Fiber to the Home By Year End?
As these words are typed, this author is looking out his window at pulleys that hold AT&T’s fiber optic cable. This fiber is a much needed update to the 60+-year-old copper infrastructure that provides last-mile connectivity from residents and businesses to the Internet (to be fair, the Internet wasn’t around when the copper infrastructure was built).
It has been at least 6 months since AT&T sent surveyors in this area to examine the polls to determine whether or not the poles would be able to support the added weight of a fiber cable. A few months ago, neighbors might have noticed occasional work on the roads and rights-of-ways where AT&T installed yellow metal boxes that will serve as termination points between the fiber that connects directly to the home and to their central office and the Internet.
Although there has been some press about their efforts to bring gigabit Fiber to the Home (FTTH) service to the South Bay, AT&T has been very low-key about their efforts. It is surprising that AT&T doesn’t supply the technicians and construction workers with marketing materials to hand out to local homeowners.
AT&T might be intentional in keeping a low-profile as it probably doesn’t want to tip its hand to either Comcast or Google about specific areas where it is ready to go with a FTTH offering until it is ready to offer said service. Because of its relatively deep fiber infrastructure, Comcast can provide FTTH relatively fast and does so as dictated by the market, so AT&T wouldn’t want to Comcast locking customers into a multi-year contract.
At its current rate of progress, AT&T should be expected to launch on a street-by-street basis in the September timeframe with a very targeted marketing effort (door-to-door leaflets and sales). Expect packages that heavily favor multi-year contracts to make it more difficult to leave for newer offerings from upstarts.
And one of those upstarts is Google which has already done its own surveying of our area (you may have noticed the Ericsson trucks and crews around the neighborhood several months ago). Google is a bit behind AT&T in that they still have to build their “hut” on city land on Williams and Lawrence (ironically, behind an AT&T central office on Doyle).
Then, Google will have to bring the fibers from there along poles to the neighborhoods and, finally, to the drop from the pole to the home. One of Google’s bigger challenges has been gaining access to the very same poles that AT&T and Comcast use.
Whether pole access will be the proverbial “long pole in the tent” in terms of Google’s rollout plans remains to be seen. Google has committed to a 3-year rollout in San Jose, so let’s hope the pole delays don’t discourage their efforts to bring FTTH to our area. One thing Google does is effectively lower the price of broadband when it comes into a market; as of 8/4, prices in their Atlanta market are $50 for 100 megabits Internet access, $70 for 1 gigabit Internet access only and $130 for TV plus 1 gigabit per second access.
Winchester Broadband Cooperative Update:
A group of us met several times last year to explore the possibility of forming a broadband fiber cooperative – one the community owns and controls. The next step, which was never completed, was to do a survey of residents to further gauge interest in a broadband cooperative. At this point, with the passage of six months, does it make sense for the community to form its own network given that;
- within a year, we will potentially have three FTTH networks from which to choose,
- the difficulty large, established entities have in obtaining access to rights-of-way
- the challenge of forming a new organization, particularly with a relatively low return on investment (perhaps a few hundred dollars savings per year).
Having said that, there have been some interesting developments in wireless technologies that might be worth a closer look in terms of a pilot project that could lead to an FTTH network. These products would be fed by one of the backbone providers that have fiber in the neighborhood:
- Mimosa recently released a 5.8 GHz wireless offering that purports to support up to 1 Gb/s for up to 100 clients.
- Siklu with its milimeter wave wireless offering has made a big splash supporting new deployments in Santa Cruz and, notably, its support of San Francisco-based Webpass; Webpass was recently purchased by Google as a way to offer broadband in San Francisco and other cities. It wouldn’t be surprising if Google uses this technology as a first-step to deploying fiber to the home.
- Facebook is going to be testing MM wireless with its Terragraph product in downtown San Jose.
- Start-up Starry has a peer-to-peer approach to wireless with its in-home routers and wireless transcievers are placed next to windows.
The cool thing and probably the biggest benefit to forming a fiber cooperative is that it could really be a literal and metaphorical tie that binds together the community. I have enjoyed the few meetings we already have had and meeting neighbors I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
Having said that, forming a cooperative or similar organization will be time-consuming effort. There are other things in the community that are important as well and this author would rather spend his time focused on reuniting the south and north sides of 280, which could have an even bigger long-term benefit. Some of the questions to consider include:
- Will the return on savings and the benefits of controlling one’s broadband destiny be worth the effort?
- Would a better approach be to help facilitate more access from established players?
- Does it make sense to pursue our own broadband network?
- What are your thoughts?
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