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Abandoning Subscribers

Oct. 15, 2018
We who work the industry are also subscribers. Those of us who work from home are particularly dependent on the local carriers to conduct our daily tasks. If you live […]

We who work the industry are also subscribers. Those of us who work from home are particularly dependent on the local carriers to conduct our daily tasks. If you live in a smaller town, getting adequate bandwidth can be a real challenge. When the local carrier has abandoned the area, getting adequate bandwidth can be impossible without using 40-year-old and expensive T1 service.

What do I mean by "abandoning the area"? Sure, you see a few trucks around, but you also see really bad outside plant that stays bad.

Then, it’s what we don’t see that proves that the area has been abandoned.
• You don’t see new fiber being plowed in.
• You don’t see new aerial cable being placed.
• You don’t see any tree trimming.
• You don’t see downed drops being removed.
• You don’t see pole transfers completed.

Completely ignoring the existing copper plant could be excused (maybe) if the new fiber is in place or even planned, but that is often not the case. If no maintenance or capital money is invested, subscribers must live with awful service.

Remember that subscribers in small towns pay the same price as subscribers in large cities. The quality of service that they deserve is no less.

You might think that this situation happens in the areas served by smaller independent telephone companies, but you would be wrong. Unfortunately, where this is occurring is in small towns served by large carriers.

How does this neglect directly impact subscribers? Let’s take a DSL subscriber 6,000 feet from the DSLAM. In one small town with a larger carrier, 5 Mbps is the most that they will offer. Why? Because faster service will not work reliably with neglected plant.

Five miles away is a much smaller town served by a slightly smaller (but still large) carrier. The 2 towns were once owned by the same carrier, so the design and age of the OSP are about the same. In the neighboring town, a subscriber can get 10 Mbps at 6,000 feet from the DSLAM. And it works reliably. What is the difference?

The difference is the commitment to quality and maintaining copper circuits until they are replaced by fiber. The physical differences are obvious, if you understand standard OSP quality.

I frequently travel the 5 miles to the smaller town when I need to photograph examples of good quality OSP work. I save time and gas because I have yet to find good OSP quality that I can photograph from the streets or alleys in my home town. If I need examples of bad quality, I can find enough within a block of my house.

What if somebody chose to turn things around and improve service after abandoning an area? First, it won’t be easy. This is a "pay me now or pay me later" industry. When you choose to not pay now, you will pay much more later.

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

Some of the plant is just too far gone, and it has to be replaced. However, some of the plant can still be rescued for high quality service. The hard part is knowing what can be saved and what can’t be.

Maintenance Strategy
A strategy that I have used for decades works for areas that are well maintained and also for those that have been completely neglected. Fix the worst first.

As in "Welcome Home to Ruburbia: Part 3, The Final Analysis" (February 2018 issue of ISE magazine), the trouble tickets need to be analyzed. The tickets must be cross-referenced into cable groups and binder groups to find the worst areas. Identify the worst sites and prioritize the top 10.

Fix and/or replace the plant that need it, and move on the next worst site. Run the trouble ticket analysis every month, and adjust your priority list.

Even if your efforts are part-time and only when the daily load allows, you will eventually catch up and improve service overall. When you do nothing, the OSP gets worse every single day.

What has been happening in my home town is decades old. There has been a culture of neglect that snowballs because the task looks more hopeless every day. If a small town does not justify the investment of the carrier, the carrier should sell out and let somebody else take care of the subscribers.

I need only 10 Mbps to run my business. I get 40 Mbps from the local cable company. Many abandoned subscribers have done the same and have abandoned their local carrier.

Column Update
Thanks to the attendees in Denver at the ISE EXPO 2018. The learning experience of discussing complex issues in person cannot be matched any other way. The readers that came by the booth and those who attended the seminar offered several unique insights that enrich this column

A guest columnist will write the February 2019 edition of the Network Maintenance Corner. We will get the Canadian point of view on what type of fiber optic testing assures long-term FTTP performance.

If you have questions comments or column ideas, please contact me at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author; they do not reflect the view of the publisher or its employees.

About the Author

Vernon May

Vernon May is the Chief Technologist and Founder of Vernon May Solutions. He is an expert in OSP and ISP Operations, and focuses on new technology introduction, from marketing and sales to design enhancement to training to product approval. Along with writing a column for ISE magazine, he also hosts seminars available throughout the country.

For more information, call Vernon at 1.319.238.0285, email: [email protected], visit, and follow him on Twitter @Vernonmay13.