After a period of hiatus, and given the recent news about Google Fiber not actually riding to our rescue, it is time again to think about how to make our telecommunications landscape in Portland more favorable to to the user. If you want to help, please contact us.
At 2 p.m. on September 14, the Portland City Council will consider adoption of a Broadband Strategic Plan (Resolution 974). The plan has been prepared over the last year by the Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management. Wednesday will be an opportunity for people to testify to City Council about the plan prior to the vote on adoption. If you care about the poor state of Broadband availability, capacity and pricing in Portland, if you hope someday to be rescued from the mire of mediocrity and monopoly abuse, please consider taking action, by attending this session and letting City Council know how vital it is to solve these problems. Testimony can be 3 minutes, there is a sign up sheet by the door to Council Chambers before the session (see the official rules).
This evening, the Personal Telco Project has posted its comments on the July draft of the City of Portland’s Broadband Strategic Plan. The comments are in the form of a 5 page memo, responding to material on the various pages of the draft plan. To understand the comments in context, you will need to read the draft and the comments side-by-side.
From Mary Beth Henry, Deputy Director of the office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management with the City of Portland:
You are welcome to attend the upcoming City Council Work Session on Portland’s draft Broadband Strategic Plan: Connecting to our Future on July 26, 2011 at 9:30 am in Council Chambers, City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Avenue, Portland. The session will feature Anthony Townsend, co-author of The Future of Cities, Information and Inclusion http://member.iftf.org/user/20 and Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist http://caseorganic.com/about among other speakers. The agenda and speakers biographies can be found at http://www.portlandonline.com/cable/index.cfm?c=55322. The session will stream live on cable CityNet 30 http://www.portlandonline.com/index.cfm?c=28262&a=230361. Thanks!
The Mississippi Street Fair is tomorrow (July 9, 2011), and once again Personal Telco Project is going to have a booth. This year, we are planning to use the opportunity to talk to the 30 thousand visitors about what an open-access fiber network could look like in Portland. We could use some help! If you’ve been reading this blog or have seen me talk at Ignite Portland 5, or PDX11 or OpenSourceBridge, please consider taking this golden opportunity to volunteer a few hours to help spread this message to the general public where it can do some good.
Benoit Felten brings to our attention that Hong Kong has recently dropped its price for 1Gbps fiber service to $26/month. The price for 100Mbps service as of November is $13/month.
Yesterday, Michael Weinberg was interviewed on the pdx.fm show PDX Gen-Y by Bret Bernhoft about the importance of Google Fiber and Portland Fiber in general. Michael does a great job of explaining why open-access freedom and high capacity are so important to the future of Portlanders. Worth a listen.
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.
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.
So far, Sheldon, Ward, Crystal and David have told us why they want open-access, community fiber. We’ll be posting more videos, soon, but right now, tell us why you want fiber.
I want fiber, in part, because I don’t have Cable or Satellite TV, I don’t have a DVR and I don’t subscribe to Netflix. If I’m not home to watch something when it’s broadcast, I use the Internet to watch it (legally). Sometimes this works great, and other times it’s slow and unreliable. Sometimes (like with the Olympics) I couldn’t even get the broadcast, because I was not on an approved ISP.
I see open-access fiber as a way of leveling the playing field, so that content creators can provide their content directly to consumers. This will improve the experience for consumers, and also open up the door to new content creators who can take advantage of dealing directly with their audience.
Why do you want fiber?