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FTTH Council wants FCC to push for all-fiber, but CDA says, 'Not so fast'

The U.S. arm of the Fiber to the Home Council wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "to support the efforts of telephone companies to deploy all-fiber networks and eliminate their more costly and duplicative copper facilities once those fiber upgrades are made," a perspective that, not surprisingly, did not go over well with the Copper Development Association (CDA).

In a filing to the FCC, the FTTH Council urged the FCC "to support fiber deployments as essential to America's economic future. To that end, it wants telephone companies to deploy all-fiber networks "and eliminate their more costly and duplicative copper facilities once those fiber upgrades are made." Maintaining the copper networks will slow the evolution to ultra high-speed fiber, it said. The body  opposed a request by a group of competitive broadband providers—which it noted under FCC "unbundling" regulations are afforded access to offer their services over legacy copper networks—that have petitioned the FCC to require telephone companies to keep those networks in service after they upgrade to fiber. "Given the high cost of maintaining old copper networks, the Council said that such proposals would 'turn back the clock' on the Commission's stated goal of accelerating private sector deployment of gigabit capable, all-fiber networks," it said.

"It is clear that fiber technology is superior, that consumer demand is increasing rapidly for higher-performance networks, and, as a result, wireline providers of all types are by necessity deploying fiber plant," the FTTH Council wrote. It noted that virtually no network provider is installing  "new" copper in its access network in any meaningful way.

David Brender, CDA's national program manager, electrical applications, told WJI that the issue is not as simple or clear-cut as the FTTH portrays it.

"Copper technology is constantly improving. A great many telephone companies terminate their fiber networks 2500 to 5000 feet from the home and utilize the existing copper network the rest of the way. They find the copper technology more than adequate for the majority of users, including high speed Internet and television. In fact, services such as AT&T's U-Verse are delivered over copper.

"Converting the last mile to fiber is really expensive. Who pays? The ratepayer, the customer, or the taxpayer? If conversion is not really necessary most of the time, why spend the money for something not really needed?

"A thought to consider for copper networks: Copper conducts electricity. Fiber doesn't. During Hurricane Sandy, a consultant in New York reported he was the only neighbor who had continuous phone service. If electricity goes out (likely during a storm), fiber-based technologies are useless. The cell networks at first were overloaded; then his neighbors started running out of battery power. He was the only one with working phones." 

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