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Internet Access and the Missing Institutional Design

It's Friday, a day to tie some threads together. There were three announcements/events this week that are connected in a non-obvious way... These three elements go together in creating a picture of US policy towards Internet access at the beginning of 2008. Rather than seeing the Internet as an engine for economic growth, creativity, innovation, and new jobs -- and as the converged communications medium for the next generation -- current policy is to wait for private companies to decide when investment in access makes sense for them. Those private companies have plenty of incentives to shape access to suit their own business plans. more

The Network Management Excuse

Telco front-man Scott Cleland, in a recent blog post, thumbs his nose at the Four Internet Freedoms and says that the FCC should too. Under current leadership, it probably will. Referring to the recent submissions to the FCC by Free Press and Public Knowledge and Vuze complaining about Comcast's use of reset packets to block applications that compete with Comcast's own proprietary video entertainment offering, Cleland says "Network management trumps net neutrality." There are lots of reasons for, ahem, managing. Cleland neglects to observe that controlling congestion the way Comcast does it is like scattering nails in the road for traffic control. more

“The Broadband Revolution”

The International Telecommunications Union recently issued a press release announcing with joy the release of "the first set of global standards for Internet Protocol TV (IPTV)." A key sentence: "A combination of voice, Internet and video services over a single broadband link and from a single provider is foreseen as the ultimate goal of the broadband revolution." Those of you who lived through 'What Is Broadband Good For?' with me last summer, know that the word "broadband" is a pet bugaboo of mine. It's a word that answers a lot of policy questions in a particular way. more

Will 2008 be the WiMAX Year?

There has recently been some good and bad news about WiMAX. On the good news part, an announcement made by the WiMAX Forum this month regarding the launching of the Mobile WiMAX certification program through which vendors can get their IEEE 802.16e-2005 equipment tested and possibly certified... On the bad news part, there was the Sprint-Clearwire breakup after three months of announcing a plan to join forces in building a nationwide WiMAX network in the US. Although it is anticipated that each company would carry on with its own WiMAX plans, analysts believe that the breakup would have negative impact on WiMAX deployment in the US... more

In Praise of Relatively Dumb Pipes

Comcast's furtive and undisclosed traffic manipulation reminds me of a curious, red herring asserted by some incumbent carriers and their sponsored researchers: that without complete freedom to vertically and horizontally integrate the carriers would lose synergies, efficiencies and be relegated to operating "dumb pipes."... Constructing and operating the pipes instead of creating the stuff that traverses them gets a bad rap. It may not be sexy, but it probably has less risk. But of course with less risk comes less reward, and suddenly no one in the telecommunications business is content with that. So incumbent carriers assert that convergence and competitive necessity requires them to add "value" to the pipes. more

FCC Chairman Martin a Tireless Consumer Advocate - Who Knew?

In a counter-intuitive move for a Republican free marketeer, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has sought to impose substantial additional regulations on cable television. Chairman Martin ostensibly can retain his credentials by claiming that a 1984 law requires the FCC to act when cable television systems serve 70% or more of the U.S. population and 70% who can subscribe do so. more

Bandwidth Demands Exceeding Internet Infrastructure Investment

Nemertes Research has released a report on the future of the Internet infrastructure. The key finding from the report is that bandwidth demands are exceeding infrastructure investment, especially at the access layer. We noted in the project that users may begin to see the impact of degraded application performance as early as 2010. We also noted that the planned investments in Internet infrastructure are insufficient to meet growing demand. more

Unbridled Discretion and Prior Restraint: The Verizon and Comcast Stories

Let's say that providing communications infrastructure is an inherent function of a state. Most people think of the internet as a telephone system, and most people think the telephone companies aren't supposed to choose which calls will go through based on their content. People think that because they think internet access, like telephone access, is a utility -- like electricity conduit, water pipes, etc. -- that has something to do with the government, and the government isn't supposed to discriminate. more

How the Internet On Cable Became the Internet As Cable

When Rogers Communications began promoting its [email protected] high-speed Internet service nearly a decade ago, the company branded it "the Internet on Cable." Years later, their service, as well as those of their competitors, is gradually morphing into "the Internet as Cable" as broadcasters, Internet service providers, and cultural groups steadily move toward the delivery of content online that bears a striking resemblance to the conventional cable model. more

Comcast’s Wrong Approach

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to do a lot more than just provide a pipe from your residence to their facilities to assure that you have a good Internet experience. There is a raging debate, inextricable from the debate on Network Neutrality, both on what the proper responsibilities of an ISP are AND what methods are proper for carrying out those responsibilities. more