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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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Saturday, March 20, 2004

 

Illinois: Chicago's CivicNet deemed vital -- but will it ever get built?

The Chicago Tribune ran an article noting the importance of Chicago's proposed CivicNet project to the local economy:
"'From Broad Shoulders to Broadband,' by the non-profit Metropolitan Planning Council, states that even though Chicago is a worldwide Internet hub, many neighborhoods still cannot access even basic broadband service. The report argues that many neighborhoods will be left behind economically unless the city moves forward with CivicNet, a project designed to save taxpayer money while extending affordable broadband service."

"CivicNet envisioned pooling the city's estimated $30 million annual spending on telecom services to contract with private carriers to connect 1,600 schools, libraries, police and fire stations and other facilities in a high-speed network. In exchange for winning the city's business for 10 years, the carriers would provide an open network stretching to every neighborhood. While serving the city, the network also would provide new access nodes from which to sell private service, making broadband ubiquitous and more affordable."

Portions of the network could be built with local government fiber already deployed along roads and Chicago Transit Authority lines. Unfortunately, to the frustration of local business and civic leaders, the city has done very little with the project since its' conception in the late 1990s.

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

#

 

Holland: Dutch real estate developer deploying FTTH

February 12, 2004 -- "PacketFront, the next generation broadband infrastructure provider, has announced that Dutch property developer Rentré Wonen has elected to build an Operator Independent Network based on PacketFront's unique Intelligent Broadband Solution. This deal builds on PacketFront´s ongoing success in the Netherlands, which includes three other significant broadband projects. Rentré Wonen's activities include the regeneration and renovation of old neighbourhoods, turning derelict sites into modern housing developments. As part of its latest development project in the Dutch city of Deventer, Rentré Wonen is building a next generation broadband network running single-mode fibre to the homes (FTTH) of all residents.

#

 

Iowa: Hawarden profits from its' municipal broadband system

Over incumbent objections, the City of Hawarden, Iowa built a municipal broadband system in the 1990s. This investment has paid off in many ways, as this note points out:
  • System profits have been transferred to the town's general fund, holding down taxes
  • Residents can now get 200 channels from the city, instead of the 30 they got previously
  • Local government and school facilities are getting free high speed Internet access
  • Cable TV rates are lower than average, saving local residents over $1.4 million
  • The town now has good cell phone service; lack of cheap backhaul had discouraged cellular telephone operators from offering service until the city stepped in with fiber


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

#

 

Viriginia: Lenowisco Planning District's combined fiber/water project

"The Lenowisco Planning District in southwest Virginia (encompassing Lee, Wise, Scott counties, and the city of Norton) is getting national attention for the innovative duct and fiber backbone it is installing as part of a water system upgrade. When a major water line connecting the communities of Big Stone Gap and Duffield was funded, Skip Skinner, president of Lenowisco, saw the opportunity to place telecom duct alongside the water line. Lenowisco has set a goal of getting high-capacity broadband to every home and business in the next 10 years, and this project fit well with that goal."

The article goes on to describe the Emtelle micro-duct technology Lenowisco is using for this project.

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

#

 

Daily Wireless: "Wireless Broadband in Ireland"

Daily Wireless has an interesting note with lots of links on the Irish government's efforts to expand broadband access throughout the Republic of Ireland. The note, posted by Sam Churchill, also has information on efforts in Northern Ireland, as well. Part of the Irish Minister for Communications' initiative includes funding wireless network pilots in Dublin, Cork, Mayo, Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Louth.

Other Irish initiatives include fibre backbones and power line broadband
The Minister, Dermot Ahern, is pursuing other broadband access options as well. The Irish wireless broadband trials coincide with the development of municipal fibre optic backbones in some of these cities, such as Sligo, Dublin, Mayo and Galway. As noted previously in this blog, Ireland's Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is opening up its' extensive national fiber network to various carriers. Also, the Irish government announced last year that it was interested in broadband over power line (BPL) technology as well; at least one trial is underway using Cybercom equipment.

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Europe: "Is broadband wireless access back from the dead?"

Interesting article on the status of wireless broadband access in Europe. Some excerpts:
"Broadband wireless access (BWA) has been available for about 5 years, but a new generation of equipment and services has raised the technology’s profile in the European residential sector during the past 12 months. The new BWA has considerable potential. Although it is unlikely to have much impact on existing broadband players in the short term, both service providers and vendors in adjacent sectors should keep a close eye on developments.

In the past 12 to 18 months, interest in BWA has revived for two reasons. First, the success of Wi-Fi equipment based on the 802.11 standard has renewed faith in wireless as a potentially important broadband technology. Second, a new generation of equipment (referred to as “N-BWA”) that does more but costs less is attracting widespread interest. A slew of startups and established wireless equipment vendors is hyping N-BWA, including Airspan, Alvarion, ArrayComm, Axxcelera, Flarion, IPWireless, Navini, Redline and SR Telecom. In some cases, these vendors have powerful support from key technology enablers, including Intel and QUALCOMM.


#

 

Tennessee: Morristown mayor wants to extend FTTH system outside city limits

In Tennessee, Morristown Utilities System wants the state legislature to allow it to extend municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) services outside the city limits; current state law (with one exception for another municipal utility) prohibits municipal power systems offering broadband outside city limits.

Many of Tennessee's municipal power utilities provide electric power to customers far outside city limits; for example, Knoxville's KUB serves customers in seven counties.

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

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Virginia: World Wide Packets supplies gear for Danville Power & Light's municipal backbone system

"Feb. 10, 2004--World Wide Packets, the leading provider of Ethernet Access networking solutions, today announced that its LightningEdge suite has been selected for deployment by the City of Danville, Virginia to provide access to a fiber optic network serving 100 local government, public school and utility locations throughout the City. The current deployment is capable of growing into a network to ultimately serve over 50,000 residents and 8,000 businesses. The network will also connect into Virginia Tech's eCorridors as that project is deployed. By covering an entire geographic region with a fiber optic network, eCorridors creates a compelling competitive advantage for communities. The network is supported by Danville Power & Light, which is responsible for installing the fiber optic cable network."

World Wide Packets' LightningEdge equipment uses active Ethernet technology.

#

 

Oregon: Optical Solutions provides FTTH gear for SMTA (Scio Mutual Telephone Association)

Feb. 9, 2004--FTTP market leader Optical Solutions Inc., today announced that Oregon-based SMTA has selected FiberPath 500 to begin replacing its existing copper/coax network. SMTA will offer a triple-play of voice, video and data services throughout its 100-square-mile service area, starting with an initial deployment to 200 customers. 'SMTA's board of directors made a commitment several years ago to provide video to all of our members,' said Tom Barth, general manager of SMTA. 'We needed to replace copper anyway, and we determined that filling a trench with hybrid-fiber coax was not the best investment in our future. Fiber to the home was the obvious solution.'

The FiberPath 500 system uses GPON (Gigabit passive optical network) technology.

#

 

"ARRL Urges 'Thoughtful, Considered Comments' on Proposed BPL Rules"

From the ARRL Letter and e.Ham.net:
"Comments on the FCC Broadband over Power Line (BPL) Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in ET Dockets 03-104 and 04-37 are due by Monday, May 3. The deadline for reply comments--comments on comments filed by others--is Tuesday, June 1. The ARRL will comment by the deadline on the FCC's proposals to amend its Part 15 rules to adopt new requirements and measurement guidelines for so-called 'Access BPL' systems that provide broadband access via electric utility power lines. ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, says the League recommends that members read the NPRM and develop their own thoughtful, considered comments that specifically address the FCC's BPL proposals, reflect positively on the amateur community and, if possible, offer alternative recommendations."

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is the national association amateur radio operators in the United States; it has strongly opposed BPL deployment due to concerns that signal leakage from BPL systems would cause widespread interference to HF (high frequency) radio operations, both amateur and government.

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California: Marin County leaders looking to expand broadband access

In California, Marin County leaders are sponsoring a conference next month to discuss ways to expand broadband access throughout the county.

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Blue Ridge Mountain EMC brings broadband access to its' members

Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corp. (EMC) is a member-owned electric cooperative serving mountainous areas of northeastern Georgia and southwestern North Carolina. The utility is moving aggressively to ensure local residents get broadband access. The EMC is partnering with Verizon to offer DSL in some areas sooner than Verizon had planned. The EMC already acts as an ISP (internet service provider) in the area, offering wireless, DSL and dial-up Internet access.

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Washington: Rural high school leads state in video production, thanks to Grant County PUD's fiber

The Columbia Basin Herald has an interesting article on the advanced video production capabilities Moses Lake High School is sharing with the community. It's able to do this because of the fiber link the local utility, Grant County Public Utility District (PUD), provides the school.
"The events are broadcast live and the information is placed on the MLHS-managed Web site, www.grantcountytech.org and on channel 999 of the Video Internet Broadcasting Corporation, also known as VIB TV."

VIB TV is one of the users of the PUD's FTTH (fiber to the home network).

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Friday, March 19, 2004

 

Follow-up on Atrica's FTTH deal in Pau, France

Yesterday I noted that Atrica had sold Ethernet equipment for the municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) project in the city of Pau, France. If you read the Light Reading article I cited, be sure to also read the messages on the message board that accompanies it -- it's an interesting exchange between critics of Pau's equipment selection and a representative from Pau.

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Community Broadband Networks celebrates the 2000-post milestone

This marks the 2000th entry in this blog since starting this effort 13 months ago.

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Kentucky: Consultant warns Hardin County and Elizabethtown against running fiber cable ...

... but did he have the information he needed?
"The author of a study on high-speed information access in Hardin County cautioned Thursday against government agencies laying new lines because access is already available. H.B. Clark, a consultant hired through the Elizabethtown Innovation Center and private businesses to assess the telecommunications capabilities in the area, called Elizabethtown a 'competitive market.' He estimated it would take between $1.5 million and $2 million to connect a line to a major fiber optics cable in Upton that runs along the CSX Railroad and another $200,000 to $300,000 a year to maintain it. "

I have met some consultants who have never recommended against a city or utility deploying fiber in their feasibility studies and I have found this disturbing since I have seen some utilities go on to get in over their heads, financially.

Our fiber construction cost data is very different
On the other hand, the numbers I read in this article are puzzling. Elizabethtown does not own its' own power utility, which makes things a bit more expensive and tricky. Nevertheless, Hardin County is served by not one but 5 power utilities. Two just have medium voltage distribution lines (Meade County RECC and Nolin RECC), two others just have high voltage transmission lines (Big Rivers Electric Corporation and East Kentucky Power Cooperative) and a fifth utility (LG&E) has both. On the high side, it costs about $10,000/mile to deploy a very high fiber count ADSS cable on a power distribution line (with lower fiber counts, the number drops in half). Upton is 20 miles away from Elizabethtown, the county seat, so the total construction cost for a power utility to link the two locations would be about 10% of the estimate the consultant gave.

ADSS construction on high voltage transmission lines is more expensive. On the other hand, there is a very good chance that at least one (if not all) of the 3 transmission line operators in Hardin County already has fiber running into substations in the county and could lease dark fibers to take county traffic to major data hubs elsewhere in the state.

If instead of cooperating with a utility, the county just leased pole space and strung their own cable in the communications space of the utility's poles, the construction costs might double but would still be substantially less than the consultant's lowest estimate of $1.5 million. The county would also have to pay annual pole attachment fees to the utility owning the poles but this would probably still be less that the annual maintenance figure quoted by the consultant.

If the city used ADSS (all-dielectric self-supporting) cable, there would be no routine ongoing maintenance costs.

Fiber outages are very rare on ADSS lines run near conductors on distribution lines. Even if a pole snaps due to an ice storm or traffic accident, the nearby aluminum and steel conductors usually protect the ADSS from damaging tensile loads. If the power goes out it's usually because the lines have been short-circuited; the conductors and the ADSS still retain their mechanical integrity. Fiber outages on transmission lines are even rarer (it usually takes a tornado to topple a transmission tower).

Repairing a rare ADSS outage on a high fiber count cable should cost under $20,000 (and half that for low fiber count cables), so the cost of non-routine maintenance should average no more than $250 to $2,000 per year over the life of the cable (probably 40 years or more).

These figures are based on Fiber Planners' experience in designing ADSS and OPGW fiber cable systems for over 50 power utilities.

#

 

Virginia utility giant Dominion sells its' telecom subsidiary

Earlier this month, Dominion Resources (parent of Virginia Power) announced it was selling its' Dominion Telecom unit to Elantic Networks, Inc.

Elantic was recently formed by several investment firms to "own and operate advanced telecommunications networks."

In other words, Elantic is buying up, very inexpensively, some of the regional telecom networks that were built in the telecom boom of the late 1990s.

Cavalier Telephone, a Richmond-based CLEC (competitive local exchange company), will run the Dominion business for Elantic.

#

 

The cable TV industry's assessment of FTTH

The March issue of CED -- a cable TV industry technical magazine -- has a long article on FTTH (fiber to the home) from the cable TV industry's viewpoint.

It's especially interesting to read that the maintenance costs for a hybrid fiber coax (HFC) network are 4 to 8 times those for a FTTH network.

The article states that FTTH systems remain more expensive than HFC systems -- that's true for cable TV companies but not for power utilities that have primarily aerial systems.

Because of the way that the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) is written, power utilities can bypass crowded communications regions on poles and install ADSS (all-dielectric self-supporting) cable in the power region of their poles and save substantially on construction costs. This eliminates the need to replace 5 to 10 crowded poles per mile at $3000 a pole. Because it's metallic, it's almost impossible for a utility safely to do the same trick using coax cable.

Cable TV companies don't have this option, so they'll be stuck with pole replacements and HFC systems for the foreseeable future.

#

 

European Union funds broadband access for 100 rural areas

The European Union is contributing 5 million euros towards an 8.5 million euro project to supply 100 rural areas around Europe with broadband access. The project is known as TWISTER -- short for "Terrestrial Wireless Infrastructure integrated with Satellite Telecommunications for E-Rural". Subscribers within an area are connected with Wi-Fi with backhaul provided by a 2-way satellite link. 30 to 40 areas in France, Sweden, Poland, Greece and Malta have been chosen so far with more towns in other countries expected to be selected in the future.

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

#

 

California: Palo Alto's Utilities Advisory Commission recommends FTTH project

In California, the City of Palo Alto's Utilities Advisory Commission voted 3-2 to recommend the municipal power utility build a city-wide FTTH system. The utility has had a small pilot project (66 homes) underway for some time.

The next step is up to the Palo Alto City Council; they may also decide to put the matter to voters, either at the June primary or the November general election.

#

 

Spain: "Endesa's power line broadband coup"

"Attempts to sell broadband services through the power network have been beset with problems. However, Spanish energy provider Endesa has managed to provide an exception, with a penetration rate of 19 per cent. Datamonitor's Martin Yuill examines how the company has managed to find success where so many others have failed... "

The article goes on to look at why Endesa has been successful with BPL (broadband over power lines) where some other European utilities have had problems with their telecommunications ventures.

#

 

Marconi announces FTTH product

"Marconi Corporation today launched new functionality enhancements for its multi-service access node, the Access Hub. The company will launch its first VDSL combo card to support 'light-speed' data and video-over-VDSL, and a new fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) card over Ethernet, both bringing video at speeds of up to 100MB to every subscriber.

#

 

California: City of Fontana wins CENIC award for proposed fiber network

Yesterday I noted that Fontana, California had commissioned a feasibility study for a municipal FTTH project. Now I see an article announcing Fontana has won an award for their network:
"The City of Fontana earned a prestigious technology award for developing a network that would link businesses, schools, hospitals and homes with a fiber-optic infrastructure through voice, video and data applications."

"On March 15, city officials received the Innovations Award for their Advanced Community and Educational Services project. The Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) recognized Fontana at an awards luncheon at the Ritz-Carleton in Marina Del Rey for using innovative ways to contribute to high performance network technology."

"'Over the past two years, we have been investigating the building of a fiber-optic system in Fontana and we considered a lot of different options,' said Jan McClintock, the city's technology services manager. 'Last fall we created our project, submitted it to CENIC, and won the award.'"

Perhaps Fontana's project is further along than yesterday's newspaper article suggested.

See the March 22, 2004 post on this project for an update on the project status question.

#

 

Washington: Chelan PUD conducting BPL trial

An article in the February 20 edition of the Seattle Business Journal reports that Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) in rural Washington state is conducting a trial of BPL (broadband over power line) technology as part of its' ongoing effort to make broadband available to all its' customers over the next few years:
"There's a lot of buzz around the technology right now," said John Smith, networks director of Chelan County PUD. 'But there are concerns, and our No. 1 concern is that this could cause interference with amateur radio operators,' he said. The utility plans to launch a small-scale trial of BPL in a month or so. Local amateur radio operators will participate and provide feedback about any interference they experience."

"The PUD plans to run fiber out to Wenatchee Heights, a community of about 120 homes, where BPL hardware will then convert the signal into one that can be transmitted over power lines. The utility is using fiber for part of the system because lower-level signals can travel farther on fiber. On power lines, 'if they boost the signal level, they could increase the possibility of radio interference,' Smith said."

"That's one technical issue. Another is bandwidth. BPL's bandwidth is roughly comparable with cable Internet service, Smith said. 'We don't think (BPL) is the endgame, because the limited bandwidth doesn't allow cable TV,' he said."

"The Chelan County utility is in the process of stringing fiber to its customers to provide voice, data and broadband access. Smith said that the utility's ultimate goal is to build out fiber to all its customers, but he thinks that BPL might be an interim solution for remote areas until that time. Chelan County PUD expects to run a trial for six to eight months."

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

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

 

France: Atrica supplies point-to-point Ethernet equipment for Pau's municipal FTTH system

In Pau, France, Metro Ethernet supplier Atrica is supplying point-to-point Ethernet equipment for the city's municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) system. Sagem SA is supplying the ONUs (optical network units) for use on the customer's premises.

#

 

North Carolina: $2 million grant for rural broadband

"The Golden Leaf Foundation has awarded a $2 million grant to the N.C. Rural Economic Center to help bring broadband Internet access to 32,000 locations, including 50 public schools. The foundation says that 39 counties east of Interstate 95 will share in grant benefits. The foundation, established in 1999, administers funds from North Carolina's settlement with cigarette manufacturers."

Virginia is another tobacco-growing state that has also used tobacco settlement money to help fund broadband and other economic development projects in rural areas.

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Esme Vos: "Hermosa Beach goes wireless"

Esme Vos' MuniWireless.com site has a report on the municipal wireless broadband network Hermosa Beach, California. Daily Wireless also has a brief note on the network.

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California: the City of Fontana funds study of municipal FTTH network

The City of Fontana, California is spending $675,000 on a study by consulting giant SAIC to determine the feasibility of building a municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) network.

This is an extraordinarily high fee for this type of feasibility study; I wonder if it also includes a detailed system design.

See the March 22, 2004 post on this project for an update on the price question.

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Australia: the Broadband for Rural Tasmania Project

In Australia, $8.3 million in state, federal and university funds are being used to build a broadband network across rural Tasmania linking 87 hospitals and schools in 46 towns.

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Western Maryland emergency communications at mercy of preservationists, cell phones, hikers and an old tower

Emergency communications in western Maryland are critically dependent on an antenna mounted on an old fire tower atop South Mountain. Unfortunately, the 70-year old tower is near collapse and the site's proximity to both the Appalachian trail and a historic battlefield may keep the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System from being able to replace it with a new structure.

Increasing local cell phone use is also causing interference with emergency communications; a shift to new frequencies was to occur with construction of the replacement tower, but that's now in jeopardy.

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Virginia: Dickenson County's wireless broadband network seeking funding

The Dickenson County Wireless Integrated Network (DCWIN) is running low on funds for expansion and is seeking a loan until the system can break even. DCWIN was originally conceived for public agencies and emergency use but its' role has broadened to include making broadband access available throughout the county, which is one of the state's most mountainous.

The article about DCWIN's search for funding gives interesting information on various sources of funding in Virginia for this sort of initiative.

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Illinois: Chicago Transit Authority upgrading to fiber

The Chicago Transit Authority is upgrading its' signaling system to use fiber optics.

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BPL vendor Ambient raises $3.5 million

BPL (broadband over power lines) vendor Ambient Corporation announced today that it had raised $3.5 million from the exercise of outstanding warrants.

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Russia: Moscow-based service provider taps Terawave for FTTP equipment

"OAO Central Telegraph, a telecommunications service provider in Moscow, Russia, has chosen Terawave Communications as the sole supplier of Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) equipment for its broadband multiservice access program, which will cover in excess of 95% of OAO Central Telegraph's service area."

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Illinois: Lake County deploying extensive fiber-linked intelligent transportation system

Congressman Mark Kirk spoke to a group of Chicago-area mayors about federal assistance for a local intelligent transportation system (ITS):
"The main piece Kirk promoted during the meeting was a new $5.8 million high-tech system being constructed this year will coordinate 145 major traffic signals and inform drivers of any delays in Lake County, according to a county summary of the project. 'It will make our traffic management more efficient -- good news for many of us who have been stuck at a traffic light without a car in sight from any direction -- relief is coming,' Kirk said. The project is being funded by $3 million already approved by Congress, Kirk said. The balance of $2.8 million is being paid for by Lake County, said Martin G. Buehler, Lake County director of transportation.

The project will include $1.1 million for fiber optic and communication equipment that will be controlled by a traffic management center in Libertyville, according to a county summary of the project. Two operators will monitor traffic from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday with more intense monitoring during morning and evening rush hour periods, the report said. It is set to go on line in June 2005.

A phase two project will expand the project to the entire county at a cost of $13.5 million and would be funded partially by federal funding and partially by the sales tax, the report said."

As noted in an earlier post today, the fiber backbone for an ITS can also serve as the backbone for a municipal wireless broadband system. To do this, however, the ITS designers need to consider this in their design so that there's some extra fiber in the cables and so that the necessary fiber access points are provided for.

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Utah: UTOPIA FTTH update

Salt Lake City mayor undecided on UTOPIA, wants more time

Salt Lake City's mayor, Rocky Anderson, is undecided on whether the city should participate in UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency), Utah's multi-city FTTH (fiber to the home) project. He wants the city to appoint a panel of independent experts to further study the proposal. Anderson also wants to put the issue to the voters.

Salt Lake City's city council is scheduled to vote on the project April 6 whether to pledge up to $4.1 million in future sales tax revenue to pay down construction bonds in the event fewer than 30% of city residents eventually sign up for the service.

The new law passed by the legislature governing UTOPIA requires all cities to decide by April 15 if they want to participate in UTOPIA. The governor has not yet signed the law; Anderson is asking the governor to veto the legislation.

Cedar City rejects UTOPIA proposal

Cedar City, Utah has become the second city to opt out of the multi-city UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project; ten others have pledged financial backing for the project.
Ed Kociela with the Spectrum reports:
"After one more donnybrook in the City Council Chambers, the council voted 3-2 Wednesday night to reject the UTOPIA proposal that would have brought high-speed, broadband telecommunications services to the city. The vote, with Councilmen Raymond Green, Dale Brinkerhoff and Joe Burgess voting against the proposal and Steve Wood and John Westwood in favor, was a climax to more than two turbulent years of debate and divisiveness, the likes of which the city has not seen in more than a decade."

Mark Havnes with the Salt Lake Tribune notes:
"The city remains on the UTOPIA board, but any cost to join in the future would be prohibitive now, said Mayor Gerald Sherratt, who favored the city's participation. 'We stubbed our toe on this for the future of the city,' said Sherratt."

Remaining city decisions

All cities have now held their public hearing on UTOPIA or been eliminated, but the four cities below still need to vote on UTOPIA participation (schedule courtesy of Joel Wright):

March 24: Riverton
April 6: Salt Lake and Roy
April 7: Payson

All cities must vote by April 15, or they're out of UTOPIA, due to restrictions imposed by SB 66, the new law restricting UTOPIA and other municipal broadband projects in Utah.

How many cities will ultimately back UTOPIA?

How many cities of the original 18 will eventually step up to the plate and pledge financial backing for their city's participation in the UTOPIA FTTH project? An article from several weeks ago quoted the project director as expecting 12 or 13.

Salt Lake City's support has been lukewarm in the past; even if the project's largest city backs out, the UTOPIA project will still be very large, extending FTTH service to hundreds of thousands of Utah residents.

As a result of the recent state laws passed to limit UTOPIA and similar municipal broadband projects, the counties surrounding UTOPIA cities are unable to participate, leaving some, such as Salt Lake County, feeling left out.

Postscript: Geoffrey Fattah with the Deseret Morning News has a good summary of the status of UTOPIA decisions in various cities.

#

 

California: San Marcos building fiber-linked traffic control system

The City of San Marcos, California is building a fiber-linked traffic control system.

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New Zealand: Power utility considers offering residential broadband in Auckland and Wellington

New Zealand's National Business Review reports:

"Recently re-branded fibre-optic network company Vector Communications is eyeing the Auckland and Wellington residential markets for its high-speed broadband services. The Vector subsidiary, formerly Tangent, specializes in providing telecommunications infrastructure in the Wellington central business district and to businesses in Auckland from Albany to Manukau City. The network includes more than 200 km of cable.

But the company is now looking to break into the residential market, general manager Maxine Elliott said. Vector's telecommunications business was formed in 2001 as part of the company's strategy to leverage the existing electricity network infrastructure's assets.

'We think there is a gap in the market for a high-speed broadband supplier and worldwide trends show the market to be in is the residential one.' Research is in the early stages.

As well as providing broadband services to new residential areas, Ms Elliott said the company was also looking at accessing abandoned cast-iron gas mains that Vector owns and which fibre-optic cables could be put through. This would allow the company to provide residential broadband services in established areas."


If Vector decides to lay fiber to residences, it would act as a wholesale provider and let telecom and cable TV companies such as Telecom, Telstra, Ihug and Sky provide the actual service.

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City of Oxford, Mississippi DOT and Ole Miss collaborate to build fiber-linked ITS

The City of Oxford, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (DOT) and Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) are jointly building a fiber-linked intelligent transportation system (ITS) to monitor and alleviate local traffic jams.

Although the article doesn't mention it, the fiber backbone for this sort of ITS can also be excellent for backhaul for wireless broadband hot-spots -- I hope they'll consider this in their system design.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

 

Utah: West Valley City's mayor speaks out on behalf of UTOPIA

Dennis Nordfelt, Mayor of West Valley City, Utah, has written an articulate editorial in defense of the UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project in response to an earlier negative editorial in the Deseret Morning News.

Nordfelt sets the record straight on several misconceptions in the Morning News' editorials.

#

 

Forbes: "Utilities scramble over Internet via a power plug"

Forbes is carrying a general overview article on power utilities and BPL (broadband over power lines).

#

 

UTOPIA update

Utah's 18-city UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency) FTTH (fiber to the home) initiative recently survived an Qwest-sponsored attempt in the state legislature to ban municipal broadband project in Utah. The law did pass, but does not effectively ban UTOPIA -- it just makes it a little harder to move forward. It does outlaw any more cities in Utah joining UTOPIA or building their own municipal broadband networks.

Now the 18 cities each have to individually approve financial backing for construction of their part of the network.

10 cities -- Orem, Tremonton, Brigham City, Perry, Layton, Centerville, Midvale, West Valley City, Lindon, Murray -- have voted to back the project.

One city, South Jordan, has opted out; it's already financially stretched and construction costs in its' area are estimated to be significantly higher than the average for UTOPIA cities because of lower housing density. (There's also a question as to whether South Jordan met all the necessary requirements under the new state law to participate.)

6 other cities -- Salt Lake City, Cedar City, Payson, Cedar Hills, Roy, Riverton -- have decisions pending.

Like South Jordan, Cedar City and Riverton also reportedly have higher construction costs (per potential subscriber) and lower densities and so they may also opt out. Riverton is also in a weak financial position.

Taylorsville voted 4 to 1 to proceed with UTOPIA but not to financially back the project. Cedar Hills as noted earlier today is leaning towards doing the same thing.

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ITU Strategy and Policy Unit: "Is WiMax being hyped?"

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Strategy and Policy Unit's newslog has a brief note on WiMAX questioning whether the wireless telephone industry will embrace the new technology since it is a potential threat to the new 3G wireless telephone networks.

My own question is whether the wireless phone industry can really stop WiMAX, at least in the U.S., if it does everything its' backers (most notably Intel) claim. I just don't see the wireless telphone industry emerging as major broadband players in U.S.

Update: I was just going over some of wireless broadband guru Esme Vos' recent articles on her MuniWireless.com site -- I was interested to read that she's very skeptical of 3G technology backers' ability to stop, delay or hinder WiMAX.

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"Idaho Falls, Idaho, fiber optic network gives businesses fast Internet access"

The Idaho Falls newspaper ran an interesting profile of the municipal power utility's fiber optic network earlier this month discussing the economic development benefits it's brought the area.

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

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Utah: Cedar Hills Council holds hearing on UTOPIA

Most local residents who spoke out at a Cedar Hills City Council meeting in early March were in favor of Cedar Hills joining UTOPIA. The council made no decision, but members indicated that they were leaning toward participating in UTOPIA but without making any financial guarantees for the necessary bonds.

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Utah: Cedar City City Council tables vote on UTOPIA

Cedar Hills' City Council tabled its' vote last week on backing UTOPIA for a week. The Council had been interested in putting the matter to local voters in the June primary election, but learned that the new state law governing UTOPIA only allows referenda on the subject to be held during general elections. The next general election is not until November and a delay to November would increase the cost of the city's participation. The local newspaper has also backed the city's participation in UTOPIA.

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Utah: Orem votes unanimously to back UTOPIA

Orem, Utah's City Council voted unanimously to back the city's participation in UTOPIA

Orem is the third largest city in the project.
"Orem Mayor Jerry Washburn and all six council members are optimistic about the network's prospects for success. Forsyth said if Comcast and Qwest had stepped up to provide the technology and level of service residents need, the council would not be having the discussion. Instead of helping residents, other council members added, Qwest and Comcast were more interested in protecting their monopoly and perceived substandard service from competition.

Most residents, who milled around almost six hours at Wednesday night's meeting, expressed similar sentiments. "'Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered,' Orem resident Tim Clawson said. 'I'm afraid it's time these hogs are going to get slaughtered.'

UTOPIA foes, however, will have one more stab at dissuading boosters from backing the network. Once the actual funding plan for the network is ready, Orem leaders will hold one more public hearing and vote whether to give their final approval."

The Daily Herald's Grace Leong also has a good article on the vote.

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Utah: Centerville gives thumbs-up to UTOPIA

The Centerville city council voted unanimously to financially back it's participation in UTOPIA.

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Edison Electric Institute article on broadband over power lines (BPL)

The Edison Electric Institute, a power industry trade group, has a good overview of BPL (broadband over power lines) in the United States in the latest issue of its' publication Electric Perspectives.

#

 

Wisconsin: Sturgeon Bay authorizes formation of municipal broadband utility

In Wisconsin, Sturgeon Bay's City Council voted unanimously to authorize creation of a municipal broadband utility. The council is unsure it will actually create such a utility but is seeking to ensure its' legal rights to do so before new state laws take affect banning any more municipal broadband networks in the state.

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Australia: Incumbent Telstra begins FTTH trial with Alcatel

In Australia, incumbent telco Telstra is beginning a trial of FTTH (fiber to the home) technology in Queensland using Alcatel equipment.

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Vendor delays may slow Verizon's FTTP roll-out

Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC), Verizon's primary vendor of FTTP (fiber to the premises) system equipment, is in hot water on Wall Street for failing to meet Verizon deadlines for providing equipment. Delays on AFC's part may in turn push back Verizon's timetable.

Light Reading has had several recent articles on AFC and Verizon:

March 12: "AFC Fesses Up, Defenders Pipe Up"

March 10: "More Trouble for AFC"

March 9: "AFC/Verizon Glitch Alleged"

#

 

Utah: CeriStar to deploy FTTH in planned community near St. George

"CeriStar, Inc., a premier IP (Internet Protocol) Triple Play Communications services Provider, reported today that the company has been selected as the exclusive service provider of Triple Play communications services to the SunRiver St. George development, an "active adult" community with a planned 2,200 homes.

Under the ten-year exclusive agreement, CeriStar will provide residents in SunRiver with integrated Triple Play communications services over Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP). Integrated communications services will include a robust IP telephony package (VoIP), ultra high-speed Internet connectivity, broadcast and IP entertainment services such as HDTV, video-on-demand, games-on-demand, and security services. CeriStar will also manage quality of service (QoS) and provide customer service and billing, as well as integration, engineering and management support for the SunRiver project and for the network. Based on the company's current residential service model, CeriStar anticipates receiving $80-120 in recurring monthly service revenues from each household in SunRiver."

Update:Om Malik has some comments on CeriStar's business model in his GigaOM weblog.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

 

California: Optical Solutions wins FTTH project in Lincoln

"Optical Solutions' FiberPath systems were selected for California's latest deployment of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) services. Service provider Greenfield Communications will deploy FiberPath in a 3,000 home master-planned community in Lincoln, the state's fastest growing city in recent years."

#

 

Competing vendors claim new BPL orders in China

U.S. vendor PowerWAN claimed a big BPL (broadband over power line) order in southern China:
"PowerWAN, Inc., the Palo Alto-based Broadband-over-Power-Line ("BPL") company, announced today that it would make the first large scale commercial deployment of a power line carrier ("PLC") system. Its proprietary technology will be used to provide broadband voice and data services in two provinces in China. International Technical Trade Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong will serve as the distributor of the PowerWAN system in China. The initial rollout will be to approximately 400,000 residences and businesses in Sichuan and Jiangsu provinces. This initial installation will be done at a contract value of approximately $35 million, and the first components of the system are expected to be shipped in May "

Meanwhile, ITRAN and its' Japanese partners claimed FibrLink, owned by multiple Chinese power utilities, had selected it as the sole vendor for additional deployments in its Beijing trial:
"PremiNet, Inc. an affiliated company of the Japanese Kinden Corporation has recently announced the receipt of a follow-up order for its PLC Internet distribution equipment based on ITRAN Communications' broadband PLC chipset. Since March 2003, PremiNet Inc. and LineCom Inc. (an affiliated company of the Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc.) have been participating jointly in a 150-apartment BPL trial, held in a housing complex in Beijing, China. The trial is being conducted by FibrLink Networks Co., Ltd., a broadband telecommunications operator, controlled by the State Power Telecommunication Center, which is owned by the power telecommunication companies of all the 36 provinces in China.

Due to the stable and robust performance of the PLC equipment provided by the PremiNet & LineCom group, FibrLink has decided to expand the trial, using equipment provided by that group only. The group was the only participant in the trial that managed to present a stable and robust BPL transmission and Internet distribution using only the electrical wiring. The PremiNet & LineCom group has been given a very high assessment due to the good sensitivity, operation stability and low cost of its PLC equipment, which is based on the broadband PLC technology developed by ITRAN Communications. FibrLink has recently ordered 2,000 additional units from Preminet for the trial expansion phase."

Comment: there are a number of participants in this group and their relationships are hard to keep straight. Preminet is owned by Israeli vendor ITRAN and three large Japanese companies: Macnica, Kinden and Alps Electric. LineCom is owned by ITRAN and two other Japanese companies: Matsushita and Kansai Electric Power. Further confusing things is ITRAN's stated intention to change its' name from ITRAN to YITRAN later this year.

Kansai Electric's press release is similar but has some additional background information.

#

 

FCC Chairman Powell visits BPL project in North Carolina

FCC Chairman Michael Powell visited the site of one of Progress Energy's BPL (broadband over power line) trials in North Carolina.

Local amateur radio operators spoke briefly with the Powell at the event to express their concerns about the technology.

#

 

"Powernet plan has a few bugs"

The Evansville [Indiana] Courier & Press takes a somewhat skeptical view of Cinergy's plans to offer BPL (broadband over power line) service throughout the Cincinnati, Ohio area.

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"Ameren seems ahead of its time with broadband over power lines"

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a long article on power utility Ameren's ongoing test of BPL (broadband over power line) technology in Cape Girardeau, Missouri using Main.net technology. Ameren is partnering with local CLEC and ISP Big River Telephone Co. to offer the service.

The Cape Girardeau newspaper, the Southeast Missourian, also has a long article on Ameren's partnership with Big River. Their local launch of BPL service (beyond their 51 trial subscribers) starts June 1.


#

 

Mitsubishi Electric Power enters U.S. BPL market

Mitsubishi Electric Power announced its' entry into the U.S. BPL (broadband over power line) market and reports it has provided products for trials at several undisclosed U.S. utilities.

#

 

"Swift surfing over power sockets"

Innovation Reports has an article on BPL (broadband over power line) technology and notes Europe is leading in BPL development. Spanish BPL chip vendor DS2 claims subscribers in a trial by Italian utility INEL are experiencing speeds up to 200 Mb/s.

#

 

"Rural Oregon goes Wi-Fi, blazing trails in technology"

The Oregonian has a long article on the 600 square mile wireless broadband network in the Hermiston area of eastern Oregon. The network was originally conceived of as a means to link emergency resources in the event of an accident or terrorist attack at the Army's nearby Umatilla Chemical Depot where decades-old chemical weapons are stored, awaiting eventual incineration. The Army is just one network user, however, and others in the local area can also use the system.

#

 

Florida: Tallahassee's municipal utility deploys wireless digital canopy

The Knight Ridder news service has a long article on Tallahassee, Florida's municipal wireless system:
"When Gary Brinkworth hears the word 'canopy,' he doesn't think of tree-lined roads -- he sees antennas, computers and the Internet. 'It's our desire that the entire Leon Country area be served,' said Brinkworth, the city utilities director who is charged with maintaining the "digital canopy." The project has provided wireless Internet access downtown for nearly two years and was expanded last month to Tallahassee Regional Airport. The system, which cost the city about $100,000 to put in place, relies on a series of strategically placed antennas that beam signals to computers with wireless capability. Brinkworth said about 400 registered users -- and a much larger number that is unregistered -- use the free service."


Tallahassee City Utilities has extensive information on the system on their Digital Canopy web site. The system benefits from the extensive fiber networks the city already has in place for its' electric utility and for its' traffic management system

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Denmark: Dansk Bredbaand deploying FTTH

"March 16, 2004 CeBIT, Hannover--Cisco Systems announced that Dansk Bredbaand a/s (DBnet), is building a broadband metro Ethernet network to deliver the triple play of services (voice, video and 10-Mbit/sec data) over an Ethernet to the home network serving an initial 10,000 residents in Copenhagen and across Denmark. DBnet is implementing the Cisco ONS 15454 multiservice transport platform to transport the Gigabit Ethernet core over DWDM. This will link DBnet's Copenhagen headquarters and regional metro Ethernet broadband networks, which will cover 13 towns in the near future."

"DBnet is focusing on providing Metro Ethernet-based services to residential subscribers and is working with housing associations and local governments to extend its regional city networks--initially in Næstved, Odense, Kolding and Esbjerg. As Denmark joins other Nordic governments in pushing for broadband access as a means of enhancing regional competitiveness, the company has decided that the most effective way to deliver these services is to build a network with an optical transport layer and metro Ethernet last-mile access over a fiber-to-the-home network."

#

 

Furukawa Electric takes big financial hit from U.S. losses

"Mar. 15--TOKYO - Furukawa Electric Co. said Monday it has raised its group net loss estimate to 141.9 billion yen for the business year to March 31 from the 102.2 billion yen forecast in February due to additional valuation losses on its U.S. unit's assets. The major Japanese electric wire maker traced the bigger loss to its decision to reduce the value of its assets related to Optical Fiber Solution, a U.S. unit formed after buying the optical fiber operations of Lucent Technologies Inc. in November 2001."

#

 

Illinois: Lake County to building extensive fiber-linked traffic control system

Lake County, Illinois is building a fiber-linked, county-wide ITS (intelligent transportation system) to manage 656 intersections.

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"Plug and Play" -- Slate looks at BPL

Slate has an article on BPL (broadband over power line) technology profiling power utility Cinergy's plans to offer BPL service throughout the Cincinnati, Ohio area in partnership with Current Communications.

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Siemens invests in PON transceiver maker BroadLight

"March 15, 2004--BroadLight Inc., the leading supplier of communication semiconductors and optical transceivers for cost-effective FTTP (Fiber-to-the-Premises) PON (Passive Optical Networking) solutions, announced today that Siemens Venture Capital (SVC) has joined as the newest investor in BroadLight. Siemens Venture Capital added to BroadLight's Series C round, bringing the total round to U.S. $13.5 million."

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Indiana: Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power building municipal FTTH system

In Indiana, Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power is building a municipal FTTH (fiber to the home) network using technology from vendor Wave7 Optics.

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