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March 23, 2009 3:11 PM

Everyone Agrees: Fiber's The Gold Standard

For most of my readers this is a no-brainer: full fiber networks are the gold standard of broadband.

But I wanted to point this out as even those who question whether or not a Full Fiber Nation should be our ultimate goal can't deny the simple fact that it doesn't get any better than fiber.

Just listen to wireless and copper providers. Despite their vested interests in non-fiber technologies, their arguments against pushing all in on fiber boil down to three points:

1. Our technology can compete with fiber.
2. No one needs the capacity of fiber.
3. Fiber's too expensive.

Without getting too far into the weeds, let's break down these three points a bit further.

1. The undeniable truth is that no technology has the same capacity as fiber. All wireless guys talk about is delivering tens of Mbps. All copper guys talk about is hundreds of Mbps or maybe a few Gbps. Fiber can handle hundreds of Gbps and beyond. There's essentially no limit to fiber's capacity, and only fiber can say that as both wireless and copper have definite physical limitations.

2. I'll go into more depth in the near future about why we need the capacity of fiber, but for now let's make it simple: we need fiber to support UltraHD video applications. UltraHD is a standard that has 16 times the resolution of HD. To deliver one highly compressed UltraHD video you'll need 120Mbps. What does UltraHD enable us to do? Check out this video from Microsoft of their vision for computing by 2019:

Notice at the beginning and about 50 seconds in it shows kids on either side of what appears to be a piece of glass. If you look closely you'll see that in actuality those are kids in two different classrooms in two different parts of the world. And yet the size and clarity of the screen's image is so great it appears as if they're standing right next to each other. That's what UltraHD video will enable within the next decade. And only fiber can truly support these kinds of extremely bandwidth-intensive applications.

3. Is fiber expensive to deploy? Yes, but let's consider this a little further. First off, if you're building a network from scratch, at this point it's cheaper to lay fiber than copper. Secondly, over time it's very easy to upgrade the capacity of fiber by simply swapping out the electronics, whereas it's much more expensive and complicated to upgrade copper. Thirdly, fiber's cheaper to operate than copper as it's more reliable. Finally, sure laying fiber everywhere will be expensive, but so was laying copper everywhere 100 years ago and no one regrets that decision. So while on the surface fiber's cost to deploy may seem high, in the long run it's more than worth it.

So there you have it: fiber is the gold standard of broadband, no other technology can compete with it, we will need fiber's capacity in the near future, and it's not too expensive to deploy.

I know to fiber advocates this isn't news, but these are the messages we need to be spreading far and wide to push back against the disinformation campaign of incumbent wireless and copper interests that's been trying to suggest that their technologies are good enough, that we don't need fiber, and that it's too expensive.

We can't afford to let these private interests get in the way of the truth about what's best for the public good, and that's striving to achieve the goal of a Full Fiber Nation as soon as possible.

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