“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”
– Juliet’s speech from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
“People considering signing up for Vodafone’s FibreX service might be surprised to learn they won’t actually be getting fibre broadband.”
The new name for Vodafone’s rebranded cable service implies customers are getting fibre. There’s no getting away from that.
FibreX is not fibre
But they’re not getting fibre. Not fibre as New Zealanders understand the term in 2017. They get the old Vodafone hybrid fibre-coaxial.
The fact the term HFC includes the word fibre confuses matters. HFC is a long way from Ultrafast Broadband fibre. It is, in effect, a high-quality copper connection.
Vodafone’s HFC cable has been around for ever. The company picked it up when it acquired TelstraClear. Before that, the network’s name was Saturn. Even Saturn wasn’t the original incarnation. Before Saturn it was Kiwi Cable. That company was a long ahead of the market in the 1990s.
If my memory serves me well — readers may be able to clarify — the company produced its own TV show. How modern.
Pimp my copper
Vodafone pimped the HFC network’s software with an upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1. That means it has faster speeds than the old HFC network. But customers don’t see all the extra performance all the time.
That’s because, unlike a UFB fibre connection, FibreX customers share bandwidth. It’s like fixed wireless broadband in that sense. If a lot of people are on a cable segment at the same time, the speed drops. In contrast, when you have an old fashioned ADSL or VDSL copper broadband connection, there is a dedicated line from the cabinet to your house.
Even on a good day FibreX is slower than a real fibre connection. Look at the latest TrueNet performance measured by time-of-day chart. It’s reproduced below, but you can see the chart better online3. caption align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ Webpage download speeds – data from TrueNet./caption
The FibreX speed is slower than any of the true fibre services. It is even slower than Vodafone fibre, which takes the wooden spoon in this TrueNet report.
Slow at peak times
As you can see, it downloads web pages at about one-third of the speed you’d get from an Orcon connection.
It is clear, as Consumer says, the FibreX name is misleading. The Commerce Commission cracked down on service providers calling fast broadband services ‘gigabit’. That decision was overzealous. Service providers around the world use gigabit to describe their broadband services. They run at the same speed as those in New Zealand, in some cases they are slower.
Many of those countries have tighter regulatory regimes than New Zealand. A gigabit connection is what service providers buy wholesale. The speed drops because service providers need headroom for network control.
If ISPs can’t describe broadband at 90 percent of a gigabit as “gigabit”, then Vodafone shouldn’t use FibreX. The broadband product is zero percent modern fibre.
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Bill Bennett publishes technology news and features that are directly relevant to New Zealand readers. Covering enterprise and small business computing, start-ups, listed companies, the technology channel and devices. Bennett’s main focus is on New Zealand innovation. Bill Bennett stories are republished on Geekzone and Scoop.
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70% Support Letting Cities Build Their Own Broadband Networks, So Why Are We Still Passing State Laws Banning It?
For years1 we’ve noted how more than twenty states2 have passed laws — often quite literally written by ISP lobbyists — that prevent towns and cities from building their own broadband networks (either alone, or with a private partner). Even in instances where, as is often the case, the incumbent broadband provider refuses to upgrade them. ISP lobbyists (and the lawmakers that love them) usually try to defend these protectionist laws by first demonizing municipal broadband as “government run amok,” then pretending new state laws are necessary to protect local communities from themselves. In reality, municipal broadband is an organic, grassroots reaction to broadband market failure. And buying laws that restrict local communities’ rights to decide local infrastructure matters for themselves is little more than regulatory capture. Like net neutrality and privacy rights, municipal broadband actually has broad, bipartisan support — and most municipal broadband networks are built in Conservative markets3 with local voter support. But by framing the issue in a partisan way (government run amok!), ISP lobbyists have been able to sow dissent and stall progress that could challenge their status quo.
A new survey of 4,000 consumers4 by the Pew Research Project once again drives that point home, highlighting that 70% of Americans support letting towns and cities build their own broadband networks — if they’re not getting decent service by the regional incumbent:
“A substantial majority of the public (70%) believes local governments should be able to build their own broadband networks if existing services in the area are either too expensive or not good enough, according to the survey, conducted March 13-27. Just 27% of U.S. adults say these so-called municipal broadband networks should not be allowed. (A number of state laws currently prevent cities from building their own high-speed networks, and several U.S. senators recently introduced a bill that would ban these restrictions.)”
That said, partisan lines are far more stark when it comes to support for subsidizing broadband to low-income areas:
“At the same time, fewer than half of Americans (44%) think the government should provide subsidies to help lower-income Americans pay for high-speed internet at home. A larger share (54%) says high-speed home internet service is affordable enough that nearly every household should be able to buy service on its own.”
Partisan battle lines are also quite notable when it comes to asking consumers if they think broadband is essential versus just kind of important:
“Republicans and Democrats tend to agree that broadband is important, but Democrats are more likely to say it is essential: 58% of Democrats and Democratic leaners describe broadband in this way, compared with 38% of Republicans and Republican leaners. A similar split is evident by race and ethnicity, with blacks (55%) and Hispanics (61%) more likely than whites (45%) to say that high-speed access at home is essential.”
That dissent is certainly understandable, given how easy it has been for companies like Verizon to nab billions in tax breaks and subsidies for jobs half-completed5. There’s also a laundry list of states like West Virginia, where regional incumbents received millions in well-intentioned subsidies — only to turn around and waste that money on projects that helped virtually nobody6.
While some skepticism is warranted, there are countless instances where broadband subsidies did precisely what they were designed to do — without much (if any) fanfare. But again, it’s interesting how municipal broadband tends to smash through these well-worn partisan grooves many of us dig into the earth. In large part because if there’s one thing that we can all agree on — it’s that companies like Comcast and AT&T kind of suck, and dealing with their utterly abysmal customer support is a unifying, albeit miserable, experience. So then, too, is sticking it to these giant, lumbering, apathetic, and uncompetitive sector giants, and building a local, more accountable network operator where the money — and employment — actually remains in the local community. The problem usually winds up being how to pay for it.
Consumers may support the idea of municipal broadband and want to protect their right to vote for or against it, but many don’t want to pay for it. That’s why we’re seeing more public/private partnerships between cities and companies like Google or Tucows/Ting7. The problem, again: state laws bought by large ISPs often ban or hamstring public/private partnerships as well to help keep local competition at bay. Despite the broad support for municipal broadband, states continue to sell state telecom law to the highest bidder. AT&T convinced Missouri to pass a law earlier this year expanding restrictions8 on municipal broadband — after the telco failed to bury a restricting provision into a state traffic bill9. Virginia tried to similarly expand its ban on municipal broadband10, but lawmakers there were forced to retreat after they took a notable beating from the press and public11.
As we’ve long noted, one surefire way to prevent towns and cities from getting into the broadband business is to provide cheaper, better service. But it has long been significantly easier to just buy a state lawmaker and protectionist law to protect the dysfunctional status quo.
And like so many issues facing America, until we at least marginally address money’s influence on politics, little if any of this is going to change.
- ^ years (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ more than twenty states (muninetworks.org)
- ^ built in Conservative markets (muninetworks.org)
- ^ survey of 4,000 consumers (www.pewresearch.org)
- ^ nab billions in tax breaks and subsidies for jobs half-completed (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ waste that money on projects that helped virtually nobody (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ Tucows/Ting (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ expanding restrictions (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ traffic bill (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ expand its ban on municipal broadband (www.techdirt.com)
- ^ notable beating from the press and public (www.dslreports.com)
NIPISSING — Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli agrees with the recent CTRC declaration that broadband Internet is a basic service that should be provided to all Canadians. Fedeli hopes this decision will lead to some money finally being directed to rural areas in the north, where access to broadband service is lacking.
“Businesses in southern Ontario just take for granted that there is going to be broadband Internet everywhere. They would be shocked to find out that as you travel Ontario, there are places where you just don’t have access,” he said. “When I drive from North Bay to Mattawa, there are places all over that road that don’t have broadband access or cell service; they wouldn’t comprehend that in the south.”
The CRTC recently conducted a review of basic telecommunication services in Canada after receiving a request for the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. A decision issued on Dec.
21 stated access to high speed Internet was required to participate in the digital economy and, therefore, a necessity for all Canadians. A fund has been established to help attain new service levels with speeds of at least 50 megabits per second download, 10 megabits per second upload and unlimited data plans for fixed broadband services — not only for homes and businesses, but on all major roads.
“Access to broadband Internet services is vital, and a basic telecommunications service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” said Jean Pierre Blais, chair and CEO of the CRTC, in a statement released on Dec.
“Canadians who participated during our process told us that no matter where they live or work in our vast country — whether in a small town in northern Yukon, a rural area of eastern Quebec or in downtown Calgary — everyone needs access to high quality fixed Internet and mobile services.”
According to Connected North, 70 per cent of residents across Northern Ontario have access to affordable, five megabits per second Internet service. In Almaguin, however, only 30 per cent of residents have the same connectivity. Connected North’s connectivity map showed six municipalities in Almaguin have zero access to Internet service running at five megabits per second. The townships of Chisholm, Kearney, McMurrich/Monteith, Nipissing, Ryerson, and Whitestone are among those without high speed. Those areas who aren’t at zero per cent are still facing low numbers.
Armour Township has four per cent of its 1,372 population with high speed access; Joly Township, with 284 residents, is at eight per cent; and Powassan, with 3,378 residents and 101 businesses, has 54 per cent access. Fedeli hopes the CRTC decision will help spur the government to act and fund broadband projects for rural regions throughout northern Ontario facing the same issues as many townships in Almaguin — slow, weak Internet connections.
“We want to make sure money actually comes into rural and northern Ontario, and not somewhere in southern Ontario to enhance what they already have,” said Fedeli. The CRTC will be investing $750 million over and above existing government programs to help achieve a new, consistent level of Internet service across the country.
This money will be distributed over a five-year period.