Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:42
Here is an excellent article from MuniNetworks that provides an excellent overview of the problems with broadband speed tests. It is easy for service providers to spoof speed tests into reporting higher upload and download speeds than anyone actually gets on a daily basis.
Speed tests are a bit of a problem for community-owned networks, as they generally don't show the dramatic performance improvements of the local network, because the speed test servers are located somewhere else on the Internet. So it is hard to show just how much better the local network is compared to an incumbent network. The solution is for the community network to install a speed test server on the local network, where the full bandwidth can be shown without the latency of the public Internet.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/13/2012 - 10:34
As part of Verizon's restructuring of its cellular service to allow for shared data plans, the company is going to offer free texting, but overall, your monthly cellular bill could be higher. Verizon is getting rid of unlimited data plans and replacing them with "pay by the drink" plans that will meter bandwidth use. As little as a couple of hours of video streaming (think one Netflix movie) would push bandwidth right through the 6 gigabyte monthly package, leading to sharply higher charges for that month.
It's really a question of physics. It is much cheaper to deliver bandwidth over fiber, and always will be. As I have been saying for a long long time, wireless is important for mobile access, but we all need fiber at home and at work. Nothing is going to change that.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/12/2012 - 12:32
In what will surely cause an uptick in the sale of smartphones, Verizon has rolled out a shared data plan. This will be popular with families with teenagers who have been clamoring for a smartphone, as the parents (known to the kids as "the wallet") may be willing to pay the $10/phone base fee rather than the old $25 or $30 per phone data charge. AT&T is expected to roll out a similar plan.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/15/2012 - 09:44
Georgia Tech and Microsoft have released a study that confirms what most of us already knew: bandwidth caps discourage people from using broadband productively. Bandwidth caps are great for inflating the profit margins of the incumbents when someone runs over their limit and starts incurring more charges, but if you want your business community and your work from home business start ups to be as productive as possible, saddling them with outdated 20th century infrastructure that limits what they can do is not the way to go.
Design Nine helps our clients build modern broadband networks that can deliver as much bandwidth as any business or home-based worker might need--affordably. It's not that hard, but it does require the right business model, the right long term financial plan, and a network architecture that can deliver Gigabit bandwidth affordably without crippling economic development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 09:40
Here is an interesting statement from the Roku folks:
"Generally we recommend a network speed of at least 1.2 Mbps, but to view live events, like Major League Baseball games, you’ll want at least 3 Mbps. For HD viewing, we recommend 5 Mbps.”
Notice that they are saying a single channel of live HD requires AT LEAST 5 Meg of bandwidth. Roku does not say, "...up to 5 Meg," or "...5 meg when no one else in the neighborhood is sucking all the bandwidth down watching a movie." They are saying, "...if you want to watch live events in HD, you need 5 meg of bandwidth per stream." By per stream, that means if two of you in your home are watching two different live events, you need 5 Meg x 2 = 10 Meg of bandwidth. That will never happen over DSL, and even on cable networks where they are now advertising wildly inflated bandwidth promises ("...up to 15 meg with SuperIncredibleGinormousCableBoost technology...."), just a few people trying to watch an HD broadcast in the same neighborhood are going to slow things to a crawl.
It's worse for business. The ever-increasing cost of travel, coupled with much improved technology is pushing videoconferencing quickly into a "must have" business requirement. Our videoconferences with clients here at Design Nine often includes four different people in four different locations. Using the Roku standard for picture quality, each location would need 4 x 5 Meg = 20 Meg of bandwidth...at each location. Just for a routine business meeting.
Within ten years, 90% of the homes and businesses in America will have fiber, and much of it will NOT be supplied from the incumbent telephone and cable companies.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/19/2012 - 14:32
Design Nine recently brought up a new 300 megabit wireless link that feeds a community center and a rural fiber to the home effort (100 residences). The fiber to the home work is still underway, but the community center went online a couple of weeks ago, with both wireless access and a lab with ten fully equipped computers. Local residents of this very rural community have been flocking to the center. Many are bringing their laptops and just using the wireless link to the Internet, and many others are using the computers in the lab. What is interesting is the number of people that are using the bandwidth to take college courses online. Formerly, they were driving anywhere between 15 and 30 miles to get to a location where they could get broadband Internet access, and they are delighted to have broadband just minutes from their home. Some of them will be able to order fiber connections directly to the home as that construction work is finished, but in this economy, the ability to take college classes without driving long distances saves real money.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 15:36
The always insightful Eldo Telecom points to a news item that quotes a telecom analyst who tried to use the much ballyhooed LTE for several months as his primary broadband connection. He gave up and went back to a landline, partly because of the cost and partly because of performance. The money quote is, "There's just not enough capacity there."
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 12/07/2011 - 09:56
The New York Times has an excellent article on the now almost two decades old digital divide problem. Where the digital divide was once "who has dial up access and who doesn't," it is now "who has real high speed access and who doesn't?"
The article does a good job of outlining the challenges that face communities, including the citizens and businesses that find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. Of particular note is this:
"...it is hard to get a college degree from a remote location using wireless. Few people would start a business using only a wireless connection."
Fiber is the long term technology solution for both wired business and residential access as well as improved wireless and mobility access; what everyone forgets is that wireless networks have to move data and voice traffic onto the wired network, and robust open access fiber networks make wireless networks work better and makes wireless less expensive..
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/08/2011 - 09:01
The Atlantic Cities has a very well researched article on the recent vote for muni broadband in Longmont, Colorado and the broader push by some of the incumbents to lobby for state laws that effectively outlaw community broadband projects and indirectly grant the incumbents a monopoly on telecom. Read the whole thing.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 08:49
Muni Networks has an excellent weekly email that summarizes their coverage of community broadband issues during the week. There is a link up on the right hand top of the home page to subscribe.
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