back to article San Francisco reveals latest #Resist effort – resisting sub-gigabit internet access

The City of San Francisco has already put in place numerous plans to resist the policies of the Trump Administration – from immigration to healthcare to labor agreements. Now it is moving on to internet access. Supervisor Mark Farrell has set up a "blue ribbon panel" to look at how to get the City by the Bay wired up with …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

    "Comcast will offer the same speeds at roughly the same price"

    In what altered version of reality does that occur in? The fact is we've had fiber optic technology available since the 1970s and I still can't get a fiber cable installed in my home, in California, in 2017. Comcast is only interested in overselling their current, old-world, coax infrastructure, and will only make a legal threats against any city in their territory as an offensive move. Nothing to do with providing a better service, ever. This is how they operate. Who would dare provide Internet service without also bundling it with a useless landline and over-priced cable packages with 10% channels you would ever watch?

    Holy crap, EVERY city should provide this! Cable companies are complicated, useless, middlemen in between me and the content. Just like record companies of old; why are they still here? I can fetch a song directly from a band, or from iTunes, again directly from a band. Gatekeepers charging for the sake of their gate-keeping. Smells like parasites to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

      Bingo! Spot on! Hear hear!

      I'm in Modesto about ~2 Hours outside of San Francisco. SF is whining about gigabit but I can't even get what the FCC calls broadband; my ~3MiBps Comcast coax is as fast as it gets unless I want to pay for someone to build all the infrastructure to my part of town much less my block or my house at all.

      Comcast, AT&T, Verizon & others are the REASON that folks like me can't get gigabit fibre, so thinking those same obstructionist fuckers will do sweet fuck all to deploy any fibre is so out of touch with reality it staggers the mind.

      I hope SF can lay the fibre & get it rolled out to surrounding communities. I hope my community can grow the balls to do likewise. Comcast & their ilk won't be doing it anytime soon, so lay the infrastructure yourself & give them TheFinger.

      1. Elf
        Pint

        Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

        Maaaaaan-teca! ... Sorry, I grew up in Stockton (which explains my poor impulse control).

        I actually built the first ISP in our area (include Lodi because of that damned LATA line right there we were trying to break). Back then 'broadband' was an ISDN BRI with both lines bound (wow, suddenly I'd very much like a drink ... it's almost 7am, good enough).

        Fiber? It's $diety damned all over the place. Sprint runs right up I5 from LA to Seattle, nice juicy fast pipe. Damned shame it isn't broken down and run that last mile, or two...ten perhaps.

        Mmmm... For The Record, my old Oracle DBA insists that Boddingtons is the correct breakfast beer.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

          Boddingtons hasn't been drinkable since the early 1980s. Try a local brew, it'll do you a world of good. May I recommend Anderson Valley Belk's ESB in its stead?

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

      Companies are interested in ROI. Maximising return on investment.

      They don't care about coax or fibre, they care about not spending money if they can get away with it.

      Add some competition and they will match the service because if they don't they will lose business and future revenue drops to zero.

      Competition is better than free trade.

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

        Competition is better than free trade.

        Which is the whole point of the article. Most parts of the US have no competition at all, because the various monopolies were handed out on the understanding a certain level of service would be provided.

        The monopolies have discovered it's much cheaper to pay politicians to pass laws preventing competition than it is to lay fibre.

        My guess is that Trump will make high speed Internet part of his Infrastructure package, hand out billions to AT&T, Comcast etc, claim more jobs for Americans and call it job done.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

          And one major reason it panned out this way is that, unlike all the "good" countries, the US is very BIG. And to get real high-speed Internet, you need that infrastructure along the whole line or one weak link slows you to a crawl.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

        "Add some competition and they will match the service because if they don't they will lose business and future revenue drops to zero."

        In theory yes. In practice, it sometimes works differently. I worked with a city that tried that approach (public entity as competition for the local cable company). The cable co told them (off the record, of course) that if the city went ahead with their plans the cable co would simply undercut the municipal service's price by some percentage until they drove the muni out of business. The city in question was a lot smaller than San Fran, and they were up against one of the big cable cos. Someone did the math and realized the cable co could afford to run at a loss pretty much indefinitely.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

          "Someone did the math and realized the cable co could afford to run at a loss pretty much indefinitely."

          But wouldn't that open them to a charge of predatory pricing, which IS illegal under current anti-competition statutes?

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Big Cable is why we DON'T have fiber to our homes

      Have an upvote but

      Holy crap, EVERY city should provide this! Cable companies are complicated, useless, middlemen in between me and the content. Just like record companies of old; why are they still here? I can fetch a song directly from a band, or from iTunes, again directly from a band. Gatekeepers charging for the sake of their gate-keeping. Smells like parasites to me.

      Surely one of these also a parasitic middleman.

  2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    $1bn

    I think the first task should be engineering a solution to that projected cost. It seems like SF would be a place where stringing fiber optic cables along utility poles with periodic short-range transmitters would work very well. Actually, I'd use small LTE transmitters so that there's no money spent creating or distributing endpoints. People could use their phones or buy their own inexpensive LTE network adaptors.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $1bn

      You must have missed the part about the only sure connection is a wired one. If wireless were an option, especially *Gigabit* wireless, then SF wouldn't even bother with laying fibre in the first place. They'd just put a tower on every rooftop, blanket the area with wireless, & call it a day.

      Except wireless isn't really a solution. Weather conditions can put a massive crimp in your day, a wall that's too thick or contains too much metal will block the signal entirely, & you would *have* to put a tower on *every* roof to make sure there were as few dead zones as possible.

      A wired connection would have none of those issues, a fact that makes it more desireable in any location.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: $1bn

        As also mentioned in another post, SF has utility poles everywhere. It's the standard view from any SF window. Very high speeds and reliability are easy when such a short range is involved. I'm talking about 10 to 20 meters here.

        Replace them with drops later to boost the speed, but start with a solution that has a chance of being completed. Drops are difficult because it involves permits, modifying very homes that pre-date modern wiring, tree trimming, landlords, and all the crazies that live in SF.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: $1bn

      The problem with wireless is that you run out of frequency pretty damn quick. A lot of large Metropolitan areas have shit for cell phone speed and/or coverage not because there aren't enough towers but that there are too many users vying over too few channels.

      With the population density of a city like San Francisco, you'd need to place many transceivers very close together at very low power to accommodate 1 Gb/s worth of traffic from that many people. It's just cheaper to run fiber...

      I used to work for a cell phone company and they ran into that exact problem Hong Kong. It got to the point where they had to start building a tower for every city block just to keep the speeds they promised.

  3. PacketPusher
    Unhappy

    "How to make the network safe."

    Sounds like content filtering. I don't object to the city building infrastructure, digital or physical, but I do care about them limiting what I can use it for unless my use would damage it or prevent others from using it.

    1. Crazy Operations Guy

      A properly built filter would be useful, specifically something where they released the entirety of the source code for the filtering engine as well as the rules being used, and allowed third party auditors to confirm that they are only blocking those items. Of course, such a filter should only be used to block actively malicious traffic, such as botnet C+C traffic, malware executables, etc.

      The question is, would any entity be able to do that correctly?

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Sorry

    but there are at least two (count 'em, two) girlies on that panel. Is this right on an internet based setup? It does seem to set a worrying trend to the traditional white-male controlled setups.

  5. Crazy Operations Guy

    But what about the uplink

    I've been part of local government initiatives to give fiber to the people at a highly reduced cost than commercial ISPs, the one problem I also run into is that while it is 1 Gb/s to the network, what about to places outside of the network (EG, 99% of the internet...)

    I suppose San Francisco could pull it off since such a large portion of the Internet's most-accessed content is local. The question is, what kind of pipe can they get to these peers?

  6. Kernel

    Dark fibre

    You do all realize that dark fibre is just glass in the ground?

    You can bury as much glass as you like, but it's no good to anyone until you persuade someone, such as a cable company or telco, to install the kit to light up the fibre. Yes, having the fibre available (at someone else's expense) will make them a little keener on the idea, but the proposal as it stands doesn't do anything to force an improvement in the current level of service as there's still no incentive for them to provide a better service, just a different service over infrastructure they didn't have to pay for and for which they have no ongoing liability - what most service providers would see as a win win situation.

    Now, if the good taxpayers of SF were willing to buy the kit to light the fibres as well and do their own backhaul to a peering exchange, which could result in a vastly improved service level, then I'm sure I can point an appropriate sales team in their direction.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Aah, the myth of the more efficient and flexible private sector

    A myth perpetuated wholly by those who have been careful not to observe that the private sector exists to make a profit for its shareholders.

    One day someone will notice that public good projects such as this *could* be run with the same efficiencies of private enterprises, but without having to generate the profit and therefore more cheaply.

    I know, I know, it's probably heresy to point this out... but the market economy is not there to reduce prices to the minimum; it's there to raise prices as high as the punter will stand.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Aah, the myth of the more efficient and flexible private sector

      "A myth perpetuated wholly by those who have been careful not to observe that the private sector exists to make a profit for its shareholders."

      That condition can exist, but it tends to require a lack of competition: either through a monopoly or through cartel behavior. Thing is, utilities tend to have high up-front costs (you can't run your utility until you can reach your customers; that means laying down those lines), so there is a natural tendency towards monopolies and oligopolies. Otherwise, honest competition would force all sides to be honest to prevent one side poaching from the other.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    San Francisco is old enough

    That it still has utility poles all over the damn place. Who needs to dig up the streets, just string the fiber on the poles. Much cheaper and faster.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: San Francisco is old enough

      A couple things.

      First, most of those poles are owned by the power company (because they primarily carry distribution lines, which due to physics are a lot trickier to bury). The fiber provider has to hash things out with them first, and there are no guarantees.

      Second, San Francisco is in an earthquake zone, so ANY infrastructure laydown, above ground or below, has to be built to handle earthquakes (either by resisting the worst or by giving way easily so reconnections are quicker). That raises the complexities and the costs.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: San Francisco is old enough

        Telegraph pole technology hasn't changed in a century, Charles. There is no added complexity or cost to installing a new pole, or wire on an existing one. The engineering (such as it is) was done decades ago. As "proof", I've never seen nor heard of a telegraph pole failure during an earthquake, unless that pole was compromised in some way prior to the quake.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: San Francisco is old enough

          Then you've never seen pictures of the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake. Plenty of damaged or fallen telephone poles then. There's a reason California instituted earthquake-resistant building codes after the 1971 Sylmar quake, and subsequent earthquakes (Loma Prieta, North Ridge) have resulted in adjustments to account for better research.

          And you don't even have to look that far back to see how telephone poles can be a problem in an earthquake. Look at this picture courtesy of the Daily Mail. This took place in Kathmandu following the earthquake that hit there in 2015.

          Heck, I've lived in plenty of places where, even with fiberglass and concrete reinforcement, poles can still have difficulties handling strong hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: San Francisco is old enough

            Charles, see where I said "in the last century"? Can you imagine why I used that phrase? I was here for Loma Prieta and have a brother who survived North Ridge. We were both pulling wire for a living in that timeframe. We saw absolutely zero, none, nada, zilch, bupkis, downed poles that weren't already compromised. (Some in San Francisco are so rotted out at the base that they have barriers around them so they can't be toppled by a badly parked Tesla.)

            We were talking about San Francisco, and the California State UBC, not Kathmandu and it's lack of a UBC. As a side-note, did you notice the massive overloading on one quarter of that pole? Methinks it was about ready to topple even without the quake ...

            We were talking about earthquakes, not tropical storms. However, since you brought it up, in all of recorded history there has not been a single hurricane/typhoon/cyclone that managed to even graze California.

            Got any more strawmen that I can topple?

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: San Francisco is old enough

              Wind damage is no strawman, and you don't need a hurricane to pull it off. January 8, 1997. Windstorm damages houses. Utility poles specifically mentioned in the Los Angeles Times. Damage compared to Northridge. Just two months ago, two storms in quick succession cause severe damage in San Diego. Again, downed utility poles specifically mentioned (along with trees).

              And earthquake damage to utility poles seem serious enough that the state government plans for such an eventuality.

              And since you mentioned already-compromised poles, you have to assume EVERY pole in the area is compromised in some way if there's no budget to replace them. Which means they're at risk of toppling at the next local or major disaster. Meaning they can't be trusted. However, since you're in an earthquake zone, burial is risky, too (since they become more prone to seismic effects).

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: San Francisco is old enough

                Your "plan for such an eventuality" is not a plan by any stretch of the imagination. It is a scenario. A "what if" story, as much loved by criminalspolitical committees in search of easy loot. It is quite simply (and I quote) "A Report of the Urban Search and Rescue Emergency Advisory Committee on the State’s Readiness and Resource Needs". It's basically a feel-good, "look at us, we're important, give us money!" piece in the wake of 9/11.

                The report mentions utility poles once. And even then, it only mentions the possibility of failure in passing. As an afterthought. It offers no input on prevention or mitigation or recovery whatsoever. There is no plan, no matter how hard you squint at it.

                Again, the engineering is already well known. It was bought & paid for a century ago. It does not factor into the cost of installing new poles. When I installed the twentyish poles on this property, all I needed to know was location, size, material, depth, distance apart, drainage, and anchoring. I looked it up in a little booklet, available from the state. PG&E and $TELCO came out and made sure I dotted the Is and crossed the Ts, and that was the complete extent of the installation. The in-ground wire was just as easy. No cognizant engineer required. And before you ask, my insurance company was quite happy with the end result. My premiums actually dropped slightly after I ripped out the clusterfuck that came with the place.

                The wind damage you cite wouldn't have happened if there was such a thing as routine maintenance ... but please take note that such maintenance is only included in the cost of new installations "for the life of the pole". Usually spelled out as 35 years. After that, caveat emptor. The Santa Anna damaged homes are outside the scope of this discussion. To say nothing of the fact that we were discussing San Francisco, not Southern California.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: San Francisco is old enough

      Nice theory, Doug. Looks good on paper, even. Until you look at the age of SF's existing, rotting, utility poles, many of which are held up by the wires they are supposed to support ...

  9. jake Silver badge

    The City would do well to talk to Palo Alto.

    Palo Alto has been making noises about bringing fiber to all addresses since around 1983[0]. They still haven't done it. Guess why. That's right, money. Palo Alto keeps trying, but the total cost always is far more expensive than any financial returns could possibly justify.

    [0] Yes, I know. Very early. Palo Alto's always been progressive. As an example, they started brainwashingteaching kids about recycling in schools in the late 1960s, with a recycling center opening in 1971 for household drop off; curbside household pickup started six or seven years later.

  10. EnviableOne Silver badge

    I thought we were behind

    My 70Mb VDSL FTTC is starting to sound excelent, and virgin media (now owned by liberty global's) 200Mb DOCSIS 3.0 over Coax is positively immense.

    I thought good old Blighty was behind the US.

    Mind you there are still the backwaters on a piece of string (DSL over Alu) that can only get 250kbps to stay stable.

    There are however susidies for speeding up rural areas, and a rumour of A Universal Service Obligation of 10Mb

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