Exploring the impact of broadband and technology on our lives, our businesses, and our communities.

Phone zombies require sidewalk traffic lights

Smartphone zombies are such a hazard to themselves and others that in Warsaw, Poland the city is installing "sidewalk traffic lights," which project large red or green swatches of light onto the pavement at street crossings. The smartphone zombies have their heads down and don't look up before crossing the street.

We may not have reached maximum stupidity, but we seem to be getting closer, as it appears we have people more interested in their smartphone than actually staying alive.

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Who needs fiber?

Apple TV+, according to MacRumors, has the highest quality streaming service available, with the average streaming speed (bandwidth required) reaching 29 Megabits/second. So if you have two people in a household watching two Apple TV+ programs on two different devices, you need somewhere north of 60 Meg of bandwidth. Add in a HD video doorbell streaming 24/7, a "smart" refrigerator, and a few other "Internet of Things" devices and you are bumping up against 100 Meg of combined upload/download bandwidth. This is going to put a lot of stress on cable Internet systems, which don't do well with their highly asymmetric service (large download speeds, very low upload speeds).

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Everything old is new again

Microsoft is developing a new glass-based storage technology that can hold many gigs of data on a small glass plate. We need something like this because all of the magnetic-based storage (e.g. hard drives) and DVD/CD disks eventually degrade and fail.

What is interesting is that this general concept dates back at least to the early eighties. Exxon, of all companies, had an office products division that was manufacturing a glass disk storage system that actually burned pits into the disk to create the ones and zeros of digital data. This was different from the slightly later 12" videodisks, which were the precursor of CDs and DVDs. That technology uses a thin aluminum substrate that has the data burned into it. The problem is that the aluminum substrate can degrade over time to the point of becoming unreadable.

Paper is still superior to any other storage medium, as it is long-lived if stored properly and does not require any hardware or software to access its data. Paper's bulk is its shortcoming.

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AT&T: We are losing customers, so let's raise prices!

Are Technica reports that AT&T is hiking prices for its TV service--formerly DirecTV--as much as 50%, depending on what package a customer has. The company has lost about 10% of its customer base for TV services in the past year, which reflects the continued growth in "cord cutting" of cable and satellite TV service.

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The long slow decline of Apple software

I am a long time user of Apple computers, dating back to my first hand-on experience with the Apple Lisa in 1982. Ever since Steve Jobs died, it has been evident that software quality has not been a priority with the company.

  • The Apple productivity software (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) were released with brilliant interface designs years ago, but the Mac versions have been dumbed down to match the less capable iPad versions of the software. The original Numbers had the best spreadsheet interface I've ever seen, but they ripped it out for a much clumsier Excel-style/iPad interface years ago.
  • For at least a year and a half, I have not been able to use Apple's file sharing service between my desktop Mac mini and my older MacBook Air. I had assumed that it was due to the age of my laptop, but when I discovered recently that the same problem existing with a new MacBook Pro, I went searching online for a solution. What I discovered was that this is a problem that has existed for years and has been carried through numerous MacOS upgrades, without Apple ever bothering to fix a fundamental service.
  • I recently upgraded my iPhone to iOS 13.1, only to notice immediately that battery life was terrible. A quick online search revealed that this was a huge problem for many people. For the first time ever, I have to keep my iPhone plugged in and charging at work. I have never had to do this before. The phone loses nearly half its charge overnight sitting in the dark doing nothing. This is incredible.

Apple hardware, for the most part, is excellent. My eight year old MacBook Air still runs just fine, but Apple no longer supports OS upgrades for it. And that has been our experience at the office generally--Apple hardware just runs and runs, and it reaches end of life artificially when Apple will no longer provide software upgrades.

Apple has the money to put more time and effort into providing quality software; it apparently just chooses not to.

A muni network success story

As hard as some of the incumbents work to convince local elected officials that muni networks are a bad idea, more and more success stories are emerging over time.

Broadband Communities magazine has a great story about Fairlawn, Ohio's Gig fiber network.

It really is worth your time to read the whole article, as the network has been an enormous success, raising property values, attracting new residents to the city, and bringing new jobs and businesses into the community. And it is in the black--covering operating expenses and the steady increase in revenue is planned to start paying off the debt.

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A muni network success story

As hard as some of the incumbents work to convince local elected officials that muni networks are a bad idea, more and more success stories are emerging over time.

Broadband Communities magazine has a great story about Fairlawn, Ohio's Gig fiber network.

It really is worth your time to read the whole article, as the network has been an enormous success, raising property values, attracting new residents to the city, and bringing new jobs and businesses into the community. And it is in the black--covering operating expenses and the steady increase in revenue is planned to start paying off the debt.

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Danville: A True Success Story

The Roanoke Times has an excellent article about Danville, Virginia and its success in transforming the community from a traditional Southern mill town to an Information Economy powerhouse.

The City's early investment in Gigabit fiber played a big role, along with visionary local leaders who recognized that fiber was essential infrastructure but not a complete solution. Danville leaders rehabbed historic tobacco warehouses and created Class A office space for high tech businesses, and they also focused on workforce training and local higher education opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly, they recognized that they had to stick with their strategy for the long term to see results. From the first meetings that I attended in 1998 to today (twenty years later), the City has truly transformed the local economy--something many places talk about but don't always commit the leadership and hard work needed to actually do it.

WideOpen Networks provides network management services for the much expanded Gig network in Danville.

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RIP, Gene Crick

A giant of the community broadband movement passed away a few weeks ago of a heart attack at his home in Texas.

Gene was a dear friend and I am now very glad that I was able to have dinner with him this past April at the Broadband Communities conference in Austin.

The article provides a summary of Gene's influence and his accomplishments better than I ever could. I met Gene in the nineties at one of the Association for Community Networking meetings. We became fast friends and I spent many days in Texas working with Gene over the years. Gene's passing is a reminder of the other giants of community networking we have lost, including Steve Snow and Steve Cisler.

Today, more than ever, the original goals of community networking remain fresh and largely unfulfilled. With the rapid commercialization of the Internet in the late nineties and early 2000s, most community network projects closed their doors, and the industry viewed the whole effort as largely unimportant.

But the hegemony of Facebook, Google, and the many other commercial enterprises that have largely ignored privacy considerations and created information service monopolies, independent, privacy-protecting community-focused services are critical to preserving our privacy and our freedom.

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5G has limitations

This Ars Technica article is unintentionally funny if you have been following the 5G hype. Verizon is installing 5G systems in thirteen NFL football stadiums, but the distance limitations of 5G means in these Verizon installations, you won't have 5G service in some parts of the stadium.

Verizon can always add more access points, but then the cost goes up. 5G is going to be expensive and it is going to be a long time before it is as widely available as the current cellular network.

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