Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Broadband and Politics

In a recent article in Backchannel an attorney whose opinions in my opinion lack any insight into fundamental technical and operational factors opines on broadband in NH. Some ten years ago I spent a few years trying to do broadband in over 20 towns in New Hampshire. I have a home in New Hampshire and I got to know every street in these towns. All one has to do is examine some cases we presented on our web site. We did years of work examining every street and every market. More than likely we got to know the state better than most Presidential candidates. From Nashua to Colebrook.

Now the author states:

Why? Because New Hampshire, our nation’s 42nd most populous state, has lousy connectivity. The FCC defines high-speed Internet access to be 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up these days, and more than a third of the rural population in New Hampshire (most of which votes Republican, by the way) can’t buy that kind of connection at any price. Fewer than one out of every six urban New Hampshire residents can buy that connection even if they want it: the wire just doesn’t exist in their town.

Why the poor connectivity. All you have to do is look at the paper I wrote after the attempt to build out fiber. I stated: 

This paper presents one of the most significant costs of implementing a broadband service but at the same time one of the least analyzed component in that process, franchising. Simply stated, for a town as small as a few thousand households, the time it takes to obtain a franchise under the best of circumstances is often well in excess of one year and the amount of labor includes often two or more people dedicated to that effort plus other costs such as legal, engineering and other costs. If the incumbent decides to fight, the process may take longer. The municipalities always want to increase their returns so the process becomes an escalation of demands and delays. For towns of say 2,000 households, as the author demonstrates by specific ca se studies, costs of $400,000 to $500,000 are not unrealistic. This means readily an additional cost of $250 per HH or at 25% penetration, $1,000 per HH. In contrast the capital required to deliver broadband in such a community is $1,500 per HH. Thus the franchise costs are approaching the capital costs per HH in many communities. This clearly becomes a dramatic if hidden element but also becomes a real but avoidable barrier to entry for any and all new broadband entrants. This paper details these costs and others and makes suggestions to remedy them.

 Namely, the towns themselves, in my experience and my opinion, were one of the greatest road blocks. Add to that was the influence the cable companies had in trying to stop any fiber build.

Overall the piece fails in my opinion to understand the complexity of New Hampshire politics. The towns may want fiber but the way they go about it is the most significant obstacle. It would really help to understand the record and not make statements which serve a political agenda.

Unfortunately I have the distinct disadvantage of experience. Politics does not.