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Fast bits to all of us


By Scott Bradner


The Federal Communications Commission has just published the third in a series of reports, required by Congress, on the state of the availability of advanced telecommunications services to all Americans.  The report concludes that advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed "in a reasonable and timely manner."  Based on the same information the Commission used not everyone would agree with their conclusion.


The report ( ) is 178 footnote-filled pages long with maybe 100 additional pages of appendices.   It tries to answer four questions;


1/ What is advanced telecommunications capability ? 


2/ Is advanced telecommunications capability  being deployed to all Americans? 


3/ Is the deployment reasonable and timely?


4/ What actions by the Commission will accelerate deployment?


The Commission has defined "advanced telecommunications capability" as 200 Kbps to and from a customer.  It also adds an additional term "high-speed" which the Commission defines as meaning 200 Kbps to or from (but not both) a customer.


The Commission, with one dissent, concludes that there is reasonable and timely deployment to all Americans.  They base this on the results of a survey that showed that there was at least one customer of high-speed service in 78% of US zip codes, representing 97% of the US population.  They did not collect enough information to be able to figure out if anyone else in a zip code could have subscribed if they wanted to.  They seem to also base this on estimates of the penetration of cable-modem-ready cable TV infrastructure (in front of 60 million homes) and ADSL-ready telephone infrastructure (for 54 million homes). 


I'm no statistician but I find it a bit unlikely that just about all of the people I know who live in suburban Boston or suburbs around most big cities, somehow reside in the 22% of zip codes where you just can not get high-speed service.  In general, the estimates of cable-modem and ADSL-ready homes is way above the levels that annecdotal evidence suggests.  But these estimates do fit into the pattern of many of the other estimates in the report.  Sadly, the Commission seems to have accepted the prognostications of about any analyst they could find.  Particularly wacko are the predictions about revenue from satellite services and from video on demand - it takes a lot of faith to accept a 20-fold increase of about anything over 5 years.


Even though things seem to be going well, if the report is to be accepted, the Commission is not sitting idle.  It has been quite busy on a number of projects to make things go even better.  Including figuring out how to spend a couple of billion dollars per year in Universal Services taxes you and I pay in our phone bills.  This goes to subsidize Internet service for schools, libraries and rural health centers.


I'm running out of space and will continue on this topic next week.



disclaimer:  Harvard's neighbors get scared when Harvard thinks its running out of space.  But the above report review is mine alone.