In the News

Published December 1, 2006

DSL Up, Single Lines Down

The number of digital voice lines and DSL connections increased, while traditional circuit-switched access lines dropped again, but less precipitously, for BellSouth, according to third quarter financial results.

Comcast Corp., one of its broadband services competitors, reported it added 483,000 subscribers to its Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, while losing 102,000 circuit-switched subscribers, for a net gain of 381,000. At the third quarter’s end, the cable company had 2.1 million phone customers. That could grow: The VoIP service is available to 31 million homes, or 65 percent of Comcast’s footprint.

BellSouth reported its residential access lines for the quarter were down 8.7 percent year over year, compared to a decrease of 9.1 percent in the second quarter and 8.8 percent in the first.

Those numbers indicate access line loss is “flattening,” said Pat Shannon, BellSouth’s chief financial officer, in an earnings call, as reported by TelephonyOnline. Shannon said wireless substitution for traditional switched lines, a main driver of line loss, has been slowing, though he said it was difficult to predict where the threshold for substitution would settle.

Competition is also alive and well in broadband, with telephone and cable companies reporting strong numbers. Comcast reported 558,000 new digital cable subscribers in the third quarter, as well as 536,000 new high-speed Internet access customers–the highest quarterly increase in that category in two years.

AT&T, BellSouth, Qwest Communications, and Verizon Communications gained a combined 1.179 million subscribers in the third quarter, up 17 percent from the second quarter, according to TelephonyOnline. But the publication noted these numbers are off considerably from the year-ago quarterly numbers, with BellSouth’s down 14 percent and AT&T’s down 29 percent.

FTTH Tops 1 Million

More than 1 million U.S. homes and business are directly connected via fiber optic lines, according to an industry survey released in October.

The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council and Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) also said FTTH is available to more than 6 million homes, an increase of 50 percent in the past six months.

The new figures show the most rapid FTTH deployment to date–more than 300,000 additional homes are being passed each month. Major FTTH providers include telephone and cable companies as well as real estate developers, competitive local exchange carriers, and local utilities. About 500,000 of the 1 million FTTH connections have been deployed by Verizon as part of its FiOS project.

The FTTH Council is a nonprofit organization representing carriers, municipalities, and developers implementing FTTH platforms. TIA is a trade group representing telecommunications manufacturers.

Rural Iowa Gets Fiber

A group of seven small Iowa telephone companies have formed a private cooperative to build a fiber optic backbone that will deliver broadband connections to rural areas of the state.

Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative, USA Communications, Alpine Communications, Northeast Iowa Telephone, Baldwin/Nashville Telephone, Schaller Telephone, Cooperative Telephone Exchange, and Andrew Telephone have joined forces to negotiate for the procurement of the necessary infrastructure to provide “triple play” services–phone, Internet, and video–to rural farming areas of Iowa. The cooperative, Iowa Network Services (INS), already has signed a contract with Occam Networks for ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP)-based local loop carrier equipment, according to Telecommunications magazine.

INS will fund and construct a statewide fiber optic backbone. The individual companies will deliver services to homes over both fiber and DSL platforms.

Massport Can’t Block Airline WiFi

In a stinging rebuke to the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the Federal Communications Commission said Massport could not block attempts by airlines to set up WiFi hotspots at Boston’s Logan Airport.

Massport operated a for-pay WiFi service at the airport. When Continental Airlines and American Airlines set up hotspots in their own lounges, Massport ordered the two airlines to shut the services down. In a November 1 ruling, the FCC said Massport exceeded its authority because it does not have jurisdiction over the use of radio spectrum and, when it comes to unlicensed frequencies such as WiFi, landlords have no special rights to free airspace.

Massport had argued the airline services were, among other things, causing interference and endangering public safety because police officers could not reliably use the WiFi service. The FCC dismissed all complaints, saying Massport misread, misconstrued, and misapplied basic rules governing unlicensed spectrum and over-the-air reception devices.

Sharon J. Watson ([email protected]) is a freelance writer. Steven Titch ([email protected]) is senior fellow for IT and telecom policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of IT&T News.