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Council considers developing broadband plan

Original post made on Jun 15, 2007

Monday marks another decision point for the Palo Alto City Council in its quest to link the city's residences and small businesses with state-of-the-art, two-way broadband cable, an effort that could also allow it to reclaim the lead as a municipal technopower.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (57)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Comrade
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2007 at 11:55 am

What a fantastic idea! I think the city should also look into opening its own grocery stores and hair salons. Free markets are obviously not providing Palo Alto citizens with good choices for products and services--it is time for the City Council to come up with a better model. I only hope they look to the DMV for a shining example of the kind of quality we've learned to expect from state services.

And only $100,000 for the requisite study for this "groundbreaking venture"! I was beginning to worry about the paucity of expensive feasibility studies and consulting contracts awarded by the City Council, since it is clear that no progress on any issue can be made without them.

I fervently await the day when I can listen to music on my City of Palo Alto MP3 player while printing Town Square stories on my City of Palo Alto inkjet printer. Onward, comrades!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2007 at 12:27 pm

um, broadband is a utility, and municipalities (including PA) have been involved with distribution of utilities since, well, forever.

That said, PA has been talking about doing this for years and years. I wouldnt hold your breath.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Comrade
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2007 at 12:57 pm

What makes broadband a "utility" that should be provided by the municipality? It can't be just because it's a service that most people need, since many services fit that description (food, shelter, etc). And if a utility is a service for which free market competition is impractical due to the need for a single distribution system that cannot be shared by competing suppliers, then again broadband doesn't fit the definition--I can get broadband via telephone, cable, cellular, fixed wireless, satellite, and in the future, several other means (power line, mesh wifi, etc).

In general, the choice to provide a service via a public utility should be a last resort, used only when a free market cannot do the job well. With broadband, that is clearly not the case.

If the City of Palo Alto creates its own broadband service, the most likely outcome is that commercial offerings will be far superior in price and service, and we will have wasted money and time creating a second class public alternative.


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Ironic that many of the delivery methods you mention for broadband are either municipally managed utilities or private companies that are essentially de-facto utilities.

DOnt know if this will meet the dictionary definition of utility, but generally speaking municipalities get involved when delivery involves major use of public ROW. Cable, telephone (a few of your broadband sources) could not exist without municipal intervention. Simplistic libertarian coffee-shop arguements rarely square with the real world.

(I do agree with your last statement, however)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Comrade is wrong, as usual. Municipal broadband service providers have proven both more economical and to offer higher levels of service in hundreds of cities nationwide. The commercial operators like AT&T and Comcast have been so slow and ineffective in providing quality broadband service that the US has dropped from 4th to 19th worldwide in broadband capability.

As for quality of services, Palo Alto utilities provide both lower cost and higher levels of service than any of the private utilities, so why expect city broadband service will be any less sucessful. After all, local govenrments and local service providers don't have to gouge the customers so they can pay multimillion $$ bonuses to the executives - as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon do.

We are long overdue for quality broadband sservice. Not having it hurts the area competitively. After 8 years of promises from Comcast and AT&T our broadband service levels are worse than they were in 1999. The city should move ahead - now - with a city-owned broadband service.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 15, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Seems to me that municipally owned utilities are not ones that require heavy investment in technologies, such as broadband, that are in rapid flux. If I recall correctly, the city is looking to find a company to install the fiber and in about 30 years turn it over to the city. I would imagine that in 30 years, if the system hadn't been constantly upgraded by someone, it would be near worthless.


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Posted by Comrade
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Frank, you have got the facts and theory precisely wrong.

First of all, it is well documented that municipal broadband systems have been a disaster in most placed they have been tried. See for example:

Web Link

This page quotes a recent study of municipal broadband projects, and notes that "... they have soaked up $840 million in local taxpayer money over the past 20 years, while failing to gain the traction of positive cash flow amid greater and greater debt" and ".. the latest round-up of municipal broadband financial performance, confirming again what past studies have shown: municipal broadband systems invariably costs more and deliver less than promised. They heavily on loans and transfers from established municipal utilities such as electricity and water. Even with the power of the public purse, 77 percent of the time, muni networks can't pay their way, the report states."

As to prices and quality of service: I subscribe to PacBell DSL, and in the last 5 years, my monthly rate has gone down 50%, while my download speed has quadrupled. Are you seeing similar improvements from your Palo Alto Utilities service?

Finally, it is quite amusing that Yoriko Kishimoto thinks that it a municipal broadband network would finally allow "... counter the concentration of the media by allowing most anyone to distribute video ...". Perhaps she has been too busy fighting global warming to have heard of YouTube.

Onward, comrades! We will crush the coffee-shop libertarians under a mountain of bonds, taxes, regulations, and feasibility studies!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Guglielmo Marconi
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Comrade, Perhaps a look here would provide more balance on the Pacific Research Institute Web Link

My, my, my, looks like two of the Institue's biggest finding sources are Verizon and SBC (now AT&T). And lookee, big pharma funds them, too. And gosh, oh my, it turns out that PRI is a constant advocate _against_ things like universal health care. Could PRI just be a front foro large commercial interests that want to hang on to their markets, using any means at their disposal?

After your gushing reference to PRI as a dependable source of anything, should anyone looking at this issue in a rational way, trust anything you have to say about it?

Comrade, have you traveled outside America's Iron Curtain of Crappy Telecommunications Services to see what's happening in Europe, where even _private_ money is beginning to fund municipal networks, based on the outstanding success of the most recent European municipal FTTx experiences? Web Link

Comrade, specifically, instead of quoting shill studies funded by the major telcos, what exactly is wrong, ling-term, with a municipal tellecommunication infrastructure that isi based on fiber deployment.

I'm listening...



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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2007 at 5:10 pm

I would imagine that a definition of utility is something that is utilised by something or someone. In this case the utilities managed by a municipality would be those things that those living in the municipality utilise.

Now given that the masses in Palo Alto, or any municipality utilise water, electricity, trash collection, telephone, cable tv, internet, etc. etc. all these things could be called utilities. However, some of these things are offered by the city and others by private enterprise.

I imagine that a time will come when internet, in some form or other, will be a stable utility offered to all by the city. In the same way that electricity and water are considered essential services, internet will also be considered essestial. The savvy municipalities that start creating that infrastructure now will be the wise ones of the future.


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Posted by Comrade
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Resident, by your definition of a utility ("something that is utilised by something or someone"), every product and service is a "utility". That doesn't seem too useful as a starting point to discuss which products and services should be provided by municipalities as opposed to the commercial sector.

Guglielmo, I see you have no valid rebuttal to the link I posted, so you are forced to resort to an ad hominem attack on its source--always the last refuge of those who cannot otherwise win a debate. By your logic, if someone you don't like says that 2+2=4, he must be wrong, because you don't like him.

As to the link you posted, it begins as follows: "After several decades of false starts, FTTx is finally on its way in Europe ...". Is this the best you can come up with? What do you think accounts for "several decades of false starts"? Could it possibly be woolly-minded fantasies by municipal utopians? Should we in Palo Alto be happy with the prospect of "several decades of false starts" funded by our tax dollars? I think not.

As to the low U.S. ranking in broadband penetration, that is mostly due to the huge size and low housing density of the US. It's much easier to bring broadband to every resident of South Korea or Hong Kong than to every resident of the U.S. And the broadband successes of those countries are due mostly to federal deregulation and investment incentives, not municipal broadband projects.

Finally, you asked that I state "what exactly is wrong, ling-term (sic), with a municipal tellecommunication (sic) infrastructure that isi (sic) based on fiber deployment". I have already done so, but I will repeat it. In almost all cases, free markets will provide better products and services, at lower costs, than governments will. There is no reason to believe that the broadband service market is at high risk of market failure, given broadband's multiple strong competitors and base technologies. So why tax Palo Altans to build a municipal broadband system when companies will provide better options with no tax dollars spent?

I have more faith in the invisible hand of capitalism than the iron fist of government. One would think that Silicon Valley, of all places, would agree.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Guglielmo Marconi
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Comrade, how is it that fee markets all over the world, including givernment imposed telecommunications models are out pacing ours. I await your answer.

Next, all "facts" come from a tacit place. PRI has a reputation for skewing its "research" a certain way. Is that true, or not? I await a reply that consists of something other than trashing potential innovation in the public/private space.

Incidentally, it's public money that funded the guts of America's corporate telecommunications infrastructure. Why shouldn't that public/private effort continue here, at the municipal level, in a way that _optimally_ leverages communication needs.

Why don't we have fiber in NYC, or Chicago? PLease answer that as a rebuttal to your way-too-far overgeneralization for explaining away the differences in urban density as being a deciding factor in FTTx deployment. I can't wait to hear your answer.

As a final tidbit, please do defend the reasons why the American mobile telecommunications companies are the only ones in the world who "double dip" - i.e. both the caller and receiver of calls gets charged. Is that the free market, or private purchase of regulatory decision-making. Project forward from mobile services to just about every other telecom service provided by the American telecommunications oligopoly (free market? ha!) We fail in comparison to almost everyone, save Africa and South America. Nice record, that.

btw, it's been largely shown that there is no such thing as the "invisible hand" - it's a fantasy trotted out by those free marketers who want a floor to stand on. Game over.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brendan Rankin
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Comrade,

The ILECs most certainly do not play by the rules of a free market economy. They have significantly stacked the deck(s) in their favor, for years, and only show interest in milking as much as they can from their existing infrastructure.

We could (and should) see change from competition provided new technology, but not when the ILECs (and their partners) control most everything in any given region. Competition is scarce with (at most) two to three players in any given region and, in new housing developments, those "players" fight with each other to preclude the other from even being an option. I have little faith that this situation is going to get any better.

So, if you want snail's pace "progress"....stick with the ILECs. I, for one, would be willing to put my money in just about any other pot.

Cheers,

- Brendan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2007 at 8:47 pm

So, Comrade, criticizing a source is invalid? Typical libertarian non-response. This just in: "Libertarian think tank study says Libertarains are right!"

why is it that libertarian bumper stickers are always found on 1982 Corollas, anyway?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2007 at 11:10 pm

This is such an interesting image: The Council looks to fund studies of state-of-the-art municipal-organized two-way broadband, while the under-sized, under-collectioned, decrepit Mitchell Park branch sits closed for lack of air conditioning. Maybe this paradox is Palo Alto c. 2007 in a nutshell.

We budget for dreams first (high-tech, clean-tech, cool-tech), high staffing level second, basic infrastructure when we get around to it. I am not given to cynicism, but does anyone know if the Roman Empire look this way toward the end?

Fred


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 15, 2007 at 11:59 pm

I had fiber lit to my home for 50 months as part of our FTTH Trial. It was wonderful - fast and reliable.
In principle, it's important to "not let the taxi company own the road". A city wide muni information utility would enable better prices on all telecom services, level the free market competitive playing field, and keep our funds local. Our electric company has done just this for over 100 years. So shall an information utility.
Having experienced FTTH first hand during our Trial, I can highly recommend this to even the naysayers. The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) being so heavily lobbied today by the suddenly 'civic minded' incumbents about muni FTTH should be a strong clue that FTTH is our better future. The incumbents have collected billions in subsidies for unseen broadband deployment. I wish they would use this money to build rather than politic while we lag the rest of the world in broadband services.
I trust our local utility - they've been doing a great job for over 100 years. Let's build our 7th utility!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Allen
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 16, 2007 at 8:03 am

Every time I download large files or teach a web-based course, or make a Vonage or Skype phone call, I mourn the loss of my FTTH, as Peter does. I have tried Comcast and DSL, and they don't come close in quality of service and reliability. Comcast's servers are overloaded, and drop out completely, garbling my audio and video. DSL is generally much slower than Comcast, more reliable, but has periods when it is very slow also. I have been using Netmeeting to teleconference with folks in Brewster, NY, and with an attorney in Oregon, saving me lots of travel time. A really solid FTTH network will reduce the need for commuting and investment in roads. Until we have a reliable network, companies will not shift their paradigm to include telecommuting. Moreover, with a reliable high speed network available, new services will travel on this highway. Providing a high speed network will encourage innovation and private enterprise, not stifle it. The national highway system should be our example.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2007 at 9:21 am

Hi,

I don't have a horse in this race other than living in a neighboring community which espouses "limited government" vs. Palo Alto which is historically known as "progressive government". From my perspective progressive gives better net results.

Also, I think those basing their positions on Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations may not have read the text, or at least not in its entirety. Smith, while promoting liberty in this work, surely is nuanced and his works can't be packaged into "the invisible hand" or "government bad, free market good." One would do well to understand in what cases Smith would recommned public expenditure, how to fund public institutions, as well as when he would classify an institution (private or public) as corrupt or ill serving liberty and hence society.

I'd guess if Smith were alive today, while he may not take a position on broadband, he certainly would take a position against the nationalism of both today's corporations and government. Along those lines, people on these boards are complaining about PA wasting $100K (which is a good check and balance) while the feds, who take the lions share of government revenue, are never held accountable. Here is Smith on the subject,

"The abuses which sometimes creep into the local and provincial administration of a local and provincial revenue, how enormous soever they may appear, are in reality, however, almost always very trifling, in comparison of those which commonly take place in the administration and expenditure of the revenue of a great empire. They are, besides, much more easily corrected."

So I think it's great that people are speaking up and being heard, but keep in mind, it's your community and may be that of your children and grandchildren. Look to PA's other municipal projects, compare them to investor owned ones fairly, and then decide if Palo Alto, with local community oversight, or AT&T, with FCC oversight, is more likely and capable at providing a broadband access infrastructure that will serve for 30 years at a minimum.

PS. Also interesting is how Felton is trying to get back their water infrastructure from foreign ownership. Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Comrade
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Gugli, I'm intrigued to learn that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" has been shown not to exist. Proving the non-existence of a metaphor is an entirely new type of intellectual achievement. Kudos to the socialists for this breakthrough.

Eric, thanks for your trenchant critique of libertarianism based on your anecdotal car selection observations--this is, by far, your most substantive post so far. I'm sure Hayek and Friedman would have been bowled over by this point.

I look forward to your replies, and I'll waste no time reading them.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Of course our City is going to go ahead with this cockamamy idea, it is Mayor Kishimoto's pet project. For someone with a Stanford MBA she has
very poor judgment when it comes to promoting profitable business plans for Palo Alto.

Today we hear the City is hiring an Environmental Coordinator at $151,000 per year to do what? This is another of her personal ideas.

How about decent fire protection for the Hills Madame Mayor!!!!




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2007 at 9:35 pm

LIBERTARIAN BUMPER STICKER - AN OXYMORON.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jesse Harris
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2007 at 10:20 pm

It seems the only time a public utility isn't a public utility is when it's telecommunications (or so goes the myth perpetuated by the telco and cable cartel).

I have to wonder how it is that the current situation with a pair of competition-hating monopolists somehow beats the pants off of a vendor-neutral wholesale fiber network. Indeed, defending the telco criminals is absolutely absurd.

I say criminals because despite the promises made under the 1996 telecommunications act, the entire telecom industry has been hell-bent on taking the money and delivering nothing to the tune of $200B. In exchange for all of that money, there were supposed to be 86M lines of fiber optics running to homes and businesses delivering 45Mbps of bandwidth. Instead, we're stuck with the low-performance, high-margin technologies that are DSL and cable modems.

It's amusing that the "free market" crowd can't come up with a solution to this act of massive theft and breach of contract, instead defending an industry that actively tries to undermine the free market to ensure their fiefdoms can continue on uninterrupted. I guess in their minds, only the government can undermine the market! I suppose they mourn the loss of Standard Oil.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bruce
a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2007 at 10:36 pm

Several questions should be answered before committing to any new municipal service.

First: How many will subscribe to it? We all need water, electricity, etc., but many do not need high speed internet. An unscientific survay in my neighborhood found only one out of about 20 would pay (a presently unspecified amount) for a high speed internet connection. The rest were either satisfied with their present service and its monthly cost or didn't use the internet enough to be affected.

Second: In the past several years the types of high speed transmission have changed rapidly. Private enterprise has paid the cost of upgrades, not our government.

Third: We consumers can choose our suppliers for any service except those supplied by municipalities. A Palo Alto run internet service does not give us the option of changing suppliers if we are dissatisfied.

Whether you like PRI or not, the data referenced is readily available. Instead of saying the messenger is at fault, research the topic and decide whether their report is true or false.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ellie Gioumousis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm

I would like to add a small comment to all this discussion. Some time in the 90's the then main provider, Bell Telephone, was given a very large tax break by the federal government, with the agreement that they would provide fiber optic capability to the country. Instead they used the money to give large bonuses and profits to their shareholders. We have no more fiber optic than we did then. The only exception is private housing developments who see it as an incentive to gain buyers and a few farsighted municipalities. One is in Lafayette, Louisiana; the tri cities project, and another is the city of Provo, Utah, whose farsighted mayor saw the possibilities early on and successfully pushed for Provo to be a leader in the new technology. He correctly saw it as a wonderful incentive for industries and businesses to locate in Provo.

One more point: Without exception, the residents of the community center who participated in the city run trial of FTTH in their neighborhood, were delighted with both the service and the astounding capability of their systems. They did not even need new expensive computers to get tremendous features and speed, undreamed of by the rest of us. They were heartbroken when it was taken away. Check their website for their personal accounts. You will not be able to say that the city is incapable of providing a good system after reading their first hand accounts. Two of them responded on this thread as well




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jesse Harris
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm

Bruce, here's some answers.

1) Most fiber networks show a 20-30% take rate within the first year. Most of them climb to 50-60% by year 3 or 4. (These numbers are based on SFCN, AFCNet and iProvo, all in Utah.) Given Palo Alto's large tech industry, I'd say you're looking at higher take rates.

2) Fiber networks can be constructed to support up to 1Gbps with current equipment without breaking the bank. UTOPIA did this and has been doing fine financially.

3) Make sure Palo Alto considers building a wholesale rather than retail operation. The reason why UTOPIA succeeds where others fail is because there's 5 providers on the network actually selling the service. This results in greater take rates and more competitive pricing. Make sure the invitation to be on the network is extended to incumbents even though you know they won't accept.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angry Moose
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:14 pm

You all have been complaining about Comcast and AT&T Internet connections being lousy, my Comcast HD cable service sucks.

Their HD cable box is retarded; their free on-demand movies are not HD and were crummy when they were made in the '50's and '60's, the kind of movies you rent for a $1 per week, or less. The Comcast network is so weak that the few HD programs they try to offer; freeze, pixelate, and show other symptoms that Comcast is serving us all on the cheap, cheap, cheap.

Communications providers in America have gone down an unfortunate path over the past 40 years, a path of greed, deceit, and service so bad you would happily dump it IF you had any descent alternative.

Sorry, Charlie, the fix is in. Competition ain't around the next bend, it isn't even in America, yet.

"Hello, can you hear me now?" tells you all you need to know about cell phone services in America at $30, $40, $100 per month.

Many European communities were able to get free from the telecom monopolies by setting up their own open-access fiber networks. It looks like the proposal for Palo Alto is for private businesses, including one successful European company with fiber experience, to make the investment, take the risk, own and operate an open fiber network until they earn their due. Once they are up and running, I should immediately get better service from their state of the art network, and at lower prices, than I can with the telco and cable serving me now...not a big mountain to climb, more like a molehill of current competition.

These posters who specialize in FUD mixed with rants and put-downs don't deserve the time we waste reading their vitriolic prose. From their view, a molehill IS a mountain, and they are going to browbeat you until you start thinking, maybe it is at least a hill. They love to see themselves in print. Let's leave them babbling to themselves while we encourage our City to accomplish something worthwhile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angry Moose
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:14 pm

You all have been complaining about Comcast and AT&T Internet connections being lousy, my Comcast HD cable service sucks.

Their HD cable box is retarded; their free on-demand movies are not HD and were crummy when they were made in the '50's and '60's, the kind of movies you rent for a $1 per week, or less. The Comcast network is so weak that the few HD programs they try to offer; freeze, pixelate, and show other symptoms that Comcast is serving us all on the cheap, cheap, cheap.

Communications providers in America have gone down an unfortunate path over the past 40 years, a path of greed, deceit, and service so bad you would happily dump it IF you had any descent alternative.

Sorry, Charlie, the fix is in. Competition ain't around the next bend, it isn't even in America, yet.

"Hello, can you hear me now?" tells you all you need to know about cell phone services in America at $30, $40, $100 per month.

Many European communities were able to get free from the telecom monopolies by setting up their own open-access fiber networks. It looks like the proposal for Palo Alto is for private businesses, including one successful European company with fiber experience, to make the investment, take the risk, own and operate an open fiber network until they earn their due. Once they are up and running, I should immediately get better service from their state of the art network, and at lower prices, than I can with the telco and cable serving me now...not a big mountain to climb, more like a molehill of current competition.

These posters who specialize in FUD mixed with rants and put-downs don't deserve the time we waste reading their vitriolic prose. From their view, a molehill IS a mountain, and they are going to browbeat you until you start thinking, maybe it is at least a hill. They love to see themselves in print. Let's leave them babbling to themselves while we encourage our City to accomplish something worthwhile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angry Moose
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:15 pm

You all have been complaining about Comcast and AT&T Internet connections being lousy, my Comcast HD cable service sucks.

Their HD cable box is retarded; their free on-demand movies are not HD and were crummy when they were made in the '50's and '60's, the kind of movies you rent for a $1 per week, or less. The Comcast network is so weak that the few HD programs they try to offer; freeze, pixelate, and show other symptoms that Comcast is serving us all on the cheap, cheap, cheap.

Communications providers in America have gone down an unfortunate path over the past 40 years, a path of greed, deceit, and service so bad you would happily dump it IF you had any descent alternative.

Sorry, Charlie, the fix is in. Competition ain't around the next bend, it isn't even in America, yet.

"Hello, can you hear me now?" tells you all you need to know about cell phone services in America at $30, $40, $100 per month.

Many European communities were able to get free from the telecom monopolies by setting up their own open-access fiber networks. It looks like the proposal for Palo Alto is for private businesses, including one successful European company with fiber experience, to make the investment, take the risk, own and operate an open fiber network until they earn their due. Once they are up and running, I should immediately get better service from their state of the art network, and at lower prices, than I can with the telco and cable serving me now...not a big mountain to climb, more like a molehill of current competition.

These posters who specialize in FUD mixed with rants and put-downs don't deserve the time we waste reading their vitriolic prose. From their view, a molehill IS a mountain, and they are going to browbeat you until you start thinking, maybe it is at least a hill. They love to see themselves in print. Let's leave them babbling to themselves while we encourage our City to accomplish something worthwhile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angry Moose
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:15 pm

You all have been complaining about Comcast and AT&T Internet connections being lousy, my Comcast HD cable service sucks.

Their HD cable box is retarded; their free on-demand movies are not HD and were crummy when they were made in the '50's and '60's, the kind of movies you rent for a $1 per week, or less. The Comcast network is so weak that the few HD programs they try to offer; freeze, pixelate, and show other symptoms that Comcast is serving us all on the cheap, cheap, cheap.

Communications providers in America have gone down an unfortunate path over the past 40 years, a path of greed, deceit, and service so bad you would happily dump it IF you had any descent alternative.

Sorry, Charlie, the fix is in. Competition ain't around the next bend, it isn't even in America, yet.

"Hello, can you hear me now?" tells you all you need to know about cell phone services in America at $30, $40, $100 per month.

Many European communities were able to get free from the telecom monopolies by setting up their own open-access fiber networks. It looks like the proposal for Palo Alto is for private businesses, including one successful European company with fiber experience, to make the investment, take the risk, own and operate an open fiber network until they earn their due. Once they are up and running, I should immediately get better service from their state of the art network, and at lower prices, than I can with the telco and cable serving me now...not a big mountain to climb, more like a molehill of current competition.

These posters who specialize in FUD mixed with rants and put-downs don't deserve the time we waste reading their vitriolic prose. From their view, a molehill IS a mountain, and they are going to browbeat you until you start thinking, maybe it is at least a hill. They love to see themselves in print. Let's leave them babbling to themselves while we encourage our City to accomplish something worthwhile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angry Moose
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:15 pm

You all have been complaining about Comcast and AT&T Internet connections being lousy, my Comcast HD cable service sucks.

Their HD cable box is retarded; their free on-demand movies are not HD and were crummy when they were made in the '50's and '60's, the kind of movies you rent for a $1 per week, or less. The Comcast network is so weak that the few HD programs they try to offer; freeze, pixelate, and show other symptoms that Comcast is serving us all on the cheap, cheap, cheap.

Communications providers in America have gone down an unfortunate path over the past 40 years, a path of greed, deceit, and service so bad you would happily dump it IF you had any descent alternative.

Sorry, Charlie, the fix is in. Competition ain't around the next bend, it isn't even in America, yet.

"Hello, can you hear me now?" tells you all you need to know about cell phone services in America at $30, $40, $100 per month.

Many European communities were able to get free from the telecom monopolies by setting up their own open-access fiber networks. It looks like the proposal for Palo Alto is for private businesses, including one successful European company with fiber experience, to make the investment, take the risk, own and operate an open fiber network until they earn their due. Once they are up and running, I should immediately get better service from their state of the art network, and at lower prices, than I can with the telco and cable serving me now...not a big mountain to climb, more like a molehill of current competition.

These posters who specialize in FUD mixed with rants and put-downs don't deserve the time we waste reading their vitriolic prose. From their view, a molehill IS a mountain, and they are going to browbeat you until you start thinking, maybe it is at least a hill. They love to see themselves in print. Let's leave them babbling to themselves while we encourage our City to accomplish something worthwhile.


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Posted by Angry Moose
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:15 pm

You all have been complaining about Comcast and AT&T Internet connections being lousy, my Comcast HD cable service sucks.

Their HD cable box is retarded; their free on-demand movies are not HD and were crummy when they were made in the '50's and '60's, the kind of movies you rent for a $1 per week, or less. The Comcast network is so weak that the few HD programs they try to offer; freeze, pixelate, and show other symptoms that Comcast is serving us all on the cheap, cheap, cheap.

Communications providers in America have gone down an unfortunate path over the past 40 years, a path of greed, deceit, and service so bad you would happily dump it IF you had any descent alternative.

Sorry, Charlie, the fix is in. Competition ain't around the next bend, it isn't even in America, yet.

"Hello, can you hear me now?" tells you all you need to know about cell phone services in America at $30, $40, $100 per month.

Many European communities were able to get free from the telecom monopolies by setting up their own open-access fiber networks. It looks like the proposal for Palo Alto is for private businesses, including one successful European company with fiber experience, to make the investment, take the risk, own and operate an open fiber network until they earn their due. Once they are up and running, I should immediately get better service from their state of the art network, and at lower prices, than I can with the telco and cable serving me now...not a big mountain to climb, more like a molehill of current competition.

These posters who specialize in FUD mixed with rants and put-downs don't deserve the time we waste reading their vitriolic prose. From their view, a molehill IS a mountain, and they are going to browbeat you until you start thinking, maybe it is at least a hill. They love to see themselves in print. Let's leave them babbling to themselves while we encourage our City to accomplish something worthwhile.


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Posted by bruce
a resident of University South
on Jun 17, 2007 at 9:07 pm

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. You made a couple of sweeping statements about the take rate. I assume you mean subscribers. The large tech industry has nothing to do with the average homeowner and his/her need for fiber optics or any higher speed internet connection. What drives most people is the cost, and the numbers I've seen are between $70 and $90 per month.

I suggest people at all age levels are increasingly being squeezed by increased costs for school, transportation, food, utilities, etc. and such numbers would be significant. (Remember the recent outcry about the Utility Dept. fee increases?) Today's Palo Alto over 55 population (26%) may need less high speed internet connections rather than more.

"Without breaking the bank". I would like to see some cost figures before I agree with you.

Several suppliers are almost always a good idea. How does one ensure that? I don't give our city council high marks for capability in running a business. I believe our vaunted electrical rates are now higher than PG&E's.

Finally whatever became of the City's RFP for a high speed service? I believe only two companies answered and one wasn't really responsive. I think the terms were too restrictive for any business to make a profit, especially when they would have to turn the system over to the city in 30 years.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2007 at 8:26 am

Jesse, thank you also for supplying some of the facts.

When I looked at Provo several months ago, my understanding was that their system was not cash flow positive and they didn't know when it would be. I apologize in advance if that is wrong, but perhaps you know? So creating an "upside down" system (big capex; oops, no return) would be a problem, regardless of the quality of the service, pricing, or the take rate. Do you know the facts here and can you link to them?

I had thought that the one actual respondent to the February RFP (180 Connect) had "unsteady finances" and based its proposal on a high take rate (which may be why they have the unsteady finances!). What happened to this proposal? (I don't have the link, but the article is in the Feb 28 2007 edition of the PA Weekly.)

As others have pointed out about this project - Why this? Why now? We can't build an auto-row, library, or police HQ - heck, we can't even estimate storm drain repair costs! - and we are spending the city resources (time, staff, money) on FTTH? I'd settle for a town that works.

Fred


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Posted by Henrik
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2007 at 8:50 am

What most people haven't understood in this case is:

The network will be a so-called open access. The fiber will be run by the community, but the services on top of it will be provided by the Service Providers that wish.

Second, everyone talks about Internet services. Look at the Open Access networks in Europe. There people can choose between different "Cable TV" (in this case IPTV) operators offering their services in competetion with each other over the same fiber.

One network I read about had more than a hundred different services to choose from, delivered by 25+ Service Providers. Internet, Telephony and TV we're a lot of them, but not all.

I would say this drives competition a lot.


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 12:57 am

Hi Bruce,

I think you may be mistaken when comparing the rates of PG&E vs Palo Alto's publicly owned system. I'm a CA PG&E customer and here are my electric rates (last year's bill at this time).

Baseline: 370 Kwh $0.11430
101-120% Baseline: $0.12989
121-300% Baseline: $0.21981
201-300% Baseline: $0.30292

For 890Kwh it costs me $160. If CPAU provide me the service that cost would have been $88 which is savings of 45%.

I have three kids, all of which will need a college education, so if previous generations who built our electric infrastructure had been as progressive as those who built Palo Altos, I could have had $72@12/mo, over 18 years with 5% APR giving $25,247. $25K I would have been able to contribute towards their schooling but, unfortunately, this won't be the case as "limited government" has turned out to be a bit more expensive than when I was sold that ideology :-(

And to put that in perspective, my dad lives in Kerville Texas where their public power utility charges a whopping flat rate of $0.06121 per Kwh. Competition and deregulation hasn't hit them quite yet.

Also worth noting that my "limited government" city still needs money to function and has few sources of revenue. So over the last few decades they have been selling off city land, tracts that could have been used for things like parks, to developers. Now that almost all of the city land is gone and everybody is waking up to the fact that there are insufficient parks to support the needs of the community, everybody fights over the scraps that remain. I call it "real estate" government though few schools teach the subject.


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Posted by An observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:01 am

The FTTH was obviously a great failure!! Only about 70 out of hundreds of homes signed up for it even though they didn't have to pay the $10,000 each that it cost to install. The rest of the sucker taxpayers had to cover the almost $1,000,000 spent on the project. If a private co gets involved they better realize that probably 80% of the residents won't sign up for it unless it is almost free.

These studies are a waste of money and driven by a very small group of people.

The city has had a undergrounding of electric power line program for over 40 years and only "select" neighborhoods,probably with council members in it, that get the multimillion $$ projects in their area. The people who don't have undergrouning are paying the cost of those who do. This is what will happen with FTTH.


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:30 am

Hi An Observer,

Ideally these projects would be funded by revenue bonds and not general obligation bonds. If the revenues for the project weren't sufficient to pay off the bonds it wouldn't be the tax payers on the hook but rather the bond holders. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to isolate the projects in this way. I think if somebody figured out a way to fix this issue we might see some actual progress towards installing broadband capabilities in our communities. Sadly, instead we have the FCC watering down the definition of boadband to be anything better than a MODEM and claiming if *one* customer in an entire zipcode has access to this definition of broadband than that is sufficient to say the entire area is being provided broadband. No child left behind doesn't apply to entire communities when it comes to delegating our broadband overisight to the FCC it seems :-(


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Posted by Jesse Harris
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 7:24 am

Bruce: Take rate translates to the percentage of served households subscribing to at least one service (averaging two per household). The UTOPIA project currently offers most services a la carte for about $40/mo with triple-play packages going for about $110/mo without service contracts or early termination fees, something incumbents are increasingly infatuated with. About $20 per service goes towards debt service. Presuming a cost of $1200 per home to get hooked up (that's UTOPIA's average) and bonding the cost at 20 years at 6%, you roughly need about 20% of households subscribing to about 2 services each.

To use UTOPIA's example, they're bonding $350M to come up with a $30M annual bond payment. With the participation rate described above, $36M in debt payments are generated. Of course, your city's mileage will vary depending on cost per home, interest rate on the bond, etc. The reason I bring up being a tech town is that many tech companies offer telecommuting (which fiber connections are excellent for) and gearheads are early adopters.

Fred: I'm glad someone brought up Provo because I know why that project has issues. First, they projected that each subscriber would sign up for triple-play services. Since then, we've learned that's not always the case and each household will subscribe to an average of two services. Second, the first (and at that time only) provider went belly-up about a year into offering service which set the project behind. The lesson there is to have as many retail providers as possible to hedge your bets and make sure they have at least some track record. UTOPIA has 5 providers which helps keep it healthy. Third, you can't make competing on price your centerpiece. Provo's network would be solvent and making all of the debt payments if they increased the wholesale price of each service by $5/mo. They would still be price-competitive but wouldn't have to keep betting on increased subscriber numbers to attain solvency. (The current plan calls for a 60% take rate to achieve this, hardly realistic.)

UTOPIA learned very quickly from iProvo's missteps and subsequently did a lot of things right. The best thing you can do with the network is presume a low rate of participation within the first year (20% with two services per household) if you want to break even. If you're okay with the city making up the difference in debt service for the first year or two, aim for 30%. The projects are not as expensive to taxpayers as most would believe.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to the cost of an FTTH network is that aerial runs are much cheaper than underground cables. Trenching is not inexpensive, though if you can lay the lines while another trenching project is going on, it becomes a lot more cost-effective. (American Fork, UT had the chance to lay cables while digging for a pressurized irrigation system, something that would have made a new upgraded network cost peanuts.) Verizon claims it can do buried cables for FIOS and get the average cost per home down to $800, so your mileage may vary.

If you want to find out more about how UTOPIA works, you should visit their website: Web Link


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 9:08 am

On PA Utility rates vs. PG&E - I actually know this one! From another thread a couple months back, here is the answer:

Gas rates are HIGHER in PA by 21% and electric rates are lower by 33%. So using my own actual quantities for gas & electricity (maybe a little gas heavier than others, but nothing too off), my total bill is 8% less with PA than with PG&E.

Here's the link to that topic:

Web Link
Palo Alto Online - Town Square Topic

Why the electric rates are cheaper is a good question. Others have pointed out that municipal power companies are given access to very cheap federal hydro-power (dams) that PG&E does not get. Also, I believe (though not certain) that PA locked up some distant hydro rights decades ago; if so, that may make a big difference in electric rates.

So, my bottom line is that it is not clear if the CPAU gas & electric experience/costs are readily translatable into a broadband utility.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 9:16 am

Jesse, thanks, you are a fount of data! Much appreciated.

My take from this is - why should we be such an early adopter. It seems like with two data points (for iProvo and UTOPIA are the only ones I've heard about), there is one good and one bad (based on results to date). I'd love to see us wait till 10-20 towns have tried it and then decide. Afterall, if we are building something that people truly want for the next 50 years, say, waiting 2-3 years more seems prudent.

Also, I wonder if your economics if maintenance capex is included somewhere? Often things run fine for a few years while everything is new, but then you need to replace/upgrade/repair things, which often is not budgeted for properly. Since the examples are still pretty young, this would not have hit them yet.

Also, I wonder if the cost per home might be higher in Silicon Valley than in Provo (since I imagine that big cost factors like labor and land are higher here). As I've pointed out elsewhere, we can't seem to accurately estimate the cost of fixing up our storm drains, so my confidence in the city's ability to estimate FTTH deployment is not high.

Fred


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Posted by Jesse Harris
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 10:03 am

The "early adopter" ship has already sailed and many lessons have already been taken away from it. UTOPIA had quite a few other examples to use when estimating take rates and DynamicCity did an excellent job on the feasibility studies: Web Link There have been plenty of cities that have already jumped in (American Fork UT, Spanish Fork UT, Scottsboro AL, Cedar Falls IA and Harlan IA to name a few), so there's a wealth of data on the projects already available. Also bear in mind that UTOPIA is a consortium of 14 Utah cities with service being provided to about 1/3 of them so far, a reasonably large number. Many of those member cities are about the size of Palo Alto though significantly less dense.

One of the best ways to ensure success is to join with other cities to construct a multi-city network and pool the risks. That not only increased the bond rating (and thus lowers the interest rate) but also means that more of the back-end facilities are shared thus lowering maintenance costs. Considering that there is a surplus of debt service with a low-ish rate of adoption, I'm confident that the model can work just fine to ensure that future upgrades and expansion are covered. I believe that was the original goal, to ensure that the network was financially self-sustaining in all aspects.

I would posit that Palo Alto's higher population density would help decrease costs, potentially to the point of offsetting any increased costs for land or pole space. (Compared to Provo, Palo Alto is three times as densely populated.) The only land to be purchased would be small plots for equipment cabinets.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 10:31 am

Thank you again Jesse, you are obviously a student of this. I note that you are not in Palo Alto - are you a participant in the industry?

Why do you think the early adopters you mentioned are in fairly rural/sparse areas (UT, IA, AL)? Something must be going on there.

Looking at the list, I would still say that we would be way at the front tail of the adoption curve and wonder why we should take that risk.

A multi-city consortium seems like a good idea - though I would posit in our area that pretty much guarantees that much ink will be spilled with no action ever taken ;-)

Fred


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 11:34 am

Fred,

On natural gas rates the link you pointed to was more of an opinion piece than anything with hard data. From what I can tell the distribution costs for PA is slightly more expensive than PG&E and the commodity costs will be the same (set by traders.) For me, natural gas is such a small part of the bill that it's not really of concern.

Web Link

As an aside, read up on Felton and their history of water infrastructure. Web Link If PA want's to sell their utility infrastructure to German fund managers and hand off rate regulations to the PUC (or get rid of it altogther) I can't see how that would be beneficial to citizens of PA though I'm sure the Germans would like the cash flows to fund their golden years.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2007 at 11:46 am

I would hope that any f/o would be common carrier with the city explicitly denied content control. Aboveground phone & TV should be encouraged to migrate.
As for underground power, I will wait for R/T superconductor.


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 19, 2007 at 12:01 pm

I think city-owned utilities can work on paper, especially if they sign long-term contracts to buy various resources (gas, water, electricity). However, it is next to impossible to fire delinquent city workers. Just read the current news articles about our own utility dept. Once the long-term contracts expire, and we have to bid in an open market, it is a bad deal. Why not just buy it from PG&E? At least we won't be stuck with the bureaucratic mess and long-term retirement costs. We also will not be stuck leading the way to save the world (e.g. PA Green).


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Posted by Jesse Harris
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Fred: I work in IT, but the company I work for doesn't do anything even remotely related to telecom. (Time and attendance software is a lot less "sexy".) I've been putting together data as I try and get UTOPIA rolled out to White City Township, an unincorporated island in the middle of Sandy UT, so I've had to have as much data as possible to make a strong case for the community council. It's all passion instead of profession.

Many of the early adopters are in areas without a lot of population and are thus underserved. GREATLY underserved. (The new digital divide is going to be urban vs. rural instead of rich vs. poor.) Most of them have watched jobs leave town and don't want to suffer another wave as technology-dependent businesses move to where the bandwidth is. In that sense, rural communities see a dual purpose: make broadband available to residents and use it as a selling point for new businesses.

That said, the Utah cities of American Fork, Murray, Midvale, Lindon, West Valley, Layton, Centerville, Provo and Orem are best described as urbanized. The metro area encompassing them exceeds 2M people. and most of them have a population density of at least 500 per square mile. While Utah as a whole is still an agrarian state, the population centers are anything but. The main motivation for those cities is economic competitiveness and solving some of the horrible service issues stemming from the incumbents, Qwest and Comcast.

I can concede that there aren't dozens of cases to draw on, though early adopters such as Tacoma have managed to put themselves at the top of the "wired cities" list. Web Link In the end, it takes a thorough feasibility study by a team of professionals to figure out if the finances make sense or not.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Bob, thanks for your post. My link here was to the PA Online Forum Topic discussing (among other related topics) PG&E vs. PA utility rates. If you scroll down that, you'll find my post (summarized briefly above) with the links to the actually rate pages for PG&A and CPAU.

If you follow THOSE links, you will get a 'blizzard of numbers' I'm afraid, which after 20 minutes or so, I took my best shot at applying to my own usage, which the results that I reported above. I do believe, however, that it is correct that PG&E electric rates are higher than PA, while gas rates are lower - at least at this time!

Fred


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Jesse, thanks for describing your position and as usual for your fine and informative posts. You add a lot of light to this topic.

I think a primary consternation of folks in PA isn't that municipal broadband is inherently bad (you have given me some useful food for thought on that Jesse), but more that our town has decaying conventional infrastructure and a stubborn inability to get things done. For instance, our libraries are quite decrepit, despite our town being host to a world class university and many smart and well-educated people. Our storm drains overflow, with some homes at risk of routine flooding. Our police HQ is over-flowing. Our schools are over-crowded. So spending time, attention and money on FTTH at this point seems like a head-shaker (to me anyway) given how we are doing on some of the municipal basics.

Fred


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Fred,

Thanks, I'll read further into the rates per your clarification. Also, I agree with your statement repeated below.

So, my bottom line is that it is not clear if the CPAU gas & electric experience/costs are readily translatable into a broadband utility.

We don't know and we won't know until it's given a try, or maybe even two tries. For sure no serious efforts means it won't happen. I'm just hoping PA gets things started and sets an example for others so my laggard SV community doesn't fall too far behind ;-)


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Fred,

Your comment "As I've pointed out elsewhere, we can't seem to accurately estimate the cost of fixing up our storm drains, so my confidence in the city's ability to estimate FTTH deployment is not high." is probably accurate throughout history. From what I read, Robert Moses Web Link ran into this issue with his projects. His "solution" was to instill public confidence in his budget estimates by adding more decimals places to the figures. For example, he would estimate $35,123,753 instead of saying $35M. So watch out for these kinds of tricks when evaluating a project manager as estimates are definitely not a hard science with such precision.


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Jesse, on your comment "One of the best ways to ensure success is to join with other cities to construct a multi-city network and pool the risks. I'd like to understand a bit more.

My selfish interest wouldn't be to pool the risks amongst the tax base but rather consolidate risk and shift it to bond holders, bond holders who would be given tax free income streams for assuming the risks. I see it as a choice between extremely wealthy people not paying taxes (with the potential of default on the bonds) vs. potentially taxing a larger base in the event of default.

What are your thoughts on the issue?


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Hi John,

On your comment

However, it is next to impossible to fire delinquent city workers. Just read the current news articles about our own utility dept. Once the long-term contracts expire, and we have to bid in an open market, it is a bad deal. Why not just buy it from PG&E? At least we won't be stuck with the bureaucratic mess and long-term retirement costs. We also will not be stuck leading the way to save the world (e.g. PA Green).

is quite broad and touches a lot of issues. On the save the world stuff, I find Dicken's character Miss Jellyby relevant.

"An energetic but incompetent philanthropist, Mrs. Jellyby engages in useless charitable causes that fail to benefit anyone. She simultaneously ignores her very large family, allowing her children to run wild and overlooking the needs of her eldest daughter, Caddy. Through Mrs. Jellyby, Dickens shows that charity should indeed begin at home."

More pertinent to the issue at hand though is who you *can* influence. Felton has find out that the Germans who ultimately bought their water infrastructure are more interested in generating cash flows for themselves than they are in answering customer complaints from across the Atlantic. So I'd take a delinquent city worker over a disinterested international shareholder tough I suspect the quality city workers more than make up for the delinquent ones. I really don't believe *any* foreign shareholders are going to care much about PA's problems as, for them, that's nothing more than a German Fräulein Jellyby!


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Posted by Jesse Harris
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Fred: I don't suppose "add a lot of light" was supposed to be a pun, was it? ;)

At any rate, I can appreciate not wanting to pump money into an FTTH network that may or may not produce a surplus of revenue when basic city services are lacking. It's a gamble: spend money on FTTH that could increase revenues through subscriptions and/or attracting new businesses OR spend the money directly on the core infrastructure. It's a lot like trying to figure out if you're better off paying down your mortgage or contributing to an IRA.

Bob: The idea behind the pooled risk is to increase the bond rating (thus lowering the interest rate) and share common administrative costs like some of the facilities. Forming an inter-local agreement with multiple cities also creates a larger potential market that can attract more service providers than each city individually might be able to. By guaranteeing the bond payments with a portion of tax revenue, you also increase the bond rating further and ensure even lower interest rates. Keep in mind that no taxes are used to satisfy the debt unless there's a shortfall of subscribers.


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Posted by RollingEyes
a resident of University South
on Jun 19, 2007 at 5:35 pm

This overhyped technological marvel will be obsolete before it is completed. Consider: the city ordered 100 megabits per second, but at Monday's Council meeting Bob Moss pointed out that a 200 megabits per second capability will soon be needed to deliver HDTV. Yes, the system could be upgraded, but that costs money, and the upgrade will be obsolete soon enough, and so on.

The technologically sophisticated know that the worst time to make major captial investments is when the technology is changing rapidly. That's why the for-profit comm companies are biding their time. Unfortunately for our city's finances and civic reputation, our city council is anything but technologically sophisticated. Kill this silly boondoggle now.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Jesse - yes, pun intended!


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 7:44 pm

On technology churn; 1 Gb/s is pretty common stuff and would likely last most people quite awhile. In corporate america we've been using 100 Mb/s for the last 7 years or so. It would be good to amortize and depreciate equipment taking in account the lifespans of the technology used, something one would expect from a thorough plan. The optimal design would support upgrades. I kinda of think of it like electrical panels or water main connection sizes. Yes, things will progress but older designs, done well, will last too. Probably more important than the size of the pipes is where the other end is connected to. If it's to Comcast or AT&T than the project is probably not worth doing. Connected to something like Equinix would be better. Web Link People that believe it's a boondoggle shouldn't be forced to subscribe nor force to buy the bonds (though would likely have to pay more when they realized their homes were being bypassed.)


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Posted by Bob McMahon
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2007 at 9:07 pm

The technologically sophisticated know that the worst time to make major captial investments is when the technology is changing rapidly. That's why the for-profit comm companies are biding their time.

For profit companies aren't biding their time due to technology churn, as 70% of the expense is labor and the fiber cable will last quite awhile, but rather they are waiting for a "killer application" as well as protecting their traditional revenue streams. For copper networks these are voice circuits or telephone calls. For cable it has been the ability to redistribute satellite signals (microwave was banned from cable cos by the FCC during the 60s) though some towns in PA, where it's too hilly for traditional over the air tv, coax was deployed much earlier. For bidirectional unicast (a component of what we call the internet) there really isn't a single killer application but rather the network is a platform which enables many applications. A preferred model will support innovations in applications too. (The closest analogy would be the PC which has morphed over the years.)

Here's some criteria I'd measure a broadband network by:


  • Support and promote technological innovation

  • Support diversity and openness of speech

  • Prevent communications from being monopolized and censored

  • Enable innovated application development

  • Provide user based security and filtering of unwanted content


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Posted by jocyrel
a resident of Woodside
on Nov 16, 2007 at 10:49 pm

what is palo-alto in line with cable tv system?


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