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

Apple comes to its senses with the iPhone SE

Wired has a review of the iPhone SE, which is Apple's newest smartphone offering. It is essentially the guts of the iPhone 6 in the iPhone 5 case--meaning you can actually put the darned thing in your pocket without feeling like there is a brick in there.

I've handled both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, and I don't like either of them--just too big. I don't want or need a mini-tablet.

The iPhone SE finally acknowledges that there is a market for a phone that isn't bigger than a breadbox.

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Biking, walking, and fiber

This Washington Post article talks about the desirability of walking and biking trails in communities. The trails can reduce traffic on roads, improve livability, and attract Millenials. But over and over I again, we see communities making multi-million dollar investments in these trails without thinking about putting in conduit and fiber.

These trails can be extremely valuable as a digital highway. You typically won't connect many homes or businesses on these routes, but these paths often provide low construction cost routes between different parts of a community or even better, low cost routes between two communities.

The myth of meet-me boxes and expensive drops

We are working with a medium-sized city to design a new open access Gigabit fiber network, and the local telephone company is claiming that the connection from the street to the office building (in the downtown area) is "the most expensive part of reaching the customer."

So they are pushing for "meet-me" boxes outside of the downtown buildings, which would terminate fiber from the buildings into a fiber patch panel, and calling this open access.

Well, it is, after a fashion, but meet-me boxes favor the companies that already have fiber in the street or the alley. Any competitive provider that does not already have that advantage would have to spend a lot more money to get their fiber to the meet-me box. So the phone company cleverly "supports" open access by touting a solution that gives them a huge competitive advantage and effectively locks out most competition.

In fact, it is worse than that, because in this city there is a second provider that also has some fiber downtown, and they also like the meet-me box solution. Of course they do. The two companies would get an effective lock on the business market downtown and would be able to maintain their existing cartel-like pricing.

So this brings us to the notion that the fiber cable between the street and the building is the "most expensive part" of the network. It is not. As a general rule of thumb, it represents between 20% and 35% of the cost of a new build, and could be even less than 20% if the drop is made from a pole in the right of way to the side of the building (could be as low as 5% to 10% of the total build cost).

The incumbents are really stuck on "owning the customer." But the world is changing.

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How about G.Fast for the rest of us?

Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent are touting improvements in G.Fast, claiming 11 Gig speeds on copper. But when you read the fine print, that's on pristine brand new copper cable in the lab.....and....wait for it....over a distance of 150 feet.

Rural local loop copper is measured in tens of thousands of feet. Call me when they are getting 100 Meg speeds over ten thousand feet of fifty year old rural local loop copper with cracked, worn insulation that is letting water in every time it rains, and I'll get a bit more excited.

Technology News:

A charger that might be a win

Here is an interesting variant on the ubiquitous battery pack many of us carry around for a quick recharge of our smartphone or tablet. The MyCharge HubPlus combines three functions in one nicely designed package.

It has a built-in lithium ion battery, fold out prongs so you can plug it directly in the wall and use it as a charger for your phone or tablet, and it has built in Lightning (Apple) and mini-USB cables. If you travel a lot, this could reduce the number of things you have to lug around.

Technology News:

Death of TV: Part LXXV: NBC version

As "TV," which from here on out I will always put in quotes, since "TV" now really just means "sitting on the couch and watching video from any one of hundreds (thousands?) of sources," continues its death spiral, NBC is a perfect example of stupidity perfected.

NBC refuses to put some of its most popular shows on services like Hulu. Instead, they want to force viewers onto the NBC Web site and watch those shows using NBC's own streaming video. What is so bad about that? Well, two things.

The big one is that the NBC video service is total crap. Trying to watch "The Blacklist" is an exercise in frustration. The app is slow to start the video, but because streaming video is SOOOOOOO difficult, the app spontaneously restarts the program from the beginning...over and over again. And every time it starts over, it forces you to watch two minutes of commercials. The same commercials you just watched a couple of minutes ago before the last restart.

If it restarts and you want to fast forward to the place where you were watching before you restarted, guess what? You are going to have watch two more minutes of commercials. Fast forwarding, in the NBC world, is apparently cheating, and NBC Incompetentcy World, cheating is not allowed.

Want to switch from full screen mode back to the browser window in the middle of the show? No problem! NBC restarts the entire show for you, along with two minutes of commercials.

If you have not dozed off reading this litany of stupidity, you might be wondering what the second problem is....which is NBC lards up its streaming shows with the same kind of incessant commercials that you would see on regular "TV."

So NBC, convinced that it can do better forcing its viewers to watch its own streaming service, makes it so painful that you lose interest and go off to Netflix or Hulu, which for some strange reason, don't seem to have problems whatsoever streaming video without restarting the program over and over again.

As far as "TV" goes these days, the elbow is dead and the unlike rock, the heart stopped beating years ago. But the corpse is still slightly warm.

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Colorado communities strike back at the Empire

Forty-four Colorado communities passed referendums that give those the communities the right to build their own broadband infrastructure.

Colorado is one of those states that had a legislature pass a law forbidding local community investment in broadband unless a public referendum was voted on. At the time (ten years ago) the incumbents probably figured that was a bar too high for those towns and counties to jump over.

But after a decade of poor and slow service, the referendums passed easily. As Gigi Sohn of the FCC noted recently, communities are going to have to build their own modern networks. And so they are.

Community news and projects:

Death of TV: Part LXXIV: The networks start to jump ship

Just as Apple is about to roll out the next version of its Apple TV box, the company has announced that CBS and NBC will be making much of their channel content available via Apple TV.

The networks are realizing that the future is on the Internet, not on cable and satellite. I do not believe that over time we will spend much less on content than we do now on a household basis. But instead of writing an $85/month check to TimeWarner or Comcast, we will be buying our entertainment in smaller bits and pieces. We might spend $30/month for Apple's package of TV, and we might end up spending another $9/month for a Netflix streaming subscription, and another $30/month for on demand and pay per view content.

We won't spend a lot less, but we will be much more satisfied with the money we are spending.

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Why wireless won't replace fiber...

All wireless "unlimited data" plans come with an expiration date. Once a cellular company's sales targets for new customer has been met, they change the "unlimited data" plan.

In this example, it is Sprint which has announced that once you use your monthly "unlimited" allotment of 23 Gig of data, you get throttled.

Exhibit Number One in the Museum of Why Wireless Won't Replace Fiber is data caps. If wireless was so wonderful, the cellular companies would not have to put data caps on their service. But the data caps PROVE that the wireless infrastructure can't handle the demand. If it could, they would not be doing this bait and switch.

A pox on LinkedIn marketing trolls

I would say that now, about half my LinkedIn invitations are coming from marketing trolls who obviously want to sell me something. I deleted three invitations this morning, from an insurance rep, a CPA, and a car repair shop. I don't know of any of these people.

LinkedIn seemed like a reasonably modest "good idea" when it started, but I can't say I have ever used it for its supposed intended use--networking.

Here is the problem. You can accept an invitation from almost anyone, but you will quickly be inundated with LinkedIn messages asking for a minute of your time, and there are only so many minutes you can give away to LinkedIn contacts you don't know.

If you are very careful about who you accept as a LinkedIn contact, then you are using LinkedIn to stay in touch with people you pretty much already know...so you already have their contact information and don't need LinkedIn at all.

It's a mess.

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