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

What is eating all our bandwidth?

Here is a Cisco study that shows, no surprise, that video is eating the Internet star.

Average broadband speeds are set to double in the next two years, from around 25 Mbps (download) to 53 Mbps.

Much of the demand is from the increasing use of 4K video content. As more and more households cut the cord and start streaming high definition over the Internet, bandwidth use increases dramatically.

And the steadily increasing use of video in ads is contributing. There are few commercial Web sites (at least the ones I visit) that don't have pop up or embedded video ads. You can usually close them or turn them off, but it is incredibly annoying. One news site I visit has two pop up video ads on every page, so you can't really start reading the news until you change focus and close the ads.

And there are other bandwidth hogs. The Nest video doorbell sends video constantly to the Nest cloud servers. They keep it there for a certain period of time so you can go back and review it. On the "medium bandwidth" setting, the doorbell uses about 400 Gig a month. That's the equivalent of somewhere north of twenty-eight 4K HD movies a month....for your doorbell! If you put the doorbell in high resolution mode, the data increases to something around 600 Gig a month...for your door bell!!

Copper based cable networks, no matter what numbers they advertise, are going to be struggling as 4K HD TV and video doorbells become more common.

Fiber is still the future.

Technology News:

Death of TV: Part LXXXI: Cord cutting continues to increase

Fed up customers are continuing to "cut the cord" to their cable and satellite TV providers. The article I have linked to says that 23% of households with wireline broadband have ditched their traditional TV package. As improved fixed wireless broadband continues to become more widely available in rural areas (i.e. no bandwidth caps, more bandwidth), the trend will accelerate even more.

Our studies show that the average household can save at least $35-$55 per month by getting rid of cable/satellite service and just paying for some over the top (OTT) services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.

Technology News:

Fragility of the iGen

The "iGen" is defined as those people born after 1995, which means they are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet widely available. By their teens, iGen kids had access to smartphones, and the results have been sobering.

Depression among young people has increased 60% in five years, and self harm has increased sharply among young women.

Cause and effect is under debate, but there is increased evidence that children and teen access to smartphones, tablets, and the Internet should be managed carefully by parents.

Technology News:

Death of TV: Part LXXX: Who cares anymore?

This recent article from USA Today says that cord cutting is accelerating.

Customers are looking at the incredible variety of content available from OTT (Over The Top) services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, and deciding that they can save money by just paying for Internet and a few OTT subscriptions.

Our internal calculation suggest that this approach can shave between $35 and $55 per month off your telecom bill. The range can be highly variable because it depends on the kind of cable/satellite TV package you have. Customers with several premium services (e.g HBO, Starz) may save more.

We've been surveying tens of thousands of Internet users for the past several years, and the most common complaint is that their cable TV service does not support business class needs like videoconferencing and corporate VPN access. As the way people access content and services, fiber connections can deliver both the bandwidth and the symmetric connectivity (equal upload and download speeds needed for business).

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Alexa, please open the door

More than twenty years ago, as the Internet became more common, some prognosticators began talking about the "smart house," where lots of household devices would be interconnected and make our lives one of ease.

At that time, I wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek article for a professional newsletter about a "smart house" gone wild, somewhat in the fashion of the Hall 9000 problem in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

At the time, the few smart house attempts did not catch on, because the technology was immature and expensive. But now we find the Internet of Things is exploding, because the chips and software needed to put so-called "intelligent" into common household appliances is just a couple of dollars.

This article provides a good summary of the issues, and one example cited is a microwave that can be controlled by Amazon's Alexa. I've never had any issues "controlling" my microwave simply by punching a couple of buttons, and the idea that it is somehow "better" to have Alexa get involved strikes me as bizarre.

The core problem for me is that devices like the Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google's Home Hub, and Apple's Home Pod (Siri) are constantly listening to everything that goes on in your home and sending that information back to an unaccountable multi-national company that is monetizing that information, although Apple says they are not doing that...but they still have the data.

A secondary problem is that many "smart" home devices that use WiFi lack any meaningful security, so malicious hackers thousands of miles away can do things like use your security cameras to spy on you, turn household devices on and off, and could conceivably use video recorded on your own cameras to gain information on what you are doing for purposes of blackmail.

Many homes already have these always-listening devices installed, but there won't ever be one in my home.

Technology News:

Amazon and remote work driving Millenials to the Rust Belt

This is one of the most interesting articles I have read in a long time.

Millenials are moving to smaller "Rust Belt" towns and small cities to escape the high cost of living in the larger metro areas. Heavy student debt loads, combined with skyrocketing rents and home costs, are part of the appeal to live in a place where housing is affordable.

But there is also this:

"There is a community-mindedness with millennials that attracts them to the smaller Rust Belt towns," said Peter Haring, president of Haring Realty in Mansfield, Ohio.

"We are seeing an intense interest in participating in the revitalization of our towns and being a part of the community. It's palpable, and it's exciting," he added."

Millenials want affordable housing, but they also want to belong to a place, and to be involved in the life of the community....a major shift from a long trend of community disengagement in America.

Finally, there is also this:

"More and more people are now working virtually, which means they do not need to be in their office and can work from almost anywhere," said Ralph DiBugnara, senior vice president at Residential Home Funding. "So why not find somewhere to live where your city dollars can go a lot further?"

Home-based work AND the ability to shop online has diminished the need to a)Live close to your employer, and b)Live close to stores and essential shopping needs.

What ties all this together? Millenials, no matter where they live, are heavy users of the Internet and want and expect to be connected 24/7. Affordable, high performance broadband is the essential ingredient in this major shift in community and economic development.

Smaller towns and cities that do not have a strategy for ensuring that they have the necessary broadband infrastructure to attract and keep Millenials are not going to be able to benefit from this trend.

Neighborhoods are business districts

Here is confirmation of what I have been saying for twenty years: Neighborhoods have become business districts.

This article cites a study showing that more workers telecommute than take public transportation (e.g. buses, subways) to work.

This is why fiber to the home is so important: it is an economic development imperative. Home-based workers and home-based businesses need affordably priced, business class Internet services.

5G, with data caps, speed throttling, overage charges, and security problems, is not going to be an ideal solution. And in the long term, fiber is less expensive.

For as long as there has been wireless data and broadband service, the wireless boosters have been promoting the idea that wireless is "cheaper" than fiber. But that premise is based on a false comparison of the first year cost of wireless with the forty year cost of fiber.

Wireless equipment typically has to be upgraded or replace every four or five years because of obsolescence and/or environmental deterioration. But put fiber in the ground or on utility poles and you have created, at a minimum, a forty year asset.

Take the forty year total life cycle cost of wireless and compare that to the forty year life cycle cost of fiber. Fiber is going to win...every time.

Technology News:

The word is starting to leak out

When Wired magazine starts writing about small community-owned broadband, something has changed.

For twenty-plus years, the incumbents have tried their best to get everyone to believe that community-owned telecom infrastructure is a waste of time and money, and that the technology is soooooo complicated that only big multi-nationals can do the job. This while those same big companies abandon whole states and leave small towns unable to attract the businesses and jobs they need to thrive.

The Wired article mentions only a few of the more than 300 communities that have community-owned infrastructure. Some efforts are quite modest, but many of them are offering Gigabit fiber and/or high performance fixed-point wireless successfully. And in doing some, creating local jobs, driving down the cost of broadband for businesses and residents, and attracting entrepreneurs and work from home businesses and jobs.

Technology News:

Facebook gives up on its drones

Facebook has given up trying to build its own drones. The idea was that the high altitude unmanned aircraft would beam Internet access down to the ground in remote areas where Internet was not available via conventional terrestrial delivery.

Facebook's drone only had two flights, and the second one incurred "substantial damage." The company indicates it will continue to work with companies like Airbus deliver Internet "to the masses...." I'm not sure if the author of the article used the term "masses" or if Facebook did, but we're not "masses" down here.

When "unlimited" does not mean what you think it means

Gizmodo has a very detailed analysis of cellular "unlimited" plans that is a great example of why wireless broadband is never going to be a complete substitute for fiber service.

The carriers would not carry out this wordsmithed subterfuge if they did not have to, but the problem is very simple. We all keep using more bandwidth, and the bandwidth available from free space wireless in any given frequency range (e.g. 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE, etc.) is strictly limited by physics.

Fiber, on the other hand, can have its capacity upgraded easily without having to replace it.

Hat tip to Eldo Telecom.

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