Saturday, May 21, 2011

FCC: "Significant and persistent" Internet infrastructure deployment gap leaves 26 million Americans offline

The Federal Communications Commission reports this week that a "significant and persistent deployment gap" in Internet telecommunications infrastructure deprives as many as 26 million Americans from Internet access.

"This significant and persistent deployment gap is particularly concerning in light of the substantial and growing costs of digital exclusion: Being unable to subscribe to broadband in 2011 is a much bigger obstacle to healthcare, educational, and employment opportunities that are essential for consumer welfare and America’s economic growth and global competitiveness than it was even a few years ago," the FCC notes in its seventh annual report to Congress on the availability of advanced telecommunications capability as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

"We thus must conclude that broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and we underscore how much work remains before we can conclude that all Americans are served by broadband."

In addition, the FCC rejected arguments by mobile wireless providers that their service constitutes Internet infrastructure that's sufficiently robust at at time when the Internet is becoming an all purpose telecommunications system transporting an exponentially growing amount of voice, data and video traffic.

"While use of mobile broadband is growing, that growth to date is mainly in lower speed ranges that may not be able to support the applications and services identified by Congress, such as high-quality video," the FCC's report states. "MetroPCS and others ask the Commission to reverse its conclusion, given the prevalence of wireless technology," the report continues. "While MetroPCS and others have noted the general expansion of mobile wireless across the country, they failed to demonstrate that wireless broadband is provided at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps actual speed (or reasonable proxy) in the unserved areas."

Most importantly, the FCC identifies the key reason why so many Americans remain disconnected: investor owned providers can't profitably earn a return on their investment -- mostly upfront and ongoing labor costs -- in order to justify building out their networks to serve more premises. "In the absence of programs that provide additional support, the private sector will not bring broadband to Americans living in areas where there is no business case for operating a broadband network," the report states.

Short of labor costs declining dramatically, that will continue to be the case. And unless communities explore alternative nonprofit business models such as municipal and cooperatively-owned open access fiber to the premises infrastructure, the FCC will continue to report on a "significant and persistent" infrastructure gap next year and subsequent years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Battling over accuracy of broadband maps plays into hands of legacy providers

Readers of this blog know that I've long regarded so-called "broadband mapping" as well as as focusing on "broadband adoption" as strategies cooked up by the PR shops of the big legacy telco and cable companies to divert attention away from the lack of advanced telecom infrastructure. As long as people are battling over the accuracy of "broadband maps," they aren't taking matters into their own hands and money isn't being invested to construct fiber to the premises telecom infrastructure to fill in the availability gaps the mappers are attempting to document.

The Associated Press reports Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is steamed that existing "broadband maps" -- probably including the useless National Broadband Map paid for by our federal tax dollars -- show his home near Putney, Vermont has DSL service. Not true, the guv says. So he's countered with his own state-run mapping program, BroadbandVT.org

Instead of trying to see who can most accurately map broadband black holes -- an exercise about as useful as mapping the celestial variety -- Vermonters should call upon their independent New England spirit and create cooperatives to build fiber to their homes and businesses. That spirit is apparently alive and well in western Massachusetts, where the Wired West announced this week that several towns voted in favor of moving forward to formalize creation of a municipal telecommunications cooperative to build sorely needed fiber to the premises telecom infrastructure.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Despite growth of Internet telecommunications, majority of employers don't allow telework

We may be living in the era of Internet telecommunications where most any generation, analysis and manipulation of words and numbers can be done from most anywhere having adequate telecom infrastructure.

But for most American businesses, that fact hasn't yet fully registered. Most still believe this type of work can only be done in office buildings and cubicles, which in turn reinforces that time sucking activity known as commuting. At a time when people are strapped for time and want to reduce their carbon footprints. And exercise more and perhaps lower their employers' soaring health care costs in the process.

The results of a random telephone survey of nearly 10,000 businesses in a dozen states last year found only 23 percent allow telework. The results are reported in a white paper issued today by Connected Nation, Leveraging Technology to Stimulate Economic Growth.

 
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