New Mexico, International, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, Louisiana, Texas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Kansas, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, New York, Nebraska, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Washington, Washington, D.C., Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Tennessee, Wyoming

Wales follows Nigerian broadband model

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.

Ontario: Turning miles into milliseconds

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.

UK: Only fiber will meet bandwidth needs

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.

Segway inventor builds electric car

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.

Blandin Broadband conference and workshops in Minnesota

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.

Danville, Virginia broadband report

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).

GigE broadband in Japan for $60/month

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."

St. Paul, Minnesota looks at fiber to the home

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.

Monticello, Minnesota telecom lawsuit dismissed

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/09/2008 - 13:15

A lawsuit filed by the incumbent telephone company in Monticello, Minnesota sought to stop the city from building its own fiber to the home (FTTH) network. The project was designed as a public/private partnership, with Hiawatha Broadband Communications, another Minnesota telecom firm, signed up to operate the system and provide services.

Yesterday, the 10th District Court in Minnesota dismissed the case, finding that the city had the right to issue bonds for a telecom utility and that the city had the right to operate a telecom utility.

The Court went into some detail about the meaning of a "public convenience," as there is a Minnesota law on the books that gives municipalities the right to own and operate a "public convenience." Part of the lawsuit alleged that a fiber network was not a public convenience, but the court has said that it is.

This ruling applies only in Minnesota, but it still may have some influence in other states. Monticello was particularly lucky, as the case was resolved in less than a year. Courts have generally found in favor of municipalities, but the cases often drag on for years.

30 megawatts of power on a flat bed trailer

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/08/2008 - 09:04

New Mexico continues to roar far ahead of the rest of the country with a wide ranging mix of game-changing economic development strategies. The state seems to be successfully attracting the brightest and best entrepreneurs and businesspeople in the country, and economic developers in the state are greasing the skids with investments in space, energy, and entertainment.

The latest news out of New Mexico is a firm called Hyperion Power Generation that has licensed nuclear power technology from Los Alamos National Labs. The company has designed a 30 megawatt nuclear power plant that can be delivered by tractor trailer--one tractor trailer--for the basic reactor component.

The system uses a form of nuclear fuel that self-limits the amount of heat generated, and the basic design is so safe that the technology has been licensed by the Federal government for unattended operation. The firm plans to manufacture 4,000 of the version 1 design, and expects to be able to deliver them in less than twelve months from receipt of an order.

U.S. Broadband: Almost as good as Nigeria?

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.

Electric cars in Kentucky

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 15:28

Zap electric cars will be built in Kentucky. They have been built in China, but the cost of hauling them from China has become too expensive. So manufacturing is moving closer to customers, and the Energy Economy is going to unfold much like this--getting energy and energy saving devices as close to customers as possible.

Is California the new Detroit?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/29/2008 - 15:26

Aptera Motors just raised $24 million in funding. The company plans to build a super-efficient car. That makes Aptera at least the second new car company in California, following in the footsteps of Tesla Motors, which makes the super-fast Tesla electric sports car. The increase in gas prices is going to create tremendous new business and economic development opportunities for communities that are out talking to their businesses and studying how to leverage energy assets and broadband.

Tennessee is ready for electric cars

Submitted by acohill on Sat, 07/12/2008 - 08:54

Tennessee legislators have done a very simple and very smart thing. They have passed legislation that allows small electric cars with limited speed (e.g. up to 35 mph) travel on roads where the posted speed limit is 40 mph.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, as it opens the possibility for a lot more people to purchase small electric cars (think "golf carts with doors") and use them for around town commuting and errands. These small cars are inexpensive, economical to operate, and don't use a drop of gas. With the right attitude at state and Federal levels, they could contribute to a significant reduction in the use of imported oil over time. Every state should adopt a version of this law--according to the article, only three states (Tennessee, Montana, Washington) allow this use right now. At the Federal level, relaxed licensing and safety standards would also accelerate the use of alternative energy vehicles. A car that can only go 35 mph does not need to meet interstate highway safety standards.

Broadband coops catching on

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/30/2008 - 08:34

We are beginning to see the broadband coop as one very viable form of governance for community broadband efforts. Coops are a great ownership and governance model because they firmly vest the enterprise in the community--every subscriber is also a shareholder in the enterprise, and shareholder/members are able to vote and select board members. The Ripton Broadband Coop serves rural customers in rural Vermont via wireless, using an open access, open service model. Two service providers are selling services on the network.

U.S. broadband: Almost as good as Malaysia?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/13/2008 - 06:41

Once again, fairly small countries are far ahead of the U.S. in thinking about broadband. Malaysia has announced an ambitious but entirely doable plan to take fiber to major areas of the country, with the Federal government paying about 30% of the cost in a deal with the biggest telecom company in Malaysia. In the U.S., it would be the equivalent of the states making deals to write checks directly to the incumbent providers (which some states already do). The fiber system will have 100 megabit capacity, with a starter package of Internet access at 10 megabits.

The good news is that U.S. communities and regions still have the opportunity to surpass Malaysia. Malaysia's deal with the incumbent telecom will not increase competition and will not be likely to encourage the rollout of innovative new services. Open service networks like those in Europe are beginning to gather momentum here in the U.S., and open networks tend to lower prices and bring lots of new services to businesses and residents. Five or six years from now, Malaysian cities will be behind many broadband community efforts in the United States.

Broadband Properties '08: Ft. Wayne leverages fiber

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/30/2008 - 09:55

Graham Richards, the former Mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, spoke at the Broadband Properties Summit about why Ft. Wayne pushed fiber to the home. Some of the services and benefits included:

A green affordable housing initiative cut monthly energy costs for lower income families, and the broadband network was used to monitor energy use.

The network enabled live video monitoring of latchkey children whose parents had to work. Parents could have high quality video chats with their children as soon as they arrived home in the afternoon.

Local schools were able to offer enhanced distance learning opportunities to their students, including afternoon and weekend mentoring with tutors (enabled by the fiber network).

Their vision was fiber everywhere: a community broadband network dedicated to equality of opportunity and universal access.

They began a pilot initiative to have the city use hybrid plug in vehicles to reduce fuel and transportation costs for city workers.

They set a goal of saving 5% of the city budget through IT/broadband and green strategies--helping to conserve taxpayers dollars.

While Richards was mayor, he was able to turn the economic growth of the city from a deep loss of jobs to a dramatic turnaround in jobs creation and new businesses, and he attributed it to setting a vision, sticking to it, and broadband.

Tempe muni wireless falls short

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/25/2008 - 13:32

Tempe, Arizona's foray into community and municipal wireless has not worked out as expected. Like many other communities that have tried the same thing and have also failed, Tempe tried to avoid spending any money. They simply granted an untested wireless firm access to city lightpoles and structures for wireless equipment. The private firm had to bear the entire cost of build out. The wireless system was also not seen as reliable as a wired system, and the wireless firm has not been able to attract many subscribers.

The lesson learned is that there is no free lunch for community broadband. Communities that spend very little are getting very little in return, and if all of the risk is left in the private sector, the private sector won't come or won't stay long. Another lesson is that building out without a solid business plan to attract customers is also a non-starter. The right approach is to target underserved areas and/or to be able to offer innovative services that are not already available from other providers.

Wireless requires a business plan

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/16/2008 - 08:10

"Free wireless" is beginning to look a lot like "free lunch" -- it may not be possible. The City of Hartford, Connecticut embarked two years ago on an ambitious plan to provide free wireless service to large portions of the city. After two years and $800,000, there is little to show.

The Hartford project appears to be having difficulties similar to other early community wireless efforts: unjustified optimism about the ability of wireless signals to penetrate apartment and office buildings filled with steel reinforcement, and the lack of a business plan that provides for long term sustainability of the system.

In some quarters, there have been pronouncements that private sector wireless is not working (i.e. public/private partnerships), and that the only way to go is an all muni free or very low fee system. But it is not the nature of the partnership that is the core issue--it is the nature of the business model, which can be public, private, or a public/private partnership. Any of those can work and work well with the right business model.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Community broadband and community wireless projects are going to be very important to the economic future of many U.S. towns and cities, but it is not who owns it that determines success, it is whether or not the owners have a sustainable business plan.

Undersea cables were cut by improper anchoring

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/14/2008 - 07:49

The undersea fiber cables that were cut a couple of months ago were the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, but satellite photos have revealed the culprits--cargo ships that were anchored in the wrong place. Sometimes Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation is the likeliest one) is exactly right.

The object lesson for communities is to plan for cable outages by making sure local networks have redundant cable paths. Sometimes this is quite expensive to do when just getting started with community telecom investments, so an alternative to a second fiber cable is a high capacity wireless link that can handle local traffic (perhaps with somewhat less throughput) while repairs are made.

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