Why Flawed Broadband Speed Tests Have Devastating Consequences

If government policy is based on faulty data, everyone loses.

C/Net has the details:

The stakes are high. The FCC uses data it collects to produce reports, such as the Measuring Broadband America and the Broadband Deployment reports, to set policy and determine where to deploy resources to promote broadband adoption. Much of the data the FCC gets to populate these reports is supplied by the broadband and wireless companies themselves, or in the case of the speed test, a third party that also contracts with these companies. The result is information that often paints a rosy picture of wireless and broadband in the US.

Though The Wall Street Journal article singled out the broadband speed test, there have long been complaints that the information collected to show where fixed and mobile broadband service is located is flawed. The issue around flawed mapping data has come to a head in the last several months in Congress, where Republicans and Democrats alike from rural regions of the US have lashed out at the FCC, demanding the issue be fixed.

Some of the problems can be attributed to the methodologies used to collect the data. For instance, in mapping fixed broadband the FCC has been criticized for asking carriers to provide more granular data. But critics also charge that relying on carriers to self-report information can lead to problems. Earlier this month, the FCC found that three major US wireless carriers, Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular, had misstated their wireless coverage in several rural areas.

“So we’ve got carriers exaggerating coverage for mobile broadband, flawed methodology producing bad maps for fixed broadband, and unreliable numbers on the speed of broadband. What’s left?” said Gigi Sohn, an advisor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “If there is no cop on the beat, the carriers will just make it like they’re doing awesome and no need for any regulation or oversight.”

Continue reading HERE

Money Quote: The FCC is still working on getting a clearer picture of where broadband and wireless service exists today and where it doesn’t.

A speed test has no value if you do not have a broadband connection to test. The FCC can not test broadband if it does not know where it is! The real issue with the FCC map is not just speed it is accuracy.

Rural Telcom De-regulation — Prompts Competition from Space

Doug Dawson has an excellent post in Pots and Pans on the impact regulators had on the lack of rural broadband.

Rural America should never have been deregulated. Shame on every regulator in every state that voted to deregulate the big telcos in rural America. Shame on every regulator that allowed companies like Verizon palm off their rural copper to companies like Frontier – a company that cannot succeed, almost by definition.

In rural America the telcos have a physical network monopoly and the regulators should have found ways to support rural copper rather than letting the telcos walk away from it. We know this can be done by looking at the different approaches taken by the smaller independent telephone companies. These small companies took care of their copper and most have now taken the next step to upgrade to fiber to be ready for the next century.

The full post is HERE.

Doug writes: “The big telcos started abandoning rural America as much as thirty years ago. They’ve stopped maintaining copper and have not voluntarily made any investments in rural America for a long time. There was a burst of rural construction recently when the FCC gave them $11 billion to improve rural broadband to 10/1 Mbps – but that doesn’t seem to be drawing many rural subscribers.”

The launch of the low earth-orbiting satellite broadband networks by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon are going to provide rural users alternatives to the poor service and slow speeds offered by the telcos. The LEO ISPs are promising “fiber-like services” to rural customers starting in 2020, with full service by 2021.

One of the challenges will be the start-up costs, which are forecast to be in the $300 to 500 dollar range. The monthly fee of those services is presently an unknown but is expected to be competitive with existing fiber services.

SpaceX is expecting a high demand for their “fiber-like services” from space. They have requested permission to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, 12,000 that are already approved plus 30,000 more to meet the expected global demand. This YouTube video has some details and attractive graphics:

https://youtu.be/z93a9OUJfOA

RCRC Rural Broadband and 5G Update

Rural Broadband Update

This week, Representative Antonio Delgado (D-New York) announced a package of two bills aimed at addressing flawed broadband mapping practices and increasing broadband speeds for rural communities.

The first bill, the Broadband Speed Act (HR 4641), would require internet service providers to annually report data to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that shows the actual speeds they are capable of providing, as opposed to what they can potentially provide. This will help the FCC determine where advertised speeds match actual speeds. The second bill, the Community Broadband Mapping Act, would allow local governments, electric/telephone cooperatives, economic development/community groups and small internet providers to collect information on local broadband service. This will enable communities who are currently incorrectly designated by the FCC as having service to take action to have the information necessary to dispute that status with the FCC.

5G Update

AT&T is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exclude 5G from its required upgraded data mapping collection. “There is broad agreement that it is not yet time to require reporting on 5G coverage” AT&T said in a statement to the FCC.

AT&T and other mobile carriers want to hide 5G coverage maps from the public while subsequently marketing the pace and breadth of their 5G rollouts. “Service standards for 5G are still emerging, precluding reporting of service-level coverage for 5G networks (other than the 5G-NR submissions already required),” AT&T wrote.

5G Won’t Solve the Digital Divide

ILSR: Community Networks Fact Sheet

Since 5G connectivity relies on fiber optics that aren’t available in many rural areas, these communities won’t receive 5G access anytime soon. The same market reality discouraging investment in rural broadband will also discourage 5G investment. Even in urban areas, companies like AT&T and Verizon are unlikely to start investing in the low-income neighborhoods they have neglected for years.

This just one insight provided in the Pocket Guild to 5G Hype

Download HERE.

 

AT&T Redlines Poor and Rural Californians – CPUC Study

Steve Blum has the detail in his blog post: AT&T redlines poor and rural Californians because it can, Frontier because it can’t afford otherwise, CPUC study says

Corporate choices made by AT&T and Verizon, and Frontier Communications’ dire financial condition created the growing divide between relatively modern telecoms infrastructure in affluent urban and suburban communities, and the decaying infrastructure in poor and rural ones. The result is “deteriorating service quality”, “persistent disinvestment”, an “investment focus on higher income communities” and an “increased focus on areas most heavily impacted by competition”, according to a study done for the California Public Utilities Commission by a Boston-based consulting company.

The report paints a contrasting picture of the corporate attitudes of AT&T and Frontier, but neither is flattering. The conclusions are, and should be, devastating for both companies. The report speaks for itself: Both AT&T California and Frontier…[are] in effect, disinvesting in infrastructure overall, and [the disinvestment is] most pronounced in the more rural and low-income service areas. AT&T has the financial resources to maintain and upgrade its wireline network in California, but has yet to do so. Frontier has a strong interest in pursuing such upgrades, but lacks the financial capacity to make the necessary investments.

Continue reading HERE  [Emphasis Added]

Rural America Could be Left Behind in 5G Global Race

“The United States is making choices that will leave rural America behind,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel writes in WIRED.

So far the United States 5G focus has been on mmWave high-band service, which is not a good technology for rural applications.

This means that high-band 5G service is unlikely outside of the most populated urban areas. The sheer volume of antenna facilities needed make this service viable makes it too costly to deploy in rural areas. So if we want to serve everywhere—and not create communities of 5G haves and have-nots—we are going to need a mix of airwaves that provide both coverage and capacity. That means we need mid-band spectrum. For rural America to see competitive 5G in the near future, we cannot count on high-band spectrum to get the job done.

It should be noted the T-Mobile/Sprint strategy is to focus on the low-bands, and AT&T is claiming a multi-band approach, while Verizon is using a high-band mmWave approach.

 

AT&T National 5G Strategy

Telecompetitor has the details:

AT&T nationwide 5G plans include a multi-pronged strategy. Those plans include leveraging millimeter wave spectrum for dense urban areas. AT&T calls this their 5G+ coverage, which will provide the fastest mobile broadband experience.

This service will be delivered primarily through small cells using a centralized radio access network (CRAN) architecture. CRAN allows multiple (maybe hundreds of) small cells to be controlled from a single centralized hub. AT&T 5G+ is currently available in select locations in 19 cities. It can offer gigabit capable speeds, notes Mair.

“I really like the momentum I’m seeing right now from our build in terms of the CRAN or small cell capabilities,” said Mair in his remarks. “That millimeter wave, basically 200, 300 plus meters radius, so there’s a lot more of those small cells that you need to put in place to provide that capability.”

For broader, more macro coverage, AT&T will use their sub-6 GHz spectrum holdings, with 700 MHz a likely 5G workhorse. This capability will be put on existing AT&T towers, with their FirstNet build helping facilitate the transition to 5G.

Emphasis added

ATT_5G_Lowband_Band_12_1024x1024
AT&T National 5G Strategy

Source: Allnet Insights & Analytics

Continue reading HERE.  The use of low band will be a boon to rural users, as the signals will go further and are less attenuated by foliage.

 

Competition, Competition, Competition

by Russ Steele

One thing that activates the telco and cable providers is competition. How are they going to deal with the competition from SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and other LEO high-speed internet providers? These innovators are circling the legacy communications provider like a hunger coyote looking for a rabbit lunch.

In the past, the telcos use their political muscle to keep the competition under control at every opportunity. They spend millions on lawyers and lobbyist to shape legislation to stifle competition rather than spend their profits on providing superiors service.

For example, in the early days of WiFi, a Texas University was wiring up the campus. Next door to the University was some low-income housing, and the University wanted to share their WiFi with the low-income neighbors. According to the story I heard, AT&T sent 25 lawyers down to the State Legislature to stop this sharing of free WiFi. AT&T abhors competition!

We are going to see a significant upheaval in the internet market when the LEO satellites networks are established and fully functional. Today the phone and cable companies are providing marginal broadband services at a high cost to the consumer. Why, because they can, they are the only provider, with no competition.

There are millions of DSL customers poised to jump once a competitive broadband service is offered. Some communities have pinned their hope on 5G for more reliable service at higher speeds, but that technology rollout is controlled by the telco providers who are not going to provide competing service. On the other hand, they will have little control over the satellite internet service providers, unless they cut backhaul deals that incorporate some competition restrictions.

I can hear the conversation now, “If you sign this 5G backhaul contract, you cannot sell your broadband to our 4G/5G customers.”

The cable companies are losing customers to the cord cutters and streamers. While cutting the video cord, streams still need a broadband connection. In many cases, the cable internet service is the only connection, and it comes at a high price. Why, because the cable companies have no competitive incentive to reduce rates.

In many communities with only telco DSL or an aging cable plant available providing broadband access, LEO broadband will be the first time there will be some competitive service. The question is, how will the telco and cable companies deal with that competition?

They can lower the price for their marginal services, but the customer still has unreliable slow speed internet access, whereas the LEO satellites are offering much higher speeds, and hopefully more reliable service. All the LEO satellite service challenge are still unknowns.

In the end, the superior service will win if the cost is reasonable. Amazon is a significant disruptor in the retail sector, and space-based internet is going to be a substantial disruptor in the telecommunications sector.

How will the telcos respond?  Your thoughts?

Today: FCC 5G Infrastructure Push

— Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are today bringing back their STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, a measure aimed at speeding up 5G wireless buildout. The proposal drew fierce pushback during the last Congress from local governments that viewed it as federal overreach. Although the two sponsors had suggested they would take those concerns into account, the new version is no different than what they unveiled last summer. “Making 5G technology a reality has been a priority for me since I began serving on the Commerce Committee,” Thune said

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

This has implication for all rural communities, especially those communities trying to preserve their historical charm. Experience has shown that mmWave 5G needs to have a small cell site on every block, see details HERE and HERE.

Chicago_Verizon 5G minitower
Ugly Chicago Mini-Cell Tower

Those providers that are using low band (600-800MHz) 5G will be more welcome in rural communities as fewer cell sites are needed, reducing line of site requirements. The downside is low band 5G cannot provide the mind-blowing speeds that mmWave 5G does. Will rural towns, cities, and neighborhoods get to pick their provider and the technology used to provide 5G under the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, or do they get whoever shows up? Verizon is using a mmWave strategy, AT&T a mixed approach, while T-Mobile/Sprint is planning to use low band and existing 4G frequencies for their 5G services. More decisions will depend on the spectrum the FCC is offering for 5G services, both mobile and fixed.

This is going to be an ugly fight to keep ugly technology out of rural towns and villages. If I were responsible for 5G implementation, I would be working with designers to develop a classic mini-cell enclosure, to hide the ugly electronics and wire bundles.  Your thoughts?