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Municipal broadband warning: Costs exceed projections in Australia. Again.

Municipal broadband projects are in the spotlight following President Obama’s endorsement of them and the FCC’s decision to relax rules limiting the extent to which taxpayer-subsidized networks may compete with those funded by the private sector. While there is a case for subsidized networks where no provider is willing invest, it is far from clear that governments – be they national, state or municipal – are well-placed to commission and oversee network rollouts. Without the normal commercial pressures to make a return on invested capital, such projects can lead to “gold-plated” investment in infrastructure that vastly exceeds end-user demand. Absence of competition also leads to such operations being less efficient. This is exactly what has happened in Australia, and it has placed a significant cost burden on the very taxpayers whom the network was supposed to benefit.
John Oliver by Reuters

John Oliver’s rock-solid case for the repeal of Title II

HBO’s John Oliver has satirized his way into the spotlight since his show, “Last Week Tonight,” debuted on the network last May. The show, which he describes as “comedy first, comedy second,” features dancing chickens, dingoes, a cartoon diseased lung named Jeff, and a puppy supreme court, among other outrageous gags. Interspersed throughout the humor, however, is fact-checked, deep-dive journalism, which is usually on-point and highly entertaining. However, Oliver’s recent arguments regarding net neutrality and US infrastructure belie a logical inconsistency worth addressing.
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Cyber-arms cannot be controlled by treaties

It has been an open secret for several years that the US conducted cyberattacks against the Iranian nuclear program. It recently emerged that the Iranians have successfully hit back against targets in the west. Frightened by this slow-moving conflict, the New York Times editorialized last week that the "best way forward is to accelerate international efforts to negotiate limits on the cyberarms race, akin to the arms-control treaties of the Cold War." Senior military analysts have advanced similar arguments. Cyber-conflict is certainly a serious policy challenge, but Cold War-style arms control is almost certainly the wrong approach to dealing with it.
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Why can’t the Internet be more like the electric company?

Last week was certainly a turning point for the Internet: the FCC’s Democratic majority passed the “strongest possible rules” on broadband networks and promptly congratulated itself in gushing press statements. Net neutrality advocates celebrated the victory of bare-knuckle populist protest and the corporate interests who orchestrated the popular movement beamed. But what exactly happened, and what does it mean? The FCC’s February 26 Open Internet order invalidated Internet throttling, “fast lanes” and pay-to-play arrangements, to be sure. But these practices either don’t exist at all or are essential features of the Internet, depending on how the terms are defined. The prudent analyst would turn to the 317-page text of the order to determine what the FCC has in mind, but unfortunately it’s still hidden from the public. Even the victorious protestors celebrating the order don’t know what’s in it. Without specifics, we simply can’t say how good or bad this order is.