Business Viewpoint: State should speed fiber deployment
BY MICHAEL RENDER Business Viewspoint
Thursday, September 20, 2012
9/25/12 at 4:38 PM
According to national market research conducted by our firm for the Fiber to the Home Council North America, Oklahoma communication providers have only directly deployed fiber to the residences of about 1 percent of our residents, making our state's ranking for fiber to the home a mediocre 35th in the nation.
As I will report to the annual Fiber-to-the-Home National Conference in Dallas on Sept. 24 (www.FTTHCouncil.org), Oklahoma also lags most neighboring states in this measure. Texas, is ranked 16th in the nation with 6.5 percent of its residents connected with fiber, while Kansas already has 7 percent of its households directly connected with fiber and ranks 11th in the nation.
Based on our research, U.S. FTTH subscribers currently receive an average tested speed of 22 Megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed. For comparison, the average U.S. DSL residential connection currently receives a tested speed of 3 Mbps down, with cable modem 14 Mbps down. Differences in upload speeds for these two methods are even more pronounced when compared with fiber.
Fiber speeds will only increase, and the sky is virtually the limit. In the Kansas City area, Google is installing a test roll-out of FTTH with a full Gigabit power (1,000 Mbps for both download and upload) at a relatively low monthly price. The world will be looking at Kansas City to see what innovation and economic development can occur when high school-age prodigies, Ph.Ds and small businesses with big ideas are not constrained by online bandwidth.
Studies show that the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., and other towns throughout the country who have built high bandwidth FTTH are already seeing economic gain. Chattanooga attributes a business attraction of 2,400 traditional jobs within a short period after community installation.
Oklahoma's current low FTTH state ranking is concerning because all aspects of our future will critically depend on high quality online communication. Commerce is moving to a global and 24/7 environment, and advanced broadband is a cornerstone. Likewise, the success of the state's efforts at education improvement and quality health care provision for an aging population will all depend on new methods of delivery.
Such an online vision starts with high capacity pipes directly between homes, businesses and the Internet. Yes, wireless is also exciting and will spawn many new innovations, but wireless connections will always be far slower than fiber connections.
Even the young people who appreciate mobile the most tell us they still desire to complete serious projects for work or school on large screen devices with very fast connections. Ditto for watching entertainment video. In the future, both mobile applications and FTTH applications will be critical to our society.
All U.S. fiber-fed households report being far more satisfied with their online experience. On average, such residents also tend to work at home one additional day per month, thus reducing community impacts related to auto travel such as CO2 and ozone emissions, and the costs of infrastructure maintenance. Research also shows FTTH enables more Internet-driven, home-based businesses, providing opportunities to draw more dollars from outside communities.
Oklahoma has a few FTTH deployments from smaller telephone companies and municipalities such as Sallisaw. One regional rural electric coop is currently looking to bring FTTH to extremely low density sections of its coverage area. AT&T has been installing some FTTH to new homes in housing developments - but to date is not unleashing the full power of its FTTH, and is limiting service over fiber to the types of products it can also deliver over copper wire.
Unfortunately, FTTH is not yet even on the radar screen of most of our state's movers and shakers. This is disturbing. Many other states have groups or boards actively championing advanced broadband.
One potential bright spot is that the University of Oklahoma was recently selected to be one of 30 research universities nationally to participate in GigU, a program leveraging gigabit FTTH to residential communities near university locations for the purpose of social and economic research related to advanced broadband.
Oklahoma has many great assets to be sure, but to be successful in the future we must overcome being somewhat physically disconnected to the rest of the world, and make it our priority to be near the top in virtual connectivity.
Michael Render is president of Tulsa-based RVA LLC, a market research firm. Render has overseen studies among fiber-to-the-home providers and consumers for the past 10 years and is a frequent speaker at telecom-related trade shows in the U.S. and Europe.
Original Print Headline: State should speed fiber deployment
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