A Fibre optic backbone for Canada

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Pondering
A Fibre optic backbone for Canada

Awhile back Sean suggested I post this as a separate topic so here it is. 

Essential infrastructure like roads and services like health care are best paid for collectively as it is cheaper and we all need these things. It is time to re-evaluate what is essential to our minimum well-being and security in the 21st century. 

Railways and highways are well and good but we need our own cross country fibreoptic backbone that would also reach North. All our data goes to the US and circles back. That is a hugh hole in our ability to keep our data private and protect ourselves from disruptions. They could decide to throttle our data. There was a time when we didn't need passports that I would have had faith in the US but they elected Trump and he is still president. We need our own infrastructure. Private ISPs could buy space at a reasonable market price.  Beyond being the borrower for the backbone the government would not subsidize it. The government would only supply the expensive upfront infrastructure allowing much smaller entrants into the market but still charging cost+profit as any business would do. This isn't something any of the big companies are planning to do. They are fine with everything routing through the States and only supplying profitable markets so leave them to it. 

We also need a network of top-notch cell-phone towers which would be rented out to anyone who wanted to buy space on them. They should make enough profit to pay for towers in more remote areas or pay for satellite communications for those communities that are too isolated. The companies complain about being forced to rent space to smaller players so relieve them of the burden. 

We need to treat communications as the essential service it is in the 21st century. No community in Canada should be without phone and internet service if it's possible. 

Both these nation building projects would pay for themselves and generate profit. We are paying far more than the cost for these services and they are essential infrastructure and universally needed. 

Edited title to make it clear the focus is the fibre optic network not Canada Post. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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All our data goes to the US and circles back.

That's literally how the internet was designed to work.

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That is a hugh hole in our ability to keep our data private and protect ourselves from disruptions.

It was literally designed that way to prevent disruptions.

 

Pondering

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/01/tunisia-egypt-mia...

The news Thursday evening that Egypt had severed itself from the global Internetcame at the same time as an ostensibly far less inflammatory announcementcloser to home. Verizon, the telecom giant, would acquire "cloud computing company" Terremark for $1.4 billion. The purchase would "accelerate Verizon's 'everything-as-a-service' cloud strategy," the press release said....

The Internet is a network of networks. But what's often forgotten is that those networks actually have to physically connect -- one router to another -- often through something as simple and tangible as a yellow-jacketed fiber-optic cable. It's safe to suspect a network engineer in Egypt had a few of them dangling in his hands last night.

Terremark's building in Miami is the physical meeting point for more than 160 networks from around the world. They meet there because of the building's excellent security, its redundant power systems, and its thick concrete walls, designed to survive a category 5 hurricane. But above all, they meet there because the building is "carrier-neutral." It's a Switzerland of the Internet, an unallied territory where competing networks can connect to each other. Terremark doesn't have a dog in the fight. Or at least it didn't. (Verizon is buying it.)...

Google bought its New York office building, 111 8th Avenue, for a reported $1.9 billion. As the Wall Street Journal described, "about one third of the space is occupied by telecommunications companies." But that's severely understating the situation: 111 8th is another of the most important buildings on the Internet, on a short list of fewer than a dozen worldwide. Like the NAP of the Americas, it houses hundreds of independent networks, scattered across the office spaces of multiple independently owned sub-landlords. And now Google owns the whole thing. 

There are fewer than a dozen of these buildings worldwide. The way the internet distributes traffic ensures its delivery locally where there are a multitude of connections but that does not extend internationally where choke points exist. Right now Canada is at the mercy of the US and massive corporations like Verizon and Google on service as essential to modern life as roads and telephones. 

In conclusion yes the internet was literally designed to prevent unplanned disruptions but it wasn't designed to prevent planned disruptions. ISPs can cut off individuals and ISPs can be cut off from hubs. International connections can be physically closed. 

I'm very surprised you didn't already know that Magoo. 

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

So are you implying that you'd like to see Canada Post privatized?

If so,that's very right wing.

It seems you're using the American model as an example. Good government is all about doing exactly the opposite of what Americans do.

I don't want any of our public services privatized...ever.

Changing Canada Post would also put a lot of people out of work. That's far from good news.

Pondering

alan smithee wrote:
  So are you implying that you'd like to see Canada Post privatized? 

Where did you get that idea? I want Canada Post expanded so that it is not only responsible for mail delivery but also a fibre optic network and cell towers. Canada Post came into existence because communication within Canada had to be assured. Back then we wrote letters. Now we write emails. It's just as important to secure our emails as it was our physical letters. Hence, Canada Communications rather than just Canada Post. The title says update not sell. 

I'm saying we are currently at the mercy of American companies that can spy our communications and cut us off from the internet if they so chose. 

We don't need to run phone companies or internet companies. The reason small companies have trouble competing is that they can't create their own fibreoptic networks. They have to buy space from big operators like Bell and Telus that charge as much as they can and route traffic through the US.

Crown owned networks would make it so much easier for smaller ISPs to compete with the big guys that it would drive prices down.

Crown corporations can still generate profits like Hydro Quebec while keeping prices low. Companies would remain free to buy space on the Telus network or any other. We could even allow Telus to buy space on it to avoid any accusations of trying to exclude them or unfair competition and we could remove the requirement of having to sell space on their networks to other ISPs which they so resent. 

By reaping the profits from the fibreoptic traffic we could expand services to unprofitable areas, something private companies won't do. 

6079_Smith_W

Except that Canada Post never was about telecommunications. There already is an arm of government overseeing that.

If anything, It would be nice to see it expand into banking, which is a much more natural fit, and one which has worked in other countries.

 

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Pondering wrote:

alan smithee wrote:
  So are you implying that you'd like to see Canada Post privatized? 

Where did you get that idea? I want Canada Post expanded so that it is not only responsible for mail delivery but also a fibre optic network and cell towers. Canada Post came into existence because communication within Canada had to be assured. Back then we wrote letters. Now we write emails. It's just as important to secure our emails as it was our physical letters. Hence, Canada Communications rather than just Canada Post. The title says update not sell. 

I'm saying we are currently at the mercy of American companies that can spy our communications and cut us off from the internet if they so chose. 

We don't need to run phone companies or internet companies. The reason small companies have trouble competing is that they can't create their own fibreoptic networks. They have to buy space from big operators like Bell and Telus that charge as much as they can and route traffic through the US.

Crown owned networks would make it so much easier for smaller ISPs to compete with the big guys that it would drive prices down.

Crown corporations can still generate profits like Hydro Quebec while keeping prices low. Companies would remain free to buy space on the Telus network or any other. We could even allow Telus to buy space on it to avoid any accusations of trying to exclude them or unfair competition and we could remove the requirement of having to sell space on their networks to other ISPs which they so resent. 

By reaping the profits from the fibreoptic traffic we could expand services to unprofitable areas, something private companies won't do. 

Thanks for the clarification.

Pondering

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Except that Canada Post never was about telecommunications. There already is an arm of government overseeing that.

If anything, It would be nice to see it expand into banking, which is a much more natural fit, and one which has worked in other countries.

 

I have no problem with Canada Post doing banking but I didn't suggest this for the sake of Canada Post. I think we need a Crown Corporation through which we own a fibreoptic backbone that crosses Canada. We can create a new corporation. I don't think the regulatory body would be the right fit. I just thought it might as well be Canada Post because it would be created for the same reason, securing communication. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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In conclusion yes the internet was literally designed to prevent unplanned disruptions but it wasn't designed to prevent planned disruptions.

Yes, it was in fact literally designed to prevent unplanned disruptions.  It was designed with massive redundancy, so that if (for example) someone blows up a major hub in some city, data finds a different path around it.  If you do a traceroute and notice that your packets pass through some host in the U.S., it doesn't mean that if that host were to suddenly block you, you'd have no more internet.  Packets would just go around that host.

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ISPs can cut off individuals and ISPs can be cut off from hubs. International connections can be physically closed.

TCP/IP will find a way.

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I want Canada Post expanded so that it is not only responsible for mail delivery but also a fibre optic network and cell towers.

If you mean a nationalized fibre backbone, and nationalized cellular coverage, well, that sounds like a nice idea, though probably a bit of a money pit.  We didn't have a nationalized telephone service when all we had was landlines, because there was no good reason to string 100,000 km of copper when Bell had already done that.

But if we were to nationalize our chunk of internet (the backbone, if not the last mile) and cell service, it's really not clear why this would be a job for Canada Post, though. 

If their primary qualification is that "they already know about communication", that's pretty silly.  This sounds like an attempt to make CP relevant by thinking of something relevant and then saying "Canada Post should do that!".  Why not get them into the business of growing legal marijuana?  Or put them in charge of the airlines?  What if they could become the Canada Post and Highway Maintenance Corporation?  They literally know more about highways than cellular bands.

6079_Smith_W

Mr. Magoo wrote:

We didn't have a nationalized telephone service when all we had was landlines, because there was no good reason to string 100,000 km of copper when Bell had already done that.

Actually, here in the prairies it wasn't done by Bell, but by public utilities. And they remained public until the 90s when Alberta, then Manitoba saw fit to sell them off. Now of course there is only one public phone utility in all of North America, here in Saskatchewan.

In any case no, "business has taken care of that, so there is no reason for a public solution" isn't actually the whole story. And besides, when they fuck it up they seem to wind up running to government to bail them out anyway.

I suppose there might be a good argument for public ownership in there after all, since when it isn't worth their bottom line, they don't bother doing it, which is why we wind up with people in low populated areas getting bad service or no service at all.

 

 

Unionist

Thanks for getting Canada Post out of the thread title, Pondering!

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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In any case no, "business has taken care of that, so there is no reason for a public solution" isn't actually the whole story.

OK.  But evidently even South Korea, with its best-of-breed broadband service and cheaper rates doesn't have a nationalized internet service.  They just have open networks (i.e. companies who lay cable have to share that cable) resulting in competition, and they have a very densely packed population, which makes wiring everyone up significantly cheaper (and the resulting connections significantly faster, for less).

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since when it isn't worth their bottom line, they don't bother doing it, which is why we wind up with people in low populated areas getting bad service or no service at all.

Korea does also subsidize service.  If we want to ensure that no matter how far out on Rural Road 11 you live, you have internet service, we could consider doing the same (for the physical connection, if not the service itself).  Part of the problem is that signals degrade when they travel long distances over copper.  This means that if you live 4 miles from the nearest network line, you're going to have substandard speeds, unless you're connected by fibre.  And right now running 4 miles of fibre so that one person can play Minecraft as fast as his city cousins might not be a good investment.

Satellite?  Let's look into that.

 

Pondering

Mr. Magoo wrote:

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In conclusion yes the internet was literally designed to prevent unplanned disruptions but it wasn't designed to prevent planned disruptions.

Yes, it was in fact literally designed to prevent unplanned disruptions. 

You are repeating exactly what I just said. What about planned disruptions. As in deliberate. Did you bother reading my post or the article I linked to about physical internet infrastructure? 

What about getting much cheaper service. Quebec pays less for electricity because we own Hydro Quebec. Canada overpays for telephone and internet services yet like roads and electricity it is something everyone needs. 

My theory is that we overpay for these services because the big companies have a virtual monopoly so they can keep prices artificially high. They don't want to sell space to smaller companies at a price that would let them undercut the big boys. 

Fibre optic cable is much cheaper to lay than a railroad or a highway. 

We save money when we nationalize services everyone needs. That's the whole basis for pharmacare. Are you against that too?

 

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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You are repeating exactly what I just said. What about planned disruptions. As in deliberate. Did you bother reading my post or the article I linked to about physical internet infrastructure?

 

Sorry.  Honest to Gord, that was a typo (or a braino).

The example I gave -- "someone blows up a major hub in some city" -- was the kind of deliberate disruption it was intended to thwart.  But someone "pulling the plug", or just a common outage would work the same way.  The internet goes around it.

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What about getting much cheaper service.

I'd enjoy that.  I just don't know whether the quickest route to cheaper service is for the Government to start stringing its own cables, or for the Government to regulate the market differently.  As I noted, far superior internet service in Korea isn't cheaper because their Government took it over and ran it.

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Fibre optic cable is much cheaper to lay than a railroad or a highway.

Is it worth noting that people who live in rural areas typically neither have a rail line running to their front door, nor an 8-lane highway.  The further out you get, the more likely you are to have a dirt road, yes?  Or you may have a rail line near you, but that doesn't mean the trains stop there.

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We save money when we nationalize services everyone needs. That's the whole basis for pharmacare. Are you against that too?

That's just an example of the government using buying power.  I'm fine with that; it makes sense. 

It would not make sense for the government to decide to re-invent every pharmaceutical product and gear up to produce them all at People's Drug Factory #3.  The government doesn't own everything, lock, stock and barrel, nor does it need to.

 

6079_Smith_W

All I am saying Magoo is that Bell didn't do it out here. Public utilities did. And none of that is an argument against public ownership.

We still have a public utility here in SK which is managing to beat the big companies, despite the fact our government is doing their best to undermine it, and cut it up piece by piece.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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All I am saying Magoo is that Bell didn't do it out here. Public utilities did. And none of that is an argument against public ownership.

Fair enough.  But if Bell had strung those lines, I'd still suggest that stringing a second set right beside them would make less financial sense than just regulating that service to the benefit of the public.  And that's mostly where we are with internet and cell.

Regulating the industries means a few men and women in suits passing legislation.  Rebuilding the industries for the ground up "for the people" means hundreds of thousands erecting poles or digging trenches or building server farms or putting up towers and so on.  I'm sure Canada Post is ready for the challenge, but does that make the MOST sense?

Rev Pesky

Canada does, in fact, have a fibre optic network,operating at speeds up to 100 Gigabits per second. It is, however, limited to institutional users.

Canarie Network

CANARIE’s provincial and territorial network partners connect directly to institutions in their jurisdiction and to the CANARIE national backbone. CANARIE’s national backbone network provides interprovincial connectivity, as well as international connectivity to peer research and education networks in more than 100 countries.

To accommodate the vast amounts of data that researchers need, the CANARIE network operates at speeds up to 100 Gigabits per second (enough to download a full 2-hour HD video in 4/10 of a second) – thousands of times faster than the fastest network commercially available at homes or offices. It also stretches more than 23,000 km across Canada, from as far north as Inuvik, NT, and from Beaver Creek, YT, to St. John’s, NL.

progressive17 progressive17's picture

Internet as "an essential service" is pure hyperbole. We could all live very well without it.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Other essential services like Facebook and Snapchat are dependent on it.

Pondering

progressive17 wrote:

Internet as "an essential service" is pure hyperbole. We could all live very well without it.

We can more easily live a modern life without postal and telephone service than without internet service. Tell a student they don't need the internet. Looking for a job? Who doesn't use the internet? In Toronto there is a pilot project bringing the internet to low-income housing. For some odd reason they aren't doing the same with cable TV which is a much older technology. Internet services are even more important in remote areas.

Libraries certainly aren't essential. Schools aren't essential. Neither are roads. We can all live without these things. Far fewer people use public libraries than use the internet. If it is a matter of either or I would close the public and school libraries and use the money to ensure internet services because internet services are cheaper and reach more people. I see no reason why it has to be either or because internet services would pay for themselves. 

 

 

 

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

progressive17 wrote:

Internet as "an essential service" is pure hyperbole. We could all live very well without it.

Dana Carvey said it best.

mmphosis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_mobile_phone_companies

https://www.telecommunications.ca/History.htm

Drinking water, healthy food, electricity, ah yes about that system of tubes, satelites yes satelites will solve everything, nope.  If you believe that fast internet comes through satelites, you might also believe that the tar from Alberta is actually oil and that it is refined into gasoline that we put into our cars, nope.

As I understand, there were or are already some cross Canada connections.

CNCP Telecommunications, radio links across Canada, microwave towers.

Fibre optic links...

and connection points, Internet eXchanges...

We don't really get to say how internet traffic gets routed.  I've done traceroutes, and seen some crazy routes.  Like connect to Telus from Shaw and the route went to Virginia because well, Telus and Shaw didn't connect because you know that wonderful competition thing.  I recently did a traceroute, and I see the route goes through the USA, but there is no guarantee that it always takes that route, sometimes it goes through Canada sometimes not.

Pondering

Food, water, shelter, are the only necessities of life. Essential services are not about what you need to remain breathing. Essential services are services that everyone uses or benefits from, or just about. For example, electricity, road, garbage pick-up, schools. 

Having said that I don't care enough to keep arguing for it. 

Pondering

It isn't a backbone, maybe it's even better. 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/morden-morenet-free-internet-1.46...

The community is developing a network of towers that will operate as the "backbone" of the service, Haines added. So far, the plan is to build 10 of them, but that number could increase if service levels aren't up to snuff.

The whole project is estimated to cost between $300,000 and $400,000. Haines said property taxes won't increase to cover the cost.

More than 8,000 people in Morden, Man., will be able to say goodbye to monthly internet bills this fall, after the community rolls out high-speed, community-owned internet as a city service.

In May the city will begin phasing in Morenet, a 5G internet service built and maintained by the city through property taxes and offered at no extra monthly fee to users. 

There is a one time fee of 400$ for the modem. Internet bills take up much more of my budget than they do the budgets of the wealthy. 

This would seem to be a really easy sell to people. If some dinky community of 8,000 in Manitoba can manage it there is no reason we can't do this on a much larger scale. After the one time modem fee it's free internet "for life".  It is the equivalent of sending almost every Canadian 50$ a month or more.