Fibre – How many miles?

fibre-opticBack in 2008 Verizon signed an agreement with the New York city authorities that would guarantee every resident in the five boroughs access to fibre-optic internet by July 2014.

We’re now in July 2015 and its safe to say it hasn’t happened. To the untrained eye it makes sense to give such a big task to a big corporation; they have the resources and the expertise to make it happen. So how come they failed?

Verizon’s excuses are numerous. They claim its difficult to get access to buildings to do the work. They claim they’ve kinda-sorta done what they said they would because they’ve managed to get fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) in some areas. In fact they claim to have laid 15,000 miles of fibre-optic cables.

There are a few problems and concerns we can learn from this scenario when you consider another global city struggling with high speed internet access, London. If it is so difficult for a large, faceless corporation to get access to private dwellings maybe we need a solution that has a face.

For too long we have assumed that when it comes to infrastructure might is right. This might have been true when we needed motorways, railways and underground transport systems. But when the infrastructure in question is wiring and laying cables, do we need to have billion dollar corporations doing the work? Or could it be passed on to local electricians and technicians?

An even bigger question we should ask ourselves is whether we should trust our communication installations to corporations who enable legally dubious, morally hazardous mass surveillance. If it is these companies and only these companies that are winning massive contracts (BDUK Phase 1 in UK totaled over £1.8billion) then we need to ask ourselves what they can offer to the authorities that community led initiatives can’t, because it certainly isn’t speedy and easy installations and connections.

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