Friday, August 28, 2015

AT&T to deploy "wireless local loop" fixed premise service in high cost areas

AT&T will apparently use wireless technology to provide fixed premise Internet telecommunications services using funding from the Connect America Fund (CAF) to subsidize infrastructure costs in high cost areas of the nation. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced this week that AT&T accepted $428 million in annual subsidies from the CAF to serve 2.2 million rural consumers in 18 states. Since the FCC requires CAF recipients to provide connectivity of "at least" 10Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads, the wireless gambit could potentially meet that standard. AT&T's wireless strategy was communicated to the FCC in a letter dated August 27, 2015 (H/T to California-based Steve Blum of Tellus Venture Associates):

We anticipate meeting our CAF Phase II obligations through a mix of network technologies, including through the deployment of advanced wireless technologies on new wireless towers that will be constructed in previously unserved areas. We will diligently pursue the necessary tower siting and permitting processes so that these new towers can be completed in a timely manner.

As previously mentioned in this space, the so-called "wireless local loop" (WLL) infrastructure strategy proffered in 2014 as part of AT&T's proposed takeover of DirecTV will also help AT&T meet its universal service obligations under the FCC's recently adopted Open Internet regulatory scheme classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications service. The strategy will also provide alternative premise service delivery infrastructure as AT&T retires its legacy copper cable outside plant.

The upshot for AT&T customers: Those that were never offered DSL service when AT&T rolled it out more than a decade ago might now see premise service roughly equivalent to DSL sometime in the next five years while those outside the very limited range of its U-Verse triple play DSL-based service could find themselves switched from legacy DSL to WLL.

An unresolved problem, however, is as Internet bandwidth demand continues its inexorable rapid rise, the WLL technology will be obsolete as soon as it's deployed and falls short of the FCC's current minimum benchmark for Internet service of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up adopted earlier this year.

U.S. paying price for lack of orderly transition plan to fiber telecom infrastructure

FCC Orders Rules for Copper Retirement | POTs and PANs: The biggest issue I see with getting rid of copper is where the phone company doesn’t have an alternate landline network ready for the transition. It doesn’t seem like a big issue to me when a company like Verizon wants to move customers from copper to FiOS. There have already been tens of millions of customers who have changed from copper to either FiOS fiber or to a cable company network who have experienced and accepted the required changes.

But AT&T has said that they want to walk away from millions of rural copper customers. That would force customers to migrate to either the cable company or to cellular wireless. This could be a huge problem for business customers because there are still a lot of business districts that have never been wired by the cable companies. And even where a business can change to a cable company network, they are not always going to be able to buy the services they want from the cable company. For example, those businesses might be using trunks or Centrex today that isn’t supported by their cable provider. These businesses are going to be facing an immediate and expensive upgrade cost to keep the kind of service they have always had.

Doug Dawson lays out the effects of the train wreck caused by the lack of an orderly transition plan in the U.S. to migrate from copper to fiber telecom infrastructure that should have been put in place a generation ago. The consequences of this and misplaced reliance on market forces in a monopolistic microeconomy are now coming home to roost. More on this in my forthcoming book, Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, available in September.

Friday, August 07, 2015

FCC inquiry could set stage to further reduce pressure on telcos, cablecos to deploy last mile infrastructure

Now that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission appears to be whiffing on enforcing Title II’s universal service and anti-redlining provisions relative to Internet service despite deeming Internet service a common carrier utility in a rulemaking earlier this year, it appears to be setting the stage to give big incumbent telephone and cable companies another potential pass on modernizing and building out their last mile infrastructures.

The FCC signaled that possible gambit this week in opening its annual review as required by Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to determine whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner.

In previous reviews, the FCC examined advanced telecom infrastructure providing both landline premise as well as mobile wireless and premise satellite service but opted to include only premise landline service in its determination, citing “significant concerns about the quality and reliability of the mobile and satellite service data” as well as factors including latency and usage allowances.

The 2015 review determined infrastructure deployment remained untimely as in previous reviews dating back nearly two decades and that 55 million Americans – 17 percent of the population – lack access to advanced telecommunications services capable of supporting high-quality voice, data, graphics and video.

For its next annual review, the FCC announced an inquiry this week seeking comment on whether mobile wireless and satellite should be included:

While fixed terrestrial broadband service can have advantages for high-capacity home use, mobile broadband has become increasingly important for many uses, including connecting on social media, navigating during travel, communicating with family and friends, receiving timely news updates, and more. In the event mobile broadband is added to the assessment, the FCC is seeking comment on what speed of service should serve as the benchmark for assessing availability. The FCC is also proposing to consider the availability of fixed satellite broadband in its annual assessment of fixed broadband availability.

Such a move could also pave the way for creating a benchmark lower than the new speed standard of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up established in the 2015 Section 706 review since this level of service is not offered by mobile wireless and satellite providers. That would make it easier for the FCC to declare advanced telecom infrastructure is in fact being timely deployed. Doing so would effectively sanction the deplorable status quo that has existed for many years where about one in five customer premises remain unable to obtain premise landline Internet service.
Web Analytics