Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Telcos’ copper cable plants deteriorate with no clear plans to replace them with fiber

A crisis affecting Americans who obtain premises telecommunications services (Internet, voice, and video) from legacy telephone companies has been slowly unfolding over the past 10 years. 

These companies’ copper cable plants are growing very aged and nearing the end of their useful lives with no clear plan to replace them with fiber optic cables.

The problem has worsened in the past decade as telcos have concentrated their infrastructure investments on mobile wireless services while all but ignoring their deteriorating landline cable plants. Much of it is in such poor condition that it can’t deliver any Internet connectivity or only marginally at sluggish speeds.

One strategy going forward is to sell as AT&T is doing with its Connecticut residential landline unit. However, in parts of telcos’ service territories where the copper cable plant is ancient and a fully depreciated asset, it’s questionable as to what value any potential buyer would see in such a deal.

A possible path to resolution of this crisis could come later this year if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission opts to subject Internet protocol-based services to common carrier and universal service requirements under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.

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