Thursday, August 20, 2009

Everyone else is doing it...so why can't we?


Further interesting developments in Australia; Network World report on WiMAX implementation in Adelaide:
"Metropolitan Adelaide will get a WiMax wireless broadband network to cover the city's blackspot areas that cannot get ADSL2+ in a joint state and federal government project with ISP Adam Internet. The $3 million network will be deployed over 15 months with the first WiMax service area coming online in October this year. Funding will come from South Australia's Broadband Development Fund and contributions from the federal Australian Broadband Guarantee."
The Australian Government's Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has today called for proposals to deliver innovative digital services for regional, rural and remote Australia, as part of its Digital Regions initiative:
"The Digital Regions Initiative is a key element of the Australian Government's initial response to the Regional Telecommunications Review in conjunction with the Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative. The four year $60 million Australian Government initiative will co-fund innovative digital enablement projects with state, territory and local governments. It is a collaborative approach to improve the delivery of education, health and/or emergency services in regional, rural and remote communities."
Interesting that education is at the forefront of this initiative, rather than just alluded to in passing, to "extend digital education services to enable more regional, rural and remote communities to access improved educational opportunities".

Related developments too in America: today is the deadline to apply for $4.7 billion in broadband grants. However, some commentators predict many large players will not be applying, despite the deadline having been extended. This from Network World:
"Representatives of AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable all said late this week that their companies will not apply for broadband deployment funding approved in a huge economic stimulus package passed early this year. In addition, representatives of Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless said it was unlikely that they would apply for stimulus funding. The US$7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funding was pushed by U.S. President Barack Obama and several consumer groups in an effort to provide universal access to broadband across the country. The first round of funding, in which the application deadline has been extended from Friday to Aug. 20, will distribute about $4 billion in deployment grants and loans, with awards scheduled for November."
Further opinion in the Washington Post. A number of reasons are suggested as to why major players aren't getting on board, including:
  • they're sufficiently cash rich to upgrade and expand their broadband networks on their own;
  • being in receipt of government funding could bring unwanted scrutiny of business practices and compensation, as seen elsewhere with car manufacturers and banks that have taken government bailouts;
  • they're likely to partner with or be contracted by organisations winning grants, so will get the money anyway without having to apply;
  • allegations that conditions attached to the funding, specifically net-neutrality provisons, would prevent them from managing traffic on their networks in the way they want.
This last one is particularly interesting: is the issue here an issue over network management itself, or the perceived need to provide greater transparency about network management? These provisions reference the FCC's August 2005 Internet Policy Statement which set out the following four principles:
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
Specific nondiscrimination and interconnection requirements are set out on pages 33110-33111 of the Broadband Initiatives Program & Broadband Technology Opportunities Program official notice. My guess this is the problem one: "applicants must...not favor any any lawful Internet applications and content over others".

Confusingly, the same document immediately goes on to mandate transparency in network management: "applicants must...display any network management policies in a prominent location on the service provider’s web page and provide notice to customers of changes to these policies (awardees must describe any business practices or technical mechanisms they employ, other than standard best efforts Internet delivery, to allocate capacity; differentiate among applications, providers, or sources; limit usage; and manage illegal or harmful content)." But hasn't the same document said applicants can't employ any such techniques?

The same notice goes on to say:
"All these requirements shall be subject to the needs of law enforcement and reasonable network management. Thus, awardees may employ generally accepted technical measures to provide acceptable service levels to all customers, such as caching and application-neutral bandwidth allocation, as well as measures to address spam, denial of service attacks, illegal content, and other harmful activities."
Surely this too is contradictory? Cock up or conspiracy? I know where my money is.

Anyway, back to the UK: DCMS have published an implementation plan for Digital Britain. In comparison to US and Australian developments, this document seems pretty thin, lacking both detail and firm commitment. One area of potential interest is the intention to "ask community broadband groups for evidence of where access to existing infrastructure or shared digs could speed up deployments"

Some scope here to cast the net wider than community broadband groups in terms of existing infrastructure, picking up on previous suggestions about the possibility of consolidating and extending education and other public sector infrastructure to address rural access issues?

Media speculation in the Times and Guardian has focused on whether the 50p landline tax will go ahead or not. Stephen Timms has suggested its future is in doubt, as protocol dictates such legislative change requires opposition support to go before Parliament in the run up to an election, and this has not been forthcoming.

All in all, we seem to be dropping further and further behind in terms of developing coherent public policy on broadand. But at least Openreach have published a useful brochure explaining what next generation access is all about.

So that's all right then.

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