Friday, May 15, 2020

Exurbs often neglected for landline advanced telecom infra

A Rise in Remote Work Could Lead to a New Suburban Boom - May 13, 2020: Larger homes with more rooms and offices could draw those no longer worried about their commute out of urban cores and into the suburbs and exurbs. (Emphasis added)
Advanced landline telecom infrastructure is typically lacking in exurban areas that have population densities lower than suburban but considerably higher than rural. That's because legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies generally count occupied dwellings along rights of way when planning last mile infrastructure. When there are stretches where there are few houses, clusters of homes not far down the road are redlined.

The exurbs end up being neglected, falling through the cracks as the mainstream and info tech media adopt an incomplete, binary view of advanced landline telecom infrastructure as either urban or rural with nothing in between. Hopefully migration to the outer reaches of metro areas identified by Zillow will shine a light on this issue and result in more fiber connections being built to exurban homes and small businesses.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Google Fiber's impact overrated

Incompas 2020 Policy Summit: Unraveling Broadband Challenges And Opportunities for Competitors, Communities: Blair Levin, policy analyst at New Street Research and nonresident fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, said during the summit that these elements largely were influenced by the National Broadband Plan team’s conversations with the private sector. “While everyone thinks of Google Fiber as a business, there’s no question that it accelerated the next-generation networks from AT&T and CenturyLink as well as the cable industry,” Levin said.
Um, no. Google Fiber folded up its tent and began decamping in 2016 after a brief six-year-long presence in the fiber to the prem (FTTP) business. It provided no sustained and meaningful pressure on the big telcos and cablecos and their infrastructure plans due to its abandonment of the race, drawing mockery from AT&T. Had Google Fiber provided an impetus to AT&T, it would have replaced the legacy copper in its service territory with fiber over the past decade rather than respond with ridicule.

What Google Fiber proved was the poor progress the U.S. has made modernizing its legacy copper telecom infrastructure to FTTP as evidenced by the more than 1,100 communities that asked it to deploy in 2010.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

AT&T should add residential FTTP service where it has installed fiber

It’s Hard to Like AT&T | POTs and PANs: Over the last year, I’ve said some nice things about AT&T. It was nice to see AT&T wholeheartedly embrace their commitment to build fiber past 12 million homes as they had promised as part of the conditions of buying DirecTV. In the past, they might have shrugged that obligation off and faked it, but they’ve brought fiber to pockets of residential neighborhoods all over the country. It seemed that they were unenthusiastic about this requirement at first, but eventually embraced when somebody at the company realized that new fiber could be profitable.
Doug Dawson’s right. It is indeed good to see badly outdated legacy copper plant being modernized to fiber to the prem (FTTP) infrastructure by one of the nation’s biggest telcos. It’s at least a decade overdue. But the downside it’s just a few discrete residential “pockets” as Dawson points out amid recent indications from AT&T that it will be dialing back its landline capital expenditures.

Moreover, in parts of AT&T’s service territory, services on these new fiber installs are being limited to enterprise customers willing and able to afford rates at hundreds of dollars per month and higher. Nearby residences that could be served by drops from the new fiber are relegated to DSL over aging copper twisted pair. Or in some cases, asymmetric 10/1Mbps fixed wireless service in exurban areas that competes for limited mobile bandwidth since it runs on top of mobile wireless infrastructure.

These exurbs typically have population densities of more than 200 people per square mile, where fixed wireless and limited fiber to the home are best suited, according to a Microsoft-sponsored study by the Boston Consulting Group. That study was done in 2017. The appetite for residential bandwidth has increased since then. And it’s likely spiked higher in recent weeks as more people work, study and get medical attention at home during the SARS-CoV-2 contagion, using videoconferencing that requires the symmetrical connectivity fiber enables. Those bandwidth intensive activities are likely to persist to a greater degree after the pandemic ends than they did before.

The vast majority of residential customers and home office and teleworkers are not going to be willing or able to afford paying several hundred dollars a month for business class service offerings. AT&T should consider adding residential service at accessible residential rates in areas where it has already has installed fiber or it’s in the works.

Monday, April 27, 2020

California: Use bonds for public utilty, consumer coop-owned fiber to the premise telecom infrastructure as stimulus

Don’t expect an economic stimulus package using state tax money.States can’t print dollars like the feds can. President Trump and Congress will do all the stimulating. But (California Senate President pro tempore Toni) Atkins and (Assembly Speaker Anthony) Rendon want to tap into infrastructure bonds that have already been authorized by voters and quickly push the borrowed money out into job-creating projects. There’s $42 billion in unsold bond authorization.
Source: Newsom wields California executive power amid coronavirus - Los Angeles Times

That bonding capacity should be tapped to fund public utility and consumer coop-owned fiber to the premise telecom infrastructure as an economic stimulus initiative. Not only would doing so directly create jobs; it would also provide a boost to California's knowledge and information economy. Particularly as its constituents rely on advanced telecommunications services to work at home and especially those in Northern California counties lacking good infrastructure. They need robust and reliable connectivity only fiber can offer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

FCC head Ajit Pai grossly mischaracterizes telecom infrastructure as competitive market

Pai Explains Commission's Coronavirus Philosophy - Radio World: But I also think that the market creates powerful incentives for companies to do the right thing. If your company doesn’t step up for you, or even worse, engages in bad behavior, consumers will be much more likely to turn to the competition in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Pai's right. But only when it comes to competitive markets. Telecommunications infrastructure isn't one due to high cost barriers that keep out potential competitors and first mover (incumbent) advantage that make it a natural monopoly or duopoly. It's simply not economic to have multiple lines running to a home to deliver Internet protocol-based telecommunications services.

I’d also argue that the general regulatory approach that we have in the United States have applied to the broadband marketplace gave us much stronger infrastructure in the first place, as it gave companies the incentives to invest in resilient, robust networks that could withstand unprecedented consumer demands. (Emphasis added)

This requires some explaining on Pai's part. With competitive market forces absent and no regulatory requirement to meet market demand by requiring they provide fiber connections to homes asking for them, legacy telephone companies lack incentive to invest in replacing their decades old copper lines with fiber. Only fiber to the premise #FTTP can assuredly support "resilient, robust networks that could withstand unprecedented consumer demands."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

U.S. policymakers should expedite public option #FTTP infrastructure planning, construction

Rebuilding and modernizing America’s infrastructure has taken on greater urgency in the current sharp economic downturn. Those efforts should expedite the planning and construction of advanced telecommunications infrastructure whose role has taken on greater importance as people work, study and receive medical care at home to prevent contagion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

As people are thrown out of work by public health efforts to contain the pandemic, construction of this infrastructure should create an accessible and affordable “public option” for originating and receiving high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video. Doing so will create jobs while supporting post pandemic economic recovery.

Legislation should be enacted quickly that would create a make available to state, regional and local governments and consumer electric and telecom cooperatives:
  • Technical assistance grants for fiber optic to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure design and business planning;
  • Guaranteed low interest loans backed by federal government for FTTP projects with engineering designs and business plans meeting specified quality and level of service standards.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Don't limit federal loans to publicly and coop owned fiber to rural areas

Opinion | Post-Pandemic, Here’s How America Rises Again - The New York Times: “Building fiber infrastructure all across heartland America ensures that high-paying jobs can take place anywhere,” explained Matt Dunne, executive director of the Center on Rural Innovation, and it makes the whole country “more resilient to future pandemics and climate change-related weather events that require children and workers to stay home.” High-speed internet basically enables anyone anywhere to get training for a better job, often at low to no cost, from online universities or YouTube instructional videos. And if you connect them, they will invent.

 *  *  *
What Dunne proposes is that the federal government create a new loan program, reminiscent of the Rural Electrification Act, which would offer 50-year, no-interest loans to communities and co-ops creating rural fiber broadband networks and an easing of regulations to enable public-private coalitions to build rural broadband and attach high-speed fiber to existing telephone poles.

Why limit this program to rural areas when only about a third of the nation has fiber advanced telecom infrastructure connections? The lines between urban and rural America in the early 21st century aren't as sharply drawn as they were in the early 20th century. Then, the division between those served by electric power infrastructure -- urban areas -- and unserved rural counties was distinct. The comparison to the Rural Electrification Act doesn't cleanly apply in 2020. Exurbs at the edges of large metro areas typically lack residential fiber service. Often, they lack any landline advanced telecom infrastructure whatsoever -- redlined by legacy telephone and cable companies or at best served by DSL over aging copper phone lines.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Pandemic an inflection point for U.S. telecom policy

We Need Our Internet Access Networks to Be Something They Are Not: As the Covid-19 medical crisis is contained and Congress does what it can to recharge the economy, an important economic recovery question will be whether our political leaders will push huge stimulus dollars to Big Cable and Big Telecom companies under the premise that we need better networks and they are the logical choice for solving that problem. Giving big checks to the seven companies that control most of our internet infrastructure will mean we are doubling down on a system that should be overhauled. The Boards at the large incumbent ISP’s have their fingers crossed that Covid-19 doesn’t lead to a re-thinking of the current arrangement. To make sure the $500 Billion annual ISP annuity continues, an army of lobbyists is likely tasked with making sure the pandemic is not an inflection point for internet access and infrastructure.
If Congress wants to stimulate the deployment of very reliable, low-cost networks that are designed to favor consumers, it should provide low-interest loans that allow municipalities, electric co-ops, and entrepreneurs to create non-profit, open access, fiber optic networks where the subscribers to the network own the infrastructure. If Congress made inexpensive capital available to build this infrastructure, the entire country would get reliable and robust networks over the next ten years and the next time we’re all forced to live life at a distance, we won’t have to worry if our networks will have the capacity and flexibility to meet the demands we place on them.

The incumbents have a real credibility issue now having built up a track record over the past two decades of taking billions of dollars in federal subsidies yet leaving lots of Americans with substandard advanced telecom infrastructure.

Policymakers have been punked by the incumbents into believing the issue is one of addressing a "broadband" bandwidth gap inherent in their scarcity, unit pricing based business models. When in fact as the author of the Medium post points out, the real issue is insufficient fiber to the premise #FTTP infrastructure. American consumer culture makes it easy for the incumbents to frame bandwidth as a "good, better, best" consumer commodity and price tiered accordingly. As long as policymakers see this as a consumer commodity, they'll continue to fly blind, chasing "broadband speeds" and have a difficult time properly seeing #FTTP as essential infrastructure.
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