Colorado

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.

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.

How smart is Boulder SmartGridCity?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 08/06/2010 - 09:08

Here is an article that alleges that Boulder, Colorado's SmartGridCity project is in deep trouble. The article has a long laundry list of problems, but what jumped out at me is the list of so-called "partners." If you look at the SmartGridCity Partners page, you can see the root problem of this project is too many cooks. Just the administrative overhead of supporting this list of high priced consulting firms would sink any project. And the descriptions that accompany each partner reads like one of those buzz-phrase generators you find online. Here are a sampling of the buzz phrases:

So you have at least seven companies with seven proprietary and very likely incompatible technology "solutions" that are going to use taxpayer dollars to try to do a mash up of their stuff that will somehow save money. These kinds of efforts never work, in part because if you start with seven complex technologies, it is impossible to make them less complex by combining them. Fifty years of software development studies have shown this over and over again. It's not that different than Fred Brooks' mythical man month treatise, in which he showed that adding more workers to a software project already late just makes it later--in large part because adding more workers makes the development process more complex. The same principle is likely at work here. Adding more complex power management software to an already complex design makes it even more complex and, as study after study has shown, more error prone.

Here at Design Nine, we call ourselves "broadband architects" or "information architects." We work the way the traditional architect works--we do a clean, coherent high level design for our clients first, develop the financing and funding strategies needed to show the client how it will pay for itself, and then and only then do we go out to vendors.

My guess is that Smart Grid City ended up with seven or more "design" firms all trying to gain an advantage for their own stuff, and Boulder ended up with a mess. It's as if you wanted a house built, and instead of having an architect produce the design and supervise the construction, you told the plumber, the carpenters, the electrician, and the drywall guys to get together and come up with something. It's called "design by committee," and it is never pretty.

Colorado interested in a "Qwest Monopoly Protection Act"

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/03/2005 - 09:18

Dave Hughes, one of the true pioneers of community broadband, has a hard-hitting article about the "Qwest Monopoly Protection Act" that is close to being passed in Colorado. Like a similar and very bad Pennsylvania law, it would bar communities from investing in their own future. The most sobering part of the article is Hughes' point that some communities in Nepal have better broadband services than some rural communities in Colorado. I know Hughes is right about that because I saw Dave make a phone call to Nepal last year in Austin, using a cheap laptop, the conference center WiFi service, and Voice over IP. We got a guy out of bed in Nepal to answer the phone at 4 in them morning, but the point is the service works. The Nepal system was designed and installed by Dave himself, using inexpensive off the shelf equipment.

I guess Colorado lawmakers think their state slogan for economic development should be, "Colorado--almost as good as Nepal."

Colorado steps on community rights

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 02/14/2005 - 15:42

Add Colorado to a growing list of states that have bills pending in the legislature that would take the right to determine their own future away from communities.

Like other states (are you starting to see a pattern here?), the Colorado bill would require communities that want to invest in broadband to ask the private sector first. That permission is not likely to be forthcoming, and according to the report, even if the private sector declines to offer broadband service, the community is still stuck.

There are some issues here that are worth reviewing.

First, the article talks about (some) broadband initiatives as a way to raise revenue. Some communities are seeing it this way, but they are crazy. It makes no sense at all to invest in public infrastructure as a hidden tax scheme. Why on earth would you spend money that way when using it as a tax collection mechanism makes the community less competitive from an economic development perspective? This is an education problem--community leaders need help understanding telecom is not a way to balance the local budget, but a way to create jobs and create an economic development engine.

Second, it is important to keep our eye on the ball. Hong Kong just announced it is rolling out Gigabit Ethernet to more than a million homes, beginning later this year. Meanwhile, I just got a flyer from Verizon touting DSL. The flyer explains how fast their 1.5 megabit service is because it actually permits 384 kilobit upload speeds. That's right...here is Verizon's math:

384,000 bits/second = 1.5 million bits/second

Huh? Meanwhile, in places like South Korea and Hong Kong, they are getting broadband service hundreds of times faster than we are getting here while our own legislators are trying as hard as they can to hold their own citizens and businesses back.

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