All posts by Michael Weinberg

Statements Before City Council

Below are statements presented to Portland City Council regarding the resolution to respond to Google’s Fiber for Communities RFI.

Russell Senior, President of Personal Telco Project:

I am Russell Senior, currently the President of the Personal Telco Project, a volunteer-based non-profit here in Portland. I am speaking in support of the resolution.

Personal Telco is best known today for its free wifi hotspots. Approximately 30,000 people used networks we managed last year, nearly 10,000 unique users every month. We have built many networks, including at Pioneer Courthouse Square, and a neighborhood-scale network along North Mississippi Avenue. There are about 100 Personal Telco wifi networks in Portland today, providing Internet access free-to-the-end-user. Early work by Personal Telco helped to create the expectation that wifi hotspot networks should be free, which is the norm in Portland today.

However, the Personal Telco Project really began 10 years ago, not because we were inherently wifi geeks, but in response to our perception of fundamental flaws in our telecommunications. We are acutely aware that today bandwidth is too costly and too limited in speed, availability, and freedom. In fact, our original goal was to build our own network, because the incumbents were failing to meet our needs.
Personal Telco Project supports an open-access fiber network in Portland. We support the City’s application to Google to help build it. Google understands innovation and what is required for innovation to flourish.

However, it is important for Portland citizens to have an open-access fiber-to-the-premises network even if Google ultimately chooses to build somewhere else.

I believe that public ownership of the last-mile infrastructure is the easiest, fairest and best way to get the freedom and price advantages that our citizens want and need. Most for-profit partners are going to want to exercise control over the way people are allowed to use the network in order to maximize their profit, charging extra for arbitrarily different services.

We don’t manage our streets like that, we should not be managing our communications infrastructure that way either. Imagine if Chrysler got to decide what cars you were allowed to drive on their streets, or where you could stop to shop.

In the hands of private for-profit carriers, we can expect increasingly intrusive “network management” as they seek to wring the last drops of money from the advantage their ownership and control of the infrastructure affords. Access to faster internet threatens incumbents’ existing businesses, so they have a incentive to be miserly.

For what most Portlanders pay Comcast for three years of Internet service, we could build fiber to their house, and then we’d own it and we wouldn’t need to worry that our freedom was preventing the carrier from making more profit. A hundred years ago, Portland made a wise investment in a public water system that we are rightfully proud of. In another hundred years, let’s hope that citizens then can say the same of us.

Thank you.

Michael Weinberg, Organizing Volunteer, Portland Community Fiber Initiative:

My name is Michael Weinberg. I am a past president of the Personal Telco Project and an organizing volunteer behind the Portland Community Fiber initiative. I am here to urge a yes vote on the resolution to respond to Google’s Fiber for Communities RFI.

Thanks to the excellent work of David Olson, Mary Beth Henry and the Office of Cable Franchise Management, along with your staffs, especially Brendan Finn, we know many of the benefits open-access fiber will create. However, like many innovations made possible by the Internet, there are countless ideas that won’t be imagined, let alone realized, until a high speed, open network is built and available to tomorrow’s innovators.

Today, you will vote on one opportunity to bring open-access fiber to our city. But regardless of Google’s decision, we need open-access fiber for the future of Portland’s technology, business and creative communities. If the time comes when we must decide to do for ourselves or do without, it is imperative that our leaders take the bold step to build one of the best communications networks in the world. I believe that the citizens of Portland are ready to be partners in creating open-access, community fiber.

The Internet is a rare experiment in government created infrastructure that fosters an unfettered, free market of ideas and information. Let us preserve and protect it from corporations who would control or restrict access to it, by building a network that ensures free access for us, and for generations to come. Thank you.

City Council Resolution on Google Fiber

Mary Beth Henry, Deputy Director of the Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management, sent us this message about tomorrow’s city council meeting:

Just a reminder about the Google Resolution at the upcoming Portland City Council meeting on Wednesday March 17 at 10:30 am. It would be great if testimony reflected the wide variety of creative’s in Portland.

Testimony is up to three minutes and you can sign up just outside the Council Chambers beginning at 9:30. The Council meetings are streamed live and on cable channel 30. This is your opportunity to talk, sing, dance etc. in your own way about why Google should select Portland. Thanks!

Because this is a “time certain” resolution, you won’t have to hang out for hours if you want to comment, or just watch the discussion. Having a packed chambers for resolutions like this helps solidify the resolve of council members, so please make a point of coming, and remember to be green for fiber.

If you’d like to read the resolution ahead of time, it’s available here.

Wednesday, March 17th, Be Green for Fiber

Many of us probably already planned to wear green tomorrow, but, this year, please join me in being “Green for Fiber.”

There are a lot of reasons to be green for fiber:

1. High speed networks make telecommuting possible, saving emissions caused by daily commutes.

2. Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day keeps you from getting pinched. Open-access, community fiber will keep you from getting pinched by ISP bandwidth caps and protocol blocking.

3. High speed networks will encourage new business development, meaning more green in our city.

4. We’re green with envy at cities that already enjoy speeds of 50-100Mbps, and we want them to envy our 1Gbit service.

Whatever your reason, on March 17th, 2010, join me in being green for fiber!