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The Fiber to the Home Council Files Opposition to Maryland House Bill 1221
Topic: Rural Broadband
Owner: Ancilla C Brady
Date: 2017-03-10
Subtopic:

TESTIMONY OF HEATHER BURNETT GOLD PRESIDENT AND CEO, FIBER TO THE HOME COUNCIL AMERICAS BEFORE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND, HOUSE ECONOMIC MATTERS COMMITTEE, ON HOUSE BILL 1221

 March 9, 2017

 Introduction and Summary

 The Fiber to the Home Council Americas submits testimony in opposition to House Bill

 1221.  To put it most starkly, this legislation, by unnecessarily preventing the retirement of outdated copper landline facilities, throws a major roadblock in the way of the deployment of all- fiber networks.  As such, it would deprive Maryland residents, businesses, and institutions from getting access to essential infrastructure that is vital to their full participation in the 21st century economy and society.2   As countless policymakers and communities across the country already understand, residents that have all-fiber network infrastructure will thrive as they can instantaneously and constantly access the internet, their families and friends, and all the institutions that are part of their lives.  Those without access to all-fiber networks will be stranded.

All-fiber networks are recognized, including by both the Federal Communications

Commission (FCC) and the Maryland Public Service Commission, as being far superior to copper landline facilities in terms of speed, reliability, and cost.3   Fiber represents truly "future

 1 The Council's mission is to accelerate deployment of all-fiber networks by demonstrating how fiber creates value for customers, promotes economic development, and enhances quality of life. The Council’s members represent all areas of the broadband access industry, including telecommunications, computing, networking, system integration, engineering, and content provider companies, as well as traditional service providers, utilities, and municipalities. As of today, the Council has more than 250 entities as members. A complete list of Council members can be found on the organization’s website: http://www.ftthcouncil.org.

 2 While House Bill 1221 covers copper retirement for residential customers, businesses and institutions will also suffer because broadband providers build networks throughout communities, not individual customer lines one at a time. As a result, the legislation would deprive businesses and institutions near residential areas access to fiber infrastructure.

 3 See, e.g., Maryland General Assembly, Department of Legislative Services, Fiscal and Policy Note, House Bill

1221 (2017) (Legislative Services Note); Technology Transitions, Declaratory Ruling, Second Report and Order, and

 proof" technology adaptable to next-generation services that offers customers "frictionless" internet access to a vast world of content.4   Americans have come to recognize this superiority, and they are clamoring for fiber and service providers are responding.  But building all-fiber infrastructure is very expensive and takes time.  It requires the private sector, communities, and governments to all pull in the same direction.  Increasing fiber network costs and procedural hurdles as the legislation proposes would thwart, or at best slow, deployments and the benefits they bring.

The Committee also should understand that broadband providers build networks throughout communities, not individual customer lines one at a time.  The legislation therefore is completely contrary to network economics, as it effectively gives individual customers veto power over their neighbors' access to high-speed, reliable fiber service.

Not only do consumers want all-fiber networks, the lifetime of their traditional copper networks is ending.  Put simply, copper continues to deteriorate, further degrading service quality and reliability.5   While Maryland homes used to depend on copper landline facilities,

most consumers have abandoned copper-based broadband service (DSL) for fiber- and cable- 

Order on Reconsideration, 31 FCC Rcd 8283 (2016) (Technology Transitions Declaratory Ruling); Technology

Transitions, Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 30 FCC Rcd

9372 (2015) (Technology Transitions Order); Ex Parte Filing of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas on Technology Transitions, GN Docket No. 13-5 (May 13, 2015) (Technology Transitions Ex Parte); Ex Parte Filing of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas on Ensuring Premises Equipment Backup Power for Continuity of Communications, PS Docket No. 14-174 (May 7, 2014) (Battery Backup Ex Parte); FCC, Connecting America:

The National Broadband Plan (2010).

 

4 Comments of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas on the Twelfth Broadband Progress Notice of Inquiry, GN Docket 16-245 (Sep. 6, 2016) (Broadband Progress Comments).

 

5 See Technology Transitions Order at 9382, para. 13.

 

based networks.6   In fact, a recent estimate shows that only a fraction of homes in parts of

 

Maryland still depend on copper infrastructure.7

 

In addition, should there be any question about ensuring customers have voice service during power outages, it is first important to understand that customers have already voted on this issue:  approximately 50 percent have only wireless service and another 25 percent have non-line powered voice services.8   In fact, only about 1 percent of the consumers in the US

subscribe only to line-powered voice service and have no wireless service.9   For these remaining

 

“traditional” customers, the FCC has addressed customer notice and power outage issues related to copper retirement and service providers ensure a seamless transition to fiber networks.10

Finally, the legislation is subject to federal preemption because it conflicts with the FCC's authority to remove barriers to the provision of telecommunications services and broadband investment.11

All-fiber networks are the infrastructure of the future, and House Bill 1221 threatens to

leave Maryland in the past.  The Council therefore respectfully requests that the Committee see the legislation for what it is:  an unnecessary and costly impediment to economic development and consumer benefit.

 

6 See Technology Transitions Ex Parte at 1-2; Battery Backup Ex Parte at 2-3; Om Malik, "Hey DSL, It's Time for

Goodbye," Bloomberg BusinessWeek (Nov. 8, 2012), available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-

11-08/hey-dsl-it-s-time-for-goodbye.

 

7 Response of Verizon Maryland LLC to the Petition of the Office of the People's Counsel for Investigation and

Suspension of Copper Retirement Notices, ML #202479, 3 (Nov. 23, 2016) (Verizon Response).

 

8 CTIA – The Wireless Association®, Wireless Quick Facts, available at http://www.ctia.org/industry-data/wireless- quick-facts.

 

9 Technology Transitions Ex Parte at 2; Battery Backup Ex Parte at 2.

 

10 See Technology Transitions Order at 9402, para. 50; Ensuring Continuity of 911 Communications, Report and

Order, 30 FCC Rcd 8677, 8702-02, para. 53 (2015) (Battery Backup Order); Legislative Services Note at 2.

 

11 See 47 U.S.C. §§ 253, 1302.

 

The Superiority of All-Fiber Networks

 

Within the next decade, most telecommunications networks will be all-fiber because only fiber has the capability to deliver high-performance connectivity that consumers want and advanced services demand.  The simple fact is that copper cannot compete with fiber on performance.  A single fiber is capable of transmitting 250 million phone conversations every second.12   Each fiber can carry multiple streams of information simultaneously over different wavelengths of light.  All-fiber networks provide bandwidth orders of magnitude greater than current copper-based networks, offering "frictionless" broadband access.13   The longer a signal travels on copper, the lower the bandwidth.  By contrast, all-fiber networks carry signals over significant distances, making it ideal for service in rural areas.  All-fiber networks improve not only transmission quantity, but also transmission quality.  Fiber is immune to electromagnetic interference caused by nearby power lines and weather that can create annoying static and humming during calls.14

Copper similarly cannot compete with fiber on reliability.  All-fiber networks are more

reliable than any other communications network currently available.15   Unlike copper, fiber does not corrode when exposed to water.  In addition, fiber networks are what is known as "all- passive," meaning the equipment does not depend on live power.  This makes all-fiber networks less prone to outages during extreme weather events.16   Being all-passive also decreases the

 

12 Comments of the Fiber to the Home Council on Request to Refresh Record and Amend the Commission's Copper

Retirement Rules, GN Docket No. 353, 4 (March 3, 2013) (Copper Retirement Comments).

 13 Comments of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas on the Technology Transitions NPRM, PS Docket 14-174 et al., 6 (Feb. 5, 2015) (Technology Transitions Comments); Broadband Progress Comments at 3.

 14 Copper Retirement Comments at 4.

 15 Technology Transitions Comments at 6 (citing Fiber to the Home Council Americas, The Superior Performance and Technical Characteristics of Fiber to the Home Networks, 11 (Jan. 29, 2015) (Fiber Characteristics)).

 16 Technology Transitions Comments at 7; Verizon Response at 4.

likelihood that buildings connected to fiber will experience power surges or suffer damage from lighting when compared to conductive copper landline facilities.17   Industry studies show that all- fiber networks often maintained power when copper infrastructure failed.18   For example, Verizon's New York network suffered extensive flooding during Hurricane Sandy that destroyed its copper landline facilities.  However, Verizon's fiber continued to function, providing essential service to otherwise cut-off areas.19   Verizon subsequently analyzed "customer trouble" reports it received during the storm and found that the trouble report rate for its fiber-connected central office was one-eighth that of its copper-reliant facilities.20

Copper also cannot compete with fiber on cost.  While all-fiber networks may be slightly more expensive to install than copper networks, they take far less to operate and maintain.21   All- fiber networks last longer than copper networks, with fiber networks installed over forty years ago still in operation today.  Each fiber is strength tested at a minimum of 100,000 pounds per square inch and nothing harms fiber except an actual cut in a strand.22   Copper is increasingly expensive to maintain over time.  Lines must be constantly checked for corrosion or other

damage and replaced.  In light of this constant maintenance, service providers significantly reduced their operating expenses when they retired copper infrastructure for fiber.23   All-fiber

networks are "future proof" technology, easy to deploy and adapt to advancing technologies.

 17 Technology Transitions Comments at 7.

 18 Id.

 19 Fiber Characteristics at 13.

 20 Id.

 21 See Broadband Communities, "What Fiber Broadband Can Do For Your Community," 11th Ed., 4 (Fall 2015) (Broadband Communities Report).

 22 Copper Retirement Comments at 4.

 23 Id. at 9.

 One mile of fiber only weighs about one-fourth of a pound.24   The fibers can be packaged in

 tubes less than one-eighth of an inch in diameter.25   There are even fiber products that can adhere to walls and be painted over.  By contrast, copper landline facilities occupy significant amounts

of space on poles and in central offices and conduits.26   Once installed, fiber can be upgraded without having to replace it by installing new software or electronics.  All-fiber networks are also "green," as they do not depend on mined metals and require less power to operate than copper.27

This reduces costs for businesses with high-capacity operations, such as data centers. Consequently, requiring providers to retain and maintain copper networks separately from their all-fiber networks is inherently inefficient and reduces the money available for further fiber deployment and repairing copper landline facilities in areas with no fiber facilities.

Copper Networks are Ending their Useful Lives

 Copper networks are at the end of their useful lives and are rapidly deteriorating. Virtually no network provider is installing "new" copper on its networks.28   Instead, providers only install copper in places where the existing landline must be repaired or in the ever- dwindling areas where fiber migration is not yet scheduled.  As a result and because of fiber’s superiority, there has been a consensus for more than a decade amongst policymakers, service providers, consumers, and communities to drive fiber infrastructure deployment.  The FCC recently stated that the country stands at a crossroads where legacy infrastructure like copper

landline is giving way to an explosion of new technologies that depend upon fiber and other

 24 Id. at 4.

 25 Broadband Communities Report at 9.

 26 Copper Retirement Comments at 9.

 27 Id. at 4; Broadband Communities Report at 9; Verizon Response at 4.

 28 Copper Retirement Comments at 5.

 high-capacity networks.29   Congress also has facilitated fiber deployment, particularly in rural areas, through broadband stimulus and other support programs.30   Communities recognize the benefits of replacing legacy copper networks with new fiber infrastructure, and are currently racing to either get private sector providers to deploy all-fiber networks or construct these networks themselves.  More than 100 municipalities and electric cooperatives have already deployed, or started to deploy, all-fiber networks31 and all-fiber networks now reach approximately 24 million households in the US.32   As just one measure of fiber's value, recent studies indicate that having all-fiber networks in a community propels economic growth and

even increases the value of individual homes.  Real estate agents have even told me that families now want to know not only about local schools, but also about whether a home is connected to fiber.

Providers of All-Fiber Networks Act Responsibly in Transitioning Subscribers

 Fiber service providers and their vendors remain committed to retiring existing copper landline facilities in a responsible and safe manner.  In 2015, the FCC adopted rules addressing customer notice and power outage issues related to copper retirement.33   The FCC required fiber service providers to give a single "neutral" notice to customers at least three months prior to moving from copper to fiber.34   The notice informs customers that they can continue to receive

the same services provided over copper landline facilities and about the differences in using

29 Technology Transitions Declaratory Ruling at 8285, para. 1.

30 See American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115; Broadband Initiatives

Program, 74 Fed. Reg. 33,104 (July 9, 2009).

 

31 Technology Transitions Comments at 8.

 

32 Technology Transitions Ex Parte at 1; Battery Backup Ex Parte at 2.

 

33 Technology Transitions Order at 9375, para. 5; Battery Backup Order at 8678, para. 4.

 

34 Technology Transitions Order at 9391, para. 30.

 

fiber-based services.  Many fiber service providers go well beyond the FCC notice requirements, providing additional announcements by mail and phone as well as developing special notice processes for older customers.35   These processes ensure that no customer experiences a "flash cut" to fiber without sufficient notice.  Many service providers also go well beyond the FCC backup power requirements, providing free batteries or installing standby power supplies within or adjacent to the fiber network terminal.36   As mentioned earlier, all-fiber networks are less prone to outages during extreme weather, reducing the need for backup power solutions.  Further reducing the need for backup power, nearly four out of five consumers now use mobile devices

to access emergency services during outages.37   Even before the FCC reformed the copper retirement rules, the Council spoke with its members and did not find a single instance where customers complained about or objected to a fiber provider's backup power options.

Fiber service providers work hard to make sure that the transition from copper to fiber is seamless for customers.  The transition to fiber is not a change to a customer's service, but rather a change in the underlying facilities providing the service.38   Customers retain the same voice service at the same price and functionality that they received over copper.  Customers may still use the same handsets, jacks, and inside wiring.  A customer's connected faxes, alarms, and medical devices work the same over fiber as they did over copper.  It therefore is not much of a surprise that most customers respond quickly to fiber transition notices and work with the

provider to schedule a time to migrate.  Consequently, there is no reason to delay or further study

 

copper retirement; the time to act on fiber deployment is now.

 

35 Verizon Response at 7-8; Technology Transitions Comments at 22-27.

 

36 Verizon Response at 10-11; Technology Transitions Comments at 17-21.

 

37 Technology Transitions Ex Parte at 2; Battery Backup Ex Parte at 3.

 

38 Verizon Response at 4.

 

The FCC Controls Broadband Deployment

 

Finally, even if House Bill 1221 is passed, the FCC likely will preempt the copper landline retirement moratorium.  Section 253 of the Communications Act provides that "[n]o State or local statute or regulation, or other State or local legal requirement, may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service."39   The FCC currently classifies broadband internet access service

as a telecommunications service.40   In addition, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Section

 

706) also broadly authorizes the FCC to “remove barriers to infrastructure investment,” including through preemption.41   Maryland therefore may not adopt legislation effectively preventing the provision of or investment in fiber-based broadband services.

Conclusion

 

In closing, the Council thanks the Committee for the opportunity to express its opposition to House Bill 1221 and highlight the benefits all-fiber networks can provide Maryland and its people.  We urge you to recognize fiber's superior performance, reliability, and cost over copper and the barriers the proposed legislation would place in front of next-generation communications and information services.  Consumers demand access to all-fiber networks and the need for traditional copper networks continues to decline.  Fiber service providers comply with federal notice and backup power requirements and offer a seamless transition from copper-based services.  Finally, House Bill 1221 conflicts with federal authority over the deployment of

telecommunications services and broadband investment, likely leading to preemption.  The

 

 

 

 

39 47 U.S.C. § 253(a).

 

40 Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order, 30

FCC Rcd 5601 (2015).

 

41 47 U.S.C. § 1302(a).

 

 

 

Council stands ready to work with the Committee to continue promoting the deployment of fast, reliable all-fiber networks throughout Maryland.

 

 

Fiber to the Home Council Americas

6841 Elm Street, #843

McLean, VA 22101-0843


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