San Francisco’s city-wide fiber Internet plan is delayed, future in doubt

San Francisco’s plan to build a city-wide gigabit fiber Internet service won’t go forward this year, as city officials decided they need to do more research before asking voters to approve a ballot initiative.

The universal broadband project “has suffered a setback as outgoing Mayor Mark Farrell will not place a tax measure on the November ballot to fund the project before he leaves office in the coming weeks,” the San Francisco Examiner reported Sunday. The deadline for Farrell to submit the ballot initiative passed yesterday.

In January, the city issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find companies that are qualified to build the network. After examining the submissions, the city named three entities (Bay City Broadband Partners, FiberGateway, and Sonic Plenary SF Fiber) as “pre-qualified bidders.”

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NYC blasts broadband competition shortage as it pursues suit against Verizon

More than two-thirds of New York City’s 3.1 million households have just one or two broadband providers offering service to their homes, according to a new “Truth in Broadband” report issued by the city government. The report comes as NYC pursues a lawsuit against Verizon alleging that it hasn’t met its broadband deployment obligations.

There’s only one ISP offering home broadband service at 13.54 percent of the city’s 3,114,826 households, meaning that nearly 422,000 households have just one “choice.” Another 55.44 percent of NYC households—nearly 1.73 million in all—have two broadband providers. The remaining 31.02 percent (more than 966,000 households) have at least three broadband providers.

The report defines broadband as Internet service with at least 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload speeds, the same standard the Federal Communications Commission uses to evaluate broadband deployment progress nationwide. DSL offers some more choice, but the network technology “is not generally capable of delivering a 25Mbps download speed,” the report said. The report’s broadband deployment statistics are based on federal data as of December 2016.

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Verizon agrees to fix failing broadband networks to settle investigation

Verizon has agreed to fix failing copper networks and boost fiber deployment in New York, two years after state officials began investigating the quality of Verizon landline phone and broadband service.

A settlement with Verizon “will require the company to repair 54 central offices across the state, replace bad cable, defective equipment, faulty back-up batteries, and to take down 64,000 double telephone poles,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union said last week. “The agreement also includes increased broadband buildout to major apartment buildings in New York City and more than 30,000 homes across the state.”

Verizon reached the proposed settlement with the union, staff at the New York State Department of Public Service, and the Public Utility Law Project of New York. The four-party settlement is still subject to approval by the state Public Service Commission (PSC).

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San Francisco seeks universal fiber broadband with net neutrality and privacy

San Francisco is trying to find network providers to build a city-wide, gigabit fiber Internet service with mandated net neutrality and consumer privacy protections. It would be an open-access network, allowing multiple ISPs to offer service over the same lines and compete for customers.

The city yesterday issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find companies that are qualified “to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain a ubiquitous broadband FTTP [fiber-to-the-premises] network that permits retail service providers to lease capacity on the network.” The project would also involve a free Wi-Fi service for city parks, city buildings, major thoroughfares, and visitor areas. Low-income residents would qualify for subsidies that make home Internet service more affordable.

ISPs offering service over the network would not be allowed to block or throttle lawful Internet traffic or engage in paid prioritization. ISPs would also need customers’ opt-in consent “prior to collecting, using, disclosing, or permitting access to customer personal information or information about a customer’s use of the network.”

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With ingestible pill, you can track fart development in real-time on your phone

Scientists often hope to break ground with their research. But a group of Australian researchers would likely be happy with breaking wind.

The team developed an ingestible electronic capsule to monitor gas levels in the human gut. When it’s paired with a pocket-sized receiver and a mobile phone app, the pill reports tail-wind conditions in real-time as it passes from the stomach to the colon. The researchers, led by Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh of RMIT University and Peter Gibson of Monash University, reported their invention Monday in Nature Electronics.

The authors are optimistic that the capsule’s gas readings can help clear the air over the inner workings of our intricate innards and the multitudes of microbes they contain. Such fume data could clarify the conditions of each section of the gut, what microbes are up to, and which foods may cause problems in the system. Until now, collecting such data has been a challenge. Methods to bottle it involved cumbersome and invasive tubing and inconvenient whole-body calorimetry. Popping the electronic pill is a breeze in comparison. And early human trials have already hinted that the pill can provide new information about intestinal wind patterns and gaseous turbulence from different foods.

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Verizon is forced to fix 15,000 “double poles” and other network problems

Verizon and a union representing its workers have reached a settlement requiring the company to fix thousands of problems in areas of Pennsylvania where it hasn’t upgraded its copper network to fiber.

The settlement of the union’s complaint “will require the company to repair and replace bad cable, defective equipment, faulty back-up batteries, and to take down 15,000 double telephone poles,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said Friday.

Double poles occur when “Verizon has failed to move its equipment from an old pole that was replaced with a new one by another utility (e.g., the electric company),” the CWA said. “In many cases, these are dangerous conditions—poles are falling, leaning, rotting, partially cut off, etc.” 

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Study on AT&T’s fiber deployment: 1Gbps for the rich, 768kbps for the poor

AT&T’s deployment of fiber-to-the-home in California has been heavily concentrated in higher-income neighborhoods, giving affluent people access to gigabit speeds while others are stuck with Internet service that doesn’t even meet state and federal broadband standards, according to a new analysis.

“Because there is no regulatory oversight of AT&T’s fiber-to-the-home deployment, AT&T is free to choose the communities in which it builds its all-fiber GigaPower network,” UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society wrote in a report released today. “Our analysis finds that AT&T has built its all-fiber network disproportionately in higher income communities. If this pattern continues, it has troubling consequences for low- and moderate-income Californians, leaving many without access to AT&T’s gold standard all-fiber network and exacerbating the digital divide.”

California households with access to AT&T’s fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to “AT&T’s Digital Divide in California,” in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016.

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Verizon spends $1B on fiber—but it’s for 5G wireless, not more FiOS

Verizon has struck a deal with Corning to purchase up to 37.2 million miles of optical fiber and related hardware over the next three years, with Verizon planning to use that fiber to boost capacity and lower latency in its wireless network.

“The agreement calls for Corning to provide and Verizon to purchase up to 20 million kilometers (12.4 million miles) of optical fiber each year from 2018 through 2020, with a minimum purchase commitment of $1.05 billion,” Verizon said in its announcement of the purchase agreement today.

The fiber will be used for network improvements “designed to improve Verizon’s 4G LTE coverage, speed the deployment of 5G, and deliver high-speed broadband to homes and businesses of all sizes.” But while Verizon mentioned both mobile and home Internet service, this doesn’t mean there will be any unexpected expansions of FiOS, Verizon’s fiber-to-the-home service.

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