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

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.

Web site problems

We're experiencing some malicious hack attempts to our Web site, and have had to make some changes and upgrades. Right now some graphics are not displaying correctly, but we are working to fix the problems. Thanks for your patience.

The level of effort required to keep a Web site free of malevolent hacks has been increasing steadily for years, and is really ruining the Web as an "open" communications tool. If this keeps up, many smaller businesses and especially small non-profits and community groups will find it increasingly difficult to maintain a Web site with anything but a few "flat" pages of basic information.

Content Management Systems like Joomla, Wordpress, and Drupal are targets of relentless and extremely sophisticated attacks, and require specialized technical expertise to keep them clean.

One solution is to revert to "flat" Web sites using only plain old HTML--back to the early days of the Web, and not really in a good way.

The myth that wireless will replace fiber

AT&T has just announced another price increase for their cellular data services. They have increased the cost of their unlimited data plan from $40/month to $45/month.

But here is the most interesting thing in the announcement: "Consumers are using mobile data at record levels and the trend is expected to continue."

"...expected to continue" is the statement that indicates the folly of thinking homes and businesses don't need fiber and that the every distant "next generation wireless" is going to eliminate the need for fiber.

Applications and content continue to use ever-increasing amounts of data, and roughly every five years, the cellular providers have to replace all of their radios for the "next generation" just to keep up with demand. By contrast, off the shelf consumer grade Gigabit fiber equipment has massive capacity, and the fiber itself never requires an upgrade.

And all that mobile wireless access we want and need is powered by....fiber.

Technology News:

Why deploying broadband takes so long: Part I

There is a huge fight looming that is already begun in many localities, which involves the deployment of 5G cellular radio equipment. Both residents and localities are wary of the dramatic increase in the number of poles and towers that are needed.

There are various numbers floating around about the spacing for 5G cellular equipment, and they range from a low of around 500 feet apart to a thousand feet apart. Compare that to the current typical separation distance of 3G/4G towers of 1-2 miles.

The 5G equipment is smaller and can be mounted on existing light and traffic signal poles, and new poles can be shorter: thirty to forty feet, because the poles are closer together. But in urban and many suburban neighborhoods, that means a 40' foot pole with a bunch of boxes and antennas hanging off in the right of way, or what most people consider their front yard.

Visually, some of the deployments are just plain ugly, and there are concerns about radiation exposure with the microwave antennas so close to homes and businesses.

The cellular providers do not want to have to go through the traditional permitting process for what could be hundreds of poles in a single locality, with special use permits, engineering studies, and public hearings for every pole.

The localities, quite correctly want some say in what goes in community right of way. Hence the looming fight. The dilemma for all parties is the insatiable thirst for more mobile bandwidth, conflicted with the proliferation of infrastructure in undesirable areas. It's not going to be easy to solve this.

As an example of the often arcane permitting process, we recently had to place an eight foot wooden post in the ground to hold a small radio. The post was proclaimed a "tower" by the local planning department, which led to more than a year of challenges to get the eight foot wooden post approved. We eventually got it installed, but the process included an inspection of "tower footers," which was just about one bag of gravel in the bottom of the hole, and then a "hole inspection," and we were never really certain what they were looking for, but we could not drop the eight foot wooden post in the hole until the hole was inspected.

Local governments need to try to meet broadband providers half way, or we are going to see a continued push for state level regulations that remove all right of way authority from local communities. Everyone, public and private, wants improved broadband access, but how we get there is going to require an openness to compromise on some issues.

The tech giants are getting creepier than ever

Less than five minutes after I clicked on an Amazon link to look at a flashlight on sale, I got an email from Amazon saying, "...based on your recent activity, you may be interested in this other flashlight..."

Really? Is business so bad for Amazon they have to spam their customers? If they are doing this to me, they must be doing it to all their customers, so every day, they are sending out hundreds of millions of unsolicited emails.

These companies are abusing their customers, and it won't turn out well.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

The death of privacy

I have been writing about the dire threats to privacy for many years, and the recent disclosures about the extent of Facebook privacy abuses is, perhaps, finally raising more awareness that Facebook is not actually "free" in the sense that Facebook users don't pay a price. Facebook users pay with their personal information, not only when they register for an account, but every time they post anything. Facebook logs every single interaction, and has software AI that makes inferences about every post--what you like, your political leanings, what you eat, your hobbies, where you have been, both locally and on vacation. It never ends, what they are vacuuming up.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Work from home continues to increase

This article on why Millenial workers quit their jobs has an interesting nugget of information half way down the page.

The ability to work remotely was also an important factor for 63 percent of Millennials surveyed, who said they might not be interested in future jobs if working remotely wasn’t an option.

Sixty-three percent of Millennials want to work from home! Put another way, two-thirds of the emerging work force expects to have business class broadband available in their home.

Technology News:

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