Alcatel-Lucent, one of the key vendors behind the Chattanooga community fiber network, has produced a video highlighting life in a "smart" city.
A recent article by Chloe Morrison on Nooga.com, highlighted the inquiries and envy from all over the globe about Chattanooga's awesome community fiber network. According to Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee is one of many admirers with wandering eyes that keep taking a peak at Tennessee. No wonder! The "Gig City" has set the gold standard for connectivity. Additionally, the city has cleverly capitalized marketing the opportunities to spread the word about their network and to attract more economic opportunities.
Collaboration is the popular theme that is associated with development. When looking back in Wisconsin, collaboration seems rare to find. We have reported extensively on AT&T's attempts to instigate discord, drag out legal proceedings, and fatally halt the possibility of community owned broadband in Wisconsin. If the Badgers want to compete in the digital economy, as they claim they do, they will have to stop listening to the big cable and DSL companies:
Only a few Internet users, such as a hospital or a large company, would currently benefit from the full capabilities of a gigabit network that can move large amounts of data at incredible speeds. It's like buying a Jaguar when a Ford Focus would be perfectly adequate, said Andrew Petersen, spokesman for TDS Telecom in Madison. (from the Barrett article.)
We have all read this tired comparison before and it still seems silly from a technological perspective. Planning for the future is critical when investing in essential infrastructure. Technological advancement moves at a fast pace, rather than an adequate pace.
Consider this assage from the Nooga article and consider how many of the benefits of a next-generation networks TDS would actually care about:
“The benefits are far-reaching—everything from a significant boost to...
Chattanooga's EPBFi community fiber network has been one of the most celebrated muni networks in the nation. They were the first to offer a gigabit to anyone in the city and have launched a bounty for geeks that relocate to the "Gig City."
They have connected 35,000 subscribers to the network, blowing away their original goal of 26,000 by the third year. They have attracted thousands of new jobs that would not have materialized if they simply accepted the AT&T/Comcast duopoly for their community.
At the current rate, EPB can shave seven years off the time it will take to pay off its telecom debt, becoming virtually debt-free by 2020 instead of 2027 as projected, Eaves [EPB CFO] said.
Even so, the government utility still is spending money to sign up new customers, a process that will increase debt until 2013, Eaves said.
The utility has $51 million in total debt so far, but it only needs 30,000 customers to break even on operational costs, Eaves said.
"We are currently cash- flow positive from an operations standpoint, but still increasing debt to fund the capital associated with signing up new customers," he said.
As we frequently remind our readers, finances are complicated. Even though the network continues to do very well, its debt will increase for a few more years while it continues rapidly acquiring new subscribers. Each subscriber takes years to pay off the debt of connecting them.
Recall that EPB unexpectedly got a Department of Energy stimulus grant to deploy its smart grid much more rapidly than planned for. As the electric division owns much of the fiber fabric, the grant does not impact the finances of the Fiber-Optic division, aside from allowing EPB to roll the network out to more people more rapidly. The changed plan increased their costs and their revenues over the original plan.
Sandy, a growing community of about 10,000 outside Portland in Oregon, is now building a FTTH network to expand on their successes offering city-run wireless broadband in 2003. They've done the whole wireless thing for 8 years but understand the future is high capacity, high reliability connections.
They are starting with a pilot program that seized on energy created by Google's gigabit initiative -- they held a "Why Wait for Google?" contest that asked neighborhoods to show their potential interest in a fiber-optic network.
When the Cascadia Village and Bornstedt Village won the contest, they were asked how they wanted to be involved:
What happens now? This is a pilot program, so we’re taking it step-by-step. We want the residents and property owners in Cascadia/Bornstedt Villages to be partners with us in making decisions on how this service will work. And we want it to be democratic: whatever we do, it will only be with the support of the majority of the residents and property owners who get involved.
The first thing we need to know is: how would you like to be involved? We have a lot of options, depending on your level of interest, and how busy your life is. On one end of the spectrum is simply asking us to keep you informed through e-mail or letters, and at the other end is your active participation (over a course of several meetings) in the detailed planning for the implementation of this pilot project. (Note: in the case of rental properties, we encourage both the landlord and the tenant to stay involved, and we have tried to mail this letter to both, based on available records).
This is a far cry from the massive cable and telco approach of "you will get what we give you when we offer it on the terms we decide."
SandyNet is going to continue providing access to the Internet, but according to the FAQ, they will operate the network on an open access basis, encouraging independent service...Read more
Opponents of public ownership like to claim that publicly owned broadband is somehow hostile to business -- this is a a major Time Warner Cable talking point in North Carolina. The reality is that community networks are incredibly biased in favor of local businesses. Most community fiber networks resulted out of economic development needs, when public leaders realize the fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet is a key to attracting businesses (and that massive absentee incumbents rarely care to invest enough to attract those businesses).
Unfortunately, the argument resonates among a public that rarely remembers the U.S. economy was built on key public infrastructure investments -- from roads and highways to water works to universal electrification, if the public didn't own the infrastructure outright, it attempted to regulate in the public interest. And though regulators are frequently captured by those they regulate, the outcome is still better than allowing unaccountable electrical trusts to arbitrarily decide how much to gouge their customers.
When Google was search for a community partner in building its gigabit network, it was not shy about public ownership -- we now know that a key factor in the decision was Kansas City's publicly owned electrical company. Being owned by the City allowed Google a single point of contact and an assurance that they could all work together to build the network.
In terms of fiber-enabled cost savings, 120 businesses in Bristol reported an average of $2,951 in savings per year, while, in Reedsburg, 33 cited annual cost savings averaging $20,682. Twenty Jackson businesses reported cost impacts due to fiber, with one large organization reporting a total of $3 million in savings. The other 19 Jackson respondents reported a net average cost increase of $3,150 per organization.
Make no mistake, public ownership of infrastructure is not anti-business, it is pro-business. There are a handful of businesses that benefit tremendously when they control infrastructure -- but it comes...Read more
In all of the hubbub around Google's Gigabit project announcement of Kansas City, Kansas, Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm put up a fascinating post:
Chip Rosenthal headed the grass roots effort to bring Google’s gigabit fiber network to Austin, and he says the Texas capital was on the short list of cities that received a site visit and were in the final rounds. Unfortunately for Austin (and me since I’d be happy to plug into a fiber-to-the-home network) Google passed over the city and chose Kansas City, Kan. instead. Rosenthal, who is one of seven commissioners on the City of Austin’s Technology and Telecommunications Commission (a strictly advisory body), thinks it’s because Texas is one of four states that forbids municipalities from getting involved in building networks.
I frequently said that if I were at Google, I would not partner with a community in a state that has decided to limit local authority to make broadband investments. We do not know for sure what role these laws played, but it is interesting that Kansas City, Missouri, has much less freedom to build telecommunications networks than does Kansas City, Kansas.
From everything we know, this network will owned and operated by Google - which means we do not consider community broadband. Though we salute Google's approach of open access (allowing independent ISPs to use the network), the future of the network is tied to Google, not the community in which it operates. Our hope is that this network helps to prove the model of open access networks, making it more feasible for communities around the country to build their own such networks much as they build the roads on which modern communities depend.
And in the meantime, it is really, really dumb policy to take the choice of whether to build a community network out of the hands of the community.
The Roanoke Times recently published an extensive story about broadband, covering everything from what it is to why it is needed and who doesn't have it.
Aside from providing an excellent primer on these issues to those who are new to broadband discussions, Jeff Sturgeon writes about problems often ignored by the media, like the difficulties for companies and other entities can encounter when they need extremely high capacity connections:
Skip Garner directs the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, which unites the powers of biology and information technology to advance medicine. It is at Virginia Tech. Garner said he, too, finds computing power a constraint. In spite of a 1 gigabit connection, "we are limited in what we could do," Garner said.
When the lab's DNA sequencers pile up data, "we will often put it on a 1-terabyte drive ... and FedEx it to our customers," Garner said.
An upgrade to 10 gigabits is coming. He expects it still won't be enough.
It might appear that new facilities would not have such problems, but even the 5-month-old Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute near downtown Roanoke is not satisfied with its Web service. While the speed is good at 10 gigabits, the cost it pays to service providers is staggering.
"It's in the tens of thousands of dollars a month," said Executive Director Michael Friedlander.
This is one world. Communities with their own fiber networks are another -- where these connections are not prohibitively expensive. And yet another world is the world of several rural Minnesota Counties, who cannot even get T.1 lines from incumbent phone providers. In Cook County, in 2008, a company was quoted $600,000 to install a T.1 line. Yes, $600,000 - I had to hear it twice to make sure I wasn't imagining it.
"We think it's got to be treated like essential public infrastructure," he said.
That way, access would be open to any service provider on equal footing. Just as anyone could launch a cab company or food delivery service over the road system, anyone...
This is a good 5 minute interview discussing what Wilson has done to build the first citywide FTTH network in North Carolina. Greenlight has a business customer taking 1Gbps -- something that would undoubtedly have been totally cost-prohibitive (and possibly just unavailable) if the City had not made its broadband infrastructure investment.
Toward the end, Brian Bowman is asked if he recommends all communities build a similar network. His answer is very wise: all communities should have the right to do it and they should decide for themselves based on their situation. That is our position as well.
This video is no longer available.
Chattanooga's Times Free Press explained how locals are using the nation's fastest broadband network. You may remember that Chattanooga's gigabit service generated a fair amount of attention back in September:
Searching for “gigabit” on Google after the announcement revealed 298 news articles about Chattanooga’s milestone, and more than 9 million Twitter impressions within 48 hours, according to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
We already reported that one company (HomeServe) cited the network as a reason for bringing 140 jobs to Chattanooga. This article quotes their director of IT infrastructure: “This network will be so fast that it will be like we’re right next door." That company is located all over the East coast: Miami, New York, Connecticut, etc.
Diagnostic Radiology Consultants are excited about the network:
“The bandwidth is a huge part of the practice because each one of these images is huge, about 300 megs,” Busch said.
With DRC’s outgoing server uploading information at a gigabit, the nearly 700 doctors who use his service will be able to quickly access body scans anytime, from any computer, instead of on the more limited point to point networks many clinics and hospitals currently use.
Another company in the carpet industry needs the faster connections to meet their clients needs and become more efficient. As customers and clients request more streaming media, they greatly need to increase their upstream capacity.
It isn't just about business, but education and entertainment…
The Tennessee Aquarium has already taken several steps to prepare for increased demand for streaming HD content, said Thom Benson, communications manager for the Aquarium.
The Chattanooga landmark has already set up two webcams to stream live images of aquatic life to the Aquarium’s online visitors, and one HD camera to observe weather conditions outside. All three cameras will be available on the website, he said, and are part of a push to provide content not available elsewhere.
Along with the “webisodes” Benson’s team uploaded to YouTube chronicling the birth of Chattanooga’s penguin chicks, the Aquarium’s foray into live HD streaming is just a taste of what is to come, said EPB’s DePriest....