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Kansas’ Fiber Broadband Cup Runneth Over: New SureWest Projects Compliment Google

Phillip Dampier September 5, 2012 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Google Fiber, SureWest Comments Off

Did you miss out on Google Fiber’s forthcoming gigabit broadband network in Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri? Kansans may not be out of luck, as provider SureWest aggressively continues work to expand its own fiber to the home network in several Kansas City suburbs and nearby communities.

SureWest, which believes strongly in fiber service, is busy laying fiber in conduits in Fairway, Mission, Roeland Park — all in Kansas. It also offers service in Lenexa, Overland Park, Shawnee and parts of Kansas City, Mo.

With all of this fiber, some Kansans may soon be able to choose between two competing fiber to the home providers.

SureWest General Manager of Kansas City operations Matt Zuschlag says SureWest’s fiber broadband service, which tops out at 50/50Mbps, will work just as well as Google’s gigabit (1,000Mbps) service because most web sites don’t need super fast speeds to load equally as fast. Even some bandwidth-intensive applications will not be able to take full advantage of Google’s fiber speeds because the networks currently supporting them were not designed to deliver sustained gigabit speed to end users.

SureWest works good enough for communities like Prairie Village, which is asking the company to wire its community for fiber service, regardless of where Google expands next.

SureWest competes with traditional cable and phone companies — Time Warner Cable and AT&T in the case of northern Kansas, and sells traditional triple play packages of phone, Internet, and television service.

But SureWest says its fiber network is always laid underground, which the company says offers improved reliability. Google Fiber is being installed largely on overhead lines alongside other utility services. SureWest says going underground allows it to skip the delays associated with obtaining pole use permits.

 

Telco’s Ethernet Over Copper Can Deliver Faster Speeds, If You Can Afford It

Ethernet over Copper is becoming an increasingly popular choice for business customers stuck in areas where companies won't deploy fiber broadband (Graphic: OSP Magazine)

With Verizon and AT&T effectively stalling expansion of their respective “next generation” fiber and hybrid fiber/coax networks, and independent phone companies fearing too much capital spent improving their networks will drive their stock prices down, telephone companies are desperately seeking better options to deliver the faster broadband service customers demand.

The options over a copper-based landline network are not the best:

  • ADSL has been around for more than a decade and is highly distant dependent. Get beyond 10,000 feet from the nearest switching office and your speeds may not even qualify as “broadband;”
  • DSL variants represent the second generation for copper-broadband and can deliver faster speeds, but usually require investment to reduce the amount of copper between the customer and the switching office;
  • Fiber networks are more expensive to build, and some companies are using it to reduce, but not eliminate copper wire in their networks. But companies traditionally avoid this solution in rural/suburban areas because the cost/benefit analysis doesn’t work for shareholders;
  • Ethernet Over Copper (EoC) is increasingly the solution of choice for independent phone companies because it is less expensive to deploy than fiber and can quickly deliver service at speeds of up to 50Mbps.

Unfortunately for consumers, EoC is typically way above the price range for home broadband.  Most providers sell the faster service to commercial and institutional customers, either for businesses that have outgrown T1 lines or where deploying fiber does not make economic sense.  Some companies have tried to improve on DSL by bonding multiple connections together to achieve faster speeds, but Ethernet is quickly becoming a more important tool in the broadband marketing arsenal.

With phone companies pricing EoC service from several hundred to several thousand dollars a month, depending on the speed of the connection, they hope to remain competitive players against a push by the cable industry to more aggressively target business customers.  In more rural areas, phone companies lack cable competition, so they stand a better chance of success.

Fierce Telecom‘s Sean Buckley published an excellent series of articles outlining the current state of EoC technology and what phone companies are doing with it:

  • AT&T: Inherited EoC from its acquisition of BellSouth, and barely markets it. Instead, AT&T uses it as a quiet solution for challenging customers who cannot affordably be reached by fiber.  AT&T will either deliver the service over copper, copper/fiber, or an all-fiber path depending on the client’s needs.
  • CenturyLink: No phone company is as aggressive about EoC as CenturyLink. When CenturyLink acquired Qwest, interest in the technology only intensified. EoC is a CenturyLink favorite for small businesses that simply cannot get the speeds they need from traditional DSL.  Most EoC service runs up to 20Mbps.
  • Verizon: Verizon’s network is the most fiber-intense among large commercial providers, so EoC is not the first choice for the company. However, it does use it to reach multi-site businesses who have buildings and offices outside of the footprint of Verizon’s fiber network/service area.
  • Frontier: In the regions where Frontier acquired Verizon landlines, EoC has become an important component for Frontier’s backhaul traffic. EoC has been deployed to reach cell tower sites and handles broadband traffic between central office exchanges and remote D-SLAMs, used to let the company sell DSL to a more rural customer base.  Frontier looks to EoC before considering spending money on fiber service, even for commercial and institutional users.
  • Windstream: EoC is the way this phone company gets better broadband speeds to business customers without spending a lot of money on fiber. Small and medium-sized customers are often buyers of EoC service, especially when DSL can’t handle the job or the company requires faster upstream speeds.  Windstream markets upgradable EoC capable of delivering the same downstream and upstream speeds and can deliver it more quickly than a fiber project.
  • FairPoint: Much of this phone company’s EoC efforts are in territories in northern New England acquired from Verizon.  FairPoint targets small and medium sized companies for the service, especially those who have remote offices or clinics that need to be interconnected. FairPoint has also gotten more aggressive than many other companies working with ADSL2+ or VDSL2 to deliver faster broadband to office buildings and complexes more economically than fiber.
  • SureWest: This company is strong believer in fiber to the premises service, so its interest in EoC has been limited to areas where deploying fiber makes little economic sense. In more out-of-the-way places, EoC is becoming a more common choice to pitch businesses who need more than traditional broadband.
  • Hawaiian Telcom: HawTel uses copper-based EoC to provide connectivity across the diverse Hawaiian Islands.  Speeds are generally lower than in mainland areas, partly because HawTel still relies heavily on traditional copper-based service. But fiber-based EoC is increasingly available in more densely populated areas.

Frontier’s Internet Overcharging Ripoff Coming to a Community Near You

"This will never end well."

Stop the Cap! and our allies Free Press teamed up to expose Frontier’s usage limits for what they are — a broadband ripoff.

KOVR-TV in Sacramento ran an excellent piece on Frontier’s latest embarrassing screw-up: driving their declining landline broadband customers away with unjustified and arbitrary usage caps.

One new piece of the story: Frontier could bring its usage rationing sideshow to a community near you.  As Stop the Cap! informed readers from the beginning, the company has quietly been tracking customers’ usage, looking for outliers they can suggest are using too much.  Now the company says it is ready to drop the hammer on heavy users.

Stephanie Beasly, Communications Manager — Frontier Communications:

“The company letters were sent to customers that are using an excessive amount of the network. Well beyond any reasonable amount for an average user and significant enough to negatively affect other customers’ user experience.

The letters are meant to communicate to these customers that their usage is in excess and we would like to work with them to adjust their plan or their usage. In most cases our customers were not aware of their usage patterns and are willing to work with us to adjust their plans to fit their lifestyles. We do not have a customer capacity on our network. We are looking to work with these customers to help prevent degradation on our network to ensure the customer experience.

The pricing structure was put in place to help us maintain the network experience for all customers. If you choose to use a significant amount of bandwidth we believe you should pay for the service accordingly.

The letters were sent to four markets across the company. We routinely review network usage patterns and these users jumped out as consuming an inordinate amount of bandwidth, enough to negatively affect other customers’ user experience.

All of Frontier markets are reviewed for usage patterns as the markets receiving the letters were reviewed. These specific markets were not targeted.

The customers using an excessive amount of data negatively impact the network for other users. Preventing us from providing adequate bandwidth to all of our users during peak and non-peak times.”

There is less and less to like about Frontier Communications, despite the fact they plan to deliver broadband service to rural Americans unlikely to see it from anyone else.  We’re glad someone is willing to provide the service, but 1-3Mbps broadband with arbitrary usage limits and potentially confiscatory pricing ($250 a month for residential customers), is a trade the devil might make.

Stop the Cap! will continue to organize opposition to Frontier’s foolish pricing schemes wherever they appear.  We will help customers find an alternate provider wherever possible, preferably one that remembers a customer should be treated like gold, not mined for it.

In suburban Sacramento, we highly recommend SureWest — a fiber-to-the-home service provider that not only has no Internet Overcharging scheme, but provides service at speeds that frankly embarrass Frontier’s last-century DSL.  They will even cover up to $200 of any early cancellation fee Frontier charges (and if Frontier tries, we want to know about it).

Our reader, Mr. Brown, was pleasantly surprised to find that SureWest’s speeds just blow Frontier out of the water.  He’s saying goodbye to his 6/0.5Mbps DSL line from Frontier and hello to 25/25Mbps service from SureWest that will also save him $10 a month!  He is also happy to see the back of Frontier’s Overcharging Nanny telling him to get off the Internet.

“[These caps] are a slippery slope and Internet providers need to know that action such as these will result in lost profits,” Mr. Brown wrote on KOVR’s website.  Departing customers typically drop -all- of their Frontier services, costing the company landline revenue as well.

Indeed, Frontier continues to lose more landline customers than its adds, and bungling policies like overcharging for Internet service will only accelerate the departure of angry customers.

Unfortunately, Frontier’s failures extend way beyond their broadband service.

The golden parachute for some, just not for you.

Frontier’s way of doing business has:

  • given customers one more reason to cancel their landline service;
  • ruined a fiber-to-the-home service that a child should be able to market successfully;
  • irritated subscribers with “price protection agreements” that are little more than tricks and traps — delivering all of the protection to Frontier’s bottom line and making you pay the price;
  • destroyed what few reasons remain for customers to waste their time with DSL broadband wherever cable or municipal providers exist;
  • delivered big dividends and results only to shareholders, siphoning away important financial resources needed to upgrade their facilities.

In Everett, Washington Frontier cannot even manage the steady flow of customers canceling FiOS video service after news of a shocking $30 a month rate increase.  After telling customers they should “upgrade” their Frontier service to DirecTV satellite, those customers that tried encountered news that DirecTV never heard of the promotion Frontier was offering:

Two hours on the phone, six customer service people and a disconnected call — it wasn’t the introduction to DirecTV that one local man had hoped.

A FiOS television customer, Rick Wright sought to take advantage of an offer made last week by Frontier Communications and its partner, DirecTV.

[...]When Wright called initially, the Frontier customer service person was familiar with Frontier’s offer and transferred Wright to DirecTV to get an installation date before cancelling his FiOS TV service. At DirecTV, Wright spoke to six people over a two-hour span before being disconnected. Wright called back to DirecTV the following day only to be told that he was misinformed about the offer. Frontier spokeswoman Stephanie Beasly said Thursday that she was taking care of Wright’s problem.

On Friday, more than a week after Frontier first announced its new offer, Wright said his television service still remained up in the air. Several other FiOS television customers in Snohomish County reported difficulty in getting the free DirecTV offer.

Late last week, Frontier acknowledged some miscommunication between the company and its partner, DirecTV. On Thursday, Beasly said she believed those issues had been resolved. She did not return a request for further information Friday.

DirecTV spokeswoman Jade Ekstedt suggested in an e-mail that FiOS customers should contact Frontier directly for assistance.

“The offer … is a valid Frontier Communications promotion that includes DirecTV service, and DirecTV always works with its partners on valid offers that they introduce into market,” Ekstedt wrote, when asked whether DirecTV is honoring Frontier’s offer.

Complaints are arriving at a steady pace, reports the Washington State Attorney General’s office.

This is a story that never ends well.  But don’t worry — the executives responsible for the notorious bungling have their spots on the compensation lifeboats already reserved.  Too bad customers will likely go down with the ship.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KOVR Sacramento Call Kurtis Bill May Triple For Excessive Internet Usage 1-13-11.mp4

KOVR-TV in Sacramento worked with Stop the Cap! and Free Press to develop this story about Frontier’s unjustified Internet Overcharging schemes.  (4 minutes)

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