News

Guest Opinion: Another 'Fiber to the Premise' resurrection for Palo Alto?

 

The long-discussed dream of getting true high-speed fiber-optic service for Palo Alto is looking like a real possibility. There are two reasons: Google is offering to bring fiber to 34 communities, one of which may be Palo Alto; and Palo Alto has a little-known "fiber fund" built on profits from leases of fibers in the city's "dark-fiber ring," created in the late 1990s.

The fund now has about $20 million that could -- some say should -- be used to build a high-speed-fiber network community-wide. Such a system is now termed "Fiber to the Premise," or FTTP, rather than the earlier "Fiber to the Home" designation. "Premise" means businesses as well as homes and apartments.

Either system would also likely be a mix of direct fiber connections and wireless, or Wi-Fi, from nodes, a kind of substation. Google calls those "huts" and has been discussing with city staff the creation of two such huts to serve different areas of Palo Alto. The nodes would enable creation of really fast broadband wireless sub-networks throughout the city.

A similar setup would likely be part of a direct-city fiber project, funded by the fiber fund, not taxpayer dollars.

Beyond those generalities lie many details and questions yet to be resolved. Behind the current discussions by city staff, citizens committees and a few members of the public lies a new City Council determination to finally get something moving on the fiber front after more than 15 years of discussions, disappointments and confusion.

Discussions of high-speed Internet access actually date back to the early 1990s, when the listserve "Palo Alto Communications Network," or "PA-ComNet," was formed in 1993, followed by the spinoff group, "Palo Alto FiberNet."

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, city officials were actively discussing creating a new fiber-communications utility as part of the city-owned utility operations for water, gas, sewer and electricity. That idea crashed headlong into estimates of up to $40 million to install fiber-optic lines, a too-risky gamble in a hostile competitive environment.

Emily Harrison, former assistant city manager, even conducted a workshop on fiber networks at a National League of Cities conference in the early 2000s. She warned that in any age the means of transportation of goods and services determines the economic vitality of a region, and noted that in an "information age" high-speed communication is the medium of transport.

Yet a decade or so later, June 22, 2012, I wrote a column noting that FTTP for Palo Alto is "hanging by a thread," a fiber-thin thread.

"Yet even a fiber-thin thread might be stronger than it seems," I wrote, citing the need for resuscitation. I noted that some "believe the decision to abandon the FTTP dream is premature, that some of the extensive analysis done in the city staff report is incomplete, and that the long-term economic vitality of Palo Alto might just hang in the balance."

Since then, mayors and council members have stepped up to the plate, creating citizen committees to explore possibilities and authorizing staff to get engaged. And Google's new plan emerged last February on the sidelines as an alternative to a local homegrown effort.

Today, longtime supporters of FTTP are feeling optimistic that something, Google or home-built, will emerge in the reasonably near future.

One longtime observer/supporter is Bob Harrington, who has played an advisory role for years and won the trust of city officials and potential private partners, such as a Canadian firm that ultimately backed off from doing a Palo Alto system.

The absolute best history of the fiber subject, at least back to about 2000, is on a website Harrington created in 2005, and which he keeps up-to-date: iPaloAlto.com.

His optimism starts with the city's leadership. On the website, he says the City Council "has been proactive in seeking an acceptable path to citywide FTTP. Mayor Nancy Shepherd, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, and council members Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Karen Holman, Larry Klein, Gail Price, Greg Scharff, and Greg Schmid have all been engaged in a positive and constructive manner."

Besides possible Google involvement, announced last February, Harrington notes the city is in a vastly different position than when it had only taxpayer funds or possible partnership funding to consider for fiber. "The Fiber Utility Reserve currently totals about $20 million and is growing about $2 million a year," he notes.

"This reserve has quietly accumulated over 15 years from the fiber license fees paid by about 100 large companies, including a half-dozen resellers. These Fiber utility reserves must be reinvested in city communications projects, which can include fiber and/or wireless communications."

Other longtime citizen advisers include Andy Poggio, a researcher for SRI, and Christine Moe, with lengthy experience with Stanford University's communications networks.

A longtime watchdog and critic, as well as a fiercely dedicated proponent of fiber, is Jeff Hoel, who regularly critiques in detail staff reports and news articles and columns, including mine. Hoel also is optimistic, but doesn't think much of the Google idea, especially with a recent change of management for the project.

"Briefly, I think that it would be best for the city to implement FTTP by itself rather than allowing Google to implement Google Fiber here," he said in an email. "Any private-sector entity, even Google, has to be interested in what's good for shareholders rather than what's good for the community."

He cited five specific concerns, that Google (1) has no announced plan on serving businesses; (2) won't commit to citywide FTTP; (3) has been "pretty inflexible" about when people can sign up; (4) hasn't announced how it would implement a "smart grid" for city utilities; and (5) plans a "point-to-node" (PON) system rather than point-to-point Ethernet.

So it's clear that there is a lot to discuss yet about fiber for Palo Alto homes and businesses (those that don't already have it). But the topic is once again alive and appears to be, um, reasonably resuscitated and, for the moment, well.

Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at jthorwaldson@paweekly.com and/or jaythor@well.com. He also writes periodic blogs at PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2014 at 8:39 am

Why not start by pulling fiber bundles to all of our public schools to ensure they don't have bandwidth bottlenecks and then fan out to the neighborhoods from there?


Like this comment
Posted by Chao
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2014 at 9:21 am

Thanks for a very informative article. Can't wait for much better internet connectivity than we have now!


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2014 at 9:38 am

Europeans have much cheaper, faster and better choice of internet than we do here. Funny how this is Silicon Valley and we are behind the times.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2014 at 11:37 am

Better hope Google is willing to deal with the Palo Alto process and bring us fiber, or else we are going to be stuck with Comcast and AT&T for another 10 years.


1 person likes this
Posted by Not-Interested-In-Another-PAU-Boondoggle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm

While sooner or later, faster speeds will come along—ultimately the question becomes: just how much data transfer speeds does one need at home?

Most people, including the rather clueless author of the article, seem to never consider the costs for some program, government-provided benefit, or entitlement. This is particularly true since the government tends to insist that everyone in the country ultimately be offered the same service at more-or-less the same price—whether they need/want whatever the government is forcing on them.

The average US connect speed is about 7.4 mbs:

Web Link

The FCC publishes its own report about broadband speeds yearly:

Web Link
Web Link

Ultimately, the question becomes: “How fast should your home connection be, and at what price should that service cost?”

Google’s foray into the FTTH domain has been a shot-in-the-arm for the more-or-less failed dreams of the “fiber folk”—people who have for over a decade now been claiming that “fiber will change the world”. In fact, Fiber has been installed in places where Verizon is the main service provider. It’s Fiber product (FIOS) has not “rocked people’s world”, for the most part. Verizon has had to slow down their ambitions coverage plans due to increased costs and lower-than-hoped acceptance of the product. Given Google’s lack of transparency in most of their business matters—the penetration of their Fiber product is an unknown at the moment.


1 person likes this
Posted by Not-Interested-In-Another-PAU-Boondoggle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

(Con’t)

Wireless Data 802.11ac At 650 mps:
Web Link

Today, Broadcom announced a new wireless chip, BCM4358, that combines 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to deliver almost twice as much throughput compared to previous 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips in mobile devices and allegedly a 50 percent improvement in the potential interference with the Bluetooth connection.

Last-generation 802.11ac chips were offering 300-400 Mbps connections, and those were also a big step up over the older 150 Mbps 802.11n connections. The new Broadcom chip gets up to 650 Mbps throughput thanks to its 2x2 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) connections.

----
Meanwhile, wireless data has come a long way. During the last year, Asian technology companies have announced Gigabit wireless products—some to hopefully be in the marketplace within five years.

Web Link

And AT&T is now finally in the Ultra-Fast Fiber game--
Web Link

DALLAS, April 21, 2014 - AT&T today announced a major initiative to expand its ultra-fast fiber network to up to 100 candidate cities and municipalities nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas. The fiber network will deliver AT&T U-verse® with GigaPowerSM service, which can deliver broadband speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second and AT&T’s most advanced TV services, to consumers and businesses.
----

The 1Gb wireless products are still a long way from the standardization, but non-standard units will doubtless be available a couple of years before final standardization. Lots of questions about how the wirelesss access points will get their Internet connections, and if a metropolitan-area WiFi service could be provided by either the private sector, or the public sector. Either way, faster Wifi is definitely in the cards.

However, the underlying question of need for 1Gb-internet services are still an open question. For the moment, video is about the only product that people are willing to pay for that is delivered over ultra-highspeed Internet. Netflix certainly has made a lot of money recognizing that reality. Other companies, like Amazon, and Hulu, have jumped on board (to name but a couple)—but Netflix seems to be the most profitable movie provider, at least at the moment.

Leaving us with the nagging question—what exactly will the average home do with a 1GB connection, and how much should such a service cost?


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Anonymous, The city has already provided dark fiber to all the schools, but not in a way that makes it easy to "fan out from there."


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Mr.Recycle, As the article points out, the city's choice is not between Google Fiber (if offered) and nothing (except what Comcast and AT&T already provide). In the United States, 139 municipalities have already implemented municipal FTTP networks, and there's no reason Palo Alto couldn't do likewise.


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Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Oct 19, 2014 at 8:50 pm

"The city has already provided dark fiber to all the schools..."

Any light in that fiber yet?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm

@Jeff Hoel - how could it possibly make sense for the city to get in the broadband business when you have a viable option like Google, willing to take it on? The city is failing its core responsibilities, so it seems ludicrous to embark into the broadband business.

How many of those 139 are just offering fiber to businesses? That's a substantially simpler proposition than committing to residential hook ups.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

Recently PG&E dug up our streets to replace a gas line. A few years ago, Palo Alto dug up streets to replace pipes. Why not take advantage of these disruptions and install fiber optic bundles? Most of the installation cost of Fiber to the Home has got to be pulling these bundles.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2014 at 11:16 am

Not-Interested-In-Another-PAU-Boondoggle, I've known Jay Thorwaldson for 15 years, and I don't think the "clueless" charge is accurate or fair. Palo Alto has done extensive analysis over the years regarding whether a citywide municipal FTTP network could, in the long run, be paid for entirely by revenues from its subscribers. And another analysis is planned. Most municipal FTTP networks in the United States are financially successful in this sense. And that's not even counting the "external" benefits to the community.

Verizon's FiOS wasn't trying to rock anyone's world. Wall Street didn't like its ROI, but municipalities don't have to be limited to ROIs Wall Street likes.

Municipal FTTP networks typically achieve higher take rates than FiOS does. In Chattanooga, the municipal FTTP network now has more customers than Comcast does.

Wi-Fi -- even 802.11ac Wi-Fi -- is no substitute for FTTP. Speeds depend on how far you are from the access point and how many other users are sharing the access point. As wireless evolves, fiber backhaul for the wireless access points is becoming essential, meaning that you need a fiber infrastructure comparable to what's needed for FTTP. Would you insist that a municipal wireless network be financially successful (in the sense of being paid for, in the long run, by the revenues from its subscribers? If so, you should know that, on this measure, the track record of municipal wireless networks in the United States is not great.

As far as I know, AT&T isn't planning to offer 1-Gpbs FTTP in Palo Alto. Its 100-cities announcement has been called fiber to the press release.
Web Link


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2014 at 11:57 am

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"municipalities don't have to be limited to ROIs Wall Street likes."

But they have to produce an ROI of some kind. Expenditures of tax money must yield benefits to ALL taxpayers, not just the subset who pay a fee for the service. The ROI standard in this case is streets and sewers -- everybody pays for them and everybody uses them.

Why not do the Silicon Valley thing? Form a startup, get venture capital, fiber up the town, and rake in the money?

Nobody does, because everbody knows the venture is not profitable. Therefore FTTP proponents need, and demand, that the taxpayers subsidize for their toy. No way, PA.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Mr.Recycle, See the five concerns cited in the article. If you're a small business owner, GF may not be "viable" for you. If the city wants to implement smart grid functions like the ones Chattanooga has, including smart switches that make the electric grid more reliable, is GF "viable" for that? Would you like to live in a fiberhood that doesn't have access because not enough of your neighbors signed up at the right time? When the city decided to get into the electricity business 100+ years ago, would you have been saying how ludicrous that was?

This is the interactive database that says there are 139 muni FTTP networks.
Web Link
It doesn't say how many offer services to residences. But 60 offer video services. (I suppose it's likely that not many muni networks offer video services only to businesses. Note that Longmont offers service to residences, but not video services.)


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Curmudgeon, If a citywide muni FTTP network can be paid for, in the long run, by revenues from subscribers, then it's not paid for with "tax money."

A municipal FTTP network benefits more than just its subscribers. Subscribers to competing telecom services enjoy lower prices because of the competition. To the extent that the muni network enables telecommuting and home businesses, everyone benefits from decreased auto traffic. If the muni network is used to make the electric grid more reliable, everybody benefits from that.

Incidentally, in Palo Alto, sewers are a utility, so they're paid for by ratepayers, not taxpayers.

Incidentally, I don't buy -- and Palo Alto doesn't buy -- your claim that unless all taxpayers use something, taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on it. What about libraries? What about schools? What about the golf course? What about free concerts in the park?

You should know that venture capitalists won't invest unless there's a sporting chance to get back ten times their investment in five years. Utilities -- and FTTP is a utility -- don't offer that potential. That doesn't mean that utilities aren't a good investment for municipalities.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm

"If a citywide muni FTTP network can be paid for, in the long run, by revenues from subscribers, then it's not paid for with "tax money." "

The key words are "can be" and "if." This proposition is a thinly veiled gamble of taxpayer's money.

"your claim that unless all taxpayers use something, taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on it."

I said subscribe to something, as in pay for usage beyond taxes, like an FTTP link. FTTP is not a common-access public resource like a library or park or school. Also, the fee-for-use golf course should not be subsidized by public funds.

"If the muni network is used to make the electric grid more reliable, everybody benefits from that."

The technical innocence of FTTP advocates continues to astound me. One does not need the ultrawide bandwidth of a fiber link to monitor and control a power distribution system. Ordinary phone wires and over the wire SCADA work fine.

Working from home is easily accomplished by DSL, unless you're doing a Lucasfilm-scale operation.

Again, if this is such a great thing, why not do the Silicon Valley thing? Form a startup, get venture capital, fiber up the town, and rake in the money? I think our FTTPniks know that is not a profitable proposition, hence the push for taxpayer subsidies.


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Posted by Ann Dunkin
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2014 at 11:28 pm


I'm the former CTO for PAUSD. I left the District in August to join the EPA in DC. I was in PA for the entire process of implementing the new fiber network.

Jeff pointed out to me that this discussion was going on and suggested that I respond to the question about whether the fiber the City provided to the District had been lit yet. It's a short answer:

Yes, the fiber was lit at all locations within about a month of the network being turned over by the City. PAUSD now has 10GB connections between school sites.

The District was then able to terminate its contract with Comcast. The City fiber is already saving the District money and savings will rise substantially when the construction cost (which was split with the City and amortized) is paid off and monthly payments drop. Plus the District has confidence that prices will remain stable with the City.

This is a great example of a win-win. The District got a great provider and cost savings and the City expanded its network significantly.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Curmudgeon, The $20 million in the Fiber Fund is not "tax money." It's there because the City was visionary enough to take the risk of building the City's dark fiber network. That's not enough to build out the entire citywide municipal FTTP network, but it's enough to get started. Bonds backed by dark fiber revenues would be one way of financing the rest.

FTTP is different in some ways from common-access public resources like libraries, parks, and schools, but it's also the same in some ways. FTTP is also similar to electric, gas, and water, utilities that folks subscribe to.

I agree that the golf course shouldn't have to be subsidized by public funds. But are you saying the City shouldn't have a golf course at all because of the risk that it might have to be subsidized by public funds?

Chattanooga justified building its citywide municipal fiber network on the basis that it was needed to provide smart grid functions. FTTP was just an additional benefit. Are you saying that the EPB folks in Chattanooga are (or were) "technically innocent"? In this case, the requirements were low latency and reliability, not so much high bandwidth.

I disagree that DSL is good enough for telecommuting unless your job involves a "Lucasfilm-scale operation." I'm not alone.
Web Link
"Many owners of home-based businesses say they could not operate without fiber to the home, and telecommuters say their employers would be less likely to let them work from home without fast, reliable fiber broadband."

The "Silicon Valley thing" trope is just silly. If VCs won't invest in something, that doesn't prove that the City shouldn't. In this article, Chris Mitchell debunks some of the "Community Fiber Fallacies" promulgated by shills of the telecom incumbents.
Web Link


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Posted by Brendan
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 24, 2014 at 9:31 am

Stop bickering about it and just do it! The lack of vision and leadership here is ridiculous.

From Ms. Dunkin's post, it seems that it's no longer a question of possibility, but rather one of will...and no, the private sector doesn't _have_ to be the answer here.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

" the private sector doesn't _have_ to be the answer here."

Yes it does. Silicon Valley innovators are far from blind to opportunities to make money. Their absence from FTTP speaks volumes. It is a losing proposition.

So, we just declare our exceptionalism and risk Palo Alto taxpayers' money on a venture that smart private capital won't touch, right? I think not.

Snake oil is no substitute for careful analysis. To wit: "Curmudgeon, The $20 million in the Fiber Fund is not "tax money." It's there because the City was visionary enough to take the risk of building the City's dark fiber network. That's not enough to build out the entire citywide municipal FTTP network, but it's enough to get started. Bonds backed by dark fiber revenues would be one way of financing the rest."

The naivete displayed by the FTTP crowd is astounding. Fact: Dark fiber is unused fiber. Fact: Unused fiber generates no revenues. Bonds backed by nothing are junk bonds, with very high interest rates. They'll sell all right, and they'll cost PA taxpayers a bundle.

When private capital decides FTTP is worth the investment, private capital will make FTTP happen. In the meantime it is a certified black hole for taxpayer funds. Palo Alto needs to keep its money a safe distance from it.


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Posted by Utvolkyle
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Curmudgeon, all I can say is that leasing of Dark Fiber can be very lucrative and generates revenues not only in many community networks worldwide but also by private enterprise to one another to provide services to customers both local an remote.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2014 at 10:33 am

Brendan, I like your enthusiasm. Please email me. My email address can be found on the city's website.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

After a few days on the phone with customer service, I am sure that I'd switch to Google Fiber in a heartbeat. The lack of viable choices for high speed internet is appalling.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Curmudgeon, Brendan is correct that the city doesn't need to give up any control of a citywide municipal FTTP network to the private sector in order to get the money to build it. We already have $20 million. If the city were to sell bonds to the private sector to get more money, all the private sector would expect in return is that the bonds be paid back with interest. No doubt the city would hire a private sector company to build the network. No doubt the city would buy the fiber and electronics from private sector companies. The city might even contract with a private sector company to run the network, but on the city's terms.

You seem to forget that Google has built FTTP networks in Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO; and Sonic plans to build FTTP in parts of Brentwood, CA; and C Spire plans to build FTTP in a number of cities. So it's not as if the private sector in general thinks FTTP can't be successful financially. But, in general, the private sector puts the interest of its stockholders above the interest of the community.

No, it's not "snake oil" to say that the money in the Fiber Fund is not tax money, it's just a fact. Using Fiber Fund money for FTTP is not risking taxpayer funds. Using dark fiber revenues to back bonds for FTTP is not risking taxpayer funds.

No, the City's "dark fiber" doesn't mean unused fiber; it means fiber that the City is willing to lease to customers, who then use it by connecting the optronics to light it. So, sure, some of the City's dark fiber is unused and doesn't yet generate revenues; but some is used, and that used dark fiber generates net revenues of more than $2 million per year. (Not bad, considering that the City's initial investment in its dark fiber network was less than $2 million.) Note that when installing a fiber optic cable, it's nearly always a good idea to include way more fiber strands than you think you'll ever need, because it's expensive to install the cable, but each fiber strand within the cable is very inexpensive.


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Posted by jim
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Curmudgeon. From reading your posts I'd say you've picked the best possible anonymous handle. Try reading and absorbing what Jeff is saying.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm

"Try reading and absorbing what Jeff is saying."

I have, but as a professional engineer accustomed to working with and from facts, it makes me very dizzy. This is nothing personal with Mr. Hoel; it dates back to a presentation i witnessed by Warren Kallenbach, godfather of the FTTH movement, in which he proclaimed that an optical fiber which he held up has more information capacity than a thick copper cable, which he also held up.

I knew Prof. Kallenbach was far from being an engineer--his profession was placing student teachers in primary and secondary schools--so he could not possibly comprehend the silly absurdity of his analogy, but it left me with a keen sense for the uninformed snake oil that underpins his and his minions' spiels.

(I won't mention their ad-hominem attacks on dissidents: "From reading your posts I'd say you've picked the best possible anonymous handle.") [Portion removed]

I have no objection to fiber optic communications. I do believe our city needs to make rational decisions informed by facts. So far in this case, it has.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2014 at 11:40 am

Curmudgeon, I suppose you were trying to say that Warren Kallenbach was s "godfather of the FTTH movement" just in Palo Alto. As far as I know, that "movement" had lots of contributors, not just one "godfather." This 1998 article says Kallenbach wasn't claiming to be a technical expert.
Web Link

I have never been a "minion" of Kallenbach.

This list of PA-Comnet meetings says Kallenbach spoke on 07-22-98.
Web Link
But I don't know if this is the presentation you mean. The minutes of the meeting don't list you as having attended.

In 1998, Kallenbach might have said something like this: singlemode fiber has a bandwidth-distance product of more than 30,000 GHz x km, but the ordinary twisted pair copper wire that phone companies typically use in their networks has a bandwidth-distance product of less than 1 MHz x km, and fiber optic transceivers typically use encodings that achieve about 1 bit per Hertz, while the transceivers used with copper wires use encodings that achieve as many as 8 bits per Hertz. It's important that someone at least consider fiber's capability to handle future generations of transceivers. But in 1998, the "FTTH movement" was calling for FTTH hook-ups of 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps, which the city said it could provide for a connect fee of $1200 and $2000, respectively. (So when, in 2001, the city provided hook-ups of only 5 Mbps for its 67-home FTTH Trial network, that was a disappointment.) Nowadays, I think we should ask for 1-Gbps and 10-Gbps hook-ups.

I'm a retired electronics engineer. I was never paid to work on telecom stuff, but I know how to think like an engineer. I moved to Palo Alto in 1998, in part because FTTH was said to be just around the corner. But it took me a while to figure out that if I wanted it to happen, I'd have to participate in the Palo Alto Process.

It's absolutely not true that the city's decisions about FTTP, up to now, have been invariably rational and informed by (accurate) facts. You can find a number of my critiques of City documents about FTTP on the City's website.


1 person likes this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

"In 1998, Kallenbach might have said something like this: singlemode fiber has a bandwidth-distance product of more than 30,000 GHz x km,... "

Nope, Kallenbach never said anything nearly that quantitative-sounding. He merely held up a gossamer fiber in one hand and a foot-long section of Vulkene-insulated 2-inch diameter copper cable in the other, and intoned to his rapt audience that the fiber could carry over 1 million times more data than the big copper thingie could. An hilarious comparison for any knowledgeable listener, but apparently a solid clincher for his movement minions.

He was indeed the godfather of the movement, and I could never develop any technical respect for his FTTH gullibles after watching that.

I'm sorry you moved to Palo Alto for the wrong reason. Have you considered Kansas City or Chattanooga? Living's cheaper, and I hear they have some fiber afoot.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Curmudgeon, If the copper cable Kallenbach held up had 52 twisted pairs, and if each twisted pair had a bandwidth-distance product of 1 MHz x km (probably optimistic), and if 8-bit-per-Hz encodings were used, then a 1-km cable could, in theory, carry up to 416 Mbps. By comparison, a 1-km singlemode fiber with a bandwidth-distance product of 30,000 GHz x km could, in theory, carry up to 30 Tbps (about 72,000 times as much), but the transceivers required to achieve a significant fraction of that theoretical capacity would be pretty expensive. I think it might have been better to compare the capacity of the number of fibers that might go to a premises (say one or two) to the number of twisted pairs that might go to a premises (say one or two), each driven by cost effective transceivers. For twisted pair, in the days before U-Verse, DSL was doing 6 Mbps down and less than 1 Mbps up -- or less, depending on how far you were from the central office. FTTP was doing 100 Mbps symmetric or 1 Gbps symmetric, limited only by transceiver economics, not the capacity of the fiber.

If you're basing your opposition to municipal FTTP in Palo Alto in 2014 on one technical misstatement a non-technical fan made in 1998, then I have no respect for your judgment. Here's a 1999 slide show that perhaps shows better what the "FTTH movement" was thinking then.
Web Link

I would nominate Marvin Lee as the most conspicuous contributor to the "FTTH movement" in Palo Alto in the early days, although, as I said, there were lots of contributors.
Web Link

If you had been paying attention, you would know that Kansas City has Google Fiber and I'd prefer citywide municipal FTTP.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2014 at 9:04 pm

> Funny how this is Silicon Valley and we are behind the times.

It's not funny at all, it is monopoly capitalism by regulatory capture. Europe and the rest of the developed world will keep advancing while we get more and more unequal because we allow power politics to screw Americans over every time. Lucky we have enough money to buy the best and brightest from everywhere else, but that is getting expensive, so it became time to jettison responsibilities to American citizens.

Invest in the public sector, the Information Superhighway is the same as the Interstate highway system, it needs to be done by people for the people and keep monopolies out of it. Why after all this time and automation is the average phone bill multiples of what it was in real terms 30 years ago?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm

The only locations in the U.S. with high speed internet at costs comparable to Europe, S. Korea or Japan have competition provided by either municipal fiber or Google.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

7 Colorado Communities just voted for the right to build their own broadband networks.

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