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U.S. State Broadband Data Implies 4-5% Can't Get 3 Meg, 2% Not Even 1.5
Thursday, 17 February 2011 17:46
States_worst_broadbandFrom the Broadband Map, some state data [added 2/18] that calculates to 4% of the U.S. not able to get 3-6 meg advertised.  From another NTIA chart http://bit.ly/eEaLRp, I see that about half of those can get 1.5 meg and that by the NTIA data about 98% of the U.S. can get 1.5 meg. There are anomalies in the data that need explaining before any of this is used for policy about the unserved.
   I put this together trying to understand the data and there are some surprise. In particular, in 2007, California did a fairly careful study and found 96% broadband coverage. The NTIA map shows 91.7% in 2010. While some of that may be that the federal map has a 3 megabit cutoff, there are very few broadband providers that offer less than 3 megabits. Cable is listed as not serving 18% but that figure is almost certainly too high. If it were accurate, some major cable operators submitted fraudulent SEC reports. I'm researching more.
    Indiana, with 6M people, seems the worst served of the larger states at a measured 72%. Wisconsin at 88% and Virginia at 93% are the other two large state with issues. Puerto Rico at 46.5% is below much of Latin America and other countries far poorer than the island.
    Below, the states and territories from broadbandmap.gov, both total coverage and cable modem only. It's clear from the low percentages they believe have cable coverage in many states that the figures are simply in error.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 February 2011 14:53
Extraordinary Access to the Broadband Data
Thursday, 17 February 2011 14:52

The FCC and NTIA have done a remarkable job making most of the data available, whether you're a consumer just looking for your neighborhood or an analyst extracting trends. At broadbandmap.gov, you can see your county, state, metropolitan areas or even local census tract. Just input your address. You can add demographic data for analysis. You can get answers on a map or a web page. You can download the data in several common formats, including to take right into a spreadsheet. You can even send it via Facebook, Twitter and more. 

I extracted a state-by-state chart which is turning out to be interesting. http://bit.ly/fRAvNE


The overall project is a model of how to present data. They offer three dozen "RESTful" APIs at http://www.broadbandmap.gov/developer so you can extract almost anything you want. The raw dataset has 25,000,000 records and you can download the whole thing if you want it. Michael Bryne of the FCC was very proud they had done all the work with open source tools. Everything is running on Wordpress. Computech deserves kudos for the programming.


If only the politicians weren't spinning the conclusions.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 February 2011 15:50
British Telecom Ordered to: Cut Rural Prices 10%-14%
Sunday, 13 February 2011 20:44
rural_BritainEd Richards of OFCOM required BT to lower wholesale prices an average of 12% in the rural areas where they have no competition. Across most of the UK, three providers offer DSL from the exchange. TalkTalk is on the way to 93% unbundled and Sky not far behind.  The result is broadband prices 20-50% lower than the U.S. duopoly. But prices are higher in rural areas not yet unbundled. Competition is strong enough most of the savings are likely to be passed on to consumers.

    Richards has allowed BT to raise the line rental to about $19, more than a complete voice service in much of the U.S. Virgin Cable only covers about half the country, leaving the other half no choice but to pay the line rental. The result is that British prices, while better than the U.S. or Canada, are typically about $10 more than France. The 12% cut is after an "inflation adjustment," which as far as I can tell is based on the overall price index. That's a naive mistake, because telecom inflation is usually much less. Many costs in telecom go down with Moore's Law, so any price increases should be based on the telecom inflation rate. 

    Richards, perhaps the best paid regulator in Europe, runs OFCOM as a "quasi-nongovernmental organization" or quango. David Cameron campaigned on a platform to cut back on quangos and singled out RIchards $500K salary as an obvious abuse. Some thought OFCOM would be incorporated into a government agency, but Richards proved how fine a politician he is by keeping OFCOM independent. 
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 03:52
Theory of 2 Gigabit Triple-V DSL
Tuesday, 08 February 2011 16:31
They doubted when John Cioffi outlined in 2004 how four wires could deliver a gigabit one day. In 2010, Alcatel and others demonstrated 700+ megabits. Now, his ASSIA colleague Ken Kerpez shows a path to two gigabits. It requires 300 MHz, four wires and goes only a short distance. Presumably it's many years away. But Triple-V could deliver 2 gig to Jennie's 9th apartment from the basement. France Telecom is looking for an alternative for buildings they hope not to run fiber to each apartment. My mother in her old neighborhood and 20 attached homes could receive a gig and a half.

     ADSL originally used only the first megahertz of spectrum and was limited to 6 megabit service.  In VDSL2, as much as 30 megahertz is used and 100 megabits practical. Full DSM including vectoring doubles that speed to 200 megabits/copper pair, close to the 250 megabits John envisioned. Engineering to reliably modulate 30 megahertz of signal was a challenge initially but the chipmakers have solved it.

    Ken's "Triple-V" proposes extending signal to 300 megahertz. He introduces it with a paper "Initial simulations of Very Short, Very Simple, Very Fast metallic access, 'Triple-V.'"
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 04:04
Why Auctions Likely Fail for Unserved Areas
Sunday, 30 January 2011 22:19
Sotheby's_auctionThe $7B stimulus failed the unserved so abysmally that neither RUS nor NTIA is willing even to estimate how many unserved homes they reached. Many, probably most, auctions to reach those "unserved" with broadband will have poor results because there are rarely more than one or two likely bidders. Most will be more like "sole-source" contracts, which require a totally different and more complicated strategy.

Auctions for extending broadband are different from the auctions we normally think of, with plenty of bidders. Ivory tower economists assume auctions are always best. Policy folks like to believe them because auctions are far easier to set up then thoughtful planning, purchasing and negotiating.

"Unserved" homes are rarely clustered in towns of 500 or 5,000 that might make sense for a new entrant to serve. Most are in clusters of a few dozen and only the local phone company and only the local telco has facilities in place. 96% of homes that can get cable TV service can get modems as well, so only occasionally will a cableco be a second natural bidder.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 January 2011 21:31
Let Them Eat Satellite
Sunday, 30 January 2011 14:56
The February 8 USF/ICC proposals set a policy that perhaps 1% of the U.S. should get satellite, I've inferred. I have not seen the latest drafts of the program, however. Fortunately, new satellites offer 5 megabit service and somewhat improved latency.

   Landline broadband to 100% of the U.S. would cost $20-35B, the planners calculated. Use satellite for 4/10ths of 1% and the cost drops in half. In that last half of 1% are many homes that would cost $10,000 and even $100,000 to connect. Unofficially, the planners decided that was just too much to spend, especially when the the new satellites can offer 5 meg service. They decided government money should go first to areas that could be served for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. What everyone understood was that the more expensive areas would probably not be reached, but no one said that aloud. I expect the same will be true in the new USF/ICC proposals. The details in practice will offer only satellite to the most remote, but that won't be stated.  One policy expert thinks they will ultimately use satellite for 2% or 3%. If so, the cost of efficiently reaching everyone else by land will be under $5B
   Rural France, Ireland, Australia, U.S.: You Get Satellite I wrote a year ago  Australia's NBN decided to invest in their own satellite for that purpose, as has Canada. The Rural utilities service set aside $100M of stimulus money for satellite to 400,000 homes. If that's effectively delivered, it would be almost 10% of those who can't currently get broadband at $250/each and a very smart program.   
Last Updated on Monday, 31 January 2011 20:54
Many "Unserved" Apparently Missed on Map
Thursday, 17 February 2011 15:47

Something like 1/3rd of the homes that can't get broadband were ignored by the Broadband Map. At least a million homes and possibly three million have very local problems that prevent them getting service such as out of date remote terminals. NTIA recognized this and the NOFA required bidders "to gather data at the address-level on broadband availability, technology, speed, infrastructure, ARPU, and, in the case of wireless broadband, the spectrum used, across the project areas."


    Everyone involved in broadband mapping realizes that specific data by address is required for accuracy. The major carriers have fairly accurate data in their "pre-qualification" database based on actual line tests. Somehow in the NTIA process this was lost and instead they worked with aggregated data known to have serious errors. 

    The giveway was how many areas on the map showed 100% coverageThere are almost no areas in the U.S. where 100% can get broadband. For example, Verizon couldn't offer DSL to about 10% of New York and AT&T had to say no to about 10% of Chicago. New York and Chicago are older, dense cities where nearly all homes are within DSL reach of a central office. If you make a DSL map based on distance/block data, nearly everyone would be served. It turns out a meaningful number of apartments in both cities are served by remote terminals that block DSL unless upgraded. The same is true in many suburban and rural pockets developed between 1975 and 1995. Other technical issues (pairgain equipment, bad copper) similarly prevent serving selected homes.

     Similarly, the cablecos do not offer service in the parts of their territory that have fewer homes. Residences within business and industrial areas also often aren't served. There's no way to accurately know the overlap without the data by address. 

     This was an obvious problem in the early maps such as Connect Kentucky. CK told me the prequal data wasn't available for their early efforts but they would get it from the carriers from then on. Because they clearly understood the problem and said it was solved I backed away from my criticism of CK's mapping.  Every expert in broadband mapping knows the issue well. 

    When you buy a computer from Dell or Best Buy, the seller's computer checks with the carriers prequal to see whether they can earn a commission by selling broadband as well. It's awkward and expensive to find out later that a customer sold service can't be reached, so the carriers make sure to have that data available. I'm guessing how many homes are involved. It's shared daily with thousands of resellers, but they've never provided an aggregate number of how many homes are involved. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2011 11:19
"Teenage Octopus" TalkTalk UK Down 25k to 4.224m; Sky +204K, BT +188K
Sunday, 13 February 2011 23:17

mid-Moving_Octopus_Vulgaris_2005-01-14.oggAs DSL growth ends in developed nations there are losers as well as winners. Sky, on the other hand, had a record quarter with 204K net adds and BT added 188K.  CEO Dido Harding has a colorful description of what went wrong. TalkTalk, she said, resembles a “teenage octopus. Like companies that have grown very fast . . . we don’t have control of our arms and legs, like a gangly teenager. And we have a lot of arms and legs. The teenage octopus will take a while to grow up.” (FT) 

    One primary problem was severe customer service problems after they took over Tiscali UK. "Customers ... have had a pretty rotten experience," Harding says. "We have described buying Tiscali as being like a snake that has eaten a goat. We are busy digesting an enormously complicated business." 

    One promising fact is that they have 85% of customers on their unbundled network. They are well along on a plan to unbundle 93% of the British population. Their network is now dark fiber and Gig-E, dramatically lowering their cost per bit. That allows them to include "unlimited" bandwidth in their $25/month service, which typically is 8-15 megabits (up to 24 megabits max.) Voice line required.

   The problems at TalkTalk have been pretty bad. They achieved "the dubious distinction of receiving the Daily Mail's wooden spoon as Britain's worst organisation for customer service. Our readers complained of rude, insensitive staff, calls not being returned and emai ls unanswered. Some TalkTalk customers were even pestered by debt collectors  -  after bills had been settled or contracts cancelled." Dow Jones adds OFCOM has launched a second investigation into their customer service. Harding insists it will get better, but that won't be easy after she just fired 590 people. 

Last Updated on Friday, 18 February 2011 17:36
Surewest Looking to Life After Home Phone Business
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 17:07

Roseville Telephone Company was a sleepy local phone company outside Sacramento, California that decided a decade ago to lead the way to fiber and triple play. They changed their name to SureWest, overbuilt nearby SBC/AT&T territory and were a high-flier during the boom. They now have 50,000 homes passed. In early days, they were the third largest fiber network in the U.S.

       Now, only 15% of their revenue comes from residential voice. 51% comes from residential broadband and the rest from business and wholesale. The transition has been tough - they lost money in a few quarters - but Chris King of Stifel believes they now will remain cash flow positive and may be undervalued. 

        Cincinnati Bell thinks Surewest has the right idea. They've passed 79K homes with fiber, about 10% of their territory in two years. 27K have already signed on despite the short time and ARPU is $115. The results are strong enough they are speeding up the deployment to 70K more homes passed in 2011.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 03:01
Conservative Canadian Harper Blocking Internet Price Rise
Sunday, 06 February 2011 00:04
openmedia416,000 Canadians signed the openmedia.ca petition and Prime Minister Steven Harper feared it would become an election issue. He personally jumped in and overruled Bell Canada's attempt to stifle competition. Bell had persuaded the CRTC to price independents out of the market with absurdly high price for bandwidth. Newspapers reported consumer outrage and Harper made "a populist move allowing the Conservatives to cast themselves as a champions of consumers." (Globe and Mail). It "would have spelled an end to unlimited Web access packages offered by smaller Internet providers. ... a powerful grassroots campaign against the ruling was so fierce it threatened to become a major political controversy on the eve of a possible federal election this spring." 
   Industry Minister Tony Clement tweeted that the government would reverse the CRTC decision if the regulator didn’t.  Van Flickenstein responded by postponing "usage-based billing" nominally for 60 days but probably indefinitely.  Von Flickenstein doesn't strike me as a shill, but he made a classic lawyer's error. He sounds reasonable until you check the facts.  It seems reasonable to say “We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users.”

     The Chairman is ignoring the cost figures, basic data that should be the beginning of his analysis. The total cost of data to a large carrier without a cap is about $1/month. That's based on Verizon, Comcast and Bell itself. So the maximum "subsidy" is dimes, with twenty cents a typical figure. If the proposed high bandwidth charge were a buck or three, that might be cost-justified. But Bell is demanding tens of dollars because weak competition makes it possible to charge more. Besides collecting extreme profits, Bell protects the video offering from their satellite.

     416,000 Canadians believe that.  
Last Updated on Sunday, 06 February 2011 16:09
4 Phone Calls Shut Down Egypt, 12 Would Come Close in the U.S.
Sunday, 30 January 2011 18:24
15_minutes_to_shut_down_Egypt"It can't happen in the U.S.," everyone's saying, after four official phone calls shut down Egypt's Internet in about 15 minutes. The U.S. is larger. It would take 13 phone calls and that would only shut down about 90%.
     Four calls - Comcast (17M), AT&T (16M + wireless), Time Warner (10M), Verizon (8M + wireless) - would take down 51M lines, 60% of U.S. landline and most wireless data. Four more - Century-Qwest, Cox, Charter, CableVision - would pull down 15M more, half the rest. A third group of four - T-Mobile, Sprint, Level 3 and Cogent - bring down most of the rest of wireless and the major backbones. All the major carriers have procedures in place for emergencies and designated federal officers they work with. Another two dozen calls would leave only a few percent of connections working.

    It might take an hour to bring down 90% and a few hours more to reach 97-99%.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 January 2011 00:54
The "Julius Tax" and the Great Fear
Saturday, 29 January 2011 13:48
ray_baum"Le tax Baroin" they called it in France when Minister Baroin added a very unpopular VAT to Internet service. "The Julius Tax" would be the natural name if Genachowski goes ahead with a plan to tax every Internet connection and give most of the money to the phone companies. The FCC is already spinning it as a tax to bring broadband to the poor and unserved, but every indication I can get of the numbers is that's not where most of the money will go. While they are talking <about a buck> most families will have one landline and several mobiles, suggesting $3-5/month or about $50/year per family. That could go up without needing to go through Congress.  Most poorer Americans don't get lifeline. My unconfirmable guess is that the broadband tax will take more from the poor than the total of new money for lifeline broadband.
The Republicans called the original "school & library" support the Al Gore Tax and made it a campaign issue. An FCC staffer tells me Republican leader Boucher has threatened to do the same with the new proposal, one reason it's been in limbo for two years. However, AT&T & Verizon stand to gain $Billions from eliminating ICC and other proposals. They own several of the Congressman who normally would be the most vociferous opposing a tax.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 January 2011 19:50
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