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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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Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Fast Net Futures

I'll be speaking at Fast Net Futures in Santa Clara, California on Wednesday. Posts may be sporadic while I'm traveling this week.



"NTT share of Japan fiber-optic Internet access market soars to 58 pct - report"

The combined share of the fiber-optic Internet access market in Japan held by the two regional operating arms of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp (NTT) soared to 57.7 pct by last September, from 37.2 pct a year earlier, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported, citing Telecommunications Ministry data. The number of Japanese households with fiber-optic Internet access also surged more than four fold over the same 12-month period, to 860,000 from 190, 000, the business daily said. NTT is a former government-owned, monopoly provider of telephone services in Japan. The Japanese government continues to own a 45.9 pct stake in NTT.



Motorola Acquires Quantum Bridge

March 30, 2004 -- Motorola, Inc. today announced that the company has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Quantum Bridge Communications(R), Inc., a leading provider of fiber to the premises (FTTP) solutions based in Andover, Massachusetts. Motorola intends to purchase the privately held company in an all cash transaction. Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Peter Heywood has a background article on the merger in Light Reading.



"NetCentrex and Wave7 Optics Enter Joint Marketing and Sales Agreement"

"NetCentrex(TM), the leading enabler of converged voice-video-data networks and next-generation services and Wave7 Optics, Inc., a market leader in the fiber-to-the-home and business (FTTX) optical access market announced today a co-marketing and co-selling agreement for FTTH deployments. As the number of FTTH deployments continues to grow across North America it enables service providers to go well beyond simple high speed internet access and to begin considering sophisticated interactive applications based on fully integrated voice, video and data solutions. This agreement will enable Wave7 Optics and NetCentrex to offer "Greenfield" FTTH deployments a fully integrated, powerful and cost-effective solution for delivering triple play services to new subscribers."



Former Iowa governor opposes selling state's fiber network

"... Branstad commented on a proposal in the Legislature to sell the Iowa Communications Network, which he helped create while governor. The statewide network was launched in 1989 to provide fiber-optics access to schools, colleges and health care. 'Instead of selling, I would say make it into a public utility,' said Branstad. 'And then we would continue to provide (services) at a subsidized rate for education, health care. ... It's a great resource for distance learning.' He believes the state should sell the excess capacity to businesses and individuals so people could have access to the network through their telephone or Internet provider."


Monday, March 29, 2004 "Tri-Cities Try Again -- Illinois Munis vs. Industry round 2"

Last year, residents of the Illinois cities of Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles voted down a proposal to build a three-city FTTH (fiber to the home) network after an ugly campaign of misinformation by incumbent providers SBC and Comcast, both seeking to preserve their de facto monopolies on telephone and cable TV service. After the defeat, Comcast, as predicted, raised prices.

Now Tri-Cities Broadband, the local citizens' group that led the battle last time, is seeking to put the issue to the ballot again. Both and the Kane County Chronicle have articles on the story.



Colorado: La Plata Electric Association returns to profitability

In Colorado, rural power cooperative La Plata Electric Association reports that it has returned to profitability. This follows a foray into fiber optics in the late 1990s when the utility overextended itself and ran up large losses.

Utility fiber projects don't have to end up this way. Good planning and a good business case can prevent this sort of problem from occurring; almost all of the many fiber projects Fiber Planners has done for power utilities have met their financial goals. (We've also declined to take on some projects that looked like they might cause problems for our clients.)



Utah: "Riverton backs UTOPIA, but not with city bonds"

March 26 -- "Riverton City wants to continue its involvement with the proposed UTOPIA fiber-optic network but is unwilling to provide city backing for its share of the bonds that will be needed to construct the project. The Riverton City Council voted unanimously Wednesday evening to support development of the half-billion-dollar effort that envisioned providing every home and business in 18 Utah communities access to a fiber-optic link. Riverton, though, declined to put its residents on the hook to financially guarantee the project should it prove a bust.



New York: Village of Canton will use DANC's fiber for free wireless broadband

New York State's Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) is building a 400-mile fiber optic backbone linking smaller towns and villages in the state's less populous "North Country". The Village of Canton is hoping to offer free wireless broadband access as soon as the link to Canton is finished this summer.

This comes as incumbent Verizon is seeking to sell its' upstate New York business. The company faces up to $100 million in state fines for poor service and wants to concentrate its' efforts and capital in the New York City area. Citizens' Communications, which serves almost 1 million upstate subscribers, is also up for sale.

# "Rural Broadband Loans -- Industry protests budget trimming" reports on efforts to trim federal loans for rural broadband projects.



Nevada: "Keeping the lights on in Pahrump Valley"

The Pahrump Valley Times has a good story on the daily challenges power linemen face working around live power lines and maintaining the local cooperative's power lines. Although the story doesn't address fiber, it's skilled workers like this that build and maintain many municipal broadband systems.



Wireless truck stops

Sprint and have signed a bilateral roaming agreement to let the two companies' customers to use both networks. is building a network to provide wireless broadband access at over 3000 truck stops and service plazas around the U.S.

At Fiber Planners, we are now providing for fiber access to truck stops when designing ADSS fiber cable networks for municipal utilities. While hardly glamorous, truck stops can pump a lot of money into a small town's economy; increasingly, wireless broadband access availability will potentially tip a trucker's decision which truck stop (and which town) to spend the night in.



Is AFC for sale?

DSL vendor Advanced Fibre Communications (AFC) jumped into the FTTH (fiber to the home) market in a big way last year when Verizon picked the AFC as Verizon's primary FTTP (fiber to the premises) equipment vendor. Since then, AFC has had some difficulty meeting Verizon's deadlines. AFC also recently bought Marconi's access division. Now Light Reading reports may be an acquisition target -- possibly for Tellabs or Nortel.



Ohio: Butler County commissioners fire fiber optic project manager in political fight

Hamilton, Ohio -- March 26 -- "Dennis Nichols, an administrative assistant to Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox, was fired by fellow Commissioners Chuck Furmon and Greg Jolivette in a secret meeting Monday. The two commissioners told Fox of their decision in a closed-door gathering in Jolivette's county office. Commissioners have not taken any action in a public meeting on Nichols' termination. Hired in 1999 as Fox's assistant, Nichols also was project manager for the county's 100-mile fiber-optics network."

Both the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Hamilton Journal-News have articles on the story.



California: Loma Linda requires real estate developers to include FTTH in new developments

"You're lying on the couch after a long day. Maybe a movie. Fun, not too serious. "Lethal Weapon." You don't own it, but punch a few keys, and it's on. A few blocks away, your daughter is playing in the park with her friends. Every once in awhile, you pause the movie and switch to a video camera scanning the park, just to check on her. In the next room, your son is playing an Xbox game against a friend who's sitting in his own house under his own parents' watchful eyes.

It may sound fanciful, but the technology to do all those things exists today, and Loma Linda wants it in every new development built in the city. It's planning a fiber-optic network that could carry Internet service, high-definition TV, telephone service and all other sorts of data, and is requiring developers to install the equipment in new homes."



Florida: Lakeland Electric's fiber network to be used for ITS (Intelligent Transportation System)

"A joint project of Lakeland Electric, the city and the Florida Department of Transportation will make money for the utility, expand its fiber network and save FDOT $1.2 million, city officials say. Lakeland Electric will install a new fiber network system that will link 177 traffic intersections to the city's main traffic control center. The project will expand Lakeland Electric's 230-mile fiber system by an additional 54 miles."



Pennsylvania: Competition from Kutztown's municipal FTTH forces incumbent cable TV company to cut rates

"Tim Vanek pays $25.60 a month for basic cable television from Service Electric Cablevision. His friend, Walt Hess, who lives three blocks away, pays $36.05 a month for the same service. The difference: Vanek lives in Kutztown while Hess lives just outside the borough's border in Maxatawny Township. The South Laurel Street neighbors are caught in a price war between Kutztown's fiber-optic system and Service Electric's Kutztown-area cable franchise.

In August of 2002, Kutztown was the first place in Pennsylvania to build its own fiber-optic network for television, telephone and high-speed Internet service. Soon after, Service Electric of Allentown dropped its cable television rates by about 25 percent. But the lower prices are not for all of its cable subscribers. It's just for customers who live in Kutztown, like Vanek, and who might be tempted to subscribe to Kutztown's Hometown Utilicom television system instead of Service Electric. Borough residents also now pay much less for Internet service from Service Electric, and the modem rental fee has been waived. "

The Allentown Morning Call has a long article on the history of Kutztown's FTTH (fiber to the home) system.



Central Virginia Electric Cooperative to offer BPL (broadband over power lines)

Wi-Fi Networking News, and Tom's Networking have articles on Central Virginia Electric Cooperative's plans to offer broadband over power line (BPL) service in a partnership with International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc. (IBEC). Subscribers will pay $30/month for 256k service -- that's slow to be called "broadband" but it's certainly better than dial-up.

IBEC is based in Huntsville, Alabama and one of its' officers was formerly with another Huntsville BPL player, PowerComm (now known as GridStream). It's unclear what the relationship is now between IBEC and Gridstream -- rivals or partners.



Bill Gates on U.S. broadband competition

Cnet has an article on Microsoft founder Bill Gates' recent remarks to a group of executives:
"Gates also talked about delivering the Internet and data into the home. In the United States, cable broadband is dominant, he said, unlike overseas, where DSL (digital subscriber line) connections are the primary way to access the Internet. To remain competitive, cable companies will have to ensure their bandwidth increases and their packages are attractive, according to Gates. For their part, phone companies that provide DSL will need to get more aggressive and appeal to consumers with video stream services."

"'The two dark horses with a path into the home are powerline technology and... wireless technology for last mile, like 802.16 or WiMax,' Gates said. He added that wireless technology, as opposed to Wi-Fi, is typically a much broader range technology and will likely to make more of a mark after the next three years."



"Plugged in may take on a whole new meaning"

The Mercury News has an article on BPL (broadband over power lines) in the U.S. Utilities mentioned two already deploying the technology, Progress Energy and Cinergy, and two California utilities that have not, PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) and SCE (Southern California Edison).



U.K.: Southern Electric's BPL offering in Winchester fails to win many customers

In an article titled "Punters stay away from Winchester Powerline BB trial in droves", the Register reports that British power utility Southern Electric has so far only signed up 50 customers ("punters") for its' BPL (broadband over power line) offering in Winchester:
"So far, only 50 people have signed up for Southern Electric's Powerline Communication (PLC) broadband service, even though the commercial trial kicked off last summer. Since then, 50 substations have been PLC-enabled, with a further three in the pipeline. It means that the service is now available to 9,600 people in the Hampshire city."


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