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The Challenge of Rural Broadband


									  The Challenge of Rural
           Ed Cameron, PE
Director, Advanced Services Division
   Rural Utilities Service - USDA
             Today’s Menu
• What is broadband?
• What infrastructures can deliver it?
• What are the Big Myths of broadband
• Which infrastructures offer promise for
  rural America?
• Snake oil
         What is Broadband?
• A relative term
• First defined by Webster’s in 1956
• Definitions of note:
  – “Not narrowband”
  – “Big channel”
  – Current FCC: “data transmission at a rate at
    least 200 kilobits/sec bidirectionally”
          What is Broadband?
• Bellcore’s Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
• Beware of confusing terms:
  – “High Speed Access” has no inherent meaning
  – Speed vs. rate
     • Speed is determined by speed of light in the medium
         – 186,000 miles/second is the speed of light in a vacuum
     • Rate is the quantity of data transferred in a set
       period of time
         – 200 kilobits/second is the FCC’s broadband rate
What Infrastructures Can Deliver
• Wireline
• Terrestrial wireless
• Nonterrestrial wireless
    About these Infrastructures
• Wireline
  – Physically connects user to network with
  – Requires installation of conductor
  – Adding another conductor increases the
    bandwidth of wireline’s medium
  – Economics depend on density and clustering of
     Wireline - Cable Modem
• Conductors (and capacity) are shared
  among users
• Available to 56-60% of households
• Not generally available outside towns
• Many rural cable systems still cannot
  support bidirectional broadband
     Wireline - Cable Modem
• Deployment: 5.5 million growing at 7.7%
• Typical urban price: $40 if also a CATV
  subscriber, $50 if not
   Wireline - Digital Subscriber
           Line - DSL
• Users on dedicated conductors
• Available to 94% of households
• Some rural customer loops too long to
  support DSL (customer copper loop must be
  3 miles or less)
• A few rural exchanges cannot offer it
  because of inadequate network connections
            Wireline - DSL
• National Telephone Cooperative
  Association reports 60% of its members’
  customers can receive DSL now (NTCA’s
  500 members serve the nation’s most rural
• Average NTCA member price for
  broadband is $69.66
           Wireline - DSL
• Deployment: 3.5 million, growing at 13.1%
• Typical urban price: $50
• Broadband Networking News predicts that
  DSL will overtake cable modem customers
  served in early 2004
• Because users have dedicated conductor,
  DSL transport rate does not decline as
  customers are added - unlike cable modem
    About these Infrastructures
• Terrestrial Wireless
  – Connects user to earthbound
    transmitter/receiver using radio
    (electromagnetic) path
  – “Conductor” is the shared electromagnetic
     • Carrier must possess the right to use
     • There’s only one EM spectrum - can’t add another
  Terrestrial Wireless - MMDS
• Multipoint Multichannel Distribution
  System (MMDS)
  –   “Wireless CATV” spectrum
  –   Sprint and Worldcom own most licenses
  –   25 mile line-of-sight range (earth curve limit)
  –   Up to 25,000 customers per transmitter
  –   No service penetration yet
   Terrestrial Wireless - LMDS
• Local Multipoint Distribution System
  – Great diversity in spectrum ownership
  – 3.5 mile range
  – High capacity - many customers per transmitter
  – Sales mostly to business customers
  – No significant residential penetration
Terrestrial Wireless - Northpoint
• Northpoint has asked FCC to allow reuse of
  DBS spectrum for data service
• Possible because DBS signals highly
  directional, always from southern sky
• Northpoint antennas north of cities would
  beam data services to uses
• Some rural areas would be incidentally
   Terrestrial Wireless - Spread
• Technology developed for military
• Communicates over many frequencies at
  once, very low power at each
• No FCC license needed due to low power
• Not long range, not high capacity
• Too many providers would raise noise floor
  and incapacitate each other
    About these Infrastructures
• Nonterrestrial Wireless (satellite)
  – “Conductor” is shared electromagnetic
     • Provider must possess right to use
     • Additional satellites can increase capacity
     • Limited number of satellite slots
  – Limited overall bandwidth capacity
  – Very expensive, long lead time
         Broadband Satellite
• Only a two-way satellite service is
• Phone line uplink is obsolete, unpopular
• Geostationary (GEO) vs. Low Earth Orbit
• Latency - 1/4 second per path delay
  – User ping time is 1 second
• Needs different data protocols - big packets
           Broadband Satellite
• StarBand
  –   Installation quotes: $700 - $1245
  –   Monthly service: $59.99 - $69.99
  –   Transport rate: “up to 10 times dial-up”
  –   Or, about 500 Kbps down, 128 Kbps up
  –   Residential and small office use only
  –   It’s beginning to sell in rural states
          Broadband Satellite
• DirecWay
  – Installation quoted at “something over $700”
  – Monthly rate: $70
  – Dealer said his company has decided not to
    market this service after all
     • Poor rain fade performance
     • “Fair access” policy
          Broadband Satellite
• Two other satellite carriers plan to be in
  service in 2003
  – Wild Blue
  – SpaceWay
• Monthly prices have been expected at $80
  to $90
         Broadband Satellite
• Satellite today has 188,000 customers in
  place - annual growth rate 0%
• Neither StarBand nor DirecWay meet the
  FCC’s definition of broadband
• The big problem for broadband satellite is
  the inability to increase capacity
• RUS has not been able to create a realistic
  successful business model
                 Big Myths
Satellite is the answer!
  – “One fiber optic conductor has more capacity
    than all the satellites in orbit” - George Gilder
  – Long lead time to add capacity (to build and
    launch a satellite takes 3-6 years)
  – A satellite service dedicated exclusive to rural
    users could be very valuable but no successful
    business plan seems possible
              Another Myth
Wireless is the answer!
  – It doesn’t even seem feasible yet in cities
  – LMDS service footprint just about duplicates
    that of cable modem and DSL
  – MMDS is low capacity and spectrum licenses
    are held by carriers not likely to build rural
  – No licensed carrier has launched a successful
    service - most have announced delays
           A Real Big Myth
Cable modem is available to 97% of all
  – CATV available to 97% of TV homes - true
  – Less than 90% of homes are households
  – About 71% of CATV homes can be served with
    cable modem
  – RUS filed to FCC a demonstration that actual
    CATV availability is 81%-85%
       What Offers Promise?
• Telephone DSL is most promising short
  – Rural telephone companies are deploying DSL-
    ready plant throughout service area with RUS
  – With each rebuild fiber gets closer to the home
  – MMDS licenses should be given to carriers
    who will serve rural customers now
  – It will take a combination of technologies
               Snake Oil
• Nielsen/NetRatings reports “21 Million
  U.S. Broadband Customers as of
• 20% of 106 million Internet users had
  broadband access, up from 12% a year ago.
  Nielsen also reported 12.7 million
  broadband Internet users at home, up 94%
  from last year.
                Snake Oil
• What’s wrong with these claims?
• Answer: Definitions
• “Customers” are defined as all members of
  a household with a subscription to a
  broadband access who are over 2 years old
• Every data collector seems to have different
            RUS Website

• For our FCC filings, information on our
  Rural Broadband Loan and Grant Programs,
  and contact information

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