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Sunday, October 28, 2007

ISP Bandwidth Problems Good News for Fiber Makers

Fiber optics companies like Finisar (FNSR), JDS Uniphase Corp. (JDSU), Opnext, Inc. (OPXT) and privately held Avago Technologies Limited all stand to benefit from the bandwidth woes that ail internet service providers and broadband cable companies such as Comcast (CMCSA), Verizon Wireless (VZ) and AT&T Inc. (T).

Comcast users report that the file transfer is cut off when they try to download legal copies of movies when they use peer-to-peer, file-swapping software like BitTorrent and Gnutella. Comcast has acknowledged "delaying" some subscriber data transfer, but said "the delays are temporary" and intended to improve surfing for other users. Vindu Goel of the San Jose Mercury News wrote:

You're at home and get a hankering to watch a movie. You fire up your computer, turn on your Comcast high-speed cable modem and start downloading a legal copy of the vintage Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much" using BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program.

Suddenly, the transfer stops. The computer sending you the file has dropped the connection. You wait a minute. Nothing happens. You try restarting the transfer. The data flows for a few seconds, then stops again.

What's going on? Comcast is breaking your connection. On purpose.

This does not sound "temporary" to me.

Is this legal? Goel reports:

Comcast's user agreement officially bans file-sharing and "gives them the ability to do anything they darn well please," said California Deputy Attorney General Robert Morgester, who prosecutes Internet crimes in the state.
Why does Comcast stop users from using the bandwidth they think they paid for? A quick search for "Video on Demand" shows Comcast offers Video on demand for a fee. "Net Neutrality" advocates, who want the FCC to prevent internet service providers from favoring some content over others, have argued that "virtual monopolies" will force internet users to pay for things they could get for free if they had unrestricted access to bandwidth.

The heat is already on the companies. The AP report "Senators Want Probe on Content Blocking" says On Friday October 26, "Senators. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said the incidents involving several companies, including Comcast Corp., Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., have raised serious concerns over the companies' "power to discriminate against content."

Who stands to benefit?

In the long run, if you pay a company for bandwidth then elect to get your video content from one of its competitors, then US laws should prevent a monopoly or powerful company from stopping you from doing this. Microsoft paid a heavy price for using its monopoly power to prevent computer companies from putting "unapproved" software and features on the Windows desktop.

I am sure ISPs will eventually have to give unrestricted access to bandwidth so you can download your movies from Blockbuster, Netflix or any of their competitors that offer you a better price. If this downloading makes the overall experience poor for their paying customers who share the network, then they will have to upgrade the cable networks with fiber optics.

Some of the leading fiber optics companies are Finisar Corp, JDS Uniphase Corp. (JDSU), Opnext, Inc. (OPXT), Bookham Inc. (BKHM) and privately held Avago Technologies Limited (where I worked on fiber optics when it was part of HP in the 1980's and 1990's.)

Another company I own that may benefit is Carrier Access (CACS). Carrier provides "Exxtenz" product that enables service providers to utilize passive optical networking, PON, technology to deliver services, such as wire-speed Ethernet, voice, T1, and video services to businesses.

Disclaimer: The author is long Finisar (FNSR) and Carrier Access (CACS) at the time of this article.

BKHM: Oct 26 $3.15 -5.12%
FNSR: Oct 26 $2.24 -5.08%
CACS: Oct 26 $3.43 -3.65%
JDSU: Oct 26 $14.73 +0.89%
OPXT: Oct 26 $13.29 -0.75%

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