Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kansas City Kansas Gets Google's Gig Network

50, 000 to 500, 000Google announced that Kansas City (in Kansas) will be the location of its fiber-optic gig network. Congratulations to the people of Kansas City!

Googgle will build a 1 gigabit network in Kansas City that will be available to every person and institution in town. A gigabit is 1000 megabits—in a nation where the most common speeds are something between 1 and 10 megabits that is a quantitative change that promises to make a qualitative difference. Google will also provide the weight of its own resources and especially its research arm to support the effort.

Google has been straightforward about the purposes of the network. It believes that modern ultra-high speed internet has been lagging in the United States and that it should be possible to build new fiber networks that are both faster and cheaper than the old copper networks of the incumbent providers. It also hopes to show such networks can be run successfully as open networks; that is, as networks that allow anyone to offer services over the fiber. But Google was unable to name any companies that had committed to use its network. That will have to happen fast as they've promised to launch the network in 2012. Getting any of the incumbent phone and cable networks to offer service over superior but locally-owned fiber has been a major stumbling block for other community-based networks that hoped to make a go of the open network model.

 The question, especially for the 1,100 other cities and towns whose applications were not as successful as Kansas City's, will be "Why them?" We're unlikely to get a clear answer but one thing that Google prides itself on itself on is its adherence to "data-based" decision making. (Example) So I tried to see Kansas City through that lense. The first thing that leaps out is that KCK (Kansas City, Kansas) is in the middle...in a lot of senses. It's about midway on a line between the geographic center of the lower 48 states and the population center of the country. It's also about the right size—about 150,000 people— between the  50, 000 to 500, 000 that to which they'd originally committed. And if you take a peek at KCK on wikipedia you'll find that the demographics are pretty middling too...a sizable minority population and a high-middle income level. So its a nice middle-american kind of city from which to get their implementation data. If it works in Kansas City.

Well at least now Lafayette will have someone to envy the way that others envy us—Google's KCK network will be faster than ours by the same sort of factor that ours is faster than the rest of the country's. Until we fix that. There's also comfort in the fact that one of our own will be leading the technical effort for Google. The real upside, for us and the country is that another community-based network will be lit up and in position to light the way.

Welcome aboard Kansas City.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

LUS Fiber as Background...

Lafayette's community-owned fiber network is well on its way to becoming a background factor in the city's self-image. At one point most public mention of LUS Fiber was a—contentious—foreground issue. The story was about the fiber network. That's changed. And that's good.

These days stories tend to mention LUS Fiber as an assumed "good thing" and are focused on the immediate foreground issue. The next step is for our massive connectivity to be simply assumed without mention—after all nobody talks about the water utility when discussing gardening. We've not quite reached that point. For now at least we are still aware that we've got something special.

A couple of recent experiences reflect that new state: In a bragging speech, our "state of the city-parish address," LUS Fiber rates a nice mention—but only a mention. On a website touting a new "traditional urban village" development one of the advantages of the new subdivision is Lafayette's fiber to the home network. In a blog post focusing on education and technology at a Catholic high school making use of the 100 meg intranet is merely one of several bullet points on the to-do list.

It is a sign of maturity I suppose. LUS Fiber is now part of the community.

That's what was supposed to happen.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

How Things Work: AT&T and the Jindals

It's not like we really need to have the New York Times tell us about Louisiana politics.

It really is not all that complicated:
Louisiana’s biggest corporate players, many with long agendas before the state government, are restricted in making campaign contributions to Gov. Bobby Jindal. But they can give whatever they like to the foundation set up by his wife months after he took office.

AT&T, which needed Mr. Jindal, a Republican, to sign off on legislation allowing the company to sell cable television services without having to negotiate with individual parishes, has pledged at least $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children.
Supra Jindal's foundation has attracted a surprisingly fervent following among those corporations that are regulated by the state but are unhappy that they can only give 5000 dollars as corporations to support their governor. Chief among them is AT&T who, as the story notes, was thrilled to get Jindal to sign off on the so-called "Consumer Choice for Television Act."

That law was touted by AT&T who wanted the state to take control of the local rights of way away from the communities that own and maintain them and move that control to the state which basically promised to provide no oversight. The whole campaign to pass this law  was pretty sordid and resulted in outrage from and lawsuits by Louisiana municipalities—You can check out Lafayette Pro Fiber's ongoing coverage at the keyword label "state video franchise." Start at the bottom of that long page.

Nobody in Louisiana is fooled by such "generous donations" but the New York Times, after noting that Jindal's top fund raiser is listed as the treasurer for Supra's foundation—just in case a generous donor wanted to be sure that the "right" people knew about their donation— closed the story with the following paragraph:
“Foundations tied to politicians see their donations dry up when the politician is no longer in power,” Ms. Sloan said. “That demonstrates the real reason the charities get the donations is their political position, not because of the good works they do.”
While the focus in these pages is on local telecom issues and policy Lafayette readers will want to link into the story. The list of oil companies and a local ambulance firm are also of interest.
.