April 2010 Archives

FiberFete Brainstorming About How To Use Fiber

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As a special treat, I've compiled the results of a raffle we held at FiberFete to win an iPad. To enter into the raffle participants had to write down an idea of what they'd do with 100Mbps.

We were able to generate a list of dozens of ideas, and while there's some duplicates and some that are less serious and well thought out, there's a ton of interesting thoughts in here. And I find the fact that there's duplication as interesting in and of itself as it suggests that perhaps those were the ideas that matter most.

I'm going to do some analysis of these ideas in posts next week, but for now here's the complete list of all the ideas that were submitted, in no particular order:

(Please excuse the question marks. They indicate words that weren't legible. If you're the one who wrote the idea, ping me with what the word should have been.)

Doc Searls
Turn the video business inside out. Put up backend video production servers for sharing, collaborating, CGI rendering, storage and distribution of creations by local citizens, especially schoolkids. Then start an annual festival to show off (and sell) the results. Create, demonstrate, and establish The New Hollywood right here in Lafayette.

Tim Pozar
Buy two pipes and become an ISP by back feeding the network

Beverly Blake
Secure a $1 million grant and launch a contest "Neighborhood Fiber Challenge." Ask through the web for ideas and award grants to implement. Our local challenge contest is a hit! www.cfcga.org/knc

Carol Skarlat
We are installing two fiber lines into the Stuller facility. WE plan to use this to digitize the jewelry industry by providing custom design over the Internet.

Eliza Evans
Host a worldwide fiber application competition. Bring/attract the best/brightest innovators from across the globe -- including and especially Asia -- to show/test their projects on Lafayette's fiber network. Doing this will spur local ideas, create opportunities for Lafayette office of competitive companies, create opportunity for investment, will make it clear that Lafayette is a global player, and create opportunities for global market access

Bryan Fuselier
Distributed Content Caching - Premise: Deploy BitTorrent-style software to voluntary end users that caches pieces of content as it is accessed and allows quick access to it to peers. Result: Content will be displayed in a fraction of the time necessary to download from a single source. Increasing the size of content that can be easily viewed in real time.

Larry Keyes
Telemedicine - Touchpad applications for patient surveys, ie "How much pain are you in today 1-10?"

John St. Julien
Provide ubiquity: a 50Mbps connection via WiFi - every other radio connected directly to the backbone.

Mary Beth Henry
3D visualization for education and training as well as scientific exploration. Do pilot with FiberKids demonstrating education using 3D. Cloud based computing is a good platform for this. Use FiberKids and Abacus.

Barret Conrad
Create an online space where people can experience, and especially consume, art and entertainment created and managed by local artists. Ex: Direct live feed of a band at a local club.

Create the first 100% peer-to-peer video networks!

Aymerial Hoang
With 100Mbps connectivity, that would give me the pot where to cook all the ingredients to build a tech community and a ?? tech ??. Side use = A ?? HD chatroulette for tech folks in the community to network!

Minnie Ingersoll
I'd back up my music/data to the cloud every night... then I'd rock out on the go all day long.

Larry Keyes
Multipoint video aggregation with DCSB, the "data center in my spare bedroom." So we have our own services in our own data center.

Beth McConnell
I live in a low income neighborhood where people can't afford monthly Internet services, so I'd use the extra capacity to create a wireless mesh network that is open and free to anyone on my block that needs it.

Grant Holcomb
I would implement a public safety infrastructure that integrates first responders, law enforcement, emergency rooms, healthcare facilities into a real-time crisis response system that can support any sized emergency.

Timothy Treuil
With an iPad I would research new ways to better the community that I live in. I would like to find ways to make it more child-friendly, eco-friendly and just a better place all around. On my spare time I would look up different parts for the truck I am devoted to rebuild for my dad. He had a 1981 Chevy pickup, and I would like to rebuild him one for when he retires.

Logan McDaniel
Develop personally customized dashboard to be used on set-top box and displayed on TV. Dashboard standard interface which will allow a multitude of display formats and types of information to be monitored easily.

Adam Melancon
Use the network for distributed storage for customers. Build storage systems into the cable boxes that would give customers a few gigs of storage that would be encrypted and distributed out in a mesh 100Mbps internal network. Data would be secure and redundant.

Michael Max Knobbe
Collaborate on a global interactive opera/hip hopera with artists participating from all over the world in an original multicast series.

David Russell
Multi-point video conferencing and chat for seniors and other people unable to leave their homes. These could be built around common interest groups - book clubs, etc.

Tim Pozar
I want to start seeing shut-ins be Tier 1 support providers for support companies. A laptop with SIP/VOIP software supporting video. A new worker pool!

Richard MacKinnon
Use the fiber to preserve, protect, and enhance your wonderful local culture by enabling HD video language lessons/stories, dance and music -- both creation and consumption -- connecting the older Cajuns with the younger. This interactive, real-time, and archived HD video will be a mirror and a window into living Acadian culture.

Robin Chase
1. I would open up as much data as I could, collected from as many government, education, and corporate source as I could open up. Get it in a format that is useful and you'll create a platform for innovation. 2. Install community wireless at all gateways so that you can have free ubiquitous wireless. Use an OS mesh network to support any smart grid efforts and open up that wireless network to any use. 3. Tell the world what you've done. 4. Expect innovation!

Ric Trout
Develop a world-class medical claims processing center facilitating the development of electronic medical/health information exchanges.

Pete Ashdown
Neighborhood net - Sharing videos/photos/media with my friend and neighbors. Non-copyrighted of course!

Aaron Touchet
Fiber would be a great tool for interactive online education. I've heard it being talked about a few times. Think of web based educational video games. These could even be multiplayer, interacting in real time. With fiber computers with low graphics capabilities can utilize these programs by playing games while the graphics are being streamed to them from a server. I've heard something of this technology before and I think fiber would prove useful.

Dax Allen
I would use this capability and asset of Lafayette to recruit and develop business... Making Lafayette the number one city in the US in the digital media industry.

Adam Melancon
Use the 100Mbps to interconnect the cable set top boxes to create a citywide mesh computer to do projects like folding@home or seti@home. Or use the connected cable boxes as caching servers for content.

Jay Ducote
A 100Mbps internet connection would allow a new phase of Health Information Technology. Telehealth and telemedicine would allow providers and patients to connect without leaving homes or offices. Links could also be made between schools and doctors.

Annette Samec
As we face continued budget cuts that effect staffing, it would be wonderful to fully implement collaborative teaching from across the country and world for a true educational experience, especially learning different cultures and languages.

Klyne Smith
Provide applications and services to the world. Help those who cannot afford connectivity to get connectivity.

Esme Vos Yu
Start developing the "Holodeck" (like Star Trek) so when Lafayette gets 100Gbps they'll be the first to try it out!

Tom Lowenhaupt
Pick a top level domain name, apply, acquire, and develop it. Develop it by giving a domain name to every thing in Lafayette, ie the Internet of things. Every street light, fire hydrant, street, building, project, person. Possibilities: .LAF, .Lafayette, .Cajun, .Acadia

Chance Delome
1. Offsite data backup. 2. Scanned record retentions for law firms or hospitals. 3. Decentralized office and campuses. 4. Videoconferencing nationwide tech or other kinds of support. 5. Origination of webinars. 6. Gaming testbeds for video games. 7. Remote patient monitoring for doctors offices or assisted living. 8. Online classrooms for all levels/ages. 9. Super computing/cloud computing. 10. Architectural design collaboration. 11. Land surveying exchange of data. 12. Smart meter reading. 13. Real-time traffic data pushed down to clients/apps built into vehicles. 14. Crime prevention with more cameras.

Joe Savoie
Create digital village the university - a community of ideas and applications testing.

Timothy McClanahan
Interactive distance learning for families that wish to home school their children.

Jon Lebkowsky
Build a powerful electronic marketplace that allows businesses to share and discover capacities within a region, to facilitate partnerships and aggregations of teams and groups, to facilitate partnerships on larger projects via networking. This can be a core application plus other relevant apps as well as a human network, well-facilitated by high bandwidth connectivity and large data shares.

Lane Fourtenant
I would live stream for 24/7 on 5-6 different live streaming networks that the fiber could handle while uploading daily videos to the net.

Chillon Thomason
Use it to connect artists with their work to customers. I have it, LUS Fiber rocks!

Michael Max Knobbe
Share ideas and get civically engaged in an ultra-local way while interacting across this great nation and world to collaborate, create, and for commerce.

I would build an amateur musician social network that would allow fiber connected music lovers worldwide to jam together in real time!!!

Dewayne Hendricks
One of the major problems with public hotspots such as those at Starbucks or McDonalds are they only do 802.11 b/g and they're fed with low bandwidth pipes upstream. What I would propose would be to use the fiber infrastructure to feed lots of public WiFi hotspots. If done well, you would give the area pervasive WiFi connectivity and build momentum to the use of 802.11 n. This would give users access to more bandwidth then would be available with LTE, for instance. Also, you would need more than 100Mbps to do this as 802.11n does 300Mbps and the next version will do 600Mbps!!

Crawford Comeaux
Digital replacement (or at least partial replacement) for USPS. Kit provided to residences containing PrePeat printer, 100 sheets PrePeat "paper" (good for 1000 uses per sheet), scanner, touchscreen LCD. USPS or private service digitizes mail going to residence. Recipients can choose to print mail if desired, can use LCD to manage home mailbox as email inbox. Decouples faxes from phone #s, emails from email addresses, and recouples them to physical address. Benefits: Greener mail system, faster mail delivery, replaces recurring delivery and processing/routing costs, with flat buy-in and recurring maintenance/upkeep, location-based service (hooray for digital city!)

Crawford Comeaux
Peer to peer compute cluster co-op: P2P generic compute cluster software running on home/office machines (think SETI@home, but not geared to a single problem); compute time rentable by anybody (just like LITE); users whose computers perform processing for a project share in revenue from compute jobs (not like LITE).

Mary Beth Henry
Kids making videos in their neighborhoods and uploading to share with each other. Smart cities with live video of neighborhood hubs. High school meetings like PTA attend from home and participate actively via high definition interactive video.

Crawford Comeaux
Emergency Response Distributed Call Center and Public Knowledgebase of Locale-Specific Information. Have distributed VoIP volunteer call center that interfaces with emergency response teams to collect/distribute data between different teams, ie Red Cross, military. Have information available for public query too.

Eric Credeur
Shared sensory stimulation. You feel what another feels (television, ??, food, and marketing.)

Richard MacKinnon
Video 311 - HD video interaction with municipal services to include 2-way communication tutorials and website integration.

Susan Souralaysack
I would use it to grow my business. Demonstrate every single application you can do to my produce via web and upload for everyone to see an all sites like youtube, on my website. Hey I'll even host my own sites and servers. I would host more videoconferencing with everyone in the world that I sell to knowing that I have a fast and reliable connection. I would use more IP phone tech to eliminate phone bills. Also I can probably stream live demos all the time and offer live web chat.

Kris Bennett
1. Work with the medical industry to be able to do real time diagnosis for emergencies. 2. Back-up all my files in minutes instead of days with carbonite. 3. Real-time streaming videos

Marcia Smith
You talked about the next barrier of "human" - why not involve your university students for solving this. For example, those engaged in a medical curriculum could develop new ideas/programs that the fiber would facilitate. Those engaged in an education curriculum could develop literacy programs facilitated by the fiber. At the same time you have the opportunity to create an entirely new process for students to earn their degree and give back to society at the same time!

Jay Ducote
100Mbps could allow every home and business with fiber connections to install HD video connectors so every phone call could incorporate video. This could work for home to home, home to doctor, or for ordering a pizza!

Donny Smith
3-D dating parlor. 3-D virtual store. Online fiber network ??? studio.

Dwight Davis
Provide smart boards in all classrooms. Students can do distance learning and get info in real time. Also having laptop and blogging capability with teacher for asking homework questions.

Joanne Hovis
Enable immersive experience and therapy for children with special needs. For example, immersive music or sensory therapy could be offered from a distant location to children at home or in an institution, making such expensive cutting edge therapy accessible to the poor and the distant.

John Brown
VOD Learning from PBS, NOVA, etc.

Crawford Comeaux
Peer-to-peer analytical cluster co-op. Co-op members install P2P analysis software with distributed data store component. Entities pay for storage and compute time, upload data encrypted using fully isomorphic encryption scheme and analytical functions. Entities launch/schedule analysis runs via web services. Entities download encrypted results, decrypt into usable analytics. Users contributing storage and compute time share in revenue.

Crawford Comeaux
Peer-to-peer render farm co-op. Public installs a P2P renderer. Renderings from non-edu sources require payment. Edu renderings free. Owners of machines contributing to paid renderings share in revenue.

William Ness
Seamless, transparent backup at <30 second intervals. Never worry about your data again!

Mary Beth Henry
Cancer research - Could science students at UL partner with health research university to process large databases of genome, RNA, proteome, and clinical data? Do pilot research project with huge database.

Larry Keyes
Platform in patient homes, attached to TV (not a computer!) for videoconferencing and vital sign sensory.

Tom Cox
A virtual, multi-lingual, remote, fiber-driven customer service and support business, HD video/audio, remote culture/nationality based attendants/agents, online sales/airports/drive-through restaurants/in-store kiosks

Gary McGoffin
Telephony for non-profit board members/meetings to facilitate non-profit board participation by eliminating travel logistics.

Crawford Comeaux
Social Web Desktop. Web desktop with native support for social networking. Accessible over TV set-top boxes, web browser, or purchasable thin clients. Has "app store" for developers to push apps to. Can connect to webcams for native telepresence. Provides developers with "closed" system like iPhone/iPad.

Bice Wilson
I'd help my communities building a living model of the "phantom city" that lurks in every landscape - the synthesis of all the zoning and laws and plans and technologies expressing what we say we want our futures to be. (And which we generally abhor once we confront it.) I'd use: idmi.poly.edu/projects/betaville

Ric Trout
Develop a regional stock or commodity exchange that can direct and control information through rapid transmission of large amounts of data, illustrating world class projections.

Helen Brunner
Establish a fellowship/residency program for innovative thinkers of all kinds, including artists who work with new technologies. With a modest investment, this type of national and international collaboration could leverage to creative capital of the participants and the amazing Lafayette community.

Larry Keyes
Multi-point "telepresence" videoconferencing!

Kit Becnel
Will put our FiberKids connected to San Francisco between two public media organizations using fiber for high schools to work collaboratively in real time delivering and constructing content.

Don Means
Prototype my multi-user holodeck, remote immersive digital environment.

Mark Horinko
Look to corporate America (Fortune 1000) to use your networks. With community fiber networks providing the bandwidth, but more importantly the ability to provide quality and secure networks...let's work with Corporate America to extend and integrate corporate networks into community networks so that these businesses can source/create home-based virtual call centers, medical transcription and software development from the residents of Lafayette.

A few years ago, outsourcing these type of tasks were outsourced to India, primarily due to low labor costs. The second largest expense to these business, next to labor are facility and building costs. If you take the cost of real estate and facility costs (electric, transportation, etc) and created a secure, reliable corporate networked home, these businesses can tap a virtually an unlimited talent pool, with lower labor costs than what they would typically see in larger cities.

Historically, economic development was to attract businesses to locate in their community...why should we not look at this as a "virtual relocation". We need to walk the fiber-based economic development talk...it is a reverse way of looking at ED, but worthy of exploration. Not only does this increase job opportunities within the community but also taps the huge financial resources of corporate America that could help fund even more community fiber networks. Corporate America will no doubt pay more for a private, secure network for a work-at-home than you'll ever get for 3-play services...and a secure, high-quality broadband connection is much cheaper than turning the lights on in an office.

Maybe as part of FiberCorps, we can develop a strategy to communicate this message to corporate America and to get them involved in the process of integrating corporate networks and to continue to expand community fiber networks across America. I'd be honored to participate.

Recapping FiberFete: Lafayette Catapulted Forward

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Whew! My apologies for the delay in getting a new post up, but it's been an amazing ride ever since FiberFete took off last week. The energy that has come out of that conference is truly remarkable.

In case you didn't hear about it, FiberFete was a three-day invitation-only conference in Lafayette, LA that I co-produced with the inestimable David Isenberg. It brought together experts from around the world to meet with local leaders to explore the question of, "Now that we have fiber, what can we do with it?"

FiberFete was a unique event on many levels. It was an invitation-only event that we webcast for the world to watch. It was an international affair funded entirely by local sponsors. It was an effort to focus on what Lafayette has done and can do with its fiber, and yet also an opportunity for all communities to figure out why they need fiber and once they have it what comes next.

Despite the audacity of even attempting an event like this, by all accounts FiberFete was a major success. Everyone who attended left educated, inspired, connected, and most importantly, well fed.

I'm going to work on a series of posts sharing my reactions to individual presentations over the coming weeks, but for now I just wanted to recap some of the great things that have already come out of FiberFete.

1. Within a 48 hour period, FiberFete featured the Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Stephen Moret and the CIO of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals John Ragsdale both declaring that Lafayette is Louisiana's testbed. Sec. Moret went so far as to say that Lafayette was the state's leader in digital media, and Mr. Ragsdale shared that prior to FiberFete he didn't know anything about Lafayette's fiber network. But now both gentlemen appear poised to be big supporters at the state level of Lafayette's aspirations to be a testbed for next generation applications.

2. I hadn't realized this going into the event, but during her presentation Minnie Ingersoll, product manager for the Google Fiber project, shared that FiberFete is the only conference they're planning on going to this year. That's a big win for the event, but an even bigger win for Lafayette as I don't see how anyone who makes it down to Cajun Country can resist the urge to get back down there as soon as possible.

3. Almost everyone I talked to who was an out-of-town guest is now excited about the possibilities of continuing their relationship with Lafayette. In particular, many have come to realize that Lafayette is the perfect place to realize their dreams. While most other communities have huge barriers to progress that slow down forward momentum, Lafayette is a community that knows how to come together and get things done. And given that a lot of FiberFete's raison d'ĂȘtre was to let the world know that Lafayette's open for business as the ideal testbed environment, I'm over the moon that so many participants felt inspired to stay engaged.

4. FiberFete provided an opportunity for Lafayette itself to come to a better understanding of the significance of what they've already accomplished. An interesting aspect of Cajun culture is their deep sense of humility. Cajuns don't tend to trumpet their accomplishments. And their history is that of a people who were rejected by everyone they came in contact with until they found a swamp no one else wanted where they decided to make their home. One of my biggest inspirations to come out of this event was the pride I felt growing in the hearts of Lafayette's citizens that experts from around the world are now beating a path to their door, universally amazed by what this community has done for itself against all odds.

5. But what I'm most excited about is that FiberFete is serving as a catalyst for the community. Even before the event there were rumblings around what happens post-FiberFete, and now that the event is over the community is looking at FiberFete 2011 as something that can spur them to continue taking big strides forward. They don't want to play host to an event a year from now and have nothing significant and new to share. They want to show the world that getting the network built was only the first step, and that they're now ready to lead the world again in figuring out how to make the best use of this new infrastructure.

These five points only begin to scratch the surface of all the goodness that's already grown and that's still growing out of FiberFete.

I can honestly say that FiberFete has been the greatest thing that I've accomplished in my life to date. But what's so exciting is that it's only the beginning. To that end, I'm going to have some big news to share in the coming days and weeks about the next steps that are going to keep pushing this community forward.

But for now let me close by again thanking my partner in crime, David Isenberg, for his expert guidance and tireless work ethic in making FiberFete a success. And let me also express my everlasting gratitude to the community of Lafayette.

You all have embraced and supported me and my vision since the first day I set foot in your city. I consider it my greatest honor that you have place so much trust in me. And I'm going to keep working every day to live up to your expectations so that we can continue achieving great things as one of the greatest cities in the world!

Introducing FiberFete: Lafayette Leading The Way

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Next week, Lafayette, LA is playing host to the first-ever FiberFete, a three-day, invitation-only conference focused on exploring the question of, "Once you have fiber, what can you do with it? How should having fiber change the way we think about our communities?"

FiberFete is bringing together a number of distinguished international experts to meet with some of Lafayette's top leaders and innovators. Our guest list includes representatives from the Google Fiber and Cisco Connected Urban Development programs; the Ford, Knight, Sunlight, and Benton Foundations; the CIOs of Seattle, DC, and Philadelphia; some of the top fiber minds in the country; and a whole lot more.

I'd encourage anyone interested in the issues surrounding what communities can do with fiber to check out the FiberFete agenda at www.fiberfete.com.

We'll be webcasting the event so that anyone in the world can tune in from 4-6pm Central on Tuesday April 20th, and from 8:30am-6pm on Wednesday April 21st. We'll put information up on our site tomorrow about how to tune into the webcast.

I really and truly couldn't be any more excited for this event, though with good reason as I'm co-producing it with my friend, colleague, and partner, David Isenberg.

But this event isn't about me or David. FiberFete is a celebration of what fiber enables, of what our fiber-powered future can look like, and of what communities like Lafayette can do with this key digital infrastructure.

And as importantly is that FiberFete is about Lafayette itself, as not only is the event in Lafayette but it's hosted by the community. All the money for FiberFete was raised from a diverse coalition of local sponsors, including the city, LUS, LEDA, the Chamber, IBERIABANK, a host of private companies, and as the lead sponsor, Lousiana Economic Development.

I find this fact significant for a number of reasons.

First off, what other city could pull together such broad buy-in across all the major players within their community? A key characteristic of Lafayette is their unity. It's not that people don't have their differences, but rather that they're able to put those differences aside when it comes to doing what's best for their community.

Secondly, what other city would have the audacity to even attempt an event like this, let alone pull it off? Think about it: FiberFete represents a city coming together to put on a high-end international invitation-only event that's webcast so the world can watch. I don't think that's ever been done anywhere in the world.

Which brings me to my third observation:FiberFete proves in no uncertain terms the capabilities and potential of Lafayette to lead America's digital revolution. One can argue that Lafayette already proved their moxie in this way by how they survived the fiber fight to overcome severe incumbent opposition to build their own fiber network. But FiberFete shows that Lafayette isn't done yet. They're not satisfied with just building the network; they now want to show the world what a community that's unified and committed can do to take full advantage of this infrastructure.

That's why I continue to believe that Lafayette is the perfect place to establish ground zero for the next generation of the Internet, to build a testbed for high bandwidth apps, where all the promise of our networked future can be realized in the real world.

But do note that FiberFete is not just about Lafayette, and even my praise of Lafayette is not just about this city. Where I see the real potential is in using Lafayette as the testbed in which best practices can be established that then other communities across the country and around the world can adopt. So the success we can realize in this community is really about achieving wins for all communities.

As a final point, some might be wondering why I've been silent until now about an event that's been in the works for months. That was a conscious decision to manage demand for this event. We have finite space at LITE (Lafayette's 3d visualization center, which is where we're holding FiberFete), and even without any marketing have greater demand to attend than we can supply as we have reached capacity.

So let me finish with an apology to anyone with the desire to attend that we're not able to accommodate. Our goal was not to exclude you, which is why we're making the effort to webcast the event so that we can be as inclusive as possible.

Also know that FiberFete is not the end of this conversation but rather the beginning. FiberFete is intended to be a catalyst for Lafayette specifically and America as a whole. By bringing together a critical mass of brainpower into the community that I think is best prepared to take full advantage of what fiber has to offer, we can light the match that will set us on a path to creating the world's first truly network-optimized fiber community down here in the heart of Cajun Country.

I look forward to seeing anyone reading this who's attending the event in person next week in Lafayette. And I hope that all of you that aren't able to be there in body can attend in spirit by tuning into the webcast.

If I Ran Google Fiber, Here's What I'd Do

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With the Google Fiber project all the rage, I want to take a moment to share my plan of attack for the project if I ran Google in the hopes they find some of these ideas useful.

For starters, let's recap what they've said they're doing. Google's planning on funding the deployment of open community fiber networks to 50-500,000 homes to serve as a testbed for next-gen apps and as an opportunity to learn about and innovate in making it easier to deploy more fiber moving forward.

Since this program was announced, I've had a chance to speak with members of the Google Fiber team, read a lot of coverage about the initiative, discuss it with some of the leading fiber experts in the country, and also see some of the applications communities have submitted.

Through these discussions, I've come to form a strong sense of how I'd run the program if I were in charge to realize the biggest bang for the buck for the resources being invested. So without further adieu, here are my recommendations to the Google Fiber team:

- Don't wait to build fiber to set up a testbed
For Google to pick a community, put a deployment plan in place, and actually build the network out it's going to take at least a year and likely two before customers are connected. Rather than waiting all that time, Google could start setting up a testbed in Lafayette, LA tomorrow. They're ready to go with a united community, a network almost built, and a unique combination of resources to draw upon. By working with Lafayette now, Google can establish models for how a testbed can work and then replicate them in their community once their network's up and running.

- Don't just deploy last mile fiber, look at middle mile
One of the biggest impediments to innovation in terms of developing next-generation apps in existing fiber communities today is the lack of universal, affordable, high capacity backhaul. Many fiber communities have near infinite capacity in the last mile, but backhaul is too expensive to offer that full capacity to users. If Google were to leverage its dark fiber assets and bandwidth buying power, it could dramatically lower the cost of backhaul. And in so doing Google could create an interconnected network of fiber communities, which will create both a much larger distributed testbed as well as a bigger marketplace to ultimately sell next-gen apps into. And on a relative scale, pursuing this goal may only cost tens of millions yet have a nationwide impact whereas it's likely going to cost hundreds of millions to wire a community with fiber that will have a limited geographic impact.

- Appreciate style, but pick applications based on substance
There's been lots of media buzz about the stunts communities have pulled to get Google's attention, but ultimately what matters most is that Google's project is successful, and the odds of success increase the more seriously prepared a community is to get wired. That's not to disparage the stunts, I think they're great. I just wouldn't let them sway me too much in deciding where to invest.

- Don't just talk to communities, talk to deployers and consultants
While Google's done a great job of building interest among communities and getting them to apply, the reality is that the application didn't allow for much room to describe innovative new models for deployment. If Google's serious about wanting to learn about different ways to do fiber then they should have a second wave of submissions where anyone can submit innovative models for fiber deployment, in particular as it relates to how the networks are funded, built, and sustained.

- In particular take time to sit down with fiber leaders
There are a handful of people across the US with real expertise doing fiber, and in particular open community fiber. I'd make a special effort to sit down with each of them to pick their brains and to hear their pitches. This could be done as a symposium where everyone gathers together for roundtable discussions followed up by one-on-one meetings to talk through specific proposals.

- Don't just pick communities, also partner with fiber leaders
I'd go so far as to suggest that I think it'd be foolish for Google to just do a little talking and then try to build the network on their own. Instead it makes more sense to identify key partners in terms of fiber leaders and find ways to work with them to bring fiber to the communities Google picks. In this way Google can have close partners to learn from and guide their decisions moving forward.

- Gather all this knowledge and make it available to communities
While I know Google's said that this is part of their plan, I'd start being more upfront about it. Create a basic website that could have a wiki where communities and deployers could start submitting content and sparking discussions. Stock it with the info Google unearths during their discussions. And turn this into an evergreen resource for communities that want to build fiber. There really isn't anything out there like this today, and Google could provide a huge service to the communities it doesn't wire just by doing this.

- Build a campaign around what fiber can enable
Their press release alone has sparked major press coverage about the value of fiber, with more than a thousand communities expressing interest. But they shouldn't let that languish. Instead google should keep up the public pressure to get communities wired. In addition to the online resource about how to build fiber, they should create one about how to use fiber, with real world stories, best practices, and more. This will help communities make the case for fiber to those who don't immediately understand the value.

- Create an online demand aggregation tool for communities
The best way to make the economics of fiber work is to get as many people joined together ready to sign up for service as possible. Given the support Google has among 1000+ communities, they should create a way for those communities to take the next step to aggregate demand in a more comprehensive fashion. This will help them make the business case for fiber even if Google doesn't pick them.

- Find ways to leverage your money
So far most indications are that the primary leverage Google's looking at for its investment is which communities can make deploying fiber the cheapest by lowering costs of things like rights of way and pole attachments and which communities are willing to commit the most resources to this project. But that leaves so many options on the table. If Google's just going to write the check, then the scope of how much fiber they'll be able to deploy will always be limited as their resources aren't infinite. But if they could find a way to leverage that investment and their strong financial position, then for the same amount of money that gets you 500,000 homes connected Google could potentially reach millions of homes. Plus, if this is done right, it can actually establish a model that's replicable and scalable to bring fiber all across America, which is the ultimate goal Google is hoping this project will be a catalyst to achieve.

- Don't limit the scope of the project
Building on this last idea, one of the core things Google has stated they want to do is to prove open fiber networks can work. Well to ultimately make open fiber work what's needed most is to have a large enough marketplace of customers for service providers to sell in to. So long as open fiber is limited to the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of potential customers, there'll never be a critical mass of innovation and interest among service providers to get onto the network, especially when it comes to getting those with legacy networks to consider joining in. But if Google can help create an interconnected network of open fiber communities that creates a marketplace that numbers in the millions, then we can have a real chance to see if the open fiber market can work and be self sustaining.

Long story short, there's unlimited potential to what Google could do with this fiber project. But I am a little concerned that despite the audacity of the plan as we know it so far, that it still won't be enough, and that we'll end up missing the opportunity to maximize the impact of the resources Google is devoting to this project.

My greatest fear is that this program's success is ultimately measured in terms of the marketing exposure Google got for attempting it.

While that marketing buzz is nothing to sneeze at, I truly believe that this is not what this project is all about to Google.

I think they want to change the world. They want to set America on a path where open fiber community networks have a chance to be a viable option for all Americans.

And that's why I hope they take heed of the suggestions I've laid out in this post. Because if they want to do more than just have a nice project with modest success wiring a couple of communities with fiber, if they want this project to be a true catalyst for shifting the trajectory of America's broadband infrastructure, then they need to think strategically about how they best use the resources at their disposal.

They can either write the check to build some communities, or they can embark on a multi-faceted campaign to truly enable the entire country to move forward into realizing its fiber-powered future. Needless to say, I hope it's the latter!

Did the FCC Lose the Comcast Case On Purpose?

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So the big news in broadband policy yesterday was that a US Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC did not have the legal authority to stop Comcast from mucking with P2P traffic on their network. In fact, the ruling went so far as to basically say the FCC has little to no authority to do anything related to regulating broadband.

In the short term what this means is that the FCC has no legal basis to pursue its net neutrality agenda to set rules to protect consumers by preventing broadband providers from doing much in the way of managing traffic on their networks.

While most media outlets are referring to this as a big blow to net neutrality proclaiming headlines like "The day the Internet lost" on Huffingtonpost.com, the conspiracy theorist in me is reading this another way. I can't help but wonder: did the FCC lose this Comcast case on purpose?

My reasoning starts with the fact that they didn't really fight that hard in public for their side of the case as it was ongoing. In fact, very little seemed to be said by the FCC at all about the case despite it being at the heart of the net neutrality issue. That's not to say that they didn't say anything, they just didn't go out of their way to make a big public stink about it.

The second thing that stands out at me is that they basically decided to punt on net neutrality rules in the national broadband plan. You'd think if they were confident they were going to win they'd start planning with that in mind. Or if they really wanted to win that they would've included more in the plan about this issue, but instead they're mostly silent.

Instead what they did was at the very end of the report referred to the issue of legal framework for implementing the recommendations they have in the plan, and how some people think Title I is good enough and others think broadband needs to be regulated as a Title II service.

As a quick broadband policy refresher, broadband was classified as a Title I service a few years back instead of Title II, which encompasses telephone service, and therefore freed broadband from the many obligations associated with being a Title II common carrier, like opening up networks to competing service providers.

Also interesting is that in the FCC's public response to this court decision, they spun it to say that the ruling was against how the past FCC Commissions tried to handle this issue, giving the impression that this decision was a cleansing of sorts, a repudiation of the old way of doing things in preparation for a new approach.

Another thought along these lines is that the FCC must've known that if it tried to take net neutrality head on that it was going to be a bloody battle. That if they started off by trying to claim the sun and the moon on behalf of net neutrality that they'd face an even steeper uphill battle.

So what I'm wondering is if they intentionally lost this case (or at least didn't try all that hard to win it) so that they could now have some legal protection showing that something more drastic needs to be done.

Because what has happened as a result of this case is that it's now completely clear that something more substantial needs to be done regarding the regulatory framework for broadband. It's not acceptable for no government agency to have authority over broadband, and ultimately if we're going to have a federal communications commission, then they should be the ones to have that authority. But this case has called into question that very authority.

So now instead of saying "we need all these net neutrality rules" while they're on unsteady legal ground, the FCC can instead say "we need to firm up our legal authority to regulate broadband" as an intermediary step to achieving net neutrality.

And if they're able to achieve that authority, either by reclassifying broadband as a Title II service or getting specific legislation passed, then they're going to be on much firmer ground legally when it comes to implementing more strenuous and enforceable net neutrality laws.

Assuming this is the case, part of me wants to commend the FCC for its political savvy, and Chairman Genachowski in particular as this is some pretty high level political maneuvering for a first year FCC Chairman.

Yet at the same time, I can't help but be more than a little chagrined that our communications policy battles have devolved to these kind of backdoor maneuvers.

Of course, I may be reading too much into this, but if I am on to something here, then what I wish could have happened instead is for the FCC in the plan to tackle the basis of this issue head on. Instead of saying, "some people think we should regulate it this way and others think we should do it that way," I would've loved to see them say something like, "the existing communication policy framework in America is outdated and needs to be completely overhauled to match the realities of 21st century technology."

Then the plan could've gone into some depth about what a proper regulatory framework looks like for 21st century communications, which in large part means broadband.

I fear that we're never going to be able to achieve a truly comprehensive national broadband plan if we're trying to shoehorn it into a communications policy framework that was first written in 1934 and has subsequently had decades of additional policies layered on top, almost all of which are seriously outdated.

Would writing a totally new communications policy framework be hard and take time? Of course. But if I've got a leaky boat, should i just keep bailing water and plugging holes, or is it time to consider building a new boat? At some point I'm spending so much energy just trying to maintain that I'm going to stop making any forward progress.

And that's where I feel like America's communications policy is. We're 10 years into the 21st century and still in a leaky boat that isn't relevant to this era we live in. Yet all that the FCC seems to be proposing is trying to bail faster and plug more holes when what we need is a new boat.

While I have questions about if the FCC will ever be able to enact effective net neutrality regulations even if they had the authority to do so, my hope is that they actually did intend to lose this case as a first step towards a much larger prize where they're going to start building that new boat.

I just wish that if this is their plan that they would've included more of it in the national broadband plan itself. Because I don't think the FCC can achieve these larger goals without Congressional support, and if your first big plan to Congress says that all we need to do is bail faster and plug more holes, then it's going to take that much longer to achieve the bigger goals our country needs to move forward.

RUS Stimulus Rules Fail Hiawatha Broadband

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I have some sad/disappointing news to report. I've learned that last week Gary Evans of Hiawatha Broadband was forced to send the following letter to the Secretary of Agriculture notifying him that his company would be unable to reapply in the second round of the broadband stimulus.

The reason Hiawatha couldn't reapply was due to an onerous rule in the BIP program through which RUS required all applicants to share the details of all their contracts with all their suppliers. The problem Hiawatha faced is that as a provider of TV service they have a number of contracts with content providers that have strict non-disclosure rules. So by asking them to reveal the details of those contracts, RUS was basically saying that to apply to the second round of the stimulus Hiawatha had to break the law and/or risk the future of their company.

Now, you'd think a rule as onerous as this would've been addressed publicly, and it was. RUS was asked directly about it during a public workshop. Their response was that others had applied with no problem so it can't be that big of a deal. Well that means they're either being ignorant or unfair.

The reason I say this is that if you're a provider who doesn't offer TV service today, then of course this rule isn't a problem for you. Also, there's a chance that some applied anyway, either because they were unaware of these restrictions or because they decided it was more important to go after free government money than to stay in the right on these contracts.

Now, I know there were some workarounds to this problem. At least one provider has their TV service set up as a subsidiary that they were then able to just share the details of the contract between two internal companies, moving the contracts with content providers one step away.

But is that really what we want the stimulus to be about? Forcing deployers to expend effort to adjust how they do business to fit RUS's arbitrary and often misguided rules? Shouldn't we instead be demanding a stimulus program that enables and empowers deployers rather than weighing them down with rules that aren't relevant to the reality of deploying broadband?

What makes this even more upsetting to me is that Hiawatha is one of the best rural broadband deployers in the country. They're a private company but 40% of their shares are owned by local non-profits. They're achieving 70% takerates in some of the communities they serve, even in competitive markets, so they must be doing something right by their customers.

And yet due to this silly rule, they could not apply lest they risked the ongoing viability of their business.

The letter Gary Evans wrote was to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and CCed a number of powerful Senators and Representatives. I hope they all take a serious look at what's contained herein as if this doesn't wake them up to the fact that something's not right with the broadband stimulus program when a deployer like Hiawatha is unable to even apply, then I don't know what will.

View Hiawatha Letter Page 1

View Hiawatha Letter Page 2

Today the FCC released an addendum to the national broadband plan that clarified their 100 Squared initiative with a clear plan of attack for how to achieve our fiber-powered future.

Acknowledging that having a 100Mbps future dominated by a cable monopoly for 75% of America was an untenable scenario, and that fiber is really the only broadband technology capable of achieving their goal of Americans being able to access 100Mbps down and 50Mbps up of actual throughput, not to mention fiber's ability to easily scale to reach higher goals down the road, the FCC has put its weight behind a multi-faceted strategy for incentivizing fiber deployment.

While details are still forthcoming, the outline of this plan to spur fiber deployment includes:

- Smart use of government resources to provide credit guarantees, tax exempt interest provisions, and tax breaks for service providers deploying fiber to lower the cost of capital and therefore the take rates needed to achieve break even
- Direct government subsidies in the form of grants and loans to the most rural of areas focused on the technology that gives all Americans equal access to the Internet
- Explicit authorization for cities to deploy their own fiber networks if private providers aren't deploying their own fiber
- Robust demand aggregation mechanisms to improve the business case for all entities to justify investing in fiber
- Protection for new entrants from anti-competitive pricing strategies by incumbents trying to protect legacy networks
- A program to coordinate fiber deployment to avoid duplicative investment and single-purpose networks
- Tax breaks for users who put up their own money to fund fiber deployment to their homes
- Special support for establishing open fiber testbeds where the model of multiple service providers competing over the same fiber infrastructure can be tested and analyzed

FCC Chairman Genachowski proudly announced that today is the day America takes a big step forward to achieving his goal of 100 million homes having access to 100Mbps by 2020. He admitted that his initial broadband plan was lacking in specific ways to encourage fiber deployment, and that this announcement is intended to rectify that mistake.

While the large private carriers are wary of this proposal given that it's a clear indictment of leaving broadband deployment to market forces alone, some have already begun to indicate support for the program as they realize this is an opportunity to get help in making a better business case to justify investing in fiber. Also other providers appear to be warming up to the idea of having someone else pay for the network upgrades that they can then utilize to serve larger service areas with faster speeds at lower prices.

Standing alongside Chairman Genachowski while he made this announcement was President Obama, who beamed with pride as his vision of America being a global broadband leader can now finally start being made a reality.

This is a proud day for America, the day that we as a nation step up to the plate and put in motion a true action plan that will secure our economic future for generations to come.

April Fool's!


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