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The Internet

Bandwidth Speculation's Legacy: Dark Fiber 126

Darwin O'Connor pointed out this article in thestar.com which "says there has been massive amounts of fibre-optics put into the ground that hasn't been hooked up because of a lack of capital, despite Internet capacity problems. It compares the situation to the railways in the 1870s." It's tantalizing that there's so much bandwidth via fiber, but prices aren't exactly dropping for home users.
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Bandwidth Speculation's Legacy: Dark Fiber

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Call and bug your cable company for rollout dates. Get your friends in the condo and surrounding area to call them. Make them know it's worth their while.

    And yes, it's all about who has the money these days. My parents were fortunate and built a new house in a rather upper class area (largish lots, 4500+ sq. ft. homes). Old house, no cable modem or digital cable. New house, will have cable modem in 3 months (they just upgraded the boxes and now offer digital cable). Having been on both ends of the spectrum (low middle and upper middle class), I don't freakin agree with how the cable company chooses to roll out their services or the length of time it takes them to do it. But it's a business and that's how they decide.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Cable modems stink bacuse of shared bandwidth"

    that is a (large) myth of cable modems. one shares bandwidth on all networks. cable modems stink because their pipe is smaller, not because it shares that pipe.
  • (and it was rather obvious, too.)
  • I didn't mean that bandwidth being expensive was itself the problem...

    We seem to agree on 3 points:
    • Bandwidth is expensive
    • People are not buying it
    • The fiber is being wasted.
    I am saying the problem (and where to attempt to fix it) lies in point 2, not points 1 or 3 as you and the article are saying.

  • You're forgetting that the reason that the fiber is still dark is that actually hooking it up is so expensive. If there was sufficient demand, companies could sign up customers, hook up the fiber on advances or loans (since they are no longer a risky investment), and it's all good. But as it is, there isn't sufficient demand to even get the ball rolling.

  • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:06AM (#129580) Homepage
    So it's not economical to hook up these cables. You are expecting the companies to throw away their profits for the good of humanity? Please.

    The opposite side of this argument is that the demand just isn't there. Everyone bitches about Internet overload and how slow is or will get, but is anyone doing anything about it (besides pointing it out and complaining)? The bandwidth is not being demanded because no one is paying for it, apparently because our current network performance is acceptable to the vast majority of the customers. This fiber is just excess left over from the now-burst Internet bubble. If you want to drive bandwidth growth, be ready to buy it when someone provides it. Or invest in Qwest or something.

  • How do we build highways? You know how. Well, we're going to have to do something like that to get these new highways built. It has to be treated like any other kind of infrastructure. High speed access bears more resemblance to road than it does to railroads. On the railroad, only a few comapnies can be running trains. On a road, anyone can be driving a car. Toll roads suck ass. It is better to have a public roadway. I just can't see the difference between that and bandwidth. No company is going to do all that because the financial incentive isn't there. We've all got to go in together on this or it's unlikely to get done.
  • Wire you up to where? I keep seeing this consistent quest for people to have fiber laid to their house. You know, they WILL do it if you're willing to pay the cost. Order an OC-3 from them and negotiate a contract with an ISP to supply you with 155Mbits/sec of bandwidth. I suppose you want really high speed Internet access over this magical fiber but only want to pay $50/month for it right?
  • And then there are the "lucky" ones with unidirectional cable service. 1.5mbps down, 28.8kbps up over a phoneline.
  • The problem is that the incumbent local exchange carriers still have a monopoly franchise in most areas. Yes, they are "supposed" to decouple lines for people like Covad, but it is on the ILEC's terms - their CO, their lines.

    If the FCC would simply make it illegal for a municipality to grant any monopoly telecommunications franchise, this could all be over with. FTTH!
  • Intel, or anyone else, couldn't have bought the Alpha if Compaq hadn't put it up for sale, but that's not really related to the topic at hand.

    A few years ago there was talk that Carolina Power and Light was going to get into the high-speed access business because they had all this installed fiber that was only there to transmit meter readings and a little control info, which meant that they only needed about a phone line's worth of the bandwidth they had at their disposal and that the rest was going to waste.

    Whatever spin-off company they formed to take advantage of this seems to have faded quickly into the sunset, leaving us at the mercy of dialup or TW-AOL.

  • by rho ( 6063 )

    Sold to Worldcom -- and they didn't keep "one strand in each bundle". That's ridiculous.

    WilTel was part of Williams, and they were customers of UUNet way back in 1996. Worldcom bought 11,000 miles of WilTel fiber for $2.5 B, moved on to MFS and UUNet... and www.wiltel.net [wiltel.net] is no more.

    It's a good example, but untrue. If WilTel needed fiber, it was cheaper for them to lease the bandwidth from their new bosses -- except that WilTel was now Worldcom.

  • by rho ( 6063 )

    I used to work at Worldcom -- this is the first I've ever heard of the story, and I've heard them all.

  • Do not underestimate the power of pr0n. If anything could fill the network to capacity, that can.
  • Don't forget that before AMTRAK, there was PENN CENTRAL [cwru.edu] !!!!

    --
    Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.

  • Minneapolis still has a lot of littlish ISPs. Maybe they'll band together and make it happen here.

  • sure, Lucent Fiber modules.. I'll get the model number off of my end in the morning. I also have a pair of single-mode transcievers that do the same thing but only handle 50km(Low power lasers). but from what I remember they were even cheaper, but they are old, we bought them for another project over 5 years ago... The cool part is my company has so much fiber lying about I can get almost anything.(as we have just about everything ran)... Gotta love working for a broadband company.

    As for the other guy's comment about 100base a waste of fiber... What have you got buddy? I have approval for 3 more fiber circuts to nearby cities..a 100baseT State Wide Network (Oh and we will be squirting telephony over it also... very soon different wavelength too, with least cost routing to bypass long distance charges.)... something many companies dream about and most will never have.... and more secure than any OC-12... you have to identify what fiber in a bundle of 24 is mine, then splice into it... something a script kiddie and general hacker cannot do (Unless they have excavating equipment or knowlege of the fiber runs and a torch set to cut welds off of manhole covers.plus more abilities than an engineer, and a 100,000.00 fiber fuser (Got free access to one of those too!)) Anyone asking for more security than a fiber gives is either in need of medical attention or the government.
  • Ahem... I bought my multimode trancievers for $2200.00 each end.. They support 200Km out of the box.. I used them for a 10 mile run and the manufacturer reccomended I use 5db attenuators on each end to avoid over-saturation.

    The end equipment is really cheap.

    BTW- these are 100baseTX to fiber converters.. Work great, and makes the telco look stupid.
  • I work in the Denver Tech Center.
    Whenever there is construction, the telcos
    comput and draw symbols on the concrete.
    There eight different symbols now.

    The annoying thing is that each telco
    put in their lines at a different time,
    disrupting street traffic.

    Even more annoying is that we just have T1
    to the outside world, when there are a few terahertz
    of unused capacity just feet away.

  • Someone told me about dark fiber with the tragic appendage, "..and it may never be used."

    The reasons it might not get used were part economic (we can't afford the people and gizmos to light it and maintain it) but part technical tied to not using it right now. Apparently the technology used with long fiber runs like this is highly tied to the fiber in use. Tomorrow's fiber gear uses technology that's not readily compatible with today's fiber optic plants.

    Never is probably a long time, and it would seem kind of silly that new fiber gear is being designed that would totally obsolete existing fiber plants, but I think the gist was that by the time the dark fiber was lightable by someone who had the capital to do so it would require such a large upgrade that it would essentially be cheaper to do it over than to fix what was there to work with whatever was state of the art in gear.

    Of course the real reasons will be monopoly and enforced scarcity, but these are much more interesting and romantic.
  • Bullshit. Show me a part number for a multimode anything that goes 200Km. Go ahead. I dare you.
  • And that part number will be for a single-mode part. That was my issue. It sounds like you know what you are talking about, so I assume it's just a mistake. But really, when it's all said and done, you still can't show me a multimode part number that goes any significant distance. No body runs wide-area multimode fiber, it just doesn't work. Makeing comments like you did, I almost started to think you worked for Qworst.
  • We need to be careful, and not mine Dark Fibre faster than those cute little 3-eyed critters can defecate, or else their world will collapse upon itself.

    --
  • Interesting that you say the only thing relvant to the problem is the demand for bandwidth, but the supply and price have no effect.

    Actually, following basic enconomics, your assertions explain exactly why price is the problem. If supply of a product is high (fiber being wasted), but demand is low (people are not buying it), the natural price *must* be low.

    Seems to me that basic microeconomics tells us the price is a very large part of the problem. Personally I would question your assertion that demand really is small. Everyone I know (personal and business) either:

    1) Wants broadband, but it is not offered in their area.

    or

    2) Has broadband, but would like faster speeds. Those faster speeds are either not offered, or too expensive.

    Granted, this is pure andecdotal evidence, and really isn't worth much.

    Where I see the problem, is telecom companies would much rather sell expensive T1 lines to larger companies than actually sell fiber for the market price. I've worked for an ISP, the margins on T1s and DS-3s are *huge*. The margins on DSL are very small. (No, DSL is not fiber, but you see the point.)

    -Wintermute
  • That's one of the reasons why DSL is pretty strong in my city. We have a regional ISP that has an excellent reputation in the area, has steadfastly refused buyout offers from the national ISPs, and is stronly pushing DSL now.

    Now, if the other three former indenpendants hadn't sold out, we'd have tons of competition for DSL here, thus low prices. However, instead we have two choices, the other being SBC/Ameriwreck, the telco with the worst customer service rating in the country.

    Can I have my regulated telecom industry back? Please? All I want is that, and common carrier regulations for Cable providers. Then life would be good. I feel real bad for the people that don't even have three choices for broadband like I do. (And that's only within the last month did our cable company finally get off their ass)

    -Wintermute
  • Ahh, the wonders of competition, like we have in the LD market. Which gives us such great deals.

    Then, there's local service. Where I get to choose from Ameritech, Ameritech, and, let's see, Ameritech.

    Even my DSL line is still dependant on their whim, even though my service is not though them directly. Good thing I can fix a junction box on my own, rather than wait the week it was going to take for them to come look at it, even though I told them on the phone what the problem was.

    When I used to do DSL provisioning, Ameritech would just skip appointments with our customers, which we would then have to explain with them. Yet, if someone signs up for DSL from them directly, they are always there with bells on. Hmm...

    -Wintermute, yes I'm ranting about Ameritech, but these local monopolies drive me crazy sometimes.
  • Actually...
    that's because the leases ONLY included surface rights, and a bunch of lawyers are debating whether burying cable is a 'surface' thing or not.

    I'm gonna bet that it is; surface rights was intended so they oculd use the land, but not have mineral rights, etc. So if gold is discovered beneath the track, the railway gets no benefit from it.

    Actually, I believe the lawyers are not objecting to the cable being buried, but saying, that once it's there, it's a resource beneath these people's land that they shoudl be paying for, just as if it were buried gold.
  • IT could be seen as 'subsurface' yes.. but railroad spikes also technically go beneath the surface. So does the foundation of a small switching equipment shed, or a telephone pole erected alon gthe railline, that may go 10 feet into the ground.

    The point is, 'surface rights' basically means, by legal definition, that NO rights to minerals or other land-ownership-type rights are granted.

    The point in the case, is that a bunch of lawyers are not contesting that the rail companies were allowed to bury the cable, but that the cable is now a 'subsurface resource' and therefore belongs to the farmers. It's a dodgy argument at best. Surface rights does not mean, specifically, 'nothing may go beneath the surface'.
    Doubtful it would hold up in court; the companies will probably settle out of court to avoid litigation though.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:51AM (#129603)
    1) If you are going to lay fiber, you're going to lay LOTS of fiber, not just a couple strands, even if you don't yet know how or when you are going to use the excess. The incremental cost of doing this is negligible.
    2) You are not just going to sell that excess fiber off to other parties once you lay it, you'd rather keep it for yourself. Selling it off can set precedent, especially in the regulated telecom industry, and you may not be able to reclaim it in the future.
    3) Internet bandwidth shortage? Come on. There is LOTS of bandwidth available; if bandwidth doubled, would profits double? No. Until lack of bandwidth starts hurting profits, there will not be more bandwidth... that's how things work in the real world.
  • You were going to pay for what? An optical add-drop multiplexer? One that covered just you or the entire neighborhood?

    The equipment to hook those fibers up is EXPENSIVE. Most of it is switched ATM and those switches are not cheap. A good Lucent or Nortel ATM switch is $200,000+ (easily) for the central office and an add-drop mux is not chump change, either.

    (BTW, most DSL is simply concatenated into ATM for transport and thus hooks into most central office switches just like the fiber would. The access point is just a lot cheaper. This also fixes the "last mile" problem in that they can trunk fiber but use the copper to the houses.)
    --
    Charles E. Hill

  • >Check back in 20 years and see how much of the fiber is still dark.

    If you read the article you would see that they do suggest that the fiber will still be dark.

    Broadband Companies of 2000 == Railway Companies of 1870s.
  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @11:11AM (#129606) Homepage
    The thing that you're forgetting that there are issues with flow in fiber that's not the same as with a highway.

    There just aren't that many things that you can compare dark fiber to. Highways are dramtically different from fiber, as to lay dark fiber is like you're building the roads without putting in any entrance/exit ramps. The roads are there, but without spending more money, no one can use it. Even more unlike roads is that the cost of the fiber for the most part is in labor and permits. [permission to dig, then the number of union people, and the machinery needed to put the stuff into the ground]. Now, sure, as we all know, when digging a 6' deep pit to hide the bodies, as you've already dug the hole, it's just as easy to get rid of two bod...

    um....anyway, the reason that your analogy fails is that cars have stayed relatively the same. Through the use of additional wavelengths, and different switching technologies, we can now get significantly more data through a single strand than we could have when the fiber was laid. If anything with cars the people driving them have gotten dumber, and cause more accidents it seems, as everyone's in a rush, and doesn't know how to drive, and in the end, if you pack too many cars on the roads, you actually slow down traffic.

    You don't have these issues with fiber. [You can, however, have some of these issues with copper, which is why there's a maximum transmit power allowed by the FCC, which is what keeps v.90 modems from ever getting to 56kbps in the US, to eliminate cross talk between lines...which does work on the highway analogy, as they're the dumbasses driving erraticly and changing lanes, causing accidents]

    So anyway, as traffic grows to fill the fiber, fiber technology will improve, allowing us to get more data on the line [imagine if everyone had to ride the bus, so there was overall less congestion on the road]. For the companies, as they've got fewer strands connected, they have less equiptment, which takes fewer people to maintain, and uses less power, and takes up less space, generates less heat, etc.

    So, although I agree that traffic will increase, I don't see us filling the lines anytime soon. I'm guessing that lines will be sold for private networks, rather than just being used by the people who laid them.
  • Please excuse my lack of detail. I was refering to OC-192 (9.6 Gb transmission, 4 way frequency multiplexing) Those run around a million a rack.

    And I am less sure of the transmission distance. I know some older equipment (OC3 and OC12) were more limited in range, probably 50 miles. I couldn't remember what the range of the later OC48 and OC192 equipment was, though it is probably farther than that.

    You could probably fill the countryside with 100-MB fiber, but that wouldn't exactly help the data load much.

  • by IPFreely ( 47576 ) <mark@mwiley.org> on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:18AM (#129608) Homepage Journal
    I worked in MCI network construction a few years ago.
    They layed tons of fiber all over the place. When you have to lay fiber, its easier to lay in 12 or 24 at a time even when you only need 4. If you have to run some, might as well run more than you need. It's cheaper to put more in once than put more in again later.

    It's the transmission equipment that costs. The repeaters/terminals that have to go in all along the way (~50 miles apart I think, maybe more) that cost a million each unit. That is hard to come by.

    Sure, go light up all that dark fiber. All it'll cost you is a few hundred million, then you have another 10 GB cross country fiber.

  • after all it's "percent" when talking about % (percentages), not "per cent" which would be talking about how much on the dollar.
    From dictionary.com

    n. 1.pl. percent, also per cent One part in a hundred: The report states that 42 percent of the alumni contributed to the endowment. Also called per centum.

    Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • The problem is not the last mile necessarily. For example, I have cable modem service and it is "capable" of 36 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. Do I get that? Hell no. I get 1.5 down and a pitiful 128K up. Why? Because they can't support the backbone bandwidth required if all of those last mile people with fat pipes decided to grab the Swordfish [warnerbros.com] DIVX from a.b.m at the same time.

    p.s. I wasted $8.00 on that stupid movie. Except for some cool explosions and a pair of breasts, it's not worth the bandwidth to even steal the damn thing. Yet another stupid Travolta flop. Fuck Hubbard, if Travolta wants success, he should stick to the Church of Tarantino...

  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher@gm a i l .com> on Monday June 25, 2001 @09:15AM (#129611) Homepage
    There was a great article a month ago in the Economist [economist.com] about how telecom companies over-investing in fibre was the main cause of the recent economic blues. The general sense of the story was how a few buyouts of a few metropolitan fibre companies in 97-98 sparked a huge boom in investment in laying fibre.

    But once the fibre started to be lit up, a dozen large telecom companies (nortel, alcatel, lucent, etc) started to compete with each other for cheap bits. When the price started falling, everyone realised there was too much capacity, and not enough margins reselling the bandwidth.

    The equipment manufacturers (cisco, lucent, redback, etc) had sold tons of fibre terminating equipment to start-up and established telcos by financing long-term loans. Those loans were based on the (bad) assumption that prices for bits would stay at the same level. Prices dropped, and now many telcos don't have the income to pay off their loans. Since there is no more investment in new fibre termination equipment, the fibre will stay dark until the next economic boom.

    There just isn't enough cheap hardware available to terminate all this dark fibre. There is literally tons of very expensive kit sitting in warehouses that cisco, nortel, and lucent can't sell. When those machines have buyers, then we will see prices continue downwards.

    This is an economic problem, not a last mile problem. When the economy turns back up, then that fibre will start to light up as well, and long-haul prices will stay low, but bandwidth demands will increase.

    the AC
  • Why do you dispute that Williams kept one strand? I've heard that story several times, and at the time I was with a company (and project) that was doing many millions of dollars a year with them (now Worldcom, of course).

    Williams probably kept the strand, and did a non-compete agreement too. The day the noncompete expired (well, maybe it was week, you know what I mean), they opened WilCom. Which is now a significant backbone fiber player too, and 10% owned by SBC.

    No, I don't know if they could have used the single strand for anything practical. But it was their right-of-way in the first place, so laying new fiber wasn't a big deal.
  • > The ones who fucked up were the ones who believed the numbers about wildly escalating traffic and assumed that this growth curve would never flatten out.

    Hey, don't blame the ISPs, blame Judge Patel.

    If we still had Napster, we probably would have a use for this bandwidth ;-)

    (And half-seriously, perhaps Freenet and Gnutella will provide an excuse to start using it. Of course, before bandwidth becomes "too cheap to meter", we'll likely have to wait for a bunch of telcos to go belly-up, so the assets can be purchased for pennies on the dollar, and it's profitable for the new owners to give you megabits up and down for $19.95 per month...)

  • ...but add a Catalyst 5500 or 5000 or an ATM 36170 and we're talking $70 000+ CAN

    It does not HAVE to be expensive... Get a Fore LE155 switch (about $5k) and replace some or all of the MMF modules with SMF. Total cost: about $6k to $8k US, or maybe $10k CAN. That's for 12 OC3 ports - not as good as OC12, but still worth something, eh?

    I just looked up an HP/Agilent module (HFCT-5805D), about $200 each. This one is good for 15km, and I'm sure you can get SMLR (long reach) for more money. But 15k isn't too shabby for many fiber runs.

    Want IP instead of ATM? Okay, you can build your own router from open source software, with SMF OC3 and ethernet, for less than $US 2k each.

    Granted, OC3 (about 130mb payload) isn't exciting and glamorous. But it IS equalent to a lot of IP T1's of customer traffic.
  • I wouldn't say "all we'll ever need", but I think you're on the right track. The number of strands might remain about the same, but the glass will continue to get better.

    Ten years ago, polarization mode dispersion compensation was unheard of. Ergo, modern equipment that's PMD-sensitive doesn't like running on old fiber, at least not over reasonable distances. There are a few efforts to change the situation. Kestrel, for instance, makes a machine called the Talon that they claim is immune to the effects of PMD because of its RF-like design. Nifty, but rare.

    The general push in the industry is towards more-demanding systems, OC192 is all over the place now, with OC768 in the wings. And that's just over one WDM channel. Yes, we'll see more channels in DWDM systems. Yes, we'll see faster TDM systems. And yes, most of this stuff will require even cleaner, purer glass.

    The fiber that's in the ground is good for today's and maybe tomorrow's systems, but not next week's, unless there's a real demand for tolerant machines like the Talon. The fact that the dark fiber out there is now essentially free might fuel some of that demand, but trust me: Given the choice between making a fast, finicky, expensive system (that forces the provider to upgrade their outside plant), versus making a fast, robust, tolerant system (that places more engineering burden on the manufacturer), they'll always pick the former.

    Hence, in 7 years we'll see fiber crews out there again, replacing cables that've never been more than a few percent utilized, with the Next Big Thing in photonics. Watch.

    Another way to use some of this fiber would be to lower co-lo costs. Imagine if almost anyone could lease rack space at the local CO or telco hotel, where the fiber already runs. Nevermind the fact that the unwashed masses haven't a clue what to do with singlemode fiber, the details will sort themselves out. I'd get an apartment next-door to the CO, if I could get a fiber pair from here to downtown for next to nothing. Plunk an old OC-12 on that sucker, sell tributaries to my neighbors, heh.. Gnutella would never be the same. Buahaha.
  • And in semi-industrial areas, property near railroad tracks is hot. "Telco hotels" like to locate there, because even if there isn't fiber in the easements now, it's easy to get it there.

    So now I wonder what would happen if residents with railroad tracks in their backyard wanted to lease dark fiber. The telcos normally bitch about the expense of running fiber to the customer, but what if it's already there?

    Next thing you know, the El Cheapo apartments next to the tracks will be a big thing among geeks who want to be the lowest-ping bastards on the server. This has serious potential.
  • They wouldn't have to add any routing ability, they're feeding you a line of crap. They'd need to convert it from a regen to an add/drop node, which is trivial. Depending on the manufacturer, it involves adding a few cards (Nortel) or another chassis to support the tributary interfaces (Fujitsu). All of this can be done without taking the ring out of service.

    The cost is negligible compared to the initial cost of the regenerator. All the high-speed interfaces already exist, and the mid/low-speed cards are mucho cheap.

    This would allow you to get a channel within their OC-n pipe. Since Dexter sits between two universities, and you can bet Sprint provides bandwidth to both of them, you simply drop the same channel at the next node and tie into umich's routers.

    You asked Sprint "Can we get onto your backbone here?" and they gave you a price for it, which rightly scared you. Ask them this: "Can you drop an OC3 trib for us here, and then drop it again in Ann Arbor?" You'll find that the cost of blind transport is a lot cheaper than intelligent routing. Backhaul the signal to Umich's network center and let it do the packet tango down there, where the facilities already exist.
  • Each telecom laid plenty of extra dark fiber, to be sure, but they also assumed that a much larger portion of what they laid would be utilized ...

    Not true.

    If you dig a trench from California to New York, are you going to lay in a couple of fibers and when you need more dig another trench, or are you going to lay enough fibers that you don't need to dig another trench for a hundred years? Especially when essentially ALL the cost is digging the trench.

    The tellcos did NOT expect all the fiber to be lit up soon. And they do NOT buy equipment to light it up until they NEED to light it up - because Moore's Law applies to the equipment. (Are you going to buy equipment today to light fibers that won't be needed for two years? Or are you going to put the money to earning more money for a couple years then buy a box that can light twice as much bandwidth and have bux left over?)

    So with the economic slowdown the fibers aren't getting lit up as fast as some people expected. That's no skin off the carriers' noses - they had to dig the trench and lay the fiber to have a business at all. The box makers are having a hard time because the carriers aren't buying many boxes, so the box makers' stocks have tanked.

    But the box makers' stocks are bottoming out. (The carriers ARE still installing boxes, and before all the ones they already bought are in service the carriers will have to order some more.) And some market players would like them to tank even more, so they can make more money by anticipating the move.

    So suddently the press "discovers" the dark fiber. And you see scare articles that make it sound like it's a disaster, a major failure of planning on the carriers' part. "Oh, dear! Only 5% of the fiber is being used. (wring hands) The SKY is falling!" As if the carriers were in trouble because only 5% of their investment was generating revenue, instead of all but a small delta of it - just like they intended.

    And the stocks tank for a couple more days, letting the players pick up more at fire-sale prices before they recover.

    Disaster my aching tail. The only thing that would be a disaster for a carrier would be if the dark fiber ran out and the carrier had to dig again.

    Yes the slowdown is hard on the box makers, who'd like to sell more boxes than they are. But it's a slowing of growth, not a retreat. So the boxes still sell - and when things pick up (or when the carriers exhaust their pre-bought inventory even before a recovery) the boxes will be selling a lot faster.
  • Please keep in mind that the glut is in long-haul fiber, that runs point-to-point in big bundles where there's typically one or a few points per metropolitan area. What's needed for distribution fiber (the stuff that feeds your home) is single pairs of fiber run to a node that supports a few hundred homes. Unsurprisingly, the two situations are in different locations and require different procedures.

    Distribution fiber typically requires a lot more labor per fiber-foot to install. Long-haul fiber runs mainly in trenches along railroad right-of-way, or in obsolete oil/gas pipelines, or similar situations. With distribution fiber, not only are the bundles much smaller, but running it through someone's backyard without disturbing the landscaping (or having to restore the landscaping to its previous condition) takes a lot more manual work.

    Very little of the long-haul fiber is physically positioned such that it could be used for distribution.

  • Lots of telco and cable companies have huge fiber infrastructure in the ground but no way to deliver it their customers. Fiber delivers enormous bandwidth but is not economical as a last mile solution for all but the largest of customers. So, fiber has been mostly religated to the backbone and the regional loops.
  • You must keep busy on this site.
  • I dont know about you, but i rarely get calls trying to get me to buy a new PBX.
  • Secondly, I don't like the racist overtones of the term 'dark fibre'. I mean, I don't want to be overly sensitive about my race (as an African American I love my country as much as the next guy) But really do all negative terms have to include this racist hint. 'Dark fibre' is just another one of those terms, along with 'put someone on a Blacklist', 'give someone a 'black look' or whatever I could go on and on.

    Please tell me you are joking. The Dark in "Dark Fibre" clearly refers to the fact that there is no light traveling through it. Last time I checked, dark and light were opposite adjectives. Acquisitions of racial overtones in that term are ridiculous. Should we be calling it "non-lit fiber"? Or how about "luminarily-challenged fiber".

    Sheesh.


    --
  • Sir, you are being ridiculous. The term "Dark Fiber" is not racist. Is "Black Tie Affair" racist? Well, you'll probably say it isn't because there is a positive connotation to it. What about those pork commericals... you know "Pork, the other white meat." Is that racist? I mean, c'mon... are we not allowed to use colors to describe anything anymore? It's ridiculous. If you are offended by these things, you have serious issues.

    My point is, would it be so hard for you white people to call it 'unlit fiber'?

    Ok, so white people are now the authority on the English language. Last time I checked there are a lot of words in the English language now that were originally used by African Americans. And it's not that it's hard to say "unlit fiber" it's that there is a perfectly good term "dark fiber" already in use. For example, the Whitehouse. Should we call that "The President's Mansion"... no, because we already call it "The Whitehouse". Which, in my opinion describes it perfectly... it's a house... and it just so happens to be the color white. If the damned thing was red. We would probably call it "The Redhouse"... which really doesn't have a nice ring to it.

    I mean, modern western films no longer make the bad guy wear black and the good guy wear white, and this is precisely because Hollywood has for some time now had an enlightened attitude to racism.

    I don't consider being afraid to use adjectives due to their perceived racist overtones being "enlightened." To me, being enlightened would mean that people stop seeing themselves as black or white or whatever... and start seeing themselves as Americans. Just plain old Americans.

    --
  • Using JVC's DLA-MU4000LU Large Venue Projector [jvc.com] coupled with minor chunks of that dark fiber, it should be possible to distribute movies electronically to cinematic theaters. As anyone in that business can tell you, there is money to be made in distribution channels for movies.
  • let's see.... private investors dump big money into DSL and "last mile" internet boom companies.

    billions of dollars go into laying networks all over the country.

    said private companies go bankrupt because they invested everything in hardware, and before they could get to having a customer base and providing quality services, the well of infinite VC money dries up.

    now, there are networks running everywhere, going unused or underused because the companies that built them are no longer solvent.

    then, here comes HR1291 [tmcnet.com], and the market gets picked up and closed up.

    so, in the end, the giant telcos that were once declared a monopoly and broken up, will now be seeing a lot more flexibility in joining forces. they won't have to open up their local markets anymore. they will inherit the networks laid out by defunct companies that built on the money of investors who lost their shirts. and then, they'll control internet telephony.

    what a beautiful scam.
  • Cable modems do NOT go everywhere. There are many people, myself included, who cannot get cable at all. I live 5 miles from downtown Phoenix, AZ, a metroplex of 3,000,000 people, but cable doesn't go by my house. I am fortunate that I have a line-of-site shot to Sprint Broadband (microwave MMDS), but most of my neighbors cannot get high speed access by any means.
    Ironically, even though we are 7 miles from our CO, Qwest has rebuilt all the copper plant in our area and is planning on installing DSL.
  • They didn't assume wrong, they assumed wrongly. BWAHAHAHA! Get your English corekt.

  • DSL rocks if you're near a central office - and with speeds in development approaching 4MBps and higher - sweet!

    DSL allows around 8Mbit/sec transfers, dependant on line conditions.

    If you split that asynchronously (ADSL) you can have 7.9 down and .8 up. (I live about 2KM from the exchange and that's what I get.) If on the other hand you split that synchronously (SDSL) you get 4 down and 4 up.

    The technology is there, just that the money (or the will) isn't.

  • Um, yes. Just about every week a salesperson contacts me for just that reason.

    Of course, the reason they can reach me is that my PBx works great, and I don't dial up to the internet, I have a full T1...
  • Maybe if we feed them the trolls here, they'll produce more Dark Fibre Matter!
  • Lots of companies went out and built identical long haul networks. What that means is, if you want to get from New York to Chicago you now have 5 ways to do it, and possibly far more fiber than we will ever use. This is a key part of internet backbones, but it does nothing to address the last mile.

    Moving traffic inside a metro area, or indeed right to the home or business is the key that is still missing. Most neighborhoods don't have fiber in them, ergo there is not enough fiber in those locations. You don't care if your ISP has 10 gig pipes to the city, if you're stuck with dial-up.

    The local and metro area stuff also doesn't have the cost problems. Where it may cost $50-$100 million to light a single fiber from New York to Chicago, it costs $0 (in transmission facilites) to go 3 miles across town (the end devices can push that far on their own).

    I love all these people saying there is an oversupply of fiber. It's true, in a very limited area. A more correct statement would be that there is a gross undersupply of fiber to connect these newly built networks to end users, which is part of the reason that they are so underutilized.

  • You're not gonna like this... Most likely your condo association signed an exclusive contract with a cable company or satelite company in order to get wired up for TV. These contracts usually have a non compete clause that prevents other companys from providing serice to you - if the people that your condo association signed up with can't provice internet access than you are kinda screwed. Same for apartments buildings, when the owner signs up with a satelite company, and the cable people are prohibited from offering service to the tenents.
  • Understand this: We don't pay for bandwidth in our ISP costs. Well we do, but it's a miniscule amount of the monthly bill vs. customer support, server admin, storage, paperwork, and so forth. If the cost of a unit of bandwidth suddenly got cut in half, it would still only change your monthly costs by a few quarters, maybe up to a dollar.

  • This item has been moderated up to 3, Funny.
    Trouble is, this is no joke!

    When did the phone companies turn from providing communications services to dealing in legal obstruction? These same companies are constantly advertising high tech equipment and services. It's time for them to put up or shut up.

    What can we (the customers at the end of the 'last mile') do to induce the phone companies to fire their lawyers and start selling us some serious bandwidth at home? What's needed is a technical, not a legal, solution.
  • I posted this story when it was printed LAST WEEK in the New York Times. (You'll note the bit by the top of the article that says "Simon Romero, New Your Times Service".)

    Note to self: /. editors hate the NYT, prefer TheStar and week old news.

    God does not play dice with the universe. Albert Einstein

  • Scum. This is for people with an IQ over 10. Get out of our discussion. Go tan your neck.
    This is my first sig, what do you think?

    You're new here, aren't you? And your first sig pretty much sucks. HTH. HAND!

  • Almost right but not quite! Cable modems are the most cost effective way to get high speed access to the home. If you cable company doesn't know how or doesn't want to spend the money to build the network right, thats not the cable modem fault... Cable Modems are based on and Open standard called Docsis. Thats a good thing! But just like any other highly used network it must be designed and segmented to handle the traffic it will carry. If you wanna talk ugly network setup and managment, look at the kludge that Motorola put together to manage their digital cable set tops. Now there is a software setup that shoulda never made it outta the lab.
  • How can wiring be intellectual property?

  • Take a look on finances of all those cheap LD companies. They are loosing money on their rates. One day they might follow the way of the free ISPs. Also, some of those companies use less expensive technologies like VoIP, compressing voice to as low as 6 kBps instead of 64 kBps. With such a rate you land line sounds like a bad cell phone.
  • by TwP ( 149780 )
    Fiber is spliced by fusing the two ends together. Each end is stripped of the outer protective layers - PVC, kevlar, some more PVC, and then some cladding. The ends of the fibers are cleaved to give a smooth, flat surface. The two ends are held together and then fused (melted) together using a plasma discharge.

    The nifty machine that does all this costs upwards of $10000 US.

    My other answer is, "it's magic!"

    -----------------
  • Wait, wait! How does this finding affect the expansion of the universe!?
  • I wonder how much of this is caused by the inefficiencies within the telco's themselves. For example, years ago, we approached the local Sprint/Centel office about dark fiber (we had FDDI on our minds). The local office's response: "what?" There was NO provision for sales whatsoever. Now, if you wanted a bunch of T1's or something...no problem.

  • NEWS FLASH: SHELVES STOCKED WITH TONS OF FOOD AT GRAND UNIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY WHILE PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD STARVE.

    so, they layed big fat fiber backbone type pipes ... HELLO ... THE TRAFFIC PROBLEM ISNT ON THE BIG BACKBONES.

    But lets point the finger at them cus some poor schmoe dialing up his 9th tier ISP in west Pennsylvania (via 28.8) is having a hard time bringing up web pages ...
  • The bandwidth equivalent of Moore's law (Gilder's Law), says that the rate of increase of data doubles about every year in the center of the network. So it doesn't take many years before even a 5% utilised system gets filled.

    OK, for the skeptics out there, that's as fast or faster that Moore's Law, so how come we don't all have gigabit pipes going to our PCs by now?

    Well, the growth curve started later, from a very much smaller number- we used to have 1200 baud, on a 1 MIP processor.

    Anyway, each fiber can take perhaps 10 terabits right now; but the boxes to actually send that down a fiber are somewhat expensive (~250 lasers on different wavelengths); so nobody is using fully the bandwidth of even one fiber.

    QWEST installed 48 fibers per conduit, last I heard they were using about 3. And they have a spare conduit.

    Anyway, check out: http://www.research.att.com/~amo/doc/internet.moor e.pdf

    for more info on the large packet growth that is being seen.

  • Of course prices aren't dropping!

    First, the fiber, whilst not cheap, is peanuts compared to the cost of digging and laying; and if you think you're ever going to need more fiber, you'd want to stuff as much fiber as possible down the hole.

    Secondly the equipment at each end is much cheaper the costs of laying new fiber; and they haven't had to install that yet.

    Third, the high speed backbone isn't the biggest cost of getting wired; bigger costs are found in the last mile. That's why we get a flat charge for internet usage, independent of distance, in fact.

    The dark fiber is actually an asset, and according to Gilder's law (bandwidth doubles every year), it's going to be used in the next 5 years. If those companies hadn't laid it, it would have cost many times more in the long run; and guess who would have had to stump up the money? Us. The bandwidth consumers.

  • What a waste of a fiber!

    100 base T? Pah. Come back when these transceivers do 10G. Their equipment has atleast 800 times the capacity than yours, single mode, capable of DWDM and protected- yours is unprotected. It also has greater range; and only costs 100 times more.
  • Oops. That's unfair. It's more like 50 times the cost.
  • Ten days ago, Nortel Networks Corp. said it would lose an astonishing $19.2 billion this quarter because its phone-equipment sales are falling.

    ..The real difficulty is that their telemarketers can't get through to you to sell you new gear, because your line is busy with that dial-up sucking down MP3's at 14.4k.

    Shame on you.

  • All things considered, the frequency with which the number of 'colors' that can be transmitted on a given strand of fiber is doubling, the lit fiber we're using today is probably all the lit fiber we'll ever need.

    Spend more time getting it to the home? I doubt that. There's very little that the home user needs that kinda bandwidth for. At least not until there's some profit in running the fiber there and charging $3 a PPV movie.
  • This reminds me of the Iridium debacle. Someone's going to make out like a bandit. Wait long enough and a lot of these companies are going to be bankrupt or dirt cheap. Swoop in and pick up fiber for pennies on the dollar. All of the sudden you have a new company with an ass load of fiber without all of the troublesome debt of the old companies. Sure, the investers in the bankrupt companies take it in the backside, but that's the risk they took.

    N.

    If you don't have anything nice to say, say it often.

  • There's very little that the home user needs that kinda bandwidth for

    Speak for yourself. I can always use more bandwidth at home. Reminds me of this Userfriendly [userfriendly.org] cartoon [userfriendly.org] when Stef gets on Napster at work.
    ---
  • Ask your friendly local telephone company. Each carrier on each end of the call makes about $0.02/minute on each call...this leaves the LD carrier about $0.02-$0.05 to make on each call which has to cover billing, network montioring, regulatory, etc...

    B
  • we already do [aol.com]
  • And the carriers with their heads screwed on planned for it, and in fact offer dark fiber as a service to ISPs and others who need it. The ones who fucked up were the ones who believed the numbers about wildly escalating traffic and assumed that this growth curve would never flatten out.

    Remember that just a few years ago there was a backbone capacity shortage. ISPs were competing to get their networks to OC12, OC48, and then OC192 - in part to have bragging rights, but mostly to keep up with growing demand. So it made complete sense that a huge amount of fiber would be laid, and anyone with reasonable Excel skills could (and did) predict that some of it would be used right away, and some would be used later.

    The comparison with the RR's is valid in part and invalid in part. It's like the railroads in that it cost a lot to lay conduit/fiber, and that investors made incorrect guesses about demand growth. However, it is very different from the railroads in that there's really no incentive to abandon a strand of fiber. Railroads take up land that can be sold to other users. Fiber strands have very low maintenance costs, so owners can just sit on them for years if necessary . Which the smart ones will.

    As for the fiber owned by carriers who might go bankrupt, I would love to be a bottom-feeder like IDT [idt.net] right now. There are good assets out there that can be bought way cheap.

  • You could probably buy a local OC48 from one of those providers pretty cheaply... but you'd need to kick in some serious dough for the router to terminate it, and also for capacity on the backbone you connect it to.
  • The problem is the major teleco's think they own the internet. It has nothing to do with setup costs at all whats so ever.

    The teleco's are the ones refusing to light the fiber lines. They are also going to the government and lobbying to cut their ties with isp's or raise the rates so high that they have to go out of bussiness. Just because a packet might hit a major teleco router makes them think its their intellectual property. This is why the rates are going up. It has nothing to do with failing isp's per say but more to do with AT&T/verizon raising the prices and cutting back service at the same time and then forcing the isp's to use only their lines. Infact they don't care about wiring everyone up because they get more money wiring phones with fiber lines so DSL will never work with the new routers.

    Also many clecs and isp's do not offer DSl service in area's where verizon just might compete so they don't piss them off.

    What happens to the fiber already installed?

    It just sits their so Verizon can make more money and we can get screwed by these assholes.

    Please excuse my langauge but where I live Verizon is the great satan. THey have crippled high speed access in my area and sued any company who wants to offer me service. At the same time it takes up to 6 months to get wired for Verizon internet and the connection is BARELY FASTER THEN A ISDN and goes doen every couple of days!

    I am sick of corporate greed from the likes of Intel buying ALPHA, to the power/oil industry screweing many california bussiness owners, to Microsoft going to a subscription model, to the local isp's who have the wiring available but refuse to offer me service so Verizon can make more money. I also hate the government for taking bribes oops I mean campaign donations from these faceless entities so they can rape us.

    Oh, one more thing. I had an offer for RCN cable modem and televison. Guess what? Time-Warner sued them because they claimed the wiring in my apartment was their intellectual property so it couldn't be removod and therfore I have no competition. With all of this and now the Fiber Optics story, I am quite pissed.

    Oh, I am sure when cable modem access with time-warner will be AOL only to top it off. SO I guess I can never post a newsgroup with a @aol.com address or I can go back to a slow modem based connection while all the other slashdotters can cruise with their high speed access where time-warner/verizon don't controll everything.

  • Oh God! I hope that this doesn't mean that we'll someday have "Amtrak" for the internet! ;-)

  • Maybe they are just waiting until the NSA can figure out how to tap fibre-optic cables. It would certainly put in a dent in Carnivore if most of the country's (world's?) media was being sent /securely/.

    Root DOWN
    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean the pink giraffes won't attack you with a blender.
  • by Tappah ( 224124 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @11:44AM (#129661)
    I've read a lot of articles and posts on this subject, but few that seemed to really understand the situation as it exists today. In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which attempted to promote competition among carriers by forcing LEC's (Local Exchange Carriers) to resell access to their local loops to competing carriers and isps (called CLECS). Congress vested the authority to determine the rate at which these loop inputs were sold with State public utility commissions. It took about a year and a half for all the PUC's to get these rates set, and most of them are still grappling with rules to determine how and in what manner the interconnection can actually occur. Most States set the discount rate on a loop at from 17%-20%.

    That was on the residential side. Virtually no one was interested. A few line resellers emerged, essentially re-packaging local loops under their own brand names, but the margin was too small, to bother with going after the residential market for voice. Covad, IP Technologies, and Rythms were notable exceptions, but their business was based on DSL sales - an area that Bell companies were clearly dragging their feet on (since sales there clobbered their highly lucrative DS1 (T1) business.) However, when the DSL resellers got going, the Bells (LECS) responded with aggressive DSL rollouts, usually at loss-leader pricing, which essentially sucked the life out of the Covads before they could begin to realize much revenue. However, the lucrative market for business service remained. In that market, local LECs were hideously overcharging for bandwidth (and still do), and fairly small construction projects could reach multiple companies fairly quickly.

    So a lot of CLECS charged forward, building out fiber in metropolitan areas on speculation. Almost none of them built to serve the residential market. Instead, they expected to "cherry pick" big business accounts, by offering rates on fiber connectivity much cheaper than the LECs were offering (and most LECs were still selling only copper pairs, at DS1-DS3 speeds).

    Unfortunately, the CLECS didn't bother to keep track of what their competitors were doing. So in many cities, 10 and 20 clecs, would lay lines to reach the same customer areas. It may seem overly simple to you, but the fact is, most companies contract with one company for Internet service. That left an awful lot of fiber laying around unused, and earning no revenue, for the venture capitalists that gambled their dollars on fiber expansions. It's still there, and right about now, many of them are beginning to panic. Chapter 11's and 13's are being filed, even as we speak.

    That's a sort of simplified explanation, but it should immediately point to why the long-haul networks aren't getting used. Because the short-haul networks that they expected to service, aren't being used either. Gotta sell the clients first.

    On the residential side, it's simply death by strangulation.

    The cable companies currently own the high-speed to the home market, because their nets were the cheapest to equip, and because they moved fully two years before the phone companies did. The cable companies also ejoy almost complete freedom from any regulatory restraints (now you know why you sit on hold 3 hours), while the DSL market is still heavily regulated. The phone companies, are playing catchup. And the poor DSL CLECS, are still screwed trying to get their products installed, fighting with the LECS over what kind of equipment they can install, at what rate, etc, in the State PUCs. Add to that the "difficulty" the LECs are having hooking their work order systems up with CLEC's order systems, squabbles over line standards, confusion over who does what and when, and you have a sure-thing recipe. At the PUC's, the armies of lawyers the Bell companies have sent in to every rulemaking, have turned every question into a long-running evidentiary process, presumably in the expectation that the CLECS won't have the resources to hold out. Correct assumption, I suppose. Proof, that the Lawyer is once again mightier than the law.

    A couple of interesting things to watch on the legal scene - a 9th circuit ruling that cable modems were in fact a "telecom service" as opposed to a "cable service" conflicts directly with a 5th circuit ruling (or was it 4th) to the contrary. So expect the issue to be decided by the Supremes soon. If Cable companies are required to open up their networks for resale, watch for the LECs to play some really nasty games in order to bring down the profits the Cable companies are currently receiving. In another arena, keep an eye on the Dingell-Tauzin bill, which proves (as if we really needed the proof) yet again, that there's no such thing as a congressman that can't be bought outright by a phone company. That bill makes it even easier for the LECs to suck the life out of the CLECs, and also simplifies the task for the LECs of strangling the cable companies in a mountain of paper, while evading paper themselves. You just thought @Home sucked now. Give it a couple of years.

    The truth is, there's almost no really good news, on the Telco front for Internet users. If the Copyright and Content wars don't ruin it for you on the one side, the Telco's will bleed you dry on the other. Both sides have bought all the congressmen they need to get the job done. Just a matter of waiting now. If Hollywood and Bell have their way, we'll all be back to watching TV again in under 5 years.

  • This was an NYTimes article [nytimes.com] published last week.

    Offers some insight... only 5% of fibre is in use, and it costs more to light fibre than lay them.

    On top of all these problems all the farmers with railway tracks going through their land are suing because the fibre layed alongside the rails was unauthorised because the leases didn't include surface rights.

    Compensation for the farmers has been cash and some of the fibre strands... so expect some new ISP's run by hillbillies, there's already a few about [exodus.com].
  • Yes... sorry, that should of read 'didn't include subsurface rights'.

    Well... the fibre is buried into a conduit a few feet under the land, so I guess that could be seen as 'subsurface' in a sense, when leases use loose definitions like that it's no surprise the lawyers are jumping on it, even if the clause was actually there to protect mineral rights.

    Obviously nobody thought of burying fibre back when great-great-grandfather hillbilly signed the lease back in 1870. As we know, lawyers love ambiguous definitions open to interpretation.

    Somebody suggested they could move the fibre above surface by using modern day telegraph poles and avoid those issues. But now the fibres are in the ground the companies are up the creek without a paddle, the lawyers know they have to settle.

    A company in the UK called Energis [energis.com] uses the Nation Grid as a telecommunications backbone, they route calls and data between cities over the existing power lines layed on pylons. I doubt the farmers could sue the electricity carriers because they haven't installed any extra fibre or cables, I guess the farms aren't as litigious either, but it's certainly a different purpose from which the pylons were originally intended.
  • by eschasi ( 252157 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:58AM (#129666)
    This is an old story, and one that makes people immediately leap to the wrong conclusions. Executive summary: fibre is the easy, cheap part. You want fibre to your home? Sure, I can do that cheap. But if you want to connect it to something else at fibre speeds, well, that's another story.

    I live in a small town in Michigan (Dexter, 12 scenic miles from Hell). We have a major Sprint node in town. A civic group of local civic technologists [noucorp.com] would love to tap into that, getting our tiny town some huge bandwidth. We love living here, and would like to see the internet connectivity being fast and cheap enough to attract Internet-based businesses.

    But we can't currently generate enough $$$ to make it worthwhile. What Sprint has in place is basicly an optical repeater. To expand it into data service, they'd have to install an OC-XX router, where XX is probably greater than 12.

    Ever priced an OC-12 router? Or facilities to support it remotely? The DS-3 cards and T1 cards to step down those speeds? The lines from your home or office to that router? The maintenance agreement on all that equipment?

    But everyone would use it if it were available you say? Show me. Figure out that cost, go talk to your neighbors. See what you can get the cost per connection down to. We went thru that exercise for getting gas lines installed out here. Even with a three year payback, people weren't interested in anything over about $1000 one time cost. I'd be shocked if your neighborhood was willing to go $1000/ea plus $100/mo for ethernet to every home.

    As an example proof of fibre being the easy part, I believe that WilTel some years ago sold their entire fibre infrastructure to some other company for quite a nice price. They retained one (count it) one strand in each bundle. That's been enough to handle all their traffic. It was brilliant, just frigging brilliant. Now someone else has to pay all their fibre infrastructure costs, and they just get one card in someone elses equipment.

  • by tewwetruggur ( 253319 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:07AM (#129667) Homepage
    Isn't that for constipated evil people?

  • There is no doubt that there is enough backbone fibre in teh ground (once lit up of course) to handle magnitudes more traffic. Remember, while fibre was getting cheaper to put in the ground, companies like NORTEL were fitting up to 160 (yes one hundred and sixty) channels of data on a single fibre by splitting and recombinign different frequencies of light.

    This tended to make the dark fibre problem worse in that less fibre was needed to carry more data.

    The whole problme is the last mile to the house. Until there is an economical way to get high speed data to the home, its never going to happen. Cable modems stink bacuse of shared bandwidth (once you approach saturation - look out) but they rock now because they go EVERYWHERE. DSL rocks if you're near a central office - and with speeds in development approaching 4MBps and higher - sweet!

    But DSLs problem is the need to be close to a CO. TO serve neghiborhoods, the telcos have to run fibre to each neighbor hood and concentrate the DSL connections there - cable has to do something similar - concentrate and backhaul to the data center. But runnign fibre to neighborhoods is EXPENSIVE!

    I have to admit though the whole dark fibre phenom is encouraging. I watched AT&T drop new fibre along a right of way that runs through my nextdoor neighbors pasture. They dropped SIX fibre conduit in the ground - each capable of holding a LOT of fibre. Sticking it int eh ground is the labor intensive part - now that the conduit is there, if their fibre needs GROW beyond whats already IN the ground, they just snake mroe fibre through the unused conduit.

    Even better - once they main fibre run was in teh ground, two more conduit were run alogn our road straight to - the local telco. Very encouraging :) Provides them with MAJOR bandwidth connectivity in teh near future (which believe it or not, they already have - they're a SMALL telco with an auxillary fibre backbone busienss go figure)

    But the bottom line is, until teh last mile problem is solved in a fashion that can make the telcos/cable comanies/whoever some decent money that we're willing to pay - the bulk of that fibre will stay dark for some time.

  • by Proud Geek ( 260376 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:07AM (#129671) Homepage Journal
    You can never have too much bandwidth. The situation is more comparable to post world war II United States, where there was a massive government program to build highways.

    Initially, it looked really silly, since there weren't many cars and there weren't many people driving all over. Now the highways are full. Same with fiber; traffic will grow to fill them to capacity. It will just take a few years.

    I'll leave it up to other people to decide if that's a good thing.

  • Last mile has nothing to do with it. It isn't that companies can't afford last mile, it's that last mile is very difficult, in many areas -- technical, legal, and political.

    Laying fiber in utility trenches is easy. Even laying it in the ocean is easy. But what isn't easy is translating the huge bandwidth of optical to a last mile solution. You can't run fiber to consumers, because most people have homes which are years old. Copper can't handle it, which is the whole reason for fiber. Companies better understand a shortage of fat pipes is a minor problem compared to the giant barrier which exists between communications providers and their customers.

    I think we're in the same situation the cable companies were in awhile ago. They spent millions building their citywide infrastructure, only to not be able to service customers because the cost of running a line through walls and drilling through outer-structures was too high and too risky. Dwellings weren't ready, but the network was.

    This began to change when major home builders began running cable as a standard and cable companies started working with builders to ensure they had that vital last mile access.

    This is the same thing. We were all worried about saturating the national backbones that we forgot about connecting people up to actually pay for that access. Now we're suffering because we can't afford our own network we built for a different, albeit related problem.

    The solution is first to establish an industry standard fiber specification for consumer last- mile deployment. Then, communications companies should partner with builders in service areas to ensure new developments will include domestic wiring and residential areas will include all vital components (switching, QoS, etc.). This way, all someone will need to do is purchase a modem, call up their local ISP, and say "Turn me on!". The most costly part of last mile -- the service call and installation will be avoided.

    Currently, the industry has this hacked together with pseudo-solutions (Cable & DSL). Cable is leverging the Cable companies' solved problem and DSL is using the even more distributed POTs, however technical issues have limited development and forced this out as a solution. Cable will never be a solution due to the downstream nature of TV. Cable has wide availability, currently has good service, but is limited, and DSL has low availability, poor service, but is not limited and has high medium distribution. This is exactly why these things will never change.
    What we need is companies which think forward. Is there a new development building in your service area? Go talk to the developers and make sure you have that critical component -- the home wiring --in place.

    However, this is not new. If you think of the Internet as another utility which must make its way into the home, you'll soon understand our situation. Electricity even suffered the same way. There were huge power plants with giant capacites and wires were stretched at a rate unseen before, yet consumers didn't have access. Last mile was missing. However, after the regular building cycle (wherein the average life of most homes -- due to fire, destruction, etc. expired) when new homes began to use wiring, consumer access soared.

    The same can be said with fiber. Time will only tell.
  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:57AM (#129673)
    Each telecom laid plenty of extra dark fiber, to be sure, but they also assumed that a much larger portion of what they laid would be utilized, and this would pay the debt created by the build-out, in addition to the maintenance. Unfortunately, they assumed wrong, partly due to the fact that all of the telcos built their networks at the same time. Now they don't have enough money to pay for the massive last-mile upgrades that will make all of that fiber worth something, so it'll sit dark for much longer than it was supposed to.
  • by GuyZero ( 303599 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:05AM (#129677)
    Since it costs about the same amount of money to lay one strand of fiber as it does to lay 10,000 strands, it seems somewhat obvious that immediately after a big fiber laying expansion that the amount of unused capacity would grossly exceed the amount used.

    I mean, if all those fiber laying companies had laid just barely enough to meet current needs they'd have to go back and dig trenches again to create more bandwidth. That would be expensive. And dumb.

    The situation is somewhat akin to looking at a newborn baby and saying "He's less than 5% of the size of a real man!" A-duh. Check back in 20 years and see how much of the fiber is still dark.

  • by screwballicus ( 313964 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @11:40AM (#129679)

    Crank Caller: Does your new silicon run fast?

    IBM Marketing Rep: Yes, IBM's new transistor technolo...

    Crank Caller: ...Then you'd better go and catch it! LOL!!!!11!!!1! ROTFL!!!! ROTFLMAO !!! ! U R L4|\/|3 !!!!!!

  • I think the article misses the point a bit. Yes, there's a lot of unused fibre out there, with companies laying more every minute. And a lot of this fiber won't be used anytime soon.

    However, the fibre is only a small symptom. Remember, as far as the actual medium goes, fiber is relatively cheap compared to the other expenses involved. The real problem is the lack of infrastructure to actually utilize that capacity.

    Companies aren't struggling because they laid too much fibre, they're struggling since they haven't been able to sell enough of the rest of their equipment and services.

    Most of the companies knew this going in...but if you're going to go to the trouble (and it's immense trouble in some urban areas) to lay out fibre, you might as well lay a lot more than you think you need. It's actually a smart way of planning for future capacity.

    However, for those companies (like Nortel, mentioned in the article) that appear to actually have expected to have the clients to fill their capacity, yes they problems. Not because of the fibre itself, but because of a larger mis-estimation of potential business.

  • Damn it! You forgot the GoatSex [goatse.cx] link. And this time, it's actually on topic (sort of).
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Monday June 25, 2001 @08:07AM (#129691) Journal
    This is basically the "last mile" problem; it is easy (or at least conceptually clean) to plan, negotiate, and build the long-haul segments. The dendritic / capillary part, which covers the last few miles gets much messier, and the benefit drops as the cost rise (How much do you expect to charge that farmer per month?).

    If you take an analogy to the early phone system, the problem is that the consolidation of the little ISPs happened way too rapidly. The big guys should have waited for the locals to wire up all the neighborhoods and then bought them out.

    --MarkusQ

  • is cleaning up big time.

    I am sure all have noticed that long-haul is virtually free now. You can get long distance for less than 5 cpm, and even international long distance is dirt cheap. (As long as you stay away from fraudulent companies like AT&T, SPRINT & MCI, that is)

    It used to be that the long distance part of my phone bill was at least 5 times as much as the local part. Now it is less. It costs me more to call 20 miles up the road than costs to call Europe, and for a call to europe, the RBOC gets a handsome cut of the charge. While the LD companies have built bandwidth and cut prices, the RBOCs have increased their prices, and given nothing back.

    It's a bloody shame that's what it is. And I bet it's illegal too, only the FCC does not have the will to do anything. They're perfectly happy and in bed with Darth Vader.

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