Monday, August 26, 2013

Pew Internet survey flawed by badly outdated, retro perspective

With the relentless pace of Internet bandwidth demand growth to support multiple services including video, voice and Web-based services as well as a portable devices used in the home, there is near consensus that only fiber to the premises infrastructure will be able to accommodate the demand going forward.

That’s why I’m taken aback to continue to see surveys such as this one issued today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that take a decidedly retrospective view of telecommunications services with their late 1990s distinction between narrowband (dialup) Internet connectivity and “high speed” broadband connections. 

Dialup service is obsolete and can no longer be considered a useful form of premises Internet connectivity. Had this survey been done in 2000 when the distinction between narrowband and broadband was still relevant, the distinction might have meant something. In 2013, it is a distinction without a difference. 

The other major contextual problem with a survey like this is it concentrates only on computer-based services such as Web browsing and email. That’s also a major flaw in the survey. The Internet now delivers video and voice services including applications such as online learning, videoconferencing and telemedicine – none of which are truly usable via a dialup service.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why We Should Build a National Internet System Under the National Highway System - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities

Why We Should Build a National Internet System Under the National Highway System - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities: The National Broadband Plan of 2009, for instance, was mostly limited to policy recommendations and failed to encourage competition (which explains why incumbent providers like it so much). Proposed legislation requiring highway projects to install broadband conduit hasn't made it too far. The Obama Administration did issue an executive order last year calling for a "dig once" [PDF] policy to help promote broadband-highway coupling, but that still relies on private enterprise to do what it hasn't done to date: lay fiber everywhere.

So why not make the whole national internet system a public one, like the national highway system before it? At a time when elected officials are struggling to find a truly federal transportation goal, the concept might serve as a welcome rallying point. The government could sell some of its broadcast spectrum to foot the bill, but the user-pay model could probably work well, too — especially since people don't suffer the illusion that Internet access is free, unlike they do with roads.

"There is a really interesting parallel between transportation and broadband," says Lennett. "In the 20th century we needed to move cars, and in the 21st century we need to move bits.

Governments Should Focus on Infrastructure Despite False Statistics Peddled by NY Times and Others | community broadband networks

Governments Should Focus on Infrastructure Despite False Statistics Peddled by NY Times and Others | community broadband networks

Excellent commentary by Christopher Mitchell. A must read.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Satellite broadband: can it light up the UK's broadband blackspots? | News | TechRadar

Satellite broadband: can it light up the UK's broadband blackspots? | News | TechRadar: Due to the distance the signal travels, latencies never dropped below 700ms and hovered around the 800ms mark. Even with predictive caching that makes web browsing speedy, there's always that near-second delay traversing pages. It's not annoying enough to stop you browsing, but it just doesn't feel as snappy as a landline internet connection.
Despite new sooper dooper "Surfbeam" technology, latency remains sub par as this story shows and bandwidth is costly and rationed. This item appeared the same day as this ridiculous story on Google's O3b satellite venture that will supposedly provide 1 gigabit speeds via medium orbit satellites. And at latencies of less than 150 milliseconds, according to this IDG News Service account.

I'm not buying it. Satellite Internet sucks, period. It cannot support reliable voice or real time video connections or provide a high quality Internet connectivity user experience. Google should scuttle this misadventure and instead partner with community fiber projects instead of perpetuating this substandard Internet connection scheme to as a poor substitute to badly needed fiber to the premise infrastructure. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

California unlikely to subsidize community fiber Internet infrastructure over near term

The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) construction subsidy fund for Internet infrastructure won’t likely help offset the cost of building community owned fiber to the premise networks.

The CPUC’s California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) limits grant and loan subsidies to infrastructure projects that would serve either an “unserved area,” defined in CPUC Decision 12-02-015 as not served by any form of wireline or wireless facilities-based broadband such that Internet connectivity is available only through dial-up service or an “underserved” area defined as an “where broadband is available, but no facilities-based provider offers service meeting the benchmark speeds of at least three megabits per second (mbps) download and at least one mbps upload.” The CPUC retroactively revised the definition in 2012 resolutions T-17362 and T-17369 as areas “where broadband is available, but no wireline or wireless facilities-based provider offers service at advertised speeds of at least 6 mbps download and 1.5 mbps upload.”

Under either definition, both fixed and mobile wireless providers could block CASF funding of a community fiber project. And under the definition adopted in the 2012 resolutions, they wouldn’t even have to actually provide service to an area. They could merely claim they advertised service there at the specified 6/1.5 Mbs speeds.

Senate Bill 740, legislation re-authorizing the CASF that’s making its way to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown incorporates by reference the definitions of unserved and undeserved areas in Decision 12-02-015.

The bill would also give incumbent wireline providers that have not built out their networks to serve all premises effective veto power over any community-based project to reach underserved households -- typically those in areas out of reach of DSL or cable Internet service or having access to slow DSL in areas where aging, poor quality copper cable plant (illustrated in the photo below) cannot support higher speeds. The bill bars funding of these projects “until after any existing facilities-based provider has an opportunity to demonstrate to the commission that it will, within a reasonable timeframe, upgrade existing service.” 

"Reasonable timeframe" isn’t defined in the bill and thus would likely be defined by incumbent telcos that told regulators and consumers since the early 2000s that they were building out their DSL service to reach them. (They’re still waiting more than a decade later, providing an operative definition of what's reasonable). The bill would also give incumbent telcos and cablecos the ability to stymie community fiber projects built by local governments simply by applying for CASF funding.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The rural "digital divide" isn't the same in UK, US

Millions miss-out as Britain's broadband divide reaches record levels - Yahoo! Finance UK: Telecoms regulator Ofcom warned the difference between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' would also get worse before it gets better as telecom and pay-TV giants focus investment on next generation "superfast" fibre networks in Britain's biggest towns.

Figures revealed by Ofcom today showed the average internet connection speed in urban areas is now 26.4Mb per second. In rural areas it's just 9.9Mb. Rural speeds have more than doubled since 2011 but households in the countryside now trail city dwellers by an unprecedented 16.5Mb per second.
Americans living in rural, quasi-rural and exurban locales and stuck with dialup or satellite or forced to make do with costly, data capped mobile broadband for their premises Internet service would find this account puzzling. For them, having access to nearly 10Mbs throughput would hardly be considered deprivation at the present time.
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