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News summary for 7/20/07

Fri, 07/20/2007 - 9:06am

Congress moves on broadband reporting, phone portability
By Brian Santo

Even though the FCC has already begun the process of figuring out a better way to evaluate broadband usage in the U.S., Congress is moving to force the FCC to do more than it is considering doing now. At the same time, a separate bill on phone number portability was also forwarded.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed the Broadband Data Reporting Bill S. 1492, and the Same Number Act of 2007, S. 1769. Passing through the committee process is only a first step in the process of becoming law.

The FCC has been criticized for using outdated measurements and misleading data in its assessments of broadband usage. The Broadband Data Improvement Act would direct the FCC to re-evaluate its current definition of broadband, currently 200 kbps.

It would also require the FCC to create a new metric known as “second generation broadband” to be used to reflect network connections capable of reliably transmitting high-definition video content.

One provision of the proposed bill would direct broadband providers to report broadband availability and second-generation broadband connections within nine-digit zip code areas.

Another would have the Government Accountability Office (GAO) develop broadband metrics that may be used to provide consumers with broadband connection cost and capability information, and improve the process of comparing the deployment and penetration of broadband in the U.S. with other countries.

The “second-generation broadband” question apparently comes from the senators on the committee, who want to evaluate where broadband speeds and capabilities might be going. The request is loosely worded on purpose, but will almost certainly raise the hackles of those phone companies who are using DSL-based technologies to deliver HDTV.

Meanwhile, zip plus-4 reporting requirements are likely to be a burden on the smallest service providers, notably the 1,100 or so small cable operators.

The number portability bill is in response to complaints that some companies who lose phone customers to competitors will keep those customers waiting up to a month for their numbers to be ported to the new service. Companies providing phone service will have deadlines for porting phone numbers when consumers switch services, according to the Same Number Act of 2007, S. 1769.

The bill would direct the FCC to establish porting timelines for different classes of number portability, making allowances for technical issues associated with wired and wireless services, and how many services (voice, data, and video) are being ported. It would establish data exchange requirements for each class of number portability, publicly post the required porting timelines for the benefit of consumers, and require annual reports for the first five years from providers so that any needed changes or adjustments can be made.

Google stresses open platform conditions for spectrum auction
By Traci Patterson

If the FCC adopts open platforms conditions as part of its upcoming auction of the 700 MHz band of spectrum, Google Inc. intends to commit a minimum of $4.6 billion to the bidding.

The four open platforms conditions Google is urging the FCC to adopt are: 1) open applications, where consumers can download and utilize any software applications, content or services they desire; 2) open devices, where consumers can choose their wireless network; 3) open services, where third parties can acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis; and 4) open networks, where any ISP can interconnect at any feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.

“Google shares your bold vision of using the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction to encourage much-needed competition in the wireless and broadband markets,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote in a July 20 ex parte letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

“The Commission’s draft order for the 22 MHz 'C' Block in the Upper 700 MHz band reportedly allocates this block on a REAG basis subject to combinatorial bidding and includes some reference to 'open access' principles. While these all are positive steps, unfortunately the current draft order falls short of including the four tailored and enforceable conditions . . . In short, when Americans can use the software and handsets of their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win.”

Schmidt continued, noting that “the Commission’s draft order includes a reserve price of $4.6 billion for the 'C' Block, apparently to address unsupported claims about any impact from adopting open platforms conditions.” And should the FCC adopt all four of Google’s license conditions, that is the minimum amount Google intends to bid in the auction.

The auction’s draft rules dedicate a portion of the 60 MHz spectrum to be used for open access, which would allow service providers other than the license holder to provide services over the spectrum.

"Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide . . . [a] truly open broadband network -one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers," Martin told USA Today last week. Wireless industry players such as Verizon and CTIA are accusing Martin of siding with the Internet content industry, specifically Google.

Meanwhile, Google reported revenues of $3.9 billion, for the second quarter ended June 30, an increase of 58 percent year-on-year and an increase of 6 percent from the previous quarter. Google-owned Web sites generated $2.5 billion in revenue, which constitutes 64 percent of the company’s total revenue. The sites’ revenue marked a 74 percent increase from the previous year’s quarter and a 9 percent increase from the previous quarter.

RCN spreads out in Boston, Pennsylvania areas
By Mike Robuck  

RCN will be bringing its triple-play slate of services to more communities in the Boston area, as well as cities and towns in Pennsylvania.

In Boston, RCN’s services are now available in the Dorchester, Mattapan and Roslindale sections.

"We've completed construction that enables us to reach more customers in the Roslindale area, and ongoing construction will soon make RCN services available to more homes in Dorchester," said Richard Wadman, SVP and general manager of RCN Boston.

Wadman also said that Milton Board of Selectmen had agreed to an extension of RCN’s existing cable franchise last week, and that construction is underway.

RCN is expanding its coverage area in Pennsylvania to include Alburtis, Coopersburg, Reigelsville and Walnutport, by connecting the cities to its digital network.

In addition to Boston and Pennsylvania, RCN provides services in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Like other cable operators, RCN is focusing more on commercial services with its RCN Business Solutions unit.

RCN bought fiber-optic backbone service provider Neon Communications last month in a cash deal worth about $260 million.

SCTE expands foundation board, names committee chairs
By Traci Patterson

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has added two new members to its foundation board: Greg Allshouse of Comcast and Yvette Gordon-Kanouff of SeaChange International, who recently completed a two-year term as chair of the board of directors.

Current foundation board members include Keith Hayes of Charter Communications, John Clark of SCTE, Mike Phebus of Jones/NCTI and Bob Gold of Bob Gold & Associates.

Bob Macioch of Time Warner Cable has retired from the foundation board, where he was the founding treasurer.

Also, the chairs of the SCTE board of directors’ standing committees have been chosen: Greg Allshouse will chair the finance committee, Keith Grunberg of Charter the professional development committee, Frank Eichenlaub of Scientific Atlanta the membership committee, Patrick O’Hare of Comcast the operations committee, Charlie Kennamer of Comcast the engineering committee and Dermot O’Carroll of Rogers Cable the planning committee.

Broadband Briefs for 7/20/07
By Mike Robuck

* Airvana sets IPO price
Airvana, a provider of network infrastructure products used by wireless operators, announced the pricing of its initial public offering on Thursday. The company started selling 8.3 million shares of its common stock to the public for $7 per share.

Airvana has also granted underwriters a 30-day option period to purchase an additional 1.25 million shares to cover over-allotments, if there are any. Airvana’s stock started trading today on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol “ARIV.” As of 11:30 a.m. EDT, the stock was hovering around the $7.30-per-share mark.

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