Broadband ups the ante
Broadband hit the mainstream in 2005.
In the spring, SBC Communications (now AT&T) and Verizon Communications slashed their prices for DSL service to roughly $15 per month, putting broadband on par with traditionally less expensive dial-up pricing. The strategy worked as DSL providers gobbled up market share, narrowing the gap in market share between DSL and cable modem service.
Cable operators answered with ultra-fast service, especially in areas where Verizon has been marketing its own ultra-fast product, a fiber-to-the-home service called Fios, which supposedly scales to download speeds of 100mbps. Verizon plans to sell high-speed Internet access, voice service and TV programming over this network. In August 2005, Verizon launched TV service over Fios with its deployment in Keller, Texas.
Internet Protocol TV, which will allow for more interactive television viewing, also got some attention in 2005. Cisco Systems' $6.9 billion acquisition of set-top box maker Scientific-Atlanta is one sign that that market will move toward an IP-networked home, with the TV as the centerpiece.
The phone companies weren't the only ones looking for new services to bundle into packages. In November, cable companies Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications announced that they are forming a $200 million joint venture with Sprint Nextel to offer customers wireless telephone service.
Alternative broadband also became an important topic in 2005 as the Supreme Court ruled in the Brand X case in June that cable operators do not have to share their networks with competing Internet service providers.
The decision was quickly followed by the Federal Communications Commission's decision to reclassify DSL. The FCC,
which got a new chairman, Kevin Martin, in 2005, wanted to put DSL on a level playing field with cable. The decisions of the Supreme Court and the FCC came as a major blow to independent ISPs, such as EarthLink, which depend on access to cable networks to provide service.
Cities and towns throughout the United States got more aggressive about building their own networks to bring more broadband competition to their communities. The plans were met with strong opposition from incumbent phone and cable companies, which lobbied state legislators to pass laws prohibiting or limiting municipal broadband deployments.
Despite the political and legal tussles, some cities have prevailed. Lafayette, La., has moved ahead with its plans to build a fiber-optic network. And Philadelphia has led the way on the wireless front, with plans to build one of the largest citywide Wi-Fi networks in the country.
Other cities, including New York, New Orleans and San Francisco, are developing their own plans. The San Francisco project also highlighted the broadband ambitions of Google, which is bidding for the contract.
Google is also investing in alternative broadband technologies such as Broadband over Power Line, which sends broadband signals through the nation's power grid. BPL has been talked about for years, but technical issues have always hampered its promise. With backers like Google, some experts say, 2007 could be BPL's year to shine.
WiMax, a wireless technology that transmits data at very high speeds over long distances, was also a big topic in 2005. The first deployments of WiMax-like technology were by BellSouth, which is using it to deliver broadband service into people's homes.
The real promise of WiMax, however, is high-speed mobile access. Intel has been a major proponent of this application, and in April, it shipped a new chipset for mobile WiMax. In December, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers paved the way for true WiMax mobility with the adoption of the 802.16e standard.
Republican commissioner is expected to wield influence during period of radical change in the telecom and Net business.
After a contentious fight with Verizon, Philadelphia releases a report outlining its ambitions for citywide wireless Internet access.
Across the U.S., cities are planning tax-funded broadband networks. But they face fierce resistance from Bells and cable operators.
Wireless broadband gear gets its second wind in Chicago at Supercomm 2005.
Court sides with FCC, cable companies in case that could have changed the competitive landscape in the broadband market.
Google's investment in a company offering Internet service over power lines has the industry buzzing.
As the market matures, consumers are reaping the benefits of a growing discount war among phone and cable companies.
Consumers increasingly are frustrated with caps on upload speeds. But providers say demand is still too meager to put upload capacities on par with download speeds.
Alcatel and Amdocs are partnering to make it easier for service providers to install and use IPTV.
Feds put DSL on even footing with cable modem service--providers no longer have to offer network access to competing ISPs.
Responding to a proposal to blanket the city with free wireless Net service, some fret about privacy, others welcome the shake-up.
You may soon view TV shows directly over the Web instead of subscribing to cable or satellite services.
Newly allied with Sprint Nextel, four cable operators add wireless to their Internet, video and VoIP services.
Behind the headlines