Tag Archives: cox

Battle for broadband in California’s public housing heats up

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditEmail

Would you like some pay-per-view with that?

The cable industry is continuing its assault on low cost broadband designed for people who live in publicly subsidised housing. Cox Communications is the latest company to ask the California Public Utilities Commission to nullify broadband improvement grants given to public housing operators in their territory. The cable companies object because they also sell broadband service, along with very profitable television packages, to some of these communities.

The problem, though, is that residents aren’t subscribing to those services. The California Emerging Technology Fund also jumped into the dispute, challenging Charter Communications’ and, now, Cox’s false claim that the grants are illegal.

The real problem, according to the CETF brief, is that on average only about a quarter of public housing residents can afford market rate broadband service offered by cable companies and that the discount programs for low income households that they brag about are in fact designed to fail. Cable companies have such a poor track in public housing because, according to CETF

(1) residents cannot afford the market price, typically $30-$65 in the state;
(2) discounted Internet programs have narrow eligibility, such as Comcast Internet Essentials, which is primarily offered only to low-income families with K-12 aged children in the free or reduced national free lunch program;
(3) the application process is difficult for low-income families to navigate to qualify for low–cost broadband offers, establish eligibility, and actually hook up the necessary equipment to provide the service;
(4) low-income households often cannot afford the lack of equipment such as a computing device, printer or wireless router; and
(5) distrust of corporate broadband providers by [public housing] residents, who are concerned about being upsold plans they cannot afford.

The Internet access enabled by the subsidies, which only pay for installation of facilities and not the service itself, is generally slower and more problematic than cable modem service. In other words, residents are being offered a distinctly different choice. Which is what infuriates the California cable industry: it doesn’t want low income people to have any choice at all.

Cox lawyers up, stalls Google Fiber

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditEmail

Backlash from Cox Communications is slowing down Google Fiber’s march on Arizona. Phoenix and surrounding towns are considered by Google to be “potential” fiber cities, and although no final decision has been made the company is taking the necessary steps to get permission to operate. Not just the standard deal, though. Everywhere it’s gone, Google has asked for particular terms regarding things like master leases for public property, permit processing and, in Arizona, local licenses, similar to cable television franchises in California.

The City of Tempe created a whole new type of license for Google, giving it particular privileges as a video services provider, instead of reckoning it as a garden variety cable company. Cox filed a complaint in federal court, saying it was being treated unfairly by a “discriminatory regulatory framework”

The City’s regulatory framework imposes substantial statutory and regulatory obligations on providers of video services that the City deems to be cable operators (such as Cox). The City exempts from such rules and obligations providers of video services that the City deems not to be cable operators (such as Google Fiber). Legally, however, Google Fiber’s proposed video offering is indistinguishable from Cox’s cable service offering. The City therefore has no authority or discretion under federal law to exempt Google from franchising and other obligations applicable to cable operators.

The threat of being sued has slowed down the City of Scottsdale, which is delaying a vote on a similar deal. Cox didn’t sue Phoenix when it approved special license terms for Google. One difference might be that Phoenix, like San Antonio, made a point of saying it would consider similar accommodations for incumbents.

The name of the gigabit game is fractal hopscotch

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditEmail

Look familiar?

Cox is the latest major Internet service provider to announce that it’s getting into the gigabit business, saying that upgrades…

…will start with new residential construction projects and new and existing neighborhoods in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Omaha. In all Cox locations, the company will begin market-wide deployment of gigabit speeds by the end of 2016.

If those three cities sound familiar, it’s because CenturyLink has already targeted Omaha and Las Vegas, and Phoenix is one of the blessed 34 cities on Google’s maybe list for fiber-to-the-home (but not CenturyLink’s).

It’s no coincidence. A clear pattern is emerging: in markets where Google or one major incumbent says it’s deploying FTTH (OK, fiber-to-the-something that’ll deliver a gigabit, honest), another telephone or cable company will also stake a claim. So far, Google has only led into markets, and we’ve yet to see one where Google and both incumbents have dangled the promise of a gig.

Undoubtedly, that’s partly because the dominant U.S. cable company – Comcast – has shied away from gigabit promises, but it’s also because of fear of becoming embroiled in a three-way competition. Duopoly works because existing broadband demand can support two winners, but add another and you risk ending up with three losers.

It’s a fractal game of hopscotch. One player tosses a marker onto the map and jumps to it. Another follows. Once there, they’ll repeat the process, neighborhood by neighborhood, development by development and, perhaps soon, street by street.

The number of people that can actually get a gigabit is still diminishingly small compared to the total U.S. market, but competition is forcing incumbents into pushing existing plant into the hundreds of megabits range, which is a significant – and arguably sufficient – improvement for residential service. Those upgrades – whether by Google or AT&T or others – are still limited to cherry picked homes on the high potential side of the divide, but the game is only a couple of years old.

And still accelerating.