Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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Satellite Internet Access, the Future of Cable, and Small Fiber ISPs – Episode 1 of Connect This!
This week Christopher brings together Doug Dawson (Owner and President, CCG Consulting), Monica Webb (Head of Marketing Development and Strategic Partnerships, Ting) and returning guest Travis Carter (CEO, US Internet).
The group first discusses Low-Earth Orbit satellite Internet access in the context of SpaceX’s Starlink public beta launch, and what it means for connecting unserved Americans in both urban and rural areas. Then, they dig into the future of cable as a wireline broadband technology, with frank talk about its longevity in the face of fiber as the industry begins talking about the penetration of DOCSIS 3.1 and future moves to DOCSIS 4.0. Finally, Christopher, Doug, Monica, and Travis spend time tackling the question of why we don’t see more small, private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) doing fiber projects in urban areas. They debate, for instance, Right-of-Way issues and the problem of access to capital.
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Satellite Subsidies Will Widen Digital Divide in Rural America
The federal government is about to spend more than $120 million on subsidies that, rather than improving rural connectivity, will make tens of thousands of families worse off.
These funds are part of a 2018 federal program intended to expand rural broadband access called the Connect America Fund phase II (CAF II) reverse auction. The program, in which Internet access providers competed for subsidies, will distribute nearly $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to connect unserved rural residents. But in some communities, the auction may do more to widen the digital divide than diminish it.
While some winning bidders committed to building out high-speed fiber optic networks, satellite company Viasat will rake in more than $120 million in subsidies to continue providing inadequate geostationary satellite connectivity to rural households that are clamoring for something better. Not only does satellite Internet access offer slower speeds, greater latency, and less reliability for a higher cost compared to other technologies, but Viasat’s subsidies are making those areas ineligible for future broadband funds, deterring other providers from building truly high-quality networks. Instead of bridging the digital divide, the process will relegate certain communities to satellite Internet access while others receive ultra-fast fiber and do nothing more than deepen the fissure.
Mo’ Money . . .
The Connect America Fund (CAF) is a multi-phase subsidy program that supports improved connectivity in rural, high-cost areas as part of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC’s) Universal Service Fund. The most recent phase of the program, the CAF phase II reverse auction, auctioned off regions to providers using a complicated formula that prioritized bids for low subsidy amounts and high-quality service.
Previous rounds of CAF mainly subsidized the large incumbents, such as AT&T and CenturyLink, but for the reverse auction, the FCC opened participation to other entities, including non-traditional providers like electric cooperatives. Eligible areas included rural locations where the incumbents had previously refused subsidies (and the accompanying commitment to expand Internet access).
Episode 3 "From Crops to Co-ops" Animated Video Series, Satellite Won't Solve It
By now, you’ve met the people of “Villageville,” the imaginary town in rural America that, like many similarly situated communities, are struggling to find better connectivity. This week, we continue our soap opera saga “From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet.”
In this episode, the kids of the community are working on another big homework assignment and gather together at the neighbor’s house to tap into his satellite Internet access. Watch to find out the results when Grumpy Gary tells the kids to “get off his lawn.”
In rural areas with low population density, large corporate Internet access providers don’t find the motivation they need to invest in fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. High numbers of residents and businesses depend on satellite Internet access as a last resort. Plans are expensive, unreliable, and typically include data caps. In episode 3, we include pop-up information about satellite Internet access and how communities who must use it settle for less than they deserve.
Don’t miss another opportunity to hear the Very Amateur Acting Troupe from the Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance fill the roles of local people who are just trying to get online to get stuff done.
If you want to get caught up first, read up on the storyline from episode 1 here or watch it below. You can also check out the synopsis of episode 2 and watch it below to experience the whole story from the start. Share the series playlist, where we'll continue to add episodes as we release them.
Next week we attend a city council meeting in Villageville in which residents and community leaders decide what to do about poor Internet access in their community. Don't miss it!
You can get caught up on the saga here with episode 1:
Fact Sheet Explains Why "Satellite Is Not Broadband"
As a nation our goal is ubiquitous broadband coverage so every person, regardless of where they live, can obtain the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access necessary for modern times. For people in rural areas, where large national wireline providers don’t typically invest in the infrastructure for high-quality connectivity, satellite Internet access is often their only choice. In our Satellite Is Not Broadband fact sheet we address some of the reasons why depending on satellite Internet access to serve rural America is a mistake.
Download the Satellite Is Not Broadband fact sheet here.
Satellites are Cool, But...
It’s a marvel that science has found a way to deliver data in such a manner, but satellite Internet access is not the panacea for rural connectivity. The technology still faces many shortcomings. Rural residents that must depend on satellite for Internet access pay more and get less.
There’s a misguided faction of decision makers who try to describe satellite Internet access as “broadband,” which is patently incorrect. For those who have never used this type of Internet access, especially for an extended period of time, the realities don’t present themselves. This fact sheet lays out many of the reasons why, if we allow satellite Internet access to be the final technology of choice in rural areas, we cheat people who live there. In addition to the negative daily impacts, the incorrect perception of satellite Internet access effectiveness can end or reduce funding for rural wireline projects that will bring better connectivity.
Like our other fact sheets, Satellite Is Not Broadband is succinct, accessible, and a strong addition to your efforts to inform policy makers, legislators, and others with limited satellite Internet access experience.
Chattanooga Recognized as Best Gaming ISP for 2017
Sometimes speed is not the answer. Chattanooga boasts EPB Fiber, a municipal network that can handle speeds of up to 10 Gigabits (that’s 10,000 Megabits) per second. That, however, is not what won it recognition this week.
PC Mag named Chattanooga as the Best Gaming Internet Service Provider (ISP) of 2017 because of its quick, reliable performance. The network beat out both Verizon FiOs (#2) and Google Fiber (#3).
Latency and Jitter
To determine which ISP was best for gaming, PC Mag looked specifically at two technical measurements: latency and jitter. Latency is how long it takes for a packet to travel from the user to the server and back. Jitter measures how consistent the latency is in a connection. High latency makes games lag -- the last thing you want for an online multiplayer.
It’s unsurprising that the top ISPs on the list have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks. Fiber has the best performance in latency and jitter compared to cable and DSL connections. Chattanooga’s network has the least latency and jitter.
More MuniNetworks on the List?
Several cities have built FTTH networks. Why weren’t more municipal networks on the list? PC Mag Senior editor Eric Griffith explained in the article:
For an ISP to be included, it had to have a minimum of 100 tests with that tool in that time frame.
So yes, it is possible your own personal super-amazing Gigabit-capable uber-ISP didn't make the cut here—it's because we don't have enough tests from them to include and maintain any statistical validity. That said, share in the comments if you've got an ISP with not just great speeds but what you have determined to be killer quality when it comes to online gaming.”
If you want your network to be included on the list next year, encourage people in your community to take PC Mag's Speed Test. Until then, Chattanooga is the reigning champion.
Longmont's NextLight Offers Businesses, Residents Third Fastest Internet In the U.S.
Ookla finds the third fastest Internet access in the U.S. is located in Longmont, Colorado, reports the Times Call. NextLight, Longmont's gigabit municipal fiber network, is the source of the increase in speeds, driving Longmont's Internet access speeds far beyond any other service in the state.
Ookla clocks average download speed in Longmont as 105 Mbps, which includes all providers in the community. Incumbents Comcast and CenturyLink are dragging down NextLight's average download speed of 221 Mbps. Statewide, Colorado's average is 40 Mbps.
According to the article:
Ookla shows Internet speeds in Longmont shooting up in January and February, when LPC crews began hooking up customers to NextLight in earnest.
NextLight continues to attract residential and business customers. In February, NextLight announced it would be hiring more install crews to meet the high demand for connections. Places without the speed, affordability, and reliability NextLight can offer will find themselves at a disadvantage as economic development increasingly relies on next-generation networks.
The Times Call spoke with Bret McInnis, vice president for information technology for Circle Graphics. The local business switched from CenturyLink to NextLight because it needed better connectivity. Before taking service from NextLight, their maximum capacity connection was 50 Mbps download or upload and it wasn't enough:
Because the images for the canvases use high-resolution photos, they are sent in large files that can range from 100 to 300 megabits in size. The company prints anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 canvases a day during the busy holiday season.
"We've got more bandwith," McInnis said, standing in front of the five tall black towers of computing equipment that make up the business's data center. "So the NextLight fiber feeds right into this and we used to see peaks with CenturyLink ... you would see periods when we were bursting at our capacity."
Switching to NextLight, McInnis said, means employees can download and upload the high-resolution images much more quickly.