Time-Warner / Frontier Update

Stop the Cap is on top of the Time-Warner story. TWC's CEO is still supporting the idea of caps, and Time-Warner's customer agreement still has cap language.

Stop the Cap is also on top of a story that has major implications for the future of broadband in Rochester. Frontier purchased a bunch of rural phone lines from Verizon. As the Wall Street Journal notes, and as Stop the Cap has been covering in great depth, Fairpoint Communications, a New England telephone company, got itself in big trouble with a similar move last year.

Frontier is trying to put a positive spin on the acquisition, but there's little to celebrate here. Frontier is promising to bring new technology to rural areas, but the fact remains that Frontier's core technology, DSL, does not work well unless the user is close to a DSL access point. Rural subscribers tend to be a long distance from the "central office". Also, with Frontier staggering under a huge debt load, its unlikely that they will make the massive investment necessary to upgrade any of its service areas to cutting-edge fiber technology.

For Rochesterians, this is just another signpost in the long decline of what was once a showpiece local telephone company, Rochester Tel. Frontier is nothing but token competition to Time-Warner, which has a superior network and is phenomenally profitable. Frontier's business of delivering voice service over copper wire will soon go the way of Western Union, and they'll be left with crushing debt and fleeing subscribers. This bodes nothing but ill for the future of broadband, and businesses that rely on it, in the Rochester area.


Be aware that the "central office" can be one of metal, roadside boxes marked "Verizon", and need not be an "office" building. That said, I-know-someone-who-knows-someone-at-Verizon-who-told-him that those boxes can be upgraded to provide DSL service to at least hamlets and other rural population "centers". It takes a couple of circuit boards and costs a few thousand dollars. That said, I live in such a large hamlet, and Verizon could but does not provide DSL to compete with TWC. It's all about the investment and related payback; this is not a new issue.

Yeah, it's called a DSLAM, DSL Access Multiplexer. But even if they somehow were free, copper is still a limiting factor. The maximum distance for DSL is around 18,000 feet, or 3 miles, and that assumes good copper. A lot of the lines in rural areas aren't in good shape. So, I agree that the investment and payback aren't there. The only way rural areas are going to get broadband is the way they got power years ago: a federal effort like the REA.