Internet-service competition Archive

Orange offers a highly-capable Livebox next-generation triple-play package for 20 euros

Articles – French language / Langue Française

Orange : la Livebox fibre à moins de 20€ | Degroupnews.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Orange (France Télécom)

Product Page

My Comments

The competitive French market has underscored another first with Orange (France Télécom) offering a baseline next-generation broadband triple-play service for EUR€20 per month. This is available to people who have Orange FTTP fibre-optic connectivity in their street or building.

Here, the baseline service has a symmetrical bandwidth of 100Mb/s, which may be considered a rarity for baseline Internet services offered by most telcos or Internet service providers. There is also included 10Gb of online storage, with the option to buy on 1Tb of “personal-cloud” NAS storage using the DLNA-capable Livebox Play modem router.

The fixed-line telephone service, which is VoIP-based, has all landline calls anywhere in France and its “Départements Outre-Mer” territories and 110 other countries including the commonly-called destinations included in the package. With this service, you can even call any mobile user in the US or Canada for as long as you like without paying extra. But Algeria and Tunisia are provided as “option-on” countries as far as this package is concerned.

The TV service includes 160 channels with 40 of these available in HD, and users can have multiple TV sets supported as an option. This is alongside the ability to option-on PVR-style recording.

But Orange are offering this service as a turnkey install for new subscribers with the ability to have 24-hour access to their support lines.

The device that is considered the bub of this service is the Livebox Play which supports VDSL2 or Gigabit Ethernet on the WAN (Internet) side and 802.11a/b/g/n dual-band WPA2 WPS Wi-Fi and a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch on the LAN (home network) side.

The fixed-line telephony service is facilitated using a CAT-iQ base station for DECT or CAT-iQ compliant cordless handsets and a traditional analogue connection for regular telephones. You can also connect USB Mass-Storage devices to the Livebox Play in order to have their data on the home network.

What this package is highlighting is the benefit of sustainable competition on a market where there is an emphasis on value rather than a race to the bottom. It also includes the ability to target “sweet-spot” price points with service packages that have increased value and pitch these packages at users who see these price points as something they won’t go above. As well, the extant telco or ISP is forced to change its ways when it comes to providing a service like multi-play Internet service.

At the moment, the question to raise is whether France Télécom (Orange) will kill this deal after 16 November this year or simply let it roll on as the entry-level fibre-based triple-play package?

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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

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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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Raising the bar for triple-play Internet in France

Articles – French language / Langue Française Flag of France

SFR lancera une nouvelle box en septembre… pour contrer Free ? | O1net.com

SFR : une nouvelle box fibre pour septembre ? | ZDNet.fr

SFR annonce une nouvelle box ! | Ere Numérique

From the horse’s mouth

SFR

Product Page (French language / Langue Française)

My Comments

It looks like there will be a tight showdown between two of the French telcos when it comes to the multiple-play “n-box” services.

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

The Freebox Révolution to be replaced with better-performing equipment soon

Free.fr did a bit of initial murmuring this month (July) about the Freebox v7 that will be surfacing on the French market in September. This is a powerful unit that can handle 4K UHDTV and is intended to replace the Freebox Révolution which was known to set the standard for carrier-supplied routers and set-top boxes.

Now SFR have made mention about a triple-play “n-box” service with hardware that is said to be on a par with, if not better than, Free’s setup. Here, this will be about improved Wi-Fi technology of the 802.11ac order, a new design and, like the Freebox, support for 4K UHDTV. This is in conjunction with more sports content and VoD content being made available to their subscriber base on 4K UHDTV.

It will be released in September, concurrently to when Free will put their new Freebox on the market. SFR want to also allow their existing subscriber base to upgrade to this new service for EUR€49 with a 12 month contract.

In the UK, British Telecom had raised the bar for Wi-Fi performance offered by a carrier-supplied wireless modem router. Could this also mean that the French telcos could join in and offer highly-powerful carrier-supplied wireless modem routers for their services as a way to compete against each other.

What is now happening is that the calibre offered for carrier-supplied home-network equipment could be another way where telcos and ISPs in a highly-competitive market could compete against each other. This is in addition to what you could get for your landline or mobile telephony service, your pay-TV service’s channel lineup or your Internet bandwidth and included services for the monthly charge that you stump up.

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FCC has now identified existence of reduced broadband service competition in the US

Article

The FCC aims to restore competition in the business broadband market, may help slash costs | PC World

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, where competition didn’t exist?

The US-based broadband and IT press are identifying that the country is slowly creeping back to days of “Ma Bell” where there wasn’t any lively competition occurring in the telecommunications and Internet-service sector. They see the recent behaviour exhibited by AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and co as the undoing of the work by previous administrations to bring competition to this sector.

Examples of this include established “Baby Bell” telcos and cable-TV companies frustrating the provision of Internet service by private or public competitors such as Google Fiber or local governments. This is being facilitated through state governments passing model legislation to prohibit local governments from providing Internet service or communications-service infrastructure; or litigation taking place concerning the provision of infrastructure for competing communications services.

This is leading to situations where customers face poor customer service, price-gouging and onerous terms and conditions when they sign up for communications services like telephony, cable-TV or Internet service. But it isn’t only affecting households, rather the same situation also affects businesses who are after the essential communications services that “keep their axe sharp”.

For example, businesses are paying through the nose to set up any kind of leased-line or “middle-mile” telecommunications services that facilitate such things as ATMs or credit-card terminals. Even competitive wireless telecommunications providers are paying through the nose for the necessary backhaul from the mobile-antenna towers so their customers’ phones can work. Even if you just have an Internet service for your business like a DSL service, you will also end up paying dearly for this service to match your business’s needs and this can be a noose around your business’s neck especially if you are a small or medium-sized business.

One of the many consumer-activist groups, the Consumer Federation Of America, came forth with the results of a study on this topic. Here they identified that the incumbent carriers were overcharging businesses by US$71 billion for broadband services over last the 5 years.

The FCC are addressing this issue by focusing on how competitive the different communications and Internet-service markets really are and looking at ways to regulate to assure competition.

Here, according to FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC would identify markets that aren’t competitive and make sure established players don’t harm consumers and businesses or kill innovation. This would be approached by creating a tailored regulatory framework to address non-competitive markets with the barometer for a non-competitive market being with two or less independent operators providing telecommunications and Internet service.

I would look at issues like the ability for a company to lease access to infrastructure whether as full copper or fibre infrastructure; or as access to the “poles, pits, pipes and towers” that the infrastructure runs through. This can also include the ability for a European style of operation where there is a “wholesale-retail” method of selling communications services, allowing for different retail operators to sell the same wholesale bandwidth.

Other issues that Uncle Sam would need to examine include continual surveillance of the market on an antitrust basis such as potential mergers or buyouts to assure competition. This would include dealing with the political influence that established operators are waging with state legislatures and the judiciary to prevent the existence of competitive markets.

To the same extent, the issue of broadband deployment in to the USA’s underserved areas like poorer communities or rural areas still needs to be tackled so as to prevent carrier “redlining”.

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

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AT&T litigate against broadband-infrastructure-preparation by US local government

Article

AT&T sues Louisville to stop Google Fiber from using its utility poles | ARS Technica

AT&T sues Louisville over utility pole law adopted for Google Fiber | WDRB-TV (41) Louisville

WDRB TV news segment video – Click to view
WDRB 41 Louisville News

 

From the horse’s mouth

Google Fiber

Blog Post

My Comments

A situation that is surfacing in the USA is that AT&T are litigating the City Of Louisville, Kentucky because this local government are implementing a “one-touch make-ready” policy concerning their power infrastructure being made ready for the provision of competing Internet service.

What is “dig-once” or “one-touch make-ready”?

An issue that always surfaces with the “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure managed by utilities and telecommunications providers is being able to prepare this infrastructure at an early point including positioning the existing operator’s wiring and equipment in a manner that subsequent operators can use those pits, poles or pipes. The idea is to avoid the waiting time that an operator (and their potential customers) have to face along with the disturbance associated with long high-noise construction activity that is needed to prepare infrastructure for another operator’s use.

This policy is know as “dig once” for underground infrastructure or “one-touch make ready” for overhead infrastructure.

The USA situation

Most of the power-line infrastructure between the substations and the end-users in the USA is owned by a city’s or county’s local government or a utility company owned or managed by that local government. AT&T, Comcast and other established operators don’t like the idea of a local government facilitating competitive Internet and pay-TV service so they have had state governments write laws to frustrate the provision of Internet service by local governments such as municipal Wi-Fi hotzones.

The fact that a local government implements a “dig-once” or “one-touch make-ready” policy on the infrastructure it owns is considered a threat to the incumbent operator’s monopolistic behaviour because it is simply facilitating a competitor’s access to the pits, poles and pipes owned by the local government or its public utilities entity. AT&T reckons that what happens with “pits, poles and pipes” is under the control of the state government rather than a local government and that they see it as “seizing” their property if AT&T’s wiring is rearranged by a local government or other entities preparing poles for access by other operators.

Who can effectively provide and manage “pits, poles, pipes and towers” infrastructure?

What is surfacing is a courtroom debate about how a local government or utility company can manage their “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure in the context of facilitating the use of this infrastructure by other operators. Louisville’s local government, Google FIber and other organisations intent on seeing real competition in the USA’s fixed-broadband market are defending or providing moral support for the defence of this policy.

In some ways, this case could affect how access rights, leases and easements on private land for utilities and telecommunications services are granted; along with how independently-owned “pits, poles, pipes and towers” infrastructure is operated. This can range from a fire brigade providing space on its radio tower or a building owner leasing the top of their tall building to radio-based communications providers; a property owner providing a “once-and-for-all” easement for multiple local telecommunications providers to use; or an apartment block or similar development being wired up for one or more broadband services alongside the established telephony and cable providers.

Here, the question that could be raised is the amount of power established operators can have over the same physical infrastructure when it comes to admitting other operators and whether the infrastructure’s owners can set standards concerning the operators “wires’, antennas and equipment”.

This is a case that is of interest to anyone like public or private entities who are in a position to provide infrastructure along with service providers who want to provide competing telecommunications service.

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Huntsville integrates Google Fiber and a municipal fibre-optic network

Articles Welcome To Huntsville Gig City USA sign courtesy of City Of Huntsville, Alabama

Google Fiber is Coming to Huntsville, Alabama | DSL Reports

Google Fiber comes to Alabama through a city-run network | Engadget

Huntsville, Alabama, has NASA, US Missile Command … and now gigabit Google Fiber | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Google Fiber

Blog Post

Sign-up / Notification page

City Of Huntsville, Alabama (local government)

Press Release

My Comments

It is easy to doubt that next-generation fibre-optic broadband would show up in Alabama, one of the most conservative of the states in the USA. But Huntsville, a city with 180,000 people, has taken the challenge.

This is because Huntsville has been found to be the best educated metropolitan area in Alabama and has been known as “Rocket City” due to the US Missile Command and NASA setting up shop there, thus leading to an increase in the number of engineers in that city.

The local government in Huntsville have, with the co-operation of Huntsville Utilities are laying down fibre-optic infrastructure as part of establishing a 21st-century smart power grid in that city. But they facilitated Google setting up their Google Fiber next-generation FTTP broadband service by leasing the infrastructure to Google Fiber. Tommy Battle, the Mayor of Huntsville and Jay Stowe, the CEO of Huntsville Utilities has put his weight behind this effort. As well, the arrival of Google Fiber in Huntsville would strengthen that city’s credibility as a tech centre especially where a lot of research data is being exchanged.

If Google were to set up their Google Fiber next-generation broadband network, they either would have to create their own network, purchase an existing fibre-optic network like a “dark-fibre” network or lease bandwidth on an operational network. By leasing the network from Huntsville Utilities, they would be foregoing the control they have over the infrastructure but would be saving on the start-up time and capital expenditure for establishing or increasing their footprint.

Hut Huntsville could explore the feasibility of allowing multiple competing ISPs and telcos to operate on this same infrastructure to open the path for increased service-level competition in that city. This is similar to what is being undertaken in a lot of Europe and Oceania where multiple operators are able to rent space on the same infrastructure.

It also is a way to prove to other US cities and states that municipal-owned or state-owned infrastructure that competes with the established “Baby-Bell” telco or cable-TV company isn’t necessarily a waste of taxpayers’ money as Comcast and AT&T would like us to believe. Rather the government can, through a separate entity, lease the infrastructure to competing operators and milk money from this leasing effort.

As well, this can be a chance for the communications industry to investigate the possibility of European-style service competition where competing services rent space on the same infrastructure and infrastructure owners can compete with each other when it comes to offering service to ISPs or enterprises.

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New ISP players working against established players to provide competitive Internet service

Article

Gigaclear and Hyperoptic Highlight Problems with UK Broadband and BT | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

Aylesbury Vale countryside picture courtesy of Adam Bell (FlyingDodo)

Questions are now raised regarding independent operators providing real broadband to the countryside

The article I read in ISPReview has highlighted some problems that affect the existence of competitive next-generation broadband Internet service in the UK. These same problems can also affect other countries like those in the North American, South East Asian and Australasian areas to varying degrees.

It is based on interviews with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear, Dana Tobak from Hyperoptic and Scott Coats from the Wireless Infrastructure Group, all whom are running up against an incumbent telecommunications company who effectively owns the infrastructure in most of the country and is effectively given a fair bit of blessing from a national or regional government. This can be through state aid as part of a broadband-improvement scheme or through a legal “right of way” that proscribes competitors from operating in the area of concern. In the case of the UK, it is Openreach who is a BT spin-off that manages the telecommunications infrastructure in that country and they have been dominating the state-assisted “Broadband Delivery UK” projects that provide next-generation broadband to most of rural UK.

Apartment block

.. and apartment blocks in big cities

Issues that were raised were:

  • The dominance of a particular entity when it comes to delivering infrastructure for next-generation broadband in the UK
  • The costs associated with deploying new infrastructure
  • Business-hostile local-government property rates that affect the provision of service infrastructure by a private company, especially fibre-optic cable used for next-generation telecommunications
  • The difficulty of gaining access to the “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure that BT Openreach owns or has exclusive access to; and
  • Whether BT and Openreach be fully and legally separated such as to make Openreach an entity controlled by the national government or local governments; or have it as a separate company.

Gigaclear are providing a 5Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service in to rural areas and commmuter towns in East Anglia and some of the Home Counties while Hyperoptic are providing a 1Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service to large multi-dwelling units in most of the UK’s main cities.

Gigaclear has effectively invested GBP£1000 / property and has found that the operating costs for pure-fibre setups are less than the costs for fibre-copper because there is no need to run electricity down the line and it is a modern robust technology. But they have paid many times the projected cost for some deployments like in Kent due to shodddy workmanship.

Matthew Hare from Gigaclear was highlighting BT swallowing up most of the BDUK contracts but he has picked up a few smaller Phase 2 contracts like projects in Gloucestershire, Essex and Berkshire. He had noticed a few of the local authorities being helpful about these rollouts like in Kent where Kent county council de-scoped (provided exclusive access) for Gigaclear projects compared to Rutlant where the Rutland county council and BT overbuilt Gigaclear with FTTC service.

This comes to the big question about whether an overbuild by one or more competing operators permit real infrastructure-level service competition. Some countries, most notably France have found that an overbuild by a competing infrastructure provider can achieve this level of competition.

Dana Tobak from Hyperoptic highlighted that fibre-copper technology like fibre-to-the-cabinet is a short-lived asset. She also highlighted the issue of access to the “pits, poles and pipes” owned by Openreach being a burdensome process for competing operators. This ranged from costs to onerous procedures and restrictions sucn as not being able to provide business broadband services.

There was also the issue of business-level property rates and taxes levied on the infrastructure where the workflow associated with these costs was onerous thanks to the Valuations Office Agency. This made it difficult for an operator to factor in the property rates due on the infrastructure when they are costing a rollout. To the same extent, the property taxes levied by a local government could be seen as a bargaining chip especially where the local government is behind the rollout in order to see effective increase in their local land value and tax base.

The question associated with an independent Openreach managing the infrastructure was whether this would breed real service competition. An issue that was highlighted was that Openreach could focus on the premium pure-fibre-based service and make life hard for small-time operators like regional-focused operators or startups who want ot serve the British market. But Matthew Hare reckons that it is better for the UK, especially rural areas to see Openreach as an independent operator.

Here, ISPReview have raised the issue of competitive next-generation broadband provision with independent “own-infrastructure” operators and covered some of the main hurdles facing these operators. This includes proper management of costs including infrastructure-based property taxes and rates; the creation of sustainable competition including build-over rights; incumbent operators’ behaviour including preferential treatment by governments; and access to the same  “pits, pipes and poles” by competing operators.

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