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Open letter to Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Mayor Dan Sullivan,

Last week, the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a challenge to municipal leaders and service providers to begin creating the infrastructure for 1 gigabit broadband speeds to residents of at least one city in each state (http://goo.gl/h7K3x). I thought this challenge should be brought to your attention for a few reasons.

Anchorage would be the ideal candidate to take up this challenge for Alaska. As the most densely populated area in our state, it is the headquarters to the state’s major businesses, universities, and many political leaders. If any community in Alaska could benefit from faster internet connections sooner than later, it’s Anchorage.

This technology will attract industry and innovators. Imagine if by next year we unveiled a cheap, state-of-the-art internet connection that was available at a low cost to residents and businesses. We would be a city on the cutting edge of communications technology. Students from other states would attend our universities. Businesses and corporations that operate in our state would rely on our community more than ever to be their link to the rest of the world. Government officials would do more work, more efficiently from their offices in our city.

We are already behind the curve as far as available bandwidth in our city. This technology is not a luxury but a requirement if we are to remain relevant. These speeds are going to be the new standard, and If we do not take steps to adopt this technology we risk being overlooked by industries, educators, students, and residents when they make plans to invest in our community

Do you currently have any plans to respond to this challenge? If not, I ask that you take this challenge seriously. It is an opportunity to make our city a national leader in access to fast, cheap, reliable internet connections before we are forced to scramble to catch up to a change in the communication landscape that is inevitable.

Sincerly, 
Rob Keys

#anchorage #FCC #anchoragedailynews
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8 comments
 
Unfortunately, the economics make this a very difficult build anywhere, let alone Alaska:

1)  Cost of long-haul fiber capacity to the rest of the state; upgrading from 10Gb/s to 100Gb/s and beyond.
The technology used by the undersea fibers is 10gb/s per strand.  This is based on optical properties of the fibers, limitations of the passive optical regenerative amplifiers, and distance.   In order to upgrade to 100Gb and beyond, the entire length of the fiber needs to be brought to the surface in order to replace the optical amplifiers.  This should clock in at about 12M$ per fiber sheath.  Assuming that GCI and ACS both work together, that's 4 diverse runs, totalling 50M$
At 6 strands per sheath, that's 6x4=24... 24x100Gb or  2400Gb/s worth of backhaul capacity for approximately 600K$ per Gb.

2)  Cost of upgrading Wide-area and Metro-area equipment to support multiple-100Gb.
Platform agnostic solutions (cisco, juniper, alcatel lucent,) for multiple-100G  is not cheap.  $250k per chassis is a good starter.  But the backplane support for multiple-100Gb isn't there yet for 600Gb of traffic, so splitting half of the backhaul per carrier, ACS and GCI would need to support at minimum 4 chassis, 1 for every 300Gb, at every internet POP along the backbone corridor.  One in Washington, One in Oregon, two in Anchorage..   that's 16 chassis, or another 4M$

3) Cost of distributing traffic to consumers
50gb/s to individual customers?  That can only be done by fiber.  The Anchorage bowl contains nearly 5000 miles of road.  I don't know how much it costs to lay fiber, but google says 4$-7$ per linear foot.  I'll keep it at 7$, because Alaska.  So, 7 * 51260 * 5000 = $179,200,000

We haven't even gotten to subscriber equipment, and we're already above 200M$ ...

And all of that to support....

100,000 homes in Anchorage...   at  50Gb per home ... that's   5,000,000Gb.   Five Million Gigibits per second of traffic.

You've now approached a pipe dream.

But the actual quest is for 1Gb per "home" ...  
that's still 100,000 Gb of capacity, on a maximum of 2400Gb undersea fiber.

And there's still no economics to support it.
 
The federal government grants billions of dollars for infrastructure projects every year. I appreciate your math, but a project like this need not be funded entirely by municipal property taxes. This is far from a pipe dream. $200 Mil for an infrastructure project in a state that  regularly spends 2 billion a year on construction is quite feasible. 

Edit for Infrastructure Cost Fun Facts:
1) The golden gate bridge if built today would cost 1.2 billion (http://goldengatebridge.org).

2) The Alaska Pipeline cost 8 Billion (1997) dollars (http://historical.whatitcosts.com).
 
50 gb was a typo btw. The article has the correct amount. I edited to reflect the correction. Thanks for pointing it out.
 
I wasn't even looking at it from a government-funded stance, just from a private enterprise stance.

I just don't see the government spending 12.5B$ across 50 states to the benefit of one or two local providers, and I certainly don't see the government being in the business of supplying internet.
 
The government is in the business of a lot of things. You are welcome to your opinion that this is an unnecessary expenditure (if that is your opinion), but it is not without precedent that our nation spends billions of dollars on infrastructure here and abroad.
 
Anchorage is simply too large for a full scale project. The other limitation is that there is simply not much need for this capacity yet. If we had a multiple focus approach then we might be able to spur interest. 

First and foremost the fiber to the home and fiber to the node for profit industry has focused on delivering service to higher income areas. Anchorage's geographical make up simply doesn't support this. Combined with the fact that they abandon any agreements they have once they have reached into those areas and ignore the lower income areas. 

I would develop a plan counter to this track record. Focus on delivering fiber to the lower income areas which will increase their property values and encourage bandwidth hungry businesses to move to these areas. 

Second you need something to run on this network. The obvious solution is to utilize it as an education delivery platform. The University of Alaska could be tasked with creating a "city wide campus" platform. Reducing the dependence on physical properties and extending availability to citizens.

In reality there is capability to extend this from early education all the way through. Organizations like the Khan Academy could be partnered with for a large selection of topics. What I would find interesting and potentially significant to our population would be after school immersion programs for language. 
 
I like your thoughts, thanks for weighing in. I don't agree however that this isn't a need for this capacity yet. Not having faster speeds and preferably at affordable prices also means that local developers and entrepreneurs will not be able to develop that "killer app" that makes these high speeds a requisite for our community. Additionally when these types of products become available our citizens and businesses would be unable to add the latest technology to their businesses as soon as they become available.

Of course this project would be expensive, but it is also an investment in making sure that our state does not have to scramble later to update technology that could be 10 or 20 years behind the national and world standards before GCI or AT&T or whoever decides updating our infrastructure is economically feasible. A necessary upgrade like this may not happen in time to keep Anchorage prosperous if we don;t let our city and our ISPs know that this is an important issue.
 
Rob, I understand your passion but we have to put some things in perspective. It wont be economically feasible to deliver the type of expansion you're talking about until we are 10-20 years behind the national and world standards because that is the way costs decline. We can not play the same game as Philadelphia or Boise. Our population is spread out over a land area greater than the size of Delaware. 

We have to think 10 years down the road. If you want to stick to your guns then our best bet is wireless. ACS and GCI's combined Alaska Wireless could be supported in their spectrum needs in exchange for delivering services at certain price points. Essentially Anchorage would use it's bond ratings to finance spectrum or even hardware buys that would then be leased back to AWN. This is an extreme idea but at least it's got some logic behind it compared to expecting companies to lose millions investing into us.

Combine this with FTTN or FTTP for targeted business/condensed population areas. 
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