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Acquisition adds twist to broadband saga

Original post made on Aug 14, 2007

In a curious twist in the city of Palo Alto's quest to install a high-speed broadband cable network, one of the city's current partners has acquired the unsuccessful bidder for the project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007, 1:38 PM

Comments (13)

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2007 at 3:29 pm

If the City can't design a simple web site, how can we expect them to develop a high speed broadband network in an extremely competitive market with rapidly evolving technology? As much as I would love to see many competitors to ATT/Comcast, I am fearful of how quickly City Hall could flush $41M down the drain here.


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Posted by 240k?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Bill's comments above are quite well-taken.

41M may be a conservative estimate; at times, public entities have shown a marked aptitude at losing significant sums of money.

Comcast's current competition here is DSL; as long as DSL innovates by providing speed enhancements while keeping costs low, Comcast will keep 'upping the ante', tweaking its offerings to eek out more speed.

The broadband market is in high-flux, I believe; Cities are ill-suited to enter such markets; public entities move too slow and often make too large an upfront committment, betting that 'things will continue'.

Once the broadband markets matures, the City of Palo Alto might re-evaluate the then-current offerings; if a gap exists, the City might entertain means to enhance such offerings.

My question for the City: why do anything now?


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Posted by ADAPTUS
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 14, 2007 at 4:50 pm

If the network developer is assuming most of the risk, what's the worry?

Perhaps the city has learned from the website fiasco (which it is - a fiasco).

our communit and staff can learn ntogether what NOT to do as we move forward, together.


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Posted by Brian Reid
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2007 at 9:44 pm

The worry if the network developer is assuming the risk is that the network developer will produce a piece of junk whose very existence will delay by another 10 years the implementation of an adequate network.

If the "broadband" installation is inadequate, which is quite possible, it will seriously damage Palo Alto's long-term competitiveness in the global internet. My own belief is that nothing less than fiber to each home is the right long term solution, and that any "solution" involving cable or television or DSL or other 20th-century technology will do more harm than good. I'd rather see us wait than do it wrong.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2007 at 12:10 am

I read that these PacketFront guys have been building tons of community FTTH networks over in the US. It seems to me they know what they are doing. I believe FTTH is the real thing and that if we can get partners (that know what they are doing) to come up with a good plan - we should just go ahead. Wouldn´t it be great to have a dedicated 100 mbps line into your home? I would jump on it.


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Posted by Brian Reid
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2007 at 1:41 pm

100 mbps is better than nothing, but before you know it, gigabit will be the right thing to have. Knowing what you are doing is one thing; knowing that what you are doing is the right thing for the community is another thing.

The telecommunications industry has a 100-year history of building monopolies and monopolistic structures. From reading PacketFront's website, they certainly seem to know the lingo, but the diagrams and technical specifications that I see there are not really good enough for me to stop worrying that this is a variant on the classic vertical monopoly ploy.

We can't expect Palo Alto to be a leader in anything technological, so we might as well go along with something structured to help increase revenues in the telecomm industry. Whatever it is, it will probably be better than Comcast.


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Posted by Dauntel
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Aug 15, 2007 at 1:49 pm

It ought to be obvious by now that those jokers in City Hall can't do anything right. We ought to just open up the city to private entities - monopoly or not. WIth the website - only the latest fiasco - we see what the city's level of expertise with high tech is. Better a private monopoly that overcharges than a city run system that doesn't work and eats tax money besides.


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Posted by Steve J
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2007 at 8:34 pm

The council has found a group of experienced companies to help put together a public/private partnership business plan that will describe exactly who will own what, who will build what, and who will manage what. It is sounding like the city will help the partnership launch a successful open-access fiber to the home network so everyone in our community, residents and businesses alike, will have a shot at much better services for a lot less money. The private companies have agreed to be responsible for coming up with the money to build, own and operate the network, cutting the city's risk to zero. The way I read it, the manager of the partnership's super-fast fiber network is likely to be someone like PacketFront's recent acquistion, DynamicCity, the managers of the biggest municipal network in North America so far, UTOPIA. It looks like a win, win to me.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2007 at 8:51 pm

I'm a software developer in the medical services field who works from home. A developer friend in Sweden told me PacketFront's automated equipment there puts users in control, they can chose from a menu of services from dozens of providers. It is like buying a book from Amazon.com, she says, click "Buy It' and your services are available to you instantly. I'd love to have a clicker like that just to see how many microseconds it would take me to make Comcast and AT&T disappear.


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Posted by Penelope
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 15, 2007 at 9:11 pm

It surprises me the animosity that Comcast and AT&T evoke. Sure, I have had more than my share of waiting from 7 am to 6 pm for the phone or cable repairman to show up. I once got caught in a telephone menu tree with the gracious good wishes of AT&T. I was in there for 12:37 before I relized I was getting nowhere with my quest for help. I didn't give them the chance to ship me off the their support center in India. At that point, I was in the mood to kill.

Now that I think about it, the animosity was probably well-placed.

Never mind.


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Posted by Eric Dynamic
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2007 at 4:23 pm

A quick remark, without seeing the following discussion:
Palo Alto should undertake the expense itself in order to own what is built. Witness San Francisco with its absurd games about "we'll get a FREE network" - talking about their stupid wifi project, but it's the attitude that bothers me and I see the same stuff creeping in here.

NOBODY is going to build something for Palo Altons to use for FREE without there being something far more onerous behind it than paying mere money. In the America I grew up in, you paid for a thing if you wanted the thing. So we have two choices: we get CorpCo to "build it for us for free" and live with their rules and their RATES, because it won't be free - it can't be free; or WE build it and WE own it and when we charge for its use, we charge UTILITY RATES without trying to make profits for some anonymous group of shareholders. And that will be cheaper and far more flexible forever, than dealing with a third-party for-profit outfit of any kind.

I don't want to hear any arguments about how broke you are to wish to bring in "Wal*Mart in shining armor" to "make it cheap" or "free", until I have heard you say that you have done what there was to do to stop the wastage of 100.00% of our FEDERAL AND STATE TAXES on things like CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS and NEEDLESS MILITARY EXPENDITURES. The only reason we "can't afford to deploy fiber" (which can save each paying user up to $1000 per year) is because we've let the politicians dump our money into the ocean, deliberately to waste it and KEEP us poor, with no accountability and no consequences for them who do it.

They make us poor so we think we need everything "free". So stop them.


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Posted by Eric Dynamic
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2007 at 4:28 pm

See Web Link for one model for a community network. If you like what you see there, bring the ideas back to the PA city council.


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Posted by Eric Dynamic
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Sorry for multiple posts - but for those who hate Comcast and Southwest Bell (aka SBC aka AT&T), the communityfiber.org model is their solution, and it doesn't even involve an active stance against Comcast, AT&T and other scabrous telcos - we build what we want and need to use; we build AROUND the incumbents; we only have to defend against a blizzard of scurrilous lawsuits trying to maintain their "right to take money from your pockets", and Lafayette, LA has gotten past that already.

See the model for Community Fiber at communityfiber.org (Web Link) and pass it along.


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