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.

Friday, April 12, 2019

As progressive the term "Fourth Industrial Revolution" sounds, it's really regressive

Powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution with 5G | About Verizon: The arrival of 5G – the next generation of wireless networks – unleashes an opportunity for smart cities to take full advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where everything that can be connected will be and the full force of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles will permeate where we live, work and play. What 5G delivers that 4G and earlier networks cannot are the blazing speeds and ultra-low latencies (data transfer delays) that allow massive amounts of data to be relayed between connected devices, systems, and infrastructure in near real time. In other words, 5G enables the super-fast response and data analysis that can allow driverless cars, cloud-connected traffic control, and other sensor-laden smart city applications to truly thrive.
As progressive as Verizon's use of the term "Fourth Industrial Revolution" might sound, it's really regressive. In the 20th century, the Industrial Revolution represented a major phase in settlement patterns, bringing masses of people to cities to work in centralized offices and factories. In the latter half the century, automobiles, cheap motor fuel and telephones sparked a second migration to the suburbs -- and with it daily commuting that now in 21st century is overloading 20th century era transportation systems and creating choking traffic congestion encompassing urban centers and suburbs.

Verizon and other telecom companies are talking up the potential of information and communications technology (ICT) and specifically a developmental 5G wireless technology to reinforce the metro commute pattern. Instead of a more progressive use: to replace it by more widely distributing knowledge work and other economic activity beyond costly and congested metro areas. That's truly a revolutionary use of ICT with far greater potential to improve people's lives.

The short term business models of Verizon and other investor owned telcos can't fully support that large scale deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure (ATI) because it would require significant long term investment in fiber optic cable serving homes and businesses in less densely populated areas of the United States. Lower population density means slower return on infrastructure investment that isn't tolerable to their shareholders. That's why a publicly funded and owned model of ATI is needed.

3 ways Trump administration telecom infrastructure proposal falls short

White House to unveil latest 5G push and rural broadband initiative - The Verge: President Trump and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai are expected to announce the administration’s latest plans to ensure US leadership in 5G and expand high-speed broadband access to rural areas across the country. On Friday morning, the FCC announced a new plan to roll out high-speed broadband to rural communities through the creation of the commission’s new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. According to the FCC, the fund will “inject” $20.4 billion into broadband networks to connect up to 4 million rural homes and businesses with high-speed broadband over the next decade. “This is a critical tool towards closing the digital divide and will provide some of the critical infrastructure to connecting rural Americans with 5G technologies,” Pai said.

This isn't going to timely solve the America's problem of an urgently needed upgrade of its legacy metallic copper and coax telephone and cable TV plant of the 20th century to fiber to the premise for the 21st. The scope of which can't be narrowly described as a "rural broadband" issue. Rather than a simple plan to construct the necessary fiber, it follows previous subsidy program flaws:
  1. Inadequate funding relative to construction costs dispersed over time frames far too long to catch the nation up to where it should be on telecom infrastructure modernization. A couple of billion dollars a year won't go far in a nation as large and diverse as the United States. A Deloitte study concludes the nation needs to invest $130–150 billion in "deep fiber" between 2017 and 2023-25 to provide sufficient bandwidth for premise and mobile wireless services.
  2. Additional subsidies to legacy phone and cable companies with no universal service, quality or price strings attached.
  3. Continued use of a speed versus technology definition of advanced telecom infrastructure that permits subsidization of metallic plant and and substitution of wireless infrastructure including still under development 5G wireless.

Friday, March 29, 2019

"Amying" low: Klobuchar telecom infrastructure plan retreads incremental "broadband" strategies instead of ensuring universal fiber

Amy’s Plan to Build America’s Infrastructure – Amy for America – Medium: Connect every household to the internet by 2022. Roughly one in four rural Americans say access to high-speed internet is a major problem. That’s why as President, Amy will connect every household in America to the internet by 2022. Amy’s plan will help close the urban-rural divide by creating accurate broadband maps to identify areas that lack adequate access, focus on bringing high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need, and provide greater incentives for existing providers to use funds to upgrade their networks to cover unserved and underserved areas. Broadband creates jobs, opens new economic opportunities, and allows America to compete and succeed in an increasingly digital world.

Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)'s plan retreads failed approaches that rely on defining America's advanced telecom infrastructure challenge as a "broadband" issue. The solution in that context is creating better "broadband maps" (what for?) and giving money to legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies to boost "broadband speeds." Rather than doing what's truly needed: building fiber to every American doorstep -- that should already be in place now -- and will be needed going forward into the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Blair Levin misses key distinction on advanced telecom infrastructure

A broadband agenda for the (eventual) infrastructure bill: Governors have internal agencies and incentives for spending federal discretionary funding on traditional infrastructure sectors like water, sewer, and roads, a point missed in the White House’s argument that money would flow to rural broadband. If we want universal connectivity, the reality is that we need dedicated funds.
Blair Levin's right. But he misses a crucial distinction. Current U.S. policy regards advanced telecommunications infrastructure not as infrastructure per se but rather as a commercial enterprise of selling "broadband" bandwidth to individual customer premises. Expanding it has thus involved tossing token sums (millions for infrastructure that costs billions) to mostly incumbent legacy telephone companies with no real strings attached and no universal service mandate -- unlike subsidies for analog voice telephone service over copper in high cost areas.

And since the focus has been on bandwidth, the debate over subsidization has bogged down over what constitutes adequate bandwidth -- a debate in which Levin has found himself mired in the rest of his piece. It's absurd since bandwidth isn't static and demand continues to grow rapidly with various connected devices and high definition video. Tragically, as the years long controversy over bandwidth adequacy continues, the United States continues to fall further behind where it should be: having fiber connections to every address and not just a select few. That is a real, solid definition of universal service.
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