Monday, April 30, 2007

How Comcast perpetuates broadband black holes

Even though it’s now free to expand its service area and apply for a statewide franchise from the California Public Utilities Commission, so far cable provider Comcast has not. It could be because it prefers to remain under existing franchises issued by local governments that impose no future build out requirements. California’s Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (AB 2987), signed into law last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, allows cable providers to do so if they choose.

In El Dorado County, for example, county supervisors sold out their constituents’ interests by allowing Comcast to operate under an urban gridline model. That component of the franchise agreement between Comcast and the county requires service only be provided only in areas where a large number of homes exist as measured by linear road mile.

The problem is El Dorado County isn’t laid out that way. There are many curved roads that measured linearly are longer than relatively straight roads with too few homes to meet the minimum under the franchise agreement. They connect neighborhoods that might otherwise qualify for service since they have same approximate density of homes as those situated along relatively straight thoroughfares.

Comcast could extend service to these cut off areas, but declines to make the investment necessary to reach them. It insists on sticking with an urban gridline model that’s inappropriate for a place like El Dorado County and only serves to perpetuate the many broadband black holes that exist there.

More wishful thinking from CPUC on AB 2987

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued what it says is the first statewide broadband franchise to a cable company, Cox Communications.


CPUC President Michael R. Peevey said the franchise allows Cox to serve four relatively small areas adjoining its existing service territory in the San Diego area, marking a rare occurrence of a cable company attempting to gain customers in a competing cable company’s territory.


Peevey predicts legislation (AB 2987) signed into law last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that put the state in charge of cable franchises instead of local governments is likely to spur competition among broadband providers. “This is good news for consumers, who will have additional choices of providers not only for video service, but for the broadband and telephone services that typically are offered over the newly-constructed cable facilities,” Peevey said. “The Legislature’s goal was to foster video competition and broadband deployment, and that is exactly what we see beginning to happen.”


I’m not as sanguine as Peevey. The costs of moving into an existing provider’s service area with new infrastructure are quite high. Consequently, telcos and cable companies are concentrating on their existing service areas. They negotiated low build out requirements in AB 2987 that only require them to deploy broadband to less than half of their service areas by 2012. In addition, cable companies are free to operate under the terms of local government franchise agreements that were in effect when AB 2987 became law earlier this year. That allows them to stand pat and not offer service to areas that currently don’t have service — hardly paving the way for an expansion of broadband as trumpeted by the CPUC’s Peevey.

Emerging fault line of the digital divide: new vs. older neighborhoods

The outlines of a new fault line along America's digital divide separating broadband haves from broadband have nots is becoming more and more apparent.

The split is between older, established neighborhoods and newer subdivisions, the latter often governed by a homeowner association. Telcos and cable companies like these developments because they believe new homebuyers will purchase more profitable bundled services such as the so-called "triple play" package of voice, high speed Internet access, and video programming. They can also negotiate exclusive deals with the association that lock out other providers and assure a higher take rate.

This is leaving older neighborhoods currently without broadband with greatly dimished prospects for ever getting broadband as providers effectively redline these areas, concentrating instead on new developments. This is bound to produce a political backlash from homeowners in older neighborhoods who will increasingly turn to their local governments for a solution. That in turn will drive incentives for public-private parterships in which local governments provide public rights of way for the construction of open access broadband telecommunications networks.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Schwarzenegger questioned on how telemedicine funding will expand broadband access

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger received some skeptical questioning from a broadband deprived area of the state at a telemedicine demonstration project held last week in Eureka.


A questioner asked how $200 million earmarked for telemedicine under Proposition 1D, the school construction bond approved by voters last November, would help expand broadband access in Humboldt County. The questioner pointed out the county lacks a University of California campus, implying none of that $200 million would go to expanding broadband in that Northern California county:

Q: In order for something like telemedicine to work effectively, Humboldt County has to have a reliable broadband system, which we do not. What will the broadband initiative do to help us achieve a reliable system? Is the state going to be providing funding for that, or is it essentially going to be removing road blocks, as they say, to allow businesses (Inaudible)

GOVERNOR: Well, both. First of all, with my executive order we eliminated road blocks that were there, because we want to go and build and facilitate every town, every village in California as quickly as possible. That is the idea. So it’s a combination with the private sector and the public sector. That’s why we put the 200 million dollars in there, so that when they start building and increasing the facilities, university facilities. We are saying lets not just build buildings, let us also bring in technology, the latest technology. And so that’s what the 200 million dollars is all for.

Q: But we don’t have a university (Inaudible)

GOVERNOR: No, no, but I mean so that the private sector will pick it up and then take it to the various different places. So thank you very much. Thank you, everyone, for being here. (Applause)


It bears watching closely how much of the $200 million Schwarzenegger says will ostensibly be granted to private sector telecom vendors results in greater broadband availability in Humboldt County and other areas of California mired on the dark side of the digital divide.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

AT&T residential broadband on back burner?

Some observers including your blogger have questioned AT&T's commitment to the residential wire line market in the wake of the company's recent acquisition of BellSouth, giving Ma Bell a 100 percent stake in Cingular Wireless. Indeed, AT&T chief Ed Whitacre told The Wall Street Journal after the deal closed "We're about to become a company with wireless at its heart.'' That likely means investment in AT&T's wire line infrastructure has been bumped down to a lower priority.

A personal experience today reinforces that scenario. I walked by a Cingular store and noticed a sign in the window "AT&T/Yahoo High Speed Internet Sold Here." So I dropped in and asked the manager when it would be available in my neighborhood. He didn't have a clue and suggested I come back in a couple of days and talk to the "techie guy." I headed out the door before he could ask me if I was interested in a wireless phone.

Welcome to my neighborhood, a broadband black hole

The typical explanations for broadband black holes tend to fall along geographic or demographic lines. Homeowners are either located too far from existing telecommunications infrastructure or telcos and cable companies don't like their income levels, figuring they won't spring for more profitable premium and bundled broadband services.

Apparently my neighborhood is an exception to both rules and I wonder if perhaps there are others like it. It's just two miles from a major U.S. highway where both DSL and cable services are available.

The demographics are don't fit the usual rationale for digital redlining either. One nearby property owner is building two residences and a home office (and large pool complex) on his land. Just up the road, another property has just been listed for more than $1 million. Seems like the kind of demographics the nearby telco (AT&T) and cable company (Comcast) would like. Can't blame low density either. Several of my neighbors are within 100 feet of my home.

Apparently broadband black holes are like the physical black holes in space to the incumbent telco and cable providers. It's as if they don't exist and no information about them can escape.

Media think tank faults flawed U.S. telecom regulation for shortcomings in broadband access

U.S. telecommunications regulators operate without a clear overall policy goal and Americans consequently have less access to broadband services than Europeans, a media think tank concludes in a paper issued this week.

[W]hile the European Union has defined its issues focused on their definition at the highest levels of policymaking and seems to be addressing the challenge created by social inequity, Congress is mired in regulating the relationship among the operators. Instead of managing competition it manages the competitors. It perceives the issue as one that arises from the need to allow operators to provide certain services, and as a result the regulator does not deliberate the goals of the policy. Indeed the focus of policy in the United States is on the needs of the industry and not on public service.

According to the Benton Foundation:


America is on the verge of vast new broadband-driven digital transformation that promises to make life more livable, businesses more productive, jobs more plentiful, and the Internet more accessible. However, at the dawn of this digital age, those who could benefit the most from this economically empowering technology are also those most likely to be left without access because of where they live or how much money they make.

As Congress puts universal service reform at the top of its telecom policy agenda, this page will provide a one-stop collection of papers and speeches advancing a new vision for Universal Service -- for making broadband as universal as telephone service is today and a pathway for progress. This effort will embrace the premise that Universal Broadband access is now as important to the advancement of the American ideal of equal opportunity in the 21st century as universal access to education and universal phone service was in the last.

HDTV growth emerges as driver for fiber to the home

While cable companies and telcos are making a play for so-called "triple play" services combining telephone, high speed Internet and video, the rapid growth of high definition TV is likely to require them to upgrade their systems to fiber optic cable, an industry consultant suggests. That's because metal wire-based coaxial and copper cable lack the capacity to carry the estimated 20 Mbps that end users will require in order to get all three services including HDTV. Michael Kennedy explains in Telecommunications Online:

Video services consume most of the bandwidth within the voice, video, and Internet Triple Play portfolio. About 2 Mbps is required to deliver Standard Definition TV and 9 Mbps is required for High Definition TV. Whereas network designers can safely over subscribe bandwidth higher up in the network this cannot be done when allocating bandwidth to a single enterprise establishment, household or local serving area— especially for video service. HDTV sets are already out selling SDTV so HDTV must be taken as the standard offering when planning an Optical Distribution Network. This means that each household must be allocated a minimum of 20 Mbps because several HDTVs are likely to be in use at the same time.
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Legacy analog copper, cable infrastructure stymies U.S. broadband growth

So said Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska at yesterday's Senate Commerce Committee looking into why the United States is falling behind other nations on broadband connections. And Stevens cautioned those who regard wireless broadband infrastructure as a suitable replacement:

"The problem is basically we can't use the legacy system of cable and wire" for broadband and have to build out across rural areas, Stevens said. "Wireless technology has brought new communication, but it is slower and not adaptable."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

U.S. continues to lose ground on broadband connections

The United States continues to lose ground when the number of people with broadband communications connections here is compared to other countries.

U.S. broadband penetration among worldwide industrialized nations dropped from 12th to 15th place, according to broadband rankings released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In addition, the United States ranks 20th in the 30-member OECD roster in terms of growth rate of broadband penetration in the last year.

"We are failing to bring the benefits of broadband to all our citizens, and the consequences will resonate for generations," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, a national lobbying group whose goals are to reform the media and universal access to communications.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A message from the dark side of the digital divide, El Dorado County, California

14 Years ago, I could only log on at 26,400kbs. Today, i Can only log on at 26,400. What is the major problem here? Somebody needs to make DSL available for those of us who do not live in town. My Son cannot even use the Net for a reports hes working on due to the load times of web pages these days with multimedia/java apps. Enough is Enough!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Remotely program my U-Verse DVR? Huh?

A lot of AT&T customers are going to respond with a collective "Huh?" when they read this announcement informing them they can now program their U-Verse DVRs remotely via AT&T's Yahoo broadband portal. Like I said, "Huh?"

First of all, only a small number of AT&T customers can get Ma Bell's IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) service. Second, large numbers of AT&T customers aren't even offered broadband services at all, left twisting in the wind on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Yet another exercise in irrelevancy by AT&T. What planet are AT&T product managers living on?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Urgent action" needed to address Ireland broadband market failure

Australia, England now Ireland are sounding the alarm over perceived shortcomings in their respective nations' broadband telecommunications infrastructures and are considering government intervention.

State franchise bills make digital redlining public policy

If telephone and/or cable companies are pushing legislation to create a state-based broadband franchising regulatory scheme in your state, most likely there's a provision in the bill that requires them to serve only half of their customers six years after the law takes effect.

If the provision's in there, your state is about to be partitioned into two halves: one half will have access to high speed Internet and other advanced digital services while the other half won't. And despite language giving lip service to the notion that state franchising laws will speed broadband deployment, there are typically no incentives in the bills to reward telcos and cable companies to do so. Just the opposite: these bills have a built in stalling mechanism to hold off deployment to large areas over the next six years and leave the future uncertain beyond that. The franchise bills also contain another fallacy: that statewide franchises will spur competition that's good for consumers. Not true. There is no meaningful competition with a duopoly of incumbent telcos and cable providers and in many areas, a monopoly where consumers can get digital services from either the telephone or cable company, but not both.

Here's the latest example from Tennessee, where AT&T is supporting an amendment to that state's franchise legislation incorporating the 50 percent over six years build out requirement.

"Systematic redlining on a statewide scale"

Consumer groups and local governments are opposing proposed Illinois legislation backed by AT&T that would take away the authority of local governments to require broadband services be offered throughout their jurisdictions and instead put the state in charge of issuing statewide franchises.

Illinois PIRG was joined by national consumer groups including Consumers Union in opposing the bill in its original form. “The unintended consequence will be systematic redlining on a statewide scale,” according to a letter from Consumer Union’s Jeannine Kenney and others to state legislators. They say other states with similar deregulation schemes have seen prices increase, “leaving consumers with nothing but empty promises.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

FCC begins inquiry on broadband deployment

The Federal Communications Commission, apparently chastened by its poor data gathering methods to determine whether broadband services are being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion as required by Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, has undertaken an effort to get better data.

The FCC issued a notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to explore alternative methodology to replace its much criticized Zip code-based parameters that deemed broadband being offered if only one customer in the Zip code has service at a speed of least 200kbs.

The Commission is reassessing how to define broadband in light of the rapid technological changes occurring in the marketplace, including the development of higher speed services and new broadband platforms. The Commission will also focus on the availability of broadband, including in rural and other hard-to-serve areas; on whether consumers are adopting new services; and on the level of competition in the marketplace. The Commission also wants to determine what can be done to accelerate the rollout of broadband services, and seeks comment on current investment trends in the industry. The Commission also seeks comment on external data sources that shed light on broadband prices and the extent to which consumers have a choice of competing providers of broadband service in the United States, ideally on a house-by-house and business-by-business basis, as well as comparable data on speed, price, availability, and adoption in other countries.

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said the proceeding is long overdue, warning the United States is falling behind the rest of the world on broadband access and cost.

We can start by facing up to our problem and doing our level best to diagnose its causes. We need to know why so many Americans do not have broadband, and why those who do (or think they do) are paying twice as much for connections one-twentieth as fast those enjoyed by customers in some other countries. This is not just an exercise in self-flagellation (though we certainly deserve that by now).

Rather, it is the first step in coming up with some solutions that can start to reverse our nation’s slide into technological and communications mediocrity.

Copps also lamented a decade wasted with poor data gathering efforts that have left gaping broadband black holes in much of the U.S. produced by "commercial and regulatory missteps."

If the Commission had prudently invested in better broadband data-gathering a decade ago, I believe we’d all be better off—not just the government, but more importantly, consumers and industry. We’d have a better handle on how to fix the problem because we’d have a better understanding of the problem. We would already have granular data, reported by carriers, on the range of broadband speeds and prices that consumers in urban, suburban, exurban, rural and tribal areas currently face. We would know which factors—like age, gender, education, race, income, disability status, and so forth—most affect consumer broadband decisions. We would understand how various markets respond to numerous variables. We could already be using our section 706 reports to inform Congress and the country of the realities of the broadband world as the basis for charting, finally, a strategy for the ubiquitous penetration of truly competitive high-speed broadband. I don’t believe we’d be 21st in the world had we gone down that road. But that was the road not taken.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fiber is key to bridging the broadband gap

Increasingly there's consternation about a broadband gap between the U.S. and Great Britain and Southeast Asia, where connections in U.S. and U.K. tend to run 1 to 2 mbs compared to 100 mbs in Seoul and Hong Kong.

"The move to broadband in Britain has been very successful, and credit must be given to companies like BT," said Kip Meek, the chairman of BSG - the Government's advisory group on broadband and digital convergence.

He added: "But the next step is extending fibre optic or wireless connections, and that involves significant investment."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More broadband troubles from down under

I've posted about the ongoing broadband "drought" in Australia. Looks like things aren't much better next door in New Zealand. The government is reportedly considering subsidizing satellite service for about seven percent of New Zealanders who won't be able to get ADSL wire line broadband despite the government's telecom reforms apparently designed to promote wider broadband access.

There are rumours that the Government may consider subsidising the cost of satellite equipment that could be used to deliver broadband to the 7 per cent of New Zealand homes that couldn't be served using Telecom's ADSL network. It is understood some work is under way within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, but suggestions of a major initiative are being played down.

The cost of satellite equipment has hindered take-up to date, though there are other drawbacks to the technology such as latency, which make satellite connections less suitable for delivering interactive applications such as Internet telephony.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Internet architecture on the drawing board

While many still lack broadband connections to the existing Internet, researchers are planning a new and improved Internet architecture:

No longer constrained by slow connections and computer processors and high costs for storage, researchers say the time has come to rethink the Internet's underlying architecture, a move that could mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers to better channel future traffic over the existing pipes.

The National Science Foundation wants to build an experimental research network known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI, and is funding several projects at universities and elsewhere through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND.

Friday, April 13, 2007

NY legislation would mandate 85% build out requirement

New York Assembly Bill 3980 would create a Broadband Development Authority to increase the availability and quality of high-speed broadband Internet to Empire State residents.

At first glance, it would appear the measure is backed by the telco/cable duopoly since it features a key component of industry sponsored broadband regulatory reforms: preemption of local government authority to regulate advanced digital services and instead putting state regulators in charge of issuing digital franchises.

But telcos and cable companies don't like the bill, which sets a higher build out requirement than the 50 percent or less over six years favored by the industry and enacted in several states such as California's Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act that took effect this year. AB 3980 would instead require that level of system build out be achieved in just three years and 85 percent in six years.

Click here and scroll down to read the report High-Speed Debate in the New York alternative weekly Metroland Online.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two emerging alternatives to the telco/cable duopoly

AT&T and Comcast are like the big kids on the block prone to bragging and boasting about what they can or are going to do. Ma Bell boasts she's rolling out Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) including HD channels. Comcast says it's introducing digitial voice telephone service in addition to its TV programming and high speed Internet (HSI) services.

Behind the braggadocio, however, there exists a far different and less boastful reality. Fully one fifth or more of AT&T customers can't even get broadband Internet access over Ma Bell's aging copper cable system let alone IPTV. They're told to suck it up and get by with sluggish, impractical dial up connections running at 24kbs or plunk down hundreds of dollars and pay too much for too little from a satellite provider.

The story's the same for many would be Comcast customers who don't happen to reside where Comcast currently provides service. The big cable company doesn't appear to be expanding its service areas, calling into question its strategy of going head to head with the telcos for telephone service. Comcast can't compete with the telcos if it doesn't penetrate their service areas.

The situation won't change unless local governments and/or public utility districts partner with companies with expertise in installing and operating fiber optic-based infrastructure that can form the basis for open access telecommunications networks.

Without these local endeavors, the alternative is back to the future -- a 1984-style federal government ordered break up of the telco/cable duopoly, only this time in combination with a government takeover of the nation's telecommunications system on the principle that it is vital infrastructure that can't be left to the whims of monopolistic private sector providers.

Public utility districts can provide cable TV service, California Court of Appeal rules

In a case of first impression in California, a panel of the California Court of Appeal Third District ruled that the Public Utilities Code permits public utility districts to provide cable television services. The three-judge panel based its opinion on section 16461 of the statute that allows PUDs to "acquire, construct, own, operate, control, or use, within or without or partly within and partly without the district, works for supplying its inhabitants with light, water, power, heat, transportation, telephone service, or other means of communication, or means for the disposition of garbage, sewage, or refuse matter, and may do all things necessary or convenient to the full exercise of the powers granted in this article."

The ruling is significant because it provides solid legal authority for California utility districts to partner with private companies to build open access telecommunications networks over the objections of existing cable providers and telcos who don't want new competitors offering superior broadband services. These networks can provide much needed alternatives to bringing broadband and other advanced digital telecommunications services to areas existing providers choose not to provide and introduce competition that can benefit consumers.

The ruling clears the way for Roseville, California-based SureWest Communications to explore a public/private partership with the Truckee Donner Public Utility District to install a fiber optic-based cable system in the district's jurisdiction, The Sierra Sun reports.

Charter, AT&T draw fire from South Lake Tahoe customers

Charter Communications, the cable provider in the South Lake Tahoe Basin, and AT&T, the incumbent local exchange carrier, are drawing flack over a recent article appearing in the Tahoe Daily Tribune reporting on Charter's service quality problems and poor reception of some TV channels.

One commentator says both companies have left the area in the digital stone ages without advanced digital services and broadband. Another called for Charter to upgrade or get out of the area.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Americans pay 7 times more than Japanese for broadband

Megabit per megabit, Americans pay seven times more than residents of Japan for broadband Internet access. Japanese consumers pay about 70 cents per megabit per second of bandwidth, compared to $4.90 per megabit on average in the U.S., according to Takashi Ebihara, senior director of the corporate strategy department at NTT East Corp. and a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Why the difference? Unlike the U.S., Japanese government policy views broadband as vital infrastructure and provides economic assistance such as zero-interest or low-interest loans for cities and businesses to deploy broadband as well as tax breaks for the purchase of networking equipment, Ebihara said.

Ebihara, whose company is partly owned by the Japanese government, also credits a more future oriented, patient investment philosophy than in the U.S. "We see the future, and then we do what we feel is right," he said. "[Making low-yield investments is] very difficult for American companies like Verizon and AT&T. They have to answer every quarter to investors."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sub-broadband option going by the wayside in UK

The BBC reports British Telecom is phasing out Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), a fully digital dial up sub-broadband service. ISDN came on the scene almost two decades ago and features two 64kbs channels and can produce a maximum symmetrical connection of 128kbs if both channels are used to connect to the Internet.

The technology is being rendered obsolete by DSL and other "always on" broadband connections, although broadcasters miss ISDN's rock solid stability and audio quality for remote broadcasts.

California PUC grants AT&T franchise

The California Public Utilities Commission announced it has granted a statewide franchise for high speed, video-capable broadband offerings to AT&T under the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act, AB 2987, that took effect earlier this year.

According to PUC President Michael R. Peevey, "Because AT&T's service territory covers approximately 75 percent of the state, a large part of California can look forward to more choices in video programming and service options as a result of today's action."

Don't hold your breath, especially when AT&T can't (or more accurately, won't) provide broadband at any speed throughout much of its service area in California.

Consumer advocates criticize Japan junket by AT&T, California regulators

The Sacramento Bee published a page one story today reporting consumer groups that watchdog utility companies are raising eyebrows over a week long junket to Tokyo by energy and telecom executives accompanied by California Public Utilities Commission officials and the chairs of legislative committees that oversee the two industries. Kenneth McNeely, president of AT&T California, is among those reported on the week long trip.

The trip is being paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, a nonprofit that isn't required to disclose its donations and is run by executives including those of California's major telecommunications and energy companies.

While the consumer groups rightly raise ethical concerns the Japanese junket appears too cozy for comfort with regulators and the regulated likely toasting with shots of sake, there is a potential positive upside. The visiting officials and execs will see first hand that Japan's broadband telecommunications infrastructure is light years ahead of California's. That will drive home how shameful it is that the state that once claimed to be an information technology leader is loaded with broadband black holes where residents continue to be relegated to early 1990s dial up Internet access.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Australian labor party wants to sell Telstra shares to finance national broadband expansion

Australia’s Federal Labor has unveiled plans to raid the Future Fund to build a A$4.7 billion ($3.8 billion) national high-speed broadband network, a New Zealand Herald report said.

The report said under the plan, Labor will sell up to A$2.7 billion ($2.1 billion) worth of Telstra shares held in the Future Fund to help pay for the project.

The project will connect 98% of Australians to broadband services with a speed more than 40 times faster than most current speeds, the report said.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Google unveils Toilet Internet Service Provider (TISP)

Touche to the telco/cable duopoly's broadband black hole excrement!


"Dark porcelain" project offers self-installed plumbing-based Internet access


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., April 1, 2007 - Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced the launch of Google TiSP (BETA)™, a free in-home wireless broadband service that delivers online connectivity via users' plumbing systems. The Toilet Internet Service Provider (TiSP) project is a self-installed, ad-supported online service that will be offered entirely free to any consumer with a WiFi-capable PC and a toilet connected to a local municipal sewage system.

"We've got that whole organizing-the-world's-information thing more or less under control," said Google Co-founder and President Larry Page, a longtime supporter of so-called "dark porcelain" research and development. "What's interesting, though, is how many different modalities there are for actually getting that information to you - not to mention from you."

 
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