15 Dec Advice to the New FCC Chairman: Let the Best Broadband Win
With current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler resigning today, it’s on President-Elect Donald Trump to appoint a FCC chairman with an open mind when encouraging regulators to address the need for affordable ultrafast broadband. What the President-Elect may not know is several next-generation, affordable broadband technologies such as G.fast, 5G and DOCSIS are emerging as economically superior to Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and any ideological predisposition towards only one technology could be a big mistake.
Here’s an example of Australia’s fixation on FTTH. Half a decade ago, the Australian government set their sights on a “fiber-only” deployment and asked Australia’s National Broadband Company (NBN Co) to deploy fiber to 100% of Australian homes by 2021. What happened next was nothing short of a disaster – a doubling of costs and a very low percentage of households covered after five years of fiber rollout. It was simply too expensive and time consuming to install.
NBN’s challenges weren’t isolated. Even one of the world’s most innovative and wealthy companies, Google, wasn’t able to economically deliver services via fiber. After five years, Google has stopped expansion of its FTTH offering to new markets. Some experts estimate Google achieved just 5% of its subscriber goals after five years of effort. Google realized that installing fiber all the way into the consumer’s residence is too expensive and impractical. Plus, consumers are unwilling to fund the incremental investments needed with fiber-only installations. As AT&T once aptly stated, “We just can’t figure out a better way to dig a trench.”
Despite these cautionary tales, the Obama administration and other global regulators have continued to blindly go down a “fiber-only” path for ultrafast broadband access. This is clearly misguided. We hope Mr. Trump will be open-minded to better solutions.
The new American President-Elect should be aware that alternative technologies have been achieving amazing results for a fraction of the installation cost of FTTH. Already, companies such as Windstream and CenturyLink announced deployments of the new international ultrafast broadband standard, G.fast. Last summer, AT&T also showed interest in G.fast. G.fast is also being rolled out in England with British Telecom. G.fast can deliver over 1Gbps in both upstream and downstream and new enhancements to G.fast will see that performance increase to up to 2Gbps in 2017.
Australia clearly has learned its lesson. It has abandoned its fiber-only approach and is now open to alternative technologies such as G.fast. In a recent Light Reading interview with NBN Co’s Principal Technology Officer Daniel Willis, he states that deploying G.fast instead of fiber to a projected 750,000 homes in Australia could save $1,000 Australian dollars per home or $750M Australian. If that same strategy is deployed in the US, that’s a significant savings for US telecommunications companies that can be passed down to the consumer.
We implore the next President and the next FCC Chairman not to declare an overall technology winner in the race to deliver ultrafast bandwidth to all Americans. Give us a target and let the market deliver the most practical solutions and the most attractive prices. Let the best broadband win!