Broadband

AT&T: DSL is "obsolete"

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/20/2011 - 13:24

The CEO of AT&T has stated that DSL is "obsolete." In a speech on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Randall Stephenson said the telephone giant invested in DSL in the nineties to compete with the cable companies. AT&T is now concentrating on wireless and it's fiber to neighborhood offering called Uverse. Uverse continues to use copper from a neighborhood cabinet to the premises, making it less capable than fiber to the premises.

It's official: The DVD is dead

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/20/2011 - 13:17

Apple released the latest version of its Macintosh operating system today (OS X Lion). The software is available only via a download right now, and you better have a good, high capacity broadband connection if you want it, as the download is four gigabytes. Apple also announced that it will sell a version of the software on a USB thumb drive next month. In other words, no DVD version, not now, not ever. Apple has consistently led the way in media, including the 3.5 inch floppy, the CD drive, the DVD drive, USB ports, and Firewire, among others. If Apple is dropping the DVD, expect other computer makers to follow.

But note also that this shift to encouraging downloads of major pieces of software also highlights the need for homes and businesses to have adequate and affordable broadband connections, or be left behind.

Even more interesting, new Macs come with the ability to install the latest operating system from an entirely blank hard drive--as long as you have an adequate Internet connection.

U.S.Broadband: Almost as good as Northern Balochistan!

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/15/2011 - 10:47

Long time readers of this blog know that I have a running joke about comparing the state of U.S. broadband infrastructure to other countries. The latest insult is Northern Balochistan (part of Pakistan), which is getting a 1,100 kilometre fiber build. Meanwhile, our rather measly national goal is 4 meg down, 1 meg up, which won't support work and business from home applications and is barely adequate for Netflix.

Danville: Open access quietly working, attracting jobs, lowering costs

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/17/2011 - 09:44

Here is an article about the City of Danville open access network (called nDanville). nDanville started as an open access network in late 2007, so it is in its fourth year. It was the first municipal open access effort in the United States, and has been quietly cutting costs for Internet and VoIP phone service by as much 80% for businesses and institutions using providers on the nDanville fiber network. It has also been bringing jobs and businesses to the community. One of the major economic developments in which nDanville played a key role was the re-purposing of the "White Mill" building. Just a couple of blocks from downtown, the White Mill building was once one of the largest textile plants in the country. But it was closed years ago, and the multi-story building sat empty until it was purchased last year. It is undergoing a complete renovation as a high tech data center, and access to nDanville fiber was crucial to closing the deal. nDanville has also helped attract a specialty PC manufacturer to the community, and more broadly, just about every business using providers on the nDanville network have enjoyed substantially lower costs for VPNs, Internet access, and voice services. The local hospital recently switched to an IP TV provider on nDanville and is enjoying substantial monthly savings from the switch.

nDanville is operated with a staff of two people as part of the City Utilities department. All services to businesses and residents are provided by private sector providers that use nDanville to transport those services over a high performance active Ethernet fiber network. nDanville offers standard 100 megabit, Gigabit, and 10Gigabit connections. Design Nine provided the City with the original business, financial, and technical planning with the network, and continues to assist the City with the project.

First NC, now Tennessee: Dumb Internet laws

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/09/2011 - 09:00

Tennessee legislators just passed a law making it illegal to transmit an image that could "..frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to someone who sees it." And the person who suffers "emotional distress" does not have to be the person you sent it to. Suppose you send out a picture of a cat hanging desperately from the branch of tree to a friend. That friend forwards it on. Twenty forwards later, some cat lover sees it and is emotionally distressed that the poor cat is in danger. They look at the original sender of the email, report it to Tennessee law enforcement, and bingo, you are put in jail for a year and fined $2500 (you would have to be a resident of Tennessee).

Who writes comes up with these laws? Did they even think to ask a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law for an opinion?

Cisco says data traffic continuing to double every two years

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/03/2011 - 08:45

Cisco, the world's largest manufacturer of active Ethernet equipment, says that the historical trend of broadband data demand doubling every two years is continuing. The company expects the typical bandwidth need for fixed point broadband access (e.g. DSL, fiber, cable) to increase from 7 megabits now to 28 megabits by 2015. This paints a grim future for PON networks, which typically are designed to provide about 30 megabits of bandwidth to the home, meaning most PON networks will be obsolete in just three years. I think this is one of the reasons Verizon put a moratorium on extending their FiOS (PON) networks: they realized they were painting themselves into a corner with respect to bandwidth.

nDanville Medical Network wins ICF Founders Award

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/19/2011 - 13:07

The nDanville Medical Network has won the Intelligent Community Forum Founders Award. The Medical Network is part of the larger nDanville fiber initiative, which was the first municipal open access network in the United States; the network began adding its first customers in 2007. Medical customers on the network have averaged 30% less cost for connections while being able to double the amount bandwidth, for a total overall cost reduction of more than 50%. The high performance fiber has enabled transmission of CT and other medical imaging scans between the hospital and the medical imaging center in another part of the city.nDanville is a client of Design Nine.

Broadband Properties Conference: Worst practice in community broadband networks

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 09:26

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.

Daily Yonder: The broadband speed divide

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:31

Here is another excellent piece from The Daily Yonder about the sad state of rural broadband. The article has a short, well illustrated analysis of the gap between rural broadband speeds and the rest of the country, taken from new data released by the federal government. Here is a summary of the very bad news:

From an economic development perspective, this is a slow motion catastrophe, as young people will leave rural areas without adequate broadband, and entrepreneurs and the self-employed will NOT move to rural areas with inadequate "little broadband."

Meanwhile, legislators in North Carolina are throwing their rural constituents under the bus of broadband crony capitalism, with incumbents determined to protect their monopoly position in the marketplace at all costs.

Broadband: It's crony capitalism, not free markets that are the problem

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/14/2011 - 08:09

The usually excellent Stop the Cap! has a report on the truly awful anti-broadband bill making its way through the North Carolina legislature, but they lost me when they started blaming "free markets" as the problem. Uh, no, the problem is crony capitalism, where the incumbents spread campaign donations liberally to representatives of both parties, to obtain the best laws money can buy. That's not free markets.

When Stop the Cap! indicts "free markets" as the problem, the incumbents win, because that's the line the incumbents use to confuse the issue. Most incumbent telecom providers are, in fact, utterly opposed to free markets, because they lose their de facto monopoly status in a free market.

This distinction is absolutely critical to winning the debate. Community broadband efforts are going to lose every time if the community broadband pitch is "we don't like free markets." Community broadband is all about free markets and competition, real competition, of the kind we see in open access projects like Utopia with seventeen (17) providers on the network--that's an open market, and that's what communities want and need.

The proper response to "It's important to let the free market prevail..." in a discussion about telecom is to agree. "Yes, we agree completely. We fully support free markets. We want buyers of telecom services to be able to buy from a wide variety of telecom providers, not just one or two acting as a local cartel."

The "free markets" argument is a red herring. Community broadband advocates need to vigorously applaud free markets, then point out where they don't exist.

Google announces all 1,100 cities will get fiber

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/01/2011 - 08:36

Mountain View, CA (4/1/11)
The head of Google's Fiber Initiative, Milo Medin, announced today that all 1,100 cities that applied for Google fiber will be included in a second round of fiber buildouts by the search giant. Unlike Kansas City, which is getting Google fiber on very favorable terms, the other 1,099 cities will be required to sign a more restrictive contract with Google before the company will start constructing fiber. Among the terms in the contract:

Google indicated that the company has no intention of forcing any community to agree to accept the wide range of services and infrastructure enhancements, so it has developed a special one step process that gives each community a democratic process for choosing participation. A voter referendum would be put on the ballot at the next local election which will state, "We agree to disband our local government, including all elected and appointed officials, and replace them with Google Fiber Initiative staff: YES/NO." If the referendum is passed, then and only then will Google build fiber infrastructure in the community.

In the press conference announcing this on April 1st, Google officials conceded that the program "might not be a good fit for every community that applied."

Why Google picked Kansas City, Kansas

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 16:43

It was an easy decision. Kansas City is an electric city, so they own the poles. So no costly and long dragged out pole surveys, no make ready and no pole attachment fees, and the ability to take fiber anywhere in the electric service area at very low cost.

I'm sure that Kansas City also offered to hang all the fiber using their electric utility crews and buckets trucks.

No mystery here....it's a smart choice.

Love the cloud...the Amazon cloud

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 08:48

I have always had the feeling that becoming an Amazon customer is a bit like joining the Borg: resistance is futile. But Amazon really does believe in customer service, and is particularly good at identifying trends and then developing services to meet the new market demand. Amazon is beginning a big push for their Cloud Drive service, which lets you upload files to an Amazon server and then access them from anywhere. In concept, it is no different that the file storage Apple has offered first via dotMac and now via MobileMe. But Apple has never paid much attention to MobileMe, and my own experience with MobileMe has been decidely mixed. MobileMe and Cloud Drive are both essentially virtual hard drives, and they differ from the backup services like Carbonite because backup services are not designed to provide routine access to your files. On the other hand, the backup services provide more tools to make sure everything gets backup regularly. Some people are going to use both, and some might settle for the virtual hard drive approach to save money.

As I've been writing recently, cloud services are only as good as your broadband connection. The interesting thing about cloud-based virtual hard drives is that the big companies have no real advantage over a small firm with servers closer to customers. If I was starting a business, I'd be looking at something very different from the massive data centers Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft are building. I'd be looking at putting servers and services on community broadband networks and getting my cloud services as close as possible to my customers. Why? By doing so, I can provide better services at lower cost than the big guys.

Doing the job that telecom incumbents won't do

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/25/2011 - 09:38

Via Fred Pilot at Eldo Telecom, Geoff Daily makes the argument that "all broadband is fiber." Geoff has it exactly right. Just yesterday, I met with a community leader who asked, appropriately, "What if we spend all this money on fiber and wireless turns out to be cheaper and better?"

Daily reminds us that all wireless networks eventually dump their traffic onto fiber networks in order to work properly. If wireless were the solution, the backhaul for wireless networks would be wireless, not fiber. And we can take that even further, as the "little broadband" solutions of DSL and cable modem would not work at all if they did not aggregate their traffic onto fiber cables.

Fiber is the future of economic development in America's communities. Economic developers and community leaders that ignore the importance of affordable, high performance broadband availability are putting their community's economic future at great risk.

Death of TV, Part XXVII: ABC, NBC, CBS... and Netflix!

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/17/2011 - 10:15

The old TV empires are crumbling fast, and Netflix is speeding their demise. It just outbid all the other networks for a new original, uh, "TV" series called , which will star Kevin Spacey. Since you can watch Netflix on just about any device on the planet, there is even less reason to keep around one of those old timey television doohickeys. All they are really good for is as a large screen for your iPad 2, which does a great job of streaming live Netflix content in HD to them. More seriously, the big losers in all this are the cable companies. While Comcast furiously tries to close the barn door after the horses all bolted ages ago by trying to block Netflix, it will shortly become apparent even to cable TV execs that no one really needs them any more, unless the cable TV folks wake up and smell the coffee. And that rich aroma is open access. If the cable companies simply switched to being a massive pipe available to any service provider, including Netflix, they could quickly make enough money to pay off their massive debts. But I'm not betting that their olfactory senses are still working.

iPad users crash cable TV system

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/16/2011 - 18:25

Someone asked me just today if we really will need all the bandwidth that fiber offers, with the unspoken inference that DSL and cable modem service seems to be working just fine.

Uh-huh.

I came back to my hotel after dinner and found this article: TimeWarner rolled out its new "watch TV on your iPad" service and it's network was promptly overwhelmed by people who thought, "Hey, what a great idea...just what I have been waiting for." The cable giant had to cut back the number of channels available to just fifteen (cut 50% from the original 30). So anyone who thinks 1950s-based copper networks are just fine, the second biggest cable company in the country had its network crashed by a very small number of iPad owners. What happens when everyone tries to watch TV on a tablet device? And no, DOCSIS 3.0 is not the answer to that question. Symmetric, active Ethernet fiber networks are the answer.

Lessons in disaster recovery, tsunamis, and meltdowns

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 07:31

We will probably not know the full story of the nuclear reactor problems in Japan for many months, but one news story I read over the weekend suggests that the the Japanese are re-learning the lessons of the Katrina disaster. Apparently the Japanese reactors survived the initial earthquake and tsunami without much damage--but whatever was damaged caused the primary cooling pumps to fail. No big deal, as nuclear power plants have extensive back up and redundant secondary cooling systems designed to take over if the primary cooling system fails.

If the primary cooling system fails, the reactor is usually shutdown immediately, meaning no electric power. Even when the control rods are in, heat can continue to be generated for some time, hence the need for secondary cooling. So here is the scenario. Primary cooling fails. The reactor is shut down, and secondary backup cooling systems are activated. Apparently all this happened just as it was supposed to immediately after the earthquake and tsunami. The secondary cooling pumps are powered by large diesel generators, which apparently ran for about an hour, then shut down.

Why did they shut down? The fuel was contaminated by seawater.

So what was the lesson of Katrina the Japanese missed? In the New Orleans area, many telecom, radio, TV, and computer installations were thoughtfully built on upper floors of buildings so that they would be immune from flooding. But the generators and fuel tanks that were supposed to power all those systems in the event of a power outage were all installed at ground level, because it costs more money to put heavy, loud generators and diesel fuel on an upper floor. So the hurricane winds blew down power poles and the power went out first. No problem. Emergency generators started up, and everything kept running. Until the water came and flooded and the fuel tanks and generators.

One small ISP in downtown New Orleans stayed up and running throughout the entire flood because they had installed a generator on an upper floor. They managed to truck in 55 gallon barrels of diesel fuel once their initial supply ran out.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

How is your community's disaster recovery plans? Many areas of the U.S. are flood prone, but everywhere I go, I see generators now--which were very rare ten years ago. But those generators are all on the ground. Is that okay for your area? What about a ten year flood? What about a 100 year flood?

Wired towns shove cities out of the way

Submitted by acohill on Sat, 02/26/2011 - 15:44

Here is a study that indicates that smaller communities with the right broadband infrastructure are "...emerging as major economic centers." What about your community? Does it have the infrastructure to attract new businesses?

National Broadband Map now available

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:23

The first iteration of the National Broadband Map is now available. This effort has been part of the broadband stimulus effort, and it will be updated regularly over the next three to four years as individual states provide more data to NTIA. The map zooms nicely, so you can get a pretty good local picture of what technology is available, and you can select which technologies you want to look at (e.g. fiber to the home, cable modem, wireless, etc.). With the exception of mobile wireless (i.e. cellular), you can quickly see that most of rural America is still poorly connected or not connected at all. What is particularly surprising is how few areas have high speed cable modem service (called DOCSIS 3.0). It is much less available than I expected. Oh, and Mac users.....this does not work with Safari, but Firefox is okay.

"This is like electricity was....This is a critical utility"

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:15

That quote is from Brian Depew with the Center for Rural Affairs, in Nebraska. The New York Times has an article today about how rural areas of the U.S. are being left behind with respect to broadband. Depew goes on to say:

“You often hear people talk about broadband from a business development perspective, but it’s much more significant than that,” Mr. Depew added. “This is about whether rural communities are going to participate in our democratic society. If you don’t have effective broadband, you are cut out of things that are really core to who we are as a country.”

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