10 June 2004

The front page of Network World highlighted a fiber-to-the-home project in Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s expected that the local utility will connect 4,000 homes this year to a 100Mbps connection that provides eight ethernet ports to each home.

Remember when there was a lot of noise about the shared equipment specification from BellSouth, Verizon and SBC? There’s still the possibility that some form of wireless technology might prevail, but eight ports of 100Mbps ethernet in every home doesn’t seem likely. (It’s the physics!)

South Korea, already known as the bandwidth capital of the world, announced in November of 2003 that they were going to build a nationwide 100Mbps network. This is happening in a place that already has more DSL-class speed per capita than any other country in the world. While broadband at one to three megabits per second is certainly faster than dialup service, I’ve come to think of broadband as 10Mbps or better. As the standard ethernet LAN in the USA moved to 100Mbps, that became the new broadband standard.

With GigE in wide deployment, it can’t be very long before someone will start labeling anything greater than 100Mbps ”broadband.” The great debate involved whether or not fiber-to-the-curb would prevail over wi-fi technologies. Digging up the streets was listed as the great cost and infrastructure inhibiter for fiber. The physics of wide-area wireless has always been its inhibiter.

At this point I’d like to see the top 100 cities in the USA wired with (continuously-upgradeable) 100Mbps fiber and eight ethernet ports per termination point. Eight ports provide:

  1. voice communications (VoIP)
  2. Internet access
  3. movies on demand
  4. television programming
  5. gaming networks
  6. available
  7. available
  8. available

Properly designed, these city-wide networks should be connected to Level 3’s (continuously upgradeable) long-haul fiber. None of this should be done with taxes. The project should be privately funded and the price target should be (in 2004 dollars) $100 per month or less per installation point. It’s ambitious, but it’s achievable.

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