Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive for the 'Broadband infrastructure' Category | back to home

21 March 2005

“A home for all your digital media”:http://ourmedia.org/ – for free and forever. A very exciting prospect! See my posting on the LSE group weblog for more details.

13 December 2004

I just added a “post about global broadband penetration”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=20 and a few days ago I posted about research on “hit counts as a predictor of the number of citations”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=14 for academic articles published online. There have also been some recent postings by other blog members on “literature reviews”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=13 and the “use of the Internet for politics in the UK”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=18. I have some postings yet to come there about search engines (you should look there for any future information on search engines – especially as one of my colleagues there is studying them for her PhD)…

P.S. If you want an easy-to-remember address for the site (which does not yet have its own ‘proper’ domain) you can get to it by typing “http://get.to/lseblog”:http://get.to/lseblog.

19 June 2004

Ethan Zuckerman “posts”:http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethan/2004/06/13#a222 about a thought-provoking lecture by “Guido Sohne”:http://sohne.net/ on the limitations of open source development in Africa. It’s worth reading his whole post but I will just note that Guido suggests open source development is limited in Africa because African programmers are too busy trying to earn a basic living to donate their time to creating open source code. Similarly, providing free wireless Internet access as many are doing as a volunteer effort around the developed world is much more difficult when the cost of providing that access relative to income is much higher in Africa.

In other words a lot of the benevolence we often take for granted online and consider part of the Internet culture actually relies on a certain economic base where programmers have free time and energy to work on projects they consider worthwhile and bandwidth and computing resources are ‘too cheap to meter’.

For a more optimistic view check out Dan Gillmor’s eJournal – Open Source a No-Brainer for Developing World.

Thanks to “Boingboing”:http://boingboing.net/2003_09_01_archive.html#106356200472733745 for the latter link

15 June 2004

I wish I had the time to do a proper write-up of the NotCon session I attended featuring Brewster Kahle, the man behind the Internet Archive whose mission is nothing less than to provide universal access to all human knowledge. Here is some stuff I noted instead.

Some interesting factoids from his presentation:

* There are 150,000 people using the Internet Archive per day. It stores 3-400Tb of data and recently upgraded to 1Gbps bandwidth.
* There were 300,000 to 600,000 scrolls in the Library at Alexandria. Only around eight of them are left.
* You can store the contents of the Library of Congress as plaintext (if you had scanned it all) on a machine costing $60,000.
* The bookmobile he produced that is connected to the Internet via satellite, travels the world and produces complete bound books from a collection of 20,000 public domain works cost just $15,000 – and that includes the van itself.
* He says that it costs him $1 to print and bind a public domain book – I assumed the books produced would be very rough and ready but he brought some along and they were almost as good as the kind you’d buy in a shop. I suspect he may be stretching the truth a bit – I believe the $1 a book cost he quotes is for an 100 page black and white printed booklet. It’s still impressive though especially as:
* He notes it costs US libraries $2 to issue a book. He suggests they could give people copies of public domain books for $1 instead and pay another $1 to the author to compensate them.

Like many geniuses he just doesn’t know when to stop and thankfully he has a private income from a dotcom or two he was involved with that enables him to try out lots of projects. Aside from archiving the web, movies, books and music he’s:

* taking the US to court to try to get their boneheaded copyright laws changed
* working on mirrors of his San Francisco-based archive in Alexandria and Amsterdam (hosted there by XS4all)
* encouraging anyone to upload anything to his archive (copyright permitting) offering unlimited bandwidth indefinitely (though the site doesn’t make it very easy to figure out how you are supposed to take advantage of this generous offer) including performance recordings of bands that have given their permission.
* Trying to collect and save old software (he got special dispensation from the US copyright office to do this for the next three years but can’t make it available). He does want your old software however so if you’ve got some he would like you to send it to him – in physical form with manuals where available. He’s even
* Trying to provide fast, free wifi across all of San Francisco.

He’s so hyperactive my fingers get sore just typing in all of the projects he is involved with! I worry that he’s taking on too much and that some of it may fall by the wayside if something happens to him. But his enthusiasm and his optimism are infectious. I am pleased to have been able to shake his hand.

P.S. Ironically, I recorded his presentation and have it in MP3 format but because it was 21Mb I can’t serve it myself and so far nobody has stepped forward to host the file. I finally found how to upload it but then discovered I deleted the original file once I passed it on to someone else to upload! So I hope someone still has them – if it does get posted I’ll tell you where.

22 May 2004

According to “CNET”:http://news.com.com/2100-1034_3-5193926.html?tag=nefd.lede The Mayor of Salt Lake City declined to provide support for a plan for an open broadband network infrastructure in the city, saying:

“I just don’t see the social good in using taxpayer money to fund a network that provides more television and bandwidth for illegally downloading files”

Fortunately here in the UK things policy makers are somewhat more receptive…
Thanks to Werblog and “BoingBoing”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/04/20/mayor_of_salt_lake_c.html for the links.

5 January 2004

It’s good to see the UK government has ambitious plans to ensure its citizens have Internet access. Recently British Telecom (responding no doubt to government pressure) announced it will guarantee that all of Britain will have “broadband availability by 2005”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3276621.stm – possibly to be accomplished using new “radio broadband”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3323681.stm technology it is testing.

More impressive still, it now seems the Government is promising “home access for all”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3320967.stm – ‘every home in the UK should have a connection to online services through a digital network by 2008 – whether through a personal computer, digital television, mobile phone or other device’.

Of course this is not as marvelous a promise as it seems since it is not a commitment to provision of the full Internet – only nebulously-defined ‘online services’ – almost certainly limited at the margins to email and basic government services. It also says nothing about likely user costs or incentives for use (without which the theoretical capacity to connect will likely languish unused in the third of UK households who don’t already have Internet access).

6 December 2003

A new neighborhood aimed at young middle class folk in Orange County seem to have benefited from a neighborhood intranet [article in LA Times – requires registration]. It brought people together by giving them an easy way to find common interests and solve common problems (like babysitting) without having to go knock on people’s doors. What is not clear is how beneficial such an intranet would be to existing neighborhoods and to neighborhoods with a mix of rich and poor in the same area.

Thanks to “Keith Hampton”:http://www.mysocialnetwork.net/index2.php?p=37&c=1 for the link (he did an influential academic study of the building of social capital in an earlier experiment outside of Toronto).

22 October 2003

I fear I have somewhat misrepresented Ian’s position on “‘bonsai’ (128Kbps) broadband” It’s not that he thinks it is going to disappoint everyone – speed, phone line blocking and always-on remain the main drivers to broadband adoption according to Jupiter. But he believes that, ‘once consumers switch to such a ‘bonsai broadband’ product they will then become disillusioned that they can’t do the activities that they will have been led to believe possible on broadband (even though these may not have been their main motivations they may be ‘nice to haves’ and which they expected to have).’

This is a very fair point. In an attempt to make broadband sexy, broadband providers promise things like “Movies and TV on demand”:http://www.bt.com/broadband/ which they just can’t deliver. But I would contend it isn’t just the ‘bonsai broadband’ companies that can’t offer this – you can’t get streaming TV or movies via most other broadband providers either – “HomeChoice”:http://www.homechoice.co.uk/ is the obvious UK exception. 512Kbps or even 1Mbps isn’t fast enough for adequate streaming video across the Internet (except for Flash animation or short films where the small size and occaisional jerkiness aren’t so much of a problem). Even if the speed were good enough, there just isn’t a wide range of on-demand high quality video available online yet (see my “Broadband Content category”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_broadband_content.html for more on this point).

So if people do want VOD, the broadband available to consumers today generally won’t give it to them, so those people would be disappointed with any broadband, not just ‘bonsai broadband’. I contend, however that a customer that has always-on Internet without blocking their phone line (two out of three of Ian’s key broadband drivers) will likely be happy and that someone like that would be almost as happy with ‘bonsai broadband’ as they would be with today’s commercial broadband.

The next step forward will happen when/if 2-4Mbps broadband to the home becomes cheap enough for the consumer and broadband providers strike VOD deals and a large BBC “Creative Archive” comes online.

21 October 2003

An old colleague of mine, “Ian Fogg”:http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/fogg/ (a Jupiter analyst), commented in an “earlier posting”:http://blog.org/archives/000896.html that he didn’t think ‘cheap broadband’ at 150kbps would would ‘really offer the full broadband experience that customers expect’. The reasons he gave were interesting, and reveal I think a kind of ‘supplier led’ thinking that is holding back broadband takeup.

* ‘150kbs is not sufficient for good quality [streamed] mp3 music’
How many people want to listen to streamed music? How many subscribers have services like Real One managed to sign up? If you are at work in a sympathetic company you might use it instead of bringing a radio in to work, but if you are at home you already have a radio! People who really want broadband for music are (I’m guessing) relying on broadband to download tracks either legally or (more probably) illegally.

* ‘To build community around online games, it’s important to enable access to add-on levels, and enable players to host, or run, their own games’ – well, I could see there would be a problem if a broadband games player frequently found they were being asked to download a map from within a game and they then found the ‘game cycles to the next level and the player has missed playing’. But if you found that to be a problem as a player you could also just go off and download the necessary files from one of many fan sites. As for hosting, I have played many, many online games and I have only hosted one or two. As long as one of your friends has ‘proper’ broadband this is not a problem.

* ‘it’s still good value if you care about price and mainly email and web browsing’ [but]… it doesn’t exactly encourage third parties to deliver rich video/audio content and applications … and subscribers that expect broadband to enable a richer online experience will be disappointed.’

Aha! But we’re not talking here about what subscribers *should* want from their broadband in order to support a healthy industry – we’re talking about what they *actually want*. And all the evidence I have seen is that what subscribers value most from broadband is always on/instant on connection, better web browsing and no arguments about who is on the line. A smaller segment may value download of large files but if you no longer need to worry about the ‘clock ticking’ on your connection does it really matter if that game demo comes down in the background in four hours or two?

My personal view is that the only commercial service that would cause a substantial increase in the desire for ‘true broadband’ would be something like iTunes but for TV and movie content. (And yes I know you can already download movies but so far this is very much a minority sport because of bandwidth problems).

My guess about the best way to boost broadband takeup is to a) offer it at £15 a month with speed limits (but no publicised download caps) and b) offer free three month trials – I imagine enough of the people who get it would keep it that this would pay for the installation costs for the few who tried and rejected it.

Of course I may be wrong – I am basing this largely on my own experience, friends, gut instinct and (to a lesser extent) on the ‘iSociety’s broadband research’:http://www.theworkfoundation.com/pdf/broadband.pdf

If there is, however, evidence that the consumer wants what the broadband content industry wants them to want then please bring it on!

8 October 2003
Filed under:Broadband infrastructure at9:18 pm

An old mate of mine, Jupiter analyst “Ian Fogg”:http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/fogg/, quoted in “this BBC News story”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3174644.stm pours scorn on Tiscali’s new “150Kbps for £15.99 offer”:http://www.tiscali.co.uk/products/broadband/build/3xfaster.html. He says, “it won’t deliver rich content like video, audio, fast downloads, and online gaming” but I don’t buy this argument.

It’s true you can’t get decent video at that bandwidth, but it is perfectly adequate for audio and quite possibly for online gaming as well (where it isn’t the bandwidth but the latency that is important). And as for download speed – if a file is big you have to download it in the background anyway so a few more minutes here or there doesn’t matter much. I believe that this new product delivers most of what most people want from broadband – reasonable web browsing without watching the clock or tying up the phone. I think that’s consistent with the results of the “iSociety’s ethnographic research about broadband”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2504257.stm.

If Telewest offered a similar service I would likely downgrade to it – at least to see if I could live with it. I think the only real problem with it is the price which should be just under that psychological £15 a month mark.

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