Category Archives: Premises and Assumptions

This section lists premises and assumptions that are generally beyond technology.

Electric Drivetrains Will Change Planes & More

The rapid electrification we starting to see on land appears to be reaching for the sky with the dozens of companies developing air taxis. Additionally, there are multiple companies developing electric drive-trains for existing airplanes.  These solutions initially might not offer the Jetsons’ future of personal air travel, but it could revolutionize the short and mid-term distant trips (e.g. 50 to 300 miles), making point-to-point travel much more cost-effective and offers the potential to revitalize small-towns in rural America.

The electric nature of this new type of flying machine will reduce both noise and particulate pollution, reducing the impact on the surrounding community compared to traditional liquid fuel-powered airplanes.

One company, which is using a fuel-cell electric approach, is Avia, as outlined in this excellent analysis in the Long Tail Pipe.

And speaking at this year’s CAFE Foundation’s 13th Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Kevin Noertker, Co-Founder & CEO, Ampaire Inc, reinforces the positive changes of electrifying aircraft when he stated that,

“Electrification of aviation will:
– 70 to 90 percent fuel cost savings
– 25 to 50 percent maintenance cost savings
– noise reduced by two-thirds or even more
– help earn the good will of communities around airports
– significantly reduce direct emissions”

Stay tuned, as more is added to this post.


Job/Housing Imbalance Data for 95128

This map is a bit dated, given that it is from 2014, but it shows the 95128 area code has a jobs/housing imbalance, like the rest of San Jose, but, at 96.4% is much better than the estimated 80% figure for the “Capital of Silicon Valley.”

This was obtained from the Census Bureau website. Unfortunately, the 2015 data (latest at the time of publication of this post) doesn’t seem to have this feature of showing where people live and work.

95128 jobs-onthemap-ces-census-gov-1479263903109

Winchester Fiber Update

Fiber to the Home By Year End?

The pole is being prepared for the strand and fiber that will be pulled along the existing telephone cable. Note, how the telephone company tied off onto the CATV company's strand.
Aerial Fiber Strand Installation

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.

Typical Fiber Splice Cabinet
Typical Fiber Splice Cabinet

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.

A fiber spool that is waiting for technicians to pull its fiber to its final resting place.
Fiber Spool Waiting Installation

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?

Feel free to add a comment below for the world to see or contact me directly here:



Reasons for California’s High Housing Costs

Excellent report by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) on why California’s land and housing prices – particularly in the coastal regions – are so expensive.1. Bottom line is that enough housing is not being built.

California would have to build significant more housing, especially in coastal urban areas

The lack of housing and the resulting lower ownership levels impacts lower income households much more than middle and upper income houses.

Renter median net worth totaled $5,400 in 2013, a small fraction of the $195,400 median homeowner’s net worth.

To make up for the lack of density in housing, multiple people will share households, which is undesirable for both the occupants as well as the spillover effects :

California’s overall crowding rate is four times higher than the U.S. average, partly due to demographics and partly to other factors, including higher housing costs, as discussed below.

And the lack of affordable housing costs all of us in terms of economic growth:

Economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago recently estimated that annual U.S. economicoutput—the total value of goods and services produced each year—is 13 percent lower today than it otherwise would be due to “increased constraints to housing supply in highly productive cities.”

The authors have no silver bullet, but they do make the following suggestions that the California Legislature could consider:

  • Aim to Build More Housing in Coastal Cities, Densely.

  • Put All Policy Options on the Table.

  • Recognize Targeted Role of Affordable Housing Programs.

  • Understand That Some Factors Are Beyond Policy Makers’ Control.

1The LAO is a nonpartisan office which provides fiscal and policy information and advice to the Legislature.

Other Premises and Assumptions

The Person Machine interface will change everything - click image to view how.
The Person Machine interface will change everything….sooner, rather than later.

The following are additional premises to the ideas that follow in the final section of this document.

  1. The projected 400,000 increase in San Jose’s population assumes a compound annual growth rate of approximately 1.35% per year. Based on the area defined in this paper, assuming the population increase is uniform across San Jose, the population of the Winchester Urban Village would increase from approximately 25,000 to 37,500.1
  2. Smart growth in the form of more compact communities (e.g. denser) can actually reduce the cost of city services on a per capita basis and increase per acre tax revenues.2
  3. Part of the idea of smart growth will be finding clever ways to build the right amount of public infrastructure without excessive developer fees or taxes (as those fees ultimately get passed onto renters or owners in the form of higher rents or home prices). At the same time, we must rethink the infrastructure, such that it lowers operational costs for the city (for instance the use of sensors and cameras could help leverage law enforcement staff).
  4. Greater supply of housing stock should help make individual living units more affordable with the caveat that improving the quality of life (e.g. more walkable, better services nearby, newer building stock, closer jobs) will tend to raise the average price of living units. In a scenario where the majority of housing stock becomes smaller, the value of existing single family homes should continue to increase given the fixed number of single family dwellings in a larger pool of smaller residences. That is, the 2,000 square foot home on a 8,000 square foot lot becomes a mansion in a denser environment, where the average dwelling drops to less than 1,000 square feet. 3
  5. The area will require a cost competitive, Fiber to the Home and fiber backbone infrastructure to compete with other areas and to assure not only smart growth, but that the Winchester Urban Village can be a “smart community”. A broadband fiber network is table stakes to be competitive with other communities.
  6. Automation and new technology promise to remove friction from the economy and make life much easier for the general populace. As machines literally begin to build machines and as micro-manufacturing using cloud-based 3D printing becomes widespread, the economy will transform from one of scarcity to one of abundance. There are potential downsides to this transformation. These downsides are somewhat global and can’t be fully addressed by local policymakers and planners.
    1. Entire classes of jobs will be eliminated. What will be the replacement jobs and will the replacement salaries be sufficient to allow people to live in this area? Some have expressed concern that this new economy will lead to a sort of digital feudalism.
    2. As services such as teleportation and goods delivery become commonplace, there is a potential for obesity to increase (more activities done via screentime) and face-to-face, human interaction skills may decrease.
    3. The tax base will change, as some goods diminish (e.g. taxes from auto dealers), while others rise (e.g. autonomous car sharing services).
    4. Autonomous vehicles, while freeing one up from the mundane business of driving and greatly improving safety, will take away control. Walking and biking could be an attractive alternative for those wishing to have more control over their mobility.
    5. There may be opportunities for the area to receive outside stimulus. For instance, in the current transportation  bill being debated in Congress, “There are also plans to devote money to research in new technology, possibly creating a grant program similar to the X Prize or DARPA that would allow urban areas to build out model cities for automotive cars.” Or there may be incentives from private organizations, such as envisioned here.

“1City-Data population data used to calculate approximate starting population of 25,000 from approximately Hamilton to Stevens Creek. The population from Stevens Creek to Hedding was not included in this count. (back)
2For instance, see page 27 of the Victoria Transport Institute’s report which cites, “One study found that in Sarasota County, Florida, 3.4 acres of urban mixed-use development provides the same number of housing units as 30.6 acres of suburban housing, consumes about one-tenth of the land has only 57% the infrastructure costs, and provides 8.3 times as much tax return (PIP 2009).” (back)

3For instance, see page 16 of the Victoria Transport Institute’s report (PDF), “Vancouver’s single-family housing prices approximately doubled during the last decade, and now average about a million dollars per house. However, apartment and townhouse prices increased less than inflation during the last seven years, indicating that Vancouver housing is relatively affordable to households that are willing to live in these compact housing types.” (back)