Thursday, May 25, 2017

Silicon Valley needs heartland help in net neutrality fight - Axios

Silicon Valley needs heartland help in net neutrality fight - Axios: The Bay Area has long been a bastion of support for strong net neutrality rules. Now supporters are looking somewhere else for backup: Trump country. Why it matters: With net neutrality rules under assault, proponents know they need to get the attention of policymakers with roots in the heartland to show support isn't isolated to the Silicon Valley bubble.
This is the crux of the problem defining the U.S. Federal Communications Commission 2015 Open Internet regulations as "net neutrality." It really doesn't mean much to the average telecommunications consumer. Moreover, in the heartland the real benefit of the regulations classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications utility service under Title II of the Communications Act is Title II's universal service and anti-redlining provisions. These are real world concerns in the heartland, where millions of Americans have been turned down for years by incumbent ISPs when they attempt to obtain landline Internet connections to their homes and small businesses.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Observations on Penn Law review of muni fiber

New Penn research assesses financial viability of municipal fiber networks •Penn Law: Using industry standard financial analysis tools on five years of official data, the study finds that 11 out of the 20 fiber networks assessed do not generate enough cash to cover their current operating costs and only two out of the 20 are on track to recover their total project costs during their 30-40 years of expected useful life. Key findings include:

  • 11 of 20 projects studied are cash-flow negative, many substantially so.
  • 5 of the 9 cash-flow positive projects are generating returns that are so small that it would take more than a century to recover project costs.
  • 2 of the 9 cash-flow positive projects would have a recovery period of 61-65 years, beyond the expected useful life of a fiber network.
  • Only 2 of the 20 projects studied earned enough to expect to cover their project costs during the useful life of the networks, one of which is an outlier that serves an industrial city with few residents.
  • The analysis also models the returns for a hypothetical project, finding it would take over 100 years to recover expected project costs.

Three observations on this study:

  1. The study's findings do not invalidate the concept of municipally operated telecommunications infrastructure per se. Rather, they suggest the financial model requires further assessment and adjusting and enhanced federal subsidization.
  2. The scope of the study does not encompass the external benefits of modernized telecommunications infrastructure, particularly in areas where investor-owned private network investment would also be NPV (Net Present Value) negative, miring these areas with substandard infrastructures and associated adverse economic implications.
  3. The executive summary states that "[a]lthough some claim that investing in fiber serves a necessary function of future-proofing a municipality’s infrastructure, evidence shows little current need for such high broadband speeds." This is the classic infrastructure planning error of estimating future infrastructure needs based on present needs and detracts greatly from the study's credibility since this point is typically made by legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies opposed to public sector telecommunications infrastructure modernization projects as an encroachment on their largely unregulated service territory monopolies.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Potential game changer: PG&E could alter California telecom landscape


Image result for pg&e

An application by Pacific Gas & Electric to the California Public Utilities Commission to become a wholesale operator of fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure could be game changer in California where many customer premises nominally in the service territory of AT&T lack landline Internet connections or are limited to slow first generation DSL service over deteriorating copper cable plant.

PG&E’s vast 70,000 square mile northern and central California electric service territory overlaps regions of the Golden State where telecom infrastructure deficiencies are most prevalent: in and around the Central Valley municipalities of Modesto and Fresno, in the Sierra Nevada foothills east and northeast of the state capital of Sacramento in Placer and El Dorado counties and up the Interstate 5 corridor in Sutter, Butte and Yuba counties to the Shasta County seat of Redding in far northern part of the state. In addition to AT&T, PG&E’s electric service territory encompasses the telecom service territories of Frontier, Consolidated Communications and Citizens Telecommunications Company of California. All of these telcos could be customers of PG&E’s planned wholesale fiber as well as mobile wireless operators seeking backhaul bandwidth.

If approved by regulators, PG&E’s application could also attract new players who would like to provide fiber-based premise telecommunications service in areas lacking robust landline connections but can’t make the numbers work due to the high cost of building new fiber infrastructure and deploying field equipment. Having PG&E build it and lease it to them as competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) would solve that problem. PG&E would also be spared considerable deployment expense and delay since it owns utility poles that would provide the backbone for aerial fiber plant, the optimal infrastructure architecture to serve such a large and geographically diverse area, much of it with rugged terrain.

PG&E’s move holds the potential promise of universal service for northern and central California, which for many years has been a crazy quilt checkerboard of served, undeserved and unserved areas, leaving many consumers to struggle with substandard, poor value dialup, legacy DSL, fixed and mobile wireless and satellite service.

For more background on PG&E’s application, Steve Blum’s Blog has more details here and here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

House Dems Propose $40B Broadband Investment | Multichannel

House Dems Propose $40B Broadband Investment | Multichannel: According to a breakout of the bill, the broadband investment is spread out over five years and will use a reverse auction to subsidize broadband in "unserved" areas (75% of the funds, or $30 billion), with the remaining 25% (that would be $10 billion) going to states via a separate reverse auction. But if there are no unserved areas in a state, that state could use the funds to serve underserved areas--or as ISPs see it, overbuild existing service--or for connecting libraries and schools or to deploy next gen 911.

The $30 billion would have to go to private entities, but the $10 billion could go to muni broadband buildouts.The broadband will have to be high-speed--at least 100 Mbps downstream, and 3 Mbps up, with a carveout for remote areas, where 25 Mbps/3 mbps would qualify. Given that it has money for muni broadband and for potential overbuilds, both of which the reigning Republican majority has issues with--as do ISPs--the bill's prospects are probably not very bright.

I tend to agree with this analysis. As long as it remains the policy of the United States to primarily rely on legacy private investor-owned telephone and cable companies to upgrade and build out modern fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure to homes, businesses and institutions, any funding allocated to public sector entities will encounter strong resistance from the telco/cableco lobby. Those industries want to retain their prerogative under the current de facto light touch regulatory regime to do so on their schedule and in neighborhoods of their choosing. Even if that means for the foreseeable, millions of Americans will remain unserved with fiber connections or even first generation DSL first rolled out in the 1990s.

More nonsensical "broadband mapping" BS

Senators Agree That Accurate Mapping is Essential for Broadband Expansion: The CN subsidiary, Connect Michigan, found 44 percent of working-age Michigan adults rely on Internet access to seek or apply for jobs, while 22 percent further their education by taking online classes. But, it all starts with accurate data mapping, which is so important. A fact U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) each acknowledged this week when they introduced the Rural Access bill.

“Millions of rural Americans in Kansas and many other states depend on the promise of mobile broadband buildout efforts, and this critical expansion depends on the accuracy of current coverage data and uniformity in how it is collected,” Senator Moran told Global Affairs. “As we work to close the broadband gap, our providers must have standardized, clear data so they can plan out ways to reach communities most in need of access.” “We can’t close the digital divide if we don’t know where the problem is,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill will help us understand which communities still have bad wireless broadband coverage, so that we can move ahead and fix it.”


This is complete nonsense (or bullshit if you prefer) for two reasons:

1. It conflates premise service needed by the families, businesses, schools, agricultural producers and people who need access to seek or apply for jobs or take online classes -- cited in the news release -- with mobile wireless service. They aren't one in the same.

2. It assumes the "digital divide" can be closed by mapping areas redlined by incumbent landline ISPs. Problem is the incumbent ISPs already know where the redlined neighborhoods are since they redlined them in the first place. What's a "broadband map" going to do to change that situation? Moreover, providers other than incumbents can't plop down discrete networks to fill the swiss cheese holes represented the redlined neighborhoods because telecommunications infrastructure operates as a network over wide areas. Nor would the economics pencil out.

Monday, May 15, 2017

FCC Chair Pai shows apparent lack of knowledge on wireless Internet

Pai: Wired, Wireless Appear Very Competitive To Him | Multichannel: At an American Enterprise Institute speech recapping his first 100 days, Pai was asked about that relative competitiveness by host and AEI visiting scholar Jeffrey Eisenach, who was a member of the Trump FCC transition team. Eisenach asked whether Pai thought that wireless is now a substitute for wireline. Pai said, for him, at least, "they are very competitive offerings." The "for him" is because the chairman is always careful to separate his views from what the FCC as a whole might conclude based on the fact record before it. But he suggested that fact record could be a strong one. Pai said that as 4g LTE and 5G networks get rolled out, and the next generation of Wi-Fi is rolled out, " I think we are increasingly going to see that wireless is not this 'imperfect substitute' for wired connections. "It is going to be the dominant means, the preferable means, by which people access the Internet."
This needs to be placed in the proper context. Currently, wireless networks are primarily intended to serve mobile users as a complement to premise service -- and not a substitute since even nominally "unlimited" hotspot plans come with quite restrictive bandwidth useage limitations. In addition, most industry experts don't see even the next generation of mobile wireless, 5G, being able to replace fiber premise service when it's expected to be rolled out in 2020. Assuming Pai is quoted accurately, one might hope that an FCC chair would demonstrate a greater depth of knowledge and bring a more nuanced perspective to this topic.

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