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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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Index of 2100 previous posts since March 2003

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Friday, March 05, 2004


More on UTOPIA's survival in the Utah legislature

UTOPIA, the 18-city FTTH (fiber to the home) initiative largely survived a heavy lobbying effort in the Utah legislature by telecommunications giant Qwest, seeking to preserve its de facto monopoly in Utah. Onerous "UTOPIA-killer" financing rules were agreed to in the negotiations between the Senate and the House, but 17 of the 18 existing UTOPIA-like networks were "grandfathered" from having to meet them. (The 18th city, South Jordan, failed to meet one of the new bill's bureaucratic requirements by not posting a public notice by March 2).

No additional cities will be allowed to join the project without meeting the new financing requirements. Additionally, AT&T will no longer be allowed a temporary monopoly for several months during the project's initial roll-out; this is unfortunate since this would have facilitated ironing out any technical bugs in the network when the first few homes were connected.

The bill also will not affect other existing municipal broadband networks such as Provo's iProvo FTTH network.


Thursday, March 04, 2004


UTOPIA survives Qwest attack in Utah legislature; details to follow

I don't have the details yet, but I understand the 18-city UTOPIA FTTH network survived incumbent telecommunications monopoly Qwest's intense lobbying effort in the Utah legislature to outlaw this open access network.

The Utah Senate had passed a UTOPIA-killer bill, while the House passed a much more UTOPIA-friendly bill. The two chambers were to work something out in conference sessions before the legislative session ended this week.

I don't know the specifics or what compromises had to be made to keep the project alive; when I learn more, I'll post it.



Virginia: State and federal governments funding $12 million Southside network

U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the State of Virginia's Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission are jointly funding $12 million for a 294-mile fiber network across the southern portion of the state linking 33 industrial parks and multiple communities from Emporia (south of Richmond) to Stuart and Rocky Mount (south of Roanoke)

The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative (MBC), is the nonprofit entity managing the development grants for the Southside project. 24 other industrial parks and several other communities already have some fiber links; MBC is negotiating dark fiber leases with the owners to complete the network. MBC is also negotiating to obtain dark fibers to tie the entire Southside network into tier one carriers at the Equinox point of presence in northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C.

The Lightwave article has an extensive discussion of the MBC's plans for the Southside region.

(Link from Tad Deriso)



Posts will be sporadic this week ...

Posts will be sporadic or delayed this week due to my travel schedule.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Illinois: Limited interference between new wireless ISP and Murphysboro's municipal wireless network

In Illinois, Jackson County and Murphysboro officials so far are seeing some interference problems for their own wireless data networks from the town's new wireless ISP, Allied Access, but they've been far fewer than originally expected. The local newspaper has a long article looking at some of the issues; it's interesting to read. Some excerpts:
"The 2.4 GHz band is unregulated by the Federal Communications Commission, so there is little recourse for either the city or Allied Access if they interfere with each other.

[Allied Access president] Ellison said problems should be minimized if everybody works together to fine-tune their systems. He also said the city and other government entities should switch over to one of the radio bands that are specifically reserved for the government. 'It's what they have to do,' Ellison said. 'I don't really wish to be the one to force that on them, but they don't have any business being on that band.'"

"Manwaring [Murphysboro's IT director] said the city began using the 2.4 GHz spectrum in 1998 because it was cheap and no one else was on it. He said the city and county have started talking about moving off the public band because of possible interference problems with private businesses."

"'As government agencies we've got to find a way to move out of that spectrum and move into a licensed spectrum or find other alternatives, like fiber optic cable,' Manwaring said. 'The problem is, that's expensive to do. In the meantime we just hope that we can get everybody to work with each other and try to cooperate.'"

"Manwaring said it could cost $10,000 to $15,000 per building to buy radio equipment that operates in one of the licensed government bands, and the city of Murphysboro alone has eight or nine buildings that are networked."

This article points up the need for proper planning when investing in a wireless data network; it's not clear that this was done when the Murphysboro network was installed 6 years ago. Some up-front effort and investment in planning can save lots of money in the long run whether the medium is wireless or fiber.

It's also interesting to see how much the equipment for licensed spectrum costs; unless Murphysboro (population 9,500) is unusually spread out, it should be cheaper to just install fiber than buy the new radios (if they can get pole access without having to replace too many poles).

For cities with their own municipal power utilities, it's even cheaper to deploy fiber; ADSS fiber cable systems like the kind Fiber Planners has designed for other small towns can cost as little as $5,000 per mile to build.



Japan: Another article on NTT's FTTH spending plans

Reuters has a report on Japanese incumbent NTT's plans to have 2 million FTTH (fiber to the home) customers by March 2005.



Holland, Michigan BPW reviews fiber optic system

The Holland Board of Public Works wants more "information" on commercial use of its telecommunications fiber optic system to provide services such as cable, TV and Internet services. Loren Howard, BPW marketing director, presented the board of directors six options concerning the fiber optic system, which runs through many parts of the city. Howard said the options ranged from selling the fiber optic service to using it to bring in various services to customers in Holland.



"FOBs Go to War"

James K. Glassman writes about increasingly rancorous divisions within conservative ranks over how to handle the Bells:
"In the past few weeks, the Friends of Bell (FOB) have opened up with cannonades from every direction, all aimed -- weirdly enough -- at little old me and other conservatives who believe that the best route to competition in telecommunications is through allowing other companies access, at a reasonable price, to the network that the local Bell telephone giants built as protected and subsidized monopolies."

"... But, for companies that have been monopolies for so long, competition is no fun. So they won't give up. Rather than battling in markets, they prefer to fight in the courts and the legislatures and in letters that attack dissenters personally."



"With UTOPIA, we're broadband leaders. Without UTOPIA, we're broadband also-rans."

Phil Windley's February 20 comments on Qwest's so-far successful attempts in the state legislature to overrule 18 Utah cities and kill their UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project:

"SB66, the UTOPIA killer bill, passed the Utah Senate yesterday [Feb. 19]. The bill would make the tax restrictions on the project so onerous that the project will never happen. This is too bad, since I believe UTOPIA to be a significant step forward for Utah. With UTOPIA, we're broadband leaders. Without UTOPIA, we're broadband also-rans. Several Senators tried to substitute other bills, or amend the bill, so that it more of a compromise and didn't outright kill UTOPIA, but in the end, QWEST won this fight. "



Qwest -- the company some Utah politicians want to protect

As noted earlier, incumbent telco Qwest has been lobbying hard to preserve its' monopoly in Utah and stop 18 cities from deploying the UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) network. Qwest has had serious legal and financial problems in the last several years and some Qwest officials may go to jail. Here's a selection of some recent Qwest headlines (courtesy of Google News):



Utah's UTOPIA FTTH project has leaders in rival Denver paying attention

Utah's 18-city initiative to build FTTH (fiber to the home) is getting attention in Salt Lake City's rival, Denver:
"This city at the base of the towering Wasatch mountains is planning an escape from Denver's shadow and a lunge forward in the race for jobs, business, capital and tourism. This time, the pitch is an ambitious $540 million public works project that would link a string of 18 cities along the Wasatch Front with a high-speed, digital telecommunications network. In Provo, a prototype of the optical fiber network known as Utopia already connects about 300 homes and businesses to the Internet with speeds typically faster than any commercial offering available in Denver."

"... If the plan [UTOPIA] does get off the drawing board - and there is no guarantee that it will - residents in cities from Tremonton in the north to Payson 125 miles to the south would have access to fiber-optic connection straight to the home or business. 'That is a pretty powerful market statement, and it could be a magnet to people who want to start software and other companies,' said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development."

"... The Salt Lake region ranked No. 5 in 2003 on's list of Best Cities for Entrepreneurs, up from No. 21 the previous year. Denver was 27th in 2003."



Utah: Qwest bypassing 18 city councils to kill UTOPIA in legislature

UTOPIA is an 18-city initiative in Utah to build municipally-owned, open access FTTH networks. In the last 2 weeks, the Utah Senate approved SB-66, the UTOPIA-killer bill crafted by telephone monopoly Qwest, with some modifications. The House version is out of committee and now on the state House calendar for consideration. Live debate can be hear on-line when it occurs.

Recent UTOPIA news headlines:

Note: The Spectrum is pro-UTOPIA, the Deseret News anti-UTOPIA and the Tribune is very anti-UTOPIA (to the point of somewhat biased reporting)



Ohio, Kentucky: Cinergy plans major BPL deployment in Cincinnati area

Cinergy announced today a major deployment of BPL in the Cincinnati area using equipment Current Technologies. Cinergy also said they had made a major additional investment in Current Communications, the parent of Current Technologies.
"Cinergy Broadband, LLC, a subsidiary of Cinergy Corp. (NYSE:CIN), and Current Communications Group, LLC announced today they are beginning to offer broadband over power line (BPL) services in the greater Cincinnati, Ohio area. A subsequent expansion is planned for Northern Kentucky and Indiana. Cinergy Broadband and Current have formed a joint venture that will roll out broadband services under the brand Current Communications(TM). Initially, these services will consist of high-speed internet and will eventually be bundled with voice over IP (VoIP). Current will manage the venture, which will build and operate the BPL network and provide marketing, customer support and back office functionality. The BPL network will be deployed on electric distribution infrastructure using proven, proprietary BPL equipment and technology from Current's subsidiary, Current Technologies, LLC."

The Wall Street Journal has a long article on the technology and the players (a paid subscription is required, however). The Cincinnati Enquirer also has an article on the project.

Update -- additional article links:
CNET/MSNBC, XCHANGE,, Network World Fusion (IDG News).


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