Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Outmoded 1990s thinking retards U.S. telecom infrastructure modernization

Digitally Unconnected in the U.S.: Who’s Not Online and Why? | NTIA: But what about those Americans who do not use the Internet? Whether by circumstance or by choice, millions of U.S. households are not online, and thus unable to meaningfully participate in the digital economy. Data from NTIA's July 2015 Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey confirm that the digital divide persists. In 2015, 33 million households (27 percent of all U.S. households) did not use the Internet at home, where families can more easily share Internet access and conduct sensitive online transactions privately. Significantly, 26 million households--one-fifth of all households--were offline entirely, lacking a single member who used the Internet from any location in 2015.
This report reflects the limited thinking that retards the direly needed modernization of telecommunications infrastructure in the United States. It adopts a one-dimensional view of modern telecommunications rooted in the later 1990s and early 2000s when internet protocol-based telecommunications solely meant going on line with a computer, using dialup or DSL where it was being rolled out.

Nearly two decades later, the internet isn't just about going online, particularly as legacy telephone companies look to retire their aged and obsolete copper cable plants and fiber to the premise (FTTP) obsoletes metallic cable and can support multiple telecom services. Internet protocol also supports voice service (Voice Over Internet Protocol) as well as video, both one way and interactive. It's a multi-modal telecommunications platform.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why market competition cannot remedy America’s lousy telecom service

Almost daily, the justifiable criticism of the lousy state of America’s telecommunications service includes the demand for more competition as the solution. Providing more competition – and specifically as fiber to the premise (FTTP) -- for indolent incumbent legacy telephone and cable companies in no hurry to modernize their aging and increasingly obsolete metallic infrastructures will provide superior service and value for consumers. Sound good in theory, but completely misguided.

Telecommunications is not and will never be a truly competitive market where consumers can select among many sellers. The economics simply don’t allow it because it costs too much to enter the market and the return on investment under the dominant, vertically integrated, subscription-based business model is too skimpy or too far in the future to attract would be competitors. If telecommunications were a truly competitive market, consumers no matter where they live would have multiple sellers and services from which to choose just as they do other consumer offerings. Cherry picking in a few select metro markets as we’ve seen with Google Fiber and AT&T’s “Gigaweasel” as fellow blogger Steve Blum dubs it is hardly robust market competition.

That’s a key distinction. Telecommunications is not a consumer market. It’s a natural monopoly market and the incumbents have established their place in it. And they vigorously defend that place. That’s not evil as Susan Crawford recently pointed out. The incumbents are merely doing what they must do to faithfully and diligently serve the interests of their shareholders no matter how smarmy, greedy or disingenuous it may appear at times. Shareholders come first, market demand second. And the interests of the demand side of the market can easily remain in second place in a natural monopoly market because there is and won’t be any pressure to offer more to maintain market share because market share is assured. The market will accept whatever it’s offered because it has no choice – and cannot have meaningful choice. That’s why consumers complain service sucks equally between legacy telcos and cable providers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Light-based quantum Internet protocol requires FTTP

Particle teleportation across Calgary marks 'major step' toward creation of 'quantum internet' - Calgary - CBC News: In a "major step" toward practical quantum networking, researchers at the University of Calgary have successfully demonstrated the teleportation of a light particle's properties between their lab and the city's downtown area, six kilometres away.
It doesn't exist yet, but the dream of a "quantum internet" involves taking advantage of a key element of quantum mechanics — the fact that observing a particle's quantum state changes that particle's quantum state. This creates the opportunity to communicate with a degree of security never before possible, because no one can intercept a communication without the intended receiver of the information knowing about it.

A couple of takeaways here:
  1. A light-based Internet protocol will require fiber optic to the premise (FTTP) communications infrastructure. The metallic infrastructures of the legacy telephone and cable companies that dominate today aren't going to cut it. (A bonus: fiber is non-conducting and thus invulnerable to high energy solar flares.)

  2. Quantum-based encryption as described here looks even more hack proof that the current cutting edge blockchain technology.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Relying on legacy incumbents, state government for telecom infrastructure modernization -- That dog don't hunt

Rural residents push for broadband | Local News | After hearing from frustrated residents and community leaders, Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who co-chairs the committee, sought to reassure service providers. "We need the Windstreams, the AT&Ts, the Comcasts," he said. "We're not running anybody off. We're trying to keep them here, keep their jobs here, but encourage more investment." One proposal is the elimination of a sales tax on telecommunications network equipment. Others have recommended boosting coverage by restoring state funding for local public-private projects and doing more to hold companies accountable when their service is not as advertised.

As they say in the south, that dog don't hunt. The "Windstreams, the AT&Ts, the Comcasts" aren't going to invest in telecom infrastructure to fill in service area gaps in any reasonable timeframe because the ROI is simply too far in the future to justify the investment to their shareholders.

Expecting state government to step up with the billions in needed funding isn't realistic either. A robust, well funded national telecommunications infrastructure initiative is needed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

FCC Commissioner Pai's deeply flawed "Digital Empowerment Agenda"

Ajit Pai, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, has proposed a "Digital Empowerment Agenda" relying on tax incentives to promote telecom infrastructure investment. Pai's proposal is deeply flawed because it:
  • Assumes tax breaks combined with regulatory streamlining will eliminate the massive telecom infrastructure disparities in the United States. Pai need only ask legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies (and Google Fiber) why he's misguided. They will tell him the primary impediment is the return on infrastructure investment is too far in the future in certain areas and neighborhoods to justify investment. Net present value is too low or zero. That's a fundamental challenge of the investor-owned, vertically integrated business model to when it comes to infrastructure capable of supporting modern advanced, telecom services. Tax incentives and regulatory streamlining may help the math, but aren't alone going to make the business case for investment and eliminate disparities.
  • Reinforces existing infrastructure disparities by offering incentives for landline infrastructure in some areas of the nation but only mobile wireless in others that is inadequate for premise service.

Failure of Google's "Homes with Tails" concept correlates to dearth of consumer telecom coops

Britain mulling broadband speed disclosure for every home - AlphaBeatic: The idea is reminiscent of “Homes with Tails,” a paper published back in 2008 by Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu and Google public policy manager Derek Slater. In the paper, the duo envisioned a future where consumers owned the fibre connections to their homes, obviating the need to go through an ISP to connect to the internet. Such fibre connections would lower the cost of internet service and raise the value of the homes. A typical home with a fibre connection was worth $4,000 (U.S.) more than one without, the duo argued.

Home ownership of fibre was attempted in Ottawa several years ago, but the idea never got off the ground. Bill St. Arnaud, the project’s founder, attributed the problems to central exchange providers, who were unwilling to open up their networks to allow competition for the likes of Bell and Rogers. There was also the issue of trying to convince home owners to spring for building the fibre connections, which can run thousands of dollars. Consumers are accustomed to effectively renting their internet connections, rather than owning them, so it may have been an idea ahead of its time.

This also explains why consumer telecom cooperatives have not sprung up in the United States to build and own fiber infrastructure serving member premises. People have been conditioned to see telecommunications as a consumer commodity purchased from a centralized corporate provider. Even though these monopolistic providers have no incentive to avoid redlining neighborhoods they don't want to serve and have a lousy customer service ethic, people would rather bitch about shitty service options when renting their telecommunications circuit than pony up a few thousand dollars to own it and set their own terms of service. Even when that investment would raise the value of their property by amount of the investment as research has shown. Brings to mind the old adage that one gets what one pays -- or not -- for a product or service.
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