Thursday, August 31, 2017

Purpose of AT&T's 4G LTE fixed premise service to mollify pols, not modernize telecom infrastructure

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Speedy internet delivery for rural DeSoto County | News | desototimes.com: Flint said as part of this commitment across 18 states, AT&T plans to reach more than 400,000 locations throughout 18 states by the end of 2017, and over 1.1 million locations by 2020. AT&T plans to reach over 130,000 locations with this technology across Mississippi by 2020. Flint said delivering broadband internet service to rural underdeserved areas has been AT&T's challenge.

According to Flint, AT&T's Fixed Wireless Internet Service delivers a home internet connection with speeds of at least 10Mbps. The connection comes from a wireless tower to a fixed antenna on customers' homes or businesses. "This is an efficient way to deliver high-quality internet to customers in rural and underserved areas," Flint said. "This will be capable of delivering a fixed wireless signal at a speed of 10 megabits per second, more than enough to do web browsing with plenty of speed and to stream your favorite movie or TV show. The telecommunications infrastructure was made possible through the FCC Connect America Fund.

The primary purpose of this rollout is to mollify politicians continually barraged with complaints from constituents about poor advanced telecommunications service options. Bolting on fixed premise service to existing 4G LTE mobile wireless towers is not a long term investment in modernizing telecommunications infrastructure. It's simply another on the cheap substitute for replacing decades-old twisted pair copper cable designed to support voice telephone service with fiber optic cable to support advanced services.

AT&T is deploying this fixed wireless service in areas where its copper cable plant cannot support digital subscriber line (DSL) service, some of which never even got first generation ADSL deployed more than a decade ago. AT&T's fixed premise wireless service will offer throughput that does not conform to U.S. Federal Communication Commission standards for delivering high quality high-quality voice, data, graphics and video. That shortcoming will be amplified in peak use periods given multiple connected devices used in households and small businesses and the fact that wireless bandwidth is by definition limited and connectivity slows as more users access it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The farce of measuring "broadband speeds" and market competition

For Broadband Connections, How Fast is Fast Enough? | WIRED

Who would have thought policymakers would be engaged in a seemingly endless debate over what constitutes "broadband" and the ridiculous, pointless exercise of assessing the level of market competition in a natural monopoly marketplace that is telecom infrastructure?

The explanation: They're being punked. It's a farce and distraction to serve the "fight the future" agenda of legacy telephone and cable companies that cannot keep up with the shift to Internet protocol-based telecommunications and the ever growing demand for more bandwidth. The controversy over "broadband speeds" is becoming a technological version of the argument over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Meanwhile, the United States falls further behind in the task of modernizing its legacy metallic telecom infrastructure to fiber optic to the premise.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Aerial fiber offers lower deployment cost, superior connectivity vs. radio-based technologies

Rural America Is Building Its Own Internet Because No One Else Will - Motherboard: The board has established a "dig once" initiative, where any time roadwork or repairs are being done in the area, county workers are obliged to lay fiber at the same time. It's also looking into innovative techniques for connecting along the highway, such as micro trenching, where the fiber optic cable is embedded a few inches into the road and blacktopped over. "It cuts down your chances of animals taking your line down, or car wrecks that take it down, or storms that take it down," Brown said.
It's true that buried fiber conduit is more protected from outages caused by environmental factors. But in some areas, it's not economically cost effective. Blacktop road surfaces particularly in rural areas may not be thick and stable enough to support microtrenching, a lower cost method of installing buried conduit.

That however should not leave substandard, shared bandwidth radio-based technologies such as those discussed in this article as the only cost justifiable alternative for delivering advanced telecommunications services to premises. Aerial fiber -- hung on existing and perhaps some new poles that currently carry electrical distribution cables and legacy twisted pair copper telephone and cable TV lines -- provides a technically superior connectivity option over radio-based technologies at far lower cost than buried fiber. Consistent with "dig once" policies mentioned above, buried fiber should in some areas be a long term objective with aerial fiber plant providing the necessary rapid deployment of advanced telecom infrastructure decades late in coming to the United States.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tax incentives unlikely to improve business case for private telecom infrastructure investment

The Dream Divide: Fighting the Classism of the Digital Age - Morning Consult: Governors would have the authority to declare participating areas of their respective states as Gigabit Opportunity Zones, and this bill would enable such zones to attract broadband providers with capital gains tax deferrals on any funds directly invested in broadband expansion. Gigabit Opportunity Zones would also offer firms an option for immediately expensing broadband equipment instead of drawing out their returns on investment over the depreciation period. When local governments have support for improving their broadband policies and the tools — tax deferrals and immediate expensing — to attract meaningful investment in high-speed internet access, their communities’ doors swing open to multiple internet providers.

Georgia Congressman Doug Collins who wrote the above in an op-ed piece overlooks the fact that the biggest expense in constructing telecommunications infrastructure isn't equipment. It's labor at about 70 percent of overall costs. As such, this proposal based on tax breaks to incentivize infrastructure investment isn't likely to significantly improve the business case for private investor-owned providers to make the necessary upfront capital investment.

Federal policymakers should instead face the fact that private investment capital is not sufficiently patient for major infrastructure due to overly long waits for investment returns and create a federal telecom agency to build fiber to every American home, business and school. The United States is already decades behind where it should be on replacing its legacy metallic telephone and cable TV 20th century infrastructure with modern fiber optic cables for the modern digital age. Continuing to pursue weak, ineffective solutions such as those proposed by Collins will only prolong the digital divide of which he complains.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

FCC has few if any options to accelerate modernization of U.S. telecom infrastructure

Maybe Americans don’t need fast home Internet service, FCC suggests | Ars Technica: Americans might not need a fast home Internet connection, the Federal Communications Commission suggests in a new document. Instead, mobile Internet via a smartphone might be all people need. The suggestion comes in the FCC's annual inquiry into broadband availability. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to determine whether broadband (or more formally, "advanced telecommunications capability") is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to everyone, it is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market." (Emphasis added)

The problem is the FCC has few if any effective options to accelerate the modernization of American telecommunications infrastructure. That's because the biggest barrier to private investment in infrastructure to support advanced telecommunications is economic and not a regulatory matter within the FCC's jurisdiction.

Privately owned telecommunications companies must achieve a rapid return on investment to satisfy investors. That's a tall order given infrastructure construction requires copious amounts of capital be invested up front with a long wait until that investment is recouped and generates profit. Their business model is based on selling monthly service bundles and speed tier subscriptions to individual customer premises. It frequently fails to spin off sufficient predictable revenues to earn the required return on invested capital within the investors' time horizon.

That substantially degrades the business case for investing in infrastructure and raises economic risk, in turn leading to market failure and infrastructure deficiencies and disparities. There is little if anything the FCC or any other regulator can do to address that economic reality. It's fundamental to the predominant U.S. model of private ownership and operation of telecommunications infrastructure.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

In 2017 America, there is no collective “we” or “our” when it comes to telecom infrastructure

In 2017 America, being served by landline digital telecommunications infrastructure isn’t about where we live, with nearly all homes served by water, electrical power and other utilities. There is no collective we. It’s all about where you live. Especially when landline infrastructure ends just down the road, over the hill or around the bend. You and more specifically your home are in the wrong spot and that’s too bad for you.

Case in point is a direct mail satellite Internet service provider advertisement offering “AFFORDABLE, HIGH-SPEED INTERNET + DISH that’s “AVAILABLE WHERE YOU LIVE.” That’s because the target market is premises redlined for landline by legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies.

Despite widespread agreement telecommunications is a utility that should be available to all and a network we all share and use, it is far from that in a nation where landline telecom infrastructure availability is spotty, comparable to a Swiss cheese full of holes.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

U.S. policymakers continue to engage in misguided, wishful thinking on telecom infrastructure modernization

North Georgia featured in CBS report on rural broadband [VIDEO] - Now Habersham: Millions of Americans today lack access to effective broadband service and many rural Georgians are among them. It’s an issue that’s grabbed the attention of state politicians and, now, the national media. CBS This Morning on Friday reported on the economic struggles facing Northeast Georgians and others who live in communities that lack broadband infrastructure.The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week committed over $2B in subsidies over the next decade to help telecom companies expand rural broadband.

Congress also is considering legislation that would incentivize broadband infrastructure investment and foster market competition. Georgia’s 9th District Congressman Doug Collins recently introduced the Gigabit Opportunity Act or GO Act. It would allow companies to defer certain capital gains taxes when they convert those gains to long-term investments in broadband infrastructure within state-designated “Gigabit Opportunity Zones.” Companies also would be allowed to expense the cost of expansion on the front end in ‘GO Zones’.

American policymakers continue to engage in misguided, wishful thinking when it comes to badly needed modernization of the nation's outdated telecommunications infrastructure to fast, reliable fiber to the premise (FTTP) technology for the 21st century. Two billion dollars will barely make a dent in the estimated $300 billion needed for job.

Offering tax incentives is similarly wishful, unrealistic thinking. What's needed is an aggressive federal initiative to build FTTP and treat it like a common carrier public asset. Tax incentives are the wrong approach. They are not national infrastructure initiatives; they are limited scope economic development tools.

Small cells not seen as viable replacement for retiring copper landline telecom infrastructure

Better cell phone service could come at a cost for California cities | The Sacramento Bee: Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn said he doesn’t see telecom companies rushing into rural communities that have no or low connectivity, either. The small cells need to be close together to work most efficiently, and there isn’t enough demand in such areas to attract the companies.
Various observers have pointed to legacy incumbent telephone company plans to retire aging copper cable landline infrastructure in less densely populated areas and replace it with wireless service. Their business models that demand rapid return on investment do not permit its replacement with fiber to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure. However, the same business model constraints apply to wireless infrastructure as well as this Northern California county supervisor notes. Especially since those small cells will need a lot of fiber backhaul to be constructed to support them.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

"Middle mile" and America's incomplete, balkanized telecom infrastructure

On broadband internet availability | Kenbridge Victoria Dispatch: Mid-Atlantic Broadband was created with an investment by the Tobacco Commission and a matching investment from the federal government 15 years ago. It was created as a non-profit company to connect the tobacco region to the major internet centers around the world. It has been extremely successful in providing connections for the data centers in Mecklenburg (H-P Enterprises and Microsoft) as well as other companies in the region. Mid-Atlantic was not established to provide services to households, but rather to be a partner with providers who would hopefully provide the “last mile” to your house or business. Regrettably, those last-mile providers have not been as aggressive as we had hoped. (Emphasis added)

That last sentence illustrates the usually unfounded belief that building advanced telecommunications fiber trunk lines will stimulate the deployment of infrastructure to customer premises. Even though the logical purpose of so-called "middle mile" infrastructure is to feed infrastructure serving those very premises.

Sell side market failure typically results when hopes for those connections are based on a vertically integrated, investor owned business model. The return on investment for such entities is too long to make the business case for connecting premises other than so-called "anchors" such as schools, libraries and business parks. It's part and parcel of America's widespread pattern of balkanized, incomplete telecom infrastructure and disparate access.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Outdated 1998 "going online" perceptions persist, hold back progress

Technology Is Improving, So Why Is Rural Broadband Access Still a Problem? | National News | US News: It is still worth noting, however, that even if rural broadband infrastructure were exactly the same as in urban areas, there would still be a "digital divide" in adoption rates, because rural populations are older, less educated and have lower income.
Had this been asserted in 1998-2000, it would have been mostly true since Americans were "going online" via dialup modem (and DSL for some fortunate households) to access email and websites. But it's badly outdated and uninformed in 2017. Fiber optic to the premise telecommunications infrastructure can deliver not only email and web content, but also voice communications via Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), videoconferencing (older folks love to see their grandkids), online education, telemedicine and of course streaming video content.
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