December 9, 1999
SMART Letter #30 - December 9, 1999
Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg
isen.com -- "nothing but net"
firstname.lastname@example.org -- http://www.isen.com/ -- 1-888-isen-com
> CANARIE Sings a Lovely Song: Advanced Nets in Canada
> Broadband Smorgasbord: 10 Mbit to the home for $25/mo.
> Smart Comments from SMART People: Anders Comstedt
> The Meaning of WTO
> Quotes of Note: Jay Fenello and Jesse Jackson on WTO
> Smart Comments from SMART People:
> 'Wireless in California' on Rooftop & WAP shortcomings
> Miljenko Horvat on newspapersdirect.com
> SMART CONTEST!!! Guess the Richest Person in 2020
> Conferences on my Calendar, Copyright Notice, Administrivia
CANARIE SINGS A LOVELY SONG: or, WHERE THERE'S A WILL,
by David S. Isenberg
The recent CANARIE Advanced Networks Workshop (Toronto, Nov.
29-30, 1999), an annual event, drew participants from all
over Canada plus networking experts from around the world,
notably Sweden, the Netherlands, and Korea, with a smattering
from a less developed southern country -- the United States.
CANARIE stands for the Canadian Advanced Network for
Research, Industry, and Education. CANARIE is similar to
Internet2 in the US, but industry takes a more active role.
And the Canadians have some apparently great companies like
Newbridge, JDS Uniphase, PMC Sierra, Teleglobe (I *think*
it's great; certainly it has huge connectivity on the great
circle between Europe and Asia), and even Nortel.
Also, unlike any other nethead meeting I've ever been to,
school networks, especially nets for the Kindergarten-12
grades, were significantly represented.
The biggest impression I took away was this: It sure looks
like Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) over glass (and even 10 Gigabit
Ethernet, though still in the labs) is coming on like
gangbusters. GigE is following the classic Clayton
Christensen disruptive trajectory, rapidly improving in
capability, moving up-market from LAN to WAN to displace ATM
and SONET, to become the network architecture of choice. The
move to GigE seems to be coming first in entirely new
Internet-created companies, then it reaches newly networked
market segments (especially public institutions), then it
slowly penetrates older, already-networked sectors like
telcos, banks, etc.
Since there are many more LANs than WANs, GigE, due to its
Ethernet LAN heritage, has huge economies of scale. (Every
flavor of Ethernet that has hit the marketplace has slid down
a 30% per year price reduction curve.) GigE's use in both
LAN and WAN gives greater scale yet. Plus by erasing the
LAN/WAN boundary, GigE decreases the complexity of the
network, making it even stupider, easier to manage and easier
to innovate upon. So it looks like the Stupid Network will
be built of GigE over glass, and it looks like CANARIE's
CA*Net3 will be its first pure nationwide instantiation.
Referring to the disappearance of the LAN/WAN distinction,
Bjorn Roos, who is building a 190 node, GigE "from core to
closet" optical Internet for Stockholm schools (using the
Stokab municipal dark fiber infrastructure) quipped, "I am
sad to say I had to change my title. I used to be a WAN
manager but now I am a LAN manager again!"
But it looks like the big Canadian innovations are more
regulatory than technical, notwithstanding the huge progress
in Internet over GigE over glass. The CRTC (the Canadian
FCC), in sharp contrast to the US FCC, has ruled that
Canadian Cable TV operators are common carriers, and ordered
them to open their head-ends to any ISP. Then, when the
cable guys didn't do it, last September the CRTC slapped them
with an order to re-sell head-end access to all ISPs at a 25%
discount! That'll goose up Canadian Internet competition!
In contrast, in the US, some industry advocates, including
FCC Chairman Bill Kennard, make dire predictions that open
access to cable networks (especially AT&T's) would chill
investment in broadband infrastructure. Poor AT&T needs its
$120 Billion investment protected. (I want the US Government
to protect my OpenFund investment, too -- it'd be in the
public interest, dontcha think? -- but I can't seem to hire
enough lobbyists to make my case.)
In Canada, open access is not discouraging investment in
broadband nets, not at all! The Canadians seem to understand
the centrality of a broadband communications infrastructure
to their economy. They are pushing towards fiber everywhere
with a national will.
Where there's a will, there's right of way. Any Canadian
public institution -- schools, hospitals, cities,
universities, churches, etc. -- can hang their own cables on
telephone poles. Lots of them are doing it. As a result,
there is already much fiber in Canada's neighborhoods, close
enough to where people live that fiber to the home will soon
I should point out that there is significant neighborhood
fiber activity in the United States, but it is more spotty
and isolated. It does not have the support of the telecom
industry or the regulatory establishment, but it is going on!
Spokane WA and Palo Alto CA are two good examples of the 47
US communities with municipal fiber and a civic understanding
of how broadband connectivity makes their economy vital. Ken
Poulton (Palo Alto Fiber Network) and Dennis Schweikhardt
(Spokane Public School District 81) reported strong progress.
Telecom whistleblower Bruce Kushnick (who was not there, but
is a good friend of mine) says, "AT&T is Mother Theresa
compared to the RBOCs." Lon Berquist, of the University of
Texas Telecommunications & Information Policy Institute,
reported that there are 6 US states that prohibit or restrict
municipal telecom. These RBOC lap-dog states include
Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Texas and Virginia.
Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame. If a city wants to
run a sewer system, it can. If a city wants to manage its
own streets, it can. If a city wants to provide water,
power, garbage collection, etc., there is nothing that
prevents it from pursuing its own economic interests and
defining the standards of municipal service that its citizens
Please don't label me a Commie Symp for this opinion. (I
gave up when the wall went down.) I'm all for private
enterprise where it creates open markets and real
competition. Metromedia Fiber Networks is doing great work
to bring abundant dark fiber to US cities, but until we have
a dozen such companies, if small and mid-tier cities want
their citizens to have beef, they will have to rope and tie
their own calf.
As we move into the age of networks, countries with good
infrastructures, like Canada and Sweden, upon which they can
build a vibrant competitive networked marketplace, will
prosper. The future will appear in these places first.
Conference keynoter Peter Lothberg described the goal of
Sweden's national fiber initiative. He said, "We never want
to run into a scenario where we'll be bandwidth limited
[This article first appeared on the Metamarkets.com
discussion board. Metamarkets is the home of OpenFund, the
world's first on-line mutual fund.]
BROADBAND SMORGASBORD: STARTUP LAUNCHES 10-MEGABIT TO THE
HOME SERVICE ON SWEDEN'S FIBER INFRASTRUCTURE.
by David S. Isenberg
Bredbandsbolaget, literally "The Broadband Company," plans to
deliver 10-megabit, always-on service to 100,000 Swedish
homes by the end of 2000. Bredbandsbolaget, or B2, founded in
1998, already has 14,000 proof-of-concept households online.
It has just signed an agreement with Sweden's largest
apartment co-op to bring 400,000 more homes (10% of Sweden's
population) into its customer base. B2 service is priced at
200 kronor ($25) a month -- half the price of cable-modem
"Broadband adds gasoline to the Internet fire," says Jonas
Birgersson, B2's 28-year-old visionary leader. He expects
that the B2 infrastructure will support telephony, video
telephony, and audio and video entertainment. Switched
Ethernet brings 10 megabits to every home, enough bandwidth
for TV-over-IP or video telephony, Birgersson says. With
symmetrical input and output, he says, B2 service "is a
democratization of the new technology. Each apartment will be
able to broadcast its own [IP] TV or start an Internet
"Ethernet is the world's most ubiquitous communications
interface," says Bob Bailey, CEO of communications chipmaker
PMC-Sierra. In talking about B2 during September's Telecosm
conference, Bailey describes B2 architecture as a metro ring
that delivers gigabit Ethernet via fiber to each apartment
building, where an Ethernet switch puts each customer's data
on copper twisted pair. Ethernet, says Bailey, "is the
cheapest LAN technology" and easily upgradable to 100-megabit
or gigabit Ethernet.
IN THE BROADBAND WAR, CUSTOMERS WIN
"Delivering flat-rate connectivity to ordinary people will
destroy the old models of telephony and video delivery," says
Birgersson. Flat-rate, always-on service is especially
disruptive in Europe, where per-minute charges on local calls
inhibit dial-up Internet usage. B2's Internet telephone calls
will not be metered. Furthermore, new models of charging [or
not] for Internet video content areinevitable.
Before Birgersson started B2, he tried to persuade Sweden's
PTT-heritage telco, Telia, to offer broadband service, but
Lars Berg, its CEO, rejected the idea, exclaiming, "I won't
take advice from 20-year-olds!"
"Now we have started a broadband war," says Birgersson.
Indeed, in August, Telia announced the same service as B2, at
the same price. A third competitor, startup Telecyber, is
also offering 10-megabit, 200-kronor service. "I am glad to
have competition," says Birgersson. "End users will win this
B2 is not Birgersson's first business. At age 24, he founded
Framfab (for framtidsfabriken, which means "future factory"),
an Internet consultancy and Web design shop. Today Framfab
has 18 offices in four countries and is publicly traded, with
a market cap of over $400 million. Its customers include
Volvo, Saab, Ikea, GE, and Electrolux.
Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future
(www.iftf.org), sits on Framfab's board. He says, "Jonas
Birgersson is the Steve Jobs of Sweden."
Birgersson is widely recognized in Sweden, winning awards
like "Web Guru of the Year" (1998) and "Outstanding Young
Person of the Year" (1999). Despite fame and fortune,
Birgersson still lives in the same Spartan room he took as a
student. He attended college in Stockholm for three years but
denies being a dropout, saying he still attends class, "now
"We predicted that entrepreneurs like Birgersson would
emerge," says Anders Comstedt, managing director of Stokab,
the municipal company that built a dark fibers infrastructure
for the entire city of Stockholm in less than two years.
("Intelligence at the Edge," Oct. 1, 1998).
Stockholm has become the openly competitive communications
marketplace that the city's leaders envisioned when they
chartered Stokab. Today, over 30 service providers use
Stokab's infrastructure, including mobile and wireline
telcos, ISPs and cable companies -- plus upstart broadband
service companies like Bredbandsbolaget and Telecyber -- as
well as banks, insurance companies and other data-intensive
The Stokab model is spreading. Comstedt reports that some 170
of Sweden's 289 municipalities have some municipal fiber
infrastructure. And in Stockholm, the original 96-fiber
cables no longer have enough capacity; Stokab is now pulling
cables with 192 and 384 fibers.
"Because the infrastructure is already in place, Sweden is
becoming the world's greatest broadband services laboratory,"
says Birgersson. "If Americans don't respond in an aggressive
way, Sweden could become the next Silicon Valley or
[This article appeared in the November 1, 1999 issue of
America's Network. Copyright 1999 Advanstar Communications.]
Note: After the above article was written and 'in the can', I
learned that B2 was in the process of acquiring Telecyber.
Smart Comments from SMART People
Anders Comstedt, the Managing Director (i.e., CEO) of Stokab,
"Birgersson's image is not as bright and
untarnished as it was three months ago.
Talk is cheap; shipping is a different story.
He might only be remembered for lighting the
fuse for the next current step: getting broad-
band out to individual users at a tenth of
the cost we charge small businesses today. (And
a hundred times what we charged the Fortune
500s yesterday.) On the other hand he might
pull it off.
"However, I like the guy, and industry needs a
face like his for this step, if not to get
obvious messages across to the media. Who
needs a brand new breed of broadcast TV? We
have a pretty disgusting debate over this where
does too well in preserving old structures. When
a fellow with the impact of Birgersson attacks the
media, they shiver and their nakedness becomes
THE MEANING OF WTO by David S. Isenberg
What kind of Global Government do we want? Regardless of
what we think about the WTO, and despite what we think about
its protesters, one thing is clear; in the beginning of the
age of globalization, a Global Government is struggling to be
born. Its first constituents are the multinational
corporations because they are most acutely aware of global-
scale issues that affect them. Other interests are now
catching on, and they want to be represented within the new
Global Government too.
Global Government is coming. What will it look like? Who
will run it? Who will it represent? What will it govern?
And what will it leave to the individual countries, states,
cities, businesses and individuals?
These questions will be decided, if not by us than by others
who care about them more. It is time to take these questions
into open, conscious, public discussion.
QUOTES OF NOTE: Jay Fenello & Jesse Jackson
"The riots in Seattle [during the World Trade
Organization meetings] are about the loss of
U.S. sovereignty to multinational corporations,
just like the Domain Name Wars [are] about the
loss of the Internet to the same multinational
Jay Fenello, via email, December 1, 1999
"The WTO attracts this protest because it reveals
the dirty little secret of the global economy --
that all the talk about free trade is just a put-on.
Free trade requires only removing trade barriers,
not thousands of pages of painfully negotiated
agreements. This is about managed trade and the
use of state power to enforce the rules. The
obvious question is what are the rules -- and
Jesse Jackson in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
December 2, 1999
SMART COMMENTS FROM SMART PEOPLE
'Wireless in California' writes:
"One of the first questions I always ask when
faced with a new technology is 'what are the
limits to growth?' An idea isn't necessarily
bad because it can't grow past a certain point;
I just want to know where the technology will
hit the wall.
"Rooftop is not a magic-bullet fix for the
problems of wireless. The wired Internet
would have collapsed into a logjam of
packets long ago without DWDM (Dense Wave
Division Multiplexing). No such magic
bullet is on the radio horizon unless the
FCC releases more frequencies.
"Also, Rooftop will never fly because of the
tendency to bottleneck near the ISP. It
doesn't matter how many transmitters are
installed on the roof of the ISP, they all
share the same spectrum and they all step on
each other's toes. If Rooftop actually
comes close to 15-20 rooftops per node, the
owner/user close to the ISP will be
clobbered by the store and forward pass
through traffic from distant users and find
themselves with little bandwidth.
"The 2.4GHz ISM band [that Rooftop uses] is
shared with vehicle theft alarms, interstitial
video distribution service, point to point ISM
wireless bridges, AVLS (automatic vehicle loc-
ation systems), cordless telephones, wireless
networking, Bluetooth wireless, television
rabbits, and whatever else the FCC doesn't
want to deal with. One leaky microwave oven
can total the 2.4GHz ISM band. A spectrum
analyzer picture of the 2.4GHz ISM band is
truly ugly. One doesn't build a super
highway through a garbage dump.
"A wireless ISP, Wavepath, which uses MMDS
and sells service to retail ISPs only, has
revealed several problems. They're losing
customers because ISPs cannot handle last
mile support. When the telco or cable last
mile dies, it's not an ISP problem. But when
the customer's last mile is wireless, the
ISP is now in the 'why doesn't my radio
"Meanwhile, the PDA crowd has decided to go
its own way. Ignoring both the IETF and
common sense, they have rewritten almost
every Internet specification on the grounds
you can't control anything you don't own.
See: http://www.wapforum.com for the WAP
(wireless access protocol) garbage dump.
"The WAP Forum's mission is ostensibly to
optimize the various Internet protocols for
wireless transmission and portable battery-
powered devices. However, closer inspection
will reveal that they are remaking wireless
into a proprietary jumble. Microsoft just
joined WAP to ensure that the published
standard will be incomplete. WAP is nothing
more than an attempt to proprietarize open
standards. The rules of data transmission
don't magically change because of wireless.
"If Rooftop and WAP are any indication, then
the wireless network of the future will be
an anarchistic topology of proprietary
protocols, infested with middleware. Does
the end (allegedly improved wireless
performance) justify the means (breaking
every standard in sight)?"
Miljenko Horvat, founder of the Global Newspaper Network
"We are a perfect example of a disruptive technology.
We serve a product for which I wanted to use a tag
line 'good enough'. It is not great but if it is
good enough that is good enough. Briefly, we print
daily newspapers (delivered to us by publishers as
.pdf files) on a network of our own equipment located
in hotels. We print on 11X17 paper so the 'broadsheet'
newspapers have to be reduced. So it is definitely not
as good as the real thing, but on your hike of Machu
Pichu you can get your Financial Times at breakfast.
"It is almost funny to observe how the newspaper
distribution food chain doesn't quite know what to
think of us. But they all smell disruption. Even the
publishers, who have most to gain, sometimes give us
the 'you had to go and rock the boat' vibe.
"In one sense, we are about newspapers going back to
what they started with - content (as opposed to what
they have become -- platforms for serving advertising)."
SMART CONTEST: Guess The Richest Person In The World in 2020
(and what they did to become so rich).
A while ago, somebody (Peter Schwartz?) told me that Stewart
Brand, observing the early potential of the PC, speculated
that the richest person in the world would soon be a computer
programmer. Stewart doesn't remember this too well either --
he writes, "Oh I would love to had said that, and maybe I
even did, but I don't recall doing so." Of all things in the
Long Now, memory is the most volatile.
Anyhow, whether he said it or not, HERE'S THE CONTEST: Guess
who the richest person in the world will be in 2020. Or more
to the point, guess what that person will have done to become
so rich. Write it down and send it in.
Fine print: All non-trivial entries will be winners, and
winning entries will be published in the SMART Letter, after
editing for succinctness and readability. The Grand Prize
Winner will be the person who realizes what can be done, and
then GOES OUT AND DOES IT -- for this person, the contest
entry will be for documentation purposes only. Grand Prize
may be shared with the judges.
CONFERENCES ON MY CALENDAR
March 12-15, 2000. Singapore. TELECOSM ASIA. If you have
any information on this, especially if you are Chuck Frank,
email me at email@example.com or call me at 1-888-isen-com.
May 7-12, 2000. Birmingham UK. World Telecommunications
Congress. I am an invited speaker for the session entitled,
"What's your network IQ?" Answer: Too high. For info, see
May 23-26, 2000. Laguna Niguel CA. VORTEX. Metcalfe has
invited me to speak this year! Cool, but what I really want
to do is run a session on "The Network We Really Want to
Have, and Why We're Not Building It." Nothing on the web
yet. Stay tuned.
June 7-10, 2000. Toronto ON. TED CITY. My only role is as a
paying member of the audience, but I think that Richard Saul
Wurman does a job with his TED conferences -- every one I've
been to has had deep, memorable impact. (TED stands for
Technology, Entertainment, Design.) You can't shoehorn
yourself into his regular February stand in Monterey CA, but
there are still a few spaces for June. SMART People should
get there if they can. http://www.ted.com/city.html
COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any
part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes,
provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it:
Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg
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