How is it that San Francisco, one of America’s major cities, and one located less than an hour from Apple’s headquarters has a connectivity problem?
The city’s “Digital Divide in San Francisco” report claims that 100,000 city residents have no home Internet access, and an additional 50,000 residents are limited to dialup connections. Together, those numbers represent 18 percent of the city’s population without high-speed Internet access. Consequences of the digital divide are well-known, including not getting proper digital skills, which causes a hindrance for the success of future students and workers.
San Francisco has a cultural impact larger than its population suggests. It’s no small town, but with “only” 837,000 residents, it’s only the fourth-largest city in California, after Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. But no one ever wrote a song called “I Left My Heart in San Diego” and San Francisco’s proximity to the Silicon Valley makes its connection problem all the more surprising.
No Broadband by the Bay?San Francisco has a fiber network, but it’s limited in scope, with only 140 miles of fiber—not enough to go around. In 2007, a study concluded that connecting every home and business in the city to fiber would cost $560 million over 15 years. While Google hasn’t published the cost to build its networks, one estimate put the price of the fiber network in Kansas City, home to more than half of San Francisco’s population, at only $84 million. The reason for the huge discrepancy in estimates is unclear, though no one familiar with typical Bay Area rent will be surprised.
Searching for an Answer
San Francisco shouldn’t count on Google to come to the rescue. While Google has plans to bring fiber to the South Bay area, near San Jose, San Francisco’s proximity to Google’s own headquarters makes its absence from the list of future Google fiber networks a sort of elephant in the room. Google even has a San Francisco office and funded free Wi-Fi in more than 30 public parks. But, for whatever reason, Google is ignoring the obvious need for a larger fiber network.
The report mentions expanding the existing fiber network, but that will be expensive. At one point, the city Board of Supervisors considered a measure that would have required laying fiber cable any time electrical or sewer maintenance required digging a trench in the road, though there’s no evidence that it’s yet become law. Expanding the city’s current Wi-Fi network may not be a full solution, but could be used to expand access to those who currently lack it.
Unfortunately for those still wearing a flower in their hair, there are currently no plans any more concrete than proposals. Without an answer, though, San Francisco becomes less appealing to high-tech companies seeking to relocate, which would likely move south toward San Jose, and startups. In turn, that failure to attract new business to the city will make paying for fiber expansion all the more difficult.
Leave Your Dialup in San Francisco
The “Digital Divide in San Francisco” report mentions 17 different ISPs offering service to city residents, and to find one that’s faster or cheaper than your current plan, you don’t need to search far at all. Just enter your zip code below and you’ll get started.
Photo Credit: theCipher/Flikr Provo, Utah, became the third U.S. city to offer Gigabit Fiber Internet this January. This town joins Austin, Texas, and Kansas City in a movement likely to change online data streaming as much as the invention of email changed letter-writing. With several additional cities currently on track to receive this amazing technology, some may wonder whether Gigabit Fiber will really change that much for them.
While there’s plenty of hype concerning GoogleFiber, offering upload and download speeds 100-times faster than the average American currently receives, today we’ll highlight three incredible things that only become possible with Gigabit Internet.
1. 4K and 3D Television
In 2009, James Cameron stunned audiences by releasing “Avatar” in high definition 3D. A few years later, Peter Jackson introduced his audiences to 4K technology (four times bigger and sharper than 1080p) through “The Hobbit,” giving viewers a hyper-realistic glimpse at his story telling. While this technology works well in high-powered movie theaters, it has simply been too much information for home viewing, let alone streaming, until now.
With Gigabit Fiber, 4K and 3D television can be streamed live at home, allowing families to enjoy “The Desolation of Smaug” in all its glory or watch their team’s touchdown with such clarity they can almost smell the turf. While many homes do not yet have a 4K or 3D-capable TV, this emerging technology is becoming feasible thanks to Gigabit Fiber, and will likely become popular soon.
2. Latency-Free Video Conferencing and Gaming
For most Americans, current video conferencing technology leaves much to be desired. While programs such as Skype and Google Hangout have great potential, most people simply lack the bandwidth to video chat without blurry, choppy video, robotic-sounding audio, or the occasional dropped call. With Gigabit Fiber, video conferences can have up to ten unique feeds with no latency and still leave plenty of bandwidth for checking email. This means that businesses can have easy international meetings with zero hang-ups, band members from across the country can have live concerts from their living rooms, and parents can wish their college-aged kids happy birthday all with seamless video and sound.
Gigabit Fiber also allows online gaming without the choppiness and lag experienced in many current gaming systems. In addition, this kind of bandwidth offers potential for a new age of gaming using gesture-driven controls instead of traditional joysticks and buttons, providing real-time gaming with previously unknown levels of user participation.
3. The End of Hardcopies
The final and possibly most practical technology made possible with Gigabit Internet deals with file storage, transfer, and sharing. Remember back when new computer programs came on a series of floppy discs, or later, on CDs users had to individually load to use? Data transfer has progressed a lot since then, but still in 2014 most Americans can’t easily send a video via email, or a photo album to a family member, or download the newest iTunes without an hour of buffering.
With Gigabit Fiber, however, users can stream five HD movies simultaneously without buffering, download 14 GB of family photos in less than two minutes, or upload the latest software in just seconds. Gone will be the days of lugging around plastic DVDs, mailing USB drives, or carrying portable hard drives around to access work files. This kind of bandwidth will likely lead to more companies offering streaming instead of downloading (to save computer space) and easier cloud or remote access for home and work computers.
Gigabit Fiber is just beginning to make headway, but it is already creating countless new opportunities for businesses, individuals, and communities. Bigger cities like Los Angeles are even starting to join the movement, connecting neighbors using a high-bandwidth virtual network and allowing education and commerce to flourish in hitherto unknown ways. People across the country can expect to see these three technologies and more as their cities move forward into the Gigabit Fiber future.
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