(2018) by Susan Crawford
I’m rereading @scrawford’s masterpiece, Fiber. If you are wanting a great read that provides incredible insight on the current state of affairs regarding America’s shortsighted relationship with the Internet, I strongly recommend checking this out.
#internet #digitalequity https://t.co/zzwxDkzoX1
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/JoshEdmonds216/status/1226672696991330311
came out in 2018 –
on hold at library – thanks library
“A timely and urgent look at how America is sacrificing its digital future, productivity, connectivity, social mobility, entrepreneurial growth, education, and every other public good, thanks to rapacious telcos, scumbag lobbyists, and negligent, cash-hungry politicians. . . . You should be reading this.”—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
1 – the fiber future
i had been on many journeys over the previous five years, interviewing hundreds of people in stockholm, seoul, tokyo, singapore, berlin, amsterdam, copenhagen, and havana, as well as in a long list of us cities, about the possible effects on human lives of virtually unlimited, cheap, ubiquitous communications capacity..
i had come to see what s korea, the most wired nation on the planet, would show the world when it hosted the 2018 winter olympics..
(on being able to participate in olympics virtually from seoul)fiber optic cables, form ed of hair thin filaments of unbelievably pure synthetic glass, which channel light across the many miles between rural peyongchang and homes and businesses in the rest of the country..
sang jin oh: ‘fiber serves as a basic infra for telecommunications services in korea’.. allows to integrate and upload data simultaneously..
report from 2010 – via my colleague yochai benkler
s koreans take virtually unlimited, cheap connectivity for granted.. fiber optic cables run to just about every home and business in the country
in us we have fiber optic cables between cities called ‘long haul or ‘backbone’ lines.. and w/in metro area.. ‘middle mile’ or business data service’ fiber optic lines. these cables often connect to telephone poles or other network elements, but don’t go all the way to retail customers’ premises.. what korea, japan, hong kong, china, singapore, and the nordic countries have that the rest of the world does not are fiber optic cables running physically, directly, into neighborhoods, homes, and businesses in both rural/urban areas.. the so called ‘last mile’ network..
inventors have found ways to encode stunning amounts of info on pulses of light vibrating billions of times a second, and then send that light on its journey thru a channel made of the purest glass on earth..
if the info carrying capacity of cooper wire is like a two inch wide pipe, fiber optic is like a river 15 miles wide.. could download 10 movies in a second.. or see your dr or members of your family, when needed, as needed..
fiber optic cables need to be physically distributed to reach individual buildings to be fully harnessed.. in may developed countries, that last mile is the weakest link in the network.. its material (copper or coaxial cable) serving to throttle communications just as they are starting on their journeys form individuals to ht rest of the world.. and slowing incoming data just as it si about to arrive in those individuals’ lives..
the plan is for 5g wireless to allow for the sending of enormous amounts of data over the air across very short distances, to reach humans, handsets, sensors, or anything else capable of receiving or transmitting data..
because the last mile has to connect to individual buildings, ti is also the most expensive part of any communications network to install….most of that expense – perhaps 80%.. is the high fixed costs of the labor needed to dig up streets or attach fiber optic wire to poles and buildings, and revenue will not flow in to cover those costs until the last mile is actually in use.. just like electricity or water service, last mile communications networks are often called a ‘natural monopoly’.. those high fixed installation costs mean that it simply does not make econ sense for two separate fiber cables to be attached to any give location.. to avoid natural monopoly to be used to extract unreasonably high fees from subscribers, telecommunications regulators often require that the basic communications line be made available on a wholesale, price controlled basis to competing retail providers..
in the us we cannot even imagine cheap, unlimited communications capacity in our homes. because of decades of political maneuvering by the enormous private co’s that sell internet access to american consumers, a lack of leadership at the fed level, and the invisibility of this entire policy area, we have failed to make the upgrade to cheap last mile fiber connectivity..
we suffer from a whole series of digital divides as a country.. those places where fiber now reaches or soon will reach all residents, are where new industries and new ways of making a living are likely to emerge first
the cables running under the oceans and among the major cities of the world began to be ungraded to fiber 30 yrs ago.. and once a fiber optic cable is in the ground, it lasts for 40-50 yrs.. essentially future prof, because its info carrying capacity can be almost infinitely upgraded w/o digging up the cable, merely by swapping out the electronics that encode and power the pulses of light that travel w/in its walls..
most people in non fiber countries (including the us) can’t even buy what in fibered countries counts as a standard, modern internet connection.. about 11 million american households, out of 126 million total, are connected to last mile fiber.. and that service is usually available only at very high prices from a single unregulated provider.. meanwhile, w korea, japan, hong kong, and singapore have virtually 100% fiver adoption at low prices, and often scores of competitors..
this is a big problem..
here’s why: those hair thin fiber strands, capable of carrying billions of phone calls simultaneously, plus advance wireless communications that depend on that fiber extending in to the last mile, will make possible virtually unlimited, cheap communications capacity where ever you are – which int run will give rise to new businesses, new transport capabilities, new ways of managing our use of energy, new forms of ed and health care, new ways of earning a living and new forms of human connectedness..
for these things to happen, both fiber and advance wireless techs need to be widely and competitively available.
rather.. we need to get to commoning – as in.. everyone just has whatever they need.. no competition.. no sales..
w/o these basic pieces of open infra in place, your country will be missing out on the future being lived and built elsewhere
but.. currently.. that’s now what we or anyone really wants/needs.. we need to us the infra for something else.. something completely diff.. we’re not missing out.. if they’re (ie: those w last mile fiber et al) are already missing out.. connecting for inhumane reasons.. et al
much of the world gets this
but no one seems to get the real issue.. taleb center of problem law; gupta roadblock law; .. great points.. ie: has to be everyone.. wrong focus.. everyone doing their own thing/fittingness.. not everyone doing what we’ve been taught to do by the system
we don’t need better connected whales in sea world
fiber plus advance wireless capability is as central to the next phase of human existence as electricity was a hundred yrs ago
just as countries that quickly ensure cheap access to electricity *revolutionized their economies and provided **dramatically improved quality of life for their citizens, countries that figure out how to get fiber to everyone will have ever increasing ***advantages over those that do it slowly
**haven’t seen that yet anywhere.. (ie: eudaimoniative surplus)
*** has to be all of us in sync or the dance won’t dance
but korea telecom’s display of its 5g fireworks is far more significant that any olympic even could possible be. korea is going thru a phase change in digital communications that has implications for almost every occupation and source of economic power of which we’re aware today
but that’s missing the point.. of human being.. which means we’re missing something even bigger (ie: ginorm-small).. something that has implications for every single human being.. and so .. for the planet as well.. what we need most is the energy of 8b alive people .. not better business/power
mufleh humanity law: we have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh
the same tech will revolutionize business, med, ed, manufacturing, energy use, and real time translation functions between spoken languages
because fiber is everywhere, this enormous amount of data can be shipped whenever and wherever it is needed..t
somewhere in our evolution, socializing and connecting w each other became a species characteristic, and fiber will allow us to be present in others’ lives in ways we cannot now imagine.. (ie: real eye contact though miles away)
in nashville a lead of fiber installation in asia told me, quite seriously, that america’s lack of decent connectivity amounted to child abuse; in his view, we were systematically relegating our children to lives of insufficient opportunity to find meaning and dignity
everything i have suggested here (better health, ed, music, farming, et al), and much more that we cannot *imagine, will become possible in countries where last mile open access fiber can be easily connected to **competitive 5g wireless communications..
**just connected.. let go of that competition ness
these developments will also cause enormous disruption to existing occupation. and only the countries that are thinking ahead about the new industries made possible by these techs will have the where withal to manage the dislocation of their labor forces.. to smooth the runway to new sources of econ growth and human thriving
has to be something for all of us.. or it will never work.. so no.. ‘work for countries thinking ahead’ ness.. and has to offer something better than ie: getting better at being whales in sea world (industry, labor, growth, et al driven)
graeber job/less law.. et al
2 – transmitting light
the problem w fiber is not capacity or longevity. it’s distribution.. you need to distribute those fibers to everyone there’s a n enormous distribution bottleneck close to you and me: less than 10% of americans have ‘fiber to the home’.. or ftth..
the ftth distribution issue isn’t easy to fix.. a series of fed/state level policy missteps over the past 10 yrs has left america w awful fiber adoptions.. very expensive yet second rate data services, mostly from local cable monopolists, in richer neighborhoods; the vast majority of american unable to buy a fiber optic subscription at any price..
you can think of wireless as the end point of a fiber connection; the place where the pipe bringing water into your home is transformed into a showerhead – except that it is spraying not water but data
every street in every single neighborhood has its own set of issues. fiber installation is a very cool process
microtrenching involves less digging and disruption than ordinary trenching, and it’s also cheaper. it could be used successfully in many parts of the us..
3 – why us internet access is awful
although just about everyone in america has contact w the internet, the high cost of that access and the low quality of service most people get is hidden in plain view.. that’ the odd thing aobu internet access in america: it’s always in the news w daily stories aobu the wonders of augmented reality, the internet of things, and driverless cars. no one seems to stop to ask whether those advanced uses of data will work reliably, where, and for whom
connectivity is not only an invisible problem but a hard one to explain.. you have to know a bit about 3 kinds of wires and what wireless access is, and then reason thru reams of industry talking point about ‘5g’ wireless access. and you have to understand that the ‘last mile’ issue is a problem for diff reasons in diff places.. and that the available data on all this is far scarcer that it should be
drives me crazy when everyone says – connecting all
here’s the bottom line: of the 119million households in the us, only about 10 million subscribe to high capacity fiber connections. about 75% of us census blocks have no residential fiber provider at all.. something like 10% of americans are connected to fiber optic lens, mostly in the very richest parts of the country , and they pay sky high subscription rates; where fiber last mile connection do exist, they are often extraordinarily expensive compared w international benchmarks. the problem is worse in rural areas, but it is awful in most cities as well
fiber and wireless are complementary techs. saying ‘the future is wireless, who cares about fiber’ is like saying we can have airplanes w/o airports – those wireless signals need a wire in order to travel any real distance..
4 – community stories
5 – sustaining economic growth
the cities that have the leadership to establish utility style fiber networks reaching all residents and businesses will have a leg up when ti comes to economic growth.. fiber isn’t just a story of tech. it is also a key ingredient in working toward communities of opportunity
greensboro faces the problems many american cities are confronting: it needs downtown energy and new businesses, both of which will require great connectivity
6 – education and fiber
we need to do a far better job preparing young people for a successful launch into the labor market
daniel webster believed we could better prevent crime thru ed than thru detention or punishment.. ed would ‘provide for its never occurring’.. it is part of the great american doctrine of fairness of opp. i think webster was right, and every corner of this country will need fiber to make his words come true
right on the fiber everywhere though..
7 – health and fiber
health would not even be an issue if we let go of ch 5 and 6
every part of the health care system could be vastly improved by eliminating distance, bringing data, drs, and counselors where they’re needed via communications networks, rather than making 330 million americans travel to where these specialists and databases are..
preventive car for people living in at risk zip codes needs to be revolutionized
elder care needs to support people living in private home sand apts..
people suffering from chronic illnesses and mental health issues need ongoing support. what needs to change? the methods of helping – so that patients receive more timely, convenient, less expensive and more personalized care..
nah.. we need to stop helping and managing.. let go.. focus on maté basic needs rather than better band aids
*the problem is that the vast majority of americans – upward of 84% **don’t live in a house that has a fiber connection to the outside world.. and unless we upgrade to fiber as a country we will never be ***the nation w the world’s most advanced health care system..
***that’s our goal..? dang..
2\ **many don’t have a house..
3\ *the problem is.. we don’t know what the problem is
aarp survey showed that nearly 90% of americans 65 or older want to stay in their homes as long as possible. they’ll need to be connected to fiber in order for their quality of life to be its best
its best? really?.. not if the purpose of that fiber is ie: econ growth; better bandaids; et al
use tech/fiber for augmenting interconnectedness to self/others/nature
8 – inequality and fiber
last mile fiber should be part of this intentional connection.. (ensuring that benefits of downtown redevelopment and recruitments of new high tech businesses reach low income and minority residents).. by itself, fiber won’t fix the staggering, interlocking problem of inequality.. but w/o fiber we stand little chance of takin on inequality at all.. and if we do not address inequality, we risk the future of liber al democracy.. informed and engage citizenry..
what we need is equity – everyone getting a go .. everyday.. getting us back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows
once we tackle fiber, many of the other problems we need to take on will become more tractable. the arcs of growth and opportunity may begin to intersect to support democracy itself
fiber sure.. but again.. has to be for augmenting our interconnectedness
9 – lessons from american communities
the chattanooga way is shorthand for trust: local businesses, local foundation, community members, and local govt.. all encouraging themselves to work together to reach desired ends
paul wellstone’s ‘we all do better when we all do better’ – we have to quit defining what better is for other people.. so far.. none of our definitions have included everyone.. has to be everyone.. can’t just say: everyone; last mile; .. et al
10 – what stands in the way
ie: ubi as temp placebo..
just as money isn’t the problem – really – the architecture of fiber networks isn’t the problem either.. all engineers understand that the optimum connection includes fiber all the way to the home. wireless will never trump fiber when ti comes to capacity..
maybe capacity isn’t the issue.. maybe it’s more.. what are we connecting..
the real barrier to last mile fiber around the world .. govt/co’s fight for power.. substantial legal and policy reform will be required to lower these barriers
on apt complexes bound in high exclusive arrangements
given all the game playing, why would a local community take the risk of building a public option for connectivity.. cities that take on this challenge have tremendous opp to expand their thinking and *planning: they will have demo’d the capacity to see their community from a **broad perspective. they will have shown they can take a long view, that the individual elements can collab and that they genuinely believe ***every child deserves the opp to thrive.. they can then begin to address the intertwined problems in ****public ed, health care, workforce development, ineq, affordable housing, and transportation that beset every american city..
*wrong goal **not broad enough.. listen deeper ***quit saying every.. if you’re planning other people’s lives ie: ****
11 – the need for fed policy
along the way (traveling to find how fiber was changing lives) i became convinced that the story hadn’t happened yet..
the barrier to transformative uses of fiber capacity wasn’t, i came to understand, just the size of the *market each place could serve.. **something about the culture of these three places had discourage risk taking.. t
ie: ubi as temp placebo..
if us can upgrade to fiber, we could be, once again, th place of opp..making this upgrade will require fed involvement on at least 3 levels: leadership, standard setting, and subsidization. no feds, no upgrade
ie’s of govt helping .. lincoln, eisenhower
an essential fed step will be enforcement
yeah.. see.. red flag we’re doing it wrong
and then fed funding, or subsidy, in the form of lans..
yeah.. more debt.. land of the free
it is basic infrastructure for a good life..
mufleh humanity law: we have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh