Fiber brings a $600 million data center

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/02/2013 - 10:37

From the always excellent MuniNetworks, the story of how a tiny community out in the middle of nowhere attracted a $600 million data center. If you have never been to The Dalles, it really is an extremely isolated place. It's a beautiful town on the edge of the Columbia River. Fed up with lousy broadband, the community built its own fiber ring, and coupled with reliable electric power, that brought Google and its $600 million data center to the community.

Portland City WiFi Being Dismantled

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.

Rural Oregon county has biggest WiFi system

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/17/2005 - 08:35

The WiFi system that covers the biggest area in the country is not in a major city like New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco. It is in rural Oregon, in a county of just 11,000 people. Not only that, the system is generating substantial revenue, suggesting that there is plenty of money to be made in broadband in rural areas when the whole community gets on board.

Local governments are paying to use the system to automate parking meters, among other applications, and farmers are using it to monitor their crops and to communicate with their buyers.

The availability of the affordable system has spawned dozens of new users no one expected prior to the rollout, which is exactly the point--trying to predict the success of a comprehensive community broadband system by looking at what people and businesses are doing today is completely and utterly futile. It also proves my longstanding argument that feasiblity studies and market studies are of very limited value, because they can only measure what people are doing not. Affordable broadband changes use patterns and opens up new applications people don't think of until they actually have a usable system in place. In my experience, I have seen some broadband "feasibility" studies actually have a negative impact because the study predicts there won't be enough use.

The entrepreneur that owns the system nailed it when asked what the biggest obstacle was to rolling out these systems. His reply was, "Politics." It's not money, and it is not technology. When local governments work with entrepreneurs and businesspeople to support broadband, great things happen.

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