CCG Consulting

The End of Rural Landlines?

Patricia Pereira, an 80-year old woman living in Camp Seco, California, is cut off from 911 and other essential services. At the beginning of 2023, Pereira asked AT&T if landline service could be transferred from a neighboring home to hers. Instead of transferring the service, AT&T cut the copper lines dead on both properties. Pereira lives in a dead zone and barely receives cellular signals. This is happening in rural AT&T areas across the country.

Yet Another Challenge to Federal Communications Commission Authority

Federal courts are full of cases that are challenging the authority of federal regulatory agencies, including the case of Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jarkesy, which is pending before the Supreme Court as of January 2024. Hedge fund manager George Jarkesy was accused of committing fraud by misrepresenting himself to investors. The case was heard by an administrative law judge at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who imposed a fine and penalties, and ordered Jarkesy to disgorge $685,000 in unlawful profits.

Serving the Hard-to-Reach Areas

It’s clear in reading the various proposed Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) rules that State Broadband Offices are following the lead of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and putting a lot of emphasis on making sure that everybody gets served with the grant funding. I’m not sure they understand the costly consequences of this emphasis. There are some passings in this country that are largely unservable.

Dealing With Broadband Outages

It’s always been a hassle when a business loses broadband. But in the last few years, an increasing number of businesses have been telling me that they are practically immobilized when they lose broadband. This is because businesses, especially small and medium businesses, increasingly rely on software in the cloud. So many day-to-day functions, from timekeeping and payroll systems, reservation systems, to online sales portals, now require a broadband connection. This has made businesses become hyper-aware of broadband outages.

Can the Affordable Connectivity Program be Sustainable?

By now, everybody has written about the pending end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The White House asked Congress to fund the ACP for a year for over $6 billion, and almost everyone I know is betting against a miracle from Congress. But even if the ACP gets funded somehow, how sustainable is the ACP if Congress has to act every year to renew it? There have been calls for moving the ACP under the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund (USF).

Will Fixed Wireless Access Peak Soon?

Based on conversations I've had with some of my peers, I have to ask: will fixed wireless access (FWA) peak soon? Every person I've asked has dismissed FWA wireless as a temporary technology with no real long-term legs. My peers say that FWA is already oversubscribed, cell towers aren't designed to handle all-day broadband connections, and that the service is just not good enough. Interestingly, the numbers seem to be telling a different story: T-Mobile and Verizon predict they will collectively reach 15 million FWA customers.

Supporting Rural Cell Towers

I work with a lot of internet service providers that own rural fiber. Some owners have been successful in providing fiber to the cell sites located near their networks.  A few sell directly to a cellular carrier, but most of these connections are sold to an intermediate carrier that bundles together cellular connections across a large geographic area. This has been good business, but now I’m hearing about requests from cellular companies or intermediate carriers to increase bandwidth at cell sites.

What’s Up With Comcast and Charter?

The two biggest cable companies in the country have clearly bogged down. In the third quarter of 2023, Comcast lost 18,000 broadband customers while Charter gained 63,000. There are a number of reasons for the sudden slowdown. At the top of the list is probably prices. Both Carter and Comcast charge significantly more than their fiber competitors. The other new competitor is fixed wireless access cellular wireless from T-Mobile and Verizon.

Wireless to Fiber

There is an interesting discussion that has been percolating in the industry for many years. Many wireless ISPs have extolled the benefits of building wireless networks as the first step to eventually build fiber networks. For over a decade, I’ve been a big proponent of this business plan and have worked with many rural internet service providers who entered new rural markets with wireless with the hope of eventually building fiber in the same areas.

Green Loans for Fiber

Ubiquity, which builds and operates open-access networks, recently obtained a green loan to help finance fiber network construction. It’s an interesting concept that other providers might want to consider.