Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan: Defining Broadband Capability

I've been writing about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to develop a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. The NOI is currently open for comment until June 8 with FCC reply to comments on July 7.

The 59 page report starts with some introductory information that I've covered here in prior posts. The FCC hopes to establish these four primary goals and benchmarks:

  1. Defining Broadband Capability
  2. Defining Access to Broadband
  3. Measuring Progress
  4. Role of Market Analysis
Today, let's take a look at Defining Broadband Capability.

Broadband is defined lots of different ways and the FCC is seeking comment on how the definition should capture the various issues that should be considered as the FCC defines broadband capability, including how to take into account the various existing and emerging technologies.

According to the NOI, the FCC currently uses the terms advanced telecommunications capability, broadband, and high-speed Internet. Most of us think of broadband as data - high speed data but just data. That's changing for many of us - we're in the middle of the migration to all IP networks and I believe voice and video must be included along with data in the new broadband definition. I'd be fine with just calling it just broadband.

We're also dealing with a wide range of technologies - Fiber To The Home (FTTH), Fiber To The Node (FTTN), WiMAX, LTE, DOCSIS, ADSL, etc. Each of these provides a different range of bandwidths depending on distance, signal strength, etc. I'd like to see specific bandwidth ranges that can be easily adjusted as we ramp up speeds. This is the way we did it with dial-up data access using analog modems - 300 bps became 1200 bps became 2400 bps, etc. I also believe we need to define both upstream and downstream bandwidths for these ranges. Here's the way the FCC started defining bandwidth tiers of service last year:

First Generation data: 200 Kbps up to 768 Kbps
Basic Broadband : 768 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps
1.5 Mbps to 3.0 Mbps
3.0 Mbps to 6.0 Mbps
6.0 Mbps and above

A service is categorized if bandwidth in only one direction (the faster direction) meets the ranges listed. Most consumer services are asymmetrical with more bandwidth provided in the downstream direction that the upstream direction. I'd like to see these tiers broken out further and include separate listings for upstream and downstream bandwidths.

I'd also like to see average speeds calculated over the course of 24 hour/7 day a week periods be listed. It makes no sense for my provider to list maximum speeds that I can only get at 3 in the morning when all of my neighbors are sleeping.

In addition, these tier levels must be dynamic and adjust up with technology improvements. I hope I'm not still sitting at the 3-6 Mbps tier (in one direction) a year from now.

I don't believe there should be different definitions or standards for the type of broadband service provided. For example, we don't need separate definitions for mobile broadband services (e.g. wireless) and fixed broadband services (e.g. cable modem). Bandwidth is bandwidth so keep them all the same.

I also don't believe rural and other hard to get to areas should have lower tier standards and definitions. We must make every effort to provide equal service to as many people as possible in our country.

For details be sure to see the entire 59 page report. In the next post I'll discuss Defining Access to Broadband.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Summary Of The Verizon - Frontier Deal

Yesterday, Verizon and Frontier Communications announced an agreement that would sell off a large chunk of Verizon's rural markets. Here's a quick summary taken from DSL Reports pieces on the deal:

  • Frontier will give Verizon $5.3 billion in Frontier stock and take on an additional $3.3 billion in debt.
  • Frontier will get Verizon landline networks in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia. Wisconsin and some rural areas of California.
  • Frontier will grow to more than 7 million access lines in 27 states and will be the largest provider of voice, broadband and video services focused on rural to smaller city markets in the United States.
  • Frontier will be picking up some FiOS - 41 local franchises and the state of Indiana will be transferred from Verizon.
  • Approximately 11,000 Verizon employees will end up working for Frontier.
  • Verizon Wireless and Verizon Business services in the listed states will not be transferred to Frontier.
  • With this deal Verizon may eventually reach 80% FiOS coverage on their remaining footprint.
  • It is doubtful Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services will be expanded in any of the transferred regions (by Frontier) in the near future.
According to DSL Reports, Frontier has struggled of late to deliver even 3Mbps worth of connectivity to many of its rural users according to posts in their forums, but Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg issued a statement saying Frontier would apply their "laser focus" on the needs of rural customers to ensure a smooth transition and quality service.

The deal is expected to take about a year to complete.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan: The Development Approach

I've been writing about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to develop a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. The NOI is currently open for comment until June 8 with FCC reply to comments on July 7.

The 59 page report starts with an introduction and some background I've summarized in prior posts. Today I wanted to begin taking a look at the Discussion section of the report - what most consider to be the "meat". The section begins with covering the approach the FCC is taking to develop the plan and asks how the Commission can identify and promote the best and most efficient means of achieving this congressional mandate.

Here's a list of the important questions the FCC is seeking comment on:

How should broadband capability be defined going forward, and what does it mean to have access to it?

How can the FCC provide “an analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all people of the United States.”

can the FCC develop “a detailed strategy for achieving affordability of such service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and service by the public.”

How can the FCC evaluate “the status of deployment of broadband service, including progress of projects supported by the grants made pursuant to this section.”

can the FCC develop “a plan for use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing” a variety of policy goals.

can the FCC evaluate the development of a national broadband plan in light of a variety of other related statutory directives and whether additional elements should be included in the national broadband plan.

Finally, because this plan will not be solely the FCC’s to implement, the FCC seeks comment on how the Commission, in both the development and implementation of a national broadband plan, should work collaboratively with other agencies at all levels of government, with consumers, with the private sector, and with other organizations.

How will it be done? The FCC hopes to answer these questions by establishing four primary goals and benchmarks:
  1. Defining Broadband Capability
  2. Defining Access to Broadband
  3. Measuring Progress
  4. Role of Market Analysis
In future posts I'll take a look at each of these primary goals and will comment.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hey Amazon - When It Comes To That New Textbook Kindle - Don't Overlook Community Colleges!

Tomorrow, Amazon will be holding a press event at the Pace University New York City campus to announce a new version of the Kindle e-book reader with (according to the Wall Street Journal ) a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers.

A total of six excellent universities will be involved in this project according to the Wall Street Journal. They are Case Western, Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

It's exciting to see this product coming but discouraging not to see a community college on the list. Why should a community college be included? Here's some interesting fast facts from the American Association of Community Colleges:

Number and Type of Colleges:
Number of Community Colleges in the US: 1,195
Total Student enrollment: 11.5 million
Average age: 29
Women: 60%
Men: 40%
Minorities: 35%
First generation to attend college: 39%

Community College Students Constitute the Following Percentages of Undergraduates:
All U.S. undergraduates: 46%
First-time freshmen: 41%
Native American: 55%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 46%
Black: 46%
Hispanic: 55%

With 46% of all undergraduate students attending community colleges in this country doesn't it make sense to have at least one on the list?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Interesting Web-to-TV Video Streaming Study

In-Stat, a global market research and intelligence business has an interesting new report out titled Web-to-TV Video Streaming Services Will Drive Nearly $3 Billion in Revenue by 2013.

Maybe you've heard the term Web-to-TV and maybe you have not - it's a generic term that involves watching web content on a television. Online video continues to grow from popular sites like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo , Hulu,, Joost and the old-media standbys like NBC and CNN. Naturally people are not just going to want to watch on their computer screens and television manufacturers have quickly realized this. Companies like Samsung and Sony are building sets that connect directly to the web, allowing viewers to watch Internet video without attaching a PC to their TV.

In addition, Microsoft XBox 360 owners can now purchase Internet videos from Netflix and AppleTV owners can do the same thing using iTunes.

In a press release about the In-Stat report, analyst Keith Nissen is quoted:

Once Web-to-TV video becomes simple and convenient, mass consumer adoption will follow quite rapidly. Our primary research shows that users want a variety of their consumer devices to enable a web-to-TV video experience.

Here's some interesting findings from in the report and listed in the press release:
  • Over 40% of young adult US households view Internet video on the TV at least once per month.
  • Revenue from Web-to-TV streaming services will grow to $2.9 billion in 2013.
  • Within five years, the number of US broadband households viewing Web-to-TV content will grow to 24 million.
  • Already, 29% of US 25 to 34 year olds with game consoles use the devices to watch streaming video off the Internet.
  • In five years, there will be 7.4 million US broadband households that use media center PCs for streaming Web-to-TV content.
  • TV networks and pay TV operators currently view online TV as additive to pay TV services, but Web-to-TV will ultimately force a complete restructuring of today’s video services.
  • Video content will be optimized for broadcast or Web-to-TV based on content type.
Easy access, potentially infinite availability and any place, any time or any where - it's not just broadcast video, on-demand and pay-per-view on you television set anymore.

Friday, May 1, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan Notice Of Inquiry Process

Last week i wrote about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to develop a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. The plan creation has been charged by Congress as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The 59 page NOI broadband plan document is open for comment until June 8, 2009 with the FCC required to reply to comments on July 7, 2009. Let's look at the process.

Notices of Inquiry (NOIs) are Issued by the FCC as a way to collect comment, ideas and input on given topics. NOIs are given time deadlines and any interested party can submit comments before the dates indicated on the first page of the NOI. Comments can be filed a couple different ways:
  • Paper filing that requires four copies of each filing be addressed and delivered to the Commissions Secretary.
Details on filing procedures can be found starting on page 41 of the NOI.

What can be commented on? Here's a quote in the NOI appendix from FCC Commissioner Robert M. Dowell:

Because we begin with a clean slate, this Notice of Inquiry presents myriad questions. Some are narrow and specific. Others are broader. All are important. If commenters think of questions we should have asked but did not, please raise them. If you disagree with the premise of a question, by all means say so. Your advice will help us to develop a thoughtful, reasonable, practical and pragmatic plan.

Critical work as we move forward in our country.