Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/19/2015 - 08:31
Dave Sobotta, our VP of Marketing, writes here about his experiences over the past thirty years. Much of that time, he has been working from home, making him one of the work from home pioneers.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/13/2015 - 14:24
A good friend of mine who is a programming genius and an inveterate tinker has provided a glimpse of what is possible with largely off the shelf technology. All of the items on the list below are already implemented and in place.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/13/2015 - 09:59
As we design and build Local Transport Networks for our community clients, we are frequently asked, "Where will the LTP get backhaul?"
LTPs do not need backhaul, because the LTP is not an Internet Service Provider. Put another way, the LTP is a broadband provider, not an Internet provider. Unfortunately, "Internet" and "broadband" are used interchangeably even though they are two different things. In the roads analogy, broadband is the single, high performance road network, and Internet is one of the trucks that use that road.
But that is not to say backhaul is not an issue, as the service providers using the LTP network still need backhaul. While many smaller/rural communities still lack competitive pricing on backhaul, the consolidation in the long haul business has really helped--we are seeing more and better backhaul options in rural areas of the U.S.
Introducing an LTP to a community often drives backhaul prices down and/or creates an opportunity for a long haul provider to open their fiber cable in that community. LTPs aggregate demand and help improve the business case for the long haul providers. We are working in two rural communities right now building new, modern LTP networks, and the existence of the LTP has brought about dramatic improvements in backhaul.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/12/2015 - 15:54
Open access networks unbundle the physical network from the services being carried over that network. We have become so used to having the network and service provided by the same company that it is sometimes a struggle to remember that that approach is only an artifact of very old technology. The copper twisted pair deployed for phone service was only capable of delivering that one thing: voice phone calls. And copper coaxial cable was only capable of delivering one thing: TV content. The fact that those two networks now include data services is kind of like the old joke about the talking dog--what the dog says is less interesting than the fact that it can talk at all.
With the development of fiber network technology and the concurrent development of the Internet (TCP/IP) protocols, it was no longer necessary to have a separate network for each service. Voice, Internet, and video--along with many other kinds of services--can be carried over a single high performance network. In fact, it is no longer necessary to have a separate network for each service provider. A modern fiber network can easily transport the services offered by many different providers; buyers can pick and choose what services they want, based on the cost and quality of each service.
Open access networks unbundle transport of the services from the services themselves. The network owner/operator is NOT a service provider. Instead, the network owner/operator using the open access business model is a Local Transport Provider, or LTP. LTPs deliver the data traffic of service providers from a common provider meet point on the network to the customer purchasing the service.
LTPs haul bits from point A to point B. An LTP does not have to have Internet backhaul (IP). It is a very simple business model that has network neutrality built in, as buyers of services can pick and choose from a wide variety of service providers and services, rather than being chained to the offerings of a single de facto monopoly provider.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/05/2015 - 09:21
Fourteen major U.S. hospitals are experimenting with trial programs using the Apple HealthKit tools, which provide health and fitness tracking on iPhones and iPads.
I recently upgraded to an iPhone 5S, which came with the Health app installed. The software will track an incredible variety of health and fitness factors. Some of the data requires manual entry and/or a separate health device (like a blood pressure monitor), but right out of the box, the app starts tracking the number of steps and distance traveled in a day, using the iPhone's built in motion sensor. The difference between my level of physical activity during the work week (sitting at a desk most of the day) and the weekend is an eyeopener, and has made me realize that I need to walk more--every day. It is also interesting how much exercise I get on travel days; while it feels like I spend the whole day sitting in an airplane, the distances I have to walk in airports is good news for my health. The realtime graphs turn exercise into a bit of a game, where it becomes a challenge to see if I can beat yesterday's distance/step numbers.
But this is the tip of the iceberg. As more Bluetooth-enabled health monitoring devices become available (e.g. a blood pressure cuff that can talk, via Bluetooth, directly to the iPhone), more and better kinds of data will be available, and this will improve early diagnosis of problems--and in turn, save enormous amounts of money--early treatment is almost always less expensive.
Broadband is still regarded by many as a kind of luxury...."who needs a Gig?" is a question I hear almost daily as Design Nine rebuilds the nation's broadband infrastructure, one community at a time. Broadband and the Internet are not just about Netflix, buying stuff from Amazon, and gaming. Just as the music industry was disrupted by the iPod and the Internet-enabled iTunes store, health care is about to see major disruptions, and those changes will benefit all of us....if we have the right kind of connectivity.
Design Nine helps communities build infrastructure for the future. Give us a call if you want to future-proof your community.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/22/2015 - 13:30
The Intelligent Community Forum announced the Top7 Intelligent Communities for 2015 today.
The Top7 list is dominated by the United States with three communities: Arlington County, Virginia; Columbus,Ohio; and Mitchell, South Dakota.
The others come from four nations: Ipswich, Australia; New Taipei City, Taiwan; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Surrey, Canada. Four of the cites are on the Top7 list for the first time: Mitchell, New Taipei City, Rio de Janeiro and Surrey.
“Each is ‘revolutionary’ in its own way, and each has planned its future in a way that is consistent with its cultural identity, while using universally available digital tools and broadband technology," said Intelligent Community co-founder Lou Zacharilla.
Disclaimer: I have been a juror for the ICF for several years. The ICF work is important because broadband, by itself, does not make a community "smart." Intelligent communities develop an integrated community and economic development strategy that makes broadband an infrastructure building block that supports a broader set of goals and objectives.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/08/2015 - 13:48
...consider this. Apple sold half a billion dollars in apps during the first week of January.
Think about that. Remember getting in your car and driving to the store to buy software? I do...vaguely. Everyone under thirty would have no idea what I was talking about.
Like it or not, the Internet is transforming the economy. One company (i.e. Apple) sold half a billion dollars of product in one week, and it was all delivered to customers who had broadband connections. No broadband, no sale.
This is a huge challenge for rural America. I just talked to a rural county where they estimate as many of 20% of households are still on dial up. I can pretty much guarantee no young people between the age of 18 and 30 live in any of those areas--they all left as soon as they could, and they probably left the county.
Rural America can't wait.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:19
Excuse me for the headline....I could not stop laughing. Verizon's snazzy cloud service, eponymously named "Verizon Cloud," will be shut down "for up to" 48 hours. Granted, it is being done over a weekend, but suppose you are a retail business open on Saturday and Sunday? Do you close the store? What are they thinking?
There is only one possible explanation for a 48 hour shutdown, and that is a terrible, really awful, horrible technical design. Somebody screwed up bigtime, and now they have to fix it.
If you put stuff in the cloud, you have to treat it like you treat a hard drive: you have to assume that the cloud WILL crash and that you could lose everything. The cloud is not magic, and don't treat it that way.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/07/2015 - 13:27
As the old saying goes, "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." Dish Network just brought the fat lady out on the stage, and she is singing Sling TV. It's a new OTT (Over The Top) streaming video service that will include ESPN, Disney, CNN, TNT, and a bunch of other "channels," and I have "channels" in quotes because it is an archaic concept that dates back to the 1950s. But we know what it means.
Here is the money quote from the CEO of Sling TV:
"Millennials don't choose paid TV," said Roger Lynch, who was named CEO of Sling TV LLC. "So we designed a service based on how millennials consume content, with no contracts. You can come and go as you please."
If you are responsible for economic development in your community, ponder that statement. Or better yet, let me re-phrase it for you...."No one under 35 cares about cable TV." Or put another way, if you want young people to stay in or move to your community, you better have Internet capable of streaming multiple HD channels of "TV" over the Internet. It's a quality of life issue that you can't ignore.
Want help getting the right broadband infrastructure in your community? Give us a call (540-951-4400) and ask for Dave Sobotta. We would love to help.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/06/2015 - 09:43
Not with a whimper, but a bang. The Washington Post has an article indicating that ESPN is going to roll out a streaming service for its sports content. This lack of live sports on the Internet has kept a lot of households tethered to a costly and bloated cable TV subscription. I think what happened is that ESPN figured out they were passing up huge revenue growth by staying tethered to cable. Many households, once they cut the cable TV bill, may well end up spending more on streaming video, but it will be in small amounts....FOR EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO WATCH. Choice...it's a wonderful thing.
The cable companies will limp along for a while by doing what they have been doing for several years now: ratcheting up the fee for their Internet service by 5% to 10% per year. But from a community perspective, hitching your economic future to a failed, copper-based business model is a recipe for stagnant jobs growth and a tough hill to climb in terms of business attraction.
Here is the Washington Post article:
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/23/2014 - 15:43
New data suggests that the death of cable and satellite TV is being led by children. Kids don't care about watching the latest episode of a cartoon...reruns are just fine to keep them amused. Kids are growing up with on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu for their video fix. When they strike out on their own, the notion of buying a package of cable TV is going to seem quaint.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/23/2014 - 08:49
David Strom has a thoughtful analysis of the Sony hacking mess and the subsequent North Korean threats against the Sony movie "The Interview," where he points out several sad ironies in the two incidents.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/09/2014 - 16:05
Comcast must be reading my stuff. I have been noting for years now that the cable HFC network is not meeting the needs of home-based workers. Via Lightwave, Comcast has announced a new service to improve connectivity. But it sure sounds like you can't get it unless your company buys corporate service from Comcast, as the article mentions "low" construction costs to get fiber to your place of business. So it will likely be of limited usefulness. I'm skeptical that very many businesses are going to switch their business Internet provider to support work from home.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 12/01/2014 - 15:52
The SkyBell is actually pretty cool. It is a WiFi-enabled doorbell with a camera and microphone. Stick it on the wall next to your front door. When someone pushes the "doorbell" button, you get can talk to them via your smartphone. It also has a motion sensor, so the camera turns on and notifies you if someone is hanging around your front door but has not rung the bell. Which might really be very useful if you live in a neighborhood with some sketchy individuals around (I'm thinking about some friends who live in Manhattan).
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 11/21/2014 - 09:12
The incumbents love to ridicule Gig connections. AT&T sneered at the whole concept until Google announced they were going to do Gig fiber in Austin. About eight minutes later AT&T announced they had found a sudden need for Gig service in the Austin area (but nowhere else in the country...apparently Austin is "special" in AT&T's mind).
A colleague just sent me a screen shot that illuminates perfectly why a Gig of bandwidth might be occasionally useful. He had a hard drive crash, and being a smart guy, had everything backed up to offsite storage. The screen shot showed the time remaining to restore about 10% of his total file structure: one and a half days. If we multiply that by ten and assume that everything runs perfectly throughout the restore cycle (in my experience, a big IF), we are looking at about two weeks just to get your files back. Yea....AT&T is right...who needs a Gig?
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/19/2014 - 09:22
The main four lane road near my home has been getting Yet Another Fiber Cable (YAFC). By my count, there are now five, count'em, five cables installed in the right of way on one side of the road or the other. All placed there within the past fifteen years, and includes the phone company, the cable company, and three private fiber providers. Why three private providers? The county has built three schools in a row, and they all want the school business. It is so profitable that three different companies are building private fiber and fighting for the business.
I am writing about this now because last week, the fiber contractors installing the conduit cut the electric power main cables not once but twice in two successive days, cutting off electric service to the grocery store and the bank, as well as several other businesses on the route. The grocery store was closed for two days, which has to be painful with respect to lost sales.
The tragedy here is that a single shared broadband infrastructure, built years ago, would have given the schools much more competitive pricing at much lower cost (in large part because only one set of conduit/fiber is installed instead of three). And on that shared fiber, the schools could have bid out their needs to a five or ten companies instead of just the three with enough spare cash to build completely duplicated fiber infrastructure.
But there's more. By having the schools put their business on the community-owned shared infrastructure, the whole community would benefit because the schools would have sharply expanded the total market, and the cost of telecom services would have come down for everyone. Instead, we have public right of way ruined by overbuilding (see the cut electric cables--at least in part because the right of way is crowded), schools paying too much for bandwidth and Internet, and everyone else along that route still stuck with poor service--despite hundreds of homes like mine near this route, there is no fiber to the home available.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 11/14/2014 - 10:12
The great Hunter S. Thompson said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." I wrote a couple of days ago about an Internet-enabled Mr. Coffee. But already, that coffee maker seems old and tired. It seems like the Internet coffee maker market just turned pro. Look at the features of the Kickstarter Bruvelo. It not only makes coffee, but it grinds the beans, pre-rinses the coffee filter, adjusts the water temperature, weigh the grounds for each cup, and will adjust the brew time. But wait, there's more! It will store recipes for individual beans....so if you want your French Roast brewed differently than your Breakfast Columbian, the machine will remember how you want each bean to be brewed. But wait, there's more! You can store all these coffee recipes in an iPhone app so you can tell the machine what to do in the morning.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/12/2014 - 08:53
The venerable "Mr. Coffee" coffee maker has received an upgrade, and is now "smart," according to the Mr. Coffee company. You can now buy a "Mr. Coffee Smart Coffee Maker" that can be controlled from your smartphone. You still have to load up the machine with water and coffee grounds manually, but you can hit the Start button while still in bed...or something. What's next? A "smart" vacuum cleaner? A "smart" Swiffer mop? Is the Internet is making us stupid and lazy? Wait, don't answer that question...I'm afraid of the answer.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/23/2014 - 08:19
HealthTap for the iPhone and iPad provide a good glimpse of why bandwidth is important and how healthcare is going to be changed by the Internet. The service provides access to tens of thousands of doctors and health care specialists, both on a pay as you go basis and a "concierge" subscription service. For $99/month you may be able to get HealthTap access to your own doctor, as well as other specialists.
It remains to be seen how successful HealthTap is in recruiting doctors, as the scheduling could be complex. But one way of looking at HealthTap and other software like it is to see it as the healthcare equivalent of Uber and Lyft, which have completely disrupted the taxi and limo business, to the dismay of the taxi/politician cartel, who like limited access, high licenses fees, and the revolving door of campaign contributions that keep competitors like Uber and Lyft out of major metro cities.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/22/2014 - 07:35
The Intelligent Community Forum has announced the twenty-one community candidates for 2015. This year's submissions come from diverse locations ranging from Kazakhstan to Kenya and Taiwan to the United States. The Smart21 represent a cross section of the world with five communities from the United States, four from Australia and four from Taiwan as well as three Canadian cities. Plus one each from Kazakhstan, Brazil, Japan, Kenya and New Zealand. More than 300 communities submitted nominations.
I have been a juror for the final seven for several years now, and it has been interesting to read about these communities, as they validate what I have observed in my own work reaching back into the early nineties.
The communities that are successful with their broadband initiatives are almost always the ones that have taken the time to answer the question, "What do we want to be in ten years?" "What do we want to offer as a community to keep people here and to attract families and businesses?"
Answering these questions is hard work, takes time, and requires developing a consensus in the community about where to invest time and energy. But it pays off with often dramatic results. Another thing I have observed about the top ICF candidates is that they plan and execute for the long haul--that is, they don't think that there are silver bullets out there that will solve all their problems magically. ICF communities succeed because they work at being successful.
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.
Free Fiber to the Home
Save NC Broadband
Blandin on Broadband
Intelligent Community Forum
FCC Broadband Blog
KGP Broadband Stimulus
Ars Technica Tech Policy
Bill St. Arnaud
Stop the Cap
Broadband Policy Watch
Lafayette Pro Fiber