Hunter Newby on Communications in America – Net Neutrality
July 10, 2011 8 Comments
This is Part 3 in a series of interviews with Hunter Newby, Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber
Hunter Newby, Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber believes most people do not fully understand the meaning of “Net Neutrality.” There is a perception that “Net Neutrality is about the Internet,” says Newby. “It is not, it is about physical access to the Internet.”
And this is a combination of controlling the end points (users, computers, and applications), controlling what data or content the end points can access, and what other distant end point destinations are available. Internet gatekeepers, including Internet Service Providers, telecom carriers, and governments, control “who can connect, what they can connect to, and how they connect” claims Newby.
“They are (the gatekeepers) going to have the ability to determine what we can or cannot see” Newby adds, “and that is what scares me the most.”
Newby is quick to point out the government states they will protect the rights of people to connect to “legal” content. But who makes the decision what legal content is? He uses the example of WikiLeaks. While some may find the information scary, embarrassing, inappropriate, or unethical, the question is whether or not the data contained within a WikiLeaks website should be blocked from end points (users), and who is in a position to make that content-access decision?
If the gatekeeper is given that authority, and there no other access options available to end points, then the concept of Net Neutrality becomes a tool for the gatekeepers to control access to global Internet-enabled information resources.
For Newby, that presents a challenge and opportunity
The Neutral Connectivity Buss
Newby is an American, a patriot, and wants to ensure America’s economy and society remains strong, and stays in a global leadership role. However he still acknowledges America has shortfalls in delivering broadband to all end points within the country. His own company, Allied Fiber, “is created to address America’s need for more broadband access, wireless backhaul, data center distribution and lower latency communications services.”
And here is the problem. Long haul fiber optic cables represent the physical means of not only connecting cities and regions to the global Internet (as one network among many levels of communications and connectivity), but also provide a means for end points to connect with other end points around the world. In the United States nearly all telecom carriers operating long haul or long distance fiber also directly support end points.
This means that each long haul fiber operator has a direct interest in containing as many end points within their network as possible. This includes moving up the OSI Stack to provide end points with additional value-added services to end points, in addition to physical access. The carrier then may include everything from applications to content distribution within their own suite of services, either limiting access to competitive sources of similar services – or Newby points out in a worst case outright blocking those services making end points “hostages behind the gatekeeper.”
Newby promotes the concept of building neutral connectivity busses on the long haul networks, connecting competitive regional, metro, and local networks to the buss without concern of needing a traditional long haul carrier to provide that service – a carrier which may wish to restrict the local companies to those services or content available through the carrier’s own content or value-added services.
The closer a neutral long haul connectivity buss can get to local access providers, the easier it will become for new access providers to emerge, as they will have more options for global interconnection, free from the legacy of a single long haul provider with a monopoly on access and transit connectivity.
Newby’s idea of a neutral connectivity buss is not limited to copper or fiber to the end point. In rural areas it is clear wireless technologies may provide better and faster connectivity options than physical cable. Thus, in Allied’s case, Newby promotes the idea of building neutral towers at each in-line amplifier or signal regeneration site.
“We can promote this due to our multi-duct design by using the short haul duct/cable for splicing in towers, etc. It is not limited to just the amp sites” continues Newby.
This would further allow multiple wireless providers to emerge, serve, and compete in areas where only large carriers had the means to operate in the past.
Interconnection, Bypass, and Competition
Carrying a pedigree which includes the legacy of building one of the world’s largest carrier interconnection facilities (60 Hudson’s Telx Meet-Me-Room), Newby is one of the few people around the industry with a core understanding of carrier bypass and interconnections. The “carrier hotel” industry was born to address the need of competitive communications companies to bypass traditional incumbent, or monopoly carriers to directly interconnect without the burden of buying transit connections.
In the United States, this may have been a requirement (in the old days) for Sprint to connect with MCI, without requiring a transit connection through AT&T to make the link. As we added international carriers, such as British Telecom or France Telecom, and they were given the opportunity to own end-to-end circuit capacity on submarine fiber cables or satellites, they were also given the ability to directly connect with Sprint, MCI, or other emerging carriers at a neutral carrier hotel without the need for transit connections.
The concept of neutral Internet Exchange Points, Carrier Ethernet Exchanges, and neutral tandem telephony switches are all a continuation of the need for bypassing individual or monopoly carriers.
Newby now wants to take that several steps further. “At Allied Fiber we want to be able to provide (any service provider or carrier) multiple paths of connectivity. If they (the service provider) can connect to us, then they are free to do (or connect to) what they wish.”
A strong advocate of distributed interconnect and peering, Newby also sees Allied Fiber’s infrastructure as a giant, neutral carrier interconnection point. As each in line amplifier or regeneration site requires a physical support facility, and as noted will also support antenna towers, it is also reasonable to extend the site to include neutral carrier colocation and neutral interconnection both within the site, as well as along the Allied Fiber route to other similar interconnection points.
As Allied Fiber also intends to extend their fiber to existing major and second tier carrier hotels (such as 60 Hudson, etc), this will give connecting service providers the ability to interconnect with other service providers throughout the United States and international locations through a neutral connectivity system – further relieving themselves of monopoly pricing and service restriction potentially imposed by incumbent or transit carriers.
And the product of this exercise is greater competition. Newby is in the business of providing the “connectivity buss,” and openly states Allied Fiber’s policy is “come one, come all.” Regional and local networks/service providers can then take the transit carrier factor out of their list of business risk, with an outcome of better broadband and Internet access to end points throughout America. A more competitive America.
Read other posts in this series, including: