Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New Google venture plans neighborhood "built from the Internet up."

In 2016, Google Fiber began reconnoitering away from its plan to overbuild legacy incumbent telephone and cable company infrastructure with fiber to the premise telecom infrastructure in select metro areas of the United States. Taking on incumbents in existing parts of these metros proved too slow and costly and Google Fiber had no overwhelming technological or marketing advantage relative to them.

Another Google venture takes a different tack. Rather than overlaying fiber optic telecom infrastructure on an existing neighborhood, it would build an entirely new “smart” neighborhood where there are no incumbent providers. One that’s “built from the Internet up… merging the physical and digital realms,” according to a description of the project – dubbed Sidewalk Labs – in this Slate article. A pilot to roll out the concept in an undeveloped portion of Toronto, Canada Eastern Waterfront kicked off in late 2017. (Click here for news release).

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Forecast of holographic interactive video within five years a pipe dream

Magic Leap CEO thinks volumetric video will be a part of live TV in five years - The Verge: In an interview with The Verge, Abovitz said that within “two to five years,” it will be technically possible for people wearing Magic Leap goggles to watch an NBA game (or other media) live, but in a holographic, interactive form. “You can stream over the top and to the screens, the virtual screens — you can do that now,” he said. “We’re looking at, how do you derive the information to move the volumetric stuff from that? And then, how do you do volumetric live-streaming as well ... if you time where processing power is going, particularly backends, you’re single-digit years away from that happening.”
Processing power indeed continues as it has to increase. But Abovtitz neglects to consider telecommunications infrastructure deployment advances far more slowly. According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, many millions of American homes lack telecom infrastructure capable of supporting high quality data, voice and video.

Too many remain embarrassingly served by 1990s DSL over aging copper lines, satellite Internet and even dialup. An interactive holographic experience will require enormous bandwidth only fiber optic lines can deliver. But most premises lack fiber connections and there's no coordinated national effort to modernize America's aging and outdated legacy metallic telecom infrastructure to fiber.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trump budget proposal re telecom infrastructure likely an opening gambit

President Donald Trump's $200 billion infrastructure proposal released Monday includes $50 billion in funding for rural communities, but nothing specific for broadband deployment. Even though Trump has talked about the importance of expanding broadband in rural areas, he has not committed any funding to help build networks. Instead, his efforts have been aimed at eliminating red tape and regulation to get infrastructure built. The proposal, which makes no mention of broadband infrastructure, is meant to spur the investment of at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure, according to a White House fact sheet. Under the plan, the feds would contribute a total of $200 billion over the next 10 years. About half that money would be used as part of an incentive program to entice private investors as well as city, state and local governments to invest in infrastructure projects.
Trump's infrastructure plan offers no funding for rural broadband - CNET

This CNET story is incorrect. The Trump administration's budget outline on infrastructure spending does in fact propose appropriations for the construction of advanced telecommunications infrastructure as detailed here.

The pushback from various stakeholders is because the proposal doesn't provide dedicated funding for a badly needed modernization of the nation's telecommunications infrastructure from the metallic networks of the telephone and cable TV era to fiber optic connections capable of handling ever growing bandwidth demand generated by digital content and services. The money is allocated in one big bucket for all types of infrastructure and not just telecommunications. The concern is states and localities might give priority to roads, highways, airports and government facilities, leaving little if any for telecommunications infrastructure.

Another big concern is Trump's plan offers too few federal dollars and would require states and local government and the private sector to shoulder the bulk of the cost -- a difficult proposition they continue to claw themselves back to fiscal health following the economic downturn a decade ago that severely reduced tax revenues. And a task made more challenging as a public pension funding crisis emerges in the states and localities.

It's best to view the administration's proposal as just that -- an opening gambit that will surely result in intense negotiations in the coming months as states and locals push their funding interests. It's quite likely given the large number of governors and local officials citing the need for advanced telecommunications infrastructure as critical in the 21st century economy -- including some in attendance at a White House meeting where the administration's infrastructure plan was announced -- that it will assume greater priority as negotiations move forward.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Trump administration proposes federal funding for infrastructure including advanced telecommunications

The Trump administration today issued an outline of its proposed legislative initiative to fund improvements to the nation’s aging infrastructure. While the proposal does not specifically set aside funding for advanced telecommunications infrastructure, the three components below authorize its funding. President Trump talked up the funding for advanced telecommunications infrastructure in remarks today to state and local officials at the White House. Trump said “it’s been very unfair what’s happened with broadband in terms of the Midwest and in terms, really, of rural areas.” At least four officials emphasized the need to fund it including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Northam termed it “very, very important” to his state. (Link to remarks here)

A proposed Rural Infrastructure Program would provide $50 billion for capital investment in rural infrastructure projects. Policy objectives would be to:

· Expand access to markets, customers, and employment opportunities with projects that sustain and grow business revenue and personal income for rural Americans;

· Enhance regional connectivity through public and private interregional and interstate rural projects and initiatives that reduce costs for sustaining safe, quality rural communities; and

· Increase rural economic growth and competitiveness by closing local infrastructure gaps in development-ready areas to attract manufacturing and economic growth to rural America.

Eighty percent of the funds would be distributed as state block grants to be used for rural infrastructure needs with 20 percent of the funds reserved for performance grants. A portion of the funds would be set aside for tribal and territorial infrastructure, with the remainder available to states. States would be required to delineate criteria for administering the funding for specific types of projects including telecommunications infrastructure. States would be required to publish a comprehensive plan demonstrating how the projects align with the evaluation criteria in the infrastructure incentives program, including state, local and private sector investment in eligible projects.

A Transformative Projects Program would provide $20 billion in funding for “ground-breaking project ideas that have significantly more risk than standard infrastructure projects, but offer a much larger reward profile.” The primary policy goal is to advance projects that significantly improving performance from the perspective of availability, safety, reliability, frequency, and service speed; substantially reduce end user costs for services; introduce new types of services; and improve services.

To ensure greater accountability and control over this category of projects, funding would be linked to terms and conditions of the award including achieving project milestones. Most of the funding (up to 80 percent) would be set aside for capital construction costs. Half could be used to cover project planning costs and up to 30 percent for proof of concept projects. Projects that utilize capital construction funding would be required to partner with the federal government to share the value of completed projects, based on the characteristics of project and its projected revenues. Technical assistance would be available from the federal government or funded by this program.

Expanded eligibility for Private Activity Bonds to fund public purpose infrastructure projects to include telecommunications infrastructure projects provided they are owned by state or local governments. Privately owned infrastructure may be funded, but must be available for public use and would be subject to state or local governmental regulatory or contractual control or approval.

The administration’s infrastructure proposal comes on the heels of a continuing budget resolution enacted the previous week that had reportedly appropriated $20 billion for infrastructure including telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas. The appropriation was not included in the enacted measure, H.R. 1892.

Since the administration’s infrastructure spending proposal specifically references “rural broadband” to identify eligible projects, a key question is how federal and state entities that would administer the funds define those words. The Rural Infrastructure Program defines “rural” as “areas with populations of less than 50,000.” How those areas are specifically defined takes on significance since in the United States, some exurban and even suburban areas lack advanced landline telecommunications infrastructure serving end user premises, redlined by legacy telephone and cable companies.

Ditto the term “broadband.” Legacy providers have defined the term based on the throughput of the connection serving end user premises rather than by delivery infrastructure. That in turn has led to more than a decade of disagreement among providers, consumers and regulators over what premises are deemed having adequate service to support high quality voice, data and video services. To ensure the best use of taxpayer funds, the federal government should fund only fiber optic infrastructure be connected to customer premises since only it can easily accommodate ever increasing bandwidth demand and isn’t prone to near term obsolescence.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Modernizing exurban telecom infrastructure to cut traffic congestion, long commutes

America's Other Housing Crisis: Undercrowded Suburbs - The Atlantic: The reality is that most of the housing stock and most of the land area of America’s metro areas is made up of relatively low-density suburban homes. And a great deal of it is essentially choked off from any future growth, locked in by outmoded and exclusionary land-use regulations. The end result is that most growth today takes place through sprawl. While urban density can house some people—mainly affluent and educated ones—the bulk of population and housing growth is shifted farther and farther out to the exurban fringe. That leads to more traffic and longer commutes, and the social and environmental consequences that flow from them, as this old suburban-growth model is stretched beyond its limits.

There's a disconnect between America's telecommunications infrastructure and this residential development pattern. The exurbs frequently suffer from cable company redlining and outmoded legacy telephone company copper cable plant. In addition, homes are often served solely by substandard, costly wireless services as landline providers concentrate on building fiber connections to multi-family dwellings (known as MDUs) in densely populated urban cores.

This is a point of overlap between telecommunications policy and regional planning. Modernizing telecom infrastructure at the fringes of metro areas to fiber to the premise (FTTP) can play a big role in reducing daily commute trips to urban centers by making it easier for knowledge workers to work in their residential communities.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Go suck a satellite

That's the message to adjacent landline redlined households seeing this tree placard pitching satellite Internet service. That's Comcast cable on the nearby utility pole. Dateline: El Dorado County, California.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Can The States Really Pass Their Own Net Neutrality Laws? Here’s Why I Think Yes.

Wetmachine Tales of the Sausage Factory Can The States Really Pass Their Own Net Neutrality Laws? Here’s Why I Think Yes.

This is Harold Feld's analysis of the question. Feld concludes that states can in fact regulate advanced telecom services. Feld reasons that while advanced telecommunications are clearly interstate, the scope of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's jurisdiction isn't absolute and thus may not allow it to preempt the states should they enact statutes that codify the FCC's 2015 Open Internet rulemaking. The FCC is in the process of reversing the rulemaking that placed advanced telecommunications under Title II of the federal Communications Act, designating it as a common carrier utility.

The rulemaking's so-called "net neutrality" provision barring providers from blocking or throttling traffic over their networks has drawn concern that the providers might abuse their monopoly control over networks extract revenues.

That's a prospective concern that is less relevant and pressing in many states than the lack of advanced telecommunications infrastructure that leaves many homes, schools and small businesses unable to obtain service or offered substandard service options because their areas have been redlined by legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies. The FCC's Open Internet rulemaking requires service be provided upon reasonable customer request and specifically bars discriminatory redlining.

These mandates -- and less so net neutrality -- is why the providers and their trade associations will strongly oppose any proposed state legislation based on the federal rulemaking. State lawmakers are hearing far more vocal complaints from constituents that they've been refused service or forced to use pricy, substandard wireless services that don't meet minimum FCC requirements for advanced telecommunications than concerns providers will in the future block or throttle content. The volume and urgency of those complaints have been growing over the past decade or so. In addition, during that period and increasingly in recent years, state representatives have declared advanced telecommunications infrastructure critical to support commerce, government and education.
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