“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.

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