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.

Broadband and the walkable city

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/30/2012 - 10:56

This short article on the weak housing market has big implications for "big broadband," which few of us have right now. A major economist is predicting that the housing market may not recover for years, but coupled with high gas prices, walkable communities will be in high demand.

This has significant implications for city and community planners, but it is extremely difficult to ensure that everyone, or even a majority of workers, can walk to work. A better option would be to get "big broadband" to most homes so that more workers can work from home. Even the ability to work productively from home one or two days a week could cut the cost of commuting by 20% to 40%...nothing to sneeze at when gas is $4 a gallon.

Design Nine is part of Virginia's Blue Ridge

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/19/2012 - 13:22

Design Nine, located in Blacksburg, is part of Virginia's Blue Ridge. The Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitor's Bureau announced a new branding for our region: Virginia's Blue Ridge. We like it....it fits, and the region needs a recognizable brand. We're proud to live and work here...in Virginia's Blue Ridge.

Walmart joins the cloud

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 13:30

Walmart has announced a partnership with Vudu. You can take your DVDs and Blu-ray movie discs to Walmart, and pay $2 to have them "converted" and stored in the cloud. If you want an HD (Blu-ray) version, you pay $5. Walmart does not actually read your discs; instead, they verify that you actually have a physical copy, then just enable that movie for your account from a previously stored digital master. Walmart also apparently stamps your physical disk with some mark so that you can just give it to a friend who takes it in a week later. The Walmart/Vudu site has remarkably little information; you have to create a Vudu account to figure out how it works and what the restrictions are.

Of course, if you want to stream your HD movies from the cloud, you better have good broadband at your house.

North Carolina called a "tech turkey"

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 09:47

The Institute for Self Reliance has put out an interesting infographic highlighting the mis-match in North Carolina between the City of Salisbury's tiny fiber network and TimeWarner. State legislators passed a bill last year that essentially outlaws any community investments in fiber on the theory that TimeWarner needs to be protected against the supposed unfair advantage of local governments. My guess is that all the North Carolina legislators accomplished is to send entrepreneurs contemplating relocation to another state.

Rotary trencher ideal for residential fiber drop installation

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 09:41

We have not seen this rotary trenching machine in action, but this short video illustrates that you don't have to spend a lot of time and money installing fiber drops--this machine looks like it is ideally suited for "last mile" (first mile) residential fiber installation. This pull-along machine is lightweight, can be carried in a van or pickup, is narrow enough to go through typical fence gates, and cuts a 7" deep slot for a fiber drop cable.

It's not triple play, it's "century play"

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 07:11

In Sweden, home security offerings have been an important service on their open access networks, and start up companies have very successfully taken business away from the "big" security companies, which were slow to adapt using an IP network rather than phone lines. The network owner (e.g. the community broadband network owner) may only get a couple of bucks a month from provisioning a circuit for a home security customer, but add that to other supplemental $1-2 per month services like meter reading and you can quickly see 50% to 100% increases over the average revenue per user (ARPU) compared to triple play.

I'm still looking for the right term to replace triple play. It's definitely not quadruple play...it is more like "century play"....open access networks are rapidly evolving towards a model not unlike the Apple and Android app stores, where you will be able to buy services from hundreds of providers. We won't all buying 100+ services, but we will have hundreds of choices. Five years from now, most open access networks will probably have at least twenty or thirty providers offering various kinds of computer and data backup services because it is so cheap and easy to offer that kind of service on an open access, high performance network.

The scourge of phishing

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 07:02

A lot of new phishing schemes are popping up....a family member mentioned that she got an email "from US Airways" telling her to check in for a flight....I've gotten hundreds of those in the past week.

I've gotten very official-looking messages from the IRS, from the Better Business Bureau, from AT&T, from Verizon, and other well known companies....all sent by automated bot-nets...Russian, eastern European, and Chinese gangs are using these phishing schemes to try to trick you to log in to a bogus "official" site and capture your user id, validate your email address, get passwords, and to try to trick you into entering your credit card info.

You can check these easily by rolling the mouse pointer over the links in the email. If you wait a second, your computer will pop up a little box with the actual URL of the link. You can usually tell by inspection that it is not an official link. But they are very clever....for example:

I have received a bunch of phony LinkedIn messages.

The correct URL for LinkedIn is www.linkedin.com

the phony URLs have been things like

www.linked.in
www.linkedln.com (the second 'i' is an 'l')

you can also look at the FROM email address. I just got a US Airways spam sent from an IRS.GOV account. I'm pretty sure US Air does not use IRS computers to send out their email.

The lost productivity costs of phishing are enormous. Many of these messages are getting through two layers of spam filtering here, and that means sifting through your IN box, checking each one to make sure it is not legitimate, and then deleting it. It may only be a few extra minutes a day, but multiply that by the millions of people getting these, and it adds up.

What, me worry? Mad Magazine goes digital

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 12:28

In what has to be one of the most important publishing and content stories of the decade, Mad Magazine has announced you will be able to read the magazine on the iPad, beginning April 1st.

Really. April 1st.

The magazine goes to the trouble of assuring readers it is NOT an April Fool's joke.

I, for one, welcome our new Mad Magazine overlords to the digital world.

Broadband Communities Summit: Bigger and Better

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/29/2012 - 06:15

If you are planning to attend the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas next month, make your hotel reservations now, as the hotel is selling out. The conference was able to secure an additional block of rooms for the conference, but these are expected to be all gone next week. The conference is going to have a strong focus on community broadband, with tracks on rural broadband initiatives and open access broadband.

Is Chattanooga the next great place for venture capital and entrepreneurs?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/27/2012 - 07:00

Here is a brief video produced by Alcatel-Lucent on Chattanooga's fiber initiative. One of the people interviewed is a venture capitalist who has settled in Chattanooga, which is worthy of some notice--lack of capital is one of the biggest problems that many regions face when trying to jump start economic development. Most new jobs are created by small business START UPS, not existing small businesses, and start up businesses need angel and VC capital to create those jobs.

Apple iPad 3 smashes sales records

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/20/2012 - 09:41

In what has become a kind of ho-hum announcement, Apple smashed sales records again, with 3 million iPads flying off the shelves in the first weekend. To put this in perspective, the original iPad took a month to sell one million. It took three months for iPad 2 to hit 3 million--and three days to sell 3 million of the iPad 3.

Our data is doubling every year

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/19/2012 - 07:56

This story from MIT's Technology Review says that the amount of data we are storing is doubling every year. Doubling every year. So that $120 terabyte hard drive you bought to back up the baby pictures and your music library? You'll need another one in a year or two. Then four. Then eight. Hard drive densities keep going up, but they are not doubling every year.

The answer is more cloud storage, and the cloud, to be efficient, is going to have to move closer to the data. It is extremely expensive to drag data across the public Internet to get to a large data storage facility like Apple's, Microsoft's, or Amazon's, compared to a short trip across a locally-owned modern fiber infrastructure straight to a local data center. Akamai has made a business about putting data closer to users, but Akamai caters to the one way data direction (down) of major content providers like CNN. The next frontier is affordable two-way data storage, and communities that have affordable fiber coupled with local well-designed data and colo centers will find it easier to attract and keep businesses and jobs.

"iPads could clog 4G networks" Wait...what?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/15/2012 - 09:30

So on the one hand, the new 4G networks are going to solve all our bandwidth problems without any of those pesky fiber cables running everywhere. On the other hand, Apple roles out a new tablet device, and the very same super fast networks are likely to collapse under the strain.

Somebody needs to get their story straight. But read the whole article, as it provides a good explanation of why wireless is not going to solve our bandwidth problems. We need wireless for mobility access, but it cannot and will not replace the need for fiber at home and at work.

Death of TV: Part XXXIV -- Will Apple TV put finally put an end to "TV"

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/23/2012 - 09:06

The buzz that Apple will introduce an Apple TV sometime this year continues. Speculation about the product includes claims that it will incorporate Siri voice recognition so that you can just talk to it and eliminate the remote control. Other theories include the idea that it will look and behave much like an iPad, and that it will essentially be a big iPad, with the ability to run most iPad apps.

If Apple does introduce a new "TV" device, I am pretty sure it will:

Oh, and one more thing....it will place enormous demands on existing broadband networks, creating even more problems for existing DSL and cable providers.

Comcast launches Steampix to beat Netflix

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/23/2012 - 08:58

Comcast has announced its own streaming video service, called Steampix, to compete with Netflix. It only costs $4.99/month, but if you have Comcast's triple play package, you get it for free. Comcast, because it owns the network infrastructure, can dish out streaming video more efficiently and for much less cost than Netflix, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. But the fact that Comcast is doing this seems to me to be a tacit admission by the cable giant that a lot of people can't be bothered to watch "TV" anymore. I think it is time to start putting "TV" in quotes, because really, it refers to a technology that is long gone.

"My DSL is worthless on the weekends...."

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/21/2012 - 09:10

"My DSL is worthless on the weekends." Exact quote from someone I talked to yesterday. She lives in a rural part of Virginia, and DSL is her only broadband option. So many people are now routinely streaming bandwidth intensive video content that the local DSL Access Module (DSLAM) is overloaded and can't handle the demand. The local incumbent has a monopoly on broadband service, so there is no incentive to spend more to improve the backhaul from the DSL switch down the road from her house. Her service is better on weekdays because most of her neighbors travel to school or work during the day, and she does much of her work FROM HOME. But as the price of gas climbs past $5/gallon, living in a rural area and commuting long distances to work is going to become a luxury of the wealthy unless the bandwidth is there in rural communities and back roads to allow some folks to work from home. The rapidly rising cost of gasoline and the just as rapidly increasing demand for bandwidth on antiquated copper-based networks is about to create a perfect storm in rural communities that don't have a strategy for increasing the affordability and performance of broadband.

NC city saves $800,000 per year on power with broadband

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/14/2012 - 08:04

The city of Wilmington, North Carolina uses its fiber network to turn the lights off at sports parks at night. Cameras have been placed at every sports and recreation field, along with remote control light switches. A single city employee can quickly check the cameras to see if anyone is still at a field, and if not, a couple of mouse clicks turn off the lights. The city expects to save $800,000 per year on electricity costs. That will build a lot of fiber.

But wait...there's more! Here is the most interesting part: "...an employee can do this from home..." From home. Read that again: from home. And here is why we need fiber everywhere, not just at the city or county admin building. The technology enables more people to work more efficiently wherever they are, not just while they are in the office. If you want your employees to be able to access dozens of video streams from home, guess what? You need business class broadband throughout your community.

Broadband Communities Summit is offering discounted early bird registration

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/09/2012 - 14:53

The popular Broadband Communities Summit (April 24-26, Dallas, Texas) has an extensive track of speakers and sessions devoted entirely to open access and community broadband networks. Right now the conference is running an early bird registration special. A list of the Open Access sessions are below.

Business Planning and Open Access Networks

Open-access networks are built to support multiple providers that offer dozens or even hundreds of services. Instead of collecting revenue for two or three mostly low-margin services, network operators can accrue revenue directly or indirectly from every service offered to customers on the network. Though most of these will be niche services, many have high profit margins. This session will discuss key differences in open-access network architecture, introduce alternative business models and show how those business models can create attractive opportunities for service providers.

Modern Right of Way Management

A community’s rights of way constitute a valuable asset that it can use for economic development and revenue enhancement. Too often, city officials manage this asset in a reactive way, simply responding to requests from telecom providers and other utilities for right-of-way use. Find out how leading-edge communities proactively plan and manage right-of-way usage in order to attract ultra-broadband providers, encourage economic development and fully exploit their assets.

Case Studies: Success Stories for Open Access

The first open-access networks in the U.S. were launched into uncharted waters – no one knew whether or how they would work from a business or technical standpoint. Those starting out today can benefit from the experiences of the pioneers and choose strategies that have been proven successful.

Technology for Open Access

Though most fiber-to-the-premises networks can be configured to support multiple service providers, there are preferred ways to design networks specifically for open access. Learn about new technologies for all aspects of deployment and operation – ranging from conduits to optoelectronic equipment to solutions for network management and provisioning – that have been specifically designed to make open-access fiber networks cost-effective, manageable and easy to implement.

Open Access Fiber and Economic Development

Many of the middle-mile fiber networks being constructed today are open to multiple providers - some of them, though by no means all, because of requirements imposed by government funding. In this session, deployers and operators of middle-mile networks will share what they have learned, from both a technical and business standpoint, about making open access work in the middle mile.

Do it Yourself Fiber – Creative Approaches to Organizing, Financing and Building FTTH Networks in Rural Areas

Rural communities that have been bypassed by both private and public broadband programs are left to their own devices when it comes to obtaining broadband. Some are now proving adept at what might be termed do-it-yourself or “crowd-sourced” broadband strategies. This session will present case studies of rural coalitions – ECFiber in Vermont and B4RN in northern England – that rely heavily on local resources to raise capital, organize projects and even deploy fiber. Can these new models make FTTH practical and affordable in rural settings?

Apple now worth more than Google and Microsoft combined

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/09/2012 - 14:32

Apple's stock price is $494 at 2 PM today. Apple is now worth more than Microsoft and Google combined.

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