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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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August 26, 2008 10:36 AM

CableCo's - Stop Claiming You're All About Fiber!

OK, I'm officially fed up. Cox has started running ads in my area touting themselves as "The New Face of Fiber."

Now, Cox isn't the first cableco to try and claim the fiber optic mantle. Basically anywhere someone else is deploying a full fiber infrastructure the cablecos suddenly become "fiber-powered" despite the fact they've argued the point of "Why would anyone ever need fiber?"

This disturbingly deceiving practice gets my goat on multiple levels.

First off, the ads are misleading. Cox's claim that they're "The New Face of Fiber" implies that something new has happened. That they're making new investments to upgrade their network to fiber. That they're the ones who should be getting all the credit for having fiber. But as we all know, this just isn't the case.

And in fact, they've admitted as much, like in this article:

Gwen Sparks, a regional spokesperson for Cox, says these ads don't mean that the carrier is about to go all-fiber-optic.

"It just means we've always had fiber," she said yesterday.

How can they be the face of fiber if they're not going full-fiber with their network? How can they claim to be anything new when they're admitting this campaign is more about the fact that they've always had fiber?

It's bad enough that cablecos are puffing themselves up with these claims that are at best half-truths and at worst outright lies, but what makes it worse is their intent to muddle the true value of fiber and the potential impact they're going to have on our country's broadband future.

As I mentioned earlier, you'll see most of these cableco ads claiming to have fiber in areas where full fiber networks are being built, either by Verizon, local telcos, or municipalities.

But here's the problem: anyone deploying a full fiber network already has to face the significant challenge of trying to convince the public of the benefits of fiber and more bandwidth. That alone is daunting as the average consumer just doesn't understand why they should care about the capacity fiber delivers. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that most people signing up for fiber-powered services are doing so for other reasons, like better TV with more HD and VoD or a cheaper price.

Yet now these fiber network are also having to fight against cablecos claiming that they have fiber too. No matter how wrong they are, once you start having to go into discussing the physical differences of last mile infrastructures, you've already lost at least half of your customers' attention. And since we're still at a point where there aren't that many applications accessible and affordable for consumers to take advantage of that greater capacity fiber delivers, it's the cablecos intention to do everything they can obfuscate the truth that fiber is our future so that that future never comes to be.

It may sound like I'm whining a bit now. "Oh poor fiber, it's getting bullied so by the cablecos..." But in actuality I'm outraged.

Why are we allowing the purveyors of outdated infrastructure to lie in order to hamper the development of the next-generation of our country's telecommunications infrastructure?

Why are we permitting companies that are only investing in infrastructure where they're being forced to by the deployment of superior true fiber networks determine how far and how quickly we move forward into a more Internet-enabled future?

I'm not trying to say all cablecos are evil, or that their networks have no purpose, or that they shouldn't be allowed to use whatever legitimate means possible to retain customers in the face of the fiber revolution. But why are we simply sitting back and allowing them to mislead consumers, especially at such a critical time in the development of fiber optic access networks where the only thing that's really missing is overwhelming consumer demand for exponentially greater capacity?

By allowing this to happen we're doing a disservice to our country and potentially harming our future.

I've spoken with some of my contacts in DC about how to prevent cablecos from pursuing this practice and know that the FTC is the place to go as they deal with truth in advertising.

Unfortunately I've also learned that getting something classified as false or misleading advertising can be difficult as most often cablecos couch their claims in terms like "fiber-powered" that can be hard to define as totally false.

But at the same time, the more examples I see of this cableco practice, the more it feels like they're stepping over that line and need to be slapped back.

The only way to do this, though, is to find as many examples of this practice in action as possible and then rally public support behind this cause.

To that end, I'd like to put out an open invitation to anyone who's reading to start keeping an eye out for suspect-looking cable ads. Any time you see a TV or radio ad, billboard or newspaper ad where your incumbent cableco is touting its fiber optics, try to capture it in some way. Record it, take a picture, or even just write down the words, and then start adding this material as comments to this post.

If we can collect enough evidence, I'll take this cause right to the FTC to see what I can get done to stop this unethical practice.

Because if you're like me and believe fiber is our future, we can't sit passively on the sidelines any more and allow this deception to continue happening.

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