Friday, November 27, 2015

Lifeline Internet access first requires universal service -- and FCC not enforcing

L.A. County backs plan to ensure Internet access for seniors and the poor - LA Times: Undergirding the county leaders' support for expanding the lifeline programs is the increasing prevalence of digital technology in the economy and social programs.

"Technology is a key component of our economy, and it is unconscionable that so many county residents lack access to broadband," said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-wrote the motion passed Tuesday by the board. "These individuals are being marginalized and ignored."

The policy expressed here is Internet service is now as vital as telephone service was before it. Hence per the position adopted by the county, it too requires a "lifeline" rate subsidy for lower income households to ensure universal access. However, before there can be universal access, there must be universal service.

Early this year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission adopted its Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet service as a common carrier telecommunications utility service like telephone service. That legal classification under the Communications Act includes a universal service obligation on providers to offer Internet service to any household requesting it. But thus far, the FCC has shown no inclination to enforce the rule, which became effective in June.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Telecom infrastructure is interstate; crash federal modernization program needed

Senator Wants Transparency in Federal Broadband Grants: King sent the letter after his office was contacted by several rural Maine residents who want to know if their neighborhoods will receive broadband service or if their existing service will be upgraded as a result of the subsidies. He didn’t have an answer for them.

“High-speed broadband is a gateway to opportunity in the 21st century, but today, too many people in rural Maine lack adequate access – and that’s not fair to them or to our state’s economic future,” King said Monday. “The FCC’s Connect America Fund can help change this, but to be successful, every dollar must be spent efficiently, effectively and in a transparent way.”

As long as the United States limits its thinking to discrete neighborhoods and "rural and community broadband," modernizing and building out its telecommunications infrastructure will prove to be a frustratingly slow and inscrutable process as Senator King's constituents are experiencing.

Telecommunications is interstate and so is the infrastructure that delivers it. Instead of tinkering at the edges, the nation should instead engage in its signature big thinking and undertake a bold crash program to ensure every American home, small business and vital institution has a fiber optic connection to the Internet. Senator King's constituents and those of every other American representative have waited long enough.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fiber to the premise can't accurately be described as "on fire" in U.S.

Fiber to the Home Council : Blogs : Survey Says: Speedy Fiber Changing the Way We Use the Internet: Washington, DC (November 16, 2015) – The Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council Americas has released the results of a survey by RVA, LLC showing that fiber deployments in the United States grew 13 percent in 2015.

“From our survey of North American broadband providers, we’ve found that fiber to the home deployment has continued to grow steadily and 2015 marks the second biggest year for expansion since the technology became available,” said Michael Render, President of RVA, LLC. “The industry is poised for substantial growth over the next five years.”

“Fiber’s on fire in the U.S.,” said Heather Burnett Gold, President of the FTTH Council. “Now, nearly one fifth of the world’s fiber connections are here in the United States. Offering faster speeds and better reliability, fiber sells itself.”

Fiber to the premise (FTTP) Internet service could hardly be described as "on fire" in the United States with some 55 million Americans living in areas of the nation lacking infrastructure capable of supporting high-quality voice, data, graphics and video (i.e. FTTP service) according to a U.S. Federal Communications Commission assessment issued earlier this year. And with slim prospects of obtaining such service in the foreseeable, they would rightfully laugh ruefully at such outlandish claims as overstated hype.

Vermont's failure to ensure universal premise Internet service demonstrates need for national telecom infrastructure initiative

Some Vermonters Are Still Stranded In A Broadband 'Wilderness' | Vermont Public Radio: The importance of good broadband for work and education has been stated many times. Yet, as many clamor for faster speeds, there are hundreds of Vermonters still without anything the state considers broadband service.

* * *

Most have satellite broadband but aren’t satisfied with it. They say at
the prices they’re willing or able to pay, slower speeds and limits on
downloads keep them from doing much more than checking email.

* * *

But nearly two years after Gov. Shumlin’s self-imposed deadline for providing broadband to every address in Vermont, there are still those who are stuck in the wilderness.

This situation isn't likely to change in Vermont and other states anytime soon unless as I discuss in my recent book Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, the federal government steps in with an aggressive and well funded national telecommunications infrastructure initiative. Given how far the nation has fallen behind in the generation since the Internet came into popular use, a crash program is needed to catch up.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mobile wireless service won't solve America's telecommunications infrastructure crisis

Congress Seeks to Bolster Nation’s Broadband: (TNS) -- A draft bill making the rounds among Senate lawmakers would require selling even more airwaves than initially agreed to in the recent budget deal.

The language is part of a proposal that would move forward several bipartisan efforts aimed at boosting high-speed Internet access nationwide. The wide-ranging discussion draft bill in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee comes after a series of hearings in recent weeks by the committee and its House counterpart where Republicans and Democrats have called for auctioning government-held airwaves to the private sector to increase the amount of wireless spectrum available to carry voice and data over the air. (Emphasis added)

"Boosting high-speed Internet access nationwide" isn't solely about mobile wireless as this story suggests. The biggest component of the United States' Internet access problem is landline-delivered premise -- and not mobile -- service. According to a U.S Federal Communications Commission estimate issued earlier this year, 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. Meeting this need requires fiber to the premise infrastructure. It can't be served by mobile wireless services alone because they can't offer adequate bandwidth to meet premise needs given the multiple connected devices used in the home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Last-Ditch Attempt to Start a 5th U.S. Telecom

A Last-Ditch Attempt to Start a 5th U.S. Telecom: Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, said on Tuesday that he intends to build an American mobile carrier called Rama. It’s good timing—the window for building a fifth major American telecom is closing, and soon, it may not be possible anymore.

* * *

Even if Rama ends up winning the spectrum it needs, it faces an uphill
battle. First, the company will have to start the slow and expensive
process of actually building the towers and infrastructure that make up a
wireless network. Palihapitiya said he wants to use “microcells,” or
tiny cell towers installed on people’s homes, to help build the network
quickly and provide better coverage. (Emphasis added)

The apparent strategy here is to use telco and cableco residential landline to backhaul the microcells. That of course will generate strong resistance from the large incumbent telcos and cablecos that also play or want to play in the mobile wireless space and prompt them to put restrictions in their residential service contracts disallowing the use of premise Internet service to support commercial mobile networks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Massachusetts town case in point why federal government (and not state and local government) should finance telecommunications infrastructure

Montgomery voters reject high speed internet | Monday night, more than 200 residents voted on whether to connect every Montgomery home to the World Wide Web as part of the “wired west movement.” Wired west is an initiative to connect all under-served Massachusetts communities to a high speed fiber. The state covers 35% of
the cost, with the town having to cover the rest.

*  *  *
Only 140 people came out to vote on this issue last June, and it was rejected. A group of residents petitioned to hold another vote.

“It’s been difficult, for example I work at home, I’ve had problems with the speed of the internet. It’s actually affected my ability to run my business out of my home so that’s been a frustration,” said Sonia Ellis, a Montgomery resident.

128 people were for high speed internet while 103 were against it, but It required a two thirds majority. The project would have required the town to pay more than $600-thousand.

This is a case in point showing that relying on state and local government to finance the construction of universal fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure isn't good public policy. Many billions of dollars are needed to ensure every American home and small business has an FTTP connection that they should have had by 2010 but for the absence of sound policy and planning. As I argue in my recent eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, it's a job that requires the federal government to fund like building roads and highways in the pre-Internet era.

Bath Twp. man battles for broadband connection |

Bath Twp. man battles for broadband connection | Malogorski wants to be able to show photos and videos of his work to the world online, but he has been struggling to get reliable broadband internet service for himself and his neighbors for years.

“I can’t figure out why we’re living in this hub of technology for the Midwest — Wright-Patt is the most important employer around here, so it’s very technically oriented. It doesn’t make any sense that we don’t have it,” said Malogorski, who lives on Ohio 4 between Upper Valley Road and Bath Road.

“Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is right beyond the treeline across the four-lane highway,” he said as he stood in his front yard pointing to the base, then the utility pole on his property, with AT&T and Time Warner Cable lines clearly visible above him.
This is a common example of telecommunications infrastructure disparities in the United States. Oftentimes people are located close to existing infrastructure that doesn't extend to their neighborhoods, discrediting the notion that rural areas lack infrastructure. They do have infrastructure. It's just arrayed in an incomplete, vexing crazy quilt of small "footprints" of neighborhoods with landline service and those without. That situation remains unlikely to change given the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's lack of enforcement of its policy adopted in 2015 classifying Internet service as a common carrier utility and thus mandating providers fill in the unserved pockets.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Combining two flawed subsidy programs won’t build FTTP infrastructure

Fellow blogger Steve Blum of Tellus Venture Associates suggests coordinating the U.S Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) Internet telecom infrastructure construction subsidies with a state subsidy program administered by the California Public Utilities Commission to multiply the amount of money available for such projects. (See Blum's blog post here)

Combining two fundamentally flawed subsidy programs, however, won’t produce a beneficial result considering the underlying weakness of both. Each is primarily structured to subsidize bandwidth, not infrastructure. They do so by defining subsidy eligible areas based on existing low bandwidth levels supported and delivered by legacy infrastructure rather than subsidizing the construction of modern fiber to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure in high cost areas. If an incumbent provider is providing that minimum bandwidth level, the area is deemed ineligible. That furthers the goal of the legacy telephone and cable companies to preserve the status quo by making it more difficult for others to finance FTTP builds in their service territories.

This is a key shortcoming because the primary problem in California and the nation is outdated and inadequate telecom infrastructure that needs to be replaced with FTTP infrastructure. Also, incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are not motivated to construct FTTP infrastructure in high cost areas regardless of the availability of subsidies. Their business strategy is to focus on more profitable mobile wireless services and on cherry picking high end private communities and parts of low cost, urbanized areas for very limited FTTP builds.
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