Thursday, April 01, 2010

LUS Reveals Long-Term Plans

(Please note: this was first published on April 1st. It's also worth noting that a lot of the following is simply true and more is actually planned; what isn't true is credible IMHO...the fun is in figuring out just what the status of each claim is. Might be worth coming back next year.)

LUS has revealed its long-term plans!! Sorta. A daylight savings glitch apparently caused a timed press release to be sent early. (This sort of thing has happened before.)

After a press release dated tomorrow, Friday, showed up in PR inboxes across the city mid-morning calls to LUS and an embarrassed George Graham (from whose office the missive was mailed) confirm its authenticity. The surprise release gives an amazing amount of detail (7 loosely organized pages) about topics the local utility has always deemed "proprietary information."

Said Huval:
Yes, It's real...We just decided that since it has become extremely clear that Cox and the Independent’s FOI [Freedom of Information] requests will force us to reveal many details that would remain private were we a privately owned company like Cox or the The Independent we’ve decided to make the best of a bad situation. If we can’t keep our competitors from using and critics from revealing much of our proprietary information we’ve decided that a pre-emptive strike is our best bet. We’ll simply tell our community—our owners—everything we are hoping to do and see what their reaction is. Hopefully we’ll get good feedback that will help us make final decisions. [Pause] Besides most of this stuff is either obvious or nothing Cox or AT&T can do anything about anyway. Why not let the community know?
Huval declined to elaborate on what was meant by "extremely clear."

Said Graham:
Yes, it’s for real. No, it’s not supposed to have gone out quite yet....the attached pages haven’t been fully edited and organized...that’s pretty much the way it came over from LUS and our writers haven’t much of a chance to whip it into shape. There’ll be a better version this evening. The thing was on automatic send for tomorrow. There’s some sort of time glitch in Outlook that’s in the news this morning...our IT intern is supposed to be on it. I’m not a happy camper.
The pages are pretty much a mess.... But the substance is pretty visionary. No need for LPF's reporting to wait till the evening. If we can get even half this stuff done....well.... I’m impressed.

On to the good stuff as I see it; extracted from the PDF, organized into my categories:

Major points:
LUS is planning a set of hardware upgrades to the network
  1. The local backbone electronics are being upgraded to 10 Gbps as we speak. [This is about 2 years earlier than the first electronics upgrade anticipated the business plan.]
  2. New 1 gig-capable CPE equipment [the box on the side of your house] has been ordered and installs done after May 1st will use it; early adopters with 100 meg equipment will be upgraded “according to demand.”
  3. The 100 meg intranet is being upgraded to 1 gig [LUS has always talked, awkwardly, about the intranet as a “full available capacity” feature and this upgrade is consistent with that stance since the CPE was the choke point before...but: wow.]
  4. A 100 meg symmetrical internet connection will be available for retail customers. (100 megs is currently only available in a “business” package though a household is allowed to buy that package if it wishes. Presumably the retail version will be cheaper.)
LUS is upgrading their set top boxes, software and hardware
  1. The software upgrade comes first and is due March 15th.
  2. The plan is to install new MS Media Room software “beginning” on that date. (no hint on whether you’ll have to bring your box in or if an over the network upgrade is possible. Either way expect an uncomfortable transition moment.)
  3. A set top hardware upgrade is planned for August. Upgrades will be available to current “upper tier users on demand.” (Why switch boxes? no hint...)
A WiFi network will extend the fiber. This has long been in the plan, both Terry Huval and Joey Durel have stated their intent in public forums but no concrete plan has emerged before today.
  1. The network will consist of both public and private “channels.” (Presumeably the “private” channels will serve safety functions — there’s been a lot of discussion of GPS costs on the council recently and this would be a very cheap way to address location issues inside Lafayette.)
  2. The public side will exclusively use 802.11N and will be offered on a “best effort” basis
  3. 1 meg of symmetrical wireless service will be offered to everyone on a “guest” basis.
  4. Subscribers to internet service get free “best effort” service. (WiFi N is rated as high as 600 Mbit/s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11n-2009#Data_rates) but I doubt we’ll see such speed—but 50 or a 100 wouldn’t be impossible considering LUS’ rejection of the bandwidth-sapping mesh architectures that hobble most muni networks.)
  5. Probably associated with the wireless issue: "The CPE [Customer Premise Equipment] will equipped with a wireless repeater node." (I'm not sure I fully understand that but I’m pretty sure I like it.)
  6. Cellular interoperability for “select” WiFi phones from “a major carrier.” (?)
Digital Divide/ Digital Inclusion, the one sheet devoted to this and is in a different format for what that is worth. Digtial divide and digital inclusion are used interchangeably, possibly this is the beginning of the Graham Groups rewrite...digital inclusion is the newer term.
  1. There will be a comprehensive DD/DI program whether or not the current application for a stimulus grant is won. That is, support for community computer centers is planned for a “slower rollout” if the grant bid fails.
  2. The WiFi node in the new CPE is cited as part of this.
  3. The new set top box is also mentioned in this regard. Apparently it has on-box memory that is regarded as necessary to use this box as a “fully functional” web browser. (The current WAP-based browser in the set top box, while innovative, is simply not practically useable.)
  4. The free 1 meg of wifi to all is mentioned again on this page.
  5. Discussion of supporting “NAD’s” seems to refer mainly to smartphones and perhaps to the new iPad and recent netbooks. (Network Attached Devices is an odd generic term to use and may refer to a recent LWV study and other local mention.)
Things I don’t understand....
Well, there’s actually plenty I’m not sure I understand; the doc could use a lot of clean-up. I’ve tried to stick to reporting stuff that made sense to me. The upcoming release of a cleaned-up version should help a lot.
  1. There’s stuff in there about a media server and AOC that are opaque to me... also stuff about VLANs and remote access to the same. (I need to do some research to get into this.) AOC is also mentioned in reference to support for its “new location” (?) and server space in the front-end for “multi-format web-based VOD.” (again ?)
  2. There’s stuff about cloud computing, standardizing access protocols, and “supporting” a unified data access categories “scheme” that probably means something to some readers but doesn’t to me. (help?)
  3. Interoperability & “widgets:” A lot of emphasis throughout the doc is placed on interoperability and widget-based interfaces. APIs are mentioned that would support incoming phone calls on the TV, Caller ID, remote login to video recording features, etc. The Media Room product supports some light programming so apparently the idea is to allow local 3rd party developers access to some (but not all) of the hooks.
Ok folks, that’s a lot to digest. A dream-list. I presume they’re not wedded to it all and Huval explicitly asked for input from the community. What do you really want LUS to get behind?

6 comments:

Nick Istre said...

Sigh... second time for me today. I should learn to pay attention... :)

John said...

Nick, you've no idea how pleased I am to have succeeded for even a moment! :-) Thanks!

But there's a serious point to the humor. These are things that have been promised or that I known are being discussed or that I know locals are asking for. What from the menu of possibilities do folks most want?

What was _such_ a good idea, what was so attractive and "obvious" that it pulled you in?

For my pat I'd like to see it all.

Others?

Anonymous said...

you guys are either unbelievably naive or just living on the planet of denial. Did you not watch the launch of the apple ipad today? do you not see the implications of cell wireless. What you have done is dig a huge finacial hole and brought all of Lafayette with you.

John said...

Anono,

The tired "wireless is the future" bit of misdirection won't work here.

Maybe you noticed? The iPhone doesn't work so well in lots of places. And some analysts are panicked about what the iPad will do to an already staggering network. The problem: not enough fiber. So AT&T is struggling to try and drive fiber as deep as it can afford to pay for. The iPad does nothing but validate the judgment of Lafayette.

We'll be getting our WiFi network..that part is not an April Fools day joke—both Durel and Huval have said so repeatedly in public.

It will be a real WiFi network powered off fiber driven down every block. Not some struggling mesh contraption in hock to big providers like too many muni wireless networks.

The first time we got anything like the wireless speeds advertised on the side of my first apple airport router (11 Mbps per second) was when I got my 50/50 LUS fiber. And now my wife and I can both surf at much higher speeds.

If you want wireless you're smart to go fiber first. (AT&T wishes it had. Verizon is doing it now.)

Why you should want fiber first.

Anonymous said...

@Anon
yeah the ipad launch showed that att crap network is going to become even more strained.

Speed said...

Wow...I am still blown away by people who think wireless is going to kill this project.
All I keep hearing about the cell industry is that they are cramming data plans down everyone's throat, yet they complain that they are running out of network, leading to low data caps, or charging the heavy users more to deter them from using it. Then a lot of them are blocking video-streaming technology, like Slinbox. And that's going to destroy a land-based fiber network? Get real.
I would never disconnect by home internet in favor of wireless. It's not as reliable and not as fast. I'm not going to have my Netflix instant streaming or online gaming give me trouble using cellular wireless.