I am suddenly watching more TV or rather, video (TV shows, movies, Internet videos, etc.) over the Internet . I broke down and bought a Roku box the other day. If you’re not familiar with the Roku, it’s one of several set top boxes that hook up to your TV, download or stream video from various sources and play them on your big screen. Some of the the other best known devices are Boxee and Apple TV (not the rumored Apple televisions set, but a box that hooks to your existing TV that Steve Jobs called a “hobby”).
I bought the Roku because it’s the cheapest of the three and seems to have the most services available. I thought about getting an Apple TV because I am such an Apple fanboy and use ITunes quite a bit and the Apple TV has a built in integration with ITunes.
But the number of free sources on the Roku service won out. And if I subscribe to Netflix and HBOGO, I could have all the entertainment I could possible want. My goal is not necessarily to cut the chord on my cable service. But I wouldn’t mind cutting back to just basic cable. I’d need to have the service anyway if I wanted to get HBOGO.
I think all these devices are stop gap technologies that will soon be supplanted with something like the integrated television box (the rumored Apple TV, maybe), essentially a TV with a computer in it that connects directly to your ITunes and ICloud and has Siri in it so all you have to do is say “TV, show me cats playing pianos and any unwatched episodes of Boardwalk Empire” and it wills show you a custom menu with a list of YouTube videos and unwatched episodes of Broadway Empire. And you will speak to it again, “Show me episode 16 of Broadway Empire” and it will start streaming that show. NO MORE REMOTES!
And eventually it will start to speak to you when you walk in the room and say in a soothing voice, “You have 3 unwatched episodes of Glee, Dave. Would you like to watch them now, Dave?” Even though my name is Bob and maybe that will be creepy.
But beyond that, Siri or something like it will be embedded in your house and appliances and we will be talking to the walls and the walls will talk to us as they learn our preferences and that really will be the moment we will all live in a technical cocoon, wrapped in silk threads of fiber.
It’s been a couple years since I’ve used the term “redundant’ to refer to the chimerical second fiber line to be built for Humboldt County. But the Times-Standard is still using that term as evident in the article that appears today about the IP Networks fiber line build along the Highway 36 corridor. I prefer the term “alternate.” For one, redundant fiber can imply it’s superfluous. After all it’s redundant!
For another, it implies that the second fiber line will automatically insure that we will not be cut off from the Internet should something happen to the AT&T north-south primary line again. This is not necessarily the case unless AT&T decides to buy into a the IP Networks line, and there is no hard information that they have or will. You need to read all the way near to the end of the T-S article to get any reference to this concept.
The other shadow cast over the sunny headline of the article is the lack of permits from the public lands the IP Networks fiber needs to cross. The article implies that these permits are inevitable and IP Networks is planning on construction at both ends of the fiber while it waits for those permits to come through. Don’t get me wrong I am excited by the possibility of this alternate fiber and hope to hell it gets done and done on the current time line. But it ain’t over until the…well, you know when.
There’s been some concern that our (still) only fiber connection could be in danger due to the massive mud slide on 101. Hank Sims has done a good job of trying to get to the bottom of this story over on his excellent new news blog. Unfortunately, the story peters out right where it usually does: The AT&T stonewall.
I think that’s the real story. All of Humboldt County is still beholden to one rather unresponsive corporation for its telecommunications services. Unless, of course, you can afford to get a feed from 101 Netlink.
Update 2: A memorial for Chris will be held, Monday, April 11, 5-7 PM at the Arkley Center.
Update: Nice article today in the Times-Standard by Donna Tam.
I was deeply saddened when I learned Chris Crawford died this weekend. I knew he had been suffering from cancer that was only recently diagnosed and the prognosis was not good. Still, the news was shocking.
Chris was a friend and colleague. We worked together primarily through the Redwood Technology Consortium. He, along with Rene Agredano and Jim Nelson helped revive the organization when it had lost some of its drive. They led the charge to finally get the (still) only fiber line completed when Pac Bell and CalTrans were at a standstill. After Chris left the board of RTC he continued to promote the best uses of technology by writing for and managing the Tech Beat series that appears in the Times-Standard and other local publications each week. I think I was the last one to submit an article to Chris before he withdrew from that service to focus on his health.
in addition to working with RTC, Chris was a big booster of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, served on the board there and did a stint as Board President. In his own business he traveled all over trying to improve the efficiency of court systems primarily through the best uses of technology.
Chris loved this community and was passionate about developing the economy and furthering the technology infrastructure of the region. He was one of the most eloquent off the cuff speakers I knew. And he loved to speak his mind.
When I briefly worked as a realtor I was fortunate to sell Elaine and Chris their house on Humboldt Hill. And then enjoyed many great parties there. Talk about a mix of people! Chris was gregarious, poured good drink, and laughed loudly.
He will be sorely missed. Goodbye, buddy…
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, let alone something about local broadband news. What can I say, I’ve been busy! Most stuff goes on Twitter these days because it’s fast. But there’s been plenty of broadband news and discussion lately, so I thought I’d gather some of that stuff together here. I’m sure I’ve missed things. Feel free to add to the information in the comments.
The Humboldt County General Plan Update continues it’s long and torturous process toward completion. The Planning Commissions will (I hope), be addressing a the new Telecommunications Element (soon to be changed to the Communications Element?) at next week’s meeting on the 29th. The proposed document is worth a review if you have any interest in how the County might frame communications policies for the next 20 years. Folks from the Redwood Technology Consortium, Access Humboldt and the California Center for Rural Policy have been reviewing the document and are submitting written and oral comment. Access Humboldt has posted the most recent meeting where people gave oral support for the new element. Comments relative to the Communications Element begin around 1 hour and 11 minutes in to the video.
The highly hyped Highway 299 fiber build proposed by Broadband Associates a year or so ago has gone nowhere. As a result the grant from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) that was supposed to help fund the project has been withdrawn, making the money available for other projects. According to Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace (see the video from RTC’s June 10th luncheon), there are players ready to take up the project and that the 299 corridor fiber build has a lot of support at the state level.
In the meantime a proposal from Redwood Telephone, a company formed through a coalition of local tribes has been tentatively approved pending a comment period and a final decision scheduled for August 12. This is an interesting proposal and it’s well worth looking at as it seems to have the ambition of providing broadband to much of the region, including unserved and underserved areas and even regions already covered by the incumbent ISPs such as AT&T and Suddenlink. It’s not clear to me how this will work. Would appreciate some input in the comments.
Meanwhile the proposed middle mile fiber build along Highway 36 by IP Networks appears to be moving forward at least as far as planning, rights of way, contractual agreements and funding (some of which is also coming from CASF). According to a newsletter put out by the Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission (RREDC), “The fiber optic project is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2011.” Apparently 101 Netlink is involved in providing some local wireless service feeds off this fiber line along that sparsely populated corridor. That’s a good thing. But it’s unclear if this fiber line will provide any blanket redundancy for our region.
We’re still waiting to hear if our regional proposal to Google’s Community Fiber program will go anywhere.
Finally, I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that Charter Communications that services Del Norte County and parts of Southern Oregon with cable and Internet is in talks with Suddenlink to purchase their Humboldt County system. If it does, the story goes, Charter would build another fiber line running north-south along 101 to connect it’s fiber in the north to AT&T’s line here.
I have no idea how any of these plans and projects will play out and whether any of them will lead to more stable service, higher speeds, more coverage, or lower cost for consumers. But one can hope.