Friday, December 23, 2016

The legacy telco communications strategy to shift focus away from infrastructure deficiencies

Understanding the Broadband Adoption Gap | USTelecom: And most Americans have chosen to take advantage of widely available internet service. According to NTIA’s data, the share of American households using the internet at home has risen from 26 percent (27 million households) in 1998 to 73 percent (92 million households) in 2015. The share of households in which someone uses Internet anywhere—at home or in other locations such as a school, a library, or a workplace—is now at 79 percent, Yet, 33 million U.S. households (27 percent) still do not use the internet at home. Government data suggests (link is external) that the gap between rural and urban area internet usage has remained stubbornly constant at anywhere from 6 to 9 percentage points. In 2015, 69 percent of rural residents reported being online, compared to 75 percent of urban residents. 
This is part of a continued push by the telephone company trade group to shift the focus away from modernizing America's outdated, metallic telecommunications infrastructure to fiber to the premise (FTTP). The strategy is to shift time back 15 to 20 years when consumers were first using Internet protocol-based advanced telecommunications services to "go online" to access email and websites via dialup and later "broadband" Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service. That glosses over the fact that IP provides other modes of telecommunications including video and voice in addition to these applications. Legacy telcos also like to conflate mobile wireless service with premise service to distract from landline infrastructure deficiencies.

Why the propaganda campaign? Because as the nation's crisis of inadequate telecom infrastructure deepens and grows more urgent, pressure builds for public policy solutions that could seriously disrupt the industry as it lacks the resources to address the infrastructure gaps. Lacking the financial resources, all the industry can do is to attempt to reframe the issue in an attempt to ward off any disruptive policy changes.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

State "Connect" efforts symbolic, fail to address U.S. telecom infrastructure deficiencies

Yemassee, Furman to get new fire trucks | The Hampton County Guardian: According to Connect South Carolina's website, the non-profit organization’s mission is to increase high-speed Internet access, adoption and use to diversify the economy and ensure South Carolina's competitiveness in the connected global economy of the 21st Century, the website states. Connect South Carolina was commissioned by the Office of the Governor to work with each of the state's broadband providers to create detailed maps of broadband coverage and to assess the current state of broadband adoption, community-by-community, across South Carolina. Connect South Carolina will continue to develop and update broadband data over time, ensuring state policymakers and citizens alike are equipped with important information. Connect South Carolina's efforts are funded by the United States Department of Commerce's State Broadband Initiative (SBI) Grant Program through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. More information is available at
This exemplifies the misguided and misleading "Connect" response throughout the United States to the nation's telecommunications infrastructure deficit. It is predicated on a lack of information as the source of the deficit. Gathering information about deficient infrastructure as well as use of existing telecommunications infrastructure isn't going to remedy the deficits. But policymakers have endorsed the approach because it gives the appearance of doing something about them.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Federal government must take lead on U.S. telecom infrastructure modernization

Under Trump, look to cities and metros to power America forward | Brookings Institution: As Republicans begin to exercise relatively unchecked executive and legislative power, it remains to be seen how they will interact with core tenets of our country’s federalist arrangement. The Trump administration and the Republican legislature should recognize that many essential public functions can only realistically be provided by the federal government. Washington must lead in promoting American interests overseas, providing a safety net for the elderly and disadvantaged, protecting civil rights, maintaining environmental and regulatory standards, and funding basic science and research. If the Republican-led federal government relinquishes these responsibilities, our country will undoubtedly suffer.

But on many other matters that determine our country’s future prosperity and shared growth—the vitality of our businesses, the education of our children, the quality of our infrastructure, the vibrancy of our public spaces, and the skills of our workers—Washington is a junior investor and partial decider. Of every public dollar spent on K-12 education and transportation infrastructure, for example, the federal government invests only 12 cents and 25 cents, respectively. These small contributions are also likely to decline further as our nation’s elderly population grows and spending on healthcare and retirement programs rises.

Relying on local governments to fill in the innumerable gaps in modern fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure is folly. State and local government budgets were decimated in the 2008 economic crisis and it's taking years to fully recover. They also have a pressing need to modernize other aging infrastructure such as roads, schools, and sewer and water systems. Not to mention the enormous burden of health care benefits and public employee pension obligations.

Telecommunications infrastructure is fundamentally interstate and international and not municipal. Replacing yesterday's metallic infrastructure designed to support voice telephone and cable television service with fiber optic infrastructure to support today's Internet-based telecommunications requires many billions of dollars of investment state and local governments cannot fund. The federal government -- not state and local government -- must take the lead as the senior investor.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AT&T official rejects comparison between today's telecom infrastructure gaps and electric power disparties of 1930s

Arkansas Cooperatives Apply Rural Electrification Model to Internet Access | Arkansas Business News | Cooperatives around the country, he said, are comparing providing broadband to bringing electricity to rural residents in the 1930s, calling it the next necessity for rural America. For-profit providers disagree with the rural electrification analogy. Ed Drilling, president of AT&T’s Arkansas Division, said internet is different because there was a guarantee in the 1930s that every resident would buy electricity and pay a usage-based price for it, while only 30 percent might buy broadband access and pay a fixed-rate price for it.

There is a clear parallel here to another failed market: individual health insurance. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act employs a similar guarantee -- the individual shared responsibility mandate that everyone have some form of health coverage -- in exchange for health plan issuers agreeing to provide coverage to whomever applies for it without medical underwriting. That is intended to remedy market failure on both the sell and buy sides by effectively forcing sellers and buyers together.

The AT&T official stops short of suggesting a requirement that every premise take service in exchange for halting current market practice by AT&T and other investor-owned telecom providers that cherry picks some areas while redlining others within their nominal service territories -- market conduct that's now illegal under the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet rulemaking.

AT&T is correct that the electrical distribution infrastructure deficits of the early 20th century differ from the telecommunications infrastructure gaps of 2016. Back then, electrical distribution infrastructure was largely concentrated in urban areas, leaving entire rural regions unserved and in the dark. A major difference is today's Internet-based telecommunications infrastructure is deployed in rural areas but in a very granular and arbitrary manner that leaves one neighborhood or even part of a road or street unserved or poorly served while an adjacent one has decent access.

Doug Dawson's policy Rx for telecom infrastructure

A couple of telecom policy prescriptions from fellow blogger Doug Dawson that make a lot of sense:

A New Telecom Act? | POTs and PANs: Fund Fiber Everywhere. There was recently a bill introduced in Congress to add $50M to the RUS for rural broadband grants. That makes such a tiny dent in the problem as to be embarrassing. If we believe as a country that broadband is essential for our economic future, then let’s do what other countries have done and start a federal program to build fiber everywhere, from rural America to inner cities. I could write a week’s worth of blogs about how this could be done, but it needs to be done. 
Dawson's spot on here. Under current public policy (the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet regulations), Internet telecommunications is considered a common carrier public utility with a universal access mandate like Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) for decades beforehand. But de facto policy is to grant an effective franchise to dominant legacy telephone and cable companies to operate in limited "footprints," negating universal service. Dawson's also right on in criticizing pathetically underfunded and largely symbolic efforts to create a "public option" for telecommunications infrastructure. The United States can't do the job by setting aside millions for infrastructure that costs billions to construct and operate.

Stop Subsidizing Non-Broadband. It should be impossible for the FCC to provide any funding or subsidies to broadband connections that don’t meet their own definition of what constitutes broadband speeds.
Again, Dawson hits on a huge disconnect between de jure and de facto public policy on telecom infrastructure. It makes no sense to waste money on technology that's obsolete the day it's deployed such as the FCC's 2015 high cost area subsidy program rules allowing funding of technology that was state of the art in 2005. I would go even further than Dawson's proposal in suggesting abandoning the fixation with "broadband speed" altogether and instead defining all premise telecom infrastructure as fiber optic technology.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Incumbent "fight the future" propaganda agenda: Keep calendar fixed at year 2000, lower expectations

Understanding the Broadband Adoption Gap | USTelecom: Some 26 million households (21 percent) are never online. To bring these remaining 33 million non-internet households online, price and affordability have been the more common levers that advocates and government have used. However, less than a quarter (24 percent) of the 33 million non-internet homes cite price as the main reason they don’t have access at home.

More than half (55 percent) of these non-internet households say they don’t need the internet or have no interest in Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Pandora and the myriad other apps and services available online. That’s more than twice the number of households that say they can’t afford internet services.

These digital “don’t cares” are a much tougher segment to address through industry and government programs focused on price and affordability. Instead, programs must also focus on demonstrating that internet is relevant and useful to these consumers. USTelecom supports programs aimed at closing the digital divide and bringing more Americans online. In recent comments to the Commerce Department, USTelecom suggested more research needs to be done on why consumers aren’t going online. Digital literacy is significantly under-studied and federal researchers should focus on those issues, ideally in partnership with experts who work with the unconnected.

This is more of the same tired incumbent propaganda aimed at keeping the calendar fixed circa 2000 when the Internet meant "going online" to visit websites and get email. Legacy incumbent telephone companies know that Internet protocol-based technology supports not only these services but also voice and video residential premise services. That however requires modernizing their infrastructures from metal wires to fiber optic lines to reliably deliver them -- something their CAPex averse business models won't allow.

That reality motivates their "fight the future" strategy designed to lower expectations and attempt to shift blame to tepid consumer demand when in fact America's telecommunications infrastructure deficiencies and disparities are due to market failure on the sell side. Closely related to keeping the focus on "broadband adoption" is the fixation on "broadband speeds." That supports a retro oriented mindset since having adequate bandwidth was necessary to access online services in the early days of the Internet as well as the unit-based, consumption billing models employed in the days of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

AT&T’s bifurcated, speculative strategy on residential telecom service

AT&T has adopted a bifurcated and highly speculative future strategy for its residential premise telecommunications market segment that treats a small portion of it like a specialized business market for its fiber to the premise (FTTP) service while serving other residential customers with a mix of wireless technologies.

AT&T Fiber is primarily aimed at business premises and multi-family buildings and not single family homes. The company is phasing out its legacy U-Verse service that blends fiber to neighborhood distribution equipment with copper from the era of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) – metallic infrastructure it is anxious to retire as quickly as possible to avoid the cost of maintaining it. In its place AT&T is relying on proven and unproven radio-based technologies.

In some high cost areas of its U.S. service territory, AT&T recently announced it would construct infrastructure designed to deliver fixed residential premise service as part of upgrading its mobile wireless service to 4G LTE technology. However, that infrastructure will be obsolete the day it’s installed, not even close to approaching what the U.S. Federal Communications Commission considers service capable of supporting high-quality voice, data, graphics and video. It’s essentially a bolt on afterthought to a 4G LTE mobile wireless service upgrade that will likely bog down during peak periods as its shared bandwidth becomes saturated with heavy, multi-premise demand.

As for the unproven radio-based technology that’s still in the development phase, AT&T recently announced its experimental “Project AirGig” technology. It will utilize antennas mounted atop utility poles to transmit millimeter wave signals from pole to pole. It taps into those signals to feed premise service based on 4G (or more optimally, AT&T’s still under development 5G wireless technology.) The service will apparently be similar to electrical power distribution architecture where current from high voltage transmission lines on the tops of poles is stepped down by a transformer before it flows into a home. This service in theory would be capable of meeting the FCC’s minimum service standard. But at this point, it’s largely speculative and leaves much of AT&T’s residential market segment with no clear and certain future path as its legacy copper cable POTS plant rots on the poles.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Incumbent bellyaching over "unfair competition" from public sector fails straight face test

Rural areas in Marion County could still get broadband access | Times Free Press: JASPER, Tenn. — Like many local governments across Tennessee, Marion County leaders have been pushing for a couple of years to change state laws that restrict municipal utilities like EPB's gigabit internet, TV, and phone services from expanding beyond current borders. EPB has petitioned the state and the Federal Communications Commission, too, and Mike Partin, president and CEO of the Sequatchee Valley Electric Cooperative, said broadband access has been "widely debated across the state."

"So far in the [state] Legislature, that has been defeated," he said. "AT&T has a pretty extensive lockdown, it seems like, in the Legislature. That's one of the holdups." Telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Comcast argue that it's unfair to allow government to compete the market with private industry. (Emphasis added)
That argument would hold water but for a single fatal flaw: telecommunications infrastructure is not by nature a competitive market but rather a natural monopoly/duopoly. Shouting "unfair competition" in a noncompetitive market doesn't pass the straight face test.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Outmoded 1990s thinking retards U.S. telecom infrastructure modernization

Digitally Unconnected in the U.S.: Who’s Not Online and Why? | NTIA: But what about those Americans who do not use the Internet? Whether by circumstance or by choice, millions of U.S. households are not online, and thus unable to meaningfully participate in the digital economy. Data from NTIA's July 2015 Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey confirm that the digital divide persists. In 2015, 33 million households (27 percent of all U.S. households) did not use the Internet at home, where families can more easily share Internet access and conduct sensitive online transactions privately. Significantly, 26 million households--one-fifth of all households--were offline entirely, lacking a single member who used the Internet from any location in 2015.
This report reflects the limited thinking that retards the direly needed modernization of telecommunications infrastructure in the United States. It adopts a one-dimensional view of modern telecommunications rooted in the later 1990s and early 2000s when internet protocol-based telecommunications solely meant going on line with a computer, using dialup or DSL where it was being rolled out.

Nearly two decades later, the internet isn't just about going online, particularly as legacy telephone companies look to retire their aged and obsolete copper cable plants and fiber to the premise (FTTP) obsoletes metallic cable and can support multiple telecom services. Internet protocol also supports voice service (Voice Over Internet Protocol) as well as video, both one way and interactive. It's a multi-modal telecommunications platform.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why market competition cannot remedy America’s lousy telecom service

Almost daily, the justifiable criticism of the lousy state of America’s telecommunications service includes the demand for more competition as the solution. Providing more competition – and specifically as fiber to the premise (FTTP) -- for indolent incumbent legacy telephone and cable companies in no hurry to modernize their aging and increasingly obsolete metallic infrastructures will provide superior service and value for consumers. Sound good in theory, but completely misguided.

Telecommunications is not and will never be a truly competitive market where consumers can select among many sellers. The economics simply don’t allow it because it costs too much to enter the market and the return on investment under the dominant, vertically integrated, subscription-based business model is too skimpy or too far in the future to attract would be competitors. If telecommunications were a truly competitive market, consumers no matter where they live would have multiple sellers and services from which to choose just as they do other consumer offerings. Cherry picking in a few select metro markets as we’ve seen with Google Fiber and AT&T’s “Gigaweasel” as fellow blogger Steve Blum dubs it is hardly robust market competition.

That’s a key distinction. Telecommunications is not a consumer market. It’s a natural monopoly market and the incumbents have established their place in it. And they vigorously defend that place. That’s not evil as Susan Crawford recently pointed out. The incumbents are merely doing what they must do to faithfully and diligently serve the interests of their shareholders no matter how smarmy, greedy or disingenuous it may appear at times. Shareholders come first, market demand second. And the interests of the demand side of the market can easily remain in second place in a natural monopoly market because there is and won’t be any pressure to offer more to maintain market share because market share is assured. The market will accept whatever it’s offered because it has no choice – and cannot have meaningful choice. That’s why consumers complain service sucks equally between legacy telcos and cable providers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Light-based quantum Internet protocol requires FTTP

Particle teleportation across Calgary marks 'major step' toward creation of 'quantum internet' - Calgary - CBC News: In a "major step" toward practical quantum networking, researchers at the University of Calgary have successfully demonstrated the teleportation of a light particle's properties between their lab and the city's downtown area, six kilometres away.
It doesn't exist yet, but the dream of a "quantum internet" involves taking advantage of a key element of quantum mechanics — the fact that observing a particle's quantum state changes that particle's quantum state. This creates the opportunity to communicate with a degree of security never before possible, because no one can intercept a communication without the intended receiver of the information knowing about it.

A couple of takeaways here:
  1. A light-based Internet protocol will require fiber optic to the premise (FTTP) communications infrastructure. The metallic infrastructures of the legacy telephone and cable companies that dominate today aren't going to cut it. (A bonus: fiber is non-conducting and thus invulnerable to high energy solar flares.)

  2. Quantum-based encryption as described here looks even more hack proof that the current cutting edge blockchain technology.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Relying on legacy incumbents, state government for telecom infrastructure modernization -- That dog don't hunt

Rural residents push for broadband | Local News | After hearing from frustrated residents and community leaders, Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who co-chairs the committee, sought to reassure service providers. "We need the Windstreams, the AT&Ts, the Comcasts," he said. "We're not running anybody off. We're trying to keep them here, keep their jobs here, but encourage more investment." One proposal is the elimination of a sales tax on telecommunications network equipment. Others have recommended boosting coverage by restoring state funding for local public-private projects and doing more to hold companies accountable when their service is not as advertised.

As they say in the south, that dog don't hunt. The "Windstreams, the AT&Ts, the Comcasts" aren't going to invest in telecom infrastructure to fill in service area gaps in any reasonable timeframe because the ROI is simply too far in the future to justify the investment to their shareholders.

Expecting state government to step up with the billions in needed funding isn't realistic either. A robust, well funded national telecommunications infrastructure initiative is needed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

FCC Commissioner Pai's deeply flawed "Digital Empowerment Agenda"

Ajit Pai, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, has proposed a "Digital Empowerment Agenda" relying on tax incentives to promote telecom infrastructure investment. Pai's proposal is deeply flawed because it:
  • Assumes tax breaks combined with regulatory streamlining will eliminate the massive telecom infrastructure disparities in the United States. Pai need only ask legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies (and Google Fiber) why he's misguided. They will tell him the primary impediment is the return on infrastructure investment is too far in the future in certain areas and neighborhoods to justify investment. Net present value is zero or below. That's a fundamental challenge of the investor-owned, vertically integrated business model to when it comes to infrastructure capable of supporting modern advanced, telecom services. Tax incentives and regulatory streamlining may help the math, but aren't alone going to make the business case for investment and eliminate disparities.
  • Reinforces existing infrastructure disparities by offering incentives for landline infrastructure in some areas of the nation but only mobile wireless in others that is inadequate for premise service.

Failure of Google's "Homes with Tails" concept correlates to dearth of consumer telecom coops

Britain mulling broadband speed disclosure for every home - AlphaBeatic: The idea is reminiscent of “Homes with Tails,” a paper published back in 2008 by Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu and Google public policy manager Derek Slater. In the paper, the duo envisioned a future where consumers owned the fibre connections to their homes, obviating the need to go through an ISP to connect to the internet. Such fibre connections would lower the cost of internet service and raise the value of the homes. A typical home with a fibre connection was worth $4,000 (U.S.) more than one without, the duo argued.

Home ownership of fibre was attempted in Ottawa several years ago, but the idea never got off the ground. Bill St. Arnaud, the project’s founder, attributed the problems to central exchange providers, who were unwilling to open up their networks to allow competition for the likes of Bell and Rogers. There was also the issue of trying to convince home owners to spring for building the fibre connections, which can run thousands of dollars. Consumers are accustomed to effectively renting their internet connections, rather than owning them, so it may have been an idea ahead of its time.

This also explains why consumer telecom cooperatives have not sprung up in the United States to build and own fiber infrastructure serving member premises. People have been conditioned to see telecommunications as a consumer commodity purchased from a centralized corporate provider. Even though these monopolistic providers have no incentive to avoid redlining neighborhoods they don't want to serve and have a lousy customer service ethic, people would rather bitch about shitty service options when renting their telecommunications circuit than pony up a few thousand dollars to own it and set their own terms of service. Even when that investment would raise the value of their property by amount of the investment as research has shown. Brings to mind the old adage that one gets what one pays -- or not -- for a product or service.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why state and local government are ill equipped to modernize U.S. telecom infrastructure

West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council Chairman Seeks Gigabit Internet Statewide: (TNS) -- The new chairman of a governor-appointed panel wants to set a lofty goal for broadband speeds in West Virginia: Make gigabit internet service available statewide.

*  *  *
“I applaud your thought, but I think, at this point, it’s a very unrealistic goal,” said council member Robert Cole, adding that the 1-gigabit service would require extensive excavation work to install large high-speed fiber lines. “If we scare [internet providers] off, they’re going to put up a wall. Getting their cooperation is key.

This exchange encapsulates the challenge confronting state and local governments eager to modernize their telecommunications infrastructures to universally available fiber to the premise (FTTP) as an economic development strategy. There is currently no viable business model to finance it in either the private or public sectors.

The amount of investment capital needed is too high and the ROI too long for private investment capital. That's why investor-owned telecom providers have only sparingly deployed FTTP -- in discrete, compact neighborhoods they believe will generate sufficient revenue to offset construction and maintenance costs.

On the public side, state and local governments struggle with their existing obligations including maintaining roads and highways and water and sewer systems as well as accumulated public pension obligations. That reality leaves states like West Virginia here to engage in a pointless debate over "broadband speeds" which isn't really relevant when it comes to FTTP given the technology's enormous capacity compared to legacy metallic telephone and cable networks.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Universally available advanced telecom infrastructure requires public ownership

EU seeks to spur fast broadband roll-out with telecoms reform | Reuters: The costs of running optic fiber - which can deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second - into households are high. Telecoms operators such as Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia have long complained that the current rules forcing them to open up their networks to competitors at regulated prices do not allow them get a decent return on investment.

Unbundling of Networks Elements (UNE) is a key part of the 1996 amendment of the U.S. Communications Act. The thinking was this would hasten the availability of advanced communications services by spurring competition among service providers. The problem however is those advanced services require infrastructure upgrades and fiber to the premise -- upgrades the vertically integrated incumbent telephone companies are loath to make since they would have to share them with other service providers offering competing services. Meanwhile, 20 years after the enactment of the amendment, the United States suffers from widespread infrastructure access disparaties, with some premises still only offered the same dialup service that was available in 1996.

That's not to imply that the EU's approach is the right one since it like U.S. policy is overly reliant on competitive market forces that have limited effect in telecommunications infrastructure owned by vertically integrated, investor-owed players that want to protect their natural monopolies and cherry pick and redline down to the neighborhood level. Achieving universal advanced telecommunications service thus requires public ownership of the infrastructure.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Limited thinking major obstacle in telecom infrastructure modernization

Rapid climb in California's broadband speeds and use: The average speed at which Californians connected to Akamai’s content delivery network in the first quarter of 2016 was 16.4 Mbps, according to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report for the first quarter of 2016. Despite lagging behind U.S. leaders, that’s stilll a healthy jump from a year earlier, when the average was 13.6 Mbps, and a huge improvement over the 5.7 Mbps we were clocking five years ago – a 188% improvement.
This exemplifies a big part of addressing the challenge of modernizing America's telecommunications infrastructure for the digital age: how we think about it. Our thinking tends to be constrained and parochial, measuring success based on throughput speeds and limited to a given state or local jurisdiction rather than conceptualizing it as essential interstate infrastructure connecting every American home, business and institution.

State rep flustered by AT&T FTTP deployment to unspecified areas of Bradley County, Tennessee

Report: State broadband access lacking | The Cleveland Daily Banner: The debate is now continuing over whether Tennessee should change its laws allowing municipalities, such as Chattanooga’s EPB, to extend its broadband service footprint into adjacent areas. Communication conglomerates such as AT&T and Verizon have been vigorous in their fight against such measures saying any competition between government and private companies would not be fair. There are those who argue that point, particularly noting AT&T has received hundred of millions of dollars in federal subsidies that are supposed to aid in providing broadband access to rural areas.

AT&T announced Aug. 25 it would be introducing its fiber network to “areas of Bradley County.” State Reps. Kevin Brooks and Dan Howell, who have spearheaded efforts in Nashville to change the laws, questioned why the announcement said “areas” of the county. “What areas exactly? Why not all areas of Bradley County?” Brooks asked in a statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner in response to the announcement.

The answer, Rep. Brooks:

1. Whatever areas we cherry pick because the FCC isn't enforcing its Open Internet rules classifying Internet service as a common carrier telecommunications utility requiring universal service and barring redlining.

2. Even if it did, we couldn't afford to comply and would have to go bankrupt.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Russ Feingold calls for making internet a utility | Local |

Russ Feingold calls for making internet a utility | Local | Feingold called for a “robust” federal program of broadband build-outs by both private and public providers to bring rural residents up to the same level of service as people in the city, at similar rates — similar to federal subsidies in the 1930s that expanded electricity to those same areas. “This needs to be a utility,” Feingold said. “Everybody needs to have it. You can’t let these three big companies have control.”
Feingold's on the right track here. States and local governments aren't up to the monumental task of modernizing the nation's telecommunications infrastructure from the metallic networks used for decades by telephone and cable companies to fiber to the premise (FTTP).

Feingold's also correct in asserting that the United States cannot rely on these legacy companies to ensure universal service. I propose a similarly aggressive approach in my 2015 eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, calling for a crash federal telecommunications infrastructure modernization initiative to bring the nation to where it should be now and will need to be going forward.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

A refreshingly honest assessment from AT&T: Building advanced telecom infrastructure is "tough."

AT&T rips Google Fiber - Business Insider: Google's service has been a big threat to AT&T and other telcos since it promised to offer faster internet speeds at lower prices. But a series of recent reports noted that Google's broadband service has garnered disappointing subscription numbers and is scrambling for a new wireless-based model as it cuts back the size of its staff. The two corporate giants have clashed before, including ongoing legal battles over access to utility poles. But the latest salvo by AT&T, which reads as part take-down, part tantrum, stands out for the undisguised derision and sarcasm it heaps on Google, while touting what it says is its own $140 billion investment in broadband.

"Moral of the story," writes AT&T VP of federal regulatory Joan Marsh, "Building reliable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity is tough."

A refreshingly honest assessment here. AT&T certainly knows it's hard building ubiquitous advanced telecommunications infrastructure, particularly when it like other legacy providers is hamstrung by a vertically integrated, "bill and keep," subscription-based business model that requires selling one customer premise at a time. The evidence: the widespread infrastructure gaps in its nominal "service territory."

If the United States continues to rely on this impaired business model, it will continue to suffer from inadequate infrastructure and disparate service access for decades to come.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Legacy telcos want out from under FCC's Title II universal service requirement -- for both voice phone and Internet

CenturyLink, heir to old Bell system, wants to be freed from state oversight - CenturyLink’s petition is a “first-of-its kind request in Minnesota to deregulate basic local phone service following legislation enacted by the Minnesota Legislature in 2016,” according to a PUC filing by the state attorney general’s office. “The company’s request is premised on the alleged existence of adequate alternative means of communication,” the filing said. “Significant questions remain as to the existence of those alternatives on a universal basis — e.g. in all homes, in all parts of the state, etc.” 

The dominant telephone and cable companies dislike the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet rules issued in 2015 that reclassified Internet as a telecommunications utility subject to universal service and anti-redlining requirements under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. For now, however, it appears they have little to complain about in practical terms given the FCC's lack of enforcement of the regulation. The regulatory agency's posture is if a customer orders Internet service and is denied it and complains, we'll just look the other way.

An emerging question is whether the FCC and state public utility commissions will take the same position on telephone service. Legacy telephone companies like CenturyLink also don't want to comply with the longstanding Title II universal service mandate requiring voice telephone service be provided to all customer premises in their service territories that order it.

For both voice and Internet service, the reason for the resistance is the same. It would require investing billions of dollars on fiber to the premise infrastructure to replace old metallic outside plant -- billions the legacy providers lack. Ditto newcomers like Google Fiber. There just isn't adequate economic capacity among investor owned providers to address America's telecommunications infrastructure deficit.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The false analogy of comparing analog telephone service to Internet

Clinton pushing broadband growth as big part of $275 billion infrastructure plan - Brent Skorup, who studies broadband issues for the Mercatus Center in Fairfax, Virginia, told Watchdog the goal of 100 percent broadband usage is unrealistic because some people — largely skewing older — have no interest in internet access.
“It’s been 100 years and there’s still not 100 percent penetration of the phone market,” he noted.

This furthers the falsehood propagated by the incumbent legacy telephone and cable companies that Internet protocol-based telecommunications is solely about getting a "broadband" connection to a desktop or laptop computer. If people don't use a computer much, the so-called "digital adoption" logic goes, then they don't need "broadband" and can get along fine with 1990s-era dialup or first generation ADSL. Ergo, they certainly don't require a fiber to the premise (FTTP) connection and the current infrastructure will suit them fine for the foreseeable.

This is nothing more than a concocted justification for not modernizing telecommunications infrastructure from the metallic cable put in place decades ago to carry phone calls and cable TV signals to FTTP. The telephone was the first form of telecommunications to serve people in their homes, businesses and institutions. It broke new ground and had longer path toward universal acceptance and daily use.

Nowadays, telecommunications technology is widely adopted and used by nearly every address. IP is a multimedia platform that supports not only data but also voice and video. IP over FTTP is an evolutionary shift and not a fundamentally revolutionary development as was the telephone. The analogy fails.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tennessee's telecom infrastructure gaps not just a Tennessee problem. It's a national problem.

EPB Says Those Without Broadband Should Make Their Voices Heard - “Ultimately, Tennessee’s broadband gap is a problem for Tennesseans, and we need a Tennessee solution,” said David Wade, president of EPB. "We will continue to work with the growing number of state legislators and grassroots citizens interested in removing the barriers that prevent EPB and other municipal providers from serving our neighbors in surrounding areas who have little or no access to broadband.
I respectfully dissent. America's telecommunications infrastructure deficiencies manifest in every state, not just Tennessee. It's a national problem that demands a national solution. I elaborate further in this post from earlier this year.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dismal state of U.S. telecom modernization enters new dilatory phase, prolonging infrastructure deficiencies

The dreary state of the modernization of America’s deficient telecommunications infrastructure -- already more than two decades tardy when it comes to the task of replacing metallic legacy telephone and cable systems with fiber optic to the premise infrastructure (FTTP) – is entering a new dilatory phase. Inspired by fellow blogger Steve Blum of Tellus Venture Associates, I’m dubbing it the “magic radio” phase. The goal: forestall FTTP infrastructure investment and instead experiment with various wireless technologies. As Blum correctly nails it, it’s based on “eternal hope that magic radios will appear one day and render wireline technology obsolete.”

It’s wishful thinking driven by the continued misguided reliance on undercapitalized investor-owned players like Verizon, AT&T and Google Fiber. All are looking into fixed premise wireless technologies, with Google Fiber the most recent, putting its FTTP builds on hold last week while it searches for the right radio magic. They all like the idea of employing wireless technologies for premise delivery because no one player has the many billions of dollars necessary to build out FTTP, spawning a search for lower cost alternatives.

The problem is the physics of radio spectrum are even more constrained than their finances. There’s only so much data than it can carry. Higher frequencies can carry significantly greater amounts. But only over such short distances that their use would require fiber to be brought so close to customer premises that the hoped for savings by avoiding FTTP deployment would be severely diminished. Not to mention the fact that higher frequencies are easily blocked and subject to interference without an unobstructed line of sight.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Extending incrementalism of current U.S. telecom infrastructure modernization programs won't acheive ambitous Clinton campaign pledge of universal service by 2020

Hillary Clinton's Broadband-for-All Plan Faces Hurdles: In seeking universal, affordable broadband access, the Democratic candidate is aiming to “close the digital divide,” according to her campaign website. Clinton pledges to deliver on this goal with continued investments in the Connect America Fund, the Rural Utilities Service program and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, and by directing federal agencies to consider the full range of technologies—including fiber, fixed wireless and satellite—as potential recipients.
These are existing programs that simply aren't big and bold enough to achieve Clinton's goal of universal advanced telecommunications service by 2020. They preserve the vertically integrated, investor-owned, closed access network and subscription-based business model that produces widespread market failure leaving too many American premises unable to obtain service. Two of these programs are aimed at rural areas and thus fail to address the fact that much of America's infrastructure gaps exist outside of rural areas as Clinton herself pointed out in an economic policy speech this week.

The programs cited by Clinton embody the incrementalist thinking that is part of the problem and not part of the solution that requires a radically new approach. Meeting her objective on telecom infrastructure will require a far more aggressive policy such as the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Initiative outlined in my 2015 eBook, Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hillary Clinton gets it: U.S. does not just have a "rural broadband" problem

It's a well established management and planning axiom that effectively addressing a problem or issue relies upon a clear definition of the problem. When it comes to modernizing its telecommunication infrastructure and addressing infrastructure disparities, it's too frequently imprecisely defined as a "rural broadband" issue.

That papers over the fact the the United States suffers from very uneven deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure in all areas: rural, exurban, suburban and urban. In short, the U.S. doesn't only have a "rural broadband" problem. It has significant, widespread gaps and incomplete infrastructure everywhere in the nation. It's folly to define the issue purely based on geography.

Finally that realization is beginning to register with public policymakers and office seekers as illustrated in a speech this week by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

You know, I happen to think we should be ambitious. While we're at it, let's connect every household to broadband by the year 2020. It's astonishing to me how many places in America not way way far away from cities but in cities and near cities that don't have access to broadband. And that disadvantages kids who are asked to do homework using the Internet; 5 million of them live in homes without access to the Internet. So you talk about an achievement gap, it starts right there. (Emphasis added)

Excerpt courtesy of Newsweek. Full transcript here.

Yet another pointless "broadband survey"

County looking for participants in broadband survey - Salisbury Post | Salisbury Post: There’s roughly one month left for Rowan residents to participate in the county’s broadband access survey. The survey was posed on Rowan County’s website roughly one month ago and has one month to go before it’s taken down. It’s purpose is to gather information about areas of Rowan County that are underserved by internet providers. It can be found on the front page of Rowan County’s website: Those interested can access the survey by clicking a link that states “Broadband Service Survey.”

Yet another pointless "broadband survey." U.S. landline telecommunications infrastructure is very uneven with numerous service gaps and disparities in all areas. We don't need more surveys to point up that fact.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

San Jose's Google Fiber rollout is delayed while tech giant explores alternatives - Mercury News

San Jose's Google Fiber rollout is delayed while tech giant explores alternatives - Mercury News: SAN JOSE -- Google has told at least two Silicon Valley cities that it is putting plans to provide lightning-fast fiber internet service on hold while the company explores a cheaper alternative. The news comes nearly three months after San Jose officials approved a major construction plan to bring Google Fiber to the city. Mountain View and Palo Alto also were working with Google to get fiber internet service but said Monday that the company told them the project has been delayed.

The economics of selling monthly subscriptions to one customer premise at a time -- the business model employed by the vertically integrated legacy telephone and cable companies Google is challenging -- are difficult. That's why it has produced widespread market failure and disparate access. And when the incumbents throw up legal speed bumps to slow deployment like making access to utility poles difficult, the business case for infrastructure ROI becomes even more difficult.

It's no surprise Google Fiber is reconnoitering. Using the investor owned, vertically integrated, subscription-based closed access business model favored by the incumbents to finance and construct advanced telecommunications infrastructure is like building roads based on the number of occupied garages -- preferably housing BMWs, Lexus and Mercedes. Google Fiber's problem is it's insufficiently disruptive. It's taking on the legacy telcos and cablecos with their own business model -- one that favors established incumbents and not new entrants like Google Fiber -- without any major cost or marketing advantage.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Public-private parterships for telecom infrastructure modernization hamstrung by subscription-based business model of incumbents

Citywide broadband service could cost over $200 million, study says | Local News | In the report, CTC recommended that the city pursue an approach in which the city would build and own the fiber network. Private businesses would then provide internet service and build lines connecting individual users to the network.

This of course assumes those "private businesses" are willing. This is a major downside of applying a end user subscription-based model employed by legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies that has produced widespread cherry picking, redlining and market failure in the United States. Using the same business model isn't going to result in a rapid project that builds out to serve all Madison, Wisconsin homes, businesses and institutions. The private partners will run the numbers and likely conclude that simply doesn't pencil.

Soglin said covering the cost for the project would be a challenge, but said the move would foster competition among internet service providers and force them to improve their services.

Perhaps among the service providers. But certainly not among infrastructure builders since telecom infrastructure tends toward a natural monopoly due to high costs to play in the market.

"It will be a fight, politically and economically, with the companies that would rather have monopoly kind of control," Orton said.

That would be Barry Orton, chairman of the Citywide Broadband Subcommittee and a professor emeritus at UW-Madison. And he's right. The subscription-based, sell and own the customer business model favored by legacy telcos and cablecos promotes a winner take all mentality that along with the aforementioned microeconomic realities foster a monopoly market.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Market failure, not lack of competition drives telecom infrastructure deficiencies, disparate access

Charter, Comcast, AT&T Really Want To Stall Chance Of Competition From Google Fiber – Consumerist: As we’ve seen over and over again, high-speed broadband competition is hard to come by in huge swaths of the country. And one reason for that is because incumbent companies, especially AT&T, have a habit of throwing their weight around when competition does finally (try to) come to town. Meanwhile, though, it remains the best chance for consumers: both Comcast and AT&T charge less for their service in cities with Google’s super-speedy competition.
"Lack of competition" continues to be proffered as the primary rationale for America's telecommunications infrastructure deficiencies and disparate access. But that's the wrong analysis for the simply microeconomic fact that telecommunications infrastructure connecting customer premises is not and will never be a competitive market with many sellers and many buyers. The cost barriers to entry for would be competitors are too high. That's why one doesn't typically see multiple natural gas, water or power lines serving a given premise. It would be ridiculously wasteful and make it even harder for the builder of that second or third connection to achieve a return on their investment in a reasonable time frame.

The real reason the United States suffers from less than world class infrastructure connecting all homes, businesses and public institutions is excess reliance on investor-owned infrastructure providers overly prone to market failure. Since the microeconomics don't work, they can't meet the buyer side demand for affordable access even as it grows exponentially. They simply cannot make a decent return on investment, so they naturally don't invest in infrastructure. Not because they "refuse" to as many analysts claim. Because they simply can't afford to, whether it be AT&T, Comcast, or Google Fiber.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nearly 80 Community-based Providers Delivering Gigabit Broadband to Rural Communities | 2016 Press Releases | ABOUT NTCA

Nearly 80 Community-based Providers Delivering Gigabit Broadband to Rural Communities | 2016 Press Releases | ABOUT NTCA

The bulk of these are located in the Midwest and upper Midwest -- areas of the United States that formed telephone cooperatives in the early 20th century to provide phone service to areas not served by investor-owned providers. In these areas, it's a natural migration from voice telephone service to Internet-based multimedia telecommunications.

A big challenge today is unlike the 1920s and 1930s when entire rural regions had little or no telecommunications infrastructure, the current state of modernizing telecom infrastructure in the Internet era doesn't neatly fall along rural demarcation lines.

Legacy, investor-owned telephone and cable companies have plenty of infrastructure in rural areas. It's just not even distributed. One group of premises will have landline service. But go down the road a mile or two, over the hill or around the bend and there's another group that does not. Consequently, it's hard to band together consumers to form telecom cooperatives in nominally rural areas other than those with a history of consumer utility cooperatives when those who have service don't perceive the need for one. Even if they aren't all that crazy about their current Internet service provider. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yet another silly "broadband mapping" project

FCC Plans to Map Broadband Access to Aid Chronic Disease Care: The new mapping tool aims to continue this mission by identifying gaps in connectivity at the neighborhood level, highlighting opportunities for improvement, and giving community coalitions the data they need to form new partnerships and tailor their activities to their unique needs. (Emphasis added).
Yet another useless, going though the motions "broadband mapping" project. The United States would have had fiber connecting every home, business and institution in place by 2010 had it done the proper planning and construction starting a generation ago. Today, very few areas of the nation are fully fibered. The opportunity for improvement is most everywhere. A map isn't needed to illustrate that.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Political talking points can't trump the microeconomics of residential telecom market

Tennessee Study Shows State Remains A Broadband Backwater Thanks To AT&T Lobbyists, Clueless Politicians, And Protectionist State Law | Techdirt: "Norris, who said he remains wary about municipal broadband based on the failure of Networx in his district near Memphis, said he hopes the push for more broadband is not an excuse for bigger government. Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, vice chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, also expressed concern about allowing government-owned utilities like EPB to compete with private firms such as AT&T or Comcast. "We want to look closely at this study, but in general, I am not for government and business competing in the marketplace," he said.

Carrying the water of the legacy telephone companies, Green is painting a false dichotomy that went by the wayside in 2015. That's when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission adopted its Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet as a common carrier utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

Those rules implicitly recognize residential premise telecommunications service due to the high cost of building and maintaining infrastructure tends towards a monopoly market. By definition, competitive market forces are absent in such a market. It's another example of a politician trying in vain to trump microeconomic fundamentals with political talking points.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

U.S. does not just have a "rural broadband" problem; Bold federal initiative needed to address widespread infrastructure disparities

In these troubling times, senators unite to end America's big divide – rural v urban broadband • The Register: The US Senate has formally formed its first informal committee to push for better broadband in America's countryside. The bi-partisan Senate Broadband Caucus will be made up of five senators who represent states with large rural populations and will push for laws that help to expand high-speed internet service into those underserved markets. The caucus will initially comprise of Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Each comes from states where large tracts of uninhabited land make the installation of fiber networks financially unappealing to commercial providers.

This would be fine if disparate access to modern telecommunications infrastructure was solely a rural issue as electrical power distribution infrastructure was at the start of the 20th century when entire rural counties and regions were left off the grid.

The problem is it's not. Driven by cherry picking and redlining by legacy telephone and cable companies, access disparities tend to be far more granular, occurring in rural, suburban, exurban and even urban areas. Neighborhoods and clusters of premises may be served by landline internet infrastructure while others just a mile or two distant -- or even less -- are not.

That's not a "rural broadband" problem. It's a national crisis of deficient telecommunications infrastructure for the 21st century. The United States needs a bold federal initiative to ensure fiber optic connections to every American doorstep and institution and to replace legacy metallic infrastructure. And in the shortest possible time frame given the task should have been started a generation ago. I present the case and outline how it would work in my recent eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis.

Time to end the Google Fiber media hype. It's not going to solve U.S. telecom infrastructure crisis

Google Fiber no longer a moonshot — it's a 'real business': Internet giants Google and Facebook, frustrated that telecom companies aren't moving fast enough, are building all kinds of technology to extend the reach, accelerate the speed and lower the cost of the Internet, from high-altitude balloons to drones. The perpetually sorry state of U.S. broadband prompted Google to take an even more ambitious step: It announced Fiber in 2010. Google's lucrative advertising business relies on the use and growth of the Internet. Faster, cheaper connections mean more people spend more time online using Google services such as search, YouTube or Gmail, and viewing Google ads, says Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner.

This is essentially PR flackery for Google Fiber. The idea that Google Fiber is somehow lighting a fire under the asses of the incumbent telephone and cable to modernize their metallic legacy infrastructures is ludicrous.

Google Fiber holds no business advantage over the incumbents. Both are constrained by business models that limit their ability to modernize America's telecom infrastructure to fiber to the premise. They can only move as fast as their budgets allow. Neither the incumbents nor Google Fiber have the billions needed to accomplish the task in the near future. So they're reduced to cherry picking lucrative urban markets and issuing hyperbolic news releases that are nothing more than a PR pissing contest.

What's needed as I suggest in my recent eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunication Infrastructure Crisis is a crash federal telecom modernization initiative wherein the federal government would build fiber to every doorstep in the nation.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

U.S. telecom infrastructure also needs a "public option"

Market forces have rendered telecommunications infrastructure in the United States a balkanized, crazy quilt patchwork. Investor-owned internet service providers naturally gravitate toward locations where there are high concentrations of households with healthy incomes that can afford their service offerings. Since those services are typically vertically integrated wherein the ISPs own the infrastructure, infrastructure is built only where it can generate robust profits over the short term. Everyplace else is left to twist in the wind, redlined off the internet because there is no infrastructure to deliver telecommunications services.

That has led to a deepening crisis as telecommunications continues its rapid shift to internet-based services as legacy telephone companies abandon their copper cable plants constructed many decades ago to support voice phone service.

A similar market dynamic exists in the payer side of health care. Like telecommunications infrastructure, it takes lots of capital to enter the market. Health plan issuers must have millions of dollars set aside to cover the cost of care of their members, particularly if costs exceed projections. They naturally will offer coverage in areas where there are plenty of premium paying members to generate those dollars. In less densely populated areas, those with fewer health care providers and lower population health status, health plan issuers have less incentive to offer a greater variety of plans.

President Barack Obama called out this circumstance in a recent article published in The Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA). The president noted that 12 percent of enrollees in states where the federal government operates state health benefit exchanges live in areas where they can choose from among only one or two health plan issuers. For such areas, Obama suggests policymakers revisit the concept of a government operated health plan – the so-called “public option” – that was jettisoned leading up to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. Obama’s call for taking another look at government-operated health plans serving the individual and small group markets comes as one of the law’s mechanisms designed to ensure greater access to coverage -- consumer operated and oriented (CO-OP) health plans – is faltering with most co-ops undercapitalized and deemed insolvent

Given that some 34 million Americans are unserved by modern, internet-based telecommunications infrastructure capable of delivering high-quality voice, data, graphics and video to their homes and small businesses  according to figures released by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in early 2016, it’s also time for policymakers to seriously consider a public option for telecom infrastructure.

In my recent eBook, Service Unavailable: america’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, I propose the formation of a government chartered 501(c)(1) nonprofit, the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Agency, to engage in a crash program to build modern fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure connecting all American homes and businesses. That’s where America needs to be in the 21st century. Market forces are not up to fully accomplishing the job or as rapidly as needed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Obama administration plays up mobile wireless, ignores 34 million Americans lacking modern landline premise telecom service

As the Obama administration winds down, it is declaring a hollow victory on telecommunications infrastructure, playing up mobile wireless technology while ignoring the plight of some 34 million Americans whose homes and small business that lack service capable of delivering high-quality voice, data, graphics and video, according to figures released by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission earlier this year.

Mobile wireless is also being termed by incumbent telephone companies as a technological transition from non-IP based services that supported legacy telephone, cable TV and early mobile wireless services to Internet protocol-based services. Problem is many of those aforementioned 34 million Americans are being left out of the transition since landline infrastructure isn't being modernized and built out to serve them. And as many observers have pointed out including here, mobile wireless service alone cannot meet the needs of homes and small businesses due to technological constraints and high cost.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

More of the same old same old that fails to meaningfully address nation's telecom infrastructure deficit

SHLB Publishes New Broadband Action Plan - Utah Broadband Outreach Center: The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) released a Broadband Action Plan this week to kick off their Grow2Gig Campaign. The plan was developed by SHLB as a resource to generate ideas and provide policy recommendations for community leaders. Kelleigh Cole, Director of the Broadband Outreach Center, contributed to the Action plan with a chapter titled “Broadband Needs Assessment and Planning for Community Anchor Institutions.” The SHLB Coalition advocates for broadband access through the targeted use of Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs).
CAIs include schools, libraries, healthcare providers, community centers, public housing, public education institutions, and other easy to access community meeting places that can serve as a centralized location for high-speed Internet use. CAIs can help provide affordable broadband access to a community, and they also act as anchor tenant by establishing critical middle mile connections to residential areas. Broadband Director Kelleigh Cole was asked to be a contributor to the Broadband Action Plan due to her years of experience as a state broadband leader, in addition to her perspective on Utah’s collaborative and highly successful approach to broadband planning. Her chapter kicks off the Action Plan, and discusses the advantages to creating broadband needs assessments that drive targeted infrastructure investment where it is most needed.

This is a desultory, pathetic rehash of the same tired old, parochial approaches of the past decade that create an illusion of action and focus on the low hanging fruit of anchor institutions and running silly "broadband needs assessments." (Who doesn't need robust Internet service in 2016?)

They fail to meaningfully support the badly needed modernization of the nation's legacy telecommunications infrastructure and the construction of fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure to serve all American homes and businesses. Moreover, once the anchor institutions are connected, the nearby residences are typically forgotten and victory declared.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lacking specific sum, does Hillary Clinton's infrastructure modernization plan dedicate enough for telecom?

Connect allAmericans to the digital economy with 21st century Internet access.
Clinton believes that high-speed Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity for equal opportunity and social mobility in a 21st century economy. That’s why she will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the Internet, committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have access to affordable broadband that delivers world-class speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs.
Hillary Clinton's Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow's Economy Today

Per the above item from her campaign website, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is proposing universal Internet access that's currently required under the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications (versus information) service.

What's new is Clinton's proposed federal funding programs to help finance the necessary infrastructure to make universal service a reality that would dedicate $275 billion over five years for infrastructure investment. A national infrastructure bank seeded with $25 billion would leverage private capital to generate an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement along the lines of what Susan Crawford suggested earlier this year, renewing and expanding the Obama administration's Build America Bonds program. Crawford correctly asserts that there are boatloads of private capital sitting on the sidelines seeking better returns that could be leveraged to undertake the long delayed task of modernizing America's telecommunications infrastructure with fiber to the premise for the Internet age.

The caveat here is Clinton's funding proposals cover all infrastructure modernization needs, including transportation, energy and water systems, constituting an "infrastructure gap" that her campaign notes runs in the trillions of dollars. No specific sum is earmarked for telecom infrastructure. Without that specific dollar amount, the question is will there be enough for it?

Also concerning is Clinton defines telecom infrastructure not in terms of the infrastructure itself, but rather in vague terms of "world class" connection speeds. Connection speed is how the legacy telephone and cable companies define their Internet-based telecom services. It's a backward rather than forward-looking perspective and is central maintaining a paradigm of constrained "broadband" bandwidth that in turn supports high prices and minimal investment in modern infrastructure such as fiber to the premise (FTTP).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kovacs is right: FCC reclassification of Internet as telecommunications service creates uncertainty. And it's about time.

Kovacs: D.C. Circuit's net neutrality ruling poses danger to edge providers - FierceTelecom: The D.C. Circuit's affirmation of the FCC's Open Internet Order creates enormous uncertainty for companies in all parts of the internet, not just for access providers. It invites edge providers to contort their services to attempt to evade classification under Title II. Thus, it threatens innovation and investment throughout the internet ecosystem.

So writes Anna-Maria Kovacs, a financial analyst and consultant affiliated with the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. Kovacs has a valid point. Classifying Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act is a major shift in regulatory policy. But the real uncertainty was sown by the FCC in 2002 when as then-FCC Commissioner Michael Copps recently noted, the FCC chose to classify Internet service as an information rather than telecommunication service.

How so? At that point in time, the Internet was well along the way toward becoming a de facto telecommunications service and on a global scale. Yet the 2002 FCC turned rolled the calendar of progress back a decade and kept it there for 13 years until the FCC reclassified in 2015. That created a enormous collision between the natural progression of telecommunications and federal regulatory policy.

Of course that's going to foster uncertainty for legacy telephone and cable providers and disrupt their business models based on the 1990s strategy of selling "broadband" as a premium add on to legacy voice telephone and cable service. That strategy can still be seen in 2016 as they and other ISPs continue to market "broadband" rather than telecommunications service with price tiers tied to bandwidth.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Google Says It's Very 'Serious' About Gigabit Wireless | DSLReports, ISP Information

Google Says It's Very 'Serious' About Gigabit Wireless | DSLReports, ISP Information: Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt told shareholders during the company's annual meeting on Wednesday that Google Fiber is extremely "serious" about using fiber as an additional avenue to deliver additional broadband competition to stagnant markets. "To give you an idea of how serious this is," Schmidt stated the executive had a "lengthy" meeting on Tuesday with Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat to discuss the company's wireless ambitions.Those ambitions include testing the viability of millimeter wave technologies and 3.5 GHz wireless broadband as part of an ongoing trial in Kansas City. "There appears to be a wireless solutions that are point to point that are inexpensive now because of the improvements in semiconductors," Schmidt said. "These point to point solutions are now cheaper than digging up your garden and so forth."

Fixed premise wireless IP certainly costs a lot less to deliver telecom services to homes and small businesses. But it's no magic bullet and there's a cost tradeoff involved. The physics of radio frequency spectrum impose a natural limit on throughput as more premises share the available spectrum. That means Google Fiber will have to push its fiber relatively close to premises to feed lots of microcells in order to offer quality service that won't degrade like that of a busy coffeehouse or hotel when lots of guests are on the establishment's WiFi service. The constraints are explained by Google's Milo Medin in comments he made at the 2013 Broadband Communities Summit, excerpted in a post on this blog (See No. 2). Higher radio frequencies like the referenced millimeter wave technology can carry more data. But the tradeoff there is they are easily obscured by buildings, flora and terrain, severely limiting its viability as a premise IP delivery technology.

It will be interesting to see how Google Fiber negotiates the tradeoffs if it continues to pursue this.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Report: Wireless Still Not a Serious Fixed-line Competitor

Granted 5G wireless could ultimately let AT&T and Verizon compete more directly with cable broadband, but with the standard still not finalized, serious deployment won't be likely until 2020 or later. And given AT&T and Verizon's tendency toward premium pricing and usage restrictions on wireless, it's not all that likely that these services will be seen as a real alternative to cable either (especially as gigabit speeds are deployed via DOCSIS 3.1).The reality is that even should 5G technology be a great alternative to fixed service, the cable and wireless industries will likely work to avoid competing seriously on price, much as we've seen throughout the DSL/cable duopoly era.

The limited carrying capacity of radio spectrum would require telcos to push fiber far more deeply into their networks to backhaul small cell sites in order to use 5G wireless as a premises service delivery technology. In that regard, it faces the same ROI constraints that limit legacy telco build out of fiber to the premise architecture and is thus highly unlikely.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Alphabet's Eric Schmidt nails it: Incremental thinking holding back progress

Speaking at Bloomberg’s Breakaway conference Wednesday in New York, Schmidt also said Alphabet, the holding company that owns Google and other businesses including Nest and Fiber, will probably never break up and its job is to seek out transformative solutions. “There’s tremendous optimism around this next generation of scientists and thinkers,” Schmidt said. “There are problems that bedeviled us for centuries that can in fact be solved.” The government should play a role in accelerating these developments as they’ve done in the past, he said, pointing to initial public investment in Silicon Valley that allowed it to become the high-growth area it is today. Schmidt, who supports Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said the politicians and business leaders in the country have gotten used to accepting incremental solutions rather than taking bigger risks for the larger reward of innovative technologies and methods.“Government spends an enormous amount of money on the wrong things,” he said. “I would just like to have a little bit of it on these things which are moonshots, enormous-scale things that can benefit the country.”
Source: Google’s Schmidt Sees Genetics Advances, No Alphabet Breakup

When it comes to modernizing America's legacy metallic telecommunications infrastructure designed for a bygone time of voice telephone calls and cable television, Schmidt nails it when he points to incrementalism as a major impediment. 

As I wrote in my recent eBook, Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, over the past two decades the nation has concentrated on achieving incremental increases in "broadband speeds" on legacy infrastructure rather than modernizing and replacing it with fiber optic connections for every home, business and institution capable of supporting the Internet-protocol based information, communications and services of today and tomorrow. In my eBook, I propose a crash federal initiative to build it given how far behind the nation has fallen. Google Fiber can't do it alone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

America doesn’t have a “rural broadband” problem. It suffers from incomplete telecom infrastructure.

America’s telecommunications infrastructure deficiencies are often framed as a “rural broadband” issue and frequently compared to the lack of electric service in rural areas of the nation early in the 20th century. Both the description of the problem and the analogy are wrong.

They’re incorrect for a couple of reasons. First, landline Internet service more advanced than 1990s dialup can often be found in nominally “rural” areas. But typically some premises have access while others a mile or two down the road, or over the hill or around the bend do not. Even premises Internet service providers believe are connected are not, resulting in unpleasant surprises for new residents moving in under the impression service was available. That does not make for a “rural broadband” problem. The problem is partial, incomplete and highly granular landline telecom infrastructure.

By comparison, the lack of electrical distribution infrastructure in rural counties during the first few decades of the previous century was truly a rural problem. It wasn’t granular, with some communities and neighborhoods having power and others left in the dark. Entire rural regions had no electrical service, which was concentrated in cities.

The “rural broadband” label has an unfortunate aspect. It allows legacy incumbent providers and public policymakers to segment off and mischaracterize the problem as one affecting only thinly populated, remote regions of the nation and thus not requiring urgent action.

It does. The United States is a generation behind where it should be when it comes to modernizing its legacy metal cable telephone and cable TV infrastructures with fiber optic cable connecting every American home, business and public institution. If we continue to shrug our shoulders and insist on believing it’s a “rural broadband” problem, the United States risks slipping into third world nation status when it comes to its telecom infrastructure.

Virginia officials seek info about residents’ Internet service | WRIC

Virginia officials seek info about residents’ Internet service | WRIC: RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia officials want residents to help them pinpoint what areas in the state lack access to broadband Internet service. The new initiative announced Tuesday by Gov. Terry McAuliffe is aimed at helping officials fill gaps in broadband coverage across the state. McAuliffe is asking residents to sign onto a new website to let officials know the level of internet connectivity they have.
Policymakers have been doing this all over the United States for at least a decade. This strategy plays well for politicians since it makes them appear concerned about modern telecom infrastructure access disparities and is politically safe because it doesn't offend legacy incumbent providers. Sadly, it doesn't build a bit of needed infrastructure as the access disparities grow more urgent as time goes on.

Multiple fiber connections in some regions while others stuck in 1990s highlights U.S. telecom infrastructure disparities

Google Fiber franchise coming up for vote

This story linked above illustrates the extreme degree of disparate access to modern fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure that is developing in the United States. As the story reports, Louisville Kentucky and environs could end up with as many as four companies building fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure (Google Fiber, AT&T, and two other smaller providers). This at the same time millions of American homes and small businesses are offered only dialup or first generation DSL while others make do with satellite, mobile and fixed wireless services not capable of meeting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Internet service standard for supporting high-quality voice, data, graphics and video.

The driver of this perverse situation is the winner take all ethic that's part and parcel of the predominant vertically integrated business model in which service providers own both the fiber connection to premises and the services delivered over it. Publicly-owned open access fiber infrastructure serving every premise offers a far more efficient model and isn't prone to customer churn and market failure. Only one fiber connection is necessary to deliver telecommunications services given the substantial carrying capacity of fiber.

Monday, May 23, 2016

FCC brings Internet under Lifeline program – but without universal service obligation

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has issued a final rulemaking bringing Internet service under the Lifeline program established in 1985 requiring discounted telephone service for qualifying low-income households.

However, under the final rule, incumbent telephone companies are not required to offer discounted Internet service to a Lifeline eligible low-income household requesting service in areas where the companies have not modernized and built out their plants to provide Internet service. That contravenes the FCC’s Open Internet rulemaking adopted in 2015 classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Title II requires Internet service be provided upon reasonable request. The final rule also exempts telephone companies receiving FCC subsidies for universal service support in high cost areas from having to provide Lifeline Internet service.

We are sympathetic to ILECs’ (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) concerns about requiring them to offer broadband in Census blocks within their ETC designated service areas …where broadband services are not commercially available,” the final rule states. “In addition, for recipients of high-cost support, in those areas where the provider receives high-cost support but has not yet deployed a broadband network consistent with the provider’s high-cost public interest obligation to offer broadband, the obligation to provide Lifeline broadband services does not begin until such time as the provider has deployed a broadband network and is commercially offering service to that area.”

Despite the final rule’s contravention of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Rulemaking, the FCC employs Orwellian doublespeak in insisting it does not:
“Our actions today are consistent with the universal service goals promulgated by Congress. Congress articulated national goals in Section 254 of the Act that services should be available at “affordable” rates and that “consumers in all regions of the nation, including low-income consumers . . . should have access to telecommunications and information services.”

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pleas for more competition make case for public option in telecom infrastructure

America’s telecommunications infrastructure crisis is fundamentally a microeconomic problem. Vertically integrated Internet service providers and consumers have difficulty transacting on mutually agreeable terms that consumers regard as offering good value. And about one of five American homes and small businesses can’t purchase landline Internet connections at all because none are offered to them.

Many consumer advocates and commentators frame the economic problem as one of insufficient competition. If there were only more providers offering services, then more consumers would be offered service and at superior value over that sold by legacy telephone and cable companies. After all, that’s how the competitive market works for other consumer services such as home improvement, landscaping, and housecleaning. Offer good service at reasonable value, you’re competitive. If you don’t, you’re not and could end up run out of business by the competition. The same rules should apply to “broadband” since it too is a service, the thinking goes. Consumers want the freedom to ditch their service provider and choose another offering better value.

It doesn’t work that way for telecommunications services including Internet because they are vertically integrated services – typically delivered by the same providers that own the infrastructure to deliver them. Due to the high cost of building and maintaining that infrastructure, there will only be one or two providers. Adding more competitors to build alternate “pipes” to compete with these providers isn’t an option because these high capital and operating costs discourage new entrants. Choice A is the telephone company. Choice B is the cable company. If they both suck on service and value – which they often do -- you’re out of luck.

But there is an alternative – the “public option” as it was termed in the recent policy discussion on health insurance reform: publicly owned infrastructure. That disintermediates ownership of telecommunications delivery infrastructure from the services offered over it like voice, data and video. In doing so, it eliminates the potential for abuse of the monopoly market power of the vertically integrated legacy providers to hold consumers hostage. The potential for abuse is substantial because a home or business must “subscribe” to their connections. Without a subscription to the hookup, none of these services are available. Having ownership of the infrastructure allows them to call all the shots. It doesn’t have to be that way.

There is only one entity in the United States that has the economic capacity to construct publicly owned, modern fiber optic telecom infrastructure that connects all American homes, businesses and institutions: the federal government. I discuss in detail in my recent eBook, Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

UK considers universal service legislative requirement

Families face paying thousands for high speed internet access | Daily Mail Online:

Every family will win the right to demand a ‘fast’ broadband connection it was announced in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, but those in remote communities may have to pay hundreds of pounds to get it. The new Digital Economy Bill hopes to finally bring broadband technology to one million people whose properties have until now been treated as economically unviable or too difficult to provide with high-speed connections. But the legislation falls short of the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to ensure every home gets access to so-called ‘superfast’ broadband.
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Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce said: ‘If implemented in full and at pace, this could go some way to improving the poor digital connectivity that far too many firms face.’Government sources said BT, which is in line for subsidies worth 1 billion to roll out broadband to 95 per cent of homes by the end of next year, has resisted the idea of a legal guarantee. But ministers have decided the threat of legal action is needed to ensure the final five per cent of homes also get a decent connection.

It boggles the mind to consider a relatively small island nation has so many premises still off the Internet grid in 2016. The U.S. already has a universal service/nondiscrimination requirement in law per the Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet rulemaking but is not enforcing it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Growing bandwidth demand obsoletes Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Installed premise Internet product offering

Fellow blogger Doug Dawson has written extensively on burgeoning consumer bandwidth demand rendering obsolete DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) as an interim premise Internet service on the way to fiber to the premise (FTTP).

Now the trend is claiming Verizon Wireless's 4G LTE Installed service as its latest casualty. The service offers inadequate throughput to serve multiple devices. Plus its pricing is unworkable relative to current premise bandwidth needs.

The service is priced similar to Verizon's mobile service in monthly bandwidth consumption tiers. The more bandwidth used, the larger data plan a household will need. There are substantial overage charges for using more bandwidth than the contracted plan.

A single home office computer with daily business use and taking into account software updates would consume the bulk of the most generous plan offered -- 30 gigabits of data. That plan goes for an eye watering $120 a month -- leaving little left over for other devices.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Google Fiber's national ambitions, wireless as interim service, and going to debt markets- Recode

Google Fiber is the most audacious part of the whole Alphabet - Recode

This Recode article quotes an unnamed former Google Fiber staffer as saying Google Fiber's plan is "to grow to be nationwide at some point." The question is at what point considering the enormous backlog of work needed to modernize America's legacy metallic telecommunications infrastructure designed to deliver cable TV and phone service with future proof fiber to to the premise plant. The nation is already a generation behind where it should be relative to completing that task.

The piece also raises the previously reported point of Google Fiber exploring using wireless as an interim delivery technology until fiber to the prem can be installed in order to speed up deployment. But that won't provide a dramatic geographic acceleration since fast wireless service requires fiber backhaul to be installed nearby.

Also mentioned is the prospect of Google Fiber going to the debt markets to borrow the many billions it will need to extend fiber to nearly every American home, business and institution. And many, many billions it will need. As the late Senator Everett Dirksen is oft quoted, "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money." And that real money spells the difference between fiber to the press release and fiber to the premise.
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