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Broadband Communism: Jeremy Corbyn gets serious about free internet (easydns.com)
38 points by StuntPope 60 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

The money quote:

"Nowhere is this more evident than in the United States, where in recent years more than 800 communities have established locally owned broadband networks (of which around 500 are publicly owned). This includes around 150 communities that have super-fast networks of at least 1Gbps and 20 that have 10Gbps networks. Publicly owned broadband networks are increasingly attractive because, like in the UK, wide swaths of the country – especially rural and low-income areas – remain unserved or underserved by the big corporate telecom companies. These corporations have little incentive to invest in improving networks in such areas, choosing instead to make profits for their shareholders by increasing rates for consumers in areas where they enjoy a monopoly or duopoly."

Locally owned serving 10Gbps vs my corporate-owned inner Sydney service serving 10Mbps.

Our government and corporations have utterly failed Australians.

Locally owned != federally run

I'm not 100% sure a surveillance state actually running the pipes of the internet will be much worse than some opaque telecom oligopolies with close ties to security services. But I suspect it would be.

Granted that surveillance state is what the UK is now, but Corbyn is a person with a political ideology that would have you get the free internet without surveillance. Not something that can be achieved easily though.


Would you please stop using HN for political battle? We've had to ask you about this already, and you started and perpetuated a tedious political flamewar here. We don't want that on HN, and we ban accounts that do it, regardless of their politics.


This is a 100% political submission and I commented on its substance.

It's disappointing to be censored and accused of "flame war" for doing this.

Just because an article has a political aspect doesn't make it exempt from the site guidelines or mean it's ok to start flamewars. On the contrary, those are where the rules apply the most.

We want thoughtful conversation motivated by curiosity, and comments that add information. We do not want denunciatory rhetoric and generic venting. The latter are not ok regardless of the topic, so please don't post like that.

If you had posted an informative critique of what's wrong with the proposal, that of course would have been fine. But if we take out the pejoratives, grand claims, and other information-free things, there's actually nothing left of that comment. Nowhere do you explain or justify any of your claims; you just piled on more of them. For example, calling something appallingly Marxist just adds noise. So does leaping darkly to "the history of the 20th century". You're far from the only user doing this, of course; people on all ideological sides do it here, and we moderate it when we see it. But you were specifically the user who swerved in this ideological battle direction and then, when others were predictably provoked, perpetuated it. That's definitely against the rules.

I did not start a flamewar. I commented on the substance of the article.

You may not be versed in British politics. The people who came up with this proposal are self-proclaimed Marxists and they plan Marxist policies. That's factual and publicly recognised.

I hope that calling on the history of the 20th century is justification enough to back my statement that the results have overwhelmingly be appalling (which is a historical fact) for the educated readership of HN.

I feel that you are accusing me of not justifying a claim that "water is wet", and that might appear disingenuous.

> technology companies should be scared.


> This proposal means billions of Pounds wasted on killing the industry

Wasted or invested?

> and billions more lost as a result.

Why? By who? To who?

> And then stagnation and a slow decay...

Where? Due to what?

> Why?

Because if the government decides that it can, at any point, kill off your entire industry and destroy hundreds of billions in value, then we’re all fucked.

You are the government. Small communities running their own network is the best case for everyone. The labor required will not change so those of us with networking skills will still have work and the scale is still high enough to pay is well. As long as the wireless industry exists to provide competition I still wonder why are you worried?

Under the proposal we are discussing here, which is to nationalise broadband providers and to then provide the service 'free' to consumers there is no competition.

Once this is done, then of course someone will say "hey let's nationalise the wireless industry as well"... Those guys are real Marxists, that's their ideology and goal.

Apologies, that's the worst case.

> Why?

Unfair competition from the state, with limitless pockets, driving them to bankruptcy.

> Wasted or invested?

Wasted when finally repealed, or lost to lack of maintenance.

> Why? By who? To who?


> Where? Due to what?

No competition. Lack of incentives to improve the network.

edit: love to see the downvotes of those who can't argue. Keep em coming

> Unfair competition from the state, with limitless pockets, driving them to bankruptcy.

Nope. The competition can still sell a better service, and can pass the free tier on for free. Also, ISPs sell bundled services, such as SIM cards or media packages. They can continue doing that.

> Wasted when finally repealed, or lost to lack of maintenance.

Nope. Invested. If some future government wants to throw that investment in the bin, that's on them.

> Taxpayers The Tax Payer already invests in the infrastructure and get's nothing back.

> No competition. Lack of incentives to improve the network.

Nonsense. This isn't a monopoly. If anything, the infrastructure in terms of ground works will make it cheaper for private companies to run their own cables to people's houses, offering superior bandwidth.

I must say I am shocked to read this on HN.

There won't be competition because broadband will have to be free and it will also be a monopoly (what else?).

They won't stop there because they want a socialist economy. 5G? State-monopoly and 'free', etc.

How can seemingly smart and educated people in 2019 not understand and see what these guys are? They don't even hide it. Just ask Eastern Europeans, they know.

They've said the plan is to nationalise OpenReach. That's the commercial wholesaler, who provide the fibre, the cabinets, the kit in exchanges. As the article notes, ISPs will have the option to keep going continuing to use OpenReach's infrastructure, now nationalised and named British Broadband. So all that's changed is the supplier of the pipes.

How does that kill competition, enforce a monopoly, and ripple through into 5G - which is the mobile companies and nothing to do with OpenReach?

For someone complaining of everyone's lack of smarts, you seem to have very little awareness of what is actually proposed. The sad thing is, BT invented a lot of the kit that enabled fibre. Much of the research whilst they were still a nationalised utility, and proposed to roll it out 100% in the 80s. That was FTTH not FTTC. Thatcher stopped it. The tech was sold off to the companies they now buy from.

No, the plan is to nationalise broadband with 'free' service to all. There would be nationalised infrastructure and a nationalised service provider to consumers.

The Labour manifesto: "We will establish British Broadband, with two arms: British Digital Infrastructure (BDI) and the British Broadband Service (BBS)."

This is both infrastructure and retail. That by default enforces a monopoly and kills competition. Even if it is not made illegal to do, what company can compete against free?

McDonnell publicly stated that private providers would be allowed to continue, but [1]:

"Mr McDonnell said that if other broadband providers did not want to give access to British Broadband, then they would also be taken into public ownership."

This is a non-existing choice in reality. It's either go bankrupt or be nationalised.

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg considering all the other nationalisation that they have already publicly proposed. It would have a ripple effect to 5G, and perhaps even a direct effect (nationalisation).

At the moment the reaction has be muted because the market does not think they'll be elected. But if they are then I predict that the stock market will immediately crash (on Friday 13th December, of all dates...)

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50427369

I don't see the problem. The same companies that competed when BT owned OpenReach at the same time as the ISP BT Internet. In the early days before LLU they paid a damn rental to BT Wholesale (as I think it was back then), yet loads of ISPs managed to grow via essentially second class access, and second class service speed (early repairs and provisioning were essentially down to "Ask BT Wholesale nicely"). Well how the hell did the others get large enough to push for LLU?

The choice of giving access here is a different measure - to give access to the infrastructure arm for those companies who have built out smaller, competing fibre networks like the couple of city services that sprung up. It's unclear if that will encompass the tiny regional additions to add internet to far flung rural villages.

In essence, that is no difference to local loop unbundling, except this time it's going the other way and requiring the national provider be given access to infrastructure.

There is still no reason not to provide a commercial retail ISP service. Maybe Talktalk will still be able to offer something in place of merely being cheaper by being the shittest in the market. Maybe Zen or Andrews and Arnold will be able to carry on charging more by offering a markedly better standard of service, or faster internals, or a robust stance on blocking and censorship. The compulsory part is -- from what we have been told -- only the infrastructure access. Sky and Virgin will probably include TV as part of the package.

It will be similar to how private medicine ceased to be in the UK after the NHS was instantiated -- except it didn't, did it? BUPA and others found a niche.

Whether it works, is a success, or a mega-project mega-failure remains to be seen. The idea of a nationalised infrastructure in a world where the net is required for so much makes sense, particularly when national rollout of FTTH has been so dire. It has become as much a natural monopoly as water. I'm less convinced the retail side makes quite so much sense...

5G is, for the time being, completely irrelevant as it's a mobile tech.

It will be a monopoly once companies have gone bankrupt.

* If some future government wants to throw that investment in the bin, that's on them.*

No, that's on the taxpayers. Politicians never pay the cost.

Yeah, imagine if this was applied to something like water. Having it be a public utility? We'd all be dead...


And you think the position of "everything must be privately owned and a competitive market" is not an ideology? Internet infrastructure is a natural monopoly, and it makes a lot of sense for it to be publicly owned.

And even if you think it's not a great idea, it's worth discussing it like adults rather than "communistical!", although the article's title doesn't help with that.

Discussing like adults means having the knowledge and will to face the facts (and to avoid childish blanket downvotes...)

John McDonnell say himself that he is a Marxist. The current Labour manifest is hardcore socialist and many of their plans are exactly how things were in former socialist/communist countries.

It's clueless or disingenuous to claim otherwise.

It's also disingenuous to compare their manifesto to full on communism when they are planning to leave the majority of the economy to the private markets. Just because someone thinks that Marx's analysis is insightful doesn't mean that they are advocating a soviet style economic system.

You say their plans are "hardcore socialist", but most of them have comparable implementation in other western european countries. And socialist or not (socialism isn't a dirty word you know), they have generally been very successful for these countries.

To take one example, a large proportion of the British rail system that is supposedly "privately" run, is in fact run by the state rail companies of other countries (who bid on the contracts). It's kind of crazy that we allow them to profit off our country in this way.

It's already been done in ~500 communities in the United States, according to the article. Capitalism failed so hard that governments could actually do it better.

AFAIK, no one has died yet because of it.


20th century experiments like Japan and South Korea's public internet infrastructure programs which lead them having fastest and cheapest internet connections in the world?

Britain's national telecom company was rolling out fibre in the 80's before the conservative government decided we'd be better served by private companies.


Source on asian "public internet infrastructure"? I'd like to know more about this.

Yeah, my bad, I messed up my comment, I was editing it as you wrote yours.

I meant to say "capitalism" not the free market.

The socialist broadband was created in those communities because the privately owned broadband was so bad.

But yeah, you're right, there's still a market.

> (and in fact workers-owner)

what’s wrong with that?

> by political ideology

but isn’t that how our current system is as well? the political ideology of “free market” and “globalism” etc?

Can you imagine? Workers and citizens owning critical local infrastructure instead of shareholders? The horror!

Seriously though, there are efforts like this already in the UK as a non-profit [1], and they are crushing it. You don't need private ownership to bring about innovation. You need a healthy attitude towards trying unconventional methods, and constrained resources doesn't hurt.

[1] https://b4rn.org.uk/ (B4RN is a professionally designed fibre optic broadband network, registered as a non-profit community benefit society, and run by a dedicated local team with the support of landowners and volunteers. We offer 1,000Mbps FTTH broadband to every property in our coverage areas, costing households only £30 per month.)

EDIT: B4RN did a 3 million pound bond offer, and it was oversubscribed by 10%. https://www.triodoscrowdfunding.co.uk/invest/broadband-for-t...

> Broadband and the technology sector in general are both highly competitive and highly innovative.

Are we talking about UK or southern Europe, for example Romania with gigabit fiber at $20/mo for like the past 5 years ?

Broadband, being a natural monopoly in terms of having to actually run wires into your house, is the opposite of competitive. I don't know if Canada is the same way, but most places in the US have at most 2 options, both mediocre.

This is no natural monopoly, only a broken system. Where I live in Brazil I have at least half a dozen broadband providers to choose from, big and small, and this is not a major city.

too generous...

It seems instead that you are too stingy with your arguments. Why is socialism such a bad policy for these sorts of services? You can't just invoke the Great Leap Forward and expect anyone to agree.


Knowing it and having taken the lesson to heart are two different things. Plenty of people advocate for socialist policies of the "we already know the outcome" kind. They sound fair, and good to the poor, but are in fact harmful to those same people.

There are plenty of beneficial socialist policies, but sometimes the distinction between the two is not so clear.

So seeing as you say the distinction is not so clear, how about you provide some examples?

Is public healthcare one? Public education? Public housing? Worker co-ops?

More reasoned analyses of 20th century performed by actual academics tend to view the collapse of the Soviet Union as a complex process with multiple confounding factors, including heavy losses in WW2, meteorological tragedies such as drought, ensuring crises and massive social changes from a feudal serfdom being transformed into a space-faring nuclear superpower within two generations, corruption within Stalinism itself, inherent geographical and power advantages of America and West Europe, etc. Careers are built on this.

No reasonable person objectively looks at 20th century history and says 'workers owning the means of production caused this', and it's equally asinine to suggest 'public broadband will lead us back to this'

> performed by actual academics

It turns out academia is the one place where these ideas live on, because there is zero skin in the game required from those defending them. There is no consequence for backing a nice sounding theory that is deadly in the real world (e.g. Sartre and Pol Pot).

So it looks like you're one of those people who've been fooled.

Look at any communist country and note that the worker ends up with fewer rights and an order of magnitude poorer. The reason is simple and fundamental, if you remove personal incentives for innovating and producing useful things, you get a much less efficient system and smaller economic pie. Everyone is poorer.

The collapse of the Soviet Union is neither here nor there, it's not the point.

> if you remove personal incentives for innovating and producing useful things

Do you never stop and think about how you're so quickly equating "incentive" with money (and only money)?

If we look at people that have been radically innovative a great many of them do not appear to be particularly interested in accumulating wealth. So much do we owe to Claude Shannon, or Albert Einstein, and yet did these men innovate to get rich? No.

Money is not the only incentive, but it's a very important one.

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