Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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Join us Live on Thursday, November 11th to Talk About the Future of Cable - Episode 25 of Connect This!
Join us live on Thursday, November 11th at 5pm ET for Episode 25 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Glen Atkins (a twenty-year veteran of the cable television industry) and Ron Hranac (former Technical Marketing Engineer at Cisco) to talk about the future of hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network infrastructure.
Cable began as a one-way video distribution system before transforming into the avenue by which the majority of Americans access the Internet today. It has enjoyed a long life as the result of new specification standards, encoding schemes, and the result of pushing fiber farther and farther into the network. The panel will talk about DOCSIS and the move from the 3.1 standard to 4.0, which will enable symmetrical gigabit speeds to users and more households served at the highest speed tiers. They'll also dig into the pantheon of other hardware and system upgrades used by cable operators, from low latency DOCSIS to virtualized cable modem termination system (vCMTS).
With so much fiber being built in 2021 and beyond, how much life is left in the cable plant?
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How Will Broadband Networks Handle Quarantine Congestion? Mostly OK
As schools and businesses ask people to stay home to reduce the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, I wanted to share some thoughts about how I expect broadband Internet access networks will handle the change and increase in broadband traffic in residential areas.
Our first reaction is that, as with so many areas with network effects, the rich will get richer. This is to say that historic inequities will be exacerbated — people that have been able to afford the high-quality networks will probably see very little disruption and those who have older networks may be effectively disconnected.
Better Network Scenarios
Those on fiber optic networks probably won't notice major changes in demand. This is the easy one — it is why we have long believed that fiber optics should be the goal for the vast majority of Americans.
Most modern cable networks should be also able to handle the demand — especially on the download end. This is good because 2 out of 3 Americans with broadband gets it from a cable network. Upgrades in recent years from the aggressive cable companies (Comcast Xfinity, Cox, and some of the many smaller cable networks — Charter Spectrum less so) should allow more than sufficient download capacity even if home video streaming increases significantly. But in smaller towns, where the local cable companies haven't been able to afford those upgrades and the bigger cable providers have just ignored them, I would expect to see intermittent and in some cases, persistent congestion problems from bottlenecks.
In the upstream direction, the cable networks will have some challenges. I wouldn't expect most Comcast or Cox markets to have too many problems, though neighborhoods with lots of professionals using video conferencing tools could congest. I would expect Charter Spectrum, Mediacom, and many of the others to have frequent congestion for upstream connections, lowering throughput extremely at times.
Cedar Falls Shows Long Term Muni Network Success: Community Broadband Bits Episode #75
Tacoma's Click! Introduces 100 Mbps; CenturyLink Lies to Steal Click! Business
We have watched Tacoma's Click! Network for years, sharing its advances and benefits with you. The latest achievement in Tacoma is a new option for customers - 100 Mbps.
The network is a division of Tacoma Power, which has been providing electricity to the community for over 100 years. The municipal utility upgraded recently to DOCSIS 3.0, increasing Internet speeds for customers.
Click! allows independent service providers to offer Internet access on the network rather than offering that service directly. This approach has resulted in less revenue for the publicly owned network, creating delays in paying down the debt from the infrastruture investment. Nonetheless, Click! has create benefits far in excess of costs -- from increased investment from incumbents to much lower prices for residents and businesses.
RainerConnect, Advanced Stream, and Net-Venture all offer retail services on the Click! network.
Customers from the three ISPs have multiple choices in speed and price, varying from $29.95 for up to 6 Mbps to $189.95 for the new 100 Mbps option. The choice allows consumers to tailor their Internet (and their Internet bill) to the their individual needs. Vibrant competition continues to create choice and affordable consumer prices. Regardless of what network they subscribe to, Tacoma residents tend to pay less than their Seattle brethren.
Unfortunately, it was no surprise to come across a recent news story that describes CenturyLink's misleading sales tactics. CenturyLink salespeople have gone door-to-door and told people Click! is closing. C.R. Roberts from the News Tribune covered the story in mid-July. According to the report, even after Click! contacted CenturyLink to complain, the lies continued in parts of the city. This is no single anomaly, we have heard of similar tactics being used in the past.
Qwest Renews Push to Gut Local Authority over Cable Television
It's 2011 and time for Qwest to renew a push to gut local authority in a number of states - Idaho and Colorado to start. An article for the Denver Post explains the argument:
Phone companies say state-level oversight of video franchising fosters competition because it is less cumbersome for new entrants to secure the right to offer services.
Many states have also eliminated the condition that new video competitors must eventually offer service to every home in a given municipality, a requirement placed on incumbent cable-TV providers.
Gutting local authority is the best way to increase the disparities between those who have broadband and those who do not. Qwest and others are only interested in building out in the most profitable areas -- which then leaves those unserved even more difficult to serve because the costs of serving them cannot be balanced with those who can be served at a lower cost.
The only reason that just about every American living in a city has access to broadband is because franchise requirements forced companies to build out everyone. Without these requirements, cable buildouts would almost certainly have mirrored the early private company efforts to wire towns for electricity -- wealthier areas of town had a number of choices and low-income areas of town had none.
In Idaho, those fighting back against this attempt to limit local authority are worried that statewide franchising will kill their local public access channels - a reality that others face across the nation where these laws have [no-glossary]passed[/no-glossary].
The channels, which are also used to publicize community events, provide complete coverage of Pocatello City Council, Planning and Zoning and School District 25 board meetings, as well as candidate forums before elections.
Without these local channels, how could people stay informed about what is happening in the community? Local newspapers are increasingly hard to find. In many communities, these channels are the last bastion of local news.
Putting Shareholders and Profits ahead of the Community
Fibrant Laughs at Time Warner Cable Puny Upgrades
Salisbury's Fibrant Launches, TWC Responds With DOCSIS 3
In North Carolina, Salisbury has launched the state's second FTTH network, as communities continue to build the next-generation broadband infrastructure in which their massive incumbent providers decline to invest. We have offered in-depth coverage of Fibrant as they prepared to launch the new services. As of Tuesday, Nov 2, the network softly launched, which is to say they will slowly ramp up the number of paying customers as they gain experience and confidence. Stop the Cap! also covered the launch with extensive coverage as well as both praise and criticism for Fibrant's approach.
Some of the 115 early, free testers of Fibrant became the first paying customers Monday, with the utility scheduling installations for 200 other residents on a waiting list.
A local group has posted a number of videos about Fibrant, including a recent one that compares Fibrant's speeds to the pathetic offering of Time Warner Cable (see bottom of this post). In a totally unrelated development (or so Time Warner Cable would have us believe), TWC has rapidly increased its broadband tiers in the region. In this, TWC has joined Comcast in downplaying the role competition has in forcing incumbent investment. If you believe TWC, competition plays no role in their investment decisions, a fascinating approach to succeeding in an area they constantly claim is a very competitive market.
Cedar Falls, Iowa, Upgrading Cable Network to FTTH
An HFC plant uses thousands of active devices (such as amplifiers) to keep data flowing between the customer and the service provider. Any one of these devices can fail, interrupting service. In contrast, the all-fiber plant will be a passive optical network, with no active components between the distribution center and the end user. Fewer “moving parts” means fewer points of failure and a more reliable system.CFU puts community needs first:
“We know from experience that economic growth comes to cities that keep their infrastructure up to date, whether it’s roads, water, electricity or broadband,” said Krieg [CFU General Manager]. “CFU is going to do what it takes to make sure Cedar Falls has leading-edge communications technology, and maintain economical rates for internet and video services.”The network was launched in 1996, one of the first communities with citywide broadband access.