Loss of Copper Infrastructure Threatens Small Business Broadband

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The loss of existing copper wiring--once the foundation of America's telecommunications infrastructure--threatens small businesses' access to broadband service and the FCC should protect it.

The alternative, fiber optic, is only available to about 20 percent of U.S. businesses, according to Carl Grivner, president of XO Communications, while the existing copper infrastructure is available nationwide.

"Advances in copper technology deliver speeds many times faster and at lower cost than ever envisioned during the early 2000s when fiber was considered the only mechanism for broadband access," said Grivner in a letter published Monday in The Hill, a political newspaper.

"Companies like mine deploy Ethernet over Copper, delivering speeds up to 45 Mbps where we have access to this vital--and existing--infrastructure. We will get even faster, but that innovation is threatened by existing rules allowing large telecom providers to remove copper wiring - a communications resource originally subsidized by ratepayers - without regard to potential public benefits."

Grivner urged the FCC and lawmakers to adopt a National Broadband Plan that protects the copper infrastructure, which he said is essential to providing broadband access to small business and spurring job growth.

"Widespread access to high-speed broadband is critical for creating technological opportunity. Adopting a pro-small-business National Broadband Plan with immediate access to affordable high-speed 'last mile' options will remove yet another obstacle to job growth," he wrote.

I contacted Grivner's office seeking examples of problems caused by the loss of copper infrastructure but have not yet heard back. I will provide examples in the future post.

AT&T has already said it wants to do away with the current Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), also known as POTS (for "plain old telephone service") in favor of broadband IP and VoIP.

In response to a Notice of Inquiry released by the FCC to explore how to transition to a purely IP-based communications network, AT&T told the FCC that the death of landlines is a matter of when , not if, and asked that a firm deadline be set for pulling the plug.

While not directly related to removing legacy wiring, copper was the basis for development of PSTN while broadband is associated with fiber optic technology. The shut-down of PSTN could provide impetus for removing copper.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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