FCCs RFC for the Definition of Broadband

Leo Bicknell bicknell at ufp.org
Thu Aug 27 09:04:59 CDT 2009

In a message written on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 09:58:22AM +0100, Alexander Harrowell wrote:
> An interesting question: as the population gets sparser, the average trench 
> mileage per subscriber increases. At some point this renders fibre deployment 
> uneconomic. Now, this point can change:

This statement makes no sense to me.

The cost to dig a trench is cheaper in rural areas than it is in
urban areas.  A lot cheaper.  Rather than closing a road, cutting
a trench, avoiding 900 other obsticals, repaving, etc they can often
trench or go aerial down the side of a road for miles with no
obsticals and nothing but grass to put back.

So while mileage per subscriber increases, cost per mile dramatically
increases.  The only advantage in an urban enviornment is that one
trench may serve 200 families in a building, where as a rural trench
may serve 20 familes.

But more puzzling to me is the idea that fiber becomes uneconomic.
This may have once been true, but right now you can buy 10km or
even 40km lasers quite cheaply.  Compare with copper which for even
modest speeds requires a repeater every 2-4km.

If you have to reach someone 20km from the CO, the cost of running
the ditch-wich down the road in a rural area is not the dominate
cost over the next 20 years.  It's equipment.  If the copper plant
takes 4 repeaters to do the job, that's 4 bits of equipment that
can fail, and will need to be upgraded at some point.  Running
something as simple as point to point fiber they can be provided
with GigE speeds today with no intermediate equipment; the cost of
a 20km GBIC is far less than the cost of installing 4 repeaters.

The problem with all of these is ROI, not cost.  Somewhere along the
line we've decided very short ROI's are required.  Do you work at a
company where an ROI of over a year is laughed at?  When the original
rural telephone network was pushed ROI's of 50 years were talked about.
There's plenty of infrastructure built every day with ROI's of 20 years.

So it would cost $2000 per home to put in fiber.  The margin on the
service is $5 per month.  It's a 33 year ROI.  That's ok with me, it's
infrastructure, like a road, or a bridge.  We're still using copper in
the ground put in during the 60's, 70's, and 80's.

       Leo Bicknell - bicknell at ufp.org - CCIE 3440
        PGP keys at http://www.ufp.org/~bicknell/
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