- Thermal Audit
High Speed Internet Coverage in
Newfoundland and Labrador
Communities that depend on telephone dial-up for internet access and/or have no cell phone coverage are at a significant disadvantage in attracting businesses and retaining youth. Online banking, access to training materials and on-line coursework, web-mail, social networking and entertainment are now considered essential by young people.
The internet provides valuable services to society, particularly anonymous communications, instant sharing and a way to circumvent the regular propaganda networks (mainstream television, newspapers and radio). This in turn has led to an explosion in government surveillance activities including massive data centers like this one in Utah.
You don't need much bandwidth to send text messages or retrieve e-mail. Each character of text in this page consumes one byte while a typical photo from a digital camera is about 1 million bytes and a typical movie file is 800 million bytes. The race for bandwidth to support video has resulted in enormous energy demands of approximately 2% of global energy use. Estimates range from 170GW to 307GW . The output of the Churchill Falls generation station is 5.4GW so the low end of the estimate is that the internet consumes the entire output of 31 Churchill Falls hydroelectric facilities.
Netflix (which killed the video store) accounts for about 33% of peak download traffic, followed by YouTube with 15%, bit torrent downloads (mostly movies) 6% and all other web page traffic at 12%. It is likely that half of the bandwidth in most communities is used solely for entertainment.
The first data networks were built on the telephone network and this was a government monopoly until recently. Most small communities have telephone poles and copper wires with plain old telephone service (POTS) - something they probably wouldn't get today under the corporate model. Larger communities now have DSL, cable TV (Rogers), high speed cellular networks and fiber optic (Bell FiberOP) because a profitable market exists. Smaller communities are often abandoned and it isn't just the case in Canada, the USA where the internet was born has terrible coverage for rural communities.
Now that telecommunications it is under corporate control, services are not expanded willing unless there is a profit to be made. Many communities in the USA and Canada have taken on this problem and implemented their own public networks.
The following are minimum standards:
- Every community should have access to inexpensive internet access, costing $20 or less a month.
- There should be adequate bandwidth to support remote medicine and distance education. This could be limited to high speed connections the public library, schools and medical clinic.
- Community WiFi should be available as a public service, although the bandwidth may be limited. Wireless N with a good external antennae system could cover clusters of houses or a hotel. Netflix and YouTube would probably have to be blocked in some cases.
Communities need to organize and start the process themselves and not see provincial government as a Nanny that looks after them. A good place to start is to read about other successful community networks, and contact them for advice. Communities that have successful networks are proud of them and will share. Here are some examples:
Building Wi-Fi Networks for Communities: Three Canadian Cases Catherine Middleton Ryerson University
How Three Communities Built Next-Generation Networks, April 2012 Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Example Community Broadband Wireless Mesh Network Design (a white paper from a hardware manufacturer). The executitive summary states:
"This document provides an in depth wireless mesh network design to support community broadband access developed for a specific target municipality. The Community Broadband Network will be deployed to provide an alternative method of broadband access to community Internet users. This wireless mesh network will provide a means for offering converged services to end users that spans the typical triple play set of data, voice and video services. This design uses community assets, including exis ting streetlights, 11 additional poles and towers to be installed by the community, and 17 traffic light locations. This design covers 88% of all service areas of the community with 613 mesh nodes, 74 900 MHz injection layer subscriber modules, 17 900 MHz access point modules, and 28 fiber points."
Community Wifi is not just for small communities either. There is no reasons that larger communities including St. John's couldn't have free WiFi coverage that could support Skype. Not everyone can afford $150/month or more for data services.
Did any of your children study electrical engineering, become network technologists or work for information technology companies? Consider pooling resources and hiring them to set up a project plan and oversee the implementation of your network, or ask this site and we will find someone to help - perhaps a mix of recent computer engineering graduates with some MUN faculty support.
The government should be an enabler of community self reliance. The following policy is required:
- Provide legal services and fight off any lawsuits from Bell, Rogers and others that see community WiFi as a threat to their profitable business model. In particular, they are likely to be upset with shared connections.
- Bring in a high speed backbone to rural communities and terminate it in a public facility such as a school. Ensure that the medical clinic, library and schools are interconnected with fiber optic cable. The provincial government would maintain the equipment.
- Allow a community owned network access to the backbone, charging for bandwidth at cost.
- Negotiate contracts (dollars per Terrabyte, latency etc.) on behalf of small communities so that bulk data costs remain reasonable.