Category: Internet Access And Service

Plans to see West Sussex as a Gigabit County

Article UK Flag

West Sussex UK Moot County-Wide 1Gbps Fibre Optic Broadband Roll-out | ISP Review

My Comments

There are plans to make West Sussex a “Gigabit County” where there is ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises broadband in the order of 1Gbps or similar available to every premises across that county.

They initially want to start work on this in Adur & Worthing by deploying a “dark fibre” network in that area. The West Sussex county council and the Adur & Worthing local council are behind this effort as a way to see improved productivity for businesses and local government, with an inherent desire to invest in that county plus the volumetric increase in business rates. But this could also affect the value of residential property across the board due to fibre-optic broadband being considered a deciding factor for home purchasing.

But it is being seen as an aspirational idea especially if the whole of the county is to be covered. It is very similar to how some towns in the UK are seeing themselves as “Gigabit” towns due to availability of Gigabit-throughput next-generation broadbad; along with New Zealand seeing itself as a GigNation due to Chorus offering Gigabit next-generation broadband across most of the major urban areas who have their FTTP infrastructure. Here, you could be thinking of issues like covering West Sussex’s rural areas or even getting other local authorities on board in that county to establish similar infrastructure.

The major idea with this project would be to maintain the local councils, in this case Adur & Worthing, as an anchor tenant who would be the main user of this infrastructure. They use the reference to a shopping centre having a few large stores like supermarkets or department stores as their “anchor tenants” who catch most of the centre’s traffic and supply the lion’s share of the rental income. But they also want to have this infrastructure made available to businesses who need the high-throughput network and Internet connectivity to connect their premises. Another driver would be to have the public-service offers for the UK’s central government come on board for this infrastructure.

One idea that was achieved with a fibre rollout in York was to have a large ISP like Sky Broadband or TalkTalk providing Internet service to customers using this infrastructure, with this being viewed as a way to provide retail Internet service in this area. Personally, I would look towards having multiple ISPs have access to the infrastructure to sell their Internet service to their customers so as to allow for retail-level competition.

Here, you could also think of services like Hyperoptic or Gigaclear who are providing “focused” coverage in to particular areas like multiple-dwelling units in the case of Hyperoptic or rural villages in the case of Gigaclear.

The rollout could begin in UK Spring 2017, and take 12 months to complete for the local council’s sites. But, after this rollout, they also want to see a continual deployment over the whole of West Sussex.

These kind of rollouts will be needing to involve public money with an encouragement for them to benefit the public purse through efficiency improvements. But they will also be about providing affordable high-throughput Internet service for households and businesses as long as there is real sustainable competition.

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Chorus brings Gigabit throughput across all its Kiwi Fiber territory

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Chorus New Zealand map

Blog Post

My Comments

Previously, I wrote an article about New Zealand having its Internet infrastructure being built around competitive operations and next-generation forward-looking approaches rather than pushing out older copper infrastructure as the backbone.

Chorus are providing fibre-to-the-premises broadband in most of New Zealand’s major urban areas. This is in conjunction with the NZ Government pushing this technology across these areas in conjunction with this wholesale telecoms provider and the local electric utilities, along with the “fibre-to-the-node” fibre-copper deployments in these areas being converted towards FTTP, rather than the traditional wisdom pushed in the UK and Australia of “sweating out” copper infrastructure.

But Chorus were offering Gigabit service as a service option for FTTP customers based in Dunedin. This was initially to prove that Dunedin could be turned in to a “Gigatown” with Gigabit-level Internet service available everywhere. Now they are offering this same level of throughput as a service option for all of their customers who are connected to FTTP services in New Zealand. Here, they are underscoring the desire for New Zealanders to have the whole country become a “Gignation” or “Giganation” where everyone has access to Gigabit broadband speeds.

Here, in the blog article they published, they mentioned the need to offer Gigabit broadband as a service option. This is with the benefit of high throughput with the ability to, for example, upload 25 high-resolution images to Facebook or Dropbox in a second or concurrently stream 40 different ultra-high-resolution videos. For people who work from home, this technology would benefit them especially if they are using cloud-based “…as-a-service” computing approaches or desiring high-reliability IP-based voice and video telecommunications.

At the moment, they offer a headline speed of 1Gbps download and 500Mbps upload but could work better by offering a symmetrical 1Gbps speed as a service option. This kind of service offering is being made available by some service providers such as Gigaclear in the UK and could heavily please small-business owners.

They also raised the issue of popular Web services being oversubscribed which could impair the perceived performance along with your home network being equipped with older or less-reliable hardware. They also highlighted the fact that speedtests may not hit the headline speed exactly and reckon that you should be able to have close to that for the download speed at least.

Here, New Zealand is proving that home and small-business networks can be connected to Gigabit-level fibre-optic Internet service that is forward-thinking.

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ARCEP is heading towards an IPv6 France

Article – French language / Langue Française

L’ARCEP propose un plan d’action pour migrer vers l’IPv6 | Freenews.fr

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

The Freebox Révolution – the sign of an advanced Internet in France

France is intending to take bigger strides towards an IPv6 Internet.

Here, the ARCEP who is the country’s telecoms authority are expediting this process through a series of steps.

Firstly, they will be moving the government’s public-facing Web sites towards IPv6 operation. Most likely, this will be a dual-stack affair to allow legacy networks to touch these sites.

Then they will run a public-awareness and education campaign about IPv6 including identifying obstacles associated with not moving towards this newer set of Internet protocols. Two main obstacles in this case would be computers running operating systems that don’t have IPv6 dual-stack operation, and routers that don’t provide for IPv6 operation. This may not be an issue with the latest “n-boxes” that each of the French ISPs are offering to their customers like the Freebox Révolution.

IPv6 logo courtesy of World IPv6 Launch programThe next stage would be to facilitate moving towards IPv6 by having it work across all of the providers competing with each other in that country.

Users will also benefit from improved information especially about maintaining the IPv4 equipment and networks. This is more so with maintaining the legacy IPv4 addresses, but the endpoint issue could be resolved with various routing or tunnelling setups that IPv6 offers.

Last but not least, the French Internet backbone will move off IPv4 towards IPv6, probably only allowing IPv4 “at the edge”.

But some, if not most, of the ISPs serving the French market, especially Free, may be stepping forward towards IPv6 as part of the competitive marketplace. This includes releasing “n-box” routers that have support for this technology or adding this level of support to some existing equipment through a firmware update. Let’s not forget that most operating systems for regular and mobile computing devices will provide for IPv6 in a dual-stack form. Here, it is underscoring that France has been identified one of the first countries to head towards IPv6 technology.

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A local community and a council in the UK deliver FTTP to Cotwaldon

Articles

BT Openreach engineer setting up for real Internet in rural Staffordshire press picture courtesy of BT Regional Press Office

BT Openreach engineer setting up for real Internet in rural Staffordshire

Community, council and BT to deliver FTTP to Cotwalton | ThinkBroadband

Public Funding Props Up BT Community Fibre FTTP Broadband Upgrade | ISP Review

From the horse’s mouth

BT Openreach (BT Regional Press Office)

Press Release

My Comments

A typical UK postcode would covers a small neighbourhood represented by a street or something similar but it would typically cover a rural hamlet or small village.

What has just happened lately is that Cotwaldon, a small hamlet in Staffordshire which is represented by one postcode, was to benefit from improved next-generation broadband Internet thanks to a public-private partnership involving that community. This hamlet was able to only benefit from a very slow broadband Internet connection due to it being an ADSL service provided using a long telephone line which I suspect could be decrepit due to it being poorly maintained.

But what has happened lately was for a community partnership to allow households and businesses in that location to benefit from fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband. This was facilitated in a public-private manner through the BT Openreach Community Fibre Partnerships which also worked alongside the Superfast Staffordshire next-generation broadband effort funded by the Staffordshire County Council and the UK Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme.

There will be similar activities taking place around some of rural UK as part of the BT Openreach Community Fibre Partnerships as part of “opening up” their FTTP effort to be launched next year. This is with their vision of publicly-funded local broadband-rollout efforts engaging with them to facilitate the rollout of next-generation real broadband Internet in to rural communities.

The BT Openreach press release highlighted some usage scenarios where this technology was relevant to Cotwaldon and its peer communities. One of these affected small business which effectively drives these rural communities – a builder who wanted to use the Internet to communicate with their customers and partners. But there were use cases that affected personal lifestyles such as downloading or streaming AV content reliably, or using online storage services as a data backup facility especially with high-resolution photos.

It is anther effort that brings real broadband to rural communities who are likely to be treated as second-class citizens by the telecommunications industry.

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A competitive market stirs up fibre broadband in Spain

Articles

Bullfight

Like a good bullfight, the market for next-generation fibre-optic broadband in Spain is very hot and competitive
image credit: Bullfight, Spain via free images (license)

Spain approves new wholesale fibre market regulation | Fibre Systems

Spain smashes UK in fiber rollouts | PPC Blog

FTTH drives Spanish broadband | Broadband TV News

My Comments

The Spanish government recently stirred up the bullfight that represents the next-generation fibre-optic broadband market there.

Here, the CNMC who are the Spanish telecoms regulators “let the bulls out” by requiring Telefonica, the incumbent ex-PTT telco, to provide wholesale access to their fibre-to-the-premises network. There are only 66 locations that won’t require this wholesale access because they have three or more companies offering infrastructure-level competition using their own FTTP or HFC DOCSIS 3.0 cable-modem infrastructure.

The wholesale connectivity was to be in the form of “virtual unbundled local access” for the fibre connectivity along with wholesale access to copper infrastructure. But there was also a requirement that Telefonica had to allow competing service providers access to the “pits, pipes and poles” so that competing infrastructure providers can lay their infrastructure across the sun-drenched land that is Spain.

There was an increased take up of fibre-optic broadband service with 3.1 million home and other networks across the country connected to this technology by end of 2015. Movistar, Telefonica’s retail ISP brand had taken up 71.3% of these connections. This is while Orange (France Télécom) and Vodafone are providing the two other major alternatives. But the bulls kept running at the furious pace with no slowdown in connections thanks to this competition.

What has been achieved by the CNMC is wholesale unbundled access to the copper and fibre last-mile / “to-the-door” infrastructure along with allowing competitors to use the “pits, poles and pipes” to lay their infrastructure. But for this to work, there needs to be continual market surveillance to assure a thriving and competitive market across the country by keeping tabs on company mergers and acquisitions in this field.

For Spain, a question that needs to be raised is whether the Balearic “pleasure islands” like Ibiza (Café Del Mar) and Majorca have access to this kind of competitive service for their broadband Internet needs?

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Congress attempts to restore competition to telephony and Internet in the USA

Article

Eshoo Pushes Bill to Prevent Protectionist State Broadband Laws | Broadband News & DSL Reports

My Comments

AT&T Touch-Tone phone - image courtesy of CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=936797

Is the US telecommunications industry heading back to the days of these phones?

An issue that I have been regularly covering is the reduction of competitive telephony and broadband service in the USA. This is thanks to incumbent “Baby Bell” telcos and cable-TV companies effectively paying state governments to pass legislation to proAhibit local governments from setting up their own broadband infrastructure to compete with these established providers.

The FCC had attempted to use its federal mandate to override these laws but these efforts were being struck down thanks to litigation instigated by these established companies. Again this was leading towards a telecommunications and Internet-service environment that is reminiscent of the “Ma Bell” era, with the price-gouging, poor customer service and onerous terms and conditions.

But Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the Silicon-Valley area in the House of Representatives, had submitted a bill to Congress in order to assure the provision of infrastructure-level competition by local governments and communities. Here, this law – the Community Broadband Act of 2016 (PDF) would prohibit state governments from passing the telco-funded legislation that proscribes this infrastructure.

There is some doubt about the proposed legislation becoming law thanks to the US Congress also being subjected to lobbying and graft from big-business interests including the telecommunications and cable-TV cartels. But most of the US’s consumer-advocacy groups are behind the law in order to defend a competitive telecommunications and Internet market.

One major quote that was called out was the fact that the current situation is placing rural communities at a disadvantage because the “Baby Bells” or cable-TV companies wouldn’t either roll out decent-standard broadband or people in those areas would be paying monopoly prices for poor service.

As I have said before, the telecommunications and Internet-service market in the USA would need to be under strong surveillance in the context of antitrust and competition issues. This would include control over company mergers and acquisitions; and even the issue of whether legal action similar to what was initiated in 1974 with “Ma Bell” needs to take place with Comcast, AT&T and co.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=936797

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Area-specific infrastructure rollouts could help improve broadband coverage

Elwood streetscape

A neighbourhood to be targeted by competitive Internet service

I have followed a fair bit of information about independent ISPs and infrastructure providers are providing or facilitating a high-quality broadband service in to areas where established providers aren’t caring about the standard of broadband Internet service.

Firstly, I have observed situations that have happened in the UK where small-time ISPs have rolled out next-generation infrastructure in to rural areas typically provisioned with old and decrepit telephony infrastructure so that they can benefit from real broadband service. Some of these providers like B4RN are community-owned co-operatives where the local community even put a hand to the plough and help with laying the infrastructure.

Even a broadband rollout in one of these buildings by a competitive operator could see another competitive rollout

Even a broadband rollout in one of these buildings by a competitive operator could see another competitive rollout

But in a lot of these situations, BT Openreach who is the incumbent infrastructure provider, have been forced to improve their game when it comes to rolling out the infrastructure in to rural areas.

Secondly, in urban and suburban areas, the situation may also require the existence of competitively-deployed infrastructure in order to assure proper coverage and access to next-generation broadband across these areas. This has happened in some Australian apartment blocks where TPG set up next-generation broadband in these buildings and this caused NBN to deploy their infrastructure in that building. The USA has also seen situations where the fact that a Google Fiber rollout was in the planning stage had “put the wind up” established “Baby Bell” telecommunications companies who then started rolling out next-generation broadband service in to the affected neighbourhoods.

This kind of competition can be approached in the form of “pits, poles and pipes” level where competitors legally have access to the same ductwork or poles or on a wires level where some of the fibre or copper wiring such as in-building wiring or street-to-building wiring can be used by competitors to provide their services.

The big question that will be raised from the success of these next-generation broadband rollouts where a competing service provider or infrastructure provider had established their footprint thus causing an incumbent service provider to roll out their infrastructure in to that area is whether this kind of rollout expedites the provisioning of this service or slows it down. This can be underscored where a small-time ISP, infrastructure provider, co-operative or developer undertakes this activity with a view to see full-area coverage with themselves wanting to reach out to neighbouring communities.

Some people would see this kind of competitive rollout as a form of “cherry-picking” where certain neighbourhoods are being provided with next-generation broadband while others aren’t even though entities based in that neighbourhood are instigating the coverage. On the other hand, the fact that a competing service is about to exist could be seen as a way to encourage the incumbent telco, ISP or infrastructure provider to get going and start rolling out broadband service in to the area covered by the competitor.

This behaviour may be seen when an operator starts work on a particular neighbourhood then rolls out the coverage to more of the surrounding neighbourhoods. They may also be tackling other neighbourhoods in a larger geographic area like a nation or a large urban area.

There is also the issue of whether a retail ISP could offer coverage across one or more competitively-laid infrastructures, which may be about assuring that they are accessible wherever a potential customer lives or works. Business users and potential data-centre builders may look at this in the context of implementing fail-safe Internet service to suit their needs.

Some issues that may be raised would include the number of people or businesses existing in an area to determine whether a competitive Internet service is sustainable and determining how much competition must exist in a particular area.

This situation has to be assessed whenever an area’s dynamics change. For example, an urban area becoming more dense may affect these dynamics as is a rural, regional or suburban area acquiring a significant source of employment or improved transport to a neighbouring urban area rich with employment or business opportunities.

In the latter situation, a significant employer or improved transport could attract more people living in the town and neighbouring towns along with more businesses and professionals servicing the town’s needs.

What really needs to be looked at is the possibility of area-specific rollouts as a way to increase the availability of real broadband in a town or other similar area. This is while a sustainable level of competition exists to assure households and businesses access to Internet service that represents real value for money.

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Another fibre-based broadband service competes with NBN

Article

Lot 3 Ripponlea café

It could be feasible for this café to benefit form high-throughput Wi-Fi

Ten times faster than NBN: DGtek brings gigabit fibre to Aussie suburbs | The Age Technology

From the horse’s mouth

DGTek

Product Page

My Comments

Lot3 Ripponlea Wi-FI

Could this mean high-throughput here?

It is taking a long time for most of the suburban areas in Australia’s capital cities to have NBN next-generation ultrafast broadband. But DGTek wouldn’t wait around for this to happen and are to provide their own fibre-to-the-premises broadband service in a similar manner to how Google Fiber are rolling out their own broadband service in some urban areas in the US.

Initially this service will cover Elwood and slowly roll out to some of Melbourne’s inner south-east bayside suburbs. This is because these areas have been placed on the back-burner as far as NBN are concerned. DGTek will also start covering Adelaide, Sydney and regional Victoria with Geelong as the first of the regional cities.

Elwood streetscape

This neighbourhood stands to benefit from competitive fibre-optic broadband

This FTTP service will be similar to how Google Fiber is deployed with use of GPON technology and the fibre cables being mounted on the power poles similar to how Optus rolled out their HFC-based pay-TV infrastructure in the 1990s. One of the main goals is that every premises in the coverage area will be able to benefit from this service rather than the pay-TV rollouts not be available to all streets or premises.

Even multiple-occupancy buildings like apartment blocks and shopping centres with less than 100 premises will be provided with full fibre-to-the-premises rather than the fibre-to-the-basement deal with copper wiring to each apartment, office or shop.

Apartment block in Elwood

Fibre-optic connectivity to each apartment

David Klizhov, who is DGTek’s founder, was involved in GPON fibre-optic rollouts in Russia and had come out 10 years ago to form this business. This has led him to be able to put this experience across in developing a competing “own-infrastructure” broadband setup using this technology. Rather than using space in Telstra’s telephone exchanges, DGTek will build their own exchange centres so they can make sure of the network’s quality in an “end-to-end” fashion. They also underscored that they can upgrade this network to XGPON technology (or other better technologies like switched fibre) without the need to deploy new fibre cable in the network.

At the time of publication, the projected connection fee is to range between AUD$275-AUD$500. The monthly cost for a baseline service with 250Gb allowance at 100Mbps symmetrical bandwidth for AUD$80 per month but there will also be a premium package with unlimited “all-you-can-eat” data at Gigabit symmetrical bandwidth for AUD$150 per month. These packages will be offered on a by-the-month “no-contract” basis. The prices and “value-for-money” aspects of this service can easily change when NBN or other competing infrastructure providers come on the scene in DGTek-covered areas.

This has come about because the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision have handed down a ruling that effectively opens up the next-generation broadband market to competition, something I have been standing for as a regular Internet user and as the editor of HomeNetworking01.info . This requires that high-speed landline broadband networks can no longer be monopolies, but are to offer wholesale Internet access to other retail ISPs. DGTek are want to offer this kind of wholesale service but they require the ISPs who buy this service to provide fair and auditable billing and  proper tech support as part of the customer-service requirements.

I did some further study in to the ACCC declaration and this placed the requirement on ISPs who are selling next-generation broadband Internet using their own fixed-line infrastructure. This was targeted with the view of having the Telstra-owned fixed-line infrastructure being subjected to NBN ownership and control in the same vein as Openreach in the UK. Here, they would have to resell access to this infrastructure on a wholesale basis while they offer a retail service. But it doesn’t place any sort of declaration on access to the “pits, poles, pipes and towers” associated with providing a communications service to allow for more infrastructure-level competition.

This includes:

  • whether a power utility can limit access to their street power poles to one ISP or telco;
  • whether Telstra or NBN are required to “open up” the urban telecoms pits or rural telephone poles to competing ISPs and telcos who are setting up their own infrastructure; or
  • whether an apartment building’s owners corporation or a building manager is required to “open up” the building’s communications room to competing service providers.

What I see of this is the possibility of European-standard competition for next-generation broadband Internet in Australia, at least in its urban areas. But to see this happen, there has to be strong government oversight regarding the next-generation broadband Internet market especially where this kind of service is provided to households and small businesses. Here, I wish DGTek and other similar ISPs luck with creating a vibrant competitive next-generation broadband market with affordable value-for-money services.

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Why is New Zealand pushing forward with fibre-optic broadband?

Article New Zealand map

New Zealand reaps fibre benefits as copper-choked UK risks digital exclusion | Computer Weekly

My Comments

What is the broadband Internet scenario in New Zealand

Like Australia, UK and a lot of European countries, New Zealand started off with Telecom NZ which a telecommunications monopoly that was initially run as part of a government-run post / telephone / telegraph service. In order to assure competition, Telecom NZ was split in to an infrastructure entity called Chorus and a retail services entity called Spark in 2011, something that is very similar to how Openreach in the UK and NBN in Australia are operating.

Chorus provide a DSL-based wholesale broadband Internet service with the infrastructure being provided on an unbundled local-loop basis. There is the ability for these services to be sold with a classic dial-tone telephony service or as a “naked” or “dry-loop” service that doesn’t have this service.

They provide a fibre-copper next-generation broadband service for 91% of New Zealand’s households with a throughput of at least 10Mbps – could most of these services implement VDSL2 technology? But they are also providing fibre-to-the-premises in some cities with some services benefit from Gigabit throughput in a few neighbourhoods.

Vodafone New Zealand are providing competitive Internet service in some of New Zealand’s urban areas namely Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch but this is based around cable-modem technology thanks to them taking over TelstraClear’s HFC cable service. But they want to make sure of a fibre backbone infrastructure throughout both of the islands. Citylink also provides their own infrastructure to Auckland and Wellighton central-business districts.

New Zealand’s main ISPs are Vodafone, Spark, CallPlus with Slingshot and Orcon, 2degrees, Trustpower and REANNZ.

Rural Broadband

New Zealand are approaching the rural broadband situation through use of fixed-wireless technology with Vodafone and Spark offering retail broadband to those markets. But Vodafone and Chorus are setting a goal of at least 5Mbps bandwidth to 86% of rural customers. This includes Chorus implementing fibre backbones to Vodafone’s mobile towers, and most of the schools, libraries and health providers in New Zealand’s rural districts. It also includes establishing more of the cabinets associated with FTTN fibre-copper service in to rural districts to “push out” the bandwidth coverage.

Chorus even started off a Gigatown competition where a town could be set up for Gigabit broadband as the norm in a similar manner to some of the “Gigacities” that are happening in the UK. The town that won the competition ended up being Dunedin.

Next-generation broadband effort

The New Zealand Government are behind the provisioning of fibre-to-the-premises in all of New Zealand’s main urban centres that have a population of at least 10000. This is being backed by Chorus and the local electricity utilities, with an initial goal of 75% but now 80% since 2015.

This has been achieved through having more of the FTTN (fibre-copper) areas converted towards FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) along with placing the FTTN cabinets nearer more of the rural population areas – it could be feasible to benefit from decent cost-effective broadband down at that bach you use as a “bolt-hole”.

Why push ahead with fibre broadband?

An article that I read called out why New Zealand is pushing ahead with fibre-to-the-premises rather than “sweating out” copper infrastructure for their broadband infrastructure. This in in comparison with what Openreach is doing in the UK and, to some extent, NBN in Australia where they are preferring to deploy fibre-copper technology seeing it as being cheaper to deploy than fibre-to-the-premises.

Here, it called out the situation in the UK compared to what is happening in New Zealand where the UK central government along with Openreach haven’t been supporting innovation when it comes to providing Internet service.  They highlighted the fact that the Kiwi government were willing to risk more money with a view to see a prosperous country with the benefit of an increased tax base thanks to increased Internet bandwidth and the fact that it could draw more business there. They also were seeing a network that was also cheaper when it came to operational costs such as being more energy-efficient. They also underscored that cellular-technology mobile networks can benefit thanks to many smaller base stations (microcells and picocells) connected by fibre-optic backbones rather than few large towers for the same coverage.

Conclusion

Governments on a national, regional and local level need to support deployment of next-generation technology that can do the job properly. It also includes supporting and protecting a competitive Internet-service marketplace at the infrastructure and retail levels in a manner that empowers value-for-money and service differentiation.

The benefits that these governments can achieve include a stronger financial benefit including a GDP uptick courtesy of the newer technology and businesses wanting to set up shop in that country; along with a future-proof technology approach that answers many realities.

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Australia looks towards integrating Internet as a universal service

Article

Broadband router lights

Could broadband be considered part of the Universal Service Obligation in Australia?

Making Internet Access A Right, Not A Privilege | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Productivity Commission

Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Inquiry Page)

My Comments

An issue that I have previously covered is the universal service obligation being extended to broadband Internet service. The universal service obligation is a minimum standard for providing telecommunications services across a country or other jurisdiction with it being funded through different paths like government funding and/or a levy on telecommunications services that are being provided with this funding subsidising financially-difficult service-provisioning scenarios such as rural areas. In some cases, it also includes having the jurisdiction’s welfare system cover the provision of these services to eligible disadvantaged people through a special benefit or subsidised services.

Some jurisdictions have started taking action towards this goal such as through establishing a minimum bandwidth for Internet services. Now Australia’s Productivity Commission are investigating the possibility of extending the Australian Universal Service Obligation beyond landline voice telephony to broadband Internet service of a minimum standard. This is due to a reality that most of the business that people engage in, especially the essential tasks like applying for jobs or government services, is being performed via Internet-based technologies rather than by voice phone calls.

The Productivity Commission’s goal is to make sure that a reasonable-standard broadband Internet service is accessible to all Australians. This includes assurance of access by people living in rural, regional or remote areas where it would normally be costly to provide proper broadband service; along with assuring access to these services by disabled people or those who have financial hardship.

They want to have a technology-neutral approach but with a minimum upload and download bandwidth. This also includes a minimum benchmark for assured reliability and data throughput. Like the original Universal Service Obligation, this extension to encompass broadband Internet service will be publicly funded in various ways.

A good question that can be raised is whether the Universal Service Obligation will cover fixed telephony and Internet services only or will be extended to mobile setups which can be considered by some as a “discretionary service”.

Personally, I would recommend that there is investigation regarding how other countries have approached Internet service as part of the Universal Service Obligation, including the kind of benefits that have been provided to disabled or disadvantaged users for this service by the nation’s welfare platform. As well, investigating the role of competition including at the infrastructure level in providing decent broadband Internet that is affordable and accessible for all.

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