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What to expect when Google Fiber comes to town

Kansas City still hasn't fully embraced super-speed internet service

With much fanfare, Google recently announced plans to bring its sought-after Google Fiber internet service to its Silicon Valley homeland. Over the next three years, officials with the tech giant promised to roll out its ultra-fast, 1-gigabit-per-second bandwidth to consumers in Mountain View, Palo Alto and several other South Bay cities.

The promise has been hailed by many observers as a much-needed shake-up for the local telecommunications market. But to hear the story from other areas already equipped with Google Fiber, the new service might not be the overnight sensation its fans anticipate.

Take the example of Kansas City, the original pilot location for Google Fiber's launch. Back in 2012, the Midwest city seemed the envy of the nation for being picked to debut the premier internet service. And in some ways, it was a perfect testing ground: the local broadband internet market was controlled largely by Time Warner Cable, which had a reputation for lousy customer service and sneaky fees (just check its Yelp page).

But after almost five years of Google Fiber expanding its availability, Kansas City's internet market is still dominated by Time Warner, according to sources. This is despite a Google Fiber bargain deal: six years of 5-megabit-per-second internet for households willing to pay a one-time $300 fee. But today only a "few small pockets" of well-heeled Kansas City neighborhoods have heavily embraced Google Fiber, said Tom Esselman, CEO of Connecting for Good, a Kansas City-based nonprofit focusing on expanding internet access to disenfranchised residents.

"The whole idea behind of Google Fiber of 'build it and they will come,' -- that's been blown up in the last five years," he said. "It was plainly evident that just because they were Google Fiber and had a lot of hoopla, they were not effectively getting people signing up for their service."

Google Fiber officials declined to respond to questions about its Kansas City pilot program for this story.

Esselman describes himself as a big fan of Google Fiber's speedy service, pointing out he loves its ability to, for example, have multiple video chats running seamlessly on his desktop. In the long run, he believes Google Fiber will gradually chip away at the market hold of the established telecommunications players.

But Google had to learn some big lessons first, he said. The company originally came into Kansas City with a "one-size-fits-all" pricing plan that didn't win many lower-income customers. In a write-up on Google Fiber service in Kansas City, the magazine Fast Company describe it as being like a "$4 ice-cream sandwich" -- "A welcome treat for people with disposable income, but still out of reach for others."

Google recently began offering a wider variety of service plans. Rather than focusing solely on offering the fastest service, Google Fiber officials in recent months have focused on computer-literacy programs for impoverished communities rather than focusing on early-adopter customers, Esselman said.

"Honestly, I think in the last six months the landscape for Google Fiber here has changed more than in the last five years," he said.

Silicon Valley and the South Bay makes up a vastly different consumer market for Google Fiber, with a strong tech-savvy population thirsty for ultra-fast bandwidth. Esselman says it was surely a strategic move to test out Google Fiber in a relatively isolated market like Kansas City before rolling out the service to the metropolitan coastal cities.

It's already abundantly clear that some residents can hardly wait for the service. In recent Mountain View meetings, seniors from local mobile-home parks have urged the city officials to advocate on their behalf to encourage Google Fiber to be brought to their neighborhoods. In some cases, neighbors have even proffered convenient times when the Google Fiber team could lay lines, such as when other utilities would be digging up trenches.

When it was announced in May that the service would be coming to Mountain View, Google Fiber officials said the service would be installed throughout the city over the course of three years. The company provided a citywide map showing the various network hubs and service lines they were planning throughout Mountain View.

Some neighborhoods were conspicuously absent from the map, but Google Fiber officials say that doesn't mean those neighborhoods will be excluded. Some areas will require negotiating access agreements for installation since they are privately owned, said Google spokeswoman Kelly Mason.

"We can't say whether a particular complex will or will not be served," Mason said via email. "Today, there are major apartment buildings, complexes, gated communities, mobile home parks, etc. that aren't on the (initial design) map. That doesn't mean we're not planning to serve these areas."

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Google fiber will be available in my Palo Alto neighborhood about the same time the high power wires are buried underground. Like most of Palo Alto, I'll pay for it but not receive any benefit.


30 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Midlander is a registered user.

I'd very much like to see Google Fiber come to Palo Alto. (For that matter, I'd like to see AT&T GigaPower too - some competition would be healthy.)

But other than vague "we're targeting this" announcement, I haven't seen much specific information or much evidence of actual progress.

Dear City: Please focus on helping make this happen, not on inventing reasons to complicate it or to "study" it or otherwise delay it.


17 people like this
Posted by Yupyup
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Finally fiber optic Internet in our life time? I've been hearing about this for 20 years. We'll see...


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Where's Netflix's buyin? It will be the prime beneficiary by far.


8 people like this
Posted by Sue Allen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 19, 2016 at 10:58 am

Talk to my son who lives in Provo, Utah. They've had Google Fiber for several years and think it's wonderful. But this is a city that's a University town, with lots of tech-savvy users, so it was all embraced in a hurry. Provo City had previously put in a fiber network, but was losing money, so was more than happy to turn the whole thing over to Google. Unfortunately, Palo Alto is not as user-friendly as Provo. Fiber to the home in PA will be like cable TV was. We got it 10 years after all the cities around us because of the red tape and city requirements and endless meetings. I guess I'm stuck with Comcast for another 20 years.


9 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 19, 2016 at 11:25 am

Is Google fiber really 5Mbps? I get that with my DSL line. That doesn't would like fiber optic speeds. Is that a typo or real? Anyone know?


4 people like this
Posted by DTPA
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2016 at 11:28 am

Ohhhhhh!!! I was wondering why my cable bill went down by 30 bucks!!! Welcome to the block google!!! :D


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Is Google fiber really 5Mbps? I get that with my DSL line. That doesn't would like fiber optic speeds. Is that a typo or real?

Likely it's real. "Fiber" means fiber is used over at least part of the link. It may mean "fiber to a mile away from the user," with the myriads of subscribers in that mile sharing that one fiber over regular DSL. The fine print is important.


4 people like this
Posted by Jake
a resident of University South
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:24 pm

yes, Allen, higher speeds are possible, and the connection from the fiber up to your residence is a factor. Check out Google's link:
Web Link
Google Fiber
Google Fiber starts with a connection that's up to 1,000 megabits per second. Super fast downloads. TV like no other. And endless possibilities.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:30 pm

@Sue Allen -- I'd be happy to talk with your son. Did he subscribe to any services from Provo's municipal FTTP network? Provo's network was disadvantaged by a state law that says municipal networks can't offer their own retail services.
Web Link

The FCC has indicated its willingness to consider petitions to preempt state laws that limit municipal broadband, and has preempted two such laws, in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm

@allen -- In Kansas City, Google originally offered two residential Internet products: 1-Gbps symmetrical service for $70/month and no installation fee, and 5-Mbps-down-1-Mbps-up service for "free" (for up to seven years) but a $300 installation fee. Nowadays, it offers 1-Gbps symmetrical service for $70/month and 100-Mbps symmetrical service for $50/month, plus a $100 installation fee, waived with a 1-year commitment.
Web Link
In general, Google reserves the right to make different offers in different cities and/or at different times.


13 people like this
Posted by FiberPlease
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Please, please, please bring me fiber. I can't wait to tell Comcast where they can put that cable!


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Sue Allen,

There is more to tell about Provo's Google fiber service. Let me share it with others.

About a decade ago, the city Provo had a fiber service that was considered promising by municipal fiber supporters. Provo is a great place and a university town not unlike Palo Alto.

However, "iProvo" (as it was called) fell onto hard times, becoming a great source of stress in the city, and eventually was sold to Google for $1. The city had to eat about $50M of costs, which the residents are still paying for.

Most of the cities that Palo Alto considered a "poster child" for municipal fiber have fallen on bad times. A cautionary tale.



Google fiber took over that system as one of its first entries into fiber.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2016 at 2:27 pm

New competitors for Internet service have many problems getting established. This is particularly true when incumbents have a reasonably good system. At the moment, "reasonably good" is over 20mbps and "excellent" is over 100mbps.

When the city started its last push for fiber after the 2014 election, Comcast was providing 100mbps service. During the time we have been waiting for Google and/or the city to take some concrete action, Comcast has increased its fastest rate, first to 150mbps and now to 200mbps.

200mbps sounds very slow compared to 1gbps (=1000mbps). However, in practice, speeds are limited by many things, including what you are trying to access.

So you have to look at what the companies are doing. The largest amount of bandwidth is being used by the streaming video companies. Indeed, Netflix uses nearly 40% of the prime-time bandwidth in the country. HOWEVER, companies like Netflix are not building applications that use speeds such as 1gbps to each consumer. Netflix even says that their new 4K video service needs a good 25mbps connection.

We can imagine that services that require more bandwidth will become available BUT they will do so in tamdem with the increases in commonly available bandwidth.

So, what happens if I switch out my ostensibly slow 100mbps Comcast connection for a blindingly fast 1gbps connection from Google? In practice: not much. Yes, I can find things to do if I try, but all of the things I normally do are not going to show a difference.

I have tried experiments to demonstrate this point with speeds up to 1gbps. No real difference on countless applications.

I dislike Comcast very much for many reasons but I am not going to change providers just to get even with them. If Google or the city makes it worth my while I will consider changing. The city has been talking about this for two decades, and I will believe it when I see it.

The evidence from other cities is that people are not that eager to switch just because it is "fiber". I am also guessing that both the City of Palo Alto and Google may be rethinking things as well.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm

"The evidence from other cities is that people are not that eager to switch just because it is "fiber". I am also guessing that both the City of Palo Alto and Google may be rethinking things as well."

As Google and the city should. FTTH/FTTP offers little concrete benefit but great financial risk. That is why the experienced telecom biggies won't touch it, and why its local advocates press the city government to shoulder the risks.

It would, however, give Palo Alto fiber bragging rights alongside Chattanooga. Maybe that has value to some people.


4 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Kansas City is really known for it's early adapters of technology. It's not at all like Silicon Valley where people shy away from new tech because they are more comfortable with a familiar name. We like to play it very safe here, not like those tech freaks in KC who can't even wait until the beta testing is done. haha.

Seriously, it's like saying refrigeration won't work in Phoenix because the people of Nome never jumped on the big winter clearance of refrigerators at Lowes.


4 people like this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2016 at 9:52 pm

The article gives the false impression Google is coming to Palo Alto. They definitely aren't planning to. I hope that changes, it would be great to get a real high speed internet provider, but Palo Alto is way too hard to do business with, so we are stuck with bottom feeders like Comcast.


4 people like this
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2016 at 10:12 pm

I think this image sums up my feelings about getting fiber to the home:

Web Link

The reason why we need high speed internet should be obvious, particularly in the Silicon Valley. 4K tv and VR doesn't exactly run all that well on DSL or Cable. Both are asymmetrical and don't have low enough latencies to provide good experiences.


2 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I find being a customer of Comcast to be a miserable experience. ANY contact/issue/question whether minor or major and they steadfastly attempt upsetting or confusion to the customer. Outrageous and way to costly, and ridiculous packages of channels. I am "just" a regular consumer and close to disconnecting entirely. Cant believe there aren't reasonable options.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2016 at 12:33 pm

*upselling
(not upsetting)


1 person likes this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2016 at 2:00 pm

@Robert Smith -- Are you saying that some "Palo Alto" entity named a list of municipal networks as "poster children" and then most of those networks fell on hard times? OK, let's talk about that. Which "Palo Alto" entity did this? And when? And which networks were deemed to be "poster children"?

In this 12-15-15 op-ed, MuniNetwork's Christopher Mitchell says, "The vast majority of municipal networks deliver benefits well in excess of costs and do not require subsidies to operate."
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2016 at 2:59 pm

@Robert Smith -- You seem to be claiming that since most folks can't yet benefit much from speeds beyond what Comcast advertises, they might not be motivated to switch to a municipal FTTP network.

Well, Comcast doesn't always deliver its advertised speeds because its coax cables are shared by many users. And Comcast's advertised upload speed is a lot slower than its advertised download speed, which would be objectionable for some users. Comcast is instituting monthly data caps, which some users might not like.

Price might be a factor. In Sandy, OR, 100-Mbps symmetric Internet service (residential) is $39.95/month and 1-Gbps symmetric Internet service is $59.95/month.
Web Link
In Chattanooga, these services are $57.99/month and 669.99/month, respectively. (I don't know what the prices would be in Palo Alto.)

Last year, Chattanooga EPB displaced Comcast as the top telecom provider in Chattanooga.
Web Link
As of 09-16-15, EPB had 75,725 customers, "47 percent of all homes and businesses served by EPB."
Web Link
Most of EPB's residential customers take the 100-Mbps service, but 1-Gbps and 10-Gbps are also available.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm

@Jeff Hoel,


At a number of City Council meetings, the staff presented lists of cities they were following and felt that they were likely to succeed. These were projected on the screen. I don't have copies of them but I had some notes from meetings. So the "entity" that you refer to is probably the city staff, although at those meetings, municipal fiber proponents would speak glowingly about Provo for example. The term "poster children" is my term but I think it fits.

Cities/entities named included:

Alameda, CA (lost over $50M)
Provo, UT (lost about $50M, sold to Google for $1)
Utopia, UT (a consortium of cities; still exists, having many problems, some cities have revolted)
Bend, OR (failed, I have not been able to learn the story)
Truckee, CA (never built a system, they now have a commercial vendor)

Individual cities have different stories, but cities that already have strong incumbents do not do well with municipal systems.

Of course, systems from a decade ago are no longer discussed by the city council owing to the problems that they had, we now refer to new "poster children".

Chattanooga, TN, gets a lot of interest. That system is however non-replicable: they had $111M federal stimulus grant, local bond issues, and an FCC exemption from state law. We don't yet know how they are doing but customers are not buying the faster tiers there.


I recommend that anyone who thinks this is a great business for the city should read the CTC report from the city's own consultant. It presents a number of business models, and none are very encouraging.



Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2016 at 3:42 pm

@Jeff Hoel,

Comcast has had a checkered past here in Palo Alto but they are continuously improving. I am impressed with their overall reliability and also just how close they come to their advertised speeds.

As to "caps", I have never had a problem, and we have a lot of streaming going on as well as traffic from children and grandchildren. BTW: some municipal systems have also instituted caps.

As to "symmetric service", this is pretty much a non-issue for most users. Unless someone is running a server farm in your garage of course, in which case the individual should be buying from a commercial ISP anyway.

One of the problems in comparing a possible municipal system with actual ISP's like Comcast is that the municipal system always "wins the argument" because it doesn't have any of the downsides of the actual products we can buy. This was demonstrated in the CTC reports (the city's consultant) which advocated a number of cost-saving measures which would likely yield poor customer service, such as outsourcing customer support.

I suspect if the city actually builds anything, it will not be much better than Comcast.


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm

The term "poster child" normally means an example that supports an advocate's point of view. This 05-07-03 staff report lists a number of muni telecom systems.
Web Link
I didn't get the impression that staff and consultant were saying that they were all "poster children," but rather systems to be learned from.

Let me comment briefly on your list:
Alameda, CA -- HFC, not FTTP.
Provo, UT -- Restrictive state law.
UTOPIA, UT -- Restrictive state law.
Bend, OR -- I don't know that a municipal network was ever considered there.
Truckee, CA -- LAFCo-related legal complications.

Re Chattanooga EPB, I agree that they got a $111 million grant, but that was to do smart grid things, not to implement the underlying FTTP network.

I also agree that on 02-26-15, the FCC granted EPB's petition to preempt a state law that restricted where they could provide FTTP services. The state appealed, and the case is being decided in the courts. If the courts uphold FCC's action, EPB will probably expand its service territory. Meanwhile, EPB's FTTP network has succeeded financially within the service territory permitted by the current state law.

EPB's 2015 financial report shows that the FTTP network is doing great.
Web Link

Of EPB's 75,725 customers (as of 09-16-15), most take 100-Mbps service, but about 6,000 take 1-Gbps service, and at least one takes 10-Gbps service. And EPB is actively considering 100-Gbps service.
Web Link

EPB has more FTTP customers in its service territory than Comcast does. Are you saying Comcast isn't a "strong incumbent"?


2 people like this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2016 at 6:02 pm

" I agree that they got a $111 million grant, but that was to do smart grid things, not to implement the underlying FTTP network."

That is not true - "smart grid things" included running the fiber, so the $111 million absolutely went to implementing the underlying FTTP network.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Jeff Hoel,

When the other cities such as Provo were perceived as doing well, the city talked about them. Now that they have failed, they are no longer mentioned. Yes, we should be learning from these cities and their experiences. If Provo had been a huge success, the city council would have mentioned it at every opportunity.

Thank you for mentioning the buy rates in Chattanooga for their service tiers. Most are buying the 100mb service, only about 8% are buying 1gb or higher. This says a lot about the actual demand for high-speed Internet connections. Even in "gig city" (as they style themselves), most people don't need a gig.

If 100mb is enough, and we already have up to 200mb service from Comcast, it does not seem to me that we have such a dire emergency in broadband to require government intervention and the risk of taxpayer dollars.

I honestly have no idea what a typical family of four does with 1gb of Internet downstream capacity that would be reasonable in today's world.


2 people like this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2016 at 1:14 am

@Robert Smith "I honestly have no idea what a typical family of four does with 1gb of Internet downstream capacity " - multiple family members watching separate 4k streams, chatting in google hangouts, downloading games which can often be 40+ GB, cloud based backups of multiple computers, and multiple cloud based security cameras.

Comcast's bandwidth is less of an issue than their data caps. Currently suspended in Palo Alto, but I've run into it in the past, and go over the 250GB suspended limit by at least double every month now.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2016 at 12:32 pm

@Robert Smith -- Re caps, Muninetworks says, "Limits on bandwidth usage are generally not a problem for municipal network users as publicly owned networks are known to reject the use of data caps."
Web Link
If you know of exceptions, cite them. In any case, Palo Alto wouldn't have to be such an exception.

Re "symmetrical service," this article cites a 2013 study by IDC that says, "more than 20 percent of U.S. broadband households are Power Users that are frequently online, uploading nearly as much content (video and music) as they download. IDC estimates that the population of Power User households will experience 60 percent growth by 2017 and will continue to increase nationwide in the future."
Web Link
In any case, FTTP technology makes symmetrical service easy and inexpensive to provide, so why not provide it?

If Palo Alto chose to outsource operation of its municipal FTTP network, it would have to figure out how to assure high quality.

If Palo Alto implemented a FTTP network whose performance was not much better than Comcast's, Council would have to take steps to rectify that underachievement. Once the fiber infrastructure is in place, getting it to outperform Comcast's HFC network would be the easy part.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2016 at 3:01 pm

@Robert Smith -- > If 100mb is enough, and we already have up to 200mb from Comcast ...

In March of this year, Comcast introduced the Performance Pro (100 Mbps) and Blast Pro (200 Mbps) tiers in California.
Web Link
The advertised upload speeds are only 5 Mbps and 10 Mbps, respectively.
Web Link
I didn't find everyday unbundled pricing for these services, but if the customer agrees to a two-year contract, then the introductory prices for the services, bundled with 140+-channel TV and phone, are $$99/month and $109/month, respectively, for the first year, and $124.99 and $124.99/mo, respectively, for the second year. (I suspect the 2nd-year Blast Pro price might be incorrect.) "Offer ends 07-24-16. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. New residential customers only." Etc.
Web Link

Meanwhile, SandyNet's everyday unbundled prices for 300-Mbps symmetrical and 1-Gbps symmetrical are $39.95/month and $59.95/month, respectively.
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2016 at 3:16 pm

@Jeff Hoel - Comcast unbundled internet, Blast Pro (their fastest product) is $59/mo with 1 year contract, or $69 month to month.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

@Google ain't coming to Palo Alto -- Please provide an online reference for the prices you cite. I'd like to read the fine print.

Here, on 03-15-16, videomatic3 posted these prices (for Livermore, CA):
Web Link
* Performance Pro -- $75.00/month
* Blast Pro -- $89.95/month

This source:
Web Link
says that in Palo Alto you can get "Blast Pro" for $59.99/month for the first 12 months. BUT it also says that this product is 150 Mbps down (not 200 Mbps down), and that doesn't sound like Blast Pro. After the first year, the "regular" price is $78.95/month.
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2016 at 10:05 pm

@Jeff Hoel - You are the champion of municipal broadband, but haven't even done the due diligence to check the prices and speeds that are currently offered by the city's primary internet provider? It isn't hard to get the info.

Web Link

Like I said, 59.99 for Blast Pro, which is 200mb

They also have an Extreme 250 for $79, which is a pretty poor value for the extra $20.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2016 at 10:19 am

@GactPA -- Why do you think that the $111 million grant to Chattanooga EPB (from the Department of Energy) "absolutely went to implementing the underlying FTTP network"?

By the time the DoE grant was announced on 10-27-09, EPB had already spent $143 million on the network,
Web Link
and had already launched triple-play FTTP services to 17,000 people. (See timeline on page 43 here.)
Web Link
The network was completed by 03-11-11.
Web Link

This article says EPB spent $212 million on fiber infrastructure and electronics and $98.2 million on various smart grid components.
Web Link
So, OK, by this accounting, perhaps $13 million of the DoE grant money was spent on things other than smart grid components. The article says the grant didn't change EPB's strategy, but did expedite it.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm

@GactPA -- I have been advocating for citywide municipal FTTP in Palo Alto since 2002, and over the years I've done lots of due diligence on lots of things. Yesterday I posted some pricing information I found about Comcast's Performance Pro and Blast Pro products, and the URLs where I found it. Since it differed from the pricing information you claimed, I asked you to provide a (URL) reference in support of your information. Instead, you provided the Google search specification (comcast palo alto), which finds "about 404,000 results." Which URL supports your claim?

I tried the Google search specification (comcast "blast pro" "palo alto" $59..$60) and got 5 results. None was helpful. Some results didn't have "Palo Alto." Some didn't have "Blast Pro."

Remember, we're looking for everyday prices than anyone can get.

Incidentally, on 0-23-16, 15:16, you said Blast Pro was Comcast's fastest product. (I assumed you meant in Palo Alto. In some markets, Comcast offers Gigabit Pro, which is 2-Gbps symmetrical, but $299.95/month, and with availability restrictions.)
Web Link
Now you say it's Extreme 250 (250 Mbps down, 25 Mbps up).


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2016 at 3:02 pm

@Robert Smith -- Re "... most people don't need a gig...."

07-21-16; "Why a Gig? The Video Response You've Been Waiting For!"
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2016 at 3:29 pm

"Yesterday I posted some pricing information I found about Comcast's Performance Pro and Blast Pro products..."

Yeah. We're seeing lots of prices of current commercial products. What I want to see is a defensible professional projection of

(1) The capital costs of a citywide FTTH/FTTP network as a function of its data _delivery_ capability,

(2) The annual costs to amortize that capital outlay, and the total payout over its lifetime,

(3) Annual operating/maintenance costs,

(4) _Realistic_ defensible estimates of revenue,

(5) At least one plan for making up the difference (e.g., new taxes, cuts in services elsewhere, ... ).


Bottom line: what is the projected annual cost burden to users, and to non-subscribers?


1 person likes this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2016 at 4:03 pm

I can't really explain why you are having trouble looking up the prices of the product you want to compete with, and somehow find prices higher than the actual prices on random third party sites. If you need help, just go to comcast, put in your address, and look and see what is available. Posting prices from Livermore based on some random forumpost isn't useful or accurate.

I was wrong about Comcast speed, they have an even faster tier than I thought. Good for them, and good for us. They have upped their speed by about 5x in the last ~4 years in Palo Alto. They are also starting to bump their data cap from 250GB to 1TB.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm

@Curmudgeon -- I do my municipal FTTP advocacy for free, so I'm not a "professional" in the sense of being paid.

The lion's share of the start-up cost to deploy FTTP is for the fiber infrastructure, but once deployed it can last for decades. (I've seen estimates of up to 75 years if the fiber is not abused.) Over the years, the electronics has been getting faster exponentially, so for those who want to remain close to the state-of-the-art in speed, it might have to be replaced every seven years or so. At the moment, 1-Gbps symmetrical seems to be the "sweet spot" for the electronics.

Since your focus seems to be on minimizing the risk for non-subscribers, you may be interested in what Ammon, ID, is doing.
Web Link
Web Link
The city is divided into local improvement districts (LIDs). FTTP will be deployed to a LID only if at least 50 percent of its homes sign up. The cost for a connection (fiber infrastructure plus electronics) is paid for up-front by the subscriber. (Alternatively, the subscriber can choose to pay by the month for a long time, as an additional assessment on the home's property taxes.) The exact amount depends on the take rate, but it might be about $3,000. After FTTP is deployed in a LID, other homes can still sign up, but would have to pay somewhat more than the "founding" homes, and would have to pay up-front (no by-the-month financed option). Subscribers also have to pay a "utility fee" of $16.50/month for the city to operate and maintain the connection. Finally, the subscriber can choose to get one or more retail services, provided on the "open access" network by one or more retail service providers, at prices determined by those providers. It's still early days (so I'm not yet offering Ammon as a "poster child"), but they think their plan will work and that they'll have a citywide network within three years.

If Ammon outsources fiber construction, I don't know if they will be able to get the best prices buying it by the LID rather than by the city.

Incidentally, since non-subscribers in cities with municipal FTTP also benefit, because the incumbent providers have to be more competitive, I don't mind if non-subscribers share in the risk to some extent.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm

"@Curmudgeon -- I do my municipal FTTP advocacy for free, so I'm not a "professional" in the sense of being paid."

No worry, I never thought you were a professional in these matters. What I would very much like to study is an objective analysis by a real professional of the issues I described in my preceding post. No advocacy, paid for or amateur.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm

@Curmudgeon -- What do you mean by "professional," if you don't mean someone who is paid? And, in particular, what do you mean by a "real" professional? And how would the public know whether a real professional's analysis was "objective"?

On 09-28-15, Council said the report written by City staff and consultant CTC didn't present enough facts to support its analysis. So Council asked for more facts. Staff later said that CTC said that it wouldn't provide the facts in public because they were proprietary. That's not the objective analysis I want.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Fiber to the home is a risky undertaking that the City has no business being involved in. Verizon is testing a 1GB wireless service in New Jersey that it says will be rolled out over the next couple of years. Web Link. This would provide as much bandwith as fiber without the costly necessity of running wires to homes, digging up streets and etc.

There is no technology that's immune from the risk of obsolescence by newer technology - including fiber. The City doesn't have the expertise to play in this high stakes, high tech game. We don't need our public dollars being risked by bureaucrats playing at being entrepreneurs egged on by half-bright residents who have been riding the fiber hobby horse for decades...apparently likely past its expiration date.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2016 at 11:18 pm

"@Curmudgeon -- What do you mean by "professional," if you don't mean someone who is paid?"

It's like this: When I was seven years old, my parents paid me for mowing the family lawn. But that didn't qualify me to be greenskeeper at Spyglass, Augusta, or even PA Municipal. Get it?


"And how would the public know whether a real professional's analysis was "objective"?"

Thank you. That is exactly why we should be exquisitely cautious about risking million$ of taxpayer dollars on an unproven venture that is, as you point out, extremely difficult to credibly evaluate.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2016 at 4:47 pm

@Mary -- 5G isn't even standardized yet, so it's too soon to know how fast it will be. Bruce Kushnick says that, like 4G before it, actual 5G speeds will probably be an order of magnitude less that the rosy predictions.
Web Link
Meanwhile, Chattanooga EPB is already offering 10-Gbps symmetrical, and is looking into 100-Gbps. Historically, EPB has lowered the price for a given speed over time.

Wireless will continue to be a lot more expensive per bit than wired. 5G will operate at frequencies that require line-of-sight; in Palo Alto, leaves will get in the way.

It's easy to claim that no technology, including fiber, is immune from the risk of being obsoleted by a newer technology. It's not so easy to propose specific new-technology candidates to do the obsoleting. Most sources I've seen say that fiber infrastructure will last for many decades, even as multiple generations of electronics make the network go faster and faster.


3 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2016 at 6:24 pm

I know it's the political season so I suppose some latitude in making claims here is warranted - to a degree. But really - commenting on Verizon's widely reported intent to start offering high speed wireless to homes using as sole support an opinion screed on the (political site) Huffington Post by a political operative who's spent his career as a gadfly to the telecom industry seems beyond the pale. This is especially true since even a cursory Google search brings up myriad articles in respected technical publications and mainstream news organizations that give a more even-handed approach. (e.g., CNET Web Link Mag Web Link, yahoo Web Link, Fast Company Web Link, etc., etc.) The gist is that 5G wireless represents a clear threat to wired broadband. Many of the articles specifically mention fiber.

It appears that some fiber advocates have become so monomaniacally attached to fiber per se that they've become incapable of clear thought on the matter. Fiber is a VERY risky bet.

In fact, Fiber is rapidly becoming yesterday's broadband technology. Even Google appears to be pulling back on fiber deployment and considering wireless options.Web Link

Anyone who's got an open mind should at least peruse the great quantity of information available on wireless alternatives to fiber. And anyone who does will be hard pressed to assert that the city should be investing large amounts of capital in what is likely to be shown as a white elephant very quickly.

Don't listen to the fiber Carnival barkers here or anywhere else: do your own investigation.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2016 at 7:39 pm

@Curmudgeon -- No, I don't "get" how you'd decide whether a FTTP study was valid or objective. Unless it's this: you'd ask a known expert known not to have conflicts of interest to write it, and then you'd believe whatever he/she said. I think that approach has its limitations. I'd want the writer to provide evidence for the claims he/she is making.

Look, FTTP is not rocket science. According to BBCMag, there are 170 municipal FTTP networks in the U.S. and its territories, plus 17 PPPs, for a total of 187.
Web Link
That's 44 more than two years ago.
Web Link
The vast majority are financially successful.

On 07-27-16 at 3:31 pm, I described how Ammon, ID, plans to minimize the risk to taxpayers. Since that's what you seem to value, what did you think of that plan?


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

@Mary -- Your "cursory Google search" found articles from Fortune and Yahoo about what Verizon's CEO, Lowell McAdam, and CFO, Fran Shammo, respectively, said. And, although your CNET link didn't work, this CNET article says what McAdam said.
Web Link
Everybody should know better than to just believe everything executives say about their companies' future products. The FastCompany article at least said, "... we won’t see a rollout of widespread 5G networks and infrastructure until at least 2019 or 2020, ...."

In "The 5G Hype," consultant Doug Dawson warns that 5G won't be as spectacular as the wireless incumbents claim.
Web Link
He says, "The problem with this kind of hype is that it convinces non-technical people that we don’t need to invest in fiber because gigabit cellular service is coming very soon. And nothing could be further from the truth."

IF Google Fiber is really thinking about using wireless instead of FTTP in communities like Palo Alto, that would be a reason to lose confidence in them.
Web Link

Finally, municipal FTTP could be risky if the City didn't do its due diligence. I'm asking for the due diligence. The risk of doing FTTP should always be assessed relative to the risk of doing nothing. On 09-28-15, Council Member Burt came up with an off-the-cuff "quick math" estimate that competition brought by FTTP might save residents about $10 million annually.
Web Link
In Chattanooga, a study found that the savings from 2011 to 2015 was between $2464 and $3762 per county resident!
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2016 at 4:08 pm

I don't know whether 5g or some other technology will make fiber obsolete in the relatively near term and neither does Jeff Hoel. There are lots of expert opinions on this on both sides of the issue. But any fair minded reading of the evidence yields straightforwardly that wireless high speed creates a risk for fiber installation. Don't believe me or Jeff Hoel - do a quick Google search. You don't have to do a lot of research to understand that there isn't a case to be made for the city to be investing taxpayer money in fiber: it's just to risky.

Jeff Hoel says, quoting an expert of whom he apparently approves, that widespread rollout of 5g won't be until 2019 or 2020. 2019 is only 2 1/2 years away. Given the Palo Alto process, does he really think we will have fiber up and running in that time frame?!

Google may be moving forward with fiber, or with some sort of fiber/wireless hybrid. Unlike City Bureaucrats, they have a lot of relevant experience and they're playing with their own money.

Municipal Fiber to the home has become a case study in special interest pleading in Palo Alto. Given the prospect of Google (or other private providers) doing an installation, and the clear technological risk, there's NO case to be made for the City buying Mr. Hoel and his few comrades a fiber system. In fact had they not been so monomanically focused on this for going on two decades, the idea of Municipal Fiber would be dead - where it belongs.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm

"@Curmudgeon -- What do you mean by "professional," if you don't mean someone who is paid? And, in particular, what do you mean by a "real" professional? And how would the public know whether a real professional's analysis was "objective"?"

Let's just cut right through the jactation and obfuscation and get right to a real world example.

ATT and Comcast sell communications and internet services in Palo Alto and elsewhere, right? That makes them real paid real-world professionals, right? They have been doing it for decades and they know the tradecraft, right? They much prefer making money over losing money, right? They do not undertake ventures which they objectively judge will lose them money, right? They have decided not to enter the FTTH/FTTP market in Palo Alto, right?

I'll accept their expert, professional judgement in that matter.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2016 at 4:54 pm

@Mary -- The quote that widespread rollout of 5G won't occur before 2019 or 2020 is from YOUR source, not mine.

Karl Bode, a writer and longtime observer of the telecom industry, says,
Web Link
"But these early trials (focused mostly on fixed, not handset, 5G) overshadow the fact that there's still multiple global partners and a wide variety of coalitions debating what the standard will even look like. A hard standard isn't actually expected to emerge until 2018, with actual real-world deployment not expected until 2020 (which in telecom terms means 2021 or 2022)."

Doug Dawson, the expert I cited, says,
Web Link
"... the upgrade [from 4G to 5G] to what you think of as cellular data is going to be a couple-fold increase in data speeds for the average user." In other words, it won't obsolete FTTP even when it finally emerges.

More municipal FTTP networks are being deployed all the time. For details, readers should visit MuniNetworks.
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by 2 cents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2016 at 11:52 pm

google does not have any current plans to roll out fiber in PA.

PA should not pursue this.
Our city government took forever to rebuild the mitchell park library.
Failed to get a simple bike bridge built
Cant seem to figure out how to build a new police HQ
Can't manage to run their own network connection.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 1:04 pm

"google does not have any current plans to roll out fiber in PA." - Exactly, that's the problem. PA needs to pursue Google, not a boondoggle municipal fiber program.


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2016 at 4:29 pm

@Curmudgeon -- We were discussing what sort of "real professional" you could trust to write an "objective" analysis of the municipal FTTP opportunity, and now you propose the telecom incumbents? That's laughable.

So far, neither AT&T nor Comcast has been willing to deploy its own FTTP network in Palo Alto, because no other entity has been willing to compete with the incumbents by deploying its own FTTP network. So the incumbents can charge too much for delivering too little. This doesn't prove that an incumbent couldn't make money by deploying an FTTP network. It just means that the incumbent thinks it can get the highest return on investment (ROI), at least in the short run, by minimizing its long-term investment.

In Chattanooga, the municipal utility, EPB, did deploy a FTTP network, and it succeeded, and now EPB has more customers in its footprint than Comcast has. So Comcast didn't get the ROI it thought it was entitled to as the monopoly (or duopoly) provider.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2016 at 9:58 pm

"@Curmudgeon -- We were discussing what sort of "real professional" you could trust to write an "objective" analysis of the municipal FTTP opportunity, and now you propose the telecom incumbents? That's laughable."

Citing professional telecom service providers is laughable? Maybe in a fantasy world, but not in the real world most of the rest of us inhabit.

Like, do you similarly diss the professional pilots driving the airliners you ride, and insist that you, with your innately superior knowledge of flying, should take over the controls from them? How many passengers rally to your cause?

Again, TSPs know the business from the inside. They make their living in it. They would be very happy to make more money from fiber services, but they hate losing money on losing prospects. They are not doing fiber. Connect these dots as best you can.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2016 at 11:09 am

Jeff Hoel cites little known or followed bloggers and ideological activists to bolster his untenable claim that Municipal FTTH is something that Palo Alto should be risking taxpayer dollars to build. Meanwhile, a Google search shows that mainstream journalists and experts are much more skeptical and think that coming high speed wireless technology may present a huge threat to FTTP. You can find someone on the Internet to support just about any crazy claim you want to make. But any fair minded look at the weight of opinion has to conclude that FTTP at this point in time is a risky bet that experienced city bureaucrats have no business making with our money.

As Curmudgeon keeps pointing out, real experts from real Telecom companies seem very wary of risking their own real money on Hoel's fanciful hobby horse. Why in the world then does Hoel think that he knows so much more than they do? It's easy for him to make exaggerated claims: he's got no skin in the game.

If this is such an easy call, maybe he should take his proposal over to Sand Hill Road to see if he can get some more people who are risking their own money to take the FTTP plunge....


3 people like this
Posted by Nayeli P.
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Nayeli P. is a registered user.

I would welcome any service that would compete with Comcast. Comcast is boasting that they will have 2 Gbps speeds eventually -- but this will come at a hefty monthly cost. The EPB service in Chattanooga has already implemented 10 Gbps speed service -- at roughly the same cost of Comcast's new 2Gbps speeds. The 1Gbps service is just $69.99 per month there.

Yes, EPB benefitted from a federal "stimulus" grant; however, they had already approved a $220 Million bond referendum to pay for it all prior to any federal grant. Unlike California, other states have a tendency to not see ballooned costs when all is said and done.

Whether Google Fiber moves in or Palo Alto and the area creates a fiber network, I just hope that someone can compete with Comcast. The prices here are exceptionally high -- and their only viable competition is AT&T (which seems to be even less motivated than Comcast).


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2016 at 4:09 pm

"Whether Google Fiber moves in or Palo Alto and the area creates a fiber network, I just hope that someone can compete with Comcast."

Perhaps you can prod our local FTTH/P advocates to come off their Socialist fixation, incorporate, raise capital, and build the network. As a side benefit, they could pocket the profits. You would be eligible too if you buy into the enterprise.

Why not? This is Silicon Valley.


1 person likes this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2016 at 4:25 pm

@Curmudgeon - The real problem is that by holding up the option of municipal broadband, that virtually guarantees no private competitor would risk entering the market. We do need competition, private competition. To get private companies involved, PA needs to sell off its fiber network, and agree not to enter the residential market.


1 person likes this
Posted by 2 cents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 10:21 am

It just got reported that google is thinking about dumping google fiber for a wireless approach. So it could very well be google fiber is not going to be deployed anywhere new. Also in the article is a mention that the city of Palo Alto was trying to get them to install in town. Apparently google is fighting with AT&T and Comcast over pole access and does not want the cost associated with digging up streets to deploy.


1 person likes this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 9, 2016 at 10:22 am

Looks like Google is suspending fiber rollout for Silicon Valley - looks like they may be moving to a cheaper wireless solution. Looks like Mary was on to something!

Web Link

--------

Google Fiber rollout is delayed while tech giant explores alternatives

Google has told at least two Silicon Valley cities that it is putting plans to provide lightning-fast fiber internet service on hold while the company explores a cheaper alternative.

The news comes nearly three months after San Jose officials approved a major construction plan to bring Google Fiber to the city. Mountain View and Palo Alto also were working with Google to get fiber internet service but said Monday that the company told them the project has been delayed.

--

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., recently acquired Webpass Inc., and is expected to adopt its wireless technology, which provides superfast internet service at lower costs without digging up city streets. Webpass' wireless approach involves sending aerial data between transmitters installed on top of buildings.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:38 pm

@Google ain't coming to Palo Alto (Aug 7, 2016 at 1:04 pm) -- If you truly believe that "PA needs to pursue Google," then you have chosen an incongruous name for yourself. And, per PaloAltoOnline's terms of use, you have agreed not to use multiple names.


1 person likes this
Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

@Jeff Hoel - "Google ain't coming to Palo Alto" is the reality of the situation, the original PA article was sloppily written and implied Google intent wasn't there. Unfortunately, the door may now be closed on Google as a fiber partner. Time wasted, opportunity lost. That's the story of Palo Alto governance, and also why city run broadband is such a bad idea.

.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm

"The real problem is that by holding up the option of municipal broadband, that virtually guarantees no private competitor would risk entering the market."

That may be true, but it makes no logical sense. If the telecoms strung FTTH/P (or broadband-service antennas), there would be no good reason for the city to build a competing network.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:09 pm

The activities of Municipal Fiber activists like Jeff Hoel may have been a contributing cause of Google's decision to forgo FTTP deployment in Palo Alto as others here suggest. By contributing to the Palo Alto process delays that attend any decision in this city and holding up the specter of a government run fiber competitor, municipal fiber activist agitation likely were a part of Google's decision making on the issue.

What is ironic is that Hoel may have preferred this outcome: If you read through his comments on this and other threads, he opposed the Google-run option in favor of the government system apparently on ideological grounds - even to the extent that at some points one could read his comments as suggesting that no high speed run system at all would be preferable to a Google-run one.

Had the fiber activists got enthusiastically behind the Google proposal at the outset, the outcome might have been different - we'll never know. But it's fair to ask whether people advocating for municipal fiber here in Palo Alto have a bigger agenda than fast Internet connections.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:25 pm

@Mary (Aug. 8, 2016 at 11:09 am) -- Speaking of having skin in the game, I'm willing to use my real name to post comments, and you aren't. (Well, maybe Mary is your real first name, but that doesn't tell folks which Mary in Old Palo Alto you are.)

In 2000, FTTP activist Marvin Lee urged folks in neighborhoods being considered for a FTTH Trial network (Community Center and Barron Park) to send the City a check for $1,200 if they wanted 10-Mbps Internet service or $2,000 if they wanted 100-Mbps Internet service, because the City had said that's what it would cost per home if the City were to build out a citywide FTTP network. And several people did send in their checks. When the City decided to build the FTTH Trial in 2001, it sent the checks back uncashed, because it wanted to reserve the right to terminate the Trial at some point, which it did in 2005. That was a kind of skin in the game, at least potentially.

In 2012, the City polled 401 Palo Alto homeowners and found that 36 percent were willing to invest in municipal FTTP even if that meant up to $3,000 up-front, plus between $50 and $250 per month for service.
Web Link
(Unfortunately, the staff report doesn't document the exact wording of the questions.) That would be skin in the game.

Ammon, ID, is moving forward with a FTTP network where customers pay about $3,000 up-front (or financed over many years), plus $16.50/month to use their connection, plus whatever a retail service provider charges for Internet service. That's skin in the game.

I'm not yet convinced that a skin-in-the-game approach like this would be optimal for Palo Alto's municipal FTTP network, but if that's what the City decides to try, I'm in.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Willingness to put up a refundable check that might or might not cover the cost of taxpayer provided Internet services doesn't really describe "skin in the game" as its commonly understood.

The fact is that FTTP presents a high risk of financial losses or GOOGLE/ATT/COMCAST/KLEINERPERKINS would already have done it (as Curmudgeon has tried mightily - apparently without success to explain to you.)

When you are willing to cover the eventual taxpayer losses of the city getting involved in FTTP, then you'll have skin in the game. The only reason that fiber activists are so busily lobbying the city to put up taxpayer dollars for a fiber system is that it doesn't make economic sense. Why should the City of Palo Alto subsidize your hobby?

What's really going on here is that we have special interest pleaders in the form of fiber activists trying to get their taxpayer-neighbors to provide them something they want that the private sector can't supply because it's too expensive. It's an old game, but we really don't need to play it this time.

The benefit of this forum is that it's made clear that Municipal FTTP is an ideological crusade that has nothing to do with residents obtaining good Internet connections at a reasonable cost.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:54 pm

@Curmudgeon -- One reason it would be laughable to rely on a telecom incumbent to write an objective analysis of the municipal FTTP opportunity is that the telecom incumbent has a conflict of interest.

The professional pilot example you give is not in the least analogous.

The telecom incumbents think they know how to maximize ROI, and I'm not saying I know for sure that they don't. But that leads them to offer inferior services at inflated prices to customers who, they think, have no other alternative. A municipal FTTP network can offer an alternative, when the municipality values the good of the community more than maximizing ROI.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 5:07 pm

" A municipal FTTP network can offer an alternative, when the municipality values the good of the community more than maximizing ROI."

So at least Mr Hoel is finally admitting that what he wants is a taxpayer subsidized Fiber service in Palo Alto. That being the case, perhaps this discussion can be turned to the real issue: whether taxpayer subsidized Internet service is a good idea.

I've not totally closed to the idea that the "good of the community" can be enhanced if the taxpayers subsidize some services, but at first blush, especially given the technological risks and the high costs involved, I don't really think that subsidized fiber qualifies.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 6:37 pm

@Mary -- I think your hypothesis that municipal FTTP activists in Palo Alto like me might have contributed to Google's delaying its deployment of FTTP in Palo Alto -- and Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Jose, and Santa Clara -- is pretty unlikely.

The mainstream media seem to think one of the reasons for the delay is that Google is annoyed with how difficult the telecom incumbents can make it for them to get access to utility poles for stringing fiber.
Web Link

I have a confession to make. In 2010, when Google announced its intentions to deploy Google Fiber somewhere, and the City wanted lots of its residents to contact Google and say it should be Palo Alto, I volunteered to go door-to-door, handing out information about how to do that. I handed out about 300 cards, and only to those who said they'd seriously consider doing it. Back in those days, Google was saying they might permit "open access" to competitive retail service providers on their network, but they no longer say that. And they said they might publish information about their FTTP deployment costs, so that others could benefit from that, but they no longer say that. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do it again.

I have another confession to make. On 07-22-09, I attended a meeting at Google where the public was invited to provide feedback about Google's free Wi-Fi network in Mountain View. I met Minnie Ingersoll, then Google's Product Manager for the Alternate Access Team. I asked her if Google would be willing to consider FTTP, and she replied that wasn't within her team's scope.

To answer your question about agenda, yes, I want not only a range of speeds for Internet service, including 1-Gbps and 10-Gbps, but also fair prices, and the opportunity for the City to use the network in all kinds of innovative ways, e.g., smart grid.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Jeff Hoel, you obviously are an honest person, unlike many on here. And I think you're sincere in most of what you say. But, with respect, you seem so wrapped up in getting the city to provide FTTP that you have difficulty understanding the nature of the objections those of us who are engaging with you here.

I know you want this high speed open access system at "fair prices" (whatever that means), and I think you really believe - all evidence to the contrary - that the City will be able to use such a network in "all kinds of innovative ways".

What you aren't addressing at all is the huge financial risk you're asking the taxpayers to take in (likely vain) hopes of achieving your lofty desires. There's both technological risk (see discussion above re wireless) and competitive risk from existing providers (i.e., how do you know that Comcast can't lower the price of its existing cable Internet enough to entice a lot of existing customers to keep that albeit lower speed service? Not all people are like you in thinking 10Gbps is the cat's meow.), not to mention the huge risk that the City bureaucrats just won't be able to handle the build out and operation of a complex FTTP system. And you are asking us to bear these financial risks while accepting what you admit is a sub-optimal expected rate of return on the huge investment required.

You can dream all you want about this pie-in-the sky, but I don't think even our profligate and preening City Council can be persuaded to buy this pig in a poke unless you get a lot better at making your case.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:30 pm

@Mary -- You misunderstand. The checks FTTP activists sent to the City were never "refundable." The City didn't ask for them and didn't say what it would do with them. It just happened that the City decided to return the checks uncashed.

Many private-sector companies, especially including startups funded by venture capital, are not willing to invest in things that have a slow payback, even if they're not risky.

"Skin in the game" doesn't mean that the entity that proposes a project takes all the risk.

You think that Google's current products and prices are reasonable. I won't argue, although some municipal FTTP networks have faster speeds and some have lower prices. You may think that Google's products and prices will remain reasonable for the next fifty years. I think that's a risk the City should be unwilling to take.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:52 pm

@Mary -- I have not admitted and do not admit that what I want is taxpayer-subsidized municipal FTTP services. In Lafayette, LA, municipal FTTP services are not taxpayer-subsidized. One reason I know this is that Louisiana has a (misguided) state law that forbids it. In Chattanooga, TN, not only are municipal FTTP services not taxpayer-subsidized, but FTTP service revenues help to subsidize electric rates. (That's not what I want. I'm just saying that's what they do.)


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Jeff Hoel, you said that Municipal Fiber would accept a less than maximum ROI ("for the good of the community.") If you don't think that accepting a less than optimal ROI on invested funds is a subsidy, you do not understand even the elementary principles of finance - And it is no wonder that you are having such difficulty explaining why your proposal is a good idea.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:44 pm

@Mary -- If we had been having this discussion in 2003, when City staff and consultants published the "FTTH Business Plan, Phase 1," it would have been appropriate to worry about what the incumbents might do. Since it's 2016, we have evidence of what the incumbents have done in something like 170 municipalities that have deployed FTTP networks. In Chattanooga, EPB, the municipal FTTP network, has more customers than Comcast does in its footprint, and EPB is gaining market share while Comcast is losing it. Comcast has announced availability of its 2-Gbps FTTP product (although it's not available everywhere). It's even available at a special promotional rate of $159/month (although the regular price is $299/month, and then only with a two-year contract). Chattanoogans aren't falling for it.

What I think is the cat's meow is a municipal FTTP network with a fiber infrastructure that will be able to handle the speeds people want for the next fifty years, with suitable electronics upgrades. I personally don't want or need 10-Gbps now, but if in the future I did, then I could have it. Chattanooga is already offering 10-Gbps ($299/month, everyday price). And it's already developing a plan for how to offer $100-Gbps.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 9:15 pm

The median home price in Chattanooga is $157,000. So what? This number is neither more nor less relevant to the discussion than a the price lists of various Internet services in Chattanooga. Unless there is a heretofore unrevealed financial case to be made that Municipal Fiber is not an extremely risky use for huge amounts of Palo Alto taxpayer money, all we have is a magical wish list of well meaning but very naive pipe dreamers.


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Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:03 am

@Curmudgeon - "That may be true, but it makes no logical sense. If the telecoms strung FTTH/P (or broadband-service antennas), there would be no good reason for the city to build a competing network."

Do you think that if AT&T or Comcast started running fiber to the premises, municipal fiber activists would be satisfied? Their goal is government run, taxpayer subsidized internet. As long as Palo Alto owns a dark fiber network in the city it increases the risk of municipal broadband happening, and deters large scale private capital investment.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2016 at 12:15 pm

"Do you think that if AT&T or Comcast started running fiber to the premises, municipal fiber activists would be satisfied?"

I have no opinion on that. What I do know is fools rush in where angels fear to go, and the Angel Google just chickened out. So ... .


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2016 at 4:57 pm

@Mary (Aug 9, 2016, 8:20 pm) -- Let me put it this way. Palo Alto has an electric utility. It's not trying to make as much money as it could. It makes enough money to meet its expenses. (One of the expenses is a transfer to the General Fund.) So Palo Alto's electric customers get good rates, but that doesn't mean those rates are being "subsidized."


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 5:50 pm

@Jeff Hoel. No disrespect intended, but what you say may be persuasive in the world of politics (which you must admit is where you're of necessity operating here since the private sector won't touch your project), but to anyone with a basic understanding of investment economics, it sounds either terribly naive or disingenuous. I suggest you take a basic course in finance and get back to us.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm

For those who don't want to read through this thread in its entirety, what fiber activists are proposing is that city taxpayers invest a huge amount of money in a system that may soon be technologically obsolete, has potential competitors in the private sector and will be managed by the same city bureaucrats that couldn't build a library on time or on budget. To top it off they propose that the city will accept a less than market return on its huge investment so that they can offer lower rates to customers. (Of course they insist that having the taxpayers accept a low return on investment so that customers will have lower prices is not a subsidy from taxpayers to customers.)

Fiber activists also make a big deal about the City of Chattanooga's fiber system and tell us what a great deal its residents get. What they don't tell you is that Chattanooga received $111,000,000 in federal stimulus funds (Is this a subsidy?) and sold $220,000,000 in bonds to build the system and that some analysts question the ability of the system to pay off the bonds without the city kicking in some more money.

There are no more stimulus funds available for Palo Alto. Google and others may have a wireless system to deploy soon. Palo Alto has no business getting into fiber.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:34 pm

@Ain't (Aug 10, 2016, 11:03 am) -- "As long as Palo Alto owns a dark fiber network in the city it increases the risk of municipal broadband happening, and deters large scale private capital investment."

If you're suggesting that the City should sell its dark fiber network, that's crazy. It's doing very well financially, and lots of dark fiber customers rely on it.

You're right that I wouldn't be satisfied if AT&T or Comcast "started" running fiber to premises here. As far as I know, neither has deployed FTTP citywide anywhere. AT&T is well-known for its "fiber to the press release."
Web Link
Web Link
I wouldn't want to have to pay extra to keep my provider from spying on me.
Web Link
I wouldn't like usage caps.
Web Link
I wouldn't like to have to deal with the "customer service from hell."
Web Link

You're wrong to claim that I want municipal FTTP in Palo Alto to be "taxpayer-subsidized."


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Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2016 at 1:40 pm

@Curmudgeon - ^^^ Now you have confirmation the muni advocates will never be satisfied with a private broadband solution.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2016 at 2:16 pm

" A municipal FTTP network can offer an alternative, when the municipality values the good of the community more than maximizing ROI."

"You're wrong to claim that I want municipal FTTP in Palo Alto to be "taxpayer-subsidized.""

These statements, both by Jeff Hoel, are irreconcilable.

Consider these hypotheticals Case 1 and Case 2:

Assume in both cases that the revenue maximizing, ROI maximizing, rate for 1G fiber service in Palo ALto is $100/mo.

Case 1: Google puts in a fiber network in Palo Alto and (having a fiduciary duty to its shareholders) charges $100/mo for fiber connections. The City Council decides that fast Internet is an important service that should be encouraged and that each Google customer should be given a $25/mo rebate on its bill when presented to the City Clerk. I hope Mr. Hoel would agree that this constitutes a subsidy to fiber subscribers in PA, paid by the taxpayers.

Case 2: Palo Alto decides to put it its own fiber network. (Again the revenue maximizing rage is $100/month). But the City Council, again deciding that fast Internet is an important service that should be encouraged decrees that the City will charge only $75/mo to residents who subscribe to fiber. How is this not a subsidy if the rebate in Case 1 is?

There may be good arguments for the City to subsidize Internet service in Palo Alto. And there may be a business case for the city to build and run a fiber service in Palo Alto. (Though I think the discussion here disproves both of those assertions). But Jeff Hoel can't have it both ways. If he wants the city to charge less than ROI maximizing service "for the good of the community" as he straightforwardly, he can't simultaneously claim he is against subsidy for that service.

A lot of fuzzy thinking going on here.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:04 pm

@Mary ("No disrespect intended") -- Well, you've already said I'm honest and sincere, so I guess that means you think I'm "terribly naïve" -- unless you're being disingenuous. I'll admit I never attended Trump University. Explain to me how the City's electric utility is being subsidized.


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Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:16 pm

@Jeff - The City's electric utility isn't subsidized because everyone in teh city is forced to be a customer, and no competition is allowed, so they can raise prices to whatever the need to. And the prices are high.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Well, I didn't go to the same school as Venezuela's Economics Minister either. If you'll explain to us why Case 1 above and Case 2 above aren't exactly the same thing, then I think you'll have the answer to your question about the Electric Utility in PA.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2016 at 4:20 pm

@Mary -- Here's what's wrong with your 08-13-16 summary.

FTTP is not in danger of being obsoleted by wireless. According to Susan Crawford, wireless is going to need fiber infrastructure that looks a lot like FTTP infrastructure.
Web Link

The market for Internet service is so uncompetitive that the incumbents aren't interested in offering FTTP.

The Utilities Advisory Commission (UAC) has oversight of Palo Alto's utilities, including its fiber utility. UAC never had oversight responsibility for the new library. City utilities staff never had responsibility for the new library either.

I have talked about Chattanooga's $111 million grant for smart grid many times, including on this reader comment thread. Nearly all of it went for smart grid add-ons, not the underlying FTTP network. (Sure it was a subsidy, from federal taxpayers. That's not my fault.)

According to this 2015 financial report, Chattanooga EPB's fiber optics system had no debt, as of 06-03-15. (See PDF page 41.)
Web Link


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Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Jeff Hoel says: "nearly all of it went for smart grid add-ons, not the underlying FTTP network."

Spokesman for EPB (Chattanooga electric/ISP) John Pless says: "The money expedited the build-out of the fiber optic network for the smart grid, and the communications services were an extra benefit."

The $111 million dollar grant paid for the fiber network, the primary capital expenditure of the project. Even if Jeff wasn't wrong, it wouldn't matter because it all went into the same bank account for the same project. The dollars were all fungible at that point.


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm

@Mary -- I don't know why you want to say that Google would offer residential 1-Gbps symmetrical Internet service for $100/month when they usually offer it for $70/month. Whatever.

What's ROI-maximizing for Google is not at all obvious, since it would have to consider not only FTTP revenues but advertising revenues, and not only short-term but long-term.

Case 1: If the City decided to pay $25/month to each Palo Alto residence that subscribed to Google's 1-Gbps Internet service, yes, that would be a subsidy. You haven't provided enough information about where the money would come from for me to know whether it would come from local taxpayers, local ratepayers, or somewhere else. Let's not get into logistical details like the cost of administering the program.

Case 2: "Revenue-maximizing" is not the same as "ROI-maximizing." What's ROI-maximizing for Google isn't necessarily ROI-maximizing for the City, because, for example, the City doesn't have advertising revenue. In general, the City's costs will be different from what Google's costs would have been.

But let's say the City decides to offer the service for $75/month, and it costs the City $75/month (including debt service and saving for future upgrades), so the City breaks even. Then, no, there's no subsidy. (If there were a subsidy, you'd be able to identify where the subsidy money was coming from.)

Case 3: If the City decided to offer the service for $100/month, and it cost the City only $75/month, then it would have $25/month/customer with which to subsidize something else. But usually the City doesn't choose to operate its utilities that way.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2016 at 6:17 pm

"But let's say the City decides to offer the service for $75/month, and it costs the City $75/month (including debt service and saving for future upgrades), so the City breaks even. Then, no, there's no subsidy. (If there were a subsidy, you'd be able to identify where the subsidy money was coming from.)"

You miss the point entirely, Jeff. The subsidy is the forgone profit/ROI the city would have received on its investment of taxpayer dollars in the fiber system had it charged maximizing rate. (Just because YOU are unable to identify where the subsidy is coming from, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Can I talk you into loaning me $10 million dollars. I'll pay you back the whole $10 million in 20 years. You aren't giving me anything or subsidizing me because you can't identify any gift from you too me. Sheesh! As I said above...a lot of fuzzy thinking going on here.)

You really can't win this one. As long as the City is making an investment on which it intentionally is forgoing profit, the recipients of the fruits of that investment are being subsidized. This is a logical truism and you can't get around it by trying to redefine terms.

You'd be much better coming up with a better argument for the city subsidizing fiber service than trying to pretend that if it forgoes maximizing ROI, it's not subsidizing subscribers to the service. The city subsidizes all kinds of things: I swim at Rinconada and the city subsidizes my swim time for example. So should the city subsidize Internet services, or not?


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Posted by Google ain't coming to Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2016 at 2:25 pm

More bad news - in addition to suspending finer rollout, Google is laying off 50% of the Google Fiber workforce.

Web Link

The good news for Jeff Hoel is that municipal fiber may win by process of elimination.

The bad news is that Google's failure shows how expensive fiber rollout can be, and that the demand may not really be there.


Posted by Old News
a resident of Midtown

on Aug 25, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Old News is a registered user.


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Posted by 2 cents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:19 am

@Google ain't coming to Palo Alto

The link is to a rumor, it's not a fact. I asked my friend who works for google fiber if she had heard about that story. She said management has told them the story is false and they don't intend to lay anyone off.


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Posted by pestocat
a resident of University South
on Sep 2, 2016 at 1:49 pm

pestocat is a registered user.

To Jeff Hoel,
Now that Google Fiber is not coming, do you think Google's wireless link would be coming. I just don't think a 3 GHz microwave connection can work in Palo Alto with all our trees. If one had a clear path such as on a tower, maybe OK. But microwave point-to-point links are old stuff from the 1950's and 60's. AT&T dropped them decades ago. What happened at the Wednesday's UAC concerning Fiber to the premise? Any updates?


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Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2016 at 12:57 pm

@pestocat -- I have no inside information about what Google might do.

At the 08-31-16 UAC meeting, UAC got a staff presentation about the status of FTTP and wireless. See video here:
Web Link
Since it was a "discussion item," UAC didn't vote on anything, but a couple of Commissioners expressed an interest in moving forward with a municipal option. I transcribed the video and commented on it, and I hope it will appear in a "Letters From Citizens" document in a future Council packet. Meanwhile, I transcribed the video of a similar staff presentation to the Policy & Services Committee on 08-16-16. See pages 81-119 here:
Web Link


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Talk to Netflix. They would be the major user/beneficiary of FTTX by far.


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

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