Tag: universal service announcement

The Universal Service Fund now extends its remit to the USA’s rural broadband needs


FCC’s ‘Connect America Fund’ redirects phone fees to provide rural broadband – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Press Release – PDF

Executive Summary of FCC order – PDF

Connecting America page

My Comments

The FCC have taken further steps to bring the reality of proper broadband service to rural areas closer to America.

Here, they have passed an Order to reform the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation schemes in order to cut out wast and extend the scope of this universal-service-obligation mechanism to broadband data and cellular wireless service. This scheme has also been renamed the “Connect America Fund” due to this new remit.

They see it as a job-creating economy stimulus because of the concept of extending real broadband Internet to the rural areas. This could be true due to the ability for larger employers who value broadband like research-driven industries to set up shop in small towns where the land is cheaper. Other established small businesses like Main-Street shops or “Motel-6”-style motels are in a position to benefit in many ways.

This fund also has established a “Mobility Fund” which helps cellular-telephony / wireless-broadband carriers to extend their wireless footprint into the rural areas, including the Tribal areas.

The FCC have placed requirements for proper accountability regarding service provision. Here, it must be proven that the carriers are actually deploying the broadband services to the rural areas in question and that the services are real modern networks.

But there is a gap concerning the definition of the broadband services in this press release. Here, there isn’t a determined headline speed for the data services and the FCC haven’t qualified the point of measurement for a rural broadband service. This can lead to installation of DSLAMs in an exchange yet link these modems to the customers via decrepit telephone infrastructure. As I have observed, this environment leads to reduced DSL service reliability and bandwidth.

There is also another gap concerning the improvement of broadband coverage in peri-urban areas which were standalone rural towns. As I have said before, these areas may be servicing a farming industry or an area of outstanding beauty but they could be working with decrepit communications infrastructure. These areas should be worked on when it comes to building out telecommunications coverage.

They have also modernised the intercarrier compensation funding regime to encompass VoIP services. This is especially as more American households and businesses head towards VoIP telephony setups, whether to reduce call costs or take advantage of features in these setups.

From this, I have seen some positive steps to cover the rural parts of the US with real broadband and I hope that the FCC doesn’t become a toothless tiger in this respect.

Finland – the first country to actually have a universal broadband Internet service obligation in place

News Articles

Internet for all, declares Finland | The Age Technology (Australia)

Finland the first country in the world to make broadband access a legal right | Engadget

Is Broadband a Basic Right? Finland Says Yes! | GigaOM

My comments

Previously, I had written a post on this blog about Finland proposing to establish universal access to broadband Internet with a minimum speed of 1Mbps as a basic right. This was in response to the usual blogosphere comments about a legal right to download BitTorrents of movies and similar content in that country when this news was initially broken, and I was stating it as a preparation ground for IP-based video services, VoIP telephony and the ability to use the Internet to do business competitively.

Now this goal has become real with the Finnish government with them establishing certain Internet providers as “universal service providers” who have to provide the service for 30-40€ / month. Another issue that hasn’t been raised in the press coverage is how Finland will finance this universal-service obligation.

This is whether through:

  • spending by the government out of the country’s annual budget
  • a levy on telecommunications or Internet services (current practice in the US for the universal telephone service)
  • annexing the TV-licence or similar audiovisual-service fee used to fund the public broadcast service (UK’s proposed solution) or
  • simply letting the universal-service providers charge more for discretionary services (current practice in Australia with Telstra).

One of the articles was also looking at idea of the US adopting a similar “bill-of-rights” method for protecting the standard of Internet service in that country. This is even though there is a lawsuit filed by Comcast against the FCC that is currently in progress concerning Net neutrality and the right if the state to have their hand in the provision of Internet service.

What I see of this is that Finland has led the pack by being the first country to write in their law books that broadband Internet be provided as a universal service in a similar manner to mains electricity or the telephone service. It will be interesting to see who will be the next country to take tbis step seriously.

What could be the definition of the European universal broadband Internet service?

 thinkbroadband :: European USO could interrupt government plans

My comments and summary

The European Commission are looking in to the idea of a standard for baseline broadband Internet service across the European Union. This is based on certain factors where the UK’s fixed broadband coverage is 99% whereas the average across the European Union is 93% with the EU’s rural areas clocking in at 77%. In my opinion, these figures don’t quote a minimum service speed “at the door” for any of the ADSL services.

The issues they were raising include:

  • competitive service provision to European-Union standards, especially in rural areas
  • access to the Internet service by disadvantaged groups such as disabled people, people on low means and people who are in remote areas
  • Minimum service speed
  • How should the universal service be funded
  • Should the standard be determined by the European-Union nations themselves or by the European Commission in Brussels

Competitive Service Provision

I had used the DegroupNews website to observe how ADSL Internet service was being provided through France, and that there were many service providers in the population-dense areas whereas the population-sparse areas were serviced by one operator. A very good example of this was the département of Alpes-Maritimes (16) which has the cities of Nice and Cannes. Here, all the exchanges covering areas near the seaboard had many operators, with those big resort cities had many operators whereas the towns in the Alps had just one operator.

If you don’t have the same level of competitive service in a geographic area as you do in another geographic area, there is an increased likelihood of the dominant operator providing poor service quality or taking time to roll out service and technology improvements to that area.

Disadvantaged groups

A common issue that may be raised would be provision of broadband service to disadvantaged groups like the disabled, people on low incomes and people who live in remote areas. The cost of providing computer-usage-aids to disabled people is reducing because of various imperatives like the ageing population, civil-rights measures that include disability access, increased use of standard hardware / software interfaces and easy-to-implement software modifications. This group of users, along with the elderly, may also benefit from having broadband service included in to communications-access welfare measures like telephony-service benefits that are part of pensions and benefits.

This heading also includes economically-disadvantaged groups such as the unemployed or those on low income. It should also include provisions to prohibit service providers from “redlining” service out of economically-disadvantaged areas in a similar pattern to what happened in major cities in the USA through the 40s to the 60s. As well, there may be issues raised about minimum bandwidth to be made available for “social” or “low-cost” private services as well as the provision of public-access facilities in the form of “cybercafé-style” terminals and/or Wi-Fi hotspots; and cost-effective broadband service for community organisations.

It also includes providing broadband Internet service to remote communities, whether through a wireless technology like WiMAX; extending wired technology to these communities or a mixture of both methods. This will also encompass the issue of providing any extra consumer-premises hardware that is needed to receive broadband under these conditions. 

The standard network speed

An issue that is also being raised is what should be the defined headline speed for the universal service. Some countries may run on either 512kbps or 1Mbps for the standard speed but the UK is preferring to call 2Mbps as the standard for universal broadband service. As well, the European Commission are showing a preference for a 2Mbps service as the baseline standard.

Funding of the universal broadband service

The question of funding the costs of meeting universal broadband service targets is a similar one to how the cost of providing universal telephone service was met. Here, there isn’t an established broadband Internet service provider in the same way that there was an established telephone service provider. This is although in most European countries, the established telephone service provider such as the “PTTs” or the telephone spinoffs such as British Telecom or France Télécom ran a basic online service in the form of a “viewdata” service and had established their own retail ISP services.

One method that may be considered easy would be for the established ISP to bear the costs themselves and end up charging steep prices for discretionary services like what has happened with the established telephone services. On the other hand, there could be a universal-service fund similar to what is established in the USA for the provision of the universal telephone service. This could be funded by all Internet providers through a levy charged to all customers’ services which the UK was proposing or a turnover-based tax, or simply the national government or European Commission to offset this through line-item spending.

A similar argument that may be raised is whether the nations should fund the universal service themselves or rely on the powers-that-be in Brussels to manage the funding.

Should the standard be determined at national level or European-Union level

This issue is being raised because some countries in the European Union, most notably the UK, France and Germany have made headlong progress in achieving the goal of the universal broadband Internet service. Some countries, such as the UK, have also achieved highly-ambitious standards like 2Mbps as the baseline speed.

The national vs European-level determination may affect whether countries are able to compete more easily in the European single market and whether an advanced country should be “pegged down” by lower baseline standards that may be determined to accommodate countries with not-so-advanced Internet infrastructure or expectations.


Other countries and country groups that are outside the remit of the European Union should observe what is being decided in Brussels for the universal broadband Internet service so they can know what is expected for such a basic level of service and what factors should be looked at when determining this expectation.

thinkbroadband :: Northern Ireland to provide 2-10Mbps Universal Service by mid-2011

thinkbroadband :: Northern Ireland to provide 2-10Mbps Universal Service by mid-2011

My comments on this topic

The steps that the Northern Ireland government are taking to meet the UK’s goals of achieving a baseline broadband standard of 2Mbps for rural areas and 10Mbps for urban areas by 2011 are at least a positive step in the right direction for affordable fast Internet for all. Yet there are certain questions that need to be answered regarding any of these ambitious service-improvement projects/

One issue that always perplexes me is whether rural end-users get at least 2Mbps at the door or is the throughput measured arbitrarily up the wire. This also includes the issue of phone-line quality in these rural areas because, as I have seen many times in these areas, the quality of broadband service, let alone dial-up modem service or even voice telephony isn’t consistent because of the older infrastructure that commonly exists in these areas. Some larger rural properties may have the main house set back from the point of entry for the telephone cable and it may be too easy to measure the ADSL throughput at that point, rather than at a phone point in the main house.

Another question is what qualifies as an urban area for applying the 10Mbps standard for minimum bandwidth. This can encompass situations such as the peripheral neighbourhoods of a large town or whenever more people move in to a smaller town that would have been deemed “rural” and this town grows significantly.

In the urban context, this standard needs to be “set in stone” in order to prevent “redlining-out” of neighbourhoods that are considered to be “poor” from the broadband service area.

At least this is in the right direction to helping Northern Ireland achieve the standard of broadband called for in the UK mainland.