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Countries Moving at Light Speed to Expand Fiber, While U.S. Keeps Subsidizing DSL

This week, the FCC announced bidding has finished for the latest Connect America Fund (CAF) broadband subsidies auction.

Once again, the FCC gave first priority to incumbent phone companies to bid for the subsidies, which defray the cost of expanding internet access to homes and businesses otherwise unprofitable to serve. Nearly $2 billion was left on the table by disinterested phone companies after the first round of bidding was complete, so the FCC’s second round opened up the leftover money to other telecom companies.

Winning bidders will receive their portion of $198 million annually in 120 monthly installments over the next ten years to build out rural networks. In return, providers must promise to deliver one broadband and voice service product at rates comparable to what urban residents pay for service. The winning bids, still to be publicly announced, will come from rural electric and phone cooperatives, satellite internet providers, fixed wireless companies, and possibly a handful of cable operators. But much of the money overall will be spent by independent phone companies rolling out slow, copper-based, DSL service.

Because the total committed will take a decade to reach providers, rural Americans will likely face a long wait before what purports to be “broadband” actually reaches their homes and businesses.

While many co-ops will spend the money to expand their own homegrown fiber-to-the-home services, most for-profit providers will rely on wireless or copper networks to deliver service.

Telefónica Spain

Overseas, broadband expansion is headed in another direction — expansion of fiber-to-the-home service, with little interest in investing significant sums on furthering old technology copper wire based DSL and fixed wireless services. The expansion is moving so quickly, Verizon made certain to sign long-term contracts with optical fiber suppliers like Corning in 2017 to guarantee they will not be affected by expected shortages in optical fiber some providers are already starting to experience.

Virtually everywhere in developed countries (except the United States), fiber broadband is quickly crowding out other technologies, despite the significant cost of replacing copper networks with new optical fiber cables. If a provider is brave enough to discount investor demand for quick returns and staying away from big budget upgrade efforts, the rewards include happier customers and a clear path to increased revenue and business success.

Not every Wall Street bank is reluctant to support fiber upgrades. Credit Suisse sees a need for optical fiber today, not tomorrow among incumbent phone and cable companies.

“The cost of building fiber is less than the cost of not building fiber,” the bank advised its clients. The reason is protecting market share and revenue. Phone companies that refuse to upgrade or move at a snail’s pace to improve their broadband product (typically DSL offering 2-12 Mbps) have lost significant market share, and those losses are accelerating. Ditching copper also saves companies millions in maintenance and repair costs.

Canada’s Telus is a case in point. Its CEO, Darren Entwistle, reports Telus’ effort to expand fiber optics across its western Canada service area is already paying off.

“We see churn rates on fiber that are 25% lower than copper,” Entwistle said. “35% lower in high-speed internet access, and 15% lower on TV — 25% lower on average. We’re seeing a reduction in repair volumes to the tune of 40%. We’re seeing a nice improvement in revenue per home of close to 10%.”

Telus promotes its fiber to the home initiative in western Canada as a boost to medical care, education, the economy, and the Canadian communities it serves. (1:31)

Telus’ chief competitor is Shaw Communications, western Canada’s largest cable company. Fiber optics allows Telus to vastly expand internet speeds and reliability, an improvement over distance sensitive DSL. Shaw Cable has boosted its own broadband speeds and offers product bundles that have been largely responsible for Telus’ lost customers, until its fiber network was switched on.

In economically challenged regions, fiber optic expansion is also growing, despite the cost. In Spain, Telefónica already provides service to 20 million Spaniards, roughly 70% of the country, and plans to continue reaching an additional two million homes and businesses a year until the country is completely wired with optical fiber. In Brazil, seven million customers will have access to fiber to the home service this year, expanding to ten million by 2020.

Verizon and AT&T regularly ring alarm bells in Congress that China is outpacing the United States in 5G wireless development, but are strangely silent about China’s vast and fast expansion into fiber optic broadband that companies like Verizon stopped significantly expanding almost a decade ago. China already has 328 million homes and businesses wired for fiber and added another five million homes in the month of June alone. AT&T will take a year to bring the same number of its own customers to its fiber to the home network.

The three countries that are most closely aligned with the mentality of most U.S. providers — the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany — are changing their collective minds about past arguments that fiber to the home service is too costly and isn’t necessary.

The government of Martin Turnbull’s cost concerns forced a modification of the ambitious proposal by the previous government to deploy fiber to the home service to most homes and businesses in the country. That decision to spend less is coming back to haunt the country after Anne Hurley, a former chief executive of the Communications Alliance involved in the National Broadband Network (NBN), admitted the cheaper NBN will face an expensive, large-scale replacement within a decade.

ABC Australia reports on findings that the country’s slimmed-down National Broadband Network is inadequate, and parts will have to be scrapped within 5-10 years (1:37)

Turnbull’s government advocated for less expensive fiber to the neighborhood technology that would still rely on a significant amount of copper wiring installed decades ago. The result, according to figures provided to a Senate committee, found only a quarter of Australians will be able to get 100 Mbps service from the NBN, with most getting top speeds between 25-50 Mbps.

Despite claims of technical advancements in DSL technology which have claimed dramatic speed improvements, Hurley was unimpressed with performance tests in the field and declared large swaths of the remaining copper network will have to be ripped up and replaced with optical fiber in just 5-10 years.

“If you look around the world other nations are not embracing fiber-to-the-[neighborhood] and copper … so yes, it’s all going to have to go and have to be replaced,” she said.

In the United Kingdom, austerity measures from a Conservative government and a reluctant phone company proved ruinous to the government’s promise to deliver “superfast broadband” (at least 24 Mbps) over a fiber to the neighborhood network critics called inadequate from the moment it was switched on in 2012. The government had no interest in financing a fiber to the home network across the UK, and BT Openreach saw little upside from spending billions upgrading the nation’s phone lines it now was responsible for maintaining as a spun-off entity from BT. In 2015, BT Openreach’s chief technology officer called fiber to the home service in Britain “impossible” and too expensive.

Two years later, while the rest of Europe was accelerating deployment of fiber to the home service, the government was embarrassed to report its broadband initiative was a flop in comparison, and broke a key promise made in 2012 that the UK would have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015. Instead, the UK has dropped in global speed rankings, and is now in mediocre 35th place, behind the United States and over a dozen poorer members of the EU.

What was “impossible” two years ago is now essential today. The latest government commitment is to promote optical fiber broadband using a mix of targeted direct funding, “incentives” for private companies to wire fiber without the government’s help, and a voucher program defraying costs for enterprising villages and communities that develop their own innovative broadband enhancements. The best the government is willing to promise is that by 2033 — 15 years from now — every home in the UK will have fiber broadband.

Deutsche Telekom echoed BT Openreach with claims it was impossible to deliver fiber optic broadband throughout an entire country.

Deutsche Telekom’s dependence on broadband-enhancements-on-the-cheap — namely speed improvements by using vectoring and bonded DSL are increasingly unpopular for offering too little, too late in the country. Deutsche Telekom applauded itself for supplying more than 2.5 million new households with VDSL service in 2017, bringing the total number served by copper wire DSL in Germany to around 30 million. The company, which handles landline, broadband and wireless phone services, is slowly being dragged into fiber broadband expansion, but on a much smaller scale.

In March, Telekom announced a fiber to the home project in north-east Germany’s Western Pomerania/Rügen district for 40,000 homes and businesses. The network will offer speeds up to 1 Gbps. In July, Telekom was back with another announcement it was building a fiber optic network for Stuttgart and five surrounding districts Böblingen, Esslingen, Göppingen, Ludwigsburg, and Rems-Murr, encompassing 179 cities and municipalities. But most of the work will focus on wiring business parks. Residents will have a 50% chance of getting fiber to the home service by 2025, with the rest by 2030.

In contrast, the chances of getting fiber optic broadband in the U.S. is largely dependent on which provider(s) offer service. In the northeast, Verizon and Altice/Cablevision will go head to head competing with all-fiber networks. Customers serviced by AT&T also have a good chance of getting fiber to the home service… eventually, if they live in an urban or suburban community. Overbuilders and community broadband networks generally offer fiber service as an alternative to incumbent phone and cable companies, but many consumers don’t know about these under-advertised competitors. The chances for fiber optic service are much lower if you live in an area served by a legacy independent phone company like Frontier, Consolidated, Windstream, or CenturyLink. Their cable competitors face little pressure to rush upgrades to compete with companies that still sell DSL service offering speeds below 6 Mbps.

CAF funding from the FCC offers some rural areas a practical path to upgrades with the help of public funding, but with limited funds, a significant amount will be spent on yesterday’s technology. In just a few short years, residents will be faced with a choice of costly upgrades or a dramatic increase in the number of underserved Americans stuck with inadequate broadband. Policymakers should not repeat the costly mistakes of the United Kingdom and Australia, which resulted in penny wise-pound foolish decisions that will cost taxpayers significant sums and further delay necessary upgrades for the 21st century digital economy. The time for fiber upgrades is now, not in the distant future.

Proposal for Co-Op to Replace Charter/Spectrum Emerges in New York

New York City’s cable franchise territories

A proposal to replace Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable systems in New York with a workers co-op, owned and self-managed by its workers, would offer a bundle of television, phone, and broadband service price-capped at $100 a month for residential customers.

Developed by several dozen striking Charter/Spectrum workers, the 18-page proposal, “New York City Communication July 2018 Business Plan” would, for now, address only the five boroughs of New York City and nearby Bergen, N.J. But Troy Walcott, a striking member of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) Local 3, says the current proposal was written as “a proof of concept” that can be adopted across New York State.

“The best time is now,” Walcott told LaborPress, noting that if the city (or state) decided not to renew Charter Communications’ franchise agreements in the city, there will still be a few years left before it expires, giving the proposed co-op time to develop its own network or plan to overhaul what was originally Time Warner Cable’s system in places like Manhattan.

A citywide co-op would also introduce competitive service in boroughs presently serviced by Altice, formerly Cablevision. The group would have to build its own network in those areas. If New York revokes Charter’s franchise, the cable system would likely take the city and/or state to court, setting up years of litigation. Past precedent has shown that cable systems abandoning or forced from an area are exceptionally rare, and usually involve a friendly sale of the existing system to another provider. One example was Adelphia Communications Corporation, which ran the fifth largest cable company in the country until it filed bankruptcy in 2002 after investigators revealed internal executive corruption. Adelphia systems were sold to Comcast and Time Warner Cable in most areas, although the communities of Mooresville, Davidson, and Cornelius, N.C., acquired the bankrupt Adelphia system serving parts of the three communities in 2007 for $80 million, relaunching it as a community-owned cable provider with mixed results.

A workers co-op is owned and run by its workers in the public interest.

If New York does strip Charter of its Spectrum cable franchises in the state, and if that effort survives the inevitable court challenges, Charter would likely sell its systems in New York to Comcast, an obviously motivated buyer. Another possible, but less-likely buyer is Altice, which acquired Cablevision and already provides service in parts of downstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Charter is facing multiple investigations in New York over its business conduct. In New York City, where its franchise agreement is set to expire July 18, 2020, the company is under fire for its creative interpretation of “located in New York City” — language in Article 17 of the franchise agreement which requires Charter to use vendors registered to do business in New York, have a long-term commercial lease in New York, and more than 50% of its workforce living in New York.

With a substantial amount of its workforce on strike in the area for the last year and a half, and the industry’s trend to shift work to third-party contractors as a cost saving measure, the IBEW has been documenting instances of Charter-badged commercial vehicles parked overnight behind a Far Rockaway florist shop or in residential neighborhoods, often with out-of-state license plates.

Charter officials deny those accusations, and claim at least 75% of its vendors and contractors are located within New York City.

When Kate Blumm, assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) confronted Charter officials about its possible use of out-of-state vendors, the response from Charter was less than reassuring.

“Once we started to probe, we realized that Charter was essentially making the argument that if you are a worker and you are doing work in the city, therefore, you are located in the city,” Blumm said during the March 13 episode of the “Blue Collar Buzz” podcast. “They pointed us to a Macmillan online dictionary definition of what the word ‘located’ means — and we kind of looked at ourselves and were scratching our heads — this is not the spirit and intent of this provision. This provision says that Charter has to use best efforts to use vendors located in the city.”

As a result, the DoITT has pushed its franchise agreement audit one year earlier than normal, now scheduled to begin Sept. 1. The city’s concerns about Charter’s performance have been amplified at the state level by the New York Public Service Commission, which has hammered Charter executives for months about the company’s inability to meet its obligations under the 2016 Merger Order approving the takeover of Time Warner Cable.

“Not only has the company failed to meet its obligations to build out its cable system as required, it continues to make patently false and misleading claims to consumers that it has met those obligations without in any way acknowledging the findings of the Public Service Commission to the contrary,” said PSC Chairman John B. Rhodes. “Our patience with Charter has come to an end and now we must move to take much stronger actions.”

Mayor de Blasio

Backers of the cable co-op note many of those on their business plan development team have direct experience designing, surveying, building, and maintaining the existing Spectrum cable system originally owned by Time Warner Cable.

“We know the system because we built it,” Walcott said. “The system was already crumbling and the infrastructure needed to be redone. This is something that’s going to have to get done anyway. We’re saying, instead of letting them do it, let’s start doing it and rebuilding it ourselves — the people that are actually going to build it anyway.”

Finding enough money to proceed will be the co-op’s biggest challenge. New York City officials, like Mayor Bill De Blasio, are in favor of more cable competition in spirit, but are careful not to commit themselves, or the sizable sums required if the group decides to begin building a competing system or bid to acquire the current Spectrum system. So far, the New York City Council has committed to gradually increasing financial support for the development and cultivation of worker cooperatives, starting with $1.2 million in 2015 and increasing to $2.2 million last year. A full-scale acquisition of the existing infrastructure owned by Charter in New York would likely run into the billions of dollars.

The group hopes public demand and dislike of Charter/Spectrum will force elected officials to get involved in the effort.

Minnesota Candidate for Governor Proposes 100 Mbps State Border-to-Border Broadband

Murphy

Every Minnesota resident would receive access to high-speed internet service under a new proposal that would fund broadband expansion with sales tax revenue earned from out-of-state internet purchases.

The Connect MN plan, backed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) candidate for governor Erin Murphy, would offer rural and underserved Minnesotans 100/20 Mbps broadband service by 2026. To pay for the expansion program, Murphy proposes to invest $100 million annually in Minnesota’s Broadband Development Grant Program, which would provide funding to public and private providers to incentivize expansion into areas currently unprofitable to serve.

“For too long, we have talked about the importance of broadband at the Capitol without the investment needed to address the scope of the challenge,” said Murphy. “When I am Governor, we will move forward with a strategic plan that will connect every Minnesotan with the high-speed internet they need to succeed.”

Funding for the broadband expansion would come from new sales tax collections on out-of-state online purchases that have largely gone uncollected in the past. With the recent Supreme Court decision, South Dakota v. Wayfair, out-of-state retailers would be compelled to collect Minnesota’s sales tax when shipping items to a Minnesota address and remit the proceeds to the state government. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates more uniform collection of sales tax on out-of-state purchases will collect an extra $132-206 million for Minnesota annually. Dedicating much of that money to improve broadband service in the state could result in extending service to 550,000 unserved households — more than 26% of the state — within eight years.

Colored sections show areas lacking at least 25/3 Mbps broadband.

That level of investment would put Minnesota in the same league as New York, where in 2015 Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $500 million investment by the state in rural broadband expansion in an effort to achieve statewide broadband access by 2018. Cuomo’s plan is still under construction, and has been criticized for missing its end goal of universal coverage, with about 1-2% of state residents left with the option of satellite-delivered internet access.

Murphy’s plan would dramatically expand on her predecessor’s own broadband initiatives. Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton’s (DFL) 2018 plan proposed to invest $30 million and reach 11,000 homes and businesses. Since taking office, Gov. Dayton claims to have secured enough funding to expand broadband access to 33,852 households, 5,189 businesses, and 300 community institutions in Greater Minnesota since taking office in 2011. Reaching the half million still unserved homes would take decades at current funding levels.

Murphy’s proposal also goes far beyond rural broadband expansion programs in other states. Tennessee currently offers a $45 million investment in rural broadband over three years — with less than $30 million specifically designated for rural broadband hookups. In West Virginia, a state ranked 43rd in wired broadband by the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, less than $2 million was available this year for rural broadband expansion, combining available funds from a Community Development Block Grant program with leftover money originally set aside for water and sewer projects.

Murphy claims universal access to broadband spurs innovation and drives economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life. One study indicates that a community will see a $10 return on investment for every $1 invested in broadband.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make progress on an issue holding back too many Minnesotans in communities all over the state,” said Murphy. “It’s a critical step in ensuring that everyone in Minnesota can build a bright future for themselves and their families.”

Tennessee’s “Smoke and Mirrors” Rural Broadband Initiatives Fail to Deliver

Rural Roane County, Tenn.

Earlier this month, a standing room only crowd packed the offices of Rockwood Electric Utility (REU) in Rockwood, Tenn., despite the fact the meeting was held at 10 a.m. on a Friday morning.

Local residents were there on a work day to listen to area providers and local officials discuss rural broadband access. Most wanted to know exactly when the local phone or cable company planned to expand to bring internet access to the far corners of the region between Knoxville and Chattanooga in east Tennessee.

Comcast, Charter, and AT&T told Roane County Commissioners Ron Berry and Darryl Meadows, State Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston), and the crowd they all had a long wait because the companies couldn’t profit offering rural broadband service to the county.

“That is what our shareholders expect and the way we operate in a capitalistic society,” declared Andy Macke, vice president of external affairs at Comcast.

“The biggest challenge for all of you in this room is what they call the last mile,” said Alan L. Hill, the regional director of external and legislative affairs at AT&T Tennessee. “It is a challenge. We all face these challenges.”

In short, nothing much had changed in Roane County, or other rural counties in southeastern Tennessee, to convince service providers to spend money to bring internet service to the region. Until that changed, AT&T, Comcast and others should not be expected to be on the front lines addressing rural internet access. Successive governors of Tennessee have long complained about the rural broadband problem, but the state legislature remains cool to the idea of the state government intervening to help resolve it.

Gov. Haslam

In 2017, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam noted Tennessee currently ranked 29th in the U.S. for broadband access, with 34 percent of rural Tennessee residents lacking access at recognized minimum standards. In splashy news releases and media events, Haslam sold his solution to the problem — the Broadband Accessibility Act, offering up to $45 million over three years to assist making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses.

In reality, the law authorized spending no more than $9.5 million annually on rural broadband grants over the next three years. It also slashed the FCC’s broadband standard from 25/3 Mbps to 10/1 Mbps, presumably a gift to the phone companies who prefer to offer less-capable DSL service in rural areas. In the first year of awards, 13 Tennessee counties, none in the southeastern region where Roane County lies, divided the money, diluting the impact to almost homeopathic strength.

Critics called Haslam’s broadband improvement program “The Smoke and Mirrors Act” for promising a lot and delivering little. At current funding levels, broadband service can only be expanded to 5,000 of the estimated 422,000 households that lack access to internet service, and then only with the award winner’s matching financial contribution.

The demand for rural broadband financial assistance is obvious from the $66 million in requests received from 71 different utilities, co-ops, and communications companies in the first year of the program, all seeking state funding to expand rural broadband. Only a small fraction of those requests were approved. AT&T applied for money targeting Roane County and was turned down. AT&T’s Hill expressed sympathy for the county’s school children who need to complete homework assignments by borrowing Wi-Fi access from fast food establishments, area businesses, and larger libraries. But AT&T’s sympathy will not solve Roane County’s broadband problems.

What might is Rockwood Electric Utility, the municipal power company that sponsored the broadband event.

REU is a not-for-profit, municipally owned utility that has successfully served portions of Roane, Cumberland, and Morgan counties since 1939. By itself, the community-owned utility is no threat to companies like Comcast, because it offers service in places the cable company won’t. But if REU partnered with other municipal providers and offered internet service in larger nearby towns and communities to achieve economy of scale and a more secure financial position, that is a competitive threat apparently so perilous that the telecom industry spent millions of lobbying dollars on state legislatures like the one in Tennessee to ghost-write legislation to discourage utilities like REU from getting into the broadband business, much less dare to compete directly with them. AT&T, Charter, and Comcast also fear how they will compete against municipal utilities that have successfully delivered electric service and maintained an excellent reputation in the community for decades.

Tennessee law is decidedly stacked in favor of AT&T, Charter, and Comcast and against municipal utilities. Although the state allows municipal providers to supply broadband, it can come only after satisfying a series of regulatory rules designed to protect commercial cable and phone companies. It also prohibits municipal providers from offering service outside of existing service areas. That leaves communities served by a for-profit, investor-owned utility out of luck, as well as residents in areas where a rural utility lacked adequate resources to supply broadband service on its own.

Haslam’s Broadband Accessibility Act cynically retained these restrictions and blockades, hampering the rural broadband expansion the law was supposed to address.

For several years, Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie, Van Buren and Warren Counties), has tried to cut one section of Tennessee’s broadband-related laws that prohibits municipal providers from offering service outside of their existing utility service area. Her proposed legislation would authorize municipalities to provide telecommunication service, including broadband service, either on its own or by joint venture or other business relationship with one or more third parties and in geographical areas that are inside and outside the electric plant’s service area.

In her sprawling State Senate District 16, a municipal provider already offers fiber broadband service, but Tennessee’s current protectionist laws prohibit LightTUBe from offering service to nearby towns where service is absent or severely lacking. That has left homes and businesses in her district at a major disadvantage economically.

Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tenn.) discusses rural broadband challenges in her 16th district south of Nashville and her bill to help municipal utilities provide broadband service. (4:20)

“In rural Tennessee, if we have what is called an industrial park, and we have electricity, you have running water, you have some paved roads, but if you do not have access to fiber at this point, what you have is an electrified cow pasture with running water and walking trails. It is not an industrial park,” she complained, noting that the only reason her bill is prevented from becoming law is lobbying by the state’s cable and phone companies. “We can no longer leave the people of Tennessee hostage to profit margins of large corporations. We appreciate what they’re doing. We appreciate where they do it, but in rural Tennessee we will never meet their profit margins and so we can no longer be held hostage when we have the ability to help ourselves.”

Sen. Yager

Her sentiment in shared by many other Tennessee legislators who serve rural districts, and her Senate bill (and House companion bill) routinely receive little, if any, public opposition. But private lobbying by telecom industry lobbyists makes sure the bill never reaches the governor’s desk, usually dying in an obscure committee unlikely to attract media attention.

That reality is why residents of Roane County were meeting in a crowded room to get answers about why broadband still remained elusive after several years, despite the high-profile attention it seems to get in the legislature and governor’s office.

“‘It is a critical issue as I said. It is not a luxury. It is a necessity. I certainly understand your frustration,” responded Sen. Ken Yager. “This problem is so big I don’t think one person can do it alone, one entity. It’s going to have to have partnerships. One thing this bill encourages is for your co-ops to partner with one another to bring broadband in.”

The bill Sen. Yager refers to and endorsed at the meeting was written by Sen. Bowling. Sen. Yager must be very familiar with Bowling’s proposals, because she has appeared before the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee he belongs to year after year to promote it. On March 3, 2018, the bill failed again in a 4-3 vote. But unbeknownst to those in attendance at the public meeting, Sen. Yager himself delivered the fourth “no” vote that killed the bill.

Undeterred, Bowling promises to be back next year with the same bill language as before. Perhaps next time, voters will know who their friends are in the legislature, and who actually represents the interests of big corporate cable and phone companies.

Bipartisan Rural Broadband Bill Would Offer Tax Credits for the Broadband Bypassed

Rep. Stefanik

Waiting for broadband companies to wire rural America could take forever, so a new bipartisan bill would reward motivated businesses and neighborhoods with refundable tax credits if they cover the costs of connecting to nearby providers themselves.

The Broadband for All Act (copy not yet available) would create a new tax credit of up to 75% for groups of two or more homeowners or businesses who agree to cover the cost of infrastructure to extend broadband service from any available provider to their homes and businesses. The bill was jointly introduced by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), who both serve rural districts where broadband availability has been a challenge for years.

Rep. Kilmer

In practice, many unserved Americans live within a mile or two of a service provider, unserved because their homes and businesses failed to offer a suitable Return On Investment (ROI) to wire for service. Would-be cable customers are often quoted prices of $15,000-30,000 to extend service into their neighborhoods — a price too high for most. The new bill would reduce the sting of such upfront costs by offering tax credits to help offset the expense. But it is still a lot of money, and the bill would likely benefit those with deeper pockets the most.

The tax refund would apply to any available technology, so each group can choose the best option that bridges the “last-mile” gap between their homes and businesses and the existing broadband service network.

A copy of the bill was not yet available. If the bill does not disqualify municipal or public broadband providers, it could prove useful in areas where public broadband construction is underway. Many of those projects carry significant up front connection fees to help defray network construction costs. If such costs were largely covered by tax credits, it could provide a significant boost to broadband uptake in rural communities.

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