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The pride of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives

Volume 43, No. 2, February 2011

Your Favorite Photos ALSO INSIDE:

Broadband for the country Burke County adventures Setting your heat pump’s thermostat—page 40



ust as they brought electricity to rural North Carolina 60 years ago, cooperatives and nonprofit services are finding ways to bring fast, reliable Internet service to the countryside. Blue Ridge EMC member Bill Black of Creston in Ashe County is enjoying life in the country while staying connected to a wider world of business and entertainment. An employee of an information technology services company in Hickory, he uses the Internet to “commute” to his job from an office near his home. The computer programmer says: “I like living in Ashe County. It’s a great bunch of people up here.” But if it weren’t for the Internet brought to him by SkyLine Telephone Membership Corp.’s DSL (digital subscriber line, data via telephone line), “I wouldn’t have a job here. I’d have to go to Hickory or Boone or somewhere,” he says. His SkyLine broadband service brings him the Internet at download speeds of 4 Mb (megabits, or about 4,000 kilobits) per second. The FCC defines high-speed as starting at 768 Kb per second. (Broadband refers to the capacity to deliver a band of broadcast frequencies. The wider the band, the more data can be carried at one time and the faster the service). Like Bill Black, rural North Carolinians in several areas will soon be enjoying the benefits of the Internet. Ten regional

for-profit and nonprofit groups, including two electric cooperatives and several telephone co-ops, have taken advantage of existing programs to provide high-speed service. (See map below). And a “middle-mile” fiber-optic cable network that’s going up across the state is expected to mean future service for many more rural North Carolinians. A combination of nearly $150 million in federal stimulus money and matching funds will bring the network to unserved and underserved areas in much of the state. Below-market rates are being offered to “last-mile” providers who want to hook onto the cable, which acts like a trunk line, and take its signal into businesses and homes. (See map on page 13).

BYPASSING RURAL AREAS Rural North Carolina is often bypassed by the large cable, DSL and wireless providers, who look to densely populated areas to give them the timely returns on investments that stockholders expect. Bypassing rural residents can cause significant handicaps. “We’re disconnecting those folks from education, modern healthcare, being able to apply for jobs,” says Joe Freddoso at MCNC, the Research Triangle-based nonprofit building the network across the state. “Most jobs you have to apply for on the Internet.” That leaves the only alternative as either agonizingly slow dialup or satellite wireless. (Satellite giant HughesNet charges $119.99 per month for 2 to 3 Mbs download speed. In Bill Black’s Ashe County, SkyLine Telephone charges $44.95 for 4 Mbs via DSL).

North Carolina Broadband Recovery Projects Rural Utilities Service grants and loans are helping local groups bring “last-mile” Internet service to several N.C. regions.

Last Mile Projects (BIP) Tri-County TMC Country Cable Yadkin Valley TMC Lumbee River EMC French Broad EMC Atlantic TMC Wilkes Telecommunications Skyline TMC Utopian Wireless Corporation

Public Computing Projects (BTOP) Counties may have areas that are only partially receiving broadband recovery funds.

WinstonNet Fayetteville State University Mitchell County Historic Courthouse 0

Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation

Comprehensive Comm. Inf. (BTOP) MCNC (Middle Mile) City of Charlotte (Public Safety)




Sustainable Broadband Adoption (BTOP) One Economy Corporation NC Central Univ. School of Law

Carolina Country FEBRUARY 2011 11

Ask Jeff and Monica Gurr about availability. They live 200 yards from the end of a DSL line, but until a Rutherford County nonprofit brought broadband to their Sunshine community earlier this year, Monica had to depend on super-slow dialup for her online classes from Gardner-Webb University. “When she had to do a chat session with her class, she’d start logging in 30 minutes before her class started,” says her husband. When she had homework, she had to make the 50-mile roundtrip to the college to pick it up. At her dialup’s speed of 19.6 Kb per second, she couldn’t download large files. Though they use different sources of money and different means of transmitting the Internet, all the regional efforts to bring the Internet share the same goal. “We wanted rural residents to have that same access as the cities or urban areas are enjoying,” says Randall Jones, president and CEO of Lumbee River EMC, the electric cooperative based in Robeson County. Another electric cooperative provider is French Broad EMC, based in Madison County. “We’re so lucky in North Carolina to have the electric co-ops and the telephone co-ops,” says Jane Smith Patterson, executive director of the broadband-promoting e-NC Authority. “They reach out to try to serve everyone in their area.” Some of these efforts:

• Assisted by nearly $20 million in federal stimulus money through a USDA-administered RUS (Rural Utilities Service) program, Lumbee River EMC expects to start construction by the middle of 2011 on a fiber-optic cable network to bring broadband to homes and businesses in Robeson County. • In a move that general manager Jeff Loven likens to rural electrification in the 1930s, French Broad EMC is expanding a 70-customer experiment of delivering broadband through power lines. “We have a lot of customers that were constantly saying, ‘You got us electricity out here. The phone company’s not going to do it. The cable company’s not going to do it. You’re the only guys left.’” • So with a $1.8 million RUS grant loan, French Broad EMC will extend service to about 2,000 people living in roughly half the 90 percent of Madison County that lacks broadband. Revenue generated will be used to extend service to the other half. • In Ashe and neighboring counties where SkyLine TMC offers DSL, it started adding even higher-speed Internet through fiber-optic cable in 2004. Now 23 percent of its customers in Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Avery counties in North Carolina and Johnson County in Tennessee have accessibility to up to 20 Mb.

Left: Rutherford EMC member Fairview Mountain Ministries hosts a receiver and two transmitters that beam the Internet to five families from the Ministries’ site high on Cherry Mountain. Ministries director Ron Gurley uses it for everything from “looking up study material to looking up tractor parts.” (Photo by Hannah Miller). Below: These foot-high transmitters send the Internet six miles across a valley to five homes. Rutherford EMC member Don Melton’s children —Emily, 5, Caitlin, 9, and Eli, 12—use it to check out concepts like “polygon” for math class. (Photo by Hannah Miller).

12 FEBRUARY 2011 Carolina Country

• A recent $29 million RUS grant will help SkyLine extend fiber-optic service to 25 more communities including Bill Black’s Creston community. • In Rutherford County, business-development nonprofit Foothills Connect is changing into radio waves the fiberoptic signal brought to area schools and fire departments by an earlier Golden LEAF Foundation grant. Antennas are being erected on area high spots, like municipal water towers and mountain fire towers, to bounce the signal to anyone within seeing distance. “A big improvement,” says Jeff Gurr, who erected his own backyard tower. So far there are nine sites with one to three antennas each, serving 60 customers. Three hundred more are on a waiting list. A recent FCC decision to open more broadcast channels to public use should grow that demand, says Foothills director Tim Will. Customers won’t have to actually see an antenna to get the super-strong signal.

THE LAST MILE On a statewide basis, the 1,600 to 1,800 miles of new middle-mile cable, now in the design stage, will be built within three years in two segments, one extending westward and southeastward from the already well-served Piedmont.

The other—known as the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative for $24 million in matching money from the Golden LEAF Foundation—will run through the state’s northeast, north central, northwest and south central sections. It will pass through 69 counties, 67 of them rural, and will directly connect more than 4,000 “community anchor institutions”—schools, libraries and public safety facilities. Last-mile providers are expressing interest in picking up the cable’s signal at below-market rates and carrying it to homes and businesses, MCNC president Freddoso says. Residents who want to find out what’s already available in their areas can check a new interactive map at For those lacking service, Freddoso suggests joining with local governments to make fresh approaches to providers. “If I’m one citizen in a rural area, that’s not enough customers for them to justify building that infrastructure. They’ve got to report to Wall Street,” he says. “But if I have a group of people, plus the municipality or the county, who go to that provider and say ‘We’ve got 400 people that want service,’ that’s a whole different conversation with that provider.”


Hannah Miller, a Carolina Country contributing writer in Charlotte, recently wrote about the emerging hops industry in western North Carolina.

Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative 1,694.53 Miles In Proposed Funded Service Area (PFSA) Preliminary work is already under way on from 1,600 to 1,800 miles of Internet-bearing, “middle-mile” fiber-optic cable.

Proposed Fiber Route BTOP Round Two Proposed Fiber Route BTOP Round One Existing North Carolina Research and Education Network Underserved Counties, Census Tracts in PFSA Served Counties, Census Tracts in PFSA Proposed Optical Transport Node—40 Channels Community Anchor Institutions to be directly connected to NCREN

Carolina Country FEBRUARY 2011 13

Benefits of BEN | Renaissance Computing Institute

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Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RENCI’s Breakable Experimental Network means new research opportunities at UNC CHAPEL HILL–A laboratory can be a physical space—such as the Networking Laboratory in the computer science department at UNC Chapel Hill. Or it can exist in cyberspace, like RENCI’s Breakable Experimental Network (BEN), a regional optical network test bed for experiments with disruptive networking technologies. Combine BEN with the expert faculty and resourceful students in the aforementioned Networking Lab and you’ve created a recipe for cutting-edge research that could transform the Internet and its ability to transport ever-increasing loads of data. “We have this lab and we have a 10 gigabit per second network, but it is a really small network. A real research network would involve scientists sharing data over much greater distances,” says Jasleen Kaur, an associate professor in UNC’s computer science department who studies packet-scale congestion control on high speed networks with the goal of implementing a new transmission control protocol (TCP) that would allow data to travel at speeds of 1 terabit (1 trillion bits) per second or faster. Kaur’s research team has developed a system called RAPID, a paradigm shift in how networks probe for the spare bandwidth that allows large datasets to be transported quickly without impacting other network traffic. The paradigm relies on two principles: fine-scale probing that creates finely controlled packet sending times and estimates the available bandwidth based on the delays experienced; and probing-without-overloading, which finds a wide range of bandwidth rates within a single round trip time (RTT—the time it takes to send a signal and receive a response, sometimes called a ping), which prevents the network from becoming overloaded. BEN enhances the research team’s work in two ways, according to Kaur. “By connecting to BEN we have a 10 gigagbit path that goes from our department lab to the BEN PoP at RENCI, it goes to Duke, it goes to NC State and all the way back and we can create many interesting topologies,” she says. “The BEN PoP at RENCI can also be connected to the NLR (National Lambda Rail, the high-speed research network connecting universities across the U.S.). We’ve been able to set up a path that starts at our lab, goes through BEN to the NLR through several cities across the U.S. and comes back to BEN and back to our lab. Now, using our own machines as clients and servers, we can emulate a really long distance network path.” The science of networking

Research Professor Don Smith came to UNC Chapel Hill from IBM in 1997 with the goal of “bringing science to networking.” New protocol ideas, routers, switches, etc., must be evaluated, he explains, but in many cases the evaluation process doesn’t live up to the requirements of sound scientific methodology. Too often network testing environments fail to create realistic conditions that reflect what happens on the Internet, says Smith. In addition, network experiments are often done in uncontrolled environments, which makes it difficult for other scientists to reproduce experimental results. Smith and Kevin Jeffay, Gillian Cell Distinguished Professor in computer science at UNC Chapel Hill, have spent years developing a networking research environment that allows them to reproduce the traffic conditions of a large production network in the controlled conditions of the networking lab. The researchers’ methodology involves using packet traces from live networks to create synthetic models of network workloads. They can then run their modeled workloads in the lab to test new protocols in a realistic, but controlled, situation. The methods used to reproduce network conditions scale up to the levels of the most advanced multi-gigabit research networks, such as the Internet2 backbone. With the addition of BEN, the traffic generating system can be run on a much larger controlled network infrastructure (the BEN test bed) and an even larger working research network (NLR). “That’s very important for evaluating something like RAPID because we need to know how RAPID responds to dynamic changes in the traffic,” says Smith. It also means more visibility for UNC’s traffic generation methodology and a trend toward more researchers reproducing that methodology in their own work. “I think it’s going to make us one of the premier experimental networking facilities in the country,” says Smith.

2/25/2011 2:09 PM

Benefits of BEN | Renaissance Computing Institute

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For more information: BEN Website National Lambda Rail RAPID Website UNC Chapel Hill Computer Science Department RENCI

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2/25/2011 2:09 PM

Frontier to expand broadband network in Western North Carolina

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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles on companies that provide last-mile high-speed Internet service in Western North Carolina. The company profiles fit into TuckReader’s larger WNC Broadband series, which examines how state agencies and private companies are leveraging federal money from the stimulus package to expand broadband access in rural parts of the state. WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA –– In July 2010, Frontier Communications completed its purchase of Verizon’s rural landline and Internet business in 14 states. A company that had 5,000 employees before the acquisition, grew overnight to three times that size, inheriting rural broadband networks across the U.S. in the process. Frontier is now the largest rural telecommunications provider in the country, with service in 27 states and a new profile as a Fortune 300 company. In Western North Carolina, the company now controls fiber and copper DSL networks in 11 counties, including all six counties in the far west. “Our approach to broadband is that it’s the driver in our business,” said Ken Maxwell, Frontier’s general manager for Western North Carolina. “Landline telephones is a shrinking market. Broadband and high-speed Internet is where we can expand our business.”

2/21/2011 12:23 PM

Frontier to expand broadband network in Western North Carolina

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Ken Maxwell, Frontier Communications general manager for Western North Carolina. Maxwell grew up in a tobacco farming town of 700 people in Eastern North Carolina, and he believes his experience watching his rural hometown change will help him in his task to grow Frontier’s business in the mountains. “Increasingly everybody sees this as a basic utility need, just like water, electricity, and sewer,” Maxwell said. “Unfortunately, in a lot of the rural areas, they’re underserved and it’s hurting their economies.” Maxwell said his position as GM is proof that Frontier has an interest in rural markets, because the company has local decision-makers in place who can work with government and businesses on the ground. “It’s a very different approach to the rural markets than maybe some other providers have,” Maxwell said. “We have a local engagement model. We believe being engaged at the local level is the best way to do business.” While the first six months after the acquisition has been focused on navigating a major acquisition and reorganizing the business model, the company also began investing in improved infrastructure, spending money to replace and/or relocate bad sections of large cable and fiber in in the last quarter of 2010. The year 2011, Maxwell said, will be about improving the capacity of the network Frontier inherited from Verizon and expanding high-speed Internet access in the region. Frontier currently serves about 100,000 customers in Western North Carolina, and about 40 percent of them have access to high-speed Internet. By adding or upgrading 25 switch stations across their coverage area, Maxwell says the company can increase the number of customers with access to high-speed by 12,000 to 14,000 households in 2011. But while Frontier is eager to serve rural markets, the company is not immune to the specific problems they pose the business model. Maxwell said statewide efforts, funded in part by the stimulus package, are useful, but they can’t change the economics of providing service to rural customers. “Our challenges here are the population density, the topography, and the high cost of infrastructure,” said Maxwell. “To the extent that e-NC, the state legislature, federal programs and other potential public-private partnerships are bringing money to the table to improve infrastructure in the more isolated rural areas… it helps. But at the end of the day as a business where does the money come from in the last mile? Our strategy is not to wait. It’s to grow as fast as we can in areas that we have the density to do it and then leverage that growth into less dense areas.” Maxwell believes Frontier can capitalize on opportunities Verizon didn’t take advantage of. “When we look at the market out here, we see some real opportunities,” Maxwell said. “There are some places with more dense populations that are still underserved.” Maxwell said switches, which are secure, temperature-controlled stations that house the electronics that control network capacity, can have highly variable costs but run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost depends on many variables, including the type and size of switch, distance from the fiber trunk lines, and other infrastructure that has to be completed in order to actually get broadband to and from the site. Frontier has to create a schedule that integrates a fiber build-out, the construction of new switches, and the deployment of the copper network in the ground in a way that allows the company to turn a profit.

2/21/2011 12:23 PM

Frontier to expand broadband network in Western North Carolina

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“Our goal is to have as much fiber as we can. We think fiber is the best delivery system going forward. But the reality is we have an awful lot of copper in the ground out here, so it’s going to be a case-by-case business decision where we expand,” Maxwell said. Maxwell said Frontier will target places where it can leverage the most customers per dollar invested (over 1,000 customers in some areas), but there are still places where a switch would only serve 150 or fewer customers, which makes the economics unsustainable. “People who want to live here for the quality of life, they have got to have high-speed Internet,” Maxwell said. “From a company standpoint, Frontier understands that. But we have to follow a sequential approach, and unfortunately that wait is going to be a little bit longer in some of the more isolated areas.” Maxwell said the company’s goal is to have 85 percent of its customers with high-speed Internet access by 2013. The company’s strategy is to target higher-density areas that will have fast and high take rates and then use the capital from those new markets to build out into outlying areas. Frontier’s complete 2011 high-speed Internet build-out schedule is being finalized but the critically important and often invisible preparations needed prior to growing the last mile are well under way, Maxwell said. “We’ll have our new network backbone up and ready in the May-June time frame if not sooner and that will give us tremendous capacity for growth,” Maxwell said. “From a customer perspective, it means we’re keeping up with the growing need for bandwidth and access.” Maxwell said the company is also working on the delivery of wireless products that could help increase broadband access. “We really do have an innovative spirit in the company,” Maxwell said. “We’re not satisfied with, ‘This is our system and this is how it works. We are researching and piloting new technologies that may be able to help get high-speed Internet to our more rural customers’” For Maxwell, the digital divide is personal. He’s the primary care-taker for his father in Pink Hill, North Carolina.The town used to have John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Chevy, and Ford dealerships. Now it has almost nothing. “The change is really sad. If you look at economic development in this state, a lot of it goes down the Interstate corridors,” Maxwell said. “There are good reasons for that, but the rural areas have so much to offer. We’re interested in that potential.”

Other stories you might like: Follow NC’s broadband build-out on an interactive map First Look: Verizon to release iPhone 4 in February Coffee with the Poet series features Barbara Duncan Black Rock race to test mountain athletes’ mettle Mustang boys, Cherokee girls win league titles Leave a Comment Name * E-mail * Website

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Frontier to expand broadband network in Western North Carolina

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Next post: NC community colleges organize to fight new law

Articles in this series The longest mile: the quest for broadband access in WNC Meet the Middleman: The quest for broadband in WNC Q&A with MCNC engineer Tommy Jacobson A monument to the future: the quest for broadband access in Western North Carolina Building a new marketplace: the quest for broadband access in WNC Frontier Communications plans to expand broadband access in WNC

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This week’s most commented Ronaldo, Pedrinho, and the future of football (7) Media: Waynesville newspaper printing press closes (3) You want fancy groceries because you aren’t very bright (2) Winter on Whiteside Mountain (2) The Smoky Mountain Man: a musing on Mark Cathey (2)

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2/21/2011 12:23 PM

MCNC using social media for broadband expansion project :: Editor's Blo...

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Posted Feb. 25, 2011 at 7:48 a.m.

NCREN expansion project Image 1 of 2 · Next Image… By WRAL Tech Wire RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — MCNC’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) project is under construction, and now you can follow the progress online. The RTP non-profit is stepping up efforts to interact with citizens and communities throughout the state interested in being involved in the broadband expansion of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). MCNC currently is working on a $146 million expansion of NCREN that is expected to be complete by 2013. This initiative has been labeled the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI). To participate, MCNC is offering several online options including a GLRBI Facebook page and Twitter account as well as a central webspace on their website. Each channel provides unique and collaborative access to videos, progress reports, photo galleries, interactive maps, and more. "Social media and crowdsourcing has added real value to our efforts on the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative," said Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of MCNC. "These popular channels of communication allow us to be transparent on all aspects of the project while building engagement and relationships with a diverse audience throughout the state.” Tommy Jacobson, MCNC's vice president of networking initiatives and NCREN's chief architect, likes using social media and blogs to provide real-time updates and exclusive notes from the construction going on in the field. "We felt using social media for this project offered valuable information to citizens through an entertaining experience that many already enjoy using," said Jacobson. "Using these social tools is more than just providing project updates or news. It’s really about creating an active way to listen to folks and interact with them to deliver the best results.” The expansion of NCREN includes more than 2,000 miles of new fiber throughout 69 counties in North Carolina. Currently, 71 miles of conduit for the Round 1 portion of the project are complete in Eastern and Western N.C. Bids for construction in Round 2 will close on Monday, and MCNC anticipates naming a materials vendor for the second round in the next two weeks. MCNC applied for and received two U.S. Department of Commerce BTOP awards last year totaling $104 million. In addition, MCNC raised $42 million in private matching funds as required by the federal program. The majority of these funds will be spent with private-sector engineering, construction, materials, and technology companies who will assist with the build. Current primary contractors/vendors supplying goods and servicers to the project include ONUG Communications, Kimley-Horn Associates, CommScope, Cisco Systems, Globe Communications, Fiber Technologies, Inc. and Comtech. MCNC estimates the expansion of NCREN will create or save 2,500 engineering, construction, and manufacturing jobs in the state. Once all work is complete, the two rounds of BTOP infrastructure have the potential to serve

2/25/2011 8:39 AM

MCNC using social media for broadband expansion project :: Editor's Blo...

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directly, or through MCNC partnerships with private-sector service providers, more than 1,500 community anchor institutions, 180,000 businesses, and reach more than 300,000 underserved families. Get the latest news alerts: Follow WRAL Tech Wire at Twitter.

Copyright 2011 WRAL Tech Wire. All rights reserved. Tags: Broadband, MCNC, Telecommunications and Wireless

Editor's Blog The latest blog posts from our WRAL Tech Wire and WRAL editors.

2/25/2011 8:39 AM

The 100 Gbps World, Coming Soon | Financial Feed

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The 100 Gbps World, Coming Soon Posted on noon by Mark Jansen. Tags: 100 gbps, faster internet, fiber optic internet, intel light peak, national broadband

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New fiber optic companies are emerging like Allied Fiber or Ciena.

Infrastructure companies are developing fiber networks from today’s 1 Gbps to 100 Gbps as that would soon be needed by increased bandwidth demand caused by iPhones, tablets and Netflix. Ciena’s stock rose over $14.74, about 117% in the last 6 months as Adtran’s rose by 47% or $14.46 but it was the other way for Infinera and Tellabs whose stocks fell. Infinera may reverse this with new products soon to be announced to keep up with “The Terabit Age”. Corning, maker of glass embedded into the ground for fiber networks, rose by $6.70 (42%) in the last 6 months. New fiber providers’ investments were prompted by cloud computing data hubs to faster and better networks such as Allied Fiber which began in 2009 to provide network processor down the fiber trail. GE Capital lent Lightover Fiber Networks $230 million for the acquisition of 3 different fiber companies in the last 6 months. Dell’Oro Group’s Jimmy Yu Sr. said increased (40 and 100 GB) optical wavelength speed is needed and forecast was raised that in the total WDM market, 40 gigabit wavelength shipments will grow at a CAGR of over 40% and the recently available 100 gigabit wavelengths will grow at a CAGR over 2005% which may contribute up to $4.7 billion revenue by 2015. Since data centers speed up networks, duty lies on the networking providers within the data centers. Advances like Fujitsu’s all-optical switch will collect packet network passers at light speed in their optical format before they are switched to electronic signals. Without converting the signals, energy is saved and packets are kept speeding around the network faster. In interconnect technologies (like Intel’s Light Peak) and all-optical chips’ progress, the next computing and web world will have lights instead of circuits for support. So far, fiber rise happens in the ground, soon to hit data centers’ switches. Fiber is a vital player in wired broadband. National Broadband Map issued by FCC last week showed how many key U.S. places don’t have access to 25 Mbps or higher connections. North Carolina MCNC president and CEO Joe Freddoso said demand in universities goes up to 20% yearly and that networks may

require 200 Gbps by 2020. Wavelengths demand is not limited to wired areas as LTE mobile networks need faster support too. Alcatel-Lucent product marketing director Stefaan Vanhastel said the firm’s 10 Gbps technology caters the mobile operators more than the residential customers. More speed sharers in a cell site means a larger requirement of pipe that transports traffic back to the larger web. Ciena, the leading supplier of 100GB and OTN systems may find good news in knowing 1GB systems are not enough for carriers that require fiber to their base stations. Higher than 1GB stations is equal to more traffic and may mean demand for Cisco and Juniper. Cisco’s ASR-900 router that delivered terabytes of capacity experienced achievements despite doubts for requirements of bandwidth of that scale. The recent fiber building indicates the need for product improvements. In terms of innovation, there is still much to do with broadband that would require more bandwidth. Join the forum discussion on this post Comments are closed.

2/24/2011 8:03 PM

The 100 Gbps World, Coming Soon | Financial Feed

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2/24/2011 8:03 PM

The North Carolina School Connectivity Initiative | Innosight Institute

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A public-private approach to improving school data networks [Click here to download the full case study] By Kerry Herman and Heather Staker December 2010 Executive Summary In 2006, Education Week gave North Carolina a “D” on its report card for Internet access. The problem was not a lack of world-class Internet resources. North Carolina had a flagship network, the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), which provided fiber-optic infrastructure to many of the state’s higher education institutions. But K–12 public schools lagged behind. Fifteen percent of districts relied on wireless or copper connections for their wide area networks (WANs), instead of faster, more reliable, fiber-optic connectivity. Almost all the districts negotiated their own contracts with third-party Internet service providers, which often led to high rates, excessive overage fees, and latency issues. Rural areas particularly struggled because their sparse populations and rocky terrain created a shortage of supply of Internet service providers. As the demand for online learning options grew and as the state sought to administer a standardized student information system over the Internet, the need for high-speed, reliable connectivity swelled. Launching the Project North Carolina’s General Assembly voted in 2006 to allocate $6 million as an initial investment in the North Carolina School Connectivity Initiative. A public-private team came together to launch the project, including experts from the state’s higher education system, state agencies, for-profit telecom providers, NCREN, and the K–12 sector. The legislature directed the project team to begin to expand broadband at schools, selectively build out networks to rural and underperforming schools, and develop a statewide model for scalable implementation. Designing NC edNet The team outlined a plan for a new public-school network architecture, which it called NC EdNet. The design called for a shared education backbone; the leveraging of existing core networks, such as NCREN; fiber-based WANs wherever possible; common service agreements with last- mile providers negotiated by the state; and a technical support bureau to help district network engineers. The team decided to make participation in the network and services voluntary. The plan also envisioned an E-Rate* support bureau to help districts navigate the bureaucratic challenge of obtaining federal E-Rate discounts for telecommunications and Internet services, which districts had heretofore handled on their own with no support. In the years from 2002 to 2006, districts on average requested a total of $81 million per year in E-Rate monies, but only received 64 percent of these requests. The team hoped to improve this capture rate and streamline the application process. The three-year implementation By 2008, the General Assembly pledged a recurring line item of $12 million annually to fund the three-year implementation. The next year it allotted an additional $10 million per year, which brought the total to $22 million annually. The Connectivity Initiative planned for E-Rate funds to provide substantial revenue on top of the state funds. Year one (FY2007–08) implementation activities included interconnecting local providers with the NC EdNet backbone, identifying districts to transition to NC EdNet, setting up the technical and E-Rate support bureaus, and completing a master plan to prioritize network development across schools. In year two (FY2008–09), the team continued to build out the NC EdNet backbone, focused on providing solutions for underserved districts, and continued extending fiber connectivity. Year three (FY2009–10) centered on finalizing the NC EdNet

2/27/2011 10:47 AM

The North Carolina School Connectivity Initiative | Innosight Institute

backbone and upgrading backbone capacity to support load. Results By November 2009, only 6.5 percent of the approximately 2,400 schools in the state did not have fiber connecting them to their district WANs. In addition, all 115 public school districts now were connected to NCREN to access content and administrative applications from the state. Furthermore, 41 percent of districts also were using NCREN to access the public Internet. As the project moved forward, the team grappled with the increasing demand for bandwidth, which was rising as fast as 20 percent per year or more at some districts. Districts that had adequate infrastructure by the end of year three were already finding that their systems were under stress. ________________________________________ * E-Rate, or the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, provides discounts to assist U.S. schools and libraries in obtaining affordable telecommunications and Internet access. The funding is administered by the Universal Service Administration Company under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission.

One Response to “The North Carolina School Connectivity Initiative” 1. » Blog Archive » Michael Horn: Making High-Speed Internet Access a Reality for All Schools, on December 7th, 2010 at 9:04 pm Said: [...] By ( December 8, 2010 at 2:04 am) · Filed under Education News Innosight Institute has published another case study, this one titled “The North Carolina School Connectivity Initiative: A public-private approach to improving school dat….” [...]

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We Will Soon Live in a 100 Gbps World: Broadband News and Analysis «

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By Stacey Higginbotham Feb. 22, 2011, 8:21am PT 1 Comment

Thanks to iPhones, tablets and Netflix, the demand for bandwidth is back, and that’s drumming up interest in expanding and building out fiber networks. Today we think 1 Gbps fiber networks are enough, but soon we’ll need 100 Gbps, and a host of infrastructure companies are gearing up to provide it. Unnoticed by Silicon Valley, telecom is on the move again. Equipment and network companies such as Ciena and Adtran are reaping the rewards in their stock prices: Ciena’s stock has risen more than $14.74, or 117 percent in the last six months, while Adtran’s has risen by $14.46 — or 47 percent. Other industry players such as Infinera and Tellabs, however, have seen their stock prices fall. But Infinera is about to announce new products aimed at ushering in “The Terabit Age,” which may offer a boost. Corning, which provides the actual glass that goes into the ground for fiber networks, has seen its share prices rise by $6.70, or almost 42 percent, in the last six months. Meanwhile, cloud computing and connecting data centers to faster and fatter networks has led to a new round of investment in fiber providers. From Allied Fiber –which launched last year — building a new type of network that combines the pipe with the processing capacity at data centers along the fiber pathways, to GE Capital providing $230 million in available credit to Lightower Fiber Networks, a dark fiber provider that has purchased three different fiber companies in the last six months. Jimmy Yu, Sr., director of optical transport research at Dell’Oro Group, said in a report released earlier this month that: “[T]here is a need to increase deployments of higher speed optical wavelengths such as 40 and 100 gigabit. We, therefore, raised our forecast and now project that in the total WDM market, which includes both metro and long haul, 40 gigabit wavelength shipments will grow at a CAGR of over 40 percent and the recently available 100 gigabit wavelengths will grow at a CAGR over 200 percent. By 2015, the combined 40 and 100 gigabit wavelengths may contribute up to $4.7 billion of optical revenue.” Fiber Inside the Cloud As fiber between data centers makes wired networks faster, the onus is on the networking providers inside data centers to boost their speeds. This means innovations such as Fujitsu’s creating of an all-optical switch that will keep packets that come into the network at light speed in their optical format as long as possible

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2/22/2011 9:31 PM

We Will Soon Live in a 100 Gbps World: Broadband News and Analysis «

before converting them to electronic signals. This keeps the packets whizzing around the network faster and saves on energy because the signals aren’t converted. Obviously, as interconnect technologies such as Intel’s Light Peak and all-optical chips advance, the future computing and web world will be based on light as opposed to circuits, but that’s further out than I’m willing to go here. For now, the rise of fiber is occurring in the ground and will soon reach the switches inside data centers. Fiber will also play a role in wired broadband for municipalities. Last week, the FCC issued a National Broadband Map that showed how lacking many hospitals, schools and libraries are in the U.S., with two-thirds of schools not having access to 25 Mbps or higher connections. Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of the North Carolina MCNC, a non-profit fiber network serving universities, told me demand at universities increases by up to 20 percent a year. Right now, his network “is barely scratching the surface” of its 40 Gbps capacity, but he estimates that by the end of this decade, the network will need 200 Gbps capacity. The Mobile Ecosystem: Fiber on the Run Wired communities aren’t the only consumer demand driving faster fiber (also known as more wavelengths). Mobile operators are seeking faster backhaul to support their 4G networks. Two weeks ago, I talked to Stefaan Vanhastel, director of product marketing from Alcatel-Lucent, who said the company’s 10 Gbps technology is aimed more at mobile operators than residential consumers. That makes sense given that LTE networks of today are seeking to provide speeds of up to 12 Gbps, while those of tomorrow may provide 10 times that amount. Once a bunch of individuals at a cell site are sharing those speeds, the pipe taking the traffic back to the larger web has to grow as well. From a DB research note issued this morning: Carriers are looking to pull fiber to all of their base stations, and 1GB systems may not be sufficient. This is good news for Ciena who remains in the lead for supplying 100GB and OTN systems. More 1GB and above base stations means more traffic and this should be lead to solid demand for Cisco’s and Juniper’s carrier business. Indeed, Cisco’s ASR-9000 router, introduced in 2009 to deliver terabytes of capacity at the edge, has seen a lot of success despite naysayers questioning the need for that much bandwidth. This latest fiber build out is showing how we’re taking advantage of connectivity to improve our products and our lives. As a platform for innovation we still have a long way to go with broadband and we’re going to need a lot more bandwidth to do it. Do you like this story?

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We Will Soon Live in a 100 Gbps World: Broadband News and Analysis «

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Reply Steve Crowley Tuesday, February 22 2011 I think that’s 12 Mbps for LTE, and it is the aggregation of base stations on one fiber that creates the need for 10 Gbps. Improved latency on these networks is also important as it will help improve the experience with packet voice on LTE.

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@scrawford can we make plans to meet at SXSW? I see you're coming. Stacey’s Posts We Will Soon Live in a 100 Gbps World Who’s Filtering the Web in the Middle East? Sign up to get GigaOM news!

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We Will Soon Live in a 100 Gbps World: Broadband News and Analysis «

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