US round-up: AT&T comments irk FCC; TWC completes Maxx upgrades in LA, NYC; FCC attracts nearly 600 bids for broadband ‘experiment’

18 Nov 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has asked AT&T Inc to explain comments by its chief executive officer that he may delay expanding the telco’s fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) rollout amid ongoing uncertainty regarding the government’s ‘Net Neutrality’ plans. Last week CEO Randall Stephenson declared that the 100-city deployment was on ‘pause’ after President Barack Obama challenged the FCC to adopt tough rules for internet service providers (ISPs). In April this year AT&T announced an initiative to expand its GigaPower FTTH network to up to 100 cities and municipalities across 25 markets nationwide, including 21 major metropolitan areas. Subsequently, August saw AT&T commit to extend fibre-optic technology to a further two million customer premises as part of its proposed USD48.5 billion merger with pay-TV giant DirecTV. AT&T now has one week to supply the FCC with documents highlighting the geographic breakdown of areas where it intends to halt its investment, lest it renege on its post-merger promises.

According to a post on its ‘Untangled’ company blog, Time Warner Cable has completed its ‘Maxx’ upgrade programme in New York City and Los Angeles, with the cableco’s ‘Standard’ internet plan bumped from 15Mbps to 50Mbps, and the 100Mbps ‘Ultimate’ plan pushed to 300Mbps. Going forward, upgrade work is said to be well underway in Austin, while 2015 will see advanced connectivity extended to Charlotte, Dallas, Hawaii, Kansas City, Raleigh, San Antonio and San Diego.

Google Fiber has begun reaching out to local businesses in the Kansas City area to see if they would like to receive a 1Gbps service, the Kansas City Business Journal reports, citing a mailer about the new offer. Google Fiber has yet to provide any details about what parts of the city would be the first to get the service because it said it is still putting together a service rollout plan. According to the mailer, the 1Gbps service, which is now open for early access, will cost USD100 a month.

The FCC’s ‘experiment’ exploring how to expand robust broadband in rural America in the most cost-effective way has attracted almost 600 project bids from 181 applicants, representing nearly USD885 million worth of projects. In total, the applicants proposed to serve over 76,000 census blocks in all 50 US states and Puerto Rico. Finalists that are able to meet financial, technical and other regulatory requirements could launch their experiments as early as spring 2015. The USD100 million kitty is broken down as follows:

• USD75 million to gauge the competitive interest in building networks that are capable of delivering 100Mbps/25Mbps (down/uplink) speeds – far in excess of the current Connect America Fund (CAF) standard of 4Mbps/1Mbps – for the same (or lower) amounts of support than will be offered to incumbent carriers during Phase II of the Connect America programme

• USD15 million to test interest in delivering service at 10Mbps/1Mbps speeds in high cost areas

• USD10 million to probe the introduction of 10Mbps/1Mbps services in areas that are extremely costly to serve.

According to the regulator, bidders included a diverse group of entities, including competitive providers, electric utilities, wireless internet service providers, and others.