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[f2c] First panel

At Freedom to Connect, the opening panel, moderated by Joanne Hovis, is on municipal wifi. [Note: Liveblogging. Missing stuff. Typing too fast. Not spellpchecking. No rereading. This is a terribly incomplete and occasionally wrong set of notes.]

Tim Nulty is the former head of Burlington Telecom, and is now the head of a consortium bringing fiber to rural Vermont. He says there are about 45 municipal wifi companies in the US. We pretty much know how to do that. It’s different in rural areas, where the average density is 13 residences per linear mile. About 60% have no broadband. Why should it be harder to replace copper wire with glass the second time around? Why is there this myth that it’s impossible? Because there are incumbents who have a financial interest in saying that it’s impossible because they don’t want to do it [because the margins are lower than they want, which would drive down their overall margins, even while increasing their revenue].

Dirk Van der Woude, program manager for broadband in Amsterdam. They provide boradband as a public service such as garbage collection.

Lev Gonick, founder of One Community, has a million institutional users, via a community network, a 501C3. It has about 4,000 route miles. The governance model is mayor-proof because the infrastructure owns the governance. The goal was not to build-up fiber optics but to enable and transform their communty.

Bill Schrier works on getting Seattle fibered. He says that they’re spending $4B on highway infrastructure, which is 8x what it would cost to bring fiber everywhere.

First Joanne question: Fiber vs. Wireless [which is the topic burning up the backchannel]. Dirk says he pays for fiber at home. Wifi works but is slow, he says. For wifi, you need access points with backhaul that is likely to be fiber.

Bill: What’s the killer app for a network? HDTV. Video teleconferencing.

Tim: Fiber is cheaper and more economic if you intend to be universal. Bringing fiber to his neck of the woods (1,000 sq miles) is $69M. Doing this through wireless, with 2.3 or 2.5gH Wimax, to get close to universality, would be $35M. It costs half as much but brings 1/4 the revenue. The capacity is 1% of what you get with fiber. The right thing economically to do is to put the Wimax on top of the fiber network, at which point it costs $10M, which makes it a great business.

Dirk: In Amsterdam, dwellings are stacked. Getting the fiber to move vertically is a problem.

Mark Cooper: Which comes first, fixed or mobile computing? For connecting the underserved, the killer app isn’t HDTV. It’s connectivity. We want wireless: 1. It gets you further. 2. Mobile computing is a twofer: Mobile computing and basic connectivity that meets the need for connectivity. 3. Mobile computing is future-proof. For this project [stimulus package?] wireless is the right thing to do. 4. Public accountability.

Tim: Rural fiber does not need public money. It can pay its own way. Rural wireless does not pay its own way.

Lev: This is a family dispute. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Let’s move ahead, be pragmatic, etc…

Bill: Wireless and fiber are synergistic, (David I. asks for a show of hands; everyone agrees.)

Q: Fiber is the foundation that supports wireless. Now: Go mesh!

Tim: Mesh is great for thin uses. But for carrying lots of data, it breaks down.

Bob Frankston: We need to change the dynamic. We’re stuck in railroads where you pay for each trip. We need to get to the point where assume connectivity at any speed. The question is the funding model.

Dirk: Cooperate with anyone who wants to cooperate with you, so long as you get the network you want…

Bice Wilson: “Designing the hidden public way,” i.e., the infrastructure of connectivity. There’s a vast network of services that needs connectivity to the entire community.

Lev: That’s what One Community is about.

Bill: In Seattle, that’s where we’re directing our efforts.

Roxanne Googin: Current status…?

Tim: The really important investment is in universal fiber.

Joanne wraps up reminding us of the sense of the room that we want universal connectivity and we want it yesterday. [Gross paraphrase] [Tags: ]

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