Esteemed reader Jim Van Meggelen was in Romania last summer, in part because both the YATE and OpenSER/OpenSIPS/Kamailio open source projects are based in Bucharest. That's fascinating, but look at what else he found, Fiber to the Home - a lot of it!
I was in Romania this summer and they had a fascinating approach to the last mile: run your own fibre. It was really funny to see the massive numbers of fibre strands running all over Bucharest, hung willy-nilly from lampposts, power poles, balconies, traffic signals, weather vanes, and pretty much any structure that one could figure out a way to attach a cable to. Messy? Yes. Unregulated? Effectively, yes (you simply sneak up the pole late at night). The upshot of all this is that most of the urban centres in Romania have massive amounts of bandwidth right to the residence. It is common to be able to download data as fast as the NIC in the PC is able to consume it. They have access to last-mile bandwidth that we in North America can only dream of, for the same cost as we get DSL.
Here's some more local color from one of Jim's later emails:
Given the fact that Romanians don't have much respect for authority (which is probably true of most former-Communist countries), the concept of anyone owning the last mile is not something I think is given much thought. They've got a lot of worse problems to sort out before they worry about that sort of thing. It is fascinating to see them taking their economy from Communist through corruption to Western. I am no economist, but my gut feeling says they're on the right track.
The locals feel that all that cabling is an eyesore, but what is far more funny is to see a rusted out Dacia on cinder blocks, parked right next to a brand new Ferrari, and then an old Trabant ready for the scrapyard, flanked by an Aston Martin or similar. Bucharest is a bit of a mess, but not in a way that is unpleasant. For some reason it reminded me of a Mexican city somehow. I'm not sure why. It is certainly not an ugly city (at least not to my eye), but it is clear that they have a long ways to go, yet.
The Romanian people are wonderfully polite and generous, although they seem surprised that anyone would want to visit their main city (they laughed when I asked where to go to get Bucharest souvenirs). They have a fantastic sense of humour, but at first they seem a little stone-faced. What was a really pleasant surprise was that since Romanian is a Latin language, anyone with a passing French, Spanish or Latin vocabulary stands a fair chance of reading much of the signage and such.
Romania was not on my list of places I wanted (nor expected) to visit. I ended up there because both the YATE and OpenSER/OpenSIPS/Kamailio projects are based in Bucharest, and I was doing some writing on those projects, so I figured a trip out there was in order. Although the list of places I have yet to visit is fairly long, Romania is a place that I would be happy to visit again.
Strangely, Bucharest's do-it-yourself fiber reminds me of mobile service providers in Somalia, a country with no central government and no regulation of radio spectrum. None-the-less, Somalia has multiple GSM service providers who share standard GSM frequencies in semi-cooperative fashion. In each case there is no law enforcement, yet people work out ways of coping, and of arbitrating disputes. Likely this is what common law was before it became Common Law.