October 2008 Archives

Window Shopping Goes Online

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I'm a sucker for cool new online interfaces, especially those that find a way to bring traditional paradigms into the networked environment. To that end, let me point you to one of Amazon.com's latest projects: Amazon Windowshop Beta.

Here what you'll find is a dynamic way to peruse through books, audiobooks, music, videogames, and movies. Simply use your up-down-left-right arrows to scroll through and any time you pause on something that looks of interest the site will automatically start feeding you more info, like playing a movie trailer or audio of someone reading a book.

There are many things I love about this:

- It's slick. Super easy navigation, smooth animation when stuff moves around, reasonably intuitive structuring of where things are; it just works.

- It demands bandwidth. Lots of video is thrown around as you can easily watch a dozen trailers within minutes, though this also seems to rely on processor speed as much as connectivity, so it can get a little sluggish if your computer's slow.

- It lets you buy right away. Not surprising it enables this, but what's neat is that most of these products have a digital online version so you can go from perusing to purchasing immediately.

- It's arguably better than regular window shopping. This is what really gets me going. I actually think I like window shopping through this site better in real life. For movies when you're in a store all you have to go on is what the box looks like. The same often holds true for music, though many stores nowadays have listening stations. It's also arguable whether or not this is better for games as it's commonplace to have stations set up where you can play the game first, and that doesn't exist on this site yet.

But even still, I found myself really enjoying Amazon's attempt to reinvent window shopping. While for now it may be more gimmick than game changer, it helps point to a future where online experiences become more graphical, more interactive, more robust, and more capable of improving upon paradigms we're already familiar with.

So good work, Amazon. Keep it up!

Last night I took time to watch Sen. Obama's infomercial. While I generally enjoyed it something caught my attention during the last few minutes as it cut to live video of him addressing a crowd in Florida.

He was going on about laying broadband lines everywhere even citing the need to get these networks into rural areas so businesses can locate there. Then he paused slightly, and began saying, "$15 billion a year."

I sat up in my seat immediately somehow hoping beyond hope that he was committing himself to spending some serious money on upgrading our nation's telecommunications infrastructure. Only his next words showed that instead this was just his usual call for investing $15 billion a year for five years in green technology.

My first reaction was frustration. Yet again we have a politician who pays lip service to broadband who while he seems to get the economic development aspect of broadband hasn't yet put the pieces together regarding how broadband can help make us energy independent, improve our healthcare, expand our educational opportunities, and so on.

But then I found myself getting hopeful. While we haven't convinced everyone about the need for fiber, we have had great success in establishing the necessity of broadband. While we haven't gotten serious dollars committed to solving these problems, especially in rural areas, we've got another economic stimulus package coming down the pike, the FCC's about to attempt to revise USF, and we've got a president who at least claims to understand the urgent importance of getting our rural communities wired, so the money may soon be there.

It seems like now is the time that new ideas can be turned into action. Take this for example:

Instead of $15 billion a year for greentech, what if we said $20 billion a year for upgrading our 21st century technological infrastructure. We then split that in half, $10 billion a year for five years for greentech, and $10 billion a year for five years for fiber.

Or even better, why not $50 billion a year for five years, $25 billion each for greentech and fiber. That way from the fiber perspective you'd have enough to wire the entire country while likely also having some left over to help get people equipped and educated to use these networks. Plus on the greentech side we'd have enough money to not just develop new technologies but get them deployed, like giant solar farms, massive upgrades to our electrical distribution systems, and so on.

Now it may feel like I'm playing with Monopoly money here, but let's put this into perspective. I'm only talking about $250 billion. Contrast that against the $700 billion bailout. Are we really better off funneling hundreds of billions of dollars into banks that'll be used for them to buy other banks and become bigger? Or should we invest that money into securing America's future and bringing our technological infrastructures into the 21st century?

I think you all know my answer to this. I can only hope that whoever becomes our next president agrees.

Cab Driver Disses DSL As Not Being Broadband

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Yesterday on the way to meeting my wife for dinner I got to talking with my cab driver, asking him the question, What does broadband mean to you?

At first he hesitated, so I cajoled him a bit questioning whether or not he's even heard of the term before, but then he responded (and I paraphrase), "Isn't that the cable thing?"

Well yes, I responded, but what about the telephone company, would you get broadband from them?

He paused again and then mumbled, "Well maybe Verizon..."

I pressed further, asking if he'd heard of fiber-to-the-home, which didn't ring any bells until I said FiOS, which he immediately recognized as they're marketing it in the DC suburb in which he lives.

Let's pause for a moment and marvel at what just happened: this cab driver just said DSL does not qualify as broadband.

What's remarkable about this is that while he did seem more tech savvy than some, he also in no way gave any indication that he's an early adopter. In talking with him it really felt like I was getting an insight into mainstream America's perception of these issues.

The fact that to him DSL does not mean broadband was stunning. It leaves me hopeful that perhaps the marketplace is starting to understand the relative value of next-generation infrastructure. It also suggests that anyone trying to compete in the broadband wars with nothing more than DSL has quite the uphill battle to face.

Wasting Bandwidth: Caps Hurt App Development?

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I came across this really interesting post on Slashdot.org last week from a user who's trying to find ways to not waste bandwidth.

He (or she) shares that their broadband connection has a cap of 1GB per month and that they're charged at a rate of 2.5 cents per MB thereafter.

What's been frustrating for them is that so many sites nowadays have a tendency to send more and more data regardless of whether or not you want it. He even cites things like how if you watch a YouTube video, click a link, but then try to go back to that original video it has to load again even though it was just downloaded a few minutes earlier.

While wherever this user is located has much lower bandwidth caps than anything being discussed here in the States, it does speak to an inevitable outcome of any cap: the need to ration your usage to avoid paying overage fees.

This makes me wonder what will happen moving forward in terms of app development as a result of this. Already developers have to spend a lot of time trying to squeeze as much data as possible through a tiny pipe. Now we're also going to make them worry about conserving bandwidth over time as well.

In some ways this may not be all bad as it may lead to more efficient apps as well as efforts to improve the user experience of that YouTube example above, plus often where you introduce limitations it affords an opportunity for creativity to thrive to overcome these boundaries.

But at the same time, I can't help but worry that this could also lead to more time being wasted trying to overcome the limitations of broadband infrastructure rather than staying focused on developing exciting new applications that rely on the availability of lots of bandwidth.

This may be especially true for the growing number of apps that demand not just high bandwidth but that that throughput be sustained for a long period of time, like when watching a high quality live webcast or utilizing terminal computing where you access a virtual computer over the network and your apps reside on a server rather than your desktop.

Also, from the user perspective, I hate that we're now going to be forcing users to start worrying about how much bandwidth they're using at a time when we've still got so much work to do to encourage them to want to use more in the first place. And without that demand for more bandwidth we won't be able to get the networks that'll supply big bandwidth connectivity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for finding more efficient ways to utilize networks. I figure the more we can do with less, then ultimately the more we'll be able to do with more once the capacity's there to do so. And I completely respect the need for network operators to find ways to maintain a viable business in the face of growing demand for bandwidth overwhelming the standard all-you-can-eat model of broadband service.

But even still, I can't help but find myself frustrated that at a time when I and others are trying to find ways to get people to use more bandwidth to prove the need for full fiber networks we're simultaneously entering an era when apps developers and users may need to worry about using less.

The History of the Internet

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A few days ago I discovered this site, an effort by the National Science Foundation entitled "NSF and the Birth of the Internet".

It's a Flash-based site that takes you through the history of the Internet and NSF's role in supporting its growth. Select a decade and choose from a handful of entries, many of which include video that features the thought leaders that made the Internet possible.

The information in this site is interesting, though not necessarily new to anyone already familiar with this history. The interface is simple and works well. And I was impressed that they were able to make the musings of highly technical people enjoyable to watch.

The three things that stood out to me the most came during the 2000s section in a discussion about the future. They include:

- The fact that the capacity of the human eye is about 10Gbps, so until networks are capable of supporting that to each user, we can't claim to have achieved enough speed to stop investing in capacity.

- Next-gen protocols are being built with interplanetary communication in mind, where sending data between planets may take minutes, if not hours and even days. While I don't see a lot of near-term need for this, I still find it interesting as my cousin's actually been working in this space (pun intended).

- At one point a speaker made an offhanded remark about how we haven't established the all-optical Internet yet, but that's exactly the opportunity we have by building a new model for in-network delivery in full fiber communities and getting them peered with each other.

So hopefully through the work being done in places like Lafayette, LA we'll be able to extend this project with a significant new chapter as we prepare ourselves to have 2010 be the decade that dwarfs all others in the evolution of human communication.

Encouraging Demand > Building Supply for Broadband?

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Since I started App-Rising.com I've been advocating that we need a stronger emphasis on finding ways to spur demand for broadband rather than focusing all our attention on increasing capacity.

At first these pleas seemed to be falling on deaf ears. Everyone kept talking about the speed, price, and availability of broadband without including measures aimed at increasing consumer understanding of why they need broadband how it can allow them to conduct their lives more efficiently.

But this idea of making sure to spur demand alongside supply has started coming up repeatedly recently, suggesting a potential sea change at hand.

Today I read this article about Connected Nation's recent report based on interviews with 50,000 consumers that recommended a stronger emphasis be placed on consumers and why nearly half of America still does not subscribe to broadband service. Short version: it's too expensive and they don't know why they need it.

A few weeks ago at the "Why Broadband Matter" Senate Commerce Committee hearing, I heard One Economy cofounder Rey Ramsey argue forcefully for this issue, that we can not achieve our goals of achieving a broadband nation without an equal emphasis on generating demand as supply.

Now, some may find this a hard pill to swallow as one obvious outcome of increasing demand for broadband is creating new broadband customers thereby enriching broadband providers of cable, DSL, wireless, and fiber service.

But ultimately this is an issue we should all be able to agree on as the more broadband subscribers the more customers there are available for entities on the Internet to sell to or draw an audience from. This is especially true in this day and age where so many websites and other online experiences rely on video that needs the bandwidth of broadband to work.

Even if you don't like the idea of putting more money into the pockets of incumbents, you can't deny that the more people you can get onto the network of networks that is the Internet at higher speeds, the more valuable that network becomes.

Increasing demand can also have a positive affect on increasing supply. For example, at the core of the Connected Nation model is an effort to aggregate demand in areas without broadband to show providers that there's business to be had in these areas, helping spur deployment.

Also, as consumers use more bandwidth there's upward pressure on operators to increase capacity just to keep up lest these networks don't deliver the service they promised.

And if we can get enough people demanding true broadband, it can help make the business models for deploying full fiber networks even more feasible than they already are. Imagine what happens when instead of the customer base being 50% of households it's 75%? More customers means more revenue either to fund fiber deployment directly or create more customers so there's more room for competition that leads to increases in capacity.

But we need to remember that it's not just about educating consumers, we also need to find ways to enlighten politicians because without them able to understand why broadband matters how can we expect them to be the champions that we need them to be on these issues?

And yet, despite my renewed hope that more focus will soon be put on increasing demand for broadband I can't help but worry that like in the discussion around deployment we're still not talking in concrete enough terms about not just what our goals are but how we can achieve them.

It's not that there aren't things happening at all levels of government and in communities, things like One Economy's push to get computers into low-income housing and efforts to train seniors, but what we've been missing is a large-scale coordinated approach towards igniting the imaginations of everyone about the possibilities of the Internet to revolutionize how we communicate with the world.

We need to find a way to create a unified message that all parties can adopt and work together under the common banner of getting more people to understand why broadband matters, because the more we do to increase demand for broadband the greater our chances of finding someone to do the job of increasing supply to the levels America needs to achieve in order to stay competitive in the global economy.

Why We Need A Rural Fiber Fund

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When talking about a Full Fiber Nation one counterpoint often made is how expensive rural areas are to wire and therefore how unattractive they are to private deployers.

Yet a few weeks ago at the FTTH Conference I met three different fiber operators who all expressed a desire to wire rural America, either to fulfill their sense of civic duty or because they're able to realize high enough takerates to overcome the limited number of customers to make their business model work.

Unfortunately, they all cited the same roadblock to their ambitions to wire rural America: the lack of capital available to do so.

Now, many of you may be wondering, "But what about the USDA's RUS loan program? Wasn't that designed specifically to help get broadband to rural areas?"

On the surface the answer is yes, but once you get into the details you quickly realize when it comes to wiring rural America with fiber, we need a new solution.

Here are some examples of how RUS is not supporting the needs of those people ready, willing, and able to deploy fiber into rural America. Please excuse the lack of specifics but I want to make sure that the people who spoke with me don't suffer any backlash for their frankness.

- After a small municipal utility successfully deployed a full fiber network to its community it wanted to extend its network into surrounding rural areas. To make the model work they needed a low interest RUS loan, only there was a problem: a few homes in the zip codes they wanted to serve already had DSL so therefore those areas couldn't qualify for RUS funding despite the fact that the vast majority of the zip code had no broadband options. So for the time being the utility has had to forego wiring its neighbors.

- A private operator that openly expressed his preference to deploy in rural areas because of the high takerates he's able to realize was lucky enough to get awarded a large chunk of RUS money. But before he was able to cash the check, some trouble arose with the part of the funding he was required to front. He was able to work it out to still have all the money he needed, the only problem was he could only get it in segments rather than one big chunk. He tried getting RUS to split up their money, but they were unable to be flexible and as a result he no longer has access to it and fiber isn't getting deployed.

- Another private operator has done everything he can imagine doing to get the money, crossing all his T's and dotting all his I's, yet despite spending upwards of $1 million through the course of his application he not only has not been awarded any money, he has not received any clear guidance on what he can be doing better or differently in order to qualify. So yet again, the desire and ability to deploy fiber is there, but the system isn't supporting them.

I don't bring up these examples to lambast RUS, though. In large part I think they're doing the best they can with the rules they've been given.

Instead I wanted to point out that we seem to need a new strategy for supporting those entities that want to deploy fiber into rural areas because the current system isn't working. Asked point blank, all three fiber operators agreed that if they had a source of low interest loans from the government that that would allow them to be deploying more fiber right now.

And making sure capital is available is an issue that's becoming ever more important given the state of our overall credit markets, where even municipal bonds are starting to be hard to come by.

But these deployers aren't looking for handouts. They're more than happy to enter into a competitive bidding process with other qualified entities. While no one will deny their profit motive, I also found that we all shared the common desire to make America great by ensuring its rural communities aren't left behind in the global digital economy.

One final major point to raise in support of a rural fiber fund is that RUS is technology-agnostic. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I can most definitely appreciate the value of a wireless project that can reach ten times the same number of unserved customers for the same cost as a fiber project, but we're doing ourselves a disservice if we allow this to become an either/or situation.

Instead what's needed is common agreement on the ultimate goal being a full fiber nation that's supported by specific policies tailored to help achieve that goal.

For me it all boils down to this: our rural communities need help to survive, there are entities that want and are able to provide that help, so we should be doing everything we can to support their needs as there are few things I can see that are more significant to maintaining America's greatness in the world than in proving our commitment to the future viability of our rural communities.

For these reasons and more, we need a rural fiber fund.

Stitching Our Economic Wounds Shut With Fiber

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My exasperation with how the federal government continues to generally ignore the potential of broadband to drive economic growth is not new but it still pains me when I read about things like the next potential stimulus package.

Rumor has it that Congress may be called back into session after the election to pass legislation that would extend jobless benefits, increase money for food stamps, and possibly include a tax rebate. The total cost? $150 billion.

First off, as I've said before, for $150 billion we could wire the entire country with fiber. So again, it's not about the expense of full fiber networks, it's about where our priorities are.

Secondly, I'm not an economist, but it seems like continually trying to throw short-term surges of capital into a failing market is nothing more than trying to stop the bleeding of a shotgun wound to the chest with a Band-Aid. Sure it may seem to make things better for a few minutes on the surface, but before long it's going to bleed through.

The only way to improve the situation is to get deeper and pursue a longer term solution. Rather than a Band-Aid, we need to stitch the wound shut. Putting money into someone's pocket is one thing, but equipping them with the ability to make more money on their own is something far greater.

On this third front there is some understanding of this among government, the only problem is they still have such a 20th century mindset.

Included in the last stimulus package passed by the House was money for road and bridge construction, not necessarily for the sake of improving our infrastructure but instead with the intent of creating jobs.

Here's the thing that drives me batty: deploying fiber networks creates jobs too!

It's my understanding that Verizon's been hiring like crazy to build out FiOS, and those jobs are at least as good as if not better than any involving road building, both in terms of pay and quality of life. So if we were to get serious about wiring America with fiber we'd be creating thousands if not millions of new jobs.

Plus as we all know the long-term impact of full fiber networks is much more significant to driving economic growth than having nicer roads. It opens up a lot more opportunities for job creation plus this connectivity can have a more profound impact on aspects of society like education and healthcare.

So the choice seems clear: we can keep using the Band-Aids of one-time checks and building more roads, or we can stitch the wound shut with fiber optic cable enabling an infrastructure that will create better jobs while improving the long-term outlook of our entire economy moving forward into the 21st century.

Call me crazy, but this seems like a no-brainer. Now if only our politicians would realize the same thing...

CampFiber Cont'd: It's Not About Filling The Pipe

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I went into Saturday's CampFiber in Lafayette with the belief that the primary topic of discussion would be how to fully utilize the 100Mbps intranet LUS subscribers will have access to, but then a funny thing happened: that wasn't what everyone else was interested in.

The developers asked many more questions of LUS about their set-top box as they wanted to learn how they could get apps onto TV sets, and there were multiple times at which people brought up their interest in wireless geo-aware apps, whereas figuring out what to do with 100Mbps was a secondary issue at best.

And in fact the few times we got into the mindset of talking big bandwidth applications, some in the room expressed astonishment that we'd ever have the mindset of trying to fill up the pipe. Developers couldn't understand why you'd be expressly trying to load the network to capacity, and LUS is ever cautious about maintaining the integrity of their network.

So on the front of figuring out what to do to fully utilize the connectivity of a full fiber infrastructure, we didn't make a lot of progress.

Yet I also learned some things that may explain why, namely that there just isn't a lot of need for 100Mbps pipe today.

While you all know that ultimately I clearly see the need for that kind of capacity, and that even 100Mbps is only one step along the way to even greater demands, we shouldn't ignore how little bandwidth we're really using today, even in scenarios where multiple users are aggregated on the same network.

For example, Adam Melancon runs the IT network for Lafayette's libraries. He shared that he's got hundreds of simultaneous users the vast majority of which are watching online video and he gets by just fine with 35Mbps.

Another came from Logan McDaniel, Lafayette Parish School District's CIO, who shared that he has 12,000 computers running through a 90Mbps pipe that only occasionally peaks and typically averages closer to 45Mbps.

Again, in no way is this to suggest we don't need big broadband everywhere. Melancon gushed over having been able to grow from a few T-1s to 35Mbps over the last few years, and McDaniel talked about his plans to get 1Gbps to the schools. They see demand growing and want to make sure their constituents are properly prepared to utilize whatever comes down the pike.

But we're currently in a transitionary period. After years of last mile bottlenecks constraining apps, now capacity is starting to run ahead of demand, and yet it's not happening broadly enough to incentivize developers to build the 100Mbps killer app as not enough people have access to that kind of speed, plus while network operators would kill for an app that differentiates fiber over copper, they also don't want to have to go back to dealing with overloaded networks again.

This dichotomy was one of the more interesting takeaways I got from CampFiber. It made me realize that the goal isn't filling up the pipe, it's figuring out how not having to worry about capacity constraints can free the minds of developers to worry less about compression and squeezing things down and more about the functionality, usability, and overall impact of their apps on improving society.

CampFiber's Location: Heart of New Silicon Valley?

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We held the world's first ever CampFiber at the Travis Technology Center in Lafayette, LA.

From the outside this building looks like somewhere you'd go to pay your gas bill. It's unassuming, in the heart of an oil center, and until the last few years was anything but a hub for technological innovation.

Yet today, thanks to the expertise of developer extraordinaire Ruth Ann Menutis and the support of people like Abigail Ransonet, it has been transformed into a hotbed of activity.

There are a number of small startups and creative firms all renting office space. So palpable is the sense of energy that Lake Charles-based developer Jeffrey Lyons described the building as "buzzing" and lamented not having a flexible space with robust services available to locate in his area. You could seem his wheels turning as he considered ways to get himself to Lafayette to join in on the fun.

The building now has some features you're not likely to find elsewhere like the new media room in which we held the CampFiber. This space features a large touchscreen projector for interactive presentations on one wall, what must be at least a 42" if not 50" flat panel screen on the opposite side, and across the entire back wall a giant green screen. It was the perfect venue for the 40+ we had and could've likely fit 50 or more, plus a built-in kitchenette was essential to facilitating the setup of the food we had throughout the day.

Perhaps most significantly, though, is the presence of Ransonet and her family of Abacus companies.

As a reseller of access to the LUS fiber ring to businesses, she's got the building wired for big bandwidth connectivity so you can get basically any speed that you need.

But even more exciting is that Ransonet has built out her Abacus Data Exchange right in the heart of the building, where now resides the first ever LiquidIQ fabric computing solution in a broadband environment open to other businesses and individuals to use.

By bringing this kind of computing power into what will soon be a fully fibered community, Ransonet has planted the seed in the Travis Center for the next generation of the Internet to be built.

And you can't help but feel that this isn't hyperbole when you're in this building. There's something special going on in those walls, so much so that multiple people at CampFiber expressed a desire to get into the Travis Center so their energy can meld with that which already exists helping feed the phenomenal growth that I see clearly possible in this unique community.

It goes without saying that we couldn't have had a better venue for the world's first CampFiber, and I am forever in debt to Ransonet for offering up her alloted time in the room and to Menutis for seizing the opportunity to revitalize a building that is fast becoming the heart of the new Silicon Valley (or Bayou, perhaps).

My First CampFiber Experience: A Resounding Success

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Saturday the community of Lafayette, LA pulled off the world's inaugural CampFiber, an informal event aimed at bringing together groups of people around the central topic of what can we do with a full fiber infrastructure.

This first CampFiber was focused on pulling in local developers and creative types to discuss application development. And it was successful on many fronts:

- Great attendance. We started out with standing-room only and despite it being an 8-hour event that got technical towards the end we still had 20+ that soldiered through from 9am until 5pm.

- Attendees were educated, diverse, and inspired. We had applications developers, website builders, design professionals, entrepreneurial types, community leaders, and a strong contingent from Lafayette Utility Systems there to interface with the developer community.

- Everyone had a good time. I say this because there was a ton of laughter, everyone participated in the lively discussion, and when I talked with attendees afterwards there was nothing but appreciation for what happened and excitement for what's going to happen next.

- We covered some significant intellectual ground. I'll go into this in more detail in later posts, but suffice it to say I feel confident that the conversations we were having helped lay the groundwork for furthering Lafayette's potential to be the epicenter of the growth of the next generation of the Internet.

- There's great enthusiasm for more events. When I suggested I had interest in leading at least three other CampFibers focused both on related and tangential topics I got a ton of positive feedback. Plus with local tech group Zydetech rising out of the ashes I see unlimited potential to replicate this model of getting everyone into a room for an open discussion many times in this community.

I'll be going into much more detail about the event in posts throughout this week, but for now I wanted to make sure I thanked everyone who helped make this possible:

- Terry Huval and the LUS team for sponsoring my travel and buying in to using CampFiber as forum for connecting with local developers.

- Abigail Ransonet and Bryan Fuselier at the Abacus Data Exchange for providing the space, sponsoring the food, and providing a tremendous resource to the community through the introduction of broadband fabric computing.

- Ruth Ann Menutis for creating the space we used, a killer multimedia room in the Travis Technology Center (more to come on this story of economic development soon).

- Pat Raaz and her team from ZStudio for their terrific production work shooting, lighting, and staging the event.

- Eric Credeur and his team at Blue-Line Computer Solutions for their hard work and technical expertise in setting up the webcast and facilitating the technology setup for the presentations.

- Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel for taking time away from inspecting local golf courses for hurricane damage to kick us off with some tremendously inspirational words from an inspirational leader.

- Lafayette City-Parish CIO Keith Thibodeaux and Lafayette School District CIO Logan McDaniel for participating in a lively discussion during our local leader roundtable.

- All of our presenters during the second half of the event (more details to come on this soon): David Goodwyn, Aaron Lozier, Eric Credeur, Matt Turland, and Jeffrey Lyons.

- Kit Becnel who heads up for Academy of Information Technology at Carencro High School both for doing wonderfully describing her program without any warning and for bringing three of her students along to attend.

- And everyone who attended. With your energy, ideas, good humor, and community spirit this event couldn't have happened. I could not have asked for more from any of your or anyone who helped put the event on.

My first CampFiber was an inspirational, transformative experience for me, and I hope it was for everyone who attended.

Lafayette has the unique opportunity to not just revolutionize its own community but to serve as a leading example for the rest of the country and even to possible shift the course of all human communication.

That may sound hyperbolical but I assure you it's not. The sky is the limit for what Lafayette can do with the resources at its disposal. From its technology to its people to its community, all the ingredients are there to create the recipe for what the future of the Internet can be.

So needless to say, I can't wait to see what happens next!

Watch CampFiber Today Live!

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For anyone who's interested in tuning in to the world's first CampFiber, you're in luck! Thanks to the hard work and expertise of Eric Credeur we are webcasting live today starting at 9am Central and running on through into the late afternoon.

You can watch along at: www.mogulus.com/campfiber

Our schedule is:

9am - Opening remarks from City-Parish President Joey Durel
9:30 - LUS presentation/Q&A; on LUSFiber
10:15 - Abacus presentation/Q&A; on LiquidIQ
11:00 - Local leaders roundtable with Logan McDaniel, CIO of K-12 schools, and Keith Thibodeaux, CIO of the city
12:30 - Lunch
1:30 - Discussions/demos

Come join in on the fun!

World's First CampFiber Starts Tomorrow!

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The anticipation is killing me: tomorrow begins the world's first ever CampFiber in Lafayette, LA hosted by Lafayette Utility Systems and Abacus Data Exchange.

A CampFiber is an unconference modeled in part after the BarCamp concept, where the attendees are the presenters and the structure allows for free-flowing discussions around the topic of what can a fiber community do with all that bandwidth.

This first event is focused on local developer, entrepreneur, and creative types with the goal of helping facilitate the creation of the next generation of big bandwidth applications. It's all about coming together, brainstorming, and sharing ideas.

We're going to be talking about:

- LUS's full-fiber network, the 100Mbps intranet every customer will have access to, and how the network can help support innovation
- Abacus' LiquidIQ platform, its capabilities for hosting applications, and what can happen when fabric computing and big broadband unite
- Lafayette's K-12 school district, how it's already using broadband, and its wishlist of problems to be solved and/or apps to be built
- Lafayette's city-parish government, their technology plan, and how they can use the capacity of fiber to extend and enhance that
- Acadiana Open Channel, what PEG 2.0 can mean, and how they can leverage fiber to redefine local community media
- And a variety of attendee-led discussions ranging from local developers showing off their apps, to topics like the possibilities of virtualization, the benefits of standardization, and the importance of usability

Needless to say, we've got a full day of fascinating topics to cover!

We're going to have at least myself and one other person live blogging the event either on this site or through Twitter. Follow geoffdaily or jeskaNOLA to get updates.

Also, we're going to be setting up a basic webcast that'll hopefully allow those who can't make it to tune in. I'll post the link to this site, through Twitter, and to the CampFiber wiki as soon as we get it set up.

It's my fervent belief that the next generation of the Internet will be built in places like Lafayette, so I couldn't be more excited or honored to be able to work with the good people in this fiber community and others to help spark this discussion about how to make the most out of these cutting edge networks.

Here are three must-read articles for anyone interested in the future of the Internet in America:

Putting the Public Internet Back into Communications Part II
For anyone interested in national broadband strategy, I recommend reading this highly salient op ed from the inestimable Charles Benton. He makes a clear argument drawing upon historical references for the need for the next President to take broadband more seriously than the current occupant of the White House. I especially appreciate his call for us to stop speaking in generalities and start setting specific goals as a country, as well as his pointing out the need to focus on demand for as much as deployment of broadband. A great piece by a true thought leader.

Net Neutrality: An American Problem?
If you've been following the net neutrality issue, then this is a must read. It points out that the issue with net neutrality isn't one of infrastructure, it's the fact that the US all-you-can-eat business model of broadband is cracking under the stress of rapidly increasing demand for bandwidth. It also lays out the three clear choices available to any network operator when it comes to funding infrastructure buildout: eat the cost, charge the customer, or charge the content provider. As charging the customer and content provider have both been vilified, it seems that many want to force network operators to eat the cost, but in lieu of there being added profit derived from greater capacity, I don't see how they can justify eating into their margins. Hence we're at an impasse in getting next-gen broadband built out across America by purely private means.

Logging On For a Second (Or Third) Opinion
This is a great feature about the rise of telemedicine apps, in particular those that are available to consumers to use from home over the open Internet. It covers a lot of ground, hitting many of the high points, and listing a number of valuable applications. It doesn't delve too deeply into the many issues apps like these raise, especially when it comes to privacy, but seeing a story like this in the mainstream media is heartening and suggests that we may be getting closer to a day where telemedicine is not just an ideal that exists more in rhetoric than reality.

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