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Palo Alto explores two roadmaps for digital future

Original post made on Sep 18, 2013

As a city that views itself as digital paradise, Palo Alto rarely looks to places like Louisiana, Kansas and Utah for technological guidance. But now that the city is once again exploring an "ultra-high-speed" network, officials are looking far and wide for success stories it can emulate.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 10:58 PM

Comments (52)

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2013 at 8:41 am

Shortly after Google announced that it was going to offer Austin, TX 1Gb service, AT&T stepped up to the plate, and made the same offer:

AT&T to launch its own 1Gb broadband service in Austin:
Web Link

Clearly, Silicon Valley residents are being underserved by AT&T when it comes to adequate residential bandwidth. However, the larger companies have never complained that the telephone/datacommunications services offered by the major California service providers have been so inadequate that they have had to move out of the Silicon Valley/California for better service.

Ultimately, the question is about just how much speed do residential customers need, and at what price?

> The goal is clear: to give every Palo Alto household broadband
> connectivity at speeds greater than 100 megabits per second. The
> service would greatly boost customers' ability to upload and
> download videos, take classes from their homes and take
> advantage of cloud-based technology and of "smart grid"
> services that enable water conservation and energy efficiency.

All of these goals are achievable today, with the bandwidths that are generally available from Comcast and AT&T. (Interesting that downloading e-books, so that Palo Altans never have to go to a brick-n-mortar library again, isn't on this short list.)

It is refreshing to see that the City is considering increasing WiFi coverage around town. At the least, all of downtown, inside the parking structures, and all of the parks should have coverage.

There is a lot of research going on now in the area of "smart cars". So, looking into coverage that would facilitate the next generate of "telemetrics" should be on the City's list of goals for providing municipal data communications services to the public.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 18, 2013 at 8:59 am

"Clearly, Silicon Valley residents are being underserved by AT&T when it comes to adequate residential bandwidth."

Equally clearly, if AT&T perceived a profitable market opportunity for enhanced residential bandwidth, it would be out there frantically hooking it up.

"Ultimately, the question is about just how much speed do residential customers need, and at what price?"

Yes. Although an undeniable function of government is to promote the public good by supplying otherwise unprofitable infrastructure (think roads for example), can our city afford the money drain of providing and operating a new utility that may, in any case, be obsolete by the time it is built. For example, a few years ago our local FTTH advocates demanded 100 Mbps bandwidth. That setup would already be obsolete, because the standard now is 1 Gbps.


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Posted by Conundrummmed
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

Almost every other developed nation in the world has faster Internet speed than Palo Alto. This is an embarrassment of global,proportions, considering that we are at the center of Silicon Valley.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2013 at 11:03 am

@curmudgeon - the 1Gb is that is now standard (I wish), is still FTTH. And I'd be happy to get anything close to 100Mb now.

AT&T and Comcast can sit on their laurels and do nothing but collect their monthly income doing nothing. Faster speed may be profitable for them, but that's not necessarily motivation enough. Motivation would be losing their existing customers and revenue. Ideally Comcast and AT&T should be pushing each other, but neither are particularly well run companies.


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Posted by satisfied
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2013 at 11:11 am

Re: "Almost every other developed nation in the world has faster Internet speed than Palo Alto. This is an embarrassment of global,proportions, considering that we are at the center of Silicon Valley." I personally am not the least bit embarrassed by the service available here (Comcast for me, though AT&T speeds are much slower in my part of town away from the "CO"), as an "average Joe" of the Silicon Valley type, I get all the things I need and all the things I want from the web and cloud at a reasonable speed (Netflix, Dropbox) and am a bit saddened that we would be driven by what others think of us (which is the only reference for being embarrassed). Can someone clearly delineate the benefits an average taxpayer would receive for the costs and risks we will certainly incur? We already have an incredible amount of staff and Council time sunk over the years into this likely loser (as evidenced by no other clear success stories across our nation of typically gullible and overly-optimistic municipalities, and plenty of stories of losers), so let's please pull the plug again and focus on those things for which the City must provide, leaving this to competitive businesses.


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Posted by member
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 18, 2013 at 11:13 am

You are putting flouride in our water, now wi fi Are you trying to kill us? With whom are you in cohoots with that you are so intent on making us ill?


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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 18, 2013 at 11:14 am

There is absolutely no reason for the city of Palo Alto to be involved in this effort.

If the citizenry want it, let market demand fill the need.

Let's not take away from the primary focus of our city government - providing salaries and pensions to its own employees.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

As an engineer and well read person who has worked on many challenging projects I do understand science and how some of it is not good science or good policy. I too do not want flouride in my water or citywide wifi. We need some freedom to control our environment and to chose our technologies. What kind of society are we when we effectively reduce ourselves to voluntary house arrest in our homes where much is delivered by online services and we are just mere consumers, not really active citizens of a community and world? Is this the world we want to live in? Virtual mostly? People are creatures of habit..what is most convenient gets done more of..for good or bad. Palo Alto is becoming a cold place..where neighbors are just inside their homes mostly.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Perhaps high speed internet should be classed as a utility, like gas, electricity, water and trash removal.

Or perhaps garbage trash should be like internet, we choose the best provider for our needs. I would definitely like to be able to choose a trash removal provider that gave us discounts for vacation hold or twice monthly pickup.

Wifi, trash collection, freedom to choose, or Hobson's Choice?


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm

@Wayne Martin's "...that downloading e-books, so that Palo Altans never have to go to a brick-n-mortar library again..."

asked & answered many times: pls don't = your e-books reading with piblic library space that provides learning & sense of community


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Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Must a resident subscribe to the service? I say no.

This "utility" is not like electricity, water, and garbage which are absolutely necessary for health and safety and part of a City's responsibility to provide.

High speed internet is not a necessity for health and safety, and a resident should not be forced to pay for it if he/she does not want it. They may not be able to afford it or may not even have a computer.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Bill

I disagree, electricity, gas, water, sewers, yes, are absolutely necessary for the city to provide, but not garbage. Many communities only insist that you subscribe to one of a choice of private providers.

My sister's area has 3 separate services, each one providing a service that is more economical for whether a household is small, large, or is away for varying amounts of time during the year. Each has an annual charge plus a pickup fee which varies. One even has a system that they are charged by weight. The annual charge has to be proven to the city. The only disadvantage that I can see is that the providers each use a different day for pickup so the different colored cans are always out on the curb.

I agree that wifi is not absolutely necessary, but if we say that having a choice for wifi is good, then why can't having a choice for trash also not be good.

Personally, I think that the providers around here are all providing a subpar household service compared to other countries.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Two points:

Re ebooks: For many of the works of fiction I reserve at the library, there's always a long line of up to 50 requests while the ebooks are always available and have NO requests.

Re the conferences attended by our fine Utility Dept., it would seem they could simply assemble some local talent and discuss the issue with them. I can think of lots of highly qualified people who've tried to educate the city on the technical issues for at least a decade. How about talking to them? No market spin like you get at conferences and save the city some money -- a NEW concept for our Utility Dept. that continues to send out costly mailings asking how we want to hear from them! I don't; I want LOWER rates.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

> Re ebooks: For many of the works of fiction I reserve at
> the library, there's always a long line of up to 50 requests
> while the ebooks are always available and have NO requests.

This has been true ever since the Library started offering OverDrive.

What's interesting is that most of the people complaining about the PA Library's wait lines are always complaining about works of fiction. When the new libraries are completed, each of these fiction checkouts will cost the taxpayers about $9-$10, rising with inflation at about 3% a year into the future. Kindle downloads cost anywhere from $0.0 to $14--and there is no waiting.

Last time I looked, the library was circulating about 40% fiction, and about 45% videos (typically fiction). So--the cost of providing a subsection of the community that does not want to buy books, support the authors and the publishing community--presses heavily on the City budget.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

> electricity, gas, water, sewers, yes, are absolutely
> necessary for the city to provide

There are private vendoes of these commodities all over the world. Why is it "absolutely necessary" for the City of Palo Alto to provide these particular utilities?


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Posted by satisfied
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Wayne Martin: "and about 45% videos (typically fiction)" where did you find theses numbers and do you know the cost of providing these? Most videos on the racks now are TV show boxes (not a compelling need in my book) and almost all available fro netflix for $8/mo per family; I can't imagine we are less costly than that, even stripping out overhead that might not go away if we only stocked hard-to-find videos. The library also uses those video "rentals" to inflate circulation numbers.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Wayne

Yes, on reflection you are right. There is no reason why it is absolutely necessary for the city to provide electricity, gas, water and sewers. Private entities could easily provide these services. It is just essential that they are available and the means of provision, wiring, piping, etc. are upkept to a satisfactory standard.


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Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I'd love to have FttP in our neighborhood. My preference would be to get Sonic.net to run it, as they have a lot of expertise with their Sebastopol roll out, plus their service is insanely good. I would recommend them over AT&T and Comcast in a heart beat.


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Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm

From Mr. Martin " electricity, gas, water, sewers, yes, are absolutely
> necessary for the city to provide

"There are private vendors of these commodities all over the world. Why is it "absolutely necessary" for the City of Palo Alto to provide these particular utilities?"

Mr. Martin. "Absolutely necessary"? There are no absolutes, but what an impossible mess if everyone spent time getting vendors for the services I call necessities. Over 26,000 residents and businesses in our town would be seeking them. Would each service provider install its own electrical, water and sewer lines? It boggles the mind. This is why we have a city government.

You usually make good sense, but you're off the track on this one.


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Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 18, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I think the city/citizens should own the fiber and let companies who want our business compete with low rates and excellent service to provide us the content. Why let them own the whole operation and have a virtual monopoly or cartel to keep rates up and service/maintenance costs low? We don't owe these guys "money for nothing and your chicks for free."


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2013 at 7:53 am

Palo Alto could have had fiber to the home a long time ago if the city council created a special development status to the project and removed the "Palo Alto Way" from the process. Expedite the process by taking the planning dept and board out of the way.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 19, 2013 at 8:59 am

> "and about 45% videos (typically fiction)" where did you
> find theses numbers and do you know the cost of providing these?

Every year the State Library collects reasonably comprehensive library utilization data, which is published, periodically, on its web-site:

CA State Library/Library Stats:
Web Link

Palo Alto detailed library utilization can be found in this publication.

As to cost, a simple transaction model of:

Number-of-items-circulated/total-cost-of-operating-libraries

is the basis for calculating this number.

Of course, the circulation varies on a year-by-year basis, and the general cost of providing library services increases on a year-by-year basis. Additionally, we have to add in the cost of the bond financing to the total-cost, which the City routinely does not do.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2013 at 9:07 am

> There are no absolutes, but what an impossible mess if
> everyone spent time getting vendors for the services I
> call necessities.

You have missed the essence of my question. I did not mean to suggest that these services were not necessary, but questioned why they gas and electricity, for instance, were necessary to be delivered by the City government.

Perhaps we have a basic misreading of each other's posts.

My point is that PG&E delivers gas, and the San Jose Water Company delivers water, and there are a large number of private trash pickup companies operating in California. Certainly sews, storm drains, and basic transportation systems are best provided by government--but even these could be outsourced to the private sector for execution.

If there was a mis-reading of your post on my part, my apologies. However, I do stand firm that the City government need not be the primary provider of unessential services.



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Posted by Newly-minted Cynic
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I find after the Maybell debacle, I have a hard time believing the City can do anything in good faith for our citizens.

I have Sonic because of recommendations by my neighbors. And while peak speeds are not as fast as the fastest with Comcast, Comcast rarely delivered what they promised and we often had total outages of service. Plus I now get free TV off air and my Roku,with HD picture. i'm saving over $1,000/yr.

I can't see how the City could do this and not screw us somehow, so long as Councilmembers get theirs...


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

This is ridiculous, if Cedar Falls Iowa's locally owned utility can do it why can't we????????? If the amount of money spent on studying it had be spent on just doing it would be done by now. Cedar Falls is about the same size as Palo Alto and has a large University there.


Web Link


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Posted by OY!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

The City of Palo Alto digital ultra high speed fiber optic internet service studies have now extended into their third decade costing Palo Alto taxpayers well over $2 million in "blue ribbon" and "red ribbon" studies. The city residents have sent numerous city council members to numerous cities over the decades on "fact finding" missions. It would seem that they are using this issue more as a travel perk for council members rather than as a service to the public. The money isn't there. City government lacks any technical or educational background to make the system work as a financially feasible enterprise. One only has to look at the uneducated responses given by city councilmembers and the city manager regarding this issue to conclude that they lack any leadership,technical, or motivational skills to carry such a project forward. Perhaps it would benefit the taxpaying residents to recommend that any future monies invested in this endeavour be secured until we have an educated city manager with a business background who can understand the complexities required for such a project. City councilmembers have already shown that they have little to no understanding regarding the scope or magnitude of the services they are naively recommending.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Re Wayne Martin, 09-18-13, 8:41 am, even if AT&T implements 1-Gbps Internet service in Austin, TX at a reasonable price, they wouldn't have done it without competition from Google. In Palo Alto, "larger companies" don't complain about the telecom incumbents, they just become customers of the City's dark fiber network. Palo Alto should be planning to offer 1-Gbps Internet service on its FTTP network from day one, with even faster speeds in coming years.

Re curmudgeon, 09-18-13, 8:59 am, when the City builds a FTTP network, the fiber infrastructure will last at least 30 years. And optronics should be upgradable on a per-premises basis.

Re satisfied, 09-18-13, there are 126 municipal FTTP networks in the U.S., and the vast majority are financially successful. Economic development is the most often cited benefit. It benefits the whole community. It provides opportunities for home businesses, telecommuting, telehealth, etc. Even customers of the telecom incumbents benefit from the competition.

Re OYI, the first FTTP study I know about started in 2002. (There was a "universal telecommunications system" RFP in 1999, which asked for speeds of at least 9600 bps, but thankfully it got no bids.) So, no, I don't think we're in our 3rd decade of studies yet. Your cost estimate is much too high. No, the studies weren't "red ribbon" or "blue ribbon" (If anybody knows what that means). Not all Council members could run an electric utility or a water utility or a gas utility, but fortunately they can hire it done. The same goes for FTTP.

Re those who wanted to talk about fluoride, trash removal, libraries, Maybell, etc., may I suggest a change of venue?


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Posted by But, but, but
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2013 at 8:30 am

I kinda like the idea of considering the Internet and wifi to be another utility. They are necessities especially in the coming knowledge economy.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

"Re curmudgeon, 09-18-13, 8:59 am, when the City builds a FTTP network, the fiber infrastructure will last at least 30 years. And optronics should be upgradable on a per-premises basis."

Will the fiber dispersion characteristics transmit the higher data rate with acceptable BER? How about the server-side optronics infrastructure?


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Re: curmudgeon, "Will the fiber dispersion characteristics transmit the higher data rate with acceptable BER? How about the server-side optronics infrastructure?"

This is getting into the techie weeds. Please contact me by email. My address is on the City's website.

But, yes, it's possible to implement a fiber infrastructure that will support speeds required for the next 30 years or more.

For point-to-point optical transceivers that use two fibers (one for each direction), IEEE has these standards:

* 1-Gbps 1000BASE-LA10 802.3ah

* 10-Gbps 10GBASE-LR 802.3ae

* 40-Gbps 40GBASE-LR4 802.3ba

*100-Gbps 100GBASE-LR4 802.3ba

For point-to-point optical transceivers that use one fiber (for both directions), IEEE has these standards.

* 1-Gbps 1000BASE-BX 802.3ah

There is also a point-to-multipoint transceiver that uses one fiber (for both directions)

* 10-Gbps 10GBASE-PR 802.3av

These transceivers all use singlemode fiber with a zero-dispersion point of 1310 nm. Polarization mode dispersion should be limited to less than 0.06 ns/sqrt (km)
Web Link


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Re: But, but, but, ..., "I kinda like the idea of considering the Internet and wifi to be another utility. They are necessities especially in the coming knowledge economy."

The City already has a fiber utility, which should be doing FTTP as well as dark fiber. Most folks assume that the cost of running the fiber utility should be paid for, at least in the long run, by the people who use the services.

I have suggested that wireless telecom become another utility, at least conceptually, as a way of asking the question, should the cost of running that utility be paid for, at least in the long run, by the people who use the services? If the answer is yes, then why should the fiber fund pay for a study required by the wireless utility? I know of no municipal wireless utilities that are successful financially.

I want Palo Alto to focus on FTTP. There are lots of examples of municipal FTTP networks that are successful financially.


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Posted by OY!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Re: Jeff Hoel Sounds like you like to push your own agenda. Good luck! Ask the city manager or a city council what a FTTP is and watch their face go blank. As you must be new to Palo Alto not to know that every major city project is immediately assigned by city council to a "blue ribbon" or "red ribbon" committee for further study to delay or stifle any proposals beyond city council or city management scope of knowledge, well, I welcome your motivation in changing this obtuse cycle of ignorance. Re: your questioning of three decades of non-action, I beleive the decade of the 90's (when this proposal was 1st brought forward) 00's, and '10s would logically indicate that this is the third decade of discussion and inaction on this "exploration" of Palo Alto's digital future. I welcome your motivation and naivity in educating city council and city management staff on the benefits of this service. Good luck!


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Re OYI, I have spoken with the City Manager and with several Council members about FTTP, and, no, their faces didn't go blank. At this year's retreat, Council chose "technology & the connected city" -- including FTTP -- as one of its three "priorities." And it created a Technology & the Connected City Committee (TACC) to expedite things. (It's a committee of Council members, so, no, no ribbon is attached.) Last July, Mayor Scharff predicted that Palo Alto would have FTTP within two years.

I moved to Palo Alto in 1998. For the last several years, I have attended most Council meetings. If hoping I can make a difference makes me naive, then so be it.

I now understand how you count decades. I guess you'd also say that Palo Alto's FTTP discussion is in its second millennium.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm

"This is getting into the techie weeds. Please contact me by email. My address is on the City's website."

Installing an expensive public infrastructure that becomes obsolete and must be replaced at even more expense prior to its (always over-optimistic) design lifetime is hardly "the techie weeds." IEEE standards are easily and inexpensively updated to track evolving technology; miles of physical fiber and their attendant optronics are not.

I will therefore keep this debate in public, because it is the public that must make the informed choice, and it is the public that will bear the costs of the hasty decisions that starry-eyed zealots urge on our technologically hapless city government.


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Posted by cynic
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The city is always looking for more things to do, which ultimately means more employees (benefits, pensions, etc.). This would be OK if it had already fixed all the existing problems like roads, sidewalks, maintenance. Do you trust the people who did the city website to give you wifi?


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Posted by cynic
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Web Link
"Google's effort to install a blazingly fast, gigabit-per-second fiber Internet service in the two-state metropolis of Kansas City—a speed 100 times faster than the national average—is a radical new business direction for the company, and perhaps provides an unorthodox model for how to rewire parts of the United States."

Web Link
The cable distribution giants like Time Warner Cable and Comcast are already making a 97 percent margin on their "almost comically profitable" Internet services,...

Web Link
"The Chattanooga service has been available for more than a year to 150,000 residential and commercial customers for $350 per month, but it has so far found only eight residential subscribers and 18 commercial ones."


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Re curmudgeon, IEEE doesn't abandon its standards, but it does make new ones, and manufacturers are free to use whatever standards they want (if any). You haven't explained why you fear that a fiber infrastructure that is compatible with IEEE's existing standards would not be capable of delivering competitive services for at least 30 years.

ITU specifies the same kind of fiber for GPON (G.652.B) transceivers. The City uses the same kind of fiber for its dark fiber network.

Singlemode fiber has a bandwidth-distance product of at least 30 THz * km. So for distances of less than 10 km, and encodings of 1 bit/Hz, speeds of 3 Tbps are theoretically possible. That's enough headroom to permit Moore's Law style speed increases in coming years.

FTTP systems typically plan to upgrade the optronics every seven years or so if they want to stay reasonably current with what the state-of-the-art permits.

Incidentally, FTTP business plans typically show that a FTTP network can pay for itself in a lot less than 30 years. Palo Alto's 2003 business plan estimated 14 years. Longmont's 2013 business plan estimates 11 years. After a municipal FTTP system has paid for itself -- while giving the community valuable services -- if the fiber infrastructure continues to be useful longer than that, well, that's just an extra benefit.

I have volunteered to serve on a committee to advise city government on the FTTP issue. That doesn't necessarily mean I'll be chosen to serve in that capacity.


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Posted by Jeff_Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Re cynic, Chattanooga EPB recently dropped the prices of its residential Internet services. 1-Gbps (symmetric) Internet service is now $70/month, and 100-Mbps (symmetric) Internet service is now $58/month. And they now have 50,000 customers.

Web Link

UTOPIA's "open access" FTTP network now has six retail service providers who offer residential 1-Gbps (symmetric) Internet service for $70/month or less.

Web Link

Meanwhile, Milo Medin testified to Congress, in effect, that Google won't offer FTTP services in California because of its CEQA requirements.

Web Link


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

"You haven't explained why you fear that a fiber infrastructure that is compatible with IEEE's existing standards would not be capable of delivering competitive services for at least 30 years."

30 years, huh? You think you can build that far ahead in the digital world, do you?

Here's concrete example from the digital real world: The HP2100 minicomputer that sufficed very well for me in 1979 is totally (and beyond) outmatched by the GHz-clocked, multicored, GPU-assisted processors of 2009, which in turn are barely up to the problems I am computing on them now.

Now imagine that technical obsolescence on a city-wide scale, and the dollars needed to patch it up.

AT&T and the other big boys know the communications business far better than our star-struck local amateurs. They have wisely held off. Let the fools rush in if they must, but using their own money, not our municipal $$$.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 23, 2013 at 8:18 am

> even if AT&T implements 1-Gbps Internet service in Austin, TX at
> a reasonable price, they wouldn't have done it without competition
> from Google

It's probably true that they might not have offered Austin the 1Gb service at this particular point in time, but your suggestion that they would never have offered it doesn't make a lot of sense, unless you are clairvoyant.

There still is not real proof that US households need 1Gb data communications service. An MIT type was wondering about the need for this much residential capacity in a recent MIT Technology Review--

Not So Fast: A Google Fiber One-Gigabit Mystery:
Web Link

But what's still far from clear is any of us need gigabit service, how many people are actually taking it, and whether they can do anything with it (after, say, the first 100 megabits, allowing plenty of room for multiple video streams and Wi-Fi losses inside the home).
---

Google has yet to produce much in the wireline market place, other than a lot of hype. Google does not routinely release much information about its inner-workings, so it will be a while before any real news about the acceptance, and profitability, of its FTTH service will be generally known.

The claim that all sorts of new products and services will follow, once the pipe-line has been constructed is always a well-received bit of marketing strategy. But the current focus on wireless communications seems to suggest that higher speeds into the home are not going to create the tsunami of new services that have been promised.

Maybe after a few more years the focus of communications industry will shift away from mobile communications, but giving the almost limitless horizons available to "mobile", that's not very likely.

The marketplace is always a better arbitrator of what people want, and are willing to pay for. Government has history been little concerned about what people want, as opposed to what the political class thinks that they need.

Pacific Telephone went bankrupt in the 1990s because it bet on Fiber. The telcos that have picked up the pieces saw no reason to crash-and-burn in the same way.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

At this point, I think the emphasis should be on expanding fiber into the neighborhoods, but not deploying FTTH. If the fiber was deployed onto neighborhood poles, Palo Alto could add wireless nodes directly onto the hanging fiber, see: Web Link

Offering high speed wireless rather than going through the expense of dropping fiber would save money and give everyone connectivity they could easily use with their mobile devices. Time Warner is deploying this kind of system through their cable network in Southern California: Web Link

> Pacific Telephone went bankrupt in the 1990s because it bet on Fiber.

Hehe, never heard that one Wayne. Pacific Telesis was an RBOC created in 1984. After they spun off their mobile operation to AirTouch, they were acquired by SBC in the late 1990's. They never went bankrupt. They never bet heavily on fiber, either.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm


Re curmudgeon, As I have said already, I think the passive fiber infrastructure (singlemode fiber, with a zero-dispersion point of 1310 nm and a reasonable PMD spec) will not be obsolete in 30 years. I have also said that the optronics might need replacing (if you want to keep up with the state-of-the-art) every seven years. Your computer example is analogous to the optronics, not to the fiber infrastructure.

This article says the fiber will last a long time.
www.corning.com/WorkArea/downloadasset.aspx?id=35209

This article discusses "Why Fiber is Future Proof."
Web Link

The incumbents don't implement FTTP if they think competition won't force them to do it, but that doesn't serve communities well. Chattanooga, Lafayette, and more than a hundred other municipalities have successfully implemented FTTP networks that do serve their communities well. Are you saying they were all done by star-struck local amateurs?


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Re Wayne Martin, DSL Reports says that when AT&T deploys FTTP, it often caps performance to FTTN levels.
Web Link

It's relatively pointless to speculate about whether people "need" 1-Gbps Internet service. Google has shown that in lots of "fiberhoods" in Kansas City, at least 30 percent of residential premises want it enough to sign up for it at $70/month, if the alternative is to endure the Internet products of the incumbents. In Chattanooga and the UTOPIA cities, customers of municipal FTTP systems now have a choice of 1-Gbps Internet for $70/month or a slower service at a lower price. Let's see what happens.

Sure, FTTP can't provide mobile services, but whenever you don't need to be mobile, FTTP is much faster and more reliable than wireless, without the annoying data caps that can make wireless expensive.

Wikipedia doesn't mention anything about a Pacific Bell bankruptcy, but it does say that "Pacific Telephone was one of the least profitable Bells due to very tough local telephone regulations in California."
Web Link

This account says Pac Bell spent less on fiber than they promised, and delivered a lot less than they promised.

Web Link

Look, the FTTP opportunity in 1993 was a lot different from the FTTP opportunity today.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Re joe, Please contact me by email. My address is on the City's website. Here's what I'd like to consider in more detail: If the City adopted your idea, how much closer to citywide FTTP would that get us? And do you accept that there should be a credible plan for assuring that the folks who used the wireless services would pay all of the cost of providing the services?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

So the fiber manufacturer says its physical fiber will last 25 years. That's surely definitive -- everyone knows a manufacturer would never oversell its product. Wisely, Corning says nothing about the issue here: bandwidth obsolescence.

'This article discusses "Why Fiber is Future Proof."' Just about everything is "Future Proof" until the future overtakes it. Consider my HP2100 computer example above. What a marvel it was: a real computer on a tabletop, with 64kB core memory. I could program it to handle any problem I had at the time. Surely it was Future Proof.

"Are you saying they were all done by star-struck local amateurs?"

OK, if you're so confident about your scheme, how come you need city hall money? Aren't you sure of your business model? Then why not risk your own money and the money of savvy investors instead of the public treasury?

Get your rubber on the road and get moving. Find VC backing, put up an FTTH network according to Hoel, get filthy rich, and prove all the skeptics wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:39 am

AT&T continues to make claims about its future wireline business--

AT&T's Stephenson: We'll equip other markets with FTTH
Web Link

AT&T (NYSE: T) hasn't given an exact timeline when they will start offering consumers 1 Gbps-capable fiber to the home (FTTH) services in Austin, but the company is keen on replicating the model in other markets.
----




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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

> It's relatively pointless to speculate about whether people
> "need" 1-Gbps Internet service. Google has shown that in
> lots of "fiberhoods" in Kansas City, at least 30 percent of
> residential premises want it enough to sign up for it at $70/month

Wonder how many product marketing people would agree with you?

By the way, has Google actually revealed any of its actual sign-up data?

If so, could you please provide links to this data?

If not--what every are you asking us to believe at "fact"?


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

> Wikipedia doesn't mention anything about a Pacific Bell bankruptcy,
> but it does say that "Pacific Telephone was one of the least
> profitable Bells due to very tough local telephone regulations
> in California."

As much as I use, and support, Wikipedia--it's not the be all of information sources. Unfortunately, PT&T's bankruptcy was about fifteen years ago, and it's not surprising that there isn't a lot of information on the WEB about it.

The point about regulations is true, but doesn't deal with the problems PT&T ran into once it committed to "fiber". If one were to dig into the old newspapers of the time, it wouldn't be that hard to find details about the resistance PT&T ran into as it tried to "fiberize" California.

In some sense, they tried a little too soon. One of the problems they ran into in San Jose was that the local neighborhood nodes ran "hot"--somewhere over 200 degrees (F), if memory services. Neighborhood activists managed to get the City Council to create holds on the deployment into the neighborhoods. The City of Fremont decided it wanted money from PT&T to allow it to run cables on municipal property, causing PT&T to have to rethink its options in some towns.

Even when AT&T started running Fiber into the neighborhoods 7+years later, activists objected to the VRAD boxes, which stood about five feet tall, and 18-24 inches wide.

I've been told by AT&T personnel that the City of Palo Alto has made their life very difficult--often requiring EIRs for the building of a wiring bunker. Getting U-Verse here was a slow process. At one point, if memory serves, there was talk of suing AT&T over the location of the PEG channels on U-Verse.

Regulations no doubt made PT&T's life difficult, but the money they spent unsuccessfully deploy "fiber" drove them into bankruptcy court.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Re curmudgeon, A municipal FTTP network is a public good. It's implemented to serve the community. If some private-sector entity implemented a FTTP network in Palo Alto, it would not be a public good. It would be implemented to extract as much money from the community as possible, not to serve the community. If it were VC-financed, the VCs would insist on it.

The City's municipal electric utility is a public good, paid for by the customers who subscribe to its services.

A municipal library is a public good. Last time libraries were on the ballot in Palo Alto, why weren't you calling on advocates to get the private sector to build them? But, unlike libraries, FTTP networks really can be paid for in the long run by the customers who subscribe to their services. There are lots of successful examples to learn from.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Re: Wayne Martin (AT&T), It doesn't cost AT&T much to claim they'll implement some FTTP somewhere over the next few years. Susan Crawford's book, "Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age," says AT&T is effectively ceding the wireline telecom market to cable TV companies like Comcast.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Last September, Google revealed that 180 fiberhoods in the Kansas Cities (89% of all fiberhoods there) had sufficient sign-ups to qualify to be built.

Web Link

Web Link

Here's a fiberhood-by-fiberhood status for Kansas City, MO:

Web Link

At the 09-17-13 TACC meeting, Vice Mayor Shepherd said she learned at a conference that the threshold was 30%. But this article says Google's pre-registration threshholds vary from 5% to 25%.

Web Link

Perhaps I should have said: It's relatively pointless to speculate about whether people "need" 1-Gbps Internet service. 89% of the fiberhoods in the Kansas Cities have met Google's pre-registration criteria for build-out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Re: Wayne Martin (PT&T), If you want readers to believe that PT&T had a bankruptcy 15 years ago, it's your job, not mine, to cite references. PT&T attempted some FTTP in the 1990s and bungled the job. I don't think that says anything about FTTP's feasibility today.

Are you sure AT&T wants you to whine on their behalf about how hard it is for them to comply with CEQA?

Are you saying U-Verse is now available citywide in Palo Alto? I hadn't heard that before. In any case, U-Verse is not as capable as FTTP.

The City's beef with AT&T's plan for PEG channels on U-Verse was not only what the channel numbers were but also screen resolution and features like closed captioning, etc. -- in general, making PEG channels inferior in quality to other channels.

Web Link

Perhaps if U-Verse were not so limited, it would not have occurred to AT&T to skimp on the PEG channels.


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