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.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/23/2009 - 17:35
Ireland plans to spend hundreds of millions on 100% broadband access for the country. An extensive wireless network will be deployed to reach rural towns and homes that currently lack any broadband options.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/12/2009 - 08:48
Wales has apparently been following what Nigeria has been doing with broadband--using post offices as anchor tenants to bring "big broadband" connections into small towns.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 12/02/2008 - 08:15
The provincial government of Ontario is spending millions to help rural communities get high speed broadband. They have a nice slogan: "Turning miles into milliseconds." And that is really what it is about; rural communities have traditionally been isolated because of distance--many miles to major population centers and jobs. Broadband is the 21st century equivalent of the interstate highway, getting people closer to jobs, businesses, and economic development opportunities. The provincial government is providing a one-third match for the telecom investments, which is a big incentive for communities to get organized, raise awareness, and get started.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 11:43
Design Nine has been working on broadband planning with several communities recently, and during our meetings, some interesting stories have emerged.
One businesswoman moved her business from a big city to a beautiful small town, only to discover that broadband services were limited or nonexistent. She just took it for granted when she moved that services similar to what she was able to get in her previous location would be available in the small town. When she learned they were not, she remarked, "You have got to be kidding." She now has to drive farther to work than she wanted to because she had to locate her business in an area where there was broadband available.
I met another businessman who had just moved from Boston to a small town in rural Pennsylvania. His business is entirely Web-based, and moved for the quality of life. He was able to get broadband at his home, but told me the town is otherwise badly underserved.
The lesson for rural communities: People and businesses want to live in small towns, but they have to have affordable broadband at home and in downtown and commercial areas. Communities that can market broadband availability on their economic development Web sites have a distinct advantage.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 09:10
This article warns that usable bandwidth in the UK will actually decline in the next several years without a major push to get homes and businesses connected with fiber. As more and more business and residential activities rely on broadband delivery (e.g. telepresence, gaming, movie and TV downloads), current copper-based and wireless systems will not be able to meet demand.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 09:04
According to this news report, Google's YouTube subsidiary has reached a deal to make full length movies available online. The deal proves that competition works. When YouTube refused to work with the movie studios a couple of years back, that gave rise to Hulu, a competing video site designed specifically to support full length movie and TV show downloads.
Hulu has been wildly successful, and YouTube has been forced to sit down and work with the studios or risk being marginalized by the competition.
The impact on the Internet, though, will be continued pressure on bandwidth. The cable companies have had to continually increase their "up to xxx megabits" to keep pace with what their users want to do, and DSL, which is not upgraded quite as easily, is already being described as "dial up" by some folks in communities we are working with. But neither cable modem or DSL is capable of meeting the demand that is growing month by month, and fiber is the only long term solution.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 10/28/2008 - 14:05
Electric utilities and electric car manufacturers are beginning to sit down and talk to each other. At the Austin Alt Car Expo, representatives from the two groups shared opportunities and concerns. One very big concern is how the electric grid will handle the additional power load represented by electric cars. The electricity does not come out of the air for free, and a few solar panels on the roof of such cars will not keep the batteries charged up if you have a commute of more than a mile or two each way.
The biggest problem is managing the time of battery recharging. If everyone drives their electric car home and tries to plug it in at 5:15 PM, the power grid would melt down. So what is needed is a smart grid that can talk to the car and schedule charging at a time when the electric grid can handle the load, like later in the evening.
And that means you need a very reliable and robust community broadband network that enables two way communications between smart house power controllers, smart car power controllers, and electric utilities. Design Nine is working with VPT Energy Systems to design this system.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 13:03
An article from DSL Reports suggests that BPL (Broadband over Power Lines) has died. Many of us have been skeptics from the beginning, with concerns about cost, RF interference, and bandwidth. It would appear that all three were problems This particular technology should just be taken off the table as an option.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/20/2008 - 14:29
The Blandin Foundation is hosting their annual Broadband Conference - Connected Communities: Making the Net Work for Minnesota on December 3 - 4, 2008 in Eden Prairie.
This year the Blandin Foundation will also be hosting a Minnesota Intelligent Communities Award. The Blandin Foundation along with DEED will be partnering with the national Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) to recognize the top Intelligent Communities in Minnesota. Conference Highlights include:
Note that I will be doing an extensive "Planning for Broadband" workshop just before the conference. If you want a thorough introduction to the challenges and opportunities of creating a community broadband project, my workshop will cover financing, technology, infrastructure, operations, and management.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 16:27
A firm in Japan is rolling out gigabit broadband services to residential customers for $60/month. Back in April, FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate gave a talk and noted that the 100 megabit fiber connections in Japan were already showing signs of "congestion." The GigE service ought to improve throughput.
Meanwhile, we still have lots of people in the U.S. talking about DSL (at around 1 megabit) as "broadband."
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 11:09
We finally dumped our last analog phone line, which we had kept around in case we needed to send a fax. We decided to get rid of it because we've been using an efax service. We replaced it with an additional VoIP phone line, and our monthly charges for that phone went from an average of $100/month to $35/month.
With a communitywide broadband network in place, every local business would see similar savings on business phones. And with the right business model and network design, those lower cost services could be provided by the incumbent phone company, so the incumbent does not necessarily lose customers.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/09/2008 - 16:18
The City of St. Paul is taking a serious look at fiber to the home as part of a community broadband effort for the city. A local group has started a Web site that has a lot of good information on it.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 10:28
Nigeria is using a high performance network for the national post office (1,500 locations) to jumpstart community broadband connectivity. A new national backbone will be built, using the post office needs as an anchor tenant. But the high performance network will be designed to support other community broadband and service needs.
This could work well in the U.S. at the regional and state level, and in fact, states like New Mexico are already studying just that--using state library, telemedicine, and research network needs to serve as the backbone for an open network available to businesses, residents, and service providers (Disclaimer: Design Nine was hired by the State of New Mexico to do that study).
Private, single use networks are expensive and often limit economic development potential, because a dedicated K12, health, or state agency network usually can't be shared with the private sector. By building a single high performance network like the one planned for Nigeria, several anchor tenants can help offset the cost and not only lower the cost of telecom for their own organization but for the whole community as well. Some places in the U.S. are planning these networks, including the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 08:24
Slate has an article about a phenomenon that network administrators have known for many years: a handful of Internet users gobble up a huge portion of bandwidth. Five percent of users typically consume 50% of a service provider's total capacity.
This may sound like bad news, but after toying for years with really poorly thought out policies like just cutting users off without notice, some of the providers are beginning to implement bandwidth pricing changes. For a basic DSL or cable modem subscription, you get so many gigabits per month. If you use more than that, they turn the meter on and start charging you by the gigabit used.
This is the first step towards a more rational approach to charging for network use. Instead of punishing their best customers (the old policy), the service providers are finally implementing price policies that communicate the real cost of bandwidth to users. So users can have all the bits they want, but they have to pay for them.
Eventually, most networks will move away from this model and towards a service oriented model, which is already happening in places like Danville, Virginia and the Blue Ridge Crossroads area of southwest Virginia. Businesses and residential users are really only interested in services, and forcing them to calculate how many bits a phone call or a YouTube video will use up is an inconvenience. What would work better is simply placing a price on the service, rather than on the bits used by that service. This is already beginning to happen with things like VoIP phone service, and as IP TV availability increases, charging by the bit will gradually disappear. For now, it is a step in the right direction.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/04/2008 - 09:38
New data for 2007 and 2008 shows that the Internet demand has continued to grow significantly year to year, with an aggregate growth rate of doubling every two years. Growth is "down" slightly from 2007 to 2008, meaning the rate has dropped from 61% to 53%, which is still a huge increase, and is consistent with the fifteen years of data we now have on Internet bandwidth demand.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 08/22/2008 - 09:25
In a series of broadband planning meetings earlier this week, I heard about several companies that were seriously considering moving their operations to another city if the local electric power infrastructure was not improved. The firms said they were experiencing multiple outages per month that often lasted an hour or more.
It is not just "old" manufacturing businesses that are vulnerable to electric power interruptions. Any firm that uses IT to manage their business (i.e. almost all businesses) can be affected by power outages, and sudden power outages can not only stop business and manufacturing processes, but can also stop ecommerce as well, if the servers taking orders are offline because of power interruptions.
Economic developers: When was the last time you asked your businesses about the reliability of their electric service? Do you want to lose a relocation prospect because of lack of quality electric power?
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/11/2008 - 08:08
Widespread availability of affordable broadband should bring better access to health professionals, especially in rural areas, where some kinds of specialists are not available locally. Wired reports on the results of a new study that shows that just using relatively low cost Webcam technology for diagnosing stroke patients results in better outcomes.
The long term implications are tremendous. As communities invest in broadband infrastructure that can support HD quality video, residents of those communities can expect even better medical treatment at lower cost, especially when travel costs (and the danger to the patient of long travel times) is factored in.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/22/2008 - 14:05
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) has called for a range of policy changes and investments that includes a guaranteed right for local governments to invest in broadband and fiber as the preferred mode of access.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/16/2008 - 15:12
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