Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/19/2010 - 08:39
One of the earliest deployments of broadband over power lines (BPL) was the City of Manassas, Virginia. But last week, the city voted to turn off the system. Manassas is an electric city, with its own electric utility department, which made it relatively easy for the city to try out the new technology several years ago. But the BPL service reached only a handful of households and businesses (a little over 500, or less than 4%) and was not able to compete with DSL and cable modem options.
The fundamental problem with BPL is that it is relatively expensive, and when you are finished with a BPL deployment, what you have is broadband over copper, with limited bandwidth and no easy way to upgrade. Kind of like DSL and cable modem services. Fiber becomes more compelling by the day, as the demand for capacity increases as video in all its forms becomes a more common application and as the cost of fiber networks continues to fall. Why spend a substantial portion of the cost of a fiber network on a very limited copper-based system?
The fundamental problem with BPL, from a community perspective, is that it does not enable economic development and jobs growth the same way that fiber does. If your economic development strategy is, "Come to our community, because we have anemic BPL," you are in trouble, because there are plenty of other communities competing with you that have already decided to go straight to fiber.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/29/2010 - 15:34
Here is an interesting comment on the Lafayette, Louisiana fiber network.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to come, and much of those are things that I don't even envision myself. If we go back to the early days of electricity in the 1890s, I'm convinced that Thomas Edison never envisioned the microwave oven or the TV-- much less the computer. This fiber capability, this infrastructure, is in its infancy and that's why Lafayette is going to be on the front edge of that development.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/05/2010 - 09:23
I was in Danville, Virginia last week, and was reminded of the changes that fiber is bringing to that community, which has experienced some of the highest unemployment in the state over the last decade. The White Mill building had been considered a white elephant for years--once a showpiece textile manufacturing plant--but closed for years and a visible sign of Danville's proud past and uncertain future. The White Mill building is being converted into a massive commercial data center with 500,000 square feet of server space.
What I saw last week is still a work in progress, but what a difference a few months make. The formerly forlorn industrial site has been cleaned up, the interior renovations are well under way, and the property values of empty downtown storefronts has probably been quietly soaring. The White Mill building is walking distance from Danville's Main Street, and the 400 high tech jobs the project is bringing will bring Main Street back to life, as those workers will be getting coffee in the mornings, buying lunch every day, doing a little shopping, and meeting after work for a beverage.
What was it that brought a data center to Danville. It's simple, and takes just two words.
Not a promise of fiber if a company shows up, not a plan for fiber, not a feasibility study, but fiber--in the ground and on poles, owned by the community, ready to use, and open access. Danville bet big back in 2006 when it made the decision to invest scarce community resources on open fiber, but now it's looking like one of the best decisions the city ever made.
Disclosure: Design Nine has been advising the City since 2006 on broadband.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/25/2010 - 09:39
There's a slogan for you: U.S. Broadband--We're almost as good as Latvia! Kind of rolls right off the tongue. Here is a link to a list of the "top 10" broadband countries, and the U.S. is nowhere to be found. Grim news indeed for the country.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/24/2010 - 09:23
The Wired Road community broadband network in southwest Virginia has added Nationsline as a service provider, and is starting a rural fiber to the home expansion project this spring. Grant, Virginia residents will get 100 megabit fiber connections and a community computing center in the historic Grange Hall in the small town.
The Wired Road is an open access, open services, Layer 3 network with three retail service providers and two wholesale providers with a mountainous service area of more than 1,000 square miles. The Wired Road is part of The Crooked Road country music territory, and Galax, in the heart of the network, is home to the world famous Fiddler's Convention. Downtown Galax has fiber connections to more than sixty buildings. Design Nine designed and built The Wired Road network.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/09/2010 - 14:40
The City of Portland, Oregon's municipal WiFi experiment is coming to an end. It was a public/private partnership between the City and a firm called MetroFi, which reportedly spent between $2 million and $3 million to build the network. But it never worked well, and residents reported it did not work well indoors. MetroFi went into bankruptcy in 2008, and the hundreds of antennas that were mounted on City property are now being removed.
It is yet another reminder that fiber always beats wireless. Wireless is expensive and has limited capacity, and in as Philadelphia found out in a similar project a few years back, wireless vendors always oversell the technical capacity of their products. In cities with lots of tall buildings filled with steel reinforcing bars, wireless signals don't travel very far.
Wireless has a role to play for mobile access and in rural areas where it will take a while to get fiber to every premise, but eventually, we will all have a fiber connection. As Portland has found out, wireless has a hard time competing with a wired connection.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/04/2010 - 09:36
A coalition of New Hampshire towns and other interested parties are encouraging state legislators to give New Hampshire towns and cities the right to bond for telecommunications infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, the incumbent providers are not excited about the notion, even though largely rural New Hampshire has tens of thousands of residents still on dial-up and one of the providers is having severe financial difficulties. The towns see it as an issue of economic survival. Who wants to live in a rural community, no matter how great the quality of life, if there is no broadband or only "little" broadband?
The towns have correctly distinguished between "little" broadband (DSL, cable, wireless) and "big" broadband. They want big broadband, because that represents the future of economic development and the ability of these towns to retain existing businesses and to attract new ones. Here is an exquisite irony: a fiber cable manufacturer in rural New Hampshire can't get the bandwidth they need to do what they want to do to manage the plant properly.
In exchange for bonding authority, the towns have wisely agreed to only build open access community broadband networks, in which all services for businesses and residents would be sold by private sector providers. So in rural parts of the state where the incumbents are saying it is too expensive to build a private network, the towns are saying, "Okay, we get it. We will build a shared network and let you, Mr. Incumbent, use it to reach customers you can't afford to build to on your own."
Why would the incumbents be opposed to that? It opens them up to competition.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/21/2010 - 16:08
The Intelligent Community Forum announced their Smart Seven communities for 2010 yesterday.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/12/2010 - 07:40
Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd. is offering 100 megabit symmetric connections to its customers for $13/month. Costs are going to be lower for them because most of the customer base is living in high rise apartment buildings, which are less expensive to cable. I don't know about Hong Kong, but in Japan, the building codes require telecom duct to every apartment from the ground floor, meaning it takes under an hour to run fiber to a new customer in a Tokyo apartment. Meanwhile, in the United States, many of us are still getting our broadband via copper cable technology invented in the late 1800s.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 10:03
Via MuniNetworks, a link to a podcast that describes how Orem City, Utah is benefiting from the open access, open services, community-owned Utopia network. Local governments in Virginia that have invested in open access, open services networks are also benefiting in the same way. A community broadband network, with infrastructure owned by the community but services offered by the private sector, aggregates demand across the entire community, which leads to increased competition among private sector providers, does not compete with incumbents, and when done right, creates sharp drops in the cost of telecom services. The Wired Road network, in rural and mountainous southwest Virginia, is seeing price drops of 40% to 70% on the cost of Internet access for government and institutional customers.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 11/23/2009 - 09:30
Jeff Daily at App Rising reports that Utopia, the big community-owned fiber project in Utah, is having substantial success getting homeowners to pay for the fiber coming to their homes--to the tune of $3,000 per home. This may sound like a lot of money, but the market value of a residential home with fiber increases by $5,000 to $7,000, according to a Render study.
Homeowners routinely spend $5,000 or $10,000 or more on home renovations like kitchen makeovers and bathroom upgrades, and they rarely see even a 1 for 1 return on the investment. Brigham City, Utah is also building fiber to the home, and they are using a model I have long advocated--a pass by and tap fee. Brigham City has created a special assessment area and is charging property owners a fair portion of the fiber network, just as cities and counties do routinely with water and sewer pass by and tap fees. As citizens and businesses begin to read about the advantages of community-owned fiber (lower prices, more choice), it will become easier for these projects to start with user-based financing from day one.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/18/2009 - 09:30
Spain has decided that broadband is a "right," and is going to beginning legislating price and speed for bandwidth services. In the short term, this may get more affordable broadband to some rural areas of Spain, but in the long term, this kind of legislation tends to discourage innovation and competition.
In the U.S., it is tempting to look at rural areas the lack of broadband alternatives and think that legislation is needed, but there are options, like having local and regional governments make investments in broadband infrastructure and make it available to the private sector, which creates true competition. And this is already working and creating jobs in places like Danville, Virginia and Galax, Virginia. In both communities, open access fiber networks are creating private sector jobs and attracting new businesses to the downtown areas where fiber is available.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/19/2009 - 07:35
The Design Nine-designed open access network nDanville has been selected by the Intelligent Community Forum as one of the Smart21 communities for 2010. This international award looks not only at technology but how communities integrate technology into their community and economic development plans. Danville, Virginia's nDanville network was the first municipal open access, open services network in the United States, and has been connecting business customers since 2007. The community has successfully attracted new businesses and jobs because of the high performance network, including a $400 million data center that will be placed in what was formerly one of the largest textile mills in the country (the mill closed years ago with the loss of thousands of jobs).
The City of Danville Utilities Department took the lead in the effort, and has installed more than 100 miles of fiber throughout the City, and has taken fiber to every single business park and every single lot in each park, and has run fiber in the downtown area, including the historic Tobacco Warehouse District, which has fiber to renovated tobacco warehouse commercial buildings, apartments, and condos.
All services on the nDanville network are provided by private sector service providers, and businesses have a choice of 100 megabit Layer 3 service-oriented connections and Gigabit point to point connections.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/17/2009 - 08:32
Powell, Wyoming's community-owned citywide fiber network is up and running, and the town is starting to get phone calls from businesses interested in taking advantage of the affordable broadband and the fact that every home has a high performance fiber connection.
Powell community leaders report a Denver firm is visiting to discuss bringing 100 work from home jobs to the community. Here is the money quote:
"The citywide fiber optic network absolutely drove the decision...."
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/14/2009 - 08:21
The BBC has an article asking what happened to public WiFi. The big WiFi projects that attracted so much attention in the U.S. five and six years ago (e.g. Philadelphia, San Francisco) failed miserably and were shut down or dramatically restructured. Some smaller municipal WiFi projects, like the one in St. Cloud, Florida, had some early rough spots but are still active. But local governments, by and large, found that free WiFi was expensive to support and often very lightly used.
The BBC wonders if the new smartphones (e.g. the iPhone, Google's Android) will create a new surge of communitywide wireless demand. The answer is, "Probably." But looking five to seven years down the road, wireless Internet access will probably have shifted by then to WiMax or the recently opened 700 Mhz spectrum. And if I had to bet, the 700 Mhz could be the winner because it has sufficient bandwidth, the signal travels farther (fewer access points and less cost), and it penetrates trees and buildings better. WiMax, for all the hype, still has many of the shortcomings of WiFi because it operates in the same general frequency ranges.
While rural areas will rely heavily on wireless for primary Internet access until fiber reaches most rural homes, fiber will replace wireless over the long term for fixed point access. But we all want mobile access, and so wireless services are here to stay. But it is an expensive technology, and communities would be served best by investing in open access basic wireless infrastructure (tower sites, towers, rooftop access on public buildings and water towers) and simply leasing out that basic infrastructure to private sector wireless firms. On the fiber sides, communities should build open access fiber networks and lease out the capacity to the private sector--for both wireless and fiber, these are public/private partnership solutions that keep government out of the business of selling telecom services but ensure that communities have some control over their economic future.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/29/2009 - 14:27
A submarine cable serving several African countries has been damaged. The cable is the only Internet route out of several west African nations, putting the entire country into a virtual Internet blackout, with slow, expensive satellite links the only way for data to move in and out of the countries. Here in the U.S., some counties and states are bigger than these countries, and route diversity is now a serious issue for relocating businesses.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 05/08/2009 - 08:44
A grass roots effort in North Carolina to beat back an anti-broadband bill in the legislature has apparently had some effect, as the bill was sent back to a committee for more study. Opponents of the bill think that's good enough for now, although most of these bills continue to re-surface year after year.
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, 04/24/2009 - 12:49
From Beaumont, Texas, an interesting article with some good anecdotal data about newly emerging job opportunities where high performance, affordable broadband is available in rural areas. And where it is not, people are actually renting commercial office space to do jobs that could be done from home--a very sad state of affairs. Nationwide, millions of new jobs could open up in rural communities if the right kind of affordable broadband is available.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/23/2009 - 09:43
Wilson, North Carolina decided a couple of years ago to build it's own municipal fiber network after it got tired of begging incumbent providers for better services and getting turned down. Now the fight is being taken to the state legislature, where the incumbent providers are trying to get laws passed to prevent local governments from getting involved in telecom efforts but to also prevent local governments for applying for broadband stimulus funds. This is also happening in Pennsylvania.
Part of the problem is that Wilson selected a municipal retail model, which means residents and businesses buy their telecom services directly from the city, and incumbents typically fight this approach vigorously. An open access, open services model like those used with projects like The Wired Road and nDanville lets incumbent providers use the new community-owned digital road system to sell services--buyers of telecom services purchase directly from private sector providers, not the local government.
Wilson has started a blog on the issue.
Design Nine provides visionary broadband architecture and engineering services to our clients. We have over seventy years of staff experience with telecom and community broadband-more than any other company in the United States.
We have a full range of broadband and telecom planning, design, and project management services.
Free Fiber to the Home
Save NC Broadband
Blandin on Broadband
Intelligent Community Forum
FCC Broadband Blog
KGP Broadband Stimulus
Ars Technica Tech Policy
Bill St. Arnaud
Stop the Cap
Broadband Policy Watch
Lafayette Pro Fiber