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.

Where did the cash registers go?

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/08/2012 - 16:07

Read this report of a recent visit to an Apple store and how technology is changing the customer experience. Apple has spent a lot of money to focus on helping customers, rather than just ringing up sales at an old-fashioned check out counter. And if you look at Apple's stock price, it is obviously paying off.

Design Nine-built network brings a new era to a rural community

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/08/2012 - 15:09

Those of us that have reasonably decent broadband connections at home and at work often forget there are still large parts of America that are still on dial-up. Design Nine just completed the first part of a USDA-funded Community Connect project in Grayson County, Virginia. Grayson County some of the most rugged terrain on the East Coast, and is home to Mount Rogers (elevation 5,729 ft), one of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River. The Wired Road received the USDA grant to help the rural community of Grant, Virginia get better access to broadband. No reasonably priced fiber was available near the community, so Design Nine engineered a complex, multi-point 300 megabit microwave link from Galax, Virginia, where The Wired Road has its main network site.

The project renovated the historic, 100 year old Grange Hall in Grant, which included major improvements to the building, as well as a radio tower, a fiber link from the tower to the Grange Hall, and the design and implementation of a ten seat computer lab designed specifically to support distance learning and business people who needed broadband access. The computer lab has been extremely popular, and is saving local residents time and money, as they no longer have to drive long distances to get broadband access.

The second phase of the project is nearing completion, and will bring fiber to the home connections to 100 homes in Grant. Network connectivity on the fiber network is being provided by the 300 megabit radio link, which is capable of supporting TV service in the future.

USB wall plate

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/08/2012 - 13:55

Now this is a good idea--a replacement AC outlet cover that includes two USB ports. There have been some replacement duplex outlets around for a while, but they require a little more work, as you have to re-wire them into the outlet box. This RCA wall plate is simple--unscrew the existing wall plate, replace it with this one, and you are done. You have two USB ports and 1 AC port. I will note that the replacement outlet devices preserve both AC outlets.

Clueless teens dumping Facebook for Twitter

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:18

I had to read the first sentence of this article twice because I thought it must be a joke:

Teens, after being friended by parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles on Facebook, have moved to Twitter to get a little more privacy.

Trading Facebook for Twitter? Really?

Apparently those teens have not studied Twitter very carefully, as all tweets are entirely public; so public, in fact, that Twitter recently agreed to hand over all tweets to the Federal government and DHS, which now apparently monitors tweets for subversive activity. DHS recently denied two British tourists entry to the U.S. because of a couple of jokes they had posted on Twitter. Apparently re-posting a quote from the TV show Family Guy now marks you as a terrorist.

It may take a while longer, but I think people will eventually begin to understand that posting every trivial thought and picture from your life online is not the way to gain privacy.

"I think that Facebook is the biggest waste of time..."

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/31/2012 - 14:00

A guy named Jake Reilly dropped all electronic communication, including the phone, for ninety days, calling it "The Amish Project." This story is really interesting, as he ran into all sorts of logistical challenges, some of them amusing. For example, he'd meet a girl in a bar, she would give him her phone number, and he'd have to explain he could not call her. And the girl would think he was lying to avoid telling her he did not like her. To keep in touch with friends, he resorted to putting sticky notes in the elevator at work and leaving chalk messages on the sidewalk in front of their office or their home. Perhaps most telling, he realized that Facebook was an enormous drain on his time, and that by staying off it, he had a lot more time to actually visit people in person and talk face to face.

Read the whole thing.

Georgia Legislature: Let's drive businesses out of the state!

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/30/2012 - 15:39

Via MuniNetworks, some Georgia legislators are getting substantial campaign contributions from the incumbent telephone and cable providers to pass a law making it illegal for communities to create competitive broadband infrastructure. The big win in North Carolina last year, where the legislature did pass such a law, has spurred similar efforts in Georgia and South Carolina.

nDanville fiber spurs economic development, attracts commercial supercomputer

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:49

The City of Danville, Virginia is beginning to see some big wins with their steady expansion of the City-owned open access fiber network. Back in the early 2000s, the City Utilities Department had begun installing fiber on City utility poles. Danville Utilities provides electric power throughout the City and large portions of three surrounding counties, with a total service area of nearly 500 square miles, and the fiber was an early smart grid initiative that provided the Utilities Department with better management of substations and power use.

In 2006, the City retained Design Nine to help develop a business plan and network architecture that would open the City fiber to commercial use. This led to the first municipal open access fiber network in the U.S. in 2007, and was arguably the first Gigabit municipal network; true Gigabit circuits were available on day one of operations--the nDanville network is active Ethernet.

Funded with revenue from anchor tenants like the City and the K12 schools, the network has expanded slowly, but from the beginning, the fiber network was part of a larger economic development strategy to re-invent the City, which had seen the loss of thousands of textile jobs in the late 90s. nDanville fiber has sharply reduced costs for connected businesses, especially in the medical community, and a commercial supercomputer facility is coming online in downtown Danville--the location determined in large part by where nDanville fiber is available.

The whole story is here.

SOPA and PIPA meet OPEN

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:48

The truly awful SOPA and PIPA bills have been stalled, but Rep. Darrell Issa of California has introduced OPEN, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, in the House. OPEN has been written more narrowly to target only offshore counterfeit and bootleg sites, and does not give the Federal government the expansive powers to arbitrarily shut down any site; SOPA and PIPA managed to eliminate both due process and free speech in a single bill.

If you click through to this article to get more information, the interesting stuff is at the end, where writer indicates that the bigger picture is that Silicon Valley (i.e. Internet techies) are really in a war with Hollywood (i.e. 20th century film and TV distribution models). The Internet is enabling lots of competition with the traditional Hollywood film and TV studios and distribution companies, and SOPA and PIPA were going to help shut down any perceived competition.

I do not think it is quite that convenient a meme. Instead, I think Hollywood is at war with itself, and right now, the dinosaurs of that industry still have the upper hand. Movie and TV content producers and developers that embrace new distribution forms (which the dinosaurs don't like) have much to gain.

But as I have been saying for years, traditional TV is already dead. Hollywood is still in denial.

SmartFlix: Deconstructing education, one brick at a time

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 10:49

I just stumbled across SmartFlix, which is the education and training version of NetFlix. You can rent a wide variety of training and education DVDs by mail, just like NetFlix. They have many different topics available, ranging from the mundane (cooking videos) to the more sophisticated and esoteric: welding, machine lathe operations, and knifemaking. A lot of the skill-related topics (e.g. welding, machining, etc.) used to be offered as courses in high school and community colleges, but some time in the past twenty years, most of those "live" classes were eliminated. And today, many U.S. manufacturers can't find anyone who knows how to weld or run a lathe.

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Design Nine has been selected as a Broadband Properties / Broadband Communities top 100 company from 2008 to 2013.


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