Thursday, September 24, 2009

IP-based service convergence rendering broadband debate irrelevant

Comcast's move into digital voice in 2006, AT&T's disclosure to Investor's Business Daily two years ago that it ultimately plans to shut down its existing voice network and replace it with a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system in the limited areas where its U-Verse offering is being deployed and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg's assertion at a Goldman Sachs investor conference last week that his company is migrating from the publicly switched telephone network (PSTN) and central offices designed to handle plain old telephone service (POTS) delivered over twisted pair copper wire to fiber to the premises (FTTP) all signal that wireline telecommunications is undergoing a paradigm shift.

The transition is away from the single purpose voice telephone and cable TV systems of the past to Internet-protocol based telecommunications infrastructure capable of delivering various media including high speed Internet connectivity, voice and video.

This paradigm shift is rendering the debate at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and elsewhere over what constitutes broadband Internet increasingly irrelevant. What's gaining importance isn't the download and upload speeds that have dominated the debate over defining broadband but rather how to ensure these various IP-based services can be reliably and economically delivered to end users.

That takes a new and improved telecommunications infrastructure. This emerging IP-based infrastructure and the business models that can most rapidly deploy and support it is what truly deserve attention going forward. The pointless back and forth over how to define broadband keeps the conversation oriented retrospectively to the 1990s instead of where it needs to be: forward into the 21st century.


Carol Anne said...

I respectfully demur with your point. The core issue is--irrespective of technology--who control the communications infrastructure.

Just as war is too important to be left to generals, telecommunications is too important to be left to the executives of telecomm companies who manipulate the levers to maximize the benefit to themselves, not their customers and not the nation.

The FCC's proposed regulations for net neutrality are a case in point: So long as telecomms can extort money for "more bandwidth" (when their amortized costs are $0), and try to get paid by BOTH parties in the connection, they will continue to reduce quality and quantity of service (what you see as bandwidth).

Frankly, I don't care if my telecomm service is created with 12 Billion little green gnomes passing bit-buckets up and down the chain, so long as I get low-cost and totally unfetterered 100 MB/s to the doorstep.

Fred Pilot said...

There is no space between us here. I pointed out we need to consider the best business models to rapidly deploy the necessary infrastructure to support next generation IP-based telecommunications services. You are correct in suggesting that investor owned telecom companies may not be the best choice in that regard, which is why we should pursue alternative business models such as nonprofit consumer owned telecommunications cooperatives.

In the early part of the 20th century, these coops emerged when the investor owned business model -- which by nature must put the interests of its shareholders ahead of those of their customers -- wasn't able to economically provide large areas of the U.S. with basic phone service.

Web Analytics