Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Australian regulator puts ISPs on notice: honest disclosure of broadband speeds needed

This story is from the land down under. I wouldn't be surprised to see this broadband speed full disclosure sentiment spread to the states. Consumers here aren't likely all that different from their Australian counterparts in not quite understanding that broadband provider speed claims of "Up to X mbs" often mean a connection speed significantly lower than the upper limit.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cable companies face bandwidth crunch

Cable providers, reluctant to admit their coaxial-based systems that formerly carried only analog television programming, are getting maxed out with the flood of digital and high def TV signals, high speed Internet and most recently, digital telephone service as part of their so-called "triple play" bundles. They're looking for ways to expand their carrying capacity, including following telcos such as Verizon and moving to fiber optic cable. Read about it in Light Reading's Cable Digital News.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Internet 2 spawns customer relations nightmare for telcos, cable companies

Now that the Internet is entering its second stage of popular acceptance and has moved beyond mere email and Web sites to streaming video from the major television networks and amateur video productions via YouTube, it’s likely creating a customer relations nightmare for the big cable and telephone companies.

The reason: In many areas, both still are unable to deliver the Internet at speeds any faster than those that existed in the early to mid-1990s, speeds that are impractical for today’s Internet or even Web surfing. Or in the cable companies’ case, any Internet access whatsoever. Their call center sales representatives are likely getting tired of being asked repeatedly, “When can I get high speed Internet?” and having to tell disappointed would be customers they cannot sell it to them -- and don't know when it will be offered. Ditto repair crews out in the field who find they must double as customer service representatives as well as technicians when they are approached with the same insistent question.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

CWA calls for national broadband effort

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) has joined a growing call for a national broadband policy, condemning the status quo as "a hodgepodge of fragmented government programs and uneven private sector responses to changing markets."

The United States should offer all residents and businesses high speed connections of at least 2 mbs down and 1 mbs up by the end of 2007 year and 10 mbs down and 2 mbs uploads by 2010, a CWA policy paper states.

Speed Matters: Affordable High Speed Internet For All
calls on the federal government to actively support the creation of public-private partnerships in each state to expand broadband access and a national broadband map to show parts of the nation that remain on the dark side of the digital divide.
All residential and business customers should be protected by basic consumer and service quality protections no matter where they live, which carrier they choose or what technology is used to provide their services. Telecommunications services should meet the highest
standards of quality, reliability, and safety. Quality service depends primarily on sufficient investment in telecommunications infrastructure and adequate staffing provided by trained, well-compensated career employees.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Watchdog group sues FCC to assess broadband competition

After being stonewalled by the Federal Communications Commission, the Center for Public Integrity is going to court to get access to FCC records to determine how much competition for broadband service exists. The CPI wants to know exactly how many broadband land lines the telcos and cable companies provide in a given Zip Code. Under current FCC standards, if they offered a single connection at 200kbs or greater in a given Zip Code, that entire area would be considered being wired for high speed Internet. That standard is highly flawed in most El Dorado County Zip Codes that contain yawning broadband black holes.

Read ars technica reporter Nate Anderson's story on the federal lawsuit. The telco and cable providers are circling the wagons -- most likely because the withheld data would shine a bright light on the dreadful state of poor wireline broadband access that exists across much of the U.S.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Indiana telecom's goal: "No house left behind"

Here's an article about an Indiana telecom that wants to bring service to all parts of the state. It's refreshing to see entrepreneurial boldness and a can-do attitude for a change compared to the bureaucratic, no can do culture that permeates the big telcos and cable companies. I hope it spreads to California.
“Our policy is ‘No House Left Behind,'” Weddell joked Thursday morning at a meeting of the Communications-Technology Committee of Vision In Progress.

Weddell said Cue Connex wants to set up networks to service all of a community's technology needs: high-speed Internet service, Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), videoconferencing, Internet-based television, and eventually video services over a wireless network, as well as many other services.

“We're talking about huge (fiber-optic) pipes coming in,” Weddell said, describing the scale of services the company plans for Indiana. Cue Connex is in the process of purchasing a fiber optic company, he said, but cannot release the company's name until the deal is completed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Telecommuters less likely to be promoted

Here's an interesting article in today's L.A. Times that suggests in order to get ahead in the workplace, one must develop an ability to drive hours in stop and go traffic five days a week in addition to being a competent employee.

It's not telecommuting itself that's the issue but rather how the employer is structured. In recent years, some organizations have abandoned the traditional top down, centralized structure and moved to a horizontal structure organized around projects and teams of workers.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Cell phone fees could subsidize high cost wire line broadband

As growing numbers of Californians move from land line based phone service to cell phones, billions are being generated in state mandated fees charged cell phone users to subsidize land line service in high cost locations outside urban areas. The Associated Press reports that the High Cost Fund B surcharge has generated more than $1.2 billion for California's four largest telephone companies - AT&T Inc., Verizon California, SureWest Communications and Frontier Communications. It's one of five funds in California's Universal Service Fund program, which has received a total of $2.8 billion since 2003 to serve more than 7,600 designated high-cost areas, according to the AP. The state's 25 million cellular subscribers contributed 60 percent of the payments to the B Fund, the AP found, which noted those revenues are likely to increase given the growing number of consumers relying exclusively on wireless communication.

The shift to wireless voice service is occurring at the same time demand for wireline-based broadband is growing. The Schwarzenegger administration should direct the state Public Utilities Commission to reform these funds to redirect subsidies to help speed the deployment of high speed Internet access in higher cost areas of the state.

Telcos need to revamp one size fits all broadband pricing

The conventional wisdom is telcos drag their feet on expanding land line broadband access because they cannot make money offering the service. The problem is their one size fits all broadband pricing scheme that fails to differentiate between areas where deployment costs are higher. Where broadband might be profitable in an urban area, it may not be outside urban areas that require additional equipment and infrastructure.

Clearly, telcos need to take a hard look at revising pricing for broadband instead of leaving gaping broadband black holes in much of their service areas. I suspect many folks would be willing to pay $50 a month for a fast, reliable high speed Internet service rather than be stuck with sluggish and impractical dial up service.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

NY governor to map broadband black holes in push for wider broadband access

Newly inaugurated New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer wants to make broadband accessible to all Empire State residents, starting by mapping out existing infrastructure and broadband black holes. Currently, less than half of the state's homes have broadband Internet connections, according to this Rochester Democrat & Chronicle article.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Questionable future for AT&T's residential market

The old AT&T as it existed before it was acquired by SBC one year ago abandoned the residential telephone market. It may not be long before the new AT&T does the same, starting in less populated portions of its 22-state service area including California.

Like other telcos, the company is hemorrhaging land lines as residential customers — particularly in more urban areas — give up their land lines and use cell phones as replacements. Last week after it closed its acquisition of BellSouth, AT&T signaled a possible shift away from its traditional residential land line business by indicating that wireless phone services along with revenue from wireless phone ads would be an important future revenue source. "We're about to become a company with wireless at its heart,'' AT&T Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre told The Wall Street Journal after the deal was approved by the FCC. The purchase gives AT&T full control of its Cingular wireless unit.

Apparently hoping to stem some of its land line losses, AT&T is now offering what’s termed “naked DSL” service that allows residential customers to sign up for DSL broadband service as a single product without having to pair it with a traditional land line. However, it remains to be seen if AT&T can profitably provide the service, which it’s reportedly planning to offer for as low as $12 a month for the slowest speed plan.

For so-called “naked DSL,” it’s doubly doubtful AT&T can recover its costs outside of urban areas where the cost of providing service is greater. Nor is AT&T likely spend billions to upgrade its aging infrastructure outside urban areas to support its IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) service currently being rolled in a few metro areas. Taken as a whole, these circumstances point to a questionable future for AT&T’s residential segment, particularly in non-urban regions of its service area. Unless AT&T is able to substantially raise its broadband prices to bring them more in line with delivery costs, it’s quite plausible that AT&T will pull out of the residential market in these locations, deeming them underperforming assets.

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