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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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Friday, February 06, 2004


Texas: TXU selling its Texas Telecom business

Power utility TXU Corp. plans to sell its Texas telecommunications business to Consolidated Communications Inc. for $527 million.



Upcoming utility telecom meetings sponsored by the UTC:

February 5-6: Texas-Louisiana Regional UTC Meeting
Lafayette, Louisiana

February 9-11: 2004 Utility Telecom Forum (Western UTC regions)
Reno, Nevada

February 24-25: UPLC Utilities Users Group Workshop
"Building A Roadmap to Commercial Deployment"
Miami, Florida

February 26-27: UTelco Executives Council Summit
Miami, Florida

March 3-5: 2004 Canadian Utility Telecom Conference
Calgary, Alberta

March 3-5: UTC/SERC/FRCC Spring meeting (Southeast UTC region)
Jacksonville, Florida

May 16-19: UTC TELECOM 2004 (this is the big national show)
Nashville, Tennessee

The UTC (United Telecom Council) was formerly known as the Utility Telecom Council and is the primary trade association for the telecom operations of electric, water, gas and other utilities.

The United Power Line Council (UPLC) is a subsidiary trade association within the UTC that supports BPL (broadband over power line) technology users (both vendors and utilities)



Department of Homeland Security budgets 8% increase for information technology

President budgets $4.43 billion on homeland security IT in fiscal 2005.



Texas: Fort Stockton links schools, government facilities with fiber

In Texas, the City of Fort Stockton has worked with Pecos County and the local schools to build a fiber network to link schools and government facilities. Somewhat confusingly, the company doing much of the work is named "Wireless Frontier Internet Inc." and referred to as "WiFi"; the actual network is a fiber network, not a wireless network.

(I can't complain about the name confusion; Fiber Planners also does non-fiber work for utilities and municipalities)



Chicago, Illinois: "Mayor Daley’s Grand CivicNet May Actually Be 'CivicNot' "

A pessimistic assessment of Chicago's once-promising, now delayed and diluted CivicNet project to link government facilities with fiber.
"It was supposed to include the resources of many companies, city agencies and the CTA [Chicago Transit Authority] and its rights of way throughout the city. The initial thrust of this project was to provide the city with a solid network infrastructure that could be the foundation of communications for the new millennium. It was a great idea on the surface, but after five years since its initial announcement and some typical fanfare, where is it really at?"

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



Minnesota: Windom City Council votes to take out federal loan for municipal telecom project

In Minnesota, the City of Windom is building a city-wide telecommunications system for its' residents. The City Council just voted to apply for a federal RUS (Rural Utility Service) loan to help fund the project. The City will hold a public meeting next Monday to discuss details of the project.



Pennsylvania: Perkasie Borough to study municipal broadband project

In Pennsylvania, the Perkasie Borough Council voted to fund a study to determine the feasibility and desirability of developing a municipal broadband study.



Verizon and AFC finalize FTTP (fiber to the premises) equipment contract

"Advanced Fiber Communications , has finally nailed down the Verizon fiber to the home deal which entails AFC supplying electronics and components through 2008."

(Quoted from Om Malik via his weblog: [Om Malik's Broadband Blog])



Morrison & Foerster's "Communications Law Bulletin"

Morrison & Foerster has put their January issue of their "Communications Law Bulletin" on the web:
Topics include:
  • The Month in Brief
  • FCC to Address Two Extremes in the VOIP Controversy, Leaving the Uncertainty in the Middle
  • FCC Chairman Powell Seeks Reversal on Indecency
  • FCC Imposes $5.4 Million Fine for "Junk Fax" Violations
  • Supreme Court Rejects Antitrust Claim Based upon Alleged Violations of 1996 Telecommunications Act
  • Commission Fines Importer and Marketer of Headset Equipment
  • Commission Fines Former Broadcaster $25,000 for Violations of RF Radiation Limits and Other Commission Rules
  • Commission Sanctions Noncommercial Educational Stations for Broadcasting Advertisements
  • FCC Issues First Enforcement Action Under Do-Not-Call Registry
  • FCC Adopts New Rules for the Schools and Libraries Program
  • Developments in Wireless Local Number Portability
  • Cable Industry, Other Groups Seek Reconsideration of FCC's New Broadcast Flag Rules
  • FCC Considering Extending Outage Reporting Requirements to Cable and Wireless Carriers
  • Consumers Union to Seek Mobile Handset Portability
  • DC Circuit Court Upholds Verizon Wireless Practice of Customer-Specific Discounts
  • FCC Approves Assignment or Transfer of WorldCom's Licenses to MCI
  • Congress Passes Modified Media Ownership Rules
  • Cable Industry, Copyright Groups Seek Reconsideration of Plug & Play Order
  • FCC Seeks Comment on Smart Radios' Efficient Use of Spectrum
  • Further Postponement Expected For California PUC's Vote on Consumer Protection Rules
  • Verizon to Pay MCI $169 Million to Settle Reciprocal Compensation Dispute
  • Upcoming Deadlines for Your Calendar



FTTH vendor Alloptic adds senior marketing and sales executives

FTTH (fiber to the home) vendor Alloptic announced two new personnel appointments earlier this week:
"The company named John Yupzdepski as vice president of marketing, and Jacques M. Mueller as managing director. In these new positions, Mr. Yupzdepski will have complete responsibility for domestic and international strategic marketing, and Mr. Mueller will have primary responsibility for managing key accounts, and for European sales and support activities."



"Is Broadband Broad Enough? Telcos betting on "broadband lite" are sure to lose"

Always On carries an interesting article by Michael Topic about the inadequacy of most telcos' concept of broadband.
"My money is on physics. Delivery via fiber to the home (FTTH), high-speed wireless meshes ( WiFi and WiMAX ), and purpose-built wireline data networks will always trump phone lines on steroids. Yet much of the investment in broadband provision still remains focused on sheep in wolves’ clothing: ADSL and cable modems. Ironically, outlying rural areas are getting serious bandwidth long before more affluent urban areas, installed by community-based operators, because the established telcos won’t serve them at all. It seems that "rolling your own" is almost the only way to get ultra broadband service."



EETimes 'In Focus' series on metro optical networks

EETimes is running a series of articles on metro optical network topics:

"Metro fiber aggregates protocols"
"Latency, deskew in metro networks"
"Streamlining metro core central offices"
"WDM, Gigabit Ethernet define the future"
"What DWDM's lambda-banded approach means for carriers"
"Design challenges for multi-protocol services"



United Kingdom: BPL users in Winchester describe their experience with the technology

The Independent has a good article on users' experiences with BPL (broadband over power line) technology during Scottish and Southern's trial deployment in Winchester, England.
"Imagine a world where broadband is available in every room: a broadband connection that's 20 times as fast as standard dial-up. And a home that's already wired in a convenient way without installing a network or relocating telephone and cable outlets. It's all coming true for the people of Winchester, where always-on broadband connections are being made available from their 13-amp sockets ... Here's the secret - Power Line Telecommunications (PLT) or, as we'll call it here, powerline broadband. The concept is simple, but it's taken years to develop. Essentially, the technology carries radio signals along the existing electric cables from a nearby substation - usually within 400 metres - to and from your premises. All you need is a special modem and a spare electrical socket."



California: "McKibben Consulting to oversee $26.5 million wireless and FTTH project in Lompoc"

"The City of Lompoc, California, has appointed McKibben Consulting as the Project Management Team to build a city-owned utility providing a wide array of high-tech broadband services. Upon completion of the $26.5 million project, the city will provide high-speed Internet, traditional telephone and video and audio entertainment services to its residents, businesses and government. McKibben, under a separate contract with the City, completed a Broadband Services Feasibility Study in December 2003. The report defined the types of broadband services needed in Lompoc, the type of technology best suited to the community, a conceptual system design for potential services and the estimated cost, staffing requirements and possible partnerships. McKibben recommended a hybrid wireless and fiber-to-the-home system as a result of its study."

McKibben's report makes interesting reading and is worth the download.



Ohio: the alleged municipal broadband scandal that never existed

One of Hamilton County's officials has taken heat from a political foe for allegedly excessive travel expenses in connection with several trips to look at successful municipal broadband installations elsewhere in the U.S. Now the Ohio auditor has gone over his expenses in detail and found nothing inappropriate, which doesn't surprise me -- the Hamilton County delegation seemed to be pretty diligent when I met them at an APPA broadband meeting. (Provo, Utah, while friendly, is hardly a party town big-spenders flock to in March, especially mid-week!)


Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Ontario: Sault Ste. Marie's municipal utility deploys BPL

In Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie's municipal utility PUC today announced that it has deployed Canada's first BPL (broadband over power line) system using Amperion equipment. PUC and Amperion are also partnering to help other Canadian utilities deploy BPL.

It will be interesting to see if neighboring city Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan also adopts the technology.

Update: also has somewhat longer article on the system.



Utah: Lindon backs bond for fiber-optic network

The Lindon, Utah City Council voted 6 to 1 to financially back UTOPIA, an 18-city municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) project. So far, city councils have overwhelmingly backed UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) in the 3 cities to vote on it so far.

The Salt Lake Tribune, vocal foes of any threat to the incumbents' monopoly, chose not report this news, instead running a piece claiming that WiMAX may overtake fiber in bandwidth, obsoleting any investment in UTOPIA. It appears the paper is trying to have it both ways. In the past, they've argued that UTOPIA is a bet on new and risky technology (FTTH); now that some any towns are successfully deploying FTTH, they're proposing a new wireless technology that's not even on the market yet.

At Fiber Planners, we're interested in WiMAX' potential (when available) as another form of last mile access our utility customers can choose to serve their customers in addition to BPL (broadband over power line) and FTTH. The Tribune's article is not really about WiMAX, however -- it's about stopping UTOPIA.

Make no mistake -- if UTOPIA were based on wireless technology, they'd be arguing the other side of the issue. For the Tribune, Qwest, Comcast and their allies in the state legislature, this is not about technology and it's certainly not about "free enterprise" -- it's about protecting the government-sanctioned monopolies of Qwest and Comcast, even if that means over-riding the desires of local communities across the state.

(Note: fixed bad link February 5)



Connecticut: Norwalk fiber network to link schools, municipal facilities

Norwalk, Connecticut --"The Board of Education is planning on passing a resolution allowing the district to build a high-speed computer network linking all 19 schools, central office, the library and municipal buildings."



Michigan: Grand Haven gets wireless broadband through public/private partnership

In Michigan, the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power is working with Ottawa Wireless Inc. to provide city-wide wireless broadband access. The BLP may eventually buy the system and operate it as another municipal utility.



California: Palo Alto Utilities' FTTH study almost ready for release

In California, Palo Alto Utilities' FTTH (fiber to the home) study should be released soon; meanwhile Comcast is upgrading download speeds and introducing new services in anticipation of possibly having to compete.

Article (news item at the bottom of the page).



U.K.: The other "Community Broadband Networks"

In the United Kingdom, Prime minister Blair's government, shamelessly copping the name of this web site, has launched its' own Community Broadband Network site:
"THE new Co-op-aided Community Broadband Network will help revolutionise rural social enterprises, says Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael. Mr Michael, Labour/Co-op MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, told delegates at the Access to Broadband Campaign conference in London that the Campaign had acted as an excellent catalyst, bringing together public sector, industry, community and consumer interests in the broadband debate."


All joking aside, we wish them well and hope the name brings them luck.

(We're still ranked higher on Google than they are)



United Kingdom: Update on fibre deployments in Scottish and London sewers

The Register has an article on the recent announcement by Scottish Water that they'd be deploying fibre optic cable in sewer pipes. They also report on a similar effort in London two years ago by Thames Water and the Lattice Group's 186k subsidiary; 186k deployed 80 km then stopped when the telecom recession hit.



India: Tata Power's owners looking for additional telecom investments

Indian conglomerate Tata Group owns electric utility Tata Power, which has invested widely in telecommunications. Now Tata Group is looking to make additional broadband investments.



Florida: City of Leesburg to provide Lake County schools with fiber

In Florida, the City of Leesburg's municipal utility will supply county schools with fiber, in spite of obstacles raised by incumbent telco Sprint, the school's current telecom provider:
"The district voted last week to enter into a contract with the City of Leesburg that would allow for installation of fiber-optic lines that would increase bandwidth available to schools through the Internet. With the new contract, teachers, administrators and students will be able to access video-conferences — something that has not possible with the current system.

During the past six years, the technology department has been using a wide area network of telephone lines that allow all schools and departments to have Internet access. The district had a contract with Sprint, who maintained those lines.

Dennis Reid, board member, said that when Sprint learned the district did not intend to renew the entire $141,000 contract, the district ran into some snags. 'Sprint did not like the idea of us switching over, so they made things difficult,' he said."



Louisiana: Combined sewer upgrades/fiber deployment in New Orleans hits snags

New Orleans' plan to run conduit for fiber cable at the same time it upgrades sewers in the business district is running into political snags.

The proprietary technology from Renaissance Integrated Solutions (RIS) to do this is very interesting and Corning's web site has an article about it on their web site.



New Mexico: Clovis voters approve funds for schools' fiber network

In New Mexico, Clovis voters overwhelmingly approved a special school bond issue to finance a fiber network and other improvements for the local schools.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Corning licenses key OFS fiber patent

Corning has been making a "low water peak" fiber (SMF-28e) for a while, but its' optical attenuation in the E-band (1360-1460 nanometers) has been higher than that of OFS's AllWave fiber, a "zero water peak" fiber. Now Corning has licensed the rights to use OFS technology covered by its' U.S. and foreign patents on zero water peak fiber.

Traditionally, trace impurities in the glass when making fiber caused high attenuations (known as the "water peak" across the E-band), making fibers effectively unusable at these wavelengths. The OFS patent covers any fiber for which the attenuation at 1385 nm is less than that at 1310 nm. (A "low water peak" fiber has slightly higher attenuation at 1385 nm. than at 1310 nm.)

Only low (or even better, zero) water peak fibers allow utilities to make full use of all the wavelengths available to a CWDM (coarse wavelength division multiplexing) system.

It's unclear whether Corning will extend the use of its' SMF-28e designation to zero water peak fibers or if it will use another designation.

I don't recommend buying any singlemode fiber that is not low or zero water peak.

If the fiber is zero water peak, users should make sure that the vendor is an OFS licensee (or else obtain a written agreement to defend the user against patent infringement claims). While I'm no patent attorney, the OFS fiber appears to cover the use of zero water peak fiber in a CWDM system and not just the manufacture of such a fiber.



U.K.: Scottish Water to deploy Fiber to the Throne in Rosyth reports that Scottish Water is deploying 2 km. of fiber optic cable in the its' sewer lines to link the Europarc office park in Rosyth with the help of Fibrelink, an Irish cabling company. The utility intends to do this elsewhere in Scotland. Thames Water in London is already using similar technology.

Unlike some other sewer cables, the cable to be used will be a sort of plastic coated OPGW (optical groundwire) almost an inch in diameter. While more expensive than other sewer cables, this cable can be placed directly in the sewer without the need to install special protective ducting. (Sewers are very harsh environments, both chemically and mechanically).

The BBC also has a story on the project.



Wisconsin: State and University of Wisconsin debate future of state's fiber network

"The University of Wisconsin lashed out last week at a state proposal that would merge the state's two main digital networks with a private "vendor," much like Charter Communications or SBC. The protest prompted Gov. Jim Doyle to select a panel of eight state and university officials to develop a network solution to meet the educational needs of statewide academic institutions, including UW."




North Carolina: "e-N.C. Authority delivers to rural areas in the state"

North Carolina's e-NC Authority provides funds to rural areas to develop local broadband access.



Pennsylvania: Teletruth Files 'Broadband Fraud' Complaint

Teletruth has filed an updated Complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to investigate what they are calling "Broadband Fraud" for a potential refund of $1135.00 per household, representing over $3.9 billion in excess profits, tax deductions, and other financial perks. In 1994, Verizon (then Bell Atlantic) made a deal with the phone customers in the state. In exchange for deregulation that gave the phone company more profits as well as other financial perks, the company committed to creating a fiber-based network that could deliver two-way services at 45 MBps to customers' home and offices in rural, urban and suburban areas. By 2004, 50% of the state is supposed to be wired."

Meanwhile, Verizon has been busy in the state legislature trying to preserve its monopoly and effectively outlaw competition from municipal power utilities.



Study: Ethernet cheaper way to deliver last mile

Scott Mace notes:
CNET : "Telephone companies could cut their operating costs by 23 percent a year by using Ethernet services in their metropolitan area networks instead of traditional telecommunications services." It's clear the jury is in on this. As the CNET story notes, some lingering technical issues must still be addressed. The bottom line: if traditional urban telco systems aren't willing to eagerly embrace Ethernet in the last mile, governments should apply existing regulatory levers to either force the changes. If they can't do that, they should just level the playing field by forcing open dry copper for competitors to fast-track their own last-mile Ethernets."

(From Scott Mace via his weblog: [Service provider Journal])



Two good articles about the OSMINE millstone hanging around the Bells' necks as they look at FTTP

I've written before about the complexity and age of the operating support systems (OSSs) the Bells use to run their networks. Vendors have to spend up to $10 to 20 million to get new equipment certified by Telcordia through the OSMINE (Operations System Modifications for the Integration of Network Elements) process. I recently came across two good articles from several years ago that describe the process and the problems:

"Telcordia's OSMINE Gold Mine"
"A Certified Mess"

OSS issues may complicate and delay the Bells' efforts to deploy FTTP (fiber to the premises). Likewise, if they want to offer cable TV channel line-ups over this fiber or even VoD (video on demand) over DSL, OSMINE certification will almost certainly cause delays and added expenses for the Bells.

Non-Bell carriers don't have to worry about this since they don't rely on legacy software originally developed in the 1970s for the pre-breakup Bell System.



Wisconsin: "State bill would stifle public broadband"

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week reported on pending legislation in the Milwaukee legislature to eliminate the threat of competition to incumbent SBC's monopoly from small towns developing municipal broadband systems.

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



President's proposed federal budget would cut rural broadband loans

The President's proposed budget cuts federal rural broadband loans from $600 million to $331 million.


Monday, February 02, 2004


Exfo secures $40 million in equity funding

Canadian fiber optic test equipment maker Exfo Electro-Optical Engineering announced it has raised $40 million (Canadian) in new equity financing.



New Zealand: "Community-based broadband site goes live"

Computerworld's New Zealand site reports on an effort to help neighborhoods build their own broadband networks:
"The Commerce Commission's decision not to recommend unbundling of the local loop has forced two New Zealanders to set up a site devoted to the idea of building your own broadband network. Richard Hector and fellow Aucklander Donald Gordon have established NZ Wired and hope other networking specialists will help populate it with ideas and solutions to the tricky business of building your own network."



ARRL editorial: "'It Seems to Us . . .' BPL Update"

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League)'s web site has an editorial restating the amateur radio group's opposition to BPL (broadband over power line) deployments using HF (high frequency) radio spectrum.



Australia: mixed reports on the near-term future of BPL

An APC article notes conflicting opinions among Australian regulators and power utilities as to BPL (broadband over power line) technology's suitability for deployment in Australia in the near future.



Utah: "UTOPIA full of promise"

In Utah, the Deseret News reports on the business plan for the UTOPIA project, a multi-city municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) initiative. The paper also has an article on a Qwest-backed bill in the state Senate to effectively kill the project and preserve Qwest's monopoly.



Washington: City of Oak Harbor working with schools to build fiber network

"The city of Oak Harbor and the Oak Harbor School District may join forces to construct a state-of-the-art, fiber optic network to connect all city and school buildings in cyberspace. Someday, the fiber optic backbone may even be linked to the mainland and shared with local businesses. The joint project, estimated to cost as much as $500,000, is aimed at allowing faster exchange of information between schools or city departments; improved customer service due to increased availability of information; increased data processing reliability; and the full use of current software and videoconferencing."



Algeria: More information on SONELGAZ's upcoming 4000 km fiber build-out on power transmission lines

Last week, I wrote about Pirelli's announcement that it had won a contract for 4000 km of fiber optic cable (a mix of OPGW and dielectrically-lashed cable) on Algerian utility SONELGAZ's 220 kV power transmission lines. This week, Lightwave has an article on the SONELGAZ network.

Interestingly, SONELGAZ has bought fiber cable in the past from Swiss specialty cable maker Brugg; the loss of this very large OPGW (optical groundwire) order to Pirelli must be a large blow to the small Swiss cabler.



Georgia: "Losses mount for Fort Valley telecommunications project"

In Georgia, the Macon Telegraph reports:
"After spending more than $2.5 million over five years to build a community-wide fiber-optic and wireless telecommunications system, the Fort Valley Utilities Commission faces the prospect of shutting down the project unless more customers and revenue can be found. In addition to startup costs, operating losses for the system continue to mount, surpassing $1 million in the project's first four full years of operation."

# "Wi-Fi Now, WiMax Later?"

Esme Vos writes on her MuniWireless site that some municipal officials are trying to decide whether to build municipal wireless broadband systems with Wi-Fi equipment now or wait and buy WiMax gear when it becomes available next year.



Bahamas: More info on Cable Bahamas' FTTH roll-out

The Nassau Guardian has a good article on Cable Bahamas' FTTH (fiber to the home) field trial of C-COR's FTTMaX products. C-COR's FTTH products use FTTH vendor Alloptic's EPON (Ethernet passive optical network) technology.



Wisconsin: SBC's FTTP trial at the Pabst Farms development in Oconomowoc

Last month, SBC announced it would conduct a trial FTTP (fiber to the premises) deployment at the Pabst Farms planned residential community in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. When completed, the 1500-acre Pabst Farms will ultimately have 2,000 residential units in the form of condos, apartments and single family homes, along with office buildings and retail stores.

This stems from SBC's selection by the developer as Pabst Farm's "preferred communications provider for the development".

Some headlines made this out to be a big deal. Significantly, SBC only promised to trial FTTP at just a few units; further FTTP deployments there would depend on a variety of vaguely-described factors such as internal SBC studies, market demand, etc. The lucky few homeowners in the trial would get voice plus "high speed data" (3 MBps) -- no mention of video.

Here are several articles about the project:



Pennsylvania: Profile of Kutztown's FTTH system

Last month, MSNBC ran this profile of the Borough of Kutztown's municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) network.

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



Hamilton County, Ohio: "Fiber optics project could pave way for more jobs in county"

The Journal-News reports:
"A fiber optics project in Middletown could open up Butler County to more high-tech jobs with the help of the county's fiber optics network. The County Commission in July approved a $112,000 advance from the county’s revolving loan fund to aid in the purchase of equipment for I-Fiber — a fiber optics technology company that develops systems to enhance telecommunications capabilities for cable television, telephone companies and other service providers ... Originally based in Dayton, I-Fiber moved its headquarters to Middletown because of the county’s installation of a broad-band fiber optics network."



Karl Bode's Municipal Report: 'Trouble in Utah's Utopia'

Karl Bode looks at political opposition to the UTOPIA project.



Michigan: City leaders of Holland see municipal fiber network as key to attracting and retaining jobs

At their annual retreat, members of the Holland, Michigan City Council identified municipal fiber optic network expansion as critical to attracting and retaining jobs and industry.
"Mayor Al McGeehan said the availability of fiber optic networks is becoming important for companies. 'Just 100 years ago, a building having electric was essential. I see fiber optic mirroring that at the beginning of a new century,' McGeehan said."



Canada: School board in Quebec saves $12 million using own fibre network

Quebec's largest school board expects to save $12 million by relying on its' own fibre optic network.



Washington: Power company donates fiber link to two cities

In Washington, investor-owned Avista Utilities has donated a fiber link between Spokane and Cheney to the two cities. EWU will also be included in the link.



Wireless broadband access from the village Coke machine

IEEE Spectrum has an article on John Gage, with Sun Microsystems. One of his many ideas is especially interesting:
"... Gage ... begins describing a Nortel product he just saw at the International Telecommunication Union conference in Geneva. The IEEE 802.11-based device, the size of a Pringles potato chip can, self-configures into a wireless network. Gage speaks rapidly, in a low voice, excited by the possibilities. 'The thing can find its own network,' he says. 'So I figure, you can put one in all the Coke machines in the world, because vending machines have power supplies. And you put them in the townships of South Africa, which lets you get telephony.'"



Remote Arctic island of Svalbard gets undersea fiber link to Norway and broadband access for local residents

"On Saturday, January 31, Norway's Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. Ansgar Gabrielsen conducted the official opening of the optical-fibre cable that connects Svalbard to the rest of the digital world. Simultaneously, Telenor Svalbard opened the world's northernmost broadband access, at 78 degrees North, serving the citizens and businesses of Longyearbyen."

Svalbard's broadband access is supplied in partnership with Norwegian Space Centre, which has been Telenor's partner in the rollout of two 1400-kilometre optical-fibre cables between Longyearbyen and Harstad. The two submarine cables, which are equipped with "infinite" capacity, will replace today's satellite-based mainland connection. As the fixed network connection was routed through the fibre-cable on Wednesday January 28, citizens of Longyearbyen were able to make their phone calls without any time delays or "one-way speech", which up till then had been the case via the satellite connection. The mobile phone connection was established one day later, allowing for GPRS making services like multi media messaging (MMS) available also at Svalbard."

"The services offered are identical with Telenor's broadband services on the mainland, with Online ADSL serving residential customers, and ADSL Bedrift and SHDSL Bedrift serving the business market. A number of other services, such as home office solutions, wireless zones and domain names for companies with e-mail addresses have also been introduced."

So, if Telenor is doing all this for 1750 people 900 miles off the coast of Norway, when is BellSouth going to upgrade their phone lines around Rome, Georgia so that they can offer DSL to homes on my street?



Infoworld: "EU launches power line Net initiative"

Infoworld follows up on the announcement last week of the European Union's launching of its' OPERA initiative to promote EU-wide BPL (broadband over power line).

# "Senate Bill 66 Crafted By Qwest to Kill UTOPIA"

The site has an article on legislation to eliminate any competition to the Qwest and Comcast monopolies in Utah.



Nexans wants to acquire Alcatel's fiber optic cable business

"Nexans, the French cable maker, is back on the acquisition trail after a marginal return to profit last year encouraged it to make an offer for the loss-making fibre-optic business of its former parent Alcatel."



Ireland: Power utility completes National Fibre Optic Network

Ireland's Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has played a key role in the government's plans to bring competition to Ireland's wholesale telecommunications market:
"Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern today switched on the Northern Loop of the ESB Telecoms Fibre Optic Network in Dundalk, Co Louth. This completes the ESB National Fibre Optic Network, providing broadband infrastructure across Ireland."



Utah: The Spectrum reports on legislative attempts to kill UTOPIA FTTH project

The Spectrum reports on Cedar City state Senator Bill Hickman's attempt to introduce Qwest's bill to effectively kill the multi-city UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project (and his own town's attempts to offer high speed broadband services). The Spectrum also has an editorial on the subject.

Cedar City and the entire southwest Utah area have been starved for bandwidth for years. Unlike most other telcos that build redundancy into their networks, Qwest never even bothered to build any redundant link to this entire part of the state.

KSL-TV also has a report on the bill. UTOPIA's assistant director, Roger Black, is quoted as saying UTOPIA would need to sign up about one third of the eligible homes within seven years in order to break even. That's a very reachable number; most municipal broadband systems end up signing up a higher percentage.



Profile of Hawaiian Electric's BPL champion

The IEEE Spectrum has a profile of Karl Stahlkopf, Hawaiian Electric's Chief Technology Officer and the leader behind the utility's push into BPL (broadband over power line).



The Supreme Court to consider -- can 'any entity' include a fish?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case Nixon vs. Missouri Municipal League. Attorneys argued over what Congress meant when it wrote the 1996 Telecommunications Deregulation Act, specifying that state and federal regulators could not stop "any entity" from offering telecommunications services.

Under what circumstances did the Congress have the constitutional right to regulate the relationship between states and their municipal subdivisions?

As Steve Minor notes in his SW Virginia law blog, the conversation sometimes got a little bizarre:
"Here is the transcript from the municipal telecommunications case, the argument of which I went to observe earlier this month, having filed three briefs for amici curiae in the case. As I noted earlier, one memorable exchange was this:"

"MR. STRAUSS: . . . Our position in this case is straightforward and I can state it very simply. Gregory against Ashcroft applies in circumstances where the statutory language is ambiguous. The Court has said that three times, including Congress had said, for example, any corporation, which might leave some doubt whether Congress meant only private corporations and not municipal corporations.
QUESTION: But it doesn't mean any fish, for example. I mean, there are a lot of things it doesn't mean.
MR. STRAUSS: I -- I wouldn't -- I wouldn't -- I guess it doesn't mean any fish, Justice Breyer, but of the -- I think it has a very broad meaning."

The Supreme Court's decision will have a major affect on municipal broadband deployments in the United States.



California: Pasadena City Council votes to stay out of the cable TV business for now

In California, the Pasadena Star News reports that the local City Council has voted not to enter the cable television business by buying one of the city's existing systems -- for now:
"The city has ended its flirtation with buying the ailing Altrio Communications cable television system, deciding it would be too costly to compete with offers from companies already in the business. City officials started looking at whether it would be feasible to buy and run a cable service after Altrio announced in December that it no longer had enough money to continue operations. Councilman Chris Holden led the effort, saying the city could use Pasadena Water & Power. He has been a champion of expanding city operations, as well as for fostering competition in the cable market to lower prices and raise the quality of service."

The Council remains interested in having cable TV competition, however:
"But if Altrio fails to find a buyer and is put back on the market, Pasadena officials said they might take another look at buying the company. 'If it looked like we were going to be back in a single-provider market,' said Councilman Paul Little, 'the willingness of the city to invest may be significantly enhanced.'"

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



Utah: Brigham City City Council votes unanimously to financially back UTOPIA FTTH project

Saturday, Ernie Bray sent me the following message about the second Utah city to decide financial backing for the UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project:
"Last night the Brigham City Council and voted 7 to 0 in favor of supporting the revenue bond backstop for their part of the Utopia project. I will forward news reports as soon as they appear."

"The cities of Tremonton (next to Brigham City in northern Utah), Midvale (Salt Lake City suburb) and Lindon (neighbor of Orem/Provo) will vote on Tuesday February 3rd."



BPL trials in Fiji, New Zealand

New Zealand e-news site Stuff reports the Fiji Electric Authority will conduct a trial of BPL (broadband over power line) technology on the main island of Viti Levu:
"The Fiji Electricity Authority is set to trial delivering broadband internet services over its power lines following the conclusion of a technical feasibility study. German firm Bender Information and Systemtechnology is consulting on the project. FEA supply chain manager Brian Hardacre says the country's power lines proved good data carriers, with little interference."

The same article notes that New Zealand utility Vector is also conducting a trial of the technology but wants to see the price of BPL equipment come down before deploying the technology widely.


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