The FCC said today that it will open up a public comment period seeking information on the issue of high prices and a lack of availability for middle mile and backhaul access for wired and wireless broadband providers. While the average consumer may not care about […]

600px-US-FCC-Seal.svgThe FCC said today that it will open up a public comment period seeking information on the issue of high prices and a lack of availability for middle mile and backhaul access for wired and wireless broadband providers. While the average consumer may not care about so called “special access issues,” proponents of reform argue that a lack of competition prevents ISPs from delivering robust services and raises costs for end consumers.

So your ISP may charge you more, or force you to do less on your connection because it can’t afford to connect its network to the Internet backbone. This an especially big problem for rural ISPs and for wireless network operators. The notice asks about pricing of middle mile and backhaul access (see chart below), technologies used, availability, how availability affects pricing, what impact such pricing has on the network and service, how certain types of contracts may hinder competition and a bunch of other tough questions to which I can’t wait to get answers. I’m going to have to, however. Folks have until Nov. 4th to file their comments.


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  1. ISPs, be they small medium or large, cannot cry about costs yet at the same time get injunctions to stop local municipalities from offers internet access – total hypocrisy.

  2. Why not? The government has a virtually infinite source of funds: your taxes. If the costs for a more efficient private provider are too high, then taxpayers will really pay through the nose.

    Oh, and it is often these same municipalities that won’t let the private providers erect wireless towers — either at all or without incredibly high fees and long delays. So, in many cases the municipalities are themselves to blame for the high costs.

  3. I’m also very interested in hearing what the comments are from this. I’d also like to see a post from Stacey that explains how the the middle mile works in layman’s terms rather than the techno-babble you get if you Google it. What does it take to get a node on the backbone like the Universities, Gov., and big ISP’s have? Would it be possible to do for smaller communities?

  4. What’s extremely disappointing here is that there is already an extensive record at the FCC with regard to “special access,” but it is going back to the drawing board and issuing a Notice of Inquiry instead of a Notice of Proposed Rule Making. At the same time, it is preparing announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making on “network neutrality” regulation, when no data gathering has been done on that issue.

    The FCC should announce a Notice of Inquiry on the need (or not) for “network neutrality” regulation, and a Notice of Proposed Rule Making on “special access.” Instead, it seems to be doing just the reverse.

    The results could be devastating. The “network neutrality” regulations could mandate that small, competitive, and rural ISPs obtain more bandwidth before the “special access” proceeding makes sure that the bandwidth is available at a reasonable cost. This could be the “perfect storm” that will kill competitive providers.

  5. Jerry Fleckhiemer Friday, October 9, 2009

    Middle mile is the greatest liability in providing a high-speed and robust internet connection. These are usually connected with a redundant bi-directional link into the real fiber internet. Most institution deemed “informational” or worthy is provided the priviledge of being a node. These two labels are governed by money, so if you got enough money you can buy the equipment and solicit the powers that be to be a node. I wouldn’t necessarily classify Google as node. Content providers are customers.

    1. Actually, Google has quite an extensive fiber backbone– larger than those of all but the biggest ISPs.

      1. True Google does have an extensive backbone but it does not provide transport for data or offer internet access. Note the diagram above… Google is a meer customer of a service provider(s). Because they have a fiber backbone doesn’t constitute their preception as a node. Comparitively speaking, you may have dial up and I could have a 10 Mb DSL connection, this is not a question of access, but what you can afford. Hence their defense, ISPs can’t treat my traffic any differently than ma and pa in Idaho. I pay more because I bought more. In short, it is not what you can afford but your place in the diagram.

  6. Jerry Fleckhiemer Friday, October 9, 2009

    The NOI for net neutrality was a part of the broadband NOI, so It is in line with normal practice. Also, the net neutrality ruling against Comcast by the Martin commission could serve as precedent for a NPR instead of a NOI. I think the NOI for special access is to allow the participant to voice a change in position for the initial ruling “decacades” ago. I say let the FCC inquiry if they are interested, it is a lot better than what we had before in the shot from the hip commission of Martin’s.

    1. There was no NOI for “network neutrality” as part of Broadband Plan proceeding. What’s more, in the Comcast proceeding, the Commission did no independent fact-finding. Witnesses did not testify under oath, and there was no opportunity for cross-examination or rebuttal. (Many of them did, in fact, lie during the proceeding.) The Martin Commission drove toward the conclusion it wanted to reach and the action it wanted to perform — censuring Comcast — without actually knowing the facts (“shooting from the hip,” as you say above). The Commission has no idea what rules (if any) are necessary or how to frame them. An NOI is necessary before there can be an NPRM. An NOI would also allow time for the courts to rule on jurisdictional issues (Comcast is now challenging the FCC’s jurisdiction) and for the results of the ARRA broadband mapping projects to come in, revealing the actual state of retail competition.

      “Special access” is a far more urgent matter, and there is a good record.

  7. Waitaminnit. If the mile closest to the customer is the “last” mile, and the next one is the “second” mile, then there must be only three miles, with the “middle” mile being the “first” mile. Huh?

    The diagram above only makes sense if the mile closest to the customer is relabeled as the “first” mile.

  8. It Must Be Christmas! AT&T, Verizon Dismiss Their Lawsuits – GigaOM Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    [...] their lawyers for a barrage of lawsuits after the FCC finishes with its net neutrality rules, special access regulations or any number of other topics the agency is investigating. : AT&T, T, Verizon, VZ 0 0 0 [...]

  9. Mobile Industry Dances Toward Consolidation – GigaOM Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    [...] In the meantime, there’s pressure from prepaid carriers attacking from below and high fees paid to other telecommunications players for Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s mobile backhaul that’s cutting into profits and [...]

  10. National Broadband Plan Will Be a Day Early But Fall Short – GigaOM Sunday, March 7, 2010

    [...] the meantime, it’s unclear if the plan will tackle special access issues whereby ISPs in rural areas pay far more than ISPs in urban areas because the number of providers [...]

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