Neighborhoods are business districts

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 09/21/2018 - 09:53

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.

The word is starting to leak out

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/13/2018 - 16:04

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.

Facebook gives up on its drones

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/28/2018 - 09:40

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

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:15

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

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:03

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

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/07/2018 - 09:25

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.

Why deploying broadband takes so long: Part I

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/01/2018 - 09:31

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

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/11/2018 - 07:50

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.

The death of privacy

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/09/2018 - 13:21

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.

Work from home continues to increase

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/07/2018 - 15:54

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.

5G needs fiber

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/07/2018 - 15:50

There is a tremendous opportunity for community-owned networks to leverage spare fiber by working with 5G cellular providers to identify where 5G small cell poles are going to place and getting fiber to them.

I welcome our robot overlords...

Submitted by admin on Thu, 12/28/2017 - 16:03

Two stories today suggest the future may be exciting, but not in a good way.

In Las Vegas, a driver-less shuttle bus had an accident less than a hour after starting service. No one was hurt, but the bus failed to notice that a large truck was backing up and failed to move out of its way.

In Germany, while the owner of an apartment was out late, his Alexa device (the Amazon "smart home" widget) turned itself on at 2 AM and started playing music so loudly it woke all the neighbors. Police couldn't get anyone to answer the door, so they called a locksmith to break in. They turned off Alexa, changed the locks, and left. The owner was stuck with the locksmith bill and no clue as to why the Alexa gadget did what it did.

5G wireless is going to deliver the promises

Submitted by admin on Tue, 11/07/2017 - 19:00

This article is long but readable, and it is a real eye opener. Many have been hoping that fiber could be ditched in favor of 5G wireless. The cable companies have been testing a variety of "5G" frequencies, and found that they all have significant shortcomings. The much-touted "...5G will deliver near Gigabit speeds..." turns out to be "mostly true" in a Billy Crystal "mostly dead" kind of way. If you are more than 150 feet from the tower and have any foliage in the way, the speed drops by about 90%.

The higher frequency millimeter wave systems are drastically attenuated by rain, snow, windows, and leaves. And yes, pine needles are still very bad.

In the next couple of years, expect to see some companies using the 5G radio systems to eliminate fiber drops from the street to the home--both Google and AT&T have been talking about doing this. But the short distances involved means lots of radios on the street, and to get the throughput up, you need those radios connected to fiber. And what everyone forgets is that everyone of those radios has to be connected to electric power.

We see that as a major issue. You need to get the radios as high as possible on existing utility poles, but that means putting them in the electric space, which raises the cost of installation and the cost of maintenance. If the electric service is underground, you have to install poles, which is also expensive.

Is the dumbphone now smart to own?

Submitted by admin on Tue, 11/07/2017 - 19:00

According to this article, some people are ditching their smartphones and replacing them with "dumbphones." The typical dumbphone offers phone calls and texting, and that's it. All of the distractions and "there's an app for that" are gone.

If this trend gets people back to using the phone to actually talk to people again, it would be good thing.

In other news, Apple's iPhone X, which costs $1,000, is selling like hotcakes. So I don't hold out much hope for the dumbphone trend.

Happy birthday, iPod!

Submitted by admin on Mon, 10/23/2017 - 16:09

The iPod is ten years old, and in that short time, the concept of a multi-function device that fits in your pocket has transformed the way we work and play--not necessarily always for the better. There were other pocket size music devices before the iPod, but Apple provided easy to use software (iTunes) with an easy to use interface on the iPod itself that lent itself to rapid and easy browsing of your music library.

The original iPod had a 5 Gig hard drive--an actual rotating device, that was replaced in just a few years with solid state hard drives with no moving parts and much lower power consumption for longer battery life. The iPod led directly to the iPhone, which has largely rendered stand along music players obsolete--Apple only offers one iPod model now--the iPod Touch.

Here is the first commercial for the iPod.

The decline of the West: cellphone airbags

Submitted by admin on Fri, 10/20/2017 - 19:00

In a sure sign of decline, the city of Salzburg, Austria is putting airbags on lamp posts on city streets because so many people were bumping into them while looking down at their cellphones.

Yes, it is a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the problem of "smartphone zombie," but even having to use that phrase is an sad indictment of our culture, in which we are so obsessed with our technology that we can't walk down the street without bumping into something.

Death of TV: Part LXXIX: Google drops TV

Submitted by admin on Sun, 10/08/2017 - 19:00

Google Fiber has announced that it is dropping TV packages from its content offerings in Louisville and San Antonio. The wide range of content available from OTT services like Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, and other services makes the traditional cable/satellite TV packages seem quaint by comparison.

iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple TV, and LTE, cellular

Submitted by admin on Tue, 09/12/2017 - 19:00

Apple announced new iPhones yesterday. Faster, brighter displays, and better cameras. Ho hum.

What interested me was the Apple TV announcement--the new Apple TV supports 4K video, which uses FOUR TIMES more bandwidth than HD video. Apple continues to improve the user experience with its products, but many Internet services are not going to be able to deliver 4K streaming video, or at best, only one stream at a time. Meanwhile, the average household has more than ten Internet-connected devices, and that is going to keep growing.

T-Mobile is not happy with iPhone X because it does not support T-Mobile's new LTE frequencies.

In the race to try to squeeze more bandwidth out of wireless radio systems, more frequencies are being used, which means device manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have to build more radio technology into their devices, which means more weight, poorer battery life, and less space for other stuff.

What phone do I use? I'm still completely happy with a three year old iPhone 5S. Fits in my pocket, has long battery life, and rings every time someone calls me. I don't need much more than that.

Eldo Telecom: Rural copper won't be replaced by small cells

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 13:10

Eldo Telecom points to an article that suggests that small cell cellular access points won't be the cure-all for rural residents.

The emerging Space Economy

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:25

It's been a long time since I wrote anything about the Space Economy. I was, perhaps, overly optimistic about the timing, but lately all the signs are that the private sector now has sufficiently mature payload to space technology to completely change the nature of space research and business.

SpaceX seems well ahead of competitors, with two launches in a just a few days, and both times, the first stage booster returned successfully to the launch pad.

In other developments, Virgin Galactic is apparently nearing final development of its near space tourism offering. Bigelow Aerospace, an early entrant, has signed a contract to supply NASA with inflatable space habitats. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin round trip space vehicle continues advanced testing, and NASA and the European Space Agency continue to pursue their own plans.

Space really is starting to look like the final frontier.

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