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March 17, 2008



Mostly because they're ignorant of the issues, I suspect, which is where you step in and enlighten them. :) While I'm all for getting as fast a pipe to the consumer as possible, one concern that you don't mention is backbone and regional throughput. Are the networks capable of handling this much traffic in the core? For example, there was news a couple of months ago that British ISPs were rebelling against the BBC's plans to distribute HD video content over their networks, claiming they could not handle the traffic. Since most ISPs notoriously oversell their capacity, knowing that overall average throughput will remain low, what makes you think they will be able to scale up appropriately once the last mile is flying along at 10s or 100 mbits/s? Is it easy for them to add capacity by lighting more dark fiber and adding more equipment or will this be an expensive build-out that will take awhile to finance? I'm often skeptical of fast last-mile pipes, like the ones you and others trumpet in Korea or Sweden or Japan, because I suspect that the core of their networks cannot actually handle the throughput that the edges are capable of. This is going to be increasingly relevant as more and more HD video starts trucking along the information superhighway.

Brough Turner

Ajay, there is no doubt the incumbents control not only the first mile, but also the middle mile here in the US. That's not the case in Sweden, where dark fiber is widely available to any ISP that's interested. And, when an ISP owns their own dark fiber, they can lite it a lot more inexpensively than they can rent middle mile capacity from a monopolist.

In the UK, there is effective unbundling of the copper loops, so there is a lot of competition for local broadband access, but the middle mile, i.e. from the local central office to the Internet backbone (in London for example), is only available from BT and the prices are not cheap. Dark fiber is not readily available to independent ISPs. So the UK has the problem you are seeing.

In summary, UK has competition in, and thus fast, first mile connections. However, the middle mile is controlled by the BT monopoly and thus is a choke point. In the US, we have monopolists (or a duopoly) for both the first mile and the middle mile. Not great in either case!



Thanks for an interesting read on the current state of things. I appreciate your writing style for this article-- first, denoting the FCC definitions of "broadband" and second, highlighting the pricing definitions in other countries. Geesh, the arbitrary nature of it all.

The look on my face was priceless-- as if I'd just dropped my ice cream and cone. :-)

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