Broadband

Internet of Things: When creeps hack the baby monitor

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/14/2013 - 07:37

Color me skeptical about the buzz around "The Internet of Things." This is getting a lot of attention, because there is a lot of money to be made getting people to throw out their perfectly adequate $12 toaster and replacing it with a $60 WiFi-enabled toaster that you can control from your smartphone. But adding electronics to analog devices does not automatically make them a)more secure, or b)more reliable. The industry and government push to replace top-loading analog washers and dryers with energy-efficient front loading machines has had speed bumps, as the new machines have very expensive to replace electronics that don't always hold up well in a humid, wet environment. A mechanical control that cost twenty bucks has been replaced by a circuit board that costs $200.

And now let us consider this story, in which horrified parents discovered a complete stranger using their WiFi baby cam monitor to talk their child in the middle of the night. Cheap off the shelf WiFi chips and poorly tested network cards are being thrown into these devices as they are rushed to market, and few people are considering or can really even understand the security issues. It's a crazy world we are rushing into.

Stockholm's open fiber generates billions in economic benefits

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/13/2013 - 07:45

Stockholm's Stokab may be the oldest open fiber system in the world, and a recent study covering nearly twenty years of operations shows that the network has delivered over two billion dollars in economic benefit.

The young people are moving to the "Gig City"

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 08/09/2013 - 14:50

There is some moderately coarse language in this article, but it is worth reading if you are interested in economic and community development. What caught my eye is how successful Chattanooga has been in re-inventing itself as the "Gig City." Three years ago, it is hard to imagine that the creative class in places like New York and Los Angeles could even tell you what state Chattanooga was in, but today, it has become the place for the young and restless to move to. The low cost of living and cheap Gigabit fiber is drawing the Millenials to Tennessee, of all places, but it is really the fiber that has been the catalyst.

Why build a Gigabit City?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/08/2013 - 09:58

I see two things driving bandwidth demand in the business sector: VPNs and videoconferencing.

We talked to a large corporation that has a plan to move 20% of its workforce to the home--an option its wants to make to employees as work life quality issue (e.g. young children to take care of, time shifted work hours, etc.). They want a 50 meg, symmetric, low latency connection between every home based worker and the corporate network. Their math for that amount of bandwidth was simple. They intended to put an HD video camera and large screen monitor on every home-based worker's desk to support ubiquitous and convenient videoconferencing with supervisors and co-workers, and they wanted to support minimum of four people on a call simultaneously, meaning 8-10 Meg x four video streams, or as much as 40 meg just to stay connected.

I was in a branch office of a software firm with an interesting set up. They had two very high resolution HD cameras and two very large HD monitors with four large easy chairs facing the equipment. An identical set up was in the main office. They left all four cameras running 10-12 hours a day so that there was a full time HD video connection between both locations, and so it was very easy to have casual and spontaneous conversations with folks in either location. Both offices had affordable fiber connections, so they could "waste" the 40 to 50 meg of bandwidth that these four cameras used continuously for ten hours a day. But this becomes easy AND useful when you have an affordable Gigabit symmetric connection.

Communities that want to attract (or retain) companies using bandwidth this way need to be building a "Gigabit City," and doing it now.

The Internet of Things: When toilets attack

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 14:00

"When Toilets Attack" would make a great name for a B-grade movie, but this is a true story. We hear constantly now about "the Internet of Things," and Cisco is promoting this idea among many other companies. It's the idea that we will have many devices in our homes and businesses that are IP-addressable (and hence the need for IPv6, but that's another story). A Japanese toilet has an accompanying Android app that lets you "control" toilet functions like flushing, bidet faucet, and odor control fans, among other options. But the Bluetooth enabled commode can be controlled by any nearby Android device with the app, not just the owner of the flush-a-tronic crapper.

While this is mainly funny, the marketing hype of "the Internet of Things" is outstripping adequate software design and testing, as evidenced by this article about how cars can be hacked easily to create dangerous or deadly driving situations. While a computer has to be attached to the cars input port, this could be done easily without the owner of the vehicle even knowing, and then the rogue computer could control the throttle and brakes.

The researchers that demonstrated the car hacking noted that, "There's no authentication." In other words, the car designers and engineers never bothered to think about data security. It's a scary world out there.....

The Gigabit Community attracts young people

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 13:50

This Chicago Business article demonstrates perfectly why communities need to be able to offer affordable Gigabit access in residential homes and apartments. If you want young people, business from home entrepreneurs, and work from home employees (almost everyone works part time from home now), Gigabit services gets you noticed.

Google changes terms of service

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 13:28

Wired reports that Google has changed its position on net neutrality. The search giant has apparently told the FCC that it may not allow residential customers on its Google Fiber networks to attach servers to their home fiber connection. The company is suggesting that instead, customers that want to run a server will be encouraged to purchase a "business class" service that costs more.

It makes sense to charge more for the symmetric bandwidth that is usually required to run a server efficiently, but on our open access, multi-service networks, we don't find it useful to try to control what customers do; it turns both the service providers and the network owner (typically a community enterprise) into bandwidth police, and forces the network owner to be judge and jury about what might constitute "business" use of a fiber connection.

Instead, we develop pricing models that focus on user needs, which lets the customers choose if they want a residential service or a business class service, and takes providers and the network owner off the hook for judging what their customers are doing. And not incidentally, that policy approach encourages innovation and entrepreneurship in the community by keeping the cost of starting an Internet-based business very low.

Death of TV: Part XXXIX:70% of those under 35 are using online video

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 13:18

This short article from Fiber to the Home Council pretty much tells you everything you need to know about why communities need Gigabit broadband. In a survey of 2000 households in North America, 70% of those under 35 years of age are using over the top (OTT) video services like Netflix and Hulu, just two of the rapidly proliferating companies providing OTT video.

Even more interesting is that the survey shows the average broadband household has at least FIVE Internet connected devices...and so you have to design the network to support the possibility that all five devices are having video streamed to them at the same time.

Finally, half of the group under 35 have never bought any traditional package of cable/satellite TV.

Repeat and rinse as often as necessary...

TV is dead.
TV is dead.
TV is dead.
TV is dead....you get the idea.

What communities risk by putting off broadband investments

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 10:35

Fred Pilot excerpts two key points from a speech by Milo Medin, the head of the Google fiber initiative.

Read Pilot's summary, and he also links to Medin's full speech.

How to work from home (or remotely)

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 09:42

Here is a great article on how to manage people working remotely. This article has very specific and useful tips on what you need to do, what software tools you should use, and provides links to some of the recommended tools. We have been using this approach very successfully for years, and the two most important things we have found are:

  1. Videoconferencing that is easy to use and can be "always on" or nearly always on. This means Skype or some other one-click video tool, rather than something like Webex or GoToMeeting. We use GTM all the time, but you have to go through a dialogue to set up a videoconference with Webex and GTM, and the overhead is too high for remote collaboration.
  2. Good symmetric bandwidth at every worker's location. This means if you have someone working remotely from their home, they need business class broadband with a minimum of several meg of upload bandwidth. You need symmetric bandwidth to support the videoconferencing.

There are a variety of collaboration and project management tools, and you need something, but the minimum requirement will be a tool that can be accessed remotely so that all employees can easily keep project activities up to date.

Disturb your neighbors!

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/27/2013 - 13:12

U.S. Broadband: Almost as good as Russia!

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/27/2013 - 11:02

Long time readers will recognize a running joke in the title of this post. Here is a very brief note indicating that fiber is being aggressively deployed in Russia. Meanwhile, in the U.S., we're being told:

So take your choice, and if you need more bandwidth, maybe moving to Russia could be just the ticket.

The sad situation for rural "broadband"

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/12/2013 - 09:33

I like to distinguish between "little broadband" (i.e. DSL and cable modem) and "big broadband." What's the difference? "Little broadband" is typically able to consistently deliver only a few megabits per second down. In Blacksburg, as one example, DSL download speed is advertised as 1 megabit. The cable company here sells 20 meg and 30 meg packages, which work pretty well if there are not too many of your neighbors online at the same time. Performance degrades noticeably after 3 PM, when schools let out and kids come home and hit the computer, their tablets, and their smartphones. And don't try to work at home on a snow day. Little broadband also has constricted upload speeds, which makes working from home very difficult, as videoconferencing may not work when there is neighborhood network congestion, and the asymmetric bandwidth makes moving large files back and forth between home and the office very difficult if not impossible.

"Big broadband" is a minimum 100 megabit symmetric pipe, and the networks that Design Nine builds all start on day one with Gigabit pipes to every home and business. The only thing we design and build is Gigabit networks.

So what about rural broadband. The Daily Yonder has a great article on the sad state of broadband connectivity in rural areas, which still lags behind the rest of the country. The graphs show the disparity clearly, but rural areas still lag far behind more populous parts of the country. The good news is that it is possible to build Gigabit networks in rural areas and make them financially sustainable...we know, because we're doing it. Give us a call or drop us a note if you want to make your area a Gigabit community.

The Balkanization of telecom

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 05/24/2013 - 12:46

In a discussion on LinkedIn, Michael Elling wrote, "Supply follows demand not the other way around." Exactly. I've been making this argument for years. Too many communities get tied up debating how to improve backhaul in and out of the community when they should be pumping intra-community demand by adding shared infrastructure and driving up demand. That local demand will attract investment to build more capacity to the community. It's not a guaranteed strategy in all cases, but it's already happening all over the country--but not in a good way.

The problem right now, and Blacksburg is an excellent example, is that we are seeing micro-monopolies developing as fiber providers target low hanging fruit in a community, sign up unsuspecting businesses and institutions onto long term contracts, then use the contracts to finance a fiber build. Presto...wherever that fiber goes, the odds of any other fiber provider adding more fiber is driven close to zero. So instead of having the community under the thumb of one monopoly provider, we now have portions of the community divided up, each under the thumb of smaller providers, each provider fat and happy in their own little monopoly zone.

Shared infrastructure mitigates this once and for all.

Frontier signs on the City of Eagan open access network

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/23/2013 - 13:14

Frontier Communications has signed a master network agreement with the City of Eagan, making Frontier the first service provider on the City's AccessEagan fiber network. Design Nine has worked closely with the City over the past several years to help plan, design, build, and manage the high performance network. Eagan is now a "Gigabit City," with a Gigabit standard fiber connection on the network. The nearly seventeen miles of Metro Ethernet, carrier class fiber passes thousands of businesses, including companies like Blue Cross and Delta.

FCC can enforce cell tower site approvals

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/22/2013 - 09:04

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the FCC can enforce "reasonable" approval times for cell tower site applications, meaning that local governments can't stall applications. The FCC has wanted 90 day and 150 day deadlines for approval of cell tower site applications. As I read the article, it does not mean all tower site applications have to be approved by local government, but the local government has to approve or reject the application within the FCC "reasonable time" definition.

"Now is no time to claim we can't get real Internet...."

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/29/2013 - 12:48

Chris Mitchell at MuniNetworks has a great point, and one I've argued for a long time: If most houses in America already have two cables (electric and phone), how is it that it is just too darn hard to run a third tiny cable, much smaller than an electric cable, to most homes? And from the business side, if the phone company and the electric company can make money from providing one service on their respective cables, how is it that the incumbents claim they can't make money from a cable that can deliver several services to a home or business? Something is not quite right with that argument--and we know, as we do financial and business plans for multi-service networks all the time...there is plenty of money for broadband. It's just a matter of knowing how to put the business plan together....and picking the right business plan.

Still time to register for Broadband Communities Summit 2013

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/04/2013 - 10:13

Broadband Communities Summit ’13 covers the top broadband issues – with outstanding content and top-notch speakers.

There is a new track on Revenue Opportunities that includes a session on Telemedicine, and one on Revenue Opportunities for Networks that will demonstrate how generate the cash flow needed to make networks financially successful.

Design Nine will be there as an exhibitor--stop by and say hello, and I am speaking in a couple of sessions. Last year's conference was terrific--the Broadband Communities folks really work hard to deliver solid content at every session; this is not just a lot of corporate sales presentations.

Hotel rooms are still available at the conference price until Friday--don't wait.

Can we wait 20 years?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 09:54

Here is a great article from an analyst in Australia. He correctly identifies that high speed broadband needs to be both available and affordable. Exactly. The incumbents are fond of playing a game of "Look,there's a squirrel!" with legislators by telling them that they (the incumbents) can provide high speed broadband anywhere. But what they always leave out is that the cost of those connections is usually prohibitive, and only large corporate and institutional customers can afford the cost of such fiber circuits.

Who needs Gigabit Nationwide?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:13

The FCC has just released a new challenge to create Gigabit Cities throughout the nation. One might wonder why do we really need Gigabit fiber connections at our homes and businesses.

Here's a very specific example. On Sunday morning, I started to back up a measly 7 Gig of photos from my phone to my Dropbox account in the cloud. Forty-eight hours later, the upload is still going, and it's barely half finished. When the average home upload speed is often 1 megabit/second or even much less, it becomes a monumental task to back up our music, pictures, videos, and files to a remote back up service.

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