Palo Alto could be a testbed for open access telecomm

David C. Harris (
Mon, 05 Jul 1999 00:21:13 -0700

[Inspired by a message about "Transact- optic fiber network throughout Canberra"]

In Palo Alto, California, we have an active group of telecommunication activists who have persuaded the city to do a trial of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), which we believe is worth doing now rather than doing something "half fast" that has to be replaced in a few years.

Right now we have a multi-city cable television system that is cooperatively owned by its viewers. It hasn't been financially successful enough to meet its upcoming debt repayment, and is in negotiations with AT&T Broadband (formerly mostly TCI cable company) about being bought out.

The special thing is that we activists are looking for companies that would be interested in leasing channel/bandwidth space on a general telecomm system that could be an alternative to an AT&T monopoly. We believe that an "open access" system, with different technologies and different content (TV shows, IP telephony, videoconferencing, education on demand, etc.) can produce greater economic and political freedom than a monopoly owned system. This issue is exciting right now because of a court decision in Portland, Oregon, saying that cities can require open access. There have also been principled resignations in Los Angeles, outcry in San Francisco, and lots of "buzz" among telecommunication policy students.

We see our Cable Co-op situation as a natural testbed for open access. If the dollars add up well, we viewer-owners could choose to reject the AT&T monopoly and use the prospect of lease revenues to justify private financing for an independent information utility that encourages competition rather than monopoly control.

We believe that ISP's, new cable channels, long distance telephone carriers, and a lot of new technologies would be the natural customers for general bandwidth to the homes. The Palo Alto cable system is currently coaxial cable, with cable modems available. It's easy to envision fiber optic cables being extended to neighborhood nodes and eventually all the way to the homes. The city of Palo Alto also has a large backbone of unused ("dark") optic fiber strands that could be incorporated in a system. And the existing optical fiber is connected to the Palo Alto Information Exchange (PAIX), a major exchange point of the Internet.

If anyone knows companies that would be interested in leasing bandwidth, please get in touch with me at or via phones at 650-494-7696 or 650-856-9126 (voicemail). Direct e-mail or calls are best, as I can't keep up with postings on all the mailing lists where you might see this.

Toward faster exchange of all sorts of information,

Brian D Williams wrote:
> From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
> >"Canberra"? As in, Pham Nuwen's medieval home planet?
> >Oh, you mean Canberra, Australia.
> >For those of you who can't click on the link directly from your
> >email browsers, this is about 36 megabit/sec direct,
> >fiber-to-the-curb Internet access, without any coaxial "hybrid"
> >systems to slow things down. Also, it doesn't degrade when you
> >get more subscribers, unlike current cable Internet providers.
> >The way a planetary network *should* work, without legacy
> >infrastructure.
> >Sounds like a nice place to live, yep.
> DISCLAIMER: I do not speak for Ameritech or it's alliance partners.
> My .25 opinion is my own.
> Read it, typical marketing fluff piece, it is a hybrid system,
> fiber to the curb then VDSL probably on CAT 5 or better. And its
> only a test, just 200 homes....
> I liked the possibility of 36mbs (though they didn't claim they
> were running that) although a T-3 is 45mbs, and they pegged the
> consumer cost at $520 not counting the CO equipment and thats going
> to be a bitch, say a router $20,000 and $5000 a port for a max of
> 12 ports. now you've got to have a backbone faster that that (OC-
> 12) very big bucks, and thats just for 12 ports......
> We had planned to bring fiber to the door about 8 years ago, then
> the consummer groups, the long distance companies, the cable
> companies, the FCC and everybody else and their mothers jumped in.
> When they were done it wasn't worth building, they still whine and
> want to know why we haven't built it.... <SHEESH>
> Brian
> Member, Extropy Institute
> Member, Life Extension Foundation
> Member, National Rifle Association
> 1.800.672.3888
> Ameritech Data Center
> Member, Local 134 I.B.E.W
> Reading: POLYMORPH by Scott Westerfield