Sun Dublan
UTOPIA notes 

Notes for Resolving Concerns about UTOPIA

Why is optical fiber so superior to copper?

  • Optical fiber uses light pulses to send signals. Copper uses electric pulses to send signals.
  • Light signals can go much farther than electric signals can.
  • Light signals don't get distorted by radio interference like electric signals do.
  • Light signals in one fiber can't influence signals in another wire like electric signals do.
  • Light can be modulated faster than electric signals without the message getting garbled. This allows more signals to happen in the same amount of time.
  • Light signals travel faster and farther than electric signals do because the signal doesn't have to be stopped, amplified, and resent as often.
  • Electric signals can be easily tapped. Optical fiber is more secure because you can't tap it without first breaking the connection.

Will the use of optical fiber obsolete soon? What about upgrades of technology? Will we just have to do this again in a few years anyway?

  • The speed that signals are relayed on optical fiber are only limited by the capabilities of the devices at each end.
  • As technology improves, we will more and more take advantage of the capabilities of fiber optics.
  • We can use different colors of light (even invisible ones) at the same time on the same fiber. Because of this, there is no limit to how much information optical fiber can carry. It is conceivable that all of the phone calls currently being made in the entire world could be passed through a single strand of optical fiber.
  • UTOPIA has already taken into account and budgeted for improvements in the technology to take more advantage of fiber's potential over the next two decades.
  • The fiber connection UTOPIA will give residents will initially be up to 100 times faster than my DSL line. If I really want it, they can make that be 1000 times faster. The connection that is 1000 times faster is not even close to maxing out the fiber optic cable.

    An example of the use of 1000 times faster connection: Monticello, a charter school in West Valley, has a gigabit connection that they use to do video conferencing with schools in other countries as part of language immersion programs. Also, students that are sick or otherwise incapable of coming to class can telecommute. Residents and businesses aside, wouldn't it be nice to provide our schools and city with an equivalent potential? There are many possibilities with a connection like that. The city could provide live city council meetings and other events for the people, like parents with small children, to watch and even participate in from the comfort of their homes.

  • We have been using copper for telecom for over a century. With that in mind, I believe it's safe to say that the fiber we install will last for at least a century, too.
  • Fiber optics will not obsolete soon. To say that fiber optics will obsolete soon can be likened to saying that the use of silicon for semiconductors will obsolete. In fact, the glass in optical fiber is just another form of silicon. What technology does with the raw materials can only improve.

But optical fiber is very expensive, isn't it?

  • If you think about it, for what fiber can do, it is actually wholesale communication. It is the copper network that is expensive. More data can be transferred faster, more reliably and securely on fiber than on any other medium. We already communicate with any computer on the Internet for free. That cheap communication to anywhere in the world, regardless of distance, would not be possible without fiber optics. Optical fiber is indeed less expensive for the work it can do. It is a sound investment in the future of the quality of living in our community. It allows the principles that the free Internet was based on to apply to our local community.
  • While UTOPIA was organized to realize this network, they aren't in it for the money. They're in it for the network. Sure, the materials, electronics, labor and machinery used to install fiber will cost money, but that's the most expensive part. After the fiber is installed, the surplus revenue that comes from operations of the network won't be slurped up by monopolies, corporations, and high salaries. Instead, it will be given back to the caities that made it possible in the first place.

But what if we're "stuck with the bill" at the end?

  • Unlike other city projects, this can and will pay for itself. We won't be stuck with the bill if the city will make it a priority to tell residents and businesses that the network is available and clue them in on why it is desirable and why they need to drop their commercial provider and join the wholesale community network. If over 40% of the households and businesses sign up, the community network will actually generate revenue for the city. That revenue can be used for further improvement of the network, or it could be used for other unrelated projects. And we already have a medium to publicize: the Woods Cross City newsletter. When we join UTOPIA, I believe every month's newsletter should include an educational UTOPIA blurb and status update. The city could also provide demonstration workshops like we have for emergency preparedness.

    The biggest problem with wholesale community networks is that there is no budget for marketing. It will be hard to compete with the constant bombardment of advertisements from the deep-pocketed telecom monopolies. But UTOPIA's network is intrinsically superior to theirs. People simply have to know about it. We really can make it known to our residents and businesses.

    My neighbor had an idea as I talked with her about it. She said we should offer a 30-day trial to residents. That would surely show them the virtues of a fiber connection. Once they have it, they are likely not want to get rid of it.

  • Even if we don't reach the break-even goal, the funds from people who do use the service will still shrink the final amount due at the end of the bond, to be a fraction of its original value. Because of that, I believe that UTOPIA will still be one of the more economic projects undertaken for the amount of work that will be done. But in a more positive light, I believe that we can reach and even surpass the break-even goal. All it will take is letting our residents know and educating them. I don't know why any subscriber to a DSL or cable Internet service wouldn't want an Internet service that is very superior at a more affordable price than they're currently paying.
  • UTOPIA hasn't had to use a single "red" cent of tax dollars thus far in the project. If you ask me, this is a noble accomplishment for being such a large scale intercommunity project.

    Zero taxpayer dollars have been spent on UTOPIA, while the public phone and cable systems receive subsidies in the form of mandated fees, and they enjoy exclusive provider status. Taxing has been one purported solution to the monopoly problem, but it is the people who end up paying the taxes. Why do we use taxes to support retail, corporate, and monopolistic companies, and yet we are afraid to cooperate with friendly sister cities to build a wholesale network of our own, which is not only superior but also can and will easily pay for itself and even generate revenue?

  • As far as I've heard, all of the fourteen participating cities are still "in the black." You may have heard about iProvo's problems, but that is entirely different as they aren't a part of UTOPIA, and they don't benefit from UTOPIA's frugal management. Cities that are really shining are Midvale, Murray, and West Valley. They were the early adopters. And Murray's fiber is almost completely installed. Murray simply needs to publicize to its residents more.
  • Being a UTOPIA city, we will attract more businesses and residents. More UTOPIA residents and businesses will only bolster the city's finances and quality of living. If Woods Cross doesn't eventually do this, I'm probably going to look at moving to Centerville, Murray, or West Valley.

But aren't Qwest's and Comcast's Internet services already adequate?

  • If you would have asked the average person whether their 28.8 kilobits/s modem connection was adequate in the mid nineties, they would have said yes. But it is not adequate now, and it most certainly won't be adequate in the future. My relatives send e-mail messages with photos that are several megabytes in size, and the message itself can take over a whole hour to download on a dial-up connection. Who is willing to wait for that if there is fiber? People who still keep their dial-up connections today are just as naive as the people who think there is no need for the Internet. People who think that a fiber optic network would not be beneficial are just as oblivious.
  • Qwest and Comcast Internet connections are severely lopsided. Uploads happen at a very degraded speed compared to download speeds. I believe that the Internet should allow you to upload, for example, your pictures and movies for distant family members, just as fast as you can download your distant family member's pictures and movies. With monolithic companies and their incapable networks out of the way, we can make that happen.
  • Qwest and Comcast were invited to join UTOPIA and declined. Just because they don't believe that it fits their business model (read: vertical monopoly) doesn't mean we the cities don't have the right to join and provide our citizens with a valuable service.
  • Remember the Telecom Act of 1996? There are still problems. Forcing a vertical monopoly to allow other companies to compete using the a stage of the monopoly (its wires) has helped a little but still hasn't fixed the situation. The Act has not induced the desired competition and level of service that would happen if the wires were owned by the community, because everyone still has to deal with the same old phone company, use its facilities, and pay exorbitant fees to get connected. And Comcast doesn't let anyone use their wires.

    In my opinion, trying to regulate a telecom monopoly is a joke. The only way to get the telecom monopoly to behave is to have a municipal ownership of the telecom medium itself.

  • I dream of a day when telecommunications companies are not monopolistic. Don't you? Can you imagine living in a city where you can choose your telecommunications provider and not have to jump through several hoops to get around the monopolistic one who actually owns the wire?
  • All I've talked about is Internet access. Don't get me wrong, UTOPIA isn't just about Internet access. With UTOPIA, anyone can easily, economically, and completely circumvent Qwest and Comcast and get more affordable local and long distance phone service, and purely digital television on demand. Anyone who wants to make a business that has to do with transferring any kind of information electronically will finally be able to thrive on the community network with the monopoly out of the way.
  • Let's leave Qwest doing what they do best: providing monpolistic and antiquated phone service on the old copper that the goverment bought for them when they split up the Bells.
  • Let's leave Comcast doing what they do best: providing fuzzy TV across their RF susceptible coaxial copper cable.
  • Let's build our community network how it should be done, with the means provided by our own people, our neighbor cities, and our friends at the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, who are making this all possible.

Please move that our city join the modern telecommunication utopia. Thank you.

Troy Bowman
872 West 2100 S
Woods Cross, Utah

Addendum, if you're interested: But what about that another medium: wireless?

  • All talk of interference and varying signal quality aside, Wireless is inherently a broadcast medium. Broadcast means that everyone listens to one person talking, and only one person can talk at a time. Even though you can use several different channels for wireless communication, the more people who use it, the more bogged down the network will become. Small cells of broadcast ranges help but do not solve the problem. Even with cells, airtime is expensive because the same signal within the cell is still shared among everyone within range of the cell. The more people who use the network, the more demand for shared airtime, and the more it will cost.
  • Internet access over a satellite is even worse. Satellite time is the most expensive airtime because a satellite is shared by even more people. As opposed to having the entire valley or a cell wait while someone else uses the medium for their personal transfer, everyone on the face of the earth that uses that frequency and satellite must wait. In addition to that, the time it takes for signals to go up and back for a satellite is horrible. It can take well over a second to relay back and forth because the signal must cross close to 25,000 miles, over and over, to and from, a geostationary satellite. That delay can never be improved. Light or radio can only travel so fast. You may have noticed this delay in newscasts on TV. While it is bearable for a newscast, it is an eternity for time sensitive applications on the Internet. Add that to the time it takes to cross the Internet in addition to sharing satelite time (please wait while they finish their conversation), and that delay is even worse. Over a second wait for one part of the journey the information must take is horrible compared to a microsecond or two that it takes to cross a fiber. Again, the more people that join a satellite Internet access network, the worse it gets.
  • The Internet does one-to-one communication. One machine talks to one other machine. This does not match the broadcast nature of wireless. There are very few services on the Internet that are broadcast. Even for online radio streams, the radio server must send the same packet over and over again to all of its clients. Radio and TV are still the best and most efficient applications for radio broadcasts.
  • There is a spacial Internet protocol called multicasting, where routers are set up to treat one kind of stream of packets as a broadcast, forwarding that single broadcast stream (as opposed to many one-to-one streams) all over the Internet for anyone who wants to listen to that stream. But this is a waste of resources because the whole Internet must transfer this data, regardless of whether or not someone consumes it. Because of this, providers try to avoid it altogether as it would consume bandwidth that one-to-one connections would use. Multicasting should really be limited to very small areas, or even a single local area network. These principles apply to using wireless for Internet access. Broadcasting for one-to-one connections just doesn't make sense.
  • Wireless is great for a computer network in tiny areas of a hundred feet or so, like an in-home wireless network with just a few computers. But beyond that, it is too limited, in my opinion, for ultra-high-speed Internet access.

Fiber is perfect for Internet traffic. It is already one-to-one communication. It's layout is like a spoke and hub of a bicycle. Each spoke is your own, personal, dedicated wire to the hub. The hub uses very high-speed switching and can be scaled to any demand. All the hubs are interconnected in a ring or mesh so that the entire network is redundant and has multiple paths for network traffic, balancing load across redundant links, and compensating should one link go down. Fiber has huge potential in transferring as much data as possible even as technology improves. The more people that join and use the network, the better.

9/18/2007 Webmaster: Troy Bowman