Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/18/2016 - 15:30
We are working with a medium-sized city to design a new open access Gigabit fiber network, and the local telephone company is claiming that the connection from the street to the office building (in the downtown area) is "the most expensive part of reaching the customer."
So they are pushing for "meet-me" boxes outside of the downtown buildings, which would terminate fiber from the buildings into a fiber patch panel, and calling this open access.
Well, it is, after a fashion, but meet-me boxes favor the companies that already have fiber in the street or the alley. Any competitive provider that does not already have that advantage would have to spend a lot more money to get their fiber to the meet-me box. So the phone company cleverly "supports" open access by touting a solution that gives them a huge competitive advantage and effectively locks out most competition.
In fact, it is worse than that, because in this city there is a second provider that also has some fiber downtown, and they also like the meet-me box solution. Of course they do. The two companies would get an effective lock on the business market downtown and would be able to maintain their existing cartel-like pricing.
So this brings us to the notion that the fiber cable between the street and the building is the "most expensive part" of the network. It is not. As a general rule of thumb, it represents between 20% and 35% of the cost of a new build, and could be even less than 20% if the drop is made from a pole in the right of way to the side of the building (could be as low as 5% to 10% of the total build cost).
The incumbents are really stuck on "owning the customer." But the world is changing.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/02/2016 - 08:54
Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent are touting improvements in G.Fast, claiming 11 Gig speeds on copper. But when you read the fine print, that's on pristine brand new copper cable in the lab.....and....wait for it....over a distance of 150 feet.
Rural local loop copper is measured in tens of thousands of feet. Call me when they are getting 100 Meg speeds over ten thousand feet of fifty year old rural local loop copper with cracked, worn insulation that is letting water in every time it rains, and I'll get a bit more excited.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 11/08/2015 - 09:14
Forty-four Colorado communities passed referendums that give those the communities the right to build their own broadband infrastructure.
Colorado is one of those states that had a legislature pass a law forbidding local community investment in broadband unless a public referendum was voted on. At the time (ten years ago) the incumbents probably figured that was a bar too high for those towns and counties to jump over.
But after a decade of poor and slow service, the referendums passed easily. As < a href="http://eldotelecom.blogspot.com/2015/09/fccs-sohn-forget-incumbents-build-your.html">Gigi Sohn of the FCC noted recently, communities are going to have to build their own modern networks. And so they are.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/19/2015 - 14:12
All wireless "unlimited data" plans come with an expiration date. Once a cellular company's sales targets for new customer has been met, they change the "unlimited data" plan.
In this example, it is Sprint which has announced that once you use your monthly "unlimited" allotment of 23 Gig of data, you get throttled.
Exhibit Number One in the Museum of Why Wireless Won't Replace Fiber is data caps. If wireless was so wonderful, the cellular companies would not have to put data caps on their service. But the data caps PROVE that the wireless infrastructure can't handle the demand. If it could, they would not be doing this bait and switch.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:05
I had a call recently from a vendor trying to sell us "user controlled network shaping." I asked him who would want to do that, and he really could not answer the question. He just kept repeating how great it would be when users could configure the network to meet their needs.
I have seen a number of articles recently about "network shaping," and many of them make the pitch that this will be great for customers. I've never thought, "My copper-based phone service would be so much better if I could shape and control the bandwidth allocated for dial tone to my premises."
Very few telecom users care about the network...they care about the service. No one ever called the phone company and ordered three hundred feet of twisted pair, or called the cable company and asked for five hundred and twenty-five feet of coax with a DOCSIS 3 interface.
Users want to be able to choose among a variety of competitively-priced services. Users want to customize and select their services, but they don't want to customize the network. The future is in complete separation of transport and services. All the problems we have now are because transport and services are bundled together, so we get inferior transport (inferior bandwidth) because that's the only way to get the service.
As the Local Transport Provider (LTP) model becomes more common, the benefits will become more apparent. And for those that continue to insist that this is some esoteric and untested approach, it might be worth actually talking to LTP networks that have been in operation in the U.S. for years, like nDanville and The WiredRoad.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/27/2015 - 08:58
As I continue to read "A Great and Shining Road" about the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s, I continue to be amazed at the number of parallels between that project and the effort to get fiber to homes and businesses today.
While the scale of the two projects is different (the railroad was going to span the continent, while fiber needs to be built within towns and cities), the *resistance* to the project is the same.
Some of the fiercest opposition to the proposed transcontinental railroad came from the incumbent railroads, who saw competition as a bad thing. The incumbents got newspapers to print mis-leading articles and they wined and dined legislators and told them there was no need for another railroad. One railroad magnate even grandly pronounced that there was no need for a transcontinental railroad because hardly anyone traveled between the East Coast and the West Coast.
Of course, there were few travelers because there was no easy way to get across the country--sailing around the tip of South America or traversing the Isthmus of Panama (death from yellow fever was common), or braving Indian attach going cross country were the only three options. Today, we have incumbent telecom providers saying the same thing: "No needs a Gig of bandwidth because no one is using a Gig of bandwidth."
Well, you can't use it if you don't have it.
Here we are, more than 150 years later, repeating history, fighting the naysayers and entrenching interests.
Of course, we know how things turned out for the "crazy" concept of a transcontinental railroad: it transformed the nation and unleashed decades of economic growth across the entire country.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/18/2015 - 10:50
I have put some of my most popular papers over on the WideOpen Networks site. You can access them here.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/27/2015 - 11:00
We get asked all the time, "Why do I need a fiber connection at home? My Netflix works fine."
I was trying to do some work from home over the weekend, and I needed to move some relatively small files back and forth between my computer at home and a remote server. I was getting dial up speeds consistently for several hours. File transfers that would finish in a second or two at the office were taking many minutes--long enough that I had time to go do other things and then become more and more annoyed as I would check back and see the file transfer was still not complete.
Why so slow? I have a theory. It rained all weekend, and I think of lot of people (kids?) were streaming video, which can drag down the overall bandwidth and network responsiveness. Or it could be throttling of file transfers by the cable company in an effort to get me to pay extra for "business class" service.
Want to work from home? Want to run a business from home? We're designing and building networks that can deliver real business class services anywhere, making everyone more productive.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:53
Comcast has announced that it will give up trying to merge with TimeWarner Cable. The company has said that scrutiny from the Feds was a factor.
I never thought this was going to be important no matter how it turned out, because cable TV is dead. The body is still warm, but the rapid acceleration of Over The Top (OTT) alternatives to cable makes cable TV irrelevant. The cable giants already seem to understand this, and have been switching revenue streams to their Internet service for several years. Just like how my cable TV fees went up year after year by a few dollars, now my cable-delivered Internet goes up by a few dollars every year, even while the cost per Meg for Internet goes down (a primary expense for cable-delivered Internet).
TV is getting ever more interesting, and Netflix is leading the way. While HBO plowed new ground with non-network TV shows many years ago, Netflix is now producing some of the most interesting shows--Lillyhammer is just one example of the success of Netflix in producing high quality programming.
But despite the efforts of the cable network operators to increase Internet download bandwidth to their customers, their Achilles heel is the highly asymmetric service they offer that makes their "entertainment" service profoundly unsuitable for work from home and business from home activities.
The single biggest complaint we hear now is that "I can't work from home with my cable Internet connection." Whether we like the "always connected" business culture or not, the reality is that many of us are trying to get some work done from home at least part of the time, and the trend is accelerating. Meaningful business work from home requires symmetric bandwidth, and it is fiber that can deliver business class services. WideOpen Networks, our sister company, is now rolling out true community-owned Gigabit networks in the U.S. Want more information? Give Dave Sobotta a call at WideOpen: (540-552-2150).
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:00
This is a hair-raising story that highlights how broadband is changing economic development....no one wants to live in an area with poor broadband.
Just months after buying a new home, the owner is putting the house on the market because everyone told him he could get broadband service once he moved in, and that just turned out not to be true.
If you want to keep young people in your community and you want to attract businesses and entrepreneurs, broadband--not "little broadband," but "big broadband" is now essential economic development infrastructure.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/26/2015 - 13:15
I wrote this paper to help clarify what local open access networks actually do.
I have found that people continually confuse the local open access network with “service provider,” and thought that coming up with a new term might help.
Design Nine and WideOpen Networks will be at the Broadband Communities Annual Summit in Austin, Texas in April. Be sure to stop by our booth and say hello.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/09/2015 - 14:06
The Blandin Foundation has a must-read letter from a relatively small business that illustrates very clearly the problem that "not enough broadband" has on economic development.
The whole letter lays out numerous problems, but this is one of the most striking:
"I find many candidates that are excited to raise a family in a rural community, but they do not want to live in the digital equivalence of the 1980’s."
This is the challenge rural communities face in a single sentence. How do you continue to attract and retain young workers as your broadband capacity falls farther and farther behind? Read the whole thing.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/25/2015 - 10:16
The local transport provider has several important roles and responsibilities in providing a high-quality experience for both providers and their customers. The LTP provides professional day-to-day management of the network, offloading that work from the service providers. Typical work activities include
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 - 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 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, 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 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.
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