Thursday, September 24, 2015

U.S. facing telecom infrastructure crisis due to poor policies and planning, according to new book

A generation ago, it became clear that telecommunications was shifting to the Internet. However, as a nation, the United States failed to build the infrastructure to reliably support and deliver it to all Americans.

Today, the nation is paying the price for its lack of an orderly transition plan to move from legacy metal cable systems designed to support the analog voice telephone and cable television service of decades past to fiber optic-based infrastructure optimized for the Internet in the 21st century.

According to a new eBook, Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, the United States – the nation that innovated the Internet – now stands at least two decades behind where it should be and requires a crash federal infrastructure initiative to catch up.

In much of the nation, many locations have no Internet service options due to inadequate infrastructure -- and have little prospect of obtaining service in the foreseeable future. According to the U.S Federal Communications Commission, as of 2015 approximately 55 million Americans – about 17 percent of the population -- live in areas unserved for basic Internet service capable of supporting high-quality voice, data, graphics and video. Meanwhile, demand for Internet bandwidth is growing exponentially as U.S. residential and business premises use multiple Internet-connected devices, straining the capacity of legacy landline infrastructure and wireless services.

Consequently, the nation now faces a telecommunications infrastructure crisis. As time passes, the crisis deepens as Americans grow increasingly reliant upon robust and reliable Internet connectivity that only fiber can accommodate now and into the future.

Just as the interstate highway system supported commerce in the twentieth century, the United States needs an information highway bringing fiber connections to all Americans no matter where they live in the information-based economy of the new century.

Authored by longtime telecommunications blogger Frederick L. Pilot, Service Unavailable drew praise from Michael Copps, who served on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from 2001 through 2011:

“Pilot digs deep in the facts and emerges with a spot-on, realistic assessment of America's stultifying broadband shortfall,” Copps wrote in a foreword to the book. “He shows how two decades of federal inaction permitted huge telecom incumbents to ration scarcity rather than build bandwidth abundance. And he demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that without a true national mission to build this essential infrastructure, we will continue to stifle economic opportunity for millions of citizens and shackle America's global economic performance, too.”

Service Unavailable is offered through and iBooks.

Aging legacy copper infrastructure isn't solely a regulatory issue

Regulatory Relief Would Speed FCC’s Broadband Deployment Goals | USTelecom: Removing barriers to investment is a concrete action the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can take to accelerate broadband deployment, USTelecom said in recent comments responding to an inquiry on the state of broadband availability. To that end, the commission should approve USTelecom’s forbearance petition requesting Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) be relieved of directing investment to legacy telephone networks and allowed to redirect that money to next-generation broadband networks. USTelecom said its member companies are required to invest in legacy networks that soon will become obsolete while other broadband providers- cable, wireless, and competitive fiber providers do not have this requirement, and that forbearance relief for ILECs would help the FCC achieve its goal of deploying broadband to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.

This isn't a problem caused solely by regulatory requirements. Rather, it's a train wreck borne of poor policy and planning. Had an orderly plan to migrate from copper-based legacy telephone service to fiber-based Internet protocol-based telecommunications been put in place and executed starting two decades ago, the United States would not be in the current dire situation where legacy copper plant is literally rotting on the the poles. As it does, it grows increasingly less reliable to support voice telephone service -- and emergency call response -- in areas where the copper has not been replaced by fiber -- as well as copper-based DSL where it is offered.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Germany promises 50Mbps broadband for all, 10 times faster than global average

Germany promises 50Mbps broadband for all, 10 times faster than global average: As around 70 percent of Germany is already connected to networks of 50Mbps or faster, it will be a relatively ‘cheap’ task to connect the final 30 percent. The German government is putting aside €2.7 billion for the project, but will be looking for matched funding from local providers who will benefit from extending the reach of high-speed broadband networks.

“The German Federation will contribute up to 50 percent of the costs. A combination with development programs provided by German states is possible and can offer a further 40 percent of financing. The community would then have to provide the remaining 10 percent,” a spokesperson said.

The implicit policy assumption here is that by providing generous federal government and German state contributions along with a minor (10 percent) community contribution, the incumbent providers will have incentive to undertake Internet infrastructure construction and modernization.

The economics don't work out quite the same way in the United States. Unlike Germany, it isn't "relatively cheap" to build telecommunications infrastructure to reach the 55 million Americans who according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission aren't offered service meeting even half Germany's benchmark. Instead of an ambitious initiative to bring fiber to nearly all American premises, U.S. policy is to provide small subsidies to incumbent telephone companies to build one off, 1990s-era DSL projects using existing copper outside plant serving small numbers of premises that don't even meet the FCC's benchmark and are already obsolete given burgeoning Internet bandwidth demand.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

FCC's Sohn: Forget Incumbents, Build Your Own Broadband Networks | DSLReports, ISP Information

FCC's Sohn: Forget Incumbents, Build Your Own Broadband Networks | DSLReports, ISP Information: Don't wait for incumbent ISPs to build networks in uncompetitive areas, build your own networks. That was the message from FCC staffer Gigi Sohn at the NATOA Annual Conference in San Diego this week, ironically just days before Google announced that San Diego will likely be an upcoming Google Fiber launch market. According to Sohn cities tired about lackluster, uncompetitive service now have the power to do something about it.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission's call to localities to "build your own" Internet telecommunications infrastructure likely coincides with its apparent policy not to immediately enforce its recently adopted Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Notwithstanding that the FCC's order and rulemaking specifically declined to forbear enforcement of the law's anti-redlining universal service provision at Section 254(b)(3) requiring ISPs to provide access to advanced telecommunications in all regions of the nation.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hyper local view of Internet telecom infrastructure misguided, reinforces network access disparities

City Broadband Plans: One Vision, Four Markets, Four Issues | Benton Foundation: My message today is simple: every city needs its own broadband plan.

At one time, I would have agreed with this statement by Blair Levin, who wrote the 2010 U.S. "National Broadband Plan" while serving on the staff of the Federal Communications Commission. I even went as far as paraphrasing the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill by declaring "all broadband is local" on this blog.

I no longer hold that view. It's not just about "broadband" in a given municipality or as is more often the case, a particular neighborhood. Instead, the truly important issue is ubiquitous Internet telecommunications infrastructure in keeping with the FCC's recent reclassification of Internet service as a common carrier utility. And that infrastructure is fundamentally interstate -- much like the federally funded interstate highway system -- and global. In that regard, it's not directly comparable to the municipal and cooperative electric power systems created in the early 20th century that generated and distributed power consumed locally. The Internet is a telecommunications network that reaches far beyond the borders of a given city or town and whose true value is recognized by Metcalfe's Law, which holds a network increases in utility as more users are added to it. In short, it's all about the network and not "broadband" or discrete "gigabit cities."

The hyper-local focus on this essential infrastructure for the 21st century is well meaning and understandable in the absence of strong federal leadership and support. But it's also misguided and dangerous because it serves to reinforce incremental thinking and Internet infrastructure disparities that have plagued the nation for a generation. It's also unrealistic to expect local governments to shoulder the financial burden as they continue to deal with the adverse impacts of the 2008 economic downturn and are strapped to fix crumbling roads, schools, sewer and water infrastructure and fund enormous public pension obligations.

If it is to realize the full value of the Internet, the United States should instead adopt a bold, wholistic and robustly funded national Internet infrastructure initiative to bring fiber infrastructure to all homes, businesses and institutions.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Cable companies facing enormous shifts in market, regulatory environments

Cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner and others are facing enormous shifts in the market and regulatory environment that are likely to prove very challenging to navigate going forward. Earlier this year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission subjected cable companies to Title II of the Communications Act in its Open Internet rulemaking deeming Internet service providers -- cable companies top the list measured by total customer premises served -- common carrier telecommunications utility providers under Title II. 

That's hugely incompatible with cable's business model based on offering subscriptions to bundles of TV channels to selected -- and not all -- customer premises in their service areas. At the same time as this regulatory sea change is occurring, the marketplace is also being disrupted as consumers increasingly shun these offerings.

Cable's subscription-based model is far better suited to the FCC's previously adopted classification of Internet service as a specialized information service -- and the cablecos' market positioning of themselves as entertainment and not telecommunications providers. Now it's gone except in the unlikely event the courts step in and restore it. Meanwhile, consumers are turning elsewhere for video entertainment.

Gov. Beshear, Rep. Rogers launch statewide broadband network – The Ohio County Monitor

Gov. Beshear, Rep. Rogers launch statewide broadband network – The Ohio County Monitor: Reliable, high-speed Internet is coming to every county of the state, and supporters say the broadband project will be the key catalyst for profound and sweeping growth in job creation, health access and education.

To celebrate the construction of the statewide KentuckyWired, I-Way broadband network, Gov. Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers, state and local officials and hundreds of citizens gathered at Hazard Community and Technical College to learn more about KentuckyWired and how Kentucky’s future will benefit from broadband.

The broadband project will begin in eastern Kentucky and over the next three years will spread throughout the state.

*  *  *

The leaders also called on communities and local providers to get ready for the project by preparing the “last mile,” or the Internet hookups from the broadband “highway” to homes and businesses. (Emphasis added)

It's one thing to build middle mile Internet infrastructure such as the project reported here. But the value of that middle mile infrastructure can only be fully realized when it connects homes, businesses and institutions via last mile infrastructure. Merely issuing calls to communities and local providers to build it is no assurance that last mile infrastructure be constructed in a timely manner, particularly given the business model and financial challenges. There needs to be a holistic plan to build a complete telecommunications system. Otherwise there's the very real risk of ongoing Internet access disparities as I previously commented.
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