17-10-2016, 13:25 #1
[EN] Gigabit broadband. No one is sure what they're good for
Cities spent millions on fast gigabit networks. No one is sure what they're good for.
Oct 17, 2016
A few dozen cities in America have next-generation broadband networks that offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second — about 50 times faster than a typical connection. These super-fast connections were supposed to revolutionize Americans’ experience of the Internet and rev up the country’s noncompetitive broadband market.
When these networks were being built, advocates pointed to a number of potential applications. Gigabit networks, they promised, would enable users to interact in complex virtual reality environments. They’d make possible good-as-life teleconferencing that could allow seniors to visit doctors from home.
But six years after the first super-fast connections went live, even proponents concede no “killer” gigabit application has emerged. Most of their potential, critics say, is simply ignored by users. And building gigabit networks nationwide would be a colossally expensive undertaking.
That has caused even some former enthusiasts of these networks to wonder whether the early hype around gigabit networks was misplaced. Perhaps it makes sense to settle for more incremental — and much less expensive — upgrades to the networks we already have.
Fiber optic networks were supposed to be the Internet’s future
Most Americans get their internet via telephone and cable television wires that have been in the ground for decades. These lines weren’t designed to carry digital data, and as a result internet service over them tends to be slow. New fiber optics networks, which send data as pulses of light along strands of glass, really are better.
Chattanooga, Tennessee — population 173,000 — built a publicly owned fiber optic network in 2010, making it the first American city to offer gigabit speeds citywide. The network cost $330 million to install and initially offered gigabit speeds for $350 a month — a price that has since fallen to $70.
Last year, Chattanooga demonstrated just how fast fiber optic networks can be when it boosted its top speed to 10 gigabits per second. To put that in context, that’s more than 500 times faster than the average speed of a US internet connection of 15.3 megabits per second.
When it began, Chattanooga officials spoke of the project as part a longer-term revitalization of the city’s deindustrialized economy. They believed that having one of the nation’s fastest broadband networks would give the city a decisive economic advantage — allowing the city’s residents to use, or maybe even develop, the next generation of internet applications.
And Chattanooga wasn’t alone; there were dozens of government-led efforts to install fiber in small cities nationwide.
The private sector played a major role in the fiber boom of the past decade too. Google Fiber, Alphabet’s gigabit television and broadband service, went live in Kansas City in 2013.
Along with making money, the company bosses have said they hoped to strengthen the internet’s technological foundations.
“We don't want incremental change,” Google Fiber’s Kevin Lo said in a 2012 interview. “Offering you a 10 Mbps service and edging it to 50 Mbps and then 100 Mbps, that's not what drives real innovation.”
Google set an initial goal of signing up 5 million subscribers in its first five years. More than 1,100 municipalities applied to be part of the program. The company has expanded the service to seven cities so far.
The nation’s largest internet providers — Comcast, Verizon, AT&T — have rolled out some fiber offerings as well.
Advocates want the feds to push a nationwide fiber network
As a result, about 14 percent of Americans have access to gigabit speeds today. That’s not nearly enough for Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School. In her book Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, Crawford called for a massive national fiber project comparable to Dwight Eisenhower’s creation of the National Highway System.
The gigabit applications we’ve seen so far, she told me, are only the vaguest hints of what’s to come.
"“It’s a phase change, like ice turning into water”"
“One helpful analogy is to the history of electrification,” she said. “We thought when electricity first came on the scene it would just be a few street lights, maybe one light at home.”
Crawford dismissed talk of building gradually on current speeds. In her view, gigabit networks represent a revolution over current broadband, not simply a marginal improvement.
“It’s a phase change,” she said, “like ice turning into water.”
A few countries, notably South Korea, have invested more in super-fast networks than America has. But there isn’t yet much sign that the faster networks have given these countries a big technological edge.
Crawford argues that’s because countries like South Korea lack the United States’ entrepreneurial dynamism.
“If you come up with something there, you just get bought by Samsung,” she said.
Skeptics say a gigabit fiber network isn’t worth the cost
Of course, there’s another possibility: Maybe people just don’t have any use for so much bandwidth. That’s the view of Doug Brake, of Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank funded by foundation and government grants as well as donations from firms such as Google and IBM.
“There are no apps today and no apps on the horizon,” he said, though he acknowledged that development of new applications would probably proceed more quickly with far broader gigabit coverage.
The basic issue is that even the most bandwidth-hungry of today’s applications use far, far less than a gigabit — 1,000 megabits per second — of bandwidth. Right now, one of the most bandwidth-hungry applications out there is Netflix. Netflix recommends users have at least 3 Mbps of bandwidth for standard-definition video — meaning that you could stream about 300 Netflix videos simultaneously on a 1 gigabit connection. If you want Netflix’s highest-quality streaming, called Ultra HD, that requires 25 Mbps. So a gigabit connection would allow you to stream 40 Ultra HD videos at a time.
“People throughout history have been proven wrong, so I’m open to that,” Brake said, “but nothing before our eyes justifies spending hundreds of billions of dollars on this stuff.”
He rejected Crawford’s federal approach as “an absurd waste of government resources.”
To the extent that there’s any problem with US internet service, he said, it’s with connectivity in remote, rural areas.
The focus of policy should be on “making sure our nation’s poor have access to the internet at acceptable speeds,” he said. For the most part, that means incentivizing the major broadband providers to expand and upgrade their existing networks, which are often much slower than 1 gigabit.
Brake points to Vector DSL and DOCSIS 3.1, new standards that allow telephone and cable networks, respectively, to carry more data than before. He also highlighted the forthcoming fifth generation of mobile broadband (5G), which will have speeds about 10 times those of 4G devices.
With that kind of steady progress, he argues, it would be foolish to spend billions of dollars on a fiber networks that would deliver far more bandwidth than most households know what to do with.
New networks have benefits beyond gigabit speeds
Blair Levin has a long record as a cheerleader for faster broadband networks. He oversaw the creation of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan in 2009 and 2010. Then he led Gig.U, a private group promoting gigabit networks on college campuses.
But his enthusiasm for gigabit networks has cooled a bit in recent years — a situation he calls “highly ironic” given his earlier views.
“There’s nothing magical about a gig,” he said. “The gig has become the marketing nomenclature.”
It’s not the speed of the networks he cares about, but their impact on the broader broadband marketplace.
When he and his colleagues set out to write the National Broadband Plan in 2009, Levin said, most US households had no more than two options for broadband service — usually a cable company and a local telephone company. The weak competitive pressure inherent in that structure reduces firms’ incentive to invest in better technology, especially because building a new network can cannibalize usage of existing networks.
"I don't begrudge anyone their return on investment,” Levin said. However, he noted, the major providers’ incentive “is not to provide ‘better, faster, cheaper,’ but to maximize return on investment."
So without pressure from outside, incumbent broadband providers have a tendency to rest on their laurels.
In contrast, when a third party announces plans to build a new network in a particular city, the local cable and DSL providers often responded by offering faster, cheaper service of their own. Comcast, for example, recently announced a new 2 gigabit cable service that will be available in both Chattanooga and Atlanta, Georgia — a Google Fiber city.
17-10-2016, 13:30 #2
Fiber upgrades are losing momentum — and that might be okay
Google Fiber’s rollout has been painstaking and slow, and the project has so far failed to meet its growth goals.
From 2014 onward, the company has required wannabe “Fiber cities” to promise they’ll expedite Fiber’s installation in various ways. These include providing detailed information on and access to existing infrastructure, streamlined construction permitting, and other concessions. Getting cities to buy into the whole program has proved difficult. AT&T is continuing to expand its fiber optic network, called Giga Power. Verizon invested heavily in its own fiber optic service, called FiOS, over the past decade. But in recent years, new FiOS investments have practically ground to a halt.
All three firms have recently signaled plans to shift away from laying fiber lines directly into subscribers’ homes. The new initiatives revolved around covering the so-called “last mile” using 5G wireless, which is easier to install but runs at slower speeds.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed an additional $275 billion in spending on America’s infrastructure over the next five years. Some of that money would flow to boosting internet access to underserved areas. Another tranche would go to grants for towns looking to create “modern digital communities,” part of which would likely to go fiber buildout.
Levin and Crawford praised the proposal as a step in the right direction. Brake praised it too, citing its focus on broadband availability (rather than speed) and its neutrality as to which technology to employ.
But more ambitious proposals, like Crawford’s dream of a national, federally subsidized fiber network, don’t seem likely to materialize. “Let’s get real,” several experts told me.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Right now, incremental improvements to existing broadband networks seem to be providing most Americans with plenty of bandwidth for today’s applications. On the other hand, maybe some scrappy tech entrepreneurs in South Korea will shock everyone into rethinking the question.
17-10-2016, 13:46 #3
off-topic UFD’s NYC-Ashburn Fiber Build
"Bureaucracy and red tape has been one of the most challenging aspects. As you know, in the New York/New Jersey sector there's a lot that goes with that, and those that haven't done it before don't realize what you have to get through. You don't just wake up one morning and say let's go run some cable and two weeks later you are running it."
October 17th, 2016
A few years ago, we started to see new intercity fiber projects spring up on specific routes. One of the more intriguing of those proposed projects was that of United Fiber & Data (UFD), which proposed to construct fiber on the highly trafficked route between New York City and Ashburn, but on a diverse, westerly route. There hasn’t been much news on the project since, but construction is in fact underway now. With us today to tell us all about it is President and COO Christopher Lodge.
TR: Can you give us a status update on your fiber buildout?
CL: New York City is done, and we have over 30 miles of cable in lower Manhattan. We just started in New Jersey this past month, and we are on schedule to complete that this year, and we hope to wrap up in Virginia in Q1/Q2 of 2017. We'll have folks working on both ends, we are wrapping up a few details to get construction crews to start on the southern end now. We have crews out as we speak today working in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and we are wrapping up the minutia in Virginia before starting there. We are actually stockpiling cable so we don't run into any shortages. We just took delivery of 15 spools about a week and a half ago, and we have another 15-16 coming in next week in addition to the 50 spools we have in storage. It's brand-new 864 count cable on 8 foot spools, and over 10,000 feet per spool.
TR: Tell us about the route you are taking between New York and Ashburn. Have there been any changes made since the original plans were drawn up?
CL: The primary route is pretty much the same. We start in Manhattan, come across through Jersey City and Newark, and then take a southwesterly route on a beeline for Pennsylvania, then a crescent moon across PA, drop down out of central PA into Maryland, where we go through 2 counties on the way to Ashburn. We have made some tweaks and adjustments of a mile one way or another to a smoother path or to one with less red tape, for example there were a few in the Newark NJ area as well as some in Virginia.
TR: What took so long to get the actual construction underway?
CL: Bureaucracy and red tape has been one of the most challenging aspects. As you know, in the New York/New Jersey sector there's a lot that goes with that, and those that haven't done it before don't realize what you have to get through. You don't just wake up one morning and say let's go run some cable and two weeks later you are running it. The hoops, hurdles, and fire rings are significant, but if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. We've had a few stalls and stops along the way, and it definitely took longer than we wanted gathering rights-of-way and approvals and such. But now we have all that, and we are going full bore.
TR: Will your fiber plant be underground or aerial?
CL: It is split between the two, with 65% aerial and 35% underground. In northern New Jersey and in Virginia it's mostly underground, but mostly aerial in Pennsylvania.
TR: Do you see any opportunities for expansion in areas adjacent to this route?
CL: Absolutely, we've had requests from current contracts and potential customers and have had conversations with multiple communities and municipalities on just that. It's not as if bandwidth doesn't exist out there today, but it's tough to go there and buy a 10G or 100G wave of service from anybody relative to markets like northern New Jersey or Ashburn. We have started looking additional metro rings in areas like Pottstown, the Lehigh Valley, Lancaster, York, and even out towards Gettysburg. We have started to engineer some of those, but we want to finish the primary backbone before we do any construction -- although some of it might run parallel to it at the end.
TR: Are there other intercity projects you might take up?
CL: We've been asked to look at alternative, westerly routes both up through New England and south from Ashburn. But that's for the future. We'll have to see if it makes sense and is viable. We don't have a 'build it and they will come' philosophy, if we do anything like that it will be in a manner that makes sense financially for our investors.
TR: What sort of early demand have you been seeing? What segments of the market have been interested?
CL: We have contracts on about 15% of the capacity. We've signed two agreements in the past month alone. If I had to put them in order, it would be carrier/wholesale/content, financial, and then things like healthcare.
TR: Are these customers more interested in the diverse route between two endpoints, or in the connecting the relatively underserved markets you pass through along the way?
CL: We are seeing both. Obviously the westerly route gives people a level of diversity they might not have had before on the wholesale side. But we are seeing great traction in areas of Pennsylvania that in the past haven't had access to these quantities of bandwidth before. We are seeing demand from gigabit communities and fiber to the tower where it used to slim pickings.
TR: Will you be sticking to dark fiber, or will you be expanding into lit and managed services?
CL: We're doing what I'd call the “crawl, walk, run” process. We don't want to start announcing lots of products when we don't have the dark fiber piece built yet. But once we have segments of dark fiber going, we will start offering lit services on them early next year -- initially from Manhattan into New Jersey and then ultimately from there down into Virginia and back. We'll start off with wavelengths, and then progress up the value stack into managed services over time.
TR: What message should we take home from this interview?
CL: We are here. It is happening. We definitely had our naysayers in the early days, and maybe for good reasons. But if anybody does doubt it, spend a day with me and we'll go sightseeing and show you otherwise.
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!
Última edição por 5ms; 17-10-2016 às 13:50.
17-10-2016, 14:02 #4
off-topic Maryland strikes dark fiber deal to improve access to Ashburn
Jun 21, 2016
A resource-sharing agreement that dark fiber provider USA Fiber and the state of Maryland signed last month will connect Baltimore with Ashburn, Va., along a direct line under the Potomac River, enabling the state to offer new levels of connectivity and security.
The Ashburn Express cable system will bypass the Interstate 95 corridor, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Amtrak and Washington, D.C. What’s unique about the resourcing agreement, which lets USA Fiber own and operate its infrastructure connecting Virginia to Maryland underneath the Maryland-controlled Potomac, is that the company is connecting two key interconnection points in two states without the need for an optical region. This means customers can have equipment in either state and access all the cloud applications directly without needing a carrier to transport their services.
“Our customers are able to grow and scale their communication needs and requirements on their own terms using dedicated dark fiber as opposed to buying a managed service from a third party,” Judd Carothers, chief operating officer at USA Fiber, said.
This is especially significant for Maryland’s Montgomery County, which sits roughly across the river from Ashburn, because 90 percent of the internet traffic on the East Coast flows through Ashburn data centers, said Mitsuko Herrera, ultraMontgomery director at the county’s Department of Technology Services.
UltraMontgomery is part of County Executive Ike Leggett’s Six-Point Economic Plan to enhance connectivity and economic development while lowering infrastructure deployment costs and creating public/private partnerships.
“While we have fiber connections to Ashburn, they are more circuitous,” Herrera said. “Building a route that flows directly as the crow flies for technical reasons reduces latency. It allows you to move signals with less regeneration, and as more people move to more-capacity data -- higher-gigabit, 100-gigabit types -- it facilitates that.”
"We see that it’s very important for the growth of Montgomery County and the biotech, cybersecurity, financial industry jobs," she said, "and we also see that it’s a boon for the local data centers that are located within Montgomery County because now you can install your gear locally where it’s easier for you to access, but you can have the kind of connectivity that’s as if you had your gear installed in Ashburn.”
Currently, most telecommunication carriers’ networks go from Maryland through D.C. and out through Northern Virginia to Ashburn. “Our route bypasses the District and provides that direct connection without a need for any type of regeneration of signal between Baltimore and Ashburn,” USA Fiber' Carothers said. “You don’t need to have anything other than a dedicated pair of our fiber to get connectivity from your businesses in Maryland to your cloud and internet applications that reside in Ashburn.”
The cables are made up of multiple 432 fiber-pairs, each of which can transmit wavelengths at 100 gigabytes or more per second. “It would be foolish to think that cable sizes don’t increase over time, so right now we’re installing a single 864-count cable between Ashburn and Baltimore and as that fiber becomes utilized, we’ll continue to install incremental cables, which could be larger than an 864,” Carothers added.
So far, USA Fiber has finished the 7.2-mile ring around the Ashburn data centers and is continuing its march toward the river. Carothers said the plan is to be in Baltimore early next year.
Montgomery County estimated that it would have cost about $12 million to connect directly to Ashburn. With the agreement, Herrera said, “what the state is actually getting is a connection that goes all the way to Baltimore and instead of just to one data center, it goes through a loop of 35-plus data centers. The state did not have the resources to do it on its own.”
Herrera and other county officials are encouraging private providers to lease the fiber and are working to let FiberNet, the county’s flagship fiber-optic communications network, serve as an on-ramp on an open-access basis.
“In a time where ideas move at the speed of light, this new fiber connection to the ‘heart of the internet’ in Ashburn, Va., is vital to the economic health of Montgomery County and Maryland,” County Executive Leggett said in an email. “It will benefit our existing cybersecurity, biotech, computer science and financial service industries with greater speed, capacity and security and help us attract other growing companies.”
17-10-2016, 14:43 #5
17-10-2016, 17:47 #6
Poderia apostar uma mariola que a população paga barato pelo acesso 1Gbit porque ela é o produto vendido. Recebe aparelho de barbear quase grátis e os provedores locais pagam pelas lâminas. Enquanto o acesso é amplo e muito barato, os preços cobrados nos data centers sul-coreanos são estratosféricos, impossibilitando que "inovadores" com capital restrito façam uso intensivo de banda. Essa situação de banda larga abundante e barata vs banda de data center cara talvez possa até ser politica governamental de subsidio. Algo como condicionar licenças/concessões à fornecer serviço barato para a tigrada compensando a diferença metendo a faca nos provedores.
Última edição por 5ms; 17-10-2016 às 18:01.