Archive for February, 2007

CWA’s ‘Speed Matters’ Campaign to Press for High Speed Internet for All

The Communications Workers of America released a new policy paper as part of its “Speed Matters” campaign, a multi-million-dollar, strategic effort to help bring affordable, high speed Internet to all Americans.

The newest policy paper is available at, in the “to learn more” box. Also on that site is a speed test, to measure individual Internet speed, and other breaking news and information.

The report spotlights the critical need for a comprehensive national high speed broadband policy if the United States is to bring the benefits of the telecommunications revolution to all.

The United States, the country that invented the Internet, has fallen to 16th in the world in terms of access to high speed broadband. “This is not surprising since we spend relatively less as a nation on telecommunications investment and we spend relatively more as consumers for slower speeds,” the report noted.

“High speed networks are the infrastructure of the 21st century and the U.S. needs a national policy to get all of us there,” said CWA President Larry Cohen. “This is a critical public good and where markets are slow to deliver, we need to find ways to create financial incentives to speed up private sector build out. In addition, we need to ensure that all regions of the country have access to service — including rural areas and urban communities. That’s why we need a national public policy that will make sure that all Americans can benefit from high speed Internet and other 21st century advances.”

Cohen noted that the recent announcement of the sale of Verizon land lines in northern New England was a step backward in terms of providing universal high speed Internet access for all. Consumers in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have, in effect, been abandoned in terms of gaining access to true high speed Internet and future technological advances, because only companies with a substantial rate of capitalization have the ability to provide such services.

CWA is advocating some bold, specific steps that the United States should take to ensure that all residents have access to high speed Internet networks. These include:

* An increase in the Federal Communication Commission’s definition of high speed, which now is just 200 kilobits per second, a fraction of what the rest of the world uses. * Accurate mapping and data collection of exactly where we are in terms of broadband availability and speed, so we know who does and who does not have access to high speed Internet today. * Support for public/private partnerships to promote build out and to generate demand. * Extending universal service requirements that now apply only to voice telephony to Internet services. * Preserving an open Internet, so that all consumers can go where they want, when they want.

The report also points to ways that government can create financial incentives to speed up the build out of high speed networks, including accelerated depreciation of investments and making low interest loans available to carriers in order to go forward with build out.

CWA’s campaign involves working with policymakers in Congress and at the state and local levels and is building support among other public interest groups and organizations for ensuring universal access to high speed broadband networks.

CWA also believes that building high capacity networks — making bandwidth readily available — is the best way to resolve issues and concerns about maintaining an open Internet.

CWA represents 700,000 workers in communications and information technology, media and cable, public service, health care and higher education, airlines and manufacturing.

From PR Newswire.

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The Infamous ‘Up To’ Broadband Qualifier

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a warning to Australia ISPs to come clean about their broadband speeds and stop using the “up to” marketing term, or face possible litigation. “Most consumers won’t understand what ‘up to’ means and then they are significantly disappointed when they don’t achieve those speeds,” says ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel. “We know all the technicians know that in most cases the speeds that you are claiming as the headline speeds are not achievable,” he warns.

There’s been a similar debate here in the States. While technicians and informed users know that an “up to 3Mbps” connection means under optimal conditions (line quality, CO distance), less informed consumers are repeatedly surprised when they perform their first speed test and notice they’re getting significantly less. While some have suggested regulator-enforced speed tests to ensure customers are getting what they pay for, there’s too many factors to consider (trojan infection? poor home wiring?) to make proper enforcement practical.

Our resident ISP techs will be the first to tell you that residential broadband is a “best effort” service, and users desiring guaranteed speed and reliability should look toward business class lines with SLAs. Users on the other side of the fence argue you don’t pay for “up to” a gallon of gasoline, with the gas station saying .7 gallons was their “best effort” in getting it from the ground to your tank. Either way, if there’s a problem with the “up to” tag, it’s a marketing department issue. Is the “up to” tag misleading? Is it something regulators should squash?


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