Copper/DSL Renaissance Underway?

[Commentary] With broadband front and center these days, thanks in large part to policy debates surrounding a national broadband plan and the regulations that will govern it, one method of transmission that get's the least amount of respect these days is DSL. It's not as sexy as FTTH and 4G wireless, and quite frankly, cable modem broadband appears to be favored by the broadband buying public over the past year, at least in larger markets.

But there's no denying that DSL is still the workhorse of telco broadband and will be for many years, maybe even decades, to come. It's not just small rural telcos that depend on DSL as their main broadband option, its companies with global reach like AT&T and Qwest as well. Tier 2 providers like CenturyLink, TDS, FairPoint, and Frontier also have huge copper/DSL infrastructure to contend with. I fully admit that all things being equal, FTTH is the better option, and when possible, should be selected over DSL. I also fully admit that, generally speaking, a Mercedes is better than a Toyota (especially these days). But everyone can't afford (or necessarily needs) a Mercedes. Despite all the rhetoric and desire to get FTTH to every home in America, to be blunt, it 'ain't gonna happen.' It's just simply too expensive, and for a nation that continually runs a structural deficit, there are probably other priorities to consider first. I chuckle at analysts and reporters who can't understand why every service provider doesn't just buckle down and do FTTH to their entire footprint. That's easy to say when you don't have to worry about bankrupting your company in the process. The reality is, DSL is here to stay and prolonging its life is paramount. To that end, there's a lot of recent activity afoot.



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