This Would be Pretty Cool


File it under “Elon Musk wants to screw all the telco monopolies.”

Suddenly, we would probably find out that Elon Musk is the antichrist, and lawmakers owned by telcos would be making everything he tries to do just a little bit harder. Because: capitalists need less regulation, or something.

He has got a point: with a launch vehicle that he already owns, and low-orbiting communications satellites, he could do it. The only people who’d complain are the gamers, who’d get a bit of packet-lag, but the rest of us would be just fine.

This would destroy Verizon. And I’d put on some pink chunky-soled platform shoes and dance the funky chicken on Verizon’s grave. One thing that makes me happy is when the big-shot CEOs of monopolies and mega-corporations suddenly realize “our customers absolutely loathe us, and we’re only in business because there are no alternatives!” (United Airlines, I am looking at you!)

I like the unlimited plan. I can see the appeal to sitting there and dialing 256-digit phone numbers at random and letting it ring to see who might answer. Imagine if you dialed a number in the Andromeda area code and got a busy signal!

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Elon Musk certainly is a disruptive personality. He seems to love to run around challenging the established process, and smashing things. I wonder if, when it’s all said and done, he has been a largely positive influence, or not? My view is largely positive: he has done a tremendous amount to smash Detroit’s “electric cars are not practical” ideology, and if it helps wean America off gas-guzzlers, that’s no small accomplishment. SpaceX is also extremely impressive.

I actually had stock in Iridium, once.

Comments

  1. says

    Marcus:

    This would destroy Verizon. And I’d put on some pink chunky-soled platform shoes and dance the funky chicken on Verizon’s grave.

    Rats below, so would I! I would love to see Verizon come crashing down into dust, I would so celebrate. Right now, the ‘StandardX’ would be close to a universe above my current Verizon plan, and a universe cheaper. I’d jump.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    Hold on, hold the phone (as it were). Could someone who understands this answer the key question here: could this be the app that breaks through the great firewall of China?

    I’ve thought for a long time that China could only censor everything as long as everything went through wires. Once satellite phones become cheap and widely available, there won’t be any way for them to stop people from accessing the world, and their entire society will turn upside down. Same thing to a lesser extent with North Korea (because fewer people have access to technology there.)

    I’m assuming that I’m misinterpreting this, though, because stderr says “The only people who’d complain are the gamers, who’d get a bit of packet-lag, but the rest of us would be just fine.” I am sure that the Chinese govt. would complain, vociferously.

    Anyway, it sounds to me like this might be the big story here.

  3. says

    lawmakers owned by telcos would be making everything he tries to do just a little bit harder. Because: capitalists need less regulation, or something

    I didn’t get this one. Capitalists need less regulation, therefore they will urge lawmakers to create some new regulations that would make it harder for this guy to start his business?

    By the way, $9.99 per month is less that what I’m currently paying. Nowadays, I’m paying about $15 per month for Internet and mobile communications.

  4. says

    Ieva @5
    Internet access prices in the US are commonly 10 times what you are paying in Europe.
    I pay roughly $120 month for uncapped ~50 Mpbs access with VOIP “landline” service through Comcast and an additional $90 or so for 4GB shared between three mobile devices through AT&T.
    I don’t have much of a choice in these providers, there is no other cable provider in this city and Verizon is no cheaper than AT&T for mobile.
    So I’d certainly join Marcus in that dance on Verizon/Comcast/AT&T’s grave if Elon can ever actually get this ISP “off the ground”.

  5. says

    $15 per month for Internet

    You should be all manner happy about that. You’d fucking choke if you saw our Verizon bill, and we’re capped, so if we go over our limit, we get charged on top of the bill.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    I can see the appeal to sitting there and dialing 256-digit phone numbers at random and letting it ring to see who might answer.

    Our esteemed host has probably just gotten this planet banned from linking to the GalacticNet for an indefinite period (at minimum his own lifetime). Civilized societies don’t allow junk calls … or the I-was-just-kidding excuse.

  7. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#9:
    Civilized societies don’t allow junk calls …

    The chief advocate paused for final effect, his main vibration-receptors erect, indicating alertness and concern, in the measured cadence of a the senior member of the bar that he was, he intoned,
    “Will any beings speak for the defendants? The wretches, those abased beings that so profoundly have violated the laws of our gods, who have spoken and ruined the Uninterrupted Silence of our spaces. They! We must destroy. Them.”
    He paused, and moistened his carapace near his mandible, a demonstration of passion restrained through main force.
    “Their offers of ‘unlimited credit'” – his audience palpably recoiled – “violate all the laws of our commonwealth. which are strictly pay as you go. They imply that we are unable to perform our own financing – that we lack collateral. At the word ‘collateral’ several of the young males in the audience became so aroused that they attempted to spontaneously mate with the furniture in the conference-hall; this was going to be awkward. “No being,” he said, “can know what fate puts before it. No being can predict the fate that will befall them. Yet every can be expected to understand the basic precepts of morality, and fair credit reporting. Let the fine print hold.”
    He paused for his diffusion membranes to operate. A musician struck a note on a three-stringed kurphah, its grinding harmonic resonances slowly dropping, the death-dirge of an entire civilization. “They should have respected us more than this.”
    “The wretches,” muttered the chief advocate, as he stepped away from the podium.

  8. says

    John Morales@#11:
    Regulatory capture being OK when it’s the government allowing a certain amount of lobbying and not OK when it goes beyond that. We are expected to trust that they’ve got good judgement in these matters.

  9. says

    You should be all manner happy about that. You’d fucking choke if you saw our Verizon bill, and we’re capped, so if we go over our limit, we get charged on top of the bill.

    Yes, I am happy. I have experienced shitty Internet options while being abroad, so I’m aware about how very lucky I am.

    I pay roughly $120 month for uncapped ~50 Mpbs access with VOIP “landline” service through Comcast and an additional $90 or so for 4GB shared between three mobile devices through AT&T.
    I don’t have much of a choice in these providers, there is no other cable provider in this city and Verizon is no cheaper than AT&T for mobile.

    My Internet isn’t capped; I can use it as much as I want. I just tested my Internet speed—I got 23 Mbps download speed. Frankly, that’s very slow for my city. A couple of years ago (when I lived in a different address), my Internet speed was significantly faster. Nowadays, my Internet is so slow, because I’m paying for the cheapest tariff plan with the slowest bandwidth. My current Internet speed feels enough for everything I do online, so I don’t think it’s worth paying extra for faster speeds. I also picked the cheapest mobile phone tariff plan, where I have strict limits for number of text messages and call time. I also don’t used mobile data at all (I don’t need it; there’s free Wi-Fi everywhere in my city). I prefer to communicate via e-mail anyway, so I’m perfectly fine with these limitations for phone calls and text messages. I am paying about $15 only because I picked the cheapest option for everything. Other people in my city pay about $35 per month, but they also get faster Internet speed and unlimited number of phone calls and text messages.

    In ‘90ties, we had only one mobile telecommunications company in the whole country. Back then mobile phone bills were huge. Nowadays, we have three mobile telecommunications companies, and I’m perfectly happy with every one of them. Prices are cheap, services are just fine. This is one example where competition really did wonders, forcing companies to reduce prices and improve their service. It’s also worth mentioning that most people buy unlocked mobile phones here. Switching to a competitor while maintaining your phone number takes, literally, only about a 5 minute visit to a phone company’s office.

    When it comes to Internet, there are even more Internet service providers. Frankly, I don’t even know how many of them we have in the country. In my address I can get Internet from multiple providers. I tend to switch my Internet service provider every two years. In order to entice new clients, they offer all sorts of special benefits for new clients (free Internet for the first three months, reduced price for the first year, that sort of perks). They also require me to sign a two year contract in order to get all these cool price reductions. The result is that I switch my Internet service provider every two years when the previous contract term ends. Over the years, I have used the services of various companies, and I was satisfied with every one of them. Each one provided Internet and didn’t do anything particularly annoying, so I had nothing to complain about. In my country (and especially in the city where I live), we have very stiff competition between Internet service providers. They know that if they annoy a client, this client will just switch to somebody else.

    So I’m definitely happy with the options I have. I start complaining only when it comes to international mobile roaming charges. Those are often ridiculous. This is why, when I stay in some country for a longer period of time, often I just buy a local prepaid SIM card.

  10. says

    brucegee1962@#4:
    could this be the app that breaks through the great firewall of China?

    Maybe. But I find it unlikely to imagine that a company that’s trying to make a profit would walk away from 1/4 of the world’s market. Google did (briefly) because they expected the US government to back them and the Chinese government to come to their sense – as usual Google over-estimated their importance – Baidu won. So, I’m not sure but I’d bet on China to win. Their long-term policy looks more like having their own telecom, their own google, their own amazon, their own ebay, their own facebook and that’s how it seems to be playing out already. The US tech companies didn’t do a very good job attracting non English-speaking users (to the point there there were social media forums where English speakers were deliberately trying to alienate Brazilian/Portugese and South Koreans. Speaking of the strategic brilliance of trying to chase away one of the most dynamic populations of gamers and computer users on Earth.

    My inclination is to look at the Great Firewall as a problem but it seems to me that it’s simply a reality for most of the Chinese internet users. So they don’t feel they are having anything taken away from them (seriously, would you care if you missed a bunch of Twitter?) There are, naturally, dissident groups like Falun Gong and democracy movements but it sounds like they have been thoroughly marginalized.

  11. says

    Caine@#8:
    You’d fucking choke if you saw our Verizon bill, and we’re capped, so if we go over our limit, we get charged on top of the bill.

    And when Windows 10 decides to update itself, I have 3 systems each of which pull in a couple of gb, and – wham – I get hit with $40-$60 in overages.

  12. says

    Patrick Slattery@#6:
    The lag would actually be fairly minimal (sub 35ms) as he only intends to orbit the satellites at about 1300KM altitude.
    It may not be very acceptable for hard core gamers but the average gamer would be reasonably happy with that latency.

    I’d switch, even if it meant that my list of available games was reduced slightly. The 1st gen satellite systems were terrible (I had one) and I was looking at round trip times on the order of 120ms. If there were no clouds.

    What annoys me about that is, aside from competitive shooters there are relatively few games that need that kind of short latency. I’m not saying it’s not nice but if game designers spent more time thinking about how to make their systems work in a mildly laggy environment, it’d be OK. It seems to me that a lot of game programmers do all their testing on a local area network.

  13. says

    Charly@#3:
    The problem is this is treating plague with cholera – it would replace one monopoly with another one.

    True. But I hate Verizon enough that anything that’s not worse (and maybe even a few things that are) would be preferred.

    Let me tell you how much I hate Verizon: when I had them pull the wire back to my house (it’s 3/4 of a mile from the road) it cost about $2,500 for them to do that. So I ordered 7 phone lines, then cancelled 6 of them a month after the copper went in. That way they pulled 8 pair, which was pretty pricy compared to 2 pair. The tech who did the pull was laughing his ass off – if there is anyone who hates Verizon more than their customers, it’s their employees. Then, the neighbor’s combine hit the wire, which Verizon suspended too low from the power pole, and tore it to pieces and they had to replace it. They got some revenge, though – now my line is so bad it sounds like something from the transatlantic cable days.

  14. komarov says

    One thing that makes me happy is when the big-shot CEOs of monopolies and mega-corporations suddenly realize “our customers absolutely loathe us, and we’re only in business because there are no alternatives!”

    I’m sure they know and are very happy to realise it, too. You just missed the bout of manic laughter at the end there.

    I like the unlimited plan. I can see the appeal to sitting there and dialing 256-digit phone numbers at random and letting it ring to see who might answer. Imagine if you dialed a number in the Andromeda area code and got a busy signal!

    I guess SETI Mark II could be a phone centre cold-dialling every possible galactic phone number. If someone picks up it plays a universal greeting and asks you to press 1 if you’re not human. Of course the reason we can never make contact with any alien species might just be that everybody thinks humanity is a bunch of spammers/scammers and has blocked our planet. (Aw, Butler already got there first)

    Re: Charly (#3):

    The problem is this is treating plague with cholera – it would replace one monopoly with another one.

    Never fear! As I recall Facebook/Zuckerberg was planning a satellite network to make the internet accessible to everyone (focussing on poor nations) for free. (I may misremember that last part) So there would be alternatives! It’s just that the facebook net would work exclusively through facebook, which might might affect what you can do online…
    Other people were also planning their own satellite networks. Maybe they’ll just last long enough for verizon and co to starve before an inevitable ablation cascade wipes out all the manifold satellite fleets doing the exact same thing and leaves us in the dark.

    Re: US internet prices:

    Hwhat?!

    I get by on 30 quid a month with decent speed and reliabilty. The limits are extreme enough that I can’t seem to break no matter how hard I might try. The bottleneck for me is storage space rather than anything from the provider…

  15. malefue says

    Wow, I had no idea broadband access was so ridiculously expensive in the US. I’m paying 25 Euros for unlimited data volume from the former Austrian state monopolist. Since I don’t have a phone data plan, my phone bill is 10 Euros with unlimited calls and 1000 texts.
    The Austrian market is one of the most competetive in the world, there’s 5 cell companies and several sub-vendors plus the same number of broadband ISP, all competing for a market of 8 million…

  16. Reginald Selkirk says

    He has got a point: with a launch vehicle that he already owns, and low-orbiting communications satellites, he could do it.

    I disagree with you about feasibility. Those numbers are not realistic, even accounting for hyperbole. Ignoring the bits about covering the entire solar system, let alone galaxy, and the prices, which could be whatever Musk wants so long as he is willing to lose money,…

    Those connection speeds are not realistic. There is already a satellite phone system, Iridium, that we can use for comparison. There is a limit to how much throughput you could get from a single satellite. And if you transfer calls through either ground stations or other satellites, that takes additional throughput and complexity. Then there’s the need to transfer calls from one satellite to another as they move about in their orbits.

  17. EigenSprocketUK says

    Unlimited calls to the rest of the Galaxy? Jeez, earthlings, what makes you think we’d drop the disinterest field around your planet and start peering with you louts? Some of us once thought you’d make an interesting species a few of your orbits ago: we even allowed your Voyager probes out for fun and for your own education. But then you chucked your old car junk across the yard in the direction of Mars, missed, annoyed your own neighbours with your “let’s see which of us can pee highest up the wall”, and you were grounded. So we cut off your WiFi, if that makes more sense to you. And now the rest of the universe looks like there’s no-one there. And it’s going to stay that way until you grow up and learn about consequences.

    Sheesh. Teenagers.

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