Friday, January 11, 2019

Texas Hill Country: Where the "rural broadband" descriptor and comparisons to electric power in 1930s fail

Broadband Communities – News & Views / GVTC Launches New Fiber Internet Tier Structure in Texas: SMITHSON VALLEY, TX — GVTC, a fiber communications provider internet, digital cable TV, phone and interactive home security monitoring to residential and business customers in far north San Antonio, the Texas Hill Country and South Central Texas, is simplifying its fiber-to-the-home offerings with a new fiber internet tier structure. GVTC launched brand new fiber internet plans that feature standard download speeds of 250 Mbps in its fiber-to-the-home areas. In addition, upgrades to 500 Mbps and 1 Gbps are offered, all three plans featuring 250 Mbps upload speeds as well. New plans are available to both new and existing customers.
Despite the availability of fiber to the premise advanced telecom service in these areas, there is a continued misleading and overly broad description of America's telecom infrastructure deficiencies as a "rural broadband" issue. They've also been inaccurately compared to the lack of electric power infrastructure in the early 20th century when these same areas were completely unwired and left in the dark. Electric power infrastructure was truly a rural problem then because it didn't exist outside urbanized areas. Advanced telecom infrastructure by contrast is deployed in a far more granular manner by investor owned providers that cherry pick nominally rural neighborhoods where they believe they can earn the fastest return on investment and redline the rest.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Oregon opens broadband office to connect rural residents

Oregon opens broadband office to connect rural residents: Spokesmen from the governor’s office told StateScoop the office would essentially serve as a policy and planning hub, responsible for coordinating a statewide strategy and securing funding to ensure everyone in the state has access to high-speed internet. In Oregon, some communities in urban areas have less broadband access than others, but the issue primarily affects rural communities outside of the state’s more populous western cities.

Given the above mission statement, the office would have to include a major federal lobbying function to secure the billions needed to achieve universal advanced telecom service. And especially considering the state's budget allocates just $5 million for infrastructure projects, an amount that won't go very far statewide.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

CenturyLink Down, Not Working? Nationwide Outages Reported By Users


CenturyLink Down, Not Working? Nationwide Outages Reported By Users

When the Internet was created in the 1960s by the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Project Agency, it was designed to be "self healing." That means if one part of the network is taken out (in DARPA's scenario, a nuclear strike on one or more American cities), the network routes around the damaged areas and keeps functioning as a "network of networks."

As legacy telephone and cable companies became Internet Service Providers using the Internet protocol technology to deliver voice, video and data telecommunications, the survivability and redundancy built into the Internet has weakened. Too much of their network operations functions are centralized, rendering their entire national networks vulnerable to a single hardware or software glitch as shown by today's most recent outage taking down much of CenturyLink's network.

The lesson here for policymakers and regulators is the United States needs to ensure the advanced telecommunications services the Internet transports must be designed and managed to build on the original resilient design of the Internet. That could mean reducing the role of private sector, investor owned players like CenturyLink that are naturally inclined to limit network operational capabilities in order to avoid the expense of managing multiple and redundant network assets.

While technically more complex, given their vital role advanced telecommunications should be as solid and reliable as basic analog voice telephone service that preceded it.

Friday, December 14, 2018

USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Rules Released, Allocates $600M in Loans and Grants - Telecompetitor

USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Rules Released, Allocates $600M in Loans and Grants - Telecompetitor: To be eligible for a 100% loan or 50% loan / 50% grant, the service area must be in a rural area where 90% of the households do not have sufficient broadband access. To be eligible for a 100% grant, the service area must be rural and 100% of the households must lack sufficient broadband access.
These funds are apparently targeted to truly rural America where they'll make only a slight dent in advanced telecom infrastructure deficits. They won't help in much of the United States and particularly exurban and metro edge communities where redlining by investor owned ISPs is commonplace.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

California policymakers should consider creating public utility to serve Northern California delivering electric power -- and advanced telecommunications.

Northern California’s electric utility Pacific Gas & Electric’s future as a going concern is in doubt in the aftermath of enormous wildfires in the region the past several years, most recently the disastrous Camp Fire that incinerated the town of Paradise. The investor-owned utility is potentially facing liability claims running into the many billions of dollars from deaths, injuries, property damage and fire suppression costs that it will be hard pressed to pay. This circumstance is raising the question of whether the public interest of reliable and safe electric power would be better served by a publicly owned utility.

The question presents at a pivotal time as regulators prepare to reassess PG&E’s organizational structure going forward, the Legislature begins a new biennial session and new administration is about to take office. Veteran Sacramento columnist Dan Walters suggests they explore whether California’s electric utilities should become governmental entities – regional versions of municipally owned utilities already operating in the state. “All of them have markedly lower rates than the three big private utilities, and have governing structures that are much more transparent and accountable, not only to ratepayers but to voters.”

Policymakers would be wise and forward looking to also consider expanding the scope of a publicly owned regional utility to include advanced telecommunications. Consumers would likely get a better deal there as well. Much of PG&E’s service area lacks adequate landline telecommunications infrastructure, nominally served by investor owned corporations like PG&E. A publicly owned utility would operate without the need to generate profits and could concentrate on providing the highest possible level of service and value to all – and not just some premises. Particularly when advanced telecommunications service is increasingly seen as essential as electricity.

New methods of installing fiber optic cable on poles owned by PG&E show promise to lower construction costs compared to the traditional strand and lash method of utilizing a separate metal suspension cable hung in the middle part of the pole leased by telephone and cable companies. These include lighter weight all-dielectric self-supporting cable and aerial conduit used in conjunction with smart grid technology. Smart grid technology could also improve safety management of the electric infrastructure, reducing wildfire risk.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cooperatives served early 20th century exurban America's electricity and telephone needs, but face far more challenging situation for today's advanced telecom

Matheson: ‘We Want the Consumer to Have Real Broadband’ - America's Electric Cooperatives: NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, speaking before a Washington audience of business strategists, outlined how federal policymakers can help close the digital divide and what innovative electric cooperatives are doing to meet rural America’s broadband needs in the meantime.High-speed internet service “is important to us as electric cooperatives because we are owned by the communities we serve, communities that won’t have much of a future without broadband,” Matheson said at the Next.2018 conference held Nov. 13-15 by Bloomberg BNA, a news and analysis company.

Matheson underscored how electric co-ops are leaders in smart technology, yet Federal Communications Commission policies fail to make the most of co-op investments for broadband development. “The FCC has spent $114 billion, and there are still 23 million people without access to broadband,” he said. This gap in service is due in part to the commission’s reliance on self-reported and unverified data about internet service from incumbent providers.
Electric power was first deployed in urban areas of the United States at the start of the 20th century. That's what led to the formation of electric cooperatives in the 1930s to provide electricity outside of urban areas.

Today's advanced telecom infrastructure deficiencies are a different story. Unlike early electric power service, advanced telecom infrastructure does exist outside of urban and suburban areas. But it's generally only deployed to discrete areas where legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies believe they can earn a relatively rapid return on their capital expenditures and maintenance costs. As per the previous post on this blog, that can mean service for one house while another just down the road, around the bend or outside town limits is deemed unservicable.

Incumbents aren't keen on federal subsidies for providers desiring to serve those they do not since they potentially infringe on their territorial monopoly. Consequently, federal subsidy program rules hamstring potential alternative providers, impractically targeted at filling the only the unserved redlined holes in the incumbents' swiss cheese distribution networks. The incumbents lobby for those rules. They naturally want to maximize the size of the cheese and minimize the size of the holes in the data on infrastructure availability they are required to report to regulators under the 1996 revision of the Communications Act. The incumbent rigging of the rules leaves cooperative leaders like Matheson understandably frustrated.

Monday, November 19, 2018

When one premise has advanced telecom service and another nearby does not, it's not a "rural broadband" issue

Electric coops could end Mississippi's broadband 'deserts': What’s considered a “broadband desert” can be deceptive. My elderly parents, for example, live in a rural area between two cities that are served by broadband, but still can only get basic dial-up services. People just up the road can receive broadband from AT&T, and when we recently inquired about services, AT&T looked up the address, assured us they could help and dispatched a technician. But when the tech showed up and tried to install the equipment, he apologetically explained that the home was just out of reach. He was sympathetic to my parents’ plight, and it wasn’t his fault, but it was just not happening.
This account illustrates why America's advanced telecom infrastructure deficiencies cannot accurately be described as a "rural broadband" problem as it's typically dubbed in both mainstream and info tech media. As has been the case for at least a decade as reported on this blog, the problem is redlining by legacy incumbent ISPs with no universal service requirement as exists for traditional voice telephone service. One premise is offered service while another nearby is not. That wasn't the case with electric power distribution infrastructure in the early 20th century. That was truly a rural issue since rural areas were bereft of electric power service.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Purpose of "broadband maps" is to protect legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies, delay progress

FCC leaders say we need a 'national mission' to fix rural broadband - CNET: But before you can really get things going, you have to address one key issue, Rosenworcel said.
"Our broadband maps are terrible," she said. "If we're going to solve this nation's broadband problems, then the first thing we have to do is fix those maps. We need to know where broadband is and is not in every corner of this country." You can't solve a problem you can't measure, she added.
And one can't reach a destination or goal without a plan. Rather than serve that purpose, American policymakers have instead used "broadband maps" to protect legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies and delay progress. They're continuing the fool's errand the incumbents assigned them. Policymakers instead need to set the goal of bringing fiber to every home, school and business and work from the rebuttable presumption that it doesn't exist in most of the nation.
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