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Last year when I was visiting India, I meet with some of the officials of Indian version of FCC, TRAI. They pointed to the FCC definition of broadband as the one they were going to adopt for India as well. I argued with them, passionately trying […]

Last year when I was visiting India, I meet with some of the officials of Indian version of FCC, TRAI. They pointed to the FCC definition of broadband as the one they were going to adopt for India as well. I argued with them, passionately trying to explain that it was an ass-backward legacy defined definition of broadband, and India needs to be braver than that, and instead take its cue from South Korea. Their argument was baby steps. Perhaps which explains why they are stuck in the morass of 256 kbps passing as broadband. In fact, I have often said that 256 kbps is nothing more than mid-band, and true broadband doesn’t make its impact felt below 6 megabits per second… at the very least. Here is my op-ed from CBS Marketwatch …. Broadband? What Broadband?

> fatter pipes and faster connections can help Bells reverse that trend and in fact increase their revenues in the process. Phone companies across the world have caught on to this and are busy upgrading their networks to capture the “triple play” customers.

Ironically, this 200 kbps definition of broadband is becoming a noose around our necks. Bruce Kushnick, the founder of Teletruth in an report points out that 13 years ago, the definition of broadband was 45 megabits per second, but then FCC changed it. To 200 kbps. He thinks precisely for those reasons FCC might be inflating the broadband penetration rate data. [Good time to insert your won Enron joke.]

> According to TeleTruth, the U.S. is actually 16th in the world in terms of broadband connectivity. “We’re asking the FCC to use the Telecom Act’s broadband definition — any service capable of delivering HDTV quality video services in two directions … High-speed and advanced should not be included in this definition. Unfortunately, the data presented using words like ‘high-speed’ and ‘advanced services’ do not match the Telecom Act’s definition of broadband — being able to handle high-quality video,” writes Kushnick.

I don’t think the numbers from FCC are inflated since they sync-up with the data provided by phone and cable providers, who face a lot harsher scrutiny that FCC which is a private fiefdom and a political playground for whosoever is in power.

  1. Three comments:
    1. I work for an ISP, and more than 50% of our ‘broadband’ subscribers use 128/128 kbps over DSL or cable modem for $21.95 per month. We want them to use higher speeds, but they’re not willing to pay more. For them it’s fast enough.
    2. While for some broadband may mean high speed access, enough to watch full-screen video, for others it’s the always on connectivity. — it doesn’t require a second telephone line, doesn’t require a dial-up delay, or keep the telephone line busy.
    3. I’ve encouraged our state PUC to record the 128 kbps as broadband because they’re making the state look bad. We offer multi-megabit speeds for reasonable rates, but because we offer a very affordable price our customers take it. Try getting 128/128 from a national MSO. Forget it, as they will all require $40+ per month for 4-6 Mbps.
    I’ve also asked the state PUC to request statistics from each provider at the different rates, and to obtain from the ILECs and MSOs the actual number of homes passed in each ZIP code, as oppposed to their current practice that records if broadband is offered to at least one residence in that ZIP code.

    Frank

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  2. Jesse Kopelman Tuesday, August 2, 2005

    I am a proponent of the porn test. One of the things that dissatisfied me about my old 768 kbps DSL service is that it wasn’t good enough for cleanly streaming high quality porn. Now, I suspose you could substitute some other type of video for porn, but really it is sex that drives inovation so why front.

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  3. i am with you on that. nothing like hi-def, full screen, porn to test the speed of your broadband connection. 6 megabits at the very least

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  4. Frank, that is the problem with all the ISP/teleco/cable cos. 4-6 Mbs for $40+/month if not more? KT Telecom (Korea) offer $100 Mbs for about that much and don’t get me started about population density. If that were the only problem why doesn’t NY, SF, LA have 100 Mbs service yet?

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  5. I’ve asked this question in dozens of different forms, on different forums, but why not one more.
    I work for a fixed wireless isp and sit very much in the same position as Frank. Its very difficult to convince people they need more bandwidth when theres nothing they can’t do. So I’ll ask one more time, what’s the killer app? Maybe if I had something to present to them to prove the difference between our 128k and your 6Mb then it would be much eaiser to sell them, and we could afford to buy the backhaul to bump them up to “real” broadband speeds. (Difficulty: No Porn, and no more “They need it, so lets get the government to pay for it and just give it to them”)

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  6. Om,

    I would gladly accept 200 kbps as broadband if it were indeed 200 kbps. what you actually get is far slower, even slower than a dial-up during peak hours. i have tested my 256 kbps connection on independent speed test sites and have got horrendous results, as low as 42 kbps. so much for broadband in india! and remember I am sitting right in the heart of bangalore, literally stone’s throw from m.g. road, if you know bangalore.

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  7. In Korea fiber is delivered to the high-rise apartment type complexes which koreans prefer to live in. LA would require significant cost in the last mile. Even NY is not like Korea. NY high-rise community isn’t as big as that of Seoul Korea. Having said that I don’t think cost overrun is so high that it can’t be done in US.
    I think government is partly to blame, they are involved too much. They should let it a dog eat dog world of telecom.. I would love to raise my own 50 feet pole and serve up my community. It can be done pretty cheap now a days.. Try doing that… Municipality that is frustrated are putting up their own wireless system. What do they get for that? lawsuit and telecom backed bills to block their meager effort to serve their community… I think Philadelphia model is pretty good. I just think they shoud upgrade to wimax soon from wifi plan. all in all i think the problem is with government not with technology or lack of interest of the people. I think our Utility overall is lacking..too tied up. we need strong political leader that remove ties that bind innovation and spread of technology. we are already behind and that worries me..

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  8. Fiber or no fiber, when WiMax gets here there is going to be another excuse.

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  9. iirc 200 kb/s was ITU’s low-end cutoff for what constituted ‘3G’ in the IMT2000 spec. Good luck trying to get Verizon and Sprint to admit that even EV-DO is not “broadband”.

    It wasn’t that long ago that I was convinced that anything more than 2400 baud was a waste of bandwidth because I couldn’t type any faster than that. Consumer expectations of data networks in the US are enabled by a couple of cultural idiosyncracies: the profligate deployment of dark fiber by US telecoms in the late ’90s, and the preexistence of cable television networks in practically all American towns. A third unique condition in the US market is the legacy of AT&T universal service; practically all dwellings, urban and rural, in the US have been provisioned for POTS service for decades.

    A society in which these preconditions are not met is going to have difficulty climbing the bandwidth-to-home curve at the rate the US has. It’s futile and kind of silly to insist that “broadband” can only mean a pipe so fat that practically no one can afford it.

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  10. Very interesting read. Lovin’ the Tori Amos reference.

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