There are two ways to judge the Federal Communications Commission's new broadband maps—the mapping fabric and the broadband coverage story. The State of Vermont has already sent a challenge letter to the FCC that says that 11% of the locations in the Fabric don’t match Vermont’s own data. Even worse, Vermont says that 22% of locations it knows about are missing from the FCC map. Vermont also looked at the broadband coverage claims by ISPs. According to the new maps, over 95% of Vermont homes have access broadband to broadband of at least 100/20 Mbps.
There are three billing practices that are routine for large internet service providers (ISP) that smart competitors avoid. First is offering special low prices to attract new customers. The second is bundling, which means giving a discount to customers buying multiple products. Third is what has become known as hidden fees, where there are routine monthly fees that are not included in the online advertised price offers to customers. A lot of smaller ISPs wonder if they should match these same tactics.
Gigabit passive optical network (GPON, if you're scoring at home) is a great technology. It is the predominant technology in place that is delivering fiber last mile broadband. GPON quickly became popular because it allowed the provisioning of a gigabit service to customers.
I’m taken aback when I see fiber-based broadband providers offering what can best be described as stingy speeds. The other day, I ran across a broadband provider that offers a range of speeds between 25/3 Mbps and 100/20 Mbps on fiber. Earlier I ran across a provider that has fiber products as tiny as symmetrical 10 Mbps. This frankly mystifies me, and I always wonder why somebody with fiber would offer broadband products that are similar to their competitors. I figure that part of the reason is what I would call old thinking.
It’s been a busy few weeks with announcements from the satellite broadband industry.
I’m working with a number of rural counties that are trying to come to grips with the long-term implications of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards in their counties going to internet service providers' (ISP) that plan to deliver broadband using fixed wireless technology. Most of them are not sure what to make of the situation for the following reasons:
Broadband costs are always unique to a given community. Population density—the number of homes and businesses per square mile—tells almost nothing about broadband costs. It’s far more important to know where homes are located in relation to roads. Such as how far the homes are from the roads. While the relationship between homes to roads is a major factor, it’s not the only one. There are some counties where the cost to build is higher than expected for other reasons.
TekWav, Nextlink, and Plains Internet won Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding in the December 2020 reverse auction. Two of the three providers were quoted as saying that the cost to build the networks to satisfy the RDOF obligations has doubled since they won the award – the third said costs have risen materially. Most providers I’ve been working with estimate the increase to be between 15% and 30%, differing by region and the planned technology.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the speed of constructing infrastructure. The White House announced an initiative to address some of these issues to speed up the construction of the $550 billion in infrastructure that was funded with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, along with earlier money from the American Rescue Plan Act.