Thursday, November 30, 2006

Schwarzenegger names 21 to California Broadband Task Force

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointment of Ellis Berns, Rachelle Chong, William Geppert, Charles Giancarlo, Paul Hernandez, William Huber, Christine Kehoe, Wendy Lazarus, Lloyd Levine, Michael Liang, Bryan Martin, Timothy McCallion, Sunne Wright McPeak, Milo Medin, Peter Pardee, Peter Pennekamp, Debra Richardson, Rollin Richmond, Larry Smarr, Jonathan Taplin and Emy Tseng to the Broadband Task Force.

Click here for news release.

Under the executive order Schwarzenegger signed to create the Broadband Task Force, it is to provide the governor a preliminary report by the end of January, 2007 that identifies "administrative actions that can result in immediate promotion of broadband access and usage within California."

Apparently the governor has opted to appoint a blue ribbon commission to examine the issue. What's missing however is the consumer perspective and particularly the consumer point of view from outside California's urban centers where broadband availability leaves much to be desired.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All dressed up with nothing to sell

Some of you may have noticed that I've opened Eldo Telecom to advertisers. The ads you see are not placed by human beings, but by Google's so-called "ad bots" that seek out blogs that accept advertising based on automatic key words searches. Ads you see appearing here aren't chosen by me and don't necessarily represent an endorsement of what's being advertised -- and certainly no guarantee it's even available.

Take for example Comcast's pitch for its high speed Internet services that has appeared today. Many El Dorado County residents clicking on the link are likely to find Comcast has no such service to sell them. That's because Comcast's marketing is also on automatic, run by cyber robots. Going to Comcast's Web site and typing in Camino's ZIP Code, 95709, for example, will produce a message that Comcast's TV programming and high speed Internet service are available in 95709. Not necessarily true. It's only available in parts of the ZIP Code.

Both Comcast and AT&T advertise as if they can deliver broadband to all of El Dorado County when in fact both cover only limited parts of the county. It's not exactly a formula to win the hearts of minds of consumers and violates the maxim of marketing experts to avoid creating customer expectations that cannot be fulfilled.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

WISP “inundated” with service requests

Shingle Springs-based Direct Connect, one of El Dorado County’s first homegrown Internet Service Providers, reports overwhelming demand for its wireless Internet service.

Since becoming a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) in addition to its established wire line-based services earlier this year, the company has been “inundated” by requests for its terrestrial fixed wireless service, Direct Connect President & CEO Ken Garnett reported in a letter to potential subscribers this week. The WISP's service area is growing beyond the small 15-square mile area initially served earlier this year, now reaching to the western edges of Placerville and into Diamond Springs.

It’s certainly no surprise county residents are clamoring for the wireless service given the county’s many gaping broadband black holes where residents face a Hobson’s choice of dialup or satellite-based Internet access.

“With such a huge demand, it is extremely difficult to service everyone in a timely fashion,” Garnett writes. “In order to solve this problem, we are actively raising capital in order to accelerate our deployment capabilities…this will enable us to hire more installers and to more rapidly expand our network.” Garnett also notes that even within Direct Connect’s existing wireless service area, there are many locations that lie in a “shadowed” area unable to reliably receive service and in need of “additional backfilling” for complete coverage. “Expanding our network/service area will occur as rapidly as we are able to raise capital and thereby bolster our resources,” Garnett writes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The balkanized state of U.S. broadband access

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who recently issued an executive order creating a broadband task force to identify and eliminate obstacles to making broadband internet access ubiquitous in the Golden State, sees it as the great equalizer.

But throughout more rural parts of California and the rest of the nation, the broadband infrastructure and available service choices are far less equal to that of more urban areas. Ironically, Information Week writer Richard Hoffman notes in his comprehensive article on the state of U.S. rural broadband access, broadband access tends to be least available in the very areas that can most benefit from it as the U.S. continues into a post suburban, penturbian settlement trend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

DSL reportedly in the works for two Pollock Pines area neighborhoods south of Hwy. 50

A resident of the Gold Ridge Forest subdivision off Sly Park Road and Gold Ridge Trail in Pollock Pines reports AT&T crews are upgrading lines for DSL service to the area. The neighborhood is about a mile south of Highway 50.

In addition, an AT&T lineman advised the resident that DSL service is expected to be offered several miles farther south in the Sierra Springs subdivision after the first of the year.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

FCC member Michael Kopps calls tepid U.S. record on broadband expansion an outrage

"The solution to our broadband crisis must ultimately involve public-private initiatives like those that built the railroad, highway and telephone systems. Combined with an overhaul of our universal service system to make sure it is focusing on the needs of broadband, this represents our best chance at recapturing our leadership position.

It seems plain enough that our present policies aren't working. Inattention and muddling through may be the path of least resistance, but they should not and must not represent our national policy on this critical issue."

Full op-ed in today's Washington Post.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Broadband coming for Camino's Rancho del Sol?

One of El Dorado County's many broadband black holes may be gone by early next year. That's according to Dan Gallagher, chair of the Rancho del Sol maintenance committee. Dan tells me AT&T has been installing and testing equipment to bring the community of 160 homes located off Snows Road in Camino that has been stuck with dial up Internet access into the digital age.

Earlier this year, Ma Bell promised to offer a number of broadband options to the county by the end of the year. As this blog exclusively reported, DSL was made available to parts of Grizzly Flat this past summer. Dan's report is encouraging because it's further evidence of concrete action from AT&T following years of unkept promises and more recently, AT&T's direct mail promos suggesting that El Doradans instead turn to ill-favored satellite-based Internet access.

If you are seeing indications that AT&T upgrading its infrastructure in your El Dorado County neighborhood or have recently obtained broadband access that wasn't previously available, please email with the details.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

AT&T's Homezone misadventure

This has turkey written all over it right out of the box. The San Francisco Chronicle reports today that AT&T is unveiling a new service that bundles satellite TV from Dish Network with AT&T's DSL service. The idea of the so-called Homezone service is to allow subscribers to send movies, TV shows and music downloaded from the Internet to their TVs. It's supposedly to allow AT&T to better compete with the cable providers. It sounds too jury-rigged and complex to ultimately succeed and gain customer acceptance.

Rather than embark on such misadventures, AT&T should stick to the knitting of telecommunications. Ma Bell should concentrate on upgrading her long neglected wireline infrastructure in places like El Dorado County where AT&T is the incumbent telecom provider. There is plenty of work to do to ensure the delivery of reliable phone service and to eliminate the many broadband black holes that exist in the county. Homezone is a distraction and a misguided diversion of resources.
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