Tag Archives: ucsc

Fiber cuts not as disruptive on California’s central coast

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

Lightning fast and always lands on its feet. The cat too.

Four years ago, someone chopped into an AT&T fiber optic cable south of San Jose in California. Big chunks of Santa Cruz, San Benito and Santa Clara Counties fell off the Internet for the better part of a day. Mobile and landline phone service was disrupted.

Earlier this week, a similar cut was made in more or less the same place. The same thing happened to a lot of people. But not to everyone. Particularly in Santa Cruz County.

One major difference this time around is that Santa Cruz County doesn’t depend on a single AT&T fiber optic line any more. Since the 2009 incident, a second, independent fiber line was pulled over the hill from Santa Clara. It was built by Sunesys, with substantial backing from U.C. Santa Cruz. Cruzio, a local Santa Cruz Internet service provider, and Comcast have since joined UCSC in leasing dark fiber.

Most of Cruzio’s customers didn’t notice this week’s outage because they had a different – and diverse – path back to a Tier 1 Internet exchange. Cruzio can deliver more reliable and, frequently, cheaper and faster service than AT&T because it can buy resources in a competitive wholesale market.

Most days in most places, AT&T does a fine job of keeping the bits flowing for its customers. It doesn’t offer ala carte services, like dark fiber, to potential competitors or major institutional users, though. And in some places it can be put out of commission by one guy with an axe.

A proposal to subsidize 120 kilometers or so of new fiber between Santa Cruz and the Salinas Valley town of Soledad is front of the California Public Utilities Commission. Also backed by Sunesys and UCSC, it’s one of several California Advanced Services Fund applications submitted earlier this year. A similar – albeit much bigger – middle mile project was also proposed for far northern California.

Projects like these promote competition and increase reliability of broadband services. The result is more choice, lower prices and a firmer foundation for economic development.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including some that depend on the Sunesys project’s middle mile dark fiber, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

CPUC’s second field test building consistent picture of mobile broadband performance

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Spring up, Fall back.

More mobile broadband performance measurements are available and accessible to Californians, thanks to field testing done by the California Public Utilities Commission and mapping and analysis done by Jim Warner at U.C. Santa Cruz.

Warner, who is a network engineer for the University and chair of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium’s technical expert group, took the data collected in the CPUC’s first and second rounds of mobile data field testing and fed it into Google maps. The CPUC took readings at 1,200 locations in each round, for the most part repeating measurements at the same locations. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon service was tested using both a smart phone and a netbook.

“It is comforting to see that in some speed tests, Verizon results were above 40 Mbit/sec – fully six times faster than the California broadband definition,” Warner wrote. “This means that the equipment used for the tests is not coloring the results.”

Warner shows, as an example, Verizon has reasonably consistent improvement in the Monterey Bay Area. On the other hand, to my eye there’s little difference in Verizon’s coverage in the Gold Country.

Along I-80 in Solano County, to take another example, some of AT&T’s results are better, some worse. That supports Warner’s observation that “tests were done throughout the day at times that were not controlled for network loading by other traffic. Tests done early in the day might face less cross traffic congestion than tests later in the day.”

In other places I checked, the variance also went both ways. That tells me that something other than new construction is the cause. But you can look for yourself and come to your own conclusions.