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Broadband's Impact

Gavin Young: Technical Standards are Key to Delivering a Quality Broadband Experience

The Broadband Quality Experience Delivered initiative helps provide seamless broadband connectivity so that applications can work together optimally.



The author of this Expert Opinion is Gavin Young, contributor at Broadband Forum and Head of Fixed Access Centre of Excellence at Vodafone

Ever since the internet was introduced to the world, the demands placed on it by users have constantly evolved. It was once a blessing to simply be connected, but now that more than half the world relies on the internet for work, schooling, and day-to-day activities, the broadband industry must shift its focus to delivering a quality user experience.

For decades, speed has been used as the primary indicator of broadband performance. At the same time, networking experts have long realized that speed is just one dimension of broadband performance, and newer, increasingly interactive applications have made users aware that more than just speed is required to provide the best possible experience. As a result, the industry needs to look beyond conventional measurements of speed and even latency, to improve overall broadband experience and to facilitate the management of network performance against service and application requirements.

Making the network invisible to the customer

Because our ‘always on’, ultra-connected lifestyle now demands so much more from our networks, Quality of Experience can no longer be ignored. For example, the emergence of applications such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and other high bandwidth, latency-sensitive applications have the potential to place tremendous strain on broadband networks.

Notably, VR technology has become more accessible and widely used over the past few years and it only continues to grow in popularity, with an estimated base of more than 171 million users worldwide and applications in gaming, healthcare, education, architecture, and other markets.

As VR technology and applications evolve, they require much more responsiveness from the network, including stringent latency requirements that are critical to providing customers with a realistic and comfortable experience. In effect, a network providing VR must be invisible to the customer, delivering data packets so quickly and reliably that its presence between the user and the application is not detected.

Latency, or the amount of time it takes for a data packet to travel from one point to another, is one of the network performance metrics used to describe customer QoE and consumers have become increasingly aware of its importance. However, conventional latency measurements do not necessarily provide enough information to drive improvements to network performance, especially when supporting demanding applications and services.

The industry needs to be able to break latency into its components, each of which is affected by distinct factors within the network.  By understanding the individual components that make up latency, network designers can focus on the most effective techniques to provide performance optimized for subscribers, services, and applications.

Treating the ‘network illness’ with the right cure

Broadband Forum’s Broadband Quality of Experience Delivered project, published as a series of specifications under the TR-452 umbrella, defines metrics that capture variability in network quality, relating directly to end-user QoE. The framework uses principles of Quality Attenuation (written ∆Q) to characterize the performance metrics, measurements, and analysis required by innovative broadband networks, tackling factors such as latency, consistency, predictability, and reliability.

Quality Attenuation measurements provide the capability for decomposing latency into distinct components, matching them to the sources of performance degradation. For example, packet delay is decomposed into a constant component (due to distance travelled and also bounded by the speed of light), a variable component (caused by queuing or buffering), and a serialization delay (tied to link speeds).

Quality Attenuation then builds a representative statistical distribution of these latency components as well as packet loss, based on the measured transit times of variable sized packets sent over a network segment over time. This makes Quality Attenuation a powerful tool for evaluating both the nature and the causes of network performance issues.

For example, Broadband Quality Attenuation can be used to identify quality degradation due to an inadequate scheduling operation when the network is under load. This in turn allows network operators to optimize broadband performance more cost-effectively via configuration changes, treating the root cause of the issue rather than just increasing link speeds, which could entail significant expenditure without solving the problem.

The time is right

In this new gigabit era – with the likes of DOCSIS 4, XGS-PON, 25G, 50G, 100G, coherent PON, and Wi-Fi 7 either available now or on the horizon – more speed has diminishing benefits as perceived by customers. Instead, a new generation of interactive apps and services requires a more responsive network. As this evolution continues, speed will no longer be the main differentiator, but rather just one factor in the quest for a more comprehensive understanding of network performance, based upon service and application QoE.

By focusing on QoE, service providers can achieve reduced churn, new Average Revenue Per User growth opportunities, service differentiation, and lower OPEX applied to customer support and network planning. Services differentiated for specific QoE can be offered initially to particular target groups and ultimately, to the wider broadband subscriber market. These offerings can be powered by Broadband QED, which provides the needed framework to specify, measure, and analyze, and ensure the quality required for these next-generation applications driving value-added services.

Gavin Young is responsible within Vodafone Group for the fixed broadband access technology strategy, architecture, vendor roadmaps and standards across the 17 countries where Vodafone currently has fixed access assets, including fiber, cable and DSL access technologies plus fixed-mobile access. Young was a founding director of the Broadband Forum, for which he served as  technical chairman for 12 years, in addition to serving as co-chair of the UK21CN consultation’s broadband group and on other technical boards. He is chairman of the Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board and is active in several CableLabs initiatives, and is a fellow of the IET. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

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

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband's Impact

Tech Trade Group Report Argues for USF Funding from Broadband Companies

Consulting firm Brattle Group said in a report the move would be economically sound.



Screenshot of Chip Pickering, INCOMPAS CEO

WASHINGTON, September 19, 2023 – Tech company trade group INCOMPAS and consulting firm Brattle Group released on Tuesday a report arguing for adding broadband providers as contributors to the Universal Service Fund.

The USF spends roughly $8 billion each year to support four programs that provide internet subsidies to low-income households, health care providers, schools, and libraries. The money comes from a tax on voice service providers, causing lawmakers to look for alternative sources of funding as more Americans switch from phone lines to broadband services.

The Federal Communications Commission administers the fund through the Universal Service Administration Company, but has left it to Congress to make changes to the contribution pool.

The report argues that broadband providers should be one of those sources. It cites the fact that USF funds are largely used for broadband rather than voice services and that broadband adoption is increasing as phone line use decreases.

“The USF contribution base needs to change to account for the fact that connectivity implies not just voice telephone services, but predominantly broadband internet access,” the report says.

It also rebuts arguments for adding tech companies like INCOMPAS members Google and Amazon to the contribution pool, saying they represent a less stable source of income for the program and that added fees for services like streaming could affect . 

The report is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between tech companies and broadband providers over who should support the USF in the future, with broadband companies arguing big tech should be tapped for funding as they run businesses on the networks supported by the fund.

Sens. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., and John Thune, R-S.D. established in May a senate working group to explore potential reforms to the program. The group heard comments in August  from associations of tech and broadband companies, each outlining arguments for including the other industry in the USF contribution base.

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Broadband's Impact

Florida Broadband Grants, Support for Microsoft-Activision, IQ Fiber Investment

Comcast, Conexon, and Cox received $247 million in Florida broadband grants.



Photo of fiber-optic installation from 2018 by CTA

September 18, 2023 – Service providers Comcast, Conexon, and Cox are receiving the biggest awards totaling $247 million in Broadband Grants in the state of Florida, Telecompetitor revealed Thursday.

Cox is receiving $80 million for 11 projects, Comcast is getting $60 million for 34 projects, and Conexon is receiving roughly $40 million. Additional companies receiving funding include, Charter Communications, AT&T, CenturyLink, Suwanee Valley Electric Cooperative, Consolidated, TDS, IBT, and Myakka, Telecompetitor noted. 

The state announced the $247 million in broadband grants this July, but did not include the names of the providers who would be providing the services.

The grants were made possible through Florida’s Broadband Infrastructure Program, which received funding through the Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund. 

Nine Amicus briefs filed in support of Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard 

Nine amicus briefs were filed Thursday in support of Microsoft’s $68.7 billion purchase of Activision-Blizzard by a group of parties that included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Communications Workers of America among others.

The briefs come in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to appeal its loss against Microsoft to prevent the sale in the United States, alleging that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard would allow it to manipulate access to Activision’s products for rival gaming consoles to Microsoft’s Xbox, therefore suppressing competition in the gaming industry.

“This Commission’s hostility to the procompetitive and efficiency-enhancing prospects of mergers is well-known—but the Commission’s position is not supported by merger case law,” said Bilal Sayyed, TechFreedom senior competition counsel, former director of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning. 

Among the briefs released, five independent publishers and studios that included Curve Digital, Finji, iam8bit, Strange Scaffold, and Studio Wildcard – going under “amici”’ in support of the acquisition – hint the deal will positively benefit the development community.

“Amici are five independent companies, of all shapes and sizes, that publish or develop video games for a range of game-streaming platforms, including Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service on Xbox,” the brief stated. “Thus having first-hand experience with Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription and its effects on the market for independently published and developed games.

“While the FTC argues that the merger will stifle competition, amici have had precisely the opposite experience with Microsoft’s Game Pass service.”

In June 2022, the CWA was able to enforce a Labor Neutrality Agreement with Microsoft if the acquisition were approved. Under the agreement, workers with Activision Blizzard would be able “to freely make a choice about union representation.”

“While the labor neutrality agreement at Activision does not take effect until the merger closes, Microsoft has already proven its commitment to abide by the agreement by extending its provisions to its own employees,” CWA wrote on their website.

IQ Fiber starts construction of fiber-optic network in northwest Gainesville, $40 million invested in phase one of project

IQ Fiber has started its first phase of construction Friday, a $40-million investment to bring a fiber-optic network to the Northwest Gainesville and Alachua County in Florida.

The company, based in Jacksonville, is bringing its services to Florida’s Alachua, Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties, which is its “first major network expansion outside of the Jacksonville region.”

IQ Fiber expects online service to be available for “a few” Northwest Gainesville neighborhoods near the start of 2024. 

Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward said in a press release that extending broadband competition in the community was always a priority and is hopeful that IQ Fiber’s presence will provide a plethora of opportunities for the neighboring communities.

Since starting in 2021, the company has developed over 600 miles of fiber-optic cable across North Florida. 

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Digital Inclusion

Broadband Association Argues Providers Not Engaged in Rollout Discrimination

Trade group says telecoms are not discriminating when they don’t build in financially difficult areas.



Image of redlining from historic map of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, from PBS.

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2023 – Broadband association US Telecom sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission last week saying internet service providers don’t build in certain areas because it is financially difficult, not because they are being discriminatory.

The FCC proposed two definitions of digital discrimination in December 2022: The first definition includes practices that, absent technological or economic constraints, produce differential outcomes for individuals based a series of protected characteristics, including income, race, and religion. The second definition is similar but adds discriminatory intent as a necessary factor.

“To make business determinations regarding capital allocation, an ISP must consider a host of commercially important factors, none of which involve discrimination,” said the September 12 letter from USTelecom, which represents providers including AT&T, Verizon, Lumen, Brightspeed, and Altafiber.

“As the Commission has consistently recognized, such deployment is extremely capital-intensive…This deployment process is therefore subject to important constraints related to technical and economic feasibility” added the letter.

US Telecom explained that ISPs’ will choose to invest where they expect to see a return on the time and money they put into building broadband.

The association added that factors like population density, brand reputation, competition and the availability of the providers’ other services all go into deciding where broadband gets deployed.

“The starting point of the Commission’s approach to feasibility should be a realistic acknowledgement that all ISPs must prioritize their resources, even those that invest aggressively in deployment,” added the letter.

The association also highlighted the fact that it hopes to see as little government intervention in broadband deployment activity as possible, a concern that has been echoed by lobbyists before.

“Rather than attempting to use Section 60506 to justify taking extra-statutory intrusive actions that could paradoxically undermine ongoing broadband investment, the Commission must enable ISPs to make decisions based on their own consideration of the kinds of feasibility factors discussed above” read the letter.

Section 60506 of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act says that the FCC may implement new policies to ensure equal access to broadband.

The FCC is also looking to develop guidelines for handling digital discrimination complaints filed against broadband providers.

USTelecom said that ISPs should be allowed to demonstrate financial and logistical concerns as a rebuttal to those claims, in addition to disclosing other reasons for directing investment elsewhere to demonstrate non-discriminatory practice.

Reasons for investment elsewhere would include rough terrain, low-population density, MTE owners not consenting to deployment, zoning restrictions, or historical preservation review.

“To aid in the success of the Infrastructure Act and facilitate equal access, the Commission must continue to foster an environment conducive to ISP investment in the high-speed broadband infrastructure that Congress rightly views as central to our connected future,” concluded the letter.

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