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CISPA - Beyond Security to allowing total corporate surveillance
Wednesday, 11 April 2012 18:29

Letting any almost company legally get all your phone and email records. CISPA would allow companies to share any information they have with government if claimed related to cyber-security. Civil libertarians hate that; others think anything done in the CISPA croppedname of security needs to be allowed. You can and should make up your own mind on what's right. The bill (below) goes much further, including allowing essentially any company to share essentially anything with other companies. They merely need to claim it's somehow related to "cyber-security."

     But it's ridiculous to allow say Microsoft to ask Verizon for all my phone call records and who I emailed because I break a story about Microsoft, say how they price Microsoft Mediaroom that disadvantages community television. They could claim that a "trade secret" and hence intellectual property. This "cyber-security" bill provides near total protection to private companies sharing information about "theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information."  The plain language of the bill would allow Verizon to hand over my email and phone contacts if I reported, as I have, that three separate senior FCC employees thought the Spectrum Crunch report was a fiction invented for political reasons. That's government information not officially released I may have "mis-appropriated."  Cisco, I discovered, was damned mad I reported they were offering to sell AT&T femtocells (quantity 10M) for $50 and certainly both companies believed it "private information." Especially because Cisco was selling the same unit to others at $125-150. Gucci would love to get the complete list of emails from a company they think is selling counterfeits on eBay. They could follow up with (legal) questions to every customer asking about counterfeits and probably destroy the business even if they found nothing. Think of the possibilities for a lawyer chasing "pirates" of pornography if they could get someone complete email and phone records. 

    Adding fake handbags and basic reporting makes this far more than a bill about security and totally abusive. Reasonable people may disagree about how far government should go in the name of security. But giving private companies complete access with no recourse for abuses is off the wall. So shame on Christopher Padilla of IBM, Tim McKone of AT&T, Peter Davidson of Verizon, Michael Powell of NCTA and Fred Humphries of Microsoft for their strong support of the House bill. Maybe that didn't bother to read what they were signing on to and didn't realize the bombshell built in.  At minimum, all ISPs should make clear they will not provide information outside of government unless subpoenaed. 

    Those who believe this bill is important for "security" should be the first to strip "theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information" out so the bill isn't blocked.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 April 2012 16:34
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U.S. 2011 - Up 3-4M
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 11:43

AT&T went negative Q4. UBS predicts telco broadband will go negative in 2012, led by a 400K drop at AT&T. With U-Verse and FiOS mostly ended, cablecos are pulling ahead. Net adds overall are so few - about 5% - that the total share has only moved about 2 points despite a huge lead in net adds for cable in 2011. The data below are from Leichtman, who estimates the listed carriers represent 93% of the market. UBS numbers are similar. There aren't that many smaller carriers so I have to determine why the Point-Topic figures are somewhat higher.

    The gain at Charter makes sense as they've enlarged their buildout after coming out of bankruptcy. Jay Rolls, one of the industry's top engineers, has nearly completed the DOCSIS 3.0 downstream rollout. FiOS is showing strength compared to U-Verse, although not enough to pay back the higher deployment cost.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 12:10
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DSL bonding: Yes for business, no for homes at Sonic.net
Saturday, 24 March 2012 14:51

Sonic.net-began-as-a-room-in-this-houseFewer than one in twenty consumers buy bonded. Dane Jasper brought the price of two lines bonded down from $80 to $70 but consumers just didn't bite. On the other hand, businesses are buying the double line DSL, two unlimited phone line offering. Sonic.net has now simplified their offering. Consumers get "up to 24 meg" DSL and unlimited voice with full features for ~$40. Business get double speeds and two full-featured phone lines for ~$90. Typical download speeds are 5-15 megabits for one line and 10-30 megabits for two.


 Bonding two pair works, generally doubling speed at the cost of using a second copper pair, another dslam port and a fancier modem at home. The service generally performed well although there were some inside wiring problems. If you're a telco with loads of unused copper, bonding may be an attractive product. A competitor like California's Sonic.net has to pay the telco for each line and needs to charge much more, however.

Last Updated on Monday, 26 March 2012 01:53
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China broadband: 2.5M more in January to 150M
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 16:19

Mobile over 1B subscribers. China continues to add broadband subscribers at a rate of about 30M per year. MIIT puts the January growth at 2.5M to a total of 152.5M. Of those, about 1.5M were DSL. They don't realease fiber counts, but Jeff Heynen of Infonetics is reporting tens of millions of lines of fiber gear are in the pipeline. China has been consistently at 2-3M net adds per month.

   Two key policy moves are likely to maintain or even increase the growth rate. The government is leaning hard on China Tel and China Unicom to drop prices. They've begun the first major antitrust action against state-owned companies since the beginning of the Communist era. (The government continues to own over 70% of each telco.) China Telecom responded by promising to cut prices in half, but some of that is empty rhetoric. (link) As China goes through a government transition, forceful action is on hold. Evidence around the world is that nothing increases customers nearly as effectively as lowering prices.

   China Mobile jumping into landlines, hard, with an investment in the emerging national cable operator, Marbridge speculates. At the highest levels, government has also been calling for more competition through "convergence" of telcos, broadcasters, and cablecos. The central government continues to make proclamations that would allow the cablecos into data while the political power of the telcos holds them back. A series of maneuvers, some orchestrated by the media regulator SARFT, are consolidating cablecos across the industry into the China Radio and Television Network and allying them with the powerful "media groups." The companies in turn are expressing interest in huge purchases of equipment. If the political problems clear, over 100M cable customers will soon have new, attractively priced broadband choices.

    10M new “subscribers” purchased mobile in January to reach 996M. China passed 1B subscribers sometime in February. Like mobile figures everywhere, the totals are distorted by the large number of customers with multiple phones or just multiple SIM cards. People take a new subscription to get a new phone or just to take advantage of a good deal on a SIM. In India, common phones have 2 SIM card slots. A dozen companies in the most competitive market in the world for mobile are constantly offering deals and customers simply add a second SIM to take advantage of the best prices for local and national calling.

   The official figures of 70+% penetration therefore do not imply that the vast majority of Chinese 15 years or older have a mobile, but most do. 8M in January upgraded to 3G, nearly ubiquitous and not too expensive.  4G LTE is essentially on hold, with the ministry holding back frequency allocations until TD-LTE is fully ready. TD is in "trials" that will soon amount to millions of customers, but expect 2-3 more years before the ministry thinks the device ecosystem is ready for full fledged competition with FD-LTE deployed by China Telecom and Unicom. The continuing patent farce in the West - It's Yahoo against Facebook against Apple against Motorola against Kodak against Samsung against Microsoft against Ericsson - provides continuing motivation for the Chinese to develop their own standard by whatever means necessary.


 
British Telecom DSL clobbering cable
Friday, 24 February 2012 08:16
boltBT added 145K, Virgin cable 15K. British Telecom’s DSL aggressive marketing is essentially beating 50-100 megabit cable, especially in the 30% or so of the country upgraded to FTTN/DSL cabinets at “up to 40 megabits.” Virgin remains financially challenged and isn’t doing nearly as well as the cablecos in the U.S.
     Virgin covers about 50% of the country, including many lines where BT only offers 3-6 meg DSL. In the U.S., Verizon and AT&T are getting clobbered by cable in the one-third of their territory they haven’t upgraded. The effect is much smaller in Britain, and the upgraded (FTTN/DSL) BT is winning customers away from cable despite generally slower speeds. 
     Takeaway: Very few customers will pay much for speeds over 10 megabits, enough for 2 or 3 HD TV signals. In 2012, upgraded DSL/FTTN, which covers 1/3rd of the U.S. and a similar share of England, is doing fine against cable. Company strategy and marketing, not technology, determines who gets the customer. This is confirmed by how well Telus and AT&T U-Verse are doing against cable. 
     Results are mixed at other British DSL carriers. Talktalk - the old Carphone Warehouse - actually dropped 43K customers to 4.086M customers. They’ve added 300 exchanges to their network the last 6 months, but actually lost on-net customers. They’ve priced to chase away off-net customers from the 20% or so of the U.K. they don’t cover, losing 60,000 (15%) in the last quarter alone. Sky added 166K Q4 to 3.65M with very aggressive broadband pricing if you take their TV bundle. They added 645K over the year. They promise to offer “up to 40 megabits” to 30% of the UK next month via unbundling BT cabinets. 
     Virgin's fightback: commercials with world's fastest runner Adrian Bolt


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 February 2012 00:06
 
EC Competition Chief: Standards must be fair, transparent, and reasonable
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 20:52

Varney webJohn Donovan could have been sued for $100M. ITU, ETSI, ATIS look out. Joaquín Almunia, EC vice-president, wants to enforce "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" clauses. Everyone involved in standards knows some companies look only to take advantage. Almunia wants to make sure standards "are not in the hands of established firms willing to impose their technologies."

     Apple's lawyer Bruce Watrous leaned on Luis Jorge Romero Saro at ETSI to reduce Motorola's patent claims and Microsoft piled on. Headline making lawsuits abound. Apple would prevent anyone else from making a good smartphone, if they could, and Microsoft is throwing around patents to kill Android. 

      Christine Varney, recently U.S. antitrust chief, told Silicon Flatirons the "biggest issue facing the Internet is the intersection of intellectual property and anti-trust." The problem isn't new. Nearly a decade ago, Houlin Zhou, now ITU Deputy-General, told me the best standards were royalty free. Since then, demands for royalties have gone up. Motorola wants $1B a year for a small fraction of the design of the iPhone.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 23:37
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DSLAM shipments up 10% Q4. VDSL + 25% Y/Y
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 12:44

Dell’oro finds VDSL now 31% of ports. Steve Nozik of Dell’oro sees a strong trend to VDSL as customers are demanding higher speeds. Years ago, I reported chipmakers expected ADSL to rapidly fade away because VDSL chips were faster for short loops while identical to ADSL for longer loops. It didn’t play out that way; the ADSL mode in VDSL chips had performance problems. Power and space requirements were much greater. VDSL DSLAMs still cost about $20 more per port.
     Nozik believes that ADSL will still lead in unit sales but VDSL in 2012 will pull ahead in revenue. With DSL coverage well over 90% of the developed world, I believe unit growth will predictably drop. Although China’s 35M ports of fiber this year is a factor,  saturation is the primary reason DSL sales will almost certainly be flat to down. DSL gear remains a multi-billion dollar per year market.
     Dell’Oro shares much of the primary data with me, allowing me to confirm, yet again, they do a superb job gathering the data. http://www.delloro.com/services_access.htm.

 
Russia leads the world with 37% growth
Monday, 26 March 2012 01:14

Ukraine 32%, India 24%, China 20%, Brazil 19%
66M new broadband connections in 2011 brought the world total to 597M,  up 12% on the year. China added 27M and the U.S. 4M. DSL continues to dominate everywhere except the U.S. and Canada, with 61% of the market while cable has less than 20%. Below the full chart with the largest broadband nations first. Here's the same data sorted by % growth.

 Russia  37%
 Ukraine  32%
 India  24%
 China  20%
 Brazil  19%
 Mexico  10%
 France  8%
 Poland  8%
 Japan  7%
 Taiwan  7%
 Germany  7%
 Netherlands  7%
 Turkey  6%
 UK  6%
 Spain  5%
 U.S.  5%
 Canada  5%
 Korea  4%
 Australia  4%
 Italy  3%

      The vigor of the emerging economies gave us the best growth in five years. China's 27M net adds are almost 40% of the world total. Russia's 5.6M are more than France, Germany, and Britain combined. Add Brazil and India, both 2.6M, and that's well over half the year's 59M net adds.

All data from the ever-invaluable Point Topic via the Broadband Forum.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 14:07
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RUS Writeoffs: Easily $300M, possibly $3B
Friday, 23 March 2012 22:22
More than just the USF cutbacks. A third of the small telcos will go bust the next few years, one of their advocates claims, unless the USF/ICC cutbacks are reversed. Some very intense lobbying is urging the White House to restore the old subsidies, no matter what the cost. Some waivers are appropriate for the truly brutal high cost areas, but after hours reading submissions I find no doubt doubt the FCC reductions are good government work. The companies simply haven't provided any solid data otherwise.

Whatever the details of the USF/ICC program, wireline telephony is a declining business. Many companies have large debt or high operating costs and will fail at any plausible level of subsidy. A decade ago the FCC forecast that loss of long distance revenues and wired lines would bankrupt many of the rurals. Robert Pepper, head of the Office of Policy and Plans, had figures that made clear a day of reckoning was coming. Every landline only company in the world is struggling, including British Telecom (dividend cut), Frontier (dividend cut), Hawaiian Tel (bankruptcy), and Fairpoint (bankruptcy, with a second bankruptcy hard to avoid.) Both Century-Qwest and Windstream have earnings below their dividend payments, propped up by capex far below depreciation and ultimately unsustainable. The smaller rurals are facing the same objective problems but don't report publicly so I can't provide firm numbers. Tweaking the details of USF might postpone but won't prevent wide distress.

Some of the coming RUS losses are clear cases of abuse. Sandwich Islands, with $116M in loans approved, has told the FCC they will default unless they get a huge (and totally inappropriate) change in the new FCC CAF/USF  regulations.   Sandwich Islands is a secretive outfit with close ties to Democratic politicians exposed by the local press. Lobbyist Mike Powell helped them out when he was FCC Chairman. It looks like they spent $100M on running unnecessary fiber between the islands. USF was showering money on them: somewhere north of $25,000 per home passed, although they refuse to provide the figures. (The FCC is considering my FOIA request for the basic data to report this story.)

RUS is already liquidating a $200M loan to Open Range gone bad. In the guise of reaching unserved, Open Range got funded for $267M. This was deceptive; in fact, most of their deployment was wireless to mid-sized metros that already had both DSL and cable. It was a mistake to fund it initially, especially because the FCC knew there were highly credible allegations of fraud against the CEO. (I know they were aware because I asked them about it in 2007 or 2008 before the loans was granted. The agency stonewalled me and I'm sorry I didn't push harder. Adelstein since he took office has watched them carefully and shut them down before all the money was disbursed.) A large loss is inevitable. I urge a full forensic audit because the company statements as they hit the skids were misleading.

    Another large borrower with a few hundred rural high cost homes borrowed extravagantly to run fiber to the home to a suburban area that already has cable. In an official filing, it also projects bankruptcy if its subsidy is cut to "only" $3,000 per year per home - including many homes that are reached by cable without subsidy.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 13:49
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Telebyte first with VDSL vectoring test equipment
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 03:09

VXT48_testerLooking for objective answers on what works. One leading company claims vectoring delivers almost no gain unless you vector everything in the node. A leading expert says that's hogwash, and most of the benefits can be achieved with a simpler and much less expensive retrofit.  The DSL Forum has defined test methods that should provide some answers and Telebyte’s Michael Breneisen is now shipping early units with a 48 line emulator built in.

     The unit fits in a standard rack. It’s been under development for two years in the high-tech zone of Hauppauge, Long Island, an hour outside New York City. Long Island remains something of a tech hub although the aviation and defense industry cut back years ago.

       In 2004, a large roomful of engineers were amazed when the notion now called “vectoring” was first proposed and some were skeptical. In 2012, the doubts are gone but the practical how tos need answers. Until we have real world results, no one will be certain of the quality of the emulation or for that matter the practical limits of vectoring itself. Those answers are clearly very close, so much so that I’ve been recommending vectored gear for almost all new builds.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 11:28
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Puerto Rico, home of the great unserved
Friday, 24 February 2012 01:02
Puerto_RicoPerhaps 600,000 unserved homes, nearly all cheap to reach. Julius promised that CAF “will bring broadband to more than 600,000 Americans who wouldn’t have it otherwise” by November 2012. That’s about 200,000 homes. Windstream, Frontier and other big telcos are boycotting his program, demanding to be paid without building to the unserved. The obvious answer is “Go south, Jules.”
43% of Puerto Rico can’t get DSL or cable according to the official National Broadband Map, ten times the national rate. It’s a small, densely populated island with an extensive wireline phone network easy to upgrade to DSL. PRTC doesn’t release data, but probably 200,000 of those homes could be offered service within months for less than ~$200 home because they are within reach of an exchange or large remote terminal. Almost certainly, 400,000 of those homes can be reached for under $500/home, generally at 25 megabits or more, using remote terminals like AT&T’s U-Verse. U-Verse, according to AT&T comments to Wall Street, cost $300-400/home and is video grade.
     Big telcos like Frontier and Windstream are demanding subsidies well into the thousands per line, even though many of the lines can be upgraded for a few hundred. Some excellent FCC staff work by Steve Rosenberg and others determined there are plenty of lines needing upgrading that require a subsidy of $775 or less. 
Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 01:32
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Frontier's down 40%, Century, Windstream not
Thursday, 02 February 2012 22:39
Frontier_price_drop
Stock moves should be similar. Frontier, Century, and Windstream are U.S. mostly landline carriers in very similar businesses. They all have declining landlines, very modest broadband growth, and the problems of a wireline carrier in a world gone wireless. Until recently, their stocks mostly moved in similar directions. Over the last five months, Frontier's stock price has gone down 40% ($4.36) while the other two are flat. Goldman Sachs has now downgraded the stock. Something is wrong in this picture. The blue line in the chart is Frontier, and ordinarily it would be moving similarly to the red and green lines. 
    I haven't done enough research to determine whether Frontier is relatively underpriced now or was relatively overpriced previously. None of these companies have had leadership changes or obvious business changes that offer an easy explanation. The difference, I believe, is the market perception of the stocks, not the underlying businesses.
Last Updated on Friday, 03 February 2012 00:52
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