Spillover and Sharing for Better Connectivity - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 351

There are recognizable and obvious benefits that occur when a fiber is deployed in a community. New access to high-quality connectivity, educational opportunities for students in schools, better reliability, jobs from new employers, and possible ISP competition. Spillover effects also occur, but they may not be as obvious. This week’s guest, entrepreneur Isfandiyar Shaheen, has made it his mission to discover and document the benefits that come to a community when fiber connectivity is available.

Asfi is Founder and CEO of NetEquity Networks and he’s driven by the idea of connecting the entire globe. In addition to listening to our podcasts, Asfi has tapped into multitude of other methods for fiber infrastructure sharing as a way to make Internet access affordable.

He and Christopher discuss some of the places that have inspired Asfi, including Ammon and Emmet in Idaho, where the communities have used their fiber networks to find unexpected uses for their infrastructure. He describes how he finds a way to transform a spillover benefit into the direct benefit of affordable connectivity by working with infrastructure owners. It’s a process of creativity and vision.

We want to thank Asfi for using his birthday to start a Facebook fundraising campaign for ILSR ~ Thanks, Asfi!

Christopher interviewed Asfi at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas; you can learn more from his 2017 TEDx talk:

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Isfandiyar Shaheen: We want to level the playing field for all human aspiration. Bridging the digital divide is step one to achieve that. And of all the things that we could make abundant in our life, I think making connectivity abundant is the easiest of the problems.

Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 351 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. It's that time of year again, spring, and Chris is off at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas. In addition to heading up panel discussions and sharing information about publicly owned broadband, he's interviewing people like this week's guest, entrepreneur Isfandiyar Shaheen, also known as Asfi. The title of the summit this year is "Fiber: Putting Your Gigs to Work," and Asfi is an expert on how fiber in a community perpetuates spillover benefits. One of his goals is to step out of the box to use those benefits as a method to bring affordable connectivity to people all over the globe. Asfi discusses some of the ways he plans to do that, which include, in his words, putting fiber to better use. Asfi has become a wiz at discovering and documenting methods in which communities use fiber and finding a way to focus on those unexpected benefits for expanded use. His visionary outlook to connectivity is the type of approach that we need to get everyone online, regardless of income level. We want to thank Asfi for using his birthday to promote ILSR and hold a Facebook fundraiser. We'll have a link in the show notes. Happy Birthday, Asfi! Now on with the interview.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. This time of year, I'm usually down in Austin, Texas, for the Broadband Communities Summit. That's where I am right now. I have my first interview from the summit with Asfi. Asfi is someone that everyone knows by the name Asfi, so let me just ask you to introduce yourself quickly.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Sure. Thank you, Chris. It's a pleasure to be here. I've, I think, listened to more of your podcasts than anyone that I've come across. I'm founder and CEO of NetEquity. I think I can be best described as an entrepreneur in residence at Facebook, but what that means is I've got a startup. I have signed a contract with Facebook, which helps me get access to their people and some key technologies. My plan is deploying fiber in partnership with utilities in other parts of the world, particularly North America. I'm from Pakistan, and Pakistan's a very key market for me where I'm currently focusing.

Christopher Mitchell: And in particular, you want to do this using creative methods. I mean, you're looking at methods that really focus on the spillover benefits and trying to quantify the benefits that aren't often quantified around fiber now. Beause that's why I wanted to have you on, and also because you've asked some of the best questions of anyone that I've met.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: That's very nice of you to say. What my "why" behind why I do, why I migrated, why this whole thing is, you know, there's been this question of how do I find a way to make Internet access affordable for the poorest person in life? And let's start with the poorest person in Pakistan. For me, I've had some people in my mind, who are like my archetype about like, okay, I need to make Internet access affordable for these people because Internet access changed my life in a big way, and I just know if this becomes available, this is going to be quite powerful. So the thought has been that, okay, if we want to make it affordable for the poorest person, we've got to find other uses for internet connectivity, and particularly the other big uses are around making electric utilities more efficient, making agriculture — making lands more efficient, making public spaces safer, even some of these applications in telehealth services. Because when it comes down to it, we're looking at ways to put data to better use, and fiber gives you access to abundant bandwidth through which you can find more ways to finance fiber without just relying on charging humans. So that's kind of the broad thinking behind the work that I do.

Christopher Mitchell: And I know that you've been collecting examples of this. As you and I were just talking a few minutes ago, it made me think that as you've been listening to these podcasts, you've actually retained a lot more than I have because you were noting in particular the interview I did with Emmett, Idaho, and some of the benefits that they're seeing from having networks that they go well beyond the dollars and cents. And so maybe if you could just remind us, what you heard in that show that you found really interesting.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah, but first of all, most of your shows I've just gathered so much from, but let me just talk about two of them. One is in Ammon and one is in Emmett, and it's kind of cool that they're both in Idaho.

Christopher Mitchell: Right

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Ammon's example was the public safety application, which was, you know, if a gun shot is fired in the school, a software defined network configures a high capacity connection, which gives law enforcement eyes on the shooter in three seconds. This is insanely valuable. In Emmett, which I found a bit more interesting because it's an even smaller town with 7,000 people —

Christopher Mitchell: And nobody has to get shot.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: And nobody has to get shot. And in Emmett, I think the two killer applications that I thought were way cooler — automatically locking toilets and reducing the labor overheads that are associated.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, so like in a public park at a certain time of the evening when the park is closed, they can lock the toilets without having to send a person there.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: The guy you interviewed on the Emmett show, he, I think, did a really good job explaining how fiber is an enabling technology because once you get fiber, your public Wi-Fi hotspot starts working a lot better because you've got good backhaul. Once your public Wi-Fi hotspots start working better, now you've got — I'll take it to slightly a bit of a meta level, right? Like, I mean, of the five human senses, sight is the most developed. Yeah? And we can see into the depths of the universe, we can see into the depths of a blood sample.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, and that's why television news is killing the nation and possibly the world, but yes, I agree with you. Sight is one of our most important senses and immediate and everything else.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: And once you get fiber out there and you've got the ability to see things that previously you could not see, there is value in that. There is immense value in not just seeing things, but paying attention to those things that require intervention. And this is where at least like I see a really great intersection between fiber, between hyperspectral imaging, and between machine learning.

Christopher Mitchell: And hyperspectral imaging is — I think I know what it is, but it's basically looking at other wavelengths so you could see like infrared and things like that.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah. Basically, our eyes can only see three wavelengths, but the electromagnetic spectrum is many more wavelengths, right? If I had a hyperspectral imaging camera, I could see the heat signatures that your body was putting out, right? So if you think about the ability to, let's say, see a machine and see if a machine is overheating, you can actually start doing better predictive maintenance. You can also see photosynthesis. So if you can start seeing where a certain plant is performing better, you can start using algorithms to figure out why are these plants performing better.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. I think we see, like, water stress, don't we, in terms of drought conditions. We can see it in the hyperspectral imaging before we would see it with our own eyes or where other tests might recognize it.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Spot on, man. And now if you think about what we are talking about, we haven't so far talked about charging people for voice and data. I mean, another, like, meta data or like high level data I want to throw out is why agriculture and I would say rural has become so important for me, is of the 4 billion unconnected, 75% live in 25 countries. These 25 countries have two things in common: high agriculture to GDP, high labor force participation rate in agriculture, and high electric line losses in their electric utilities. So for me, these are like two areas where there is a bunch of value getting wasted, and my thought has been if we can limit waste, what if we can finance fiber infrastructure by limiting waste? If we can do that, our ability to make broadband available at ultra low cost becomes feasible.

Christopher Mitchell: And I like to phrase it this way because it's really provocative and I think it's worth thinking about this way: you can finance broadband by lowering the cost of electricity to consumers.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: And so everyone really benefits. Because you're making the system more efficient, you don't have to the cost but the savings — because electric systems are phenomenally expensive.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: People have no appreciation of this. I mean, if you look at EPB, the investment they made in fiber is nothing compared to the investment they've made in electronics —

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Spot on.

Christopher Mitchell: — for the electric grid. And so, if you can avoid the cost of power plants — I mean, you're talking about like 100 million dollar, billion dollar investments. If you avoid a few of those, you can finance a heck of a lot of fiber.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Dude, it's insane. Like honestly, ultra high transmission lines, they cost about a thousand dollars a meter. If you do an expensive — we were talking about this yesterday. Even your super expensive underground build is what? $70 to $80 a meter, which I think is prohibitively expensive. I am thinking more like $8 to $10 a meter, but yeah, there's a 10x differential in some of the costs related to — like, I met this company, [???], a Canadian power company. They are, like, connecting the First Nations in Canada for the first time, doing a $1.8 billion project, and I helped them run numbers. It would cost them 25 million to also make fiber available. I mean, I don't know if they will do it or not, but like that's the quantum of differential. Fiber can make utilities efficient. It's a well proven case. I just think that what needs more work — and this is where I pay attention to — is turning those savings into bankable contracts because bankability means, you know, you can write a contract that a capital provider can get behind. And that is, like, a bit of unlocking that's still required.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the challenges I think is humans, in my experience, have trouble dealing with avoided costs. And so do you have a sense of how you're going to approach people to make this case, as you're collecting this data?

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah, so the thing with electric utilities is they — I mean I like to think of cash flows as like a waterfall. There is water already falling, and the way I generally think about the economy is I need to take a falling stream of water and I need to redirect it somewhere else. Yeah, that's the mental model that I have. So the idea with the utility is to say, hey utility, you are already spending x dollars a year on opex and capex. Can we agree to sign a contract which says as soon as I deliver you the following services, which are going to be specifically fiber connectivity into your substations, fiber connectivity between your head office and your regional office, as soon as that happens you agreed to divert these existing dollars, which you are already spending against these headers towards my company. If you can do that, then against that promise I can raise long term contracts. Why does this matter? This matter's for a couple of reasons because we want to design contracts that don't require board approval, that don't require regulatory approval, that can be constructed using existing cash flows that are already going out. You are spot on in saying that we are not good at cost avoidance, but in that also lies an opportunity. And the opportunity is to say, take a look at the existing waterfalls and tell people, hey, I just want to divert the waterfall. Your life won't change. In fact, you will get a better product. Instead of relying on land lines that are running on a copper infrastructure, we will give you video conferencing. That's going to be amazing, so that can help you sort of stay in touch with your workforce that's distributed.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. Now remind me, you have a background in telecom. You built a tower company, is that right?

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah, that's right.

Christopher Mitchell: How did that work?

Isfandiyar Shaheen: I was a private equity fund manager in Pakistan, and we were trying to make this private equity fund work. And it wasn't working for a bunch of reasons, but one business that really stood out was cellular tower shedding. And that's because whenever we would travel, we would see telecom companies had built four to five towers right next to each other, and most of these towers were empty. They were big empty towers, and so, you know, it's a tried and tested business model where you buy a set of towers from one operator and then you enable other operators to share that infrastructure. So that is the business that actually got me interested in infrastructure sharing as a concept, and it also started opening up questions about, well, if so much infrastructure already exists, can we not lower the cost of connectivity through infrastructure sharing? So, yeah, that's what got me interested. I was one of the first financiers of this company. I was on their board. I was not a founder, but I mean, I was a very early stage investor and worked very closely with the founder to grow this company from 29 towers to several thousand towers.

Christopher Mitchell: So let me ask you a question because I've traveled around the world a bit, but I have not been to anywhere near Pakistan. And my imagination as someone who's not been there is that people live a relatively low tech life, particularly in areas outside of the cities. You want to connect them, and so paint me a picture of what life is like because you know what stereotypes are like, but I'm curious what life is really like and how broadband will change that.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: People love data. Look, Pakistan is 193 million people. Pakistan has 75 million smartphones. That's a lot of smartphones, right?

Christopher Mitchell: Yes.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Instead of painting a picture for Pakistan, I'll give you some real data from India because for a very long time, the stereotypes that you're talking about also existed with people like me. We are city folk, right? So we think, oh, what will poor people do with all this data? Reliance Jio is a very interesting Indian mobile operator that basically built a fiber only network or, like, they built a very fast fiber network and they built a data only network. So they said, we will do voice through data, and essentially they built a big data network in India. For the first six months of their launch, they made data free. In that free period their average consumer was guzzling about 26 to 30 gigs a month.

Christopher Mitchell: Wow.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Right. Yeah. And but why? In Reliance's case, they were a vertically integrated player and they made a very affordable device and they made bandwidth very affordable and they made the content very relevant to the user by making it very easy for them to access things they really care about, which is cricket, Bollywood, chat, and a couple of other things on their smartphone. The point is, when floodgates of data are opened, consumers are sitting there. And currently in Pakistan, I mean, aleady 70+ million smartphones exist. So for me, it's like the devices are already there, the awareness is already there, but people are just used to a pretty crappy experience because they can't really afford an always on connection. And the connections that they do have are getting choked because we don't have a lot of fixed line infrastructure, and now we're getting backhaul constrained. And I mean, that's a whole other topic because I also don't think the integrated telecom business model is sustainable for the long term, and so this business model is having a hard time justifying to make the capital expenditures to do these upgrades. And that's where I feel like some of my people are going to get stuck unless open access fiber arrives in the country.

Christopher Mitchell: You actually use the word that drives me nuts, which is consumers, and the applications you noted in that example from India were definitely consumption based.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: What kind of production do you think will happen as people have these networks available to them?

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Okay, what got me obsessed with connectivity other than my tower thing was I helped start a learning lab, a learning computer lab, in a building where I was a business executive. And that's because every day I would talk a lot about the digital divide, but then I would say the digital divide exists in my office. What do I do about the digital divide that exists in my office? So anyway, I'll kind of summarize the story. We teamed up with another nonprofit that curated content and brought in learning coaches through whom we were delivering content to some of our blue collar colleagues. The killer app or the killer application that emerged from this whole experience was when folks learned how to help their kids do math homework, they found much more willingness to engage with technology and this medium because for a lot of fathers, they were when they were finding relevance once again when their kid was saying, "Hey dad, I am struggling to solve this math equation. How do I solve it?" The dad does not know how to solve the math equation, but the dad has now learned how to take a picture of it or how to maybe type it in a Google search engine and figure out what are the steps through which his kid can do homework. For me, that is a massive application. I have seen other examples of e-commerce. In the early days of 3G — Pakistan only launched 3G in 2014 — I would often see in rural parts of Pakistan, people converging around certain 3G towers. When I went closer to see what they were doing, most of these people were craftsmen trying to send pictures over WhatsApp to their customers to say, "Hey, I have made this chair. I have made this thing. Is this good enough?" So the production finds a way. It's a matter of opening up this ability to communicate, and it's a matter of also ensuring that this communication is not through a walled garden, that this communication is something which is more free flowing. It usually starts with entertainment. That is the hook that gets people started. But then after entertainment, there is usually many more forms which people start finding because what we want ultimately is a better life for ourselves, a better life for our kids. And that's the question that drives us, right? How do we make our lives better? How do we make our kid's life better? With the Internet you have the ability to ask questions, get answers.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, when you said entertainment, I was just thinking about — I've given a lot of thought over the years to one of the things I love about the Internet, which is the ability — people have the technology and right now the authority, although Hollywood's chipping away at it at times, to create like parody videos or to create, like, music videos syncs or take a song they like and create a music video around it. And I just, I look at those sort of skills that those kids are building up and I think about — I do sports photography. I work for the University of Minnesota very frequently, and eight years ago or so, I think, maybe seven years, they had the first of, like, what they called, Gopher Digital Productions, which was really student-based, doing a lot of like high quality HD video capture. Now there's like 50 of them, and they do all these fascinating sequences, these short videos that are right for social media. Like, these are marketable skills. Those kids — I mean they were college students — they went on then to work for the big 10 network. So they're getting fulltime jobs now off of something that they probably learned originally just using that technology that was available to them on their smartphones. That's where they got the bug. And so, it's fascinating how those things can be turned into marketable skills.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Man, are you familiar with the Ronald Coase?

Christopher Mitchell: I'm not

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Big Nobel prize winning economist came up with a theory of the firm. He asked this brilliant question.

Christopher Mitchell: Oh right, C-O-A-S-E, right? Coase.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah, are you familiar with that?

Christopher Mitchell: Vaguely.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Okay. I mean I'll kind of very quickly summarize. He basically says firms exist because they can organize an activity that sort of minimizes transaction costs. Right, so transaction costs are a big theme in his work. And if you think about it, transaction costs are a function of communication costs, and when transaction costs fall, it allows for different types of organizations to emerge. For me, your organization's a great example of that. I think the kind of value and awareness that you've added doesn't — and it doesn't seem to be that you are on a very big budget, you know, but if I think about —

Christopher Mitchell: We're working toward it.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Right? When I think about, like, you know, some of the productions that you've done that, that video that you made for Ammon, the podcasts that you do, I would imagine these weren't feasible 10 years ago.

Christopher Mitchell: Correct.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Right? But now a guy like you, who is very mission aligned, can create incredible impact with very little funding, and that's inspiring for me. Right? And that kind of tells me that, okay, like, better connectivity, which is not in a walled garden, is going to drive down communication costs and is going to level the playing field for human aspiration. That's what really it's about, right? Like, we want to level the playing field for all human aspiration, and bridging the digital divide is step one to achieve that. And of all the things that we could make abundance in our life, from energy to like, you know, food, I think making connectivity abundant is the easiest of the problems —

Christopher Mitchell: Oh, I agree.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: — because of just the sheer physics of it. I'm quite pumped about this vision,to see, you know, what people will start doing. We can't imagine — this is the other thing that kind of drives me nuts about silicon valley. Everyone's trying to create a human brain, right? There's an obsession to create a human brain, and I say the 4 billion brains out there, the 4 billion brains out there who we don't have the means to talk to, to connect with, to learn from, many of these people are facing challenges that probably they are best equipped to solve. Perhaps it's easier to give them the tools through which they can solve their problems, which will also help us. I mean, climate change is a big topic for me because it's not going to get solved without global coordination. Well, how do you achieve global coordination when half the world cannot get online? That's kind of a — I kind of get carried away, Chris, with my . . .

Christopher Mitchell: Those are the best guests.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: So, I mean, my wife often reminds me that, you know, I need to remain mindful and like, kind of stay in the moment and not just go off on a tangent, but like —

Christopher Mitchell: Let me ask you a question because you've given a lot of thought, you've really observed what different folks are doing when they're building networks. And like I said, every time I've talked to you, I felt that you figure the best questions to ask, whereas other people — and just to give you an idea, a question that I really hate is like people will ask, "Well, how many miles of fiber do you have?" and I'm kinda thinking, "Well, what do I care?" Like, I mean, really I'm worried about the service, I want to know about the costs and this and that. I don't really care about linear miles of this fiber, so I don't think of that as a good question often. What are some of the questions that you're asking that you think other people, you know, aren't asking that they should be thinking more about?

Isfandiyar Shaheen: I have an obsession with connectivity, and because I have an obsession, this is all I think about. This is all I'm dreaming about, and it's like, it's a constant. So for me, I have, like, an eight step mental model and it kind of goes like this: People are hungry for services. Services are hungry for infrastructure. Infrastructure is hungry for capital. Capital is hungry for cashflow predictability. Cashflow predictability is hungry for bankable contracts. Bankable contracts are hungry for aligned incentives. Aligning incentives requires trust. Trust comes from believing in the same story. The last line is from Yuval Harari, who's a historian I'm a big fan of. This is my mental model, and I kind of go up and down this mental model to say — because for a very long time I was just thinking about infrastructure from the perspective of "I just need to do a long term contract," and this is kind of the problem, right? "Oh I just need to do a long term contract," but no. But what are the services, what are the problems that we will solve when that becomes available? And I think unless you can spell out what connectivity will do for people, you're going to struggle to make it relevant. And I give my wife all the credit for this, right? She forced me to think about this, that what will connectivity enable. You know, you've seen that video from EPB, the STEM school one?

Christopher Mitchell: Yes, with the 4K Microscope.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: That's a killer video. That video now spells out that, okay, when you have fiber and you've got a microscope and kids can control it using a mouse, they can learn from a professor sitting in California 1800 miles away — all the kids were saying "1800 miles away" — great application. When you present this to people, it makes it clearer for them to understand, oh, this is why it matters.

Christopher Mitchell: Sure.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Similarly, I mean — and then for me, it's like it's becoming a case of, "I know this is valuable. How do we communicate it?" And so the questions therefore go up and down this mental model from, you know, how do we get this thing financed? How do we tell the right story? What are the applications? Because it's a complex problem, right? Like, I mean, half the world is unconnected. At least for me, it's not a matter of like, oh, we bridge the digital divide in Pakistan, we're done. No, we've got to do it for the world because we don't have a lot of time in terms of where we are at with what we've done to our environment, what we've done to our climate. We don't have a lot of time. We need to bridge this digital divide in less than 10 years. And currently, I don't see a compelling plan that gets us there in 10 years, so at least one goal I've set for myself is, I set up my company April 2018 and think April 2028 — before April 2028, we've got to get this thing done. And so there's also a bit of urgency with the obsession, hence why I keep listening to your podcasts and sometimes tracking down how your welcome note has changed. But like, you know, I think you've asked an important question. This is something I've also thought about. When does learning happen? There are certain facts you retain, you remember even after hearing about them only once, right?

Christopher Mitchell: Right.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: And what is it about those things? And I think —

Christopher Mitchell: They explain something.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Well, I think something else, right? When you are in a heightened state of curiosity, right? When you're in a heightened state of curiosity and you're really wondering, man, how does this thing work? How does this thing work? How does this thing work? You get an answer once you remember that.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, exactly.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: So I think for me, what's going on is I am experiencing a heightened, well, it's been a sustained, heightened state of curiosity because I spent frankly quite a bit of time thinking about my why. Why did I want to do this? What did I want to do? I mean, I was also sort of in a privileged position in life where I could think about these things. As soon as the clarity on the why emerged, the obsession became clearer and the learning became a lot better. I think that — so I will tie it back to the why. The why has helped create a mental model and the mental model has helped this to continue to remain focused and find resources like you, who's doing such an incredible job.

Christopher Mitchell: My team, yes.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Sorry, your team. And what is your why?

Christopher Mitchell: Well, my why?

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah, why are you so obsessed with all of this stuff?

Christopher Mitchell: Well, I am — so there's a lot of podcasts I listen to in which I've listened to every last episode.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: There's a little bit of obsessive in me as well.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah, yeah. You are obsessive. I can see you are.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, so, you know, I think it's — honestly, there's a part of me, I say this in speeches relatively frequently, I am so frustrated to hear from people who think we cannot solve this problem in America, let alone in Pakistan or in Mongolia or anywhere, you know, in South America. Like, people have this sense of, oh, we can't solve the problem, and I just look back and I keep reading more about how we solved electrification in the 30s and 40s and a little bit in the 50s, and I'm just stunned that in the year 2019 people think, oh, we can't do the same. We couldn't possibly drag a wire to every home. You know, and so I just have the sense of this is my own little part of trying to help the people of the United States remember the greatness that's possible when humans actually make something a priority and do it.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Man, I couldn't agree more. You know, this is like something I often talk to my friends about. America is still the biggest economy in the world despite having pretty crappy broadband infrastructure.

Christopher Mitchell: Right.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Imagine what happens to this country when it does get legit broadband because it's created a pretty cool culture, it's found a way to assimilate a bunch of people from other parts of the world, and once this country gets its act together — and I think it's happening, that's the sense I get whenever I listen to your shows — that once communities around America can actually start deploying and ensuring that this critical piece of infrastructure is open access, I think some amazing years lie ahead for this economy.

Christopher Mitchell: I hope so.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: So as we're wrapping up, I just wanted to go back to something and say that people are familiar with the OSI stack in networking. I think we should call what you described as the Asfi style.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: I like that. I like that.

Christopher Mitchell: Maybe even a nice slide that gets at that.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Sure. No, no, absolutely. Yeah. Maybe that's a visual I need to think about, but yeah, no, absolutely.

Christopher Mitchell: Well thank you for coming on. This has been a really fun conversation.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: Thank you, and lastly, for any listeners, I'm doing a fundraiser for ILSR, and my birthday's in two days. Yeah — oh, it's tomorrow actually. My birthday is tomorrow, and so for the first time on Facebook, I am doing a fundraiser for ILSR because I think ILSR does killer work. And so, if anyone's listening, please locate me. My name is not Asfi. It's Isfandiyar Shaheen. That's how you can find me, and if you can find that fundraiser, please donate because I think this organization can make a really big difference to the lives of the world.

Christopher Mitchell: We deeply appreciate you doing that. People can also find it on my Facebook, or I believe we'll have it on the ILSR page also. So, you know, I really appreciate you doing that.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: It's a small amount. By the way, we are already at $721. Our target is $2,000, so if anyone's tuning in, let's please get to $2,000. The fundraiser will stay on until April 13th.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, and we're recording this today and it'll actually be be published today most likely or else tomorrow, Wednesday.

Isfandiyar Shaheen: We have four days to raise about $1,300. Let's get $2,000 into ILSR's account, people. Thank you.

Christopher Mitchell: Thanks, Asfi.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, talking with entrepreneur Isfandiyar Shaheen about fiber's spillover benefits and the ways that he's using them to bring affordable connectivity to some of the least connected communities. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muninetworks.org/broadbandbits. Email us at podcast@muninetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. Follow muninetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @muninetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other podcasts from ILSR, Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules podcast. You can access them wherever you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ilsr.org, and while you're there, please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount helps keep us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons, and thank you for listening to episode 351 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.