Get your own FTTH

I’m in the car on my way to Chicago for Thanksgiving. The perfect time to catch up some reading! (I’m not driving. I’m a passenger in the family convoy – forced to listen to Billy Squire on the radio now that we’re beyond the reach of public radio.)

So I’m reading the new report from the New America Foundation, Homes with Tails What if you could own your own Internet connection?. In it Derek Slater (from Google) and Tim Wu (from Columbia Law School) flesh the concept of having residents own the fiber to their homes.

The idea is that homeowners would own the fiber from the curb to street to their house, probably in a condominium-model. So the homeowner would own the piece from their house to the curb then the neighborhood would cooperatively own the fibers to a place where they connect up to provides who might rent services – or to the Point of Presence. (Or a homeowner could possibly go solo by owning the fiber to all the PoP.) The reasoning being that plenty of folks would pay the big bucks to get fiber now.

If you’re reading a blog about broadband, chances are you know someone who would be interested in buying fiber to their house. I know a few, heck I might be one. The report didn’t necessarily give a cost – but it seemed as if $3000-4000 was a ballpark figure. If you live in a sprawling suburban or rural area it might be more, if you live in an apartment it would be less.

The most local advantage of buying the fiber to your house is that you get fiber sooner. The community-wide advantage is that early adopters help pave (or lay fiber for) the next wave of users. The advantage for providers (commercial and municipal/gov) is that the early adopters help speed ROI.

One disadvantage of this plan is that clearly it won’t work well in neighborhoods or towns where few people are interested in spending that kind of money. I’m a proponent of universal service – but I feel as if anything we can do to move forward with fiber will help innovators come up with the fiber killer app. Once that happens I think we will be much closer to creating universal demand. Until we have universal demand I think universal service/supply is an uphill battle.

Another disadvantage or challenge they have found in Ottawa where they have been inviting folks to buy fiber was that providers weren’t as interested in participating as they would have liked. Again I think once the market starts to build, that will change.

So while I think that customer-owned fiber isn’t the only way to go it may be a good way to breathe some life into the industry. And in fairness the report seems to say the same. It was an interesting read.

Iowa Telecom to buy Sherburne Tele

Iowa Telecommunications Services Inc. is going to buy Big Lake-based Sherburne Tele Systems. Sherburne provides triple play services (video, voice, data to Becker, Big Lake and Zimmerman as Connection Etc and phone and broadband in Cambridge, Elk River, Mora, North Branch and Princeton as Northstar Access. They also own 33 percent of SHAL Networks, which owns and leases a 2,500-mile fiber-optic network throughout Minnesota. (Learn more)

Iowa Telecom purchased Bishop Telecom (out of Annandale) in February.

St Louis Park WiFi Fails

Last week I was saying that what we need to hear about is some case studies of unsuccessful FTTH projects. Well, today I read about the failures in the St Louis Park WiFi project. The last I heard it wasn’t going well – and it seems that the situation hasn’t changed. It sounds as if the network isn’t working, the publically placed equipment is still ugly as sin, and the project has been expensive.

Well I was reminded of the project in a post from someone called Freedom Dogs. His decsripiton of the WiFi equipment on the street was great when he said it “looked like an 8th grade science project.” I’m going to go out on a limb and admit that I’m probably more liberal than Freedom Dog. His last line quotes another resource and sums up the tenor of his article:

FFM has a summary graph that I could not put better myself: The simple lesson: All taxpayers are put at extraordinary risk when local government gets involved in these risky projects.

My focus might not be so much on government getting involved in risky projects. Just yesterday I talked about how Kentucky risked getting involved in broadband and won. I would focus on the need to mitigate risk.

It seems as if the big hiccup with St Louis Park was that they selected a vendor they didn’t like – or ended up not liking. Also, they were going to be the first to go green and get broadband in one fell swoop. It seems to me that maybe they needed to do more research at the front end to perhaps choose a different contractor for the work or to re-think the go green aspect.

Talking to Connected Nation

Brent Legg and Laura Taylor from Connected Nation were kind enough to talk to me yesterday about Connected Nation and their work in Minnesota. Connected Nation has been hired by the Minnesota Legislature to map broadband in the State. The results should play an important art ion the recommendations made by Minnesota Broadband Task Force.

Here are the notes from the conversation. The notes are long. It was a good conversation, I feel as if I learned something. Mostly we talked about the mapping, working with providers, demand stimulation and why are they do darned successful.

Connected Nation (CN) often comes in two pieces. First is mapping supply of broadband. Second is measuring and stimulating demand. At this point they will only be doing mapping for Minnesota, although I think they’d like to help with demand stimulation as well. Continue reading

Pawlenty pushes online classes

I heard this news on the radio and have seen it in several news sources, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will work toward a Pawlenty’s goal of having 25 percent of all credits earned at MnSCU campuses come from online courses by 2015.

I have pretty mixed views on this. I like the idea of having online classes. I drove to and from Chicago 2 times a week for a semester to finish one of my degrees. I left about 3am, attended 2 classes and drove home – twice a week. Don’t ask me what classes, I don’t remember. I was asleep! I begged the school to look into distance learning – but it was 1995.

So I definitely see a place for online learning.

But mandating that a certain number of credits, hmm. Do the students have broadband to access the classes? Do they have decent computers? Is there student demand for that much online leaning? Are all students well served by online classes? Have the teachers had training to provide online classes? (My husband teaches an online class – he had one day of training. That’s not enough! It’s enough to learn how to use the tool but I don’t think it’s enough to learn how to teach effectively online.)

I guess I like the goal if it asked the schools to be prepared for 25 percent online classes. Also I want to know what’s going into it.

Maybe the plan should be to create programs in the universities that are so good that people outside of the state are demanding that the courses online and maybe we could expand the credits by 25 percent by offering programs that are so amazing that people will take them online.

Learn more from the Bemdji Pioneer or the Grand Forks Herald.

Blandin Broadband Conference Around the Corner

bb_bf_conf_08_logoThe Blandin Broadband Conference is just two weeks away. We wanted to send you a final reminder about the events and share one new addition. For general information on the conference being held Dec 3-4 in Eden Prairie, please visit the Blandin Foundation web site: http://www.blandinfoundation.org/BBConf08

Raise Your Voice
We are looking for folks who want to share their two cents on broadband with representatives from the Minnesota Broadband Task Force at the conference. If you are interested, please let us know by completing our online form: http://www.blandinfoundation.org/BBConf08/comments.html  

Group Discount
We have a community group discount. For every two paid attendees in you group you will get one free. Simply sign up as a Community Group: http://www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=637737. We do this to help you build a community coalition interested in broadband for your community.

Webinars
Unfortunately our free webinars are now over – but for those who weren’t able to make the live event, we have posted the archives on our blog:
• Broadband Policy (Nov 19): http://tinyurl.com/6cjqdv
• Wireless Technology (Nov 5): http://tinyurl.com/5sdleq
• Fiber to the Home Networks (Oct 21): http://tinyurl.com/57bkvp

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Turkey Dinner on Craigslist

OK I couldn’t pass up this story a week away from Thanksgiving…

According to Fox News someone gave away a Thanksgiving dinner to a deserving family in Clear Lake via Craigslist.

Tanya Fehr posted an ad offering to buy a traditional thanksgiving dinner for a family who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford one. Melissa Cobb, mother of six children, all under the age nine years old, saw the ad and responded.

Apparently, many other good-hearted copycats are following suit by posting their own ads to make sure families who are less fortunate have a happy thanksgiving.

So sometimes the Internet acts in mysterious ways.