Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lack of Broadband Access Further Depresses Property Values

Today we encountered a prime example of how the refusal of telecomm companies to adequately serve rural Americans with broadband is hitting home, literally. We spoke with a family that is having to sell their home and move just so they can get the broadband connectivity they need to continue their business and maintain their livelihood.

As if the perpetration of a giant sub-prime Ponzi scheme by the banks had not done enough damage to property values we are now seeing a rising tide of property devaluations due to a lack of broadband. Driving this trend are the following factors:
  1. A growing expectation of broadband access in all sectors of commerce and government. It is now normal to expect someone with whom you do business to be able to watch a video online, attend a webinar, log into the company network remotely, and download large files, all activities that are impossible without broadband.
  2. A growing realization that satellite Internet service, the connection of last resort in rural areas, is not really broadband at all. For example, it does not reliably support any of those 4 essential business activities in trend 1.
  3. A growing education gap is emerging in which children and adults without broadband access are being left behind, in K-12 and further education, not to mention distance learning. 
While trends 1 and 2 affect the ability of rural residents to conduct business on a level playing field or work remotely, trend 3 affects the entire family, sealing the fate of homes in areas without broadband access. The market for homes that lack broadband access is shrinking rapidly. The downward pressure on valuations will only continue.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Comcast protests broadband stimulus grant applications

Comcast protests broadband stimulus grant applications - FierceTelecom
David Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president, claims that since the U.S. Broadband stimulus funding program was designated to bring broadband services to areas where service is not available, targeting areas where it already provides service could 'violate eligibility rules.'
Of course, "provides service" is a term that Comcast defines to mean one access point somewhere in the vicinity, not actual "service" that is available to all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Please Read Before You Decide to Rely on Satellite Internet: Caveat Emptor, Googlius Checkum

In other words, Google the service you are considering. Consider the level of satisfaction indicated in these results from searching the word HughesNet and the word sux:

hughesnet sux - Google Search Shared via AddThis

And don't expect satellite Internet service to get any better. Service tends to go in cycles as the system becomes overcrowded with subscribers after a sales drive and special offers. New capacity is then added, which improves service for a while, then a news sales drive leads to declining service, and so on.

If you are considering buying residential property in a rural area and need Internet connectivity make sure the property has access to wired Internet access or reliable WiFi/WiMax wireless Internet. Do NOT buy into the false notion that you can get by with satellite service. The limitations and frustrations are just not worth it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Way to Aim Low: US Telcos Embrace Mediocrity and Low Standards

Read it and weep for the glory that was once America...

"US telcos have hit on a clever idea to provide universal broadband to every US citizen - they're calling on the government to define broadband as anything over 768 Kbps downstream and 200 Kbps upstream." TG Daily - US Telcos call for lower broadband speeds

Just to be clear on how utterly absurd and abysmal this is, American phone and cable companies are openly embracing a broadband standard of well under one Mbps, repeat, less than 1 Mbps. Compare this to:

Japan : 92.8 Mbps
Korea: 80.8 Mbps
France: 51 Mbps

That's right, Korea's idea of broadband is something 80 times better than what America's telcos have in mind for us. Way to go AT&T, Verizon, Comcast. Way to show our kids that aiming high is no longer the American way. Once the envy of the world, American telcos have officially embraced a "whatever" attitude to excellence.

First it was the American car makers giving up to the likes of Japan, Korea, and France. Now it's the telcos. They are so reluctant to do their duty and provide proper broadband to rural homes and businesses they are prepared to throw in the towel and admit they can't match the performance of their foreign counterparts.

Before anyone comments that "duty" has nothing to do with free enterprise, ask yourself whose roads and rivers and airspace it is that these companies use to conduct their business? Their business model relies on the use of resources owned by Americans as a whole, their duty is to serve Americans as a whole, and they know it.

For those with strong stomachs and citizens who promise they have taken their blood pressure meds, there are more absurdist remarks and patronizing quotes from the telcos in this Reuters article.

p.s. Before anyone comments that France is not a powerhouse in automobiles I should point out that the French car company Renault owns 44% of Nissan (making Nissan/Renault bigger than Ford, i.e. makes more vehicles than Ford) so it is the world's 4th largest, while the French PSA Peugeot Citro├źn automaker is 7th.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Value of Rural Broadband, from Ars Technica

Great case study, and one more reason why spending stimulus funds on expanding rural broadband is a net positive for America. Just so we are clear:

Better Connectivity = Higher Productivity
Higher Productivity = Greater Net Revenue
Greater Net Revenue = More Taxes Back to Uncle Sam

"'One specific example of the impact that fiber optic network capacity can have on a business is Northwood DNA, Inc. This is a business operating in a very rural area, Becida, MN, that provides DNA sequencing and genotyping services globally. The services they provide require receiving and sending large data files electronically. Prior to the deployment of the fiber optic network, their business was only able to report two to three test results per day. Today, with the benefits of the all fiber optic network, they report over 50 test results per day.'"

From excellent article here: Fiber gets nimble: small telcos weaving fiber web - Ars Technica:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Benefits of Rural Broadband - The Boston Globe

This Boston Globe piece has a nice roundup of benefits that flow from rural broadband:
"Providing broadband to the 43 Western Massachusetts towns that lack it entirely or in part could kickstart the economy of a region that has suffered from the decline of basic industries like paper and electrical equipment. According to federal figures, communities with broadband add a percentage point to their employment growth rate. The state estimates that extending broadband in the western counties will create 1,360 jobs in construction alone and at least 1,680 additional jobs through use of the network.

That figure could prove low. Once broadband is added to the region’s other advantages - a relaxed lifestyle and relatively low living costs - Western Massachusetts hill towns could become a magnet for self-employed consultants, Web designers, and other professionals. High tech startups that might have shunned the region because their employees in outlying towns lacked broadband service for telecommuting might give it a second look."
Broaden access for broadband - The Boston Globe

Friday, August 28, 2009

Otsego County, New York, Hopes for Fiber Optic Loop With Wireless Outreach

Yes! This is exactly what the Obama-Biden plan had in mind: Last week we learned that Otsego County has applied for about $5.89 million in federal stimulus money to build a fiber optic loop around the county, according to The Daily Star.

Carolyn Lewis, the county's economic developer, said she believes "the loop will help bring prosperity to the countryside as firms, large and small, and residents, even on back roads, are able to operate smoothly on the Internet." Citizens of the county are strongly supportive of the project and prepared to pitch in to make it work to everyone's advantage.

(Surprisingly, even in Otsego County, a rural New York county that voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, some people don't realize that the "Obama-Biden Plan" placed a priority on rural broadband way before the stimulus package. In fact, it was in the works even before the presidential debates last Fall--attentive viewers will have noted that Obama spoke of the need to bring true broadband service to rural communities during the first debate.)

Support for this project today is bipartisan and pretty much across the board, from schools to hospitals, from companies and colleges to farms and families. According to Lewis, when it is built, the fiber loop would be available to colleges, hospitals, businesses and telecommunications service providers, which would be encouraged to reach the county's most remote areas with wireless devices that tie into the loop. This raises the exciting prospect of farm-wide wireless broadband service, a huge boon to farmers in this important dairy-producing region (New York is America's third largest producer of dairy products).

The county-owned network would be operated by a limited development corporation, a not-for-profit agency made up of members selected by the Otsego County Board of Representatives, according to a memorandum from ECC Technologies of Liverpool, the county's consultant on the project. Within six weeks, the county should have a preliminary indication of how its application was received. An official announcement is scheduled for November 7.

If it goes forward, the project is likely to be a big hit with local residents who for years have been exasperated by costly and unreliable satellite service while unable to get companies like Verizon, AT&T or Time Warner Cable to supply them with affordable Internet connectivity. Many thanks are due to Lewis and the county workers who helped complete the very demanding application, including Marybeth Vargha, the county's GIS coordinator, and County board Chairman James Power.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Rural Folk Feel 3.6X Angrier About Broadband, TV, and Verizon

Guest Blogger Stephen Cobb writes:

Right now it hurts to watch New York City's Channel 4 NBC news if you live just a few hours outside of New York City in the rural areas that supply the metropolis with its dairy goods and fresh produce. Why?

The NBC 4 New York sports section is sponsored by Verizon FiOS and Verizon FiOS spots are all over the show, advertising an $80 per month deal on high speed Internet, plus television and phone service. That's $80 for all three. What do you have to pay if you live outside the city? $290.

That $290 "deal" is what rural folks must pay to get service that is not even as good as FiOS at $80 or even FiOS at $160. Yet some of the fiber optic cables that make FiOS possible pass right through these rural fields and valleys. Here's how it breaks down in the many areas that phone and cable companies chose to ignore:

$80 for HughesNet satellite Internet
$75 for Verizon land line phone service
$135 for DirecTV satellite TV

Yep, it adds up to $290, about 3.6X what city cousins pay. Bear in mind that the rural dweller's $80 rate for satellite Internet only gets him, if he's very lucky, download speeds of 1.6Mbps and upload rates of maybe 128Kbps, with latency that is much worse than dialup. And daily traffic is capped at 425Mb (in other words, one hi-def movie download or operating system upgrade and you're done for the next 24 hours).

Yet the current 3-way FiOS package from Verizon, which "serves" most of these rural areas of New York state at a much lower grade, gives the subscriber phone service, plus TV service, plus broadband Internet access at 50Mbs upload, 20Mbps download. That is more than 25X what you can get in the country, with a bandwidth cap that is at least 1,000X greater than the cap on satellite. So, Verizon gives city dwellers a level of service that is massively better than what they offer their rural customers, at about a quarter of the cost rural customers have to pay.

If the situation were reverse and it was rural customers getting that deal, surely there would be riots in the streets of the city. No?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Post Anyone?

Agrilan would like to encourage those with an interest in rural broadband issues to submit posts to this blog. Please email us at mail at agrilan dot com for more information.

Monday, July 20, 2009

NBC News: 62% of Americans don't have acess to broadband

Great to see NBC do a piece on the "62% of Americans who don't have access to affordable high speed broadband." For those who have broadband, here it is:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

USDA Broadband Discovery Tool

Find what's happening with broadband in your rural community:

USDA Broadband Report Tool

Rural Europeans Duped by "Satellite Broadband"?

Looks like satellite Internet providers in Europe are trying to pass it off as broadband, just like in the US. Sorry guys, Einstein says you can't get latency below 234 milliseconds and you need to deliver 50 milliseconds or less to be broadband.

Top 10 Broadband » News » Satellite broadband 'to boost rural coverage'

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Google's Plan for Broadband

"In a filing with the FCC, Google outlined its idea for a National Broadband Plan. Google believes that all American households should have access, by 2012, to at least 5 Mbps upload and download speeds over broadband. The company submitted four proposals to help advance this vision."

Broadband Networking Regulatory News

Monday, May 25, 2009

Avanti UK to Develop New 50Mbps Hercules Broadband Satellite

The US is not the only country where rural Internet users are being starved of broadband. Several companies over in the UK are talking about offering satellite Internet service to rural locations in Britain, possibly lured by the hope of government subsidies for USO [Universal Service Obligation] solutions.

In other words, satellite is being put forward as a way for telcos to say "we offer broadband to everyone" without having to string cable or put up radio towers to all corners of the realm. However, the publication ISPreview has very rightly raised concerns "about the use of satellite services as a USO solution...High hardware/installation costs, uselessly restrictive usage allowances, unreliable speeds and poor latency are chief among those [concerns]."

We agree. In fact we couldn't say it better than this: "To date we've yet to see a satellite broadband service that could negate most of these fears..."

The claimed download speed of the latest Avanti proposal is impressive, but until the latency and bandwidth cap issues are addressed, satellite's a non-starter in our opinion. ISPreview have just completed an interview with Avanti "where some very difficult questions were put to them" and the interview is expected to surface at the start of June.

ISPreview UK

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Good: Montana Man Making Money on the Internet

"In Malta, Montana, Roy Martinez averages over $10,000/month selling Western replicas related to Clint Eastwood Westerns."

The Rural Broadband Challenge: Use It | Daily Yonder | Keep It Rural:

Cool example of what can be done from a rural location IF you can get true broadband.

(The Bad and the Ugly? You can't host a website on a satellite Internet connection. And if you host your website somewhere else, how are you going to back it up to your local machine, or even assess website performance if your satellite link has higher latecny than the average consumer Internet connection?)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Rural Broadband Challenge: Use It!

"Teleco and cable company lobbyists conspicuously have overlooked a decade of grassroots innovations generated by community technology centers and community networking. (For just a sample of the community work being done see Community Technology Review; Community Technology Centers Network; Association for Community Networking; and Community Networking Clearinghouse.) These community groups have been active in providing local Internet service, broadband, and the teaching resources to make the most of it."

The Rural Broadband Challenge: Use It | Daily Yonder | Keep It Rural

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Need Broadband! Worth Saying Yes

This survey/petition is not the only "we want rural broadband" effort out there, but one worth spreading. The more people who submit the better:

We Need Broadband Inquiry Form

Monday, April 20, 2009

Webinars on Delivering Broadband to Rural America April 21/22

These are vendor sponsored events, but probably well worth catching if you're thinking about wireless as the answer to your rural broadband coverage. Airspan Communications WebEx Event Center

Friday, April 17, 2009

What broadband access means to rural areas

What broadband access means to rural areas such as ours - Times-Standard Online: "Of the 250 poorest counties in the United States, 244 are rural. So the promise and opportunity of new communications technologies to improve health, education and public safety for rural communities are particularly important to our nation."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We Want Broadband and We Want it Now

That's the message folks.