Monday, July 29, 2013

Mobile isn't premise service

AT&T’s latest home broadband service isn’t DSL or fiber. It’s LTE — Tech News and Analysis: The idea of using a mobile network to connect homes that have either no or slow broadband access is definitely an admirable idea, but it has its limitations. Today’s mobile networks simply aren’t designed for the intense data demands of are increasingly hungry home broadband appliances — they have limited capacity and that capacity must be shared with all of the other users on the network. That’s why the per-gigabyte costs of mobile broadband are so much higher.

An excellent point in this GigaOM article that puts this service in the proper perspective.  It's designed for mobile and not premises services. Offering a mobile service to a premises does not make it a premises service.

A few paragraphs down, the article notes:
In fact, AT&T is trying to eliminate the distinction between residential and mobile service entirely.
Nice try, but it won't work.  Mobile is mobile. Premises is premises.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Petitions or "broadband mapping," the end result is the same: Bumpkes

Mark dance sundridge broadband campaign pointless | This is Kent: Jane Hunter from the Westerham Town Partnership has campaigned at every opportunity to add names to the petition but she says she is not surprised to hear the votes will not influence the rollout.

"They have been stringing us along for no reason," she said. "They don't want people hassling them so they haven't told us the reality of the situation.

"And while we have been given figures by the council they never answer any of our questions on exactly what the criteria were for which areas would be part of the superfast project.

Across the Atlantic in the United States, petition drives similar to this one in the U.K. -- some dating back years and encouraged by incumbent providers and misguided demand aggregators -- proved equally pointless. Signatures on petitions can't overcome market failure and are just as futile as "mapping" broadband not spots will make them disappear. The result at the end of the effort is the same: bumpkes.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Washington Post flubs story on Netflix

House of Cards Emmy nod a breakthrough for online TV - The Washington Post: Television series produced by the video service Netflix garnered 14 Emmy nominations Thursday, a historic haul for shows that viewers watched exclusively over the Internet without needing satellite dishes, rabbit ears or cable wires.

Instead, the fans of “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development” could tune in wherever and whenever they pleased on any device with a decent Internet connection — so long as they also had a Netflix subscription. And while that may not seem revolutionary in a world with more than 1 billion smartphones, the nominations highlighted the weakening hold that traditional distribution systems have on the wallets of viewers.
The first two paragraphs of this Washington Post story are lacking so much detail that clarification is needed to fill in the holes.

Specifically, the assertion that viewing Netflix does not require "satellite dishes, rabbit ears or cable wires." The only accurate element is rabbit ears since Netflix is not an over the air television service.

As for satellite dishes, if a Netflix viewer is in large chunks of the United States where the only Internet access options are outdated dialup from the phone company or satellite Internet service providers, then a satellite dish is necessary since dialup doesn't provide sufficient bandwidth.  And the satellite providers will slow a customers service to dial up crawl speed if they stream too much Netflix by invoking bandwidth rationing limits that come with satellite Internet service contracts. 

Bandwidth rationing is also in force for mobile smartphone services since they are not intended to provide robust Internet connections on a par with premises cable service. Which brings me to another and very misleading element of the lead paragraph: that Netflix can be viewed sans "cable wires." Hardly.  Many Netflix viewers stream the service using Internet connections provided by -- you guessed it -- their cable company.

And yet another misleading story headlined A fifth of US Netflix users have cut the cord reports 20 percent of Netflix subscribers have cancelled their pay-TV subscriptions, citing research by Cowen and Co. A pay TV subscription is not a "cord" and if cable subscribers cut their cords, they won't have Internet.  No Internet = No Netflix streaming.

How BDUK bungled Britain’s next-gen broadband rollout | PC Pro blog

Interesting dispatch from the UK that portrays the dominant incumbent telecoms provider, BT, as favoring American AT&T U-Verse-style FTTC (Fiber To the Cabinet) over Fiber to the Premise (FTTP), apparently to avoid the higher cost of the latter network architecture.

The UK Government entity charged with overseeing that nation's Internet infrastructure program also allegedly ruled out fixed terrestrial wireless as a viable premises service option. That's consistent with the first point since fiber would have to be deployed to bring it very close to premises in order to achieve high wireless throughput.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The 2 key inaction risks facing community fiber projects

Creative risk taking is essential to success in any goal where the stakes are high. Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity.

Communities contemplating fiber Internet infrastructure projects should keep in mind that there are risks -- negative impacts -- associated both with taking action as well as not taking action.  The latter risk -- termed inaction risk -- is perhaps one of the most threatening and pervasive risks.  For some regions and communities, that risk is being left permanently off the modern Internet grid and unable to realize the benefits it offers for government, public safety, health and education, economic development and transportation demand mitigation. 

Milo Medin, Google's vice president of access services, laid out two major underlying rationales explaining why communities needlessly run the risk of inaction in his address to the 2013 Broadband Communities Summit. 

1.  The unswerving belief despite more than a decade of market failure that incumbent legacy telephone and cable companies will upgrade and build out their infrastructures to serve all premises.  Here's what Medin had to say on that point:
Part of the reason the U.S. is falling behind is that most cities haven’t been intentional about their broadband infrastructure. Cities know they have to make sure the water system works and scales to support growth, the roads are maintained and built, garbage is collected properly. But often, they think broadband is something that the phone company or the cable company will take care of for them and they can ignore it, or that the FCC will make sure the appropriate incentives are put into place to drive competition and upgrades. Depending on those processes is how we got into the situation we’re in today.

2. The misguided belief that wireless services have obsoleted fiber networks. Medin explains:
Some argue that fiber networks are not really needed because of wireless network growth. As an engineer, quite honestly, this kind of talk makes my brain hurt. Wireless network growth is driven by fiber. All those base stations that smartphones connect to are increasingly connected by fiber because, as speeds go up, fiber is required to carry that kind of traffic. Copper just won’t do for modern wireless networks.
Cisco and others expect wireless data to grow by a factor of 50 in the next few years, and you’re not going to be able to solve that kind of growth by throwing more spectrum at it. You’re going to have to reduce the size of the cells, shrinking them, reducing the number of users that are being served by a given base station. And that means a lot more cell sites and a lot more fiber to feed those cell sites. In the limit, the future of mobile is going to look a lot like Wi-Fi: tons of small cell sites connected by a wireline network, connected by fiber – and that’s just physics, folks.

The full Broadband Communities article excerpting Medin's speech can be viewed here and here (pdf). 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

The 3 big U.S. Internet infrastructure policy choices

The United States now has three major policy options on the build out of Internet infrastructure to serve all American homes, businesses and institutions:
  1. Continuation of the status quo of investor-owned Internet infrastructure and associated private market failure that will leave significant numbers of premises lacking affordable Internet access over the long term and potentially permanently.
  2. A well funded federal aid program including technical assistance grants for community fiber to the premise network construction projects, funded by existing programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, a program jointly administered by multiple agencies or by a newly created, dedicated agency.  In addition, federal preemption of state laws barring local governments from constructing, owning or operating Internet infrastructure.
  3. De-privatization of all Internet infrastructure (either immediately or over a period of years) combined with a fast track federal construction project to build out fiber to serve all U.S. premises, similar to the 1950s interstate highway project.

Please add your comments.  Which do you favor and why?

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The U.S. Needs A Federal-Aid Highway Act For Affordable Broadband -- Now - Forbes

The U.S. Needs A Federal-Aid Highway Act For Affordable Broadband -- Now - Forbes

Digital media veteran Gary Myer urges a massive Internet stimulus program that goes far beyond the $4.5 billion allocated for Internet infrastructure in the American Investment and Recovery Act of 2009.  (Most of that money went toward middle mile infrastructure that typically left residences and small businesses off the net).

Myer as well as some of the commentators on his Forbes piece point out getting fiber to every U.S. doorstep not only would create a lot of jobs since a large majority of the cost is labor.  It would also make the U.S. network more valuable since more would be connected to it, replacing the current dysfunctional, hodge podge of disparate legacy cable television and telephone company networks whose high cost business models fail outside of densely populated areas.

Myer also puts to rest the fanciful, wishful thinking that cell phone networks obviate the need for premises Internet connections.  Those networks are designed for lower bandwidth mobile voice and data and lack the capacity and reliability to serve as primary premises connections. Those bandwidth caps on mobile service exist for a reason.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Fiber to the Home Council : Blogs : Telcos Saving Serious Money by Upgrading to FTTH, Survey Finds

Fiber to the Home Council : Blogs : Telcos Saving Serious Money by Upgrading to FTTH, Survey Finds: (WASHINGTON) – Small and medium-sized telephone companies that have upgraded their networks to all-fiber are reporting operational cost savings averaging 20 percent annually, according to a study commissioned by the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, a non-profit group of nearly 300 companies and organizations dedicated to expanding the availability of ultra high speed, all-fiber broadband.

The survey of more than 350 telecommunications providers across North America, conducted by the market analyst firm RVA LLC, also pointed to a steady drumbeat of FTTH deployment activity, with the number of homes that can access FTTH networks increasing by 17.6 percent over a year ago to 22.7 million.
While consumers served by these smaller telcos will benefit (as will the telcos with lower OPex costs), there are many more served by large telcos like AT&T and Verizon who won't.  Neither company is upgrading its copper plant to fiber to the premise.
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