Wiring the Sierras

Inyo County, the second largest county in California, is ready to jumpstart the process of delivering a true broad band infrastructure to business and residences within the Owens Valley.  The plan, called the 21st Century Obsidian Project, envisions delivering a fiber infrastructure to all residents of Inyo County and other surrounding areas along the Eastern Sierras and parts of Death Valley.

Owens Valley Eastern Sierras According to the project RFP, the project goal is “an operating, economically sustainable,
Open Access, Fiber-to-the-Premise, gigabit network serving the Owens Valley and select
neighboring communities. The project is driven by the expectation that Inyo County’s
economy will improve as a result of successfully attaining the goal.”

Many cities are finding ways to bypass the nonsense surrounding discussion on “Net Neutrality.”  Rather than worry about what Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, or other carriers and ISPs feuding over the rights and responsibilities of delivering Internet content to the premise,  many governments understand the need for high speed broadband as a critical economic, social, and academic tool, and are developing alternatives to traditional carriers.

Whether it is the Inyo County project, Burbank One (a product of Burbank Water and Power), Glendale Fiber Optic Solutions (Glendale Water and Power), Pasadena’s City Fiber Services, or Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) Fiber Optic Enterprise, the fiber utility is becoming available in spite of carrier reluctance to develop fiber infrastructure.

Much of the infrastructure is being built to support intelligent grids (power metering and control), and city schools or emergency services – with the awareness fiber optics are fiber optics, and the incremental cost of adding additional fiber cores to each distribution route is low.  So why not build it out for the citizens and businesses?

The important aspect of municipal or city infrastructure development is the acknowledgement this is a utility.  While some government agencies will provide “lit” services, in general the product is “dark” fiber, available for lease or use by commercial service providers.  Many city networks are interconnected (such as in Los Angeles County utility fiber from Glendale, Burbank, and LADWP), as well as having a presence at major network interconnection points.  This allows fiber networks to carry signal to locations such as One Wilshire’s meet-me-room, with additional access to major Internet Exchange Points and direct interconnections allowing further bypass and peering to other national and global service providers.

In the case of Inyo County, planners fully understand they do not have the expertise necessary to become a telecommunications carrier, and plan to outsource maintenance and some operations of the 21st century Obsidian Project to a third party commercial operator – of course within the guidelines established by the RFP.  The intent is to make it easy and cost effective for all businesses, public facilities, schools, and residences to take advantage and exploit broadband infrastructure.

However the fiber will be considered a utility, with no prejudice or limitations given to commercial service providers desiring to take advantage of the infrastructure and deliver services to the county.

We hope more communities will look at innovative visions such as being published by Inyo County, and consider investing in fiber optics as a utility, diluting the potential impact of carrier sanctions against both internet access, content, or applications (including cloud computing Software as a Service <SaaS> subscriptions.  e.g., MS 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Apps, etc.)..

Congratulations to Inyo County for your vision, and best of luck.

Asian Carrier’s Conference 2013 Kicks Off in Cebu

ACC 2013The 2013 ACC kicked off on Tuesday morning with an acknowledgement by Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications (PLDT) CEO Napolean L. Nazareno that “we’re going through a profound and painful transformation to digital technologies.” He continued to explain that in addition to making the move to a digital corporate culture and architecture that for traditional telcos to succeed they will need to “master new skills, including new partnership skills.”

That direction drives a line straight down the middle of attendees at the conference. Surprisingly, many companies attending and advertising their products still focus on “minutes termination,” and traditional voice-centric relationships with other carriers and “voice” wholesalers.

Philippe MilletMatthew Howett, Regulation and Policy Practice Leader for Ovum Research noted ”while fixed and mobile minutes are continuing to grow, traditional voice revenue is on the decline.” He backed the statement up with figures including “Over the Top/OTT” services, which are when a service provider sends all types of communications, including video, voice, and other connections, over an Internet protocol network – most commonly over the public Internet.

Howett informed the ACC’s plenary session attendees that Ovum Research believes up to US$52 billion will be lost in traditional voice revenues to OTT providers by 2016, and an additional US$32,6 billion to instant messaging providers in the same period.

The message was simple to traditional communications carriers – adapt or become irrelevant. National carriers may try to work with government regulators to try and adopt legal barriers to prevent the emergence of OTTs operating in that country, however that is only a temporary step to stem the flow of “technology-enabled” competition and retain revenues.

As noted by Nazareno, the carriers must wake up to the reality we are in a global technology refresh cycle and business visions, expectations, and construct business plans that will not only allow the company to survive, but also meet the needs of their users and national objectives.

Kevin Vachon, MEFMartin Geddes, owner of Martin Geddes Consulting, introduced the idea of “Task Substitution.’” Task Substitution occurs when an individual or organization is able to use a substitute technology or process to accomplish tasks that were previously only available from a single source. One example is the traditional telephone call. In the past you would dial a number, and the telephone company would go through a series of connections, switches, and processes that would both connect two end devices, as well as provide accounting for the call.

The telephone user now has many alternatives to the traditional phone call – all task substitutions. You can use Skype, WebEx, GoToMeeting, instant messaging – any one of a multitude of utilities allowing an individual or group to participate in one to one or many to many communications. When a strong list of alternative methods to complete a task exist, then the original method may become obsolete, or have to rapidly adapt to avoid being discarded by users.

A strong message, which made many attendees visibly uncomfortable.

Ivan Landen, Managing Director at Asia-Pacific Expereo, described the telecom revolution in terms all attendees could easily visualize. “Today around 80% of the world’s population have access to the electrical grid/s, while more than 85% of the population has access to Wireless”

Ivan Landen, ExpereoHe also provided an additional bit of information which did not surprise attendees, but also made some of the telecom representatives a bit uneasy. In a survey Geddes conducted he discovered that more than 1/2 of business executives polled admitted their Internet access was better at their homes than in their offices.” This information can be analyzed in several different ways, from having poor IT planning with the company, to poor UT capacity management within the communication provider, to the reality traffic on consumer networks is simply lower during the business day than during other time periods.

However the main message was “there is a huge opportunity for communication companies to fix business communications.”

The conference continues until Friday. Many more sessions, many more perimeter discussions, and a lot of space for the telecom community to come to grips with the reality “we need to come to grips with the digital world.”

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:

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