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.

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