Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Self perpetuating broadband black holes a product of telcos' cynical digital redlining strategy

Since late 2006 and again this week, there have been reports of slowing growth in U.S. wireline broadband subscribers and particularly those using telco-provided Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service. Analysts and other observers have blamed the demand side of the market, attributing the decline to a slowing economy and market saturation.

There's likely a better explanation -- and it's on the supply side of the equation. Since 2006, DSL deployments by the tier 1 telcos such as AT&T and Verizon have been slowing and are now all but halted as the companies concentrate on building out their triple play (U-Verse and FiOS, respectively) infrastructures in a relative few selected markets.

For those unfortunate enough to reside or do business in these companies' service territories where they don't offer wireline broadband connections, there's another factor at work: the self perpetuating broadband black hole. They're the natural product of the telcos' digital redlining strategy.

Since the big telcos don't do market research, they rely on what they term as "pent up demand" for services. As the broadband boom unfolded at the start of the decade, pent up demand grew. Right around the time of the first reports of a broadband "slowdown" began appearing, that pent up demand had likely recently peaked. Folks who have been asking for wireline broadband connections over a period of 5-7 years and have yet to obtain them by mid-2008 have likely concluded they never will. So they stop asking for service, ignore misguided ads for telco broadband, and pent up demand for broadband falls away. The telcos can then cynically point to the falling demand to justify their continued failure to deploy broadband infrastructure to these redlined neighborhoods.

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