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Steam Heat to High Speed Internet 156

jrmski writes "Thom Greco, an astute businessman from the crumbling town of Wilkes-Barre is betting the future of its downtown on a new state of the art fiber optic network. He recently purchased the former Steam Heat Authority, and the underground pipes associated with it. The pipes provide clear advantages in connecting every downtown building with access faster than what's currently available in Philly."
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Steam Heat to High Speed Internet

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  • Only good things can come from a tech visionary who purchases Old World infrastructure and is willing to run fiber to them.
    • I wouldn't say so (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TWX_the_Linux_Zealot ( 227666 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:32AM (#5672245) Journal
      "Only good things can come from a tech visionary who purchases Old World infrastructure and is willing to run fiber to them."

      I wouldn't call that an absolute. Look at the nightmare that Qwest Communications has caused. They're still using Pair Gain [intersil.com], in a city that is supposedly modern in design. We can't get DSL service in half of Phoenix that is within the copper distance needed to do it, and Phoenix was originally a US West Communications test city for the technology. I've had friends who couldn't get the phone company to install a copper circuit, and would not say who was responsible for Qwest's engineering decision to implement pair gain on every phone line.

      So, I don't believe that companies usisng old-world, middle-world (not to be confused with middle-earth), or brand-new technologies are any better simply because of the tech. They have to actually provide service, not claim to be able to without delivering.
      • Qwest will always be an exception to any kind of rule like this.
        • Actually, though I understand you problem with such blanket statements, your example actually proves his point. Phoenix would be far better off if (as the original poster said) some entrepreneur had run fiber through existing conduits, instead of (as Qwest and many companies have done) tried to over-leverage existing infrastructure (twisted pair copper) for more bandwidth.

          Fiber is a mature technology, whose properties and system design are very well known. It's been in use since the 50's, though it was too
    • by general_re ( 8883 )
      Uh-huh. Spoken like someone who's never actually been to that part of PA.

      The problems of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania will not be solved by running fiber through steam tunnels. Bank on it.

      • by The FooMiester ( 466716 ) <[goimir] [at] [endlesshills.org]> on Sunday April 06, 2003 @06:12AM (#5672555) Homepage Journal
        You're right. Between all the businesses coming in and giving us the bone by starting up and saying that they are the next greatest thing, then shutting down after a few months, and the generally inadequate infrastructure . . .

        And besides. Everyone who knows anything knows that you don't run a business in Wilkes-Barre, the taxes are too high, and the regulations too cumbersome. You run your business in Plains. Same with Scranton. Why do you think all those buildings downtown are half-empty? Everyone is doing business up on Montage Mountain. Granted, the bigwigs never have to DRIVE in there, but that's another rant for another day and time.
        • Same goes for Buffalo NY area. It's an economic ghost town, been going downhill all my life. That's 35 years of losing. The fact that some of the original fiber (Sprint) backbone runs directly underneath downtown hasn't really meant much, even at the height of the dot-coms. From what I heard in my networking 101 classes, at least 1/2 of it is dark. Other than that, one of the original ARPAnet lines is nearby (appliedtheory.com). Again, no difference. The taxes and regulations here are absolute hell, let alo
    • If and only If he uses his(the investors money)would it be a good idea outherwise it just sounds like a high tech version of the professional sports team scam.
  • Good Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dirkdidit ( 550955 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:29AM (#5672236) Homepage
    This is actually a good way to get use of something that would otherwise just sit and decay.

    Having fast internet and reliable forms of connectivity are important things businesses look for when they come to towns. Hopefully what this guy is doing can spur some growth there.

    I wonder what else you could do with a steam tunnels. Live in them maybe? :)
    • Personally, I thought the belief of 'If you build it they will come' died out with the 'new economy'.

      Well, I guess this isnt as expensive as all that, and hopefully it will bring some positive results. But I think it will take more than fibre-optics to attract businesses.

    • I've often though about the possibilies of a metro LAN or WAN setup. It would require a lot of security and gobs of bandwidth, but could be a interesting test case for "the future city". Consider linking dozens of downtown businesses with GigE or faster fiber. I would imagine the first few applications would be gimmicky, but may eventually bring about some rather innovative uses. I doubt a bakery would have much use for such a setup, but they may be others that would.

      Why send expensive tanks into battle wh
    • I wonder what else you could do with a steam tunnels. Live in them maybe? :)

      Makes me wonder what the diameter of the pipes is, and if they are actually tunnels.. hopefully they won't have to worry about steam-tunnel rats chewing through their fiber, heh.
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:30AM (#5672239) Homepage
    Dark fibre, the collapse of many companies that built these networks (and then had other companies buy them at pennies on the dollar), etc, then why do this?

    Or maybe someone is thinking long-term; five-years, and maybe this will be a very valuable asset. Bah. Perhaps I need more foresight.
    • by AlaskanUnderachiever ( 561294 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:55AM (#5672443) Homepage
      Jesus, another "dark fiber" post.

      I'm guessing none of you guys have ever DONE a cable/fiber install. You don't lay excess capacity for "future use". You lay excess capacity because no sane company wants to have to dig up a 2 mile stretch of trench to fix the line every time it goes dark.

      It's not EXCESS CAPACITY. It's being cheap. You lay enough fiber that you should almost never have to dig it up to repair it again. Fibers go dark for all sorts of stupid reasons. Even in good installs.

      The idea is to lay SO MUCH that you can always just switch over to another "good" line when one goes bad.

      What's cheaper? The extra cost of the fiber initially or the HUGE cost in having to dig up the line multiple times to repair it?

      • That seems to be the issue here to me. This guy can blow fiber through these old steam pipes cheap, he found a conduit system just ready to go. Excavating in these old cities is a nightmare, pipes and heaven knows what just everywhere underground, and probably in bad decay. You don't want to go digging in these kinds of places.
      • That, and the incremental cost of laying twice, or even ten times the amount of light pipe when the street is already dug up is nothing.
      • I don't know about that. Philly has a habit of letting anyone with a pulse trench under the streets. About every 6 months somebody is jackhammering the street next to my apartment to lay new fiber.

        (Do I get any of the bandwidth... nooooo...)

        I should also not that in my parent's place out in the burbs Comcast ran fiber through overhead poles, next to phone lines. Data from above...

        • The whole point is that it costs more to dig than to not dig. When you trench you have to submit a plan, examine everyone else's old plans to make sure you're not cutting anything, and kiss a large number of asses to even get the permit. Usually this takes the form of a simple bribe, of course, unless you just want to wait a long-ass time. Meanwhile, he has to do no digging whatsoever, just poke a lot of cable through some pipes (if they're steam PIPES - I didn't read the article) or lay a bunch of cable in
      • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @09:59AM (#5672959) Homepage
        no sane company wants to have to dig up a 2 mile stretch of trench to fix the line every time it goes dark.

        Hah! The company I work for does. We also want our customers to dump Diet Coke on their phones, block the air intakes on their network hubs, and hire moron painters who spray EVERYTHING in the phone closet (KSU, 66 blocks, HDSL backplanes) a nice semi-gloss beige. We have one client so penny-wise and pound-foolish that they've insisted upon 2-pair wire runs instead of 4-pair because it was CHEAPER by 4 cents a foot. Of course, they had to pay for a SECOND installation of wire when the 2-pair turned out to be inadequate, but hey, they saved almost 40 dollars up front!

      • You lay excess capacity because no sane company wants to have to dig up a 2 mile stretch of trench to fix the line every time it goes dark.

        I think you have not been reading enough Dilbert lately ;-)
      • Fibers in a well-made cable that's been properly installed should not go dark unless the entire cable is damaged. I spent 3 years doing nothing but OTDR work and I seldom saw single fibers break; when they did, it was always due to improper installation. Folks do install lots of extra fiber because as additional capacity is needed, it's a pain to dig up streets. Depending on the location, the cost of the fiber cable itslef can sometimes be a fraction of the installation cost.
  • he is investing in infrastructure in a decaying town with very little future for comercial exploit. well, money is cheap now-a-days. good thng for people with stupid ideas.
    • Just Plain Wrong (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Very little future commercial exploitation? You're not qualified enough to say that. As a long time resident, I can say that the Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre area certainly has the possibility for future growth. We're "decaying" aren't we? To where else can you possibly go from the decayed?

      Let's be sensible here.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:47AM (#5672287) Journal
    They sure are [infiltration.org].

  • Duh ! Problem is (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's plumbing and the corners will be to sharp for fiber. If you could even manage to get a fish threw it you'll never manage to get the fiber pulled into it with the fish. But strait sections no problem it's the bends that will kill you. That's why conduit for electical wires is vastly different from plumbing parts. Fiber is going to be stiff. Trust me I've installed it. You'l never get it install in plumbing pipes. Plus imagine the rust and crud in the pipes. I'll pass on that job.
    • WHOA!!!!!

      Better go warn them! I'll bet that thought NEVER crossed their mind. Surely they never even CONSIDERED whether they would actually be able to run the fiber before making the deal.

      Quick! Warn them! There may still be time.
    • by virtual_mps ( 62997 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @09:29AM (#5672859)
      It's plumbing and the corners will be to sharp for fiber. If you could even manage to get a fish threw it you'll never manage to get the fiber pulled into it with the fish. But strait sections no problem it's the bends that will kill you.

      It's not indoor plumbing, it's a distribution system for a municiple steam system. The pipes are probably huge, not some little tiny things like you'd buy in a hardware store. The bend radius from outer wall to outer wall of the pipe, touching the inner curve of a bend, is probably not that tight.
  • Better than copper (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rf0 ( 159958 ) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:48AM (#5672290) Homepage
    This is a good thing to see with people taking advantage of fibre. Here in the UK we are in the stupid position in that there is lots of dark fibre which was layed by British Telecom (BT), our telephony monopoly, but they have no product which can use it so we have to get (A)DSL over copper which works apart from those of us who live in the middle of nowhere

    • Yes, it's just amazing how much fibre there is around the UK, yet so difficult to access. Ten years ago, the pavement outside my flat was dug up to install a 2 Gigabyte fibre path for the local university. At the same time, PC's were stuck with 14K modems or ISDN. Last year, I moved to a newly built complex. Even though there were underground conduits in the street for the national telecom providers and the local cable TV company, no ducting existed that would allow connection to the flats. And the satell
  • by jhylkema ( 545853 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:49AM (#5672296)

    Okay, so some guy gets the bright idea to run fiber through steam pipes . . . with how many miles of *dark* fiber out there already?!? And how many big telcos with the similar idea are already bankrupt or are about to go there (JDS Uniphase, anyone?)

    This sounds like some idiot who thinks he can revitalize his city by "hookin' it up to that thar new internet thang. We done gunna make it real real real fast." They did the same thing in Washington with Tacoma. They even call it "The Wired City." [wiredtacoma.com] And you know what? It's still a crime-infested shithole with no jobs!

    Wake up, fellas. This was cool at the height of the boom whem Amazon.bomb sold for $400 and the lemmings bought it. But now that reality has set in, it's just another bunch of idiots buying into the Ponzi scheme - after it has collapsed!

    • I agree with your sentiment, and I have my own invective to add.

      This was never a "great idea", 1999 or otherwise. The "build it and they will come" idea was completely assinine long before its demonstrated collapse across this American nation of "revitalized" city centers.

      I live in Toledo, Ohio (yeah, yeah, I know, now please stop laughing) and I've been seeing the ponzi scheme of revitalization up close and personal for years. Home prices are still rising, investment is still being lavished on the do
  • Wilkes Where? (Score:3, Informative)

    by KaosConMan ( 579641 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:49AM (#5672297)
    For those who don't know where Wilkes Barre is:

    Here's a map [mapquest.com]

  • How does Wilkes-Barre == Philly?

    There two different places that happen to be in the same state.

    Pass me some of what the poster was smoking.
    • Attempting to read the submitter's mind, perhaps he's thinking that this could make Wilkes-Barre more attractive to some businesses than the Philly area.

      It's a stretch, maybe, but for example, there are a bunch of companies with call centers and the like in the New Jersey suburbs across the Delaware from Philly (Cherry Hill, Marlton, Mt Laurel). Call centers just need office space, warm bodies, and connectivity, and all but the latter are cheaper in out of the way places. Wilkes-Barre is 2 hours from Ph

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:51AM (#5672305)
    Metropolitan areas can run fiber much more effectively through the sewer system than by digging trenches for a few hundred miles. They've already done this in Indianapolis recently:

    http://www.citynettelecom.com/newsroom/show_rele as e.php?HANDLE=14
  • what if? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MoFoYa ( 644563 )
    what if those steam pipes had not been there?

    would this guy have found another way to *connect* the town?

    i guess what i wonder is: is his primary motive to create a fast reliable network so high tech business will enhance the town. or, has he stumbled upon a cost effective way to get high speed, marketable connectivity to a place that has never had it and is willing pay for it?

    either way i suppose it's good for the community.
    old steam pipes carry information as well as anything else.
  • The world CAN be saved by steam*!

    OK, fine, it's downtown Wilkes-Barre PA and they're using steam pipe as conduit. But still.

    * People who read Ninja High School, a dead-tree comic, will understand this immediately.

  • city's steam pipes that are ready to be filled with conduit then fiber optics," said Greco. Is this a hot technology?
  • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:02AM (#5672336)
    who read this as

    "Steam to Heat High Speed Internet"?

  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:15AM (#5672365)
    Umm, I read the story and it seems pretty clear to me that this guy wants to butter up city officials so that they give him some money as an "investment" in the city.

    If you've seen the episode of the Simpsons where Springfield gets a fancy monorail, you'll recognize immediately what this is really about. It's a con artist selling false hope using technobabble that probably sounds impressive to some provincial mayor in Amish country. Only a fool could think that all you need to bring in tech companies is a place for them to plug in. Luckily for these snake-oil-selling jerks, many of our leaders really are fools.

    • Only a fool could think that all you need to bring in tech companies is a place for them to plug in. Luckily for these snake-oil-selling jerks, many of our leaders really are fools.

      People by and large get the sort of government they deserve. Watch how many people on this very thread - among the self-proclaimed digerati, no less - proclaim what a great idea this is ;)

    • Projects like this are in various stages of completion all over the country. In most of these undertakings, the goal is simply to make the city a more attractive place for new businesses (not necessarily tech companies). In particular, it can lower barriers of entry for telecommunications companies. Does it work? Nobody really knows yet. These networks are relatively new and so there's no significant data on their economic impact.

      But a lot of cities are building these networks, so it's a real gamble not to

    • Lots of high-tech companies that don't need real talent (READ: Technical Support organizations - they NEED real talent of course, but seldom get it) can put their office in bumfuck but they do need more bandwidth than is currently available in most places categorized as such. Usually they do look for bandwidth and a tax break, though.
  • When I first read the headline I thought it was an "Old tech put to new uses" topic. I could have sworn it said: "Steam to heat Highspeed Internet"

  • I remember driving through Pennsylvania late at night about 4 years ago with my Son and girlfriend in the car. We were looking for a decent place to stay. We found this hole-in-the-wall town that had an old, but rather quaint looking, hotel called the Genetti. That morning, as I was packing up the car, I noticed the pictures of some very famous people on the wall, such as baseball legend Pete Rose as well as a few presidents IIRC. I remember thinking about what a neat place the Genetti was and that I might
  • by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:26AM (#5672396) Journal
    Anyone else read this too fast and envision a computer or router or something that ran on steam power?

    For some reason, that notion made me think of an AMD Athalon system...
  • by orbital3 ( 153855 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:54AM (#5672441)
    Wilkes-Barre was featured in a previous Slashdot article [slashdot.org] when they decided not to renew their maintainence contract with IBM and their AS/400 with all of their tax records crashed... in light of that whole situation, unless Wilkes-Barre has done a technological 180 since then, I can't imagine what they'd do with all of this fiber.
  • I mean you can't really complain, he is creating jobs, and running fiber. But in all honesty, are businesses in that downtown grid a) all going to want to pay for his G-Net networking services and b) if they do buy it, is it going to make a serious difference that its going to turn the whole city around, and make it become a thriving city once again?

    I can't imagine a high-speed and high tech networking technology turning a whole downtown city around.
  • Crumbling town? (Score:4, Informative)

    by KentoNET ( 465732 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @05:36AM (#5672513)
    Being a resident of Pennsylvania in close proximity to Wilkes-Barre I've gotta say that it is not exactly crumbling. It may not have great downtown business at the moment, but neither does Bethlehem, which I think is worse off. This place has its own AHL hockey team too. It's not a big city, but definitely not crumbling.
    • Beyond crumbling: Steelton, which is only a few miles away from here in Middletown. I wonder if/when the higher middle/lower rich class will ever leave Middletown... Hrm.
      • Your in Middletown? I go to school there (PSU Harrisburg) and I agree whole heartedly, the only reason steelton exists is because of the steel mills down there and now that they are pretty much out of business the town is just dead. Hell the whole steel mill property is some special economic zone where they give you grants and no taxes and all sorts of stuff and it doesn't seem to be attracting any companies of any sort.

        What higher/middle/lower rich class is there in middletown? It seems very middle class
    • And as of last night, our AHL team is in the playoffs. Go Pens. :D
    • It may not have great downtown business at the moment, but neither does Bethlehem, which I think is worse off.

      Having gone to college in Bethlehem (Lehigh) and having spent a good deal of time in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area visiting friends, I can honestly say that the Wilkes-Barre area is far more depressed than Bethlehem.

      The North side of the Lehigh is beautiful. The newly renovated Hotel Bethlehem. The Moravian College area (Main St.). Very few empty store fronts. (Wilkes-Barre can't claim that.) B

      • i agree. wilkes-barre is one of the most depressing places i've ever been (i grew up there)...but i didn't know it until i moved away. anyone who thinks wilkes-barre isn't that bad probably hasn't ever been more than 4 or 5 hours away from there.
  • by benja ( 623818 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @05:50AM (#5672527)

    1. Buy former Steam Heat Authority
    2. Create a state-of-the-art fiber optic network using the steam pipes
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

    At least the article doesn't really say more than that.

  • Now, I don't now more about laying fiber than I do about giving birth, but the consept this fellow is fronting is interesting; take whats basicly a 19th century infrastructure and use it for a 21st century purpose. In a way, it is as if London would start using mag-lev [google.com] trains in the Underground.

    So what other uses can we put old, more or less abandoned infrastructure to?

  • My universities campus is heated entirely by steam. Among other things, all the internet, security, and power cables run through these tunnels as well. Not many people, other than campus police, the steam plant workers, and a couple bums have been down there.
    • The University of Minnesota [umn.edu] has the same tunnels, and used to have the same "nobody allowed in the tunnels policy". Then someone realised that it gets cold in Minnesota, and these tunnels run between most of the buildings, so they opened them up. Most people still don't use them, often to get from twon bulding 100 feet apart you needed to travel 700 feet or more. Still I did use them on the coldest days when it wasn't too far out of my way to do so, and was surprized how few people were down there.


  • So this i sthe new Wilkkes-Barres defence?

    I had enough trouble with the old one.
  • Tell that to the numerous OC-192's coming into 401 N. Broad (the local telecom hotel) from various different carriers - that none of them would ever in their wildest dreams pull up to Wilkes Barre.

    Smoking crack, I tell ya'.
  • good luck! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by benny_lama ( 516646 )
    I would not want to be the engineer responsible for putting inner duct and fiber optic into steam pipes. Think about this for a second......steam has no limitations on how pipes are connected, what the radius of bends is, putting a Y in the pipe line, etc. However, fiber does have all kinds of limitations. I've seen people try to shove inner duct and fiber down a conduit run with a 90 in it and it wasn't pretty. For a conduit large enough to put 4 inner ducts in, we could only get one.

    I think this guy is
  • This is the same Wilkes-Barre as in the club who developed the Traxler [plymouth.edu] variation in chess.
  • If you want to live between nowhere and bumblef*ck with a bunch of hicks. Also, if you don't care about the steering alignment on your car (pothole heaven). I thought the Tech VC bubble burst and these wacky ideas were on the drop. Guess not.

  • This sounds like a Field of Dreams mentality, the same mentality that plagued countless dot-com startups -- if you build it, they will come. Yeah. I used to live not far from Wilkes-Barre, and commute through it on my way to my dot-com job down in Philly. The place is, by no means, a gem on the map that is Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the place may have scorching fast bandwidth by the time the project is done, but it doesn't have the social or economic infrastructure to support the companies they're tryin
    • This sounds like a Field of Dreams mentality, the same mentality that plagued countless dot-com startups -- if you build it, they will come. Yeah. I used to live not far from Wilkes-Barre, and commute through it on my way to my dot-com job down in Philly. The place is, by no means, a gem on the map that is Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the place may have scorching fast bandwidth by the time the project is done, but it doesn't have the social or economic infrastructure to support the companies they're try

  • Nothing new under the sun, in case you care. In 1990, Mercury Communications (where are they now?) used an underground City of London network of pipes for a steam driven messagng system (like those little shuttles you used to see in shops) so it could install an alternative network to compete with British Telecommunications ("BT" today)
  • Bah! Its been done before.


  • Many universities have done this same thing. I know Virginia Tech uses their still used steam tunnels to run fiber to the many buildings on campus.
  • I think some of the members from Jackass come from Wilkes-Barre.

    The whole of South Western Pennsylvannia has been on a downhill slope since the coal mines closed, and it never recovered.
  • RFC? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @01:08PM (#5673615) Homepage
    Where's the RFC for "A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Low-Pressure Steam?"
  • It's kinda crazy to wake up, check Slashdot, and see your hometown mentioned on the front page. Well, former hometown. I now live 15 minutes away in an even less developed town, if you can believe it. Here in Mountaintop, there's absolutely no broadband, and we're just getting a Burger King now. It's being built as we speak. Wilkes-Barre's situation is a pretty sad one. Hell, make that most of northeastern PA. Broadband penetration here is pretty bad. Unless you happen to be one of the lucky people with Ad
    • The major industry for Pennsylvania is Education - we literally have dozens of public and private colleges. Consequent to this, the major item of export for Pennsylvania is knowledge - trained and educated students leave here in droves.
    • Wow .. someone else lives in this area and posts on slashdot .. scary .. just saying hi from white haven.
  • by vanyel ( 28049 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:05PM (#5674098) Journal
    That's why the Pittock Building in Portland, OR is one of the major telco central locations here --- it used to be a steam generation facility and there are pipes connecting it all over downtown that have been filled with cable for years now.
  • by John Murdoch ( 102085 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:28PM (#5674503) Homepage Journal


    The fellow who is promoting has a decent idea--albeit not an original one. The concept was promoted in Allentown (an hour south of Wilkes-Barre) almost two years ago [business-journal.com]. And prompted by some of the same ideas, the local power company (PP&L) developed a subsidiary [ppltelcom.com] to locate and light redundant fiber along some of its rights-of-way throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.

    Two thoughts:
    First, this is just a proposal--and a proposal that heavily depends (I'm sure) on state technology grant funding. Consider the last paragraph of the WNEP article:

    Plans for the project will be unveiled to the public Sunday at Genetti Hotel and Conference Center in Wilkes Barre at 3:00 p.m. Greco will also present his plan to Governor Ed Rendell on Monday when he is in town for a private economic summit. He hopes to get a promise of state support for his plan.

    Translation: Greco is fishing for a six-figure grant from the Pennsylvania Technology Investment Authority, and is hoping for support from the governor.

    Second, just because he's fishing for a big grant doesn't mean that it isn't a bad idea. Several people have criticized this as a "build it and they will come" investment. Yeah, and so was the Interstate System. Which will go down in history as the single most tranformational use of federal government money in the history of our nation. (For fun--ponder the impact of building all those highways on the auto, steel, aluminum, glass, plastic, concrete, paint, and petroleum industries over the years.)

    Using state economic development funding to develop IP-based infrastructure makes an enormous amount of sense. Adding another inch to the depth of pavement on a street in Wilkes-Barre isn't going to make a big dent in Luzerne County unemployment. But providing low-cost bandwidth might induce somebody to stay in town, rather than move his business elsewhere--or convince somebody in New York or Philadelphia to decide to locate his business someplace a lot saner (and safer), where costs are a low lower. In a sense, the question to ask isn't why they're doing it--the question should be, why haven't they done anything sooner?

  • It's interesting how "old style" utility or transportation networks can be the basis for modern high-speed transmission.

    For instance, the French train network authority [www.rff.fr] has thousands of kilometers of optic fibers laid along its tracks, the use of which is partially leased to telecommunication companies.

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