internet speeds; despite a new program that will pay them billions of dollars to expand broadband access across the country, and a new proposal that put even more money in their pockets. Yes, it is the annual farce that is the …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    spark uncomfortable questions like: why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?

    Obvious answer... "profit!"

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      I thought the article was about the USA, then suddenly the most technically advanced nation in the world... Does not compute.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      "why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?"

      Presumably because they modelled it after their healthcare.

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        "why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?"

        I expect that aging existing infrastructure has a lot to do with it though. Granted, that can *also" be put down to companies that want to charge more for doing less. But that also points to governments and special-interest groups blocking efforts on those occasions when a company *does* want to fix things.

        1. BitEagle

          Not just ageing infrastructure...

          It's not just that the US has ageing infrastructure, any infrastructure spend is enormous when your country is the size of a continent. That's why the USA typically under invests in infrastructure, their businesses typically compete on price and conditions, not performance, hence all the shabby airports etc.

    3. GnuTzu Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      DVD Regions

      It's like DVD regions. The regions enforce regional prices so that countries that can't afford as much get charged less, but those that can afford more can't play that region so that they have to pay more. They figure out what people can afford and then stick their fangs in and draw as much as they can.

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    No mystery

    "why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?"

    The answer to this question is not mysterious: it's because the major US telecoms want it that way, as that makes them the greatest profit. The real question is: why to we as a nation allow corporations so much power that they can continue to steal from the citizenry?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: No mystery

      The real question is: why to we as a nation allow corporations so much power that they can continue to steal from the citizenry?

      They own the regulatory bodies is the obvious. Lobbying goes a long way to owning politicians and agency heads.

      1. joed

        Re: No mystery

        but at least lobbying is not corruption /s

      2. Sheherazade

        Re: No mystery

        I live in Romania, where the most corrupted politicians in Europe also live. But we still have Gigabit fiber at home, for no more than 8 euros per month. And decent 4G speeds. Want to know why? Because we started from scratch, and without too much regulation.

        Initially, the former national telco did not allow acces to local loops. And when it was forced to, it built distribution closets outside the central offices, which made local loops expensive to reach. So competition started to build fiber networks literally hanging from any poles they could rent. Yes, very ugly, but efficient. Competition was fierce, and we had at least one “neighbourhood” provider to choose from. Only helped by stronger regulation big names started to buy smaller competitors. Luckily, one of them had already grown big, and it is still hungry for market share.

        4G? Of course cellular networks were regulated right from the beginning, but competition remained healthy. And people did not mind too much about having base stations right above their roofs (or in their yard). Rent was good enough incentive, because personal income was low. Then, when high speed wireless networks arrived, people already had a sense of high speed, and radio coverage had been good already.

    2. Alumoi

      Re: No mystery

      Lobby? Bribes? Kickbacks? Political donatios? Payola? Grafts?

  3. ThatOne Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "The speed is enough for bumpkins, it argues, they don't need more."

    Here, fixed it for you.

    Their point is not to spend money, but to make some more. They didn't spend decades of efforts to build their monopoly situations just for fun. Heed the old saying: Money speaks - it does not listen.

  4. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Sad, and nobody is going to do anything about it...

    Our choices on this issue is one party who is the submissive loveslave of big cable and telecoms firms, and the other party that swims wherever Google/Facebook/Apple decide to spit. It doesn't even matter if I name the parties, they are functionally interchangeable, except that they are beholden to different corporate masters.

    It would be really nice if one party could realize that both telecoms and Silicon Valley need some vigilant oversight.

  5. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    " the most technologically advanced nation on the planet"

    I'm confused, isn't this article about the United States?

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Ajit Pai. The best "Regulator" money can buy.

    Lucky America.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Ajit Pai

      I think I spotted a huge spelling error: It should read Idjit Pai.

      1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Ajit Pai

        Or "Eejit Pai" in gaelic...

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Look on the bright side

    Corporate America is (admittedly slowly) driving the country to international ridicule and irrelevance.

    Maybe that will finally wake people up.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Look on the bright side

      Corporate America is (admittedly slowly) driving the country to international ridicule and irrelevance.

      The man at the top in DC isn't helping one little bit. If fact and IMHO, he is actively promoting the demise of a once great and proud nation. MAGA? Far from it if you ask me. {just ask a trumpite where those MAGA baseball caps were made. Then take a good number of steps back as the implode}

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Look on the bright side

      HAHAHA, right... my country wake up. Not likely. Go to Engaget, Wired, or any of the other US based rags and read their comments. Too many of us cannot figure out that net neutrality is not a freedom of speech issue for corporations.

      You read that right, I don't even know the mental gymnastics required to make that work. Posting as AC because I live in a country of people who welcome their corporate overlords with welcome arms, banners, and failing levels of service for rising prices.

  8. defiler Silver badge

    100Mb/s?

    That's high. I mean really high. The overwhelming majority of the UK is unable to get that yet, so if that were set as the base level I imagine the results would look pretty paltry.

    Surely it would make sense to pick a technology that should be widely available and plant your flat somewhere near the top of that speed? Say VDSL and 72Mb/s.

    (That being said, I could be spouting crap here because I don't know if it's common for US broadband to be delivered by phone or if it's overwhelmingly cable.)

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: 100Mb/s?

      Why not put fibre in instead and do the job properly? IMHO VDSL is a horrible hack designed to avoid proper investment in UK broadband.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: 100Mb/s?

        Why not put fibre in instead

        Yep - from a technical perspective I agree completely. But that's expensive compared to sweating the copper. Perfect being the enemy of done, I have no problem with the deployment of VDSL / G.fast / whatever, so long as there's an ongoing rollout of fibre alongside. And I think it's unconscionable that new builds aren't built with fibre as a matter of course. The cost is negligible as an addition to the copper phone line that's going out already, as most of it is planning and labour. And it doesn't need to be lit up immediately, so long as the damn stuff is in place.

        Anyway, as I say I don't know what the widely deployed technologies are in the USA, but it seems silly to me to peg your threshold higher than what virtually every available option can offer. And no, I can't believe I'm advocating slower broadband as "adequate" either.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "so long as there's an ongoing rollout of fibre alongside."

          They won't do both but in high-revenues area. Telco are terrified by long-term investments which don't have a quick huge ROI, because that is what shareholder expect.

        2. Randall Shimizu

          Re: 100Mb/s?

          G.fast makes lot of sense in older areas where it is primarily copper twisted pair. With G.fast it is possible to achieve speeds close 1 gbit depending on the distance and the condition of copper. It is possible to achieve speeds of up to 1 gbit with distances of 100 meters or less. The great thing is that the telco's can lay fiber as needed and use the existing wiring. So let's say there is area where the copper is in bad shape they can lay fiber closer to the homes.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: 100Mb/s?

      No. It's not high, and I define "broadband" only it if is symmetric or almost.

      Many remote services can't be really used if your upload speeds are too low. For example, I can't really perform a full off-site backup of my photos with a 10Mb/s speed.

      The whole "cloud" approach will need high upload speeds, because data will go in both ways.

      Fibre is the future because actual copper cables can't really be pushed much far. Also VDSL requires the user to be quite close to the cabinet, or its speed deteriorates quickly. Even passive fibre works better, its high speed range is measured in km, not meters, even more important for those living outside big cities.

      Investments should be directed to replace the outdated copper infrastructure with a fibre one. Copper could be used still to bring emergency power...

      1. Agamemnon

        Re: 100Mb/s?

        "No. It's not high, and I define "broadband" only it if is symmetric or almost." <- This, right here.

        Make no mistake, in the US it's to make Content Creation more difficult. Cable (Disney, etc) want you to Buy Their content, not be amused by someone else's or Oh Noes! make your own.

        My T and ISDN lines were symmetric, ADSL was a cheap-assed hack to get more bandwidth in a provider's core network so they wouldn't actually have to invest. Everyone here can do the math-ishs: We could have (say) 30/30 Synchronous, but 75 (cough, 4) actually sounds more appealing to consumers because PornHub is twice as fast to you, dear consumer...you only need enough upstream to whisper your little request.

        I'm waiting for them to finally turn on QoS code on their cores so they can say they're "achieving 5x The Throughput!" (for the cost up flashing some firmware) or some such nonsense.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: 100Mb/s?

      "100Mb/s?

      That's high. I mean really high. The overwhelming majority of the UK is unable to get that yet, so if that were set as the base level I imagine the results would look pretty paltry."

      If you are about to roll out a brand new network though, you might set that as a minimum baseline. I'd argue you might be looking at going above that, given that from pen to shovel will take 5-10 years at least.

    4. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: 100Mb/s?

      " I don't know if it's common for US broadband to be delivered by phone or if it's overwhelmingly cable."

      It's overwhelmingly cable. DSL and its variants was never implemented well in the US and most people ditched it as soon as they had an alternative.

    5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: 100Mb/s?

      Large rural areas in the USA think that 100kb/s is broadband although you have to stand on a hill facing the cell tower to get service.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Now is not the time

    You go on like that, Pai, and Make America Great Again, which apparently includes pushing it down on the list of connection speeds per country. Looking at that list, the USA is in 10th position.

    Now, from that list I have to admit that 25Mbps is a good reference because only South Korea actually has it. Norway is quite close, Sweden is getting there, but the rest of the top 10 are closer to 20Mbps than anything else.

    And then you have the US, which is at 18.7Mbps. And the FCC is argueing that that is good enough.

    Well fine, don't put any effort there. Especially since a number of countries have Internet connection plans, such as my own country of France. Yeah, we're at position 51 in that list, at around 10Mbps. Not brilliant, to be sure, but I'm supposed to get FTTP by the end of the year, and then I'll have the option of subscribing to a 100Mbps connection - or a 200Mbps if I really want to go to town.

    Other countries are working at it as well. That means that the list is going to change. To be sure, France is not going to go from 51st to 10th any time soon, but the US is going to find itself wedged around countries like Bulgaria, Thailand and Romania, ie countries that have less than 3% of USA's GDP.

    America ain't gonna look all that great there, now will it ?

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Now is not the time

      Tsk, tsk. Just wait for the new coal-powered telegraph lines, with new wood poles made cutting down the national parks trees... they will reach 100 M(orse) per second! No other country will be ever able to match such a system!!

  10. Ragarath

    Online Video Gaming only just got Big?

    And then of course there is the explosion in online video gaming – yes. Fortnite, but others too.

    Online video gaming has been big for a long time. We just weren't allowed to talk about it in social circles for fear of being ostracized.

    You know there were even big LAN parties where we met up with all the people we met online to play together and socialize with people that we could and were allowed to talk to about this new (ha) phenomenon. Kids these days.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      IVAO was created in 1998...

      SATCO, which became VATSIM later, even before. Then came the kids...

  11. hayzoos

    DSL is not an option for the rural coverage, only cable and fibre. Satellite already serves rural areas. The material used is not the major cost, the labor to run it is. The best value and bang for the buck is fibre. But it does cost more than copper. So the savings of sticking with the lower speed copper is turned into profits.

    If the rural ares get higher speeds, then suburban and urban areas will demand increases. Can't have that, all that investment eats profits.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "all that investment eats profits"

      This, combined with the fact that broadband markets in the US tend to be monopolies, is a great argument for nationalizing this infrastructure and running it as a public utility.

  12. kend1
    Go

    100 Mb/s for $40.00

    In the interest of providing some USA data: Currently have Verizon FIOS near Boston, Mass with 100Mb/s up and down for $40.00 month. Two other options are 300 Mb/s for $60.00 month and 940 Mb/s for $80.00. All prices are 1 year introduction rates not including taxes, fees, etc.

    Copper line was *removed* more than 6 years ago, so DSL is no longer an option. Local competitors are Comcast and Dish Network.

    1. Alumoi

      Re: 100 Mb/s for $40.00

      OMG! 40 bucks? And me thinking that $7 for 300 Mb is expensive. Talk about those third world ex-communist countries.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "Talk about those third world ex-communist countries"

        Prices include a country average wealth and wages. It's no surprise they could be higher in richer countries. Still, US prices could be higher, and that is often due to lack of competition.

        Allowing more companies to offer their connectivity over the same lines would increase it.

        1. Alumoi

          Re: "Talk about those third world ex-communist countries"

          Sorry to burst your bubble but, at least in my home country, it's all down to competition, not average wealth and wages. Honest to God competition, down to cutting cables/stealing equipment.

          Allowing more companies to offer their connectivity over the same lines would increase it.

          WTF? Dude, competition is supposed to decrease the price, not increase it. Oh, sorry, you must be working for one of those companies.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: 100 Mb/s for $40.00

        In my part of the US, $40 for 100MB/month is relatively cheap. The cheapest broadband that I'm aware of around here runs $60/mo for slower speeds than that.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    USA? Most technologically advanced?

    "why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?"

    Hmm... The USA is the richest and most powerful nation on Earth - but "most technologically advanced" is debatable. Also, why consider only "Western" economies, given that Japan, South Korea, and (probably) Singapore are every bit as industrialised and technologically advanced as anywhere else? You might argue that they're "Western style economies", but they're all definitely in the Eastern hemisphere from the point of view of geography; mind you, so's Germany...

    I mention those countries in part because according to this link at least:

    <https://www.fastmetrics.com/internet-connection-speed-by-country.php#top-10-comparison-2017>

    they all beat the USA on average internet speeds in Q1 2017.

    The maddening thing about those internet speed lists is that the UK doesn't appear in the top ten. I say "maddening" because if the UK government hadn't intervened in 1990 to stop the roll-out, us UK types would mostly have fibre to the home by now:

    <https://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/how-the-uk-lost-the-broadband-race-in-1990-1224784>

    Ho hum.

    1. strum Silver badge

      Re: USA? Most technologically advanced?

      >if the UK government hadn't intervened in 1990 to stop the roll-out

      They didn't intervene to stop the roll-out. They intervened to stop the monopolisation of cable/TV, by BT.

      BT were perfectly free to roll out cable - they just weren't free to impose a monopoly for TV access. When BT were told that, they lost interest.

  14. Kev99 Bronze badge

    I know one ISP that openly admits it won't grab any federal money to speed up its network and that's Frontier Communications. Not have they said in writing they will not apply for any federal grants to provide provide true broadband in rural areas, but they's also said they have intention of upgrading their POS ADSL lines. The have claimed they'll be rolling out microwave broadband. You know, the tine transmitters located on utility poles whose signals get wiped out when it rains or snows.

  15. Randall Shimizu

    Now that the the threat of competition from Google fiber has faded the cable companies and AT&T are interested in spending money for paying the costs of acquisition. More and more. people are are migrating to streaming services such as Netflix. So there is currently little incentive for them to increase broadband speeds. Ultimately Netflix & Amazon may have help out if they wish to dramatically expand their business.

  16. DougS Silver badge

    What they really need to fix

    Are the inaccurate (dare I say 'rigged'?) maps. If one household in an area (I've heard an entire zip code, but I can't believe it is that terrible?) can get broadband that meets the 25/3 qualification, the whole area is marked in the map as having broadband.

    Same for the maps showing the number of providers, each provider only needs serve one house within an area to count for that whole area. There might be areas where a few houses get good cable broadband, and a few get good DSL, and a few get some third party fiber, with no overlap, but that gets counted as having great competition with three qualifying 25/3 broadband choices!

    The reality in many areas is far different, with people across the street from each other having very different speeds and even pricing available to them. The way the maps are drawn make it look like the US has FAR better broadband availability than it really does, and makes it look like unserved and underserved areas aren't the problem they are.

    This isn't Pai's fault, the FCC has been doing this since they started drawing the maps. I'm sure the industry said providing more detailed data wasn't feasible or was "too costly" and forced them to used this data that makes the situation look a lot better than it really is.

  17. schubb

    This is so very true, it is complicated as heck trying to figure out which provider in any given city actually provides service and what level of service they offer once you figure that out.

  18. Luiz Abdala
    Pint

    Gaming doesn't demand bandwidth, it demands low latency.

    "And then of course there is the explosion in online video gaming – yes. Fortnite, but others too. Plus the cloud storage market, video conferencing – FaceTime etc. Smart homes. Internet of things. They all need bandwidth."

    STOP. RIGHT. THERE.

    Online gaming consumes ridiculously low amounts of bandwidth. Remember dial-up? Yep, you could game - COUNTER STRIKE - with dial-up. I measured my own bandwidth (DU Meter, anyone?) while playing GTA - game sessions with 30 people, vintage 5-year old netcode - and it takes about 10 kbps per user, A FRACTION of dial-up per gamer on your session. And that's being generous. Games are like chess - each PC relays what are they doing to each other, like moving to x y z, and shooting at t, u, v. Every move is relayed in extremely short code. The catch here is LAG. This demands high-quality and low-demanded routers, if you want decent amounts of lag.

    Now, the others - video conferencing, facetime, these do demand bandwidth. Not just that, they require QoS and full-duplex connection. Storage needs just raw bandwidth, but it doesn't need the packets to be in order, or low latency, or they must be streamed continuously, they can be sped through in bursts and half-duplex, as long it averages out in a high value.

    Netflix is pretty much storage in reverse. Once the receiver can get a large bulk in cache, as long it averages out, the player can't tell the difference, and will play smoothly. So is Youtube.

    Beer oclock. End rant.

  19. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    TLDR Ad Nauseum

    Is this the one where, we didn't spend the money ages ago, it's all a bit rubbish, everyone original has left, with pockets full off cash, the corporate structure is lop-sided and things are starting to wear out. I've got a plan however, we'll not outsource anymore jobs overseas in your backyard if you prevent upstart competition, rig the game and bung us a load of cash, we'll give you a bit though for the re-election and don't forget that (unqualified) clause to make things a bit more counter-productive and expensive. #cantputmyfingeronit

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: TLDR Ad Nauseum

      Ran out of time, forgot to mention that there's a direct correlation between outlying urban degeneration and coverage, service and subsidy. Why you would want to not access potentially a faster growing wealth market segment, must be obvious to you, but lost on me. #itscalledamapthatsthekey

  20. Marty McFly
    FAIL

    Here's one for the Reg!

    Look up the directions on how to submit a comment. Doing forms on the Internet is old hat. Nope, with the FCC, you have to send an email to request the instructions on how to provide a comment.

    Oh, but don't worry, there is an option to hand deliver your comments if you want because they 'continue to have problems with the postal service'.

    Here is the official doc:

    https://www.fcc.gov/document/wcb-seeks-comment-state-fixed-broadband-competition

    In order to email comments in, one must request the instructions. "To get filing instructions for e-mail comments, commenters should send an e-mail to ecfs@fcc.gov, and should include the following words in the body of the message, get form."

    Give it a shot. I sent two emails to them last week from completely different email addresses, neither of which were free Gmail types. No response yet. Seems the FCC doesn't really want our comments.

  21. cloudguy

    FCC captured by cable and telco oligopoly

    Well, instead of being regulated by the FCC. The Republican-controlled FCC and its Chairman have been captured by the cable and telco oligopoly. Now the FCC wants to hand over billions in funding to the cable and telco oligopoly to improve broadband service in underserved rural areas. The FCC has bad data on rural broadband speed and availability because they rely on the same cable and telco oligopoly to report it to them. Local governments in cities and towns are better informed regarding who and where the underserved exist. So rather than provide funding to cities and town to plan for their broadband future and build publicly owned broadband networks, the FCC wants to shovel Federal funds into the coffers of the cable and telco oligopoly so they can increase the value of their assets for their shareholders at taxpayer expense. This is how the USA gets the worse Internet service at the highest prices in the world.

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