Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yet another silly "broadband mapping" project

FCC Plans to Map Broadband Access to Aid Chronic Disease Care: The new mapping tool aims to continue this mission by identifying gaps in connectivity at the neighborhood level, highlighting opportunities for improvement, and giving community coalitions the data they need to form new partnerships and tailor their activities to their unique needs. (Emphasis added).
Yet another useless, going though the motions "broadband mapping" project. The United States would have had fiber connecting every home, business and institution in place by 2010 had it done the proper planning and construction starting a generation ago. Today, very few areas of the nation are fully fibered. The opportunity for improvement is most everywhere. A map isn't needed to illustrate that.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Political talking points can't trump the microeconomics of residential telecom market

Tennessee Study Shows State Remains A Broadband Backwater Thanks To AT&T Lobbyists, Clueless Politicians, And Protectionist State Law | Techdirt: "Norris, who said he remains wary about municipal broadband based on the failure of Networx in his district near Memphis, said he hopes the push for more broadband is not an excuse for bigger government. Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, vice chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, also expressed concern about allowing government-owned utilities like EPB to compete with private firms such as AT&T or Comcast. "We want to look closely at this study, but in general, I am not for government and business competing in the marketplace," he said.

Carrying the water of the legacy telephone companies, Green is painting a false dichotomy that went by the wayside in 2015. That's when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission adopted its Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet as a common carrier utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

Those rules implicitly recognize residential premise telecommunications service due to the high cost of building and maintaining infrastructure tends towards a monopoly market. By definition, competitive market forces are absent in such a market. It's another example of a politician trying in vain to trump microeconomic fundamentals with political talking points.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

U.S. does not just have a "rural broadband" problem; Bold federal initiative needed to address widespread infrastructure disparities

In these troubling times, senators unite to end America's big divide – rural v urban broadband • The Register: The US Senate has formally formed its first informal committee to push for better broadband in America's countryside. The bi-partisan Senate Broadband Caucus will be made up of five senators who represent states with large rural populations and will push for laws that help to expand high-speed internet service into those underserved markets. The caucus will initially comprise of Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Each comes from states where large tracts of uninhabited land make the installation of fiber networks financially unappealing to commercial providers.

This would be fine if disparate access to modern telecommunications infrastructure was solely a rural issue as electrical power distribution infrastructure was at the start of the 20th century when entire rural counties and regions were left off the grid.

The problem is it's not. Driven by cherry picking and redlining by legacy telephone and cable companies, access disparities tend to be far more granular, occurring in rural, suburban, exurban and even urban areas. Neighborhoods and clusters of premises may be served by landline internet infrastructure while others just a mile or two distant -- or even less -- are not.

That's not a "rural broadband" problem. It's a national crisis of deficient telecommunications infrastructure for the 21st century. The United States needs a bold federal initiative to ensure fiber optic connections to every American doorstep and institution and to replace legacy metallic infrastructure. And in the shortest possible time frame given the task should have been started a generation ago. I present the case and outline how it would work in my recent eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis.

Time to end the Google Fiber media hype. It's not going to solve U.S. telecom infrastructure crisis

Google Fiber no longer a moonshot — it's a 'real business': Internet giants Google and Facebook, frustrated that telecom companies aren't moving fast enough, are building all kinds of technology to extend the reach, accelerate the speed and lower the cost of the Internet, from high-altitude balloons to drones. The perpetually sorry state of U.S. broadband prompted Google to take an even more ambitious step: It announced Fiber in 2010. Google's lucrative advertising business relies on the use and growth of the Internet. Faster, cheaper connections mean more people spend more time online using Google services such as search, YouTube or Gmail, and viewing Google ads, says Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner.

This is essentially PR flackery for Google Fiber. The idea that Google Fiber is somehow lighting a fire under the asses of the incumbent telephone and cable to modernize their metallic legacy infrastructures is ludicrous.

Google Fiber holds no business advantage over the incumbents. Both are constrained by business models that limit their ability to modernize America's telecom infrastructure to fiber to the premise. They can only move as fast as their budgets allow. Neither the incumbents nor Google Fiber have the billions needed to accomplish the task in the near future. So they're reduced to cherry picking lucrative urban markets and issuing hyperbolic news releases that are nothing more than a PR pissing contest.

What's needed as I suggest in my recent eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunication Infrastructure Crisis is a crash federal telecom modernization initiative wherein the federal government would build fiber to every doorstep in the nation.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

U.S. telecom infrastructure also needs a "public option"

Market forces have rendered telecommunications infrastructure in the United States a balkanized, crazy quilt patchwork. Investor-owned internet service providers naturally gravitate toward locations where there are high concentrations of households with healthy incomes that can afford their service offerings. Since those services are typically vertically integrated wherein the ISPs own the infrastructure, infrastructure is built only where it can generate robust profits over the short term. Everyplace else is left to twist in the wind, redlined off the internet because there is no infrastructure to deliver telecommunications services.

That has led to a deepening crisis as telecommunications continues its rapid shift to internet-based services as legacy telephone companies abandon their copper cable plants constructed many decades ago to support voice phone service.

A similar market dynamic exists in the payer side of health care. Like telecommunications infrastructure, it takes lots of capital to enter the market. Health plan issuers must have millions of dollars set aside to cover the cost of care of their members, particularly if costs exceed projections. They naturally will offer coverage in areas where there are plenty of premium paying members to generate those dollars. In less densely populated areas, those with fewer health care providers and lower population health status, health plan issuers have less incentive to offer a greater variety of plans.

President Barack Obama called out this circumstance in a recent article published in The Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA). The president noted that 12 percent of enrollees in states where the federal government operates state health benefit exchanges live in areas where they can choose from among only one or two health plan issuers. For such areas, Obama suggests policymakers revisit the concept of a government operated health plan – the so-called “public option” – that was jettisoned leading up to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. Obama’s call for taking another look at government-operated health plans serving the individual and small group markets comes as one of the law’s mechanisms designed to ensure greater access to coverage -- consumer operated and oriented (CO-OP) health plans – is faltering with most co-ops undercapitalized and deemed insolvent

Given that some 34 million Americans are unserved by modern, internet-based telecommunications infrastructure capable of delivering high-quality voice, data, graphics and video to their homes and small businesses  according to figures released by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in early 2016, it’s also time for policymakers to seriously consider a public option for telecom infrastructure.

In my recent eBook, Service Unavailable: america’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, I propose the formation of a government chartered 501(c)(1) nonprofit, the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Agency, to engage in a crash program to build modern fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure connecting all American homes and businesses. That’s where America needs to be in the 21st century. Market forces are not up to fully accomplishing the job or as rapidly as needed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Obama administration plays up mobile wireless, ignores 34 million Americans lacking modern landline premise telecom service

As the Obama administration winds down, it is declaring a hollow victory on telecommunications infrastructure, playing up mobile wireless technology while ignoring the plight of some 34 million Americans whose homes and small business that lack service capable of delivering high-quality voice, data, graphics and video, according to figures released by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission earlier this year.

Mobile wireless is also being termed by incumbent telephone companies as a technological transition from non-IP based services that supported legacy telephone, cable TV and early mobile wireless services to Internet protocol-based services. Problem is many of those aforementioned 34 million Americans are being left out of the transition since landline infrastructure isn't being modernized and built out to serve them. And as many observers have pointed out including here, mobile wireless service alone cannot meet the needs of homes and small businesses due to technological constraints and high cost.
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