China takes a simple, rational step towards FTTH

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It’s a long march to San Leandro.

The Chinese government is adopting a policy that’s been urged here in the U.S. Starting in April, Beijing will require new homes that are built within reach of an Internet backbone to be connected directly by fiber.

It’s one of the policies we looked at when we did an economic development-related study for the City of San Leandro. That particular study was focused on improving commercial and industrial broadband availability, but we looked at the same basic policy question: should broadband be treated like any other essential utility, and be subject to the same sort of minimum requirements when new construction or major remodeling is done?

The answer was an emphatic yes.

Broadband facilities and service availability should be included as criteria when reviewing private sector development plans, much in the same way that the City currently considers electrical and water provisioning.

We recommended giving consideration to:

  • Standards or requirements for fiber connections to existing networks.
  • Placement of empty conduit to support future network connections.
  • Design and scale of telecommunication service entry points, vaults and closets.
  • Access opportunities for competitive providers.
  • Conduits and cabling for internal networks.
  • Accommodation of future internal and external upgrades.

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) systems can be very expensive to build, often prohibitively so, when existing homes are involved. But putting in the primary infrastructure adds little or anything to the cost of a new home. Most of the expensive is involved with installing conduit, which has to go in anyway. Adding fiber to the mix doesn’t affect the cost much. With copper prices continuing to rise, it could even save money.

The goal for China is 40 million fiber connected homes by 2015. If we did that here in the U.S., more than one household out of three would have a fiber connection. A third of the country. It’s much smaller fraction in China – about ten percent – but no less impressive.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.