Why Accept “Meh”-ga When You’ve Can Do GIGA? Rural Fiber Builds Will Come. NB: We wired the entire US for electric/phone, not just the rich parts.

I haven’t even touched the pile of earnings I was supposed to get to in the last few weeks, but ran across this squiblet on page B2 of the Tuesday NYTimes.  http://tinyurl.com/olluypa   “F.C.C. Seeks Better Phone Service for Rural America.  …in rural America, as many as one in five long-distance landline calls go astray, never connecting to the intended number. A caller might hear the sound of a ringing phone through a handset, but the actual phone might not ring, a busy signal could be wrongly transmitted or the line might simply go dead.”  The specifics make for pretty depressing reading and seem to stem from too-many handoffs between intermediate carriers.

The more interesting question is whether this is a harbinger of the (inevitable IMHO) process of wiring up rural America with “real” broadband.

Right now, the telcos are loudly proclaiming that rural areas can be served with “good enough” LTE wireless and other kludges.  It is hard to tell if the telcos are genuinely deluded or just trying to stave off the inevitable.  But there is no question that it is a total non-starter.  We WILL wire up most of rural America with fiber.   Consider.

  • Rural political interests dominate the Senate and much of the Republican Party.
  • The precedent of electricity and phone service, which were pushed to basically every house in the nation.
  • The precedent of cable, which was pushed to MOST houses in the nation (with no Federal subsidy).
  • The reality that fiber is a whole lot cheaper to run over long distances than copper (fewer breakdowns, less power required, less signal degradation, about the same cost for the gear itself, longer service life).

The interesting question is when does this all “tip” over to real change.  I think Google’s brilliant move to brand the term “GIGABIT” is having a real impact here.

  • Rural areas know they need broadband.
  • The word GIGABIT rolls nicely off the tongue.
  • Google has made it clear it doesn’t cost more than much-less-attractive-sounding “megabit.”  Why go “meh”-ga when you can go GIGA?  See Spinal Tap clip below.

We ARE seeing that GIGABIT awareness in the below comment from Calix (I own stock in CALX – majority of revenues from selling last mile broadband access gear to subsidized rural Tier 2, 3, and 4 US telcos).  We also saw similar comments on 2014 from Adtran (who sells similar gear into the Rural market and also into the larger, publicly traded carriers).

However, the level of excitement [among US rural carriers] for 2014 is exactly the opposite. There is huge energy around delivering high value services at gigabit speeds and Calix is well-placed to ride this wave.”

Admittedly, both are self-serving statements from equipment suppliers and CALX is down 20% today on a disappointing Q4 2013 forecast (cue rosy comments about 2014).  But I think there’s actually a fist-sized grain of truth about the rise of GIGABIT in there.  And rising rural broadband investment in 2014 – CALX’s CEO is an optimistic guy, but not a dreamer and Adtran’s management don’t make promises they can’t keep.

So the house-building chaos is abating, but we are now running into the December Holidays and Chinese New Years in January (our so-far-excellent contractor is using predominantly Chinese labor).  So our previously realistic end of December finish date has probably pushed out to February.  And our temporary housing runs out Dec 31.  We’d live in our car, but its a Honda Civic.  Shoulda bought that Impala….

Spinal Tap – “these go to 11”

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