One of the significant challenges facing network operators today is the high capital cost of deploying next generation broadband network to individual homes or schools. Fiber to the home only makes economic sense for a relatively small percentage of homes or schools. One solution is a novel new approach under development in several jurisdictions around the world is to bundle the cost of next generation broadband Internet with the deployment of solar panels on the owners roof or through the sale of renewable energy to the homeowner. Rather than charging customers directly for the costs of deployment of the high speed broadband network theses costs instead are amortized over several years as a small discount on the customer’s Feed in Tariff (FIT) or renewable energy bill. There are many companies such as Solar City that will fund the entire capital cost of deploying solar panels on the roofs of homes or schools, who in turn make their money from the long term sale of the power from the panels to the electrical grid. In addition there are no Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and Green Bond Funds that will underwrite the cost of larger installations.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
New York Times on how universities and R&E networks can help community broadband deployment
[Tom Friedman's OpEd piece in today's NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/opinion/friedman-so-much-fun-so-irrelevant.html?_r=1&hp captures the essence of why Internet and broadband are so critical to the future of our economy.
“The I.T. revolution is giving individuals more and more cheap tools of innovation, collaboration and creativity — thanks to hand-held computers, social networks and “the cloud,” which stores powerful applications that anyone can download. And the globalization side of this revolution is integrating more and more of these empowered people into ecosystems, where they can innovate and manufacture more products and services that make people’s lives more healthy, educated, entertained, productive and comfortable.
The best of these ecosystems will be cities and towns that combine a university, an educated populace, a dynamic business community and the fastest broadband connections on earth. These will be the job factories of the future.
Historians have noted that economic clusters always required access to abundant strategic inputs for success…. In the 1800s, it was access to abundant flowing water and raw materials. In the 1900s, it was access to abundant electricity and transportation. In the 2000s, he said, “it will be access to abundant bandwidth and abundant human intellectual capital,” — places like Silicon Valley, Austin, Boulder, Cambridge and Ann Arbor.”
R&E networks and universities, however can play a critical role, as community anchor institutions for these economic clusters in deploying innovative architectures and business models. This is why initiatives like Internet 2 UCAN and Gig.U are so important. These new business models and technologies include, but are not limited, to the following possibilities:
(a) Internet Exchange or Transit Exchange points with Commercial Content Network hosting, to provide a level playing field to community based broadband providers, and to reduce tromboning of traffic. Such facilities have been deployed by R&E networks in New Zealand, Norway and British Columbia
(b) Enterprise centric 5G national data wireless networks integrating solar powered WiFi with 4G LTE systems using Eduroam for authentication. A prototype facility is being deployed by SURFnet in partnership with KPN and University of Utrecht
(c) Condominium Fiber and Wavelength networks where R&E networks share costs of infrastructure with the community. AARnet in Australia and RISQ in Quebec have undertaken a number of such projects
(d) Novel new last mile fiber architectures and business models to communities located around a university such as the Case Western pilot and several proposed Green Broadband projects under development
I don’t think R&E networks or universities should compete directly with the private sector in deploying current broadband technology solutions. In fact I believe that if a R&E network looks and acts like a commercial provider, even if it is only serving the R&E community, then it is ultimately doomed. Some day governments will fight the existing oligopolies and introduce real competition. Economies of scale mean eventually commercial carriers should be more cost effective than any R&E network. However, an R&E network will always have a critical future role if it is seen as an agent of innovation in serving both its primary community of research and education as well as the larger needs of society.
R&E Network and Green Internet Consultant.