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As I've been discussing a lot lately
(because it's the most important issue facing the broadband sector right now), both AT&T and Verizon are in the process of gutting regulations that require they continue offering copper landlines -- and by proxy DSL -- to tens of millions of Americans. Both companies insist that they're simply interested in "modernizing regulations" and ushering us into an "all IP age." In reality, both companies simply want to exit the fixed-line market in areas they're unwilling to upgrade.
That's a move that has serious repercussions in the form of increased broadband coverage gaps, higher prices, stronger cable monopolies and lower-quality service. What happens to these users is part of one of the biggest shifts this industry has ever seen. The FCC this week simply noted that they'd be taking a closer look at this transition
, in the form of "Pilot programs" that can study the transition from the copper PSTN to wireless and/or VoIP.
This modest proposal outraged AT&T, who'd very much like to sever tens of millions of in-use DSL lines nobody wants to buy -- and they don't want to upgrade -- without anyone studying the way this would impact you. In a piece over at CNET
, contributor Larry Downes channels this bogus carrier outrage in a dubious piece that trots out all the industry's usual bogeymen, such as the well-worn yarn that the government simply studying an issue stifles network investment:
The notice was disappointing to advocates who see the IP transition as a potential catalyst in connecting more Americans to the broadband ecosystem, a goal far more likely with the switched network definitively shut off in favor of native IP technology. According to Fred Campbell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a former bureau chief at the FCC, Friday's notice is "more likely to discourage future investment in Internet infrastructure than to accelerate it."
Yes, nothing "connects more Americans to the broadband ecosystem" quite like killing off regulations requiring they keep providing DSL and POTS lines.
Last week we noted that Georgia lawmakers shot down
a law proposed by Windstream and AT&T that would have made it illegal
for a town to wire itself with broadband in a zip code if just one person in that area had 3 Mbps service. Consumer groups like Public Knowledge are of course cheering the defeat
. "The defeat of this bill shows that the state-level agenda pushed by AT&T, which manages to be both deregulatory (for AT&T) and regulatory (in passing laws preventing others from entering the market) at the same time, can be defeated when policymakers can see its consequences," says Public Knowledge's John Bergmayer. While the win is heartening, it's important to remember that carriers will try again; it took Time Warner Cable five years and four different bills to pass anti-community broadband laws in North Carolina
Georgia's absurd anti-community broadband bill
is of course only the latest in a decade long effort by incumbent ISPs to ban communities from wiring themselves -- even if the local operator refuses to. The Wall Street Journal
notes that with the recent passage of similar rules in North and South Carolina, 19 states now have laws in place -- all of them written by incumbent ISPs -- either banning or greatly hindering community broadband improvement efforts.
Municipal broadband provider Burlington Telecom is turning up the speeds significantly for users in select regions of Vermont. According to local ads being run by the company
, they're launching two new fast service tiers to their lineup starting December 1.
Chattanooga, Tennessee's power-utility-turned-FTTH-provider see (our user reviews
) a few days ago shook up their speeds, potentially in anticipation of Comcast bringing their own improved cable speeds (and Metro Ethernet To The Home...more on that in a later article) to the market. The upgrade, which roughly coincides with Hackanooga
, a hackathon centered on finding uses for gigabit FTTH speeds, is the second in EPB's history and puts EPB's speed-price ratio somewhere between Google Fiber and everyone else in the US.
The financials for the nation's largest municipal broadband deployment are getting somewhat dire. According to the latest numbers from Utah's Utopia
, the fiber to the home project will be out of cash by the end of September.
A new post over at the Google Fiber blog
notes that with pre-registration now closed, 180 out of 202 potential "fiberhoods" in the Kansas City region have qualified for Google Fiber. As we noted back in July
, Google encouraged Kansas City communities to participate in a six week rally to determine which neighborhoods were connected first.
Last week we noted that the GOP Internet policy platform released at the national convention was a lot of hot air with a dash of hypocrisy
, the GOP professing to love "Internet freedom" yet pushing for broader filters on pornography while spending all their time opposing network neutrality and protecting the nation's wireless duopoly. With the Democratic National Convention coming this week (of which AT&T is the official carrier
), it's their turn to shovel manure atop the national tech discourse as is par for election season, releasing their Democratic Platform
for your perusal.
What do you do when your regional phone company, CenturyLink, refuses to seriously upgrade DSL users -- and your incumbent cable company, Mediacom, starts punishing customers by charging overages
? If you're one of the few states left where incumbents haven't bought laws blocking you from doing so, you try and wire yourself with better broadband. Indianola, Iowa says they are planning to launch their new fiber network October 1
. According to the local pricing sheet
(pdf), users can sign up for symmetrical 25 Mbps broadband for $40 a month, symmetrical 50 Mbps service for $45 a month, and symmetrical 100 Mbps service for $50 a month. There's no usage caps, and TV bundle pricing more than competes with regional incumbents.
Scott Cleland is a policy consultant paid by incumbent ISPs to sell his client's unfiltered Kool-Aid to reporters and politicians, and is frequently called to Washington as an "objective" industry analyst, despite his obvious role as little more than a paid parrot. You might recall that when we last saw Scott Cleland, he was busily beating up on Google for not investing in broadband infrastructure
, despite billions spent on global fiber runs and storage capacity.
Back in April you'll recall that Verizon stopped selling standalone DSL
, taking us back to the stone age of broadband when users were forced to bundle a costly landline they no longer want. That move was just one part of a broader tactical shift by Verizon aimed at completely re-configuring the American broadband landscape -- potentially for the worse.
With pay phone use in steep decline due to mobile phones, New York City launched a new trial this week
that will aim to turn some of the city's 12,000 remaining payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots. The idea isn't new; long time readers will remember that Verizon tinkered with turning payphones into hotspots
, but then backed away from the idea in 2005 when they realized that Wi-Fi wasn't a hot money maker.
Not to be outdone by other fiber to the home projects like Google Fiber or Sonic.net, Utah's municipal fiber outfit Utopia has announced they'll soon be offering 1 Gbps connections
to every home they pass. Both XMission and Veracity Networks will offer the 1 gigabit-per-second connections for around $300 a month -- up from the maximum symmetrical 25 Mbps now offered. It seems unlikely that many customers will sign up for the blistering speed, but as with 1 Gbps offerings, it will certainly give regional incumbents Cox and CenturyLink something to worry about on the public relations and marketing front.
For much of the last decade Seattle has explored the idea
of building their own ultra-fast broadband network. Much of that motivation was fueled by the sub-standard service provided in the region by regional telco Qwest (now CenturyLink), which in turn resulted in regional cable operator Comcast not working very hard. Seattle has announced that the city is finally pulling the plug on the idea
-- and is even scrapping the small city-run Wi-Fi effort they started back in 2005. "With the general-fund budget situation being the way it is, I recommended to the mayor and he agreed we should shut it down," said Bill Schrier, chief technology officer. That $100,000 needed to run the Wi-Fi network is headed elsewhere, and the city is selling off portions of their internal fiber network to the highest bidder.
Great Works Internet (GWI) and the University of Maine this week announced
that theyll be collaborating to bring 1 Gbps connections to homes and businesses in Orono, Maine. According to the announcement, the deployment will first focus on business regions, then shift to residential areas based on demand and population density. GWI had previously worked on middle-mile solutions in the state, but saw fierce opposition from regional incumbent Fairpoint, who tried to prevent the outfit from using regional utility poles
. This new Gigabit Main Street network is a perfect example of how we intend to bring people from the public and private sector and the university community together to drive innovation and create economic opportunity," insists UMaine President Paul Ferguson.
A few years ago Verizon signed FiOS franchise agreements with several major east coast cities including Philadelphia, New York City, Pittsburgh and Washington DC. The agreements promised 100% coverage of FiOS to most of these cities, though as we noted at the time
most of the deals contained fine print loopholes allowing Verizon to extend or even wiggle out of their obligation if they weren't seeing the kind of TV adoption rates they wanted.
With the world headed forward to cellular, VoIP and other technology, the pay phone is very obviously starting to become a relic in many locations -- but regulations require many locations to keep some pay phones in service for emergencies. The K & M Telephone Company in Chambers, Nebraska is seeking permission to disconnect the town's last remaining pay phone
, which they claim costs them around $1,500 to run annually but netted them only $3.35 last year in change.
K & M isn't alone since Nebraska's Public Service Commission requires each town in the State to have at least one 24-hour public pay phone. While the companies probably don't like eating these costs, the source article
omits the fact that most of these telcos (small and large alike) have been subsidized billions for years for services they may -- or may have not
-- ever actually provided.
Combined with the bevy of obnoxious fees and the amount of overcharging that goes on for POTS service (like charging $10 for services like callerID that cost pennies to provide), you have to think K&M and others will somehow survive as the pay phone gasps its last breath for a few more years.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , telcodad