Home » Broadband Speed » Recent Articles:

Wireless Industry Lying About Fixed Wireless Being as ‘Future Proof’ as Fiber

In an effort to capture a major share of the $65 billion dollars becoming available for rural broadband expansion as part of the Biden Administration’s infrastructure funding program, the wireless industry’s top lobbying group is promoting the idea that 5G Fixed Wireless broadband is as future-proof as fiber to the home service.

Make no mistake, they are not being honest with you.

To back up their premise, the CTIA, the lobbying arm of the wireless industry, bought and paid for a report produced by Accenture that is designed to convince lawmakers and regulators that fixed wireless internet access is just as good or even better than fiber, suggesting the technology could potentially provide up to 43% of rural homes with high speed gigabit symmetrical service similar to what many fiber to the home providers offer.

Yet the same wireless industry trying to sell that idea successfully fought to water down standards in Biden’s infrastructure bill that originally required would-be funding recipients to provide customers with minimum speeds of 100/100 Mbps. Now providers can qualify by offering speeds as low as 100/20 Mbps. The CTIA report does not want to talk about that, preferring to claim providers could supply 1,000/1,000 Mbps service over traditional macro cell towers already in use today to subscribers as much as four miles away.

But look out for the fine print:

“Increased service was determined based on the potential economic feasibility of market entry. Estimates for market size, potential operating costs, and the capital investment to deploy were developed for target rural markets. The actual deployment feasibility will vary for individual FWA providers; new entrants will be influenced by the time and costs associated with factors such as market topography, construction, and permitting.”

In other words, if the required cell towers fail the same kinds of Return On Investment (ROI) formulas that have always left many rural communities behind, these 5G services will never happen either without huge concessions, subsidies, and policy changes that will further strip local control over cell tower placement and oversight. That is simply more the same failed reliance on providers to deliver service in places they never have and never will.

Ask any West Virginian about the quality of rural mobile service just to make and receive calls, and you will be told service is spotty outside of the largest communities.

T-Mobile, one of the country’s biggest advocates of fixed wireless, barely even serves West Virginia, which belies their claim that rural expansion is “one of its most promising growth opportunities.” If that growth did not materialize supplying voice, texting, and 4G LTE service in the state, it seems even less likely at materialize on spectrum that providers have always struggled with in mountainous states. To successfully reach most of West Virginia, T-Mobile would need an expensive network of traditional cell towers for which they have never believed there has been much of a business case to provide. Even then, it is inevitable that some would-be subscribers would still be without service, blocked by the terrain.

Chart also courtesy of Broadband World News.

What technology does not care about terrain? Fiber to the home service, which can deliver the same high speed performance to every customer without worrying about hills, mountains and valleys. It also has far more capacity than cell towers, which slow when congestion develops.

The report never actually promises gigabit speed service to all, but does emphasize fixed wireless is cheaper to deploy than fiber to the home service. But at least 20 years of broken and empty promises from the telecom industry to rural America should be enough to recognize that the transformational opportunity of this well-funded broadband stimulus program will allow providers to finally “do it right” with robust, infinitely upgradable fiber broadband technology that won’t slow down if a cell tower gets congested, can deliver the same speed to every subscriber, and delivers excellent customer satisfaction scores.

The wireless industry did not spend tens of millions of dollars trying to water down broadband speed requirements because they were confident fixed wireless could match fiber internet speeds. They know very well the kind of 5G networks they are envisioning for rural America cannot deliver guaranteed gigabits of speed once customers sign up in significant numbers to use it or the wireless industry deems an area unprofitable to serve. How many Americans will still be left behind with zero bars?

Wall Street analyst firm MoffettNathanson recently reviewed performance data from T-Mobile’s existing home broadband service and Starlink satellite internet — two technologies lobbyists point to as a solution for rural broadband dead zones. It found the median download speed for T-Mobile’s fixed wireless service is just 20Mbps. Starlink performed slightly better at 35Mbps. That is a long way away from 1,000 Mbps. Will these technologies threaten to be the dead-end DSL of the 21st century?

Speeds slow down on congested cell towers, and providers have implemented network management technologies that can selectively throttle speeds to all but their most preferred premium customers when they consider it necessary.

Image Courtesy: lynacWave7 Research also reported that T-Mobile is already concerned about network congestion on its existing fixed wireless service and that T-Mobile is moving “very cautiously with respect to network loading, in an attempt to limit the number of subscribers per cell, and even per cell sector.” That does not sound “future proof” to us if customer limits are already being enforced.

The wireless industry itself seems to hint at future capacity issues in a report that heavily emphasizes the need for the federal government to clear more spectrum that can eventually supply more wireless capacity.

MoffettNathanson’s Craig Moffett seems convinced any fixed wireless or satellite provider is going to be more  capacity and performance-limited than wired alternatives like fiber to the home service. In Moffett’s view, these wireless technologies are best suited to extremely rural areas where fiber or cable deployment is simply untenable, even with the much larger amount of subsidy funding soon to be made available.

The biggest benefit of the Biden infrastructure program is that it actually does allow the country to “build back better” instead of offering the usual incremental upgrades delivering “good enough for you” internet access that has left millions stuck with slow speed DSL or low capacity rationed satellite internet. Now that funds are finally becoming available, why divert them to a technology that “may” one day provide unguaranteed gigabit service when fiber to the home technology is available today that can meet and exceed those speeds comfortably and has sufficient capacity to serve rural America’s needs for decades to come.

Spectrum Drops Gigabit Install Fee to $19.99, Was $50-200

Phillip Dampier November 17, 2021 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

New customers in competitive service areas can pay less for gigabit service, but anyone can get the higher speed tier for a $19.99 “activation fee.”

Charter Communications has slashed its arbitrary installation and activation fee for Spectrum’s gigabit broadband service to $19.99 for new and upgrading customers.

For years, customers paid fees ranging from $49.99 to $199.99 just to sign up for gigabit internet speed. Ongoing service pricing ranges from a promotional price of $89.99 a month in competitive service areas to $134.99 a month for broadband-only service where competition is lacking or non-existent.

Real world speed tests show Spectrum Internet Gig performing at around 940 Mbps for downloads and just shy of 40 Mbps for uploads.

Current customers might be able to order the speed upgrade online through Spectrum’s customer service portal. No service call is required.

Some customers might need a new modem to take advantage of gigabit speed. Spectrum can swap out existing modems at their cable store locations or by mail.

U.S. Gone from World Ranking of Fastest Broadband Countries; Cozy Duopoly Results in Less Investment, Upgrades

Phillip Dampier September 13, 2021 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

The United States is rapidly losing its place among the world’s fastest broadband countries, dropping out of the top-10 this year and falling behind Chile, Liechtenstein, and Romania.

While other countries and internet providers are investing billions to improve their standing in an increasingly competitive global broadband marketplace, a comfortable duopoly of phone and cable companies in the United States has successfully kept regulators at bay and allowed many of the largest internet service providers to divert investment away from upgrades and towards stock buybacks, dividend payouts, debt reduction, and ongoing merger and acquisition activities.

Internet speed testing firm Ookla has watched the United States slip in its fixed broadband speed standings over the last three years, dropping from 8th place (2019) to 9th place (2020), to being dropped from its top 10 list this year (it now scores 14th). Canada has never made the list.

This year, the countries with the fastest internet download speeds are: Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Romania, Switzerland, South Korea, Chile, Denmark and Liechtenstein. The only other countries to fall off the top-10 list in the last three years are Taiwan, Andorra, Macau, and France.

Globally, wireless internet speeds are benefitting from 4G and 5G upgrades on cell towers, with overall speed increasing nearly 60% in the last year. Fixed broadband speeds are up 32% year over year, primarily from an increase in the amount of fiber to the home connections providers are making as they move away from traditional copper wiring. Heavy investment in network upgrades can deliver remarkable boosts in internet speeds.

“South Korea and the United Arab Emirates stood out with mean mobile download speeds that were more than 240% faster than the global average and fixed broadband downloads that were more than 70% faster than the global average,” said Ookla’s Isla McKetta. “China’s mobile download speed was more than 180% faster than the global average and the country was more than 70% faster than the global average for fixed broadband. Switzerland’s mobile and fixed broadband download speeds were close to 100% faster than the global average.”

All of those countries have invested heavily in fiber connectivity for both their mobile and fixed wired broadband connections.

In contrast, U.S. cable companies have delayed upgrades to DOCSIS 4.0, capable of supporting 10 Gbps connections, and many telephone companies have dragged their feet on fiber upgrades, facing resistance from Wall Street as well as heavy debt burdens from prior mergers and acquisitions.

Most of the countries ranking the fastest have pushed providers to supply gigabit internet speed connections, but U.S. regulators and politicians have reduced pressure on large providers by proposing to subsidize millions of expanded internet connections with U.S. taxpayer funds while reducing required speed minimums to just 100/20 Mbps.

Sellout: Biden’s Broadband Stimulus is a Shadow of Its Former Self

After weeks of tense negotiations to secure bipartisan support for the Biden Administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure stimulus measure, the White House appears to have largely capitulated to Republican efforts to water down funding to expand broadband service into a $65 billion package that will doubtless be a financial bonanza to the country’s largest phone and cable operators.

The Biden Administration’s original proposal for $100 billion in broadband funding was dedicated to wiring rural areas as well as focusing funding on new entrants like community-owned networks that could deliver internet access to unserved and underserved locations without having a profit motive. The original proposal also would have prioritized funding for future-capable fiber internet, with some advocating that networks be capable of delivering at least a gigabit of speed to customers to qualify for funding. The Administration also promoted the idea of affordable broadband, combatting the growing digital divide exacerbated by internet pricing out of reach of the working poor.

What emerged on Sunday as a “bipartisan agreement” with Republicans on infrastructure stimulus is almost a travesty — slashed almost by half and now effectively a veritable gift to Big Telecom. The industry spent hundreds of millions lobbying Congress and got almost everything it wanted. If passed in its current form, those same phone and cable companies will pocket much of the money for themselves.

Here is how consumers were sold out:

Reduced speed requirements are a dream come true for cable operators.

The bipartisan measure proposes to water down speed requirements to qualify for government stimulus funding to a underwhelming 100/20 Mbps. That speed is tailor made for cable operators, which traditionally offer upload speeds just a fraction of their download speeds. Gone is any condition requiring gigabit-capable networks, at a time when more providers than ever are marketing near-gigabit speeds. That could quickly lead to the emergence of a speed divide, with rural Americans stuck with slower broadband technology from companies that will have no financial incentive to upgrade in these areas.

Addressing affordability is now mostly wishful thinking.

The latest proposal’s idea of solving the broadband affordability issue is to admit there is a problem and declare the need for some kind of low-cost broadband option, but apparently does not specify pricing, who is qualified to get cheaper service, and who will oversee that such programs remain affordable. That allows providers to keep writing the rules of their own token, voluntary efforts to offer discounted internet, like those that disqualify current customers and requires enrollees to jump through various qualification hoops to sign up. The stimulus program will also spend billions of dollars effectively paying a portion of disadvantaged Americans’ internet bills, at the current high prices many ISP’s charge. That is a direct subsidy to big cable and phone companies that can continue charging whatever they please for access, knowing the government will now pay $30-50 of the bill.

Republicans have made sure there is not a whiff of rate regulation or consumer protection mandates in the measure. It also abandons establishing a fixed rate, affordable internet tier for as little as $10 a month. That original proposal would have given cable and phone companies as little as $10 a month from the federal government, much less than collecting up to $50 a month from the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which pays a portion of regular-priced service. The $14 billion being set aside to continue subsidizing Americans’ internet bills at Big Telecom’s monopoly or duopoly prices could be better spent building and expanding internet services where no service or competition exists now.

Digital redlining is A-OK

The watered down compromise measure chastises companies for only incrementally expanding fiber service, mostly to wealthy neighborhoods, but stops short of banning the practice. This wink and a nod to redlining primarily benefits phone companies like AT&T and Frontier, which can now cherry-pick rich neighborhoods for fiber upgrades most likely to return the biggest profits. Phone companies and fiber overbuilders will continue to skip over urban poor neighborhoods and the highest cost rural areas which have always been the hardest to reach.

Sky is the Limit pricing with onerous data caps are fine with us.

Nothing in the measure will give preference to providers willing to offer affordable, flat rate service without the hassle of data caps. Neither will it discourage applicants that plan to use public tax dollars to subsidize expanding service that comes at high prices and with paltry usage limits.

Light Reading reported Wall Street analysts were generally pleased with the outcome, noting the negotiations resulted in stripping out oversight and price regulation and the measure won’t fund potential competitors. It also noted Big Telecom and its associated trade organizations spent more than $234 million on lobbying. Comcast topped the list of spenders at more than $43 million, with AT&T coming in second at $36 million. Both the cable and wireless industry also spent tens of millions on lobbying. They got their money’s worth. Taxpayers won’t.

Frontier Fiber Expands Mostly in Connecticut and Texas In 2021

Frontier Communications will focus primarily on fiber upgrades in Connecticut and Texas in 2021, bringing fiber to the home service to more than 280,000 customers in Connecticut and at least 24,000 additional customers in the San Angelo area of Texas.

Company officials told shareholders it expected to bring fiber upgrades to 495,000 additional locations this year as part of a multi-year plan to scrap portions of its aging copper wire network and bring fiber to the home service to at least six million homes and businesses in its service area. The company previously announced it would focus its fiber upgrades primarily in its California, Texas, Florida, and Connecticut markets.

Frontier has a long way to go to make a dent in retiring its copper network, which currently still serves 11.8 million homes and businesses. Frontier has only committed to upgrade about half of those homes to fiber, leaving the rest stranded on copper or potentially eventually sold off to another provider.

The most noticeable construction activity this year has been in Connecticut, especially in Fairfield and New Haven counties. Customers in the area report Frontier selling 940/880 Mbps fiber service for $79.99 fixed price for three years. Customers can also choose 50/50 Mbps service for $49.99 or 500/500 Mbps service for $59.99 a month for up to one year. The two faster plans include a Ring video doorbell as a sign-up promotion. There are no data caps.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

Your Account:

Stop the Cap!