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The emerging broadband wars

With members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) flitting about dropping the broad outline of what a national broadband strategy could encompass, it is clear some service providers are much better positioned than others to live up to a goal of 100 Mbps in 100 million homes by 2020.  Others are clearly scared and above it all Google has got municipalities performing cheap stunts – to borrow a phrase from Howard Stern, “Bark like a dog!”

Players who are ready to step up to the plate — See, Blair Levin, baseball analogy, wink-wink – include the cable industry and Verizon.  Comcast’s Xfinity offering/marketing repackage includes a nice line about “100 Mbps soon” and they’ve nearly got all that shiny new DOCSIS 3.0 infrastructure out.  Other cable companies, including Cox – my provider – are also on the DOCSIS 3.0 bandwagon, a technology capable of proving up to 600 Mbps downstream and 200 Mbps up.

Verizon’s FiOS fiber-to-the-home network is already positioned to one-up cable, however, depending on how you want to split hairs.  While the company currently only sells 50 Mbps as its max speed, this is due to marketing considerations rather than actual hardware capacity in most markets.  Initial FiOS deployments started with 155 Mbps gear, but shifted to GPON – Gigabit speeds, bunkie. A couple of years ago, Verizon engineers were scoping out 10GPON and wavelength-to-the-home gear for future deployments.

Needless to say, Verizon could crank 100 Mbps to most of its FiOS plant in an eye blink – and probably will about two minutes before or after a couple of cable companies start running at 100 Mbps. Again – this is one of those “We, the phone company, think this is what you need” attitudes driven by some sort of strategic thinking that is beyond me.  If Steven Jobs or the Fake Steve Jobs were in charge, he’d open up the taps and steamroller the competition.

Carriers less-than-enthusiastic about 100 Mbps to the home include AT&T and Qwest. AT&T bet that fiber-to-the-neighborhood with a copper “last yard” deliver to the home would be good enough to get by, saving the company from the expense of having to trench fiber and make all that mess, but neighborhoods have not been happy with the eyesore distribution boxes necessary to successful pull of the scheme.

Qwest, well, god bless ‘em, it doesn’t have the cash for consumer broadband builds like AT&T or Verizon have done, plus it got saddled with the long-(Wiremile) end of the stick when it comes to its customers.  I have this sad feeling that Qwest will ultimately end up as a ward of the U.S. government a la GM at some point because of the lack o’ cash.

I suppose the Google-ites are chortling about Topeka, Kansas renaming their town to Google (Psst, Hey, Topeka, if any town is going to get renamed, it’ll be Mountain View, California…)

But more seriously, you’ve got municipalities setting up Facebook pages begging for Google investment and who knows what else behind the scenes.  You’d think we were in the Great Depression rather than an ugly recession at some of the urgency and pleading going on to get Google to come to town and it’s only going to get worse.

Be interesting to see if The Goog actually writes a check or two, but Baltimore, seriously, come off your knees with the begging.

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