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Frontier Communications Promises Gigabit Broadband Will Be Available… to Almost Nobody

Frontier's "High Speed" Fantasies

Frontier’s “High Speed” Fiber Fantasies

Frontier Communications has jumped on the gigabit broadband promises bandwagon with an announcement to investors the company will make available 1,000Mbps broadband speeds available later this year to a small handful of customers.

“I want to note that nearly 10% of our households are served through a fiber to the home architecture,” said Frontier’s chief operating officer Dan McCarthy. “Over the next several quarters we will introduce expanded speed offerings in select markets including 50-100Mbps services. Some residential areas will also be able to purchase up to 1Gbps broadband service. We are excited to bring these new products to market and look forward to making these choices available to our customers.”

Most of Frontier’s fiber customers are part of the FiOS fiber to the home infrastructure Frontier adopted from Verizon in Fort Wayne, Ind., and in parts of Oregon and Washington. The rest of Frontier customers accessing service over fiber are in a few new housing developments and some multi-dwelling units. The majority of customers continue to be served by copper-based facilities.

Despite the speed challenges imposed by distance-sensitive DSL over copper networks, Frontier customers crave faster speeds and more than one-third of Frontier’s sales in the last quarter have come from speed upgrades. As of this month, 54% of Frontier households can receive 20Mbps or greater speed, 75% can get 12Mbps and 83% can get 6Mbps. Here at Stop the Cap! headquarters, little has changed since 2009, with maximum available Frontier DSL speeds in this Rochester, N.Y. suburban neighborhood still maxing out at a less-impressive 3.1Mbps.

Frontier’s plans for the next three months include a growing number of partnerships with third-party equipment manufacturers and software companies, as well as integrating former AT&T service areas in Connecticut into the Frontier family:

Sale of AT&T Connecticut Assets to Frontier Communications Wins Approval from State Attorney General

frontier frankConnecticut’s Attorney General has announced a deal with Frontier Communications to approve its acquisition of AT&T’s wired assets in the state. The office asked for and got a three-year rate freeze on basic residential telephone rates and a commitment to keep selling standalone broadband at or below Frontier’s current rates. Low-income military veterans would receive basic broadband service for $19.99 per month, a substantial discount off the regular price of $34.99. The first month of service is free.

Frontier will make $500,000 in donations annually to various Connecticut charities, give $512,500 to the University of Connecticut basketball teams, and commit $75,000 to sponsor the Connecticut Open tennis tournament in New Haven.

The phone company has also committed to invest $64 million on network upgrades between 2015-2017, primarily to expand DSL broadband and U-verse service. The company also must undertake to inspect the wireline network it is buying from AT&T and replace deteriorating infrastructure including lines and telephone poles as needed.

Frontier announced it was buying AT&T’s wired assets in December for $2 billion. AT&T will continue to own and operate its wireless network assets in the state. Connecticut was home to AT&T’s only significant landline presence in the northeast. The Southern New England Telephone Company of Connecticut was originally bought by SBC Communications for $4.4 billion in 1998. After SBC purchased AT&T, the telephone company changed its name to AT&T Connecticut. Its primary competitor is Cablevision Industries, which also serves eastern New York and parts of New Jersey. AT&T has aggressively deployed its U-verse platform in Connecticut. Frontier will continue to run and expand U-verse in the state.

Frontier Services and Partnerships Expand

  • Customers may have already received marketing for Frontier’s Emergency Phone, a $4.99/mo landline that can only reach 911. Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter told investors that global climate change has made weather patterns more unpredictable, making the reliability and resiliency of traditional landlines a “true life line” in the event of an emergency knocking out Voice over IP lines or cell phone service;
  • Frontier Texting, powered by Zipwhip, allows customers send and receive text messages using their existing landline numbers. The service appears most popular with business customers, with more 800 signed up so far;
  • Frontier third-party technical and security support offers a large range of computer security, home automation, and support services for both hardware and software. Frontier added the Nest thermostat during this quarter, as well as tech support for Intuit QuickBooks and Dropcam remote video monitoring.

Wilderotter Flip-Flops on Gigabit Broadband: You Don’t Need a Gig

Less than three weeks ago, Wilderotter told the Pacific Northwest readers of The Oregonian they didn’t need gigabit broadband speeds:

“Today it’s about the hype, because Google has hyped the gig,” said Wilderotter, in Portland this week for a meeting of her company’s board. She said Google is pitching something that’s beyond the capacity of many devices, with very few services that could take advantage of such speeds, and confusing customers in the process.

“We have to take the mystery and the technology out of the experience for the user because it’s a bit disrespectful to speak a language our customers don’t understand,” said Wilderotter, in Portland this week for a meeting of her company’s board.

Frontier’s pitch: Better prices for more modest speeds. For most people, Wilderotter said, 10 to 12 megabits per second will be perfectly adequate for at least the next couple years. She said Frontier is upgrading its networks in rural communities where it doesn’t offer FiOS to meet that benchmark.

Now that Frontier proposes to offer those speeds, company officials are excited they will be available. Customers shouldn’t be. Most won’t have access for some time to come, if ever.

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Syracuse Wants More Choices Than Comcast and Verizon: Considers Building Publicly-Owned FTTH Alternative

Downtown Syracuse (Image: Post-Standard)

Downtown Syracuse (Image: Post-Standard)

The city of Syracuse is facing an unpleasant broadband reality: the current cable company is about to be bought out by Comcast (which has usage caps in store for broadband customers) and the phone company has thrown in the towel on further expanding FiOS — fiber to the home broadband.

Mayor Stephanie Miner isn’t willing to let the city get trapped by a lack of broadband options from Comcast and Verizon, so she’s developing a plan to build a publicly owned alternative.

“I’m putting together a plan that we can do it ourselves, as a community,” Miner told the Post-Standard

If approved, Syracuse would join Chattanooga, Lafayette, La.,  Wilson and Salisbury, N.C., and several other cities providing local citizens with broadband speeds up to 1,000/1,000Mbps.

“Would we have to do that in phases? What would that look like? How would we pay for it? What would the model be? Those are all things that we are currently looking at, ” Miner noted.

Many of those questions have already been worked out by the best clearinghouse Stop the Cap! knows for excellent community broadband project development: the team at the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

The Community Broadband Networks Initiative of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, works with communities across the United States to create the policies needed to make sure telecommunications networks serve the community rather than a community serving the network. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a non-profit organization that started in Washington D.C. in 1974.

ILSR’s Mission:

The Institute’s mission is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs; to maximize human, material, natural and financial resources; and to ensure that the benefits of these systems and resources accrue to all local citizens.

No community should attempt to build a community broadband network without first consulting with ILSR. They are particularly effective at helping combat the misinformation campaigns that often arise when an incumbent duopoly discovers they are about to get serious competition for the first time.

If your community wants something better than the local cable and phone company, have your local official(s) E-mail or call Christopher Mitchell at ILSR: 612-276-3456 x209

With entrenched providers unwilling to meet the needs of communities for affordable fast Internet, more American communities are providing the service themselves, much as they take care of local roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure. Comcast’s toll information superhighway may work wonders for shareholders, but it leaves most customers cold. Syracuse, like most upstate New York cities, has also watched Verizon flee from investments in FiOS expansion beyond a handful of wealthy suburbs. Verizon has diverted much of its investment away from wired networks in favor of wireless, a much more profitable business.

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More Proof of Comcast’s Monopoly Tendencies: Spending Big to Kill Community Broadband Competition

When the community of Batavia, Ill., a distant suburb of Chicago, decided they wanted something better than the poor broadband offered by Comcast and what is today AT&T, it decided to hold a public referendum on whether the town should construct and run its own fiber to the home network for the benefit of area residents and businesses. A local community group, Fiber for Our Future, put up $4,325 to promote the initiative back in 2004, if only because the town obviously couldn’t spend tax dollars to advertise or promote the idea itself.

Within weeks of the announced proposal, both Comcast and SBC Communications (which later acquired AT&T) launched an all-out war on the idea of fiber to the home service, mass mailing flyers attacking the proposal to area residents and paying for push polling operations that asked area residents questions like, “should tax money be allowed to provide pornographic movies for residents?” The predictable opposition measured in response to questions like that later appeared in mysterious opinion pieces published in area newspapers submitted by the incumbent companies and their allies.

no comm broadband

Comcast spent $89,740 trying to defeat the measure in a community of just 26,000 people. SBC spent $192,324 — almost $3.50 per resident by Comcast and just shy of $7.50 per resident by SBC. Much the same happened in the neighboring communities of St. Charles and Geneva. 

According to Motherboard, the scare tactics worked, cutting support for the fiber network from over 72 percent to its eventual defeat in two separate referendums, leaving most of Batavia with 3Mbps DSL from SBC or an average of 6Mbps from Comcast.

Much of the blizzard of mailers and brochures Comcast and SBC mailed out were part of a coordinated disinformation campaign. Both companies also knew their claims would go largely unchallenged because Fiber for Our Future and other fiber proponents lacked the funding to respond with fact check pieces of their own mailed to residents to expose the distortions.

When it was all over, it was back to business as usual with Comcast and SBC. The latter defended its reputation after complaints soared about its inadequate broadband speeds.

Kirk Brannock, then midwest networking president for SBC, told city council members in the area that “fiber is an unproven technology.”

“What are you going to do with 20Mbps? It’s like having an Indy race car and you don’t have the racetrack to drive it on. We are going to be offering 3Mbps. Most users won’t use that,” he said.

risky

“All the subscribers got these extraordinary fliers. Ghosts, goblins, witches. I mean, this is about a broadband utility. Very scary stuff. This is real. This is comical, but this is very real,” Catharine Rice of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice said of the fliers at an event discussing municipal fiber earlier this year. “They have this amazing picture, and then they lie about what happened. They’re piling in facts that aren’t true.”

In communities that won approval for construction of publicly-owned fiber networks, the battle wasn’t over. Tennessee’s large state cable lobbying group unsuccessfully sued EPB to keep it out of the fiber business. In North Carolina, Time Warner Cable effectively wrote legislation introduced and passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly that forbade community broadband expansion and made constructing new networks nearly impossible. In Ohio, another cable industry-sponsored piece of legislation destroyed the business plan of Lebanon’s fiber network, forcing the community to eventually sell the network at a loss to Cincinnati Bell.

The larger Comcast grows, the more financial resources it can bring to bare against any would-be competitors. Even in 2004, the company was large enough to force would-be community competitors to steer clear and stay out of its territory.

women

 

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France’s Bouygues Telecom Announces 1Gbps Fiber, TV, Phone Package for $35/Month

Phillip Dampier June 26, 2014 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

173x116_Logo-BT_WSCustomers of Paris-based Bouygues Telecom in some of France’s largest cities will soon have access to 400Mbps fiber to the home broadband (with an upgrade to 1Gbps later this year), as well as a television and phone package that combined will cost $35.43 a month.

The company’s new fiber offer commences June 30 and comes as a result of fierce competition for the French broadband customer.

Bbox Sensation Fiber is available from both fiber to the home and fiber to the building connections throughout urban areas in France, including Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

Fiber continues to gradually replace older copper-base wire networks in France. But unlike in North America, European telephone companies believe their future isn’t only in selling wireless. Upgrading those networks to fiber to the home service allow companies to sell bundled packages of phone, wireless, television and broadband Internet access.

Bouygues Telecom’s fiber to the home network now reaches 3.3 million French homes with more to come. Its older fiber to the neighborhood network reaches another 5 million customers.

Customers who sign up for the fiber to the home service by the end of August will get two months free

Here are the details:

macgpic-1402559468-29638698693873-sc-opBbox Sensation Fiber (first phase) includes:

Internet

  • 400Mbps service with upgrade to 1Gbps by the end of this year;
  • 50GB cloud storage

Television

  • Up to 170 TV channels, including 29 HD channels
  • DVR with 300GB storage
  • Bbox Video on Demand: Thousands of multilingual titles available in HD and DTS
  • Bbox Games: Over 50 multiplayer video games accessible on the network at any one time
  • Multi-Screen: Watch on portable devices

Telephone

  • Unlimited calls to mobiles in France and the French commonwealth, U.S.A., Canada, China, Singapore and South Korea;
  • Unlimited calls to fixed landlines in 120 countries.

Availability

This fiber offer available in Paris, Lyon, Villeurbanne, Marseille, Toulouse, Nice, Bordeaux, Issy les Moulineaux, Boulogne Billancourt, Courbevoie, Aubervilliers, Charenton le Pont, Saint Maurice, Alfortville, Maisons Alfort, Neuilly sur Seine, Puteaux, Chatillon Montrouge Vanves Malakoff, Levallois-Perret, Cergy Saint-Cloud, Garches, Palaiseau, Antony, Clamart, Rueil Malmaison, and Sèvres.

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We’ve Been Robbed: Slovak Telecom Announces Free Speed Upgrade: 300/30Mbps for $27 a Month

Slovak_Telekom_(logo)While your Internet bill is likely north of $50 a month, customers of Slovak Telecom in the eastern European nation of Slovakia will get a free speed upgrade to 300/30Mbps effective Aug. 1, with no change in price.

Slovak Telecom customers on its fiber to the home network subscribed to the super premium “Magi Internet XL” plan will continue to pay just over $27 a month for the service. Customers will see the speed upgrades gradually roll out across the service area over the summer and fall. Customers will be given new equipment to support the new speeds.

map-slovakiaMeanwhile, a competing fixed line provider, Slovanet, is taking a cue from Google Fiber and polled residents of the city of Dunajska Streda where it should deploy its fiber to the home service first. Slovanet customers will be able to buy 100Mbps fiber broadband through its subsidiary MadNet, along with a 100-channel TV package and phone service.

The broadband package alone costs $31 a month, more expensive than Slovak Telecom, but it comes with some stunning promotions for customers, starting with a $1.36 installation fee. The other generous offers: a Lenovo brand tablet for $1.36, a cordless phone for $1.36, and a choice of wireless routers as low as $1.36. An add on wireless package is also promotionally priced at $1.36.

Slovanet offers a 20-channel basic cable TV package at no charge to current customers and a 35-channel TV package that includes many of the most popular channels in Slovakia for $12 a month. Phone service is free if you are willing to pay 5¢ per minute to numbers of non-Slovanet customers (calling other Slovanet customers is free).

If you want unlimited local/regional calling, the phone service costs $5.29 a month. Unlimited long distance can be added for $10.77 a month.

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More Evidence of AT&T’s Phoney Phantom Fiber Expansion: Significant Cuts in Wireline Investments

Phillip Dampier June 3, 2014 AT&T, Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

phantom gigapowerAT&T’s claim it wants to expand gigabit fiber to the home service to as many as 100 cities nationwide requires closer inspection on news this week it has slashed spending on its wireline business.

Investors knocked AT&T’s share price today as they learned earnings from AT&T’s wired networks will be lower than expected.

TheStreet reported this morning the spending cuts are so significant, they are creating a financial risk for a number of AT&T’s major vendors.

Research firm Jefferies issued a research note warning that AT&T’s spending cuts began last month and seem to be ongoing. As a result the companies that have the most exposure to AT&T’s wireline business are at increased financial risk. Those suppliers include optical fiber equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent, as well as Ciena, Juniper, ADTRAN, Finisar, and JDS Uniphase. As a result, all but Finisar saw their share prices drop significantly in morning trading.

Earlier today, AT&T reported it was ahead of schedule to complete its Project VIP expansion of its 4G LTE wireless and U-verse networks. As U-verse expansion nears an end, vendor orders may be in decline. Wall Street analysts see no evidence AT&T is preparing to spend much on any other expansion efforts, including fiber to the home service.

As Broadband Reports’ notes, without significant capital to invest in fiber upgrades, they are not going to happen.

These cuts make it hard to take the company’s claims of meaningful 1 Gbps fiber expansion seriously as there’s simply no budget cordoned off for such a project (“Project VIP” funds are already in use on other efforts). While AT&T has the press believing they’re deploying 1 Gbps to “up to 100 cities,” AT&T’s shrinking CAPEX tells a different story entirely.

Fiber to the home service is more costly than AT&T U-verse’s fiber to the neighborhood service because it requires a fiber cable be brought directly to each home or business — a more costly endeavor that requires careful cable burial or overhead drop line replacement, as well as the possibility of in-home wiring adjustments. Considering the billions spent on U-verse expansion to date, at least as much will be required to upgrade to fiber to the home service and there are no signs AT&T is ready to invest in anything beyond press releases.

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TDS Telecom Ditches Copper, Fires Up 1,000Mbps Fiber Service in New Hampshire

fiberville-cardThe town of Hollis, N.H., population 7.600, is the first community in New Hampshire to receive gigabit broadband, courtesy of the local telephone company.

TDS Telecom charges less than $100 a month (when bundled with other services) for gigabit broadband speeds on the fiber to the home network TDS introduced after scrapping obsolete copper telephone wiring.

“What can you do with 1Gig? Whatever you want,” says Matt Apps, manager of Internet product management and development at TDS. “This state-of-the art connection is one hundred times faster than the average connection. It’s only available in only a few communities across the country. With 1Gig, you experience the Internet full-throttle.”

The 1,000/400Mbps service is an upgrade for Hollis, which used to receive speeds up to 300Mbps. TDS bundles its Internet package with 260-channel cable television service delivered over its all-digital Mediaroom platform, and telephone service.

TDS’ 1Gig Internet service includes a free subscription to Remote PC Support which provides unlimited access to technical expertise. Remote PC Support technicians help with device setup, Internet troubleshooting, plus computer optimization and safety.

All of these areas in Hollis now have fiber service available.

All of these areas in Hollis now have fiber service available.

Customers looking for more budget-priced packages will still find plenty-fast Internet access available for less on the fiber network:

  • 1,000/400Mbps: $99.95/mo
  • 300/120Mbps: $75.00/mo
  • 100/40Mbps: $35.00/mo
  • 50/20Mbps: $25.00/mo
  • 15/2Mbps: $19.95/mo
  • 2-5Mbps/512kbps: $14.95/mo

Customers bundling a TV package with Internet service get a $20 monthly discount off the total price of both packages.

TDS‘ Fiberville is already established in Hollis, but will also be forthcoming in Farragut, Tenn., and other New Hampshire communities including: Andover, Boscawen, New London, Salisbury, Springfield, Sutton, and Wilmot.

Click on each community name to learn the current status of the fiber project.

Customers who enroll as fiber service first becomes available get free whole-house installation and special discounts for being early adopters.

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And the Winner Is… United Arab Emirates Now the World Leader in Fiber to the Home Broadband

fiberThe United Arab Emirates leads the world with the highest penetration of fiber-to-the-home broadband service.

At least 85 percent of all homes in the UAE today rely on fiber broadband, according to research by the Fiber to the Home Council.

The UAE’s love for fiber broadband comes from the country’s aggressive government-directed infrastructure and services modernization plan as part of the Emirates’ transformation into the 21st century knowledge economy.

In the UAE, e-commerce, e-government, e-education, and e-health are pervasive, allowing residents instant access to government, commercial, health and educational services. Only fiber broadband had the capacity to handle both the broadband traffic today and sustain the rapid expansion of bandwidth required tomorrow.

The country relies on fiber networks to power smart electricity service, cell towers, wireless data, and various electronic payment systems, which allow consumers to use a single smart card to pass through immigration at airports with biometric authentication, as well as pay for everything from food to traffic fines, utility bills, or even zakat (charitable giving by Muslims).

The two national broadband providers — du and Etisalat, both invested heavily in fiber infrastructure with a goal of connecting every home and business to their competing fiber networks.

uaeSubscription rates in the next-biggest markets — South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan — range from 63 percent to 37 percent, the council notes. In comparison, the United States trails dismally with just 7.62% of Americans signed up for fiber to the home service and Canada’s fiber numbers still too negligible to rate, with only Atlantic Canada seeing widespread fiber deployments.

This leaves North America rapidly falling behind in the race to build next generation fiber broadband networks.

Speaking at the ITU’s recent World Telecommunication Development Conference, the council’s chairman, Dr. Suleiman Al Hedaithy noted that “fiber connections are available to more than 200 million homes globally — a tenth of all the households in the world,” adding that of these homes, “an estimated 107 million households subscribe to fiber-based services.”

Across the Middle East and North Africa, “more than 1.5 million households are using FTTH service,” Al Hedaithy added, with the UAE “ranked number one in FTTH penetration rate globally, for the past two consecutive years.”

In comparison, only 8.7 million Americans subscribe to fiber service.

Etisalat has invested $5.17 billion in fiber upgrades inside the UAE.

Living the eLife with fiber to the home service in the UAE.

Living the eLife with fiber to the home service in the UAE.

Last year, the total length of the UAE’s fiber network was equal to “five times the distance between the Earth and the moon, consisting of a total of 2.8 million kilometers of cable being deployed all over the country,” Etisalat CEO Saleh Al Abdooli said.

Elsewhere across the region:

  • Saudi Arabia’s ambitious fiber to the home projects reached 38% of households by the end of 2013;
  • Qatar will approach 100% fiber coverage by the end of 2015;
  • The next growth areas in regional fiber network construction will be in Egypt, Algeria, and Kuwait;
  • The fastest speed fiber networks offering 100+Mbps are in Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE;
  • There is no relevant development of fiber networks in Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen or the Palestinian territories.

“The future,” according to Christine Beylouni, director general at the FTTH Council Middle East & North Africa, “is definitely fiber to the home.”

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Verizon: If Your Town Doesn’t Already Have a FiOS Commitment, Forget About Fiber

Verizon's FiOS expansion is still dead.

Verizon’s FiOS expansion is still as dead as Francisco Franco.

Verizon is prepared to watch up to 30% of their copper landline customers drift away because the company is adamant about no further expansion of its FiOS fiber to the home network.

Fran Shammo, chief financial officer at Verizon, told attendees of the Jefferies Global Technology, Media & Telecom Conference that Verizon will complete the buildout of its fiber network to a total of about 19 million homes, and that is it.

“Look, we will continue to fulfill our FiOS license franchise agreements,” Frammo said. “[We will] cover about 70% of our legacy footprint. So 30%, we are not going to cover. That is where we are still going to have copper.”

That is bad news for Verizon customers stuck with the company’s copper network because Verizon isn’t planning any further significant investments in it.

“We will continue to harvest that copper network and those customers and keep them as long as we can,” Frammo said. “But we will not be building FiOS out for those areas.”

In fact, Frammo admitted ongoing cost-cutting at Verizon’s landline division is allowing the company to shift more money and resources to its more profitable wireless network.

verizon goodbye

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam doesn’t want to spend money on non-FiOS areas when more can be made from its wireless network.

“It is also taking cost structure out,” Frammo said.  “As I mentioned, the migration of copper to fiber has been very big for us. Our Lean Six Sigma projects have really significantly helped us in our capital investment in the wireline which is why I can put more money into the wireless side of the business.”

Verizon has shifted an increasing proportion of its capital investments towards its wireless division year after year, while cutting ongoing investment in wireline. Ratepayers are not benefiting from this arrangement, and critics contend Verizon landline customers are effectively subsidizing Verizon’s wireless networks.

Verizon will still complete the FiOS buildouts it committed to earlier, particularly in New York City, but it is increasingly unlikely Verizon will ever start another wave of fiber upgrades.

In fact, Michael McCormack, the Jefferies’ Wall Street analyst questioning Shammo at the conference foreshadowed what is more likely to happen to Verizon’s legacy copper customers.

“We have talked extensively in the past about the non-FiOS areas and I guess in my second reincarnation as a banker, I will try to help you get rid of those assets,” said McCormack.

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Charlotte Lusts for Fibrant’s Fiber-to-the-Home Broadband Speed They Won’t Get Anytime Soon

fibrant_logo_headerA 2011 state law largely written by Time Warner Cable will likely keep Charlotte, N.C. waiting for fiber broadband that nearby Salisbury has had since 2010.

North Carolina is dominated by Time Warner Cable, AT&T and CenturyLink. Google and AT&T recently expressed interest in bringing their fiber networks to the home in several cities in the state, but neither have put a shovel in the ground.

Fibrant, a community owned broadband provider in Salisbury, northeast of Charlotte, not only laid 250 miles of fiber optics, it has been open for business since November 2010. It was just in time for the publicly owned venture, joining a growing number of community providers like Wilson’s Greenlight and Mooresville, Davidson and Cornelius’ MI-Connection. Time Warner Cable’s lobbyists spent several years pushing for legislation restricting the development of these new competitors and when Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011, they finally succeeded. Today, launching or expanding community broadband networks in North Carolina has been made nearly impossible by the law, modeled after a bill developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

With fiber fever gripping the state, Fibrant has gotten a lot of attention from Charlotte media because it provides the type of service other providers are only talking about. Fibrant offers residents cable television, phone, and broadband and competes directly with Time Warner Cable and AT&T. Although not the cheapest option in town, Fibrant is certainly the fastest and local residents are gradually taking their business to the community alternative.

Charlotte, N.C. is surrounded by community providers like Fibrant in Salisbury and MI-Connection in the Mooresville area.

Charlotte, N.C. is surrounded by community providers like Fibrant in Salisbury and MI-Connection in the Mooresville area.

“A lot faster Internet speeds, a lot clearer phone calls,” said Sidewalk Deli owner Rick Anderson-McCombs, who switched to Fibrant after 15 years with another provider. His mother, Anganetta Dover told WSOC-TV, “I think we save about $30 to $40 a month with Fibrant and the advantages of having the speed is so much better.”

Julianne Goodman cut cable’s cord, dropping Time Warner Cable TV service in favor of Netflix. To support her online streaming habit, she switched to Fibrant, which offers faster Internet speeds than the cable company.

Commercial customers are also switching, predominately away from AT&T in favor of Fibrant.

“Businesses love us because we don’t restrict them on uploads,” one Fibrant worker told WCNC-TV. “So when they want to send files, it’s practically instantaneous.”

Fibrant offers synchronous broadband speeds, which mean the download and upload speeds are the same. Cable broadband technology always favors download speeds over upload, and Time Warner Cable’s fastest upstream speed remains stuck at 5Mbps in North Carolina.

AT&T offers a mix of DSL and U-verse fiber to the neighborhood service in North Carolina. Maximum download speed for most customers is around 24Mbps. AT&T has made a vague commitment to increase those speeds, but customers report difficulty qualifying for upgrades.

Time Warner Cable is a big player in the largest city in North Carolina, evident as soon as you spot the Time Warner Cable Arena on East Trade Street in downtown Charlotte.

Taxpayer dollars are also funneled to the cable company.

Time Warner Cable’s $82 million data center won the company a $2.9 million Job Development Investment Grant. Charlotte’s News & Observer noted the nation’s second largest cable company also received $3 million in state incentives.

When communities like Salisbury approached providers about improving broadband speeds, they were shown the door.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WCNC Charlotte Fibrant Already Provides Fiber 3-5-14.mp4

WCNC-TV reports that with Google expressing an interest in providing fiber service in Charlotte, Salisbury’s Fibrant has been offering service since 2010. (2:57)

“Our citizens asked for high-speed Internet,” says Doug Paris, Salisbury’s city manager. “We met with the incumbent providers [like Time Warner and AT&T, and that did not fit within their business plans.”

Salisbury and Wilson, among others, elected to build their own networks. The decision to enter the broadband business came under immediate attack from incumbent providers and a range of conservative astroturf and sock puppet political groups often secretly funded by the phone and cable companies.

Rep. Avila with Marc Trathen, Time Warner Cable's top lobbyist (right) Photo by: Bob Sepe of Action Audits

Rep. Avila, a ban proponent, meets with Marc Trathen, Time Warner Cable’s top lobbyist (right) (Photo: Bob Sepe)

Critics of Fibrant launched an attack website against the venture (it stopped updating in March, 2012), suggesting the fiber venture would bankrupt the city. One brochure even calls Stop the Cap! part of a high-priced consultant cabal of “Judas goats for big fiber” (for the record, Stop the Cap! was not/is not paid a penny to advocate for Fibrant or any other provider).

Opponents also characterize Fibrant as communism in action and have distributed editorial cartoons depicting Fibrant service technicians in Soviet military uniforms guarding Salisbury’s broadband gulag.

In January of this year, city officials were able to report positive news. Fibrant has begun to turn a profit after generating $2,223,678 in the revenue from July through December, 2013. Fibrant lost $4.1 million during the previous fiscal year. That is an improvement over earlier years when the venture borrowed more than $7 million from the city’s water and sewer capital reserve fund, repaying the loans at 1 percent interest. The city believes the $33 million broadband network will break even this year — just four years after launching.

Fibrant is certainly no Time Warner Cable or AT&T, having fewer than 3,000 customers in the Salisbury city limits. But it does have a market share of 21 percent, comparable to what AT&T U-verse has achieved in many of its markets.

Fibrant also has the highest average revenue per customer among broadband providers in the city — $129 a month vs. $121 for Time Warner Cable. Customers spend more for the faster speeds Fibrant offers.

Some residents wonder if Fibrant will be successful if or when AT&T and Google begin offering fiber service. Both companies have made a splash in Charlotte’s newspapers and television news about their fiber plans, which exist only on paper in the form of press releases. Neither provider has targeted Salisbury for upgrades and nobody can predict whether either will ultimately bring fiber service to the city of Charlotte.

Those clamoring for fiber broadband speeds under the state’s anti-community broadband law will have to move to one of a handful of grandfathered communities in North Carolina where forward-thinking leaders actually built the fiber networks private companies are still only talking about.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WSOC Charlotte Charlotte could gain from fiber optic network already in place 4-22-14.flv

WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports Salisbury customers are happy with Fibrant service and the competition it provides AT&T and Time Warner Cable. (2:12)

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