Broadband Reclassified to Title II

Putting on my Economist’s hat once again, all three of those would be class leaders by global standards, some would even say the envy of all others. Obviously it depends on your definition of “good products/services” and “reasonable price”, but:

Telecommunications: Europe didn’t dismantle its telco monopolies like the disastrous AT&T breakup in the US. Because of that, it got to define the global cellular phone standard GSM, and until very recently got to define the standard mobile phone (Nokia). Europe, especially Britain and the Netherlands, are still the main hub for the global internet just as New York is for the US (partially due to being the closest to Europe). Look at any map of the global internet and Europe is lit up like a Christmas tree.

At a pure consumer level, prices and conduct are tightly regulated and fair, with regular reduction of the caps placed on fees to force down prices for those who don’t regularly shop around for “deals”. Price or service gouging generally doesn’t happen. Net neutrality isn’t even discussed much here because it’s not even an issue. If you look at the OECD fixed not wireless broadband ranking per 100 citizens, the US and Europe aren’t in the same ballpark, Europe is way ahead (I don’t count wireless broadband as real broadband).

Healthcare: Most European countries provide nationalised healthcare which is very tightly price controlled, including to the price of free of cost. Outcomes for the poorest 20% of citizens and the 50% average are the world leading bar none. Last year myself and Megan had a baby, and that birth was entirely paid for by the Irish state. Chances of something going wrong were on average one sixth of the chance in the United States, which made us laugh when Megan’s friends genuinely were worried for her safety over here. China and Latin America are copying the European health approach and completely ignoring the US one for a reason: outcomes. We also achieve those much superior outcomes at less than half the cost per citizen of the US.

Banking services: When I lived in Canada in 2012-2013 I was quite stunned at how primitive the North American banking system is for such advanced countries. Why can’t I use my ATM card to buy stuff in China and have it shipped to me because ATM cards aren’t functionally equivalent to credit cards? Why can’t I use the point of sale in retailers to do an ATM cash withdrawal when I buy stuff? And why aren’t there chip and pins and wireless payment and ID photos on the bank card, they were just coming in as a “new thing” end of 2013 when we left? Why can’t I from my online bank account wire money to anywhere in the world in a choice of today, two day, and five day options? Why can’t I have a credit card without depositing a guarantee of its credit limit? Why can’t I get car insurance for one week in a choice of on-the-car on on-the-driver insurance? Moreover, you guys still use cheques, I actually had to ask Google how to write one of those in Canada. I remember them here when I was a child.

In most European countries, there are no bank account maintenance fees, no charges for bank transactions, no charges for using ATMs. In Canada I paid $3 every time I stepped near an ATM. In the US, sometimes $4.50.

Part of European supremacy here is because London remains the centre of the global banking industry, so weird custom insurance is easy to find and buy (e.g. want to insure against aliens landing next year? No problem), and credit card risk is much more easily securitised. You also get more innovative banking products - for example, my UK credit card charges me 6.7% APR, and it doesn’t try to trick me, gouge me, have silly entrapment clauses or other ways of costing unexpected fees or super high trick APRs. Moreover, I’m Irish and live in Ireland with a different currency, yet I can open a UK Sterling credit card and bank account. Go ahead and try that in the US if you’re Canadian, or vice versa!

Prices here in Europe are more expensive than the US because of the hefty 20-25% sales tax. But that’s deliberately there to stop you consuming, and encourage you to invest instead (a 45% tax on bank interest encourages the bond or stock market, any post office here lets you buy government bonds very cheaply and easily and tax free). Sales taxes don’t tend to apply to most services, and so are very price competitive to the US, indeed often free as I mentioned above. This is despite banks etc. not being allowed to sell your personal data for profit like in the US.

Europe has its big problems, mainly that we divert too much resources away from the young to the old, and people prefer a predictable shitty future to a less predictable potentially better one. There is a definite problem with encouraging growth here. But on high quality products and services we are tough to beat, albeit we cost more. I’d challenge you to try a €10 three course meal in Spain or France and not be stunned at how vastly better quality cheap food is to Anglo Saxon countries. Over there, what they consider minimum food quality acceptable is several orders of magnitude above the US, though I’ll grant you that the portion sizes in the US are great bang for the buck. We used to eat for three days off a typical main course in the US, and the doggy bag is real handy (you would get a lot of hate even asking for one here, though portions are small).



@DavidMtl and @jreighley I also claim there’s no competition, but that there could be, if the government wasn’t in charge (regulating, if you will, or deregulating, if you think that’s what they’re doing).

It’s difficult to imagine a free market competition in fixed line business, I get that. But that’s because everything is “managed” by representatives of political entrepreneurs.

What if a telco pulled just one high capacity link to the outer-most house in a village and leased the owner a pair of two clustered servers and and two 64-port 1GigE switches and trained him to lay LAN and collect payments in Bitcoin?
If I got that opportunity I’d figure out how to pull lines over people’s backyards in exchange for a small payment.
I cannot believe this couldn’t work better and cheaper. Why wouldn’t that work?

True, but it’s expensive and cheap & crappy services are not readily available. There are people who’d like to pay for cheap and crappy Internet access (e.g. some old lady who accesses the Internet once a month to pay bills). I don’t know if dial-up is still available anywhere, I suppose not. Last time I was in the EU I bought a prepaid voice/data SIM card (at the time I paid EUR15, I can’t ) and it was absolutely useless for data (kudos to the provider - most people who buy that crap are tourists and have no better choice in any case, and also go away soon, so how gives a crap - good business idea, I suppose). One’s mileage may vary.

Personally I compare costs in the EU with elsewhere in the world and I find them expensive (especially when they add the damn sales tax).

In a free and competitive market I would expect things like this:

  • Voice- and data-routing WiFi everywhere. Set your bitcoin wallet to connect to 2-3 providers (you can filter reviews by your area and pick 2-3 with best price/performance) and you’ll be good as long as you don’t move
  • If you’re moving, similar functionality on 3G/4G networks
  • Metered payments:
    ** One fee for voice (maybe 3 different SLA’s to choose from, each with appropriate QoS)
    ** Another fee for data (similar, SLA-driven approach, with bandwidth and latency guarantees for up to 95th percentile)

We can only compare rotten apples with rotten apples. Some may seem “good”, but only relatively speaking.

It’s not free but it appears cheap (you partially pay for it if your employer deducts that payment before he pays you) because promises made to people are not on the government books and those costs that do appear on the books cannot be financed (take your government’s deficit for 2014, divide by the number of employed and multiply it by the share of healthcare subsidies and you’ll see how much they’re deferring “for you”).
For example, in the UK healthcare is the 2nd largest budget item.
And that will keep rising, so I wouldn’t be so optimistic about the future of socialized health care.

Okay, I appreciate you shared your experience, but (incidentally) I recently a read about payment systems in Canada (I can’t remember where) and I seem to recall that the author explained Canada’s success by the accidental absence of government in the process. I couldn’t remember the name of the system so I spent a few minutes searching for it.
According to Wikipedia, it’s been around since the 90’s and highly successful since 2001.

As of 2001 the number of transactions completed via Interac Direct Payment has surpassed those completed using physical money

Is that service not as good as they say?

Well, maybe you paid that much because it’s expensive to run an ATM and/or pay for all the compliance costs that the government forces banks to do?
I won’t pretend to be familiar with the economics of ATMs (one could check - there must be a lot of info from the recent Bitcoin ATM (aka BTM) craze), but if those are overpriced that’s wonderful because it will be easier for Bitcoin.
From the Wikipedia entry on Interac:

IDP purchases can be made at all retailers participating in the program, regardless of the financial institution issuing the debit card being used, and normally IDP will not charge any fees to the purchaser for using the program

Maybe that’s why ATM withdrawals are pricey - there’s little need to use ATMs, so the cost has to be distributed on to very few users?

That sales tax also helps pay for the wonderful “free” healthcare!
In reality if they truly wanted to encourage you to invest, they wouldn’t steal 20% of your expenditures. The more you spend, the more need for investment there is (and the higher returns savers can make). But let’s assume they take that money from you for your own good. What do they do with that money?
Of course, they spend it! in fact they spend even more, hence the 50 years of budget deficits!
Perhaps you should reconsider their true intentions :smile:

I don’t contest most of your claims. There is no country in this world that is not excessively regulated.
Some things are cheaper in the EU, but in healthcare true costs are constantly being deferred into the future. Those promises won’t be kept!

In finance, you pay less for ATM service in the EU and certain other things, but you certainly pay more somewhere else (Maybe for mortgage? In the US you can refinance and “lock” the rate relatively easily, while in the EU (and Canada, I suppose) they milk you forever).

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Can we have the best of both world? Deregulating the management of the infrastructure to allow the emergence of innovation through a more free market while regulating their ability to control the actual content to keep internet access neutral? Are these mutually exclusive?

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I certainly wouldn’t want just anybody stringing wires wherever they pleased accross my city’s skyline an digging up my yard every few weeks to bury new cable…

We can argue utopian idealism or we can argue reality but the reality is we don’t live in a utopia.


@janitor "In a free and competitive market I would expect things like this:

  • Voice- and data-routing WiFi everywhere. Set your bitcoin wallet to connect to 2-3 providers (you can filter reviews by your area and pick 2-3 with best price/performance) and you’ll be good as long as you don’t move
  • If you’re moving, similar functionality on 3G/4G networks
  • Metered payments:
    ** One fee for voice (maybe 3 different SLA’s to choose from, each with appropriate QoS)
    ** Another fee for data (similar, SLA-driven approach, with bandwidth and latency guarantees for up to 95th percentile)"

Metered data and separate bill for voice? No!

Your notion of property expresed above doesnt hold. Its as if a big telco was aloud to build a private toll road where a freeway was actually needed and then installed a McDonalds in the middle of it with a “traffic be damned attitude.” Enclosure is not a right and the highest priority of society is not preserving the wealth and power of the rich but the increase of the standard of living. Getting rich and powerful private entities who stand in the way, out of the way, is not only practical but imperative.

With proper tech, markets do obsolete themselves. We have the tech to stop paying these intermediaries and we are pursuing it. That’s the new free market.

I would hope they’re not, but all attempts to wisely regulate have failed.
There are exceptions, but relatively short lived. Trend is that “pro-market” regulation doesn’t last long and ultimately leads to over regulation and rent-seeking.

That’s not how that would work. I wouldn’t want that either. What good is a free market in telecom services when instead your property is being violated?
The way that is supposed to work is:
A) Villages are private entities with their code. If the code says cables must be buried then that’s the rule. There may be villages with cables hanging all over the place - that wouldn’t be too bad either - telco services would be very cheap there so it would be a great place for students and people with low income.
B) Your own garden is your property. No one could dig under it or pull cables over it without your permission.

We do not live in a utopia, but free cities may appear within several years from now.

The point is that the world we live in now is the world we live in now. The ISP’s are government sanctioned monopolies and ought to be regulated as such. We can argue about how things ought to be in some dream world where government sanctioned monopolies don’t exist, But that is quite pointless because they do, and they are.

So, if the government sold the right to string cables across the town in exchange for some public good. The government should also be able to define what that public good is.

Don’t say “competition should solve the problem” because the reality is that these are monopolies and ought to be treated as such until they are not.

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I think all that @janitor, and certainly myself, are advocating for is a consistent moral principle, not even an economic one.

Any principle is as true as it is universal.

If you agree that people should be free from slavery/involuntary servitude, you need to then decide whether it is a universal principle or not.

Just what level of involuntary servitude (slavery) is the right amount? Who determines that level and on what basis?

Of course there are inequities and shortcomings in any circumstance. In some ways markets are freer not than at any time in history, almost anywhere in the world. A really, really good argument can be made that that’s what has facilitated our advances, both social and technical. But that’s not even the point.

No one would paint the current circumstances as utopian, and it’s also not sensible to class someone as arguing utopian idealism for insisting that a universal principle should be applied more and more universally.

Where on Earth does Slavery come into the argument about Broadband? Have I missed something?


If the cable companies do not like the terms of their license they are free to exit the contract and allow the cities to find other willing operators.

There are legitimate reasons for government to subsidize and allow infrastructure. This would be one of them. I want to be able to communicate with the world and in order to do that people must give up some of their rights to infrastructure… Otherwise the infrastructure cannot be built. I want to be able to drive the the bank – but that means somebody has to yield some property for the road to be built. I want power to my house – That has to cross my neighbor’s yard. There are rules to govern such things. And there should be. Those infrastructures are valuable.

But if it is public sacrifice that allowed the network to be built, the public should have enough ownership to say what that infrastructure should be used for. The wire is crossing my yard – who is Comcast to censor it and say I have to watch their NBC programming instead of what I want to watch? It isn’t their wire. They leased the right to install and use the wire. But it is the public’s wire. They monopoly operator is far less forced to operate the wire than I am allowed to refuse the public right away across my property line. If I want to grow a tree that is going to interfere with the wire, my tree is going to be forced to yield. That is involontary on me, not them…


You can’t deny that these “monopolies” as you call them appeared despite all existing laws, regulatory bodies, etc.
That should give you a hint of how not to go about this problem.

At one point I (we?) started considering various possibilities that are not readily available, but the main reason why they aren’t is that with every new law and regulation there’s less chance for actual reforms to happen (assuming you want to participate in the system).

Also on the topic of utopia vs. reality (thanks @fergish for helping me express that more eloquently), I’d ask you to consider MaidSafe (and bitcoin, etc.): if regulatory reform is the way to go, why do bitcoin and MaidSafe exist?
If David didn’t have “Utopian aspirations”, he would have waited until Obamanet, and would have lost years.

Changes won’t happen because of legislative actions, but despite them. Utopian projects - on a micro scale, thanks to government surpression - are thriving today.


How do you figure these ought to have been built?

They got there because we needed roads, telephone lines, power lines, etc and the only way those would be able to come to fruition is by government using it’s might to impose right-of-ways etc.

You aren’t denying that these are monopolies… But you think they ought to be given free reign to use their monopoly power to discriminate against any potential threat? I say no – they are monopolies and ought to be regulated as such until they are not.

Yes, it would be really nice if someday they are not. But they are. And that isn’t going to be changed by using talking points about “competition” when there is no competition or potential for competition.

Bitcoin and MaidSAFE exist to circumvent the regulatory powers – That is a good thing. But that doesn’t change anything yet. MaidSAFE doesn’t work yet, and Bitcoin is more of a dream than a reality as far as it’s power to topple banks or governments. It’s market cap isn’t significant enough to buy much of anything within the scale of world economics.

We ought to be pointing out oligopolies and how they abuse their power. Pretending like they do not exist doesn’t help build the case for the revolution. It makes us look like silly political talking heads… There is no competition in monopolies, to build a case that competition will solve this problem ignores very reality that the public needs to see to see the light.


[EDIT: I wrote the rest of this after reading the first paragraph, above, then finished reading after I posted this. I see that we’re pretty much in agreement, so take from it what you find useful, and cheers.]

This is a common, and extremely unwarranted, assumption. “Gee, if government didn’t do it, there would be no roads, children wouldn’t be educated, and everyone but the rich would die for lack of medical care, small businesses would never have a chance, and (most importantly) to prevent monopolies we have to create and maintain the largest, most intrusive monopoly that can possibly exist.”

Oh, and “The democratic majority will vote for welfare paid for by forcing everyone to pay for what politicians figure is “best”, but nobody will support charity or mutual aid for people in their direct environment.”

Just because roads, telephone lines, power lines, etc., are built and funded by “regulation” doesn’t mean they would not exist without the existing structure. Governments don’t actually build anything. They allocate money which has been taken whether the people contributing wish to support what is being done or not.

How would things look without the government regulatory monopoly? I don’t know. Different, for sure. Better? Maybe–probably, I think. But the point is a moral and philosophical one. It’s back to “Who’d pick the cotton?” The answer is, “Who cares. Let’s be consistent by not starting our social organization with an immoral action, any more than we would rob our next door neighbor to buy an anonymous homeless person a meal.”

Now, yes, there are existing monopolies that are a result of our mutually held misconception of this thing called government. So, since that is what exists, yes, what the regulatory agencies do makes a difference and we might wish to try to influence these in a better direction. It is just like petitioning the local mob boss for support of the city opera house or soup kitchen, but, hey, you’ve got to deal with the existing scene as best you can.

The only real mistake is to assume that because the mob structure is in power and exerting influence, that that is how it should be or must be.

The FCC action on “net neutrality” may be a “good” action in the current landscape. I doubt it, but admit it’s possible. But the whole long-term effect of Maidsafe, bitcoin, and other decentralizing tech., is to completely depower the exact mechanism you’re saying is vital. Over time they will force re-examination and restructuring of our thinking, because that sort of structure won’t be possible anymore.


My phone is pay as you go, and I pay a flat €0.02/Mb, no bundle nor contract. The cellular network is overloaded though, the price caps and planning restrictions mean they don’t build out the tower capacity as they should, there is one tower locally and if it’s full, well your phone doesn’t connect.

I’m probably unlucky though. If I go anywhere away from where I live more towers come into view, so my phone works great away from home, just not while I’m home.

That’s one way of looking at it. Another way is that all Western governments roughly spend 43-50% of GDP, it’s remarkably consistent no matter whether your country thinks itself a socialist paradise or anything goes laissez faire, and moreover all western countries have been converging onto that range quite noticeably over the past few decades (statistically, towards 46-47% in fact, and the fact it’s the same number for so many countries suggests this is an economic fundamental).

Now, if you assume that 46% is some sort of fundamental long term equilibrium point which is reasonable from the econometric analysis of the past century, you can start inverting things like this statement:

If 46% is inevitable, then there is no longer a question of government stealing anything because western government costs 46%, and that’s that. It now becomes a question of “from where should the 46% be collected?”. Should it be from income taxes, consumption taxes, corporate taxes, land taxes, currency debasement etc? That’s because it’s a zero sum game - reduce consumption taxes, and long term you inevitably must raise that money on something else like income taxes.

Coming at it from this perspective, Europe as a whole is highly financially sustainable relatively speaking despite the large unfunded entitlement promises. Europe as a whole has run a trade surplus since 1980, whereas as a whole the US has run a trade deficit since 1980 mainly because Americans have been told by their leadership they don’t have to pay taxes equal to the services they receive, and to date the rest of the world has lent them the shortfall. The US has a much higher unfunded entitlement liability as a percentage of GDP than Europe (you can thank the individual states for that, federally speaking you’re better than Europe), though I expect continuing state bankruptcies should incrementally, if brutally inefficiently, solve that.

So sure, healthcare isn’t free in any country, it’s just a combination of productivity (EU being about twice as productive as the US) and public subsidy. I’ll put it another way round though, if US healthcare were as productive as European healthcare, Americans could have with current taxation levels a 100% publicly funded healthcare system and the complete elimination of privately funded healthcare - every citizen gets 100% free of cost healthcare. All your medical professionals would have to take a 50% cut in pay and about 25% of them lose their jobs to reach that productivity, but seeing as Europeans live a good six years longer than Americans now and more than ten disability adjusted years longer, it would seem that medical professionals really don’t need to be so well rewarded to be effective.

In most European countries mortgages are fixed rate for the full lifetime of the mortgage. You know exactly what it will cost you when you take it out, indeed by law you are told its exact lifetime cost at the beginning and are not allowed one if your present income cannot support it.

Those countries without a tradition of fixed rate mortgages are exactly those which collapsed and needed bailing out. That is not a coincidence. Fixed rate mortgages are highly effective at preventing fixed asset price bubbles because it pushes all the risk of asset price bubbles onto the lender.


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Than god the internet webpipes are now controlled by the government!
Just look at their fine work…

Key staff members at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission were in favor of suing Google Inc for violating antitrust rules before the agency settled its investigation in 2013, according a confidential report cited by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

The report by the staff of the FTC’s competition bureau argued that the owner of the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine illegally took information from rival websites to improve its own search results and placed restrictions on websites and advertisers. The report recommended suing Google for several of its business practices.

The FTC settled its multiyear investigation of Google in 2013, concluding that the company had not manipulated its search results to hurt rivals.


I suppose some are now surprised and want even moar gov’t control over private companies and everything else. That would surely help.

Yes, that’s one moral philosophy, luckily, they are also the questions others ask themselves before proposing an entirely different more altruistic moral philosophy.

Hmm “placed restrictions on advertisers,” that sounds like the key to this right there. Restrictions on advertisers are not a problem. If we have search working right we don’t need ads. Its time to get rid of the ad industry. Despite what was being said restrictions were being placed on advertisers. That is the key to getting our democracy back. Supplier speech does need to be restricted because its drowning out the rest of us. Every argument is always about the rich thinking they are entitled to a louder voice than others. They aren’t, and especially not because of the money temporarily associated with their identity.

Still, its no surprise that the most business oriented agency didn’t do the right thing.

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9 posts were split to a new topic: Why Gamers Should Care about Net Neutrality Overreach

I don’t wish to see these purely normative posts (“should” this, “should” that) which amount to nothing but opinion. Like anyone else I too have opinions but I try to leven them with practical stuff.

I feel that the volume of your posts and comments, nothing but rant, are getting to the level of a DOS.

Mods, I can’t find any way on this forum to block from my view some particular participant. Is that possible? Because if it ain’t then that’s a bug.