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.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

“Net neutrality” fight over nothing less than the future business and regulatory model of advanced telecommunications

The state vs. federal showdown over “net neutrality” is about far more than regulating ISPs’ ability to favor or “speed up” some advanced telecommunications services or slow or even block others. It’s a fight over nothing less than the future business and regulatory models of advanced telecommunications (ATC). Should ATC be bundled with services owned or procured by the ISP or be a common carrier “dumb pipe” in which the role of ISPs is primarily to provide connectivity?

Because Internet protocol enabled digital ATC can deliver far more services than the analog voice telephone service that preceded it, ISPs naturally see a gold mine in monetizing these services. An example is their push for “video everywhere” displayed on home TVs as well as personal devices and acquisitions of video content producers such as AT&T’s recent purchase of Time Warner.

This is the ATC as an information service regulatory approach favored by ISPs and expressed in current public policy wherein the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has reclassified ATC as an information service rather than a common carrier telecommunications utility as the FCC classified it in its 2015 Open Internet rulemaking.

The problem with treating ATC as a proprietary information service instead of a common carrier telecom utility is it will always have limited availability because the infrastructure to deliver it will only be built to serve “high potential” neighborhoods deemed sufficiently profitable by ISPs. The FCC’s now repealed Open Internet rules by contrast included a mandate on ISPs to make ATC available to any customer in their service territories making a reasonable request for service. As information service, that provision contained in Title II of the Communications Act doesn’t apply since information services are regulated under Title I of the statute.

Big ISPs naturally prefer Title I information service regulation because it supports their vertically integrated business models favoring proprietary content delivered to end users over proprietary infrastructure. That supports their top lines. And not having to serve “low potential” neighborhoods reduces capital and maintenance costs, benefitting their bottom lines. It’s a lopsided winner take all scheme in which the ISPs win big and consumers lose.

It's not the data, stupid. It's the FCC's crazy back and forth regulatory posture on advanced telecommunications

Rural Americans Suffer the Costs of Faulty FCC Broadband Data - Pacific Standard: The FCC conducts a review of the state of broadband deployment and access every year, as required by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. As part of this analysis, the FCC must determine whether high-speed broadband is being deployed to "all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion."

Here, accurate data is crucial. If the FCC finds that high-speed broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in the way it spells out, it must "take immediate action to accelerate deployment." In other words, if broadband isn't being deployed in a timely way to all Americans, the FCC is obligated to enact policies to remedy that. But without reliable data, the FCC might restrict its own ability to do what it's supposed to do. (Emphasis added)

The premise here is flawed. The FCC has already hampered its own ability to ensure universal advanced telecommunications service by failing to consistently regulate it as a common carrier telecommunications utility under Title II of the Communications Act. That regulatory regime accelerates deployment by mandating universal service and prohibiting neighborhood redlining by requiring ISPs to honor reasonable requests for service.

Instead, the agency has vacillated over the past two decades between regulating it under that scheme and as an information service under Title I of the statute. Most recently, the FCC has shifted back to Title I information service regulation after repealing its Title II-based 2015 Open Internet regulations in late 2017. The lack of a consistent regulatory policy and the resulting infrastructure deficiencies is spawning a movement to deprivatize advanced telecom infrastructure as localities study ways to finance and build their own.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Why is Verizon chasing 4G speed records with 5G only days away?

Why is Verizon chasing 4G speed records with 5G only days away?: After nearly a year of hype, actual 5G service is now only days away. Verizon is launching commercial offerings in four cities next week — but the same carrier is touting an eleventh-hour breakthrough in 4G. Working with Qualcomm and Nokia in a live New York commercial environment, Verizon achieved a peak data speed of 1.45Gbps using LTE Advanced technology.

To put that in some perspective, Verizon’s 5G service is promising customers peak data speeds of 1Gbps — 10 to 100 times faster than typical cellular speeds today — with more typical performance in the 300Mbps range. So when Verizon says that (certain) 4G phones might outperform its 5G network, by a factor of nearly 50 percent, that’s a sure-fire recipe for customer confusion.
Adding to the confusion is the blurring between mobile and fixed service given Verizon's limited test market introduction of 5G fixed premise service. This is where mass marketing fueled expectations collide with reality since this service is naturally very limited to areas with sufficient existing fiber infrastructure and free of terrain and foliage obstructions that block 5G signals. But consumers naturally think it's available to them because a large mobile carrier is deploying it and may already be Verizon Wireless customers. Some have even jumped to the conclusion that it has obsoleted fiber premise technology.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Asking for meaningful competition in telecom infrastructure is asking for the impossible

These Minnesotans Are Fed Up With Frontier | community broadband networks: Speaker after speaker pointed out that they recognize the root of the problem is lack of competition. In addition to their description of specific issues, almost every attendee expressed a desire to give their business to some other company but they had no other option for Internet access provider — none. Folks in Wyoming feel they’ve been mistreated because Frontier doesn’t have to worry about losing their business. The people in Wyoming are right and Frontier isn’t the only company with the same attitude. Big cable and telecom companies have divided up America’s geography in to slices of monopoly pie, creating an environment in which subscribers can be neglected or even abused. With no other option for Internet access and our dependence on connectivity, subscribers face a tough choice between paying for horrible Internet access or having no connection at all.
It's natural for consumers to want more competition and choice when the market isn't providing the service, value and choice they expect. The problem is asking for more competition in telecom infrastructure is asking for the impossible. There can be no meaningful market competition because telecom infrastructure is very costly to build and maintain. Those high costs typically torpedo the business case for a new player to offer services -- something Google Fiber found out the hard way.

Consequently, the economics of telecom premise landline infrastructure make it feasible for only one or two providers. And as this post points out, providers can gouge and provide poor value service because they can. Consumers have no real alternative. This is the unfortunate consequence of telecom policy that has left advanced telecom infrastructure largely to investor owned providers whose first loyalty is to their shareholders, not their customers. Only public ownership of telecom infrastructure can serve the public interest and provides a needed solution to the failure of market forces in a natural monopoly market. That's not to say there's no role for the private sector. Investor owned companies have the know how and experience to build and operate advanced telecom infrastructure and deliver services over it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Fiber to the prem renders issue of "broadband speed" largely irrelevant

Why are kids doing their homework in McDonald's parking lot?: An area of northwest Alabama is already seeing some benefit to that federal money, of course. Aderholt announced in May that Tombigbee Communications had received $3 million as it expands online connectivity services in Marion, Winston, Fayette and Lamar counties.

The meeting last week in Guntersville included business and elected leaders who gathered in a roundtable discussion to talk about the specifics of expanding broadband in northeast Alabama. Steve Foshee, the president and CEO of Tombigbee Communications, was among those in attendance.

That conversation, Aderholt said, got as focused as what internet speed would be best - not too slow to be useless but not too fast as to be cost-prohibitive.

The question posed in the last sentence reflects the misguided notion that regards advanced telecommunications infrastructure like water pipes. The bigger the pipe, the higher the cost. It's a false tradeoff, largely put forth by incumbent telephone and cable companies reluctant to modernize their legacy metallic infrastructures to fiber to the premise. Fiber has such abundant carrying capacity it renders the "broadband speed" issue largely irrelevant.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tennessee U.S. Senate race offers sharp policy debate over public vs. private ownership of telecom infrastructure

Bredesen wants TVA mission expanded to provide rural broadband service | Times Free Press

A Tennessee U.S. Senate contest provides a sharp policy contrast between public versus private ownership of advanced telecommunications infrastructure. Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen favors public ownership via the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), formed in the 1930s to provide electric service in areas avoided by investor owned providers. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn on the other hand opposes public ownership of telecommunications infrastructure, contending that unleasing market forces and reduced regulation will encourage investor owned providers to build the necessary infrastructure.

The history that led to the creation of the TVA however suggests market forces aren't up to the challenge. Then as now, if the return on investment isn't sufficient, the market fails on the sell side. Providers cannot earn enough profit in a reasonable timeframe to justify the capital expenditure on infrastructure. In that regard, Bredesen is on the right side of history.

That's not to say however that investor owned players and market forces cannot play a role. Privately owned providers can make money building and operating advanced telecom infrastructure and providing services over it -- and with far less risk than they would face as both owner and operator. Competition can take place in these realms. For example, Ammon Idaho is building publicly owned fiber to the premise telecom infrastructure that allows end users to select among competing ISPs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

FCC chairman: Connectivity main obstacle of telemedicine | Western Colorado |

FCC chairman: Connectivity main obstacle of telemedicine | Western Colorado | Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Pai said, from the FCC's viewpoint, connectivity remains the biggest hurdle to a serious move toward widespread use of telemedicine. "The telemedicine application is only as strong as the digital connections between communities," said Pai, a 2012 Obama appointee who was designated director of the commission by President Trump, and a noted free-market advocate. Pai pointed to his agency's recent infusion of funds into its Rural Health Care Program, which provides funds to some health care providers for broadband and telecommunications services. He also said he is aiming to eliminate outdated FCC rules and encourage competition among internet service providers. "We want to make sure these companies have a strong incentive to upgrade to fiber, especially in these rural communities that need high-capacity internet access," Pai said.
The FCC chairman is right when he says America needs more fiber advanced telecommunications infrastructure deployment as medical care increasingly utilizes it. But it won't happen with Pai's prescriptions. Limited purpose funding such as the Rural Health Care Program will hardly make a dent in the nation's enormous accumulated telecommunications infrastructure deficit where FTTP is the exception rather than the norm it should be.

Nor can regulatory reforms address the fundamental business problem facing investor owned ISPs. Building new fiber infrastructure under their current business models cannot yield positive net present value within the limited patience of their investors' capital looking for rapid returns. And encouraging competition in a natural monopoly market that is telecommunications infrastructure is like expecting ice cream plants to grow in the desert. No meaningful competition can ever occur.
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