Boxed out - Page 3

Fiber-optic proponents think beyond AT&T's proposed network upgrades

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SF needs to plan its communications infrastructure beyond the hundreds of unsightly metal boxes that AT&T wants to install.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY BEN HOPFER


Navin, Mendendez, and several others have talked up the idea of micro-trenching a small area in the Mission District to bring fiber-optic, high-speed Internet to an entire neighborhood. Yet their early conversations with the city's Department of Public Works suggest that it may be a slow process. "They were like, 'What is this?'" Menendez recounted. "There's no established permitting process."

Meanwhile, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu recently asked DTIS to examine the possibility of leasing excess capacity on city-owned dark-fiber infrastructure, which is currently in place but not being used. This could boost bandwidth for entities such as nonprofits, health care facilities, biotech companies, digital media companies, or universities, Chiu said, while bolstering city coffers. "There are many places in town that need a lot more bandwidth, and this is an easy way to provide it," he said.

Sniezko noted that other cities have created open-access networks to deploy fiber. "This is really effective because it's a lot like a public utility," she explained. "The city or someone fills a pipe, and then anyone who wants to run information or service on that pipe can do so. They pay a leasing fee. This has worked in many places in Europe, and they actually do it in Utah. In many cases, it's really cool — because it's publicly owned and it's neutral. There's no prioritizing traffic for one thing over another, or limitation on who's allowed to offer service on the network. It ... creates some good public infrastructure, and also allows for competition, and it sort of revives the local ISP. Chiu's proposal is a little bit in that vein, it sounds like. But he hasn't released a lot of details on it yet, so we're still looking."

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