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High speed advocates push to deploy more fiber in San Francisco

By Max Burkhalter
July 21, 2011
While many parts of the United States are still playing catch-up when it comes to high-speed internet, two outspoken advocates for the cause are doing what they can to deploy more fiber in San Francisco.

Dana Sniezko, a nonprofit Web developer and technology activist who started the informative site; and Alex Menendez, co-founder of MonkeyBrains, are lobbying San Francisco officials to make it easier for regular companies to lay fiber and/or install their own ultra-fast cables throughout the city.

Sniezko and Menendez want to loosen the grip on local Internet service that AT&T and Comcast currently have while leapfrogging from the older DSL and cable TV technology to fiber to the home.

The pair face considerable challenges to deploying FTTH, including a maze of regulations, the big providers' infrastructure and rights of way, and the lack of established policies for approving new approaches.

According to Sniezko, “What we have now in most parts of the United States is copper, and some of these lines are 100 years old. Copper lines were designed to carry the human voice, and all these DSL things that we've done are a hack. Then cable came along, which is a little better, but there are physical limitations.

With fiber, it's the solution for the next 100 years. It can give us almost unlimited bandwidth, 100 to 1,000 times what you'd see today at a comparable price point. There's no way San Francisco shouldn't have something like this; we have the density and there's a lot of demand here.”

FTTH networks can deliver download speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second, fast enough to download about 100 digital photos in a second. That compares with average rates in San Francisco's primarily residential ZIP codes of roughly 3 to 10 Mbps, according to a study year by the Communications Workers of America.

A February report in the SF Examiner hinted that Google was negotiating with the city on an FTTH project.

James Kelly, project manager on Google’s infrastructure team, said that Google is looking to “find the right community partners” and has issued a request for information. City officials can provide information if it is interested in becoming a partner with Google.

Google has “plans to build and test ultra-high-speed broadband networks in the United States,” Kelly said in the announcement.


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