Saturday, April 25, 2009

The 3 biggest obstacles to rapid deployment of advanced last mile telecom infrastructure

The biggest speed bumps on the road to rapid deployment of advanced IP-based fiber optic last mile telecommunications infrastructure aren't likely to be purely economic due to its high costs. Instead, these are likely to be the greatest impediments going forward:

1. Top down thinking by large telecom providers and governmental agencies tasked with subsidizing and otherwise facilitating the deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure. Wrong approach. Locals best know their needs and have the greatest incentive to see they are met over both the short and long term. They are intimately familiar with their incomplete last mile telecom infrastructures and are in the best position to know where gaps need to be bridged. Governmental programs to increase access to advanced telecom services should be directed to the locals -- local governmental entities and telecom cooperatives.

2. Self-centered thinking by ISPs more interested in preserving their proprietary technologies -- such as satellite Internet service -- that cannot substitute for robust fiber-based last mile advanced telecommunications infrastructure and are already technologicially obsolete or will be soon.

3. "Analysis paralysis" in the form of attempts to "map" broadband black holes and household and socioeconomic demographic surveys that distract from and delay the urgent task of getting fiber that should have been in place a decade ago deployed and deployed ASAP -- particularly at a time when such deployments will create badly needed jobs and increased economic activity. We cannot study, map or talk our way to where we should be with our telecommunications infrastructure. What counts is getting fiber on the poles and in the ground.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Broadband black holes: Not just a rural issue

One of the most persistently inaccurate and misleading portrayals of U.S. broadband availability is that broadband black holes are confined to rural areas. Unfortunately for those marooned within them, they can be found in plenty of other places due to telco deployments of technologically limited DSL that deteriorates just a few miles from a central office or remote terminal -- and less than that if the copper cable isn't in pristine condition.

Case in point is part of the Northern California suburb of Vacaville, located not far from Interstate 80 west of the college town of Davis. AT&T is requesting a 40 percent subsidy from the California Public Utilities Commission's California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to extend wireline broadband to 33 households in this area as one of five AT&T CASF projects up for consideration Thursday by the CPUC.

These projects -- designated for "underserved" areas where residents can't get broadband of at least 3 Mbs down and 1 Mbs on the upload side -- are being trumpeted by the CPUC as helping close Golden State's digital divide. But given their small size -- ranging from just five households for the smallest to 125 for the largest -- there's a danger this will make the CPUC look like it's putting out AT&T PR puffery.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

FCC seeks comment on U.S. broadband deployment plan

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on how to best achieve universal broadband access. The FCC's mandate to develop a broadband strategy and deliver it to Congress by February 2010 is required under the federal economic stimulus legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted in February.

Here's a link to the FCC news release.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New mindset emerging on U.S. broadband build out

There's a new mindset on broadband infrastructure build out emerging in the United States, moving away from self interest and the proprietary profit centers of the telco/cable duopoly to broadband as a community resource.

So reports in this dispatch on the Freedom to Connect conference held April 1 in Silver Spring, Maryland discussing the $7.2 billion in broadband build out subsidies allocated in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Some key excerpts:

"We are turning away from what I believe was a misguided effort to restructure the economy along the lines of selfishness: I've got mine and if you don't have yours, that's too bad for you because it's how the market works," said Harold Feld, legal director of consumer lobby Public Knowledge.

The act assumes that broadband provides benefits to a whole community, creating a new ecology. "For years, the debate has been about incenting the market and getting carriers to invest," Feld said. "Entities that were despised in yesteryear -- and I mean literally last year -- such as state and local entities and non-profits are now presumed to be most in tune with the philosophy of a broadband ecology."
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