Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Communications Government The Almighty Buck United States Politics Technology

San Francisco Just Took a Huge Step Toward Internet Utopia (wired.com) 226

Susan Crawford, writing for Backchannel: Last week, San Francisco became the first major city in America to pledge to connect all of its homes and businesses to a fiber optic network. I urge you to read that sentence again. It's a ray of light. In an era of short-term, deeply partisan do-nothing-ism, the city's straightforward, deeply practical determination shines. Americans, it turns out, are capable of great things -- even if only at the city level these days. [...] San Francisco's dilemma is a compact form of the crisis in communications facing the rest of the country: Although fiber is the necessary infrastructure for every policy goal we have -- advanced healthcare, the emergence of new forms of industries, a chance for every child to get an education, managed use of energy, and on and on -- the private sector, left to its own devices, has no particular incentive to ensure a widespread upgrade to fiber optic connections. Comcast dominates access in the city, but has no plans to replace its cable lines -- great at downloads, not so great at uploads, no opportunity to scale to the capacity of fiber thanks to the laws of physics, and expensive to subscribe to -- with fiber. And its planned enhancements to its cable lines have, in other cities, resulted in a product costing $150 per month. AT&T will say it's upgrading to fiber in San Francisco, but so far its work in many other US cities has been incremental, confined to areas where it has existing business customers to serve or where it already has fiber in place. Other, smaller providers similarly have no plans to do a city-wide upgrade, leaving San Francisco with a deeply uneven patchwork of connectivity. Just as in the rest of the country, poorer and less-well-educated San Franciscans tend not to subscribe to a wire at home, but instead rely wholly on smartphone data plans -- no substitutes, given their expense and throttled capacity, for what's possible using a wired connection.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

San Francisco Just Took a Huge Step Toward Internet Utopia

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:31AM (#55437165)

    Thatâ(TM)s great. In stead of dealing with the homeless issues just give everyone internet access and a map of where not to walk because of human waste in the street.

    • by hackel ( 10452 )

      ACs always think in black and white. Thanks for living up to your reputation!

  • by jodido ( 1052890 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:35AM (#55437205)
    I tend not to get too excited about political promises. There are two ways, as I see it, this can happen. One is the city tries to build the network. The private ISPs will sue and the project will languish for years, if it ever gets off the ground at all. Second, the city pays the private ISP's to build the network--in other words, a giant handout. Then some public interest group will sue, and the project will languish for years, if it ever gets off the ground at all.
    • Exactly...every other city that tries municipal broadband was just as sincere. I don't see anything here that shows SF has a solution to the ISP lobby. Although this being California, there is every possibility that there will be an ISP subsidy OR that the ISPs will be some sort of "partner" and get kickbacks...
      • by Luthair ( 847766 )

        I'm guessing you mean US city? Amsterdam famously wired the city - https://arstechnica.com/tech-p... [arstechnica.com]

        Interesting point with Amsterdam is they wired the city but do not operate an ISP

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Interesting point with Amsterdam is they wired the city but do not operate an ISP

          Which is pretty much how municipal fiber ought to work.

          1) City forms wholly owned non-profit
          2) City underwrites bonds for fiber optic network
          3) City contracts with some network operator to run fiber non-profit at fixed profit margin, everything else is plowed back into maintenance
          4) Contracted network operator is barred from offering any services on fiber optic network
          5) Third parties sell ISP or other network services on fiber optic network
          6) City government does not offer ISP or other competitive services

        • I'm guessing you mean US city?

          Based on the thread context and the article everyone is responding to, of course they mean "US city." Why would you even need to ask that?

          I guess at least you didn't write USian city...

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      You missed (c) the city will pay the money, but the corporations won't actually roll out fibre.
      • That was his second option. You missed half his post

        • That was his second option. You missed half his post

          I'm quite sure that Luthair's intent was to suggest that they wouldn't even try to build out the network, like when we gave the telcos $250M to build out the DSL network so that we could all get DSL, which they didn't even try to do. Instead, they handed the money out to executives as record bonuses. jodido's example included "some public interest group" suing, which is almost certainly not what Luthair meant. Your reading comprehension seems to be below the junior high school level.

    • I live in Saskatchewan, Canada. The entire population of the Province is about 1.1 Million.

      We have a major telecom company that is owned by our Provincial Government.

      About 10-12 years ago they started rolling out Fibre across the province. Starting with the 4 biggest communities. My city (of 35,000 people) was one of those 4 communities.

      I've had ubiquitous access to fiber since 2010 or so in my city. Needless to say the consistent speed and reliability is amazing. From what I've heard from friends that work

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        That plan is probably dictated by a combination of the edge service provider's connection to the backbone service provider, and the edge service provider's willingness to spend money on their distribution network in the form of switches and optics and the topology chosen for the fiber plant.

        As a commercial customer, I've worked with both Centurylink and COX for fiber networks. CL uses a hub-and-spoke topology in my market that they inherited when they took over the old phone company. Each of my sites has

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        $200 a month is pretty steep, in Ontario we have access to Teksavvy with 250/20 for $90 unlimited.
        • That TekSavvy plan is for cable though, not fibre, so you can't compare the two prices. TekSavvy doesn't have any plans over fibre yet, at least in Ontario.

          • Why does it matter what the physical cabling is, if the latency and bandwidth allocations are similar?

            Results are what matter. Specifying 'fiber' just to say it's 'fiber' is silly if the metrics are the same.

            • They wouldn't be the same bandwidth though, which is literally in the summary:

              ...replace its cable lines -- great at downloads, not so great at uploads, no opportunity to scale to the capacity of fiber thanks to the laws of physics...

              Fiber is typically symmetric. Even FiOS, which is fairly lousy as an ISP in many respects, is symmetric on all plans. My folks have their "gigabit" plan - it's only 940Mbps actually, but it is symmetric and does hit that speed even in real-world use. That's one of the nice things about fiber, actually - you have the bandwidth, might as well do something with it

            • The problem with cable is that you share your bandwidth with your neighbours so that when it's busy you don't get your maximum downloads. I'm on a slower cable connection than what was mentioned (30Mbps, TekSavvy in Ontario) and there are some times it seems quick to respond and at others it's slow. Fibre isn't shared with the neighbours so you always have the maximum bandwidth available.

        • Shaw (coax network) has plans up to 250Mbps. They have a promo on for 150Mbps down / 15Mbps with a 1TB monthly cap if you sign a 2 year contract. The first year is $50/mo, and the second year is $70/mo (from what I gather this is only available in SK, everywhere else pays $70/mo for both years).

          The benefit of Sasktel is there is no monthly cap, it is a true fibre optic network with the optical cable run right into your home (no ethernet last mile crap). It is truely unlimited, though you need the business p

      • yay, municipal monopoly rip-off. tax the punters for a crappy service.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      One of the biggest stumbling blocks are the landlords and what undoubtedly will be objections to losing profit-making square footage to telecommunications rooms that inevitably will be required in buildings.

      I've had to do work in residential copper phone rooms. It was bad when it was just the telephone company. It got worse when the cable TV providers got space. For old, sufficiently large buildings it will be even worse, as the equipment for even a PON system requires space. That's not accounting for t

    • Second, the city pays the private ISP's to build the network--in other words, a giant handout.

      Right. This is sort of what happened in NYC. They paid Verizon to put FiOS everywhere. Verizon took the money and didn't fully deliver. They greatly expanded their FiOS coverage, but not to the extent they were supposed to.

    • One is the city tries to build the network. The private ISPs will sue and the project will languish for years, if it ever gets off the ground at all.

      It can be done, and in a way that short-circuits the entrenched monopolies:

      https://tech.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]

    • this is going to be yet another overly-expensive bungled municipal utility project. ask anyone in neighboring San Bruno county how they like their monopoly cable service and cable ISP? want high speed internet in San Bruno? SBC is your _only_ choice.

  • by Zorro ( 15797 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:36AM (#55437223)

    "to PLEDGE to connect all of its homes and businesses to a fiber optic network."

    Which means about as much as Unicorn power.

    It will all be twisted apart in the next big quake when San Francisco is again reduced to rubble anyway. Bad place to build a city.

    • Unicorn power == natural gas... It is getting us off oil you insensitive clod!

    • by bluegutang ( 2814641 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @11:07AM (#55437513)

      San Francisco was never reduced to rubble by an earthquake. In the 1906 quake, more than 90% of the damage was caused by resulting fires, not the earthquake itself [1906eqconf.org]. And modern building codes are well equipped to deal with both earthquakes and fires, so it certainly wouldn't be reduced to rubble by an earthquake now.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They may have buildings robust to the natural disasters but San Francisco will be left a smoldering pile of rubble by the one thing they have no defense against: Leftist ideals. They will be the future Detroit. Having gone so smug from being built up by a successful industry that they lost focus and the pressures that drive people.

        Mark my words. San Francisco will be like Detroit in ~20 years.
         

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          I doubt it. SF doesn't depend on manufacturing whose skillset is developed from initially unskilled labor through on-the-job training. The kind of employment driving the ridiculous housing prices requires the employee to bring skill in with them.

          A major contribution to Detroit's decline was that it was not difficult to set-up shop elsewhere, then close the Detroit facility. The vast majority of the individual tasks for assembling cars are simple, so a new population that has never built cars can be train

      • And modern building codes are well equipped to deal with both earthquakes and fires, so it certainly wouldn't be reduced to rubble by an earthquake now.

        Sea level rise will come along and remove all the portions of the city built on landfill. And no, modern building codes are not well-equipped to deal with fires. We are still overusing flammable materials in building. Also, San Francisco is chock-full of old buildings which are made out of wood and literally touching one another. It's just a firestorm waiting to happen, like most cities on the planet.

      • San Francisco was never reduced to rubble by an earthquake. In the 1906 quake, more than 90% of the damage was caused by resulting fires, not the earthquake itself [1906eqconf.org].

        If the cause of the fires was in fact the earthquake, then you're splitting hairs here. We certainly don't segregate wind damage from water damage when talking about hurricanes.

        And modern building codes are well equipped to deal with both earthquakes and fires, so it certainly wouldn't be reduced to rubble by an earthquake now.

        The 1906 quake measured 7.8 on the scale. Not even close to our strongest quakes on record. Regardless of code improvements, the damage to such a densely populated area if a 9+ were to hit would be considerable. Not to mention cost. LA saw tens of billions of dollars in damage from a 6.7 quake in the 90s.

        • by epine ( 68316 )

          Not to mention cost.

          I live further up the west coast, and the probability of "the big one" we all fear is about 0.3% per year (which does not increase much as years go by without such an event happening; there's a whole chapter devoted to the Big Three statistical metaphors in Algorithms to Live By; fractal history approximates no history to a first order).

          Furthermore, a big chunk of the "cost" that so worries you is bringing all of the damaged infrastructure into alignment with modern building code and bui

  • The big ISPs will sue SF into the ground to stop this from happening, just like they do to anyone else that tries it.

  • At least it's not more gold leaf for city hall.

    I, for one, welcome gigabit Internet service to the tents in San Francisco's homeless camps!

    https://sf.curbed.com/2017/6/2... [curbed.com]

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:39AM (#55437259)

    advanced healthcare, the emergence of new forms of industries, a chance for every child to get an education, managed use of energy,

    All those things listed... not one of them has low hanging fruit that is addressed by "faster internet". Healthcare is a big, expensive mess - and that is not because hospitals and doctors' offices can't get fast internet. Education is an absolute shitshow in all but a few states, and that has nothing to do with the internet. Energy use monitoring consists of low-bandwidth wireless meters that benefit not at all from fiber. I'm sure that industries will pop up to take advantage of subsidized internet, just as industries pop up when there is subsidized water, electricity, etc. Even subsidized shit. [baltimoresun.com]

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Fiber doesn't require power. The ISP can easily tell when large numbers of people are without power and who they are. This is very valuable information for the power company during an outage. One power company claimed to have reduced the costs to fixing their power by 50% and reduced outage times by something like 20%. In the end, they saved the local community enough money IN ONE YEAR from power outages and reduced costs to pay for the entire cost of the fiber network. Fiber internet is so cheap, it pays y
      • The ISP can easily tell when large numbers of people are without power and who they are

        Can you dig up a reference to this claim? My google-fu skills are weak and I cannot find corroboration to your story about the fiber optic lines being paid for in a year.

        Local hospitals over here

        Again, I'd like more information. I've heard about this idea before but would love to read about how it works in real life.

    • You got it wrong. Fiber is needed to give Google and advertisers more bandwidth and thus income.

      I see one technology site that has a short article with a few paragraphs I want to read and it has over 2 dozen connections to URLs for tracking purposes.

  • Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:51AM (#55437347)
    San Francisco is about 5 billion dollars in debt. Although that's only 1/4 of the per capita debt of NYC, it's still irresponsible of the city to make such a claim.
    • Hardly out of line with the average US debt.

    • Infrastructure is the one use of debt that I approve of. I don't know how much of SF's debt is for infrastructure bonds and how much is for things like underfunded pensions or debt for recurring expenses, but debt to build out communications infrastructure is OK.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:54AM (#55437385)

    "Comcast dominates access in the city..."

    Say no more.

    When one of the largest cities in our entire country allows a fucking monopoly on internet service, there's only one true problem to solve for; the corruption that creates and sustains that shit.

    • the corruption that creates and sustains that shit.

      If you and the rest of america weren't so uneducated and ignorant you could all choose a correct political ideology, aka it's not right wing. The more right wing your country, the more you tell the world you don't understand you're being fucked by private power.

      Crisis of democracy

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYFxtNgOeiI [youtube.com]

      Our brains are much worse at reality and thinking than thought. See the manufacturing consent videos when you get the time.

      Science on reasoning:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYmi0DLzBdQ [youtube.com]

    • Amen. The straightforward way to address this is to allow any and all comers who want to provide internet access in SF (or anywhere) free reign to build and sell their product. If fiber to the home is so valuable, someone will be greedy enough (read: "will spot an underserved market opportunity") to want the easy bucks. And we all win.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:59AM (#55437437) Journal

    "straightforward, deeply practical determination shines"
    Right!

    https://sf.budgetchallenge.org... [budgetchallenge.org] (this is an official SFO city page)
    This projection reveals deficits of $86 million in FY 2016-17 and $161 million in FY 2017-18, a total deficit of approximately $246.4 million over the next two years.
    This is simultaneous with their floating a $3.5 BILLION bond to desperately try to fix BART infrastructure: https://www.wired.com/2016/03/... [wired.com]
    Oh wait, not really: http://www.mercurynews.com/201... [mercurynews.com]
    "Less than three months after voters passed a $3.5 billion BART bond for capital projects, transit officials presented budget forecasts in which the district reneges on its part of the deal."

    And let's not forget:
    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.c... [cbslocal.com]
    Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a $122.5 billion budget for California and is warning of a possible $2 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year.

    Not sure what the OP is peddling, but the fact is that SFO's budget is sheer fantasy already without adding the ridiculous cost of shoving fiber-internet everywhere.

    Even in California you can't build infrastructure out of candy, unicorns, and rainbows.

    • Not sure what the OP is peddling, but the fact is that SFO's budget is sheer fantasy already without adding the ridiculous cost of shoving fiber-internet everywhere.

      Even in California you can't build infrastructure out of candy, unicorns, and rainbows.

      Maybe they heard that municipal broadband is frequently profitable [muninetworks.org] after a few years. Given their track record, San Francisco will probably manage to be one of the few that isn't...

  • Put aside the facts that San Francisco is turning into a complete and utter cesspool, almost literally, and that the chances that this plan is going to be implemented is lower than the chance you get hit by a meteorite on the way to pick up your PowerBall winnings with your new girlfriend Natalie Portman.

    That aside why the heck are slashdot people so damn fascinated/obsessed with high-speed internet access? A huge number of people would be perfectly OK with 1meg service (i.e. a slight improvement over a ph

    • That aside why the heck are slashdot people so damn fascinated/obsessed with high-speed internet access? A huge number of people would be perfectly OK with 1meg service (i.e. a slight improvement over a phone modem) if it was dead-nuts reliable and you always got 1 meg, they are screwing around with social media that is mostly a text medium and playing youtube videos, what they heck are they going to do with 50-100 meg or higher?

      I agree with the general idea. I used to have a 1 MB/s ADSL for years, as I didn't need anything more. However, at some point my building was connected to a fiber network, and the new provider offered speeds starting from 10 meg, for a lower price. So it was a no brainer, in fact I took the next level of 50 meg as it was only a few euros more per month, and it helps with the occasional bulk downloads. I've since moved to another fiber-connected building with better wiring, so I get Ethernet from the wall w

    • That aside why the heck are slashdot people so damn fascinated/obsessed with high-speed internet access? A huge number of people would be perfectly OK with 1meg service (i.e. a slight improvement over a phone modem) if it was dead-nuts reliable and you always got 1 meg, they are screwing around with social media that is mostly a text medium and playing youtube videos, what they heck are they going to do with 50-100 meg or higher?

      Because we personally already have uses for gigabit Internet access, and the more widespread it is, the cheaper it is.

      Also, this is truly a case of "if you build it, they will come." Youtube did not exist in the era of POTS modems. Neither did Netflix. Now video streaming is considered an industry in its own right, with multiple multi-billion dollar companies. In 2000, everybody thought an on-demand streaming service was nearly impossible. Cable companies had tried, and given up.

      We don't know what ubiq

      • Nobody ever thought it was impossible. It was just going to take a few years and everybody knew it.

        What % of the time is your current broadband insufficient? Mine is INXS to the extent I don't pay $10/month to double it to 200 down.

        What % of the time was your 2000 broadband insufficient? IIRC I had 10 down in 2000, sucked, but already far better than dialup. Main problem then was backbone/server saturation during peak hours.

        In my time, I've run a small business on a 10 Mbps unswitched coax local netw

    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      I am on an ADSL2+ connection here in Australia and I am currently syncing at 8.7mbps downstream and 1mbps upstream and I can actually GET those speeds or something close to it.

      Whilst it would be nice to have something a little faster for those times when I am downloading large files, I have no complaints about either the speeds I get or the service I get from my ISP.

      However, according to the map for the NBN in Australia, I am apparently going to get HFC (by far the worst fixed-line broadband technology ever

  • Although fiber is the necessary infrastructure for every policy goal we have -- advanced healthcare, the emergence of new forms of industries, a chance for every child to get an education, managed use of energy, and on and on

    No. Maybe faster internet is necessary infrastructure for those things. Maybe not. There are enough other comments exploring the truth of that assertion.

    But fiber is just one possible medium for delivering faster internet. Believe it or not, I get incredibly fast internet (500/100 Mbps) over coaxial cable. I used to get 200/200 over microwave. Both of them were affordable ($60 for the super premium plan).

    • But fiber is just one possible medium for delivering faster internet. Believe it or not, I get incredibly fast internet (500/100 Mbps) over coaxial cable. I used to get 200/200 over microwave. Both of them were affordable ($60 for the super premium plan).

      And I get 300GB at 5/1 over microwave for $99/mo and it is by far the cheapest thing available where I live. In California. Within a rifle shot of homes with both DSL and cable.

      • And so the goal should be to get you high speed internet, medium be damned.

        Also, what kind of rifle? I know some folks with a .50cal that will easily clear 1 mile, that's a long run for DSL :-)

        • Also, what kind of rifle? I know some folks with a .50cal that will easily clear 1 mile, that's a long run for DSL :-)

          At the kind of downstream speeds I'm getting from my WISP, even old-school ADSL will do somewhere around 12,000 feet. But since they managed to put the DSLAM into the box on the street corner, you can really be anywhere. That costs a lot more than just having a bunch of punchdown blocks in there, so they like to avoid doing it, but any time they have to replace one they tend to put in the good stuff, which means DSL arrives in your neighborhood. Some friends of mine were waiting indefinitely until someone r

  • Why on earth would any telecom upgrade:

    - It speeds transition to cord cutting
    - It undermines lucrative business plans
    - Some currently get by with lucrative cellular data plans

    I absolutely believe telecoms promise everything and deliver nothing or just enough to look like they care. It is up to communities to upheave these dumbass telcos.

  • I almost feel bad for having gigabit fibre at home.

  • I'm a fan of municipal fiber but the breathless tone of the piece is a bit over the top. It's a good idea, but San Francisco shouldn't congratulate itself too much - Longmont, CO has had fiber to the home for quite some time, and I'm sure there are other cities as well. Early subscribers enjoy $50/month for 1Gb up and down, and if I remember right it's only $70 for the later subscribers. Beats the snot out of the Comcast / Centurylink duopoly.

  • Pledging is not the same as doing. Other cities have tried to do this and failed.

  • As I've become more Libertarian, I've found the biggest difference I have with most other Libertarians is that I firmly believe there is a place and responsibility for government. One of the largest areas is wherever the power of eminent domain is required to provide a service. Yes you heard that right. As a Libertarian, I firmly believe that the government should own, regulate and maintain:

    -the roads
    -the power lines
    -the communication infrastructure.

    The reason I believe this is because the government sho

    • you obviously don't live in San Bruno, CA, where the only choice for high-speed internet is San Bruno Cable, a government-owned monopoly that provides shitty service for exorbitant prices. third-party cable/fiber providers are banned.

  • That is the key word in this entire story. And how do they plan on doing this exactly? Short of the city forming its own non profit telco it means they have to deal with the monopolistic ISPs. A monopoly that was wholly created by government in the first place by the way.

    Naturally the ISPs are going to demand, and get, massive kickbacks in the form of tax breaks that are made up by you and I. So the government will hand over all kinds of money to the ISPs with the promise to run fiber to every house. Except

The reward for working hard is more hard work.

Working...