Wi-Fi Municipalities: Bonding With Locals

News that Intel has agreements to deploy Wi-Fi with governments in 13 countries, coupled with (a)burgeoning interest among US municipalities for such deals and (b)rejection of attempts by telephone companies to erect legal barriers to same, all augur a fundamental shift in the structure of teleccom in America, should municipal deployments suceed. (If they fail, everything returns to SQA.) Telephone companies committed the political error of trying to stop deployment outright, arguing that the umpire (regulator) must not also play in the game (of providing local phone service). The argument has merit, but companies whose reputation for customer service is now at rough parity with that for the airlines are in no position to stop politically popular ideas. Better to Read More ›

New Life for Narad?

Back in 2001 I wrote about a technology company with a funny name that in a round-about way helped make the case for telecom deregulation. Narad Networks had developed sophisticated analog signal processing techniques that dramatically expanded the usable spectrum of the coaxial cables used in cable TV networks. With current analog and digital programming running from 5 to 860 MHz, Narad’s network updates would open the spectrum up to 1.2 GHz, boosting by 50 percent the already considerable capacity of the cable companies’ hybrid fiber coax (HFC) networks. Over this newly available spectrum, Narad could run Gigabit or even 10 Gigabit switched Ethernet trunks, enabling dedicated switched Internet services of 10, 50, 100 Mbps — whatever — to homes….Or Read More ›

DSL Dances

The Federal Communications Commission’s August 5 decision deregulating Digital Subscriber Line, thus giving DSL regulatory parity with cable Internet service, and ending the Computer Inquiry Rules (some of which date back nearly 30 years) is a welcome sign indeed, surprising in both its quick action and its breadth. That the FCC acted so swiftly despite a Supreme Court ruling (the “Brand X” case) giving the FCC carte blanche to continue treating DSL more harshly than rivals, attests that Chairman Kevin Martin, he of the 2003 swing vote for state broadband prerogatives, is a genuine convert to real deregulation. The reluctant acquiescence of the agency’s two Democratic commissioners attests to growing Beltway realization that Asia is bypassing US in the race Read More ›

Quick Action

Somehow FCC chairman Kevin Martin got a unanimous 4-0 vote to reclassify DSL as an “information service,” largely freeing it from legacy telephone regulation. After the recent Supreme Court Brand X ruling, Martin said deregulatory moves would be forthcoming, but this is quick action. The FCC also issued a policy statement on “net neutrality,” however, that could open up vast new realms of regulation and must be closely watched. Two steps forward, one step…we’ll see. -Bret Swanson

There he goes again…

There Tom Friedman goes again. This morning, in “Calling All Luddites,” Friedman offers a perfect example of his frequent, curious, and infuriating tendency to find an important topic, report on it with keen and witty observations, and then offer exactly the wrong solution to the problem. The best example of this is his good handle on globalization and the competitive pressures it puts on Americans and American businesses (he’s written two books on the subject). A very big, important topic, the essence of which Friedman captures for a popular audience better than most. Friedman’s solution? Raise tax rates on entrepreneurs and investors! Same thing this morning. He identifies a key shortcoming — America’s lagging communications capabilities compared to our international Read More ›

Broadband Lite Blooms, But Asia Zooms

The latest broadband deployment report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a 34% jump in total high-speed (broadband downstream, narrow-or broadband upstream) lines, from 28.2 to 37.9 million at year-end 2004. 35.3 million of these lines (93%) were to residential and small business users. DSL jumped 45%, from 9.5 to 13.8 million lines; cable modem lines rose less sharply, 30%, from 16.4 to 21.4 million lines. The remaining 2.7 million lines were for miscellaneous access modes, with 700,0000 fiber or powerline and 500,000 satellite. Advanced service (two-way broadband) lines rose 42%, from 23.5 to 28.2 million lines, with 26.4 million of the 28.9 million total (94%) representing residential and small business users. Advanced service thus represented 76% of all Read More ›

Kevin Martin: Right Track, Wrong Stats

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has now offered the closest thing to a constructive and coherent broadband policy the U.S. has seen in the decade following the ’96 Telecom Act. (Reed Hundt and William Kennard had coherent, but disastrous policies.) In a statement following the Supreme Court’s Brand X decision and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, Martin said the communications marketplace is vibrantly competitive and that “legacy” telecom rules should be pruned or eliminated to encourage broadband investment. This is welcome, if long overdue, news. Martin errs, however, in comparing U.S. broadband favorably with Asia. Martin lauds new FCC numbers showing rapid growth of U.S. “broadband” users — the fastest growth rate in the world, he says. The Read More ›

Brand X a mixed bag

Some have hailed last week’s Supreme Court decision in NCTA v. Brand X Internet Services as a triumph for deregulation, particularly in the wake of Chairman Kevin Martin’s subsequent statements to the press that the FCC will move quickly to establish deregulatory parity between telephone and cable companies. That’s extremely welcome news. But there’s more here than meets the eye. The Court upheld a regulatory regime in which DSL is subject to costly common carrier regulation and cable modems are not. The record showed that the decision to penalize one and reward the other is based on one set of considerations for the telephone companies (history of regulation, in effect) and another for the cable companies (contemporaneous market conditions). Arguments Read More ›

WSJ weighs in on the competitive future of broadband

First, a welcome to all of our new readers. Grokster’s Loss is America’s Gain by Thomas W. Hazlett, Wall Street Journal, 29 June 2005, p. A14. The Price War For Broadband is Heating Up by Dionne Searcey, Wall Street Journal, 29 June 2005, p. D1. Thomas Hazlett, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, joins the chorus praising the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in MGM Studios vs. Grokster. The real title of this piece should have been “Why Brand X is good for America” – referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in National Cable and Telecommunications Association v. Brand X, which Hazlett writes makes a “bigger property rights mark” than Grokster (the Grokster case largely followed from the logic of the Read More ›