Monday, March 30, 2009

Watch the F2C Conference Live! (Updated)

A quick note from the F2C conference. You can watch the live stream—and it looks very good. The conference this year is highly recommended: the speakers are amazing ranging from Pulitzer Prize winning authors to absolutely top notch fiber partisans to the guys who actually build the networks. Some, like Lafayette's own Terry Huval qualify on multiple grounds.

Tim Nulty, the force behind Vermont's fiber to the home projects (yes projects, plural) is on as I type this now, next on the same panel is the guy who put together Amsterdam's ground-breaking system. And that is only the first panel. Watch!

The link: rtsp://odo.warpspeed.com/f2c09.sdp

A link to the agenda/schedule might help...

And, should you want to follow the chatter, there is also a chat stream that comments the talks: https://f2c09.campfirenow.com/room/210948

Update: 3/31/09 — I'm not sure who else is blogging this conference but the Broadband Census guy just down the isle is doing a pretty good job. Coverage of Tom Friedman's keynote is provided by CNet. (I'm hoping that the streaming video is being archived somewhere and I'll be able to post an update with that link...)

Friday, March 27, 2009

F2C: Freedom to Connect

Well, I'm about to take off for the Freedom to Connect conference in Washington DC. That'll explain any upcoming odd missives posted from D.C. :-)

The agenda is great—and the conversations in the lobby even better. (Organizer David Isenberg-—yes, that Isenberg—explains the theme of this year's conference quite nicely.) If you have an interest in the internet and public policy and ever get a chance to go you really ought show up. I hope to visit with good people, a few of which occasionally read this blog, and soak up a some bright approaches to my most recent interest: Lafayette Commons.

(Oh yeah: Lafayette will be well represented...Terry Huval will present on our Fiber to the Home project. David has been a stauch supporter.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gaming...What's next

These guys need Lafayette....and Lafayette needs these guys.

Lafayette has been chasing the star of the movie industry. Maybe it would be a better fit for the city to go after the new rising star of the entertainment industry: video games. And Lafayette would certainly be the place for a new streaming-on-demand version of video games to test their chops.

Games are big business these days with the game industry surpassing the movie industry for the first time last year and posting a 40% increase in size while doing so.

Cnet carries an interesting story on the latest "platform" to challenge the console gaming platform troika of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo (with 'puters making a fouth leg): OnLive. Admitedly, OnLive is only a startup but it is hard to argue with their basic concept: move the gaming industry online.

That is basically the same idea that has undermined the CD-based version of the music industry, is destroying the phone company, is arguably killing newspapers, and has radically restructured the retail industry in just about every business category from booksellers to auctions.

OnLive's version of the idea is to stream games. If their idea wins out—and why shouldn't it?—there'll be no fancy console or monster PC, no physical game cartridge/CD/DVD at all. Just stream the gameplay down to your computer's screen. All the fancy processing and video magic takes place on the server. Along the way, one presumes, the console goes the way of the dodo and the CD.

Now the problem, arguably, is that this model seems to be before it's time. It needs a lot of bandwidth to run a quality experience. And most people in most places simply don't have the bandwidth. LiveOn contends that they've got compression tactics that will allow them to run HD games over 5 megs. Maybe. But it seems a stretch. And latency is a BIG issue for gamers and is something that no amount of server-end trickery will alleviate—pulling the trigger in a first person shooter needs to be followed by an immediate spray of bullets for the game to work. Locating on a server on the other side of the contenient will be dicey on latency regardless of whether or not they can really compress their video stream into 5 megs.

Reading between the lines I am under the impression that a big part of their current business model is to give game sellers a place to market their wares that give game users a "taste" before buying. If streaming a game gives you a good idea of how it will play then OnLive's streaming games could substitute for offering crippled or time-limited versions that run the danger of being opened up by software crackers and widely distributed. For game developers and marketers a slightly "glitchy" streaming might be feature of the system rather than a bug. They'd probably rather you'd buy....and if the streaming actually works well enough in some cases to substitute for phyical ownership then they still get a nice revenue stream and an easy way to upgrade or extend their games to keep that revenue stream from established games going. You can see why game developers might be really entranced with the model.

But OnLive clearly has bigger ambitions; it is in their interest to have steaming games actually work well for all types of games. That way they get to stand in the middle of all that money streaming between the user and developer. But, fact is, streaming is not likely to be satisfactory for a lot of the fast action, quick reaction games that people play on consoles. Most networks just won't support it.

But here's the kicker (you saw it coming): the LUS system in Lafayette will fully support streaming games: If OnLive locates a server on-network they'll have an open 100 meg pipe to every user in the city inside the LUS "campus." No fancy compression algorithms that pixelate on fast motion, no latency to make reaction times feel sluggish. Very, very few places in the world offer that sort of connectivity and locating a server on LUS fiber will give OnLive a place to showcase the very best of what they can offer, running as it should on a thoroughly modern, fiber fast, low latency network.

Of course, Lafayette benefits too. The community needs a way to showcase that network and point to the sorts of applications and uses that will make full use of what we have built.

These guys need Lafayette....and Lafayette needs these guys.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's All Good....

FOF (Friend of Fiber ;-) ) Brent Faul dropped me a note this morning, saying:
Hi John,

I've been reading your blog since you put it up during the ramp up to the fiber vote. It's been great and I've appreciated your work mightily. I know that you've been connected for a couple of weeks now and I've only seen one brief single sentence comment about your experience with the service. It's so uncharacteristic of you not to comment on it in detail that I find the silence kind of deafening, if you know what I mean. Should I be worried? Is there a fly in the ointment?

I couldn't help but ask!

Thanks, Brent Faul
It's a damn good question...and makes me realize that a number of other people have asked the same indirectly. Paint me chagrined.

Short answer: The service is GREAT.

Long story short: Everything works as I expected/hoped. Nothing to comment on there. The phone has few extra fun frills over the bare bones AT&T line I had. No more weird fax noises and rings that signal nothing but a dead line. The TV service has all the stuff I ever watch and is absolutely crystal clear. The internet, which is the biggest change by far, is blazingly fast and is shifting the way that my wife and I spend our time. More time on the laptops, we watch more video online, and we are looking more web-based streaming video on the TV screen now that we get a smooth uninterrupted play. In short: it realized my every expectation. No big deal. :-) I will sometime soon get around to doing a more fun, tiresomely exhaustive set of reviews of the various services as they currently exist...now that I have been appropriately prodded.

But that sorta begs the question of why I didn't dive right in...Well for one thing, I do tend to want to do a thorough take once...and I am still setting up the system to my tastes, rewiring my house and generally keeping things so in flux up that I don't have a stable experience on which to comment. But also, as I told FOF Brent:
1) I was never all that interested in the services. Still am not. The internet side is awful cool and the speeds are very, very nice... but the TV, online stuff, and phone just work. That's nifty. They work great. But they are not exciting (to me :-) ) —Most of what I want to explore that is personally exciting is how I can use things differently because the internet speed lets me do things differently. And it does! Very gratifying. But I am still trying to figure out just exactly how. (I can report that we watch fewer TV shows and surf more...but am discovering that some stuff that I formerly considered internet stuff is now watched on the big screen.)

2) What always interested me most was the way that having community-owned fiber could enhance our community as well as our individual lives. To that end I am distracted from posting on the fiber services by trying to work on a concept we're calling Lafayette Commons — to provide a higher base-level of tools and capacities to folks here in Lafayette. We're starting with a nonprofit Education Edition of Google apps that allows us complete access to the API's, a very localizable widget-based landing page, and the complete suite of Google productivity tools (email, storage, word processing, site construction, spreadsheet, etc. with very nice collaborative functions like intercommunication and version tracking). This can be distributed free to basically an unlimited number of users. To Lafayette.

Lafayette Commons is in what I'm calling "in Delta" in sly reference to the software "in Beta" concept --the tools are pretty much there which distinguishes it from the usual unfinished beta release, but what is not clear is the "delta," the "change" we want to effect. We need a nice big stable of visionaries and practical-minded "project wranglers" to create and localize appropriate tools and interface. This is such a tangle that it is very distracting. (In, admittedly, a fun way.)

Interested?

Anyhow, Yes I should really do a series of posts on the services available and hopefully soon...but I am going to a conference in DC (Freedom To Connect, F2C) late this/early next week that I hope will refresh me in helpful ways so I doubt that it will all get done this week.

Thanks for the prod, John
And thanks, folks out there, for your patience...and to any intrigued by Lafayette Commons...please get in touch we need lots of people doing lots of different things.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"LUS FIBER: Company working to expand network's reach"

This morning's Advertiser ran a short story on LUS Fiber derived from the presentation given last night at the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation meeting. In a change from the usual Huval-led LUS presentation Amy Broussard from LUS sales and marketing made the presentation.

As one might expect given the venue the presentation focused on economic development with LUS reporting in on buisiness costs and new economic development opportunities. Probably the headliner for the evening was the announcement of the pricing structure for LUS Fiber's internet business offerings:
Those are $64.95 per month for 10 megabits per second; $119.95 per month for 50 megabits per second and $199.95 per month for 100 megabits per second. The speeds refer to both uploading and downloading.
Those are good prices for businesses. Note that business users were given the opportunity to pay for 100 meg connections (not on the price list for residential customers). I attended the IEEE VR event alluded to in the text of the story—where a questioner from the floor asked if residents could buy the 100 meg package if they wanted to. Nonplussed, Terry allowed that if they wanted to give LUS their money, yes he'd sell them that. (The general reaction was laughter but the questioner clearly was pleased. I'd be fascinated to know what he has in mind.)

It was surely at that IEEE Virtual Reality event that Huval found interest among gamers:
LUS Director Terry Huval recently spoke to a meeting of several international engineers, and several in the international gaming industry asked Huval about how they might be able to apply LUS' system.

"They are interested in what LUS Fiber has to offer to their businesses," she said.

What LUS has to offer the gaming industry is unbelieveable speeds, low latency and a whole population that has affordeable access to the fastest speeds available in this country for the lowest prices around. A large, diverse, population on a next-generation network is the PERFECT testing ground for next-generation games. It's "an in the wild" realistic place to test. The alternative is lab testing with controlled populations or relying on the upper-crust population that can afford Verizon's top speeds. I assume that game developers know that that population is not the one that they will be selling to eventually. I'm not at all surprised that once the advanced gamer group that attended the international meeting of the the IEEE VR grop saw what was available that they swarmed Terry with questions. Not at all surprised. (Here's an idea: LUS should sponsor gaming tournements leagues in the city and be prepared to support international gaming competitions when, inevitably, everyone wants to come here to play.)

The IEEE Virtual Reality Conference was quite a "catch" for Lafayette and the LITE center where much advanced VR work is done. This is a feather in the cap of Carolina Cruz-Neira who worked hard to bring the international gathering to a small city without a major airport. Having participated in esoteric academic conferences myself I can imagine the resistance. It is a testament to her energy and the existence of LUS Fiber and LITE in the same small city that the conference choose to come here. The effort may well pay off handsomely if any of these contacts decide to bring the gaming industry (now larger than the movie industry) to Lafayette.

During the meeting Steve Creeden (the article mispells this "Creeton") hinted that LUS was not adverse to bringing fiber to areas outside the city. Huval at IEEE was also fairly direct about expansion when asked. Yes, the focus for now is on getting the network up in the city—but nobody is being coy about the eventual prospects for expansion. And that, in and of itself, represents a healthy maturation. The question is clearly on the table. Folks in the outlying districts should start getting their arguments together and start looking at those stimulus funds....there's a once-in-lifetime opportunity available to only a very few communities in the US staring you in the face.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Huval to Speak to IEEE VR Group

LUS Fiber is going to be promoted tomorrow in an international venue tomorrow....Right off Pinhook. ;-)

The IEEE Virtual Reality conference is being held in Lafayette this year—a big win for Lafayette's international reputation in that rarified space. LITE and the people there are surely much of what brought them here...but LUS Fiber is also a selling point used to demonstrate that our city is a tech venue even if it isn't off a major international airport.

Terry Huval will be presenting on LUS Fiber to this group--and interested local tech types--at Tech South's reception tomorrow evening. It's open to the public and if you haven't heard about it through one of the myriad lists that has publicized it you're invited too...bop on over to the Eventbrite page and register. I, for one am curious as to what Terry has to say to this crowd. My guess is that it won't be the same talk I heard at the League of Women Voters. ;-)

And, by the way, I'm going to give a five minute bit on Lafayette Commons...asking for help in both the vision and the tech implementation departments in order to make a nice set of tools freely available to the community. And provide a commercial-free platform for further development.

Might just be worth showing up for...

Get Your Fiber...in Rent House

According to friend of LPF Nick Istre (who incidentally has his own nifty blog, The Asian Cajun) LUS fiber now is providing service to folks in rental houses. Nick tweeted his complaints about a bad day with Cox's service that was driving him mad and decided to do something more than complain. So he just called LUS and asked....
...issues with Cox's connection had driven me to just cold call LUS to see if it was available for me yet. I mean, the worst they could do is say no, right?

Ends up, it is *yes*, at least after they got a Landlord permission form put together as I am in a rental house from my dad. So it's a matter of printing out the form, have him and I fill it out, and send it back to LUS, and on Monday, I'll be scheduling a time when the tech can come out.

The sales associate handling the call was wonderful, as I had originally called in on Tuesday. She informed me then that they were working on a landlord permission form for renters as LUS will have to install equipment on the property, but she called me almost every day to tell me that they were still working on it until it was ready today. I could grumble about it taking a while to type up a form, but I figure that they have to run it through legal channels first...

50 Mbps, here I come!
My guess is that he is not grumbling much!

WBS: "VidChat: LUSFiber is Live!"

What's Being Said Dept.

Geoff Daily of App-Rising posts a video chat with Terry Huval, LUS Fiber head celebrating the launch of LUS Fiber. Terry brags on the speed, the reliability, and the 100 meg intranet. Geoff notes that the speed he can get in the nation's capital with the dome visible from his window is less than the slowest speed that LUS sells.

Impressive. Fun.



Monday, March 09, 2009

Billboards...

I went down to New Orleans last weekend and passed by this in-your-face Eatel "FiberEdge" billboard in Ascension Parish south of Baton Rouge on I-10. "Ascension loves it. Cox hates it." Whoa! Definitely playing on both localism and the generalized hostility toward the national cable provider. There's a billboard war going on up and down the interstate between Eatel and Cox—with Eatel definitely the brasher of the two. (This a tradition...remember Eatel's ads in the Lafayette papers?) So far we've not seen much in the way of LUS advertising here. But I'm hoping for something equally spirited.


Of course Cox is already in the field with its advertising and has been since shortly after the last lawsuit failed and the bonds were sold. We've even seen a few that seem localized in that they refer to fiber--but probably draw off what Cox is learning it needs to do in the Northeast where it faces Verizion's network which actually is fiber (all the way, all the way, all the way to the home) This bit of deliberately misleading advertising is found on Evangeline Thruway not far from my house and is particularly irksome. Cox is trying to lay claim to the very "fiber" that they so vigorously opposed our actually getting. Sure Cox—and AT&T and every other provider in the nation—uses fiber in the backbone where it provides unrivaled speed, lower maintenance, and huge capacity. Those are precisely the qualities that we're now going to get all the way to our homes with LUS Fiber. There's nothing particularly unusual, much less "advanced" about backbone fiber. Fiber To The Home, on the other hand is actually advanced and is something Cox is still insisiting we don't need. FUD advertising aside.

I'm looking for that LUS message that would look good on a billboard I've picked out about a mile down Evangeline: "Providing Lafayette with real fiber—At Last"

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A European Fibre Optic Perspective: Fun

Nifty: a "fibre optics" ad from Dutch cable provider KPN

(Yes, I know it is in English, still...I can only say that the Dutch are a literate people. And yes, it is from their phone company. I can only say that the Dutch are a literate people.)



[3/12/09--I misidentified Dutch phone company KPN as the Dutch cable company in my initial post. Relying on my faulty memory...paint me chagrined.]

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

LUS Fiber Inside Installation

Here's another Flicker set "illustrated story," this time of the final, interior install. And yes, I love it. Fast. Clean picture. And a phone that sounds just like a "real" phone used to sound.

But on to the install: This, like the first visit, took about 2 hours. For a triple play install that's likely to be on the quick side. My install was straightforward and the locations easily accessible. The inside work is likely to be of a more variable length than either the sign-up call or the outside install. A lot will depend on how your house is built, where you want to pull service and how many services you've bought. Those are all small factors in the outside work but major ones once you start coming inside.

If you're getting the full package (and I recommend it) the task is pretty convoluted. They'll need to get power from an inside plug to power up the Alcatel fiber box in order to get much more done. That involves a special bit of wiring to go from an interior plug to largish power brick out to the battery power pack that feeds the fiber box. Cable needs to be run to your entertainment location or locations and a standard phone cable exits the outside setup bound for the old demarcation point between AT&T's wiring and your house. You'll usually patch your new LUS services into the already established coax and phone wiring system of your home. But you'll need to decide where you want the new internet service to go. Give this a bit of thought: right now likely have it coming in where someone, years ago, decided was close to the TV or the house phone. If you have a wireless router (or want one) you'll want to choose a location that is central to the places where you use your laptop. If you've got a real home office with several devices that sit on an ethernet system (desktops, net storage, printers and on..) you might want to consider a closet into which you could drop a switch or router without leaving a wiring mess exposed to spousal disapproval or the ministrations of pets and small children.

A slidehow "illustrated story" of the installation is embedded below. I tinkered with several formats and am not sure which would be easier for most folks...so here are two more links; frankly, I'd probably prefer these to the slicker slideshow but that's me. Best, IMHO: the familiar standard page with a largish readable image and text easily accessible below. If you want to just peek at the photos and decide if it looks intresting: There's a "detail" page with good text that lets you decide which, if any, picture you'd like to investigate. And finally there's the slick slideshow with big, screen-filling pics and floating text with a transulucent background. You can get to all glitz by starting the show, mousing to the bottom left to popup the controls and pausing the show, then click on the expand button that appears at lower right hand corner, go to the upper right and turn on "show info" to get the narration. Then you click through the nice big images and read the story..a lot of work...and all this is way too much to read....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"First phase of LUS Fiber runs smoothly"

This Sunday The Advertiser runs a fairly substance-free story on LUS fiber at the top of the front page: "First phase of LUS Fiber runs smoothly." The basic point, of course, is that the service is up and running and that Huval says that it is gathering the expected number of subscribers..but that's where the story reveals its lack of solid information. That's not entirely the fault of the reporter: she spends paragraphs 2 through 4 reporting that LUS, Cox, and AT&T won't say what their subscription figures look like. In LUS' case this will eventually be pretty easy to discern simply from the public records of the budget—or so I would think. So it's not clear what long-term benefit accrues from copying the incumbents on this. Though I do know that the infamous (un)fair competition act includes some provision for LUS shielding proprietary data I doubt that the practical politics involved will allow anything like the obfuscation the incumbents have engaged in. The wind is changing at the national level and, it looks like the federal context is changing in ways that may preclude keeping all this secret even for the incumbents.

The not-news aside there is an intriguing picture and one bit of news. The intriging picture shows Huval comparing LUS Fiber with Cox. I'd have loved to hear those claims—Huval is pretty notoriously conservative about the claims he makes and it'd be fun to know what he feels certain enough to remark on. Alas, there's no clue in the story itself. The bit of news is that work has begun on the buildout for section 2; my guess there is that crews specializing in laying down trunk fiber are simply being moved on to the next pieces of the project as section one's trunks are are completed. (Anybody in section 2 seeing digging or lines being hung in their area?)

It's great to see everything moving along.