Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/05/2009 - 07:54
From the good folks in Wilson, NC, an excerpt from a letter that fiber equipment manufacturer Alcatel wrote in support of the right of communities to improve broadband services. Good for Alcatel. In part, it is probably a business decision, which makes it even more interesting--the company must know that municipal broadband efforts are good business.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 05/01/2009 - 10:18
I am back from three days at the Broadband Properties annual conference. As more communities make investments in broadband infrastructure, we are beginning to get some interesting data back on the economic impact.
In Anson, Indiana, a developer is putting duct and fiber to 1790 homes and 9 million square feet of commercial and retail space--all part of a master planned community. The investment has brought an Amazon distribution center and 1200 jobs to the community.
In Orlando, Florida, the Lake Nona planned community is building one of the nation's largest set of medical facilities, with more than 5 million square feet of specialty clinics, hospitals, and medical facilities. One million square feet of retail is planned, and 5400 housing units are being built. There will be fiber to every single premise.
In the rural Hill Country near Austin, Texas, the local telephone coop is building fiber to the home, and says that the initiative has retained 150 jobs and added 200 new jobs. The coop works closely with local economic developers, who are pushing hard to get the right telecom infrastructure to be able to meet any business need.
Economic developers in other parts of the country need to be asking: "How do our regions compare with these kinds of projects? How will we convince companies to come to our region when these other communities have world class telecom infrastructure?"
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/23/2009 - 14:15
A new report by Nielsen says time spent watching video online has increased in the past five years by 2,000%. And the number of people watching video online is increasing by 10% per year, meaning in about seven years, everyone will be watching video on the Internet. TV is dead, dead, dead.
And as I have been saying for years, the Internet business model being used today by the incumbents and smaller providers is upside down and unsustainable--bandwidth by the bucket does not work when users are asking to refill the bucket faster and faster each day, week, and month. And charging to refill the bucket does not scale up, as the bandwidth quickly becomes unaffordable when watching lots of video.
The solution is to change the business model. It's not hard, and the incumbent providers would actually make more money after the conversion. But some of them are going to go bankrupt rather than admit they need to change.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 12:08
Here is a nice little table that compares the price of broadband in various places around the world. Stockholm's municipal fiber network has the best pricing: $11 per month for 100/100 megabits (symmetric). Compare that to some U.S. offerings like one incumbent's 50/20 megabit (asymmetric, less than half the capacity) service for $145.
Submitted by acohill on Sat, 04/18/2009 - 16:22
Andrew Cohill, President of Design Nine, announced today that The Wired Road has begun full operations. An official ribbon-cutting takes place in Galax on April 20th, 2009 at 11 AM. The regional network is the largest integrated fiber and wireless open access, open services municipal network in the United States, and the high performance network will eventually provide services across more than 1,000 square miles of mountainous terrain in southwest Virginia. The project is a collaboration among three local governments, including Grayson and Carroll counties and the City of Galax. Crossroads Institute and Carroll County Public Schools are also partners in the effort. Design Nine provided the early planning, developed the financial and business models for the project, designed the network architecture, and provided comprehensive project management services to get the network built.
Planning for the project began in early 2007, and construction started later in the fall of that year. The first customers began using the system in mid-2008, and wireless residential and businesses customers can now request service connections. As an open access network, the project is unique among municipal broadband projects because all services are provided by private sector companies--the local governments are not selling any services to businesses and residents.
Cohill noted several other significant accomplishments, which include installing fiber in downtown Galax and deploying high performance wireless broadband to residents and businesses in portions of Carroll and Grayson counties that were completely unserved by broadband. Cohill said, “Residents that have been on dial up have been stopping work crews and asking when they can get wireless and fiber services. Everyone is anxious to get connected.” The fiber in Galax will provide connectivity not only to businesses but to organizations like the City government and the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts. The Twin County Regional Hospital has been using Wired Road fiber since January. The hospital’s switch to The Wired Road fiber got the institution a big increase in bandwidth with a sharp reduction in cost, and a local service provider was able to get the hospital’s Internet business for the first time.
Design Nine managed the entire network build out, which included vendor evaluation and selection, supervision of all the construction work, testing of the network, and installation of network management and monitoring software. Design Nine also developed a complete set of business, financial, and operations policies and procedures for the regional authority that was created to run the network.
Design Nine’s high performance design provides 100 megabit fiber connections and and multi-megabit wireless speeds. The project recently received additional funding that will expand wireless access in rural areas and will get fiber into every business park in the region.
About Design Nine – Design Nine provides visionary broadband network design and engineering services to clients, communities, and regions throughout the U.S. The firm has active projects in eight states, with several fiber to the home (FTTH) projects in build out or operations, including the first municipal open network in the U.S. Design Nine manages broadband fiber and wireless projects from beginning to end, including the initial assessment, design, construction, and operations phases. The company is one of the most experienced open access broadband network design firms in the United States, and offers a full range of assessment, planning, financial analysis, business design, and project management for public and private networks.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/13/2009 - 09:09
This report from TURN (The Utility Reform Network) has some excellent information about competition (and the lack of it) in wireline telephone markets, based on a study done in California. It is a lengthy report, but the Executive Summary does a good job of summarizing the findings. They key result was that there is still too little competition for phone service, and that for a variety of reasons, many households can't just drop wireline phone service and use cellphones--meaning that cellphone service is not an adequate market counterbalance to monopoly telephone service.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 04/07/2009 - 10:41
In a break with the past, Benjamin Media's Digital City Expo is going online. The entire two day conference will be conducted via the Web, using webinars, chat, and live two way audio to put speakers and the audience in direct contact. It is a bold and interesting experiment, and potentially will give a much broader audience access to the conference and the information provided by presenters. Digital City Expo is the only broadband conference that focuses exclusively on community and municipal broadband, and with many new projects coming online, this year should bring a lot of good information to the conference Design Nine is a sponsor, and we will have a session on the economic development benefits of looking at broadband and energy as a way of attracting and retaining businesses.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/06/2009 - 16:12
The annual Broadband Properties Summit will be held on April 27-29 in Dallas-Fort Worth (at the airport). More information is available here. If you are interested in broadband technologies, this is an excellent conference. Design Nine will be there as an exhibitor.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 09:02
Skype is now available for the iPhone. Sound quality for iPhone to iPhone connections on WiFi networks is excellent, and if you leave the Skype app running (in the foreground) you can turn the phone off and still get calls. However, if Skype is not the main app, you cannot receive calls, so there are still some limitations on the usefulness of it on the iPhone. But all that is set to change in June or July, when Apple releases the next major software upgrade for the iPhone, which is supposed to include "presence," or the ability of applications like Skype to sit in the background and still run--in the case of Skype, you could be browsing the Web or sending email and still receive incoming Skype calls.
Skype support for the iPhone is a big deal. There have been some helper apps that allowed Skype calls or used another third party VoIP service, but having your Skype phone book and preferences on the iPhone is very convenient, and at least gives you the ability to make phone calls via the Internet even when not in range of an AT&T cell tower.
When the software upgrade is released this summer and presence is fully supported, it will help sell more iPhones without a cell provider service contract. For some people, just having VoIP on the iPhone will be enough.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/20/2009 - 15:15
Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina has announced it's third Broadband in Cities and Towns conference on April 16th. The one day meeting will focus on the connection between broadband and community/economic development, and there will be a special focus on the potential for broadband stimulus funding to help smaller communities and Main Street economic renewal efforts. I'll be one of the speakers and am part of the Advisory Committee.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 10:53
This misleading article suggests an astroturf effort to discredit community broadband projects.
Some incumbents may be fearful of the stimulus funding because it will enable many community projects to meet build out goals much more quickly than originally planned, and to show that they can be financially viable.
There is a mixture of disinformation and truth in the short article, combined skillfully to paint with a very broad brush.
The disinformation part is the phrase "taxpayer funded." We actually don't ever recommend funding these efforts with tax revenue, and I know of very few community projects that have taken that route.
The "truth" part is the that community WiFi projects, as a whole, have not done well and cannot meet future capacity requirements. But by not differentiating between fiber projects (e.g. Danville, Lafayette, LA, The Wired Road) and modest but inadequate WiFi efforts, they cleverly manage to make it sound like all community projects are the same, and that all have failed.
nDanville's first year of operations as an open access, open service network has collected only one complaint: service providers want the project to hook up customers faster!
The Wired Road has cut costs dramatically for the Carroll County Public schools and increased bandwidth to individual schools by as much as 60 times. The local hospital has received one of the first fiber connections, and cut their Internet costs in half and tripled their bandwidth. The first residential wireless customers are being added this month, and sixty buildings in downtown Galax will get fiber next week. Lafayette, Louisiana has begun offering superb "future proof" fiber connections to residents and businesses after winning a long legal battle.
Well planned community efforts are going to reshape the telecom landscape, and the incumbents are worried. They need not be, as they can always come on open networks and compete to keep their existing customers and try to win new ones.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 11:03
I will be conducting a webinar tomorrow on open networks. The sponsor is the Fiber To The Home Council, and the link to the program and additional information is here.
If you have been interested in open access and open service networks, I'll be providing a half hour overview of the business, financial, and technical issues related to making these a success, and there will be a thirty minute question and answer session.
If interested, you do need to register. It will be on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, at 2:00pm EST.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 02/23/2009 - 08:55
The folks at Handshake 2.0 have reminded me that it was exactly thirteen years ago that Blacksburg made the cover of USA Weekend, a widely circulated Sunday supplement. The Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) project was just a little more than two years old. We had turned on Internet access in October, 1993, and became the first general purpose ISP in the world. Long lines at the BEV office were common for the next several years as people eagerly registered to get Internet access. As Director, I had to work in uncharted territory; in the early days of the project, nearly everyone thought we were crazy because we claimed that in the near future, every household would have a computer, which seemed far-fetched enough at the time--a good 386 PC still cost several thousand dollars. But even goofier, we claimed that all those computers would be hooked to the "Internet," which we affectionately call today "the Intertubes."
The BEV project had a lot of firsts. We had the first residential broadband in the world, with half a dozen apartment complexes offering real Ethernet connections in every bedroom in 1994. It created a massive change in living preferences in Blacksburg, as students, faculty, and professionals tried to move to those early adopter apartment complexes. My group ran the community broadband network, which included the first business park to offer Ethernet/Internet access as an amenity, the first library in the world to offer free public Internet access, the first school system with broadband to every school and to every classroom, and arguably the first e-commerce in the world. In Blacksburg in 1995 you could order groceries online, and the local florist shop taking flower orders from all over the world. The Town of Blacksburg was the first local government online, starting with a Gopher site that quickly transitioned to the Web.
What was interesting was how many people told us the stuff we said was coming would never happen. Real estate agents told me repeatedly that they would never put home listings online, but a local Blacksburg firm eventually did just that and almost immediately sold a house--the first first house in the world sold via the Web. I met with local banks and urged them to put account access online. They listened solemnly and all came to back to a second meeting and told me that they had spoken with their IT folks and had been assured that it was "impossible" to put bank accounts online--not only was it technically infeasible but it was too big a security risk.
Today, I still have a sense of deja vu as I work with communities and economic developers on broadband issues. We are rapidly moving beyond "broadband = Internet" and towards a much more interesting and robust vision of broadband as a high performance network capable of delivering not just one or three or four services but hundreds. The telcos and cable companies were big skeptics of the Internet back in the nineties, and today they still remain deeply skeptical of the expansion of the network beyond just delivering the Web and a bit of email. Some smaller phone companies, especially in the mid-West and south, have really stepped up and are aggressively pursuing this new vision. And communities and regions like Danville, The Wired Road, and the The Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority are building public/private partnerships to create the next generation broadband networks--successors of the Blacksburg Electronic Village.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 16:38
This handout summarizes some basic policy principles that ought to guide local, state, and national broadband policy.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:27
Via Broadband_Report's Twitter feed, here is an NPR story that shows the impact fiber can have in rural areas. An entrepreneurial start up business in tiny Ten Sleep, Wyoming (pop. 350) is on track to employ 700 home-based workers by the end of this year. The business? Teaching English to Koreans. Oh, and the 15,000 students are in Korea.
Why does this work? Ten Sleep has fiber, which enables inexpensive hosting of the live two-way video connections needed to support the individual student-teacher sessions.
How about your rural community? Would 700 new jobs help the local economy? And these are green jobs--no commuting, no use of fossil fuels to get to work. These folks pour a cup of coffee and walk to work--in the next room.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:07
Danny Choo guestblogs at BoingBoing about getting a SECOND 100 megabit fiber connection at his home in Japan. Why get a second connection? He's using it run a server, and the cost is only $11/month for the first year of service. The second year, the price goes up to a whopping $52 per month. One interesting tidbit if you read through the photo gallery--Japanese building codes require telecom conduit to be installed in homes and apartments during construction, so that fiber cables can be pulled quickly and easily into the premise. How many localities or states in the U.S. require this "Internet ready" approach (which adds only a few hundred dollars to the cost of a new home)?
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 02/09/2009 - 10:38
Lafayette, Louisiana's "third pipe" community broadband network has started signing up customers. Lafayette fought and won a difficult battle against an incumbent lawsuit that tried to stop the community broadband effort, but the city ultimately prevailed in court. The most significant part of the community broadband network is that it offers much higher bandwidth and symmetric bandwidth, which will enable and support small business telecom services and a wide array of work from home and home-based businesses.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/06/2009 - 07:56
In one of our planning efforts in a small city of 75,000, I met with a deli/restaurant owner about his broadband needs. He currently has a 3 meg connection and four phone lines, and he complained bitterly about the lack of broadband options and the slow speed. He processes all his credit card transactions over his Internet connection (less expensive than maintaining a separate phone line, and faster). His credit card processing company will not let him use cable modem service because of security problems, and although I did not ask him about wireless, I suspect that would not be allowed either for the same reason.
He said his current 3 meg connection causes delays of several seconds when processing credit cards, and that at lunch time, adding ten to twelve seconds to every sandwich order slows things down and irritates customers. He thought that a 5 meg connection would be an improvement, but would really prefer to have a 10 meg connection. Why? In part because he owns several stores, and he has IP-based surveillance cameras in each store. When he is home at night and on weekends, he can monitor his stores in real time for problems. He said the higher capacity connection would enable him to push higher quality video--he could feel in more control.
So this is a perfect example of a small bricks and mortar store with state of the art technology that is driving the business--without the credit card transactions, he would lose business, and long lines because of slow transaction processing affects his business today. Broadband is not a luxury for big businesses and "high tech" firms--every business today is high tech, including the neighborhood deli.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/26/2009 - 09:19
Senator John McCain, on Fox News Sunday, said, "...some of the projects and others that you just mentioned, $6 billion for broadband and internet access. That will take years." He was being interviewed about the stimulus package. Given careful oversight and a sharp focus on communities that have already done planning work, a lot of homes could get high performance wireless and fiber connections in 2009 and 2010. Most of the work would be done by private sector firms, which would create jobs. And the improved connectivity would enable more job and business opportunities in the communities that get the funds.
What is unfortunate is that in a discussion of spending something around $1 trillion, that less than one percent is being considered for 21st century infrastructure. Renewal and replacement of roads and bridges is also important, but that funding could be tied to broadband--for example, any bridge improvements could also require placing telecom duct on the bridge during the construction work, so that the bridge is "telecom ready." Crossing bridges without such duct in place is a major time and cost headache for community projects.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/23/2009 - 17:41
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has been named Acting Chairman of the FCC. This is good news for communities; Copps supports competition and is likely to help communities do more by shifting FCC attention away from favoring incumbent carriers and more towards creating a level playing field for all public and private networks.
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