What’s the difference between bits and bytes? And how long does it take to download 190 GB?

Blandin just introduced six new communities to the Blandin Broadband Community program and we have a lot of new legislators leading the state next year. So it feels like a good time for some basic technology 101 posts – like the difference between bits and bytes.

Both are measurements of data. A byte is 8 times bigger than a bit. Both measurements are small – so in the practical world usually give measurements in Kilobit/byte, Megabit/byte, Gigabit/byte. So how much is that?

  • KB, MB, GB – A kilobyte (KB) is 1,024 bytes. A megabyte (MB) is 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte (GB) is 1,024 megabytes. A terabyte (TB) is 1,024 gigabytes.
  • kb, Mb, Gb – A kilobit (kb) is 1,024 bits. A megabit (Mb) is 1,024 kilobits. A gigabit (Gb) is 1,024 megabits. A terabit (Tb) is 1,024 gigabits.

Bits are generally used for describing interface speed and bytes for storage. For example we tend to know broadband speed in bits or Megabits per second (Mbps). We tend to know the size of something we want to upload or download in Megabytes (MB) – a song is roughly 3-4 MB.

So how long does it take to download that song? It depends on your connection speed – and a little extra math is required to take in consideration the bit/byte difference. Luckily a good friend who is a math and tech whiz – Mick Souder – has shared with me a spreadsheet that calculates time to download.

I just read a recent report by iGR Research saying that the average household consumes 190 gigabytes (GB) of data per month – so that’s what I want to measure. How long does it take to download (or upload) that amount of data?

  • With a 1 Mbps connection it will take 453 hours to transfer (almost 19 days)
  • With a 5 Mbps connection it will take 90.7 hours to transfer (3.8 days)
  • With a 10 Mbps connection it will take 45.3 hours to transfer (almost 2 days)
  • With a 20 Mbps connection it will take 22.6 hours to transfer (just under 1 day)
  • With a 100 Mbps connection it will take 4.5 hours to transfer
  • With a 1 Gig connection it will take 27 minutes to transfer

Notice I haven’t separated upload and download – because the rate is the same. When we download a song to listen – it’s 3 Megabytes (MB); when we upload it to share or sell it’s 3 Megabytes (MB). Minnesota has separate speed goals based on upload or download because most households download (buy, watch, consume) more than they upload (create or share). But wouldn’t it be fun to see Minnesota households create as much as we consume?!

Want to know more about bits and bytes? Here’s a fun video:




NTIA’s new community broadband toolkit: Using Partnerships to Power a Smart City

ntia-partners-4-stepsNTIA’s BroadbandUSA has just released a new resource, Using Partnerships to Power a Smart City:  A Toolkit for Local Communities. Here’s a description from the work itself…

This Toolkit is for government officials, urban planners, citizen groups, and others who want to implement successful smart cities projects.  Drawing from lessons learned, it provides a framework for getting the most out of public-private partnerships, including what to look for in a partner, assessing each partner’s contribution, and guidance on how to structure the most fruitful partnership agreements. The Appendices provide helpful checklists to use during the planning process. Our goal is to equip communities with the know-how to build long-lasting partnerships that contribute to vibrant and sustainable smart cities.

They go through four steps:

  1. Understanding Typical Partnership Structures
  2. Selecting the Right Partners
  3. Determining Each Partner’s Contribution
  4. Developing the Partnership Framework

It sounds like they are working on a series of tool kits. This one is good if you’re starting or at the beginning of a broadband partnership. It’s a nice framework for all partners to have.

Broadband is a game changer – try to imagine a community that never developed roads – this primer might help

arcLast summer, the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) released a Broadband Planning Primer and Toolkit. I’ve been waiting for a chance to check it out. The day finally came.

I think it will be useful to a wide range of audiences.

It’s a primer so it includes the what and why of broadband. I’ll just copy my favorite line:

Try to imagine communities that never developed roads and electricity and you will understand the dismal prospects that confront unconnected communities.

They do a nice job of explaining backbone vs middle mile vs last mile and the range of transport options.

They include some policymaker-ready statistics…

  • Increasing broadband access 10 percentage points increases Gross Domestic Product 1 percent
  • Doubling broadband speeds for an economy can add 0.3 percent to GDP growth
  • 80 new jobs are created for every additional broadband 1,000 users

And at the local (home) level

  • Broadband speed upgrades affect development: Upgrading from 0.5 Mbps to 4 Mbps increases income by around $322 per month
  • Online job searches result in re-employment 25 percent faster than traditional searches

They go detailed for community leaders that may find themselves in a position to have to understand the technology, policy and funding aspects of broadband. They outline the various types of connectivity in the Appalachian Region, which with a few exceptions, is pretty similar to rural Minnesota. (We have trees and cold; they have mountains.)

The information is practical and easy to read. For example here are two segments from the report that help explain the problem with getting broadband to rural areas…

In areas where DSL service is not available, a number of factors can conspire to make the infrastructure inappropriate or insufficient to support new deployments. In some areas where homes are more than two and half miles or so from the central office or are remote, the distances are simply too great for DSL to be deployed. While DSL can potentially traverse copper for 15,000 feet, the quality and thickness of that copper often restricts providers to serving homes within 10,000 feet of their facilities. There are also instances in which copper has been overleveraged or shared between multiple customers using things like multiplexers, which can use a single pair of copper to carry multiple voice signals. The very measures that once allowed for economical deployment of voice service now stand in the way of deploying DSL service. This leaves some rural providers in the unenviable position of deploying new copper into rural areas.

Cable television service has proliferated in areas where household density is in excess of 10-15 households per mile. There are areas where the cable infrastructure penetrates areas of lower population density, but they often involve special circumstances and/or subsidy. … Many people in rural areas are disconnected from the cable infrastructure even though the cable infrastructure passes their residence. Many farms and homes in rural areas are hundreds if not thousands of feet from the roadway, and the cost of bringing the cable up their driveways is in the thousands of dollars, which often prevents them from becoming customers

Then they outline models of broadband deployment:

  • Public-Private Partnership
  • Private-Sector Led
  • Private-Supported and Government-Led
  • Joint Ownership
  • Municipal, Electric and Telephone Cooperatives
  • Municipal Deployments

They go into the same depth with financing models. Again, there’s a focus on the Appalachian – but much of the info works here too.

Cooperation among Cooperatives: The Best Approach for Broadband in Minnesota: Full meeting notes

There’s a lot in the notes from today’s meeting – especially for communities or cooperatives that are looking for ways to improve broadband in their area. What’s most valuable really depends on where you are in the process but I will say there were a couple of clear messages:

  • Communities without broadband will not survive
  • Now is the time to get started
  • Money is being spent to expand broadband, we just need to get smarter about the investment
  • It’s possible to build if you are deliberate and incremental – it doesn’t have to be fiber right away (wireless plans and data caps negate wireless as an option)

Cooperation among Cooperatives: The Best Approach for Broadband in Minnesota: Full meeting notes

Hosted by Blandin Foundation, Calix, Co-Bank & Great River Energy

July 19, 2016
10:00 am – 2:30 pm
Great River Energy, Maple Grove, Minnesota
get handouts (PTTs scattered below)

Welcome – Tom Lambrecht, Great River Energy

Setting the Stage – Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation

The Opportunity Continue reading

Six tips for spurring a rural broadband initiative from Daily Yonder

Recently the Daily Yonder posted an excerpt from Roberto Gallardo’s new book, Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age and Rural Communities. It includes 6 ideas to help get the ball rolling for a rural initiative to spur better broadband. He fleshes out each idea in the excerpt. I’m just including the highest level look…

  1. Lack of local leadership buy-in is a deal breaker.
  2. Asking why you need faster Internet today is like asking why you needed electricity when candlelight was the standard 100 years ago.
  3. Broadband connectivity and applications are quality-of-life issues.
  4. Demonstrating usefulness is critical. [Especially for non-adopters.]
  5. Urban density is no longer an advantage.
  6. “Middle of nowhere” mentality is no longer applicable.

I’m going to elaborate on the final point a little – in part because I’m on a road trip as I write this. We’re going from St Paul to Toronto to New York and back. We’ll be driving through the “middle of nowhere” for a while. But with six of us in the car there are at least eight devices going at all times. Which means finding out about the next town – in terms of pit stops, food and distractions – is an easy Google search. The only way you’re really considered the middle of nowhere is if we can’t find you online or we can’t get online near your town. Otherwise we’re fair game to stop for a visit. And on this trip, if you have college we’ve got three in the car that really want to see you.

Tourists and college kids seems like at least two compelling reasons for better broadband.


Broadband scenarios that work in rural areas: cooperative approach

How does a rural community – currently served by satellite broadband – leap frog to fiber services? The answer is different for every rural area but the answer in Southern Arkansas was – weild the power of the cooperative. It’s a scenario that might work well in some parts of rural Minnesota as well.

Telecompetitor tells the story…

A rural telecom service provider and a neighboring rural electric power cooperative are coming together to bring gigabit broadband to parts of rural Arkansas. The rural telco is South Arkansas Telephone (SATCO) and the power company is Ouachita Electric Cooperative (OECC). The telecom, utility partnership has formed a new company called Arkansas Rural Internet Service (ARIS) – and according to ARIS Director Mark Lundy, each owner has a 50% share of ARIS.

There was an incumbent. In fact it was one of the large price cap carriers but that didn’t deter the partnership. Each brought something to the table. The provider had experience with broadband deployment. The electric coop had customer base and experience with other community services…

Although the economics of deploying FTTP in a rural area like south Arkansas can be challenging, the ARIS partnership had several things going for it to help minimize costs. SATCO had previously won a broadband stimulus award to install a 300-mile fiber optic artery across southern Arkansas, which should help minimize the cost of connecting to the Internet. The FTTP network also will help support a smart metering initiative for OECC – and OECC is considering offering smart metering capability for local gas companies.

In addition, because people in the target area are buying satellite broadband and video through OECC, the partners have a good idea how much revenue they might expect to generate from the new network, which will support voice and video as well as broadband service. …

The ARIS partnership is the latest example of how a telecom and utility company can come together to bring broadband to high-cost rural areas where it might not have been feasible for either company to tackle the task on its own. Telcos and utilities have used a variety of models in pursuing broadband goals. In Indiana, for example, broadband opportunities drove a telco and utility to merge with each other.

Again each area is different, but a scenario of a experience provider, committed coop and a vision could be right for some Minnesota communities.