Sunday, January 30, 2005

Who will replace Powell and Why it matters!

As it stands now, it appears the most likely replacement for departing FCC chief Mike Powell is commissioner Kevin Martin - who if you recall had several spats with Powell in the past over broadband deregulation. While both support deregulation, Martin seems to have a shred more consumer advocacy in his blood, and wasn't comfortable at the speed at which Powell was tearing down competitive guidelines. Whoever replaces Powell has a long list of controversial issues to tackle - well covered in this TMCnet piece.

Why does this matter?
  1. It's an easy choice for Bush. Too many people on Capitol Hill wouldn't go for an exact Michael Powell duplicate. Martin is seen as a bit stricter than Powell and more willing to enforce regulations already on the books instead of ignoring them. And as an existing commissioner, Martin can be designated as chairman without having to be confirmed by Congress - which would prevent giving Democrats a chance to drag out the issues and political hot potatoes such as media consolidation.

  2. Martin won't be making any sweeping changes. All of us looking at the current telecommunications landscape are already screaming "look, Ma Bell is resurrecting herself!". But under Martin this is likely to continue without much fanfare. He'll probably remain "hands-off" with VoIP - which is good - but our nations municipalities are likely to find themselves bound, gagged and handcuffed should they consider deploying municipality funded broadband. By maintaining the status quo, Martin will ensure that the rates paid by middle America for phone service and internet access will continue to steadily rise and the 'digital divide' will continue to widen as carriers cherry pick residential neighborhoods for fiber deployment while leaving businesses and less profitable customers holding a bag of very expensive poop.

  3. Digital TV will continue to flounder. As it should! I'm all for digital TV and I'm all for HDTV. Both of them exist in my home. But that doesn't mean I think the family across the river who earns less than $20,000 a year and supports 4 children without welfare or Medicaid assistance should have to buy a new $650 television, $250 antenna and $100 receiver unit. Martin isn't expected to push the roll-out schedules any faster than the 85% rule... which should in effect keep pushing out the 'drop-dead' date for broadcasters. Now, I do think all the full power broadcasters who received free airwaves more than 10 years ago and have made profits on that free gift should be required to have digital simulcasting in place for 100% of their broadcast day by 2006. Doubt that will happen with Martin though... he's just a beholden to corporate interests as Powell. ({begin rant} You DID know that the TV broadcasters got their 6 mhz chuncks of *extremely* valuable VHF and UHF spectrum without paying a single dime, right? And that they've never paid a single dime for it since they started broadcasting. And that they're dragging their feet as hard as possible to keep from giving it up to other communications carriers who will have to pay billions for it! {end rant})

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Consider yourself warned!

I don't know which one scares me more... that bald head... or the pseudo-sticking out the tounge expression. Ps... Isn't her hair great?

They call themselves "The Mixon Clan". Personally, I think they look more like a montley crew! Can you guess which one is the younger sister?

Resorts, hotels and properties getting on the internet

Lately I've been seeing lots of resorts, hotels and other service properties looking around for how to provide their guests with broadband access. So, I thought this would be a good time to publish a public primer on the subject covering most of the items I usually discuss with property owners via phone or in person. This information is a "large hand" overview, please contact Anyion Services for a consultation for your specific location.

There are a couple major considerations when wiring a service property:
  1. How will guests access the system?
  2. What infrastructure, if any, is already in place to facilitate the roll-out?
  3. How will the host property get its access to the internet?
  4. Is the property owner capable of managing their own hardware?
  5. How much budget is available for hardware?
  6. Who will do the initial installation and setup?
  7. How much will the gateway internet access cost the property (monthly recurring expense)?
  8. Will guests access the service for free or will they be required to pay?
  9. Who will provide day-to-day technical support to guests?
  10. Does the property management need it's on independent network which is segregated from guests?
Let's begin this discussion with the 3 basic questions we always need to answer first:

How will guests access your system?
For all the property owners I've spoken to, the initial answer to this question always some version of "wireless". While wireless is a technology that should certainly be considered and is usually part of every installation, it's not the only access technology that should be considered. In most installations, it is also helpful to provide guests with the ability to connect in a wired fashion using a plain ethernet jack (RJ45). This can be accomplished in several ways. Properties which have existing telephone wiring infrastructure in the building can use various flavors of small DSL equipment or Cisco's ethernet over Cat3 product line to provide ethernet drops in guest rooms, remote buildings, bungalows, etc. Especially for remote buildings, if there is existing telephone wiring I always recommend using it instead of trying to do a point-to-point wireless shot. Wireless always requires more upkeep than wired solutions - especially outdoors.

What infrastructure, if any, is already in place to facilitate the roll-out?
As I mentioned above, one of the existing resources that can be leveraged is existing telephone plant wiring. Other items to consider are towers on which antennas can be mounted, tall trees for the same, and outdoor power outlets. When planning a wireless roll-out, one of the most time consuming aspects - aside from mapping the terrain - is figuring out how to power the outdoor access points and antennas. Even for an all indoor installation this can still be a major problem since there are rarely power outlets where you need them - i.e. in attics and overhead crawl spaces.

In campus settings there are often no power drops near where outdoor or eve mounted access points need to be placed... which often means a considerable about of electrical wiring. For all brick or all cement block buildings it may actually be cheaper to pay the power company to drop an additional electrical circuit and meter in certain places on the property instead of trenching, boring or drilling for new wiring.

How will the host property get onto the internet?
This is usually the most difficult question to answer. For city hotels and B&B's this is usually not a hard thing to accomplish since DSL and cable modems are often available in those locations. For resorts, however, it can be a much more expensive and time consuming proposition due to usually being in more remote areas. By nature a resort is designed to be away from the hussle and bussle of a city... which means they are also further away from the technological resources needed to put them on the internet. In many cases this means the only option for internet service at their property is a standard business internet T1. For smaller properties the monthly expense (usually $500-850 per month) can be a bit hard to swallow. And for the most remote properties business T1s may be completely unavailable or cost prohibitive {i.e. over $1200/mo} (especially if the local phone company is a small, independent company). In those circumstances, the properties may only be able to get internet access via satellite or long range microwave service. Note: Properties should use caution when looking at satellite connections. If you frequently host business travelers, they will be unhappy with accessing their corporate systems via satellite because the VPN (virtual private networking) software used to access their corporate networks is mostly useless over a satellite connection due to the latency (response slowness) of satellite connections. Also, expect to spend $250 or more per month for a satellite connection which will be used by multiple people. Starband a similar services are highly restrictive about how many concurrent connections can be made over their network.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Sugar High Cometh!

Speaking of pounds - How many pounds of Nancy's Homemade Fudge is that? And who volunteered to clean the ceiling after the geeks in the office got ahold of it?

Someone just had to offset the candy didn't they?!?

Oh my, I don't know which one is bigger. That fruit basket of the "love pounds" hiding under that Tarheel blue shirt! What, Adam, did ya get married and give up? Now here we'd gotten them the perfect birthday gift (fudge and chocolate) for that fabulous sugar buzz... and someone had to go and make them feel guilty by sending something healthy like fresh fruit!

Whoa! Adam's getting old... good thing he has his T1 business to fall back on when he loses those good looks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Build your own telco for under $6k

"George Ou shows how with the help of open-source VOIP server Asterisk you can start your own telecommunications company for under $6000 ' can build a phone system that can support 72 analog telephones or fax machines, 100 IP hard or soft phones on site or remote, a T1 line to the public telco for 23 simultaneous external PSTN connections, multiple IP-based IAX trunks to multiple remote offices for seamless toll-bypass 4-digit dialing, IVR, and almost unlimited voice mail for everyone – for under $6,000 in a 1U chassis. Such a price point is easily 10 or more times cheaper than a commercial alternative,' writes George." (Thanks /.)

The only thing George forgets is that getting the bandwidth installed to share the connections with other offices over the internet can be an expensive proposition in itself. Before you get too excited, you might want to check out DS1 prices in your local area for both voice T1s and intenet T1s.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The effects of Verizon FIOS on business internet users

Being in the DFW Metroplex, we've had an opportunity to observe how Verizon is handling their FIOS installations first hand. And I'm the first person to admit that I get a little giddy thinking about what they will some day be offering.

But that's not the focus of my thoughts today. I want to look at something else... how businesses are being affected by the rollout.

Talking to all the people online and in person who have FIOS going into their areas, I came to an interesting observation. It seems that Verizon has specifically engineered the new fiber roll-out to avoid as many business customers as possible. Now when you consider that the average business is paying 2x as much per copper wire in the Verizon network as residential customers you can see a profit motive there.

So I have an interesting hypothesis... Verizon plans to move as many of the residential customers in their network over to fiber to get them on higher ARPU products (i.e. cable TV) to boost their revenues and to get rid of many of their high maintenance copper loops (i.e. long runs of copper into subdivisions). At the same time, Verizon intends to force as many business customers into "legacy" (and more expensive, more profitable) solutions - T1, DS3, etc. - as possible to extract every possible cent from their copper network before they start to dismantle it.

With the residential focus of FIOS and similar solutions from other ILECs, it seems we're going through another round of "ignore the business customer b/c if they really want something they'll pay for it anyway". This is the same thing most businesses who called Comcast or Time Warner for cable modem or TV service 3 years ago ran into. Businesses screw up the financial calculations when they "upgrade" themselves to less costly technologies.

I don't want to scream conspiracy here... but if you consider what would happen to Verizon's financials if all their business internet customers (T1 and higher) moved to FIOS you can see they certainly have strong incentive to maintain the status quo as long as possible. (Why else do you think they moan so loudly about the CLECs sucking away all their profitable customers?)

What does this mean for today's business? Well, the ones still on dialup will either move to DSL or do nothing. Those businesses who are growing and have a real need for bandwidth (especially for hosting applications, high volume email, or anything requiring much upload speed) will be forced into T1s. And those customers who outgrow T1s - which many are already doing rather quickly - will find themselves looking at DS3s and co-location. All the while they'll be asking the carriers and sales folks "why can't we get this cheap fiber stuff". The carriers won't answer directly... but you'll hear a faint voice in the background whisper "because we're a monopoly, we've paid off most of the politicians, and we don't have to give you anything unless we want to".

Are we headed for a trainwreck? Where American homes have faster internet connections than the average business? I hate to think about it, but if the current state of affairs continues, the answer will be yes.

So what's a business internet user to do about keeping their connection pricing reasonable? A good start would be taking a look at the current offerings in your area using our real-time T1 and DS3 price engine .
}- Davoice