Rumor: Broadweave on UTOPIA?

I received word from a reliable source at a service provider that Broadweave may be considering joining UTOPIA. This information was passed along from a company that both of them do business with. According to this company, Broadweave has stepped up its outsourced call center operations in preparation for adding new customers on UTOPIA’s network.

UTOPIA and Broadweave have had an acrimonious working relationship in the past stemming from the entanglement between UTOPIA and iProvo regarding the head-end assets. This was no doubt hurt further by ex-CEO Steve Christensen’s forceful and demanding management style. The question is if the upending of upper management is enough to mend the relationship to the point where this rumor becomes fact.

If true, this would be a really good (and smart) move for Broadweave. They’ve hit a brick wall with adding customers on iProvo and are under a “do or die” deadline of February when the reserve runs out of cash. The rumors that they will soon be booted from Traverse Mountain also persist, though nothing new has developed. Getting access to the tens of thousands of UTOPIA homes passed and preserving some of their Traverse Mountain customers could give them the revenue needed to pay off the iProvo bonds and better leverage their head-end and NOC facilities.

Of course, we should also ask if Broadweave would be good for UTOPIA. Customer service complaints still persist and the company may not have the cash available to market to new customers unless EsNet makes additional investments. Broadweave has also failed to deliver video to Traverse Mountain despite the acquisition of a head-end, something I understand to be one of the main reasons for that development’s discontent. There’s also the matter of going from a geographically condense market to one spread over a 120-mile stretch, something that could drive their install costs up.

We should also wonder if Broadweave joining an open network like UTOPIA would signal that they’re ready to give the wholesale model another shot in Provo. Apparently closing the network wasn’t enough to staunch the flow of red ink as they claimed it would. Outside providers have money to spend on snapping up new accounts while Broadweave is charging around $600 for installs (and, I should note, not offering a discount on monthly service as a result). It’s entirely possible that a reciprocity agreement with UTOPIA providers to give them access to the network could result in higher overall revenues even at the expense of retail customers. Research from The Yankee Group suggests that an open provider model generates more revenue than adding lots of extra services, revenue that Broadweave needs.

So what do you think? If this happens, will it be good for Broadweave, UTOPIA, both, or neither?

Open Fiber Network Hit Cedar City, But It's Missing a Lot

Utah-based InterLinx Communications is open for business in Cedar City with a shiny all-fiber network open to any provider, but the devil is in the details. The article claims service will be available to all homes and businesses “in its boundaries”, but it’s not entirely clear what those boundaries are or what kind of installation costs will be associated with it. InterLinx received $1.6M from the city and state for their deployment, so it isn’t an entirely private affair either.

A glance of the provider list from their web page shows a bunch of commercial service providers. The one residential provider resells VoIP and Dish, so there are no true triple-play providers. I’m going to make a bet that they plan to serve primarily office parks and provide an alternative to Qwest’s wholesale transport with homes being an afterthought with high install fees. This isn’t as impressive as The Spectrum made it out to be. UTOPIA still has plenty of opportunity in the city.

Reflecting on Carterphone: Why Open Networks Are Needed

Bring up the term "regulation" and you're often going to think of heavy-handed mandates, byzantine rules and unresponsive bureaucracies. Despite this popular image of regulation, it sometimes works.

Ars Technica reminds us of the 40-year-old Carterphone decision that the FCC handed down 40 years ago yesterday. The landmark decision allowed third parties to start attaching any device they wanted to the public phone network so long as it did not cause interference. Not only did it let us pick and choose our handsets, it also gave birth to devices as varied as the answering machine and modem.

The decision has even been cited in mandates to support CableCARD (despite it being a largely stillborn technology) and open access on the 700MHz spectrum, something that Verizon is trying to subvert. With the Carterphone decision in mind, we should also be exited to know that in addition to banning exclusive cable television contracts in apartment buildings, they also dropped the hammer on exclusive phone service.

Even so, regulation sometimes fails us. Some small ISPs are having their day before the Supreme Court to nail AT&T to the wall on wholesale line-sharing rates. Their argument is that the fees were designed to give the incumbent carrier a significant advantage over competitors. Many CLECs and competing ISPs brought up the same allegations throughout the 90s, and with fewer ISPs today than in 1997, the accusation has legs.

There's also the issue of network neutrality hanging up in the air. Big companies like AT&T and Verizon are scared to death of mandates from Congress, especially with how badly Comcast has been skewered over their secretive throttling and booting users who use too much of their "unlimited" Internet. Their angle is to try and get the FCC to approve a plan favorable to their interests before a less-friendly White House takes over. The good news is that the mere threat of regulation has forced them to move pretty far from their original positions, a move that's good for consumers.

When you have a network with competing service providers, interchangable equipment and freely-moving applications, consumers and innovation win. Open platforms like the kind that Carterphone created should be encouraged instead of hampered.

Clearwire Promises Open Network; Is This the Mythical Third Pipe?

Everyone was buzzing about the prospect of a wide-open network during the 700MHz auction (don't hold your breath on Verizon making good on it), but Clearwire is giving it to us now. The company, a joint venture with Sprint, Comcast, Time Warner and others, is promising open everything on its new WiMax network. Bring your own device? Check. Use any application? Check. Pick your own retailer? Check, and that's the real measure of the open network.

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