Wireless Cowboys – The Book!

It is still in progress, but I finally broke the six months of writers block and got in a solid three hours of writing tonight to catch up with the book timeline and fill in a few things I had bypassed.

Just to show that I have actually written something, here is an excerpt. Thanks for reading!

Wireless Cowboys Chapter 4: Wireless Pioneers

I was late.

It was 7:15am on Saturday morning, when my phone rang. Groggy and tired from being out until 3am at a band gig the night before, I picked up the phone. Monique Ellert, a very sharp co-worker who had been accompanying me on sales visits around the region, was on the line.

“I am sitting here at the Log Cabin with Gordie, and we are wondering if you are planning to join us.”

I had completely blown off the meeting. Thankfully, I had asked Monique to come along and she was making up for my failures at the moment.

“Tell him I will get there as soon as I can.”

I threw on some clothes, jumped in the car and headed for town.

The Log Cabin is a rustic, old-school restaurant, located in Gering, Nebraska, sitting astride the original Oregon Trail. The scene that morning was a typical Saturday morning at any rural gathering spot. Farmers and ranchers were sitting at their tables drinking black coffee, talking about the weather and poking at greasy portions of breakfast food.

I walked in about 7:45 and spotted Gordie and Monique. Gordie Wilkins was a big man, slightly red-faced and gregarious with a big smile and a welcoming demeanor. Monique was at the table with him, the picture of sharp professionalism, with her hair pulled back and a look of disdain on her face when she saw my condition.

I was a wreck. I was wearing wrinkled clothes picked up off the floor, my hair was an unruly mop and I smelled like a combination of stale beer and cigarettes. I had a splitting headache and sad-sack attitude to go along with my disheveled appearance. As I sat down and took off my battered black leather jacket, Gordie chuckled and made light of my sad condition. I grabbed a cup of coffee and did my best to pull things together.

The meeting was in late 1999, and I was not in a good place. I felt like I was on the wrong side of several trends. Our base of dialup customers was still growing, but the growth rate had tapered off as Sprint and Qwest started to turn up DSL service in our service areas. We did have a few DSL customers in three towns in our service area, but Qwest blocked us from their territory and Sprint had recently sent me notice that they were going to disconnect the copper circuits we had been using to deliver DSL service. Their prices for DSL also looked like a death sentence for dialup. Not very many people were going to want to spend $50/month for a phone line and $20/month for a 56kbs dialup account when they could get 384kbps DSL for the same price. What had started out as a great relationship between the ISPs and telephone companies was about to take a big turn against the ISPs, and my business was in a bad position.

I went through my litany of problems for a while until Gordie stopped me. He told us about a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer and only had a short time to live. From that perspective, my problems didn’t seem like very much to worry about. “Your problems can be solved,” he said and that finally brought me out of my self-induced pity party. I stopped complaining and talking about my problems and started to ask him questions.

Gordie had been referred to me as someone who knew a lot about wireless technology, long range microwave connections in particular. He was a microwave tech at KN Energy, an energy company that maintained a massive gas pipeline structure across the Western United States. In addition to their pipelines, they also had a very sophisticated telecommunications network that ran on microwave connections and was not dependent on wireline or cellular telephone networks. Early on, KN had approached the phone companies to deliver 56k and T1 facilities to their pipeline stations, but the cost of lines to the remote locations was very high and the service was so unreliable that KN made the decision to build their own network.

KN had microwave towers at many of their pipeline stations and at strategic points between stations, and the segment that passed through Gering ended up in Casper, Wyoming on one side and Denver on the other. Typically the towers were 25-30 miles apart, as going longer distances made it harder to maintain a reliable connection. Gordie was an old-timer, a veteran who had been taking care of the systems since they first came online, climbing towers when needed and doing the repair work and equipment swaps as needed to keep the network operational.

KN was also partnered up with Metricom to offer the Ricochet wireless service. Although the consumer side of the Ricochet system was appealing and inexpensive, the back end technology was cumbersome and costly, funneling all user traffic back through a series of gateways and backbone connections to a single access gateway in Silicon Valley. For all of its limitations, the Ricochet system was pretty cool and people in Western Nebraska liked it. It made me think that maybe there was another way to use wireless to deliver Internet to end users. The phone companies were going to take away our ability to offer DSL and it was a matter of time before they took away our dialup customers. Was there a way to bypass the phone companies and offer something affordable and fast enough to compete with DSL?

In my desperation to find something other than DSL that could deliver high speed Internet to our customers, I had come across the ISP-Wireless mailing list, which was populated by people who were experimenting with wireless Internet. On a whim, I called one of the most active in the group, a fellow by the name of Marlon Schaefer, and asked him a few questions. He basically said to get some equipment and try it out and recommended a vendor called Teletronics. A couple of weeks before the meeting with Gordie, I had received a box that contained a 2.4ghz 802.11 access point, a couple of PCMCIA wireless cards an omni antenna and a grid antenna. I set it up and it was pretty cool to connect up to my network at 1Mbps speeds without a wire, but my excitement was short lived. I left the building with my laptop and wireless card to see how far away I could get and the signal was gone once I got a few feet outside of the building. I just couldn’t see how I could build a business model around this technology. I was frustrated, and that is why I had setup this meeting with Gordie in the first place.

Monique gave me a couple of Excedrin and I started to feel better. We finished up breakfast and went to my office to look at the equipment and draw on the white board. Gordie gave me a very basic primer on how microwave works, and Monique and I started to sketch out some ideas on how we might be able to use this technology to deliver high speed Internet to our customers.

It’s The Most Downloaded Day of The Year!

Over the last twenty years of working with Internet and related networks, I have observed many different usage patterns along with some interesting shifts in how people utilize their Internet connections. There are many peaks and valleys during the days and throughout the week, and one day of the year stands above all the rest when it comes to Internet usage. Here are some of my observations and a little bit of insight into what the future holds for Internet usage.

Back in the days of dialup Internet, the most important factor to look at for an Internet Service Provider was the number of modems available for each customer. The ratio of modems per customer was called the oversubscription ratio. On average, a good Internet provider would have five customers for each phone line. This worked because not everyone used Internet all of the time, and it helped to keep the cost of Internet subscriptions down. Typically, there were plenty of open modems until about 5pm. When people got home, they would get online between 7 and 10pm to use the Internet. This is called peak usage time. As the Internet became more popular and people spent more time online, the providers had to install more phone lines so that customers would not get busy signals during peak usage times.

Weather also plays a part in Internet usage. During the winter, people spend more time inside using their computer and Internet connection. On snow days, when kids are often home from school, Internet usage goes up even more. During the spring and summer, people spend less time on their computers and more time doing things outdoors.

Over time, dialup was replaced by broadband connections through cable, dsl, fiber and wireless. Broadband is always connected, and the oversubscription ratio shifted from the number of modems to the amount of bandwidth available for each user. Ten years ago, an oversubscription ratio of 10:1 was acceptable. This meant that for every one megabyte of capacity available, the provider could sell ten megabytes worth of connectivity. Between downloading webpages and emails, the Internet connection would sit empty. The peak usage timing was very similar to dialup, with the most usage happening between 7pm and 11pm. The busiest days of the week were Sunday through Wednesday, with less usage on Thursday through Saturday as people spent more time doing other things during the weekend.

Over the last few years, the growing popularity of online video services like Netflix has forced major changes in how Internet providers build their networks. Video uses the entire Internet connection and stays connected for a long time. Average data usage has skyrocketed and is on pace to double every twelve months. Our target oversubscription ratio is now 4:1 or less. The shift from TV time to Internet video time in manyFather-Christmas-using-a--001 households has also shifted peak usage. Peak hours run from 4pm to midnight, and Friday through Monday nights are now the peak days.

The longest day of the year for Internet providers is Christmas Day. This is the day when the Internet hits the highest traffic point of the year. Christmas Day is the perfect storm of Internet usage – cold weather, kids are home from school, there is nothing to watch on TV and the house is full of new electronic devices and video games that need to download updates from the Internet. The usage peak from Christmas typically isn’t seen again for a few months, but it serves as the measuring point for how well a network handles heavy loads.

All of us at Vistabeam send you wishes for a great Holiday Season!

Fever for the Fiber!

When it comes to broadband access, there is a “fever for fiber” that has been overwhelming all other types of Internet access. Lately it seems that fiber networks make headline news for providing 1 Gigabit or even 10 Gigabit speed services to customers inside of their footprint. Near Ceresco, Nebraska, a farmer paid over $40,000 just to get a fiber connection to his farm – a perceived bargain compared to the $380,000+ that another phone company was going to charge him. What is the drive behind all of this?

There is no doubt that fiber optic networks have a tremendous amount of capacity and are the logical choice when it comes to delivering broadband in densely populated areas. But the story changes considerably when it comes to sparsely populated and rural areas. In a densely populated area, it typically costs $2000 to $3000 per location to install fiber. In rural areas, the average cost jumps to $6000 per location and can even jump into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the example near Ceresco illustrates. Even with the fiber installed, the cost of service and speeds offered are comparable to those available through wireless and cable networks that cost as little as $300 per location to bring online. Why spend 20 times as much money on a fiber network when other alternatives can provide the same utility?

Some of the biggest drivers behind fiber networks are companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook that sell services that work better with higher speed connections. Many new applications are “moving to the cloud” – which means that your files no longer live on your home computer or devices, they are in data centers and server farms. When your files live in the cloud, the only way to access them is through a high speed connection, and the higher the speed the better. Having high capacity, bidirectional network connectivity is critical for the operation of cloud based computing, and that is part of the motivation Google has for implementing Google Fiber and prodding service providers to deliver more fiber and higher speeds to end users.

Another reason for the focus on fiber is because it plays into the strengths of many of the established network providers, especially in rural areas. Fiber is expensive, so companies that install fiber in rural areas are heavily subsidized through government programs, and those subsidies are designed to only support one recipient in a service area. Subsidization and very high take rates among potential customers are needed to keep rural fiber networks sustainable, and leads to a monopoly on Internet service for the local phone company in many rural areas. Many alternative providers are able to maintain sustainable business models in rural areas without subsidies or high take rates and provide badly needed competition but they are typically not using fiber.

Where fiber really shines is in the delivery of high capacity connections that can be used as the backbone for other networks. A gigabit of Internet connectivity can support hundreds or thousands of end users and tens of thousands of small data collection devices. The proliferation of agricultural devices that will need constant connectivity will grow exponentially over the next few years, but nearly all of these devices will connect wirelessly – not through a fiber network. Right now, the best use of fiber in rural areas is as backbone for wireless networks that deliver the blanket of connectivity needed for remote data collection and delivery to rural homes.

Fiber and wireless networks will provide connectivity for many years to come. The “fever for fiber” is raging hot right now, but the prescription calls for fiber in core areas, and utilization with fixed and mobile wireless networks to deliver the ubiquitous connectivity rural areas need now.

BITAG Report on Differentiated Treatment of Internet Traffic

Hi all,

A few years ago, I was invited to serve on BITAG – the Broadband Infrastructure Technology Advisory Group. BITAG (www.bitag.org) is a group of engineers from multiple technology companies, carriers, public interest groups and educational institutions. The primary purpose of BITAG is to produce very detailed documents about complex issues in broadband that can then be used to educate policy makers about technical considerations.

BITAG released its latest report on “Differentiated Treatment of Internet Traffic”, which goes into intense detail on how network traffic differentiation works and what its impacts are on network performance and management. Here is a link to the report:


Pages 20 and 21 focus on Fixed Wireless Network Architecture, and as I am the only WISP in the group, it was the portion I was asked to focus on. It is short, but I think it does a good job of describing how WISP networks are put together and the impact differentiation can have on their performance. Members of this list are intimately familiar with how our networks are built, but our methods of deployment are far outside what is considered to be the common practice. This is the first time that a BITAG paper has had a section referring to WISPs, and I am very happy that we were able to get equal billing with all of the other forms of broadband access.

There is a lot of good material in here. To be honest, a lot of it is over my head, but I learned in the process of putting this document together and you will too if you take some time to read it.

BTW, special thanks go to WISPA for helping sponsor my participation in BITAG.

Connected Everything – The Internet of Things

(Note:  I am writing a column for a local newsletter about technology, and decided to share what I write on the blog.   This is one of the first columns. – Matt)

The Internet of Things (IOT) is one of the fastest growing trends in technology right now. Put simply, IOT is connectivity for nearly device imaginable and the giant collection of data gathered from all of these devices. Two things have combined to make the Internet of Things possible – inexpensive devices with wifi capability and sensors built into them and widespread Internet connectivity.

One of the common examples of an IOT devices is a programmable thermostat like the Nest, that enables the user to put together a program that optimizes the temperature within their house, turn it up and down remotely and also track those temperatures over time. I have a home scale that is connected to the wireless access point in my house. Every time I step on it, it collects my weight and BMI and uploads it to a server on the Internet. Using an app on my smartphone, I can track those two numbers over time to determine the ineffectiveness of my diet and exercise plan and try to motivate myself to do better.

Smartphones are another example of IOT. Smartphones are constantly collecting data about location, apps used and websites visited, then uploading it to your service provider, phone manufacturer, operating system provider (Google for Android phones and Apple for iPhones) or the app vendor. Location tracking of phones was originally intended for 911 location of phones in emergencies, but it is now used by applications like Google Maps to determine traffic congestion and in many other programs to feed advertising to the phone user based on the user’s location and travel patterns. This data is also collected and sold to companies that use it for market analysis or research. Collection of this data is embedded in smartphones, and the only way to prevent it from being collected is to turn the phone off.

When it comes to agriculture, the Internet of Things holds tremendous potential. Farm equipment is using this type of functionality to notify owners about system problems, service intervals and recalls or upgrades available. GPS enabled “smart” tractors combine geolocation and soil data to optimize planting and fertilizer application. Connected security systems and cameras can be used to monitor remote locations and check crop progress. Small, connected sensors gathering information about rainfall, soil temperatures, humidity, ph and many other data points can be utilized to put together optimal growing profiles for fertilizer application, irrigation planning and determining the best time to plant or harvest. Agriculture is primed for an information overhaul, helping farmers and ranchers optimize their productivity and be more efficient with their resources.

The capabilities of IOT are also enabling more efficient use and tracking of natural resources. My company, Vistabeam, is working on a project with the North Platte Natural Resources District to collect information on water consumption in Western Nebraska. Currently, NPNRD collects water consumption data once a year by sending employees into the field to read water meters. It takes a considerable amount of time and manpower to read over 2000 meters and this only provides one data point over 12 months. Under the new project, smart meters are installed at the wells and upload several times a day to servers through the Vistabeam network. This allows the NRD to track water consumption data on a daily basis and they are developing apps that will allow producers to track this same data to use for irrigation planning. Tracking this data will enable the NRD and agricultural users to be more efficient users of water and can serve as the basis for improved agricultural practices in the future.

Internet of Things is just beginning to gain popularity, and it has a tremendous amount of potential to impact how we live and work, even in our rural, agricultural areas.

All Hail the Feudal Lords of our Data

A recent article by Bruce Schneier outlined many of the issues that have been bothering me about the relationships that we have with the companies that build and develop our smartphones, tablets, online applications and operating systems.

I don’t have any Apple devices, but I spend much of my day using Google/Android, Windows and Facebook systems and Amazon makes regular deliveries to my office.   The relationships between these entities probably look magical to some people, but scare the heck out of me.   I changed my Facebook profile/background picture the other day, and was greeted the next morning with those pictures staring out at me from three different Windows 8 computers when I went to login.   A Google search for recommended modifications for my crapcan Acura racecar that was bought at an impound auction turned into a barrage of car ads for the new Acura TLX on nearly every website I went to for the next ten days.   Facebook has become nearly useless for anything beyond filling leftover time, as it pumps out the “optimal” news stories and ads to appeal to my demographic profile while the updates and news from my thoughtful friends gets crowded out by wingnuttery and hysterical evangelical propaganda.

My least favorite relationship is the one between my smartphone, my tablet and Google/app developers.  I tried to fight with Android over user permissions but finally just gave up.   Two different apps that let me establish at least partial control over what apps had access to hardware on the phone (location, cameras, microphones and such) just quit working and caused my tablet to randomly reboot until I finally deinstalled them.  If a nutjob employee at Facebook, Twitter, Google or one of many other app developers that asked for access to camera/microphone/contact list/location information/etc during app installation wanted to listen to my conversations, watch me through my cameras, download my contact lists or track my comings and goings through the location features, they can do it and I don’t have any control over it!    No one is interested in me, but I would be scared if I were a celebrity.  I finally resorted to putting a piece of tape over the camera and shutting off location services manually on a regular basis, until some app asks for them again and the dance starts all over.   The lack of granular user control over data sharing and access to hardware features, combined with the insidious way that apps request access and then refuse to work if you don’t grant everything they ask for is disturbing to me at the most basic level.    It might be time for the same kind of warning labels for smartphones that you see on cigarettes:

Attorney General’s Warning:   By using this Android device, you agree to let all installed apps, Google and your service provider access your cameras, microphones, location information, passwords, pictures, documents, text messages and anything else that they feel like any time they want without your knowledge.

In the interest of fairness, Apple and Microsoft are not much better – they might even be worse in some ways – I just have a lot more direct experience with Android.

The thing that worries me the most is the loss of independence and resiliency that these feudal systems are encouraging.   Many small ISPs, enterprises, school systems and government entities have outsourced their IT needs to Google or Microsoft.   Data that used to be on a hard drive in the back room, tended to by a local employee is now out there “in the cloud” somewhere.    It is the WalMart-ization of data – one job at the corporate headquarters killed off a hundred sysadmin jobs and the gravity of the cloud continues to draw power, capacity and influence inward from the edges toward a monolithic center under the guise of efficiency and cost savings.   All it cost was local self-determinism and independence.

All hail our feudal masters!

LTE-U and Harm Claim Thresholds

There will be more to come from me on this subject, a lot more.

For right now, here a link to today’s ISP Radio show where I appeared with Jack Unger to talk about the potential impact of LTE-Unlicensed on WISPs and a new spectrum policy concept called Harm Claim Thresholds that could change the way WISPs utilize spectrum.


(Just click on the archive link and download the December 11, 2014 show link.)


Starving the Beast

The best way to deal with bad behavior is to stop paying the players who are either not delivering what you want or are treating you poorly and either support the ones who are doing a better job or start your own.

My own personal example is the way that the independent ISPs were treated by the phone/cable companies.   I was front and center at that bloodbath, watching my DSL margins and customers taken away when the telcos decided to wipe out competition in DSL.    The independent providers were forced into little niches and the bigger ones consolidated or were wiped out when they couldn’t compete.   All the “regulation” in the world was not enough to save the CLECs and independent ISPs, and more regulation will have the same result – it won’t help.    Net Neutrality advocacy is a crybaby tactic – we want our open Internet WAAAHHH!!! – and expecting government regulation to resolve the problem is a delusion shared by many smart and otherwise thoughtful people who think that government has the power to make a difference on this subject.

The big players are better at gaming the system, so the best way to deal with it is to play a different game.    The way to kill the beast is to starve the beast.   Take the money out of the system.   Instead of whining about how they treat you, punch them right in the face!

When I started my WISP in 2004, I made a conscious effort to completely avoid any long term contracts or dependencies on the telcos.   Even when it meant building 120 miles worth of microwave backhaul to break out of a telco “hostage situation”, or watching a customer base of 800 in one area dwindle down to 100 over 18 months.   Putting in the extra work to build my own infrastructure and keep revenues in house limited my gross revenue potential but meant that my margins were higher and that I was no longer dependent on companies that wanted to see me fail.   Within 12 months, I was making more net revenue from 100 customers on my own fixed wireless infrastructure than I made with 800 customers on dialup and DSL over telco copper.

So lets do a little thought exercise.   There are about 3 million WISP customers in the US.  Average customer revenue per month is about $50.    That is $150 million dollars a month taken out of the pockets of the telcos/cablecos.    That is $1.8 billion a year.   WISPA coordinated lobbying efforts in 2012 took $55 million in CAF funding out of the pockets of CenturyLink alone.   Now CenturyLink is targeting WISPs not because we are taking their customers (been doing that for years) but because their government funding is at risk.

I relish every opportunity I get to take money away from the telcos after what they did to me and so many of my colleagues.  Helping create a trade association and being part of an industry that is taking BILLIONS of dollars away from the telcos makes me very proud.

I Don’t Need a Gigabit at Home and Neither Do You

All of the discussions about “Gigabit Internet” and coming up with uses for it focuses too much on the American obsession with “bigger, faster, moar!” while obscuring what I feel are the more important issues of accessibility, affordability, choice of provider, freedom from data exploitation and dependency on the cloud.   To wit….

Accessibility – The most important element of networking is accessibility to the network.   Gigabit networks do nothing to resolve this, and draw focus away from the bigger issue of accessibility for people and businesses in places that have limited or no access.    100% accessibility to reliable 5meg connections has more ultimate utility than even 50% access to gigabit.   The power, utility and benefit to society of networks increases with the number of connected nodes and persons on the network.    There is too much focus on the magical quest for a Holy Grail of networks for the few blessed souls to drink from when the more important need is cups of clean water for everyone to drink from.

Affordability – This point refers to affordability on both sides of the provider/consumer equation.  The focus on Gigabit-capable networks effectively excludes all current non-fiber broadband delivery systems and forces a provider to have set of deployment skills, capital requirements and political relationships that are very difficult to put together unless many compromises are made along the way.   Nearly every fiber deployment model requires a per-connection threshold of $100/month of revenue to cash flow and a take rate greater than 50%.    The networks that don’t meet this requirement end up being dependent on outside capital (investment or Google Bucks) or government subsidy/support to remain viable.   Consumers are looking for the cheapest price possible, but the telecoms have gamed the system to make consumers think they are paying less, when in reality they are paying more through taxes, bundles of services that they don’t need or allowing outside parties to monitor their traffic and behavior.   What is the REAL cost of an economically sustainable, non-government funded, unencumbered with data mining Gigabit fiber broadband connection?  Would consumers actually pay that price?   Those are two questions that desperately need to be answered to get a true perspective.

Choice of Provider – Without competition there is stagnation, rent seeking, abuse of power and entropy.    The common thought is that once fiber is installed to an area, that is the end game so all of our efforts should be to get fiber to every household/business/teepee/mud hut in the world, as fast as we can and no matter what it costs.    But those costs are high, and there are very useful alternatives that are equally capable (for nearly all practical purposes) and cost a fraction as much to deploy or have already been deployed.   Let those alternatives be deployed, and let the consumer make the choice.   The focus on gigabit obscures choice, and draws attention away from more affordable and sustainable methodologies that can make a bigger difference and provide choice for the end user.   If we had more choice, we also would not have the issues that we have with Net Neutrality.   If you don’t like how your ISP treats you, switch!   Broadband doesn’t have to be a universal human right, but every person should have the ability to stop sending money to a bad provider in favor of one that works better for them.

Freedom from Data Exploitation – Online usage, browsing habits, location data and product purchasing information is already being monitored to a disturbing degree.    Cell phones are constantly collecting information and feeding it to corporate data analysis engines, but the terms of this monitoring and tracking is a given – a necessary trade off for most people who are unwilling to forego the functionality and services offered on modern smart phones.    Google Fiber has the ability to take this data mining to a completely different level.   Google will have the ability to track every single packet of data that goes through its network and control over the devices in the home used to deliver that service.   How intrusive can data-mining become?   There are already disturbing hints of what we can expect in the future.   My grandmother has a funny picture of myself, my sister and a cousin playing in our underwear in a mud puddle when I was 5 years old.   If someone were to take that picture today with a smart phone, there is a risk that image recognition software could consider this to be child abuse/pron and flag the user.   That is the tip of the iceberg, and gives no consideration for the other potential abuses of granular data collection that will be taking place on monitored networks.   This is part of the hidden cost of Google Fiber or the mobile broadband networks, and is implicit in their utilization.   Users should be able to recover some of their privacy.   The right to monitor personal data at the granular level should not be built into our networks.

Dependency on the Cloud – Gigabit fiber networks are also being pushed because they are the keys to “The Cloud” being ubiquitously available.   Companies like Google, Amazon, Neflix, et. al. want to see Gigabit connectivity to every household because it makes their business models work better.    Google Fiber is optimized to provide the user with the best possible experience for using Google services, and those services are dependent on the connection back to their server resources.   Is it just me or does this sound like the mainframe mindset coming back around again?   Before personal computers, there were single purpose connections back to centralized computer resources.   The PC broke that stranglehold and moved computing power back out to the edge, unleashing a torrent of innovation.    Now we have super powerful pocket computers that are basically a tiny warm brick if they are not connected to “the Cloud” and the desire for instantaneous streaming of video and offsite data storage for photos and videos has pushed broadband networks to the limit, especially at peak usage times.    The independence of the personal computer era is being replaced with dependencies, closed models and congested networks.    When it comes to suitability of purpose, a 10meg connection is just as good as a gigabit connection for nearly all practical purposes.   I have a gigabit connection at my office and a 10meg connection at home.   I use the 10meg connection more and see little or no difference between the two.   But I also do try to maintain my own “cloud” of information that does not live on someone else’s servers – it lives on my own hardware and access to it is not controlled by any outside party or scanned and monitored for behavioral data or advertising purposes.    10meg works just fine for streaming Netflix, Youtube and the like even when three family members are using it at the same time.    I do video conferencing, sizable uploads and downloads and I work from home a lot.     Everyone wants a gigabit connection for $40/month, but not very many are going to be willing to pay $4000/month.

Where do we need gigabit connections?   They work great for feeding alternate providers like WISPs and small fiber carriers.   The gigabit connection at my office is used to provide service to 2000+ customers of my wireless broadband business and rarely gets over 50% utilization even at peak hours.   It also costs over $4000/month, but it is unencumbered by overprovisioning, is not data mined at the subscriber level and is not government subsidized.    It allows me to build a sustainable network that provides 10Meg or better speeds to a huge rural area that covers three states without a need for constant government support or massive influxes of outside cash into the business.   I can provide a CHOICE for the people in my coverage area, and the business I get is because of the quality of the product that I provide instead of the quality of my political connections or ability to milk our regulatory system.

There will be a time when it will make sense to have a gigabit fiber connection to every possible location, but that time is not now, and the price is not right.   Our progress as a society and future as a species is not dependent on big pipes.   There is nothing wrong with dreaming on ideas, but the most powerful dreams and concepts are the ones that are inclusive and provide opportunities for everyone and not just a chosen few.

Writing Time…

As you can tell from the sparseness of my posts here, I have not been devoting a lot of time to writing.   Like many WISPs, my business is evolving rapidly and there has been a constant cycle of equipment upgrades and repairs, far too much winter weather for my tastes and all of the other assorted trials and tribulations that small businesses face.   However, I have finally reached a point where I feel like I can take some time off and work on other things, so I am going to tackle something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I am writing a book about Wireless Internet Service Providers.

I am going to tell the story about how I became a WISP, the people I have met along the way, the amazing things that WISPs have done and what I think the future holds.   I have not written anything over about 20 pages and my college journalism classes are a distant memory, but I am going to get on with it and see how far I can get.   I will most likely share a few excerpts here and I would certainly welcome stories from others that are in the WISP business.

I appreciate everyone who has been reading this and am looking forward to this new project!