Thursday, October 25, 2007

October 25, 2007

I had the opportunity to attend the meeting at the State Capital today discussing Utopia and it's future. Needless to say I left the meeting and was disappointed with what I was hearing. For blow by blow you can read about it in Freeutopia.org and comment here or there. Jesse did a great job in documenting it with a more complete summary I understand to come soon. I understand the minutes and audio will be available soon.

What I don't understand is why the same questions keep coming up over and over again. I mean after reading the minutes from prior meetings, why are the same questions asked? I was thinking perhaps Senator Stephenson was expecting a different answer to the questions. Sorry but I don't get it.

Now here is the amusing part. You WANT to be sitting before reading this. Oh and don't drink a beverage... You'll be sorry if you do :-)

Through the entire 5 hours sitting there, the Chairman (Senator Stephenson) in going through the agenda would bring up the agenda item, there would be a discussion then he would ask for committee comment then ask if there was public comment. Over and over through all 5 agenda items.

Utopia was item number five, just after lunch. So he brings the meeting to order with his gavel, calls Mr. Shaw and Roger Tew of Utopia, talks at length about the same items from last month's discussion, asks for comment then closes the meeting after a brief discussion among the committee members when they can meet again. I was stunned. I missed my opportunity to speak in committee?

Yeah, I thought you might find that amusing. Oh and no, I didn't just leave. Are you kidding? I had the chance to speak with Senator Goodfellow and Senator Niederhauser. I also spoke for nearly an hour with Representative Craig A. Frank.

While we didn't see eye to eye on the issue of Utopia, I believe he understood Comcast terminating Internet accounts without ANY way to either resolve the issue or any guidelines on what is acceptable use was inappropriate and unprofessional. No, he didn't say that and yes, I'm stating what I understood from the conversation.

He did say he was very concerned about Utopia folding in the future and the cities getting stuck with running a socialized internet service. He used the term "socialized" often here but before anyone get's upset just think about it. He's right! Under that scenario that's exactly what would happen. iProvo, remember that? If not google it. We've talked about it ad nausem so no need to rehash it.

He also mentioned that many of these countries installing fiber infrastructures are also socialistic countries. Again, I can't fault him here. Japan I didn't realize was not a democracy. Yeah, I had presumed forever they were but I was wrong. Very wrong (Yeah, I admit it when that happens). Japan is a Constitutional Monarchy. So not a Democracy. Most European countries are also not Democracies. Yeah I know, some are close but there are differences how they work.

I've talked about Australia and learned they are close. They are a Parliamentary democracy. Like the United Kingdom. Very insightful. I really appreciated speaking with him and realize he has important business to be about. Still, this is an issue I've dug deeply into and he was a great help in giving me some additional food for thought.

Do I think Utopia is a bad idea now? No, it's not the "gold vein" going under our houses but I never believed it was perfect either. I did speak with the Mayors of Midvale and Murray (Utopia cities). They were very enthusiastic and were kind enough to give me their insights.. but more on that later.

I still believe Utopia makes sense. I believe there are questions to be answered, just not the same questions answered month after month (I've been reading previous meeting minutes). I also believe we can't ignore what other countries are doing with their Internet Infrastructure. Ok, so they are socialistic and we're not. We also invented the thing and we're finding ourselves more and more unable to compete in the world market with this old copper infrastructure. So what do we do?

A document with several legislative proposals were entertained. Items 1 and 2 were bad. There was a discussion about Utopia having an unfair advantage over private companies but I believe these items basically give these private companies a strong advantage (remember, they are already monopolies or duopolies if you are lucky).

#1 Prohibits new non pledging members from joining Utopia. This means if you don't put any money up (such as a bond) then you can't join. A non pledging city basically says Utopia has to put up the cash as the city won't. Not unusual since that's exactly what private companies do... right? Of course I'm not taking about the tax incentives private companies like this normally receive from Government. It's how municipalities encourage companies to come in... I've been reading about it a lot lately online in AP Press.

#2 prohibits adding a new member until the "build out" is complete. HUH??? So basically if I'm reading this right, when all 14 cities are fully built out, then other's can join? How is any of this better than SB.66? Unless I misunderstood which is entirely possible. Are any other companies under such prohibitions? I doubt it.

So that leaves #3 which says (and I prefer this one), Require vote by registered voters to add a new member. There are details to this of course. But it seems if several cities wanted to join Utopia then each city would have to vote on it. I'm under the impression that Representative Frank was in favor of this and I agree. It solves In my opinion two problems.

One, I've had lunch with a few people working for Utopia cities and they have frequently mentioned residents simply didn't know they had Utopia already available. There is a lack of advertising. The city doesn't tell people about it (is this right?), Utopia is admittedly weak with advertising where they are. From personal experience, I've had trouble getting in touch with Utopia reps calling their main number. Only by being a pain in the butt and calling over and over was I able to get in touch with someone which led me to Roger Black and a couple others. This was over a two month period btw. Yeah, like I said, they aren't perfect :-)

Because of a lack of advertising, people were unaware so the lines sit unused. Representative Frank made an excellent point regarding City Council's committing great sums of money to something that could go broke. No I don't believe that's the case. We're running a home business and there are costs to starting up. Don't I know it!

But when there are only a couple people making policy on something that could adversely impact the city, it's something that should go up to a vote. Representative Frank I felt was making it clear he wasn't in favor of socialistic ventures. I believe this makes the most sense. It get's the word out about Utopia, hopefully people will ask questions, get educated so we can make decisions whether this is something wanted or not. If the city doesn't use it, why install the fiber lines? This I can agree with. At least with a vote we'll have a better idea if it will at least have the minimum needed in signing up and eventually achieve profitability.

So it's not pretty but I'm rooting for number 3. After all, we're a Democracy :-)



As a side note, I was sent this article regarding a Congressman telling Comcast to stop messing with Bittorrent. I've suspected this may be why Comcast terminated my Internet as I've used it along with many other services (IPTV, Internet radio, etc...) in the past.

Here is an interesting quote from the article... and yes, I do agree with it. After all, isn't that what other companies do? You use more you pay more? To Comcast I can only say DUH!

Unfortunately for fans of Net neutrality, the congressman said he was not ready to go down this path and instead stressed market-based methods of fixing the problems. Instead of tinkering with packets, the congressman said that in the short term, Comcast should "simply tier their offerings and engage in a pricing structure that allocates more bandwidth to those who pay more, and less to those who pay less."


I would never have started the blog and this would be a non issue.

I also found this comment amusing

Comcast's name is surely to come up in any future discussion of Net neutrality - which has gone from a theoretical "what if companies did this kind of thing" debate to something more akin to "do you want every Internet company to start acting like Comcast?"



And finally one more quote

However, he said "the long-term answer is to deploy more capacity. That is what municipal broadband and other telecom companies are doing. Ultimately, the cable companies will have to deploy fiber to the house."


One way or another it has to happen. Just imagine a world without public roads? Yeah, I know it's hard but think about it. Who built that infrastructure and why?

Then I believe we will come to agree upon why fiber to the home and business is important. It's the economy of the 21st Century that will be affected by our actions, or inaction.

8 comments:

Crese25 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Ownby said...

I live in West Jordan, Utah, and also am concerned about Comcast. I am in the process of canceling my Comcast and I have a big rant that I need to post somewhere about my experience with them.

My question is... the elections for at least some West Jordan city council positions are coming up. Whom should I vote for where Utopia is concerned? Does it really matter, or is the west jordan city council's hands pretty much tied?

u235sentinel said...

Matt Ownby said...

I live in West Jordan, Utah, and also am concerned about Comcast. I am in the process of canceling my Comcast and I have a big rant that I need to post somewhere about my experience with them.


Email me your address or send me an email. We have a grassroots going here in West Jordan and in Salt Lake City. We should talk :-)

My question is... the elections for at least some West Jordan city council positions are coming up. Whom should I vote for where Utopia is concerned? Does it really matter, or is the west jordan city council's hands pretty much tied?

I'm leaning away from Mike Kellermyer mainly because he's pretty adamant against Utopia coming here. I don't know where he's getting his information but it's certainly not accurate. I've spent months studying the issues and am very surprised how little our City Council understands.

I sent an email to Mike's opponent and received a response. He's also opposed because of the same inaccurate information I heard from Mike. Very interesting. So I'm educating him.

He did mention he's received several email's/calls from people asking when Utopia was coming to West Jordan and was interested in learning more about it.

That's a far cry better than Mike's response. I'm under the impression he's not going to bother looking into it. Not quite representative of his district IMO. There are many he's NOT hearing here who are very interested in seeing Utopia.

The City Councils hands are not tied yet. Contact Senator Stephenson and Rep. Craig Frank. Let them know the restrictions they are talking about for Utopia are wrong. Doing so only provides support for continual abuses of citizens in our state. We need to send a message that it's not to be tolerated any more.

Tom said...

Just a technical comment on one of the articles you quoted-

"Instead of tinkering with packets, the congressman said that in the short term, Comcast should "simply tier their offerings and engage in a pricing structure that allocates more bandwidth to those who pay more, and less to those who pay less."

In order to tier offerings, carriers have to tinker with packets. Tiered offerings are made possible by classifying traffic based on values (such as CoS at Layer 2 and QoS at Layer 3) that have to be inspected on a per-packet or per-flow basis. In addition, traffic has to be marked at the customer premises, or on the first hop into the carrier's network, in order be "tiered" at all.

Now, this is just a technicality, but I think it reveals an issue that may affect our success in getting projects like utopia going: the issue is that lawmakers are not network engineers, and if this article is typical (I'm not saying it is) then some work could be done to get them some good advisors on the technical merits of these projects.

u235sentinel said...

Tom said.

Just a technical comment on one of the articles you quoted-

"Instead of tinkering with packets, the congressman said that in the short term, Comcast should "simply tier their offerings and engage in a pricing structure that allocates more bandwidth to those who pay more, and less to those who pay less."

In order to tier offerings, carriers have to tinker with packets. Tiered offerings are made possible by classifying traffic based on values (such as CoS at Layer 2 and QoS at Layer 3) that have to be inspected on a per-packet or per-flow basis. In addition, traffic has to be marked at the customer premises, or on the first hop into the carrier's network, in order be "tiered" at all.


I understand what you are saying here. I guess I read his comments in a different light. Basically I see him talking about bandwidth being tiered and not protocols.

Personally I believe it makes sense to tier bandwidth since that's at issue here. If "unlimited use for a flat monthly fee" doesn't mean what I'm reading, then there must be a bandwidth limit. And that's what the providers need to cough up and be honest with us.

Now, this is just a technicality, but I think it reveals an issue that may affect our success in getting projects like utopia going: the issue is that lawmakers are not network engineers, and if this article is typical (I'm not saying it is) then some work could be done to get them some good advisors on the technical merits of these projects.

Exactly. That's why I spoke at length with Representative Frank about the issue. I'm not sure I was successful in helping him understand where the committee is failing here. He has the blog address and hopefully will be visiting. I welcome any comments and hope he can clarify if I'm mistaken on any issue we discussed.

On that note, as an expert in the field, I had hoped he would listen to my thoughts and understand that if it's not Utopia then we need something else in the next few years in place. I don't believe we have a great deal of time before it substantially affects our economy.

I've been researching NAFTA lately. I seem to recall our President speaking about Americans loosing jobs but gaining tech jobs also. If that's the case (and if my memory of the speech is correct) then we will need an infrastructure in place to handle it.

Matt Ownby said...

I just came across this article in the SL Tribune today about Comcast's bad behavior. http://www.sltrib.com/ci_7341937
I think I also saw an article like this on CNN. It's good to see the word getting out.

In other news, I went to Comcast's local office yesterday, turned in my cable modem and canceled my subscription. I told the guy behind the desk why I was canceling and he muttered that Comcast said that BitTorrent amounted to "network abuse". If Comcast is only going to sell me "download-only" internet connection, then I'd like to know about that up front. One of the things I prize most about the internet is the ability for me to _share_ legal stuff with other people, and BitTorrent is great for that.

XMission has a superior policy where they give all users 100 gigs (combined Up+Down) per month (with truly unlimited usage between midnight and 7 AM, so you can let big downloads run overnight). Comcast could definitely learn from this, but if they have no competition, they never will.

Dameion said...

I just was infored of this I am a medium bandwidth user but am not in fear (I just got comcast) thought i was getting an "Unlimited " Internet service. I guess I will just see how Sumcastic it is. They are acting like Slumloards of the high speed internet world.

it's Slumcastic

The Irate Irishman said...

If canada gets fiber optics, I may just have to move.