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Manhattan finally gets enough fiber
November 18, 2012 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Verizon is finally rolling out a comprehensive fiber infrastructure for downtown Manhattan. Not that they have much choice.
posted by Tell Me No Lies (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those pictures are amazing. Thanks for this.
posted by spitbull at 8:45 AM on November 18, 2012


Time to install SkyNet.
posted by phaedon at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2012


Verizon stopped rolling out FIOS downtown a few years ago. I thought it was because 4G LTE was fast enough and didn't require digging up streets. Meanwhile I'm stuck with Time Warner cable that has barely improved in 10 years. It's strange that upgrading is dependent on the the previous infrastructure being destroyed.
posted by bhnyc at 8:58 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every time some idiot tells me that Scandinavia and South Korea can have awesome internet and we can't because their populations are dense, I just laugh and point to Manhattan.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


It has been Verizon's corporate philosophy to get rid of all the copper used for telecommunications, and replace it with fiber, even all the way to residences ('fiber to the home'), as opposed to AT&T, which saves money (in the short run) by using the existing copper going into residences and only providing fiber to large cabinets distributed around the neighborhood ('fiber to the node').

It is very expensive to replace all this copper, which is why FIOS installations stalled with the economy. When a disaster like Sandy occurs, soaking and degrading the copper lines, Verizon won't bother replacing the obsolete copper, but will replace it with fiber.

(There are also all sorts of political/regulatory motivations for this process).
posted by eye of newt at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2012


That is very cool. As with so many of these things, it seems like they are just putting the new cables back into the old basement space. Similarly, lots of places like the hospitals seem to have their emergency generators and pumps in the basement, where they got swamped in the flooding.

Is it actually better to have all this stuff in the basement, or does anyone know if there's some movement to get this stuff up aboveground?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2012


I thought the issue with South Korea's dense population was also that it's much newer infrastructure? Like, New York City 60 years ago looks a lot more like the current NYC that 1950s Seoul looks like modern Seoul. I've no idea about Scandinavia, though.
posted by maryr at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2012


New York has a pretty brutal above ground environment; One of the reasons for moving things underground is to protect them from it. And given that flooding events like this are a once-a-decade type thing it seems to me like a relatively good trade off.

In any case fiber is much more resilient when it comes to flooding. Redo this whole thing in fiber and flooding would be a much much smaller problem.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


True. Should have been clearer, I was thinking of aboveground, within buildings - ie, on the floors above the basement. But I suppose the point stands that these events are rare.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:26 AM on November 18, 2012


It is very expensive to replace all this copper, which is why FIOS installations stalled with the economy.

I'd like to believe that. But Verizon is a regulated utility and I wonder where all those taxes and fees are going (shareholders). It's a big scam, other countries have this stuff. See The Fine Print.
posted by stbalbach at 9:30 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love photosets like that, with the crazed tangle of wires and the handwritten-in-pencil paper tag notes, especially when compared to the post a few week's back with photos inside google's data centers.
posted by elizardbits at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just received notice that after years of waiting downtown, Fios will be installed here next week. A few years ago the Verison DSL technicians told me that they were no longer being supplied with test equipment, and that all support for DSL would be sent solely to script-readers in India. They did Fios in some of the larger buildings, but there are a lot of buildings down here with 4 or less tenants and one-off cable routing snaked willy-nilly. Now it seems they are coming back for those.

Time Warner has started doing really aggravating unilateral price escalation, and I assume that's because they know they will soon lose all of their customers to fiber, so good will is moot.

I don't know which of the 3 Fios plans is best. They offer 3 Mbps Download /1 Mbps Upload, $55. 50/25 Mbps, $75. 300/65 Mbps, $205.

The $205 plan seems like it would be good split 3 ways, with 2 neighbors, but that's a pain to administrate.

The next thing to do is set up a natural gas generator, seeing how gas is more reliable than electricity down here. Since and including 9/11 there have been 4 multiple day blackouts here.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2012


It has been Verizon's corporate philosophy to get rid of all the copper used for telecommunications, and replace it with fiber wireless, even all the way to residences...

They realized before the economy crashed that FiOS was going to cost enough to hurt their earnings report and essentially stopped the roll-out. That downtown Verizon center is a perfect picture of deferment investment and it's cost... just imagine if some executive had decided to spend the cash to replace all that copper before the disaster: he'd be a fucking genius now.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:43 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


just imagine if some executive had decided to spend the cash to replace all that copper before the disaster: he'd be a fucking genius now.

I suspect that the cost will be covered by insurance now. Just like the city waits until its shaky infrastructure is sunk by a natural disaster, and then they get 90% of the upgrade paid for by the federal government.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:48 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Always amazes me just how jury rigged our infrastructure is.
posted by arcticseal at 9:53 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Verizon stopped rolling out FIOS downtown a few years ago. I thought it was because 4G LTE was fast enough and didn't require digging up streets.

Also so they can get away with 1 GB monthly bandwidth cap.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


And given that flooding events like this are a once-a-decade type thing it seems to me like a relatively good trade off.

Were. Get used to this.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Via the new front page of Teletruth is an analysis of the Verizon FiOS ripoff
posted by Sophont at 10:55 AM on November 18, 2012


Were. Get used to this.
posted by Meatbomb


Of the four outages here since 2001, three were within the last 2 years.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:27 AM on November 18, 2012


Verizon also doesn't want to keep copper because they're required to lease the lines to dsl resellers at certain rates, which they don't have to do with fiber
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


empath, Verison is required to transfer phone numbers to these re-sellers within two weeks. They transfer the numbers an hour or two short of two weeks.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:42 AM on November 18, 2012


I thought the issue with South Korea's dense population was also that it's much newer infrastructure? Like, New York City 60 years ago looks a lot more like the current NYC that 1950s Seoul looks like modern Seoul. I've no idea about Scandinavia, though.

Notice what part of lower Manhattan still has power in this amazing picture, even though it was among the first to flood? It's Battery Park City, whose infrastructure dates to its construction in the 1980s on landfill from the WTC excavation.
posted by nicwolff at 1:20 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Every. Single. Time. I see any details about how telecoms behave I think it's time for a government takeover. Just buyout the shareholders and fire every last executive, and refocus entirely into building and maintaining the lines. And then resell access to the lines to private companies, which will make it into a free market, unlike it is now. Our infrastructure is too precious and essential to our economy to trust it to these clowns. And if you want anything resembling customer service you need to deal with one of the small local guys anyway. Basically you're paying somebody local more than you would Verizon or AT&T so that they're the ones that have to put up with the telecom stupidity and hostility.

Our telecommunications infrastrucure is already a hugely inefficient bueracracy, it may as well be a bueracracy that has some sort of accountability to its customers.
posted by Llama-Lime at 7:22 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


StickyCarpet: "empath, Verison is required to transfer phone numbers to these re-sellers within two weeks. They transfer the numbers an hour or two short of two weeks."

Empath didn't just refer to telephone voice service. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that certain elements of the telephone network be leased at wholesale rates to competitors, on the theory that the copper infrastructure has been "wholly paid for" by ratepayers so competition should benefit. These elements consist of: the entire copper line; the "dial tone portion," also known as the voice frequencies; and the "high frequency portion," or set of spectrum on the copper circuit where DSL can live.

As one might expect, incumbent providers hate this provision and have done everything they could to gut it. Ask around about Speakeasy, Earthlink DSL, Covad, and others, especially in the early days of places like DSLReports.com.

At any rate, the FCC and courts have said that so-called "next generation" infrastructure, like fiber and point-to-point wireless, is not subject to the facilities sharing provisions of the 1996 Act. Beyond lower cost of maintenance and higher capacity, lots of people in the telco world believe that not having to share is #3 on Verizon's list of why it loves FiOS so much.

I love FiOS. I wish Verizon hadn't dumped the Pacific Northwest and Indiana markets onto Frontier.
posted by fireoyster at 7:53 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I live about four blocks from this building and had no idea that the re-building effort was this enormous. It's weird: looking out my windows onto City Hall Park every thing seems serene and normal. The fountain has been turned off and is being planted with evergreens for the season, tourists are walking around and in about two hours the local break dancer crew will be out in front of the Belgian waffle cart working the crowd.

But go a few blocks east or west to the river streets and it's still a war zone. A buddy of mine lost his bar/restaurant at the seaport, my neighbor had one 20 minute opportunity to climb 29 floors to get hard drives form his office and there are thousands of people who can't go home. (This of course pales in comparison to what happened to some of the folks in Brooklyn, Staten Island and NJ.)

*sigh* Will this be enough of a wake up call about climate change?
posted by Dean358 at 6:50 AM on November 19, 2012


Our infrastructure is too precious and essential to our economy to trust it to these clowns.

Well, I think a lot of the reason that the FIOS rollout stalled is because not enough people were buying it.

You can't really build and maintain big infrastructure without customers, and while we nerds get very excited about high bandwidth, most people hardly seem to care. It's not really worth it to Verizon to wire up a whole building if only 3 people are going to sign up. Now that insurance is paying for it, instead of them having to borrow money, it may make sense, but on their own dime, it probably didn't.

Hell, that fiber rollout in Chattanooga is going pretty well, but the company is happy, IIRC, to have had about 1 customer in 6 sign up for Internet service. This is actually ahead of their projections, and it's looking like they will turn a nice healthy profit in the years to come, but they've brought reasonably priced, incredibly fast service to every home in the Chattanooga area, and not that many people are jumping on it. You can get 100 megabit bidirectional service for $70, and the majority of customers don't seem to be interested.

I suspect that the real reason Internet service is so much better in other countries is because the people in those countries want it more.
posted by Malor at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2012


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