Community Vs Corporate Broadband

Muninetworks has a great new video up…and Lafayette gets a cameo role.

What’s great about this video is that it manages to distill almost all the relevant factors into a single visual. (Designers take note.) Cost, upload speeds, download speeds, and makes clear that community broadband’s superiority is literally on a different scale.

Hats off to the folks at muninetworks!

Here’s a similar graphic that I worked up for Lafayette a few months ago…it compares the everyday price, upload, and download parameters to give an at-a-glance comparison of the value of LUS fiber and its competitors. (Click for a larger, clearer image)

AT&T (green), Cox (red) and LUS Fiber (blue)

As is easy to see, LUS beats the competition hands down.

Quick Note: LUS promises a Gigabit…before Kansas City

Quick Note Department

Here’s a a bit of Lafayette news that I missed in the furor over the Google’s selection of Kansas City for their experimental gigabit network. 10:12 Corridor, a regional business weekly, called Terry Huval, head of LUS, for his response to the news:

Huval says the LUS Fiber network is already providing Gigabit services to all of the public high schools in Lafayette Parish, and by the time the Kansas City Google system is operating, the LUS Fiber system will be making Gigabit speeds available to homes and businesses in Lafayette. (Emphasis mine.)

So…Google says that it will be providing service “beginning in 2012.” That’s been mostly interpreted as early 2012. That, in turn, would seem to imply that LUS anticipates providing gigabit service sometime this year. (Uh, LUS Fiber PR people, where are you? This is not the sort of thing you allow to be revealed in a casual interview and then fail to take advantage of here.)

We’ve got six months or a bit more in which to hold our breath.

Update: For Your Files—Durel issued a press release following the Google announcement (mentioned in the article cited above): Lafayette to benefit from the Google Fiber for Communities initiative.

LUS Fiber — GigaFest Announcements (Updated)

LUS Fiber kicked off “Gigafest” today with an announcement that LUS Fiber was upgrading our systems connection to the internet from 1 gig to 10 gigabits/second. Huval says that this is several years earlier than LUS had planned to make that move and the early ten-fold increase is a testament to its users finding ways to make use of the big pipe LUS has made available.

You need to stop and ruminate on that for a minute. LUS is bragging on the fact that its users are using a lot of bandwidth. They are crowing about making a 10x increase in the size of the connection to the larger internet that they have to buy to sustain their customers’ usage. Now you might think it nice but not all that remarkable that a business should be proud that their customers find their product so useful that they have to upgrade their supply system to cope with demand. If you think like that you are still operating in the regular, competitive, “free enterprise” part of the american market, NOT the telecomm segment. In duopoly-land providers from AT&T and Cox to Verizon and Time-Warner are constantly complaining that their users are trying to use too much of “their” bandwidth and insisting that their customers need to be throttled down and capped at miniscule amounts to make sure that the “bandwidth hogs” don’t ruin everyone’s experience. It is downright refreshing to hear from a provider who is happy to upgrade their system to meet demand—and who doesn’t accompany any upgrade to the network with some sort price hike and incessant whining.

Welcome to the land of community-owned broadband.

And that, the advantages of a community-owned network, was one of the themes of today’s kick-off presentation to the media. The others, as I saw it, were the impact on businesses and the role of latency.

Community Ownership
Both Mayor-President Durel and LUS head Huval emphasized the advantages of a locally owned network—but in characteristically different ways. Durel made clear, during his brief remarks, that his emphasis had always been on the potential for economic development that he saw in an LUS Fiber network. He saw the examples of business usage that were highlighted in the presentations as a realization of his hopes. Huval, as you might expect of a utility head, emphasized that LUS was keeping its covenant with the community by providing fast, cheap and reliable services—underlining that by saying it was true that Lafayette has “the fastest, cheapest internet in the US.” That’s a pretty bold claim and on a megabits per dollar basis I think that’s true. LUS’ tiers are the best values I’ve been able to find for the speed and capacity they represent. You won’t find a cheaper 50 meg symmetrical connection (or even an asymmetrical one I think) anywhere in the US. (You can get onto the internet for cheaper—but LUS doesn’t sell anything less than a 10/10 meg symmetrical connection. Real broadband. Those that are cheaper are much less capable, asymmetrical or capped at some ridiculously low monthly maximum.)

Business Uses
The real focus of the GigaFest event is on business recruitment—LUS is apparently starting a major push to recruit more of Lafayette’s small and medium size businesses. Announcements and promotions have been going on in the background for a week or more. (Apparently Cox thinks that’s what LUS is up to also: Sunday’s Advertiser carried a prominent classified ad that solicited for salespersons to work in their small business sections—with or without experience. The troops are massing on both sides of this battle.)

The presentation includes a slick, locally produced video that highlighted local businesses that are making good use of LUS Fiber. (LUS should make that video available on its website; it is convincing.) There were folks who loved how they could work from home, a coffee shop case, an application in medical records and medicine, a web design house, and a church that does massive video uploading. The recurring theme was that the speed of LUS Fiber made it much easier to do their job. Some of the background info that Alcatel-Lucent provided in its flashy surround environment of many (84?) monitors on all four walls gave some technical context as to why these users found their experience on LUS so superior. Sheer speed is part of the explanation; symmetrical upload and download was another. But the hard-to-explain but oh-so-important part was Latency.

Latency has an involved technical explanation. But what is important to understand is that your perceived speed, the speed that actually matters to you, is composed of both throughput—what we usually call “speed”—and latency. Latency involves the time it takes to make or confirm a successful communication. A call and response: “Are you there?—Yes I am here.” Only once that connection is made does throughput size (bandwidth) comes into play…in packet-based systems each packet’s success is bracketed by such a call and response. If it fails the information packet is resent. Latency and throughput are conceptually separable. You can have a “skinny,” slow pipe with very quick response or latency on one network and a “fast,” big pipe with very, very slow response-latency times. Depending on how you are using those network either type may be perceived as slow or fast. Examples: a video stream that uses big packets will seem slow over the skinny pipe, no matter how fast the latency. But a game or a home working session that relies on many quick back and forth connections and so uses many small packets will stutter and feel slow no matter how fat the pipe if the latency is high.

We didn’t used to have to explain this stuff. That was because networks were getting both “fatter” bandwidth and lower, quicker latency at the same time. So it was easier to just peg it all on bandwidth or speed…and sell the public a 768 kbps or a 15 mbps package—bigger was better. But it was always a misleading sort of shorthand and now things have changed, at least in Lafayette. The old copper-based DSL and Coax that the telephone and cable companies are reusing to provide us with data services are reaching their limits—and those limits are different for speed/bandwidth than they are for latency. Latency is much more resistant to improvement and that fact is beginning to show as bandwidth numbers are improved without improving latency. The fellow from Alcatel noted coax cable introduces a latency of around 45 milliseconds as it exits the first neighborhood node. But a fiber to the home network has much lower latency and you can count on only 10-15 ms of lag to be introduced into the local network. So even for the same size 30 meg connection a fiber-based network will have lower latency…and working from home or gaming sessions will feel much smoother and quicker. Channels change quicker on IP-based video systems. Your connection to netflix is smoother and your interface connections feel a lot more responsive.

The best of all possible worlds is, of course, to have a system with both a fat pipe/big bandwidth/high speed and low latency—you want the interface to Netflix to feel smooth and you want the big video packets to flow down a nice fat pipe… What the man from Alcatel was trying to say is that here in Lafayette we have such an ideal system. There just aren’t very many places where you can get both kinds of speed in one package. But we can here

End Notes
You can check out LUS’ (newly redesigned!) bit on the Gigafest event. (You can register through LUS to attend one of the demonstrations.) And you can check out channel 10’s coverage. The media was there in force, so there will have likely been stuff on the local news channels and it will appear in print media in the morning. More here as it appears.

Update 4/26/11: The Advertiser has an overview article from the pen of the new general business beat reporter. There are two infelicities in the article that the tech savvy Lafayette reader will note: the translation of bits into bytes (telecom uses bits; storage bytes, the two are seldom translated into each other) and the claim in the final paragraph that Huval had announced the cost of the project in December last (the cost was established long ago, she’s probably trying to reference the completion of the project). The Advocate has a nice, large picture with a paragraph-long cutline on the front page of the business section; unfortunately that’s not available online.

You can also take a look at Alcatel-Lucent’s press release which includes the following quotable quote from Joey Durel: “We are now only one of a handful of communities in the world with this level of accessible Internet capacity – and only one of the few in the world to have a system like this which is owned by its citizens. That is the differentiating factor – the success of LUS Fiber is passed on to and enjoyed by all Lafayette’s citizens.”

Testing. Testing. 1, 2, 3.

Back in January, I posted here about how I my Internet connection (then with Cox) spent New Year’s Day making three attempts to upload a 1.69 gigabyte Quicktime file to an email transfer site and to a website via FTP.

The future arrived at our house this past week in the form of LUS Fiber and, as luck would have it, I was finishing up on a project that (at its core) contained that same Quicktime movie, only now in larger format. In fact, it was now in DVD format and saved as disk images in both DMG and ISO formats (Mac and Windows compatible, respectively).

The DMG file was 4.29 gigs. The ISO file, 4.42 gigs.

The project called for both disc images to be uploaded to a site for later download by users.

So, let’s look at the math for a second. The files are about 2.5 times larger than the January Quicktime movie only I now had to upload both of them to a site.

In January, over Cox, it took nearly five hours to upload a single, smaller file to the same server via FTP that I was going to use for this project.

But, now I have the 50 mbps LUS Fiber package, instead of the Cox package which was advertised as being about 4 mbps.

So, I cranked up the FTP server (I use Fetch), connected to the server and began the uploading of the first file.

It took about an hour and ten minutes, give or take a few minutes. The second file was completed in about the same amount of time.

So, files 2.5 times larger uploaded in a quarter of the time it took to upload in January.

Is that a 10x improvement in speed? Looks that way to me, but maybe someone else will do the actual calculations to confirm that estimate.

On Facebook the other night, I announced that I had gotten my LUS connection and there were some questions as to what were the actual speeds I was getting out on the Internet itself, not just the LUS network.

I had not had a chance to do any testing at the time, but managed to do some tonight. The results are pretty impressive.

Here are the download and upload speeds by test site with server location included where possible (all speeds megabits per second:

Speakeasy Speed Test (Dallas server): Download — 30 mbps; Upload — 11 mbps. (Late Monday Update : I neglected to mention in the initial post that the LUS Fiber connection ‘pegged’ the download speed at Speakeasy. That is, 30 mbps was the maximum download speed the site would register, and LUS nailed the maximum speed.)
TDS Utilities/Broadband DSL Reports (Atlanta server): Download — 19.575 mbps; Upload — 10.793 mbps.
XMission Speed Test: Download — 29.73 mbps; Upload — 11.09 mbps.
Texas A&M Network Speed Test: Download 30.237 mbps; Upload — 9.3 mbps. Download — 19.090 mbps; Upload — 11.769 mbps.
AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet Throughput Test (Houston server): Download — 18.047; Upload — 12.024.
Argonne National Laboratory: Download — 21.28 mbps; Upload — 10.48 mbps.
Carnegie Mellon Network Group Network Speed Testing Service (Pittsburgh) Download — 10.2 mbps; Upload — 10.2 mbps.
Vonage Internet Speed Test: Download — 19.416 mbps; Upload — 8.642 mbps.
Verizon FIOS Speed Test (Central US Region): Download — 23.692 mbps; Upload — 11.491 mbps.

As you may know, the speed of a network is only as fast as the slowest connection that traffic must pass through. So, out on the public Internet speeds will vary based on the route between you and the server you are connecting to.

I also need to point out that I can’t remember hitting even one mbps upload speeds on Cox more than once or twice. Those speeds seemed to always register in the Kilobits per second (kbps) speed range.

All I can say is I uploaded a lot more data in a lot less time this weekend. And I enjoyed the hell out of it!

P.S. I also like the fact that we got ALL the cable movie channels, plus HD channels for less that we were paying for HBO and the digital tier on Cox.

Thanks to the good people of this community who, four years and many lawsuits ago, decided that we wanted to control our own digital destiny and approved the building of this network.

I’ve only been on the network since Wednesday and it has met or surpassed every expectation I had of it.

We are at the front of the line on the digital revolution. Let’s get to work putting this power to work improving out community!