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Two Bills of Interest Advancing In Congress 129

Posted by kdawson
from the not-all-gloom-and-doom dept.
pgn674 writes "While the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 failed to pass in the House of Representatives, two other bills of interest to this community are currently moving through the US lawmaking process. One is the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which Communications Workers of America claims will help us towards bringing high-speed Internet access to all Americans. It will have the FCC increase their granularity in reporting the Internet accessibility of an area in the US, and redefine broadband measurements. It has passed through the House and the Senate, and differences in the passed versions are currently being resolved. The other bill is the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008. Pandora is excited for this one as it will give them time to negotiate with SoundExchange (i.e. the RIAA) for new, more affordable royalty rates. The bill is currently in the Senate, and is expected to pass with ease."
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Two Bills of Interest Advancing In Congress

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  • To inform yourself about what is wrong with the bailout, and what caused the crisis in the first place, read these two excellent articles:

    Economist: Why Bankruptcy is Better than Wall Street Bailout [cnn.com]

    The Trillion-Dollar Bank Shakedown That Bodes Ill for Cities [city-journal.org] ( written EIGHT YEARS before this crisis , predicting everything down to the dollar amount)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by megamerican (1073936)

      How to fix it?

      Get this piece of legislation [govtrack.us] out of committee and just maybe we have a chance to turn this country around.

      • It's interesting... all the legislation is there, sitting, waiting for a Congress willing to uphold individual rights to come along, at which point these bills, already written and filed, can be recovered from the dustbin and passed en masse.

        How long will it be?
    • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @10:10AM (#25218091) Homepage Journal

      There's been a lot of exaggeration and misdirection on both sides of this. Credit has not completely dried up ... yet. However it is heading that way and the closer it gets the less root causes matter. You don't tell a lung cancer patient that he ought to have stopped smoking years ago. But you don't invite him to light up in his oxygen tent either.

      The problem with the bailout bill is not the sheer dollar figure; the $700 billion, after all, doesn't have to be spent. The fund might accomplish what needs to by spending, say, $100 billion. The difference between what needs to be spent and what could be spent is the double edged sword of this proposal. The existence of a huge reserve creates confidence in the stabilization of credit -- very important.

      This is how the Fed control the money supply: through manipulating expectations. People don't think the Fed is going to lower interest rates much, so the power of that lever on the economy is lessened. One of the bailout bill's provisions is to lower the floor on what the Fed can set the reserve rate (the cash on hand banks need to keep to cover possible withdrawals) to zero. Actually doing so would be, of course insane.

      The Fed has models which say where the point of insanity comes; let's say that is 2%, and we're at 2.2%. If you know the floor is really 2%, then you know that the Fed can't lower the rate below 2%, then lowering the rate from 2.2% to 2.1% isn't going to change your behavior. If you don't know how low the Fed can go, then old Ben can simply be seen thoughtfully caressing the reserve rate lever. He doesn't actually have to push it to 2.1%, if you think he might, and go even lower, you are going to get your dollars into loans fast. If you don't their value could be seriously deflated sitting on your balance sheet.

      The $700 billion figure is kind of like that. You'd be mad to set out to spend that kind of money on distressed investments. But the fact that you could is important. Suppose you really need $100 billion, and that's what you have available. You've spent $90 billion, and people are thinking "that about wraps it up for the fund." When you throw out the next five billion, people aren't even paying attention. It does very little to increase confidence in making a loan to some other institution, so you might as well not spend it at all. If you have $610 billion left, the impact of that five billion you're thinking about using is greater, even before you actually spend it, than the impact of spending five billion when it's half of what you've got left.

      Unfortunately, that brings us to the other edge of the sword. Suppose we really only need to spend $100 billion, and the remaining $600 billion is there for psychology. Well, you've just created the biggest slush fund in history and handed it to an administration that is not renowned for its prudence, whatever else you may say about it. You could do a lot of favors with $600 billion.

      The problem is Constitutional. The Executive isn't supposed to have a lot of leeway in how it spends money, but the size of that pot of money could buy a lot of indirect leeway.

      Personally, I think the answer is to stage the funds. Wall Street does this all the time. When you buy a company, sometimes you snap it up, but frequently you stage the investment in order to make the company jump through a series of hoops.

      So, let's say we created a $150 billion fund, and replenished it quarterly in each of the following quarters. If the $150 simply disappeared without a trace, then we could stop the infusion. This reduces the incentive for firms to make abusive claims because they might need the fund to be there next quarter. We can dream up new encumbrances on the funds every quarter as specific abuses arise. If in some quarter we only spent $10 billion in some quarter, we'd only put that much in, but if we spent $100 billion, there would be no questio

      • by toddestan (632714)

        On the other hand, you also have to worry about the psychology of bailing these people/businesses out. Part of investing is taking risks. If Uncle Sam demonstrates that if your investment doesn't work out and you're in trouble, that he'll cover your losses just means that these investors will take on more and more risky investments because they can always run back to the government if they get into trouble. It's a game changer. I can practically guarantee that if the government bails these people out, t

      • by Tuoqui (1091447)

        If all it takes is $100 billion for the bail out why ask for $700 billion?

        I say let the crooks on Wall Street rot with the mess they created.

        • by hey! (33014)

          You missed my point. The possibility of $700 billion makes the job doable for $100 billion.

          The certainty of $700 billion would make the job undoable at any price.

          It's not just the crooks on Wall Street that are the problem, by the way. It's the crooks in Washington. It's not Wall Street that needs a bailout, it's credit, global credit, from Main Street USA, to The Street in London, and beyond.

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      In stead of bailing out wall street directly, why not help them indirectly? With a bail out of $700,000,000,000, they can pay toward mortgages, up to a limit, for people who are in standing; since say January. People with paid off mortgages suddenly have new disposable income which can go back to both main and wall streets. Paid off mortgages means no more for closures. Better yet, it creates cash flow back to the banks, making them solvent again without rewarding them for them criminal behaviour which crea

      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @11:01AM (#25218903) Homepage Journal
        "In stead of bailing out wall street directly, why not help them indirectly? With a bail out of $700,000,000,000, they can pay toward mortgages, up to a limit, for people who are in standing; since say January. People with paid off mortgages suddenly have new disposable income which can go back to both main and wall streets. Paid off mortgages means no more for closures. Better yet, it creates cash flow back to the banks, making them solvent again without rewarding them for them criminal behaviour which created this whole situation in the first place."

        But paying off people's mortgages isn't fair...especially to those who were fiscally responsible and didn't buy homes they could not afford!!

        What of those people that have been out there, saving for a home they could afford...waiting for housing prices to adjust to more reasonable levels....you actually want their tax dollars to pay for people who jumped in over their heads and pay off their houses?

        That is just not fair. No, the govt. isn't there to bail you out of personal stupidity, let those houses be sold, when the price is reasonable, people that are responsible fiscally, that are good credit risks, will be there to buy them back off the market.

        Hell, if anyone had known the US gov. would be buying houses...then everyone would have jumped into the market, and gotten in to wait for the free payoff. That just isn't fair, and would be rewarding bad behavior.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by GooberToo (74388)

          What of those people that have been out there, saving for a home they could afford...waiting for housing prices to adjust to more reasonable levels....you actually want their tax dollars to pay for people who jumped in over their heads and pay off their houses?

          Re-read what I said. You're 180-degrees off from my position. I specifically avoid rewarding the people that caused this whole situation. The people being rewarded are those that did everything right, which in turn brings money back to the banks so th

  • by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @10:41PM (#25213499) Homepage

    What's the deliverable for things like the 'Broadband data improvement act'? Nothing, as far as I can tell, except some congressional reports about which areas of the country have high speed internet access. This is data that should be collected by the companies looking to know where to invest. That's how commerce works.

    The cost? $40 million a YEAR. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/85xx/doc8587/s1492.pdf [cbo.gov]

    This isn't $40 million out of the ether, it's YOUR money (if you're a US taxpayer, anyhow).

    What in blue blazes are we doing? The economic crisis we're in is multi-faceted, and mad crazy spending is a big component, both privately AND governmentally.

    • That's out of 300 million Americans. So just a little more than a dime a year. Nothing even close to the $700 billion bailout in terms of scale, and for completely different reasons.

      If we are truly interested in fixing the budget, it won't be the pork barrel, though that amounts to some of the change. It's going to be major- Social Security/Medicare reform. Those two alone will soon cost the US government over half of its annual budget.
    • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @10:52PM (#25213607)
      Well this is the whole problem. We have adjusted to having such easy access to credit and capital and money in all its forms that once the credit markets seized up, the resulting deflationary pressure would be multiplied and reek havoc. The thing about the market though is that it sort of gets itself into spirals, or apparent spirals, where the exact thing that caused a problem is what we expect to solve it. Inflation of the currency and ungodly overspending results in a deflationary bomb, well the only thing that can save us is... uh more inflation of the currency and more ungodly spending. Maybe pork is the cure? I don't know anymore.
      • by arotenbe (1203922)

        ...the resulting deflationary pressure would be multiplied and reek havoc.

        I know. When the havoc really starts to reek, I use a clothespin.

      • >>>Inflation of the currency and ungodly overspending results in a deflationary bomb, well the only thing that can save us is... uh more inflation of the currency and more ungodly spending.
        >>>

        You pointed-out the main flaw with our economy. We keep trying to avoid recession through bailouts, and we just keep making it worse. We postponed the 1999 crash to 2004 through a rewriting of the law (allowing banks to abandon real assets in favor of volatile stocks). We postponed the 2004-5 crash

        • by Sancho (17056) * on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @09:58AM (#25217915) Homepage

          Recessions are bad for morale, and bad morale means that the people are more likely to take an interest in those doing the governing. It makes sense for our absurd two-party system to play hot-potato with the recession. Put it off as long as possible, and hope that your party isn't in control when it hits.

          Of course, informed people realize that recessions are a natural part of the economy. I guess it sucks to be born into one, but thems the breaks, right?

    • Because after RTFAing I dont feel like I am getting my moneys worth at best, and feel more like I am getting more cataloged and invaded by FCC... For the $202 MILLION dollars they blow between 2008 and 2012 they will institute more bureacracy with zero oversigt and no concrete goals. Providers will have to submit higher detail reports on broadband use (9 digit zips vs 5 digit zips), so that means their overhead will go ip as well, great since we know who will pay for that as well. Bah, time to email Feinste
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zappepcs (820751)

        I'm tired of sending money out in the form of taxes and seeing shit in return for it. Yes, I know I get stuff, but there is so much that doesn't make sense that it seems a waste.

        As far as zip codes go, clue: they mail you a bill with that 9 digit zip code on the address. There should be NO overhead incurred in using it for reporting. Reporting with a finer grained filter on who has broadband where will help regulators adjust how licenses are granted or retained. The complaint is that ISPs report they have X

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by Darby (84953)

          The idea is to close the loophole that ISPs and telecom operators have used for decades to keep their licenses while not having to serve those areas that are financially unrewarding to serve with the same service.

          How about we don't close the loophole and quit making me pay for the rural welfare leeches? Maybe if they actually paid their own way for once they'd pull their heads out of their asses and quit pretending that they are free market capitalists when they're just the recipients of welfare. Maybe they

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The cost? $40 million a YEAR. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/85xx/doc8587/s1492.pdf [cbo.gov]

      This isn't $40 million out of the ether, it's YOUR money (if you're a US taxpayer, anyhow).

      It's peanuts. My family's share is forty cents. I'll pay it, just for the information, which ought to be available under the Freedom of Information Act.

      Remember, the ISP's and such really don't have much interest in expanding access to broadband.

      Not because they can't, but because they don't see a return on the required investment as

      • by Firehed (942385) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:28PM (#25213871) Homepage

        Very few people are going to be willing to pay more for faster access - the few who do already are, the vast majority of internet users are still just doing web browsing and email, which really doesn't improve all that much with faster broadband.

        That may be true today, but once you start considering high-bandwidth content (480p+ video, etc) and it's rapid growth since the availability of broadband, the demand for even faster connections will absolutely go up. With companies like Apple, Amazon, and even NBC completely legitimizing the practice thanks to iTunes, Unbox, and Hulu respectively and indeed pushing their online services, the need and desire is there. Granted NBC and the other big TV companies are a lot slower to adopt, but they are catching on and they have a hell of an influence once they REALLY start pushing it.

        Of course the ISPs would absolutely hate this. Not only would it increase their bandwidth and infrastructure costs, but many of them are also TV service providers (all of the cable ISPs, and probably some of the bigger DSL companies) and that would directly target not only their cable revenues but also other services like TiVo. This heads towards the whole net neutrality issue, since content-providing ISPs would without question have financial incentive to throttle (for example) Youtube and Revver in favor of either Hulu/etc or their own tv.comcast.com type of thing.

        • That may be true today, but once you start considering high-bandwidth content (480p+ video, etc) and it's rapid growth since the availability of broadband, the demand for even faster connections will absolutely go up.

          Absolutely agree. And if people are willing to pay for faster connections, the ISP's will provide them. It's unlikely that they'll provide them for free, though I notice that my broadband rate has tripled since I started subscribing, with no increase in rates (Hell, they didn't even tell me i

          • Speed has increased approximately 5000 times since I first subscribed (from 1.2k upto 6000k). And the cost actually went down from $40 to $30 a month (2008 dollars) with major improvements in service (from 16-color still images to 65000-color fullmotion video).

            And this all happened without Congress' interference.

            • All true. How much of that was due to the telco/ISP providing new hardware, and how much was due to YOU buying a better modem? Looks like, if you toss out the modem-based improvements, the increase has only been a bit smaller than you state. From the telco's PoV of course.

              Note that the telco/ISP will gladly increase bandwidth if there is demand for it. Which they did. Remember web-browsing at 28.8K? Lot of demand for improvements from 28.8K. Not so much demand for improvements from, say, 256K. Sinc

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jlarocco (851450)

        I'm not following. A lot of people don't think faster broadband is worth paying for. So the ISPs don't provide broadband in those areas. But you're saying that everybody else should be forced to pay the cost of installing broadband in those areas? Why?

        It's peanuts. My family's share is forty cents. I'll pay it, just for the information, which ought to be available under the Freedom of Information Act.

        If you really think it's that important, and you really consider $40 million "peanuts", why don't yo

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:50PM (#25214039)

          A lot of people don't think faster broadband is worth paying for. So the ISPs don't provide broadband in those areas. But you're saying that everybody else should be forced to pay the cost of installing broadband in those areas? Why?

          You should try reading with your prejudices turned off.

          A lot of people don't think faster broadband is worth paying for. Absolutely true.

          The ISP's don't provide broadband in those areas. Well, no. They don't provide FASTER broadband in those areas. Note the "faster", which allows the second statement to talk about the same thing as the first, unlike in your post.

          That said, there are areas which have NO BROADBAND. My parents' house, as an example. It's about six miles outside town, and won't get broadband within the lifetime of the universe, if only market forces apply. Hence an equivalent to the Rural Electrification Act.

          Which I support. Faster broadband for the people who already have broadband? I'm not interested in having the government provide that - if there's a demand, it'll happen. If there's not, it won't.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jlarocco (851450)

            That said, there are areas which have NO BROADBAND. My parents' house, as an example. It's about six miles outside town, and won't get broadband within the lifetime of the universe, if only market forces apply. Hence an equivalent to the Rural Electrification Act.

            That's my point. If your parents were willing to pay enough, they could get broadband. They don't think it's worth paying, so why should we pay for them?

            Maybe they want it but can't afford it? Well, sucks to be them. Wanting something reall

            • yeah, but as the GP said, it's like the Rural Electrification Act, I might not be willing to pay the cost of installing a DSLAM/The Cable Equivilent, then linking it to the infrastructure and paying the monthly fee, but I would be willing to pay just the monthly fee for the internet access, this bill isn't providing free broadband for all, it's allowing everyone to get broadband if they are willing to pay a fair price.
              • >>>I might not be willing to pay the cost of installing a DSLAM..... but I would be willing to pay just the monthly fee for the internet access
                >>>

                AND raiding your neighbors' wallets for $3 a month to cover your costs. If I did that, I'd feel guilty of theft. If I live in no man's land, then *I* should be the one to pay for the cost of running the wires out to my home, not my neighbors.

                Plus the additional fact the the electrification act encourages suburban sprawl which encourages environ

                • by j_166 (1178463)

                  Exactly! And while we are on the topic, what the fuck is the government doing running asphalt out to these people's homes in the sticks? Or ROADS for that matter. Interstate highways, I can sort of see, but apart from that, the rest of the roads outside of major cities are essentially private driveways as far as I'll ever use them. If people want to live outside of Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, then they should pay for their own goddamned roads!

                  • by Sancho (17056) *

                    Well, actually, yeah. Why is the federal government doing this at all? Shouldn't it be a state or local government thing?

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  AND raiding your neighbors' wallets for $3 a month to cover your costs. If I did that, I'd feel guilty of theft. If I live in no man's land, then *I* should be the one to pay for the cost of running the wires out to my home, not my neighbors.

                  Plus the additional fact the the electrification act encourages suburban sprawl which encourages environmental destruction & needless paving-over of valuable farmland.

                  Note that without the Rural Electrification Act, most farms would not have electricity to this da

                • by cayenne8 (626475)
                  "Plus the additional fact the the electrification act encourages suburban sprawl..."

                  Not necessarily a bad thing. There are studies out there showing that people's health deteriorates when they are more densely packed together in very populous urban areas.

                  The decrease of pollution, stress and other factors, when people are living more spread out seem to help them to live longer, healthier lives.

                  • For a counterexample I bring you Japan - one of the world's highest population densities and one of the world's greatest life expectancies.
                  • But most of the pollution they suffer in the urban areas is caused by people commuting in from the sparse suburbs.

            • For the same reason electricity and phone lines had the Rural Electrification Act and similar terms for phone expansion -- there are places that are not generally profitable that given market forces only would not have electricity still yet, barring buying the poles and lines, hiring the men to run the lines, giving the lines to the telephone/power companies as appropriate, and paying for all line maintenance after that point, so that all they have to do is flip a switch to provide service.

              You literally
            • That's my point. If your parents were willing to pay enough, they could get broadband. They don't think it's worth paying, so why should we pay for them?

              Hmm, if they were willing to pay enough. "Enough", in this case, is an upgrade to the wiring for four miles, plus the field hardware. $100,000 or so sound reasonable?

              I hear a lot on /. about the notion of "infrastructure" as one of the responsibilities of government. And I agree with that completely - the government SHOULD be in the business of maintai

              • by jlarocco (851450)

                Hmm, if they were willing to pay enough. "Enough", in this case, is an upgrade to the wiring for four miles, plus the field hardware. $100,000 or so sound reasonable?

                I know. What I'm saying is it's just not worth spending $100k for two people to get internet access. No matter who pays for it.

                At that price it's cheaper for the government to claim eminent domain, pay them for their house and make them move closer to the city. It's in the public interest to get them internet access, after all.

            • It's a question of public services. Electricity is guranteed to your house, as are POTS telephone lines, but broadband isn't. The real issue here is who makes that distinction? The argument could go either wy, if broadband isn't guranteed, why gurantee electricity and phones? if you want them bad enough, you can pay for them (same applies to all three). Or maybe broadband should be guranteed like the others? Who decides?
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by electrictroy (912290)

            >>>My parents' house, as an example. It's about six miles outside town, and won't get broadband within the lifetime of the universe, if only market forces apply.
            >>>

            Nonsense. My house was situated similar to your parents' house, but last year Verizon started selling DSL over the existing phone lines. No upgrades required; I'm still using the same lines I've always used. Verizon did this, not because they had to do it, but because they wanted to do it. They saw an opportunity to make mon

            • by j_166 (1178463)
              Thank god the rest of the country already failed Libertarianism, or the country would be a big stretch of nothingness outside of a few major cities.
            • Nonsense. My house was situated similar to your parents' house, but last year Verizon started selling DSL over the existing phone lines

              Alas, that's not quite the case here. My brother works for Ma Bell. He has gone to the trouble of checking, and there are no plans to EVER put DSL out to my mother's house. Or, for that matter, his own house, which is also in the country.

              Adding DSL capability requires an investment. It's a profitable investment if enough customers can be served by a single upgrade. If

          • by mordred99 (895063)
            I am all for faster broadband, if it is the same price. :) But as you say - market prices will dictate that.
            However back to your main point. My parents live 8 miles from the main city, their only choice is 14.4k modem. They live on an island. They are willing to pay some amount (not $100 a month) for high speed internet. They would do a triple play if they could (VOIP, internet and cable) if they could turn it off when they are not in Michigan during the winters.
            Now comes the crux of your issue. So
      • by Darby (84953)

        Now, if the information gathered under this Bill results in a broadband equivalent of the Rural Electrification Act, it'll be a good thing. Annoying, to have my broadband rates raised to pay to provide broadband to the areas it isn't provided, but worth it, in the big picture.

        Not worth it in the big picture. In the big picture it leads to welfare leeches claiming that they hate socialism while remaining the largest recipients of it while not contributing at all.
        This sort of delusional belief is a primary co

        • Not worth it in the big picture. In the big picture it leads to welfare leeches claiming that they hate socialism while remaining the largest recipients of it while not contributing at all.

          This sort of delusional belief is a primary contributor to the hostility of the rural people for those who pull their own weight. It's why they keep voting for fascist Republicans against their own best interests and against everybody else's.

          Sorry, but promoting ignorant and damaging behavior at my expense is complete c

    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:09PM (#25213747) Homepage

      investing in infrastructure isn't "mad crazy spending."

      communications networks are already heavily subsidized, at least this will ensure that such investment is providing adequate returns. if a particular provider is not providing return value on this public investment, then they should not continue to be subsidized. likewise, these reports will allow statewide grants to be used more efficiently/effectively by focusing attention and resources on areas that are lagging behind in broadband infrastructure.

      the ideal solution for this type of infrastructure is to nationalize it, but create a decentralized structure similar to the Department of Education. funding and general development goals/initiatives are set by federal and state level government, but each area's ISP and local infrastructure (like municipal wi-fi) should be managed by municipal governments.

      subsidizing commercial corporations doesn't give the public any control over the management of vital public infrastructure. this has been demonstrated with the telecoms, and again with ISPs. we pay for the infrastructure, but they still charge us extortionate prices made possible by their natural monopoly.

      with public utilities, which are always natural monopolies, the only ways to protect public interest is through industry regulation or have the government provide the utility. but with a pro-business government that is constantly pushing for industry deregulation, subsidizing private industries is not a viable option. so the only real way to establish a communications infrastructure which serves public interest rather than corporate interests, is to nationalize our communications infrastructure and provide broadband access through locally-managed municipal wi-fi.

      • by j_166 (1178463)

        And don't even get me started on bridges! If people want to live on the other side of the goddamned river, then they should pay for their own goddamned bridges, or go back to Russia, I say. I mean what the fuck? Why can't people just live exactly like I do already? Its obviously the most perfect way to live.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      It will be well worth it if the reports actually draw attention to US poor broadband penetration and lack of competition.

      Increased competition = lower prices = savings even after the govt's added $40mil a year cost.

      Even if the legislation only drops my broadband costs by $1 a year, it's still worth it to me for the percentage-wise small cost of the reporting (an order of magnitude smaller than potential savings for the consumer).

      After the goals are achieved, and "broadband" companies are thoroughly

      • >>>draw attention to US poor broadband penetration

        The U.S. is no worse-off than Canada, Australia, or the European Union. We all have the same average speed of 9-10 Megabit/s.

        • by j_166 (1178463)

          >>>draw attention to US poor broadband penetration"

          "The U.S. is no worse-off than Canada, Australia, or the European Union. We all have the same average speed of 9-10 Megabit/s."

          I think he was referring to the ...ahem .. size of our cable modems, which are on average a few centimeters smaller than the average Canadian, Australian or European modems. Its why our women flock to those countries. What? You thought it was the accents?

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @01:08AM (#25214513) Homepage Journal

      Nothing, as far as I can tell, except some congressional reports about which areas of the country have high speed internet access.

      If the Congress is going to do something about broadband deployment, they ought to at least be making decisions based on good data. Until very recently all the broadband availability reports were strictly by ZIP code, so that if somebody in a ZIP code had broadband, all residents in that ZIP were counted as having broadband available. This recently changed to ZIP+4, but the data doesn't yet exist, at least publicly. So, every statistic you've heard about broadband deployment rates is likely to be wrong, to some degree, unless it was a locally-collected local report.

      If the government wasn't granting telecommunications lobbies, and the government couldn't save money by using the Internet for governance, and the government wasn't regulating any viable options away (yeah, FCC, I'm looking at you), then it would be best for them to be completely hands-off on this. That would be the best solution. But, coming out of my dream world (deferred to a future release of World), a few reports could actually be useful for deciding proper policy.

      I'd much prefer this to Hank "We needed a really big number" Paulson-style legislative efforts.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        it would be best for them to be completely hands-off on this. That would be the best solution.

        Sweden, Japan and Korea beg to differ.

        • I suspect Japan's figures to be about as accurate as China's figures on the age of its gymnasts. I suspect the Japanese government is "cooking the books" (which it has been known to do) by excluding citizens in rural communities or outlying islands. If the U.S. government did the same thing, looking only at cities or towns, our average would jump overnight from 10 megabit to 100 megabit.

  • by Chas (5144) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @10:41PM (#25213501) Homepage Journal

    Didn't we ALREADY give the telecom industry a whole assload of cash to improve broadband in this country?

    And exactly WHERE did that money go?

    What?

    What?

    I can't hear you over that gi-normous flushing sound!

    • The whole assload went directly to line up the CEO's pockets so that they could afford the cheapest condo across the 'bay and the cheapest yacht, you cheapstake.
      Because of your constant meddling, my CEO was unable to purchase the BEST yacht for $2.3 million and instead settled for something far less worth.
      Damn you customers. Damn you users.
      May you all rot in Net Neutrality Hell.
      -signed/- CEOs Group of Telecoms In America

      • by six025 (714064)

        In that respect, it would be simply amazing if the government could implement just the part of the "Economic Rescue Bill" that promised to salary cap the CEO's, and also rid us of the so called "Golden Parachute" which sees even the most ludicrous failures walk away with millions.

        In fact, world governments need to look at introducing a salary cap across the board - from sports to law to industry.

        That would surely fix a few economic problems now and in the future.

        Peace,
        Andy.

        • keep salary caps OUT of the private sector. if they are government jobs, that's fine, but not otherwise, no. instead, why not let the stock-holders decide the CEO pay for the year, since they own the company.

          how will you like it when some asshat in congress decides that YOUR job is only worth 60% of what you are making. have fun with that. it wouldn't fix shit, plain and simple.

          • Have you been living in a cave since 1960s?
            Shareholders have NO say in setting pay for a CEO. NONE.
            Its the board that decides it: Exxon got sued for that. And they won.
            The only duty of a shareholder to await a profitable return on his investment.
            The company is responsible to the shareholder only for the returns on the money he put in. In fact strictly speaking, the first and original shareholder is to whom the company is responsible to.

        • First of all, it is NOT an economic rescue bill.
          It is a Financial Payout Bill where the [bought out] Govt. uses your money to buy from Wall Street some shitty assets which they cannot dispose of themselves.
          At present the large banks have dead weight assets on their balance sheets which no one wants to buy at the price they paid for.
          When you or me go to a bank for a loan, they ask us to pledge our Gold or some other HIGH security stuff like House to lend us money. And that too only half its market value. Thi

          • by cornjones (33009)

            close, but you lost it when you said the international markets refused to buy in. They bought in, and heavily. Basically every bank in the world is in trouble because of this. Maybe not asian banks who largely stayed out of it but they are heavily invested in the dollar still, hence their crash earlier this week.

            I struggle w/ this a bit but i think we need the bailout. This isn't simply a case of paying huge bonuses so ceo's can get more money. From the top down, if the banks don't have cash (or easy a

            • by Darby (84953)

              We have 2 choices, give them the money and hope we can smooth out a crash/depression (by no means certain) or don't and accept the 'correction' (cringely has a great piece last week likening this to a forest fire). The correction would work, it would hurt a lot, but at the end of the day it would work.

              If at a bare minimum, every board member and every corporate officer are stripped of all of their assets and sent to prison for life with no possibility for parole, then and only then, is it even worth discus

              • by cornjones (33009)

                the difference would be if your piss poor decisions was as a captain of a ship and we are heading for an iceberg. bitching about your past paychecks would not change the fact that we need to do something to not hit the iceberg

                • by Darby (84953)

                  the difference would be if your piss poor decisions was as a captain of a ship and we are heading for an iceberg. bitching about your past paychecks would not change the fact that we need to do something to not hit the iceberg

                  Hitting the iceberg is inevitable at this point. Our whole economy is greatly inflated and absolutely needs to correct itself. All that can be accomplished by increasing the artificial propping up of the economy is changing the date it occurs and *increase* the damage done by it.

                  So it'

            • THis is a classic case of quality and liquidity.
              LIBOR, MMR rates, are all symptoms of need for quality, and not just liquidity.
              Because if liquidity is cause, then T-Bills should sell well. But no, people demand Gold(price of Gold is again an indicator), which is the ultimate quality investment.
              Asian banks and EU which hold large amounts of short term t-bills are not getting any returns on their money because the rising inflation is eating into earnings.
              The Fed is caught in a classic trap like you specified,

        • >>>And exactly WHERE did that money go?

          Well that money was given in 1996. So first it was used to upgrade analog phone lines to digital phone lines, which improved service from 14k to 56k (a cutting-edge, brand-new standard). Next it was used to roll-out DSL, Cable Internet, and FiOS in the 2000s, which required installing millions of "node boxes" in local neighborhoods, and is still an ongoing process.

          So, no, the money was not wasted. It was spent according to the rules that Congress laid-

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        I propose a government bailout so he can afford that yacht. After all, why should he settle for second-best just because he failed?
    • To be fair, we could have saved some cash if we had outsourced that to India :)
      Yeah, that joke's going to hurt the karma.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by iminplaya (723125)

      Reminds me of a funny interview I heard with Ringo Starr a long time ago:

      "What did you do with the money?"
      "What money?"
      "The money your mother gave you for singing lessons."

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @10:46PM (#25213537)

    Go look at the CBO estimated cost of the broadband bill. $40M in federal grants per year just to get better data? I don't care to read through the text to find where that much money is actually going because I don't care. Listen up maggots, we have a huge deficit. Killing special interest pork like this is the only way we can hope to balance the budget.

    Just look at the list of co-sponsors. A rogue's gallery of porkers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by postbigbang (761081)

      It's more onerous than that. The NTIA, which has been hobbled by the Bush administration, actually is the Commerce Dept wing that's supposed to be doing something, not the FCC.

      The NTIA has had more Under Secretaries than (insert bad metaphor here), all of whom have paid lip service while the telcos bring out useless new wireless 'broadband' schemes while converting the US slowly to DSL in the face of cable data competition.

      While keeping track of broadband penetration and use might be nice, it's in the wron

      • In a third world country you are lucky if you have ready access to electricity and clean water. Never mind high speed internet.
        • My electricity has gone off eleven times since June 1st. Now I understand that bottled water from Lake Michigan may have PCBs in them. Already, we use filters to get rid of the local crap (heavy metals) in the tap water supply.

          While your measures are indeed signs of the third world, we rapidly approach it in many measures of stature. And we continue to slide down the broadband list, among others.

  • A nice change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @10:46PM (#25213543)
    In contrast to the many "doom and gloom" postings about the US government's actions, it's nice to see a story where they are doing something "right" for a change.
    • In contrast to the many "doom and gloom" postings about the US government's actions, it's nice to see a story where they are doing something "right" for a change.

      If you think 40 million bucks for some reports to Congress is prudent spending, then I've got a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

      • oh dont worry they will get you on that, they will just build the road up to where the bridge was to be without actually building the bridge.
    • by Fluffeh (1273756)
      The only "right" in this is that "it isn't right wing politics".

      I am never ceased to be amazed at the price tags on some government bills. I would be prepared to wager just about anything that a report similar to the one here has been developed by each major telco/isp in the US to find fresh markets. I bet if you totalled up the cost of ALL those reports and put them together, it would be a fraction of this $40 million.

      The best thing about being in government these days seems to be that no-one looks a
  • Hey I love giving out money as much as the next guy but isnt this just a little blatant? Why are we kicking down this $202 million dollar gift to the biggest communications and media labor union in the USA?! Seriously, RTFA and you will see this thing is of no real substance just another payola to whoever got these parasites elected.
  • Thank the Editor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:13PM (#25213775) Homepage
    When I wrote this up, I somehow thought that the House, the Senate, and the President were the three branches of the US government, instead of Judicial, Legislative, and Executive. I'd written saying that the House and Senate were branches, when they're both part of the Legislative branch. I thank the editor for catching that and modifying my submission a bit to fix it, thus saving my face :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by n dot l (1099033)

      Editors...editing? On Slashdot?! You tell such sweet lies...

    • by ookabooka (731013)

      "While the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 failed to pass in the House of Representatives, two other bills of interest to this community are currently moving through the US lawmaking process.

      Yes, and it also appears you mistakenly thought you were somehow voted into representing the Slashdot community's "interests".

  • by DontLickJesus (1141027) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:21PM (#25213833) Homepage Journal
    While am very much delighted with the fact that Congress has loosened the reigns a little, the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 (WSA) does not seem to go the direction I expected.

    For those who didn't RTFA regarding WSA or just don't understand, it, the important part is this:

    "This subparagraph shall not apply to the extent that the receiving agent and a webcaster that is party to an agreement entered into pursuant to subparagraph (A) expressly authorize the submission of the agreement in a proceeding under this subsection"

    In short: Webcasters may now attempt to negotiate pricing with the "recieving agent" (ie SoundExchange aka RIAA), but leaves Webcasters in the same boat if an agreement isn't reached. Companies will usually go for some money instead of none, but the RIAA plays by different rules. All this legislation will do is give the RIAA the ability to pick and choose which small webcasters get to survive.
    • Note: My wife is brilliant, and realized this....

      ..Such as a webcaster of their own creation, with uncompetitivly low rates.
  • by arrenlex (994824) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @11:26PM (#25213865)

    We didn't have any stories on the bank collapses, we didn't have any stories on the bill itself, we didn't have any stories on Canada preparing for election... why isn't the politics section used for politics anymore? It seems we only have stories directly relating to tech these days, which is a shame as there are other categories on Slashdot and people have lots of insight about them and would like to discuss them.

    Can we stop trying to artificially narrow Slashdot's audience and actually discuss things of more general interest than new developments in number crunching?

    • we didn't even have stories on the clergy across the US using their pulpits to wage war against obama in violation of tax laws.

      It's sad when /. is too lazy to even post flamebait :P

    • by mysidia (191772)

      We didn't have any stories on the bank collapses, we didn't have any stories on the bill itself, we didn't have any stories on Canada preparing for election... why isn't the politics section used for politics anymore?

      Because it's News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.

      Nothing too exciting politically or economically is going on other than a lot of hype. It's business as usual -- congress even adjourned for some holidays; surely they wouldn't do that if working on the bill was something that mattered....

      • Your math is severely broken. Do you seriously think that a kidney transplant costs 14 cents, or what?

  • How is establishing a commision to determine and monitor whether or not Bumfark, Arkansas has broadband access remotely relevant to anyone else in the country? How is this NOT a solution looking for a problem ?

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Uh....Because the ISPs lie their asses off and that helps their little monopolies? Who is going to set up any competition if the zip code is supposedly got access to broadband? I can tell you living in AR(not Bumfark,that is two counties over) that there hasn't been a single new home offered broadband in my neighborhood in over a decade,probably closer to two.

      There is ZERO competition,and while the cableco is upgrading the dead center of town(because that is the only place that the DSL doesn't suck) everybo

  • Well its nice to know they're going to monitor something.
  • by Reivec (607341) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @12:06AM (#25214187)

    Can someone explain to me why being able to negotiate royalty rates is even a matter of legislation? Why wouldn't this just be agreed upon in contract with the parties involved? Bit confused here.

    • by pgn674 (995941)
      According to TFA at Wired, SoundExchange's originally proposed rates, which were approved by the Copyright Royalty Board in March, would have to be followed until the next time the CRB meets again, even if SoundExchange and Pandora decide to agree on some different rates before then. With this legislation, that's not the case; they get to agree on rates without the CRB's immediate approval.
  • by LetterRip (30937) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @12:30AM (#25214317)

    My understanding is that the readjustment in the MBS (Mortgage backed securities) ratings resulted in a reduced bank holding valuation. Also Money Market Accounts (MMAs) whose value is based on that valuation experienced for the first time in their history a decrease in valuation. Owners of MMAs seeing this decrease, pulled their money out of their MMAs.

    Unfortunately almost all 'short term paper' loans are backed by MMA deposits.

    Given the deposit ratio requirements, banks suddenly had far more loans out than deposits to cover them.

    They were required to borrow money to have the correct deposit ratios, however, since everyone was hit at the same time, there was no one to borrow from.

    My proposal, allows banks to make 'short term paper' loans based on their regular deposits (FDIC insured) and allow a temporary increase in leverage ratios for their loans. (Say 20:1, the exact ratio should probably be picked based on total short term paper that was available prior to the MMA withdrawals plus some margin for increased liquidity needs) the ratio would be ratcheted down at say 1/4 pt per month till previous ratios are returned to.

    Also greater ratios for MMAs would be allowed, the more MMA deposits acquired perhaps the faster the regular deposit ratios would ratchet down.

    Part two - valuation of MBSes.

    MBSes are currently valued as nearly worthless in the market, thus no one is willing to sell them since the are clearly worth more than the market is willing to pay, and no one is really willing to buy them at a 'reasonable' price, because there is no clear idea of what a 'reasonable price' is. There is however, an alternative to 'valuing to market' which can be used when the prices the market is giving for something 'doesn't make sense'.

    This methodology, known as 'net present value' or 'discounted net present value', evaluates an asset based on its 'stream of future income'. Essentially it gives the discounted value (a discounted value is the value of getting something right now versus getting it at a future date) of that stream of future income.

    This would be done for current MBSes, and because they were reasonably valuated would no longer be toxic and untradable.

    It would be best to only evaluate a percentage of the MBSes and use statistics to project the value of the remainder of MBSes so that they do not all need to be individually valuated (obviously this would increase the risk premium to buy them.)

    For the future I would require a random sample of all assets/securities, etc. to be valued by the NPV method. If there is a significant difference between the two (say 5-10%) then the entity selling the security would need to publish the NPV as well as the market value. This would signal investors that something is amiss with the valuation given by the market, and would likely help to prevent bubbles.

    It would probably be necessary for these valuations to be done by an outside auditor or government agency that would do the NPV evaluation to prevent a conflict of interest.

    Tom Musgrove
    LetterRip

    Please forward this idea to your local congressman, senator, newspaper, if you think it worthwhile

  • by rubah (1197475)

    Figure someone needs to make a fuss on here about it;
    http://wizards-keep.blogspot.com/2008/09/orphan-works-bill_30.html [blogspot.com]

    people desperately wanting this orphan works bill to go down way differently than it seems to be headed atm.

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