Groundbreaking Fiber News for Monticello!

Thanks to Lynne Dahl-Fleming for sending me an update on Monticello for the upcoming eNews…

Monticello, Minnesota has started construction on a city-wide 100% fiber optic network which will bring telephone, Internet and cable TV service to every home and business inside the city limits. A telephone referendum was held on September 18 and city residents came to the polls to provide a 74% voter approval telling the City of Monticello that they wanted another choice for telephone service.

For more than two years, the City has been researching the possibility of providing a 100% fiber optic network as infrastructure to every home and business inside the city limits of Monticello. The telecommunications business is named FiberNet Monticello and will provide triple play services for telephone, Internet and cable TV. The city-wide fiber optic network will be supported by revenue bonds and will not require any tax levy.

The next steps for the fiber optic network project include engineering and layout of the City-wide network, financing the network and constructing the network. At the same time the City’s Finance Team will be working to prepare the information needed to be provided to the prospective bond buyers whose purchase of the bonds would finance the construction and launch of the City-wide system. This includes information on how voice, video and data services would be provided, operations management and marketing.

The process of selecting an engineering firm and completing the design will occur concurrently with the financing process, with the intent that the design of the system is near completion at the same time the City receives bond proceeds to finance the construction. Full construction of the fiber optic network will take 18 to 24 months and first customers could take service by early summer 2009.

For more information visit the Monticello website.

Google Will Apply to Participate in FCC Spectrum Auction

The official word from Google on the spectrum auction is hot off the presses – or email server as the case may be — Google Will Apply to Participate in FCC Spectrum Auction.

Here a summary from the press release they sent out today:

As part of the nationally mandated transition to digital television, the 700 MHz spectrum auction — which begins January 24, 2008 — will free up spectrum airwaves for more efficient wireless Internet service for consumers. Advocacy by public interest groups and Google earlier this year helped ensure that regardless of which bidders win a key portion of the spectrum up for auction (the so-called “C Block”), they will be required to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device, and to use any mobile devices they would like on that wireless network. The winner must ensure these rights for consumers if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block is met at auction.

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

I think that Google is being a little modest about their role in persuading the FCC. In July they sent a laundry list of their requirements to the FCC, which the FCC obviously read.

Back in August I spoke with Mike O’Connor about the Broadband Spectrum – and we talked a little bit about Google’s interest.

Google themselves had made some announcements lately that helps readers understand their intention with the Spectrum. Just a couple of days ago, they announced Mobile Google Maps & Search, “which uses cell tower ID information to provide users with their approximate location, helping them determine where they are, what’s around them, and how to get there.” (It also allows Google to offer very targeted ads!)

About a month ago, they announced that a “broad alliance of leading technology and wireless companies today joined forces to announce the development of Android, the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. Google Inc., T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and others have collaborated on the development of Android through the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders.” This open platform will fit in well with the open applications, devices, service, and networks that Google suggested for the Spectrum auction requirements.

It will be great to see how this push towards openness will play out. It has clearly been a successful business plan for Internet-based companies such as Google who provide amazing access into their code. I think it has worked for them and has spawned new companies and innovation because it helps make Google become more ubiquitous and opens the door to others to be successful by making Google even more useful – the whole idea of the MashUp.

New Wireless in Town

phoneAccording to the Pioneer Press (ATT launches wireless network), ATT has just deployed a wireless broadband network in the Twin Cities. According to the article, “The average upload speeds for the ATT HSDPA, or High Speed Downlink Packet Access, network are 500 kilobits to 800 kilobits per second, and downloads speeds range from 600 kilobits to 1.4 megabits per second, the company said. “

This is the second time today that I have read about HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access). According to Wikipedia:

High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) is a 3G (third generation) mobile telephony communications protocol in the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) family, which allows networks based on Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity. Current HSDPA deployments support down-link speeds of 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 and 14.4 Mbit/s. Further speed increases are planned for the near future. The networks are then to be upgraded to Evolved HSPA, which provides speeds of 42 Mbit/s downlink in its first release.

Again according to the Pioneer Press article, HSDPA will let consumers with certain handsets send and receive video while they talk, which sounds cool IF you and your friends have such a phone. And anything worth videotaping.

Bandwidth Exceeds Infrastructure – but Says Who?

Thanks to Mike O’Connor for passing on this study to Bernadine Joselyn who passed it on to me…

Nemertes Research recently released a study on Internet infrastructure. Here’s the executive summary:

Our findings indicate that although core fiber and switching/routing resources will scale nicely to support virtually any conceivable user demand, Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, will likely cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years. We estimate the financial investment required by access providers to “bridge the gap” between demand and capacity ranges from $42 billion to $55 billion, or roughly 60%-70% more than service providers currently plan to invest.

It’s important to stress that failing to make that investment will not cause the Internet to collapse. Instead, the primary impact of the lack of investment will be to throttle innovation-both the technical innovation that leads to increasingly newer and better applications, and the business innovation that relies on those technical innovations and applications to generate value. The next Google, YouTube, or Amazon might not arise, not because of a lack of demand, but due to an inability to fulfill that demand. Rather like osteoporosis, the underinvestment in infrastructure will painlessly and invisibly leach competitiveness out of the economy.

Perhaps the most interesting point of the study (as Mike pointed out) is the funders, which includes in Nemertes’ words “users, makers of, and investors in, technology”. In other words telephone companies and other interested parties may have funded this resource.

Reading the reaction to the article on the report is actually more fun that reading the report itself. (Comments found here.) It reminded me of librarianship 101 classes on information literacy. It also reminded me of Rep Al Juhnke’s astute comments at the Blandin Broadband Conference last month when he mentioned that so much of the info legislators get on technology comes from vendors.

Libraries Need Broadband

libraryThanks to Bernadine Joselyn for sending me testimony from David Burdick, Director Public Library of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County to the US Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on the State of Broadband in Arkansas.

Mr. Burdick speaks eloquently on the need for broadband in public libraries. Simply said, for many people the library is the only place they can access the Internet. To provide them with dialup, frame relay, or other sub-standard access is almost doing them a disservice. One in three people who walk into Burdick’s libraries use a computer.

Some may argue that really people need computers at home to have ready access. That’s true – but not always possible and for some not even desirable. The library is there is fill the gap for travelers, for folks who cannot afford computers, and for those who choose not to get computers.

In answer to a question from Commissioner Copps, Burdick says:

As of January, 2007, 10 (ten) Libraries were still on dial-up, 137 were on DSL, and 38 were on Cable. It is unknown how many are on dedicated 56k lines. The rest are on T-1 or partial (386) T-1 lines.

Living in Dublin, I have learned first hand how important access in the library is. When we travel around I bank/hope for access in local libraries. When my broadband is inadequate, I go to the library. For my kids – the library is the one place where they can use their “own” computer.

3G a Safety Tool in Rural Wisconsin

The ambulances in LaCrosse use 3G mobile wireless network to link to local hospitals. They aren’t applying all of the bells and whistles – but they are saving times, which in the ambulance world, saves lives.

The don’t send graphic files or connect via video but they are able to send patient monitoring, which can then be emailed to any and all perspective hospital staff members – they are also able to talk to the hospitals to see who is best able to meet the needs of the patient now.

In LaCrosse they use In Motion Technology’s mobile gateway technology. The units cost about $2,500 each and they spend about US$40 a month for Alltel text services to send files.

In Motion Technology has tools that are more reliant on broadband and do use the bells and whistles but LaCrosee doesn’t use them because of concerns of WiFi coverage in the rural areas they serve, which include Minnesota and Iowa.

Auction Off Naming Rights for the Internet

Thanks to the Baller List, I ran across a great article on the political state of broadband in the US. – particularly rural US (Carlini’s Comments, MidwestBusiness.com’s)

His first paragraph says it all, “Where are the hot discussions about broadband deployment and regional economic sustainability in the presidential debates?”

Most of the candidates do have tech policies or statement and they are ably tracked by the folks at the WCA but none of the policies are particularly meaty. Well, maybe it’s more fair to say that none of them are very specific.

Carlini suggested adopting California’s “One Gigabit or Bust” [by 2010] goal, which sounds pretty good. He also suggests firing most of the FCC because they have lost touch with what’s required in the global economy to keep up with the rest of the world.

He suggests that the money that incumbent carriers give to the elections and lobbyists would be better spent upgrading their infrastructure, which I think is very true – but generally the case in any industry that spends so much money on politics.

Carlini also adds that, “There needs to be some serious investigation on why we have slipped so far into the digital desert where all levels of economic strata have been affected and not just those in the digital divide.” This I think is also very true for in some ways broadband might be the canary in the coalmine. If we’re slipping here, you know we’re slipping in other areas. This is also one area where I think we could regain some lost ground quickly if, as Carlini points out, people started paying attention and candidates starting pushing forward on the issue.

The final point that Carlini makes that I think it so astute is that we need to build broadband for tomorrow and not for today. “You don’t put enough in the ground for growth for only two years. You put into the ground enough so you do not have to retrench for 20 years.” That too is a truism across sectors. Too often I see that we’re building broadband or bridges for today. We seem unwilling to invest in required maintenance – we’d rather build a new road. Cynically I think it’s because no one is ever going to rename a road after the person who maintained it – but there is a chance with a new road. Broadband is even worse – we don’t name the infrastructure. The backbone is the backbone – it’s not AT&T’s OC12 or President Bush’s fiber ring. Maybe that’s the idea we need — we could auction off the naming rights for the Internet to get the funds required to build it up. It seems to work for stadiums.