Not content to roll out ADSL2+ in American Fork, Veracity has announced that its ADSL2+ product is going to start landing in downtown Salt Lake City (warning: press release, superlatives ahead). There’s no information on pricing or speeds, but I would anticipate that both will be highly competitive. The initial footprint is supposed to cover 10,000 homes and businesses, though it’s not entirely clear which neighborhoods will see the service or when. It’s not UTOPIA, and it’s not fiber-to-the-home, but it’s definitely an improvement over the staid duopoly offerings currently in Salt Lake.
In quite the surprise announcement today, Qwest announced that its efforts to dress the company up for sale over the last decade have finally paid off. CenturyLink, the result of a merger between ILECs CenturyTel and Embarq, is buying the company in an all-stock transaction. This comes not even a year after the merger that created CenturyLink, one in which CenturyTel purchased Embarq.
What remains to be seen is if this will improve Qwest’s long-ailing fortunes and legendary reputation for horrible customer service. I used to be a customer of Sprint Local in Las Vegas before it was spun off into Embarq and was always impressed with the service quality. The only reason I discontinued service was because Vonage was offering a very compelling feature set at a more attractive price. I don’t know how much of Embarq has rubbed off on CenturyTel (or even what CenturyTel’s reputation is), but any amount of it would help.
That said, I wonder if the new company will have the billions of dollars required to update badly-neglected infrastructure. It’s no secret that Qwest carries a very heavy debt load and hasn’t exactly been speedy with the rollout of ADSL2+ services. They also have no wireless or video revenues to cross-subsidize construction… and neither does CenturyLink. As land lines continue to death spiral and cable turns up the DOCSIS 3.0 heat, I’m left wondering how the new company will fare too much better than the old one.
Good luck, guys. You need as much of it as you can get.
The biggest black eye in Qwest’s attempt to bring their broadband offerings into the 21st century has been the abysmal 896Kbps upload speeds, even when using ADSL2+ and FTTN. According to some insider posts at DSLReports, that may change. According to the tipster, Qwest is looking at VDSL2 with plans to bump the upload speeds to 5Mbps with a new top tier pushing 40Mbps/20Mbps. Even so, it’s not enough to catch up to UTOPIA or even Comcast.
The real question is if Qwest can afford any kind of widespread deployment. Since the company couldn’t unload its long-haul operations for anywhere near the asking price, Qwest is where it always has been: too deep in debt, too cash poor, and hemmoraging landline customers to VoIP, cable, and wireless carriers. They halted the current ADSL2+ installs citing that the winter weather was preventing them from continuing the build, but we all know it’s cash flow issues. Like a lot of analysts, I think Qwest is going to continue to wither until they find a cash-rich investor looking for a fixer-upper.
And if Qwest is more-or-less at a standstill, what are the odds of Comcast dropping DOCSIS 3.0 tiers in Utah? Pretty slim unless you live in Provo or a UTOPIA city where fiber is prodding them forward. It’s no secret that Comcast has, to date, focused network upgrades most heavily on areas where Verizon’s FIOS is the king of speed. As half of the duopoly crumbles, you can expect more of the same from Comcast: ho-hum speeds, mediocre pricing, and lackluster customer service (their Twitter damage control unit customer service team notwithstanding).
I think 2009 is going to end up being the year of broadband. Advocates are very well-organized and the new administration is putting a lot of post-election emphasis on telecom policy, an issue that’s typicaly given only election-cycle lip service.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin decided to up and cancel a vote on what to do about a free nationwide wireless network rather than stare down the angry lobbyists on both sides of the issue. Industry execs want the spectrum free and clear whereas privacy advocates are in a tizzy about the mandatory filtering requirements. Some members of Congress are pretty ticked off and claim that it wasn’t legal to delay or cancel voting on the issue. I’m sure that most of them will be happy to have someone else in charge, whoever he or she may be.
Spending $44B or more on broadband? That’s what Free Press would like to see over the next three years to bring 5MBps+ connections to every home in America with a goal of hitting 100Mbps in the future. The Fiber to the Home Council thinks that we should drop closer to the tune of $100B to get fiber to 90% of American homes. Naturally there’s some distrust; these are the same guys who botched the USF to the tune of billions.
Charter Communications is headlining this week’s bad economic news. The debt-laden cable company hasn’t managed to turn a profit since going public in 1999 and repeatedly gets low customer satisfaction ratings. (On a personal note, I know a lot of disgruntled Charter subscribers who would happily jump ship if something better came along.) Odds are that they’ll sell off chunks of the network to get investors and analysts of their back and stop the talk of bankruptcy. I guess the 8.4% jump in cable ad revenues haven’t helped the company’s bottom line. TV Week has a pretty good round-up of questions about how the industry is going to weather the tough times.
Meanwhile, details of Comcast’s new DOCSIS 3.0 deployments is coming to light and, while good news for current subscribers or those switching from DSL, it’s hardly competitive with offerings from UTOPIA. In addition to a 50Mbps/5Mbps tier at $150/mo, Comcast plans to upgrade current subscribers to 12Mbps/2Mbps at $42.95/mo and offer a 22Mbps/5Mbps tier at $62.95/mo to compete with a similar offering from Verizon. Compare that to a 15Mbps/15Mbps plan at $40/mo or 50Mbps/50Mbps for $55/mo from either MSTAR or XMission. Just be thankful you aren’t a SureWest customer. They charge around $192/mo for a 50Mbps connection.