4,000 Russian Villages Fibered

Russian 4,000 villages34,000 kilometers of fiber to towns of 250-500 people. The government program, managed by Rostelecom, offers basic service at 10 megabits for less than $1/month to about a million Russians. Complete universal service coverage of Russia will require 215,000 kilometers and is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2018. 

Let’s hope the Russians do better than the Indians, whose similar “fiber to the village” program is the better part of a decade late. India’s telecom programs are world-class examples of inefficient government work. Less reported is the equally incompetent American “public-private partnership.”

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15 Republicans Call for Lower Prices, Gov to waste money *LOL)

pOLITICIANS(LOL articles are satire, perhaps mixed with some truth.) The headline is SENATORS URGING PRESIDENT TRUMP TO EXPAND BROADBAND ACCESS. They claim a jumpstart in growth and jobs. They insist on affordability. All are great ideas but almost none of the money will have that effect. Very little of the $7B Broadband Stimulus actually expanded access; most of it was waste and telco giveaways. This will be the same. Honest economists know the economic impact of rural broadband is somewhere between modest and too small to measure. Most of the signers will continue to do close to nothing for affordability..

The headline should have been 48 Senators urge Trump to give away money to telcos. They urge, “President Trump to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative.” This will provide, “economic opportunities that will jumpstart growth in jobs and wages.” They demand, “Connections [that] are fast, reliable, and affordable.” 


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Ralph de la Vega of AT&T and the Price of Discrimination


Ralph de la Vega

Ralph de la Vega, one of the most capable executives in telecom, is retiring as Vice-Chairman of AT&T. He brought the iPhone to America, working closely with Steve Jobs. I first met him in the early years of DSL, when his BellSouth division was far more efficient than any other in the U.S. Gary Becker won a Nobel Prize for developing an economic analysis of the cost of discrimination. Ralph’s career shows how a company benefits by not discriminating.


Nearly sixty years after Ralph came to America as a young boy, you can still hear Cuba in his voice. He worked his way through a college that isn’t famous as a janitor; he probably didn’t have the style to get a job at many companies. Even today, someone like de la Vega from a working class background, with strong ethnicity, and a degree without prestige would rarely get a chance at Google, Facebook, or Apple.


If a company discriminates against some qualified employees, the company is weakened. The U.S. telcos have accepted that since the 1950’s. They’ve been more open than most American companies.

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Thailand, Indonesia, & ASEAN soon at 60% smartphones

ASEAN Map113M 3G/4G phones sold in 2016. The ten South East Asian countries have a population of 625 million, nearly twice as many as the United States. By some measures, they will soon have more Internet users than the U.S. Indonesia, the Philipines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore have more SIM subscription than they have people. Mobile is exploding in Myanmar, which will soon join that group.

There are probably only 350-400M mobile subscribers; dual SIM phones and other factors explain the discrepancy. Digitimes’s 60% smartphone estimate is for the end of this year, up from 46% in 2015.

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Footnotes to History

Vint Cerf and CNRI led the creation of the Internet Society and covered many of the early expenses. At the first board meeting, Vint offered, “In the event a deficit occurs, CNRI has agreed to contribute up to USD102000 to offset it.”  Bob Kahn emails me that in the event the contribution wasn’t needed, but “We simply picked up the related costs incurred during 1992 as internal CNRI expenses, paid for a substantial portion of Vint’s time during 1993 and may have picked up a tiny fraction of his time in 1994 prior to his departure for MCI. These costs were not reimbursed.”



I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the people who created today’s telecom world and the Internet. Occasionally, when I discover something little known, I will add it to this page. 

Kenya: Average Internet speed up 335% to 11 meg

Kenya tree 200

Akamai data. Akamai’s Q3 State of the Internet report shows average connection speeds in Kenya rose more than three times in the past year. Akamai delivers more traffic, more places, than any other content delivery network. They have data on 144 countries, generally with a statistically valid sample. The reported 11 Mbps in Kenya is higher than the 9.7 Mbps in the United Kingdom. 

Having listened to Safaricom CTO Thibaud Rerolle describe his network, I’m not surprised Kenya is doing well. However, the Akamai figures have important limits. To begin with, most of Kenya’s connections are on mobile, but Akamai’s figures are (mostly) based on landlines. They only include IPv4 data when an increasing share of the traffic is IPv6. Akamai’s average connection speeds are much lower than other measures. Most speed tests are based on large files; Akamai is looking at much smaller files, such as the 100 html requests seen on many web pages. I’m unsure how to work with the different figures; pointers to reliable data on the various measurements very welcome.

“Year over year, on a global basis, the average connection speed increased 21%.

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