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An Open Letter to Gwynne Shotwell, Elon Musk and Starlink Leadership: Three Reasons to Make Starlink Open Access for America’s Local ISPs

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For starters, you’ll make more money.


Figure contrasts 1. incumbent cable oligopoly territory divisions, 2. 2,700 local ISPs (map by Zhuangyuan Fan), 3. StarLink

 

Greetings Gwynne, Elon and Team Starlink

Thank you for working to connect folks. You’re launching the greatest leap forward in the internet’s 50-year history, and will recast the incumbent structure of U.S. telecom over the next few years. Today’s widespread denial of this fact is a protective slathering of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Disruption can be unpleasant business for oligopolies.

Please make the most of your shot. Don’t become the world’s largest ISP by going direct-to-consumer. For the sake of Starlink’s shareholders, for Americans, and for our nation’s thousands of local ISPs:

Please offer Starlink as open access, wholesale backhaul for America’s local ISPs

The Swedes are approaching 95 percent fiber-to-the-premises, even though it is half the population density of the U.S. They have shown us the best model: Open access last kilometer, offered wholesale via neutral operator (WNO). ISPs compete to serve subscribers over shared infrastructure, all the way into the homes.

That model can and should become the default in the United States, available to local ISPs, where today the outmoded vertically-integrated operator model reigns supreme, shackling subscribers to outdated copper that pretends to be more capable than it really is.

Our copper oligopoly does what any rational cartel does to protect profits. They write state and local rules preventing threats like open access from spreading. They hoover up billions of public dollars each year, funneling proceeds into a combination of self-congratulating dividends and marketing campaigns designed to thoroughly suppress honest local ISPs. But they do not waste perfectly good cartel cashflow upgrading our nation’s information infrastructure.

They are too strong now for local ISPs to do anything about. They fight dirty against local ISPs, and in so doing keep tens of millions of us shackled to shoddy copper, inadvertently preventing our nation from joining the digital services era.

They are at the time of this writing too big to fail.

You – Gwynne, Elon, Starlink Leadership – could be the deciding factor between whether we in America remain stuck in the dark era, or if we, too, can enjoy the benefits of the coming Cambrian explosion of digital service innovations.

How? Bring open access to America. Offer Starlink wholesale, open access, delivered to subscribers through competitive local ISPs.

Even though it looks different from the direct-to-consumer model that works so well over at Tesla, you’re almost certainly already leaning this direction. You have some of the world’s top talent on team, no doubt you’ve already modeled all possible approaches. So, you likely saw that wholesale neutral open access offers the path to global maximum ROI for you, the infrastructure owner. The accretive economics of multiple service providers competing to deliver price-discriminated digital services over your infrastructure, minus the outsourced cost structure of service delivery, maximizes the value of your asset.

But, just in case: here are three reasons to please be an open access, wholesale neutral operator in the U.S.

Number 1: It’s best for Starlink

You’ll generate more profit. It might take slightly longer than the near-instant retail gratification of turning on the one ISP to rule them all, but wholesale neutral open access offers the path to achieving global maximum ROI.

Just as important as maximizing profit is your culture and legacy. Like all Elon Musk companies, Starlink exemplifies definite optimism. You incite imaginations, and summon the full brilliance of smart people working hard within a culture of innovation. If you join the U.S. telecom oligopoly, or – more likely, given the devastating potency of Starlink’s tech and team – become their dank meme overlord, you’ll lose your innovative edge.

With Tesla, Boring Co, Hyperloop and every prior endeavor, you’ve shown that it’s possible to do exceedingly well financially by doing good in the world. As the world’s largest ISP, you’re just the new asshat to blame when Why the F^&K won’t this f^&king website load – f^&k you, Starlink!

At least in the context of U.S. broadband, direct-to-consumer is both financially sub-optimal, and at odds with the ethos of all other Elon Musk endeavors.

Number 2: It’s best for American subscribers

Open access, wholesale Starlink offered via local ISPs helps all Americans.

Once you’re fully launched – by 2022? – high speed broadband will be everywhere in America. With game-changing latency and speed, Starlink holds great potential to accelerate America’s entry into the digital services era. In Sweden, where they are already advancing into digital distributed healthcare, in which many forms of care are administered in-home, now that the information infrastructure is in place.

Digital services will save America hundreds of billions of dollars per year in healthcare and transportation costs, and profoundly enhance the quality of life for millions of Americans. Such digital services that cannot properly flow through copper, nor many of today’s fixed wireless networks. Most such services can easily flow through your global infrastructure.

As wholesale backhaul for local ISPs, local ISPs can upsell and cross-sell such digital services to subscribers. And you don’t put folks in the awkward place where they need to leave their local ISP – especially in remote America, often someone they hold long ties with, bonded by the ocean of uninhabited terrain separating their community from the rest of the world. Subscribers have someone local to talk to when things go wrong.

Number 3: It’s best for America’s Local ISPs, and the communities they serve

The potential reality just ahead is sobering for those who dare to look. The fate of the local ISP remains to be seen in the Starlink era of internet access. The amount of challenges local ISPs take on every day means most are unaware of the profound change you’re about to unleash. Of those aware, most I’ve spoken with at Ready.net seem in denial. A small but growing number are understandably worried that the end is near.

There are nearly 3,000 ISPs in the U.S. When they realize the eminent threat, when your shadow passes overhead, when adrenaline sharpens their eyes and their minds and they pause the hard work of keeping their community connected long enough to react, which question would you rather they ask?

  1. “Is Starlink the end of my business?” Sure, you could wipe most of them off the face of the earth, after they’ve worked for years or decades to get folks connected.
  2. “How can I grow my business through Starlink to serve more subscribers?” Or, you could give them a potent tool with which to compete against the cable incumbents.

By empowering local ISPs, you’ll help human-scale ISPs win their constant battle against the copper oligopoly. Local ISPs are the ones fighting mediocrity in telecom infrastructure. They’re the ones working to solve difficult problems, with limited resources. They’re the ones physically, socially, economically tied to their community. If you’re wholesale open access, you help them win. In turn, they’re your built-in salesforce and customer service, capable of thoroughly ensuring access for all.

You could empower thousands of small businesses, cooperatives, municipalities, and nonprofits who’ve worked for years to get folks ready for the digital services. Here are just a few examples among the nation’s thousands of local ISPs:

  1. Aroostook Technologies, the fixed-wireless ISP in far northern Maine, a locally-owned IT business operating since before the internet was born. They’ve connected thousands of Mainers, but routinely turn away prospective customers due to physics constraints of their slice of spectrum within Maine’s heavily forested, hilly terrain. What if they could activate thousands more of their neighbors with always-on, any-line-of-sight via Starlink backhaul?
  1. Innovators like Althea, working to bring new P2P models of access to life on the ground for community-owned networks. What if the creative problem-solvers of the WISP and mesh network communities could serve over your infrastructure, consuming it as a resource, as software startups today utilize AWS? You might enable the Cambrian explosion of all-new distributed digital services.
  1. Our nation’s more than 800 Rural Electric Cooperatives. They are the same unsung heroes who’ve worked to ensure continuous access to electricity for millions of rural Americans since the early 20th century. Now, many RECs offer broadband to their members, like United Electric (where my Ol’ Man worked for decades!), which now serves United Fiber to 11,000 subscribers and growing. They’re the reason you can get superior internet in my rural hometown Maryville, Missouri, than anything I can get living in San Francisco. There are over 100 RECs today with active fiber services, and many more in the works. RECs make exceptional ISPs, and offering internet service helps them serve their members. Some RECs who were looking to implement internet service are reluctant to proceed with their plans to deploy fiber, awaiting whether Starlink will potentially strand tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of their assets.

Conclusion

You’re about to massively upgrade the internet. Americans want to work with their local ISPs. Local ISPs can help you connect more folks and deliver more digital services. Please offer Starlink as wholesale backhaul to our nation’s thousands of local ISPs.

You’ll unleash the full potential of the internet in America, once and for all. Since we now live in the connected economy, at the dawn of the digital services era, that means open access Starlink unleashes the full potential of America.

By way of background, Ready.net helps local ISPs grow. There is extremely high demand for Starlink backhaul. We’d love to work with you to make that a reality.

With or without us. Please use your superpowers for good. No matter what, thank you again for connecting folks.

Jase Wilson
Founder, Ready.net
Twitter: @Jase

Jase Wilson is the founder of Ready.net, the San Francisco-based technology company helping local ISPs grow their business.

He’d like to thank Mike Faloon, Drew Clark, Darren Farnan, Zhuangyuan Fan, Deborah Simpier, Jess Masse, his parents Steve and Traci, his girlfriend Xueying, and his cats Jackson and Franklin for contributing to this letter, as well as America’s thousands of local ISPs for keeping folks connected. #ThankYourLocalISP @Jase

BroadbandBreakfast.com accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Expert Opinion

Hironobu Ueno: The Significance of NFTs in the MetaVerse

NFTs have represented everything from items collected within online games to pieces of art. 

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Hironobu Ueno, Founder of Double Jump.Tokyo

By now, most are familiar with the metaverse and the concept of NFTs. However, those not regularly embroiled in the technology world may not completely understand how NFTs are significant within the metaverse. 

NFTs have gained popularity in the past few years as a way to represent digital assets. Representing assets in the virtual world of the metaverse is one way to utilize NFTs, but there are a much broader number of ways NFTs can be a benefit as we move into the metaverse.

What exactly are NFTs?

The concept of digital assets on the blockchain can be complex, but it really is as simple as representation. Non-fungible tokens are a type of unique cryptocurrency that cannot be replaced by any other token. This irreplaceability makes them ideally suited for a situation such as the metaverse, where people will need a way to lay claim to virtual assets inside a completely virtual world. NFTs have represented everything from items collected within online games to pieces of art. 

The concept of NFTs predates the metaverse, especially within the gaming world. Online currency has been used for gambling, building collections of assets, and as a way to create small virtual worlds. Bringing NFTs into the metaverse is a logical step, as the metaverse is built around the same technology concepts. 

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is envisioned as a virtual, parallel representation of the tangible, physical world around us. If you ask many of the great tech minds of our generation, it is the future of the internet. 

Although the full structuring of the metaverse has been relatively slow going, it has steadily been picking up steam since Facebook’s rebranding to Meta. Gaming companies have begun building VR social platforms in the metaverse, and everyone from real estate experts to celebrities vying to buy a piece of this new, virtual space. 

The idea of the metaverse is still in its relative infancy, with differing views on what it will eventually become, depending on who you ask. Many people are comparing the rise of the metaverse to the birth of the modern internet. There were many theories on what the world-wide web would eventually become, but no one could likely have predicted how it would change our lives. Many are hoping that, ultimately, the metaverse will have the same life-altering effect. 

NFTs in the Metaverse 

There are numerous benefits to using NFTs in the metaverse. Their potential could be limitless, depending on how fast and broad the metaverse eventually grows. 

Security: One of the most significant benefits to NFTs overall is the level of security that they provide to the owner and within trading. All transactions of NFTs are recorded on the blockchain, rendering it nearly impossible to fake ownership or steal. Virtual assets and transactions have been traditionally vulnerable to hacking and fraud, but the security that NFTs offer could be seen as the primary benefit of their use, especially within the novel metaverse.

Sense of value: Within the metaverse, having items that hold some sense of value will be essential. Using NFTs creates scarcity, which gives them a sense of worth. NFTs can represent one-of-a-kind items and works of art, and being able to prove ownership of such items through the use of NFTs will continue to be a draw for many. 

Monetize assets: NFTs create a way to monetize assets, which will be useful and significant as the metaverse continues to be built. People will own houses, cars, and other assets within the metaverse, and NFTs will be how those assets will be monetized. This can also provide a way for people to create income streams within the metaverse, which would open up entire new industries for people around the globe. 

NFT use in the metaverse is consistently being studied and designed to best fit the needs of those who will take up residence to live, work, and play in this new virtual community. There are several innovators already working on solutions to how to best integrate NFT use into the move to the metaverse. As we move forward with whatever the technological future has to hold for us, NFTs will certainly be a part of that future in some form. 

Hironobu Ueno is the founder and CEO of Double Jump.Tokyo. He has participated in the construction of various financial system infrastructures at Nomura Research Institute. He has worked as an executive officer and technical fellow of Mobcast Co., directed the design and development of platform and game servers, and development of smartphone game development platforms. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Expert Opinion

Pierre Trudeau: Life in the Trenches, or Lessons Learned Deploying Broadband in MDUs

Behind every great wireless network, is an even greater wired network.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Pierre Trudeau, president and CTO of Positron Access Solutions.

Imagine community-wide Wi-Fi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. This is possible through the deployment of G.hn technology.

G.hn, an International Telecommunications Union (ITU-T) standard, is an access technology for operators looking to simplify their access network with an “Ethernet-like” technology. 

With G.hn, operators deliver advanced services, such as gigabit high-speed residential internet and 4K internet protocol television without the high capital and operational expenses associated with a fiber retrofit. Each G.hn subscriber port supports up to 1.7 Gbps of dynamically allocated bandwidth for near-symmetrical gigabit services. This enables providers to deliver a gigabit internet service to each apartment inside a multi-dwelling unit or a multi-tenant unit without the cost, complexity and delays associated with in-building fiber installation.

As deployed by Positron Access, G.hn is increasingly used by our partners to sustainably improve connectivity in multifamily communities. These partners offer in-depth analysis of cabling specifics and electrical as-built drawings of active properties to design a custom wiring solution to accommodate, rather than replace, each property’s unique, pre-existing infrastructure. 

Proven Benefits of Fiber Service Extension Applications

Our partners leverage their expertise of the Positron G.hn Access Multiplexer to enable MDU property management companies to offer lightning-quick, cost-effective, and dependable Gigabit internet speeds to their tenants in MDUs. Property management companies can then improve their service levels without the need for any building retrofit, which can be expensive and disruptive. Property management companies expand the services they deliver with an impressive ROI and minimal capital outlay.

The transformative nature of G.hn applications will make community-wide Wi-Fi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. With the broader installation of smart building systems including cameras, sensors, environmental controls, and asset tracking systems as crucial amenities for an improved resident experience, residents will come to view community Wi-Fi systems as another essential building asset. Owners that do not keep up with these developments will see the quality and capitalized value of their community suffer. 

The Process

Positron’s partners have developed a proven process to ensure a successful and sustainable deployment in existing brownfield properties.

In-Depth Site Surveys

The site survey process begins with a careful analysis of each property’s unique needs. Built from the ground up, the solution is designed to accommodate each property’s unique blueprints and connectivity requirements. Site surveys are extremely important to ensure systems are updated in the most economical way for each property’s connectivity requirements.

Minimal Interruption

The deployment process is aligned to complement, rather than disrupt, established occupancy turn processes. With little to no downtime, the installation enables property-wide connectivity, giving residents the opportunity to immediately connect to the internet, without reauthorizing as they move about the property.

Sustainable and scalable

Positron’s partners provide subscribers with an extensive support team, dedicated to each property’s continued development and operation, designing customized, future-proof solutions to ensure the network is both a sustainable and buildable foundation for upcoming technologies like Web 3.0, Wi-Fi 7 and 5G. G.hn technology is designed to be adapted and improved upon to grow in tandem with each property, working together to accommodate any future needs that may arise.

Lessons Learned

The installation of the GAM solution by Positron’s partners highlighted the importance of a careful pre-deployment site survey and this is applicable to coaxial and telephone wiring re-use with G.hn.

For MDUs where the telephone wiring will be re-used, the continuity of pairs currently used for VDSL2 or even telephone service, there is no additional validation required since G.hn is permissive and will operate without further pair qualification or grooming.  For unused pairs, it is important to perform a continuity test using the same tools and techniques used for the last 20 years for xDSL.  Bad pairs can then be identified and repaired as needed.

When re-using coaxial cabling, understanding how each room or apartment is connected is important.  Most MDUs are cabled with “home run” coaxial cabling to a common location where taps or splitters can be installed in a point to multipoint mode to reduce the connectivity cost of each subscriber.  Unlike CATV and DOCSIS, G.hn does not require coaxial amplifiers and fine tuning with attenuating taps.  If co-habitation with CATV is required, the G.hn signal shall be injected downstream of the CATV/DOCSIS amplifier with a simple 2:1 combiner device.  Otherwise, if migrating to IPTV or streaming, these amplifiers and attenuating taps shall be removed as they are no longer useful.

For some properties, the option of a comprehensive site survey is not always an option.  For instance, a property of about 450 doors no longer had up to date coaxial cabling diagrams.  In this case, rather than spending days “toning out” each coaxial drop with specialized equipment to document the coaxial infrastructure, we recommend installing the GAM devices in each wiring closet and pre-install the G.hn endpoint devices in each room or apartment and to record serial number of each device against the room or apartment number.  Using the endpoint auto-detection feature for each coaxial port of the GAM, it is then simple and efficient to use this information to fully document which door is served by each coaxial segment.

Overall, we learned that G.hn is robust and rather forgiving with regards to “less than stellar” existing wiring.  You can plan fiber extension by re-using the existing wiring in your building without too much concern about potential complexity, cost, or performance issues.

Pierre Trudeau is the president and CTO of Positron Access Solutions and a seasoned Networking and Technology Executive with over 30 years of experience. Pierre founded Colubris Networks, a leader in advanced Wi-Fi solutions for Wireless ISP, Carriers and Enterprises in March 2000. He provided business and technology services to several companies until January 2013 when he joined Positron Access as its Chief Strategy Officer. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband Mapping

Garland McCoy: Some State Attorneys General Are Preparing to Take the FCC to Court

While some will “cash out,” other state broadband officials will seek the full measure of federal broadband infrastructure funds due.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Garland McCoy, Executive Director of Precision Ag Connectivity and Accuracy Stakeholder Alliance

Let me start by saving the time of those state broadband officials who are going to accept the recently released FCC Broadband Map Data at face value and take NTIA’s “cash out,” and in doing so, forgo participation in the available FCC challenge process. For those state broadband officials, the insights, and recommendations I provide below will be of little interest to you. 

If the past is any prelude to the future, the Internet Service Providers will use the same challenge criteria to successfully throw out the crowdsourced and bulk data that states have gathered for their own maps. As I detailed in my recent article on Broadband Breakfast, the FCC published specifications for its challenge process on September 15, 2022.

This directive gives ISPs authority to challenge data drawn from their respective service territories, leaving states with little choice but to accept the FCC’s map. The only notable exception is California, which has put in place its own statewide device-driven data gathering methodology, and we consider its data as likely challenge-proof. 

Not all is lost for states seeking to challenge the FCC’s maps

But all is not lost for other states. By the end of the first quarter of next year I firmly believe there will be some state broadband officials who will seek to pursue the full measure of federal broadband infrastructure funds due them, and not simply acquiesce to a smaller portion of funds that is supported by the flawed FCC map.

I base this assumption on new methodologies now available to states, which will bring the same type of credible validation and metering to broadband service at the end-user level that has been available, and required, for decades with other important utilities such as electricity, water, and natural gas. In other words, these methodologies will allow consumers to determine if they are getting true broadband speed connectivity – and frankly whether or not they are getting what they are paying for.

These state broadband officials have reviewed the recently released FCC broadband map and have compared it to their own respective state broadband maps. And not surprisingly, what they are finding is an FCC map that vastly overstates the amount of broadband connectivity in their states, and in doing so, vastly reduces the amount of federal dollars that state will receive. And these differences are significant. It could mean as much as a loss of tens of millions of dollars in smaller states and up to half a billion dollars or more for larger states. 

What these state officials will ultimately find is irrefutable evidence that many of the ISPs doing business in their state have been systematically providing significantly less service speed and quality than their customers’ terms of service agreements stipulate.

States are beginning to work with their state attorneys general on lawsuits

Knowing this and considering how the FCC has not run a transparent and straightforward process – and has used the calendar in a way to run out the clock on states, you can see why some state broadband officials have begun working with their state attorneys general to not only prepare to challenge the FCC data, but to take their case to court. 

Consider the calendar issue alone: The FCC released its long-anticipated new map data on November 18, 2022, and is giving states until January 13, 2023, to respond – with the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s falling in the interim.

If you are one of these state broadband officials currently considering your options to challenge and/or litigate, then we can play a vital role in your efforts. You will need to ensure that your state broadband map data is litigation-ready by putting in place bullet-proof methodologies and highly credible network monitoring devices/meters. This data can be used to support your case for the full broadband infrastructure funding that your State is entitled to receive.  Additionally, these same devices and methodologies can be used to support any state lawsuits against ISPs for false/deceptive advertising and breach of the spirit, if not the letter, of customer “terms of service” contracts. 

Importantly, our device-driven methodology also focuses solely on the premium customers of ISPs in rural counties of a state, which establishes what FCC refers to as the “available service” for a given ISP’s service territory. 

You have the power to truly close your state’s broadband connectivity gap by fully utilizing the historic level of federal infrastructure funding that has been set aside for this purpose, which in turn will bring accountability and equity to broadband network services for your citizens. 

If you want a citizen-centric partner in these initiatives, please visit our website and contact me at the email address provided below. PAgCASA is a non-profit organization focused on promoting rural prosperity, and we are utilizing industry standard network monitoring/metering devices, same as used by the largest ISPs, litigation-ready methodologies, and an expert team and partnerships to accomplish our goals.

Garland T. McCoy, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Precision Ag Connectivity and Accuracy Stakeholder Alliance, is a long-time non-profit veteran in the fields of technology and telecommunication policy having served as Founder and CEO of the Technology Education Institute. Garland was recently an adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s iSchool, teaching information policy and decision making, and can be reached at garland.mccoy@pagcasa.org. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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