Marginal communities losing wireline connectivity

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It’s all fun and games until somebody cuts the cord.

High potential” areas get fiber, low potential areas lose even copper connectivity. The latest evidence of that trend comes from Fire Island in New York. It’s a barrier island resort area just off the Long Island coast with about five hundred year-round residents and thousands of part-timers and visitors. It was whacked by hurricane Sandy last year, which, among things, swamped Verizon’s legacy wireline network.

Instead of repairing it, Verizon is telling residents that they can sign up for its new Voice Link service, which uses a gizmo to connect home phones to Verizon’s mobile network. It’s being accused of doing the same thing in Monticello, another weekend getaway location in the Catskill mountains. In both cases, seasonal residents tend to just use their mobile phones anyway, leaving a small base of full time POTS customers.

Arguably, using an in-home base station to connect to a 4G mobile network delivers good-enough voice service. But it doesn’t support DSL or even dial-up Internet connections. To get broadband service, residents have to set up – and pay for – separate accounts and equipment with a wireless carrier. Like Verizon.

The New York state attorney general has filed a press release protest with the state public utilities regulator, which is already arm wrestling Verizon over the issue.

California has its own problems with shrinking wireline connectivity. AT&T has other capital investment priorities, preferring to expand its mobile network and build fiber to a select few densely packed business districts. Neighborhoods deemed worth the trouble are seeing Uverse upgrades, while many rural residents, for example in the Yosemite area, can’t buy DSL anymore. Existing customers are still connected, but new arrivals are being told they can’t subscribe, in many cases leaving them with no options for getting online, other than expensive satellite service.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.

  • Fred Pilot

    This makes it clear as day communities are going to have to build their own fiber networks. The big “telephone company” isn’t what it used to be and now looks more like the “big cell phone company” that sees its main offering — mobile wireless-based plans– as the solution for all communications needs, mobile or not.

    Communications networks become more valuable to their users when more are connected to them. But the legacy incumbent providers are segmenting the network into thousands of walled garden sub networks while redlining those living outside the garden walls.