Loma Linda, a town of 20,000 residents wedged between Riverside and San Bernadino in Southern California, says it was the first city in the U.S. to mandate a building code for residential and commercial structures to include fiber optics. Now the city is building out a […]

Loma LindaLoma Linda, a town of 20,000 residents wedged between Riverside and San Bernadino in Southern California, says it was the first city in the U.S. to mandate a building code for residential and commercial structures to include fiber optics.

Now the city is building out a network that brings speeds of 5Mbps, 10Mbps and 15Mbps (symmetrical) to residents and businesses at $30, $50 and $100 per month. This week I watched a web presentation from Loma Linda CIO James Hettrick over my $30 2Mbps DSL connection and dreamed of higher speeds.

Clearly, fiber is more expensive than municipal WiFi networks that are cheaper to build. But Loma Linda’s network makes one think about the benefits of cities investing in broadband with the idea of emphasizing the public good, rather than short-term profits.

No, I didn’t just become a hippie — while the private sector has the money and know-how to deploy WiFi and fiber networks, they don’t necessarily have the cities interests at heart. They are beholden to their shareholders.

Hettrick’s presentation reiterated to me the greater benefits of broadband – education, decreasing the digital divide, and attracting tech companies to the area. Of course in some cases the expense won’t be worth the investment, and it’s probably too early to declare the project a success. Hettrick said the city’s fiber plan will cost $41 million, and over a period of 10 years will make back $45 million in revenues. The only people who would see that as a good investment are the citizens of Loma Linda.

  1. I recently moved house and, once I’d wifi’d it, was left with decades of unsightly and now-useless cabling all over the place – tacked to the skirting board, running between floors and rooms through holes drilled in walls, etc. I just wonder whether the citizens of Loma Linda are setting themselves up for the same problem writ large if/when the municipal cabling becomes obsolete and the city authorities of the day don’t want the job of pulling the stuff out of thousands of homes. Does Hettrick’s model give a timeframe for the network’s eventual obsolescence or factor in the cost of the resulting clean-up?

  2. A fiber network will not become obsolete in any overseable future – wide-area wireless networks just don’t have the same level of capacity as fiber dittos. And when the fiber is in the ground, it will continue to scale with demand, with upgrades only necessary at the connection points.

    It’s really about knowing the difference between last mile and last yard access, where the latter is an excellent example when wireless is the best choise. Just as you noted for your own home, Seamus. I say go for it Loma Linda, this is a dead sure, future proof investment.

  3. The only people who would see that as a good investment are the citizens of Loma Linda.

    Well, assuming that they’re the kind of people who want fiber. The people of Loma Linda are paying for it, one way or the other. You have to assume one of several possibilities:

    1) There are strong network effects so that it’s much cheaper to wire everybody and everywhere for fiber than just do a number of homes;
    2) Going ahead and forcing it on everybody will make people who don’t demand broadband currently realize what they’ve been missing and start desiring it and using it; or
    3) The people who really want fast broadband fiber will get the people who otherwise wouldn’t pay it to subsidize them (and force them to pay higher building costs). Verizon could certainly charge lower prices for FIOS if they could guarantee a 100% subscription rate.

    Could easily be a combination of all three things.

    Incidentally, I think wireless is far too slow for file transfers within my own home from computer to computer. De gustibus non est disputandum, though.

  4. Oh please. $100 per month for a 15 Mbps connection? Even if it is symmetrical, it is far far more expensive than similar offerings in Finland, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, and certainly in Asia. And if 15 Mbps is the best they can do with this fiber, I’m not impressed. The places mentioned in this comment are offering 30 Mbps and up.

  5. Jesse Kopelman Friday, October 20, 2006

    Putting in fiber when building a new structure is pretty cheap (maybe cheaper than copper depending on the latest fluctuations of the commodity markets). Whether or not you agree that a city should have its own MAN (fiber or otherwise), mandating that all new structures are at least ready to connect to someone’s highspeed MAN seems like a pretty good call to me.

  6. I don’t think that Telcos ever have the interest of the consumer, even margenily. By the way did any one see the PBS magazine “Now” on broadband.


  7. Thanks for the opportunity to address Esme Vos concern that Loma Linda’s fiber network is to slow. I can deliver 1 Gbps symmetrically to any customer’s home through out the residential and or commercial fiber network. Our normal connection is 100 Mbps symmetrical. However we rate limit the connection into packages to prepare the consumer for the service provider that will be taking over the customer service plans next year. Our pricing is high for the 10 and 15 mbps plans so we do not undercut their ability to server our citizens when they arrive with 250 plus IPTV channels, VOIP phone service and as much internet connection they can handle. Katie only got to see a small percentage of the available information during the presentation due to the limited time allotted for the live meeting session. If you want more info I will be presenting at the following conferences. UTC, Digital City Expo, BICSI, National League of Cities, Montana Government IT Conference, National Multi-Housing Council and others. I would love to here your ideas. To get some more details on the real speed of this network visit. http://www.networkworld.com/allstar/2006/092506-lans-loma-linda.html

  8. Loma Linda is not a big deal. I live about 20 minutes away in Beaumont, CA and we’ve had Verizon FIOS for about two years. The Fiber is terminated in the garage in my case and then Cat 5e is run into the house to a selected point. Luckly for me my home is new and had Cat 5e run into every room during the constuction and had a central data and video point. Loma Linda is just using Verizon FIOS. So far no problems for me running VOIP, FIOS TV and 8 computers. My fiend in France does have a faster and cheaper connection.

  9. Beaumont, has a great system, just down the road from me. Loma Linda is NOT using Verizon FIOS it is owned by the public not a private company. Even though we would be happy to LET verizon deliver service over our fiber. We REQUIRE 2 Cat6 and 1 coax in every living space and two sets in the master bedroom and family room. We aslo REQUIRE the Voice, Video and Data interface to placed in the security of the master bedroom closet not on the outside of a home were tampering could occur. We also REQUIRE the copper though out the home to have a 25 year warrenty. I would be glad to answer any other questions about how the Loma Linda 10Gbps network and Verizon FIOS are very different by design and purpose.

  10. Yes, Esme is right, here in Europe we get a lot more for a lot less…
    For example: in Sweden for 100 $ (89 euro’s that is) you can get 1 gigabit symmetrical (yes, a Giga…)
    and here in The Netherlands, a commercial company (no state subsidy involved!) has just fibered-up a small town of 7500 households. The people there pay 45 euro’s (56 US $) for 60 tv-channels analog, 40 more digital, free phone calls within the network, cheaps calls to other phones, and 20 megabit (minimum – guaranteed)symmetrical (when I tested it I got in fact 70 mbps).
    Why is it that you guys in the US of A can’t match that? Somebody must be doing something wrong, and I have the feeling this time it’s not the Europeans…


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