“Buzz Out Loud” Wrong on AT&T

by on September 16, 2008 · 4 comments

“Buzz Out Loud,” one of my favorite podcasts, disappoints me from time to time, specifically when the good folks at CNET decide to bash broadband companies and call them “jerks” and “evil.”

So goes Episode 809 of Buzz Out Loud.  Molly Wood, Jason Howell, and guest host Don Reisinger declare AT&T’s decision to throttle U-Verse (as reported by Ars-Technica) to be just another dumb thing that stupid broadband companies do.

One of their reasons for saying so is that AT&T’s U-Verse is fiber, but that’s not true.  U-Verse uses fiber to feed VRADs, or Video Ready Access Devices, that take that fiber and feed its signal out over legacy copper wires, in a sort of DSL adapted-to-video hybrid.

When you get the facts wrong, your analysis is bound to be bad.

The BOL crews is right to say that at current demand for content it wouldn’t make sense to throttle fiber to the home.  It’s unlikely that networks composed entirely of fiber (as opposed to AT&T’s hybrid model) would have to be managed extensively or even at all given current content consumption levels.  But in the future, with demand growing, there may even be a need for management of fiber connections that go all the way down that last mile.

Hopefully by then someone has developed a technology that makes fiber look like phone lines.

Fiber isn’t the “be all, end all” as the folks at Buzz Out Loud describe, it’s just the best thing going right now.  AT&T doesn’t have the best pipes, so it’s managing the ones it has the best it can.  Calling them jerks or evil for doing so doesn’t help them be a better broadband company, it just gives ammunition to  regulators who can only slow down the progress of broadband development.

AT&T should be encouraged to compete with Verizon and Comcast, traffic management may be its best means of doing so.

  • Ryan Radia

    AT&T may not be evil, but their decision to invest in DSL-based services rather than a complete fiber overhaul is leaving them behind the competitive curve.

    With U-Verse, dual high-def streams plus 10mbps of data (over VDSL2) is the cream of the crop at the moment. More efficient methods of squeezing data on digital subscriber lines will likely enhance capacity to some degree, but offering advanced services over phone lines is technically inferior to both coax and fiber.

    WIth Comcast, Verizon, or DirecTV, you can watch 10 simultaneous high-def channels if you've got enough receivers. Not so with U-Verse–a glaring shortfall, especially as families start to get multiple HDTVs.

    And U-Verse broadband tops out at 10/1.5, a far cry from FioS's 50/20 and even cable's 16/2 (soon to be 30/5 thanks to DOCSIS 3.0). Even with technical improvements, we're a long way from 50mbps over DSL being feasible for residential deployment.

    Fiber to the home isn't going to be replaced anytime soon. Sure, wireless alternatives with more efficient operational costsw may emerge, but given fiber's incredible capacity compared to wireless services, it's not likely to go anywhere for a while.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    I'm glad to hear I'm not the only TLFer who listens to BOL religiously. Though they're not exactly “legal beagles,” they're generally an excellent source of tech news coverage–and my primary means of keeping up with what's going on in the tech world. If you listen to yesterday's BOL, you'll hear that they corrected themselves by explaining that U-Verse is NOT Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), but rather, Fiber to the Node (FTTN), as you note, and that this technical difference means that AT&T does not have the essentially (given present demand) “unlimited” bandwidth available to Verizon's FIOS customers.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    I'm glad to hear I'm not the only TLFer who listens to BOL religiously. Though they're not exactly “legal beagles,” they're generally an excellent source of tech news coverage–and my primary means of keeping up with what's going on in the tech world. If you listen to yesterday's BOL, you'll hear that they corrected themselves by explaining that U-Verse is NOT Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), but rather, Fiber to the Node (FTTN), as you note, and that this technical difference means that AT&T does not have the essentially (given present demand) “unlimited” bandwidth available to Verizon's FIOS customers.

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