Net Non-Neutrality

Update: If you’d like to comment on the new FCC proposed policy, the comment period is open.

I Loves Me Some Netflix. But Come ON!

When Netflix signed a deal with Comcast to pay them extra for faster, more consistent content delivery it was understandable from a business point of view. But it was clear that it violated the principle of network neutrality and that consumers were going to pay for it one way or another.Netflix

Sure enough, Netflix just announced it is going to raise rates for new customers, and while existing customers won’t see their rates change for now, as Netflix strikes the same bargains with other service providers it’s bound to happen that all our rates will go up.

FCC: Throwing in the Towel

And guess what, now that the Appeals Court ruled the FCC doesn’t have the authority to enforce Network Neutrality, the FCC has simply decided aw what the heck. Let’s just say we can have multi-tiered service after all.

I think the writing is on the wall. Cable providers are going to continue lose subscribers because of their high cost and bundled packages. People are going to use Netflix, Amazon Prime (which just signed a deal with HBO to stream older content), and Hulu through a Roku or Apple TV device, paying small fees to multiple services in lieu of high fees to a single source.

At least that’s where I’m headed. But then I fear the cable companies will start jacking up Internet service rates. So, we people at the bottom of the food chain will get bit in the ass one way or another.


Local Broadband News Summary

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, let alone something about local broadband news. What can I say, I’ve been busy! Most stuff goes on Twitter these days because it’s fast. But there’s been plenty of broadband news and discussion lately, so I thought I’d gather some of that stuff together here. I’m sure I’ve missed things. Feel free to add to the information in the comments.

The Humboldt County General Plan Update continues it’s long and torturous process toward completion. The Planning Commissions will (I hope), be addressing a the new Telecommunications Element (soon to be changed to the Communications Element?)  at next week’s meeting on the 29th. The proposed document is worth a review if you have any interest in how the County might frame communications policies for the next 20 years. Folks from the Redwood Technology Consortium, Access Humboldt and the California Center for Rural Policy have been reviewing the document and are submitting written and oral comment. Access Humboldt has posted the most recent meeting where people gave oral support for the new element. Comments relative to the Communications Element begin around 1 hour and 11 minutes in to the video.

The highly hyped Highway 299 fiber build proposed by Broadband Associates a year or so ago has gone nowhere. As a result the grant from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) that was supposed to help fund the project has been withdrawn, making the money available for other projects. According to Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace (see the video from RTC’s June 10th luncheon), there are players ready to take up the project and that the 299 corridor fiber build has a lot of support at the state level.

In the meantime a proposal from Redwood Telephone, a company formed through a coalition of local tribes has been tentatively approved pending a comment period and a final decision scheduled for August 12. This is an interesting proposal and it’s well worth looking at as it seems to have the ambition of providing broadband to much of the region, including unserved and underserved areas and even regions already covered by the incumbent ISPs such as AT&T and Suddenlink. It’s not clear to me how this will work. Would appreciate some input in the comments.

Meanwhile the proposed middle mile fiber build along Highway 36 by IP Networks appears to be moving forward at least as far as planning, rights of way, contractual agreements and funding (some of which is also coming from CASF). According to a newsletter put out by the Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission (RREDC), “The fiber optic project is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2011.” Apparently 101 Netlink is involved in providing some local wireless service feeds off this fiber line along that sparsely populated corridor. That’s a good thing. But it’s unclear if this fiber line will provide any blanket redundancy for our region.

We’re still waiting to hear if our regional proposal to Google’s Community Fiber program will go anywhere.

Finally, I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that Charter Communications that services Del Norte County and parts of Southern Oregon with cable and Internet is in talks with Suddenlink to purchase their Humboldt County system. If it does, the story goes, Charter would build another fiber line running north-south along 101 to connect it’s fiber in the north to AT&T’s line here.

I have no idea how any of these plans and projects will play out and whether any of them will lead to more stable service, higher speeds, more coverage, or lower cost for consumers. But one can hope.

Broadband Stimulus Funds Round 2

The Federal government is continuing to announce awards from the USDA (just one in California and it’s not for our region) and the Dept. of Commerce (nothing for California) for the first round of broadband stimulus funds.

Now the second round of the application process is gearing up. They will be holding workshops around the country and providing live Webinars (one from Portland is going on this morning).

Fast Internet for All Slows to Crawl

Yesterday was declared the birthday of the Internet. It’s  been an amazing 40 years. And the next 40 years will be even more amazing as the developments are accelerating. But one of the roadblocks to this future online world is our inadequate infrastructure – the too thin, too fragile tubes that are supposed to carry the rising flood of data.

The 7 billion or so dollars the Federal government is supposed to pass out for broadband infrastructure improvements, particularly for rural and underserved areas holds a lot of promise. But the distribution of those funds for real projects is hellishly slow and fraught with confusion.

For example, the first announced stimulus money is going to several states to undertake studies to map where broadband is deployed and where it isn’t. More studies? Don’t we already know where better broadband service is needed?fiber_optic

Now we learn that the current round of proposals that were supposed to be announced in early November won’t be announced until December. Given the number of questions raised by Congress there may be further delays while those questions and issues get sorted out. What constitutes “remote” for example:

Rockefeller echoed concerns expressed in the House about the definition of remote, which is currently defined as at least 50 miles from an urban area.

Adelstein said there is a growing consensus that the 50 miles might have been the wrong figure, and that there were other ways to define remote, like population density or income.

Rockefeller pushed the issue, asking whether that change would be made. “There is really no excuse for us not doing that,” he said. Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) also has problems with the current definition. He asked for more specficis.

Adelstein said everything is on the table in what will be a top-to-bottom review of how to better define remote, but at the same time not make the definition too complicated. “We’ll help you,” said Kerry.

Pretty crucial.

In the meantime, locally,  several proposals have been submitted and are waiting to learn if they will receive funding. Apparently, there is a short list but I have not found any information on which projects, if any, are on that list. Among the original proposals is one by Broadband Associates to build fiber along 299 with local access points along the way.

A competing proposal by IP Networks along Highway 36 that would not be providing local access. The latter project has a application before the California Public Utilities Commission’s California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). (Download the PDF for this grant application) Several local entities including the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro have sent letters of support to CASF for this project.

But others in the region are concerned that if the IP Networks project is funded either by California or the Federal Government, it will preclude funding for any other projects such as Broadband Associate’s 299 fiber build. This confusion and lack of unity as to what’s best for the region suggests a need for creating a region-wide telecommunications committee that would be able to address the region as a whole and provide planning and guidance in a coordinated way. There has been some discussion over creating such an entity, but nothing formal has emerged. It would be a shame if we started working at cross purposes instead of making wise choices that benefit the most people now and in to the future.