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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