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An initiative to extend broadband to every household in New York State by 2018 (nytimes.com)
72 points by jseliger 272 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments



At the risk of sounding like a jerk, this seems like another example of urban areas subsidizing rural areas' infrastructure because those areas aren't really economically viable.

It's a really bizarre situation: you have rural residents who hate 'government handouts' being extremely dependent on just that, and those handouts come from the very 'urban elites' that they despise!

> Two Stones Farm, a small goat farm here, has created an online store to offer more products, including artisanal cheese. “I look at it this way: It’s very much like electricity was at one time,” said Alan White, 54, who owns Two Stones Farm with his wife. “Electricity would have never come to our valley if it was based strictly on population. It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity that we need to operate.”

Well yeah, that's the free market at work.

Like, I don't have a major problem with the subsidy itself, I just hate the massive ignorance and cognitive dissonance involved from people who worship the market except when it doesn't work out so hot for them, and then are suddenly cool with, even eager for subsidies from their political enemies.


This is a very uncharitable interpretation.

Is it really so weird that people are more idealistic at a distance? Or that a person's views in the real world are more nuanced than can be boiled down to a few absolute principles. Even the staunchest free market advocates support the idea of government intervening when markets fail, and there is an almost universally held belief that such a failure exists in the telecom industry.

And do you not think a person could view a market intervention to expand access to what is becoming a utility and social programs that write checks to 'unproductive members of society' to be different? I'm not saying they're right, but calling them hypocrites based on your world view and your generalization of theirs seems to be picking a fight rather than any kind of respectful discussion.


Here's a good example of what I'm talking about:

> And while widening the broadband infrastructure is an essential step toward bridging the digital divide, simply ensuring access does not address the issue of affordability, especially since the F.C.C. is considering slashing parts of a federal program, known as Lifeline, that is meant to help provide affordable broadband to low-income residents.

So here we have a program that benefits poor rural people, being ended by an administration strongly supported by the poor rural people who benefit from that program. How do you resolve something like that? How do you help communities that keep voting in people that want to hurt them?

It seems to me like the first step is knowledge. If the people in rural areas who benefit from urban subsidies become more aware of that, maybe their voting patterns will change.


> How do you resolve something like that? How do you help communities that keep voting in people that want to hurt them?

The thing is, Trump didn't campaign on hurting them, he campaigned on (ambiguous, unrealistic, and often contradicted in other contexts) plans to help them.

To beat that, you need someone campaigning with a strong message directed at the same audience offering a compelling alternative vision of how to address their concerns, including clear criticism of why the first candidates program won't work. A common critique of the Clinton campaign is that it failed to do that with the constituency at issue.


I think you're right, the only problem is that 'the government is bad and unhelpful' is pretty deeply ingrained at this point, and it feels like a message of 'the government will do X to help' isn't going to be effective as long as the former message remains ingrained.


> there is an almost universally held belief that such a failure exists in the telecom industry

There is a widely acknowledged market failure in the telcom market but it doesn't here. Specifically, telcom is a naturally monopoly so we expect there to be one provider and for it to have monopolistic pricing power. Whereas a healthy market has many providers and better pricing (from the consumer's point of view).

In this case there are zero providers because there isn't a high enough collective willingness to pay on the part of the would be consumers to cover the costs, much less any profit. That's not a market failure, at least as it is generally defined.


> This is a very uncharitable interpretation.

Yup.

> Is it really so weird that people are more idealistic at a distance? Or that a person's views in the real world are more nuanced than can be boiled down to a few absolute principles.

I don't think it's weird, exactly, I'd say it's frustrating/borderline infuriating when people vote for one thing while simultaneously demanding the opposite, when people are against 'handouts' except when said handouts are convenient for their lifestyle.

It's massively hypocritical to complain about government handouts while being extremely dependent on them. This isn't some edge case, their lifestyles and communities are fundamentally dependent on the thing they claim to despise.

> Even the staunchest free market advocates support the idea of government intervening when markets fail, and there is an almost universally held belief that such a failure exists in the telecom industry.

Yeah but we're not talking about using regulation to grant a local monopoly, we're talking about the economic fundamentals of providing services like internet. It's not really a 'market failure' that it's uneconomical to provide internet to people who choose to live in remote areas, any more than it's a 'market failure' there are usually no good ethnic restaurants out there, or that land in Manhattan is astronomically expensive.

> And do you not think a person could view a market intervention to expand access to what is becoming a utility and social programs that write checks to 'unproductive members of society' to be different?

To be clear, this isn't a 'market intervention' (what does that even mean?). This is a government intervention that relies on private providers for implementation, not entirely unlike building roads.

> I'm not saying they're right, but calling them hypocrites based on your world view and your generalization of theirs seems to be picking a fight rather than any kind of respectful discussion.

But they are hypocrites, and so far even in conservative circles where I've pointed this out, nobody really has a response that disputes it.

And you're right that what I'm saying is not, by itself, terribly productive. But recognizing the internal contradiction of communities that espouse principles that, if actually implemented, would destroy themselves, or even just recognizing the subsidy at work, could lead to interesting policy discussions.

I think most Americans are unaware of how urban areas subsidize rural ones. The stereotypical lazy person benefiting from a subsidy in political discourse is a poor person in a city who's mooching off welfare, after all, while rural people are -- when they're not stereotyped as backwards hicks -- stereotyped as gruff, hard-working 'real Americans'. And they may indeed be hard-working, but that doesn't mean their lifestyle isn't getting subsidized.


The free market isn't the state of nature but rather a social construct of the state.

So are rural electrification and telecom programs.

And rural residents in New York state aren't universally conservative by any means.


Why this is not just a municipal plan is totally beyond me.

Within months your privately held broadband provider is going to be selling your private info to the highest bidder.

Why we have privately owned public communications lines is utterly beyond me. I do not see why a substantial portion of every dollar I spend on internet has to go to marketing and executive compensation. Completely infuriating.


New York State has the second highest debt of any state - something like $300 Bn. Muni-bonds may be tax free, but they aren't risk free, so that could be an influencing factor. It's also possible that New York is heavily bureaucratic and subject to extensive lobbying, especially by NBC and, by extension, Comcast, which would much rather extend gradually into the rural areas than compete with local government.

The economic reason that internet hasn't spread to every rural household is because there isn't enough demand (in terms of money, not general interest) to pull suppliers out there. If we're going to assume that privacy has value, then allowing providers to have access to consumers' privacy would increase the demand and could help reduce the burden on municipalities or companies to extend broadband. But if we're going to begin every discussion with privacy being protected by default, then costs are going to be higher since the customer will be forced to absorb the costs.


New York is the 4th largest state in terms of population, so obviously it is going to have a big debt compared to, say, Rhode Island. New York has a particularly pathological state government because if you deleted New York City and it's environs, it would be a red state. Thus you have the representatives from Queens who think the government has to subsidize off-track betting to save jobs as well as your share of tea party types. The quality of public services is excellent (they hired a friend of mine to write printer drivers for IBM mainframes fast enough that they can turn around paperwork in 2 days even at peak times) but the level of corruption for elected officials is legendary.

The money argument has nuances. I pay $90 a month for 2 Mbps DSL. From the viewpoint of the phone company, there already is competition for fiber -- they can get $90 a month from me and pay their shareholders a dividend larger than earnings (in fact, pay a dividend even when earnings are negative!) Maybe they could charge $120 a month for fiber, but they could not charge a lot more than that, but from the viewpoint of their investment, they are only getting an extra $30 a month.

Now, a newcomer could get $120 a month, but they would split the market, and some people are going to look for the low cost solution, particularly when the profits the phone company is making are already insane and they could be offering the same service for more like $50.

Probably the most practical situation (what is supposed to happen in my valley) is to work with an incumbent (Charter) to extend service to less profitable areas, because frankly, Charter makes money hand-over-first in all the rest of the areas.


New York has a particularly pathological state government because if you deleted New York City and it's environs, it would be a red state.

That alone isn't enough to explain the dysfunction. If NYC and its environs were more or less homogeneous it would dominate the state and the red parts wouldn't matter. The problem is that there's a three way split -- NYC is 42% (but parts of each of the outer boros are more suburban than urban), Nassau/Suffolk/Westchester is 20%, and the rest of the state is the other 38%. The suburbs of NYC hold the swing votes and are some of the most corrupt parts of an already corrupt state.


Given the FiOS debacle: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/03/nyc-sues-verizon... and the way Google has hit speedblocks in its gigabit program: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/googles-fiber-rollout-is... , I'm not optimistic that this will happen in anything like the scope or timeframe planned. Don't get me wrong—I'd like it to—but I don't believe it will.


New York City never tried. The lady our mayor hired as the city's CTO [1] is a telecom lobbyist. She worked at a bank for a short stint and was fired after signing up a couple departments for $200-plus a month voice-only phone lines. Her first accomplishment, in the administration, was giving our public schools the same treatment.

[1] http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016...


This is New York State, not NYC, and at least the article seems to focus on rural communities. That could make some things easier considering the NYC ground is notoriously chaotic already. Then again, the lower density could make it more expensive, and many more jurisdictions will be involved.

Governments actually have a pretty good track record with larger projects, either equal to and, in some cases, outperforming private companies. What works against them is their tendency to oversell to get approval in the first place, leading to news stories of cost overruns. And, of course, that you rarely hear about projects working as expected, or private projects going wrong.


No project like this will ever come in on time and on budget. If only because these sorts of projects actively select against realistic project estimates. It's just like the software world. Unless management is particularly enlightened (and the State of New York certainly is not), people who promise unrealistic deadlines will be rewarded while people who make realistic promises will be punished.


My in-laws live in a fairly remote area in Upstate NY. They have no access to land-based broadband. Satellite is still inherently expensive, and the phone lines are so noisy that dialup is abysmal. This is a very optimistic plan but unfortunately I don't foresee it coming to fruition any time soon. There are just some areas that are so remote that it isn't feasible.


Very remote areas with normal people should kind of not exist.

Like on one hand I appreciate that freedom to choose where you live is great. But what happens is that when regular people (especially on the poorer end of things) live in the middle of nowhere in super low density areas, is that it becomes extremely difficult and expensive to provide infrastructure and services out there.

And unless they're rich or Paul Bunyan reincarnated, they still probably want things from the government like electricity, water, roads, schools, internet, etc. But the economic productivity is too low to actually pay for those things via taxes, and that's how you end up with voluntary fire departments declining to put out someone's house that's on fire.

We can't let people live just anywhere and guarantee basic infrastructure and services in a cost-effective way at the same time.


This comment nails the economic part of it. Surprising, for HN.


For your curiosity, the equipment in the rack is ADTRAN / TotalAccess 5000 Series - https://portal.adtran.com/web/page/portal/Adtran/group/330


Grant money used for GPON is never a good idea :( And the reason why they are using fiber is obviously the large average distance between potential subscribers in rural New York. Note how they are talking about broadband in the article, the poor people don't have any broadband yet. So they didn't even had ADSL yet and therefore it's no surprise that they are directly jumping to fiber.

It would be interesting to know if they are going for 100% coverage? Or are they only building fiber to the lucrative communities?

And the 100Mbit/$60 plan is too expensive if there is no cheaper option.


"Grant money used for GPON is never a good idea"

Uh, false. It's the only worthwhile idea. Long term OpEx for copper is meaningfully higher than FTTH.

I would argue that 100% coverage isn't nearly as important as 90% coverage. People will coalesce around areas that have FTTH, and wiring that last 10% would probably cost almost as much as the first 90%.


FTTH is great but GPON is bad. The only way to go is "Active Ethernet"/AON. Dedicated fibers instead of sharing them with GPON. That was the intention of my post. With AON you have dumb pipes and multiple carriers can offer their services to the connected customers. With GPON the carrier who owns the headend owns all customers. This means there is no open market and the publicly financed infrastructure will be exploited by the single incumbent carrier.


France has GPON with the ability to pick your provider.

The problem is with AON is that each provider is installing their own more expensive head-end equipment.


Article doesn't mention upload speeds (100mbps download).

Wouldn't surprise me if it's sub 1mbps. It's annoying that miniscule upload speeds are considered "broadband".


I just got a flyer in the mail that says Charter is coming to my valley. When that happens, I won't be a Frontier customer anymore.


I see comments like this all the time. What people have to realize is all these shithole companies would act like this if they can. In the south, you can hear the same story time and time again with Time Warner Cable -- "Man when <insert anything else> comes, I won't be a TWC customer anymore." What needs to happen is the monopolies need to die and we need fair competition in the broadband space. This has been proven where Google made a footprint. All of a sudden, in fiber towns, AT&T or Verizon, or TWC started to offer decent speeds at the price. 50 dollar internet was actually worth it.

Anyways, these companies are all the same. They will milk it as long as they can until they are forced to change.


To be fair, Charter seems like the best of a bad lot. They generally get pretty good customer satisfaction ratings (especially compared to Time Warner and Comcast).

I live in a Time Warner area, and thus far I've been very happy with the Charter acquisition.


"Allegedly?" Is someone making an allegation?


requires subscription


You can get around the paywall if you use incognito mode. Or, you know, buy a subscription.


Broadband is fine and dandy and I am fully supportive but they should also do something about the homeless people living on the streets.


This comment not only has no place here, but is also pretty inane.


Folks can downvote me as much as they want but the reality is Mayors and Governors work with a limited budget with a lot of priorities. Money diverted to such initiatives only means the homeless shelters are not getting the full aid they need. So, to me it is about priorities and allocation of funds.


What if they put funds towards building out broadband and employed homeless people?




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