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.
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, 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 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, 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 Tue, 01/13/2009 - 14:20
Smart economic developers should start advertising immediately....in California. Businesses, engineers, scientists, and other business professionals are packing up and leaving the state. Many of them will be looking for the good quality of life in small towns and fiber to the home, so they can work from home and/or run their newly relocated business from home. And fiber in your local businesses parks will help attract the bigger firms moving from California.
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 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 - 08:53
Up in New Hampshire, a new electric vehicle is undergoing road tests. New Hampshire is not normally counted as one of the big auto-producing states, but the move to electric vehicles is likely to bring some new players into the field. As a side issue, the government might have more impact by giving a few million dollars to every firm in the U.S. working on electric vehicle technology rather than trying to bail out the high cost Detroit manufacturers.
Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway two wheel electric vehicle, is now road-testing a small electric car powered by batteries, with a Stirling engine that recharges the batteries as needed and can also run the heater and defroster. The Stirling engine runs on almost any kind of combustible fuel, including gas, diesel fuel, and biofuels. Kamen has stayed away from the more complicated hybrid designs that use both a gas engine and an electric motor to propel the car. In Kamen's design, the electric motor does all the propulsion, just like Chevrolet's Volt design.
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 Mon, 10/20/2008 - 09:32
Here is a brief video report on the broadband fiber network already in use in Danville, Virginia. The system has been operational for 10 months, and all services on the network are offered by private sector service providers (Disclaimer: Design Nine has helped Danville design and deploy the network).
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."
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