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Frontier Gets Approval of Verizon Deal in California, South Carolina, and Nevada; Attacks Union Opposition in West Virginia

Phillip Dampier October 30, 2009 Editorial & Site News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband, Verizon 23 Comments
Charleston, West Virginia is just one of many cities potentially served by Frontier

Charleston, West Virginia is just one of many cities potentially served by Frontier

Frontier Communications has won approval from state utility commissions in California, South Carolina, and Nevada to take over telephone service currently provided by Verizon Communications.  The decisions were unanimous in all three votes by Commission members, and involve telephone service in several small communities in all three states.

Circles represent Verizon service areas transferred to Frontier in Nevada and California

Circles represent Verizon service areas transferred to Frontier in Nevada and California

Verizon’s castoffs serve a small percentage of customers, which made the transaction fly under the media radar in most cases.  In California, Verizon dumps customers in a small section on the northwest border with Oregon.  In Nevada, several small communities south of Reno are involved.  In South Carolina, Verizon drops scattered groups of customers in small clusters across the state.

These state regulatory approvals follow an October 27 announcement by Frontier that its shareholders have approved the transaction, which will result in Frontier owning Verizon’s wireline operations in all or parts of 14 states.

While the approval appeared pro forma in those three states, West Virginia is another matter.  Strong employee union and consumer group protests continue across the state, with many consumers concerned about the implications of Frontier controlling nearly all wired phone lines in the state.  The Communications Workers of America held a conference call with the media Wednesday to outline its opposition to the deal.

The CWA has been a vocal opponent of the deal, claiming it will risk West Virginia’s telecommunications future with a company without the financial capacity to provide the type of advanced services Verizon is providing in other states.  Kenneth Peres, an economist with the Communications Workers of America, said the deal was extremely risky for consumers, workers and the affected communities.

Peres pointed to the perfect record of three out of three failures for earlier Verizon spinoffs.  FairPoint Communications declared bankruptcy early this week after trying to take on the service needs of three New England states.

Peres told the Charleston Daily Mail that if the deal goes through, Frontier “will find it extremely difficult” to meet its $8 billion in debt obligations while simultaneously investing enough capital to maintain its physical plant, improve service quality, set up a new system in West Virginia, lease systems from Verizon in 13 other states, provide video service for the first time (in Indiana), and ensure adequate staffing “while paying out a lot more in dividends than it makes in profits.”

Frontier went on the attack Thursday, accusing the union of interfering just to grab concessions for itself.

Verizon service areas sold off to Frontier in South Carolina

Verizon service areas sold off to Frontier in South Carolina

Steve Crosby, Frontier spokesman, said, “They’re just throwing stuff up against the wall. They know this is a good transaction and they’re trying to extract their pound of flesh. They want more concessions. This is their opportunity to ask for more money for their union membership and more benefits. That’s what they want. Union membership across the country is declining. This is how they’re trying to extract as much as they can from either Frontier or Verizon.”

As for Frontier’s debt load, “This is actually a de-leveraging transaction,” Crosby said. “We’re taking on debt but we’re taking on a whole lot more revenue. We’re currently at a 3.8 times revenue-to-debt ratio, going down to 2.6. So we actually get better in terms of revenue to debt. And today we’re fine. We’re able to pay a nice dividend. The day the transaction closes, we are approaching investment-grade borrowings.

“Our board of directors made the decision to lower our dividend by 25 percent when the transaction closes to give us even more cash to invest in infrastructure and to give us even more financial flexibility,” Crosby said.

“Every time we have an argument we win and they bring up other stuff,” Crosby said. “They never bring up the de-leveraging because it undermines their argument. They never bring up the fact that we will reduce our dividend because it undermines their argument.

“We have said we will maintain employment levels for 18 months” after the transaction closes, Crosby said. Because of required regulatory approvals and other factors, the deal can’t close before April 2010.

“So you can figure that’s two years,” Crosby said. “Who nowadays has that kind of job security? I think we’re bending over backwards. I wish I had the pension plan, the job security the CWA has. They’re looking at extracting more from Verizon and Frontier.”

When asked by the newspaper why Frontier shareholders would approve a deal that was destined for failure, Peres told the newspaper:

Frontier’s business model is built on acquisitions. Frontier bought a portion of Global Crossing’s business which increased revenue and access lines “but that began to decline,” he said. “They bought Commonwealth Telephone but that’s flat-lining. What’s the next step? What were they going to do – improve infrastructure or go through the acquisitions route again?” Continuing with acquisitions “postpones the day of reckoning,” he said.

Commentary: Our Take

Crosby’s comments seem more suited for a talk show audience that hates unions.  Obviously the union does not think this is a good deal for West Virginia, and considering the track record of earlier Verizon deals, and the correct predictions from employee unions on their inevitable outcomes, they have every right to oppose the deal on its face.  Crosby apparently has time to address declining union membership, but not the much more relevant decline in the traditional phone company’s bread and butter business – landlines.  Frontier, like other phone companies, continues to see disconnect requests coming from coast to coast as customers dump the phone company for a cable digital phone product, Voice Over IP line, or rely on their cellphone.

West Virginia would be solidly Frontier territory if the state approves the sale

West Virginia would be solidly Frontier territory if the state approves the sale

Verizon recognizes their traditional business is a dying one, which is why they are in a hurry to diversify into competitive broadband and video services over their fiber optic FiOS network.  Where it doesn’t make economic sense (under their current business plan) for Verizon to deploy FiOS, decisions are being made about whether to keep those smaller phone operations within the Verizon family, or sell them off to companies like Frontier.  What Frontier acquires today from the standpoint of customers and revenues could represent the high water mark, and without offering robust options for a digital future, Frontier will likely continue to see customer erosion.

FairPoint acquired seemingly healthy Verizon companies serving the entire states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  When their efforts to seamlessly combine Verizon’s legacy systems with FairPoint’s own systems failed, that along with an inability to properly service customers, caused a death spiral as customers dropped service, which led FairPoint straight into bankruptcy.

Frontier’s record of investment and service in western New York speaks for itself.  Time Warner Cable eats Frontier for lunch, with less expensive “digital phone” service, much faster and more reliable broadband, and a video package that Frontier doesn’t offer (reselling DISH Network is hardly the same as providing video service that doesn’t come from a third party company’s satellite dish nailed to the roof).  Frontier is ready and willing to stick with DSL service at speeds that are basically maxed out.  Time Warner Cable evidently doesn’t even consider Frontier a significant enough player to deploy upgrades in this area while they are in a hurry to provide them where Verizon FiOS is under construction.

When a company isn’t prepared to keep up with the rest of New York with fiber deployment to the home, the chances of that kind of service reaching West Virginia anytime soon are near zero.

But Frontier’s unique position as a specialist in “rural service” allows it to eke out an existence in areas where cable isn’t a big competitive threat, and where *any* broadband is better than no broadband at all, at least for now.  But without a plan for keeping up with the fast changing broadband world, customers happy with 3Mbps service today will despise the company for being stuck with those speeds later.  A lot of people in Rochester sure aren’t happy being stuck with Frontier DSL, and that nasty 5GB “reasonable use” language in the Acceptable Use Policy.

Crosby’s comments about CWA member job security, which he evidently envies, says more about the union’s commitment to its members than Frontier has to him.  Perhaps Crosby can quit his spokesman job and switch to a position that gets him CWA membership with a pension and job security.  Perhaps if the people of West Virginia say thanks, but no thanks, Frontier will be in a better economic state than it would be if this mega-deal collapses under the weight of debt and integration challenges.  Then Crosby can keep his job with the evidently lousy benefits.

Peres’ assumption that Frontier lives only through acquisitions isn’t the complete story.  Just like the myth sharks must constantly swim to survive, Frontier doesn’t constantly have to acquire to survive either.  It does have to concern itself with an ever-consolidating telephone line industry, where the smaller independent companies continue to be snapped up by a dwindling number of players.  If a Windstream or CenturyTel comes along with a great offer, Frontier itself may have a new name — Windstream or CenturyTel.

The economies of scale and cost savings are routinely cited by investors promoting consolidation.  It’s no surprise Frontier shareholders voted for the deal.  Bigger is often better for many investors, as long as the quarterly financials play to their interests.  Listening to Frontier investor conference calls, the Wall Street bankers, and the media that support them, are constantly concerned with keeping costs cut to the bone, customer defection limited, risk reasonable, and that dividend being paid.  They are satisfied with Frontier’s rural, less competitive market focus, even if the customers that end up served by them are not.

Currently there are 23 comments on this Article:

  1. Smith6612 says:

    Well, at least a small potion of the bait has been bitten. Let’s see how things turn out from here.

  2. jr says:

    Night-watchmen helping the burglars once again

  3. Ian L says:

    Frontier offers 10/1 DSL in some areas. Verizon offers at most 7.1/768. Frontier uses ADSL2+. Verizon uses ADSL only. Frontier actually cares about grooming their copper infrastructure. Verizon doesn’t.

    All that said, why not let the acquisition go forward, with a stipulation that, if Frontier should go bankrupt, its network (in WV and maybe other places) goes directly to the cities it serves? Then those cities can decide how to continue service (sell to Windstream or CenturyLink, build a cooperative or keep their network running alone).

    You can still do a fair amount with copper, though nobody in the US is really doing it beyond VDSL, which won’t work in more rural settings. Bonded ADSL2+ Annex M could provide 20 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up service to about 15,000 feet out, and 10 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up service out to 19,000 feet. 3 Mbps service would be available at 24,000 feet…and Frontier has used AdrenaLine before. All of the above speeds are quite competitive on the upstream, if not as much on the downstream, versus the cablecos in Frontier’s service area.

    I’m not saying Frontier woill do the above, but they certainly have enough copper pairs left over from defecting customers, and it would be a premium product versus their current low-price-beats-all approach. Might even keep ‘em out of bankruptcy.

    Also, in all fairness, CWA folks don’t want to lose their jobs when Frontier decides that they don’t want several dozen linemen sitting around waiting for a POTS activation cell that will never come. That’s fair. At least they’re not Verizon, who is laying off all construction staff in my area (Fredericksburg, TX) and apparently just installed a DSLAM in their CO to drive up the copper system’s sale price by a few bucks. They’re definitely not servicing anyone off that DSLAM.

    • I have never found anyone using Frontier DSL who manages 10/1 speeds from their connection. Some people living on the same block as the central office can get in the ballpark, but for everyone else, it’s really closer to 7Mbps service. How much of this is marketed speed vs. reality speed between Frontier and Verizon I do not know. But I have a feeling most customers of both max out at between 5 and 7Mbps in more urban areas, and are locked down at a max of 3Mbps in rural ones.

      I discussed with Smith, who also participates here, the ADSL2+ option back when I was going through my Frontier DSL experience. At that time, we were set with “Link up 1 US 192 DS 320 (INTL:G.dmt)” service (as per the modem stats). I inquired with the service rep back then that since 3.1Mbps wasn’t going to cut it for me, was there any other option. He called back and said “no.” The installer sent here told me, frankly, the company was cost-cutting and could technically provide just about anything I wanted — if they greenlit the technical expense of providing it, and they were not willing to do that.

      On the off chance something changed in the interim, I called Frontier a few minutes ago and asked the ADSL2+ question again, and after being transferred to two different reps, was told “no,” such service was not available to residential customers and if I were a business, they could refer me to special services, the people who handle business circuits, etc. But she said it would probably be very expensive.

      The other rep said he has never heard of it being available anywhere else either, although the company was doing something with new home developments in California, which I assume means their Elk Grove division.

      Frontier tries to make do with what they have by installing DSLAMs in several central offices that extend pretty far out distance-wise. There is one less than a mile from me, but it fans out service in a different direction. It’s connected by fiber with the local central office.

      My informal conversations with a few service techs over the years tell me that Frontier’s DSL customers are usually neophytes who don’t know or care about what speed numbers mean and just assume a slow experience is “the web is slow today,” as well as residents that take advantage of their netbook promotion, who are attracted by the proposition of getting a free mini-laptop out of the deal.

      Time Warner bashes Frontier in their marketing with people not satisfied with their speed and discovering they are locked into contracts only when they call to cancel. They even tried a promotion earlier this year covering the cost of the Frontier early termination fee if they customer agreed to stick with Road Runner for a year or so.

      Lately, I haven’t noticed as much bashing as earlier this year (and especially last year). Now, it’s the PowerBoost speed feature and those irritating Renaissance Festival-like ads. :-)

      I remain a Frontier wireline customer and honestly would subscribe to their DSL service, if only as a backup for Road Runner, if it delivered the speeds their pricing justifies. But I am not going to pay them more than $40 a month for 3Mbps service, certainly not with that 5GB acceptable use clause.

      I think we should learn the lessons of three selloffs=three bankruptcies, and not go for a fourth. Cities don’t want to run phone companies, and most of the smaller communities Frontier will serve have part-time government at most.

      I think we’re moving to an era where a wholesale transition to fiber is really the only way phone companies will survive long term. Back when the original telephone network was constructed, we had the Bell System/AT&T doing most of the work as a regulated monopoly, with scattered independents and co-ops covering areas Bell/AT&T took too long to get to. With market forces and not regulatory requirements doing the wiring plans these days, its inevitable there will be lots of telecom have’s and have-not’s. That might be fine at the moment, but inevitably we’re going to end up with a national discussion about disparity of access.

      • Tim says:

        Copper is dead pretty much and these remaining bell companies are clinging onto it even though the ship is sinking fast. Looks like Verizon is the only one who is getting it. AT&T will soon, and I mean very soon, pony up for FTTH because it won’t last long with what they have now, Uverse. As more and more cable areas move to DOCSIS 3 and offer speeds beyond what AT&T can give ya, they are going to be in the same boat AGAIN as they were with DSL service.

        People want a more immersive experience on the Internet than what copper wires can provide. People want High Definition video, multi-channel surround sound, high definition video conferencing, richer and deeper gaming environments, ect.. Copper had its hay day, time to move on!

        • Ian L says:

          @Phillip sorry to hear that Frontier’s experience is subpar from someone who actually uses it. That said I’m not quite sure how government regulation and money would translate into an efficiently-run last-mile fiber network for all. Also, if Monticello, WI (a town of 10,000) can start up a fiber network and cooperatives with fewer customers than that can start rolling out fiber of their own accord, maybe the model isn’t as broken as you’d think.

          Also, where’s the “three for three” argument coming from? Maybe I’m forgetting someone, but we’re looking at two for two at the moment. Maybe a distinction without a difference but you have to realize that Verizon wasn’t thinking of upgrading those markets anyway. Their shareholders keep them on a relatively short leash, so a $2000 plus per customer upgrade (about what it would cost to deliver fiber to semi-rural communities, let alone the more rural parts of Vermont) wouldn’t fly.Other companies have cost structures that are more amenable to such developments. Maybe not Frontier, but they’re out there.

          Back to Frontier. I thought the company took the 5GB out of their AUP, or am I incorrect? I know they backed off on enforcement of the cap when TWC proposed caps in Rochester. If they’ve backed off, we can simply say that Frontier made a mistake and moved on from there.

          On the speed vs. distance issue, at least Frontier will provision you for as high as your area allows. Here in Qwest territory your address is keyed with a specific speed, and you won’t get above that unless Qwest upgrades the technology at the DSLAM, adds a remote terminal, or the like. Granted, some areas have 40/20 VDSL2 available, but for the most part people are limited to between 1.5 and 7 Mbps DSL, with everything above 1.5 Mbps costing $47 per month after promotions end, $35 per month before. As such, anyone who wants more than a nominal connection to the internet pays up for installation and monthly fees ($55 per month plus $3.22 for modem rental when you count in sales tax) for Comcast. It’s ice that we have DOCSIS 3 here, but I’m giving the example to assure you that Frontier is no worse than Qwest on actual connection performance, though Qwest has never laid out an actual transfer cap o their service.

          @Tim I know people hate it on here when I play Devil’s Advocate, but I’m in a situation where twenty-ish engineering college students share a single 5 Mbps Qwest connection. Somehow they get by. It helps that school is next door (though the school wireless network is bad news for anything requiring QoS in many places), however YouTube plus Facebook plus school-related surfing et cetera somehow fit into that pipe. I couldn’t live with that connection, knowing something better was available, so I have 22/5 Comcast, which sometimes gets shared with my roommates when the Qwest-powered wireless network decides to act up. However they too seem to be satisfied with the Qwest connection.

          Yes, I can do more with my connection than they can with theirs, and I can do everything faster and more reliably. However it’s surprising how many people would be, in my estimation, fine with a solid 1.5×512 link to the Internet, spread over five people. I don’t number with these folks when a better connection is available to me, but I converse relatively often with a guy who runs a data center around here and he has a 7 Mbps Qwest DSL connection, though he picked an ISP that runs on InterNAP rather than Qwest.net.

          Talking about high internet speeds at this point in the context of “what people need” is sort of like talking about cell phone minute plans. I use my cell as my main line. I use maybe 800 minutes per month, though if I needed to cut costs I could shift at least 75% of those minutes over to VoIP. I use several hundred text messages per month, but could cut that number down to a few dozen if belt-tightening was needed. I also use a few hundred MB of data per month, though if I switched to a “dumb phone” and changed my usage patterns I could get by with 10MB. My parents on the other hand use about 250 minutes per month each and send/receive a mere handful of text messages per month. my cell-equipped brother uses maybe twenty minutes per month, plus less than a dozen text messages. On the other end of the spectrum, one roommate says his family routinely gets $300 cellular bills due to overages on their four-line 2500-minute MyFaves-equipped family plan. An aunt uses a couple thousand cellular minutes, though most of these are in her Alltel My Circle. A business contact of mine uses over two thousand minutes and was thrilled to death when Sprint came out with their Simply Everything plans. That business contact runs a prepaid airtime online store, and thus appreciates the fact that not everyone talks for a few hours per day on the phone.

          As more things move to primarily internet delivery (VoIP doesn’t count; its traffic usage is minimal) the situation with usage and connection sizes will change; five years ago a 512×128 DSL connection was enough for practically everything the internet could throw at you. However for the average Joe a net-neutral 1.5 Mbps connection with low latency is enough, and even for the average power user a decently priced net-neutral 20/5 connection with a 300GB cap would be just peachy. Both of these can be done with copper if the provider at the CO gives two craps about their system. Just provision ADSL for Joe Average at $25 per month and bonded ADSL2+ Annex M for Jim Power User at $70 (yes I said $70…that’s better than the $78 I’ll be paying for my Comcast connection after my promotion is up).

          Don’t get me wrong, fiber is an amazing advantage for anyone who deploys it; all else equal I’d take fiber over copper or coax any day of the week (ad all else doesn’t tend to be equal because fiber has so much more capacity than even DOCSIS 3). However it’s surprising what’s “just fine” for most people, and how much of folks’ internet decisions are based on price. Heck, my family in Texas (2215 feet too far for cable) are spending less on internet than I am right now, and would continue to spend less if their internet options mirrored mine. If I was at home all year the family would be on Milleicom at $70 per month, but as economists say my demand fr internet is more price-inelastic than the average Joe’s.

          • Tim says:

            Ok, and here would be my response to your response as Devil’s Advocate. Look at the Internet just a decade ago compared to now. Look at how much it has grown and how many new services have popped up like Netflix movie streaming. Now, look at it a decade from now and see what could happen. Do we want to be on antiquated copper or fiber by then? Because if we stick with copper, it will only slow innovation and we will further slip behind the world in internet speeds and prices.

            Back in the day, MS and Intel didn’t think we would need more than 1MB of memory or even a 20MB HDD or need a processor faster than a 486. Imagine if everyone listened to them and didn’t do anything? Technology progression would be stagnant. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

            You have to have some foresight for what I am talking about. Don’t think in the now but think ahead of what is on the horizon. If you do that, you will see copper is dead or in its death throws.

            By the way, Engineering student here too. :-) Not 20ish though more like 30ish. :-) Late comer to the game, lol.

            • Ian L says:

              You definitely have a point, however what you’re asking for is a bunch of cooperatives rather than publicly traded companies, at least in most cases. The ROI just isn’t there for switching to fiber in rural areas.

              Also, for the record, Netflix streaming works just fine over a 3 Mbit connection, so long as it’s reliable.

              • Tim says:

                What Netflix streams only SD movies right? 3Mb might be able to handle that ok but what about the future and offering HD 720p or 1080p with multichannel surround? Your 3Mb connection wouldn’t get it. Eventually, probably in 5-7 years, DVD’s and SD video, will go by the wayside just like VHS did back in the day. So we either not upgrade our networks, and keep falling behind the rest of the world, or we do and watch new technologies emerge from it.

                • Smith6612 says:

                  I know that Netflix does stream in Standard Definition. The thing is, with 720p video that you’ll find on sites like YouTube, it does look pretty good as a change. It still doesn’t look as sharp or as good as it would normally look on a 7Mbps 720p stream, as those streams are encoded for 3Mbps connections. Now, for the most part my Frontier line which tests at 3200kbps download, it gives just enough bandwidth to slip by without buffering, however if I take a few seconds and load up a web page, the video will buffer due to a lack of bandwidth.

                  I have heard of Netflix maxing out 10Mbps connections for an hour or two, so I’d assume that the quality there is pretty good.

                  • Tim says:

                    Youtube 720p video? I don’t think so. I always compare any 720p source to what I get over the air. Uverse I think allocates 6Mb/sec for HD 720p/1080i. Over the air, it is 19.39Mb/sec from what I understand. I can tell a difference. Cable HD is even worse. I see artifacts all the time on my mothers TV from her cable connection. I have watched Youtube HD video and it sure as hell isn’t HD. HD, the word or tag, has been thrown around so much it is almost a cliche now. I saw lossless music being called HD which is just CD quality! HD audio? Ok. I think true uncompressed 720p and 1080p video would require over 1Gb/sec bandwidth so you can see how compressed the video and audio already are when you actually get to watch it. Even watching a 1080p Bluray, your video is STILL compressed so it can fit below the 48Mb/sec bandwidth of that Bluray player.

                    The more you compress using a lossy compression scheme, the less you see or hear. Also, since that compression scheme is lossy, you have just lost parts of your video or music forever; hence, the reason why you can’t simply decompress it and get the original back. MP3 is a prime example of what I am talking about.

                    • Smith6612 says:

                      Of course. Off-the-air/FiOS TV at this moment is pretty much the best way to compare 720p sources. Would some of my 10Mbps 720p video work for that comparison? It looks pretty good being encoded in the x264 format and close to the original quality.

                • Ron Dafoe says:

                  Netflix can stream HD movies to the XBOX 360 and has for a while now.

                  I think I read somewhere that when Netflix camoe out with the Xbox360 stremaing they added a ton of new people and their streaming side was being taxed.

                  I stream at least 2 movies a week through my xbox360. I also end up streaming at least 1 TV show a week.

                  • Tim says:

                    @Smith6612

                    Yea 10Mb/sec is a pretty good rate. I watch some 720p movies that are 4.37GB in size that are 5.5Mb/sec bit rate encoded in MKV and DTS 5.1 Audio. Some 720p video I have downloaded is double that. However straight off the air stuff, for a 42 minute show, I have seen files around 4GB or 14Mb/sec. I download x264, just h.264/mpeg4 avc, too and it is good also. You might get away with watching video at a lower bit rate if you watched it on a small monitor or tv. I usually send the video to my 50″ Plasma TV. You can see anomalies such as when there are deep blacks on the sceen, it gets really “blocky” or areas of the screen “morph” from over compression. I think the minimum for decent 720p quality is at least 5.5Mb/sec bit rate. Anything less and you start to see a lot of artifacts and anomalies from over compression. Most 1080p content I have seen has been compressed down to a DVD9 size. However, straight off a Bluray, 42GB content would be around 46Mb/sec bandwidth, 2 hour movie. Either way, it requires good bandwidth to take HQ HD streams, 10Mb/sec+.

                    • Smith6612 says:

                      I have noticed that with my 10Mbps video if I get scenes where it’s very dark it’ll start to block up a lot. I’m not sure if that’s due to the way the codec is, VirtualDUB or the settings I have in it, but I’ll probably experiment with that the next time I export a video.

                  • Tim says:

                    @smith6612

                    “I have noticed that with my 10Mbps video if I get scenes where it’s very dark it’ll start to block up a lot. I’m not sure if that’s due to the way the codec is, VirtualDUB or the settings I have in it, but I’ll probably experiment with that the next time I export a video.”

                    It is due to compression. Satellite TV suffers from it too. It is just one of things that you get from over compression of the video. Think about it, the original HD video might require 1Gb/sec bandwidth uncompressed. Then you take something like mpeg 2, just for example what ATSC, that compresses the video down 20Mb/sec, 500:1 compression. That kind of compression, you lose a lot of information.

                    I use to use a program called DVD Shrink. It did really good if you check the deep analysis and adaptive correction options. Otherwise, if you didn’t, you could look at peoples faces on scenes, and see the video “morphing”. I still see it with low bit rate video. Also, your colors look washed out also. However, this is hard to ascertain because you don’t usually have a superior source to compare. There are other kind of anomalies that pop up that I didn’t mention.

                    • Smith6612 says:

                      Ah. I was wondering about that. For the most part I never really noticed such things taking place on my satellite TV service, unless it’s something like a sports game but the blocking clears up almost immediately or even then is very faint. Also, when I encode it, it doesn’t lead me to think it’s compression initially as when it does block up, it really only happens in a corner of the image and will disappear whenever a color change takes place (where the sharpness immediately comes back too) and then if I come across more dark scenes, it doesn’t block up one bit. If it is compression or codec issues, doesn’t really bug me but here’s an example of what I’m talking about on YouTube. The YouTube HD video shows the blocking appearing as it does on the original source video (10Mbps).

                      I found an option in the Codec settings called De-blocking Strength. I might play around with that a little bit.

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5nWc3Nl2FY&fmt=22 (Look around 6:30 and beyond. That’s where it happens). Of course, the quality is almost like the AVI files FRAPS exported in the original file, so YouTube did kill it a bit as well. The blocking only happened twice as well, so everything else is set. Feel free to watch the video fully though to see if you notice anything funny caused by the compression.

                    • Tim says:

                      @smith6612

                      Watched parts of the video and it is hard to tell if the anomalies are due to the video compression or the game itself, like graphics settings sort of low or off like Anti-Aliasing. I notice blocking issues at the beginning with blacks. Also, at 6:30, looks like Aliasing. Also, some parts, like in the aircraft look grainy, Quantisation Noise.

                      http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~nd/surprise_96/journal/vol4/sab/report.html

                      Look at part 6.

                      Also, another thing to consider is monitor resolution. My monitor is at a resolution of 1920x1200x32, 2,304,000 pixels compared to 921,600, 2.5 x more pixels. If the video is shot at a lower resolution than what my desktop is set at, the imperfections are more apparent than watching it at what the video was shot at.

                      I guess I have a good eye for this stuff. My wife thinks I am too critical but a trained eye can spot this stuff. I am especially critical of lossy compression schemes not only in video but audio. MP3’s I think are the worst and have destroyed music. Throw in dynamic range compression, jacking up the loudness, and converting to a lossy format and you have yourself a recipe for a pile of crap.

                      One of the best youtube movies I have seen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H09xnhlCQU .The Hunt For Gollum. It actually looked alright on my 50″ Plasma TV. Pause the picture and look at peoples faces. You should see squares, full screen of course.

                    • Smith6612 says:

                      @Tim: My monitors do run at 2560×1600 (max my video cards will go) so things can get pretty big if I were to record at that resolution. That particular game video I recorded at 1280×720-30 since that is what YouTube will take. I had the game’s Anti-Aliasing turned half-way up as well. As for what is going on in the plane, that’s typically always been like that. It might be an issue with the texture quality being poor in some parts of he game (the game was stressful to hardware back then as it was).

                      But I can see what you’re talking about. I’ll see what I can do to fix that up. The Codec does have a few settings which allow me to change such things.

          • Ron Dafoe says:

            I am trying to figure out exactly what your trying to say here. My take is that providers should be upgrading to fiber, wether people want it or not. They can sit on that for years to come, just liek they did (and are doing) for RR.

            To me, there is no argument against laying fiber except for unwilling to make the investment in your network.

    • Smith6612 says:

      Frontier does offer 10Mbps/1Mbps service. For the most part, that is if they can provision the modem high enough without killing things. The reason why you won’t see a full 10/1 is due to limitations in the G.DMT mode (you can only provision it so high before ADSL2+ is needed, and G.DMT is basically good for 10-12Mbps download, 1Mbps upload sync rates). Also, add in the fact that Frontier is using an ATM network (ATM is clunky! Adds quite a bit of overhead really. Packet over Ethernet would be more efficient if possible on DSL) which is why you’ll also never see the full 10Mbps/1Mbps service without higher sync rates. It does get pretty darn close though, as someone on DSLR’s FrontierNet forum posted up a new speed test of their 10Mbps service testing at 9100kbps down, 700kbps up with Fast Packet mode.

      Verizon does also use ADSL2+ on their newer DSLAMs and I have seen many modems in my area synced using ADSL2+ from Verizon on residential accounts. Verizon tends to try to use their old DSLAMs first before sticking people on the new ones, or at least they put the farther out customers on the new ones (even on request which sometimes can happen). I have yet to see Frontier even use ADSL2+ as every modem I’ve come across that I’ve been able to get the stats from is using G.DMT ADSL mode. If someone can find a Frontier connection using ADSL2+ then report it to me please with the modem stats/logs!

      Also, I was talking to a tech in my area who I’ve known for basically a year now, and he did have some experience with the AdrenaLine units in my area. He said that though they did do their job, they’d fry after a few weeks and he’d have to go up on the pole to install a new one. He basically said that they stopped using those in my area due to how often they blew (they only have 1-2 techs the last I checked working on the lines, and they are quite busy for the most part) and have had better luck with just doing an old fashioned method of trying to find a remote nearby, and splicing the cables to go to the remote rather than to the CO. Not sure if Frontier is still using AdrenaLine units.

      @Phil: Now that is one thing that interests me. You have a remote within a mile from you. I’m wondering if Frontier would be able to splice your cable accordingly to make your loop much shorter. I know that if there’s room on the trunk cables, Frontier does that in my area to get customers hooked up. Of course, it might be hard to get them to do this though as there’s an issue with other people pressuring the company to offer higher speeds and such.

      But yeah, the reason you won’t find anyone getting full 10/1 is due to all of the overhead that comes with PPPoE/ATM/HTTP. PPPoE and ATM overhead really does add up to 15% of the bandwidth being “wasted” if that’s the correct value. Of course, it’s also hard to get DSL’s sync up high enough to make up for that on many lines, or on lines that need ADSL2+ for such a sync. For an example of overhead, just take a look at my DSL lines. My Frontier line is set at 3712kbps download, 448kbps upload. I test at 3200kbps download, 390kbps upload. Shows mow much throughput is wasted by overhead. It’s also larger on faster connections. My Verizon connection which is set at 1184kbps/448kbps tests at 1040kbps download, 386kbps upload. Notice how less bandwidth is wasted there.

      Also, Elk Grove has 10Mbps/1Mbps service available to them now.

      Lastly, I wish I could get MLPPP set up here. That’d do great with bonding of DSL lines, especially for when the time comes that my ISP boosts speeds again. At the moment, both of my DSL lines can run at 6-7Mbps with ADSL2+ possibly being needed, but they do have a lot of room left on them for higher speeds. Frontier won’t set my line higher than 3Mbps unless I get a business account ($$$) even though I’m sure their equipment could handle maxing out my line, and Verizon doesn’t even offer 7.1Mbps service out of my CO to Residents, when yet every other CO in my area has had residential modems synced at 7.1Mbps for two years (before they announced such a package). I don’t know why Verizon did that but it seems as though whoever ordered a package at a particular time wound up with an uncapped modem so to speak, regardless if they came directly from a CO or out of a remote (I saw a modem synced at 8Mbps download, 864kbps upload in my area on a Verizon remote).

      EDIT: On the comment on people not really caring/noticing the slowdowns, at least in my area people noticed the slow downs we had last year at night, and they did call it in. My area had 200+ trouble tickets (one of which was mine) on slow speeds, so even if people don’t care, they do notice after a while. Just to point out, there is an elderly woman who I know in this area who has Frontier DSL. Mind you, she is still running a Pentium III PC but has 3Mbps DSL from Frontier. She can easily tell when something is going on in the area despite how bad the rendering speed is on her PC and she has always called it in. Doesn’t take any knowledge of a PC to notice that something’s up :) Of course, I can tell when something is up almost immediately as the lag monster shows up in my games or my speed tests look funny, or things get sluggish. For example a few days ago Verizon had another issue out in NYC that was causing a lot of jitter and high latency in my area. I was gaming and I was of course lagging like crazy and my ping is unusually high (double to triple of what it normally was to the server). I wound up just waiting and it was fixed the next day, but I was gaming on the Frontier connection while I was waiting.

      • Ian L says:

        Last I checked G.DMT (ADSL non-2 non-plus) goes up to 8/1, not 10/1 or 12/1. SDSL2 is more like 12/1 but sync rates != transfer rates thanks to ATM, which is the only transport mode ADSLx can use (VDSL doesn’t need ATM but ADSL does).

        Also, where have you seen ADSL2+ provisioned Verizon modems? They’re certainly not selling ADSL2+ tiers speed-wise.

        As to AdrenaLine, if there aren’t any remotes nearby that’s what you use. Embarq might be using them and I know CenturyTel does.

        As for overprovisioning, Frontier can do it if they want; Embarq overprovisions on all their plans to make sure customers get 100% of advertised speeds. Winstdream overprovisions download speeds on tiers above 3 Mbps for the same reason. Not overprovisioning is a business decision rather than a technical one unless you’re already running at the limits of what your line can deliver.

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