Information Highway or Dirt Road?
Abundant and cheap bandwidth is about to transform the Internet. WWW will no longer stand for world-wide-wait. Abundant bandwidth will allow you to send and receive video, audio and data with astounding speed. Current modems and ISDN lines will be obsolete. Bandwidth will increase 100 times faster than the increase in microprocessor speed. Cheap bandwidth will spur global economic growth and create unlimited opportunities.”

If this sounds good to you, this is just the beginning of some very interesting thoughts that were shared with me last week by Mr. Claud Matney, a telecommunications engineer with Municipal Utility Digital Design, a Bozeman Montana firm.

The “backbone” of the communications net is being aggressively constructed between cities, states, and nations. Industry is upgrading the transport layer and laying thousands of miles of optical fiber. But, according to a recent Report to Congress on the development of the Information Superhighway, “…the on-ramps that will link the high-speed portions of the national information infrastructure with homes, businesses, and institutions continue to form a bottleneck to high-speed information flow. In the near term, the primary challenge will be to provide broadband digital services over the existing plant—the hundreds of thousands of miles of copper wire and coaxial cable—although ultimately it may be preferable to provide fiber optics to each residence.”

If you have a connection to the Internet utilizing a 28.8 K bps modem, a 128 K bps ISDN connection will be 4.5 times faster. But, a 768 K 2.0 Mbps HDSL with PairGain connection, available today, will be six times faster than the ISDN… an improvement factor of 2560. With this connection you will have the speed to handle full motion, two-way color video conferencing, and integrate all of your communication devices, telephone, television, radio and computers, into a one source data connection. Clearly, fiber optic cable to each home and business is the solution to your demand for broadband access to the world.

With a fiber optic connection to your home or business, the possibilities become exciting. Tele-commuting to work reduces air pollution and the need for more roads and bridges. Two-way full motion video conferencing would allow you to attend a college class and fully participate, as if you were in the classroom. Remote video monitoring of your business or home while you are away would be easily accomplished.

The change will have great impact on many businesses, as we know them today. For example, look for a revolution in outdoor advertising in the near future. The technological breakthrough made by Texas Instrument with digital light processing (DLP), will allow commercial outdoor advertising to display anything that can be created on a computer. A regional office can update and/or automate the feed of any content to any billboard on their system, if the billboard is connected to the fiber optic cable.

Think about the digital domain effects that may impact your life. What impact will the fiber optic connection at your business or home have on your real estate property value? Will your home or commercial property value be significantly lower if you lack the high-speed digital connection which prospective buyers require? Years ago some communities suffered irreversible decline when the railroad passed them by. More recently, the business communities of some towns have died when the interstate freeway passed them by. Today most businesses and homes have only telephone lines and these connections are increasingly inadequate.

Who will provide your connection to the information super-highway?
Some say it will be the Telephone Company with modems operating over existing copper wires. Some say it will be the cable companies. Some think that the electrical and gas utility companies will provide the service. Claude Matney insists that the best entity to provide your access to the high-speed fiber optic cable is the same organization that provides you with streets, sewers and water. Consider his analogy:

“You get into your car to go to the movie, to work, to the store, or on vacation. On your trip you may choose to pass over toll roads that get you where you want to go faster and safer. But what if the road at the end of your driveway was privately owned? What if you had to contract with the cable company or the electric utility to leave your house because they owned the street? That would not be acceptable. Neither is being dependent on a private entity for your data highway. You may choose to go to toll roads which take you to special places, and may be glad to pay for the destinations they provide, but your drive to the corner market, the hospital, your children’s school, or the toll way on-ramp must be publicly controlled.

You are at risk of having a fiber optic information super-highway that ends about a mile from your home or business. There the access changes to a barely passable dirt road. Cities will soon be inundated with requests for right-of-way-access from emerging data and communications service providers. Failure to initiate an organized planning effort will result in a reactive piece-meal approach.

Seattle, Boston, Austin, Anaheim, New York and Tulsa are among the larger cities that have taken the lead in determining services and promoting development of the “last mile” connection. Smaller cities and towns throughout the country are also working on the opportunity. See: ( Now is the time for communities that offer a clean environment and a high quality of life, to attract the new generation of information economy workers that will build their economy without degrading their environment.

You may be surprised to discover how much fiber optic cable has already been laid by various organizations in our city. The lack of connections from this backbone to our homes and businesses will become quickly evident upon closer inspection.

Mr. Claude Matney proposes that we develop a Community
Telemanagement Plan. This plan would inventory our existing
telecommunications infrastructure and plan for the development of our community’s connections to the Information Super Highway. If you would like more information in this regard, contact me and I will see that you get a copy of the Community Telemanagement Plan Proposal for the City of Bozeman, Montana.
--Will Murray