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.
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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....
The Chelan Public Utility District in Washington state is upgrading network capacity as it starts expanding the network following its broadband stimulus award. We previously covered their consideration of whether to expand from passing 80% of the territory to 98%.
Chelan is one of the most rural publicly owned fiber networks as well as one of the oldest ones. In a rarity, it looks likely to run in the red permanently (the pains of rural, mountain terrain) with the support of most ratepayers. These ratepayers recognize the many benefits of having the network outweigh its inability to entirely pay for itself. The utility also runs a sewer project that is subsidized by wholesale electricity sales. Though some areas in Chelan are served by Charter and Frontier, the more remote folks would have no broadband access if not for the PUD.
With the planned upgrades in 2011, Chelan's open access services will offer far faster speeds than available from the cable and DSL providers. Under Washington law, the PUDs cannot sell telecommunications services directly to customer. The PUD builds the network infrastructure and allows independent service providers to lease access while competing with each other for subscribers. Though this is a great approach for creating a competitive broadband market, it has proved difficult to finance (if one believes this essential infrastructure should not be subsidized as roads are).
When the PUD considered whether to pursue the expansion (meaning taking a federal grant covering 75% of the costs and agreeing to run the network for 22 years), it asked the ratepayers for feedback:
Sixty-four percent of 450 randomly chosen Chelan County registered voters who were part of phone survey in August said they favor taking the grant and completing the buildout, even if it means their electric bills will go up by as much as 3 percent — about $1.50 more on a $50 per month power bill.
On November 9, PUD Commissioners approved the rate increase.
Chelan's service providers currently offer connections of 6Mbps/384kbps or 12 Mbps/384kbps. As with...Read more
As more and more of America confronts the reality that communities need better broadband networks -- networks that respond to their needs first rather than the desires of shareholders in some absentee company -- we are seeing more resources for communities determined to preserve their self-determination.
As one who has deep misgivings about Facebook increasingly being a mediator of content, I am glad to note that Communities United for Broadband has a website in addition to their Facebook page.
As Google continues to ponder which communities will get the Google Gigabit network(s), it has announced a Google Fiber for Communities website intended to get citizens involved in pushing for pro-broadband policies at the local, state, and federal levels.
Regarding the Google Gigabit, some thought the Google might be showing interest in UTOPIA with some recent meetings, but Jesse Harris at FreeUTOPIA probably has the correct analysis: far too early to tell.
Readers undoubtedly know that Google has proposed a limited fiber-to-the-home open access network rollout that will offer gigabit speeds. Communities are applying to be considered -- all we know at this point is that Google envisions ultimately serving some 50,000 - 500,000 subscribers.
Parts of this announcement are very exciting for those of us working to create better networks that serve community interests. I think the long term impact of it being open access may well dwarf the impact of having gigabit speeds available to some at "competitive" rates (though one wonders how rates can be competitive when the service is unlike any other?).
The idea of open access -- where the network is an infrastructure that supports independent service providers, creating a true market for broadband services -- is a game changer. Unfortunately, the number of people served by open access networks in the U.S. has been too small to prove the model (as I discussed here). If Google connects half a million people with an open access network, it could change the landscape of broadband networks, pushing us toward a non monopolistic world... but probably not in the first year or two. These changes take time.
Beyond that, the gigabit test bed will be very interesting. Lafayette's LUS Fiber has been experimenting with the 100Mbps network and now Google will be upping the ante. Given the number of people who are excited and the number of communities announcing their application, it is clear that the telecom carriers are not meeting community needs.
Though I think the experiment interesting, I hope it is limited. My fear, which I do believe is premature but has poked its head up nonetheless, is that Google may launch another round of Earthlink Wi-Fi free-lunch hopes from local governments. Those who once pinned their hopes on an outside company building the network they wanted have now recognized the folly. Even though Heinlein's TANSTAAFL warning came half a century ago, few seem to have internalized the lesson. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
10 years ago, Google was a different company. In 10 years, we have no idea what Google's interest will be but we can be sure that communities will need connectivity that puts local citizens and businesses before profits. Will Google's network serve...Read more