Sunday, April 30, 2006

"A Broadband Utopia"

Now surely most Lafayette folks will be going down to festival this afternoon, leaving little time for reflection. But the IEEE Spectrum has a very interesting story on the UTOPIA project in Utah that will repay a little quiet time--the Utopia project presents interesting similarities and contrasts to Lafayette's fiber-optic plans.

The IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) is a the premier organization of engineering and computer specialists. The IEEE is best known to the public for its standards-settings functions; WiFi is defined, for instance, more formally as IEEE standards 802.11x. So the regional fiber-optic broadband network in Utah is naturally of interest to its membership. Additionally, as we've reported, the IEEE has endorsed really big broadband made available to all and recognizes the it's unlikely that the incumbents will provide what's neaded. The whitepaper endorses public and particularly municipal alternatives. They do so with an engineer's notably no-nonsense matter-of-factness that is particuarly refreshing.

So it's no surprise that this body would be interested in the Utopia porject. The tale is longish but richly enough told that readers with different interests can find parts that are particularly useful. I, for instance, was impressed by the story of how the intial dissatifaction in Provo helped touch off a large-scale regional coalition and the technical details of the network's design.

But there's something for everyone: legislative and regional politics, a vision of what big broadband apps might look like, incumbent perfidy, economic models, and the potential for the regional network to expand outside the state. In particular, there's a contrast with Verizon's Fios and the Utopia network which details the practical outcomes of building different kinds of fiber-optic networks. (Surprised to hear that not all fiber-optic networks are created equal? Read this story.)

Worth looking at; a smart story that covers the bases.


Anonymous said...

The Utopia economic model and plan is nothing like the Lafayette plan, except for the fact that they both use fiber to the home. Utopia is a non profit open network system, which encourages comepetion and offers multible provider choices. Lafayette Fiber to the home is a for profits closed system which offer only 1 choice of providers. The two business models could not be further apart.

John said...


Even for a confirmed anti-Lafayette partisan it's pretty astonishing to think that they're not other similarities, to wit: that they are municipally owned and operated, that they compete with privately owned networks, and that local's economic plan is constrained by the state --Legal constraints, resisted by the communities lead to the open system model; the original UTOPIA deal was an exclusive dea with AT&T for a single provider--that was tossed by the courts. UTOPIAs communities were forced down its current path by the incumbents acting largely through the state legislature and secondarily through the courts using state laws they sponsored. (Another point where there are similarities between the two setups.)

I'm happy to grant that the points of contrast are many...and that is precisely why I think it's worth looking at.

Since Lafayette voted in Fiber based on the current economic model that is settled for now. I think it most profitable for Lafayette to take a look at some of the more technical points covered in the IEEE article...those are unsettled points that could have large effects on how the Lafayette system develops. I'm pretty pragmatic and prefer to work on issues where a difference can be made.