News

Palo Alto treads cautiously on fiber network

City Council to wait for Google's decision before making any commitments

Read the extended story here.

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For the past two decades, Palo Alto's plan to connect every home and business in the city to ultra high-speed Internet has been hovering just out of reach despite an overwhelming consensus by elected leaders that the project is worth pursuing.

That rule largely held on Monday night, when the City Council debated its options for what is known as "Fiber to the Premises" (FTTP) and landed in familiar territory: requesting more data and deferring action.

After a three-hour discussion, the council passed a long and convoluted motion that effectively calls on the city to wait and see what Google will do before revisiting the topic early next year.

The Monday hearing about fiber was the council's few extensive policy discussions about the topic since February, when members commissioned a master plan for the project. The council had adopted "technology and the connected city" as its priority in early 2014, signaling a desire to finally make the dream a reality. This year, the priority was removed with the understanding that staff is already pursuing the project and that it does not require too much additional council guidance.

As in the past, council members talked about the great benefit ultra high-speed Internet would bring to the masses. Yet with Google still considering bringing its fiber network, Google Fiber, to Silicon Valley communities and both AT&T and Comcast looking to upgrade their Internet offerings, officials agreed that it's best to wait and see how the private market shakes before making any commitments to a municipal system.

The decision to defer was prompted by recommendations from Utilities Department staff and the Utilities Advisory Commission, which voted 4-3 earlier this month to recommend deferring action for at least three months.

The commission minority – Chair Jonathan Foster and commissioners Arne Ballentine and James Cook – took a different stance and went along with a memo from a group of citizen advisors who urged a more assertive stance and recommended that Palo Alto adopt as a goal "to own at least a dark fiber to the premises network with dark fiber drops to all Palo Alto premises, residences and businesses alike."

Councilman Tom DuBois, a strong proponent of a municipal fiber network, urged his colleagues to adopt as a goal "a ubiquitous fiber network in Palo Alto with city ownership of fiber assets."

Though he acknowledged the high level of activity in the private market, he pointed out not clear whom they would serve and how much they would charge. By building a city-owned system, the city could make sure everyone has access to ultra high-speed Internet and that the city has long-term control over the fiber network.

"This question of ubiquitous access, ownership and control is really what we need to decide as a council," DuBois said.

He also recommended that the city enter into discussions with Google and other providers about a possible "co-build" scenario, in which the city would lay its own conduit while the telecoms are expanding their networks. At the same time, he said, the city should pursue a "dig once" policy that would offer opportunities for the city and other companies to install conduits as part of Google's potential expansion.

Now, DuBois said, is a "critical time" precisely because of the action in the private market.

"There is a window to talk to these providers before the announcements are made," he said.

While most of DuBois' proposals ultimately won approval after hours of wordsmithing and minor modifications, several of his once-enthusiastic colleagues expressed caution about a potential municipal fiber network.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss, who two years ago attended a conference in Kansas City, Missouri, about the fledgling municipal-fiber industry, said hearing about the lawsuits and other problems that other cities experienced "really poured cold water on my enthusiasm."

Cities, she noted, are not good at being nimble, which makes it tougher to quickly respond to market changes. She also acknowledged the awkwardness for the city hinging its plans on what Google will decide to do but did not argue against pursuing this course.

"Google is the big dog and we're waiting to see if he's going to bark or not," Kniss said. "It'd kind of an interesting situation for us: To be waiting to see what one company is going to do."

By and large, the council agreed with DuBois' argument that a city-owned fiber network would be a strong long-term asset. Few, however, were willing to commit. By the end of the meeting, what was once considered a council "priority" and later proposed as a council "goal" became a "preferred alternative," a phrase proposed by Councilman Pat Burt.

"Really, establishing a goal at this time that we might change in four months, it looks like we're just not committed," Burt said.

Burt and DuBois both took some issues with the recent study that the city commissioned to evaluate the feasibility of "Fiber to the Premises."

The report, written by the firm CTC Technology and Energy, evaluated the market forces and potential models for the city to pursue. It concluded that a municipal system would cost about $77.6 million to construct and recommended that the city find a private-sector partner that would actually operate what would be a city-owned system.

The report highlighted the high level of competition in the private market and argued that the city would need 72 percent of the city to sign up for the operation to have a positive cash flow.

Given these findings, Utilities Department staff recommended that the municipal drive toward high-speed Internet be put on hold until the city has a better sense of the private market and partnership opportunities.

"The city simply does not have the same buying power as the private sector, and it is not particularly skilled at operating a for-choice competitive business," a new report from the Utilities Department states.

"However, it may make sense for the City to deploy, own and maintain the fiber infrastructure, and to engage a private provider to manage the FTTP enterprise's operations," according to the report. "This would allow the City to focus on the long-term fiber investment and to leverage a private partner's operational efficiencies to potentially create a strong enterprise and reduce the take rate necessary to make the enterprise cash flow."

The competition could be particularly fierce in Palo Alto, where AT&T is now in the process of installing its GigaPower service. Comcast is also targeting the Bay Area for its plan to upgrade its broadband Internet offering to 2 gigabits (and ultimately 10 gigabits), according to Palo Alto's Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Reichental.

From the looks of things, Reichental said, Palo Alto will have at least three providers offering high-speed Internet to anyone who wants it.

Joanne Hovis, CEO of CTC Technology and Energy, argued that a partnership with a private-sector provider would be the most prudent path for the city. One of the strongest advantages that the city would bring to the partnership, Hovis said, is a "long-term view and a potential willingness to recover its funds over a considerable period of time, which is not something we see very much with commercial providers where the requirement is to achieve profitability on any investment within a short period of time, sometimes within a couple of years."

The private-sector partner, meanwhile, would bring to the table the "enormous benefits" that come from a large economy of scale, Hovis said.

The council didn't disagree, though some members argued that her report both overstates the costs of building a municipal network and understates its benefits.

DuBois disputed the report's conclusion that the cost would be greater in Palo Alto than in other areas because of the higher cost of labor and equipment. He noted that the cost of equipment has actually been going down and that the cost of labor can potentially be reduced through use of contracted work.

Burt, meanwhile, argued that a municipal network would foster competition and potentially improve service and bring down rates throughout the city. The CTC report noted that in areas where Google has set up its fiber ring, AT&T has dropped its price to about $70 per month. In other areas, the monthly rate is $110. These benefits, Burt argued, should be quantified and considered as part of the discussion.

"I think we need to look at both of those costs the cost avoidance to everyone who lives and works here versus the direct cost to everyone who is operating that system," Burt said. "I think it's a vital one that hasn't been discussed."

Though the vote was ultimately unanimous, the council split 5-4 on one key provision, which directed staff to issue a request for information to explore the construction of a city-owned system by contractors and to consider a potential public-private model.

Proposed by DuBois, the provision squeaked by despite opposition from Mayor Karen Holman, Councilwoman Kniss and Councilmen Greg Scharff and Marc Berman.

Comments

14 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2015 at 10:10 am

Primary roles of government are vision and infrastructure. Continued inaction on this long delayed priority is unfortunate. The attached article on the killer app of 1900 should be required reading
Web Link


34 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 10:19 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

This reminds me of the man in the market to buy a new car who perpetually puts it off because "there's a new model coming out next year."

Palo Alto shouldn't put their faith in AT&T or Comcast.

AT&T actually blames the city for the terrible limits on their DSL and U-Verse availability. There are locations in busy areas around town that still cannot get 1Mbps with AT&T and the company blames the city for "failing to approve the necessary infrastructure" (which I later learned to be untrue).

Comcast might install gigabit lines around Palo Alto -- but they will charge an arm and a leg for it. They will come up with some rationale as to why they should raise prices to customers. The "first six months" balloon bursts and Comcast fleeces consumers for every dime that they can squeeze...and explain away technical issues (i.e., outages) and poor customer service because they are "industry leading."

I've only heard good things about Google Fiber. Unfortunately, we just don't know if or when Google will move into Palo Alto.

If any city in America should be on the cutting edge of ultra-high speed internet availability, it should be Palo Alto. This is ground zero of the Silicon Valley tech industry and the preeminent center for internet innovation. This is the only city in California that runs its own utility. Why can't the city make fiber for high speed internet a utility offered by the city?

If this is put off for another time, another year, then the debate will continue for another two decades. If a city like Chattanooga can provide gigabit fiber to the residents of the city and surrounding area through a city-owned utility, then why can't Palo Alto?


17 people like this
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 10:47 am

Nayeli: "This reminds me of the man in the market to buy a new car who perpetually puts it off because "there's a new model coming out next year.""

You are absolutely correct. The Brains of Palo Alto did the same thing 30-40 years ago when they put off installing cable as new technology kept coming up (as it always does). PA and the surrounds were some of the last communities in the country to get cable. On top of that they decided on a Co-Op system that tanked.

Being smart and well educated works against you at times.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:28 am

"This reminds me of the man in the market to buy a new car who perpetually puts it off because "there's a new model coming out next year.""

Good for him. It is much easier to buy next year's car model than to replace an obsolete fiber infrastructure. Fiber today is in its Ford Model A era. No contemporary car offers much amenities as manual choke, spark advance on the tree, starter pedal, rod brakes, and a gas tank that doubles as the dashboard.


"they [the city government] decided on a Co-Op system that tanked."

I think that sums up the folly of letting city hall mess around in a technology it does not understand: then cable, now fiber. If fiber were financially viable, Comcast and AT&T would be fighting to string up the town. They are very visibly not.

Fools snatch up what the smart money will not touch. I am glad to note that, this time, city hall is not among the fools.


9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:34 am

The Palo Alto Way. Luckily, I'm able to move somewhere else because Palo Alto isn't going to have a home fiber network in my lifetime.


4 people like this
Posted by howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:39 am

99% of Palo Alto residents don't need this. It is just a toy, like so much of Silicon Valley "innovation."


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"99% of Palo Alto residents don't need this"

Wow - on what basis did you determine this "fact"?

Here are some real facts:

Web Link

"Looking at the states, broadband adoption and speeds tend to be highest in high-tech, high-income states that have a well-educated population. Indeed, there is a strong correlation (0.73) between state broadband adoption rates and the years of schooling obtained by the workforce."


10 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

This is certainly a complex issue. With a 165 US cities that have already deployed public or public-private fiber (and 200 more actively evaluating it) we should seriously engaged in understanding best practice approaches.

Rather than do nothing for the next 3 months (during which time its suggested Google will make additional city selections), the unanimous motion last night was to take several steps now in order to be prepared to make a decision:

1. Actively negotiate with current providers to benefit the city

2. Move on a "dig once" ordinance that will lower our costs if we do decide to lay city owned fiber.

3. Issue a request for information to explore two business models now, rather than waiting.

4. Don't spend our Fiber fund on other uses until we decide on a strategy.

One small correction to the article, the private providers have told us they will not necessarily go "to anyone that wants it". ATT is doing a small pilot to about 5000 homes. You must be located near a Gigapower box to get that service. As was mentioned last night, Comcasts 2 Gigabit service is $300 a month and it is not clear where and when it will be available. And Google will only install in a neighbor that has enough takers when they come by to install, otherwise your street will be passed by.


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why not the model that Atherton is pursuing - a city wide privately owned fiber network that is accessible to any provider? Build it once, any provider can purchase space on it and there will be lots of competition both in terms of quality of service and price.

Why give Google or any single provider exclusivity or a competitive advantage?


Like this comment
Posted by Wholly Moley
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm

"Indeed, there is a strong correlation (0.73) between state broadband adoption rates and the years of schooling obtained by the workforce."

Golly gee. We don't need all that education reform stuff after all. We just need to get broadband.


3 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm

>>"99% of Palo Alto residents don't need this"

> Wow - on what basis did you determine this "fact"?

About 10 years ago, the Utility conducted a survey of all its utility customers as to their desires about having the City provide FTTP (Fiber to the Premises). As memory serves, only about 8% of the customer based replied to the survey. Most of that 8% was interested—the remaining 90-92% did not seem to be interested enough to even respond to the survey.

So—that is a “fact” that might not be known to people who live outside of Palo Alto—but it is a “fact” to those who do.

Moreover, the City has advertised for a long time now that Palo Altans are at least 85% -90% “wired. With the advent of WiFi, 4G and smartphones, it would be impossible to actually know exactly how many people don’t have access to the Internet these days—particularly since there are public access computers in all public libraries these days.

People need what they need, and are willing to pay for. Being told what they need by people who don’t live in our town is not likely to change Palo Altan's ways, or opinions, of what they need, and are willing to pay for.


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

"Indeed, there is a strong correlation (0.73) between state broadband adoption rates and the years of schooling obtained by the workforce."

Problem 1: What is the definition of "broadband"? In January, the FCC changed the definition of "broadband" (top search result: Web Link): Minimum speeds:
- up: changed from 1 to 3 Mbps
- down: changed from 4 to 25 Mbps
With this, many people who don't see the need for more speed, for example those current with 20Mbps download speeds, no longer have "broadband".
And as with any recent change in definitions, one needs to be careful about which version is being used.

Problem 2: Admonition: "Correlation does not (necessarily) imply causation."
Years of schooling correlates to income level, and income level correlates to being able to *afford* the more expensive higher speeds. And since people with higher income levels tend to clump together, where they live tends to correlate to vendors making higher speeds *available* in those neighborhoods/areas.

Problem 3: Granularity: "state broadband rates" is an awfully coarse measure. So coarse that I don't see its value. There are many states with large pockets of high-income, high tech surrounded by vast areas of impoverishment.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the remaining 90-92% did not seem to be interested enough to even respond to the survey."


Non response does not equal "don't need".


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am glad that you revealed your source -"About 10 years ago, the Utility conducted a survey"

Ten years ago nobody "needed" and iPhone or a Tesla.


3 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:30 pm

> It is a complex issue.

Really? How so? Just saying that this is a “complex issue” and not explaining to the rate payers, and ultimately, those who will be responsible to paying of the cost of the capital equipment and the bonds, should have a clear and concise picture of exactly what those promoting any idea involving hundreds of millions of dollars are talking about.

So—where is the business plan, and the contingency plans for exiting this project if it were to be considered financially unsuccessful—like a number of municipal fiber projects have shown themselves to be? How can anyone firmly believe that the City is to be trusted with that kind of money with having done due diligence?


> With a 165 US cities that have already deployed public or public-private fiber
> (and 200 more actively evaluating it) we should seriously engaged in
> understanding best practice approaches.

So what?

Most of the cities that have gone down the Municipal FTTP path are mostly rural, and not likely to be serviced by this extremely expensive data networking capability in the near future. It makes sense for them to provide this service, although wireless will probably be the choice of many rural communities in the coming years.

We also have the basic issue of demand. With mobiles and wearables becoming the access method of choice of younger people—the demand for fiber to the home may easily be much lower than it might have been a decade ago. At the very minimum, there seems to be little in the way of real demand at the moment from the ratepayers.

Interestingly, the private Carriers have not totally ignored FTTP—but those that have invested a lot of money in the technology have not reported great financial success. As we saw in the case of Chattanooga:

Comcast Brings 2-Gig Service To Chattanooga
Web Link

About 66,000 homes and 6,000 businesses use EPB's fiber-optics service. Of those, 5,425 get 1 Gbps service.
- - -

Comcast does not release subscriber numbers, so it’s not possible to compare their user base. However, a population of only 173K, it does seem that the municipal agency has most of the business. Interesting that so few people seem to be willing to pay for the 1Gb service. The EPB crows about its offering 1Gb, but less than 8% of the total subscriber base is actually using the capability.

This is another example of a municipal utility operating in a bubble—within its municipal borders. Comcast/ATT/etc. have regional obligations, and in some cases, Federal/State regulation that municipals don’t have. Municipals do not generally feed profits back into R&D—which is expected of the larger providers.

It’s very difficult to see this project as one that has a lot of support. Since the total costs have not been revealed to the public—it’s hard to believe that the costs will not be greater than promoted to date.

> ATT is doing a small pilot to about 5000 homes. You must be located near a Gigapower box to get that service.

So what? If AT&T proceeds with upgrading the city after its trial—then it will install these boxes so that all of the customer base is eventually serviced. Most FTTP notes have fairly small footprints, so the PAU would have to install their boxes around the city just like the private vendors.


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

This recent article from TechCrunch should add a couple hard data points about how popular mobile access is to sites like Facebook--

More Than Half A Billion People Access Facebook Solely From Mobile:
Web Link

It seems that with every earnings report, we hit another milestone in Facebook’s shift to mobile. Here’s the latest one: 526 million of its monthly active users access Facebook solely from their mobile devices.

That’s up from 456 million in the previous quarter, and it’s an increase of around 78 percent from the 296 million mobile-only users that Facebook saw during the same period last year. That also represents about 38 percent of Facebook’s 1.39 billion monthly active users.

Just in case you doubted whether Facebook’s mobile user base is really big, there are some other mobile stats in the report — 745 million daily active users on mobile, 1.19 billion monthly active users on mobile (but not necessarily mobile-only). Most noteworthy, perhaps, was the fact that mobile represented 69 percent of Facebook’s $3.59 billion in ad revenue, compared to 53 percent during the same period last year
----

This "shift to mobile" is changing the way that information is distributed to people with Smartphones (which is most of the young).


12 people like this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Palo Alto is about to break through to the fiber future. Three of the biggest telecom guys are about to bless us with their high-speed networks. While you are on your knees genuflecting, you might want to consider this.

Councilman Burt figured out last night a $40 monthly difference in an AT&T fiber charge was worth about $10 million a year to a community like Palo Alto. Of course, with no competition, AT&T will pocket the $10 million. And more millions in countless other ways. They are just following their monopolist script.

Ever try to decipher a Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon Wireless bill. Each is designed to be vague and incomprehensible. How can you object to a change if you can't figure it out? Call customer service for a phone tree tutorial and a professional run-around. Brilliant. Most of us just give up and go with the status quo. Monopoly guys love that, it reduces their churn, and increases their profits.

All this and more will be repeated countless times in countless ways by closed networks like AT&T, Comcast, and Google, fiber or not. Unless we have true competition which only a muni fiber network delivers, we expose ourselves to getting gouged on a daily basis. We have a five-decade history of getting hammered like this, so maybe we have just become numb to it all.

Not incidentally, the muni fiber network in our town is 100% paid for by users of the fiber network. 100%, no tax money involved. Naysayers forget to mention this important point.

It might be wise to finds ways to support thoughtful efforts seeking muni fiber for Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Douglas Moran,


Thanks for these data.

The fastest speed readily available here is 150mbs down, which is certainly faster than the "broadband" definition. This is from Comcast.

I have their 100mbs service. I tried 150mbs but it made no operational difference on anything I use. This is because most websites are optimized for 10-20mps. Even Netflix's new 4k video service only recommends 25mbs.

In any practical sense, FOR RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS, it is simply too early to have a big market for 1gbs speeds. It is coming, and our incumbent providers will be bringing it to us before we need it.

This can be seen in many cities that have 1gbs service. Most of the customers go for lower speeds because the 1gbs is pretty much just for show right now. Even "Gig City" Chattanooga only has 7.5% of its residential customers at the 1gbs tier.

I don't see the city making any operational difference to broadband. My predication is that after at most a few years of consultants, meetings, conversations with vendors, this will fade away.

Had Palo Alto built a fiber system in 1998, it might have been spectacular.

There is a big disconnect between the city and the operational reality of Internet access in Palo Alto.


3 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:52 pm

@ Norman -- What do you say Palo Alto should have done differently before there was a cable TV provider here? Should it not have formed a joint powers authority (JPA) with neighboring cities Menlo Park, Atherton, and East Palo Alto? Should the JPA have franchised a different private-sector provider? How does what Palo Alto should have done then inform what Palo Alto should do now with FTTP? Cities no longer have franchising authority. I think Palo should do citywide municipal FTTP.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Chuck,

It is easy to find fault with Comcast. I get mad at them frequently, and would switch to something better in a minute. [I have figured out their billing.]

I also use DirecTV for video, they do seem better but I still get into hassles with them.

Problem is: Comcast is actually going a pretty good job with Internet service in many measures. My 100mbs service is reliable and fast enough for anything we throw at it.

I think you are romanticizing how wonderful municipal fiber would be. When you look carefully at actual deployments, cities turn out to be just as monopolistic and inconsiderate as the for-profit companies. And they have the power of taxation to help cover their mistakes.

If you read the CTC report, for example, they propose that Palo Alto use out-of-state call centers for support in order to save money. So we can talk to the same folks that Comcast uses I guess!





7 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:54 pm

@Curmudgeon -- What evidence do you have that FTTP fiber infrastructure today is "in its Ford Model A era"? It's possible to build a FTTP fiber infrastructure today that will support the next several generations of electronics over multiple decades, for those who want to keep up with the state of the art.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From the Atherton Fiber to the Home Report:
"–
Fiber has lots of headroom

10 Gbps is available now, will be cheap in 10 years

Future system wide increase as technology improves

Higher performance available now for higher price

System should last 20-30 years, at least"


Like this comment
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:04 pm

"It might be wise to finds ways to support thoughtful efforts seeking muni fiber for Palo Alto."

That would be very wise, if it could go anywhere.

Muni fiber advocates want the city to take the financial risk. They will not consider alternatives. End of effort.

Cooler heads want to privatize the investment. Private parties, tending to be driven by objective reasoning rather than emotions, decline to invest. End of effort.

Peter Carpenter's first post links to a very informative document: Web Link. It shows that private home bandwidth needs are much less than current DSL technology can deliver; fronthaul fiber to the home is a waste of resources. Hence the disincentive for private investment, and the clamor for public funding of what amounts to a toy.


Like this comment
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm

@ Peter Carpenter.... It's 10 years later and still nobody today needs an iphone or Tesla. If individuals choose to purchase either of these items because they feel the need, it's their prerogative. The majority of people who need higher speed internet services can purchase through one of many providers.

People who didn't respond to the survey most likely didn't feel the need for the service. Not everyone needs to have the latest, greatest of everything.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:22 pm

"@Curmudgeon -- What evidence do you have that FTTP fiber infrastructure today is "in its Ford Model A era"?"

History, sir, history. Like our fiber technology now, the Model A was considered the vanguard of technology in its day.

But to my knowledge, nobody ever replaced the manual choke with an automatic one, nor the hand spark advance, nor the rod brakes* with a hydraulic system, nor installed a starter solenoid, nor relocated the gas tank, on any existing vehicle. Too difficult. Instead, they bought cars with improved technology as they were developed, which is much easier with a car than a citywide fiber infrastructure.


*Those rod brakes were thrilling. They never worked the same way twice. Ever try them?


Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:28 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

For a city that has excess budget for wasteful things like stupid envelope stuffing of how to be "green" (ironic!) in our monthly bills, it's funny that people are asking for ROI calculations.

What's the ROI of the PaloAltoGreen program (or this Carbon Neutral Portfolio)?

Or the Parking Permit program?

Or the time and effort (and millions allocated) for Buena Vista?

Seems like we lots of budget to do things w/o ROI.

Of course this is not surprising for a conservative city filled with folks who pine for the way it was in 1985 (or 1975). They're probably wondering why they have trouble with the rotary dial phone.


Like this comment
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm

@PAmoderate. Great post, but Palo Alto a conservative city? Really?


2 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

@38 year resident

Yup.

Merriam-Webster definition of "conservative" - not liking or accepting changes or new ideas


11 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ PAmoderate: There is a difference between "not liking or accepting changes or new ideas" and "not supporting potentially negative changes" or "bad ideas." :-)


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 5:13 pm

@Wayne Martin -- I don't recall the FTTP survey that you say was sent to all of Palo Alto's utilities customers.

The City employed DataCycles to do a FTTP survey in 2002-2003.
Web Link
Survey participants were selected at random from a list of all utilities residential customers. The City thought that the survey showed that enough people would sign up for FTTP services to make the network feasible financially.

I don't think I've seen the City's advertisement that claims at least 85-90 percent of Palo Altans are "wired." What kind of service does it say they can get? Sure, you can also connect to the Internet via wireless or in libraries, but I don't accept that that's good enough.

Historically, the City has required financial viability of municipal FTTP as a prerequisite for moving forward. That means it would be paid for by revenues from the premises that sign up for services.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 6:02 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

I answered 'NOT Interested' because the cost was absurd ($ many thousands per year)
Like most PA Surveys, they are either poorly done (HA!) or are pre-loaded ,to ONLY sell their program. to wit: the Library bond Poll: All or nothing. Not just do Library MP or Rincanada...

My current DSL (with POTS service included) costs $624 per year, That INCLUDES PAUUT and other junk fees.

Gimme FTTP with VOIP for no more than $1K per year, and I would say YES

To the person who think most folk don't NEED anything faster tha 1MBPs. You must not use your computer much. The multiple, BLOATED Video ads on a single page, take a big time bite (and bring a older P4 computer to its knees, makes a core-duo limp)


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 6:33 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"The City employed DataCycles to do a FTTP survey in 2002-2003."

Wow. A technology survey conducted before Facebook was founded.

Enough said.


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Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

The City of Santa Cruz and Cruzio, the fabulous local ISP, have partnered to develop a city-wide Gigabit FTTP network, which you can read about here -- Web Link. Cruzio has already built fiber in parts of the city on its own, where it was clearly profitable to do so -- downtown and Westside industrial area -- so there's a track record that the city trusts. It's early in the process for Santa Cruz, but it's a model to watch.

Oh, how I miss Cruzio since moving here. The lack of a great local ISP here makes the other options expensive, unimpressive, and unresponsive to local needs.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Muni fiber advocates want the city to take the financial risk. They will not consider alternatives. End of effort."

Under the model being pursued in Atherton the Town assumes zero risk and the marketplace selects the best providers.


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Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Please hurry, Palo Alto - without the power of fiber optic internet, I'll continue to suffer the ravages of embedded video advertising bloat. It's getting so difficult to enjoy Kardashian gifs, blopper vines, kitty vids, and #omg "you won't believe what this star did" roflmao mashes.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Under the model being pursued in Atherton the Town assumes zero risk and the marketplace selects the best providers.."

OK, PA. Why not that here?


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2015 at 7:28 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Sonic's Dean Jasper, indicated willingness to discus managing CPA's fibre.

Sonic manages to provide their standard (which are PREMIUM when compared to others) Internet services WITHOUT all the ads and bloat of other ISP's

We have a entrenched bureaucracy, hanging onto modern jobs they are no longer capable of performing.


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2015 at 8:05 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

If Sonic can provide Fiber at the same price it's offering to SF and Santa Rosa ($80+tax/month), then that works great. Frankly, it really depends on how the City of Palo Alto wants to do business. Given that the fiber service it's offering is profitable, makes you wonder how much the city sees this as a revenue source rather than a benefit to residents.

Otherwise, what we really need is competition - we should try to have at least two ISPs offering gigabit service. Note that Cable and Telco ISPs only offer competitive pricing when Google Fiber is around.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2015 at 8:15 am

PAModerate,

The fiber business that PA is offering is DARK FIBER. This means that companies have to rent it and provide their own equipment etc. to make it work. Extremely expensive.

The city only has a small amount of fiber for this and, according to city engineers, this only would become a very small piece of the fiber needed for a "ubiquitous" system.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:22 am

Fiber backhaul is the only thing that makes good wireless experiences possible. You can't just keep passing massive data streams around in the air. Pretty soon, you need to get it to a server at some distant location fast and reliably, and you need to get something back from that server fast and reliably. Fiber backhaul is doing that job today, for our cellular carriers. But not yet for our Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Our home has more than a dozen wireless devices, the newer ones are smart devices. Two keys: 1) most of our devices are relatively new so they send and receive on the fast 5 GHz band, and 2) at home we have a fast 5 GHz wireless router attached to a fast Comcast modem, attached via cable to a shared Comcast network which attaches to the Internet.

From our wireless router to the Internet, it is all copper wires. Replace those copper wires at the network level with fiber, and you have a super-fast and reliable signal in your home for your wireless devices and connected devices (desktop computers, TV, X1 box, and our router putting out a WiFi signal for our exclusive use).

Your wireless devices are only as good as your backhaul.
Five years ago, we had an iPhone that only talked to the AT&T network; Apple’s first iPhone chose an exclusive carrier, AT&T. Of course, the AT&T signal in our neighborhood turned out to be zero. Steve Jobs' neighborhood, 5 bars; our neighborhood, zero. We bought AT&T femtocells ($150 each, thanks, AT&T) they called “Wireless Extenders” so at least we had connectivity in our home. Walk out the door, zero.
A couple of years later, Apple included Verizon Wireless as one of their carriers. Since we get a good Verizon signal in our neighborhood, even inside our home, we switched to Verizon. And we kept upgrading our home WiFi router to reduce data minutes Verizon charged through the nose for.

For its part, out there on a pole somewhere, Verizon has a radio transmitting signals to and from our devices. From that pole, Verizon fiber backhauls any data we send to them (about zero since we send all our data from home via Comcast Internet).

Verizon fiber backhaul from the pole. Again, fiber backhaul makes better wireless experiences possible.

I want fiber backhaul in my neighborhood and at home ASAP, and not from the closed networks I know are out to gouge me 18-ways-to-Sunday. Because I know our wireless device numbers are exploding, and our smart device numbers are exploding even faster.

Smart devices eat bandwidth big time, when you watch movies on your smart phone like all teenagers today, or send video streams to your friends. Photo and video files are massive. Moving huge files from individual to individual is a relatively new development in the communications world.

Palo Alto needs to look ahead now. For many reasons, muni fiber backhaul into our neighborhoods is an imperative for our community.


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Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:30 am

"Non response does not equal "don't need"."

The chain goes: Non response = don't care = don't need.


"Ten years ago nobody "needed" and iPhone or a Tesla."

Still don't. Highly optional items both.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" For many reasons, muni fiber backhaul into our neighborhoods is an imperative for our community."

Why does it have to be "muni"? Isn't fiber to the home the objective rather than requiring this it be "muni"?


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Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:42 am

"Isn't fiber to the home the objective rather than requiring this it be "muni"?"

That's true in Atherton, but not in PA. For our FTTP (nee FTTH, really MFTTP) crowd, the muni is the grand glorious objective; fiber is secondary. It's a religious dogma; objective logic cannot explain it.


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Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:58 am

This thread discusses city versus Telecom ownership for fiber. But the first question is whether fiber makes sense at all.

Wayne Martin argues against fiber assuming wireless will obsolete it.
I think he is wrong, just as batteries (portable wireless electricity) has not outmoded hard wire electricity to our homes and businesses.

He is right that 5G wireless promises dramatic speed increases.

However, let's look at 4G wireless compared to 3G. Standing in a good spot, I get extermely good data rates of 20gb with 4G. Way better than 3G. So I expect this to be true of 5G.

However, many times in many spots, I can't get scratch on 4G. I mean 4G is simply not dependable for a home environment. Everything at home either does or will depend on RELIABLE fast Internet.

I'm sceptical that 5G will provide the reliability needed. Think of your electricity. If it worked only 98% of the time, would that be good enough? No. When I turn on the light - I expect it to go on every single time. All home video, music, phone service will require the same level of reliability.

I don't think we will ever get rid of hardwired electricity in our homes simply because someone creates a really good battery. Likewise, very good wireless Internet access will not obsolete highly reliable wired Intenet service for home or business.


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Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Only Fiber can provide the speed that each customer needs, but more importantly what the entire community at the same time needs.

Some people have argued that our current speeds are high enough. But they are viewing it as speed to THEIR house. One of the reasons that folks are talking about 1GB rather than our mostly 5-20mb, is that high bandwidth is needed for digital so that everyone can simultaneously get high speed Internet access. Comcast is a really good example of a system that can very easily give you 20mb of service when no one else is using it. But they always say Up To 20mb because your mileage will vary as more neighbors start streaming their Netflix movies.

We have seen in many areas with 1GB service capability, most customers take lesser speeds of 20MB (at much lower price) and so can YOU if you don't feel the need for 1 GB. But history (like 10 years) has shown that the need for bandwidth speed is increasing almost exponentially because of the greater demand for movie streaming. If you are a Netflix user on less than 20MB, ask yourself how satisfying is it to rewind the movie a little. Not at all like a DVD right?


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Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2015 at 12:22 pm

@Curmudgeon. Fiber is a basic technology that will not change and be outmoded like the model T Ford. It is analagous to the road - not the car. If properly installed, it can be pulled and replaced.

Our cars have changed dramatically. But not the roads. Likewise, Internet applications and how we connect to the Fiber will change radically as well. But not the Fiber.

A key role of government is to provide infrastructure that is not profitable to business but leverages business. Government owns and maintains most roads, sewers, water distribution.

Fiber lines should be installed and maintained by the city. Any number of ISPs or Telecoms could pay to use the fiber so that there could be a variety of pricing, speed and competition.

One of the reasons that private Telecoms have not built many fiber delivery systems is because a single company can not make enough profit to pay for it unless they price gouge. How many car makers build roads?

I'd like to see every Telecom pay for our city owned fiber. Google, Comcast, AT&T, Sonic and more. Come on Palo Alto. It's not a changing technology and you can hire experts to make it happen. Do it.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:19 pm

"@Curmudgeon. Fiber is a basic technology that will not change and be outmoded like the model T Ford. It is analagous to the road - not the car. If properly installed, it can be pulled and replaced.

Our cars have changed dramatically. But not the roads. Likewise, Internet applications and how we connect to the Fiber will change radically as well. But not the Fiber."


Let's see how this narrative would be written in 1950:

@Curmudgeon. Coaxial cable (coax) is a basic technology that will not change and be outmoded like the model T Ford. It is analagous to the road - not the car. If properly installed, it can be pulled and replaced.

Our cars have changed dramatically. But not the roads [remember those state of the art 2-lane 1950 highways?]. Likewise, telephone and television applications and how we connect to the coax will change radically as well. But not the coaxial cable.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:21 pm

"@Curmudgeon. Fiber is a basic technology that will not change..."

Also wrong. Consult any optical communications textbook.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"all fibre-optic networks it is highly upgradable should greater speeds be required in the future. Speed increases only require upgrading of the transmission equipment with the fibre itself being unchanged."

"So let’s compare wireless and fibre, with all speeds converted to Gbps:

Experimental Current Theoretical Current Actual
Fibreoptic (per strand) 69000 Gbps 2000Gbps 2000 Gbps
Wireless (Per cell) 1 Gbps 0.042 Gbps 0.008 Gbps
As it currently stands, fibreoptics are achieving speeds that are 250,000 times faster than wireless. In the experimental stages, fibre can carry 69,000 times more data than the entire bandwidth delivered by a wireless"

Web Link


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:17 pm

> Wayne Martin argues against fiber assuming wireless will obsolete it

No, I don’t believe 5G will obsolete FTTP. I am arguing that there is such a shift to mobiles/smartphones by younger people that the interest in another high-cost telecom product in their apartments/homes will be an expense that they are not likely to incur.

Quick SmartPhone Stats:
Web Link

2/3rds of Americans Own A SmartPhone (of some sorts)
64% of Americans now own a smartphone, up from 58% in early 2014

Age Profiles of SmartPhone Owners:
Age,,,,Ownership

18-29….85%
30-49….79%
50-64….54%
65+……27%

How much does it really cost to own a SmartPhone?:
Web Link

Yearly cost of a Smartphone: ~$1,900

It’s hard for me to believe that most young people are going to drop another $1,000+ on a Fiber connection. Not clear how much business Verizon’s FIOS does on the high end of their offering, and has ceased deployment.

Web Link

Those profitability numbers pale in comparison to wireless, where Verizon reported 23.5 percent operating income margin in Q4 2014. That helps explains why Verizon is shifting capital expenditures from wireline to wireless. Verizon Wireless added 2.1 million retail connections in the fourth quarter, bringing its total to 108.2 million. Among those are 35.6 million retail postpaid accounts, averaging 2.87 connections per account for 102.1 million postpaid connections.

Fifty-nine percent of FiOS consumer Internet customers subscribed to data speeds of at least 50Mbps, up from 46 percent one year earlier.
----



It’s very clear that "mobile" has caught the fancy of the American public, and that being mobile means not stay at home where the Fiber is connected.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm


> Don’t remember any survey

Well, not remembering doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

A quick peak in the Week’s archive popped up this article, for 2002--

Web Link

That's according to a survey of 960 residents the city released last week. Seventy-five percent of those customers randomly polled said they would be "very interested" in subscribing to city-offered high-speed Internet. Only 41 percent said they were happy with their current Internet service provider.
---

960 residents, out of possibly 28,000 accounts, does not seem like a huge number to me. Given the extremely low participation in the City’s commercial fiber offering—it’s really not clear that Palo Alto’s business accounts want the City any more involved in their businesses that the City is now!

It’s been a long time since this survey was taken. If the Utility did not survey the whole town, then this survey results are questionable. The impact of Smartphone adoption would not have been a factor in the 2002 survey results, either.

Since that time, Comcast and AT&T have both invested heavily in fiber infrastructure (Fiber to the Neighborhood) here in Palo Alto. There have been few complaints other than those who continue to promote the City’s owning the telecommunications infrastructure.


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Re: Chattanooga fiber comparisons

Chattanooga's gigafiber service is owned and operated by EPB -- the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga. It is a public utility. It provides options for high speed and ultra high speed internet to the city and surrounding area. Their speeds have increased so that they now range from 100 Mbps for the cheapest plans to 10 Gbps for the most expensive.

While many residents do not opt for the more expensive $70 1 Gbps internet plan, you have to remember that Chattanooga isn't nearly as wealthy, well-educated or even tech-driven as Palo Alto. Chattanooga's median income for a family is $43,314. Palo Alto's median income for a family is $153,197. That is huge difference of more than $100,000 per family. Obviously, $70 per month for the internet hits the pocket book a bit more in Chattanooga than Palo Alto.

When I looked at the plans offered by EPB Chattanooga, I quickly realized that their non-sale prices are less expensive than most of Comcast's introductory rates (those cheaper rates for the first six months before ballooning to much higher monthly rates). I went through the order process on their website and found that you can order 1 Gbps internet, unlimited home phone service (including long distance and all options) and the Gold TV option (200 HD channels of cable including HD DVR and HD sports packages plus three premium networks) for less than what most most people pay each month for much slower internet speeds on Comcast.

I just think that something like this is worth looking into. If they have been able to boost certain plan speeds up to 10 Gbps, I think that it is safe to say that this is something that would be viable for quite a long time. It also helps with competition -- as Comcast plans to upgrade to a 2 Gbps internet service in that city.

I don't have faith in AT&T or Comcast in this area. We relied upon AT&T from the moment we moved to Palo Alto (just off of Alma in Midtown). AT&T made many promises that they never kept -- even downgrading our speeds because of the distance of the box from our apartment (and dishonestly blaming the city for not allowing more boxes in Palo Alto). Comcast just offers terrible customer service -- especially after they moved to their problematic X1 service. When the cable goes out (several times a month), you lose phone, internet and cable. We've had a few experiences where it went out for about a half-day (~12 hours) with no real timeline for fixing the problem.

I certainly want the city to think it over. However, if they think too long, this city will continually get passed by much more willing-and-eager cities like Chattanooga. Their system is a resounding success. If Palo Alto models their decision after EPB or, as Peter Carpenter suggested, what is planned for Atherton, I don't think that it would be a losing proposition for the city or residents.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

> Fiber is a basic technology that will not change
> and be outmoded like the model T Ford

As a poster previously noted—this is not correct. Every technology in the world will continue to be refined, and its capacities increased. Only once the technology has been abandoned will it cease to change.

However, optical technologies are in no way analogous to roadways. Most of the electronics need to be replaced periodically—perhaps every 7-10 years. Not only do the electronics wear out, but buying replacement parts becomes increasingly difficult over time, making the wholesale replacement of the system components necessary. This means that in twenty years (or so), all of the electronics will need to be replaced (perhaps twice)—which are costs that should be in a business plan. Many of the home termination points have batteries—which need to be replaced every five years or so. Again, these periodic costs should be identified in the business plan.

Even the fiber cable itself ages. To date, there have been so few of these systems installed that there is no data as to how long exposed fiber will last. Given Palo Alto’s mild climate—that might not prove to be much of an issue.

So—has the City actually done a business plan?


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Wayne Martin: The world has changed quite a bit during the 13 years since 2002. In 2002, many people were still accessing the internet via dial up modems or less-than-1 Mbps DSL. Those were the days before social media, streaming media and online console gaming. That was before YouTube, Facebook or even MySpace.

If it helps, perhaps the city can provide a new survey (maybe one on a Palo Alto Utilities entry page). It would help gauge residents' interest in the here-and-now.

BTW, I don't think that it is wise for some to suggest that cellular internet connectivity is somehow comparable with residential or business internet access. Most cell phone users are not on any sort of "unlimited" plan. In fact, you can't even upgrade your iPhone's OS without connecting to home or business Wi-Fi. Most smartphone users access web services through cellular data in-between more useful residential or business data.


3 people like this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

"@Curmudgeon. Coaxial cable from 1950."

That was 65 years ago, give me a break.

Besides, it is your customer relationships and the data they are moving on your network, fiber or not, that has by far the greatest value, not the physical network you paid to string house to house.

Google Fiber is proving that in spades to those who are paying attention.

Once our "sophisticated" Palo Alto citizens figure it out, it may be too late. I believe it is independence from closed networks those advocating muni fiber are talking about. And they feel fiber is the way to go, given the explosion coming in data traffic.

I agree with them.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:58 pm

@Wayne Martin -- Sept 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm

> Most of the cities that have gone down the Municipal FTTP path are mostly rural ....

Some aren't: Chattanooga, TN; Lafayette, LA; Wilson, NC; Longmont, CO; Sandy, OR.

> ... those that have invested a lot of money in the technology have not reported great financial success. As we saw in the case of Chattanooga:

Chattanooga EPB has been very successful. EPB has more customers now in their footprint than Comcast has.

> About 66,000 homes and 6,000 businesses use EPB's fiber-optics service. Of those, 5,425 get 1 Gbps service.

A 09-15-15 article says they now have 75,725 customers.
Web Link

> Comcast does not release subscriber numbers, so it's not possible to compare their user base

A 08-23-13 article indicates that EPB knows how many customers Comcast has.
Web Link

> The EPB crows about its offering 1Gb, but less than 8% of the total subscriber base is actually using the capability.

So what? It's not like EPB could have saved a ton of money by using CPEs not capable of 1-Gbps for their 100-Mbps customers. It's like they saved money by not having to upgrade to 1-Gbps hardware in the future.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm

"Besides, it is your customer relationships and the data they are moving on your network, fiber or not, that has by far the greatest value, not the physical network you paid to string house to house."

Strange statement from somebody who used the word fiber three times in his posting excerpt that I exhibited. But thinks change rapidly these days.

BTW, coaxial cable was indeed all the buzz in 1950. The completion of the first transcontinental coax cable was headline news. Everybody "knew" coax was the ultimate technology.

That is, until high bandwidth low loss multihop microwave became operational in the middle of the decade. Everybody "knew" microwave was the ultimate technology.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Trying to compare Palo Alto and Chattanooga makes no sense. Palo Alto is a tiny postage stamp of a place that is residential in nature. Chattanooga is a much larger town—which has manufacturing and other industrial enterprises fueling its economy.

From Wikipedia:
Web Link

Chattanooga's economy includes a diversified and growing mix of manufacturing and service industries.

Notable Chattanooga businesses include Access America Transport, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, CBL & Associates, The Chattanooga Bakery, Chattem,the world's first Coca-Cola bottling plant, Coker Tire, U.S. Xpress Inc., Covenant Transport, Double Cola, CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Luken Communications, Miller & Martin, the National Model Railroad Association, Republic Parking System, Rock/Creek, Tricycle Inc., and Unum. The city also hosts large branch offices of Cigna, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and UBS. McKee Foods Corporation, the maker of nationally known Little Debbie brand snack cakes, is a privately held, family-run company headquartered in nearby Collegedale, Tennessee.
Notable companies that have manufacturing or distribution facilities in the city include Alstom, Amazon.com, BASF, DuPont, Invista, Komatsu, Rock-Tenn, Plantronics, Domtar, Norfolk Southern, Ferrara Candy Company (manufacturer of Brach's candies), Alco Chemical, Colonial Pipeline, and Buzzi Unicem. The William Wrigley Jr. Company has a prominent presence in Chattanooga, the sole site of production of Altoids breath mint products since 2005.There is also a Vulcan Materials quarry in the vicinity of the city.

In May 2011, Volkswagen Group of America inaugurated its Chattanooga Assembly Plant. The $1 billion plant, opened in May 2011, serves as the group's North American manufacturing headquarters. The plant, which currently employs some 2,700 people and will increase by another 2,000 people within the next few years and manufactures the Passat (since April 2011) and the CrossBlue (from late 2016), will have a first-in-the-South full research and development center in downtown Chattanooga, employing some 200 engineers. The plant is the first one in the United States for Volkswagen since the 1988 closure of the Volkswagen Westmoreland Assembly Plant near New Stanton, Pennsylvania.

In addition to corporate business interests, there are many retail shops in Chattanooga, including two shopping malls: Hamilton Place Mall in East Brainerd and Northgate Mall in Hixson. Eastgate Mall in Brainerd used to be a shopping mall, but has changed into a multi-use office building. The P.F. Chang's restaurant at Hamilton Place Mall has had a unique theme since the restaurant opened in November 2006: water, based on the fundamental role the Tennessee River plays in Chattanooga and the fact that the CEO of P.F. Chang's since 2000, Richard Federico, is a 1976 alumnus of the University of Tennessee and has family in Chattanooga. In December 2001, Chattanooga was the site of the first two Dairy Queen Grill and Chill restaurants in the United States.

Tourism and Hospitality has been a growing part of Chattanooga's economy, with 2014 being the first year for Hamilton County to surpass $1 billion in revenue.

Startups have been an increasing trend, due in part to EPB's fiber optic grid. Notable venture firms based in the city are Blank Slate Ventures, Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, Lamp Post Group, SwiftWing Ventures, and The Jump Fund. The city is served by several incubators, notably Co.Lab, the Business Development Center, and Lamp Post Group. The Business Development Center is among the nation's largest incubators, both in square footage and in the number of startups that it supports.[51] Co-working spaces have picked up downtown, including Society of Work and Chattanooga Workspace. Unique in the city is the startup accelerator Gigtank, which utilizes the city's gigabit capacities and focuses on 3D printing, healthcare, and smartgrid technologies. Notable startups include Quickcue (acquired by OpenTable in 2013), PriceWaiter, Bellhops Moving Help, Variable Inc. (NODE), Ambition, Feetz, and TransCard. Chattanooga went from zero investable capital in 2009 to over $50 million in 2014.
---

The educational differences between Chattanooga and Palo Alto are significant—if one looks at the demographics carefully, and realizes that there is no manufacturing, or industrial activity, of any significance in Palo Alto. However, does this mean that high speed Internet is only of value to people with certain educational pedigrees, and incomes?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I believe it is independence from closed networks those advocating muni fiber are talking about."

A fiber network does not have to be "muni" to offer independence from closed networks.

In the Atherton model any ISP will have access to the fiber network - the result will be competition for both cost and quality of service.


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Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm

"Even the fiber cable itself ages. To date, there have been so few of these systems installed that there is no data as to how long exposed fiber will last. Given Palo Alto's mild climate—that might not prove to be much of an issue."

After mechanical stress and breakage, water is fiber's big enemy. Water in the fiber glass medium attenuates the signal, completely blocking certain bands.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm

> BTW, I don't think that it is wise for some to suggest that cellular
> internet connectivity is somehow comparable with residential or
> business internet access.

I have never said this. If you want to twist my words—that’s your privilege, I suppose.

I have said repeatedly that this is a matter of choice to the buying public. What is true (perhaps you don’t know), is the all of the RBOCs have been losing up to 14% (yearly) of their landline business (mostly to wireless) over the past few years. If people are keeping their cable and accessing the Net thru it, then wireless is not their medium of choice for Internet access. But with an incredible

The numbers provided in the Pew report are not fabricated.

BTW—the medical device business is currently going great guns—all promoting Smartphones as a “heath hub”—with healthcare data being transmitted upline via 4G (and soon, 5G). There is virtually no mention of fiber in the home as a conduit of this data.



1 person likes this
Posted by PA Technology!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:28 pm

"As it currently stands, fibreoptics are achieving speeds that are 250,000 times faster than wireless. In the experimental stages, fibre can carry 69,000 times more data than the entire bandwidth delivered by a wireless"

That's in Australia. This is Palo Alto. If we put our Silicon Valley know how to building our own muni wireless network we will greatly surpass that, but only if our city government moves into the 21 century and puts up the money first.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why do you want a "muni" system?

Exactly what innovations has the Palo Alto electrical utility ever provided other than being dependent on a single link to its source of electricity?

How many years do you think it would take for the City to even agree on a system design and to obtain funding much less have an operating fiber system?


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:48 pm

> After mechanical stress and breakage, water is fiber's big enemy.
> Water in the fiber glass medium attenuates the signal,
> completely blocking certain bands.

All true.

My comments were based on the fact that I have not read of any fiber systems having to replace significant lengths of cable in an FTTP setting. There are lots of reports of fiber being damaged, or sabotaged, in both exposed, and protected settings, however. There have been several fiber cuts in the last year here in the Bay Area alone. We have had fiber cuts here in Palo Alto too, as memory serves.

The Telcos have to report outages to the FCC after a short period of time. I found the data on line at one point. Local outfits, like a municipal, would probably not be required to report--particularly if it were a data only service.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Want to add a few more data points to this issue of maintenance of older FO systems—

Web Link

Older fiber optic equipment faces another problem caused by the lack of standardization in fiber optic components. Over the lifetime of fiber optic technology, there have been more than 80 different fiber optic connectors manufactured by about as many manufacturers, many of which were proprietary designs. There have also been three different multimode optical fiber types, with core/cladding sizes of 50/125, 62.5/125 and 100/140 microns.

Sometimes you can use your contacts and find the components to fix these older systems. In the last few years that we were in the manufacturing business, we often got calls for obsolete connectors or cables. We would go scrounging in the stockroom, or even the basement, and sometimes were able to find what the customer needed. We also sent them to the original manufacturer, if they were still in business. In one case we knew an engineer at one company who had a desk drawer full of obsolete connectors for just such situations.

Sometimes the users themselves may have stashed away the parts you need. Old patch cords can be used to connect to equipment that uses obsolete connectors while the other end can be terminated in modern connectors to connect to a new cable plant or an older one reterminated in current connector designs.

When faced with an aging fiber optic network, your best bet is to leave it alone. If something does go wrong, fixing it requires time and resourcefulness. It will probably not be cheap either, but it's usually less expensive than throwing everything away and starting over.
---
The article does not give any idea how old “old” is—but experience suggests that ten years is a good target to call electronics “old”. Sure, it will be at least ten years before this problem faces any new installation—but from reading the horribly incomplete “business plan” the Utility foisted on the public many years ago—they had not a clue about these “submerged costs” associated with ownership of an FO system.

Roseville had a fiber system starting in the early 1990s. When it needed repair around 2000--they found that the manufacturer was out of business, requiring them to purchase a completely new system.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Chattanooga cannot be replicated anyplace else. They received a $111M federal stimulus grant, and those are no longer operated.

They also have substantial bonded indebtedness and there are some concerns about that.



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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Regarding the permanence of fiber installations: it is hard for me to believe that anything in the telecom space is going to be very stable.

Provo, UT, went broke with their municipal fiber system, and discovered that the plant was obsolete and not worth anything. They sold it to Google for $1 and had to pay $1.5M in engineering costs to close the deal. They did get some concessions for customer service.

I am very skeptical of the city's apparent belief that a fiber installation will be a valuable asset long-term.




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Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

For those of you that are claiming one of two things.
1. Fiber may degenerate. What doesn't? Of course you have to pull more in the future.

2. Better technologies will come along. Maybe. But fiber provides speed of light communication. What do you think will be the better technology? Can you sight a reference to any faster or better transmission method?

Really? Fiber is the state of the art, whether in Palo Alto or buried deep in our oceans. To say that we don't know how long it will last or that better will come along is just an argument to do nothing.

And yes, Curmudgeon, the endpoint equipment will change. But not the fiber underground. By your argument we could not have installed copper wiring for either telphones or electricity. We'd still be waiting.

Its án icredibly weak analag to compare fiber to changes in automobiles. By the way, instead of saying

"Also wrong. Consult any optical communications textbook"

Give us some of your knowledge from that textbook and explain why the rest of the world is building fiber networks everywhere.

Finally - please stop citing 10 year old studies or surveys. I think that if Chattanooga could sign up 66,000 out of 167,000 residents for fiber then I think we would clearly do better here in Silicon Valley. By the way, Comcast states it will build a 2 gb fiber network in Chattanooga. Why would they do that if Fiber will degrade and better is coming along?


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:26 pm

The story of Chattanooga is not as simple as we have been led to believe in these proceedings—

Web Link

2008 -- EPB secures a bond to begin construction of our Smart Grid, a next-generation electric system that includes communication capabilities in order to reduce outages, improve response time, reduce theft and help customers manage their electric power usage. Building upon ten years of research and development, ours is one of the first and largest Smart Grids in the United States.

November EPB is awarded a federal stimulus grant in the amount of $111 million from the Department of Energy for expediting the build and implementation of the Smart Grid.

2012
September In celebration of its 3rd anniversary and to thank the community for its support, EPB Fiber Optics upgrades residential customer’s Internet speeds at no additional cost.

30 Mbps > 50 Mbps
50 Mbps > 100 Mbps
100 Mbps > 250 Mbps
EPB Fiber Optics also reduced the price of residential Fi-Speed Internet 1,000 service from $349.99 to $299.99 per month.

On September 17, EPB Fiber Optics celebrated its fourth birthday with a third, free Internet speed increase for all residential customers. The price for a Gig (1,000 Mbps) was drastically reduced, with Fi-Speed Internet choices simplified for residential customers:

2013
100 Mbps for $57.99 per month
1 Gig (1,000 Mbps) reduced to $69.99
EPB Fiber Optics commercial customers also received a free Internet speed increase

2013
EPB completed the installation of Smart Meters in the spring for all homes and businesses in EPB’s 600 square mile service area. By integrating meters with the Smart Grid Management System, six billion data points are collected annually. This data provides automated meter reading and billing, outage and voltage anomaly detection, automated connect and disconnect and theft detection. Customers have online access to their power usage in 15-minute intervals

----
Assuming that the data on this web-page is correct, the difference between a 100mbps connect and a 1Gb connect is about $12.00/month. So, why is it that so few Chattanoogans are not willing to pay this tiny difference to get this very fast connection? Hard to believe that it’s education and income levels. Got to be something else!

Couple of other key points from this data—

1) Chattanooga got a $111M grant from the Feds to build a “smart grid”—which includes, it would seem, the construction of a FO service.
2) The PAU has said that it can not/will not/should not install “smart meters” in Palo Alto for years.

So—it seems that with a $111M grant subsidizing the operation, we can call Chattanooga a “success”—since it didn’t have to pay for a considerable amount of the capital expenditure to build its “grid” out of its own pocket! Amazing how successful you can be if you have a sugar daddy in Washington will to write you big checks.

Really hard to understand how a city with low educational attainments and low income levels can have built a “smart grid” and Palo Alto can’t/won’t/shouldn’t.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:29 pm

> please stop citing 10 year old studies or surveys.

When that's all there is--then you have to use it.

There are so few FO installations in the US--all mostly small and rural, that there really isn't much useful data to use productively!


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:41 pm

@ Peter Carpenter --

> Exactly what innovations has the Palo Alto electrical utility ever provided other than being dependent on a single link to its source of electricity?

Palo Alto actually has three different connections to the electric grid. But they're sort of close to each other. So, for example, an airplane crash could wipe out all three at once. Getting a fourth connection, further away from the other three, is a priority, but requires the cooperation of other agencies.

Palo Alto has lower electric rates than neighboring communities do. I don't know if you'd count that as an "innovation."

Palo Alto invested in hydropower and has benefited from its low rates.

Palo Alto has been a leader in investing in renewable electricity sources and now has "carbon-neutral" electricity, which is good for the environment.

Peter, please contact me by email. My address is "listed" on the City's website. Thanks.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There are so few FO installations in the US--all mostly small and rural, that there really isn't much useful data to use productively!"

Not true - here is a perfect example:

Salisbury's municipal FTTH network, Fibrant is the first citywide 10 Gbps network in the nation. Located in North Carolina, Salisbury is also one of very few municipal citywide fiber networks that was built by a city without a municipal electric plant. This week, Salisbury Director of Broadband and Infrastructure, Kent Winrich, joins us for Episode 168 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

We talk about why Salisbury opted to build its own fiber network and then supercharge it with enough upgrades to be able to offer 10 Gbps capacity throughout the community. We discuss economic development opportunities and how those outside of Salisbury would like to see it expand.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 22 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Thanks to bkfm-b-side for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Raise Your Hands."
Web Link


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Wayne Martin,

From various reports, it is pretty clear that people do not get the highest speed available in many places. I understand that Comcast's most popular tier is the 50mbs, even though they have 100 and 150 to offer.

What is going on? Because the apps on the Internet simply do not require the highest levels of speed. Most sites (including the ones I build!) are tested for 10-20mbs. The highest speed I have seen suggested by any site is 25mbs for Netflix's new 4K video service.

I had Comcast's 50mb service and upgraded to 100mbs. Very little difference. I upgraded for 2 months to the 150mps, no difference at all except when running deliberate speed tests.

At my office, where I am CTO, I tried 1gbs fiber for a few days, courtesy of the ISP. No one could tell any difference at all in anything. The bitrate monitor stayed under 20mbs the entire time. Obviously we didn't keep it.

What all this means is just this: we do not yet need to have the kinds of speeds that our city council seems to believe that we need so urgently that the city must, MUST, expend the taxpayers' money in order to get.

xgYWf


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2015 at 7:33 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Wayne Martin - "When that's all there is--then you have to use it."

Right. And you use the same computer from 2008 (or 2003 if you want to tout the last survey done by Palo Alto)?

To expect optical cable to be permanent is ridiculous. Roads have to be paved again - do we expect them to be permanently smooth?

Robert Smith - "Because the apps on the Internet simply do not require the highest levels of speed. "

Right, and I suppose 640K is all you need too.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2015 at 8:44 pm

PAModerate,

As to your question about 640k (which I assume is a reference to the 8086 and "real mode" execution in the original MS-DOS systems), my current Windows machine has 16GB. Any more than that would not help my use of Windows at home.

Likewise, Internet speeds faster than 100mbs would not help my use at home.

I believe in not paying more than I need to for the facilities that I require.

Not buying a 64GB Windows server or a 1gbs fiber Internet connection just now. Maybe later.


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Posted by Words Have Meaning
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:32 pm

"Palo Alto invested in hydropower and has benefited from its low rates."

Invested, or opportunistically participated in the political ploy of a much larger government agency to justify the construction of the dams? There is a perceptible difference.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Robert Smith: Thanks for your input. However, I would remind you that the "need" can change very quickly over time as the industry changes with advances in technology or availability. I would argue that YouTube was born at just the right time -- the post dial-up era. Imagine the frustration of watching videos (particularly HD videos) if YouTube commenced streaming just five years earlier.

We now live in an age where 1080p is increasingly seen as "normal" resolution and Blu-Ray may quickly go the way of the 8-Track.

As tech advances, so with the amount of bandwidth that it takes. Right now, you might develop some choppy HD or ultra HD video play at 50 Mbps if more than one person is online in your home. That is the real difficulty in our house. When we were with AT&T, it was difficult to have two people online at the same time. If my sister came over from Stanford and tried to use her MacBook at the same time as both my husband and I were on our computers, we would experience issues.

The point with fiber is that it would be available whether you felt that you "needed" it or not. I will point out that the migration to the cloud is rapidly making the need for faster up and down speeds a necessity. My father-in-law relies on some online backup services, but he is limited to a slow DSL. He recently upgraded to Windows 10 and the download itself was an all-day event (in which he couldn't spare the bandwidth for anything else).

If fiber is installed, I imagine that some could choose a slower speed (e.g., 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 150 Mbps etc...). However, 150 Mbps is the fastest and most expensive speed available right now with Comcast and the upload speeds are horrendous.


7 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2015 at 11:20 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Wayne Martin: You keep dismissing any comparison between what Chattanooga's city-owned utility created via EPB (Electric Power Board) in bringing fiber to the city and area's residents.

You cite the fact that the EPB received a $111 Million grant to implement a Smart Grid. However, the flaw in your assessment is that you're implying that the bulk of that grant was directly responsible for the creation of the fiber network.

In fact, fiber was ALREADY available in Chattanooga more than a year before Chattanooga EPB received the $111 Million grant for their Smart Grid. Final approval of fiber was given by the city in August 2007 and the first connected homes went live in the fall of 2008. The grant for the Smart Grid was awarded in November 2009 -- more than two years later.

Web Link

As for the reasons why so many customers choose a lower speed plan: I already pointed out that the median family income is more than $100,000 lower in Chattanooga than it is in Palo Alto. Even if the higher speed is just $12.99 more per month (to jump from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps), that's an expensive that is a bit more difficult to justify when your household income is $36,000.

My husband is a big fan of baseball, football, basketball and several other sports. We have Comcast at home (unfortunately), but we don't subscribe to any of the sports packages -- even though some of them are just $5-10 per month. We just cannot justify an expense (even though he follows baseball and football almost religiously). We used to subscribe to Spanish-language channels with Comcast. I enjoyed certain programs and it was always nice to have around friends and family came to visit. We just couldn't justify the $12 monthly expense for that package of 100 channels.

More importantly, the availability of speeds through fiber in inevitable. Computers, technology, media availability and the internet are always changing. Yes, some people might prefer the lowest speeds available from fiber (100 Mbps via Chattanooga EPB) -- but those are nearly the highest speeds via Comcast. More importantly, Comcast charges an arm and a leg for 100 Mbps -- considerably more than EPB.

I'm just saying that fiber is worth looking into. You may not feel a need or a want for it. However, for individuals who want higher speeds and those with families with multiple devices simultaneously connected, the options available from Comcast and AT&T just don't cut it. Much slower cellular data -- and a monthly bandwidth cap -- doesn't cut it. We certainly shouldn't expect these corporations to build viable fiber networks at a timetable that is favorable to the public either. AT&T and Comcast aren't exactly shining examples of corporate honesty.

I believe that the market for fiber in Palo Alto will be huge. This is a wealthy, highly-educated and highly "connected" population. There are times when I am streaming music via Pandora, downloading files, uploading files into the cloud and watching an Amazon Prime video simultaneously. If you have several people in your house doing this, then fiber makes quite a bit of sense.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm

"Right now, you might develop some choppy HD or ultra HD video play at 50 Mbps if more than one person is online in your home."

Online via wifi, or via direct ethernet connection to the modem/router? If the former, your effective information bandwidth is pinched by the channel physical bandwidth, multipath propagation, interference from other wifi networks, and noise. Fiber to your home won't help. Try putting everyone on direct ethernet to the router and measure the working connection speed.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2015 at 12:17 pm

"But fiber provides speed of light communication."

As does the open wire transmission lines used by the phone company for a century, twisted pair, radio, and boy scout semaphore signal flags.


"What do you think will be the better technology?"

If I knew I'd be out there investing in it, not spilling the beans all over this forum.


"By the way, instead of saying 'Consult any optical communications textbook' Give us some of your knowledge from that textbook"

Read it yourself, and gain some much needed education re fiber and electronic comms in general.


"and explain why the rest of the world is building fiber networks everywhere."

They're building trunk networks for bulk traffic; FTTH is a stunt for experiments and showoff value.



2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Engineer: Our home has a TV, desktop, laptop, video game console, printer and media player connected directly into modem/router. We also connect several other devices that access through Wi-Fi (e.g., tablets, phones, etc...). I am just saying that the bandwidth in a home is divided by the number of devices using it. The same may be true with fiber, but you will have potentially more bandwidth.

When we were with AT&T, we were so limited that we couldn't do more than one thing at one time. We couldn't watch Netflix while someone else streamed music. We certainly couldn't download a program, game or operating system and do something else at the same time. Of course, AT&T blamed the lack of high speeds on Palo Alto -- claiming that the city wouldn't allow them to add or move the "box" and we were too far from it for better speeds.

We recently bought a new high speed router -- supposedly the best that we could get for our current internet provider. However, while it was an improvement over the router offed by Comcast, we still feel it when multiple devices are simultaneously connected (like the ones that I mentioned above). We had family members spend a week with us and the bandwidth differences on each device were very noticeable.

I'm assuming that this is normal and not anything related to our home. I called Comcast about it and they said that our bandwidth is "shared" and sharing affects speeds.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Nayeli,


A few notes in response to your comments:
1. We often have 3 HD streams at the same time and it is fine with Comcast 100mbs. I am very particular about video quality do not suffer poor streaming quality gladly.
2. Many of the problems people see are not with their connection to the Internet, but are problems downstream. If you are seeing "buffering" messages from a streaming site, it may well be that the site is overloaded. I believe that the "last mile" problem is no longer real, and that we are often now looking at the "earlier miles" as being the bottleneck.
3. For some people, the biggest thing they can do is to get a better wireless router in their homes. Everyone now has wireless devices and carry them all over their properties. I have been suggesting that folks buy "AC 3200" rated wireless routers with great success.
4. I find the upload speeds to be in excess of 10mps. You describe this as "horrendous", I am not bothered by it at home. Most people are not doing a huge amount of uploading, and we are doing more than our share mainly with videos we have produced. I have symmetric fiber at the company where I am CTO, but why pay for something at home that I don't need?
5. You say that the market here for fiber service will be "huge". We will see.

A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

I was a strong advocate of fiber between about 1998 and 2002.

I was at a city council meeting in Feb 1998 when the Cable Co-op offered to GIVE their system (worth a net asset value of $30M) to the city. Fiber advocates at the meeting shouted it down, and the city council said they were not interested. The Cable Co-op was sold and the business is now owned by Comcast.

The cable system would have been a great business platform for the city had they been interested. And that was the time when the city could have had an enormous impact had they reached out and taken the opportunity they were offered, given the really awful Internet service that we had then.

I gave up interest in municipal fiber in 2004 when I decided that the city would never actually do anything. My wife and I were working at home during these years, and we were desperate for decent Internet. The city promised me the world but delivered nothing. Comcast promised little but has given me something that I can use quite effectively and without pain.

We are now in the fourth round of city interest in municipal broadband. The latest round has been going on for a year. My reading of the most recent reports and council meetings is: confusion, delay, and more uncertainty.

If the city is going to build it, then build it! Otherwise, stop raising false hopes only to dash them, and tell people the truth.

For myself, I will continue to use Comcast--which is serving this community well with almost no credit for its efforts--until something better actually happens.



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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2015 at 3:25 pm

> From various reports, it is pretty clear that people do not get the highest speed
> available in many places. I understand that Comcast's most popular tier
> is the 50mbs, even though they have 100 and 150 to offer.

Right! Found this just today:

- -

> What is going on? Because the apps on the Internet simply do not require
> the highest levels of speed. Most sites (including the ones I build!) are
> tested for 10-20mbs.
> The highest speed I have seen suggested by any site is 25mbs for
> Netflix's new 4K video service.

Right.

Over 15 years ago I attended a conference at Stanford that dealt with the “Acceleration of Video Technologies”. Although there were a number of interesting ideas promoted, the panel discussion at the end of the conference concluded that the only via service that the “experts” could see at the time was video-on-demand”.

> I had Comcast's 50mb service and upgraded to 100mbs.
> Very little difference. I upgraded for 2 months to the 150mps,
> no difference at all except when running deliberate speed tests.

Not surprised to hear this. There have been many articles over the year pointing out that 10mbps was about all that people needed, in most situations. I’d like to get 20mbps, but with so much video streaming going on these days—the delivery rate per person in a home would likely be handled by 50mbps. Moreover, most people don’t use the Internet once they have retired for the evening—so the service would be ile in most peoples’ homes.

> At my office, where I am CTO, I tried 1gbs fiber for a few days,
> courtesy of the ISP. No one could tell any difference at all in anything.
> The bitrate monitor stayed under 20mbs the entire time. Obviously we didn't keep it.

Care to share with us the number of employees in your office?

> What all this means is just this: we do not yet need to have the kinds of speeds that
> our city council seems to believe that we need so urgently that the city must,
> MUST, expend the taxpayers' money in order to get.

That is eminently clear from the lack of acceptance of ultra-high-speed fiber optic service around the country.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2015 at 4:10 pm

"I gave up interest in municipal fiber in 2004 when I decided that the city would never actually do anything."

Geez gang, why not just do the Silicon Valley Thing: raise the funding from eager private sources, build the thing, go public, and scoop up the money as it showers down?

Pay the PA Utilities some rent for the ROW, pay your staff, pocket the rest of the million$$$, and broadband forever!


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm

The following is from the 2014 FCC’s Measuring Broadband America, dealing with speeds needed for applications commonly used in the home--

Web Link

Web Browsing, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and Streaming Video.

Web browsing. In specific tests designed to mimic basic web browsing—accessing a series of web pages, but not streaming video or using video chat sites or applications—the total time needed to load a page decreased with higher speeds. However, the performance increase diminishes beyond about 10 Mbps, as latency and other factors begin to dominate. For these high speed tiers, consumers are unlikely to experience much if any improvement in basic web browsing from increased speed – i.e., moving from a 10 Mbps broadband offering to a 25 Mbps offering. To be sure, this is from the perspective of a single user employing a web browser. Higher speeds may provide significant advantages in a multi-user household, or where a consumer is using a specific application that may be able to benefit from a higher speed tier.

VoIP. VoIP services were adequately supported by all of the service tiers discussed in this Report.33 However, VoIP quality may suffer during times when household bandwidth is shared by other services. The VoIP measurements utilized for this Report were not designed to detect such effects.

Streaming Video. The results published in this Report suggest that video streaming will work across all technologies tested, though the quality of the video that can be streamed will depend upon the speed. For example, standard definition video is currently commonly transmitted at speeds from 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps. High quality video can demand faster speeds, with full HD (1080p) demanding 5 Mbps34 or more for a single stream. Consumers should understand the requirements of the streaming video they want to use and ensure that their chosen broadband service tier will meet those requirements, including when multiple members of a household simultaneously want to watch streaming video on separate devices.35

- - - -

Web Link

The FCC's "Measuring Broadband America" report (2012) says the Commission has established a "National Broadband Plan," which has a goal of at least 100 million homes having affordable access to download speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2015, and 100 Mbps by 2020

- -- ---

Interesting that the FCC sees 50mbps as sufficient for American homes in 2015 (this year). Even looking forward—the FCC only sees 100mbps as all that would be needed in American homes.

There does not seem to be a mandate for 1Gb optical service in the current FCC’s views. Maybe in the future, but that future will be long after 2020.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Curmudgeon,

The city tried to find private investors to build and operate the system back in 2009 or so.

The people they found ended up wanting city funding and guarantees, so it fell apart.

This sort of business works on scale and long-term investment, not VC funding.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Wayne Martin,

The FTTP supporters do not see this issue in terms of actual performance of people using the Internet. They see it as a more conceptual thing involving the following points:

-- it is about "control" and "flexibility" (two words used repeatedly by the council's biggest FTTP supporter who offers no concrete reason for his support)
-- it is about the "future" and building something today that will be around for a long time.
-- it is about having something "we" own rather than the big telecom companies

The good news is that the city also seems dedicated to not losing money on the venture. Thus far, everytime they are near the abyss, they back off when the money folks tell them it won't work.




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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm

> This sort of data is generally not available

My comment was focused on maintenance/refurbishment data from the small number of fiber operations—many of which are supposed to be publicly owned--

Data about FTTH deployments generally not available:

Number of Square Miles In Service Area
Number of People in Service Area
Number of homes in Service Area
Number of Homes Passed
Number of Miles of Fiber Deployed
Number of Current Subscribers
Number of Service/Price Tiers
Price of Service in Each Tier
Number of residential subscribers in each tier
Number of business subscribers in each tier
Percentage of Service Area Subscribing
Average Precipitation, By Month
Number of Inches Snow, By Month

Number of outage-minutes per month
Number of outage-minutes by interruption type
Are Outage-minutes published to public?
Are Outages reported to any Oversight Agency?
Are Public Information Requests Honored by Fiber Operation?
Number of Customer Service Complaints per Month
Monthly Customer Churn

Private Sector Data Services Providers
Number of homes subscribing to each Private Sector Provider
Number of Business subscribing to each Private Sector Provider


Type of Premises termination equipment
Average cost of termination equipment

Total cost of Initial Build-out
Monthly Cost of Maintenance
Type of Neighborhood Nodes (Pons, Gpons, Epons, other)
Manufacturer of Fiber Optic Nodes
Estimated Number of Years Before Electronics Replacement Needed
Estimated Number of Years Before Fiber Replacement Needed
Estimated Total-Cost-of-Ownership over 20 years

Number of People Employed In Fiber Operation
Number of Technicians Employed
Average Salary of Technicians
Pensions Part of Compensation Package
Amount of Deferred Maintenance of Fiber Operations

Outstanding debt of Fiber Operation
Yearly Profit of Fiber Operations

----
There are no doubt many other bits of information that should be available to the public; this set is just intended to point out what kinds of maintenance data would be helpful evaluating the hardware and operations personnel. However, it’s unlikely that this sort of information would be aggregated in a central location.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm

"Curmudgeon, The city tried to find private investors to build and operate the system back in 2009 or so. The people they found ended up wanting city funding and guarantees, so it fell apart."

I remember that. Wise action by both parties.

Yet certain elements in the community continue pressing to risk public money on an evidently very risky venture. Their proposal is build it, just build it, and let us play at/with gigabit speeds. What they cannot seem to understand is they will not have those fiber services to their homes after the thing goes poof.

Yet who can complain if they raise private money and build it themselves and it succeeds and they get filthy rich? So I call them out, and I langorously await their reply.


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2015 at 5:39 pm

@Robert Smith --

> I was at a city council meeting in Feb 1998 when the Cable Co-op offered to GIVE their system (worth a net asset value of $30M) to the city. Fiber advocates at the meeting shouted it down, and the city council said they were not interested.

My personal municipal FTTP advocacy started in 2002, so I don't know what the fiber advocates said at the meeting you cite. I do know that Cable Co-op had an all-coax infrastructure, and they felt it had to be upgraded to hybrid fiber coax (HFC), and they couldn't find the capital to do it themselves. Were the FTTH advocates simply saying, look, starting with an all-coax infrastructure isn't the best way to get to FTTH? Some municipalities that started with all-coax managed to upgrade to HFC. And some municipalities that started with HFC managed to upgrade to FTTP. But upgrading infrastructure is expensive.

In the interest of full disclosure, I believe you served on Cable Co-op's board for a while, right?

Anyhow, I think this particular event isn't relevant to the question of what the City should do now.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm

> (worth a net asset value of $30M)

The Cable Co-op was not worth $30M at the time, although that is probably what was spent to build it. The Co-op was an all analog system that had many maintenance issues, and needed to be totally refurbished. The Co-op wanted to go fiber, but were unable to find anyone locally, or in NYC, that was remotely interested in funding this amateur group. It’s hard to know what its real value was at the time—but it definitely was not worth $30M.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2015 at 6:39 pm

> And you use the same computer from 2008 (or 2003 if you want to
> tout the last survey done by Palo Alto)?

No--I back up my files frequently. Email services like Yahoo and Google now offer a large amount of free storage. Google/Drive offers about 5GB for free. Other services, like DropBox, HP and Microsoft also offer free storage in generous amounts.

So, fetching old files is not that much of a problem. The computer's age has little to do with file storage in off-line devices.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2015 at 9:11 pm

Wayne Martin,

I say that the Cable Co-op had a net asset value of $30M because it was sold to AT&T Cable in 2000 for a net profit of $30M. All of the proceeds were given to the community in some fashion over the next few years.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Jeff Hoel,

Yes I was on the Cable Co-op board for 7 years, not running for re-election in 1994. I have disclosed this often.

Fiber advocates were objecting to the fact that the Co-op was not a fiber system. The Co-op tried to make the point that it was a cash-flow positive business that could become a business platform for FTTH, but the city was not interested.

The relevance of the events of 1998 to today is to compare the situation then to what the city faces today. I find it very ironic that the city missed opportunities that might have allowed them to build an amazing fiber system at a time that it would have made a huge difference.

Today, however, the incumbents are so doing well enough that I see little opportunity for the city to mount a successful effort.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 1, 2015 at 10:36 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

You DO NOT TREAD ON FIBER OPTIC CABLE, it can develop micro cracks and cuts that make it inoperative..But you smart Palo Altans know that, right?
If I may make a few comments as the possible expert on Fiber Optic based networks?
I installed the FOC to connect all the buildings on the Chippewa Falls Campus for Cray Research, Inc. That includes cutting the cable , polishing the ends and fitting the connectors and final testing with Network General Sniffers for throughput including massive loading of the network.
Our real problem: Ask just how long ago the POTS ( Plain Old Telephone System or Service ) lines were installed? Do you have underground vaults or are the lines strung out over all the neighborhoods of Palo Alto?
In MV, I had to BAR any technician contracted with AT&T from entering the house because the two previous ones blamed my wiring ( just upgraded by NEW wiring and a NEW SERVICE ENTRANCE ), instead of checking THEIR LINES! So after THAT FORCED ISSUE, a Cherry Picker boom truck REPLACED THE 50 YEAR OLD WIRING ON THE POLE AND TO MY SERVICE ENTRANCE.

A fair amount of the MV infrastructure relies on 50 year old wiring still on the " telephone poles ". This also is the state of the Cable TV system.

The SFBA and Silicon Valley communications systems ARE ANCIENT compared to the forced upgrade of other cities across the country. Yes, you were the FIRST to design the new technology but because you were first, that means you haven't spent the money needed to keep that infrastructure updated.

Fiber optic is fragile, as my first comment suggests. Armored bundles are not cheap and still cannot be strung from pole to pole. That means underground placement of Fiber Optics if you want a true fiber optic link to every household.
When you were offered that franchise gratis, the owners knew already that the system infrastructure was a money sinkhole.
You want F/O? THAT IS WHY YOU HAVE A CITY GOVERNMENT AND YOU PAY THOSE UNDERWORKED AND OVERPAID PEOPLE TO DO THIS JOB!
If everyone REALLY wants On-Premise Fiber Optic Connectivity, Then DEMAND THAT CITY HALL DO THEIR JOBS and get it done!

As the Backbone of the Internet has been attacked recently, what about physical security once your connectivity is put together? Will City Hall have the server horsepower and Security to hook up to the backbone ( AKA The Information Superhighway )? Yeah, you might get Cisco to pop for Security Routers but you will need smart people to set things up and make things operable.
The one thing I learned when Google made MV wireless is that it still was toooo slooow for practical use. Even using DSL connections were faster.

As the NETWORK SECURITY ENGINEER, shielding our top secret connection to DARPA, LANL, LLNL and others turned into somewhat of a big headache. Fortunately, I was given the first generation Sniffers to try out. $50k + $20k for software you now can get free.
I still distrust " Cloud Computing " to this day. your " cars " on the " Information Superhighway " are just as old as that car you discussed earlier. IPv4 and IPv6 still use TCP/IP to carry packets of data around the world. Maybe a new protocol that is totally different in execution is needed. But I digress...


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 1, 2015 at 11:00 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@the_punnisher - there is no issue with aerial deployment of fiber. Where there are existing poles (most of Palo Alto), it would be the fastest, and cheapest way to deploy. Check out ADSS (self supporting) cabling.


2 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 2, 2015 at 12:10 pm

@curmudgeon

I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. You never back your argument with anything other than weak analogies and non specific references.

Please give me the name of the "optical text book" you are referring to and give me some indication of where in the book it says that optical fiber will change technologically such that any current fiber we pull would become obsolete as you suggested.

And remember, we're just talking about the pulled fiber. Not any endpoint electonics.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I'm not sure why a few people have turned the argument into a debate over the physical viability of fiber lines. There doesn't seem to be any major safety or infrastructure problems with fiber in cities or universities that have it.

@ Robert Smith: I think that this is where we disagree. Comcast, currently the fastest consumer ISP in Palo Alto, is just too expensive. I don't count upon them getting any more affordable for residents after they upgrade their speeds -- probably because they will cater to the wealthier residents who don't hurt to pay an extra $50 per month for speeds. Customer service with Comcast is terrible and the same is true of AT&T.

Personally, I really like Palo Alto Utilities. If they ran a fiber internet utility in the city or, as Peter suggested, leased out city-owned fiber lines, then I think that they would be capable of doing a great job and keeping costs down.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm

"I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. You never back your argument with anything other than weak analogies and non specific references."

I try to get people to educate themselves. Turns out a tough proposition in this towm. Everyone wants instant truths downloaded from on high.


"Please give me the name of the "optical text book" you are referring to and give me some indication of where in the book it says that optical fiber will change technologically such that any current fiber we pull would become obsolete as you suggested."

Any such book traces the development of optical fiber technology. It does evolve toward higher capacities, believe it or not. I could easily compose a plausible sounding passage from a fictional book, and we'd be done here. But honesty's the word, so here's a starting point for ya: Web Link . Warning: professional level material here.


"And remember, we're just talking about the pulled fiber. Not any endpoint electonics."

Right. No sweat. We're gonna wake up some fine day and just pull new fiber all over town. Simple as flossing the teeth.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" or, as Peter suggested, leased out city-owned fiber lines,"

What I suggested and endorsed is the model being considered by Atherton wherein the Town/City grants access to a private/public entity (like a mutual water company) for that entity to install fiber throughout the community. The fiber entity does not also serve as an ISP. Access to the installed fiber system is then leased to any and all ISP's who wish to pay to use it. Each ISP is free to set their own quality/speed/price of service and the ISPs will compete based on quality/speed/price.

In the Atherton model the Town get free access to the fiber network as payment for providing the fiber entity with access to the public rights of way. Private individuals and other entities purchase one or more fibers that are connected to their homes. The fiber entity bears the risk of low adoption rates, not the Town/City.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Nayeli says: "I think that this is where we disagree. Comcast, currently the fastest consumer ISP in Palo Alto, is just too expensive. I don't count upon them getting any more affordable for residents after they upgrade their speeds -- probably because they will cater to the wealthier residents who don't hurt to pay an extra $50 per month for speeds. Customer service with Comcast is terrible and the same is true of AT&T."

For given speeds, Comcast's pricing has dropped considerably in the past few years.

The city doesn't have a clearly attractive product/price mix in mind that would justify the expense and risk of an overbuild. If the city does attempt to build, both Comcast and AT&T can respond with special offers and price drops as well as upgrading their speeds. They are experts at competition.

As to their customer service, Comcast has really improved.

If the financial viability of a city system rests on price and service, as you seem to suggest, the city will have a hard time gaining sufficient market share to break even.





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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 2, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Nayeli - In Chattanooga, Comcast is rolling out 2gb service to compete with the 1gb municipal service. I don't think there is any doubt they would respond to more competition. It just doesn't make sense for the city and taxpayers to finance the competition when there are viable private options.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Peter Carpenter: Thanks for the clarification. Do you have any links about that? I'd really like checking out their plan! Thanks!

@ Robert Smith: I don't know about others, but our prices went up quite a bit. In fact, they seem to go up several times a year by quite a bit. If Comcast prices were comparable to what Chattanooga residents pay, that is a win-win for everyone. Unfortunately, Comcast prices are quite high and they continually justify raising them because most residents have no other choice right now for higher speeds in this area -- because AT&T is limited in speeds and availability and Sonic piggybacks on AT&T (if I remember correctly).

We switched from AT&T some time back because our poor AT&T DSL speeds couldn't allow us to access Netflix without any issues. AT&T explained that we were too far from the box (we can literally throw a rock at Alma from our front door if we wanted) and then blamed the city for "impeding expansion" and "old lines" (at least those are the excuses that they gave me over the phone).

Our Comcast bill went up 65% over the last 18 months. Every penny counts in our household, so raising monthly rates by $10 here and $20 there is very difficult for us -- and this is true of many of Palo Alto's "house poor" or "can't afford to buy a house" residents. Like I said, our paltry Comcast package costs more than the higher Gigabit packages with EPB in Chattanooga or Google Fiber elsewhere. I suppose that could change if Google Fiber moved to town. Like Slow Down pointed out, competition matters.

@ Slow Down: That competition will be great for Chattanooga residents -- but EPB is also raising their ceiling speeds too (and currently costs less that Comcast's current much-slower rate). They will not be able to compete if their prices are higher than EPB. In addition, I think that this contradicts the assertion that few people would be interested in gigabit speeds.

More importantly, we just don't have the competition here that might drive up speeds and drive down prices. In Chattanooga, they have EPB, Comcast, AT&T, Charter, CenturyLink and a few others. In Palo Alto, we have Comcast and AT&T -- but neither Comcast nor AT&T isn't available city wide (at least, we cannot get AT&T U-Verse internet at our apartment just off of Alma in Midtown and our DSL speeds previously were halved from 1.5 Mbps). If memory serves, Sonic piggybacks and is limited to the areas where AT&T is found.

Thus, Comcast just doesn't have any competition for the higher speeds and AT&T has been repeating their "we are upgrading" rhetoric while blaming the city for AT&T's slow expansion. I suppose that competition would be a great alternative -- but who competes with Comcast and AT&T?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the web page on the Atherton Fiber Project:

Web Link

"Atherton Fiber would offer up to 10 gigabits/second making it one of the fastest and most robust Fiber Network in the world. Atherton Fiber anticipates that the build out will be 20% underground and 80% aerial, leveraging existing overhead and below-ground systems. The overall cost to complete the build-out Town-wide is estimated at $6.5-$7 million. The goal of the project is to install a minimum of one fiber to each home in Atherton.

To finance the project, Atherton Fiber plans to raise approximately $3 million via a traditional investment mechanism (lead by Mike) and other interested Atherton residents. The remaining funds would be raised by selling interested property owners a "set" of bundled fibers to their home that they would own directly.

Atherton Fiber estimates that 20% of residents (500 homes) will purchase the bundled fiber set. These sets would only be available as part of the initial design. Once the system is installed, no additional fiber sets can be run and homes would only be able to access their single fiber run. Purchasing a bundled set of fibers (owned by the property owner) for current and future use (ownership transferrable with the property) when the system is initially deployed is like an initial public offering. Those sets of fibers can be used by the property any way they choose without an ongoing lease requirement.

For the remaining single fiber runs to each property, if the property owner wants service on that fiber line, they will need to lease that fiber from Atherton Fiber. All fiber will be "home runs" to the central office box locations such that no property owner will share a fiber with others (as compared to existing broadband lines). This allows each property owner to have the very fastest speed possible without degradation of their connection during the most active use periods.

At its July 2015 Regular Meeting, the Council unanimously voted to direct the City Attorney to prepare a Development Agreement with Atherton Fiber which would enable Atherton Fiber to access the Town's rights-of-way throughout the Town to provide the fiber to every residence in the Town and to connect all residents that that want to be connected. In exchange for such access, the Town may seek to receive fiber services for its public service delivery, to include the potential for emergency notification, traffic signal management, security management, street light management, information sharing, and other traditional communications, entertainment and internet access."


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Thanks, Peter!


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

@Peter Carpenter

Thanks for your post on the Atherton Fiber Project (AFP). Further details in this proposal:
Web Link

I think Atherton Fiber's approach is interesting, and I hope it succeeds, but at this point it's too early to be talking about it as if it had already succeeded.

AFP plans to raise $4 million by selling four-strand fiber bundles to homes -- $7500 if aerial, $9500 if undergrounded. Since 80% of homes are aerial and 20% are undergrounded, you might get an average of $7900 per customer, so it might take 508 customers. (The cited proposal says 500.) That's a lot of well-to-do and enlightened customers. Those who want to use just one fiber strand won't have to buy it in advance this way.

All customers have to make their own arrangements for connecting from the street to the home and paying for it.

What are the terms for the remaining $3 million in required financing? Who underwrites it?

AFP depends on attracting service providers to offer services over the network. The cited blurb speculates that AT&T, Comcast, and/or Google might be interested. We'll see.

On 07-21-15, I sent a message to AFP offering comments and questions, but I didn't hear back.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2015 at 3:51 pm

The Atherton model is interesting we will see how it goes.

My personal reaction is that I would be reluctant to make such an investment in such a fast-changing technological area. I would probably prefer to use an existing service until the providers upgraded their systems. I don't see a huge rush here.

It is hard for me to put myself in the financial mindset of an Atherton home-owner however.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Peter: I really think that Atherton plan is interesting. I think that it could work here.

@ Robert Smith: I've noticed that you've suggested that fiber might eventually go the way of the VHS tape because this is part of a "fast-changing technological area." My question is: What is there that would be a new and viable alternative for fiber for ultra-high internet speeds?

Cellular data speeds (e.g., 3G, 4G LTE, etc...) are decades away from being able to consistently offer such speeds or offer them without dead zones. U-Verse isn't even available at my home in Palo Alto but currently maxes out at 45 Mbps -- considerably slower than fiber. I think that they hope to eventually offer up to 1 Gbps -- but that is the low range now for fiber. Comcast will eventually offer 2Gbps at $300/month (about $230/month more than Google Fiber and EBP) -- but Comcast will also require long installation windows (up to two months) and installation costs (up to $1000).

Is there some other technology on the horizon?

For me, I think that the big issues in Palo Alto are: 1.) Availability; and, 2.) Cost. It seems that the Atherton plan or some fiber-to-home is the best way to bring down prices and increase availability. I guess that Google Fiber would drive down Comcast's and AT&T's prices through REAL competition.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Nayeli,

I don't recall making any suggestion about fiber becoming obsolete, and I have no thoughts about that really.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Robert Smith: I apologize if I read too much into what you wrote. When you said that you would "be reluctant to make such an investment in such a fast-changing technological area," I assumed that you were referring to the means by which consumers access the internet from home was changing rapidly. I apologize for my confusion.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Nayeli,

We were discussing the Atherton plan. My comment was aimed at the large charges they were asking for the instalation, not at the use of fiber per se.

No problem.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2015 at 5:53 pm

"What is there that would be a new and viable alternative for fiber for ultra-high internet speeds?"

Fiber's replacement per se has not been identified yet. But fiber's information carrying capacities are steadily being improved with novel fiber designs and fabrication techniques. Likewise for the copper/silicon hardware at each end. Neither are cheap on a citywide scale.

The basic issue is whether the city should put up $$$$$ to build a fiber network for which we have no immediate need, and shoulder the risk of its obsolescence by the time it becomes a critical necessity. Put differently, do slogans like "FTTx Now!" and "Palo Alto Must Be First!" justify the expenditure of million$$ for what presently amounts to a luxury?


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2015 at 6:24 pm

@Curmudgeon, 'The basic issue is whether the city should put up $$$$$ to build a fiber network for which we have no immediate need, and shoulder the risk of its obsolescence by the time it becomes a critical necessity. Put differently, do slogans like "FTTx Now!" and "Palo Alto Must Be First!" justify the expenditure of million$$ for what presently amounts to a luxury?'

Well said!

My best guess is that the city would make the investment if it thought that it would not go broke in doing so, but that they will--for the fourth time--decide that it is too risky. I also expect that, if they try finding a partner in the manner described in the CTC report, it will not be easy finding someone to put up the money.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2015 at 11:00 pm

@Robert Smith

I totally concur.


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2015 at 9:46 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Curmudgeon: I disagree with the notion that Palo Alto residents somehow come up with silly slogans in order to advance a cause. When we first moved here, I thought that this was a California thing.

I also hate the "NIMBY" name-calling that was (and still is) prevalent in Palo Alto anytime the city makes a decision on issues. I think that we are all "NIMBY's" when it comes to things that will affect us in one way, shape or form -- especially issues that affect our pocket books.

In the case of fiber, we aren't going to be first. We aren't going to be second. We aren't even in the first string. We're sitting on the bench. I just think that it is worth looking into whether the city can find some way to increase availability and simultaneously lower the cost of high speed internet throughout Palo Alto.

There are ways to pass along the cost to those who would use it. However, even if the city absorbed some of the costs, it seems like it would (at least) be something tangible when contrasted with some of the projects and expenditures that we have seen over the last five years or so.

If done properly, city-owned fiber might actually turn a profit for the city while providing less-expensive access to the internet. So, not meaning to sound my own petty slogan, I believe that city-wide fiber in Palo Alto could potentially be a "win-win" scenario. I certainly believe that it is something to look into.


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2015 at 11:01 am

@ Nayeli -- Thanks for your support of citywide municipal FTTP in Palo Alto. If you want to have impact, please write to City Council about it (city.council@cityofpaloalto.org). And please consider attending a Council meeting and telling them in person.

> I really think that Atherton plan is interesting. I think that it could work here.

I think we don't know yet what prices will be on Atherton Fiber (AF), As far as I know, no ISPs have announced that they'll provide services over AF, let alone what their prices will be. AF's viability seems to depend on getting 20% of homes to pay (in effect) an up-front connect fee of $7500 (aerial) or $9500 (undergrounded).

> U-Verse ... currently maxes out at 45 Mbps

AT&T has said it might deploy its GigaPower product in Palo Alto to up to 5,000 homes. That might not include your home.

> Comcast ...

In addition to the drawbacks you mention, "you 'must generally live within a third of a mile of [Comcast's] fiber network' in eligible cities...."
Web Link


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2015 at 11:57 am

"@ Curmudgeon: I disagree with the notion that Palo Alto residents somehow come up with silly slogans in order to advance a cause. When we first moved here, I thought that this was a California thing."

Sloganeering is a pretty universal thing. I was only distilling the "arguments" I've heard for muni-financed fiber over the last 15 years. BTW, we might replace the historical "Palo Alto Must Be First!" with "OMG, THEY'RE Getting It First". But neither amounts to a rational reason to spend municipal million$$ on a project which has no defined scope, cost, or necessity.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Curmudgeon:

You wrote: "But neither amounts to a rational reason to spend municipal million$$ on a project which has no defined scope, cost, or necessity."

The luxuries of yesterday often have a way of becoming the necessities of today. I remember when a cell phone was considered a luxury. Now, they are so "necessary" that the federal government has programs created to provide them to the poor, disabled and elderly.

While ultra-fast internet isn't a necessity today, the internet is rapidly becoming a necessity (if it isn't already one) in a broader sense. Access to the internet is considered a necessity as demonstrated by government programs that help provide it in the homes of the poor.

It just seems that Palo Alto should be pioneering this rather than following a trend. Why? It isn't based upon a silly "Palo Alto first" slogan but the notion that this community is ground zero for the internet. We are one of the wealthiest, most highly educated and connected communities in the world.

It surprised me when I called AT&T and found that the highest speeds that they can provide is 769 kbps (and blamed the city for it). Comcast offers faster speeds -- but at a much higher monthly bill. That's it. This is the extent of internet possibilities in the city. I think that well-populated areas in urban parts of Palo Alto should have more options.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Nayeli, "In the case of fiber, we aren't going to be first. We aren't going to be second. We aren't even in the first string. We're sitting on the bench. I just think that it is worth looking into whether the city can find some way to increase availability and simultaneously lower the cost of high speed internet throughout Palo Alto."

We are not on a back bench. We have reliable service over 100mbs, which is considered good by all authorities for the time being.

Most residential customers would simply not notice the difference today between 100mbs service from Comcast and symmetric fiber at 1gbs from the city (were it being offered). Internet applications are not being built to take advantage of ultra-high speeds.

Moreover, Comcast and AT&T are doing many 1gbs deployments and there is no reason to think that the SF Bay Area will not be included at some near-term point. Perhaps not in 4 months to meet the city's timetable.



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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

"While ultra-fast internet isn't a necessity today, the internet is rapidly becoming a necessity (if it isn't already one) in a broader sense. Access to the internet is considered a necessity as demonstrated by government programs that help provide it in the homes of the poor."

And the government wisely waited until the necessity was established, which is what it should do with muni-financed fiber.


"It just seems that Palo Alto should be pioneering this rather than following a trend."


Exactly the emotional argument the city ought to ignore. Spending million$$ of public money has to be carefully and rationally justified.


"It isn't based upon a silly "Palo Alto first" slogan but the notion that this community is ground zero for the internet."

Sorry, but it is not. The internet was conceived and designed in Washington DC as the ARPANET, which was first implemented in Menlo Park (not Palo Alto) and operated from there for most of its life. In late eighties and early nineties Al Gore and others pushed through legislation to transition the military ARPANET to the civilian internet. That also happened in WDC, not PA.

But, again, it would be highly irresponsible for city hall to commit million$$ based on a notion, even if that notion were true.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2015 at 3:15 pm

> I say that the Cable Co-op had a net asset value of $30M because it was
> sold to AT&T Cable in 2000 for a net profit of $30M

Thanks for the information. I looked up a couple of old articles which claim that the sale was needed to pay off a $34.5M debt, and a $40M debt. I could not find any articles that mentioned the sale price.

It occurs to me that the cusomter base was probably worth more to a buyer than the physical assets that were owned at the time by the Coop.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

At DSL Reports, you are starting to see the first consumer reviews of Comcast 2GB service in San Francisco. Expensive, but they are delivering the bandwidth.

Web Link


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm

> Comcast is too expensive

Too expensive for you, or are you speaking for everyone in Palo Alto?

Today, AT&T has revealed how competitive its prices can be:

AT&T lowers Gigabit Service Prices:
Web Link

In some markets like Nashville and Atlanta where Google Fiber is present, AT&T's 1 Gbps pricing begins at $70, while in Chicago and Miami eligible users have to pay $110 for the same service. Customers in these markets can purchase a lower speed 300 Mbps speed tier for $80.

It stands to reason that prices will go down as the competition heats up. While Google is not offering Palo Alto service at the moment, and it may well never offer Palo Alto its services, AT&T services will be competitive with Google if they do.

Comcast will be deploying its DOCSIS 3.1 services this year. In August (2015), Comcast announced it would cover its entire footprint with 10 Gb service:

Comcast Plans DOCSIS 3.1 Service In Next Two Years Up To 10Gb.
Web Link

A top Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) executive said the company is hoping to upgrade its entire cable network footprint with DOCSIS 3.1 technology within the next two years. The company plans to begin market trials of the technology, which can support maximum speeds of 10 Gpbs, later this year.


Within a year or two, Palo Alto will have a lot of gigabit broadband without the taxpayers having to buy a $100M system.


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Robert Smith:

You wrote: "We are not on a back bench. We have reliable service over 100mbs, which is considered good by all authorities for the time being."

This is not always the case here. For one, Comcast only recently began offering these speeds -- years after they were available elsewhere. There are still areas in Palo Alto that do not have access to such speeds.

Moreover, we have but one choice for such speeds in Palo Alto -- and it is an expensive choice. If we don't have the city involved in implementing fiber, we at least need more competition that would lower prices and make such speeds -- and hopefully even higher speeds -- more readily available.

Perhaps I would change my mind about city involvement if Google finally offered fiber in Palo Alto. However, Comcast almost has a monopoly right town in many areas throughout town until AT&T's years-long promises are more universally available.

@ Curmudgeon: The "ground zero" remark is about the advent of the modern internet as we know it. Palo Alto and Stanford have quite a bit to do with it. This city has been the incubator of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and so many other companies!

It is not an "emotional argument" to point out that this city's industry is largely in the tech sector. The city encourages startups and internet startups (and every business for that matter) needs adequate internet access. Currently, we are stuck between an expensive rock (Comcast) and a hard place (AT&T). AT&T is very limited and Comcast is very expensive.

At this point, I don't CARE where the internet comes from or who connects and controls the fiber to our home. I'd just be happy with better speeds, better service and, of course, better prices. I do believe that the access to the internet should be viewed as a utility in this age. In certain places in town, we have but one option. We cannot get AT&T where we live and Comcast probably knows it. That is likely one reason that our prices have gone up and how we are paying more than people who live elsewhere.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2015 at 4:07 pm

> It is not an "emotional argument" to point out that this
> city's industry is largely in the tech sector.

To whatever extent this is true—this “industry” has managed to get along with City subsidized fiber optics. White the City may “encourage startups”—it just limited the amount of new building in the downtown area to 50,000 sq.ft. a year, which will not hold very many new startups (even with encouragement). And don't forget--there was much support among the residents for this capping of new commercial construction.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Nayeli, "Moreover, we have but one choice for such speeds in Palo Alto -- and it is an expensive choice."

I am paying $89.95 per month for my 100mbs service, which includes some cable package while I don't use. I have gone for a "best of breed" policy and use DirecTV for video and OOMA for VOIP.

Yes, this is more than I want to pay, but not hugely more. I did have the cheaper 50mbs service and I could go back. But I decided I liked the idea of a bit of headroom, especially when we have 3 HD streams going. I did try 150mbs, not worth it today.

If someone (Google?) makes me a better offer, I'm ready to go. I have zero loyalty to Comcast and a long list of grievances. I would be especially interested in something a 100mbs service for a great price since that is working very well for me now.

As to the city, if they build, I am not so sure that they will provide a big bargain. The city and its partners will spend a lot on their construction and they will have to charge market rates to pay for it.

Most communities that have municipal broadband find that the difference between the city and the traditional vendors is not really that much, across a broad range of points of comparison. We have all heard for nearly 20 years how wonderful Palo Alto's FTTH/FTTP would be, but I don't expect it to live up to the incessant hype we have heard.

So, I am going to continue enjoying Comcast's services until something better comes along, which it will.

I am not supporting Palo Alto's FTTP because: a) it sounds too risky and looks like a big mess in the making, b) I have something that works just fine even if a little expensive, and c) other solutions will present themselves.

After watching 3 failed attempts by Palo Alto in the last 17 years, I am not going to get excited about the prospects on the 4th walk-through of the
"process".






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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2015 at 4:48 pm

whoops .. should have been-->

To whatever extent this is true—this "industry" has managed to get along without City subsidized fiber optics


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm


@Wayne Martin --

> I could not find any articles that mentioned the sale price [of Cable Co-op].

$53 million. Or $70 million, if you count the $17 million to form SVCC.
Web Link

> ... without the taxpayers having to buy a $100M system.

The CTC report estimates $77.6 million. I think that's way too high, based on the experiences of other communities. The CTC report isn't transparent enough to make it easy to vet its assumptions.

Anyhow, most municipal FTTP networks are paid for by ratepayers, the people who use its services, not by taxpayers.

> AT&T's 1 Gbps pricing begins at $70 ...

If you want them not to spy on you, you have to pay extra. The "privacy fee" alone could be as much as $66 per month
Web Link

> Comcast will be deploying its DOCSIS 3.1 services this year. In August (2015) Comcast announced it would cover its entire footprint with 10 Gb service.

DOCSIS 3.1 supports "up to 10 Gbps downstream and up to 1 Gbps upstream network capacity" (depending on the coax cable infrastructure). (Note the "up to"s.)
Web Link
This "network capacity" has to be shared among the hundreds of users on the coax segment.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2015 at 6:17 pm

"Anyhow, most municipal FTTP networks are paid for by ratepayers, the people who use its services, not by taxpayers."

Most, eh? How about the rest?

Who ponies up the difference if the revenue from ratepayers comes up short?


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2015 at 6:55 pm

"Up to" is industry-standard language regardless of the provider or technology. No one guarantees a speed independently of other activity on the network. It is all statistical.

The old phone system had the same issue.

This said, some systems are going to stand up better to load than others. It all depends on the design.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2015 at 11:21 am

@Robert Smith -- I think you didn't understand what CableLabs (who does the DOCSIS standards) meant by its "up to." Some coax segments are too big to support DOCSIS 3.1 at its full speed. Ever. (It's not statistical.)


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 6, 2015 at 11:29 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Jeff Hoel - so they divide the segment, or you get 5gb or 2gb or 800mb not 10gb. I feel like you've moved beyond advocacy into spreading FUD. Cable has its issues, but being a viable technical competitor is not one. There will be viable gigabit service in Palo Alto provided via cable before any city system ever gets off the ground (if it ever does).


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2015 at 12:18 pm

"Some coax segments are too big to support DOCSIS 3.1 at its full speed. Ever."

You use the word "big" in a strange context. Do you mean physically wide cable, like the 0000 copper power cable segment that early FTTH advocate Warren Kallenbach used to compare with fiber (to the smirking amusement of the genuine techies in his audience) or a long cable run? If the former, your statement is false and naive. If the latter, repeater modules easily solve the problem.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm

@Slow Down -- I disagree with your FUD assessment. DOCSIS 3.1 is designed to provide up to 10 Gbps of download capacity and up to 1 Gbps of upload capacity on an ideal coax segment (1.7 GHz). Those capacities are shared by all the users on the coax segment -- typically hundreds. But if the coax segment is not ideal, then those capacities are even less.

This article says, "In the US, most cable plants operate at 750 or 860MHz, with a few extending up to 1GHz. Chapman, however, believes that ultimately it will be possible to upgrade beyond 1.2GHz capacity to 1.5GHz, and even 1.7GHz."
Web Link
Getting to 10/1-Gbps will require upgrades like this. Typically, by splitting the coax segment into pieces. It's doable, but expensive.

@Curmudgeon -- I meant, obviously, the kind of cable plants that use DOCSIS-standardized components. Some are bigger (have more users, are longer end-to-end, etc.) than others.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 7, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Jeff Hoel - it is FUD because, as you mention, there are solutions to make more bandwidth available. At this point, it is only a hypothetical problem. After Comcast rolls out gigabit service, and if it is end up being oversubscribed, and if they don't address the issue, then it might be an issue.

In a year, if Google says no to Palo Alto, and if AT&T stops their fiber upgrade, and if Comcast is oversubscribed, and if there are no private companies interested in taking over and building out the Palo Alto fiber network, then your case for municipal broadband starts to look much better. I wouldn't say no at that point, but I think it deserves a no now.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 7, 2015 at 10:33 pm

"@Curmudgeon -- I meant, obviously, the kind of cable plants that use DOCSIS-standardized components. Some are bigger (have more users, are longer end-to-end, etc.) than others."

Good. Cable can serve our needs. No need for fiber. Case closed.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is why the Atherton model, which encourages ISP competition rather than granting a monopoly \, make so much sense:

"Technological innovation is great for consumers. As technology gets more advanced, prices drop and products get better.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics tracks prices for broad categories of goods over time. As this chart of prices for the last 18 years shows, prices have dropped dramatically in almost every single tech sector. The drop in computer hardware is particularly steep.

The one exception? Cable and satellite TV and radio service. Lack of competition might be a factor — in a lot of markets, users can choose between their local cable provider, one or two local phone providers, and maybe a single satellite TV provider. "

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Update:

We received our latest Comcast bill and it was yet another $6 higher than the previous month (which was $18 higher than the month before that). Our bill has increased significantly over the last year. We've called customer service which agreed to lower our bill back to the previous norm for a year -- only to find that those promises weren't kept.

Unfortunately, there are no other alternatives where we live. We can only subscribe to the very expensive internet services through Comcast (and meander through their terrible customer service) or, well, nothing. AT&T won't even provide internet service at our apartment because they state that it is "too far from the box."

This is why Palo Alto needs another alternative. It is baffling that a location in a heavily populated area in Palo Alto has but one choice for high speed internet.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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