Hunter Newby on Communications in America – Net Neutrality

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.”

HunterNewbyAnd 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.”  telecom-tower-at-sunrise

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:

Montreal’s Ambassadors of the Lachine Canal

May 21st marked the first real day of spring in Montreal.  Warm, sunny, a hint of humidity, with the scent of blooming flowers and freshly cut grass finally overwhelming the smell of automobiles.  A perfect day to investigate more wonders hidden within one of the oldest cities in North Lachine CanalAmerica.

The Lachine Canal stretches about 14.5 km from the Old Port of Montreal to Lake St. Louis.  One of those landmarks you see while jogging or walking along the waterfront around Old Town, but for most people it is just that – one of those old relics of a city that has been around for a long time.  Not many souvenir shops along the canal, just a few cafes, but a really pleasant series of protected trails and bike paths for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Walking along the canal you will eventually hit one of the 5 locks providing access to small boats desiring to cruise the historic industrial living museum of Montreal on both sides of the Lachine.

Andre marinOn Saturday, Andre Marin and Martin Nguyen were manning the locks, both lock keepers for Parks Canada.  As I walked towards Lock #3 at Saint-Gabriel, Andre and Martin greeted me, and asked where I was from.  Learning a California boy had stumbled upon their lock, and the fact no boats were currently approaching, they both lit up and took the opportunity to give me a complete overview of the lock system, and history lesson on the surrounding area.

Martin, who grew up in the local area near “his” lock, took a special pride explaining the significance of the canal to not only the city of Montreal, but to the entire economy of the Great Lakes waterways.  “Over there, that was a sugar refinery.  And there, an old textile mill,” said Andre.  “Don’t forget to take pictures of the old swing bridge, it is covered with graffiti and weeds, but still pretty cool…”

Andre continued with detailed explanations of how the locks worked, explaining during the summer season “we can do (process) nearly 100 boats on a busy day.”

LachineBoatTime to go to work.  Martin needs to prepare the lock to accept their next “customer,” a small inflatable craft.  Martin heads into the lock reception area, and Andre gets ready to open the lock’s doors for their visitor.

Andre reminds me, “hey, make sure you ask the boat driver for permission to take pictures, it is the tradition here” as he focuses on getting ready for “his” boat.

The boat arrives, slides through the entry lock, ties up on the reception dock, and the lock floods up to the level of the next segment of the canal.  Andre runs to the other side of the lock, opens the doors, and the “customer” is free to head on to Lock #4 (Cote-Saint Paul).

All done with precision, and a genuinely friendly greeting to their boating customers.  A good feeling all around for everybody.

Hand shakes, email addresses, and promises to connect at some point in the future, and we are on our way to the next Montreal adventure.

Ambassadors of the Lachine Canal

Lachine Canal LocksGranted, customer service is the primary job of all persons working at Parks Canada.  However there is a big difference between following a customer service script, and having deep pride in your city, work, and heritage that drives both hospitality and friendship to strangers.  Andre and Martin both had a couple Los Angeles or “states” stories to tell, but it is clear their mission in life is to promote Montreal, Canada, and their special role as ambassadors to the Lachine Canal.

And it is clear they love their job.

If you would like to learn more about the Lachine Canal, check out the Parks Canada website, or simply do a Google search on Lachine Canal.  Plenty of history, lots of old pictures and documents.

Better yet, when you come to Montreal take a break from the tourist areas of Vieux Montreal and walk, ride, or jog along the canal.  When you get to Lock #3, give the guys my regards.  

What Americans Should Know About Palestine – Part 2

An Emerging RamallahWhat does statehood mean to a young Palestinian student, dreaming of her future and that of her friends and family?  “Of course a Palestinian State means we will have the opportunity to focus energy on building our lives, and not have to wake up in the morning with a tank parked in front of our house.”  Hiba, a university student in Ramallah, goes on to say “You might say in ways we are victims, due to the occupation, but we cannot continue complaining about it.  We have to continue working to develop ourselves.  We really want independence and statehood.”

In April 2011, during a visit to Ramallah, I had the opportunity to interview several Palestinians, and asked their views on statehood, Palestine’s place in the world, and what they wanted Americans to know about Palestine.   The interviews included members of the government, entrepreneurs, students, and even taxi drivers.  The responses to questions were remarkably consistent.  Nobody mentioned resistance or violence, and in all cases rejected the recent level of conflict in the Gaza territory as unproductive to the Palestinian cause.

We are sensitive and creative people. We have poets, writers, and a deep culture.”

I ask “what do you want Americans to know about Ramallah and Palestine?”

Each person has a slightly different answer, but all answers are positive.  Talk about the occupation quickly moves on to topics about future, and how everything in changing in Ramallah.  In fact, just walking along the streets of Ramallah can be a challenge – not because of anything dangerous, but rather the level of construction makes it difficult to navigate streets.

Answers to the question are difficult to pin down.  Once the topic is raised, you will get one or two quick ideas, including concern that Americans are not getting a clear picture of the “real” Palestine through news media.  In particular, those in Ramallah want Americans to know there is a big difference between the West bank and Gaza.  The impressions Americans get (as seen on their satellite television broadcasts of CNN and Fox News) of Palestine is one of rocket attacks, kidnappings, and violence.  In reality, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, and other locations within the West Bank are very peaceful, with most people working hard to improve their quality of life.

Ramallah itself is a city of cafes, shopping, cultural events, construction, and even discos to round out an emerging night life and entertainment industry.   However, as this is not current news, and does not sell US advertising, it is rare you would ever have an opportunity to see this side of Palestine in the US media.  

Hiba was a bit disappointed on one topic – she was busy the following day and could not attend TEDx Ramallah, an independent event supported by the innovative community TED.  “TEDxRamallah aims to showcase inspiring stories of Palestine. It also aims to educate and inspire by providing a space for people to share their ideas in any field, whether science, education, literature, technology, design, etc. to contribute to the positive perception of Palestine.”

She concedes the Palestine university system may not adequately introduce innovation and entrepreneurial spirit within the formal curriculum, however with groups such as TEDx Ramallah, and expatriate Palestinians returning to the country there is a new spirit driving young people.  In addition, the Palestinian Authority actively encourages foreign companies to invest in Palestinian small and medium businesses (SMEs), hoping to further develop both the local economy and support innovation.

Investment in Palestine is being encouraged not merely to increase the size of the economy, but also to increase private sector employment, generate income, and improve living standards. A move towards increased per capita prosperity will additionally have the overall effect of potentially stabilizing tensions in the region, if achieved in tandem with a just political settlement. A just peace and prosperity within the West Bank and Gaza
Strip is not only good for us, but it’s good for Israel and the Middle East as a whole.
(PIPA)

The 2010 Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem attracted more than 1000 potential investors from 38 countries with pledges to invest nearly $1bil in Palestinian SMEs. Of particular note was the interest in developing Palestine’s IT and software development industries, which are attractive due to the limitations in export/import of materials as controlled by Israel.   This does show a very positive outlook and confidence in Palestine’s future by the international community.

“Statehood Means We Will Have an Identity”

The WallHiba continues that “I have never been outside of the West Bank.  Not because I don’t want to travel and see other locations around the world, rather it is because I cannot get a passport, and am not allowed to travel outside of Palestine.  I know how the outside world is, because we get movies and television from around the world.  What makes us different from the rest of the world?  Why can’t I experience life as in the movies and television just because I was born in Palestine?

Difficult for an American to appreciate.  For us freedom of movement, expression, and religion is assumed, and we feel great anger when faced with even small barriers to those freedoms.

It hurts inside that we cannot travel to Jerusalem and pray at our Mosques and other holy sites.  Those locations are very important to us (Palestinians and Muslims).”

A taxi driver goes out of his way to expose me to the difficulties all Palestinians encounter while going through checkpoints (between Ramallah and Jerusalem), and give an up close view of walls, guard towers, and Israeli military installations designed to control movement, keeping Palestinians within the West Bank territory.

With statehood we can begin applying our energy to improving our lives, not just trying to stay alive.”

Then his conversation once again turns positive.  “Do you see their settlements?  Don’t you agree Ramallah is a much nicer city than Tel Aviv?  Once we have freedom we’ll be a very strong little country.”

A Lasting Impression

While this is not my first visit to Palestine, Israel, or other locations within the Middle East, each experience brings new observations, emotions, and ideas.  Human nature tells us we should think positive, as negative energy rarely brings progress.  The Palestinians have a tremendous level of positive energy, and as an outsider it is certainly refreshing to see the enthusiasm of a country on the verge of establishing their own nation and identity.

Will the United Nations grant this status?  Will Israel accept a Palestine state?  Will the United States apply pressure to the region to consider Palestinian autonomy?

Time will tell.  But for now, we can only hope the international community and media will apply factual reporting of all aspects of the Palestine issue.  It is a wonderful place, with warm, friendly people, and we will hope their future generations will be free to develop and prosper as any other in our global community.

NOTE: For the record we need to acknowledge Israeli citizens are also prevented from entering the West Bank and Gaza. This can only contribute to the misunderstandings between citizens of each country. And in fact, during the routine “interrogation” I received departing from the Tel Aviv airport, the majority of questions directed to me were more of “tell me a bit more about Ramallah. I cannot go there and it is interesting to hear how things are within the city…”

Palestine Prepares for Statehood – Part 1

Hiba, a young university student in Ramallah dominates the conversation with dreams of her country’s future, and confidence her generation will build a new nation that is equal to any other in the world.  This is the new Palestine.  A Palestine that shifts memories of invasion, occupation, and repression to the side, focusing valuable energy on building a new nation.

Renewel Projects in Old RamallahIt is easy for visitors to appreciate Hiba’s enthusiasm.  Walking on any street within Ramallah is a challenge.  Not because the streets are bad, rather because the city is in a constant state of construction.

A few short years ago Ramallah was still putting the pieces back together from destruction due to invasion and conflict.  Today energy is directed to the new Ramallah – one that is beginning to take on impressions of a mix of European cities with the rich culture and history of Palestine.

The Palestine State

Recently the United Nations reported that Palestine was ready for statehood, with a target of September 2011.  For those who have lived their lives in an independent country, this is a difficult idea to comprehend.

Imagine if California was culturally and socially an independent state, occupied by the Confederate States of North America for the past 50 years.  As a Californian, you cannot have a passport, become a citizen of the occupying country, travel freely, determine which city you want to live in, or even which radio or television stations you would like to watch.

The Wall Separating Israel and PalestineMoving between villages and cities requires you to go through checkpoints, with military sentries who despise you due to your religion and ethnic background.  Sentries who have no moral or ethical problem abusing you, as they do not really consider you an equal human being to those from their country.

Imagine going to school one day, and learning the occupying country has now closed the border between your village and the school you attend, and you cannot return home.

Americans can refer to our own history with Britain, and appreciate the struggles independence and freedom require.  And the cost of freedom in blood, resistance, and commitment to never capitulate.

There are many examples around the world of countries invaded, occupied, and ethnically cleansed.  Cultures that have been diluted or destroyed, and history that is written by the victors of conflict.

However the Palestinians have resisted, fought, and refused to give up their struggle for independence and identity.  And that struggle is nearing and end.  End with the United Nations recognizing the state of Palestine.

That is of course we assume Israel will peacefully allow a transition to Palestinian statehood, which is far from certain.

History Remembered, Future Embraced

Hiba will not forget the days spending 6 hours in checkpoints each day going to and from school.  She will never forget interrogations by military patrols, and watching as homes of friends were plowed under to accommodate expansion of Israeli settlements into the West Bank.

Yassar ArafatBut today Hiba is more interested in being exposed to new ideas, new ways of thinking, or how she can apply her knowledge to building a nation, and better quality of life, for her family and children.  Not unlike any American or European student’s vision and dream.

Trained as a software engineer, Hiba outlines her ideas on how to bring an aggressive entrepreneurial spirit to Palestine, particularly related to agricultural and services industries.  How she can make contact with expatriate Palestinians, both learning from their successes – as well as attracting their investment money to further develop economic capacities in the country.

The Youth Are An Inspiration

Students discussing their future cannot hold back enthusiasm and vision.  How can young people put aside their bitterness, memories, and hatred of an occupation aside so easily?  Are they simply tired of the anger and hatred?

Difficult to say.  When pressed, Palestinians can get very worked up on the emotional topic of Israeli occupation, settlement expansion, and human rights.

Then the moment will pass, and energy is refocused on the present, and opportunities for the future.

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This article is the first of a series on Ramallah 2011, and the road to Palestine statehood.  The next segment will discuss what Palestinians want Americans to know about their country, people, and future.

Your comments and ideas about Palestine, Israel, and independence are welcome.

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