Archive for Broadband

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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Broadband speed hits a new high

On a day that Internet connection in Asia slowed to a crawl because of damaged undersea cables, StarHub launched Singapore’s fastest wired broadband Internet service.

It offers subscribers a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) connection — three times faster than current services.

Mr Mike Reynolds, StarHub’s head of integrated products and marketing, said: “Singapore will become the first country in the world to have a 100Mbps broadband service commercially available nationwide.”

The only catch is that subscribers need to purchase a 100Mbps-ready cable modem at $525 and subscribe to its $121.80 per month MaxOnline Ultimate plan to reach the advertised speeds.

Asked about this, Mr Thomas Ee, StarHub’s senior vice-president for IP services, said it wanted to differentiate this premium service from other packages, in which modems are usually bundled free.

As the second largest telco, StarHub has 308,000 customers for its broadband services.

Currently, all its subscribers can access local content and services at speeds of up to 32Mbps, regardless of their service plan or modem. But under the new plan and modem, they’ll be able to access local and international websites at 100Mbps.

Its competitor, SingTel, offers a 10Mbps service that comes bundled with a modem if subscribers sign up for a contract.

It had already started a trial in July on a wired broadband service that utilises a fibre-optic based technology currently capable of reaching speeds of up to 80Mbps. The technology can theoretically scale up to 1000Mbps.

A SingTel spokesperson said that it plans to launch the fibre-optic based broadband service next year, along with other high-speed broadband services.

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YouTube generation needs more broadband speed

Technology industry experts meeting in Silicon Valley recently said broadband Internet access in the U.S. needs to improve for the “YouTube generation” to really flourish. An improved broadband network will better serve users of sites such as, at which millions of videos from the general public are shared online.

Although the U.S. broadband penetration rate topped 75 percent of households in September and is expected to reach 80 percent by the end of 2006, according to, China is expected to surpass the U.S. as its broadband base grows rapidly. But more importantly, says Mossberg, U.S. broadband networks are generally slower than those in other countries. Faster connections will be needed to deliver full-motion video to portable devices. Services that deliver as little as 768 kilobits per second (Kbps) are considered broadband in the U.S., while services in Europe and elsewhere are much faster. “I was in a pub in Dublin, Ireland, and I was getting 30 megabits per second (Mbps), wireless. And it was free,” said Greg Harper, a strategic adviser for Trans World Entertainment Inc., which operates retail music and video entertainment stores in malls and online.

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Wired in Wabasha: Internet brings swift current of change

WABASHA, Minn. - Karen Taylor remembers what it was like before high-speed Internet came to town.

Taylor, who runs a scrapbooking business from her home, said her old dial-up connection took eight hours to load 50 photos onto a server for processing.

“I’d sit there at the computer twiddling my thumbs,” Taylor said. “It was awful.”

A year later, she can load those photos in less than 30 minutes. The difference is the arrival in January of high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service in Wabasha.

Fiber-optic is the cheetah of the wild Internet kingdom, able to move information at the speed of light. Only about 1 million Americans currently have access to fiber-optic service directly to their homes - a group that now includes the 2,600 residents of Wabasha, a picturesque Mississippi River community that claims to be Minnesota’s oldest city.

One is Joel Mona, owner of the Riverboat Lanes. Mona has high-speed service at his downtown bowling alley and also at home, where he’s become an eBay fanatic. Earlier this year, the new Internet connection showed its power at Mona’s Great River Open bowling tournament.

“We had a Web site, and we got people from hundreds of miles away,” Mona said. “They were coming from Wisconsin, the Dakotas - all over. You can’t go back to dial-up once you’ve had high speed.”

The rest of Minnesota might have a longer wait for fiber-optic. While fiber is fast becoming the standard for high-speed Internet in Asia and Europe, its development in Minnesota is being led by about two dozen outstate communities that see the technology as their best bet to remain competitive in the Information Age.

In the Twin Cities area, fiber to the home is available only in a handful of subdivisions where individual developers have chosen to install it. Most of the major cable and Internet providers, such as Comcast and Qwest, use what’s called a hybrid fiber-coaxial service, in which the signal is carried on a fiber-optic trunk line, then routed down copper wires to homes or businesses.

In Wabasha, residents and civic boosters say that fiber-optic Internet service will help them avoid the economic decline of many rural Midwestern towns, while making Wabasha an attractive vacation and retirement destination for city folk who love its charm but aren’t willing to give up urban amenities.

“This is a system that a lot of big cities would love to have,” said City Council Member Joel Carlson. “As a rural town, you need every advantage you can get. This gives us a chance.”

Wabasha got its speedy Internet access thanks to a group of civic-minded investors in neighboring Winona. When the success of Winona-based Fastenal Inc. made the company founders wealthy, they decided to funnel some of their newfound riches into the community.

Beginning in the early `90s, the group started a nonprofit foundation that financed a high-speed communication network connecting Winona’s schools, colleges and government offices. That led to the creation of Hiawatha Broadband Communications, a for-profit company that began providing Internet, TV and phone service to Winona residents and businesses.

About two years ago, the group decided to build a dream system with fiber-optic cable running directly to every home and business. They chose to build it in Wabasha, 30 miles up the river, a town that until then was largely dependent on dial-up technology from the Internet’s infancy.

The system cost $3.5 million, a sum that the incumbent Internet providers hadn’t chosen to spend on such a tiny market.

Since Wabasha’s system began taking orders in January this year, more than 1,750 households have signed up for Internet, TV or phone service, said Gary Evans, Hiawatha’s president and chief executive officer.

The services are delivered over fiber-optic cable that can transmit data and video at speeds of a gigabit per second or faster. That’s about 18,000 times faster than dial-up and about 500 times faster than the copper cable widely used in the Twin Cities area.

In Wabasha, there are already some signs of the benefits high-speed communication could bring. Carlson, the council member, said the city is talking to a Canadian manufacturer of pellet stoves that’s considering Wabasha for a factory that would employ more than 100 people.

“It’s not the only reason they’re looking at us,” Carlson said, “but if we didn’t have the fiber-optic system, we wouldn’t even be in the game.”

Bill Davidson owns a company in Wabasha that designs and manufactures industrial electronics. Davidson couldn’t send his clients detailed designs and masses of technical information via dial-up. Instead, he had to burn it all onto CDs and mail them, a practice that was starting to hurt his business.

Now, “we are seamless to the world,” Davidson said. “We probably have as good a broadband access from our little town as you can get anywhere in the country. It allows someone to live here and have a professional presence on the Internet.”

There are subtler benefits, too, said Barry Hill, who goes to school at Winona State University and works part time in his family’s hardware store on Main Street in Wabasha.

“It really kind of opens up the world to you,” said Hill, who pays about $110 a month for Internet, TV and phone service. “Wabasha’s a pretty small and sheltered community. Now I read the New York Times online every day. If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t know about what’s happening in Darfur. I wouldn’t know about Bosnia.

“I don’t know how people did things without it.”

Joining the wider world has its price. Even as they praise their new connection, some residents wonder about the bad things that the Internet can bring, such as pornography and online predators.

“Of course, there’s a lot of bad stuff out there,” said Conn Walters, a local real estate agent. “You do worry about the kids.”

But in today’s world, communication is as important as highways, said John Wodele, a former three-term mayor of Wabasha who later served as Gov. Jesse Ventura’s chief spokesman.

“Will Wabasha suddenly grow to 10 times its size? No,” said Wodele, now a Twin Cities communications consultant. “But its economy will thrive. And in a time when towns of 2,500 people are going backward, Wabasha will go forward.”

From ContraCostaTimes.

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