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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

 

This weblog is indefinitely suspended

Many people have written asking about updates to this weblog.

Regretfully, I suspended publication last year. This suspension is indefinite.

The alternative was to charge a subscription larger than we liked -- or to run ads from suppliers. We felt that running ads would have called the site's independence into question while at the same time producing little revenue.

The only sponsor we've ever had has been my employer, Fiber Planners Inc., which is not responsible for the content (I published this weblog on my own time).

More importantly, selling ads might have called into question the independence of my employer's design and consulting work. Fiber Planners Inc. has always been strictly vendor-neutral -- sometimes even in the face of legal threats (never successful) from big suppliers unhappy with the advice we've given clients about vendor selection or system failures.

If my consulting workload frees up more time, I will resume publication. In the meantime, I have to give higher priority to clients, colleagues and family.

Many thanks to everyone for their support and interest.

Al Bonnyman
Fiber Planners Inc.
Al@FiberPlanners.com
http:www.fiberplanners.com

#



Wednesday, April 14, 2004

 

Ecuador: Transelectric's 1000 km fiber network is transforming the economy

Matt Cowely has a long article in Business News America about Ecuadorian power utility Transelectric's role in transformation of Ecuador's telecommunications industry:
"Ecuador's carrier-of-carriers Transelectric expects to complete construction of a 1,000 km national fiber-optic backbone along its electric power transmission network in mid-2005, Transelectric telecoms manager Roberto Proanio told BNamericas. The coastal stretch is costing some US $4 million to install, which is about one quarter of the normal cost of installing a fiber optic link, as Transelectric saves money by using the transmission towers already in place, and avoids having to pay any rights-of-way."

"The fiber link will be the first national backbone in Ecuador, he said, as the only existing fiber link runs purely between capital city Quito and the second city Guayaquil, and is owned by state telco Andinatel. The rest of the country is connected by microwave or satellite links, he said, adding that the company is keen to ensure fair access for all operators to the network."

"Transelectric is already in talks with some 70 potential customers, including telecoms operators and large corporations, he said, adding the company has no plans to provide anything other than carrier-of-carrier services."

"The company's first incursion in the telecoms carrier business was the international fiber link to Colombia, in partnership with Internexa, the telecoms unit of Colombian transmission company ISA. The link was inaugurated in August 2003 and provides links from Quito through Colombia to Cartagena and then to the ARCOS submarine cable. Through the link, Transelectric has Tier 1 access to the NAP of the Americas network access point in Miami."

"The international link has had a dramatic impact on wholesale prices in Ecuador, which have fallen from around US$30,000 for an E1 connection several years ago to US$14,000 when the line was inaugurated and US$4,000 today, Proanio said. All Ecuador's main telecoms companies are using the international link, including Argentine carrier Impsat and local cable television operators, amongst others, he said."

ENTRESA, the Nicaraguan national power transmission company, has an almost identical project underway (see previous posts: April 9, April 12). It will be interesting to see how ENTRESA's project shapes the Nicaraguan economy.

#

 

CNET interview with Jim Baller -- "Broadband for the masses?"

CNET News has a lengthy interview with attorney Jim Baller on municipal broadband projects in the U.S. This and Karl Bode's interview last year with Jim give good insights into the legal and policy issues surrounding municipal broadband projects in the U.S.

#

 

Bloglet e-mail summary missed some items

The daily Bloglet e-mail summary of yesterday's posts missed some items (and also included duplicate copies of some posts). This occurred because of a glitch in Blogspot's software, not the Bloglet system.

Subscribers to the Bloglet e-mail summaries will want to manually check the web site to see the posts they missed

#

 

Utah: Salt Lake City Council votes 4-2 against financial backing for UTOPIA

As expected, the Salt Lake City Council voted 4-2 to financially back the multi-city UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project. Salt Lake City could still participate in the future, but only after construction is completed in the 11 cities that have financially guaranteed their portion of UTOPIA's debt -- that's expected to be 3 to 5 years in the future. Articles:

Deseret Morning News: "UTOPIA forging onward without S.L."

Salt Lake Tribune: "SLC won't back UTOPIA"
A good quote from the Tribune article:
"Officials from communities on board with UTOPIA are perplexed by the council's decision. They expect the capital city will eventually regret it. 'It surprises me, given what they stand to lose and what they would have stood to gain with UTOPIA,' said Paul Larsen, Brigham City's planning and economic development coordinator, in a phone interview. 'The sucking sound that Salt Lake will hear after UTOPIA is built is those businesses leaving Salt Lake and heading to cities that have better infrastructure.'"

"'We welcome them.'"

Provo Daily Herald: "Salt Lake City votes to remain in UTOPIA but not to pledge money"

#

 

"Powerline communications - Electrifying the broadband"

PC Magazine Middle & Near East has a long and comprehensive article on BPL (broadband over power line) technology. The article covers the histroy of BPL, starting with the first low speed power line carrier systems developed in the 1950s up to the G-line technology announced by Corridor Systems last year. The author clearly did a lot of technical homework in preparing this article; if you ignore the editing, which is a little rough, this article is more in depth than anything published in the broadband-related press in the U.S.

#

 

North Carolina: Property owners sue Blue Ridge Electric, questioning use of fiber on transmission lines

In North Carolina, a group of property owners is suing Blue Ridge Electric Membership Cooperative over a transmission line the utility is building in Ashe County. Among other items, the group is questioning why the utility is installing fiber on the line. The utility issued a press release in response that does a good job of explaining just how critical fiber communications have become in modern power system management.

#

 

Japan: "Broad strokes from FTTH"

Teledotcom Asia has a long article on the increasing pace of FTTH (fiber to the home) deployments in Japan, including market shares and descriptions of the various players.

#

 

Maryland: Eastern shore leaders partnering with Old Dominion Electric to improve broadand access in area

The Tri-County Councils on the Eastern Shore of Maryland have been studying ways to improve local broadband access and attract more jobs and business to the area. Part of this effort includes working with Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, to bring high speed fiber links into the region.

#

 

Washington state: "Wi-Fi program links Sauk-Suiattle to high-speed access, wealth of opportunities"

The Seattle Times has a long article on last week's announcement that several groups, including the Gates Foundation and Verizon, were donating equipment to the Sauk-Suiattle Indians. Esme Vos also comments on the project with a MuniWireless.com article.

#

 

Colorado: Denver uses fiber-linked traffic management system

The Denver Post has a long article on the fiber optic intelligent transportation system (ITS) Denver, Colorado uses to monitor traffic and control 1,232 traffic signals.

#



Tuesday, April 13, 2004

 

"Broadband Over Power Line Gets FCC Boost"

TV Technology has a basic article on BPL (broadband over power line) technology.

#

 

Bulgaria: Gas utility's fiber network forms backbone for first major competitive telecom

A U.S. company, Cabletel, is partnering with Bulgarian natural gas company, Bulgargaz, to become the first serious competitor to the incumbent national phone company. Cabletel will use Bulgargaz' existing fiber optic network as its' backbone.

#

 

Rush County, Indiana: "Fiber-versus-wireless debate continues"

April 10, Rushville, Indiana -- "Rush County Fiber Optics Board President Dave Sheets informed the Rush County Commissioners Monday that 'there is a ton of fiber (optic lines) currently in the county. However, the average business, the city, or private end-users do not have access to it.'"

"With that opening line, Sheets then asked the commissioners to reconsider their earlier decision to not allow 'pizza box' antennas to be placed in the clock tower of the Rush County Courthouse."

Fiber vs. wireless? They both have their places, in Fiber Planners' view. Wireless makes sense as a means of bridging the last mile, especially in a city like Rushville that lacks an existing power utility infrastructure that could be used for FTTH (fiber to the home) or BPL (broadband over power line). At the same time, fiber makes for a much better backbone, and, for utilities that can afford to offer FTTH or FTTB (fiber to the business), a much richer service offering.

#

 

Alabama: Childersburg may offer wireless broadband to housing project residents

In Alabama, the small town of Childersburg is considering offering broadband wireless service to residents of a local housing project as one way of closing the "digital divide". The capital cost would be about $3,000 to mount the equipment on a nearby city water tank.

#

 

Georgia: "A network of one's own"

"When Georgia's Douglas County School System needed a communications upgrade recently, administrators took a radical step that's increasingly raising the hackles of telecommunications giants: They built their own high-capacity fiber network."

"Getting local provider BellSouth to upgrade the old network would have cost-millions of dollars. What's more, the school system would still have had to pay recurring charges for services related to the network. The administrators decided that by owning the equipment and taking a do-it-yourself approach, the school system could dramatically boost performance and also save money for the county's 30 Atlanta-area schools."

"So far, their math appears to be working out. For a total cost of $2.2-million (U.S.) and a year's worth of work, Douglas County traded its old 1.5 megabit per second leased system for a brand-new 10 gigabit per second network — enough capacity to consider selling the excess for a profit. The new network, which is capable of carrying everything from voice to video to data, has also eliminated roughly $320,000 per year in recurring data communication charges, according to administrators."

#

 

Colorado: Niwot Telecommunications Cooperative formed to bring FTTH to a small town

Several residents of Niwot, Colorado have formed the Niwot Telecommunications Cooperative with the intention of trying to bring FTTH to their small community, presently served by Qwest.

At the same time, another local group, the Niwot Community Association, is studying bringing broadband wireless service to the community. A local newspaper story covers the two groups' efforts.

#

 

Queensland, Australia: More information on Telstra's FTTH trials near Brisbane

Australian PC World has an article on Telstra's recently announced FTTH (fiber to the home) trial in Springfield outside Brisbane. At the same time, Whirlpool is reporting that a short distance away, Telstra is still installing ADSL equipment on new builds:
"'Prospective residents are told Springfield is an advanced new estate with fibre optic connections. As soon as you build your house and ask to be connected to this advanced network you find out it doesn't exist. Not only can you not get broadband, you can't get anything better than a 33 Kbit/s dial-up connection,' the reader writes."

#

 

Reality check for satellite broadband

BroadbandReports.com has a short but very relevant note on satellite broadband. Despite ongoing efforts to hype and expand the industry, the note points out that the technology suffers the inherent limitations of "space lag" (latency). That's the delay involved between the time a user clicks on a link and the new page is fully loaded.

Satellite broadband suffers from latency problems because the signals must pass back and forth to a satellite far out in space; even traveling at the speed of light, the signals encounter annoying delays.

#

 

Iowa: Waterloo school links into state's fiber network

Waterloo, Iowa -- "A $74,771 bid from Baker Cabling System of Hiawatha to install 1.2 miles of fiber optic cable between Central Middle School and the Area Education Agency 267 offices in Cedar Falls. That would allow AEA 267 to provide the district's Internet services through the Iowa Communications Network, tripling its available bandwidth. The district has outgrown its current Internet capacity needs and earlier sought bids for increased bandwidth from a service provider. Two bids came in at $50,100 and $41,100 annually. Once the connection is made to AEA 267, the district will receive its Internet service for free."

$60,000 per mile is a very high price to pay for fiber connectivity outside a dense urban area; the ADSS fiber optic cable systems Fiber Planners designs for municipal utilities typically cost $5,000 to $10,000 per mile, depending on fiber counts. That cost includes design work, cable, cable hardware, installation, splicing and testing -- as well as make-ready costs.

#

 

California: Oceanside building municipal wireless network for internal communications

"Proxim Corporation , a global leader in wireless networking equipment for Wi-Fi and broadband wireless networks, today announced that its Tsunami broadband wireless products are being used as the foundation for The City of Oceanside, California's new metro area wireless network. The new network, which links all of Oceanside's major facilities including City Hall, its fire and police departments, and water and harbor facilities, has saved the City approximately $150,000 per year, while enabling users across the network to access voice, data and video applications quickly and reliably."

#

 

"Faults Still Plague Electric System As Peak Summertime Use Nears"

The Wall Street Journal has a long overview article on last year's blackout in the Northeast and the prospects for more trouble this year. The article requires a paid subscription to access it; here are some excerpts:
"As the summer months approach, North America's electricity system remains frail and many of the shortcomings that contributed to a massive failure eight months ago have yet to be fixed."

"Investigators and utility executives agree that the electric system still is plagued by the kinds of weaknesses that left 50 million people in the U.S. and Canada without power Aug. 14. A major study of the blackout cites lingering deficiencies, including poorly prepared engineers, faulty equipment settings, voluntary reliability standards and muddled oversight."

"'The transmission system has been leaned on and leaned on and it's in fairly fragile shape now,' said Joseph Welch, president of International Transmission Co., a Novi, Mich., electric-transmission company. Adds Kenneth Rose, senior fellow at Michigan State University's Institute of Public Utilities: 'Ironing out all the problems will be fairly difficult.'"

#

 

BPL vendor Mitsubishi names new CEO

Broadband over power lines (BPL) vendor Mitsubishi has named a new CEO for its' American operations:
"Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. (MEPPI) announced the retirement of its founding chief executive officer, Roger Barna, effective April 1, 2004. John E. (Jack) Greaf, president and chief operating officer of mitzvahs Electric Power Products, assumes the title of president and CEO. Barna, who led the company since its incorporation in 1985, will continue to work with MEPPI on a part-time basis. He will help the firm manage several new ventures and expand existing lines, such as ozone water treatment facilities, rail transportation electrical systems, and broadband over power-line (BPL) services."

#

 

South Korea: Government relaxes regulations to encourage BPL deployment

The South Korean government is relaxing regulations covering broadband over power lines (BPL), although the English language article announcing this change is a bit unclear as to whether this refers to networking over power lines within the home or "Access Broadband over Power Lines" (broadband access over power lines coming into the home). Here's the quote; it seems to indicate both types are covered:
"Starting this October, high-speed Internet access will be available to homes and offices through the nation's power lines. The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) announced Tuesday that the lightening of regulations would allow the broadband Internet to be accessed through electric power lines, without having to install a separate device."

"Power Line Communication (PLC) is a technology that enables homes to exchange data through power lines, and connects electronic devices such as refrigerators, televisions and personal computers to the Internet without the need to install extra equipment. Until now, the MIC has required individual authorization for connecting to the Internet through power lines for fear of interference of electric waves from other electronic devices. However, the MIC replied 'We have decided to ease regulations on PLC for the technological development of home networking.'"

Update: a second article confirms that the Ministry is seeking to encourage access BPL in remote areas

#

 

Tennessee: JEA to move from FTTH trial to full deployment in late April

Jackson, Tennessee -- "Glass fibers the width of a strand of human hair will soon pipe cable, Internet and phone lines into Jackson homes. The Jackson Energy Authority's E-Plus for Broadband program was the main topic of conversation at the company's board and management's presentation Monday night. JEA President John Williams shared the company's five-year plan to the City Council and the public."

"Williams is most excited about the fiber-optic broadband network, he said. A total of 174 JEA customers in the Channing Way area and in East Jackson are currently using the service. If those trial customers do not experience any glitches, the program will launch on April 27, Williams said. Plans include offering the service in northwest, central, east and south Jackson."

#

 

Utah: Salt Lake City makes UTOPIA decision tonight

The Salt Lake City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to participate in the multi-city UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency) FTTH (fiber to the home) project. With a key UTOPIA supporter instructed to recuse himself from the voting, it appears likely the city will vote "no". Recent articles:

Deseret Morning News: "S.L. likely to vote no tonight on UTOPIA"

Salt Lake Tribune: "No on UTOPIA looms in SLC"

Letter to the Salt Lake Tribune: "Smells like Qwest"

Denver Post: "Utah cities hesitate on fiber-optic plan"

Salt Lake Tribune editorial: "When UTOPIA calls"

CNET News: "Utopia awaits moment of truth"

Salt Lake Tribune political column: "Rolly and Wells: Are politics perfect in UTOPIA?"
The columnists note that the city's attorneys have instructed a key pro-UTOPIA councilman to recuse himself from voting on UTOPIA; they (and others) question whether he really has the conflict of interest the attorneys allege.

#



Monday, April 12, 2004

 

Tennessee: Charter and Jackson Energy Authority in dispute over cable damage

In Tennessee, Jackson Energy Authority is building a municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) system. JEA's contractors have accidentally damaged cable TV incumbent Charter's cable in several location and the two companies are arguing over the cost of repairs.

#

 

New Zealand: Project PROBE missing deadlines to connect schools with broadband

New Zealand -- "The Education Ministry appears to have accepted it will miss its Project Probe target of providing broadband internet to all schools by November, though all schools in the Wellington region should be connected by June. The ministry has published a timetable on its website setting out when it expects broadband to reach each school in the 10 regions where Project Probe contracts have so far been signed with telcos. Contracts have yet to be finalised for Auckland, Northland, Wairarapa and Canterbury."

#

 

Wisconsin: Oakdale Electric Cooperative providing wireless broadband in Mauston

Oakdale Electric Cooperative is partnering with local rural telephone company Lemonweir Valley Telephone Company to offer wireless broadband service to the residents of Mauston, Wisconsin using WaveRider equipment.

#

 

Nicaragua: More info on ENTRESA's OPGW link to the Atlantic coast

Friday, I posted a note about ENTRESA's plans to run fiber 315 km from Tipitapa in the populous western part of the country to remote Bluefields on the Atlantic Coast. The link would tie Managua into an overseas fiber link for the first time (via the ARCOS 1 submarine cable). By stringing optical groundwire (OPGW) on its' high voltage transmission line, ENTRESA is crossing large stretches of rain forest not even traversed by roads, let alone any other fiber links. Bluefields has long been cut off from the rest of the country.

This ABB marketing brochure gives more information on ENTRESA's nationwide fiber system.

Two observations:
  • We often see that local power utilities such as ENTRESA can be in a unique position to help transform the information economies of developing nations, especially if the local telephone network is not in good shape.
  • The ARCOS 1 undersea fiber cable, placed in service in 2002, links most of the nations in Central America to Venezuela, the U.S. and Mexico. Most of their national capitals are on the Pacific Coast, however, so I wonder how many other countries share Nicaragua's difficulty in linking to ARCOS 1. Too bad ARCOS 1 doesn't have a Pacific Coast counterpart; perhaps ENTRESA can partner with neighboring utilities to haul their traffic to the Bluefields cable terminal.

#

 

Massachusetts: Veroxity partners with utility NSTAR to serve businesses with fiber

"Veroxity Technology Partners, an industry leader and innovator in enterprise network connectivity services and IT infrastructure solutions, today announces the initial deployment of its Boston Metro Optical Ring. The initial fiber ring was leased from NSTAR Communications, a subsidiary of one of New England?s largest utilities, and spans 30 fiber miles with the capacity to handle thirty-two OC 48s or eight OC 192s. Veroxity plans to acquire an additional 500 fiber miles in Massachusetts over the next twelve months."

#

 

Minnesota: Anoka-Hennepin School Board has long-term plans for fiber network

In Minnesota, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board is making plans for a system-wide upgrade of its' information technology system; eventually this will include a $4 million fiber network.

#



Sunday, April 11, 2004

 

Pennsylvania: Allegheny Power uses web services, smart thermostats for demand-side management

From Wired News:
"Consumers are going online to help energy companies prevent power failures that can take the grid offline, thanks to smart thermostats that enable individuals to use their browsers to avoid using energy during peak times while also reducing their bills."

"Customers of Allegheny Power, an electricity provider in Pennsylvania, are doing their part to help lower the strain on the grid during peak times. Not only can they pay their bills online, but they can also remotely turn down their heat or find out the best time of day to do laundry. Allegheny Power is providing smart thermostats from Lightstat, which residential customers program online to better manage their power consumption.

(Link from Jim Baller at the Baller Herbst Law Group via his mailing list)

#

 

Utah: UTOPIA advocates respond to anti-FTTH report by KSL

Salt Lake City's KSL-TV ran a strikingly negative and, I thought, dumb report on the multi-city UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project. (I compared it at the time to Kent Brockman's reporting on the Simpsons.)

KSL apparently got an earful from their viewers; their web site has a response from folks supporting UTOPIA.

(Link from Joel Wright)



#

 

New Jersey: Verizon threatens to punish state by withholding fiber

From the Associated Press:
Newark, New Jersey -- "Verizon, the state's dominant phone carrier, is threatening to drop plans to install a $250 million fiber-optic network because state regulators will not let it charge competitors more to lease its local lines."

The cable guys must love this announcement!

Verizon is playing chicken with its own future survival.

Over the long term, the Bells need to deploy fiber in order to compete with the cable TV companies which have much higher bandwidth cable networks. (The cable operators' coaxial systems have 10 to 20 times as much bandwidth capacity as the Bells' twisted pair infrastructure.)

The cable companies own video to the home. They dominate broadband to the home. Starting in 2005, they'll start taking away a lot of voice customers with Voice over IP (VoIP).

The Bells can let this happen or they can respond by going after the cable companies with all 3 services. Excluding Qwest, the Bells are (for now), much better capitalized than the cable companies. They can do this in theory, but in reality they don't have the savvy or the stomach.

I think of the Bells as dinosaurs marking time waiting for the big meteor strike that's headed their way. They'll join Western Union in the ranks of former communications giants. Perhaps they should start studying the money order business now ...

(Link from BroadbandReports.com)

#

 

Tennessee: Jackson Energy Authority first VoIP provider in state

March 30, 2004 -- "Building on its success deploying the nation's largest fully-funded Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) network, the Jackson Energy Authority is partnering with Aeneas Internet & Telephone, the largest ISP in western Tennessee, to offer voice services to 31,000 homes and businesses. Aeneas has selected MetaSwitch as its VoIP technology partner for the venture based on the company's proven ability working with the JEA's chosen FTTP network vendor, Wave7 Optics. Using MetaSwitch's flagship VP3500 Next Generation Class 5 Switch, Aeneas will offer Jackson residents a broad range of advanced calling features, along with the ability to manage and configure those services via the Web."

(Link from Jim Baller at the Baller Herbst Law Group via his mailing list)

#

 

Street lamp mesh in the U.K.

From BroadbandReports.com:
"The UK government has employed Last Mile Communications to deploy some 150,000 wireless broadband transceivers in street lights and stop-lights. The resulting mesh network will be used to monitor roads and alert drivers to road conditions via displays, but the bandwidth may also be leased to ISP's to help provide broadband service to consumers. The system uses microcells, which have a better range with less power drain than mobile phone antennas, using the 63 GHz radio frequency for higher data rates."

See e-Week for a longer article on the subject.

#

 

Illinois: "Despite Initial Defeat, Tri-Cities Broadband Initiative Plots Second Go"

ePrairie has a good article on the Tri-Cities Broadband Coalition's move to put their proposed municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) network on the ballot in the Illinois cities of Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles. A similar effort was defeated last year after a heavy and deceptive advertising campaign by incumbent carriers SBC and Comcast seeking to preserve their telecom and cable TV monopolies.

(Link from Annie Collins with the Tri-Cities Broadband Coalition)

#

 

Michigan: Wireless spreading in Detroit; SBC testing FTTP in Canton

April 6 -- "Wireless Internet accessibility is spreading faster in Detroit than any other major metropolitan area nationwide, according to a survey released today by computer chip maker Intel Corp. Detroit made the biggest jump in the rankings of America’s 'most unwired cities,' leaping from 48th last year to 28th."

The article, which is mostly about wireless broadband, also notes that SBC will be conducting a FTTP (fiber to the premises) trial in Canton Township's Sunflower Village.

(Link from Neil Lehto via the Municable Yahoo group)

#

 

BelAir Networks supplies wireless gear to cities in Arizona, Iowa, and Nebraska

March 23 -- "Three U.S. municipalities are turning to BelAir Networks to deliver essential communication services to their respective city personnel via Wi-Fi technology. BelAir has inked deals with the cities of Des Moines, Iowa; Show Low, Arizona; and Lincoln, Nebraska to deploy its BelAir200 cellular LAN platform. In Iowa, the Department of Transportation will use the technology to link the West Des Moines Traffic and Iowa Departments of Transportation. The platform also will be called on to provide traffic monitoring at busy city intersections."

"In Arizona, the BelAir200 will be used to enable police and fire departments to maintain communications between mobile units and databases at city hall. In Nebraska, the network will be used to interconnect scattered city offices by providing connectivity. The technology also will be used as a redundant link for existing wired networks."

(Link from Jim Baller at the Baller Herbst Law Group via his mailing list)

#

 

"Senators urge Rural Utilities Service to boost broadband program"

April 2 -- "The U.S. Department of Agriculture needs to do a better job of spurring broadband deployment through the Rural Broadband Program, two senators said Thursday.

"'The rural broadband program is one of the most important federal programs to boost economic development in rural communities. Despite great demand, the Rural Utilities Service has been extremely slow in getting these loans out the door and into rural areas. They risk squandering a great opportunity. So we’re glad that Secretary Ann Veneman understands the importance of broadband deployment to rural America and has made a commitment to make this program work the way Congress intended,' said Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), chairman of the Senate communications subcommittee, and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)."

(Link from Jim Baller at the Baller Herbst Law Group via his mailing list)

#

 

Washington state: Spokane building municipal wireless system downtown

March 23 -- "Vivato, an extended reach wireless systems infrastructure company, today announced that the City of Spokane has selected Vivato's 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Outdoor Switch and Wi-Fi Bridge Router to create the nation's largest city-wide wireless network to support city services and boost local economic development with public access Wi-Fi.

"Spokane, the largest city in eastern Washington state, with a population of 196,000, has undertaken a downtown renaissance that includes extending its 'connectivity quotient.' In collaboration, the city, Vivato, Itronix, a developer of wireless, rugged mobile computing systems, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, a private, non-profit downtown membership organization, Purcell Systems, a provider of modular, outdoor enclosures, and broadband provider OneEighty Networks will collaborate to provide wireless service to the 100-block downtown area. The downtown 'Hot Zone' will improve city services by facilitating intelligent policing, quicker fire and rescue response, and will support e-government initiatives and a more productive mobile workforce. The project also will allow the public to use the wireless network, making Spokane's downtown more attractive for citizens, high-tech businesses and visitors."

(Link from Jim Baller at the Baller Herbst Law Group via his mailing list)

#



Friday, April 09, 2004

 

Cell phone jammers also jam power utility wireless systems

The New York Times has an excellent article on the ethical and technical issues associated with cell phone jammers.

My employer, Fiber Planners, has at least one power utility client that's reported interference to its' internal wireless communications system. Their system operates on other licensed frequencies, indicating that at least some of the jammers are not very discriminating. Interference with licensed power utility radio systems is a violation of federal law.

This client spent several days investigating before they isolated the problem. Since the first occurrence, they've had a second, unrelated incident.

One of their jammer users was a strip joint that didn't want picture phone users sending pictures of dancers. The other was a church that didn't want interruptions.

(Link from BroadbandReports.com)

#

 

Nicaragua: ABB building cross-country fiber link for ENTRESA

In Nicaragua, Swedish-Swiss conglomerate ABB is building a fiber optic link from Managua to the remote town of Bluefields on the Atlantic coast for ENTRESA, the national power transmission utility. This link will cross dense rain forest and tie the capital into the ARCOS 1 undersea cable for the first time. Presently international voice and data traffic is routed via an old microwave system to Costa Rica before transmission elsewhere.

(For more information, see item 7 near the end of this round-up of Nicaraguan news.)

#

 

Israeli test confirms data transfer by pigeons is faster than DSL

... will the Salt Lake Tribune recommend it next as an alternative to UTOPIA?
Israel21c reports on a new form of wireless:
" A group of Israeli Internet enthusiasts have proven that good old fashioned pigeons transfer information faster than broadband ADSL - and it's not an April Fools joke. In mid-March, the inquisitive group met near the Sea of Galilee to witness a live test sending 3 homing pigeons a 66 mile distance each carrying tiny memory cards containing, in total, 4 GB of data. The purpose of the test was to validate a proof-of-concept for pigeon-empowered internet, and to measure and establish that the usage of pigeons enable to transfer data faster than ADSL ... The TCP (Transmission by Carrier Pigeons) was carried wirelessly, in three packets, each consist of 1.3 GB, delivered by a different pigeon ... the time of the transmission was measured by the last pigeon to arrive; the data contained in the memory cards was available and readable at the destination. No external sources of energy, such as batteries or electrical extension cord were used."

Ami Ben-Bassat has a lot more information in his blog. Apparently the story was also picked up by both Dan Gillmor and Slashdot, although I missed it at the time.

The Israeli work confirms an earlier Norwegian experiment; an RFC (Request for Comments) has been filed ("IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service") to define a new protocol.

Adam Gaffin also has a note on "Wi-Fly".

#

 

Last minute private sector offer to shoulder much of Salt Lake City's UTOPIA risk

The Deseret Morning News reports:
"Salt Lake City would shoulder a lot less financial risk but share a lot less profit under a new, 11th-hour deal to induce the city to stick with UTOPIA. Wexford Capital, LLC, a private Connecticut-based venture capital firm that already has ties to the proposed Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, is offering to cut the city's potential initial costs for the publicly owned fiber optic network."

"While final details of Wexford's deal are still being hammered out, the company's verbal offer to cover 75 percent of the city's costs the first 10 years would come in exchange for 75 percent of the city's UTOPIA profits for 25 years. That plan would slash the city's potential costs to $7.7 million from $28.7 million in the first decade of UTOPIA's operation."

"City Council Chairwoman Jill Remington Love said Wexford's offer to take away taxpayers' risk is intriguing. 'But if there is an investor that will take away that risk, is it because (UTOPIA) is such a good deal that maybe we shouldn't pass up getting that revenue?' Still, Love concedes that even with the new deal, UTOPIA is probably dead in Salt Lake City. She said she expects when the council decides Tuesday if Salt Lake is in or out, at least three members will vote against UTOPIA."

Interestingly, the Salt Lake Tribune chose not to report on this development; the Tribune has been very opposed to UTOPIA, frequently offering other technologies as superior to fiber (DSL, cable modems, BPL, wireless).

#

 

Utah: "Payson signs on to UTOPIA; Cedar City says no, again"

As previously noted, Cedar City, Utah has declined to financially back the multi-city UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) FTTH (fiber to the home) project but will remain a member of the UTOPIA consortium. Payson has voted to back the project.
"Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt said, 'I regard this vote as one of the most unfortunate in the history of the city. We have 20 percent of our people at the poverty level. UTOPIA would have brought good wages to our city. ... People would have come here from everywhere.'"

Cedar City will still be able to build a UTOPIA network, but only after the cities backing it financially have completed their networks. Cedar City also will not have access to lower cost financing.

#

 

"World Wide Packets looks overseas"

The Spokane Journal of Business has a profile of FTTH (fiber to the home) vendor World Wide Packets. The company is placing increasing emphasis on international sales.

#

 

Korea: Korea Electric Power negotiating BPL deal

In an article on trade ties between Spain and Korea, the Korea Times briefly noted that Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and Spanish company Abengoa are in the process of working out a BPL (broadband over power line) technology licensing detail.

#

 

New York State: Penn Yan delays OK'ing BPL contract

The Village of Penn Yan, New York is delaying signing a 10-year contract with BPL (broadband over power line) service provider Data Ventures Inc (DVI) until certain unspecified contractual issues are worked out. DVI has been using Penn Yan's municipal power system to deliver broadband on a trial basis using Amperion equipment.

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Missouri: Big River plans commercial BPL roll-out on Ameren system

Regional CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) Big River Telephone Company is planning to deploy a full-scale BPL (broadband over power line) service in Cape Girardeau, Missouri over electric utility Ameren's distribution system. Big River and Ameren have been working together in a trial of Main.net BPL equipment in Cape Girardeau for some time.

(Link from David Lewis)

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Solomon Islands linked by narrowband radio e-mail

The BBC reports:
"A internet connection speed of 2 Kbps may not sound like much, but it is providing a lifeline for the people of the Solomon Islands. The struggling South Pacific nation has endured years of bloodshed, corruption and economic decline. But for the past four years, the People's First Network has tried to mend fences by using high frequency radio to send and receive e-mail.

The Solomon Islands consists of some 850 islands, mostly undeveloped, spread out over a wide area of the Pacific. The two main ways of getting in touch with people are short-wave radios or satellite telephones. But radio offers no privacy, whereas satellite phones are too expensive for most to use regularly.

At the moment that are 14 e-mail stations in schools or clinics in rural areas. The stations are owned by the community, with decisions taken by a committee of village chiefs and religious leaders.

Paul Goodison also has information on the project in his Broadband and Me blog.


#

 

Utah: Cedar City Council declines to back UTOPIA financially -- even with local contributions

Ed Kociela writes in the Spectrum describing the Cedar City, Utah Council meeting:
"Even with more than half of the first year's contingency money on the table, the three City Council members who voted down a measure to become a charter member of UTOPIA did not change their vote Wednesday night."

"Kirk Jones, who led a grassroots drive to raise the $617,000 the city would have needed as initial contingency money to bring the high-speed, broadband telecommunications system to Cedar City, said his group has raised $350,000 from 101 residents -- a significant jump from the $75,000 the group had raised as of Monday."

"'If we had more time, we would have had all of the money,' Jones said."

"Last night's council meeting was the most highly attended session in more than a decade, with the chambers filled and chairs set up in the lobby to accommodate the overflow crowd of mostly pro-UTOPIA residents."

"For two hours, the council heard comments aimed at persuading either Joe Burgess, Dale Brinkerhoff or Raymond Green to change their mind and reopen the project for another vote. The council then decided to forward a measure to become a non-pledging member of UTOPIA, meaning that the city would not have to put up any contingency money in the future, but would not be allowed to share in any profits UTOPIA earns and would have to wait until all of the charter cities are up and running on the system before work begins to bring it here. Green said that would solve the technology problem without the city putting up any money."

Ed goes on to describe the dynamics of the meeting. Given that local citizens were had already coughed up half the money needed and were confident they could come up with all of it, it's a bit hard to see why the three council members wouldn't give them a little more time. I wonder if they were under some external pressure or inducement to vote as they did. I suspect others may be wondering the same thing.

#



Thursday, April 08, 2004

 

Utah: Qwest promises Salt Lake City it will deploy DSL if it can keep monopoly

Qwest has a de facto monopoly on telecommunications in Salt Lake City, Utah and has slowly rolled out DSL service, making it available to about 60% of the city. In an effort to head off competition from UTOPIA, a multi-city FTTH system, Qwest is promising to offer DSL to another 30% of the city -- if the city will just stay out of UTOPIA. No mention of how the other 10% will get broadband -- I guess they're just out of luck.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is reportedly excited by this unenforceable promise from Qwest to finally do what they were supposed to have done already. Like Qwest, he had no comment on the unlucky 10% that won't get broadband access.

#

 

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson waffles on UTOPIA

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's 2003 State of the City address:
"In the realm of economic development and business promotion, several new projects are on the horizon. First, we propose joining UTOPIA, a state-wide effort to build a fiber-optic network that will make available broadband Internet, data, and video services to every house and business in Salt Lake City.  While the project is just getting off the ground, the prospects are very promising that Salt Lake City can enhance its reputation for being the most wired city in the nation, at very little cost to taxpayers.  We look forward to bringing more details to you about this project as the UTOPIA inter-governmental organization moves into the implementation phase of its work."

April 2004 (from the Salt Lake Tribune:
"'There is no reason to think this is the right time for Salt Lake City to undertake a project like UTOPIA,' he said. 'You've had some very talented people lose billions of dollars in the telecommunications industry the past few years, and I'm not sure taxpayer money should be put at risk.'"

#

 

Utah: Roy votes to stay in UTOPIA

Roy, Utah's City Council voted 2-2 (with the mayor casting a tie-breaking vote) to stay in UTOPIA but not pledge financial backing. A 5th councilman who was pro-UTOPIA missed the meeting and did not vote.

#

 

Australia: More information on Telstra's FTTH trial in Queensland

Earlier this week, I noted Australian incumbent Telstra would soon be announcing a FTTH (fiber to the home) trial in the Brisbane area. Australian IT has more information on the trial, which will use Alcatel equipment

#

 

Idaho: Pocatello views Idaho Falls' municipal fiber network with envy

From the Idaho State Journal:
"The way Ray Burstedt sees it, businesses just got one more reason to locate in Idaho Falls, and Pocatello should consider playing catch-up, even though it would mean spending about $11 million. The latest item on a list of things which Idaho Falls has and Pocatello wants is a 50-mile network of fiber-optic cable, a technology which transmits data faster and better by shooting laser beams through human hair-sized lines.

Idaho Falls uses the recently-completed fiber-optic system for municipal purposes and leases so-called dark fiber, unused lines, to private companies to defray costs."

#

 

ARRL: "Utility Encounters Mixed Success in Avoiding Amateur Spectrum with BPL"

The ARRL is opposed to BPL (broadband over power line) technology deployment in the U.S. out of concern for potential interference to amateur and other HF (high frequency) radio operations. In North Carolina, Progress Energy has worked proactively with amateur radio operators near their Wake County BPL trial site to address interference concerns. An ARRL article reports on the project, which uses BPL equipment from Amperion.

I'm surprised the Amperion equipment requires operator intervention to shift frequencies when an interference issue arises; I hope they'll develop gear that does this automatically on the fly as it occurs. This is a capability we'd want to see before recommending it to our utility customers.

#

 

Japan FTTH update

As expected, Japanese FTTH (fiber to the home) subscribers passed the 1 million mark in February of this year. NTT alone expects to have 2 million customers by march of next year. The Japanese note in the U.S. fewer than 200,000 homes are passed by fiber.

NTT has been using ATM-based B-PON (broadband passive optical network) technology; it announced that it would shift to using Gigabit Ethernet PON (GE-PON).

#

 

Ontario and Michigan link fiber networks

"ORION and Merit Network, Ontario and Michigan research and educational networks, have signed what they hailed Tuesday as an historic agreement to link arms across the Canada-U.S. border. The groups said this is the first time research and educational networks in an individual state or province have paired up to 'make the borders a little less visible,' said Jennifer Wolf, manager of dedicated connections for Merit of Ann Arbor, Mich."

#

 

Spain: Power utility Union Fenosa offering satellite broadband

Spanish utility giant Union Fenosa is now introduce satellite broadband service in rural areas, but as this article points out, they may be a little late in entering the market.

Union Fenosa already has BPL (broadband over power line) trials underway in other areas.

#

 

Utah: "Risk and Fiber"

Ben Fulton with the Salt Lake City Weekly has an excellent editorial on Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's waffling on the city's participation in the UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency) FTTH (fiber to the home) project. It succinctly captures the politics, the problems and the opportunities. Some excerpts:
"Support for UTOPIA may be a battle between optimistic futurists and pragmatic pessimists. Or it could be just about money ..."

"XMission owner and president Pete Ashdown was at first skeptical of UTOPIA's logistics and finances. It didn't take long for him to be won over. As a business owner, his Internet service provider business currently navigates all its customers along Qwest's DSL lines. Ashdown would love to be rid of that dependency, free to march his clients through a larger, faster, municipally funded network. 'We'd certainly like a situation where we didn't have to be overseen by our competition,' he said ..."

"'If Delta airlines ran the airport, don't you think they'd show favoritism toward Delta?' Enter private companies such as Qwest and Comcast, the 'Deltas' of which Ashdown speaks. Each opposes the use of public funds to compete against its own current and future telecommunications networks, and lobbied vigorously against UTOPIA during the recent legislative session, with some measure of success ..."

"Why not make Utah the leader? Three years ago a U.N. study ranked the United States fourth in telecommunications network speed. It has since fallen to 11th ..."


#

 

Ontario: Power utility links rural Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie with fibre

In Ontario, Great Lakes Power is upgrading power transmission lines between Sault Ste. Marie and rural Wawa; as part of the upgrade, the utility will also add fibre optic cable to the lines.

#

 

Washington state: Grant County PUD fiber users remain committed to FTTH

Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) in rural Washington state started a pioneering FTTH (fiber to the home) project several years ago. Internal politics and cost overruns led to the replacement of the general manager and a general stink about the project. Large power users such as irrigators were concerned that they were subsidizing the project (even though they still have some of the lowest power rates in the U.S.)

The 'Zipp' fiber optic project was much more expensive per user than most FTTH projects for at least two reasons. Most importantly, it was done in a low line density area. I don't have Grant County's exact statistics, but I know they are much lower than the 50 homes passed per mile that's typical of municipal broadband projects. Second, this was one of the first (if not the first) commercial FTTH deployments in the world. Costs have since dropped significantly; most new FTTH systems in areas with higher line density cost less than 10% of what Grant County has paid.

With all the negative press surrounding Grant County's project in the last few months, it's significant that a PUD meeting held to discuss the project turned up more than 75 attendees, almost all calling for continued commitment to the project and speaking of how important the fiber access was to their daily lives. The article quotes the different ways in which the Zipp network has become important to its users.

#

 

Washington: Donors supply PCs, wireless broadband to Sauk-Suiattle Indian reservation

Nancy Gohring has a good article in Wi-Fi Networking News about yesterday's announcement that donors are providing free PCs and wireless service to link residents living on the Sauk-Suiattle Indian reservation in Washington state.

The three donating organizations are the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians -- Economic Development Corp. (ATNI-EDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Verizon Avenue.

#

 

Vendor offers free wireless broadband grant for one lucky small town

Sam Churchill writing in DailyWireless reports:
"Coastal Wireless provider Wheat Wireless has a great promotional idea with its new Wireless Community Initiative Grant. Through the grant, Wheat Wireless Services, Inc. is offering $100,000 in wireless networking hardware and network engineering services to one small town in the United States ... The town selected for this grant will have a resident population over 7,500 and fewer than 25,000. The target population must not currently have a commercial broadband solution such as DSL or cable Internet. The town's geography should be one advantageous to wireless line-of-site networking, such as a valley or flat community."

See Sam's article for the full story.

#

 

Utah: Payson pledges funds to back UTOPIA FTTH project

"The Payson City Council voted 3-2 to join the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, a proposed fiber optic system that, if built according to plans, will deliver sophisticated telecommunications to small towns and major metropolitan cities across Utah."

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