Carnegie Mellon University and 3 Rivers Connect. "Digital Rivers Final Report." Link Accessed: 2003-07-07.

Keywords: fiber optics, community, broadband


This is an excellent but lengthy report.

The Digital Rivers (DR) initiative was a joint research project conducted by 3 Rivers Connect (3rc) and Carnegie Mellon University. The basic premise is that universal affordable broadband access is essential to long-term economic growth. Digital Rivers examines the challenges and opportunities associated with the technological, economic and policy issues influencing affordable universal broadband deployment in the Pittsburgh region.

Telecommunications companies are either unable or unwilling to deploy broadband networking infrastructure to areas they perceive as having moderate to low consumer demand. DR believes that without the help of the private sector, the deployment of broadband network infrastructure is unlikely to occur in the Pittsburgh region.

DR executed a comprehensive investigation of broadband demand across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and found that broadband deployment patterns were independent of affluence. Service gaps were found to exist where broadband alternatives simply did not exist. Federal, state and local regulations and practices contribute to the proliferation of unmet demand in the region.

The DR report explores how other cities around the world are providing affordable broadband services. In addition, DR provides an economic analysis of fiber-to-the-home/business (FTTH) as well as a similar analysis wireless technologies.

The DR team believes it is unlikely that any single technology will be satisfactory when trying to achieve universal access. The report considers last mile connectivity to be the greatest challenge facing affordable broadband deployment. DR explores the cost models associated with the use of fiber and wireless technologies as last mile solutions. It was found that FTTH could be affordable where a quasi-public entity builds and neutrally owns the infrastructure but suggests that FTTH be considered a long-term goal while planning for network expansions using existing access methods such as cable modems and DSL. On the other hand, wireless technologies can overcome many political, financial and physical barriers to deployment where demand is questionable.

The DR team also conducted a pilot project in which a planned prototype deployment of a broadband network infrastructure and associated business model are developed. The Borough of Homestead was selected as the pilot site due to economic need and current economic development activities. The goal of the project was to show how an affordable broadband network could be deployed in a limited area. While a fiber-optic infrastructure would offer the most bandwidth, deployment costs made that option unrealistic for Homestead. Instead, a mixed deployment of wireless infrastructure was suggested as a way of providing affordable access to high-speed access to every entity that desired it.

Bandwidth Recommendations and why: The Digital River team defines broadband to be 200Kbps symmetric but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania defines broadband as > 1.54 Mbps (no statement about symmetric). However, the DR team believes that 1.54 Mbps should be the long term minimum goal for future implementations

Demographics: For political reasons, know the number of municipalities within the region. Since each municipality will have it’s own regulations and policies concerning telecommunications it is important to know which and how many municipalities are involved.

Assessment issues (consider these things when assessing current telecommunications conditions:
• Cable distribution hubs for each area.
• ISP’s is there local peering available.
• Co-location facilities
• Geographic Availability of Broadband: availability seems to have no socio-economic boundaries some of the most disadvantaged communities have choices while some of the wealthiest do not.
• Coverage ummm, don’t know what I ment by this?
• Business demand how do you assess that? Businesses that currently are served by dsl, cable, etc?
• Early adopters who had broadband services first?
• Unmet demand businesses that are experiencing increased dependency on high-speed transfer of data but currently do not have broadband services. Examples; healthcare, real estate, architects.
• Know what non-municipal entities have ROW’s utility companies, railroads private property owners.
• Fees? Franchise, Pole fees etc
• Public utilities (telephone, electric, water, cable tv)
• Franchise agreements
• Municipal telecommunication procedures in place?

Deployment options:
Poles, sewers, underground, gas pipelines. The choice is usually dictated by the local policy, regulations, and topology and driven by economics. The most expensive topography issues are trenching and rights of ways (ROW).

Facilitating factors for deployment of broadband network infrastructure:

• ROW, easement and access to municipal property.

• Telecommunications Policies in place and stream-lined, including notification systems. Municipalities could make excavation, pole prep activities available publicly to other contractors to coordinate activities, reduce time, costs (cost share possibilities).

• Know what non-municipal entities have ROW’s utility companies, railroads private property owners.

• Municipal mandates: municipalities can require companies to provide GIS mappings of any infrastructure within the municipality.

• Municipalities can require permit fees, for revenue earning

• At the municipal level have a well known procedure and policy for handling telecommunications related queries and well informed respondents.

• Franchise agreements with broadband access providers. Example, free services to municipal entities for placement of antennas on municipal property etc.

• Real estate codes for new construction set standards for broadband infrastructure

• Construction codes? Require conduit to be laid whenever the ground is opened for construction purposes.

Technologies Considerations most relevant to First Mile infrastructure

Fiber to the home (FTTH)

• New and expensive
• should be considered as a long term goal
• demand for fiber speeds universally is uncertain, plan for incremental network expansions
• WDM-PON enables competition at all layers
• Optical Layer based competition not economically feasible (sec6, pg9)
• PON is the most economical FTTH architecture (sec6, pg 19)
• Architectures

Home Run competitively neutral, point to point dedicated fiber connects to each home from some central office (CO)

Star many homes share one feeder fiber, passive or active feeder bandwidth is shared among multiple users.

*regardless of the architectures, feeder fibers all terminate at some “central office” where the data link layer equipment is housed (Ethernet hubs and switches and network interface cards (NIC) installed in the computers).
• Service opportunities such as television, video, telephone delivered over the same infrastructure
• Durability of fiber long lifetime, no need to redeploy newer technologies later
• Cost usually a major investment, for instance, large scale urban deployments, costs per home for fiber deployment approaches $1000, the equipment for end users and peering points are additional expenses.


• use where population density is not sufficient to justify the expense of fiber-optic infrastructure
• can be a lower financial risk for areas of questionable demand
• Rapid deployment
• Fixed wireless, like fiber, can have hight end user cost could of approximately $1000 per customer, appropriate for business but not residential
• Possible interference issues because of weather and since unlicensed frequencies are often used
• 802.11b wireless can be used to achieve low end user equipment cost but data speeds are not enough for many advanced applications, good for general home use (e-mail, low end web browsing)
• security is problematic


Demand for broadband services will only come about when people (especially legislators and other local government officials) are educated about the necessity, options and value to the community of broadband services.

Fundamental choices of technology, architecture, planning strategies and range of services must be considered. Regional networks that share resources can facilitate non-facilities based competition or service level competition.