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Verizon Abandoning Copper Network in Multiple Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Cities

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Verizon No Comments

Verizon Communications will decommission its existing copper wire facilities in multiple markets in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia starting in 2018.

In a series of requests filed with the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon is asking to compel customers to switch service to Verizon’s FiOS optical fiber network or find another provider. While Verizon’s fiber network has a better reliability record than Verizon’s deteriorating copper facilities, some residential customers may be compelled to pay more for FiOS service than they used to pay for landline and DSL service over Verizon’s copper network. Their phone service may also no longer work in the event of a power failure.

“We will offer the service at a special rate for customers who migrate from copper to fiber as a result of the retirement of our copper facilities,” Verizon said, but the company did not guarantee that rate would not reset to regular priced FiOS service down the road.

Businesses may also have to invest in technology upgrades to switch to fiber optic service when Verizon pulls the plug on copper-delivered services.

The wire centers (central offices) where copper decommissioning is planned are disclosed in these company documents (click on links below to see if you are affected):

DELAWARE

MARYLAND

MASSACHUSETTS

NEW JERSEY

NEW YORK

PENNSYLVANIA

RHODE ISLAND

VIRGINIA

 

Republican FCC Nominee Forgot to Mention He Represented AT&T and Verizon

Phillip Dampier August 1, 2017 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (left) with FCC general counsel and Republican FCC nominee Brendan Carr (right). (Image: Victor Hugo Mora Mendoza)

Federal Communications Commission Republican nominee Brendan Carr forgot to mention in sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate that his work at a D.C. law firm included representing AT&T, Verizon, and the wireless industry’s top lobbying trade association.

Carr, who today works as general counsel to the FCC under current chairman Ajit Pai, was nominated by Pai to serve as the third Republican FCC commissioner.

“Brendan’s expertise on wireless policy and public safety will be a tremendous asset to the Commission,” Pai said in a statement.

Mignon Clyburn is currently the sole Democratic Party commissioner, likely to be rejoined eventually by Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel if her re-nomination to the FCC is approved by the Senate.

At a confirmation hearing, Carr testified he “accepted a job at a law firm where [he] could gain broad experience working on various telecommunications issues” before taking a clerkship which “helped spark [his] interest in public service,” according to BroadbandBreakfast. What Carr did not mention is that work took place at D.C. powerhouse law firm Wiley Rein, where Carr represented the interests of AT&T, Verizon Communications (also a former client of Chairman Pai), and the industry-funded U.S. Telecom and CTIA trade associations which represent phone and wireless companies respectively.

The revelation isn’t expected to create a problem for Carr’s confirmation among Republicans, and Democrats don’t seem likely to create any obstacles for Carr either, perhaps because of a largess of campaign contributions from some of the same cable and phone companies that are likely to share Carr’s positions on issues expected to come before the Commission. Carr is widely expected to support Chairman Pai’s efforts to kill Net Neutrality policies at the FCC.

Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla) told BroadbandBreakfast the issue won’t cause any delay in his upcoming confirmation vote. Nelson’s third largest contributor over the last five years was Comcast, which contributed close to $70,000 last year to Nelson’s campaign with a panoply of Comcast lobbyists and their families also donating significant sums. Verizon was Nelson’s 16th largest contributor with more than $37,000 in donations to his campaign last year and many thousands more from Verizon’s lobbyists.

Citigroup Urges Comcast to Buy Verizon; Nice Monopoly if You Can Get It

Citigroup is advocating for another super-sized merger, this time lobbying Comcast to buy Verizon Communications — a deal worth up to $215 billion.

Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet believes the more corporate friendly Trump Administration would not block or impede a deal that would bring together the nation’s largest cable operator and wireless provider. Such a merger would leave a significant portion of the mid-Atlantic, northeast, and New England with a monopoly for telephone and broadband service.

Bazinet offers four reasons why the deal makes sense to Wall Street banks like his:

  • Verizon Wireless could give Comcast customers internet access seamlessly inside and outside of the home;
  • The cost of expanding fiber optics to power faster internet and forthcoming 5G wireless broadband would be effectively split between the two companies and there would be no need to install competing fiber networks;
  • Verizon would benefit from additional wireless consolidation because it would no longer face significant emerging wireless competition from Comcast;
  • A combined Comcast-Verizon could see their corporate tax rate slashed by a considerable percentage, reducing tax liabilities.

We’d add Wall Street banks that win the enviable position of advising one company or the other on a merger deal stand to make tens of millions of dollars on consulting fees as well.

Such a merger would be unthinkable under prior administrations, if only because a combination of Verizon and Comcast would eliminate the only significant telecommunications competitor for tens of millions of Americans, giving the combined company a monopoly on telecommunications services.

Some Wall Street analysts believe a deal is still possible with Republicans in charge in Washington. But some spinoffs are likely. One scenario would involve selling off Verizon’s wireline assets in areas where Comcast and Verizon compete. But increasing questions about the financial viability of a likely buyer like Frontier Communications may make a deal bundling old copper wire assets and FiOS Fiber in New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Virginia a difficult sell for other buyers.

“If Brian came knocking on the door, I’d have a discussion with him about it,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam reportedly said this spring, according to Bloomberg News, referring to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

McAdam shouldn’t wait in his office, however. This morning, as part of a quarterly results conference call, Roberts made clear he wasn’t particularly interested in a merger with a wireless provider.

“I thought we were really clear last quarter,” Roberts said. “Yes, we always look at the world around us and do our jobs related to the opportunities that are out that. But we love our business. No disrespect to wireless, but that’s a tough business.”

Wall Street Grumbling About Estimated $130 Billion Needed for National 5G Fiber Buildout

Wall Street analysts are warning investors that mobile providers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint will have to spend $130-150 billion on fiber optic cables alone to make 5G wireless broadband a reality in the next 5-7 years.

A new Deloitte study found providers will have to spend a lot of money to deploy next generation wireless service across the United States, money that many may be unwilling to spend.

“5G relies heavily on fiber and will likely fall far short of its potential unless the United States significantly increases its deep fiber investments,” the study notes. “Increased speed and capacity from 5G will rely on higher radio frequencies and greater network densification (i.e., increasing the number and concentration of cell sites and access points).”

Unlike earlier cellular technology, which worked from centralized cell towers that covered several miles in all directions, 5G technology is expected to be deployed through “small cell” antennas attached to utility and light poles with coverage limited to just 300-500 feet. To reach city residents, providers will need countless thousands of new antenna installations and a massive fiber network to connect each antenna to the provider.

Telecom providers seeking financing for such networks will face the same criticism Verizon Communications took from Wall Street over the expense of its FiOS fiber-to-the-home upgrade as well as doubts about the viability of other fiber projects like Google Fiber.

Goldman Sachs told its investors back in 2012 that throwing money at Google Fiber or Verizon FiOS was not going to give them a good return on their investment. That year, Goldman was “Still Bullish on Cable, But Not Blind to the Risks.” That report, written by analyst Jason Armstrong, noted Google’s fiber upgrades would cost billions and only further dilute industry profits from increasing competition.

Goldman Sachs steered investors back to the cable industry, which gets significant praise from Wall Street for its ability to repurpose 20-year-old wired infrastructure for enhanced broadband without having to spend huge sums on a complete system rebuild.

In 2013, Alliance Bernstein continued to slam Google Fiber’s buildout as an unwise business investment:

We remain skeptical that Google will find a scalable and economically feasible model to extend its build out to a large portion of the US, as costs would be substantial, regulatory and competitive barriers material, and in the end the effort would have limited impact on the global trajectory of the business.

For example, making the far from trivial assumption that Google can identify 20 million homes in relatively contiguous areas with (on average) similar characteristics as Kansas City when it comes to the most important drivers of network deployment cost, homes per mile of plant and the mix of aerial, buried and underground infrastructure, and that Google decides to build out a fiber network to serve them over a period of five years, we estimate the [total capital expenditure] investment required to be in the order of $11 billion to pass the homes, before acquiring or connecting a single customer.

Some analysts are even questioning the relevance of 5G when providers investing in the massive fiber expansion required for 5G wireless could simply extend fiber cables directly into homes, assuring customers of more bandwidth and reliability. In many cases, fiber to the home technology is actually cheaper than 5G deployment will be.

VantagePoint released a report in February that called a lot of the excitement surrounding 5G “hype” and cautioned it will not be the ultimate broadband solution:

Undoubtedly, 5G wireless technologies will result in better broadband performance than 4G wireless technologies and will offer much promise as a mobile complement to fixed services, but they still will not be the right choice for delivering the rapidly increasing broadband demanded by thousands or millions of households and businesses across America.

Previous analysis of 4th generation (4G) wireless networks clearly demonstrated how these networks, even with generous capacity assumptions for the future, will have limited broadband capabilities, and inevitably will fail to carry the fixed broadband experience that has been and will be demanded by subscribers accustomed to their wireline counterparts. Although there is understandably much anticipation today about phenomenal possible speeds for 5G wireless networks tomorrow, they will continue to have technical shortcomings that will, like their predecessor wireless networks, render them very useful complements but poor substitutes for wireline broadband. These technical challenges include:

  • Spectral limitations: 5G networks will require massive amounts of spectrum to accomplish their target speeds. At the lower frequencies traditionally used for wide area coverage, there is not enough spectrum. At the very high frequencies proposed for 5G where there may be enough spectrum, the RF signal does not propagate far enough to be practical for any wide area coverage. This is particularly important in rural areas where customer concentration is far, far less than what can be expected in densely populated urban areas where 5G may offer greater promise.
  • Access Network Sharing: This is not a good solution for continuous-bit-rate traffic such as video, which will make up 82% of Internet traffic by 2020.
  • Economics: When compared to a 5G network that can deliver significant bandwidth using very high, very short-haul frequencies, FTTP is often less expensive and will have lower operational costs. This is particularly true when one consider how much fiber deployment will be needed very close to each user even just to enable 5G.
  • Reliability: Wireless inherently is less reliable than wireline, with significantly increased potential for impairments with the very high frequencies required by 5G.

In 2014, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP released a report urging telecom executives to shift their thinking about telecom capital spending away from one that focuses on upgrades to deal with increasing traffic and demand and move instead to a hardline view of only spending on projects that meet Return On Investment (ROI) objectives for investors.

“The predominant task of management is to take a considered view of the future, allocate capital towards strategies that maximize value for the providers of that capital, and manage the execution of those strategies through to the delivery of returns for those investors,” wrote PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “For too long, telecoms have been on auto-drive for much of their capex. Departments assume if they had the money last year, they are going to get it again this year, under the premise of increasing traffic. But rarely do telecoms truly analyze that spending for its ROI or ask whether the investment should be made at all.”

In short, if a project is not certain to quickly deliver significant ROI, serious questions should be asked about whether that investment is appropriate to undertake. That reluctance is at the heart of Deloitte’s new study.

Deloitte notes if providers cannot overcome Wall Street’s reluctance to support major spending on fiber infrastructure, lack of investment will be even more costly.

It predicts falling short on fiber deployment will cause a dwindling number of broadband provider choices for consumers. Today, fewer than 33% of U.S. homes have access to fiber broadband and only 39% have the option of choosing more than one provider capable of meeting the FCC’s minimal definition of broadband – 25Mbps. As competition declines, the need to further expand is reduced while prices can freely rise.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP also recommends cable and phone companies partner with content providers like Netflix or Google, and let those companies take an ownership interest in return for capital investments for fiber upgrades. Those type of solutions also protect Wall Street from a feared price war should alternative providers launch in markets that are barely competitive, if at all.

Verizon FiOS Introduces 940/880Mbps Tier For As Low as $69.99; Existing Subs Can Upgrade April 30

Phillip Dampier April 24, 2017 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Verizon 1 Comment

Verizon has announced near-gigabit speeds will soon be available to its FiOS customers in eight markets starting April 30th at prices as low as $69.99 a month.

The new speed tier will cost less than half of Verizon FiOS’ currently advertised 500/500Mbps plan, and less than the 750Mbps plan some customers have been able to buy during the last three months in select cities.

FiOS Gigabit Connection will not actually deliver 1,000/1,000Mbps service, but it will come close with download speeds up to 940Mbps and 880Mbps for uploads.

Current FiOS customers will be able to upgrade their internet speed and see a dramatic bill reduction starting April 30, according to a Verizon representative.

Unfortunately, all Verizon FiOS customers will not be able to take advantage of the upgraded speeds and lower prices immediately. For now, only customers in the following areas qualify:

  • New York (City and immediate suburbs)
  • Portions of Northern New Jersey
  • Philadelphia
  • Richmond and Hampton Roads, Va.
  • Boston
  • Providence, R.I.
  • Washington, D.C.

Pricing will depend on the level of service you have. Equipment rental, taxes and fees are not included. Customers must order online to get this pricing:

  • Standalone (non-promotional/never expires): $69.99/mo
  • Triple-play bundle price: $79.99/mo, rising to $84.99 in year two

Customers in the qualified markets noted above currently subscribed to Verizon’s 750/750Mbps plan ($150/mo) will be transitioned to the new gigabit plan automatically and get a lower bill as well.

As FiOS Gigabit Connection is introduced, Verizon will dramatically cut the number of internet plans it offers customers in areas where gigabit speeds are available. Verizon is expected to drop its 100, 150, 300, 500, and 750Mbps tiers, leaving just two — an entry-level 50/50Mbps plan starting at $39.99 and the gigabit plan for just under $70.

In other cities where gigabit speeds will not be available for now, customers are stuck with lower speeds and higher prices. Verizon does not have a timetable when other cities will receive upgrades at this time.

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  • John: In other words, old copper will remain indefinitely or until the company goes bankrupt. Got it, Our town's copper is only 42 years old, and digitial s...
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