AT&T announced that it has plans to cut its copper network footprint in half by 2025. However, Jeff McElfish, the CEO of AST&T’s Communications division, said the company isn’t planning to forcibly move customers off copper as they decommission copper. According to McElfish, customers are naturally migrating off copper. I find that hard to believe. CCG Consulting is still seeing DSL penetration rates in cities between 10 percent and 40 percent.
Leichtman Research Group recently released the broadband customer statistics for the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. The numbers show that broadband growth has slowed significantly for the sixteen largest broadband providers tracked by the company. LRG compiles these statistics from customer counts provided to stockholders, except for Cox which is privately owned. Net customer additions sank each quarter during 2021. The first quarter of 2021 saw over 1 million net new broadband customers.
Rural counties are facing some interesting dilemmas about where to offer local support for the giant upcoming federal grant funds that will hopefully build broadband in their counties. Counties that are willing to provide local matching grants from American Rescue Plan Act or other funds may well rise to the top of the list of lists of who gets funded. I think many counties fear that nobody is going to seek the $42.5 BEAD grant funding in their county – and some are probably right.
OpenVault just published its Broadband Insights Report for the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. As usual, the results are astounding and demonstrate the continued strong growth of household broadband usage. I think one of the most useful statistics from OpenVault is the average household usage of broadband; there were not many people in the industry in 2018 who would have believed that the average home usage in 2021 would be using over a half terabyte of data each month.
AT&T recently announced multi-gigabit broadband plans on its fiber connections. The company has priced 2-Gbps broadband at $110 per month and 5-Gbps broadband at $180. AT&T isn’t the first company to offer multi-gigabit broadband speeds and joins other large internet service providers (ISPs). For now, multi-gigabit broadband is mostly a marketing gimmick. It’s a way for an ISP to tell the public that its networks are fast.
It always perplexes me at a time when solving rural broadband is a top priority that governments still create policies that are huge barriers to fiber construction. The newest story comes from the State Department of Transportation in New York (NYDOT). The agency has a permitting process that is adding tons of costs to fiber projects – including fiber projects that were funded by State broadband grants. The NYDOT requires an expensive process to get onto a pole located in State rights-of-way.
Now that Democrats are back in charge of the White House, the issue of net neutrality and the threat of rate regulation has surfaced again. The big internet service providers (ISPs) have been trying to derail or delay confirmation of Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] as the fifth Federal Communications Commissioner because they know that one of the first actions of the FCC under Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel will be to reintroduce Title II regulation.
Until the pandemic hit, I rarely thought about upload bandwidth. I mostly used upload bandwidth to send files to people, and I rarely cared if they received the files immediately – I was happy as long as files got sent. But the pandemic changed everything for millions of people.
The poor state of rural broadband can be traced to the ways that the big telcos reacted to industry changes. Small telcos built rural networks, but large telcos gobbled them up over time. The big rural telcos then neglected rural properties in reaction to the changing economics from the deregulation of long-distance and local telephone service. Small telcos showed that it wasn’t necessary to abandon rural properties, but the big telcos stopped making investments in rural networks and for all practical purposes walked away from rural communities.
I’ve been wondering lately if some of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction winners are having second thoughts about accepting the RDOF awards. It’s amazing how much the broadband world has changed since the end of that auction in December 2020. It's gotten more expensive to build fiber projects over the last year. The cost of labor is an even bigger concern. New grants and new requirements, that did not exist at the time of the auction, also complicate the situation.