Wed
May 23 2007
09:37 am

Tom Humphrey files this report. There was some drama involving e-mails, high-profile lobbyists, and an exchange between an AT&T lobbyist and Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville), who objected to being called an "obstructionist." He voted against the bill in the committee.

One amendment would establish a new cable control board with representatives from local governments in addition to state officials. The original proposal would have put cable franchises under control of the Tennessee Regulatory Agency.

The bill cleared the committee by a vote of 6-3. Voting for the bill were Senators Beavers, Bunch, Crutchfield, Southerland, Stanley, and Wilder. Voting against were Senators Burchett, Burks, and Tate.

The House Commerce Committee deferred action again. It has previously cleared the House Utilities, Banking, and Small Business sub-committee.

The KNS has another editorial today with what sounds like a lukewarm endorsement of the AT&T proposal in order to promote more broadband access. We agree with the KNS on expanding broadband access. We wonder if this bill will actually do that (see links below for background).

For example, we live in a relatively new development. We have been begging BellSouth, now AT&T, for DSL service for more than three years and still can't get it. We are inside the city limits with all new infrastructure and utilities. We are exactly the kind of neighborhood where you would expect AT&T to "cherry pick".

And in fact they have been invited by the City to submit a proposal for their new cable/broadband service, but as far as we know they have not responded. They could move into our area with their service any time they want, with or without a statewide franchise, but they won't. They won't even provide basic DSL.

How exactly does this increase competition again?

Previous posts about the bill can be found here and here.

My prediction: This bill will eventually pass this time around because of the intense lobbying effort and the massive "voter education" campaign that has convinced everyone that "competition" is good and will benefit them.

UPDATE: Joe Powell has more.

111
like
Stormare Mackee's picture

Big Picture

I still maintain AT&T's proposal is not about broadband access, it's rescuing AT&T's landline POTS business via bundled services (POTS + cellular + broadband + cable TV). Landline phone service is becoming obsolete because of VOIP and ever decreasing cell phone charges. In areas covered by cable TV, there's no longer need for landline. If AT&T cannot break into cable TV business, it'll lose POTS customers entirely. By offering bundled services, AT&T can underprice cable TV companies and give its landline business some reprieve.

Andy Axel's picture

Landline phone service is

Landline phone service is becoming obsolete because of VOIP and ever decreasing cell phone charges. In areas covered by cable TV, there's no longer need for landline.

Well, don't get too wrapped around the axle pondering terms like VOIP. Wireline service is still required for a lot of applications -- especially broadband Internet access. I resell a lot of Cisco VOIP to businesses on behalf of the phone company, and billing for wireline access doesn't decrease after you migrate from a traditional premises-based TDM solution like a key system or PBX. LD charges, maybe. Not access.

Residential service does represent a big portion of carrier revenue, but business service is still huge, and is still dependent on wireline (FXO, PRI, T1, T3, OC-n, Metro Ethernet, DWDM). Wireless is only a supplement for most businesses, and the ability to carry 10G on wireless (locally, let alone over long hauls) is a loooooooooong way off.

And there are things like home alarm services that still primarily piggyback on wireline phone service. There's a number of reasons for that, but chief among those reasons is that a phone line typically doesn't lose power in an emergency. You can buy yourself a UPS or generator for supplementary power for your IP phone service, but that's a mere fraction of the backup capacity of most Bell central offices (entire floors of DC power in batteries, diesel backup).

And E911 service over VOIP still has significant limitations. If I was, for example, taking care of an elderly relative, there's no way I'd rely on Vonage or Skype for my home phone service.

Don't be sounding the death knell for the PSTN (public switched tel network). It ain't happening any time soon.

If AT&T cannot break into cable TV business, it'll lose POTS customers entirely. By offering bundled services, AT&T can underprice cable TV companies and give its landline business some reprieve.

I think that one of the components of the AT&T/Bell merger was a requirement to offer unbundled (meaning: without requiring that you have dial tone) DSL Internet access. They didn't offer that before because of parity requirements (i.e. Bell would have to offer unbundled DSL at wholesale rates to competitors using Bell facilities under the UNE-P regime). For what it's worth.

____________________________

"Some days I'm afraid I'll go berserk, rip the Elvis Costello mobile down from the ceiling, throw the "Country Artists (Male) A-K" rack out into the street, go off to work at a Virgin Megastore, and never look back."

R. Neal's picture

Yeah, I wonder about that

Yeah, I wonder about that too. I wonder if that's why we can't get DSL. Like maybe they are waiting to get the go ahead to put in their new broadband video (which they have already been invited to do by our local govt.), and tack on the internet access and VOIP, thus leapfrogging the need to roll out DSL or even maintain the POTS any more.

WhitesCreek's picture

I had an installer at my

I had an installer at my house trying to get DSL working at the rate promised. Not only could he not get it working at that speed...He couldn't get it to work at all, and the guy in the central office screwed up my phone line so badly it took a week of yelling and finally a call to an insider I know personally to get it fixed.

While we were talking he said the other employees of AT&T/BS joked about the broadband bill. "We can't even make this stuff work. How are we going to handle what they're promising, now? We can't do it...It won't work."

WhitesCreek's picture

Oh, and by the way... We are

Oh, and by the way...

We are working on a wireless braodband system in West Roane County. Gueass who we're waiting on? Yep...ATT/BS to get their T1 lines working.

Andy Axel's picture

thus leapfrogging the need

thus leapfrogging the need to roll out DSL or even maintain the POTS any more.

Well, one, POTS is a tariffed and regulated service (FCC and TRA). It has to be offered.

As for DSL, I can almost guarantee you that it's a cap-ex issue. Capital spending is throttled in the wake of the AT&T/Bell merger, and often, retrofitting points of presence for DSLAMs requires some up-front outlay, especially if the cable-footage to the nearest CO is too much of a reach.

____________________________

"Some days I'm afraid I'll go berserk, rip the Elvis Costello mobile down from the ceiling, throw the "Country Artists (Male) A-K" rack out into the street, go off to work at a Virgin Megastore, and never look back."

R. Neal's picture

We are about 4 miles from

We are about 4 miles from SCB by road, about 2.5 as the crow flies.

There are 350-400 homes total in this and the adjoining neighborhood. They laid fiber down our street about a year ago.

I don't get it.

gatts's picture

If they put down any

If they put down any fiberoptics, they may be waiting til they can roll out a decent fiber network plan. Lightspeed, I think? If that's the case, they really don't want to invite anyone to start with DSL.

DSL goes over copper. Thanks to government intervention after that whole giant telephony monopoly thing, those who own and maintain copper can't actually control anything about it -- they have to provide access to other companies at a "reasonable" cost.

On the other hand, if the homeowner doesn't object, they have the option of removing any cable they own or even simply letting it decay when a home goes over to a fiberoptic connection. Since fiber doesn't have to be shared, this is a much preferable option.

As for VoiP... most networking setups for home installations with VoiP come with ~4-6 hours of battery backup, and with the ATA providing power to conventional phones, I think it's a reasonably mature technology. The e911 issue is a problem, but one that is increasingly possible to fix over time.

Andy Axel's picture

Thanks to government

Thanks to government intervention after that whole giant telephony monopoly thing, those who own and maintain copper can't actually control anything about it -- they have to provide access to other companies at a "reasonable" cost.

Uh, not so much. UNE-P was rolled back some time ago. As of a 2003 FCC ruling, "reasonable" cost is now "negotiated" cost.

Unbundled Network Element Platform (UNE-P) Issue – The Commission finds that switching - a key UNE-P element - for business customers served by high-capacity loops such as DS-1 will no longer be unbundled based on a presumptive finding of no impairment. Under this framework, states will have 90 days to rebut the national finding. For mass market customers, the Commission sets out specific criteria that states shall apply to determine, on a granular basis, whether economic and operational impairment exists in a particular market. State Commissions must complete such proceedings within 9 months. Upon a state finding of impairment, the Commission sets forth a 3 year period for carriers to transition off of UNE-P.

UNE-P required ILECs to sell at wholesale rates that were below recovered cost. (Although you can effectively argue that copper that's been in the ground for 20-50 years has been nothing but pure profit since year 3 or 4. Semantics.)

"Equal access" provisions still apply, yes. But Ma Bell still gets paid if you're buying dial-tone from XO. And Cox and Comcast pay Ma Bell too, I'm pretty sure, through fees for SS7 access and for switched call termination.

On the other hand, if the homeowner doesn't object, they have the option of removing any cable they own or even simply letting it decay when a home goes over to a fiberoptic connection.

It's still up to the telco how they choose to roll out the service. AT&T's Uverse will likely be based on an FTTC design. It's much cheaper to deploy, and faster to get to market. And it will come fastest where facilities already exist.

The e911 issue is a problem, but one that is increasingly possible to fix over time.

But it's all based on customer intervention if you have to make an equipment change. That problem hasn't been licked. Let's say your ATA dies, and you replace it. You don't inform your provider. You dial 911. The PS/ALI (private switch/automatic location identifier) information won't get forwarded to the E911 center, because there's no record of your ATA in the VOIP E911 database.

That's a lot of trust to invest in an end user community where many still can't figure out how to reset a VCR clock.

____________________________

"Some days I'm afraid I'll go berserk, rip the Elvis Costello mobile down from the ceiling, throw the "Country Artists (Male) A-K" rack out into the street, go off to work at a Virgin Megastore, and never look back."

Wayne's picture

cable

Cable companies recieved STATEWIDE FRANCHISING for voice several years ago by the TN General Assembly. Now they don't want to allow Phone companies to do the same for video. Want to bet if this bill passes Cable will apply for a state wide video franchise as well. My point is cable companies have no valid argument. If local governments are held harmless and given some concessions, then what will the argument be? The only thing left is Cable does not want competition.

R. Neal's picture

We heard you the first seven

We heard you the first seven times.

I don't care what cable did. I dont' think any cable/telco should have statewide franchises that take away local control and revenues, take away local control of rights of way (like your front yard), take away build-out requirements, and take away regulation of customer service standards.

But you are correct that it's a safe bet cable companies will take advantage of this law when it passes. Wonder how long their local contracts are for?

gatts's picture

I was under the impression

I was under the impression that most U-verse FTTN rollout had already been completed, and that their expansion effort had moved more to FTTP construction. Fiber to the basement has some advantages compared to FTTN, and thanks to today's passive, unpowered filtering devices, the cost difference isn't nearly as large as it used to be.

The rise in copper prices and related rates of theft might have to do something with it.

I've seen some technical work done to use the IP addresses rather than any CID/DID information held on the ATA. It's not an elegant solution, but for something that came from the Asterisk community, it's remarkably effective.

I'm also a little suspicious of individuals that can diagnose an issue, purchase the correct replacement, and configure said replacement personally, but not have read enough. At least with Asterisk and Cisco CallManager, you need to at least have information regarding the extension and its secret, not to mention a half-dozen bits of information regarding the PBX itself.

I strongly suspect those who can't master a VCR will find themselves simply contacting tech support if their calls go kaput. By the time it simplifies enough for an end-user to replace it, there are ways to get around the problem.

I didn't know about the UNE-P change. Strange, because I've been hearing folk complain about having to share copper recently. I suppose anything that reduces the cost of going to a different telco is probably a bad thing for them.

Andy Axel's picture

I was under the impression

I was under the impression that most U-verse FTTN rollout had already been completed, and that their expansion effort had moved more to FTTP construction. Fiber to the basement has some advantages compared to FTTN, and thanks to today's passive, unpowered filtering devices, the cost difference isn't nearly as large as it used to be.

That may work in Richardson, TX. Maybe not so much in Nashville, TN. Different substrata. I don't know about your house, but I'm about 1' over bedrock. I'd rather not have my lawn and every road in the neighborhood torn up to have service re-provisioned (and remember, one of the biggest cap-ex components in special construction is not glass; it's labor). Aerial fiber is a possibility, but has its drawbacks.

I've seen some technical work done to use the IP addresses rather than any CID/DID information held on the ATA. It's not an elegant solution, but for something that came from the Asterisk community, it's remarkably effective.

Well, right. But if you're using IP, you need to associate the MAC address of the ATA with the emergency responder's outbound PS/ALI info (unless you're allocating static IPs, where most ISPs opt for DHCP or DHCP/PPPoE). I think that's how Comcast Digital Voice works. That's all manual entry, and it goes blank if you put in a device with an unknown MAC. There's all sorts of disclaimers (and implied waivers) about you moving or replacing a device.

I didn't know about the UNE-P change. Strange, because I've been hearing folk complain about having to share copper recently. I suppose anything that reduces the cost of going to a different telco is probably a bad thing for them.

If those "folk" are AT&T-badged, yes, they're still required to share copper (and optical) facilities with CLECs, but AT&T is now paid a negotiated price, rather than a TRA/FCC-mandated one. That will cut into CLEC margins, but then AT&T isn't forced to compete as heavily on price for like service, albeit on sometimes radically unequal pricing terms. (USLEC/Paetec would probably pay a lower per-unit price than a Mom-n-Pop ISP, but term and volume discounts apply, blah blah blah.)

What's probably happening is that you've got, say, a USLEC customer with an expiring ISDN-PRI contract, and that customer is finding that they're not getting the write-down on renewal that they used to. There's not enough margin left. Then, when the customer shops the price around, there's a lot more price parity in the market for that service -- since AT&T was quick to renegotiate rates with every CLEC when the UNE-P rule changed.

____________________________

"Some days I'm afraid I'll go berserk, rip the Elvis Costello mobile down from the ceiling, throw the "Country Artists (Male) A-K" rack out into the street, go off to work at a Virgin Megastore, and never look back."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is used to make sure you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid/TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding.

TN Progressive

TN Politics

Local Media Blogs

Shopper Columns

Local News

News Sentinel

State News

Wire Reports

Site Statistics

Last 7 days:
  • Posts: 25
  • Comments: 537
  • Visits: 14,703
  • Pageviews: 39,447
Last 30 days:
  • Posts: 99
  • Comments: 1389
  • Visits: 44,580
  • Pageviews: 111,365

TN Progressive

Nearby:

Beyond:

At large: