back to article Detroit Rock(et Fiber) City: Startup brings 10Gb service to Motown

A project born out of finance house Quicken Loans is making a push to bring broadband to the city of Detroit. Rocket Fiber, which was launched by three former Quicken employees and still operates under its umbrella of companies, began feasibility studies in 2013, laying out cables a year later and finally launching as a …

  1. Efros

    I'd take that.

    Currently $62 pcm for 20/2 Mbps. I believe the TWC Comcast merger means we will probably be looking at data caps in the near future.

    1. Leeroy

      Re: I'd take that.

      I'm paying £50 ex Vat for 50 Mb sync service over wifi (big ass antenna and £3k to install) and they have sorted reverse dns properly.

      I wish them the best, if they can beat up the big boys over speed and service like my local supplier they will win.

  2. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Service? That'll cost money, and they're still in the precarious startup position. I'd like to know how they can provide cost-effective competitive broadband AND that level of service AND still turn a profit.

    1. Knoydart

      Culture shift?

      Maybe, just maybe they are not (yet) like the big boys and investing $ in the business and not just directing all income to the directors and shareholders.

      Would be an interesting case study if the founders can shape company culture to be different from other ISPs in the US. Can they mandate / curate a positive company culture towards the customer and then keep it going if they achieve it in the first place?

    2. rh587 Silver badge

      I'd like to know how they can provide cost-effective competitive broadband AND that level of service AND still turn a profit.

      Probably something to do with containing their initial effort in a 3-square mile area, meaning they're never more than a couple of minutes from an issue with no distant customers and don't need any particularly esoteric optics.

      Throw in the usage of cheaper enterprise-grade hardware rather than telco grade (I don't know if they do, but it would make sense - worked for B4RN) and Bob's your mother's brother.

      Whilst telcos like BT are burning millions on (genuinely clever research) trying to work out how to squeeze 300Mbps down 20 metres of phone wire, the fibre startups are just cutting to the chase, accepting the CAPEX of laying fibre onto the premises which can then be upgraded from 1Gb to 10Gb, to more (with xWDM) simply through a change in existing, off-the-shelf optics, giving them a negligible $/Mb cost.

    3. Mikel

      Service

      > I'd like to know how they can provide cost-effective competitive broadband AND that level of service AND still turn a profit.

      Ooh ooh! I know this one!

      It is not unprofitable to provide great bandwidth and stellar service at a reasonable price. It is quite lucrative. To the oligopoly that sells the only service you can get though, this is an unnecessary expense that reduces their absurd margins. It is cheaper to drive the other guy out of business, so that is what they do. Even if they have to buy a few state or local officials, get some laws passed, sue, organize an Astroturf rebellion, engage in negative marketing of the sort normally reserved for political office, it is still cheaper than providing good service at a fair rate.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Service

        Yes, because once you run the other guy out of town, you have the monopoly and the captive market again. That's why you can loss-lead; you can make up for it later. It's like the guerillas controlling the only well in the town; it lets you dictate terms.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    This will be interesting to follow. For years, Detroit has had a serious image problem here in the states as being crime-ridden, rundown, and place you don't want to even visit. There are no supermarket chains in the city limits (unless that's changed in the last 5 years). If you live there, you had go to the suburbs or shop in the little shops with high prices. Infrastructure was a nightmare. And the crime rate wasn't a joke.

    I interviewed with a company there 20 years ago and had some dealings with them 10 years ago... no.. I wouldn't move there. Just not my cuppa'.

    I wish them luck with this. Detroit has been a failing city for a long time and deserves to come back.

  4. Crazy Operations Guy

    10 Gb/s is all well and good

    But what kind of capacity does their network have out to the wider internet?

    Much like corporate networks, I doubt that this system would have the backbone connection to actually support more than a small handful of users going full-tilt at 10 Gb/s. Hell, I doubt that they could support more than a dozen users at 1 Gb...

    I suppose you could get decent speed if you were connecting to a data-center within their network, but the probability of that is pretty low.

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: 10 Gb/s is all well and good

      But what kind of capacity does their network have out to the wider internet?

      Much like corporate networks, I doubt that this system would have the backbone connection to actually support more than a small handful of users going full-tilt at 10 Gb/s. Hell, I doubt that they could support more than a dozen users at 1 Gb...

      True, but it depends on who they're peering with and whether they collaborate and get hold of a Netflix OpenConnect Appliance, etc. If they're able to peer with a few big CDNs and get a few appliances/servers internal to their network, their actual (paid for) Tier 1 network connectivity can be kept quite manageable.

      B4RN in the UK runs a 20Gbps backbone out of each 192-user node (all on 1Gbps connections), so that's a node contention rate of ~10-1. Overnight, you might actually get 1Gbps, but even if everyone is hammering away you should still get 100Mbps, which is 30% faster than the theoretical maximum of 76Mbps for BT's Infinity 2 product (and I'd bet BT's infinity cabinets are running on a damn sight higher contention than 10-1).

      B4RN's fibre link to the IXP runs DWDM, so from memory, they can theoretically scale it to ~36 channels of 10Gbps - which would give ~360Gbps, which maintains the 10-1 contention for the ~3000 properties they designed the network for.

      However, despite that 10-1 contention rate in the network, as far as the outbound connectivity goes though, they only have a single 10Gbps connection to a Tier 1 provider. Manchester has a good datacentre community so they've got excellent settlement-free peering opportunities to the BBC (iPlayer), Amazon, Netflix, Apple, MS, etc, etc which is where the other few hundred Gbps goes.

      By the looks of it, Detroit-IX has Akamai and Google, which is a damn good start (although curiously Rocket Fibre aren't on their peering list?).

  5. DrMordrid

    A friend who works downtown says Rocket Fiber is blistering fast, as in seriously.

    The company is one of $billionaire Dan Gilbert's projects. Gilbert (Quicken Loans, Cleveland Cavaliers) and Mike Ilitch (Little Caesars, Detroit Tigers & Red Wings) have taken it on themselves to rebuild Detroit if no one else will.

    After the state pushed Detroit into a managed bankruptcy to get control of its debt, they and other civic leaders went on a tear and now there are several $billions worth of new developments and they're bulldozing the blight. A light rail line connecting the two city centers is going in, and a region wide mass transit plan is now on the table.

    Crime still needs work, but the new Police Chief is a take no prisoners type and the prosecutor is like minded. She's a tought one, with help from the Fed's having sent the previous (corrupt) city leaders to prison.

    We now have real hope and signs of a turnaround.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Detroit yuppie here (I work in the suburbs for a software company and live downtown. I suppose that makes me a yuppie since I'm the tip of the gentrification spear) - I can provide a more detailed take -

      I lived in Midtown for a while, prior to moving Downtown - I've seen quite a bit in three years I've been here. First, the city is totally and completely insolvent without the support of the state. While the state has wiped the slate clean in bankruptcy, the city doesn't generate enough cashflow to cover their expenditures; without the state's support, the city would collapse in a matter of weeks. Trust me, I don't enjoy saying that because I have quite a bone to pick with the largely inept Republican legislature in Lansing, but that is a mathematical reality.

      Second, a significant portion of the people living downtown will eventually move to a different city for more career opportunities/meet someone and move to suburbs. There are _very_ small few who will actually have a family in Detroit. This is fine and normal though - how many people actually have a family in downtown Manhattan/Chicago? The issue though is that Detroit Public School system has a high school graduation rate of less than 60% - this is a huge ball and chain on the city's development. It's a huge resource drain on the state. It's toxic.

      I don't mean to be a downer - Detroit a beautiful city, it's my hometown, and I want it to succeed. But it has extremely deep scars that will take at least 2 or 3 generations to heal. But it's a hell of a lot of fun with respect to the arts, restaurants, etc.

      Oh, and about Rocket Fiber - looking forward to my installation once I'm in my new building August 1st. I've heard it's fast : )

  6. JJKing

    Yet here in Australia the <sarcasm>forward thinking</sarcasm-off> previous Liberal government reckons 25Mbps is all we will need for the foreseeable future. There has never been a less exciting time to have slow fraudband in Australia.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Well, good luck, Detroit

    I like to make fun of Detroit as much as the next guy. Heck, on these very forums I proposed that we give the city back to Britain in return for a remain vote on Brexit. For some reason, the British didn't avail themselves of this offer.

    However, I do hope that the city can be made to work again. If some rebuilt/new infrastructure can be put in, the city might be able to turn itself around. And (completely) unlike my home in the SF Bay Area, land/housing is the cheapest in any major city in the U.S.

    Now, if they could just do something about tearing down Tigers Stadium.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We wanted connectivity between two buildings in the service area. What we got was two internet connections, not a circuit like AT&T ASE/OpteMAN. So, if you want an Internet connection, go for it. It isn't anything but that as far as we could find out.

    Actually, we (IT) didn't want it, upper management did. Support Detroit and all that, even if it isn't what we needed or wanted.

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