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N.Y. Broadband Improvement Fund to Public Broadband Networks: Don’t Call Us, We’ll Never Call You

A $500 million New York State broadband improvement fund is effectively off-limits for would-be community-owned broadband networks trying to deliver broadband service in areas for-profit providers have deemed unprofitable.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious plan to revolutionize Internet access for New Yorkers depends almost exclusively on for-profit providers and the state’s largest cable operator, Time Warner Cable – the company that has so far received the largest share of state funds earmarked for better broadband.

Cuomo wants all of New York wired for 100Mbps service no later than 2018. His goal is ambitious because the overwhelming majority of upstate New York barely now receives a maximum of 50Mbps from Time Warner Cable, the only significant cable operator in the region.

The broadband map from N.Y. State shows 100Mbps service is available to most New Yorkers from Verizon FiOS, Cablevision, and a handful of municipal/co-op operators. Time Warner Cable only provides a maximum of 50Mbps service across upstate New York.

The broadband map from N.Y. State shows 100Mbps service is available only from Verizon FiOS, Cablevision, and a handful of municipal/co-op operators. Time Warner Cable only provides a maximum of 50Mbps service across upstate New York. Cablevision and FiOS compete on Long Island, Time Warner Cable Maxx competes with Verizon in New York City, and most of upstate New York is served by Verizon or Frontier DSL competing with Time Warner Cable.

Six months after the program was announced, Capital magazine reports the “New NY Broadband” plan is languishing with no defined guidelines, rules, or any clear sense about how the program will be implemented and the money spent.

Salway

Salway

In fact, one of the only clear statements coming from David Salway, a former telecommunications consultant who now administers the program, is that local governments should not bother applying because he doesn’t want them competing with Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Frontier. It’s private enterprise only:

“The primary focus of our program is that we’re not going to be in the building business,” Salway said. He emphasized that municipal governments won’t be specifically precluded from receiving funds under the program, but said that the state is “wary” of “the government building and competing with the private sector. We see this as a provider partnership process where an incumbent provider or maybe a new entrant comes in.”

Local government leaders can read between the lines and most will not bother applying for funding if Salway’s vision guides the grant-making process. Instead, Salway wants to funnel money that effectively belongs to New York taxpayers into the pockets of for-profit providers like Verizon, Frontier, Windstream, Time Warner Cable and other providers that have consistently refused to expand their networks into rural areas on their own dime. The money earmarked for broadband is part of a $6 billion legal settlement the New York Attorney General’s office negotiated with Wall Street and commercial banks that helped plunge the country into The Great Recession.

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Broadband advocates across the political spectrum are slamming the broadband program for different reasons. Christopher Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance predicts providers will deliver bait and switch broadband on the taxpayer’s dime and send the proceeds out of the area.

“When you subsidize the private sector, you don’t really know what kind of services they’re going to provide in the future,” Mitchell said. “There’s a fair number that basically rip off consumers,” and they “basically extract resources from the community they serve.”

Mitchell

Mitchell

“The only clear beneficiaries of this program will be cable and Internet providers, who will have a new state subsidy to expand their footprints into areas in which their competitors have demonstrated an inability to operate profitably,” said Ken Girardin of the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy, in a scathing review of the New NY plan.

So far, Verizon has shown no interest in the program. It’s eventual intent is to decommission rural landline service and push existing customers to wireless service, so applying for wired broadband expansion funding isn’t a priority. The most likely applicants include Windstream, which serves a small percentage of rural New York telephone exchanges, Frontier Communications, which dominates Rochester and parts of the Finger Lakes region, and Time Warner Cable, which used earlier funding to connect two rural communities to its cable service. But all three companies are waiting for the program and its grant terms to be better defined.

With incumbent cable and phone companies reluctant to take part, there are several wired and wireless broadband initiatives in rural areas around New York starved of resources to expand their networks. The “white space” wireless broadband project in Thurman, for example, will be seeking funding to expand its wireless high-speed network into other parts of the community. Other initiatives could allow existing middle mile fiber networks in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region to explore building out “last mile” service to homes and businesses that now receive only DSL or no Internet access at all.

Salway promises he’ll consider funding networks that deliver the best broadband speeds for the lowest relative price in similarly sized communities. But all the money in the world won’t help if an existing phone or cable company shows no interest in serving unprofitable rural areas even after the state defrays the initial cost of placing the infrastructure to provide the service.

Mitchell believes local communities are best positioned to know what their residents want and many support publicly funded fiber technology rollouts. He points to Longmont, Col., a community that fought off propaganda mailers and a $300,000 marketing effort by CenturyLink and Comcast to defeat public fiber broadband in the city. The residents voted in favor of building their own network to move beyond the “good enough for you” broadband coming from the phone and cable company.

“The Longmonts of the country can decide to wait until these private sector companies decide its in their interest to finally build these fiber networks out, or they can say, ‘You know, we’re always going to be behind the greater technological curve of the nation,’ and do it themselves,” Tom Roiniotis, Longmont’s general manager, told Capital.

Telecom Egypt Announces It Is Getting Rid of Antiquated Copper; Installing Fiber Service Instead

telecom egypt

Telecom Egypt

Egypt has made ditching antiquated copper phone wiring a national priority and Telecom Egypt is continuing its efforts to dump copper in favor of fiber optics to improve quality and reliability of service.

In April, customers in West Cairo, New Cairo, Giza city, and the Northern Coast may experience temporary outages as the new fiber network is connected. The company is also installing fiber service in the east, central and western Delta region, northern, central, and southern Upper Egypt, Ismailia and Suez.

When this phase is complete by the end of this year, over four million Egyptians will have access to fiber service. The company is accelerating its transition to fiber service as Egyptians are increasingly dumping landline service in favor of wireless. Competition from three mobile companies – Vodafone Egypt, Etisalat and Mobinil have taken a considerable market share. Last year, the Egyptian government allowed Telecom Egypt to compete with a wireless service of its own, but the three mobile providers also get to start selling landline and broadband service.

Telecom Egypt hopes its $400 million investment in fiber will slow down customer defections and allow the company to sell improved services to customers.

Telecom Italia Rolling Out Fiber to the Home Service to 40 Italian Cities by 2017

telecom italiaItaly is preparing to leap ahead of the United States and Canada by deploying a minimum of 100Mbps broadband to 85 percent of Italy by 2020 and a guarantee that everyone else will be able to access at least 30Mbps service by that time as well.

Telecom Italia will primarily use its own financial resources to lay fiber to the home service to 40 of Italy’s biggest cities over the next two years. The government has pushed for major improvements in Italian broadband to catch up with the rest of Europe and beat the U.S. and Canada. It will spend $6.5 billion dollars to accelerate the development of a nationwide fiber network and the government has also extended a range of incentives to persuade operators to boost Internet speeds without boosting prices for Italian consumers.

Once the fiber network is complete, Telecom Italia can further increase speeds to 1Gbps or more.

Comcast Announces 2Gbps Fiber Service for Atlanta; Up to 18 Million Homes Nationwide May Eventually Qualify

Could a speedtest like this be in your future?

Could a speed test like this be in your future?

Comcast is entering the gigabit broadband business and is guaranteeing customers willing to pay for the experience will not be subjected to a usage cap.

Comcast’s Gigabit Pro will arrive next month in select Atlanta neighborhoods located within one-third of a mile of Comcast’s fiber backbone network in the city. Promising 2,000/2,000Mbps unlimited fiber-to-the-home service (at a yet to be disclosed price), Comcast hopes to upstage Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse with GigaPower which are both working to upgrade Atlanta to 1,000Mbps service.

“We’ll first offer this service in Atlanta and roll it out in additional cities soon with the goal to have it available across the country and available to about 18 million homes by the end of the year,” said Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president of consumer services for Comcast. “Gigabit Pro is a professional-grade residential fiber-to-the-home solution that leverages our fiber network to deliver 2Gbps upload and download speeds. We’ve spent a decade building a national fiber backbone across 145,000 route miles of fiber. This new service will be available to customers that are within close proximity to our fiber network.”

Comcast says it will price Gigabit Pro below the cost of its current Extreme 505 (505/100Mbps) service, which costs $399.95 a month, not including the $250 technology activation fee, $250 installation fee, and three-year contract with up to a $1,000 early cancellation penalty. It seems unlikely Comcast’s price for 2Gbps will hover near Google and AT&T’s usual $70 fee for 1Gbps service. Comcast has to bring fiber from its nearest fiber node to a customer’s home and install commercial-grade equipment capable of handling 2Gbps. Existing Extreme 505 customers will be upgraded to 2Gbps for no additional charge.

Comcast-LogoComcast officials have repeatedly stressed its 2Gbps tier will be exempt from usage caps, which makes it the only unlimited residential broadband offering available to Comcast customers in Atlanta. Other residential customers are now subjected to a 300GB usage cap with $10/50GB overlimit fee.

Marketing Comcast’s 2Gbps offering may prove tricky because potential customers must live close to pre-existing Comcast fiber. If you don’t qualify, Comcast won’t pay to bring fiber infrastructure your way. Those outside of the fiber service area will continue to be serviced by standard coaxial cable. Comcast will wait for DOCSIS 3.1 to be officially available before deploying more speed upgrades in 2016. It promises to boost speeds up to at least 1Gbps if demand warrants.

The sudden announcement Comcast was willing to ditch part of its HFC coax network in favor of fiber, almost unprecedented for a major cable operator, and boost speeds beyond a gigabit may also be used to boost its chances of winning approval of its merger deal with Time Warner Cable. TWC Maxx, Time Warner’s own speed upgrade effort, only raises Internet speeds to a maximum of 300Mbps. Comcast had promised to upgrade Time Warner Cable customers’ speeds as part of the merger, but TWC Maxx offered most customers better speeds than what Comcast offered most of its residential customers.

Article was updated to correct the upload speed for the 505Mbps Comcast tier. It is now evidently 100Mbps, up from 65Mbps.

Spain’s Telefónica Junking Copper; Switching Customers to 300/30Mbps Fiber Broadband (And Charging $41/Mo)

telefonicaSpanish telephone company Telefónica knows the days of traditional ADSL broadband are numbered, so the company is junking its copper wire network and upgrading customers to fiber broadband at no extra charge.

Telefónica president Luis Miguel Gilpérez said the upgrade is part of Spain’s march to be the most digital country in Europe. It also establishes a modern broadband platform on which Telefónica can sell its streaming video and pay TV services to the public. The company holds an 85 percent share in the fiber network.

Gilpérez likened the company’s current top-tier of 100Mbps as yesterday’s news.

“It appears that 100Mbps falls short and customers demand more speed, so the company is looking to develop these services [with] an increase in speed,” Gilpérez told El País.

Spain already has 10.3 million households connected to fiber. Telefónica hopes to reach an additional 3.6 million homes this year, but is threatening to cut its investment if it is forced to share its fiber network with competitors.

Telefónica is already required by Spanish regulators to open its copper network to competing ISPs at a regulated wholesale price. The Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC), the Spanish trade and competition regulator, is currently proposing to extend open access to Telefónica’s fiber network as well.

At present, the telephone company faces competition from Vodafone/Ono, Jazztel and Orange, which all offer up to 200Mbps speeds. Most expect competitors will boost speeds to match or exceed Telefónica’s new speed offer.

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