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Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 247
This is the transcript for Community Broadband Bits Episode 247. Ken Demlow of Newcom Technologies chats with Christopher Mitchell about what happened in Nashville and why poles are important for fiber. Listen to this episode here.
Ken Demlow: There's all that kind of communication that not only can improve what happens in electric and what happens in water, but also just such better communication with your customer, and it's all good stuff.
Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 247 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Ken Demlow, Sales Director of Newcom Technologies joins Christopher this week to talk about several topics. In addition to discussing engineering and design and how it relates to telecommunications networks, Ken shares how Newcom is taking advantage of new technology to offer communities the best results. Christopher and Ken also get into the details of smart-grid and some benefits and uses that you might not necessarily think of right away. The guys spend some time on what happened in Nashville when Ken worked on the Google Fiber project. He shares his inside perspective. You can learn more about Newcom at nucomtech.com. Now, here's Christopher with Ken Demlow from Newcom Technologies talking about engineering and design, smart-grids, and pole drama in Nashville.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of The Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today, I'm speaking with Ken Demlow, the sales director of Newcom Technologies. Welcome to the show.
Ken Demlow: Thank you. Good to be here.
Christopher Mitchell: Ken you're one of my favorite people at these trade shows. We're here at the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, and as you know, I contrived an excuse to have you on because I think you're a fun person to talk to.
Ken Demlow: Thank you. That's better than I deserve, but thank you.
Christopher Mitchell: I think we're going to start with just a brief explanation of what Newcom Technologies does.
Using Fiber for Smart Grid and the Pole Problem in Nashville - Community Broadband Bits 247
While at the annual Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities Broadband Conference, I forced Ken Demlow to be our guest on Community Broadband Bits Podcast 247. Ken is the Sales Director for Newcom Technologies, where he has worked with many different fiber-optic deployments on the ground and is a fun guy to talk to more generally.
Our discussion focuses on two main topics - the benefits of using fiber-optic connections to smart-grid applications rather than relying on wireless and the challenges that Google faced in getting on the poles in Nashville to build its fiber-optic network (which seems to be stalled).
Ken had a front-row seat to the work in Nashville to get Google Fiber on poles but our conversation focuses on what is publicly known. We aren't breaking any insider secrets, but this is a very good discussion about the tremendous challenges of dealing with attachments on over 100,000 poles when contemplating a citywide metro fiber build. For people who haven't done it, this will explain why encouraging private sector competition at the physical network level is very difficult. And we keep it interesting - from possibly the worst idea for a sci-fi antagonist ever and how make-ready could fit into Greek myths.
This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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 Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Quick Reflections on Google
I have been a Google Fiber supporter, believing that Google's investments and policy goals would move the United States forward, away from the monopolies of entrenched incumbents. When others claimed that Google was abandoning fiber, I argued that Google had not yet decided... it was arguing internally about the right path.
But now I think it is pretty clear that Google is done with significant fiber investment, particularly for single family residential homes. I have strong doubts that Google will continue with the Huntsville-type approaches of leasing dark fiber, but I hope that will continue.
Google's decision to pursue other, likely more lucrative investments like AI and autonomous driving may be more profitable, but it is certainly disappointing for those of us working to ensure everyone has high quality Internet access.
It is important to note that companies like US Internet, Ting, and Sonic, among others have establishing strong businesses competing against the biggest telephone and cable companies. Google's exit is not evidence that ISPs cannot do well. It is evidence that Google has other opportunities and that its large scale focus on building its own fiber had too slow of a return for its Silicon Valley expectations.
This brings me to something I wrote 5 years ago, not actually expecting that Google would give up after only 5 years.
If I were moving south of Minnesota in the near future, it would be to Chattanooga or Lafayette, not Kansas City. Who knows what Google will be doing in 5 years? We know exactly what EPB and LUS will be doing.
Wow. I think Kansas City is definitely better off for having worked with Google to enable that network. But there is no doubt in my mind that local investments are a better bet than hoping some distant company will save your community. I think this article understates Google's impact in KC significantly, but we are once again reminded that there is much more to benefiting from a network than simply laying fiber.
Gizmodo Reports on the Future of Google Fiber
Gizmodo - February 16, 2017
What Happened to Google Fiber?
Written by Libby Watson
For a long time, Google Fiber was the most exciting broadband provider out there. Cities wanted it, tech people drooled over it; and on a loftier level, it even promised to help bridge the “digital divide” between rich and poor. But now, things are looking bleak: Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Google Fiber is being scaled back dramatically (again) as it named Greg McCray its new CEO, with “several hundred” of its employees in that division being sent to other areas of the company.
What that means is, as Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance told Gizmodo, “the new guy gets screwed.” Google Fiber complained in a blog post last year that it had only been able to upgrade 33 telephone poles out of 88,000 in Nashville, thanks to these rules. Google has pushed hard to promote a different policy, known as “one touch make ready,” which would allow a single provider to make all those changes in one go.
But that hasn’t been plain sailing either, with incumbent providers like AT&T and Charter filing lawsuits left and right in cities that adopt the policy. AT&T’s complaints with the policy have ranged from Google providing inaccurate information on poles, to saying it could lead to service disruption if there are mistakes, to objecting that it would allow changes to poles they own “without AT&T’s consent and with little notice.”
It’s not that Google doesn’t have the money to fight these things, but it might not have been worth the resources to try and seriously compete with an incumbent provider on this issue—particularly when those providers are already so entrenched in the policy scene. In Tennessee, AT&T employed five times as many lobbyists as Google did last year—25 to Google’s five.
2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards: Deadline To Apply Feb. 10
Next Century Cities and Google Fiber are taking applications for the 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards. The deadline is Friday, February 10, 2017.
From the award announcement:
Next Century Cities and Google Fiber have announced the judges for the 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards, which will celebrate cities and counties tackling barriers to internet adoption.
There are two categories:
- Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices: for existing programs with over a year of work in addressing the digital divide.
- Most Promising New Plan: for particularly promising new programs for ensuring digital inclusion in a community.
At the award website you can review the list of expert judges, submit your questions, and review FAQs about the awards and the process. You can also watch the recorded webinar from December. Don’t forget to apply by next Friday, February 10, 2017
Companies, Associations Call On MO Committee To Kill SB 186
As SB 186 sits patiently in committee, advocates of better broadband from the private and public sectors are banding together to share their thoughts on the bill. They believe that the bill will stifle attempts to improve connectivity throughout the state. In a recent letter to the Chair and members of the the Missouri Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, they laid out the other reasons why SB 186 should not advance.
The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) organized the letter and signed on with 14 other companies and associations. It wouldn’t be the first time - Missouri is an all too common battle ground in the fight to protect remaining potential for municipal networks and public private partnerships.
They describe the bill as:
“…[H]arming both the public and private sectors, stifling economic growth, preventing the creation or retention of jobs around the State, particularly in rural areas, hampering work-force development, and diminishing the quality of life in Missouri.”
This is the third time in as many years that Missouri State Legislators have tried to push through legislation that would benefit large cable and DSL incumbents. The goal of the bill this year as before is to lock out any possibility of competition now or in the future. Last year, HB 2078 saw some drama when its author tried to slip in the foul language within the text of a public safety bill that had nothing to do with telecommunications. Luckily, sharp advocates were paying attention and had already educated Members who were on the conference committee. Those in favor of local authority stripped out the language and when anti-muni Members tried to amend it into a third bill, the author moved to have it removed under threat of filibuster.
Don't Make A Rough Situation Worse
Missouri already imposes restrictions on municipal networks. In the letter, the signatories refer to local authority as a key in solving Missouri's poor connectivity problems:
Ars Technica on Tech Giants Coming Out Against Virginia Barrier Bill
Ars Technica - January 25,2017
Google and Netflix join fight against municipal broadband restrictions
Written by Jon Brodkin
Google and Netflix joined a handful of advocacy groups and other companies lobbying against a proposed Virginia state law that would make it far more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service.
As we previously reported, the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act" would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. For example, localities wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service to residents if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. Even if that condition is met, municipalities would have to jump through several legal hoops before being allowed to build a network.
"A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more," the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Community Networks project wrote Monday. The 10Mbps/1Mbps speeds specified in the legislation are "reminiscent of antiquated DSL," the group said.
Experts Oppose Byron's HB 2108 In VA
Private sector companies, trade organizations, and local authority advocacy groups went on record last week in opposition to HB 2108, a Virginia bill that would severely restrict local communities’ options to improve connectivity. They joined together in a letter to the Chairman of the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee, there the bill is now waiting for hearing, Republican Terry J. Kilgore.
Joining Local Communities To Oppose
A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more. Del. Kathy Byron, a legislative darling of big cable and DSL providers in Virginia, introduce the bill earlier this month. Local and national media outlets immediately caught the story, and constituents have contacted Byron's office to express their concern.
This letter from leaders in the industry underscored their concern that potential partners feel the bill is a death knell for public-private partnerships:
It would interfere with the ability of private companies to make timely sales of equipment and services to public broadband providers. It would deny private companies timely access to advanced networks over which they could offer business and residential customers an endless array of modern products and services. It would also impair economic and educational opportunities that contribute to a skilled workforce from which businesses across the state will benefit.
The authors of the letter find the slow speeds required in the bill especially troubling for rural communities. The bill sets the standards at 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload - speeds reminiscent of antiquated DSL:
Competition Expected To Drive Down Rates In Huntsville
The imminent arrival of Google Fiber and two other Internet Service Providers offering Gigabit speeds (1,000 Megabits per second) to Huntsville, Alabama is expected to be a boon to subscribers, reports Alabama Tech.
The tech publication predicts the three ISPs - Google Fiber, AT&T and WOW! - will spur competition that will lower prices for residential and business subscribers. A newly-released report from Analysis Group and funded by the Fiber to the Home Council shows that direct competition in a designated market results in overall price drops for connectivity service of all speeds.
“Research shows a 'Gig City' lowers the monthly standard price on plans with at least 100 Mbps down 25 percent, or $27 per month. When it directly compares markets with one Gigabit provider compared to two, the price of Gigabit services decreases approximately 34 to 37 percent, or $57 to $62 per month.”
The tech publication also stated a domino effect occurs when an ISP says it will offer Gigabit services:
“The likelihood of other providers offering similar services increases in an effort to keep pace with its competition. This trend applies to Huntsville. WOW! and AT&T announced it had launched Gigabit-speed services for Huntsville customers in October 2016, which was less than a year after Google Fiber announced it would offer services to some Huntsville customers beginning in 2017.
From Alabama Tech:
“When Google Fiber enters the market, it will likely help lower prices in Huntsville...WOW! will likely offer gigabit speeds at $160 per month for customers after the conclusion of its $70 per month promotion, while AT&T Fiber is currently offering Huntsville customers a non-promotional rate of $90 per month for gigabit services. Google Fiber is expected to offer $70 per month services when it enters the market. AT&T Alabama president Fred McCallum wouldn't rule out price adjustments to compete with other providers.”
Nominations Open for Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards
Next Century Cities, a nonprofit advocate of high-speed Internet accessibility for all communities, and Internet Service Provider (ISP) Google Fiber are joining forces to support the second annual Digital Inclusion Leadership awards.
The competition recognizes city governments that are spearheading or investing in community-based organizations that are tackling barriers to high-speed Internet service adoption, or what is commonly known as the “digital divide.” Next Century Cities is comprised of more than 150 mayors and city leaders dedicated to ensuring that all communities get access to fast, affordable, and reliable broadband Internet service.
The 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership awards will feature two categories: Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices and Most Promising New Plan. There will be two winners in each category. All contest submissions are due February 10, 2017 and winners will be announced in spring, 2017.
In a news release, Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia said:
“Approximately 50 million Americans don’t have internet in their homes. Families affected by the digital divide, many of whom are from lower-income neighborhoods, are at a disadvantage when it comes to doing homework, applying for jobs or staying in touch with loved ones. Whether cities are leading or partnering on programs, city governments have a major role to play in getting residents the digital access and resources they need, and we look forward to celebrating their innovations with the 2017 Digital Inclusion Awards.”
Winning projects from the inaugural 2015 Digital Inclusion Awards include: