Category Archives: fiber

CenturyLink to Bring Gigabit Broadband to Seattle

Gig Map Click to see moreIn a remarkable announcement today, CenturyLink, formerly known as “the telephone company”, says it will bring gigabit Internet service via a fiber-to-the-home network to Seattle.

Seattle has been left at the altar of fiber-to-the-home high-speed Internet twice before — first byGoogle and then by Gigabit Squared, which isnow being sued by the City of Seattle over their breakup.

Is the third time the charm? Can Seattle Mayor Ed Murray deliver on the gigabit promise that his two predecessors, Mike McGinn and Greg Nickels, could not? Will Seattle actually see serious competition to the price-gouging tactics of the cable monopolies?

A press conference on Tuesday, scheduled 9:15 a.m. at Seattle City Hall, should tell us more.

First, a dose of reality.

(Read the rest of the post at Crosscut.)

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Why Google Fiber will never come to Seattle

google-fiberGoogle is bringing high speed fiber broadband networks to homes and businesses in three cities – Kansas City, Austin and Provo. In February, it announced 34 more cities it will approach for building fiber – Portland, Phoenix, Atlanta and more.
But not Seattle.
And Seattle won’t be making Google’s list anytime soon.
The “Seattle Process” and a balky bureaucracy at City Hall stand squarely in the way.
It wasn’t always this way. We were on the short list in 2010, when …
Read the rest of this article on Crosscut or Geekwire.

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Saving Cities from the Clutches of the Internet Monopoly

internet-monopolyOn January 14, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled that telecommunications and cable companies can “play favorites” among websites, video channels and all other content providers. This decision struck down FCC rules which tried to make the Internet “neutral,” carrying all kinds of content with equal speed.

In other words, if the New York Times pays Verizon (or AT&T, or Comcast or any other company which owns wires) a fee to deliver its content, but Crosscut cannot, www.nytimes.comwill zip onto your computer screen rapidly, whilewww.crosscut.com will ever so slowly and painfully appear. Indeed, if Comcast owns NBC (which it does), NBC’s video content might zoom across Comcast’s wires into homes and businesses, while ABC, CBS, the Seattle Channeland other video feeds stumble slowly onto those same television sets.

It could get even more interesting when you go shopping. Do you want to buy a book or toys or new shoes? Well, if Wal-Mart pays Comcast and CenturyLink to deliver its content, you might seewww.walmart.com rapidly appear on your web browser, while Amazon, Sears and Macys come up slowly — or not at all.

As the Los Angeles Times headlined, “Bow to Comcast and Verizon, Your Overlords”.

All this wouldn’t be so bad, of course, if we…

[Read the rest of this post on Crosscut]

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Filed under broadband, cable, fiber, google, seattle channel, wi-fi, wireless

A 10 point Tech Plan for Mayors of Large Cities

Ed-Murray-Dively-Choe

Ed Murray (center), with transition team leaders Dwight Dively and Martha Choe

(On November 5, 2013, State Senator Ed Murray was elected Mayor of Seattle.  Seattle voters have thrown out all thre of their incumbent Mayors who held office in the 21st Century.  Here are my suggestions for what Mayor-elect Murray – but, really, any Mayor in any large City – can do immediately to use technology to enhance City services and improve efficiency of operations.)

Washington state has an extraordinarily robust tech community, anchored not only by big companies like Microsoft and Amazon, but by the University of Washington and an active start-up scene. Yet our city’s engagement with that tech community – and the technology used by government itself – are inadequate and falling behind other major worldwide centers of technology.

Here’s how mayor-elect Ed Murray can create a government that uses technology to facilitate citizen involvement and provide efficient effective services …

(Read the remainder of the article on Crosscut here.)

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Filed under 311, broadband, CIOs, eCityGov, egovernment, elections, fiber, government, management of technology

– Improving Govt Health with a Fiber Diet

Louisiana Immersive Tech Enteprise - click to see more

Louisiana Immersive Tech Enterprise

I was honored to be in Lafayette, Louisiana, this past week for Fiber-Fete. Lafayette is just finishing a City-owned fiber optic network which reaches every home and business. Fiber-Fete was an international gathering to celebrate the innovative work led by Parish President (Mayor) Joey Durel and his team of people from business, non-profits, education, healthcare and government.

Lafayette’s fiber network boasts speeds of 10 megabits per second, both ways, to every home and business in the City, for $29 a month, and 50 megabits both ways for $58. Speeds of 100 megabits or even a gigabit per second are possible very soon. The FCC’s recently released national broadband plan set a goal for much of the United States to achieve such speeds by 2020. But Lafayette virtually has it now, in 2010.

During the conference, one of our breakout groups brainstormed a set of ideas for using this network to improve government and governing. Here are a few of our ideas.

A Mini-Connect Communication Device. The telephone is almost ubiquitous in American homes, with 95% or more of homes having a phone. Land-line penetration is dropping now, of course, as many people use only their cell phones or use voice-over-Internet connections via their computers. An essential device for future premises certainly seems to be a mini-comm, possibly modeled after the mini-tel which was widely deployed in France a few years ago. The mini-comm would be a voice telephone, videophone with a small screen, and potentially have connections for a TV and keyboard to allow it to be used as a web browser to connect to the fiber network. Such a device needs to be cheap and probably subsidized so every home, regardless of income, has one.

The mini-comm has many potential applications beyond phone, videophone and web browser. It would have batteries so it would function even during extended power outages due to natural disasters. It could be activated by government preceding or during such disasters to alert residents to an oncoming hurricane, or the need to evacuate, with further instructions on what to do. It might even have a wi-fi connection so that students who bring laptops home from school (school-issued laptops for all students are another great idea) have connectivity at home.

Video and Web via TV. Ideally, every television set in a home will eventually be internet-enabled with a built-in video camera and web browser. Certainly the latest generation of set-top boxes for cable TV have such functions built in.

Video 311 and 911. With the devices above, anyone who calls 911 with an emergency or 311 for non-emergency access to government services could also activate a two-way video function. For 911, this means the 911 center could view a burglary in progress or domestic violence situation, and help the responding police officers understand what is happening. For medical emergencies the 911 center might be able to activate monitoring devices and understand the known health issues of the caller, thereby better directing care over the mini-comm or to responding emergency medical personnel. Residents might be able to transact a variety of business over the phone/data link, including consultation about potential building plans and permits, more accurate understanding of utility billing issues (especially if smartgrid or automated water/gas/electric metering infrastructure is in place). And even for routine calls or complaints, we could put a “face” on government via a live video chat with a customer service agent.

Public health nurse or Probation Officer virtual visits. Public health officers, human services and probation officers often have an obligation to check upon or visit clients. With the mini-comm or other two way video devices, such visits might be conducted over the network. This would be especially useful if people are quarantined for pandemic flu or other diseases. But it could includes home health monitoring for seniors, and monitoring of people on probation or any reason, but especially for alcohol or drug abuse and sex offenses.

Enhancing public meetings. Public meetings of city/county councils and other public boards or commissions are almost unchanged from 250 years ago. To attend such a meeting, people travel to the meeting room, wait in line, and speak for a closely-timed two or three minutes. Essentially the public meeting becomes a series of usually un-related mini-speeches. With a fiber network, there are some opportunities to enhance such meetings. At a minimum, people who are unable to travel due to work or childcare or disabilities could participate remotely. But using tools such as Google moderator or Ideascale or Microsoft’s Town Hall, participants could also submit questions remotely, and then rank them. The top ranked (“crowdsourced”) questions could then be asked. Indeed, with high-quality video, the people who submitted the highest ranking questions could ask the question her/himself. Meetings could also be enhanced as viewers are able to see PowerPoint or video presentations, or link to web-based documents, at the same time they are watching the meeting.

Virtual Neighborhoods to visualize redesigning a town or do community or neighborhood planning. Lafayette has Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE), where innovative uses for 3D imaging are on development and display. Using these technologies along with some existing data such as Google Maps “bird’s eye view”, Microsoft’s Photosynth and digital orthophotograhy, we could create virtual representations of neighborhoods. Neighborhood planning groups could use these technologies to visualize how their neighborhood would appear with certain changes such as a new apartment building, or a boulevard, or different proposed configurations for a park.

These are just a few of the ideas we brainstormed for government use of such high speed networks. Other Fiber-Fete workgroups addressed uses for education, libraries, utilities, energy, business and much more.

Several facts are certain. Lafayette is the center of innovative Cajun culture plus great Cajun food and music. And this mid-sized city in Louisiana, is leading the nation with this innovative network. In ten years, the applications developed and tested there will be used throughout the nation.

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Filed under broadband, cable, community technology, customer service, fiber, internet, Uncategorized, video

– CES: The Time Machine

The Time MachineWe have a Time Machine.  It is one way, moving 60 seconds an hour, 24 hours a day, into The Future.  The Consumer Electronics Show is a window into The Future.  Technology demonstrated there this week will be available to early-adopter consumers and businesses in the next year or two, and will be available at Costco soon thereafter.  And it has at least one common theme – networks will have to be fast. Not just fast, but FAST.

Here are some examples:

But what does all this speed really get you in the real world?

For one thing, much faster two-way or multi-way video telephone or video conferencing, which means fewer commute trips in cars and less demand on other transportation such as plane trips across the country. That translates into less air pollution, less dependence on foreign oil (and need for foreign military expeditions) and less global warming. Then there is improved entertainment, interactive gaming, energy management, and much much more.

But it all depends on rapid deployment of LTE for wireless and fiber-to-the-premise for wired networks.

The Time Machine is taking us inexorably into this glitzy new future. But are our wireless and wired networks ready for this? Not in Seattle, certainly. We need a network vision to match our CES vision and here it is.

The Flux Capacitor is Fluxing.   The Time Machine is Ready.  Are we ready to build the networks we need?

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is ready, and we’re going to do it.

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– U.S.: Third World Broadband

Fiber Broadband - click for map

Fiber Broadband

The new fedgov stimulus bill was signed into law and it contains $6.3 billion to expand broadband in the United States.  Hooray!  The problem of Internet access in the United States is solved, right?

Hah!  Not by a long-shot.

The U. S. is 15th in the world in broadband penetration.  And our primary technologies used for broadband are still cable modems and phone companies’ Digital Subscriber Link (DSL).  Cable modems give relatively high speed – 6 to 30 megabits per second, but that speed is shared among dozens or hundreds of households.  And it is typically much slower “upload” rather than download.
DSL gives a dedicated connection to each user, but still, typically, at relatively low speeds such as 1, 2 or 7 megabits per second, and, again, much slower on the upload rather than download.

Now, you might think “gee a million bits a second is really fast”.  Yes, yes it is, if you are reading static websites or doing e-mail.  But the future of the “net” is video – and not the grainy, jerky (no pun intended), YouTube variety, but HDTV.  And HDTV requires 6 megabits per second each way.  Read on …

Most developed nations deploying “broadband” are NOT doing cable modems or coax or DSL or copper.  They are deploying fiber optic cable to each household and business. S eoul and Tokyo have deployed.  Amsterdam and Paris and Venice and Singapore are deploying.

A few forward thinking cities in the United States are – on their own – also deploying fiber to each premise.  Lafayette, Louisiana, Clarksville and Chattanooga and Pulaski and Jackson Tennessee are examples.  (See a great map of fiber deployments here.)

The beauty of fiber broadband is really high speed – 100 megabits-per-second or more, and true, two-way, symmetric networking.  These are networks capable of downloading whole movies in HDTV in a few minutes.  Or networks which can stream two-way HDTV so that every home/business can be an HDTV studio or a video conference/telework center or give people a phenomenal new Internet gaming experience.

Think about working at home, and joining meetings via HDTV video conference with quality so great you can actually watch your co-workers sweating.  With HDTV quality you can actually participate!  Or how about having your high school kid join a virtual HDTV classroom for that college-credit advanced placement class.  Or having your grandparents join you and their grandkids for dinner – several nights a week – using HDTV.  Think of the difference in their lives (maybe NOT yours!).
These same networks can be used to manage the energy use and carbon footprint of homes and businesses and buildings.  These are networks capable of telehealth and telemedicine – visiting your nurse or doctor from home and they can SEE you in HDTV.

And what will the fedgov broadband stimulus deliver?  Well, there is $2.5 billion for broadband to “rural areas” via the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services.

In terms of urban areas, a lot of the requirements are still to be determined before $4.7 billion in stimulus grants are awarded.  The funds need to be spent in unserved or underserved areas.  But what does that mean?  Compared to the fiber deployments being undertaken elsewhere in the world, most places in the United States – other than those served by Verizon FIOS – are “underserved” because we only have DSL and cable.  How fast is this proposed stimulus-funded broadband?  Is it 256kb per second, or a megabit or 100 megabits?  Is it symmetric or is a very slow upload speed acceptable?

The fedgov NTIA ( National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration) has published in the Federal Register an extensive list of such questions for us all to answer to help design their program.

I certainly hope this great new stimulus package will not just try to extend DSL or cable Internet and call that “broadband”.  I hope the NTIA and Agriculture stay true to the Obama administration’s goals of being bold, inventive, and innovative.  And, with this broadband stimulus, they don’t try to make the United States a “better” third world nation in terms of broadband, but rather sponsor projects which show the way for the future of a truly high-speed, two-way-HDTV-networked world.

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Filed under broadband, Fedgov, fiber, video