Thursday, May 22, 2008

New OECD Broadband stats - Canada continues to drop

[The latest OECD broadband stats are now available with some very interesting analysis of issues related to future FTTh networks. Canada used to be to number 2 in the OECD broadband standings. It is now number 10. The CBC report provides a good summary of how Canada continues to lose its broadband edge which should be an important lesson to other countries looking at the challenges of national broadband. Some excerpts from OECD and CBC reports. Thanks to Sandy Liu for the CBC pointer--BSA]

Latest OECD Broadband standings main findings full report

The report notes that:

• Governments need to promote competition and give consumers more choices. They should encourage new networks, particularly upgrades to fibre-optic lines.

• Governments providing money to fund broadband rollouts should avoid creating new monopolies. Any new infrastructure built using government funds should be open access – meaning that access to that network is provided on non-discriminatory terms to other market participants.

The regulation of new broadband connections using fibre to the end user will likely be the subject of considerable debate in the next few years. The pressing question is whether fibre optic cables extending to homes, buildings and street curbs should be regulated in the same way as traditional copper telephone lines. As new fibre connections may fall outside existing regulatory frameworks, a re-evaluation of existing policies may be required. Regulators should consider whether network architectures still relying on portions of the historical copper telephone infrastructure should be treated differently from new all-fibre networks.

· Regulators and policy makers are increasingly concerned about fostering competition on next-generation broadband networks. Some are examining the functional separation of the dominant telecommunication provider into two units, one which handles the physical lines and the other which provides retail services over the lines as a way to ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to “last mile” infrastructure. The results of functional separation, particularly on investment, are still far from certain and warrant significant research. Regulators should actively consider other policy options at the same time, which may provide similar outcomes – such as requiring operators to share the internal wiring in buildings.

Governments need to actively look for ways to encourage investment in infrastructure. Civil costs (e.g. building roads, obtaining rights of way) are among the largest entry and investment barriers facing telecommunication firms. Governments should take steps to improve access to passive infrastructure (conduit, poles, and ducts) and co-ordinate civil works as an effective way to encourage investment. Access to rights-of-way should be fair and non-discriminatory. Governments should also encourage and promote the installation of open-access, passive infrastructure any time they undertake public works.

Governments should not prohibit municipalities or utilities from entering telecommunication markets. However, if there are concerns about market distortion, policy makers could limit municipal participation to only basic elements (e.g. the provision of dark fibre networks under open access rules).

Maintaining a level-playing field and reducing anti-competitive practices in the face of high network effects and to promote consumer choice is crucial, i.e. in particular considering the increased use of walled garden approaches, as well as cross-industry mergers and acquisitions. With problems such as vertical integration, lock-in of consumers in certain standards, and poor access to certain content, an environment of contestable markets should be created where small and innovative players can compete. Further analysis of recent trends and impacts of concentration is also needed. When necessary, anti-trust and other policies have the means to restore competition. · It will be crucial to monitor and analyse the new market structures of broadband software, service and content providers in the next few years. Governments have a lot of experience when it comes to ensuring efficient telecommunications markets. However, when it comes to broadband applications, services, software and content, this is mostly new territory. It is important in the coming years that policy makers understand the impacts of new broadband market structures and question whether current policy approaches for ensuring competition actually work.

Governments must intensify efforts to ensure there is sufficient R&D in the field of ICT, so that the economic, social and cultural effectiveness of broadband is guaranteed. The role of government and business in basic R&D may have to be reaffirmed. Any government neglect in this area should be monitored as well as examples of inadequate policy co-ordination, with the aim of increasing the efficiency of broadband-related R&D.

· Strengthening broadband research networks (grids), and facilitating international co-operation through such networks and collaborative research should be a policy priority.

* Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Korea and Sweden lead the OECD with broadband penetration well above the OECD average, each surpassing the 30 subscribers per 100 inhabitants threshold.

Canada's global edge in broadband dwindling

Canada's early position as a global broadband internet leader continues to erode, with the country sliding in the latest subscription rankings from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Canada had 8.6 million broadband subscribers as of December 2007, or about 26.6 per 100 inhabitants, enough to rank 10th among the 30 developed countries that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. In the OECD's previous survey six months ago, Canada ranked ninth, while in 2002 it placed second behind South Korea.

Internet experts said the report painted a poor picture of the state of competition in Canada, where many people tend to have only one or two internet providers — usually a phone company versus a cable firm — to choose from. While ISPs fought vigorously for customers in the early part of this decade by offering enticing deals, which reflected Canada's early lead, they have become less competitive over the past few years.

"This reflects poorly on Canada's advancement in the information economy," said University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist. "Canada remains woefully uncompetitive … We're getting a poor deal."

The average broadband connection in Canada, about 7 mbps, ranks below that average. Canada also fared poorly in cost versus the speed provided, ranking 27th out of 30 at $28.14 U.S. for average broadband monthly price per advertised megabit per second.

Issues that are of concern to Canada, he said, are the download limitations imposed on subscribers — caps that have thus far not been introduced by ISPs in the United States. According to the report, download caps could hold a country's businesses back by limiting their online development.

"This may become an economic disadvantage in countries with relatively low bit caps, particularly as more high-bandwidth applications appear," the report said.

Typical limits on Canadian internet connections are 60 GB per month, with higher-end plans offering around 100 GB. In the U.S., ISPs currently give customers unlimited downloading, with Comcast, the nation's largest provider, considering a cap of 250 GB — more than quadruple the typical Canadian limit.

Canada has also not benefited from regulations that allow smaller third-party ISPs to access the networks of large phone companies such as Bell Canada, a practice that has flourished in Europe, Reynolds said. A rule known as "local-loop unbundling" allows smaller ISPs to rent out portions of a large phone company's network, then attach their own equipment to provide customers with internet access.

The OECD report also noted that several countries are taking the lead in the next generation of broadband deployment — superfast fibre networks. About 40 per cent of Japan's broadband connections are fibre, with South Korea coming second at 34 per cent. Most of the OECD — 18 countries, including Canada — have not yet begun rolling out fibre.

Government 2.0: The Next Generation of Democracy

[Some excerpts from my opinion piece at Internet Evolution -- BSA]

Government 2.0: The Next Generation of Democracy

For years, experts predicted e-government would be a driving force for broadband usage. The assumption was that many government services, from dog tags to taxes, could be done electronically over the Internet. Despite modest success in this area, e-government hasn't pushed broadband usage. But now many pundits are starting to realize that the better value of e-government may be allowing the public to have greater input on government operations and processes.

Now, the goal is to use Web-based collaboration to "reinvent government." Well known author and futurist Don Tapscott advances this concept in his new research project called, Government 2.0: Wikinomics, Government & Democracy.
Wikis and Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to fundamentally transform the way we are governed and radically reshape political philosophy. Not since the days of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau have we had such opportunity and the tools to address many shortcomings of democratic society, especially the domination of special interests and lobbyists.

As Winston Churchill once commented, "Democracy is the worst form of government, but it is better than any other type of government we have ever tried." Government 2.0 represents an opportunity to redress the many shortcomings of the worst possible government we have -- democracy as we know it today.

[..]These are just some simple examples of the possibilities of applying Internet and Web 2.0 technologies to how we are governed. We are only limited by our imagination, in optimizing the Internet as a new revolutionary tool to truly personalize democracy. For more musings on this subject, please see my blog, Democracy 2.0 – Next Generation Democracy.

Glasnost Internet: The threat of Transparency and Privacy to the Internet

[Around the world there is growing alarm at attempts by carriers, ostensibly for traffic management reasons, to install deep packet inspection equipment, but now being used for local web ad insertion and other activities. Network neutrality is increasingly also an issue about network privacy. As such various organizations like the prestigious Max Planck institute and others are developing tools so that consumers can discover whether their carrier is doing deep packet inspection and hopefully thwart these serious potential threats to consumer privacy. To my mind this issue will never disappear because the fundamental issue is the current business model of limited competition and a presupposition that the carrier "owns" the last mile and is therefore free to do what they wish with "their" network. I have long argued that to free ourselves of these threats to Internet privacy and freedom we need a new business model where the consumer "owns" the last mile and free to connect to any service provider they wish at neighbourhood carrier neutral interconnect facility. Next generation Fiber to the Home architectures like CityNet and Burlington Vermont enable this type of capability. For more details see my blog on free fiber to the home Some pointers from NNSquad list, Slashdot and Gordon Cooks Arch-econ- BSA]

"The goal of our Glasnost project is to make access networks, such as
residential cable, DSL, and cellular broadband networks, more
transparent to their customers."

Comcast, Cox Slow BitTorrent Traffic All Day

"A study by the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems found that Comcast and Cox Communications are slowing BitTorrent traffic at all times of day, not just peak hours. Comcast was found to be interrupting at least 30% of BitTorrent upload attempts around the clock. At noon, Comcast was interfering with more than 80% of BitTorrent traffic, but it was also slowing more than 60% of BitTorrent traffic at other times, including midnight, 3 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S., the time zone where Comcast is based. Cox was interfering with 100% of the BitTorrent traffic at 1 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Eastern Time. Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice downplayed the results saying, 'P-to-p traffic doesn't necessarily follow normal traffic flows.'";409444582;pp;1;fp;16;fpid;1

Elude Your ISP's BitTorrent Blockade
"More and more ISPs are blocking or throttling traffic to the peer-to-peer file-sharing service, even if you are downloading copyright free content. Have you been targeted? How can you get around the restrictions? This PC World report shows you a number of tips and tools can help you determine whether you're facing a BitTorrent blockade and, if so, help you get around it."

Deep packet inspection under assault over privacy concerns

Add the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) to the list of groups concerned about the privacy implications of widespread deep packet inspection (DPI) by ISPs. CIPPIC has filed an official complaint with Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, asking her office to investigate Bell Canada's use of DPI (and we're flattered to be quoted as an expert source in the complaint). In addition, the group would welcome a wider investigation into possible DPI use at cable operators Rogers and Shaw, as well.

Charter to monitor surfing, insert its own targeted ads surfing-insert-its-own-targeted-ads

Some excellent reports on investment and economics of FTTH

[In the last few weeks there have been several excellent reports on the investment and economics of FTTH networks. As well the OECD should be soon releasing their annual broadband report on this subject. Gordon Cooks ARCH-Econ list is the source of man of these pointers--BSA]

All the presentations of the OECD workshop on FTTH are now available:,3343,en_2649_34225_40460600_1_1_1_1,00.html

Of particular note is the presentation by Herman Wagter of CityNet of Amsterdam which convincingly demonstrates how separating ownership of fiber from companies who deliver services allows for true facilities based competition where competitors can use different layer 0 technologies for delivering services

Benoit Felten also maintains an excellent blog on the various presentations that were given at the OECD workshop:

Hendrik Rood of Stratix Consulting has just released a very interesting report on FTTH developments in The Netherlands who have one of the highest penetration of FTTH in the world. At the end of the 1st quarter in 2008 the Netherlands had 176 thousand FTTH connections.

Direct link to the Stratix paper:

Of particular note the paper goes into considerable detail explaining the arrival of Institutional investors (Pension funds etc.) with a real estate approach in funding open network infrastructure and the recognition by the incumbent operator KPN that this model may suit their business needs as well.

"Market entry by infrastructure facility providers with a Real Estate approach like independent Tower companies for mobile service providers and neutral data centre and telehouse facility owners, the development of FTTH in the Netherlands have shown the arrival of a new kind of market entrant: Real Estate financers investing in local loop networks.

The entry of real estate finance may act as a harbinger of a novel market structure with non-incumbents owning those infrastructure facilities with real estate characteristics. Their market arrival could have lasting consequences for regulatory policy of communications infrastructure.

As the Dutch market is now genuinely warming up to Fiber-to-the-Home, while the new open business models with real estate oriented investors are established, Stratix Consulting expects a new development stage with a run-for-the-market, where the market consists of local FTTH projects. Such a stage has happened before in the 1881-1900 period with telephony roll out and the 1960-1980 period of CATV network deployment.

Local loop economics indicates only one network per area to be feasible, in particular under the open network business models. With financiers stepping in and supply constraints visible in construction, we expect mounting citizenry pressure on municipalities and provinces to lure the projects to their area first, aiding constructors by facilitating community drives.

New ITIF Report: “Explaining International Broadband Leadership”

The executive summary does not do this report justice. There are dozens of hidden gems within the report. I recommend reading the report in its entirety. I was very pleased to see from the report's regression analysis that price has the strongest correlation with broadband penetration. This is something that I have been claiming, based on a paper written for Scientific American way back in 1993!! This paper demonstrated, for a variety of telecommunication technologies – telephone, cable, PC – price was the single biggest determining factor for adoption rates. Most people are surprised that the telephone took over 75 years to reach 50% penetration. But if you measure the price of telephony in terms of per average per capita income, you discover historically it has been a very expensive technology. And what drives price ?----competition!

"In a new report examining in depth broadband policies in 9 nations the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation concludes that while we shouldn’t look to other nations for silver bullets or assume that practices in one nation will automatically work in another, U.S. policymakers can and should look to broadband best practices in other nations. Learning the right lessons and emulating the right policies here will enable the United States to improve our broadband performance faster than in the absence of proactive policies. The report analyzes the extent to which policy and non-policy factors drive broadband performance, and how broadband policies related to national leadership, incentives, competition, rural access, and consumer demand affect national broadband performance. Based on these findings the report makes a number of recommendations to boost U.S. broadband performance.

Also included in the report are the updated 2008 ITIF Broadband Rankings, a composite measure of broadband penetration, speed and price among OECD countries. When these factors are considered together, the United States ranks 15th out of 30 OECD nations in broadband performance.

The executive summary can be accessed at

The full report can be accessed at"

FTTH allows teachers in Wymong to teach English in Korea

[A great example how broadband provided by FTTH allows new business models to evolve. From a pointer on Gordon Cook's list-BSA]

Broadband Enables Wyoming To Teach English to South Korea

I read a tremendous article found in Jim Baller's [] regular email newsletter earlier this week that highlights a number of interesting and important points.

It details an initiative where 150 teachers are going to be finding employment in Wyoming teaching South Koreans how to speak English.

Firstly, it's a tremendous example of the use of broadband as the teaching is conducted via videoconferencing.

Secondly, they specifically mention that what makes this possible is the fact that Powell, Wyoming, where the teachers will be located, is deploying a full fiber network with the capacity to enable high quality videoconferencing.

Thirdly, it's another example of how broadband enables the creation of new jobs that allow people to work from home.

Fourthly, it shows how there are businesses to be made catering to educational pursuits and not just entertainment related endeavors.

Fifthly, it shows how far ahead South Korea is in their use of broadband to enable better education.

Lastly, and unfortunately not necessarily a positive, it highlights the fact that South Koreans are aggressively pursuing applications that can not only be a good business but also benefit society as the money behind this comes not from the US but a South Korean venture capitalist.

Whew, that's a lot of points hit in an article that's not much longer than this post, but there's simply no denying how many relevant points it touches upon.

But what I think I like about it most is that even though it's being funded and driven by South Koreans, it's still creating new jobs here in the US. It's jobs like these that will help us reverse the trend of outsourcing so that other countries can come to rely on the expertise, know how, and hard work of the American people.

And it's important to never forget that this is all possible only through the power of broadband.

Join the hunt to feed the world's hungry through broadband Internet

[Another good example of citizen science. Excerpts from NY Times article -- BSA]

Join the Hunt for Super-Rice

There is no quick fix to the world food crisis, but a project getting underway Wednesday could make a difference in the long run. Rice

A team of researchers at the University of Washington are putting a genomics project on the World Community Grid in the computational search for strains of rice that have traits like higher yields, disease resistance and a wider range of nutrients.

The purpose is to hasten the pace of modern rice genetics, which since the 1960s has delivered a series of new strains, starting with higher-yielding semidwarf varieties, a breakthrough that was hailed as the Green Revolution.

But the demand — all those mouths to feed — keeps rising. Rice is the main staple food for more than half the world’s population. In Asia alone, more than two billion people get up to 70 percent of their dietary energy from rice.

The World Community Grid, begun in 2004, gives selected humanitarian scientific projects access to massive computing resources. It taps the unused computing cycles of nearly one million computers around the world — much like SETI@home, the best-known distributed computing effort, which claims it has harnessed more than 3 million PCs in the search for extraterrestrial life.

The World Community Grid places a small piece of software on your PC that taps your unused computing cycles and combines them with others to create a virtual supercomputer. Its equivalent computing power would make it the world’s third-largest supercomputer, according to I.B.M., which has donated the hardware, software and technical expertise for the project.

The grid will run a three-dimensional modeling program created by the computational biologists at the University of Washington to study the structures of the proteins that make up the building blocks of rice. Understanding the structures provides clues to their functions, interactions between the molecular parts and how certain desired traits are expressed.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Collaborative feature film making over the Net

[Here is an interesting project reported on Slashdot. If you are a budding film maker you can join any number of collaborative film projects under development -- BSA]

collaborative film making

John Buckman from Magnatune clues us that the trailer for Iron Sky is available. We've been following the production for some time, as these are the same guys who brought us Star Wreck, the most successful feature-length Internet-distributed film of all time. That film was made by 3,000 people, has been downloaded 8 million times, is under a Creative Commons by-nd-nc license, and made good money both through DVD sales and through an eventual deal with Universal. Iron Sky is being made using Wreck-a-Movie — a collaborative film-making web site (also Creative Commons based) that grew out of the Star Wreck experience."
Wreck A Movie is a new way of creating film brought about by the power of the Internet to connect people and spread information.

Star Wreck Studios is a film studio that is specialized in blending the Internet and the film industry together by unleashing the creative potential of Internet communities, and changing the whole chain of filmmaking. Through the launch of its new online service, the company makes it possible to collaboratively produce professional quality A/V content of all types: from short films to feature films and to all distribution screens – from Internet and mobile to film theater.

Star Wreck Studios was established in February of 2007 by the creators of the world’s first feature-length collaborative Internet film, Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning which has more than 8 million global downloads. Star Wreck Studios is headquartered at the center of the global Internet film world in Tampere, Finland.

It all started with the Star Wreck phenomenon

Only a few years ago, it would have been impossible for a full-length science fiction film from Finland to become a phenomenon on the world stage. This niche film with Hollywood quality special effects, subtitles in 30 languages and all made in collaboration with an active passionate community, was released in August of 2005, going against every industry standard and for only 15 000 €. With today’s technology, people cooperating across the Internet and now instant global distribution, the crew of 5 and 3000 of their friends across the globe proved the old model of film making and watching is not the only way. The success opens the door for any niche film to get made and then seen by millions.

Based on the experience of creating the Star Wreck phenomenon, Star Wreck Studios has developed a Web platform that is designed to harness the power of passionate Internet communities for creating short films, documentaries, music videos, Internet flicks, full length features, mobile films and more. is a social community, simple workflow and marketplace that builds communities around film productions. It helps get films done faster and at a considerably lower cost through crowd-sourced work on production tasks and online resourcing of expertise and corporate funding. The communities developed in production will also create a viral social marketing force that will get films seen through the hundreds of existing online and standard channels.

How to build a submarine cable

[Thanks to George McLaughlin for this pointer -- BSA]

PIPE Networks, who are building a cable from Sydney to Guam and interconnecting there with VSNL (the TYCO Guam-Japan spur) have set up a blog covering various aspects of the build.

Quite interesting, and a pretty open approach (typical of PIPE). Covers
also the terrestrial builds, snippets (with links to more detailed
discussions) on how repeaters work, horizontally drilled ducts, etc, etc
- comments/questions can be posted and get responded to......

Bevan Slattery wrote:
As you maybe aware, we have launched our PIPE International website.
We've decided to do something a little different and that is undertake
the construction in an open and transparent manner.
We have included:
- a daily blog
- Progress table
- Discussion Forum
- Photo and video gallery
PPC-1 is an exciting development for competitive international
transmission into Australia and we have decided to go the 'open' route
in order to provide interested parties the ability to check out how
the system is progressing and to ask any questions you may have.
Anyway, thought you might be interested in how to build a submarine