Corrected Javad Boroumand 27 March 2007 - rbt
Wednesday afternoon, in the 'VON Theatre' on the show floor, Gordon Cook ran a session entitled Special Cook Report BOF: What does it mean to be an Internet Company? with Javad Boroumand from Cisco, Roxanne Googin, Publisher, High Tech Observer and John Waclawsky, Chief Software Architect, Motorola.
It was relatively small, in a noisy location and didn't answer the question posed, but it was the most interesting session I attended, in part because of a 20 minute discussion with Roxanne and Gordon afterwards.
Javad spoke first explaining what National LambdaRail is, and CAIDA's Commons Project. The key difference between National LambdaRail (NLR) and Internet2 is that NLR owns their own dark fiber whereas Internet2 is paying for backbone services. This gives NLR enormous flexibility in trying new technology at layers one and two, i.e. below IP. The Commons project is an attempt to combine the NLR backbone with community and municipal networks that are willing to participate in CAIDA measurement programs, thus getting low level data on Internet performance that supports basic research and lower costs for muni networks.
John went second, speaking about the evolution of edge devices in an open network. I've heard John speak on this subject and I've talked to him in the past (most recently at F2C), so this was interesting, but not new to me.
Last up, before open discussion, was Roxanne with the financial picture, in part based on her 'Paradox of the Best Network,' i.e. competitive IP networks are not a good investment (capital repellent, in her words) but monopolies (or duopolies) won't give us the broadband access we want and need for economic growth. Unfortunately, she ended by posing the problem but not suggesting a solution or giving any call to action - thus my comments during the BOF and in our discussion afterward.
Responding to questions, Roxanne made it clear she was advocating unfetter municipal experimentation by any of the 22,000 municipalities in the US and/or interested community groups. I couldn't agree more. Yes, there will be a lot of mistakes, but to the extent we foster widespread experimentation, workable models will emerge. Unfortunately, municipalities in many states have been slowed or completely blocked by state legislation and/or state and national regulation, mostly the result of highly effective lobbying efforts by incumbent operators (ILEC and CableCos).
I was struck by the combination of NLR purchasing their own dark fiber and Roxanne's advocacy for municipal experimentation, but I didn't get to push my thoughts until our post session discussion. My points:
- It takes decades to make fundamental changes in laws or regulatory regimes.
- The right-of-way in front of my home or business is the fundamental access bottleneck. Conduits and poles in that right-of-way have useful lives of 30-100 years. Dark fiber has a useful life of 20-30 years or more. All these align with legal and regulatory timeframes.
- Anything electronic (to light that fiber) is functionally obsolete within 2-3 years.
This suggests the best focus for municipal activities is point-to-point (home run) dark fiber from each business and residence to a central aggregation point where enough other fibers come together that multiple competitive ISPs (and other service providers) are attracted. Then individuals get to pick which ISP they want to light their fiber.
Of course while my idea of what a municipality should do is right :-), it would be a terrible idea to impose it, nationally or otherwise. Roxanne is completely correct that we need to give our 22K municipalities permission to do whatever they want and then see what emerges.