Urban broadband is a cable game – rural broadband is DSL: how can that help us plan?

The FCC recently released the Industry Analysis and Technology Division Wireline Competition Bureau. It’s the culmination of FCC Form 477 filled out by providers.

I think there’s an interesting look at speeds by technology and location (metro vs rural) of technology. First location – the following graph tracks ratio of subscribership by household density, or who serves urban areas and who serves rural areas. The answer is DSL is a big player in rural areas; cable is the biggest player in towns and cities. Fixed wireless and satellite are players in rural areas and almost non-existent in urban areas. This graph does not track speed – just technology.

477a

Now it’s helpful to look at what speeds. When we look at access by speeds or 10/1 we see representation of all technologies.

477b

When we look at speeds of 25/3, DSL is no longer represented.

477c

Here’s another way to look at it:

477d

DSL has a larger share of slower connections. DSL has a larger share of rural connections. The Minnesota legislature has defined speed goals or 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026. They have dedicated funds to making it happen through the border to border grants. So there’s a recognized need for support, but the question is how to increase speeds in rural areas.

Do tools used in urban areas help rural connectivity? Do policy makers understand that there’s a significant difference in the two markets based on population density, distance to customers, limitations of transport technology and regulations and expectations of technologies based urban scenarios.

Right now Minnesota connectivity rates are well below the legislative goals (and the report only indicates download speeds):

  • 200 kbps – 99.5 percent connect
  • 3 Mbps – 93.0 percent connect
  • 10 Mbps – 75.2 percent connect
  • 25 Mbps – 54.2 percent connect
  • 100 Mbps – 13.4 percent connect

Mediacom Broadband Network to be Gigabit-Ready by Year End

mediacomGood news for many communities! Looks like most Mediacom communities in Minnesota will soon have access to 60+ Mbps – the towns of Cook and Grand Marais are stand-alone networks and are not connected to national/upgrading internet network…

Entire Mediacom Communications Broadband Network to be Gigabit-Ready by Year End

First Major U.S. Cable Company to Fully Deploy DOCSIS 3.1 Gigasphere Technology

Mediacom Park, NY – December 7, 2016 – Mediacom Communications today announced the company’s entire broadband network will be gigabit-capable by the end of 2016. Mediacom will become the first major U.S. cable company to fully transition to the DOCSIS 3.1Gigasphere” platform, the latest generation of broadband technology. As a result, virtually all of the 3 million homes and businesses that Mediacom serves across its 22 state footprint will be able to enjoy speeds that are up to 40 times faster than the minimum broadband definition set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Mediacom was founded on the principle that hard-working families in the smaller cities and towns in our nation’s heartland deserved the same advanced communications services enjoyed in the largest metropolitan areas” said Mediacom’s founder and CEO, Rocco B. Commisso. “Through our $8 billion of cumulative investments over the past 20 years in pursuit of that goal, we have enabled the communities where we operate to successfully bridge the digital divide.”

According to Mr. Commisso, “After the Gigasphere modems became available earlier this year, we accelerated the first phase of our previously announced 3-year, $1 billion capital investment plan so that Mediacom’s customers could begin taking advantage of superfast speeds as soon as possible. This will ensure that the predominantly working-class neighborhoods we serve throughout Middle America are not technologically disadvantaged in today’s global marketplace.”

He added that “I am especially proud that the substantial investments in our rural markets were made despite the heavy-handed and unfair regulatory burdens recently imposed on our company by the FCC and without depending on government subsidies. In contrast to many others who have been willing to deploy broadband in rural areas only if incentivized with loans and grants from federal and state programs, Mediacom has relied totally on private capital. Moreover, unlike some other competitors who offer 1-Gig speeds only in select neighborhoods in their service areas, our 1-Gig service will be accessible to absolutely everyone within the reach of our network, regardless of the size, income-level or other demographics of their community.”

JR Walden, Mediacom’s Chief Technology Officer, remarked that “It has taken a lot of hard work, but less than 10 months from announcing ‘Project Gigabit,’ we will have completed the upgrade of our entire broadband network to the Gigasphere platform. Deployment of this next-gen technology will considerably enhance the consumer experience today and lay the groundwork for multi-Gig capabilities in the future. With our rapid and seamless transition to this new platform, we have set our communities on an accelerated path into the gigabit era.”44

Mediacom’s network enhancements will provide a significant boost to the company’s internet speeds. The company’s new minimum entry level speed for residential customers will increase to 60 Mbps while flagship offerings of 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps will also be available. Moreover, Mediacom will begin rolling out ultra-fast 500 Mbps and 1-Gig (1000 Mbps) products on a market by market basis in the coming weeks.

Mediacom noted that the Gigasphere technology will primarily enhance speeds to its residential and small business customers. Mr. Walden said that “Mediacom Business has already been offering local businesses in our markets our Gigabit+ Fiber SolutionsTM for many years, with scalable services of up to 10-Gig speeds.”

About DOCSIS 3.1 Gigasphere Technology

The cable network is composed of a hybrid of optical fiber and coaxial cable elements, and the specification that enables use of the network for broadband is known as Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS®. Gigasphere is the brand name for products and services that use a technical specification called DOCSIS 3.1, the next generation of DOCSIS services developed and advanced by CableLabs, the U.S. cable industry’s research and development consortium, and its members. DOCSIS 3.1 provides a near-term path toward continued improvement of cable broadband performance, with network capacity of up to 10 gigabits per second in the downstream and up to 2 gigabits per second in the upstream. Equipment vendors are now supplying the necessary components. In January 2016, CableLabs certified the first DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems.

About Mediacom Communications

Mediacom Communications Corporation is the 5th largest cable operator in the U.S. serving over 1.3 million customers in smaller markets primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. Mediacom offers a wide array of information, communications and entertainment services to households and businesses, including video, high-speed data, phone, and home security and automation. Through Mediacom Business, the company provides innovative broadband solutions to commercial and public sector customers of all sizes, and sells advertising and production services under the OnMedia brand. More information about Mediacom is available at www.mediacomcable.com.

MACTA Conference Notes: Policy Updates and Cable Franchising

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the MACTA (Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators) annual conference. These are the folks who work for local government on telecom, cable and broadband issues – which both an interest supporting broadband but also protecting public right-of-way. It was an interesting look at a group of folks who wear a lot of hats.

I’m going to start off topic to mention the format of their first session – 60 ideas in 60 seconds. They had four presenters – one very technical, one on regulations, one on producing TV show and one on social media. It’ was something for everyone. Very fast paced. Should be the start of every conference!

Back to the broadband-related sessions. There was a state and federal update:

State and Federal Legislative Updates (policy/legal track)

What happened during the State’s 2016 legislative session AND what is happening at the federal level that may affect cable, broadband and telecom policy?  How will the election year affect legislative activities? Key legislators and policy experts will address these items … and more.

Moderator: ◦Mike Reardon | Cable Communications Officer, City of St. Paul

Speakers: ◦Margaret Anderson Kelliher | CEO, MN High Tech Association & Chair, Governor’s Broadband Task Force

◦Rep. Sheldon Johnson | State Representative, 67B (St. Paul)

◦Bree Maki | Southern Minnesota Field Representative & Broadband and Telecommunications Representative, U.S. Senator Al Franken’s office

◦Jodie Miller | Executive Director, NDC4 & 2016 NATOA President

◦Sen. Matt Schmit | State Senator, District 21 (Red Wing)

 

Notes from Jodie Miller’s Talk

People in other states are jealous of Minnesota. We a have good foundation: the Task Force, very early roundtables that got everyone’s view to find common ground. We have three years in a row of board to border grant legislative. In other states there are drives to stop such efforts. In Colorado, they have a super majority rule to hinder city-led broadband efforts. There were dozens of cities that have voted away from that – but they are steps behind Minnesota.

What do we want in the future?

We have 201 legislative seats open this year. That will mean more education with policymakers again.

Fiber is the foundation. Wireless is the blanket on top. And rights of way is the third leg of the stool. Fiber and a wireless is never an either/or proposition.

Knowing that there are federal efforts does not make it OK to not have a state focus too.

Local franchising – can that come up in Minnesota again? We have a second entrant in the market (CenturyLink). Google has said that removing the barrier of local franchising would make it easier to enter the market.

We need to consider budget with rights of way. It’s an asset that some folks don’t consider.

The astro-turf bill reared its head. They wanted to create a study to hear more about

Notes from discussion:

VOiP – did not get through. Big question is – Is it a telecom service or an info service? Consumer protection folks are opposed to calling it an info service, which would make it easier to deregulate.

“MN is at high risk of expensive an intrusive cyber threat”

MAK – Broadband became an issue, which elevated the telecom issues as well. 3 years ago we recommended $200 million. We were pleased to see $100 million from Governor and $85 million from Senate.

“The two items that really survived the supplemental budget are equity agenda and broadband.” That’s a win.”

Sen Schmit – “I want us to be looking at $100 million for broadband next year. We set the speed goals this year”

MAK – The $500,000 for low income household is a door open to digital efforts in the state. Looking into public housing initiatives is one way to do it. Also we need to look into where people in poverty leave. We need to remember that poverty has an impact in urban and rural areas. We need to look at racial and location inequities.

A big question is – what is affordable? We need to give guidance with affordability.

We know if you subsidize broadband for 18 months, they will find a way to keep it.

We are also looking into cyber security. And workforce issues around cyber security.

VOiP proposal probably will come back next year.

Task Force supports modernization and VOiP bills. We do want to see continued consumer protection.

QUESTION – Do you see anything in Minnesota saying we want to get rid of local franchising?

CenturyLink has mentioned it. (CenturyLink says it’s working asis.)
Google has mentioned it.
But it’s not been a strong issue.

Maybe we need to look at the approach – are there opportunities for efficiencies. Simply – is there a better way of doing this?

Local franchising authorities worry that incompetents have taken the stand a that they have. We would like to work with other providers – but the incumbents are watching every more.

Observation on Cyber Security

We need a safe method to be able to bring concerns safely to the State.

WIRELESS – there was a bill introduced (small cell bill from Verizon – they established a task force, but it was included with the VOiP bill so it did not move forward.)

We need to look at all approaches that make sense. But it’s not always an even/or. We need to understand each other’s concerns. We need impact from local communities.

We need to educate policymakers about the different before wireless and fiber.

Luncheon Keynote: Updates from NATOA – Jodie Miller | Executive Director, NDC4 & 2016 NATOA President

Cable Franchising: Hot Topics (policy/legal track)

Based on a recent query of MACTA members, cable franchise renewals and competitive franchising remain hot topics for many Minnesota cities and franchise administrators, as does tracking consumer protection complaints and consumer protection issues.  This session will cover these items and any other hot topics that are current at the time of the conference.

Speaker: ◦Robert J. V. Vose | Shareholder, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered

(The video is disjointed due to technical difficulties and some musical chairs. But pretty frank talk.)

CenturyLink seeks cable franchising in Eagan

Comcast is the current cable franchise holder in Eagan – CenturyLink is looking to have a franchise as well. This presentation to the Eagan City Council is from an attorney on the topic. The presentation is really a look at why the Council should consider a second franchise and under what context.

You can watch the video. Or see the PPT presentation. The attorney really sets out what needs to happen to smooth the path to providing a franchise agreement to CenturyLink – looking at potential local and federal policy issues.

It sounds like July 21 would be the time that CenturyLink would actually present their application. It will be interesting to watch the process – in part because some of the agreements made with Comcast are not recent and the policies surrounding the issues are not necessarily recent. Although it sounds like Eagan does have fairly updated information on what residents want from a cable franchiser holder.

Cable Franchising: Learn more about it through Dakota County’s process

Cable franchising is always a prickly topic. Providers would often like to do away with or at least streamline the process of cable franchising. Local government is not always interested in losing control or revenue that stems from franchising.

Northern Dakota County is looking at cable franchising now. They recently sent an email out to residents about CenturyLink’s application for franchising. I think there’s a lot to be learned in the email – about the process in Northern Dakota and beyond…

Residents Feedback Wanted

Northern Dakota County Cable Communications Commission (“NDC4”) has received a Cable Television Franchise Application from CenturyLink, the local incumbent telephone exchange carrier operating in the Commission’s seven-city franchise area. Residents and businesses of Inver Grove Heights, Lilydale, Mendota, Mendota Heights, South St. Paul, Sunfish Lake, and West St. Paul are encouraged to submit comments or questions relating to CenturyLink’s franchise application via one of the following options:

  • Via telephone or in person during the LIVE televised and web streamed meeting on June 3rd at 7 p.m. The meeting will be televised LIVE on local Government Channel 18 (Comcast) and web streamed LIVE here.
  • Via e-mail at  www.townsquare.tv/contact-us.cfm by 3 p.m. on June 3, 2015.
  • Via US Postal Mail to NDC4 Cable Commission, 5845 Blaine Avenue, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076, received in our office by 3 p.m. on June 3, 2015.

Submitters should indicate their name and home or business address located in one of the above-listed seven cities.

Background

NDC4 published a “Notice of Intent to Consider Application(s) for Franchise(s)” on March 8, and March 15, 2015, with the application deadline of March 31, 2015. One application was received from CenturyLink. NDC4 published a Notice of Public Hearing on April 5, 2015, announcing the opening of the public hearing to occur during the full Commission Meeting on April 15, 2015. During that meeting the Commission voted to continue the Public Hearing through the next full Commission meeting on June 3, 2015 at 7 p.m.

Documents and Video

The following documents are available at  www.townsquare.tv/customer-services-dakota-county-public-access.cfm.

You can also watch the April 15, 2015, NDC4 Commission Meeting online.

Other Information

CenturyLink has applied for franchises or requested the initiation of the process in many Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area communities. The City of Minneapolis granted CenturyLink a video franchise on May 15, 2015, and you can watch the video of that meeting here. You can read more about Minneapolis’s franchise process is available here and here.

NDC4 is a joint powers cooperative formed by its seven member cities to administer and enforce the cable television franchise ordinance for each of the seven cities. NDC4 is the local franchise authority representing cable subscribers’ consumer interests, and also overseeing seven local community access channels on the Comcast cable system. For more information, call 651-450-9891, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit www.townsquare.tv.

CenturyLink to provide cable in the Minneapolis? There are a few hoops first.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, CenturyLink is looking at providing cable services…

Minneapolis residents could soon have another option for cable TV service, as CenturyLink looks to dislodge Comcast’s monopoly on the market.

CenturyLink plans to seek a new franchise agreement that would allow it to provide its Prism TV cable service alongside Comcast’s offerings. The digital cable service is distributed through a fiber-optic network and allows customers to watch live programming on smartphones and tablets, in addition to their televisions.

Such an agreement would require the approval of the Minneapolis City Council, which won’t take up the issue until the new year. CenturyLink’s move could dramatically reshuffle the local television market, as cable companies nationally are under intensifying competition from other providers and Internet streaming services, such as Netflix.

One hiccup is that CenturyLink is looking to start in just a few neighborhoods and Comcast (the cable incumbent) has issues with Minneapolis allowing that to happen…

CenturyLink does not plan to immediately offer service to all Minneapolis residents. Instead, it would offer Prism TV to a variety of neighborhoods where its network is already in place and later bring it to other parts of the city.

Comcast said in a statement it expects competitors to adhere to the same standards it does.

Minneapolis, however, seems open to the idea of competition. In fact they are opening the door to other applications (Are they hoping Google Fiber applies?)…

Council Member John Quincy, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — which will have to sign off on CenturyLink’s plan — said state law requires franchise holders to build out their systems over the entire franchise area. Franchise holders then pay the city a fixed percentage of their revenue.

In response to interest in a new franchise, the city has issued a formal notice of intent to accept applications. Now, CenturyLink and any other companies that want a shot at the business have a window of time to file their plans, along with a $40,000 application fee.

Quincy said Comcast has been the sole cable operator for years in part because companies must be able to prove they could serve the entire city.

“The bar’s pretty high,” he said. “If you’re going to be serious about doing it, you’re going to have to demonstrate a lot of capacity and capital to do the build-out.”

It will be interesting to see what happens. The comments show a great interest in what happens too – most are very positive about the opportunity for competition.

Cable Providers Asked to Think About Local Content

Last week I went to the MTA conference. (I’m hoping to get a PPT to share and will post my notes as soon as I get it.) It was interesting to hear about how telecommunications providers are exploring new sources of revenue. The telephone/telecom game has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. (Remember long distance bills and payphones?) Cable is experiencing some similar disruptions. They have picked up broadband as a product but the content/video game is changing daily. Here’s a view form a recent editorial from Olmsted County

To remain viable, cable needs to adapt in other ways. When television was first taking hold, radio felt its fair share of growing pains. Now it is television’s turn to evolve. Much like radio, I think cable television still has a place in the marketplace, but finding that niche is essential to success. Licensing content to online companies like Netflix and Hulu works for content creators, but content distributors depending on providing viewers content delivered straight to the television are struggling.

I learned in college the best way for radio stations to remain relevant was to localize. Their content changed from being something people gathered around in the living room every night to enjoy, to in-car entertainment, and the industry survived.

I’d love to see cable television attempt to do the same. The local news broadcasts are honestly what I miss the most from our lack of a cable subscription. Harnessing the local strategy might be able to sustain cable’s content delivery, but they’ll need to be innovative in their process.

His suggestions remind me of Lake County and Cook County – both communities are building a place for local content online and/or on air with a mashup between YouTube, Livestreaming and community radio. The old motto for the Internet was always “think local, act global” – looks like that sentiment is as strong as ever.