Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/26/2011 - 10:19
Passafire is a Savannah, Georgia based band with some roots on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their most recent album, Start from Scratch (http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/start-from-scratch/id459145244), has zoomed to the top of the iTunes reggae charts to take the number two spot behind perennial number one Bob Marley. What is interesting about this is that the band does not have a contract with a major record label (and "record" is an anachronism these days). Passafire (http://www.passafiretheband.com/) has their own Web site, sells CDs online, but relies primarily on iTunes for their music sales. Oh, yes, and they actually play music in affordable venues. In short, these guys love music, and are able to make a living doing it, because the middle man, the record labels, have been cut out.
Even ten years ago, the members of Passafire would all have been working day jobs and loading a beat up van on Friday and Saturday nights to play a few local gigs. It is only Apple, with its visionary iTunes music store, that has allowed the band to connect with millions of fans in a way that was impossible just a few years ago.
And while some moan about the loss of jobs due to disintermediation, what the whiners forget is that iTunes has created tens of thousands of new jobs, and I would bet that the net jobs in the music industry has increased, and is spread far more equitably around the country, starting with what must surely be thousands of jobs at Apple just running the iTunes store. Then you have all the musicians that can actually market to a worldwide audience via iTunes, increasing their income and for some of them, turning their love of music into a full time job.
Bring the disintermediation on; it creates more opportunity by decentralizing economic power. Next up: the disintermediation of the TV and telephone industries.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/18/2011 - 08:55
Back in 2006, with the help of Design Nine, the City of Danville made the decision to open their city-owned fiber for commercial use. The first customers were connected in 2007. The self-funded project has grown slowly, has spent carefully, and manages more than one hundred and fifty miles of fiber with just two dedicated staff. The City had an early advantage because Danville is an electric city--they own many of the utility poles, and electric utility line crews have done much of the construction and maintenance work. Some specialized work, like fiber splicing, is still outsourced.
This article in (http://www.virginiabusiness.com/index.php/news/article/in-transition/313469) Virginia Business highlights the slow but steady changes that the municipally-owned fiber have brought to the community.
The Danville Medical Network is an nDanville initiative, and more than 50 medical offices, facilities, and the hospital are linked via city-owned fiber, saving easily many tens of thousands of dollars a month.
The White Building renovation into a massive data center is directly a result of the availability of nDanville fiber at the site.
A new supercomputer will be housed in the Tobacco Warehouse district; superbly renovated historic tobacco warehouses and office buildings all have access to nDanville fiber.
The Ikea plant relies on nDanville fiber for one of their redundant fiber links to keep the plant running.
EcomNets, the green PC manufacuturer, uses nDanville fiber.
nDanville's early focus has been on serving businesses, and every lot in all five business parks in the area are passed by nDanville fiber. Many other commercial areas of the City are also passed by nDanville fiber, and all the substations in the 500 square mile electric service area are managed with nDanville fiber. But (http://www.muninetworks.org/content/open-access-ndanville-network-goes-residential) the project has just announced their first fiber to the home initiative, starting with a 250 home pilot project.
The City of Danville, which once had the highest unemployment in Virginia, now looks like the best place for a technology business in the Commonwealth. What other Virginia community can offer:
A community-owned fiber network that can deliver business class services affordably at ANY bandwidth anywhere on the network.
Some of the finest Class A office space in the state, in beautifully renovated historic buildings, with apartments, condos, and downtown nightlife in walking distance.
Community owned fiber that passes every business parcel in every single business park, with a wide choice of service providers.
A state of the art, 600,000 square foot data center coming online right in downtown Danville.
Beautiful historic homes and churches throughout the community.
Some of the lowest cost of living indexes in the region.
City leaders have taken the slow and steady approach on a wide variety of economic revitalization initiatives, but it is fiber that has, quite literally, connected the dots for Danville.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 09:27
Broadband Properties has published its March/April 2011 in parallel with the Broadband Properties 2011 conference in Dallas. My article on "worst practice" in community broadband networks can be found on page 122 of the magazine, and is available online in the electronic edition.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/27/2010 - 07:57
A few months ago, a competitive telecom provider ran fiber down the main road near my home. Yesterday I figured out why; a crew was running a fiber drop to the bank branch on the corner. All over America, it is the dawn of Fiber 2.0. Fiber 1.0 took place in the late nineties, when an enormous amount of capital was spent on fiber too far in advance of the marketplace for demand. Along with the rest of the dot-com ventures, Fiber 1.0 was a bust. But today, the market for bandwidth continues to grow along a nice smooth curve, with the demand doubling every two years, and we have fifteen years of data to back this up. While the incumbents are busy trying to convince us they can meet this demand with 1950s copper cable plant, smaller telecom firms are busy spreading bits of fiber through communities to cherry pick the more profitable business customers. These companies tend to have no interest in full fiber build outs, and instead just want to lock up a portion of the local business market. Fiber is still costly enough (mostly for the labor to put it in) that once a customer like a local bank is captured by one of these smaller fiber firms, no other provider will gamble on the expense of building a second fiber cable to the same location: the first fiber provider in essentially creates a small monopoly. Nice work if you can finance it.
The tragedy is that as communities are chopped up among two or three small telecom firms, a Balkanization occurs. In effect, the incumbent duopoly (the phone company and the cable company) is replaced with a cartel--a handful of providers who have a vested interest in limited competition. Prices come down a little, but then freeze at the new cartel price point. The end result is that it becomes more challenging financially to build a single community-owned shared, high performance network; not impossible, but more difficult because key anchor tenants like schools and large businesses have already been cherry-picked with long term contracts.
President, Design Nine
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/20/2010 - 08:50
Chris Mitchell has a short but pointed note about the fallacy of the "leave it to the private sector" policies that have received so much attention, mainly because the incumbents have pushed that approach vociferously over the past fifteen years. But Mitchell points out that it has largely failed, with many fewer ISPs than in the late nineties, and overall, fewer telephone and cable companies as the big telecom giants gobble up the smaller ones.
Mitchell's final point is the most important one: to maintain some balance and to encourage real competition, there needs to be the opportunity to form and run community-owned networks that are "structurally accountable" to the community itself. Telecom and broadband services have become essential economic development infrastructure, and communities need to be able to control their own destiny. I don't subscribe to the notion that the incumbents are bad. I don't subscribe to the idea that they should be regulated out of existence. What I do believe is that community-owned broadband networks ought to be given a fair chance to prosper without the regulatory dead weight of prohibitions, restrictions, and statutory limitations on access to capital. The incumbents have had fifteen years to provide a modern fiber-based infrastructure to American homes and businesses, and they have, by their own admission, declared, "we can't do it." Fine.
Let's take them at their word, and unleash American innovation and enthusiasm to try something different, like open access networks, which have network neutrality baked in when owned and managed by a neutral third party like a community or regional consortium. Open access projects like Utopia have fifteen providers on the network, including three TV providers--that's real network neutrality and real choice, without the need for excessive regulation and complicated rule-making.
Design Nine, Inc.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/22/2010 - 08:47
A shortened version of my white paper on open access has been published by Broadband Properties magazine, and can be found in the current issue. The full version of the paper is available in PDF format on the Design Nine Web site.
The paper looks at open access broadband and explains why it works, who benefits, and why it has a more robust business model. It is written for community leaders, service providers, and network operators, and tries to dispel the confusion surrounding open access networks.
Perhaps the most mis-understood facet of properly designed open access networks is the issue of competition and government involvement. Unlike some communities that have adopted a traditional triple play business model that competes directly with the private sector (and tends to attract expensive lawsuits), the open access business model keeps local government out of the business of selling broadband and telecom services, and is, in fact, incumbent friendly. In communities that have relied on Design Nine to help them design their networks, the cost for Internet access and phone service have dropped sharply for businesses--as much as 70% in some cases. This frees up business capital for job creation and business expansion, and low costs for broadband access and fiber availability is bringing new businesses and jobs to these communities.
If you have questions, feel free to call me for more information.
President, Design Nine
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