Who needs facts when you can litigate?

Posted by tigerhawkvok on May 02, 2010 16:57 in politics , news , anti-science , climate

Well, hello blog. Long time no see.

So, I ran behind on TT's, decided to queue them, and as the queue got longer it got harder to catch up, so I'm going to call the missing weeks of Tetrapod posts a lost cause, and just try to restart (eg, don't expect a backlog).

Not to say that there hasn't been plenty to write *about*. Most of the notable interesting things have been political/legal in nature the past month rather than scientific, but that's not to say there hasn't been plenty of science knocking around.

Now, Virginia is happy to blur those lines, and just pull an insane political stunt involving science. The peice of work Ken Cuccinelli has decided that Virginia will probe Michael Mann, chief climate researcher at the University of Virginia, for fraud. Yep, disagree with climate change? Use taxpayer money to screw with a researcher! Now, Mann already was under an ethics investigation for the whole so-called climategate, and was exonerated (also brought up by AGW deniers). He also uses the CRU emails as a basis to bring suit to the EPA, saying "Faulty climate data must be corrected". Never mind two investigations in Britain also found the allegations were bunk (links for first investigation, second investigation).

Little things like facts or taxpayer money be damned, Ken Cuccinelli will litigate everything he doesn't like. Or otherwise work to change it. Like covering up a Roman goddess's breast in the Virginia state seal (seal on LA Times). Yeaaah.

While we're at it ...

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 15, 2010 23:06 in politics , religion

Well, if I'm going to post on a controversial topic, I might as well go all-out. So, why would it bother anyone who-marries-who? Really? Does it affect you, somehow? In other words, what's wrong with gay marriage?

For a while I thought that perhaps civil unions would be good enough. But really, I wasn't satisfied with it unless the civil unions were exactly as good as a marriage in all but name. But, in that case, it *is* a marraige, and you're just calling it something different. And who was I to get all worked up and deny something to anyone based over semantics? It's plain silly.

I don't really care what another person is doing in their love life. So far as I'm concerned, polygamy/polyandry/polyamory is fair game, too. It was for thousands of years, anyway, so you can't even make a historical argument against it. If marraige really needed a definition, I'd define it as a civil/legal union between >1 consenting adults.

Yes, that rules out bestiality. Don't bring it up.

Fun point: if you're straight, a gay person of your own sex removes competition from the pool. There are now two fewer people going after the opposite sex! And you have that tiny bitty fraction better chance. (Yes, I realize things don't work like this. I still think it's a funny idea.)

I suppose I'm in the camp of "live and let live". If we don't, how are we any different than Islamic fundamentalists? (Hint: I don't think any brand theistic fundamentalism is different from any other, including Islamic)

Repeat after me: HCR does NOT fund abortion

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 15, 2010 19:53 in politics , religion , news , medicine

There is talk on the news (well, at least making headlines in Google News) about the bill funding abortion. Well, it doesn't. It is on page 2072 of the Senate bill. To quote PoliticsDaily,

But does the Senate reform bill finance abortion insurance coverage? The answer is no, and it is there in the bill, on page 2072: "If a qualified plan provides [abortion] coverage...the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services." As Slate's Timothy Noah put it, "That seems pretty straightforward. No government funding for abortions."

But lets run with it for a moment. Assume it does fund abortion. So what? Objection to public funding for abortion runs along the lines of "I don't like it, I disagree, therefore I should not have to pay for it. It kills people". That's like saying "I object to Karl Rove. I disagree with him vehemently. He is responsible for the death of troops and civilians in the Middle East. Therefore, I refuse to pay taxes, since they fund services he uses." Neither argument really makes sense.

I don't really want to get into the abortion debate. All it does is lead to flame wars. I happen to feel that identical twins wreck about 90% of the arguments against abortion as a single argument, and being pro-choice detracts nothing from the other argument, merely leaves an option open to whoever wants it. Sigh.

Stewart, Obama, and the GOP

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 02, 2010 14:44 in politics

As always, Jon Stewart is hilarious while informative. Some choice clips from Obama's friday evisceration of the more absurd talking points on the right.


For the non-partisan fact checking side of things, you can see factcheck's analysis of the State of the Union and Politifact's quick analysis of the above GOP retreat Q&A (and here's factcheck's). Let it not be said I don't try to give both sides a fair shake ...

Campaign Finance Again

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 24, 2010 02:06 in politics

So, I thought more about the amendment thing, as an an exercise, I wote up a (I feel) pretty comprehensive amendment.

Article 1:
People and persons under the law, are defined as organic beings, autonomous in their healthy state, with DNA differing no more than 5% per chromosome, with respect to a mean genomic profile of 100 reference individuals, selected randomly from the population every 100 years, consisting of equal parts genetic male and genetic female.

Article 1.1:
This definition may be expanded by a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate to advanced organic beings recognized of personhood, or to artificially created digital intelligences.

Article 2:
Rights granted to organizations, unions, corporations, and other groups are only in scope explictly granted by Congress. New rights and priveledges granted to these groups will have a delay in implementation of no less than two years.

Article 3:
Organizations, unions, corporations, and other groups are prohibited from financing, advertising, or campaigning for or against any issues or candidates presented to the public for a state or federal election.

That, I think, covers all the bases — and is even forward looking!

Questions for the Supreme Court

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 22, 2010 18:03 in politics

I think this article very nicely summarizes my feelings on the USSC's decision yesterday (sans the partisan bit — I think that opposition to this *should* be bipartisan). Thus, I quote it in its entirety.

10 Questions About the Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Finance

By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Like many on the left side of the philosophical spectrum, I was taken aback at the Supreme Court's ruling this week in Citizens United v. FEC. Who knew that corporations were entitled to the same right to free speech that individual citizens are? I had heard phrases about corporate citizenship, of course, and being "good corporate citizens," but I had no idea that the five justices in the court's "precedent? We don't need no stinking precedent" bloc took it so literally.

But after further thought, I for one welcome our new corporate countrymen. I just have a few questions about which other rights and obligations of citizenship the court might want to grant corporations:

  • Do corporations have an individual right to bear arms? I mean other than Blackwater.
  • Will corporations now be counted in the Census for purposes of Congressional reapportionment and redistricting? If so, they're going to need a lot more seats for the Delaware delegation.
  • Do corporations have a right to vote? If so, must they have been in operation for at least 18 years? If so, sorry Google.
  • Must foreign-owned corporations get work visas before doing business in this country?
  • Do corporations have the right to an abortion? (Is that what happened to Conan O'Brien's TV show?)
  • Must corporations register for the Selective Service?
  • Are corporations led by same-sex-CEOs allowed to merge? Or is that only legal in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Iowa?
  • At age 65, do corporations become eligible for Social Security and Medicare?
  • Would corporations be eligible for healthcare under the Obamacare plan? (Was the auto bailout the corporate equivalent of the public option?)
  • Finally: Are corporations now eligible for nomination to the Supreme Court?

In fairness I should note that all of these questions apply to unions as well. It's truly a brave new world into which these "conservative" jurists are leading us.

I am very, very bothered by this ruling, and time has not made me get less angry, only moreso. Corporations needing free speech and being censored is baloney. The employees can spend their money on political campaigns how they wish, and stockholders can do the same — with their own personal money. Giving this ability to the corporations themselves is just asking for a McDonald's president. Good job ignoring precedent, USSC; CFR was established by prior courts as OK in 1990, 1982, 1986, and 2003. *Sigh*.

Campaign Finance Reform

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 22, 2010 11:21 in politics , news

So, the US Supreme Court (USSC, or Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS) yesterday overturned legislation dating back ~100, 60, and 15 years ago was overturned yesterday, allowing corporations and businesses to donate as much as they want to campaigns. Hello, Corporate America. First, I want to say this is not judicial activism, any more than Kitzmiller v. Dover was I want to say this is manifest judicial activism, as it overturns previous rulings by the USSC, as recently as 2003. However, given the current USSC makup, it is an inevitable decision. Now, since the Court overturned the legislative bits on the grounds that they were abridging the first amendment, we can figure out the crux of that past precedent by looking at what it says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are two ways to address this: either by defining terms, or by changing the reference point. I will consider the definition, first. Speech can be defined as using vocalisations to communicate. It is thus arguable that the entire first amendment applies to people, or persons. Since the campaign finance measures were struck down on unconstituationality, we need to look at amendments, an along this line here is a proposed amendment, based on the implicit and explicit use of people and persons as the objects to which the Constitution is referring:


People, and persons, under the law, are defined as organic beings, autonomous in their healthy state, with DNA differing no more than 5% per chromosome, with respect to a mean genomic profile of 100 reference individuals, selected randomly from the population every 100 years, consisting of equal parts genetic male and genetic female.

This explicitly excludes companies and corporations, requring rights to be enumerated to then rather than explicitly granted. Wording is chosen to prevent rare mutations (such as XXY) from disqualifying a person as a "person under the law", to smooth out individual genetic irregularities, and to accomodate population drift over time.

The difficulty in this method is, then, it requires ancillary legislation to grant groups basic rights. I don't think it's much of a problem, but in that case, we can look at a second class of amendments, ones affecting campaign finance only:

Amendment (v1; microdonations):

Campaign spending is limited to $100 donations per individual per campaign, adjusted for inflation to the 2009 USD, with an equal amount of public matching. A total limit to public matching may be declared by the states, but all individuals with at least 10,000 signatures are eligible for public matching.

Amendment (v2; gross transparency):

At the end of all video advertisements for a campaign or issue, a screen not shorter than 3 seconds and occupying at least 50% of the video frame used must list the name, dollar amount, fractional ad amount, and affiliation of the top five donors to that advertisement. Subsequent text must be listed revealing the location of a publicly accessible list with the full list of donors with the same information.

For nonvideo visual media, this notification must occupy at least 25% of available space. This information must be read out for audio media.

Amendment (v3; explicit opt-in):

Groups, corporations, and other agglomorations may not spend money on campaigns unless the money used are fully obtained by group members opting in to such spending with federal form XXX-NNNN. If a member or employee does not opt in, all money and profits derived from them is not allowed to be spent in this fashion. If the profits associated with this individual are part of a composite product, their fractional work in completing said product is the fraction of profit derived from such product banned from spending.

So, each of these has their ups and downs. The first just largely scales back campaigns, and puts every person an a thoroughly equal footing. Then, corporate rights are not abridged in that campaign financing has special rules that limit donations to people, an furthermore, no person has more buying power in an election than any other. Public matching is there to help the campaigners, and low signature count allows more viable, third-party candidates.

The second is pretty obvious. By being grossly transparent, buying out an ad is much less effective if the ad has the top five donors all from AIG.

The third would be the hardest to impelement, but keeps people honest. No double spending, and no working to influence a campaign in a direction you don't like. Corporations are free to spend as much as they like, but not on the back of employees who disagree with the policies they promote. Otherwise, in the status quo, it's possible for a corporationto directly oppose something you support, and for your donation to be meaningful, you need to donate X to override what your employer spent on your behalf, then pay Y, your own donation.

In any case, I think all of these would address the issue at hand, and all in a more-or-less fair way. Of course, another funny way to look at it would be to say since corporations are persons, bankruptcy is killing a company, which is thus murder. Which is a kind of amusing idea, and just as ludicrous as giving corporations full first amendment rights.


Edit: Reflecting, on the first proposed amendment, it would also have to state that legislation granting non-person entities person-rights have a delay of at least two years. This would allow people to elect-out representatives that allot too much power to corporations again, and not have such rulings take instant effect and nullify the point of the amendment. There are also AI concerns, but then the only way to include them from here is an intelligence threshold, which excludes certain people from the legal definition of person.

Broadly acceptable public option?

Posted by tigerhawkvok on December 04, 2009 04:05 in politics , medicine

Just a quick post ... but here's a thought on the public option.

It's been brought up that the real trick to getting healthcare reform through the senate is to have a public option weak enough to attract swing votes but strong enough to not repel strong votes. I think this construction would do it:

  • All states have a weak public option they can opt out of. It begins weaker than the initial senate proposal. Opt out can be done only by public vote with a majority. Opt-out can be pushed only once every five years.
  • If after one year, the relevant factors have an insufficient change (uninsurance rates, fraction of income, mean insurance prices, etc), this changes to the current House version of the public option. This is stronger and has a strong public rate negotiation. This is a "trigger" phase one. This phase is automatically triggered if states that "opted out" fail federal guidelines five years after bill passage.
  • Two years after this (so, three years after the bill takes effect), if set targets are not made, in that state public option rates change to strong medicare negotiation / single payer rates. This is a phase two "trigger".
  • So, it begins weak enough to appease conservatives (so, if weak public option/other measures are sufficient stronger versions will never take effect, combined with an opt-out mechanism). If this is insufficient (in my opinion, the likely case), it changes to a moderate level public option, and once again the market is given a time frame to stabilize (and thus, a chance for the measures to take effect). Evaluation after this period then reverts to a strong public option.

    Thus, every level of "belief" in the public option is given a fair shake, beginning with minimal-intervention, mostly market shaping and depending on the level of ineffectualism, it would reach a stable point within each state.

    I actually really think this is sellable to all all stripes of the political spectrum.

Telcos: Yes, they really are that wretched

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 28, 2009 01:12 in computers , politics , internet

Oh man, this article from ArsTechnica just says so much. The skinny:

Monticello, Minnesota was getting bad internet service. The voters passed a referendum to have a municiple, fiber-to-the-home service. TDS, a local telco, sued. And sued. And sued some more. And after stonewalling the government for long enough, they unveilled today a 50 mbps symmetrical fiber-to-the-home service for all residents, at $49.95 per month.

Sample two:

Such stories aren't limited to Minnesota suburbs, either. Just last month Telephony Online ran a piece on how Cox cable prices had "dropped considerably" since Lafeyette, Louisiana lit up a fiber system of its own.

"Cox froze the cable rates in Lafayette, and they didn’t freeze the rates in other areas," said Terry Huval, director of the muni project. "We figured our citizens saved over $3 million in cable rates even before we could offer them service."

via Ars

Big surprise, we don't have enough competition and when we suddenly get it, hey presto, prices drop and service improves — even if the government (albeit local) has to inject competition into the marketplace.

So, first, this really drives home the whole "Telcos are retarted and kinda vaguely evil" point, second, we do not have enough broadband competition, dominated by two or three carries, covering 75-80% of customers.

Third — does this have an analogue I'm missing? Hm... oh wait. A goverment-sponsored public option is supposed to do the same bloody thing. You know, force competitive rates among insurers. Lower prices for Americans. Etc. But naaaah, we've never shown that'd work. Oh wait.

Yes, there's more to the health care bill than that, with conservative estimates sponsored by the America's Health Insurance Plans (read: insurance lobby) even showing a 47% decrease in premiums WRT today's levels with a no-PO bill. But it's what gives the bloody thing teeth!

More Net Neutrality (or, how Telcos buy Votes)

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 27, 2009 13:14 in computers , politics , internet

Oh, net neutrality. As you may know, the FCC proposed rules for net neutrality last week and opened the stage up to commenting. Here are the proposed rules:

  • Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice
  • Consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement
  • Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
  • Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
  • A provider of broadband Internet access service must treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner
  • A provider of broadband Internet access service must disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rulemaking

Now, I do have some issues with this, including the framework for "reasonable" management:

But overall, I feel like this is a goo, large step forward. In my opinion, net neutrality rules should be quite simple:

  • ISPs may not discriminate, manage, inspect, or otherwise treat any set of data over their network in any way that is not applied unilaterally to all data over the network in an identical manner. Random fluctuations in network reliability are permissible, and subject to analysis by a p-test to confirm random distribution and other tests to determine such fluctuation is protocol-agnostic.
  • Access to content may not be restricted or controlled in any manner, unless such content comes from an IP address with zero legal content. At that time, restriction to access of that IP address is at the discretion of the ISP, but not mandatory.
  • None of these principles affect the legality of actions taken on the internet.
  • Violations of these principles are subject to a $100,000 fine (per instance).

In other words, I'd love to see network neutrality legislation that favors a "dumb pipe". But OK, that's fine, like I said — this is a good step. Who couldn't favor it?

It turns out that John McCain (and though it's not explicitly mentioned here, a number of other Republican representatives taking large donations from ATT, Verizon, and/or Comcast) have a bone to pick:

The money trail is actually painfully obvious. But, it doesn't change the fact that the openinternet.gov site is being deluged with anti-net-neutratliy comments from those getting their pockets filled by TelCos. The FCC is seeking out comments, and it's important that you comment — either the quick way on openinternet.gov's discussion page, or make a more "official" comment by submitting a filing on ECFS (Proceeding/Docket Number "09-191").

Help keep the net open! If you ever have doubts, just consider for a moment how hard it is to change your internet carrier ... and if they decided to, say, cut off Google from you, what your recourse would be. That is what Net Neutrality is about.

Taking the "Lobby" out of Congress

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 14, 2009 13:11 in politics

My friend Rob and I were discussing policy last night, and so here are a few policy proposals:

The Jennings-Kahn Campaign Finance and Advertisement Reform

Campaign contributions are restructured in the following way:

  • An office of campaign finance reform is established to handle transactions, funded using up to 5% of total donations.
  • All donations are capped at $5,000.
  • Donations are sent to the CFR Office, with the donator's SSN and name of recipient. Tying the SSN to the donation restricts repeat donations.
  • Once per week, the candidate is issued funds by the CFR Office, with no trace information.

Additional funds up to the five percent will also finance a three-judge panel to hear suits on advertisements up to six months before an election. If an advertisement is deemed to be substantially different in content due to the proximity of an election, the broadcaster is fined equal to a two month, five-day-per-week, prime-time advertisement campaign according to the media and density of the complaint advertisement.

This would substantially reduce the power of lobbies, and the increasingly hyperbolic and misleading commercials.

Update later on how to force scientifically competent legislation.

Glenn Beck Vs. Amphibians

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 24, 2009 22:43 in General , politics , news

Ok — ignoring everything else, if I had had any respect for the train wreck that is Glenn Beck, I'd have lost it after this:

Apparently, throwing frogs into boiling water to make your point is OK. It's possible he didn't actually keep holding onto one ... in which case he's just shamming boiling frogs? Which is also really screwed up. Yeaaaah ....

UPDATE: Nate Silver gives an analysis of Glenn Beck, and what he represents.

Healthcare and a Public Option

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 15, 2009 23:16 in politics

A brief comment on healthcare:

A healthcare bill makes no sense without a public option. Whether or not you think there should be a bill is irrelevant to this point. The message that should be out there, on both sides, is that there's no point in debating a bill that does not have a public option, nor is there a point in sponsoring a bill without a public option.

The public option in the US would be fairly different from the way it is in other countries. It would not be mandatory, and indeed, its principle point to exist is to provide a low-level baseline for people of low means (and is thus affordable). If that were the only point of it, yes, it would be a bankrupting bill that would be a colossal tax burden. However, arguably the primary point of a public option, which is often overlooked, is that a public option will serve to compete with private firms, driving down costs via competition. The healthcare system is in a very similar state to our broadband infrastructure — an undercompetitive, and monopolistic mess. This helps everyone — and the individual savings would offset your own tax contribution to a public option to help those who cannot afford a more comprehensive private option. The end result is everyone saves money, and the system is very, very cheap. No options are being removed, only one option being added.

Now, it is perfectly logical and consistent to be against public options in general, but then to be consistent you must be against medicare and medicaid, which is essentially the same system. Ditto for welfare, foodstamps, and unemployment checks. Once you accept that any of these are permissible or even required, then you acknowledge there is some baseline support that a government should provide people in bad times or with low means. Then, to paraphrase a famous quote, we are just haggling over price. While it is possible to support food stamps, unemployment, or welfare without supporting a public healthcare, public healthcare is just a superset of medicare, which is public healthcare for seniors. Thus, if you support medicare, you cannot, consistently and logically, protest against public healthcare. And, for reasons given above, since public healthcare is ill-posed without a public option, you essentially must support a public option if you support medicare.

While there is an argument that the government should provide none of these support programs, and it is internally consistent, it is vital that one recognizes that acknowledging any of these aspects as valid means that you agree in principle, and that you must then define your boundaries, and the logic for those boundaries. Furthermore, that same ideology is almost invariably coupled with a strong capitalism, and thus it almost makes no sense to try to convince people to vote against their own immediate interest (not quite, but as a sweeping, immediate generality it works). Weakening either strong position to any degree accepts either the premise of government intervention on behalf of its people, or on behalf of stimulating competition, both of which the public healthcare option accomplishes.

In 1.5 hours I will lose my health insurance, and will be unable to afford a replacement. I suppose I just hope I don't get sick.

Energy efficiency, cars, and CAFE

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 11, 2009 18:08 in General , politics , energy

I was thinking today about automobile mileage standards, and like nine in ten Americans, I believe in increasing fuel standards.

Recently, Obama pushed for an increase in standards — large by American standards, but the 2016 goal will be 10 MPG behind Europe and Japan's 2008 standard:

On May 19, 2009 President Barack Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program which adopts uniform federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions while preserving the legal authorities of DOT, EPA and California. The program covers model year 2012 to model year 2016 and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per US gallon (6.63 L/100 km; 42.6 mpg-imp) in 2016 (of 39 miles per gallon for cars and 30 mpg for trucks), a jump from the current average for all vehicles of 25 miles per gallon.
Source: Wikipedia.

So, throwing my voice into the veritable shouting match, this is what I'd do to increase the standards in a realistic way:

  1. Increase the 2016 fleet-average goal to 40 MPG.
  2. Based on current CAFE standards, and the 2016 goal standard, fit 2010 — 2015 standards to intermediates (linear)
  3. Beginning in 2017, institute an annual increase of 2 MPG in standards, with this increase to be re-evaluated every ten years, or an automatic re-evaluation if more than 75% of vehicles fail to meet the standard for 5 consecutive years. This will prevent increases from exceeding technological ability.
  4. For every commercial vehicle that falls short of this goal, a state/federal tax of $1000/MPG (rounded up, so 0.1 MPG -> 1 MPG) is imposed on the vehicle up to a faliure of 25%. Further faliures are taxed $2000/MPG, rounded down (0.8 MPG -> 1).

    This heavily penalizes vehicles that are "gas guzzlers". Thus, an 18 MPG car in 2016 fails by more than 25% of 40 MPG (30.00). The first 10 MPG is penalized $10,000, and the next 12 MPG is penalized $24,000, for a total of $34,000 in taxes. In 2016, it is completely unreasonable to have any car whatsoever at 18 MPG, but a rich person (the sort of person that buys a Hummer already) will pay for it in taxes.
  5. Cars that exceed this target gain a $500 tax credit at the dealer per 25% (compounded) they exceed it by.

    So, for example, the 2010 model Prius gets 51 MPG best. This is better than 25%, so gains an immediate, at-the-dealer $500 rebate. The Chevy Volt, however, if it actually gets the 230 MPG rating, would get a [50, 62, 78, 98, 122, 153, 191, < 238] 7*$500 = $3,500 instant rebate at the dealer. These aren't back-breaking to the state or national government rebates, but they'll help a lot in keeping interest up in these hybrids.
  6. These standards are based on the highest EPA rating given to a specific car with a unified standard.

I think measures like this could go a long, long way toward encouraging efficiency in the auto market, and decreasing tailpipe emissions. While many of these will be moved to power and manufacturing plants, better capture and conversion systems, in addition to the overall efficiency at the end of the car and at the plant, will result in net lower energy usage and fewer emissions. As a byproduct? More energy security, too!

Broadband Commentary Mark II

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 02, 2009 14:26 in politics , internet

Remember my recent post on posting commentary to the FCC about broadband policy? Well, it suddenly just became more important. Via Slashdot, we have the following completely predictable in hindsight move by ISPs:

[...] [M]ajor internet service providers in the US are seeking to redefine the term 'Broadband' to mean a much lower speed than in other developed nations. In recent filings with the FCC, Comcast and AT&T both came out in support of a reduced minimum speed. 'AT&T said regulators should keep in mind that not all applications like voice over internet protocol (VoIP) or streaming video, that require faster speeds, are necessarily needed by unserved Americans.' On the other hand, Verizon argued to maintain the status quo, saying that 'It would be disruptive and introduce confusion if the commission were to now create a new and different definition.'

You read that right. The lousy USA ISPs are trying to lower our abysmally low standards even lower. If that happens, you can be assured our poor internet with high price will get poorer. Put it into perspective with Verizon's comment: the best of the lot of them wants to maintain the status quo.

Please, everyone, take 15 minutes and send the FCC your opinions on the state of broadband and what we can do to improve it, and get everyone you know to do it, too. There's always the off chance that enough nerds will say enough interesting things that we might get an improvement! Say anything at all ... the most simple comment along the lines of "not enough competition, poor speeds with respect to the rest of the world, tighten controls and increase the baseline" is enough. Say whatever you're comfortable with (and if you can, throw in something about what would be a good definition for broadband), but say something!

Update: Some baseline information for you:

With the caveats out of the way, what are the results? The median broadband user in the States is getting about 2.3mbps and uploading at 435kbps. That compares pretty unfavorably to some of the industrialized Asian nations, where the median download speed is 63mbps, or Korea, where it's 49mbps. European nations also do well, with Finnish users getting over nine times the bandwidth, and France over seven times. Even going north of the border to Canada would likely to get you a substantial increase in speed, as the median downloader there gets 7.6mbps.
Via Ars Technica, 2008/08/14

This year's analysis paints a slightly rosier picture in some ways, worse in others:

The 2009 speedmatters.org survey finds that the average download speed for the nation was 5.1 megabits per second (mbps) and the average upload speed was 1.1 mbps. These speeds are just slightly faster than the 2008 speedmatters. org results of 4.2 megabits per second (mbps) download and 873 kilobits per second (kbps) upload. In other words, between 2008 and 2009, the average download speed increased by only nine-tenths of a megabit per second (from 4.2 mbps to 5.1 mbps), and the average upload speed barely changed (from 873 kbps to 1.1 mbps). At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea. Moreover, the average upload speed from the speedmatters.org survey is far too slow for patient monitoring or to transmit large files such as medical records.

The 2009 speedmatters.org survey also reveals that the U.S. continues to lag far behind other countries. The United States ranks 28th in the world in average Internet connection speeds. In South Korea, the average download speed is 20.4 mbps, or four times faster than the U.S. The U.S. trails Japan at 15.8 mbps, Sweden at 12.8 mbps, the Netherlands at 11.0 mbps, and 24 other countries that have faster broadband than we do.

Moreover, people in other countries have access to much faster networks. Ninety percent of Japanese households have access to fiber-to-the-home networks capable of 100 mbps. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average of advertised speeds offered by broadband providers in Japan was 92.8 mbps and in South Korea was 80.8 mbps download. According to the OECD, the U.S. ranks 19th in the world in average advertised broadband download speed at 9.6 mbps.
Via speedmatters.org

We are poor in terms of provided speed, and even worse in terms of serviced speed. We need reform!

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