Tag: "california"

Posted May 18, 2011 by christopher

An article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian about public opposition to AT&T's further cluttering the right-of-way with 726 metal boxes to start delivering their super DSL U-Verse alerted me to people getting organized for community fiber.

AT&T's U-verse upgrade would enable it to offer connection speeds three times faster than current service — but not nearly as fast as what fiber proponents envision. Several members of the tech industry interviewed by the Guardian cautioned that another AT&T upgrade might be necessary after less than a decade to keep pace with technological advancement.

Ha! Considering that AT&T U-Verse tops out at 24Mbps downstream (if you are lucky and live close to the key electronics) and a piddling 1.5 Mbps upstream, it is already obsolete. Cable networks offered considerably better performance last year -- suggesting that AT&T should stop wasting everyone's time in SF with this approach.

We have previously written about efforts to use the City's fiber to bridge the digital divide and the SFBG article introduces us to new ideas using that asset.

Meanwhile, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu recently asked DTIS to examine the possibility of leasing excess capacity on city-owned dark-fiber infrastructure, which is currently in place but not being used. This could boost bandwidth for entities such as nonprofits, health care facilities, biotech companies, digital media companies, or universities, Chiu said, while bolstering city coffers. "There are many places in town that need a lot more bandwidth, and this is an easy way to provide it," he said.

Sniezko noted that other cities have created open-access networks to deploy fiber. "This is really effective because it's a lot like a public utility," she explained. "The city or someone fills a pipe, and then anyone who wants to run information or service on that pipe can do so. They pay a leasing fee. This has worked in many places in Europe, and they actually do it in Utah. In many cases, it's really cool — because it's publicly owned and it's neutral. There's no prioritizing traffic for one thing over another, or limitation on who's allowed to offer service on the network. It ... creates some good public infrastructure, and...

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Posted May 7, 2011 by christopher

We have frequently encouraged communities to learn more about Santa Monica's approach to incrementally building a publicly owned fiber-optic broadband network, which has just received another award. The Ash Center at Harvard's Kennedy School selected Santa Monica as one of their top 25 Innovations in Government.

The program was selected for this award in the economic development category for the network's effectiveness in attracting technology companies to the city and supporting existing Santa Monica businesses with a leading edge broadband infrastructure, city officials said.

Santa Monica City Net's model is being replicated by the cities of Burbank and Long Beach, and is in review by Chicago and Calgary.

As we explained in Breaking the Broadband Monopoly, Santa Monica started with an I-Net on which they could not run commercial traffic and slowly built their own network that had no conditions on how it was used. In the past, this network has received the "Significant Achievement Award" from the Public Technology Institute (PTI).

This press release recaps some details from their network:

The City created a telecommunications master plan and built a fiber optic network that connected 59 buildings used by the City, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, and Santa Monica College. Savings realized by this project enabled the City to construct its own municipal fiber optic network, Santa Monica City Net, to support traffic cameras, security cameras, real-time parking advisory systems, a traffic signal synchronization system, and real-time mass transit signs. The City also leases dark fiber and lit services to local businesses for affordable broadband.

The results of Santa Monica's advanced broadband initiative are a reduction in construction costs of new broadband service, an increase in purchasing power of connected local businesses, and a broadband market expansion for global Internet Service Providers that now offer service to small, medium and large commercial buildings. The program also...

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Posted December 20, 2010 by christopher

On TelecomTV, Sean McLaughlin discusses their local efforts to improve broadband access and the impediments they face from big national carriers.

Sean has a great understanding (and capacity to communicate that understanding) of how media access has changed from a focus on television to a broader focus centered on the Internet.

Posted December 18, 2010 by christopher

Fred Pilot, founder of the Camino Fiber Network Cooperative, recently wrote about the importance of community ownership in California's oldest newspaper. An excerpt:

The Camino Fiber Network Cooperative was formed in 2009 with the recognition that unless county residents and businesses — particularly those located in underserved central portions of the county — step into the gap and build their own infrastructure, the county is in clear danger of being left without modern telecommunications services. That would render it an undesirable location to purchase or rent a home or operate a small business, degrading the county’s current and future economic viability.

To avoid this scenario, the Camino Fiber Network Cooperative intends to construct a consumer-owned, open access fiber optic to the premises network that will meet today’s needs as well as those of the future. For membership and other information including a consumer survey, visit the co-op’s Website.

Posted October 11, 2010 by christopher

David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick discuss the ways in which telephone companies have bilked Americans for over $300 billion - increasing their profits while failing to deliver the services they promised.

The scam was simple. Starting in 1991, Verizon, Qwest and what became AT&T offered each state -- in true "Godfather" style -- a deal they couldn't refuse: Deregulate us and we'll give you Al Gore's future. They argued that if state Public Utility Commission (PUCs) awarded them higher rates and stopped examining their books, they would upgrade the then-current telecommunications infrastructure, the analog Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) of aging copper wiring, into high-speed and two-way digital optical fiber networks.

State regulators, like state politicians, are seduced by the sound of empty promises -- especially when sizable campaign contributions and other perks come their way. Hey, what are a few extra bucks charged to the customer every month for pie-in-the-sky promises? And who cares about massive tax breaks, accelerated depreciation allowances and enormous tax write-offs? The promises sound good on election day and nobody, least of all the voter, reads the fine print.

Few have the expertise necessary to decipher the many scams these companies have pulled as ineffective public utilities commissions do little to safeguard the public interest. This is the larger problem with embracing regulation as a solution for ensuring essential infrastructure benefits the many rather than the few. PUCs are inevitably "captured" by the industries they are supposed to regulate (think BP Gulf Oil Spill). Public ownership is a structural solution that offers fewer opportunities for massive companies to game the system to their exclusive advantage.

The article offers some in depth examples of how this regulation system has failed.

New Jersey state law requires that by 2010, 100 percent of the state is to be rewired with 45-mbps, bi-directional service. To meet this goal, Verizon collected approximately $13 billion in approved rate increases, tax break and other incentives related to upgrading the Public Switched Telephone Networks. To cover its tracks, Verizon submitted false statements year after year, claiming that it was close to fulfilling its obligations. For example, in its 2000 Annual Report, it claimed that 52 percent of the state could receive "45-mbps in both...

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Posted September 4, 2010 by christopher

A brief update from the Camino Fiber Network Cooperative of El Dorado County in California - the Sacramento Bee ran an article earlier this summer covering the coop's approach to expanding broadband (though they may no longer use the term broadband).

Fred Pilot has spear-headed this movement, recognizing that if the community does not pull together and build something themselves, they are not likely to gain access to modern communications.

Currently the co-op is surveying the community through the website, www.caminofiber.net; trying to sign up members for the cooperative; and seeking funding for a technical study of how and whether they could connect to a middle mile source.

To hire an expert will cost $30,000 to $50,000, Pilot said.

Stay up to date via the Camino Fiber Network website.

Posted July 28, 2010 by christopher

We've previously noted the successes of the Santa Monica approach to leasing dark fiber, but a new article reveals that Los Angeles, Burbank, and Anaheim also lease city-owned fiber assets.

In fact, Burbank generates substantial net income for its general fund through leases, including to major Hollywood studios.

Burbank first laid its fiber in the late 1980s and began leasing in the mid 1990s, said Robert DeLeon, a senior electrical services planner in Burbank. It currently leases to 15 studios, such as Warner Brothers and Disney, or studio-related businesses, like post-production companies. Like Santa Monica, Burbank's main goal in leasing its dark fiber was to attract business. But at $200 per strand per mile, Burbank is currently making approximately $1 million that is being put back into the general fund.

Santa Monica's revenues from leases have been more modest, but the benefits of leasing go far beyond regular payments. The network increases economic development and improves the quality of life with free Wi-Fi in a variety of public areas. Further, the city no longer has to overpay for the data connections it needs for municipal functions.

Santa Monica is also leasing to 15 businesses that include hospitals, entertainment companies and new media outlets, among others, but is only making $270,000. It was never Santa Monica's intention for the leasing of dark fiber to be a major source of revenue, Wolf said.

Santa Monica - UCLA Medical Center uses city-owned fiber because the city has better customer service:

Though there are other options for obtaining a fiber optic connection, such as AT&T, Kacperski said the hospital decided to lease from City Hall because hospitals are community based and because City Hall has better customer service than private carriers.

As we have often maintained, locally owned networks win on customer service (and often reliability). Community networks may not always win on prices because massive incumbents can engage in predatory pricing by cross-subsidizing from non-competitive markets, but they can win on providing a better experience for subscribers.

Moving forward, Santa Monica is starting to go beyond simply leasing dark fiber to actually...

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Posted June 20, 2010 by christopher

While most of the information on this site is about broadband networks at a citywide level, there are a variety of groups that are working to supply broadband at the neighborhood level (often in large metro areas). I have worked with folks in Saint Paul that want to establish a coop to deliver symmetrical broadband much faster that Comcast and Qwest (I hesitate to even include them because it will OF COURSE be faster than Qwest).

I just learned of the North East Los Angeles Internet Service Cooperative that is attempting to bring better broadband to a number of neighborhoods in LA. They have run into many of the same barriers I saw in Saint Paul - organizing people for better broadband is difficult. People are intimidated by technology and reticent to pledge the necessary funds needed to launch a cooperative.

At this point, the NE LA Coop is more of an idea than an entity that can deliver service, but it is educating people about the benefits of moving beyond monopolistic incumbents. The person responsible for the idea, Jared, has a number of innovative ideas that may prove very interesting and demonstrate the innovative potential of networks freed from the rules of incumbents.

For instance, by aggregating or sharing the connections of multiple subscribers, individual users may find a boost effect in their surfing. By sharing connections, users can take more control over their networks (and their privacy) - but massive companies like Comcast and Time Warner don't allow users to do this. Community networks may be more accommodating -- especially if required to be when created. To any who find this improbable, remember that when we own the network, we make the rules.

Posted June 12, 2010 by christopher

Santa Monica has built an impressive fiber network to connect local government buildings, schools, parks, and local businesses. With local jobs dependent on massive media studios that require very robust connectivity, Santa Monica has responded by building an impress community broadband network. That network is now offering 10Gbps connections - if such a connection were available from the local cable company, I shudder to think what they would charge for it.

Posted March 30, 2010 by christopher

I added these links to our link section in the right column, but wanted to note them explicitly. One of the goals of this site is to catalog what groups around the country are organizing for better networks that put the community first - if you know of groups, please let us know.

In California's El Dorado County, the Camino Fiber Network Cooperative is seeking ways to finance building broadband to people who currently have no options. Thanks to Eldo Telecom for tipping me off.

In Massachusetts, many communities in the western half of the state have no or poor broadband access, which is why Wired West is investigating options for a publicly owned, open access network.

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