Sponsored by: This story appeared on Network World Fusion at http://www.nwfusion.com/columnists/2002/0225bradner.html 'Net Insider: The FCC and fast bits By Scott Bradner Network World, 02/25/02 This column continues last week's discussion about the new Federal Communications Commission report on the deployment of advanced telecommunications services to everyone in the U.S. I have a real problem with one thread that runs throughout the FCC report. The commission only talks about the availability of 200K bit/sec in the connection to the user. It ignores that this often does not mean 200K bit/sec to or from the Internet - all too often Internet connections are very badly oversubscribed and the effective rate is no better than a dial-up modem. I have been told of DSL providers that oversubscribed the links from the DSL multiplexer to their backbones by more than 200-to-1, worse than that found in most cable modem situations. It would be much more useful if the definition of bandwidth availability included some understanding of the probability that the bandwidth would be there when someone tried to use it. The commission's report also underplays the role of cost - it's hard to find the one paragraph in the report where the FCC points out that only 12% of people asked were willing to pay $40 per month for advanced services. Because most advanced services cost more than that, it is hard to see widespread uptake. Congress stated goal is to deploy advanced telecommunications services to everyone in the U.S. Delivering the service at a price that few are willing to pay is a little different than not deploying it at all. This could hardly be considered as meeting Congress' goal "in a reasonable and timely manner" even though that is what the FCC concludes is happening. On Feb. 14, the FCC announced that it tentatively concluded that high-speed Internet access provided by telephone companies (such as DSL) should not be regulated like normal telephone service. If the FCC finalizes this opinion, then the telephone companies will not have to open their infrastructures to third parties to use in providing alternative high-speed Internet service. At one point this type of access was seen as critical to getting high-speed services deployed because the phone companies have never been seen as hot beds of innovation, particularly when it might cannibalize their existing service offerings. But the FCC now proposes to change the rules in the name of promoting "widespread deployment" of high-speed Internet services. While symbolically important, this change may not make much real difference because only a small fraction of DSL service is being provided under the old rules anyway. Yogi Berra said, "The future is not what it once was." The FCC's action will certainly change the future. It will be interesting to read the next FCC report to see how it did. Disclaimer: Harvard often changes the future but has not commented on the FCC report (such as the above opinion is my own). Related Links All contents copyright 1995-2002 Network World, Inc. http://www.nwfusion.com