TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Broadband Competition Must Surely be Working

Re: Broadband Competition Must Surely be Working

Neal McLain (
Sun, 28 Aug 2005 14:51:43 -0500

I wrote:

>> I agree with Garrett. Your local cable company HAD to build a
>> separate network in order to carry NTSC television signals. A cable
>> network is vastly different from the telephone network: it has to
>> carry much higher frequencies (by about 14 octaves), and it serves an
>> entirely different market. wrote:

> The telephone system extensively uses coaxial cable to
> multiplex phone and TV signals.

But not in the local loop.

> Indeed, the phone co has been carrying TV signals for
> years.

But not in the local loop.

> The telco could've integrated cable signals into its existing
> plant and billing systems.

What do you mean by "integrated cable signals into its existing

If you mean they could have placed coax cable plant on existing poles
and in existing easements, then I agree. That's exactly what SNET,
Ameritech, GTE, TDS, and Bell Canada did.

But if you mean sending "cable signals" (NTSC signals modulated onto
carriers 54 MHz and above) over existing copper-pair loops, then I
don't think you understand physics.

> There would've been definite economies of
> scale to be gained if they used telco standards.

>> On the other hand, CATV labor costs were often lower than telco's
>> because CATV companies were usually non-union. Furthermore, a CATV
>> headend costs less than a telephone central office, but that doesn't
>> affect the construction cost of the outside-plant network.

> I've seen and dealt with cable construction by various companies. To
> say "non union labor" is an understatement. Cable companies got day
> laborers off the street and ragged 2nd-hand equipment. Lines were
> strung on poles FAST. They disregarded the wishes of communities and
> shoved their work through, irritating the heck out of property owners
> and towns, knowing once the work was done the town likely wouldn't
> litigate. Cable reliability is far less than phoneco; their
> underground lines are very shallow.

Yet you still claim that telcos could have built CATV systems at lower
cost by using union labor and following "telco standards"?

> Cable used existing infrastructure -- the same poles power and phone
> lines already used, they just added theirs.

Sure. They were taking advantage of "economies of scale" by using
existing poles. They even used the same "telco standards" of poleline
construction (they had to under their agreements with pole owners).
Moreover, most franchise agreements required them to use existing
poles whenever possible. But you can rest assured that the owners of
those poles didn't let them do it for free.

> Because the cable is a common signal, it is much simpler to run than
> providing a unique channel for each subscriber.

Arguably not true. But even if it were true, what's it got to do with
your original argument about "economies of scale"? A cable signal is
a cable signal no matter who owns the plant.

> So, either the costs of cable are so high that the phoneco should've
> done it to provide for economies of scale, OR, cable laying isn't so
> expensive that others couldn't do it too.

Ok, fine.

>> Telephone service over CATV networks wasn't realistically possible
>> until VOIP came along (some would say it still isn't).

> I dare say VOIP and other value-added services were in mind when they
> went to fibre (another rush job).

True. But I thought this thread was about the relative costs of coax
plant v. copper-loop plant.

>> Because local loop plant won't carry NTSC television signals. The only
>> way a telco could/can provide CATV is by building a coax (or, nowadays,
>> HFC or all-fiber) network.

> A great many phone subscribers do not have a dedicated pair of copper
> wires between their home and the CO. There are various ways of
> multiplexing the line...

But none of those "various ways" changes the fact that local loop plant
won't carry NTSC television signals. I agree that it's possible to
carry a few NTSC signals over DSL, but DSL didn't exist back in the 70s
and 80s when CATV companies were building plant.

> As mentioned, telcos know about coax and TV.

Which probably explains why they didn't try to send TV signals over
the local loop.

>> And because, under federal law, the telcos' "natural monopoly" didn't
>> apply to CATV service. Any telco that wanted to offer CATV still had to
>> get a franchise from every LFA.

> Telcos couldn't do so because of a policy decision, not a technical
> one.

Cross-ownership rules in place at the time required telcos to obtain
waivers from the FCC before they could build CATV systems. Although
this requirement was a nuisance, it didn't prevent telcos from getting
franchises and building CATV systems: SNET and Ameritech did just
that. Apparently, SBC decided that it wasn't a good business so they
canned it, but that too was a policy decision, not a technical one.

> The long distance network was built to carry voice, TV, and
> radio.

But the local loop wasn't.

> The local loop can be set up to carry high speed data and at
> one time could carry pulsed signals (not modulated) for Teletype
> machines.

A local loop can be "set" to carry "pulsed signals (not modulated)"
all the way up to 1.544 MBps. But CATV signals are (or were, back in
the 70s and 80s when CATVs were building plant) all analog in the
54-300 MHz range.

Neal McLain

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