Saturday, September 23, 2017

Insanity defined: The continuing call for more competition in telecom infrastructure

FCC doesn't know enough about competition, or lack thereof, says GAO: The Federal Communications Commission needs better information about broadband competition, according to a report by the federal government accountability office. Existing data shows that 51% of U.S. residents only have access to one provider that offers at least a minimum level of broadband service, which the GAO defines using the FCC’s own advanced services standard of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

That the majority of Americans have only a single advanced telecom services landline provider shouldn’t surprise anyone. If the Government Accountability Office conducted a similar study of other utilities – which is how the Federal Communications Commission classifies this service – it would find most Americans have only one water, electric power or natural gas utility serving them.

What makes advanced telecom service any different? Is it reasonable to expect multiple advanced telecom providers to make connections to customer premises when the economics of the dominant investor-owned business model leave many consumers with no options whatsoever let alone multiple choices? For inexplicable reasons, analysts ignore the microeconomics of telecom infrastructure where high cost barriers to entry make market competition – defined as many sellers competing for many buyers-- impossible. 

Americans hold the large investor owned telephone and cable companies that dominate a market that tends toward monopoly or duopoly in low regard. The misguided belief is more competition will up their game and force them to provide better value and customer service. Problem is that solution is only viable in a competitive market. Telecom infrastructure isn’t one and calling for more competition won’t make it so.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Riverside County, California: A microcosm of telecom infrastructure modernization challenge facing nation

$4 billion gigabit-for-all project in California makes its case with data: As one of the nation's largest counties plans a gigabit fiber network that could cost as much as $4 billion, project organizers are publishing data-rich stories they hope will catch the attention of companies that can build it. Riverside County, California, the 10th-most-populous county in the nation, recently extended its deadline for companies to submit proposals for its RivCoConnect initiative, a plan to bring gigabit internet to all of its 2.4 million residents. Now open to responses until Sept. 28, the county published three new web pages last week to showcase its vision and illustrate the character and demographic makeup of the people whom the new connectivity would serve.

This county is a microcosm of the challenge facing the entire nation when it comes to modernizing its legacy metallic telecommunications infrastructure built for the 20th century to fiber to the premise for the 21st. Extrapolate that single digit billion dollar project cost for Riverside County to the more than 3,000 counties in the county and it's easy to see why the United States needs a major federal initiative to fiber the nation, funded to the tune of $200 billion or more.

Investor owned players like legacy telephone and cable companies as well as new entrants like Google Fiber aren't going to take on this monumental task for the foreseeable because the numbers don't pencil out for their shareholders. State and local governments don't have money to bring to the table, already strapped with other aging infrastructure obligations as well as enormous and growing costs for health services and public pensions. Only the federal government is in a position to step up and fund this vital infrastructure.

Verizon’s FiOS Deployment In Boston Is Fiber-To-The-B.S. | HuffPost

Verizon’s FiOS Deployment In Boston Is Fiber-To-The-B.S. | HuffPost

This development shows it's far easier to talk about and even promise to deploy fiber to the premise (FTTP) telecommunications infrastructure than it is to fund and construct it. It also shows even large very well capitalized companies like Verizon, AT&T and more recently Alphabet's Google Fiber unit aren't up to the task. They lack the will (investment incentive driven by strong capital returns) and the means (patient capital than can wait many years for a return on capital investment) to do the job.

As Bruce Kushnick and other observers have shown, the talk typically falls far short of real world results. It's time to face the reality that the urgency needed large scale FTTP deployment the United States should have completed a decade ago requires a well funded federal initiative to accomplish the job. As the saying goes, money talks and bullshit walks.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

FCC Chair Pai papers over market failure as regulatory failure, claims satellite-based advanced telecom is competitive

Can a free market solve the digital divide? | WUWM: Pai: There are two different aspects to the answer to that. No. 1 is that I have focused on digital redlining as an issue

Wood: We should define what digital redlining is.

Pai: Digital redlining is the notion that within a certain geographic area, a company might have a business case for building out in areas A, B and C. But in area D they simply say, "We're not going to deploy there because we don't see the return on the investment," or for whatever reason. So from a regulatory perspective, we want to make sure that there are no rules standing in the way of them doing that. 

Had regulations been obstacles to deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure over the past 20 years or so, they would have been well identified by now. The issue of regulatory impediments is a red herring. As Pai points out, the issue is primarily economic insofar as redlining occurs in areas where the return on investment isn't sufficiently robust to justify the capital expenditure. Market failure is not regulatory failure. 

Pai: Absolutely. I mean, we can't punish companies to the extent that they don't build out and they don't have federal obligations. But what we do try to do is encourage them as strongly as we can. If they're violating FCC rules, certainly we will go after them for doing that. And in the meantime we're going to try to keep encouraging competition as best we can. Some of these smaller providers too, they're really providing an impetus in the marketplace. A couple of months ago, we approved for the first time a satellite company's application. They want to deploy 720 satellites in low-earth orbit. And they think that would be a really substantial competitor to terrestrial.

Instead of connecting all homes and businesses with modern fiber optic infrastructure, Pai is tacitly endorsing a lower service standard provided by satellites that can't provide the carrying capacity to accommodate rapidly growing demand for bandwidth that is doubling about every three years. As many Americans who reluctantly rely upon it are painfully aware, satellite connectivity is a poor substitute and hardly competition for terrestrial landline telecom infrastructure.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

AT&T in apparent violation of FCC Open Internet rulemaking reclassifying internet as telecom service

In June of 2015, the Open Internet rulemaking adopted by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that reclassified internet as a common carrier telecommunications service subject to the universal service and non-discrimination mandates of Title II of the Communications Act became effective. Section 201(a) of the law states that:

"It shall be the duty of every common carrier engaged in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio to furnish such communication service upon reasonable request therefor..."

Section 254(b)(3) of the Act requires ISPs to provide access to advanced telecommunications in all regions of the nation. Section 202 of the Act contains an anti-redlining provision barring internet service providers from discriminating against localities in providing service.

But let’s take a look at what happens when at least some consumers attempt to place an online order for internet service with AT&T, the nation’s biggest telecommunications provider. After plugging in the address where service is needed on a recent service inquiry, the following screen appeared on the AT&T order page:

In other words, satellite television but ironically no telecommunications services are available for ordering. That window includes an informational link at the bottom right of the page titled “Why can’t I get these services?” Clicking on that link brought up the following:

The first and last explanations clearly do not comport with Title II’s universal service requirement for an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) like AT&T. Particularly the last one referencing “an area we don’t service," noting landline services are offered only in “select areas” of AT&T’s 21 state service territory. “Select areas” is clearly not universal service. It will be interesting to see how the Federal Communications Commission addresses this apparent clear violation of its Title II rules.

Those rules also bar internet service providers from blocking and throttling content. Indeed, the Open Internet rulemaking has been wholly conflated with that provision, known as "net neutrality." However, the toughest form of blocking and throttling is when one has no internet service access whatsoever because a request for service isn't honored.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Purpose of AT&T's 4G LTE fixed premise service to mollify pols, not modernize telecom infrastructure
Speedy internet delivery for rural DeSoto County | News | Flint said as part of this commitment across 18 states, AT&T plans to reach more than 400,000 locations throughout 18 states by the end of 2017, and over 1.1 million locations by 2020. AT&T plans to reach over 130,000 locations with this technology across Mississippi by 2020. Flint said delivering broadband internet service to rural underdeserved areas has been AT&T's challenge.

According to Flint, AT&T's Fixed Wireless Internet Service delivers a home internet connection with speeds of at least 10Mbps. The connection comes from a wireless tower to a fixed antenna on customers' homes or businesses. "This is an efficient way to deliver high-quality internet to customers in rural and underserved areas," Flint said. "This will be capable of delivering a fixed wireless signal at a speed of 10 megabits per second, more than enough to do web browsing with plenty of speed and to stream your favorite movie or TV show. The telecommunications infrastructure was made possible through the FCC Connect America Fund.

The primary purpose of this rollout is to mollify politicians continually barraged with complaints from constituents about poor advanced telecommunications service options. Bolting on fixed premise service to existing 4G LTE mobile wireless towers is not a long term investment in modernizing telecommunications infrastructure. It's simply another on the cheap substitute for replacing decades-old twisted pair copper cable designed to support voice telephone service with fiber optic cable to support advanced services.

AT&T is deploying this fixed wireless service in areas where its copper cable plant cannot support digital subscriber line (DSL) service, some of which never even got first generation ADSL deployed more than a decade ago. AT&T's fixed premise wireless service will offer throughput that does not conform to U.S. Federal Communication Commission standards for delivering high quality high-quality voice, data, graphics and video. That shortcoming will be amplified in peak use periods given multiple connected devices used in households and small businesses and the fact that wireless bandwidth is by definition limited and connectivity slows as more users access it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The farce of measuring "broadband speeds" and market competition

For Broadband Connections, How Fast is Fast Enough? | WIRED

Who would have thought policymakers would be engaged in a seemingly endless debate over what constitutes "broadband" and the ridiculous, pointless exercise of assessing the level of market competition in a natural monopoly marketplace that is telecom infrastructure?

The explanation: They're being punked. It's a farce and distraction to serve the "fight the future" agenda of legacy telephone and cable companies that cannot keep up with the shift to Internet protocol-based telecommunications and the ever growing demand for more bandwidth. The controversy over "broadband speeds" is becoming a technological version of the argument over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Meanwhile, the United States falls further behind in the task of modernizing its legacy metallic telecom infrastructure to fiber optic to the premise.
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