Friday, December 29, 2006

San Jose Mercury News calls for national broadband strategy

Decrying the United States' slow progress in attaining universal broadband service, the San Jose Mercury News writes the time for mere talk on deploying more broadband infrastructure is over. "Let's roll," the newspaper editorialized this week. "The faster, the better."

The newspaper urges Silicon Valley business leaders to lead the charge. "Not only is universal broadband good for society, it's good for the technology business. Intel will sell more chips, Hewlett-Packard more computers, Cisco Systems more routers, Google more ads. Telephone and cable companies see huge profits in delivering TV, Internet and phone service over fast land lines," the editorial states.

The editorial calls for a "cohesive national strategy" to achieve the goal of universal broadband access in the next three years including revamping the Universal Service Fund to subsidize broadband in rural areas and auctioning off television frequencies that won't be needed when TV broadcasters go to full digital transmission in 2009 to help underwrite the cost of making broadband service ubiquitous.

The editorial is part of a growing chorus of doubt that the telco/cable duopoly has the ambition and/or the capital to speed broadband availability on its own.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wireless can pencil out where wireline fails, Rescue resident says

Rescue resident Tim McFadden doesn’t foresee any wireline based deployment of broadband penciling out for AT&T in much of El Dorado County. The future according to McFadden, president of a company called Comsites that provides real estate services to cellular phone companies, is wireless. The simple reason, he explains, is that it’s far less costly to deploy. He points to wireless providers like Sprint and Verizon which he says are offering a “double play” of voice and data at speeds approaching 400 Kbps. McFadden also notes Craig McCaw's Clearwire is moving into the Sacramento market could be in the eastern portion of the El Dorado County before long.

While McFadden is likely correct that terrestrial wireless systems are cheaper to build out than wireline-based systems, such deployments are very technologically challenging in El Dorado County’s topography featuring high ridges, deep canyons and tall trees. That fact has made it difficult for cellular phone service providers to offer reliable service in parts of the county. That’s likely why wireless broadband players have concentrated on the low hanging fruit in the less hilly and vegetated terrain of Folsom and El Dorado Hills.

In addition, if wireless is to be a viable broadband alternative in El Dorado County or anywhere else, it will have to offer higher connection speed. While 400kbs may be considered adequate for some users of portable devices, it barely qualifies as a broadband connection.

WSJ columnist calls on federal government to speed broadband deployment

The Wall Street Journal is America’s flagship newspaper of free markets and free enterprise. It’s not known for advocating regulation and government involvement in business. When it comes to the business of deploying broadband Internet connections, however, a WSJ columnist suggests the business model has failed and can’t be left to its own devices. The federal government should launch an effort to hasten the build out the nation’s telecom system to accommodate more and faster broadband connections on a par with the Eisenhower-era program to build the interstate highway system, WSJ technology columnist Kara Swisher said at a recent Silicon Valley forum. “The government has got to get behind this, like it did with the public highways,” Swisher was quoted as saying.

Another panelist, the WSJ’s Walter Mossberg, a product reviewer and technology columnist, lamented the relatively slow speeds available to U.S. broadband users. “We need real broadband,” Mossberg told the panel, calling American broadband “pathetic” compared to what’s available in other countries.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tech exec calls for federal universal broadband policy

With regular phone service service nearly universal, the federal government should develop policies to make broadband as accessible as telephones, argues Charles H. Giancarlo, senior vice president and chief development officer of Cisco Systems, in a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece. Giancarlo is a member of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Broadband Task Force.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

655 Tahoe residents petition AT&T for broadband

The Lake Tahoe basin is one of the most massive broadband black holes in El Dorado County. As this blog reported back in the fall, the residents there aren’t happy about it and are petitioning the incumbent local exchange carrier, AT&T, to get moving on a solution and enlisted Fifth District Supervisor Norma Santiago to help press their case with company officials.

A couple of weeks ago, Tahoe activist Patti Handal, who led the door-to-door petition drive, sent off 655 signatures representing 364 households to Ma Bell’s headquarters in San Antonio. That should send a clear message for AT&T to get off the dime in the Tahoe region, where www has been an acronym for wait, wait and wait some more.

Friday, December 15, 2006

BusinessWeek's Silicon Valley bureau honcho falls into broadband black hole -- in Palo Alto

The many El Dorado County residents who are stuck in broadband black holes are by no means alone. Even residents in high tech, upscale Palo Alto can find themselves unwittingly getting too close to a dial up event horizon and falling in, such as Rob Hof, manager of BusinessWeek's Silicon Valley bureau. Read about Hof's recent unfortunate moving experience.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

AT&T's MultiMedia Studio: An exercise in irrelevancy

I just received and completed an online survey from AT&T introducing its MultiMedia Studio server resident software. It will allow end users to use it in lieu of PC-based software for photo and video editing, managing music files, blogging, presentations and word processing.

For those of us residing in one of El Dorado County's many broadband black holes, the survey for MultiMedia Studio is an exercise in irrelevancy. That's because without a broadband connection to the Internet, server based software such as being contemplated by AT&T is simply useless.

First things first. AT&T should instead be focusing its resources on upgrading its aged infrastructure so it can make broadband available to those without access. Without it, MultiMedia Studio isn't even in the realm of possibilities.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where the heck's my broadband?

When almost 200 of you signed the petition started at the beginning of 2006 urging AT&T to step up or get out of the county, AT&T put itself on record in late April in Bob Walter's Sacramento Bee column that it would expand broadband availability in the county by the end of the year.

But don't call up AT&T's high speed Internet department and expect to place an order for service considering that year end is just a couple of weeks away. When I did this week, I was told that was impossible because there's no planned date for rolling out service in my broadband black hole not far from U.S. 50.

Par for the course for Ma Bell despite speedy sounding rhetoric in 2002 "Project Pronto" (It wasn't) and AT&T's latest "get ready, it's coming" hype, "Project Lightspeed."

75% of residences have broadband connections

A study by Nielsen/NetRatings estimates that more than three fourths of American homes have high speed connections to the Internet, according to this Associated Press story via MSNBC.

That number is undoubtedly far lower in El Dorado County, which continues to be plagued by gaping broadband black holes where neither AT&T nor Comcast provide service, leaving residents to choose between the unfeasible -- dial up -- and the undesirable -- satellite.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Broadband will determine outcome of cable vs. telco market share struggle

The key determinant whether telcos such as AT&T or cable companies like Comcast come to dominate in El Dorado County and elsewhere is what each offers in the way of high speed Internet.

"That battle that is going on in the marketplace is really focused around the broadband connection," Oren Shaffer, telco Qwest's chief financial officer, told MarketWatch in this article that appeared today.

That's doubly true in much of "dark" El Dorado County where neither AT&T nor Comcast offers broadband connections. The first to enter these areas with a robust broadband product will over the short term have the market to themselves to sell bundled services and set the stage to develop long term loyalty among residents who have waited far too long for high speed Internet access.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Caught flat footed by Internet, telcos ponder their future

America's telcos were caught flat footed by the rapid rise of the Internet that has left them pondering what business they are in, according to this Reuters article appearing in VAR Business:

A decade into the Internet era, it is becoming clear to former telecommunications monopolies that they may not have what it takes to operate at Internet speed.

"The integrated telco model is broken. All innovation is coming from the edge of the Internet. It's coming from companies other than telecom companies, from the likes of Google, Amazon," said James Enck, an analyst at Daiwa Securities in London.

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