Eldo Telecom: Rural copper won't be replaced by small cells

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 13:10

Eldo Telecom points to an article that suggests that small cell cellular access points won't be the cure-all for rural residents.

The emerging Space Economy

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:25

It's been a long time since I wrote anything about the Space Economy. I was, perhaps, overly optimistic about the timing, but lately all the signs are that the private sector now has sufficiently mature payload to space technology to completely change the nature of space research and business.

SpaceX seems well ahead of competitors, with two launches in a just a few days, and both times, the first stage booster returned successfully to the launch pad.

In other developments, Virgin Galactic is apparently nearing final development of its near space tourism offering. Bigelow Aerospace, an early entrant, has signed a contract to supply NASA with inflatable space habitats. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin round trip space vehicle continues advanced testing, and NASA and the European Space Agency continue to pursue their own plans.

Space really is starting to look like the final frontier.

Google will stop reading your email

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/26/2017 - 09:27

In a win for personal privacy, Google has announced that the company will no longer read the email of their personal Gmail account users.

Google has been scanning Gmail email to identify what kind of ads to place in Web browsers for its users.

Although a lawsuit seems to have pushed them to do this, my guess is that it is no longer necessary. They are probably getting better, more accurate information by simply vacuuming every Web site you visit. I've never had a Gmail account and don't use Google for search, but within a few seconds of doing some online shopping/searching, the ads I see in my browser change to the product(s) I was shopping for.

Death of TV: Part LXXVIII: More churn in the TV space

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/23/2017 - 09:45

YouTube (part of Google) has launched a streaming TV service, making the whole video on demand space an even more confusing array of services and options, which include Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Roku, offerings directly from some of the alphabet networks, and many others. But competition is a wonderful thing. As buyers of entertainment, we have a wide array of choices that most of us never dreamed of fifteen years ago, and the growth of the Game of Thrones-style miniseries is producing some really good TV, although the term "TV" is really an anachronism these days.

As more and more homes cut the cord to the traditional cable TV package, the importance of having a high performance fiber connection will only increase.

The tragic state of the telecom industry

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/22/2017 - 07:25

This article has a lot of inside baseball and makes for dense reading, but the bottom line is that telecom industry has learned nothing in the past twenty years.

The article discusses how the cellular carriers are in a race to build more fiber to cell towers, and in doing so are putting price pressure on the independent fiber carriers large and small.

One way to understand this is to go back to the roads analogy. Verizon wants to build private (fiber) roads to all its cell towers. AT&T wants to build a fully duplicated set of (fiber) roads to its cell towers. Sprint wants to build private (fiber) roads to its cell towers. And so on.

If local governments recognized that fiber is just another form of roads, they could build a shared (fiber) road system past ALL cell towers and reap some very interesting revenue.

The Xerox nightmare

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/19/2017 - 10:55

Design Nine has a tiny service contract for an old Xerox printer. I had a billing question about a late fee that was assessed for the first time in more than twelve years. I wasted more than forty minutes on the phone with various Xerox reps, none of whom were helpful. Of the forty minutes on the phone, I spent about twenty-five minutes on hold, and I had to call three different numbers and had to talk to four different people.

None of them spoke English as a first language, and none of them were authorized to do anything but apologize for their inability to do anything. If I had a nickle for every time one of them said, "I apologize" I could have paid off the late fee. They had to keep apologizing because they literally could not do anything but apologize.

Xerox makes good printers, and we just did buy one to replace the one going off contract, but Xerox apparently does not care that we've spent thousands and thousands of dollars with them for more than a decade.

Apple's Augmented Reality software very near

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/14/2017 - 09:35

Apple announced the availability of its new augmented reality software for the iPhone and iPad at its recent Worldwide Developers Conference. The software kit enables third party app developers to place computer-generated information over real-time images. For example, map information could be superimposed over a live camera feed on an iPhone pointed out the front of a vehicle.

The recent Pokemon Go craze is an early example of augmented reality, and while it is likely that gaming apps will be early users of Apple's new technology, we'll see many other applications and uses as more developers begin integrating the software into their apps.

Here's why bricks and mortar retail is shrinking

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 04/30/2017 - 14:26

I needed a halogen bulb for an under-cabinet light in the kitchen. I spent more than an hour traveling to three different stores, including two big box home improvement stores, and never did find the bulb. I did notice that similar bulbs were selling for about eight dollars.

Once I got home, I looked on Amazon. I found the bulb I needed, in a four pack for twelve dollars, or about $3/bulb instead of eight. I have an Amazon Prime subscription, so the bulbs will be delivered to my front door in two days.

In the bulb hunt, I easily burned up two or three gallons of gas, or more than the cost of the bulb. It's more efficient to buy some things online. And as a side note, Walmart is giving Amazon a run for it's money. Something that was out of stock on Amazon I recently found on the Walmart Web site for 30% less, and got two day free delivery without having to pay for an annual subscription. Competition is a wonderful thing.

Work from home continues to increase

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/28/2017 - 08:37

In our work, we are seeing steadily rising numbers of people trying to work from home part or full time. In both the public and private sector, many businesses and agencies now routinely allow employees to work from home one or two days per week, which can have a huge impact on transportation spending. If most commuters stayed home to work just one day a week, you are looking at taking 15% or more of cars off the road, reducing road wear/maintenance, reducing traffic congestion, and shortening commutes.

One rarely discussed challenge is that few homes have the kind of "business class" broadband needed to work efficiently from home. The most common complaint we hear is "I can't use my company VPN from home." The low bandwidth DSL connections don't provide enough capacity, and the highly asymmetric cable Internet services and their highly variable bandwidth play havoc with VPNs.

We're designing and building new, modern networks designed specifically to support work from home and business from home activities. Our work in communities like Bozeman, Montana (www.bozemanfiber.com) is bringing world class, business class networks with true competition to areas of the country that have been largely ignored by the incumbents. Bozeman's community-owned network has five (5) service providers competing for customers.

Is LinkedIn dying?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/02/2017 - 14:37

LinkedIn may not be entirely dead, but in the past several months, I've received nothing but "business friend" requests from sales people and consultants trolling for business. LinkedIn has enabled "lazy" sales work. Just browse LinkedIn for keyword matches for whatever you are selling, and then send a "link" request. I turn them all down.

I was a very early LinkedIn user, and have yet to find it particularly useful. I've never let it have access to my address book, and I rarely use it reach out to people I already know--email and the phone are far more efficient.

LinkedIn is basically Facebook for business people, and aside from the news feeds, it does not offer me much functionality.

Death of TV: Part LXXVII: Is it really over?

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/01/2017 - 12:01

I've been writing about the death of TV since 2005, and twelve years later, the body may be finally in rigor mortis, or close to it. YouTube has announced a $35/month TV service that includes Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, Disney, and....ESPN. It's ESPN that may finally break the back of the traditional cable subscription business model. We've heard very consistently that a lot of residential customers have not given up their cable or satellite subscription because they want to watch sports. YouTube seems ready to give them a viable option.

Bio-diversity on the Internet is a good thing

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/01/2017 - 11:53

Bio-diversity on the Internet is a good thing, just like bio-diversity in the real world is a good thing. The Amazon S3 failure yesterday caused major disruptions in a lot of Internet services, particularly on the east coast of the U.S.

As companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google hold and manage every-increasing portions of Internet content and services, the potential for an service outage to cause major disruptions becomes greater as well. Technology fails, and it is dangerous for any company (or individual) to keep all data in one "basket." There is still nothing safer than a couple of external hard drives, stored in two different locations (e.g. not your business or your home) with your valuable data. Putting it all in the cloud puts it all at risk.

Virginia communities defeat the death star bill

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/09/2017 - 15:08

In a clear sign that the incumbent telephone and cable companies are playing a long game in their fight against competition, a draft bill began circulating in the current legislative session in Virginia.

It was quickly dubbed "the death star bill" because it would have made it nearly impossible for Virginia localities to make any investments in broadband infrastructure. Purportedly, the intent of the bill was to protect taxpayers from "wasting" public money on broadband infrastructure. But it had many restrictions that seemed very similar to the restrictions passed by the North Carolina legislature some years ago.

But Virginia has a wide variety of communities that have already made substantial investments in bringing competitive broadband services into their mostly rural areas, and there was rapid mobilization to fight the bill.

According to ars technica, the bill was replaced by a different bill that only codified some bookkeeping transparency requirements--the rebels won again.

"Twisted Pair Preservation Act" in Virginia

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 01/15/2017 - 18:01

Eldo Telecom has a wry sense of humor. He has called a draft piece of legislation circulating in the statehouse in Richmond, Virginia the "Twisted Pair Preservation Act."

It's black humor at its best, because the bill would make it very difficult for local governments in Virginia to make any kind of investment in telecom infrastructure, even if the infrastructure was offered on a wholesale basis to private sector providers and even if the locality stayed out of offering retail telecom services.

To me, the interesting thing about this bill is what is not being said out loud:

The incumbents are very fond of claiming that all muni telecom projects are poorly managed, financial catastrophes waiting to happen, and a waste of money.

But if they are right, why would they waste their lobbying dollars to outlaw something that doesn't work?

This is the dog that did not bark.

The community broadband projects obviously scare the heck out of the incumbents, because *distributed ownership of infrastructure* breaks the 100 year monopoly on telecom that they have had. It's been a nice ride, but it's coming to an end.

Competitive broadband is not really about getting government involved at all. Government participation is a means to an end, it is not the end goal. The end goal is distributed ownership of telecom infrastructure, and that could be a whole variety of public and private players, including customers themselves.

The day the InnerTubes jumpted the shark

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 12/18/2016 - 10:31

This weekend, while I was busy wasting time watching a Youtube video, there was an ad for a WiFi-enabled slow cooker.

I'm not sure what bothered me more: the ad showed a guy in a car using his smartphone to turn on the slow cooker--he looked like he had just won the lottery; or the fact that a cooking pot has WiFi built in.

I suppose someone is going to buy the things, but the idea that you now have a cooking pot, subject to extremes of heat and moisture, with electronics built in sounds like a recipe for rapid failure of the circuit board. And then you have a pot that does not work. I have had the same slow cooker for more than twenty years. It has no software, has never needed an upgrade, does not have an IP address, has never been part of the Internet of Things, I can throw it in the sink to clean it, and works every time I plug it in. I've never thought, "Gee, I wish this had WiFi."

Next up: A news report that the Russians have hacked two million slow cookers and are using them to crash CIA servers with Denial of Service attacks.

The decline of the Web

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 12/12/2016 - 08:45

As our portable devices become more common and more powerful, the Web is being wrecked by the blight of ads. I see this both with browsers on computers but also and especially on the portable devices, where the pop-up and pop-over advertising not only obscures the content but is often impossible to get rid of. On a smartphone, and I don't care how big the screen is, the little 'X' or "Close ad" button is so small as to be unusable.

It is now ordinary to visit a site and then leave within a few seconds without reading anything because the ads are so difficult to get rid of.

'Free' content, of course, is not really free. The people and organizations running these sites have to pay the bills somehow, but I think we are on the wrong side of a downhill slide, where ads are about to overwhelm the content (and on some sites this is already true).

What I find most disappointing is the commercialization of the Web. There was a time, in the nineties, when creating and maintaining a Web site was easy enough for almost anyone. But the complexity of managing even a basic site is staggering. Tools like Wordpress and Drupal have become so complex that they have become textbook cases for becoming the problem they were developed to solve.

So we all go to Facebook, which has done a good job of making it easy to have a "page" for a community group or some special interest/hobby. But is it really healthy to have the entire world using a single platform?

Technology is making us stupid: Part II--We don't know how to use the phone

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 11/27/2016 - 11:42

I've written about this before, but had two recent instances where someone needed something from me on short notice (i.e. within a couple of hours) and emailed me instead of picking up the phone. In both cases, they were confused and disoriented when I explained that I had been in meetings and do not check my email in meetings.

If they had called and left a voice mail (or spoken with our receptionist), I would have been able to get them what they needed.

I get so much spam that I rarely check email on my phone--deleting spam on an iPhone is painful. And yes, we have spam filters running on our mail server, but about 3-5% gets through, and that's several hundred spam emails a day.

Is the end of the FCC near?

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/23/2016 - 08:55

The Washington Post reports that the incoming Trump administration may be considering abolishing the FCC. The FCC was originally created to manage the allocation of a scarce resource (at the time)--frequency spectrum. Advances in radio technology and the rise of the Internet have led to questions about what the FCC should be doing these days.

As the article notes, much of what the FCC does these days could be handled by other Federal agencies and/or pushed down to state regulatory agencies. The FCC has had a difficult job over the past couple of decades as it tries to manage the regulation of the now largely irrelevant legacy cable TV and telephone companies. I don't think the world would end if the FCC were broken up, and it could open the door for both more start up private sector telecom investment and increased opportunities for communities to build and manage their own telecom infrastructure.

Death of TV: Part LXXVI: Who needs a TV anymore?

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 10/02/2016 - 12:48

The CW network has released an app for Apple TV that allows you to watch all of the channel's content for free--no cable TV subscription required.

This is another crack in the wall being defended by both the content owners (broadcast channels, cable channels) and the cable TV networks. It's a drip drip drip change, but OTT (Over The Top) offerings like CW are growing. Even if we all end up with several video subscriptions (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) the cost of video content is going to be much less in the long run, and we are going to be able to pick and choose exactly what we want to watch, rather than being forced to buy 100+ channels just to get a half dozen we are interested in.

Facial recognition: The end of privacy?

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/22/2016 - 07:50

Facial recognition software is now in wide use by groups as disparate as Facebook, local police departments, Homeland Security, and the NSA. What it means is that whenever you post a picture of you, family, or friends anywhere online, someone can easily identify every single person in the picture, and very likely determine from the caption or comments where you have been and what you are doing.

That information, if scooped up by a private entity like Facebook or Google, is immediately sold to advertisers. Lately, I've noticed that the ads being served on Web sites I am browsing change within one or two minutes of doing a search on Amazon or some other shopping site. It used to take a day or two for me to see those changes.

We are trading privacy for convenience. It remains to be seen how this will all turn out, but Big Brother is really twins: Government Big Brother (all the local, state, and Federal agencies collecting and maintaining data on us) and Business Big Brother (all the large multi-national companies, like Google, Amazon, and Facebook that collecting and selling our personal information).

Syndicate content

A Broadband Properties top 100 company for 2013
A Broadband Properties top 100 company for 2012
A Broadband Properties top 100 company for 2011

Design Nine has been selected as a Broadband Properties / Broadband Communities top 100 company from 2008 to 2015.


Smart 21

Designed by Design Nine, the nDanville fiber network has won the Intelligent Community Forum's Smart 21 award for 2010.

Design Nine provides visionary broadband architecture and engineering services to our clients. We have over seventy years of staff experience with telecom and community broadband-more than any other company in the United States.

We have a full range of broadband and telecom planning, design, and project management services.