Freedom to Connect — Manifesto

I’m beginning to figure out that Freedom To Connect is a conference of people who espouse the following principals (with reservations by some).

1. Just as we first served homes with copper wire for electricity, and then copper wire for telephone service, we are now at an historical juncture where we should serve homes with fiber optic cable. It will actually cost less than either of the first two, because the poles and infrastructure are already in place for putting fiber into homes. Applications that would be supported by fiber include (but are by no means limited) to:

  • The Smart Grid, or “infotricity” a two-way connection between the power company and home appliances, water heater, air conditioners, and furnace that would automatically smooth demand for electric power throughout the day. This would result in a projected saving of 25% of the current base power load and eliminate the need for new coal and nuclear power plants.
  • “Triple Play”, cable TV, telephone and high-speed internet service.
  • Telemedicine, Telehealth and Distance Learning applications via two-way interactive multipoint videoconferencing
  • Security monitoring
  • Tele-Presence — viewing a neighbor or relative (located next door or across the globe) in their home to share photos, stories, grandchildren, whatever.
  • etc. ad. infinitum.

2. The notion that wireless technology is somehow a substitute for FTTH should be disabused. It is a necessary and desirable supplement, but not a replacement for FTTH.

3. Many believe wireless is actually twice as expensive to install and manage rather than fiber for the following reasons:
a. Wireless towers and transmitters still must be served by a fiber connection. (“backhaul”)
b. Wireless requires substantial density to provide effective coverage.
c. Wireless is subject to interference, (leaves, weather, etc).
d. Wireless technology is volatile and becomes obsolete quickly.

4. There are many definitions of “under-served” populations. However, DSL technology with something like 320KB up and 1.5 megabits down does NOT constitute “broadband” in any meaningful sense, nonwithstanding that it is an improvement over dialup.

5. A working definition of broadband would be, at a minimum symmetrical speeds of, say, 20 megabits, (both directions), at the equivalent of $60.00 per month or less.

6. Under lobbying pressure (corruption? payoffs?) no less than 15 states in the U.S. have actually passed laws that prohibit municipalities or citizen groups from creating and forming their own broadband utilities. Examples cited in our meeting this week (Lafayette LA, and Glagsgow KN), described debilitating litigation initiated by incumbent phone and cable companies to shut down efforts to provide muni wireless and fiber networks. After the dust settled, the incumbents reduced their rates by three quarters when they had to compete with the municipality. So, unfortunately, incumbents must be seen as the enemy, until proven otherwise.

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Personally, I think this has parallels with other current battles.

  • We can’t have single payer healthcare because it would hurt the insurance companies.
  • We can’t have high-speed broadband, because it would hurt the incumbent cable and telephone companies.
  • We can’t have realistic fuel-economy standards because it will hurt the car companies.
  • We can’t get loans, because the banks won’t lend any of their multi-million dollar bailout money.
  • We can’t have affordable higher education, because it would hurt the educational institutions (and the athletic programs).
  • We can’t find out who is responsible for the policies of torture and rendition, because it would “damage” our government’s credibility and reputation.

Oh well. Might as well go back to watching television.

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