Wednesday, September 25, 2019

FCC RDOF subsidy rules: USTelecom has no legitimate complaint

USTelecom on RDOF Impact: When the ILEC is No Longer the Carrier of Last Resort - Telecompetitor: The upshot is that while the CAF II auction diverted a relatively small portion of subsidies that would normally have gone to the price cap carriers to other entities, the RDOF has the potential to trigger a more dramatic shift away from the price cap carriers. As the report authors, note, “[c]ompletely shutting off access to federal universal service support to an incumbent in favor of a competitor is a new frontier in the evolution of the support mechanism.” As subsidies for price cap territories go to companies other than the incumbents, “the ILEC should be relieved of all federal and state obligations to provide service in such areas,” the authors argue. (Emphasis added)
USTelecom has nothing to complain about here. Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers have no obligation to provide advanced telecom service (ATS) to all premises in their service territories -- only voice telephone service. That's thanks to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2018 repeal of the previous Obama era FCC's Open Internet rulemaking in 2015 classifying ATS as a telecommunications utility under Title II of the federal Communications Act and thus subject to universal service and non-discrimination mandates. The current FCC instead opted to classify ATS as an information service under Title I of the statute, turning the calendar back to 1990 and the days of CompuServe and AOL.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Push back on public option fiber based on fallacious argument utility infrastructure a competitive market

North Carolina considers loosening municipal broadband regulations: In May, Gov. Roy Cooper announced $9.8 million for broadband expansion to rural areas as part of a $35 million initiative to improve internet access across the entire state. Municipal broadband, however, has a troubled history in North Carolina and beyond.The bill cleared the North Carolina House State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday and will move to the chamber’s Finance Committee for a second vote, but industry officials are opposed. Spectrum’s senior director of government relations, Brian Gregory, said the increased competition from public entities would backfire.

“It’s especially troubling for us because our employees and our companies are going to be taxed to have competition against us, and that competition on top of that is also our regulator,” Gregory told WRAL, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh.

The thing is, advanced telecom infrastructure is NOT a competitive market. In fact, it's arguably a failed market because so many people who want better landline connections to their homes and small businesses and are willing to pay for them aren't able to buy them. Investor owned telephone and cable companies must also deal with inherent limitations on what they can invest in modernizing their infrastructures to fiber to the premise. Investors naturally push back when it comes to sacrificing profits and dividends to capital expenditures.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

U.S. needs universal FTTP telecom infrastructure as public utility standard

The Benton Foundation has pulled together policy positions of several Democratic presidential candidates in a blog post, 2020 Candidates Offer Plans to Extend the Reach of Broadband. Of these candidates, only Elizabeth Warren offers a plan for universal fiber to the premise (FTTP) advanced telecommunications infrastructure as a public utility. It’s a position recognizing:

  1. It’s what’s needed to rapidly modernize the nation’s legacy metal cable built for the pre-digital era of telephone and cable TV service to provide the capacity to handle rapidly growing bandwidth demand;
  2. There isn’t and will likely never be a viable business case for private sector investment alone to achieve this in the foreseeable future due to the high labor costs of building utility infrastructure, and;
  3. There’s an inherent conflict of interest between private investment and public interests when it comes to modernizing the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure. The public interest is clearly for modernizing to FTTP to enable economic activity, education, medical care and civic engagement. The private investor interest priority isn’t necessarily modernization of telecommunications infrastructure and its positive effects but instead to offer premium, higher margin service offerings based on throughput speed tiers. Warren’s proposal includes throughput speed (symmetric 100Mbs) but only as basic service quality standard.

The goal of universal FTTP as a public utility properly establishes an infrastructure-based standard for the nation considering only a small portion of the country has FTTP connections. That’s far behind where the United States should be in 2019 given that it should have achieved near universal FTTP at least a decade ago.  It’s the right goal for where the nation is now. Not a geographic or bandwidth-based goal of extending “rural broadband” or “improving broadband maps.” Broadband and specifically the lack thereof isn't a solution but rather the primary symptom of the lack of FTTP infrastructure and the consequent weaknesses of existing metallic infrastructure. If it reached nearly every American doorstep, "broadband" speeds and maps wouldn't even be part of the lexicon.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

A public option: U.S. Senator, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposes $85 billion grant program to bring publicly owned fiber to every American home

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren proposes a "public option" bringing fiber connectivity to every American home if elected president. Warren's plan would create a new federal office to provide $85 billion in grants covering 90 percent of construction costs. Five billion dollars would be allocated to grants covering 100 percent of construction costs for middle and last mile fiber builds on Native American lands.
Image result for fiber optic connectionGrant applicants would be be subject to a universal service mandate and be required to offer at least one plan with symmetric 100 Mbps service and one discount plan for low-income customers with a prepaid feature or a low monthly rate. Warren, who is seeking the Democratic Party's nomination as its 2020 presidential candidate, is specifically excluding investor owned companies, making grants available only to electricity and telephone cooperatives, non-profit organizations, tribes, cities, counties, and other state subdivisions. Warren is critical of existing federal infrastructure subsidy programs, complaining they have "shoveled billions of taxpayer dollars to private ISPs" while much of the nation continues to suffer with deficient advanced telecommunications infrastructure and subpar service.

"This ends when I’m President. I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford. That means publicly-owned and operated networks — and no giant ISPs running away with taxpayer dollars."
Warren's plan does resemble existing federal and state subsidy programs in that it targets grant funding to "unserved" and "underserved" areas that have historically been defined based on maps of current providers' advertised "broadband speeds" -- and not whether fiber to the premise infrastructure is in place. Warren calls for more accurate maps, voicing the concern of many public policymakers they significantly overstate what's on the ground in a given community or address.

Warren should steer clear of this "broadband speed" trap and avoid the sticky wicket of "broadband mapping" which has largely served to protect the service area "footprints" of legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies by creating controversy and delay. In order to create a true public option, all areas of the nation should be eligible for the grants. Particularly given that the vast majority of households lack fiber connections, with an only an estimated 11 million households out of 126 million having them and 75 percent of the nation's census blocks without them. A nationwide public fiber option would cost considerably more than the $85 billion Warren would ask Congress to appropriate. But it's a good start.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Metropolitanization: Why "rural broadband" misses the mark on America's telecom infrastructure deficiencies

Metropolitan America | The rural to urban exodus is well known. It has driven the growth of the largest urban areas from one million residents as late as 1800 to nearly 40 million today. The United States has risen from less than 40 percent urban in 1900 to more than 80 percent today. Other, more affluent nations have experienced similar trends. Even more quickly, China has risen from 19 percent urban in 1980 to 56 percent in 2015 today, according to the United Nations. Even the least affluent nations are urbanizing rapidly.

But the trend reflective of urbanization is the movement of people into metropolitan areas, which include traditional (core) city, suburban and even rural areas. This might best be called “metropolitanization.” According to the US Office of Management and Budget, a metropolitan area is “a geographic entity associated with at least one core … plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties" (Note 1). The core is the largest urban area in the metropolitan area. The peripheries of metropolitan areas, outside the largest urban areas, are largely rural by the Census Bureau definition. In 2010, the majority of the nation’s rural population lived in metropolitan areas, while 90 percent of metropolitan land area was rural. Despite living areas formally designated as rural, residents in the metropolitan periphery more often live an urban, rather than rural lifestyle.
So much of the discussion of deficiencies and disparities in advanced telecommunications infrastructure (ATI) in the United States is framed as a dichotomy between urban and rural areas, invoking comparisons to electrical distribution and telephone infrastructure in the early 20th century. Time has moved on and circumstances have changed. Back then as Wendell Cox explains in his blog post, residential settlement patterns were much more sharply defined as urban or rural.

In today's America, that's no longer the case. Metropolitanization has blurred the lines between what was once considered rural and urban. Now on the peripheries of metro areas there are exurbs and quasi-rural areas, an in between type of settlement pattern that has developed in recent decades. They aren't as densely populated as the suburbs and their sprawling housing tracts. But they're more densely populated than traditional rural areas where there may only be 50 to 100 people per square mile. These outlying areas are appealing to homebuyers because they can be seen as within commuting distance of a job center while offering affordable housing at lower prices than in closer in, more densely populated areas.

Metropolitanization has implications for ATI since these exurban areas are often poorly served because they are not seen by dominant investor-owned ATI providers as having high profit potential. However, with metro area traffic congestion increasing making already long commutes longer, ATI can provide the critical infrastructure to enable exurban and residents of other less densely developed areas at the edges of metro areas to work in their communities rather than commute daily to a distant office. That comes with an environmental impact bonus by reducing transportation demand.

Friday, May 10, 2019

5G: Don’t Count on Smartphones to Drive Early Success (Or fixed premise service)

5G: Don’t Count on Smartphones to Drive Early Success - TvTechnology: According to the report, a quarter of households (one-third in the U.S.) have become “hyperconnected” with more than 10 connected devices, covering smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart TVs, voice controlled devices and VR headsets. Households worldwide average six connected screens and one third expect to add at least one more screen within the next year.

Consumer dissatisfaction over slower than advertised broadband speeds and inadequate TV bundles is prompting one-third of fixed home broadband users to look for alternate providers, Ericsson says. When offered the prospect of 5G home wireless broadband, 8 of 10 who say they want to switch would consider supplementing or outright replacing their service.
This problem won't be solved by 5G wireless technology. Only fiber to the premise #FTTP can offer the stability and bandwidth needed going forward. The underlying issue is the failure to plan and invest in a timely transition from legacy metallic distribution infrastructure built for the days of phone and cable TV service to fiber. True, many billions will have to be invested. But it's irresponsible to kick the can down the road based on unrealistic hopes that a yet to be introduced spectrum technology will obsolete fiber.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

German government needs options for rapid FTTP deployment

Vodafone calls for German government help with ultrafast broadband rollout | News | DW | 05.05.2019: However, in an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Vodafone's German chief, Hannes Ametsreiter, said that connecting from the network to individual homes, the so-called last mile, was "extraordinarily challenging."

"It is enormously expensive to rip the road on your own," Ametsreiter said, suggesting that Germany looks at how broadband is rolled out in Spain and Portugal, where the state invests in the infrastructure, laying empty pipes, just as it builds highways.
This is called "dig once" in America. It's a perfectly sensible policy. But it can't meet the urgent need to rapidly replace obsolete copper cable built for the period of analog voice telephone service with fiber to the premise. It will have to go on utility poles where buried conduit does not exist.

Then when future road restoration or other trenching projects are undertaken and conduit installed, the aerial fiber can then be retired. Additionally, there are lower cost methods to deploy aerial fiber near energy lines such as lightweight All-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) cable that can speed aerial deployment.

Another option is microtrenching provided the road surface is sufficiently thick with a stable base. But it must be ensured the microtrench slot is deep enough lest the conduit be forced out of the microtrench as Google Fiber recently learned to its dismay in Louisville, Kentucky.

Monday, May 06, 2019

B.S. rationale for yet more "broadband study" instead of telecom infrastructure modernization

Klobuchar, Capito Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Measure the Economic Impact of Broadband - News Releases - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar: WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus, reintroduced the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act. While the federal government measures the economic impact of many industries, it does not produce current, reliable statistics on the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy. Accurate, reliable data on the economic impact of broadband and the digital economy is a valuable tool for policymakers and business leaders and many research institutions, state broadband offices, and trade associations have highlighted the need for this data. The Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Technology to conduct a study of the effects of the digital economy and the adoption of broadband deployment on the U.S. economy.

“In the 21st century economy, broadband is a critical force for creating jobs, leveling the playing field, and increasing opportunity,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that we have more reliable, publicly available economic data in order to make informed decisions about expanding broadband, connecting our communities, and keeping us competitive in an increasingly digital world.”

The purported rationale for this data hunt is utter bullshit. And likely proffered at the behest of big telephone and cable companies whose motive is to further delay America's badly needed modernization of its legacy metallic phone and cable TV infrastructure to fiber and allow them to continue to redline neighborhoods for advanced telecom service. Let's hold off building while we collect more data and do further study.
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