Friday, September 04, 2009

Why the incumbents prefer a sub 1 MBs broadband standard

Some are scratching their heads at recent comments submitted by large telcos and cable companies to the Federal Communications Commission recommending that broadband be defined at speeds of under 1 Mbs in the national broadband plan the FCC is due to present to Congress by February.

Why would they set the bar so low, observers rightfully wonder, particularly since such a low standard is already becoming obsolete given the explosive growth in bandwidth demand and video content.

It's clearly incongruous that Comcast, for example, would urge the FCC define broadband at circa 1998 levels of 256 Kbs at the same time it rolls out its DOCSIS 3.0 software upgrade providing downloads of 50 Mbs and potentially higher. Or for Verizon to suggest broadband be deemed 768 Kbs down and 200 Kbs up (the current FCC definition of "basic" broadband service) when its own fiber to the premises offering, FiOS, offers throughput on a par with that of Comcast.

Here's the explanation: These sub 1 Mbs standards are based not on what the providers are technologically capable of delivering today but instead on their business models. They have built out their proprietary infrastructures to the extent these models allow while providing a reasonable return and dividends for their shareholders.

By advising the FCC to define broadband on such obsolete and arguably bogus terms, the providers are essentially telling the feds they aren't serious about the issue. It's a frivolous, throwaway position that summed up says "forget about any national broadband plan and leave us the hell alone." It's reminiscent of the scene in the 1980s film Tin Men where a car salesman asks a tin man played by Danny DeVito what he's willing to pay for a Cadillac and DeVito answers "Five dollars."

That stance is likely to lead to more complaints from top FCC brass that the FCC's call for input on a national broadband plan is producing self serving and unconstructive comment that doesn't provide any illumination or guidance.

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