Danville to be site of broadband and economic development conference

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/12/2012 - 12:55

The city of Danville, Virginia has implemented a long-term comeback strategy. Danville's early investment in an open access fiber network has helped transform Danville's economy after this former tobacco and textile town lost its traditional economic base. At one time Danville had the highest unemployment in the state of Virginia. Today it is attracting new jobs and new industries - and its open access fiber network plays a key role in business attraction and retention. It will be held on November 8th and 9th, 2012.

THIS IS THE FIRST conference of its kind in this country - an event devoted entirely to the relationship between a community's economic vitality and the presence of advanced broadband networks. Nations around the world have recognized this powerful linkage and responded to it - as have a growing number of communities in the United States. Each event in this new conference series will be held in a city with an advanced broadband system. Each event will have an impressive array of speakers whose mission will be to help attendees evaluate the options and opportunities and develop the optimal, affordable solution for their communities. The first conference is in Danville, Virginia - the Comeback City that bounced back from devastation with a visionary broadband strategy that's creating jobs and attracting the businesses and industries of tomorrow.

Learn how once-struggling towns and cities like Danville are successfully deploying fiber networks that serve their citizens today and position their communities for tomorrow while others struggle against seemingly intractable forces and financial challenges.

Topics and Themes Include:

Conference Chairman: Jim Baller

The conference will be chaired by Jim Baller, President of the Baller Herbst Law Group and widely recognized for his expertise in communications and economic development. The FTTH Council called Baller "the nation's most experienced and knowledgeable attorney on public broadband matters."

Open Access Chairman and Conference Advisor: Andrew Cohill

Dr. Andrew Michael Cohill is president and CEO of Design Nine, a company specializing in municipal and community broadband planning and build outs. Dr. Cohill was director of the world-renowned Blacksburg Electronic Village at Virginia Tech, known as "the most wired community in the world." Design Nine has assisted dozens of communities with broadband planning, and the firm has more open access network experience than any other firm in the country.

Produced by Broadband Communities Magazine in partnership with the City of Danville.

Register now!
http://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1106024

Speedtests and why they mostly document imaginary bandwidth speeds

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:42

Here is an excellent article from MuniNetworks that provides an excellent overview of the problems with broadband speed tests. It is easy for service providers to spoof speed tests into reporting higher upload and download speeds than anyone actually gets on a daily basis.

Speed tests are a bit of a problem for community-owned networks, as they generally don't show the dramatic performance improvements of the local network, because the speed test servers are located somewhere else on the Internet. So it is hard to show just how much better the local network is compared to an incumbent network. The solution is for the community network to install a speed test server on the local network, where the full bandwidth can be shown without the latency of the public Internet.

Virtual grocery shopping

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:37

Shop for groceries at the bus station? That's something you can already do in South Korea, where the traditional grocery store is being nudged out of the way by an interesting new approach to shopping that combines a large "aisle" display and QR codes. A kiosk shows a typical array of products that would be found on one aisle of a grocery store. You hold up your smartphone, scan the QR code of the product you want, and that item gets added to your virtual shopping cart. The groceries are delivered later in the day, after commuters are home from work.

Fiber keeps bringing jobs and development to Danville

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:31

Danville's keen focus on a comprehensive plan to revitalize the downtown area started with creation of a City-owned open access fiber network five years ago. Downtown Danville continues to attract new development; the City just announced a $14 million redevelopment of a historic building that will bring 40+ jobs into the historic River District area of Danville, close to Main Street, shopping, and the Dan River.

Weather report: Stormy weather in the cloud?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/03/2012 - 08:01

The storm last Friday night on the East Coast caused such widespread power outages that it took down some cloud-based services, including Netflix. Some of the outages lasted as long as twenty-four hours, but in general, the cloud hosting providers got things back online quickly.

Here is the real problem: suppose your business is located in one of the areas where power won't be restored for a week. Your office has no power....for at least five business days.

Sitting in McDonald's and trying to run your business off laptops, along with sixty other business people, is not a plan.

Twitter was down? Who knew?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/22/2012 - 07:44

Twitter was apparently down for some time on Thursday. According to this article, Twitter addicts were devastated: "...my life is over." Really? Your life is over. Here's a clue: You don't have a life.

Twitter is a marvelous service, and it has proven to be extraordinarily useful in unexpected ways, like providing information during weather emergencies, earthquakes, and other kinds of crises. It's been interesting to watch how Twitter has changed the political landscape as well. But Twitter is a kind of information fire hose. I'm baffled by the amount of time some people apparently spend just reading and responding to tweets. I have a job, and I have a life outside work that does not involve tweeting in any significant way. Maybe the comments like "...my life has no meaning any more" are really ironic hipster jokes. I sure hope so, or as a society, we are doomed.

The cloud bubble is inflating

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/21/2012 - 16:09

Someone sent me a link to a new cloud-based service that takes your scanned receipts and stores them all in the cloud. Really? Really? As a long time business owner, I'll cheerfully admit that I do not enjoy keeping track of receipts, but I've never, not even once, thought, "This would all be a lot easier if I stored all these on a server far far away." Because we are reasonably well-organized from a bookkeeping perspective, all the company receipts get filed in one of a handful of file folders. Not even once a month do we need to dig a receipt out. When we do need to find one, it usually takes less than fifteen seconds.

It is starting to feel like deja vu all over again; specifically, it is starting to feel like 1998, when a lot of people were running around promoting some kind of "it's the next great Web idea." By late 2001, virtually all of the 1998 start ups were gone. A bubble is inflated by irrational expectations, and that's what I see happening now. Just because some kind of data or information can be stored in the cloud does not mean it should be. And there are only so many things we can reasonably afford to store in the cloud. Yes, we could scan all our receipts and put them in the cloud. But we'll have to pay for that, monthly, forever. The cost of storing the paper versions is about a buck a year for some new file folders, and a few of inches of space in a bankers storage box for long time storage.

As I have noted before, a lot of people are going to end up losing valuable data when their cloud service goes bankrupt and the servers disappear off the 'net, with no way to get their data back.

The brilliance of the Kindle

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/21/2012 - 15:55

I was given a Kindle for Father's Day. I had thought about getting one for a while, but have become risk averse when it comes to new gadgets. There is always some new gadget that is supposed to save me time and money, and they almost never do. And I read a lot on airplanes, and they don't make you turn off your old-fashioned paper book during take off and landing. But I had a three day business trip just after the weekend, so I took the Kindle along.

I was hooked almost instantly.

Just as the iPad disrupted the market for PCs (PC sales have been declining since the iPad was released), and just as the iPod disrupted the music market, the Kindle has begun to disrupt the publishing market. Amazon has made it very easy for authors to self-publish ebooks via the Kindle, and the winners are readers, and the losers are the traditional publishing houses.

Paper books still have some useful qualities, but I can't think of a single reason to ever buy another paperback book. I hardly ever re-read paperbacks. Apple's approach to ebooks is entirely different, with that company focusing on the ability of the iPad to display and integrate text, video, audio, and images. I still don't have an iPad, because for business, the iPad still can't replace my laptop when traveling. But my Kindle will be with me on every trip. It is a marvelously-designed device.

Why wireless can't replace fiber

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/13/2012 - 10:34

As part of Verizon's restructuring of its cellular service to allow for shared data plans, the company is going to offer free texting, but overall, your monthly cellular bill could be higher. Verizon is getting rid of unlimited data plans and replacing them with "pay by the drink" plans that will meter bandwidth use. As little as a couple of hours of video streaming (think one Netflix movie) would push bandwidth right through the 6 gigabyte monthly package, leading to sharply higher charges for that month.

It's really a question of physics. It is much cheaper to deliver bandwidth over fiber, and always will be. As I have been saying for a long long time, wireless is important for mobile access, but we all need fiber at home and at work. Nothing is going to change that.

Verizon rolls out shared data plans

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/12/2012 - 12:32

In what will surely cause an uptick in the sale of smartphones, Verizon has rolled out a shared data plan. This will be popular with families with teenagers who have been clamoring for a smartphone, as the parents (known to the kids as "the wallet") may be willing to pay the $10/phone base fee rather than the old $25 or $30 per phone data charge. AT&T is expected to roll out a similar plan.

New iPhone users leaving Androids, Blackberries

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/08/2012 - 08:10

A new study says that a whopping 38% of new iPhone buyers were former Android and Blackberry users, suggesting that Apple's combination of good hardware and excellent software integration continues to set a high bar for competitors.

South Carolina to businesses: Stay away--we have lousy broadband and high prices

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/08/2012 - 07:37

Following the success of getting legislators to outlaw competitive broadband in North Carolina, incumbents are busy trying to outlaw competition in South Carolina. That legislators would agree to support legislation that so obviously anti-business, anti-growth, and anti-jobs is baffling. Surely it is not that hard to raise campaign funds that legislators would vote against jobs and economic development. Stop the Cap! has the whole story.

Death of TV: Part XXXV: The collapse of the TV business

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/05/2012 - 12:52

Here is an interesting article that highlights what Apple might have planned for the Apple TV. Anyone that thinks the cable TV companies are going to automagically solve our broadband problems should read this.

Is Apple about to upset the camera market?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/01/2012 - 07:44

MacRumors reports a rumor (heh) that Apple might be working on a break-through new digital camera that would be based on the camera software and technology in the iPhone. Speculation is that the supposed Apple camera would have an entirely different form factor than the typical digital cameras, all of which are designed around the legacy form factor of the analog film SLR.

I have an iPhone 4S, and I can attest that the camera software takes astoundingly good pictures--better than my $150 point and shoot digital camera. And it is much easier to use.

Don't take your laptop overseas

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/01/2012 - 07:28

The FBI says that you might want to leave your laptop home when traveling overseas. The latest scam is from criminals who set up bogus WiFi networks that look just like the real hotel network. When you fire up your laptop, you get what looks like the real hotel login page, but it is a fake one that immediately loads zombie malware onto your computer. Another trick they use is to have a fake "software update needed" window pop up. Everyone is now so used to getting these automatic software update notices that criminals are taking advantage of the fact that everyone automatically clicks "OK" for these upgrades. The same thing happens: instead of an upgrade, your laptop gets loaded with malware that starts capturing credit card numbers and login information.

Be careful out there.

Virginia wants data centers

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/31/2012 - 09:05

The Virginia state legislature has passed bills providing new incentives to locate data centers in Virginia. The rapid adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud-based data and services is creating demand for places to put all the data. And with data centers, there are jobs:


“With his signature on this legislation, Governor McDonnell has further positioned Loudoun County as a world class location for the data center industry’s leading operators,” Loudoun County Chamber President & CEO Tony Howard said. “The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce fought hard for this legislation because it will provide our County a powerful new competitive advantage that can be used to generate significant new commercial investments and create many new high-paying jobs that will be needed to build, service and operate these high tech data centers.

Bandwidth caps change behavior, discourage use

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/15/2012 - 09:44

Georgia Tech and Microsoft have released a study that confirms what most of us already knew: bandwidth caps discourage people from using broadband productively. Bandwidth caps are great for inflating the profit margins of the incumbents when someone runs over their limit and starts incurring more charges, but if you want your business community and your work from home business start ups to be as productive as possible, saddling them with outdated 20th century infrastructure that limits what they can do is not the way to go.

Design Nine helps our clients build modern broadband networks that can deliver as much bandwidth as any business or home-based worker might need--affordably. It's not that hard, but it does require the right business model, the right long term financial plan, and a network architecture that can deliver Gigabit bandwidth affordably without crippling economic development.

PeekYou tries to aggregate even more "private" public information

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/14/2012 - 14:54

Peek You is an information aggregator service that tries to pull together as much publicly available information as possible about someone and package it up neatly. Many of the items it will list take you directly to other sites that provide even more information. The service tries to list all of the available social media connections as well (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.). The service also calculates a PeekScore, which is some kind of weighted value between 1 and 10 that is supposed to indicate how important you are in the online universe. I suspect most of us are going to end up on the low end of the scale. If you want to be nosy, this is a great service. I would expect that advertising and/or fees will eventually be used to support the cost of providing.

No one can afford to have every service as a subscription

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/14/2012 - 08:23

Adobe has announced Muse, "...a program for creating web pages without hand coding." Great. Except it costs $14.99 a month, or buy the CreativeCloud package for $49.99 a month. We're in the midst of a bubble where lots of companies think they are going to make lots of money by selling software as a service. But this bubble, like all bubbles, is unsustainable. No company or individual can afford to be paying what quickly adds up to hundreds of dollars a month for "cloud" services. It just does not scale. And expect many many disasters when most of these companies go out of business and a) you find that your data was stored in a proprietary format that cannot be easily moved to some other software, or b) all your data is just plain gone when the company goes belly up.

The cloud is extraordinarily useful for many kinds of applications, but there are two big assumptions: the network will always be there to access your data, and the company will always be there so you can access your data. As for the former, if some rogue state detonates an EMP device over the U.S. that takes out most networks and data centers, what do you do? If a major solar storm/EMP takes out most networks and data centers, what do you do? If you cloud company goes out of business, what do you do?

Backups, backups, and backups. Some of those backups need to be under your direct control. If all your backups are in the cloud and you can't access the cloud, what do you do?

We're building a house of cards here, and placing entirely too much trust in cloud-based services.

Round up of the Broadband Communities Summit 2012

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 11:07

If you were not able to attend the 2012 Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas a couple of weeks ago, you missed a great conference. With an increased focus on both community broadband and open access networks, there were a lot of really good, solid session, especially the five sessions on open access, which I helped to organize.

Here are some of the key ideas, concepts, and take-aways that I noted from the conference:

There was much much more, but those are some of the highlights. Start planning now to attend next year's conference.

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