Entries Tagged as ''

Talkin’ Digital Divide Blues

Last month, bridging the broadband divide seemed to be a big topic around here.

First, I appeared on the KBOO program The Digital Divide. They invited us on to address some questions about community reuse of the MetroFi equipment, which we expect will be forfeited to the city in April. I suggested that since the city is already committed to the removal of the equipment, rather than attempting to resell it on the salvage market, we should redeploy it in a targeted area to build a community network where there is both demonstrated need and community support for alternative infrastructure.

Marc de Giere and Bram Pitoyo were very courteous, as they let me get off the topic of Unwire Portland and onto Community Fiber, which some of us are very excited about. We talked about the concept of building a citywide fiber to the premises network that would operate as a public entity selling wholesale service to an assortment of ISPs, telephone and video content providers. This would provide added competition, both in service pricing and options, and level the communications market for local providers, while ensuring that Portland has the right network for the economy of the future.

Cohost Marc also wrote up an extensive account of the show.

The same day, Russell appeared on the Ignite Portland 5 stage to give a talk about fiber. There were a couple technical difficulties, but overall he received a very warm reception, and it seemed to pique the interest of many who heard the talk. You can watch two videos of Russell’s presentation and view his slides.

My favorite point of Russell’s was that a single strand of fiber supports about 1000 times the bandwidth of the entire Clear network in Portland. That’s not a knock on Clear; it’s a great way to drive home how powerful fiber is compared to other technologies.

Finally, OPB’s Think Out Loud did a piece on the federal stimulus and efforts to expand broadband access in rural areas. Russell and I both weighed in on their forum, and made it clear that it’s more than just rural America that suffers from a lack of broadband availability. Within minutes of downtown Portland, there are many places where there is only one choice for broadband Internet service, and other areas where there are no options. While it’s easy for providers to wave these inequalities off by saying that it would be financially disadvantageous for them to fill-in unserved areas, that isn’t what we were promised when the federal government allowed them to be the owners and operators of our only communications infrastructure.

Now that there are many discussions about how federal, state and local government can contribute to expanding broadband access, we should all realize that it’s in everyone’s long-term interest to create ubiquitous infrastructure with open-access and bandwidth capabilities that will support our needs for many decades to come. We believe that fiber is that infrastructure. If you agree, or you’d like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact us.