In the News

Published February 1, 2005

FCC Seeks More Rural Data

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will collect more information from more facilities-based carriers in an effort to measure the penetration of broadband and growth of competition in rural markets.

The FCC has had reporting requirements in place since 2000, but hundreds of rural incumbent local exchange companies, wireless Internet service providers, and municipal telephone systems were exempt.

In its decision, the FCC said it was hoping to get a more reliable measure of broadband penetration in areas perceived as underserved, as well as a better handle on competitive conditions in rural markets.

As part of the new program, cable and telephone companies must provide detailed accounts as to the degree cable modem and DSL service is available as well as the speed and nature of the service. Cable companies must disclose the rural areas where they are offering phone service. Local telephone companies must disclose where they are offering video services and report the number of dual local and long distance customers they have.

The effort comes as regulatory attention turns to questions about how rural service will be funded in an environment where new technologies, especially voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) permit consumers to purchase telephone services from companies that are not part of the cross-carrier regulatory scheme set up years ago to subsidize rural service.

SBC Sharpens its Role in Consumer Entertainment

SBC will begin offering a home entertainment service in mid-2005 as part of a sweeping new agreement with Echostar Communications, Yahoo! and 2Wire, an up-and-coming manufacturer of networking equipment that lets consumers link their phones, computers, TVs, game consoles, and wireless devices into a seamless home network.

For SBC the move represents a further step in its strategy to shift from a traditional telephone company to a single-source provider of integrated broadband consumer entertainment and information technology networks and services.

The announcement came at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, where SBC was one of several service providers seeking to position itself as a player in the rapidly converging world where consumer electronics, home entertainment, wireless, and wired telecommunications and computing operate across once-separate platforms.

Customers who subscribe to SBC Yahoo! DSL service and SBC/Dish Network will be eligible to receive the new home entertainment service, which uses the 2Wire MediaPortal technology to network and integrate PCs and televisions. The customer can access photos and music stored on a computer from a TV screen. Conversely, the customer can control DVR and programming functions on a TV from a PC.

Microsoft Shelves Passport

Microsoft is surrendering its once-controversial foray into Web commerce, ending its campaign to persuade Web sites to use Passport, a service that acted as a central storage point for consumer credit card and profile data while the user did business on different e-commerce sites.

The late December announcement came a day after eBay, one of the concept’s earliest supporters, said it would stop using Passport. Monster Worldwide, owner of the job-hunting site, stopped using Passport in October.

Microsoft’s decision to abandon Passport acknowledges another misstep for the software company. Microsoft continues to dominate the narrow-market desktop PC software but has failed to leverage that strength into other areas, including operating systems for wireless devices, high-end Web server software and, in the case of Passport, e-commerce.

When introduced in 2001, the Passport initiative led to some controversy as critics charged Passport would result in Microsoft gaining complete control over all consumer e-commerce. In the end, according to the Financial Times, Passport failed to match competitive alternatives from rival companies and suffered from a general lack of consumer interest in signing up.

FCC Puts More Spectrum on the Block

The FCC will auction 90 MHz of radio spectrum for advanced wireless services as early as June 2006. The spectrum, in the 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz bands, currently used by the federal government, was freed up under the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, which President George W. Bush signed in December.

The decision comes as wireless service providers, wireless device manufacturers, and third-party applications developers press the government to release more spectrum to accommodate third-generation broadband wireless services.

Compiled by Steven Titch ([email protected]), managing editor of IT&T News.