Can He Get Me Cinemax First?

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So Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias are both noting that the president's proposal to have universal broadband access by 2007 is unlikely to hit that deadline.

I've been steadily less of a techie since I took down my old dial-up BBS when I was 14, so I'll just take their word on that one. But this sure sounds redundant. Cable TV, f'rinstance, is pretty widely available, with about 2/3 of U.S. households hooked up—and presumably the majority of those who don't have it just not particularly interested. Internet penetration (dialup and broadband) recently surpassed cable penetration, and has kept growing, to the point where about 3/4 of us are online [PDF]. Fairly impressive when you consider that it's been a mass medium for much less time. A little over 45 percent of the online households apparently have broadband.

My impression, and maybe this is wrong, is that you can already mostly get cable or DSL broadband in cities and suburbs (or will be able to pretty soon) for about the same price as a basic cable package. If you live out in the sticks, there's satellite access at pretty competitive rates. Do we really need some kind of national strategy to accomplish what the market seems to be doing reasonably well as it stands?

Update: Jim Henley reminds me that we both recently met the EFF's Tim Pozar, whose Bay Area Research Wireless Network is a grassroots attempt to solve the "last mile" problem. Also, while a commenter mentions the persistent problem with wired-access outside urban areas, it seems to me that the possibility of satellite picking up the slack is already here, not some vague possiblity—these guys at least claim that they can deliver high speed to anyone with "a clear line of sight to the southern sky within the continental U.S." It's significantly slower than my cable connection, but even more significantly faster than dialup (and, presumably, likely to get faster). Maybe not ideal, but good enough that it seems hard to justify the cost of running fiber to every freakin' farmhouse in the country.

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  1. It’s not a question of whether we need something redundant with the market. It’s a question of whether Bush needs something to woo key swing demographics (e.g. Midwesterners in rural areas) or toss some pork to his base (anybody in rural areas).

  2. I agree with thoreau. The necessity test is almost never applied to reject any government program. Even true objective need is insufficient as a justification to implement such programs. Here in Central Coast California, for example, we have long needed to widen the urban stretches of Highway 1 (especially in and around Santa Cruz). I have lived in this area for almost 20 years, and the need for freeway widening has been apparent for at least the last 10 or 15 years, but something always breaks the deal. Our own experience shows that we need neighborhood schools, yet, areawide, schools are closing in the face of fierce resistance from parents and taxpayers. We get and keep things we don’t really “need,” and we are seemingly forced to do without things we truly need. The meaning of the word “need” is at issue.

    When politicians say “need,” they are talking about their need to realize some unworkable vision of society that they think will fool enough people into voting for them. It’s all about getting elected or securing re-election, and if people keep buying tales of the Big Rock Candy Mountain — whether John Kerry’s plans to “make the federal government smaller” while raising taxes on gasoline and stepping-up federal involvement in healthcare; or George W. Bush’s tales of life on the glittering interstate information superhighway — then whose fault is our current mess, really?

  3. At least that’s one promise Bush will be able to keep! Let’s see what other planks will be on Bush’s re-election platform:

    “Vote for me and I’ll make sure the moon won’t fall out of the sky!”

    “Attention Men: vote for me so that YOU won’t have to get pregnant to keep the species going!”

    “A vote for Bush is a vote to ensure that most Americans won’t get gray hair until they’re old.”

    Et cetera.

  4. Gosh, Jennifer, you’re a regular Al Franken!

  5. Basic cable costs $49? Yuck.

    Lots of people still can’t get broadband. DSL availability is a function of how many feet of copper lie between someone’s home and the nearest “centra office”. If you’re not close enough now, and unless a lot of new homes or offices are going up in your neighborhood that will require a revamp of neighborhood phone service, that isn’t going to change without (eek!) some sort of coercion or incentive system for the telco. And in rural areras and poorer neighborhoods where few people want $80, 500-channel cable packages, there’s little reason to expect cable companies to decide on their own to upgrade from analog to the digital system necessary for their broadband internet service, especially now that the relatively sparse demand for 500-channel TV in such neighborhoods can be met by satellite providers who don’t have to do any buildout.

    Other schemes like powerline broadband, satellite, 3G wireless and community Wifi might solve the problem, but making broadband internet availability nearly universal in the shorter run (like by the end of this decade) would require some kind of outside intervention. That could come from any number of places, like (ick!) federal or state mandates as our suddenly Communist president seems to suggest, or from (less ick) county and local mandates, or potentially (even less ick) from a grassroots initiative to set up communitywide Wifi relays and networks, for instance.

  6. jennifer,

    are you going to wonder again why people simply won’t argue with your ‘points’? Or, will you some day realize that you are simply acting like a troll (with PMS, I might add). There must be websites that cater to your needs.

    What the hell is “Attention Men: vote for me so that YOU won’t have to get pregnant to keep the species going!”

    If this is how you behave in your classroom, I feel sorry for your students.

  7. Jeez, don’t you guys comprehend sarcasm
    when you read it?

  8. “Do we really need some kind of national strategy to accomplish what the market seems to be doing reasonably well as it stands?”

    No. Never.

  9. Vote for me, and I promise that all objects will be attracted to the ground so they don’t fly off into space!

    Vote for me, and I promise that 2 plus 2 will always be 4!

    Vote for me, and I promise that children will grow, rather than remaining infant-size their entire lives! It’s for the children!

    Vote for me, and I promise that the vast majority of Americans will be 100% heterosexual! Those Massachusettes judges can say whatever they want, but they won’t stop me or millions of other Americans from practicing heterosexuality as long as I’m in office!

    Remember, America, this is election is about our values and our futures. If you value gravity and a world where most people are heterosexual, then vote for me, and I promise to deliver that world! We might hit obstacles, we might encounter naysayers, but we will get the job done! It’s right for America and it’s right for American values!

  10. The best way to halt the private sector’s inevitable march toward universal broadband access is to get the gov’t involved.

    There, does that establish any libertarian cred for me on this forum? Or will people keep calling me a liberal wuss?

  11. The contrast between cable penetration and broadband was interesting. I recently switched from DSL to a faster cable connection. There was a discount for the basic cable TV service with the Internet service as well. Now I have cable TV for the first time in five years. It makes me wonder how many people are just now getting cable TV thanks to broadband cable.

  12. Zorel,
    Jesus, honey, everything I say you manage to twist into “You have PMS” or “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

    I don’t know if it’s some antiwoman thing with you, but I think your mood would vastly improve if you experienced a few orgasms that were NOT self-inflicted. In fact, as I think about it, I wonder if your anti-Clinton screed on the other post wasn’t motivated by sheer jealousy.

  13. I’m looking at signing up for WiFi access that’s cheaper and faster than cable and dsl. I understand that it works best if there’s a line of sight to the transmitter, but people in rural areas tend not to have a lot of trees to get in the way or mountains. Also, they can hook up repeaters.

    Urban areas will probably see the emergence of ad hoc wireless networks. We’ve got one in our town, and it’s a ways from me, but you can certainly imagine it catching on and spreading widely.

  14. I don’t know if it’s some antiwoman thing with you, but I think your mood would vastly improve if you experienced a few orgasms that were NOT self-inflicted.

    OUCH!!!

    Nicely done.

  15. Show of hands: other than Zorel, how many people thought I meant what I said about Bush protecting men from pregnancy? Let’s see, there’s the drooling kid in the safety helmet, the three-year-old whose mom stayed drunk throughout her pregnancy, the guy who just took some bad ‘shrooms. . . .

  16. Of course, that leaves me open to the question “Why is she in the same room with the drooling kid in the safety helmet, the three-year-old whose mom stayed drunk throughout her pregnancy, the guy who just took some bad ‘shrooms. . . .

    Thoreau-
    Merci beaucoup.

  17. Jennifer said: “Show of hands: other than Zorel, how many people thought I meant what I said about Bush protecting men from pregnancy? Let’s see, there’s the drooling kid in the safety helmet, the three-year-old whose mom stayed drunk throughout her pregnancy, the guy who just took some bad ‘shrooms. . . .”

    Don’t forget me! I like to eat paint from old houses.

  18. A much better thing for Bush to do re the Internet: have the FBI arrest Alan Ralsky and some of the other top U.S. spammers. If voters see those jerks doing the perp walk and notice that their spam has immediately dropped off by a big percentage, Bush will win in a landslide.

  19. Given Bush’s views on bioethics, he probably would prevent men from getting pregnant if there was suddenly some medical breakthrough that allowed them to…..

  20. A thought: Is it just me, or would the main beneficiaries of this proposal be rural areas? And since we’re always told that rural dweller (unlike city dwellers) don’t like government largesse, I look forward to speeches in Congress by rural Senators and Representatives demanding that the government not meddle with their constituents’ affairs.

    Sadly, I predict that only one such person will speak out: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)

    Oh, another thought just occured to me: If the government provides your internet access, the gov’t can regulate and/or monitor your internet usage. Yes, I know, there’s already plenty of that. But why invite more?

  21. Thoreau-
    To add to the scariness of your suggestion, consider this: with the rise of all these wireless technologies, the government may one day decree that the Internet is public airspace like the radio spectrum. Then they’d declare the right to regulate the Internet the way they regulate radio, wouldn’t they?

  22. I already pay $49/month for my 3M down/256k up connection, I’m not chipping in one penny so that the neighbors can be provided with the necessity of free or cheap high speed internet.

    This topic got some activity at fark.com, a lot of people there wondered if this isn’t an attempt to get the governement into the business of controlling (censoring) the internet.

    As for universal broadband, I don’t know. I was never really into broad bands…

  23. It’s only a matter of time before somebody posts the following, so I’ll save him/her the trouble:

    “Go put your tinfoil hat on if you think this is about the gov’t monitoring your internet usage. Has Ashcroft put any of you Bush=Hitler types in death camps yet? I didn’t think so. You guys always find something to whine about. Anyway, since big cities already get so much government spending, I don’t see why you’re suddenly upset over a tiny bit of pork. Isn’t it only fair that rural people representing the vast majority of America’s landmass and natural resources get their piece of the pie?”

    (The part about “land mass and natural resources” is a tribute to “Ray”, a former poster who used that phrase once or twice in an urban vs. rural political argument.)

  24. jennifer,

    “Jesus, honey, …”

    You are taking God’s name in vain or some blasphemy like that 🙂 love you too!

    Thoreau,

    Pretty smart to take away your opponents’ argument away from them by floating it first!

    Why don’t I say “Bush=Hitler and Bush Lied” and save you and Jennifer the trouble of repeating these charges in every discussion.

    You guys are very scared of what our democratic government might do to us (even though we the people elect it, I do share your concern about government), but you are very comfortable with the fact that Saddam & Sons were actually doing many terrible things to Iraqi people!

    Before you trot out the “we can’t right all wrongs” line, I think we should do what we can under the circumstances. And we did just that.

  25. the government may one day decree that the Internet is public airspace like the radio spectrum

    I agree. Some of you other people who don’t see this happening are putting an *awful* lot of faith in our government.

    since big cities already get so much government spending, I don’t see why you’re suddenly upset over a tiny bit of pork.

    I think rural areas already get far more than their fair share of pork on a per-person basis — why on earth does the goverment find it necessary to dole out even more money just to make it easier for people to spread out? I think if you choose to live out in the middle of nowhere, you can pay the extra money to wire yourself up.

  26. The problem here isn’t really that so many people don’t have access to broadband, it’s that our experience of broadband is quite different from other parts of the world. 1.5 Mbps or even 3 Mbps is paltry and still not particularly useful for big downloads. South Korea has an average 8 Mbps connection for a little over $30 a month and one-third of their economy is derived from e-commerce, including video-on-demand and the world’s largest online gaming network. If you can’t download a movie to your computer or TiVo in less than 10 minutes, you might as well go to the video store. The thought behind the Bush plan, I hope, is to speed up the connections for apps that will trigger new economic growth.

  27. Going to the video store, even a close one is 15 min away, + you have to put some clothes on

    What kind of movies are you watching naked? LOL!

    Seriously though, I don’t see how this could be part of a master plan to take over the internet. If indeed the govt plays a large part in extending broadband networks, there’s absolutely no basis in law for it to gain any control over the entire internet. True, it could regulate content accessed via its part of the network, but that’s all.

    As far as sattelite regulation goes, the distinction between unregulated communications (cable, satellite tv, internet) and regulated ones (radio, broadcast tv) is not the fact that they’re wireless, but that the latter can be accessed by anyone, including minors, with the proper equipment. The former require subscriptions, which must at some level be under the control of an adult.

  28. Jennifer,

    The best orgasms are self-inflicted. Heh heh!

  29. If indeed the govt plays a large part in extending broadband networks, there’s absolutely no basis in law for it to gain any control over the entire internet.

    I’m sure our lawmakers can find a way. They’re pretty good at that sort of thing.

  30. If indeed the govt plays a large part in extending broadband networks, there’s absolutely no basis in law for it to gain any control over the entire internet.

    I’m sure our lawmakers can find a way. They’re pretty good at that sort of thing.

    Especially if we let the UN get involved. Egads, if you think that our government getting involved is a scary prospect, wait till Kofi and his chums start regulatin’.

  31. satelite internet access SUCKS. the latency is horrible, to the point of being fustrating for some apps (cvs, rsync), to useless (games).

  32. Jennifer posts and then Zorel posts that she should not.
    “are you going to wonder again why people simply won’t argue with your ‘points’?”

    …and of the next three posts two were of Jennifer.
    As for who would want her to be a teacher of their children,
    I can see your point, but ignored, she is not.

    IF someone is to be shunned, ignored, as Zorel says,
    then do that, just that, but don’t tell them.
    If you tell them, they aren’t being ignored.

  33. LOL Pee Wee! How true! And safer too.

    To the topic, I only got cable the other week while the other side of the street has had it for more than a year. Why? Because Adelphia has the Gubmint-awarded monopoly and Adelphia went bankrupt.
    Do I want the Gubmint to step in? Hell no! The next thing we’ll hear is the Net must now really be cleaned up “for the children”.
    Lest anyone think our elected reps aren’t lusting after controlling everything, including Net activity, get acquainted with Orrin Hatch, Patrick Leahy and Kofi Annan.
    Motto: “What there ain’t no law? No problem, we’ll make one and enforce it too!” “There has never been a regulation we didn’t like to impose.”
    http://wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,62830,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

    Sorry, Reason 😉

  34. Change that last one:
    “There never will be a regulation we won’t like to impose.”

  35. Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer
    Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer
    Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer
    Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer
    Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer
    ain’t being ignored.

    Ain’t it like a woman to break up Zorel’s circle jerk!

  36. I like the idea of having cheaper broadband.
    What is the problem? A third of us have it now.

  37. pretty cool points DJ.

    Also, Patric, those points you are arguing are brought up by thoreau to show hwo ridiculous they are, they argue against themselves.

    But to concur with what I believe both of you believe; farm subsidies should be abolished, and the government should not be involved in getting people tv, unless an armed band is preventing those people from getting tv.

    Speaking of the government getting involved in tv: Recently I read an article in Arab News about Israel supposedly putting out a 24 hour porn sattelite channel in Arabic to the middle east. I thought it was a very humorous idea of the Israelis. I would like to know how I can get it while I am over here. If I was as computer savy as the rest of you I would provide a link that you could read it yourselves.

    Jennifer,
    “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
    What? You wear panties now?
    Just kidding.

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