Broadband

North Carolina called a "tech turkey"

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.

Rotary trencher ideal for residential fiber drop installation

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.

"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.

"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.

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.

The future of the Internet is fiber

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.

Is distance learning a killer app?

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.

There's just not enough capacity there

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."

NY Times: "The New Digital Divide"

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..

Is the telecom lobby killing municipal and community broadband?

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.

Muni Networks mailing list

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.

Longmont, Colorado votes YES on community broadband

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 08:46

The citizens and the City of Longmont, Colorado have been engaged in a long running battle with the incumbent providers over the right of the City to build its own broadband infrastructure. In a referendum held on Tuesday, it appears that by a two to one margin, the referendum has passed. Chris Mitchell at Muni Networks has an excellent summary of the effort.

Job growth demands business class broadband

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 08:12

If you look at the jobs report released today, it underscores what I have been saying for a decade: neighborhoods are the new business district. CNBC summarizes the September jobs data; the manufacturing sector LOST jobs, but if you go to the household survey, job creation was in the black (modestly).

What does this mean? It means more people are working from home, and that means they need business class broadband, not an "entertainment service," as my cable company quaintly calls our home Internet service.

Rinse and repeat as needed until elected officials get the message:

Neighborhoods are business districts, and business districts need competitive and affordable telecom service options.

Death of TV: Part XXXII -- "Okay"

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 12:32

True story. I discussed the possibility of eliminating our family cable TV subscription and just sticking with Internet. The response was, and I quote exactly, "Okay. Can we get Hulu Plus?" That's the state of cable TV today. It doesn't even merit a 30 second discussion of its value.

Why broadband still matters

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 08:09

Now that the broadband stimulus money has been distributed, and the Google fiber initiative has taken root in the two Kansas Cities, a lot of communities seem to have lost interest in broadband initiatives. The cable companies have done a fairly good job of keeping up with demand, and the telephone companies continue to cling to their share of the broadband market by competing on price rather than on bandwidth.

But this apparent "Remain calm! All is well" approach is the calm before the storm. And the storm is coming to us in a huge cloud. In the past week, Amazon and Apple have rolled out new cloud-based initiatives that will stream content everywhere, all the time. If cloud storage seems like a gimmick, it is not. It is the answer to the utter uselessness of trying to keep all our media content, personal and business, on local hard drives. Music, pictures, movies, and what we used to quaintly call "TV" are driving this problem. Even though you can buy a two terabyte hard drive for $150, you can fill it faster than lickety-split with purchased video. And then you have to figure out how to back it up. Backing it up with a second drive is a good start, but suppose your house or business burns down? Both drives are gone, as is all your data.

Add to that the fact that everyone now wants everything available on every computing device they own, which typically comprises, for many people, FOUR devices: a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet, and a desktop computer. And the portable devices will never have enough storage to keep everything on the device itself. So the cloud is not a typical IT solution in search of a question. We know what the question is, and the cloud is the answer. But streaming everything to everyone all the time is going to create, over the next several years, exponential increases in demand for bandwidth. And that's when the copper-based DSL and cable modem networks will run out of steam.

Communities that have not made plans to ensure a modern fiber-based infrastructure that also supports ubiquitous wireless mobility access will be at a severe disadvantage from an economic development perspective.

Oh, and one more thing. There is another sleeper in the battle for streaming content....Rhapsody (the music service) just bought Napster to try to fight Spotify. Spotify is a streaming music service that is huge in Europe but only recently began operations in the U.S. So the music industry is still undergoing a massive reorganization that is focused on streaming any song ever recorded to anyone, at any time, anywhere. And it is going to be a battle of Titans, with Apple, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify, and even tiny Microsoft with its Zune music service all going head to head.

Net-Workshop real time report

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/19/2011 - 14:18

I'm tweeting the Net-Workshop (9/19/11) in real time if you want to follow it (@designnine). Net-Workshop is a one day meeting of community broadband leaders from around the country.

The death of cable TV: Part XXIX

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 14:28

I had a conversation last week with a new college grad who had just started a new job and had moved into a new apartment. The young woman had a couple of questions about her Internet connection, which she had purchased from the local phone company (DSL). I asked if she had considered a cable TV/cable modem package.

She said, "No, I never watch TV. I can get whatever I need from the Internet."

In a nutshell, the customer base of the cable TV industry is getting old and dying, and they don't have a plan to attract younger customers.

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