From the Speak Out section of the Landmark
In response to Edwin Carlson’s July 17 Speak Out about wireless and “faster horses,’’ sometimes engineers over think the solution and end up with a product that really doesn’t solve a problem.
Carlson refers to a quote attributed to Henry Ford implying that using fiber optic technology to deliver Internet service to Princeton is relying too much on the same old-style technology rather than embracing the newest fad technology.
If Henry Ford had really thought too hard, he might have designed a vehicle that ran underground (like a mole car) rather than on surface roads because the shortest route between two places is to tunnel through the ground instead of over the curvature of the Earth.
In 1984, Princeton embraced new, green technology and installed windmills to generate electricity. Maybe that was a good idea, maybe not. I wasn’t living here then. Then we replaced those windmills with much more expensive windmills. Maybe that was a really bad idea because the business model for wind is still not profitable (or in our case doesn’t even break even.)
In 2006, the Princeton Municipal Light Department installed a new-style wireless based Internet system. It never worked well. Many houses in town were too remote or out of the line of sight of the towers and the entire system was overloaded from the beginning. The system Carlson pins his hopes on has engineering specifications inferior even to the existing PMLD net system.
Wouldn’t it be nice to use a technology that is completely proven to be reliable and able to handle almost any future need rather than try another fad that is a bad fit for our needs?
A wireless solution is great for an area like a city where lots of different people are moving around, going between bars and restaurants and public transportation. Most of these people are walking around with tiny phone screens checking email or getting directions. That doesn’t require much bandwidth.
This is not Princeton. People are in their houses for the most part. In the house, the need for bandwidth is much greater. While
I work remotely, connected to the office computers, my wife could video chat with a cousin, kids connect with their friends over a gaming console or research and submit a school report using the greatest information repository ever available to humanity. Then when work is done, stream one, two or four movies, keeping everyone happy.
For the few open gathering spaces in town (i.e. Krashes field, the town common and the school ballfield) a small, reliable WiFi system installed at each location and connected to the town Internet would be a perfect, costeffective solution.
Fiber optic technology is the single most successful communication technology in the past 50 years. The same physical fibers have been in use for decades and researchers are still striving to find the limit of its capability. Verizon FIOS serves more than five million people. Other fiber optic systems service thousands of businesses, including large parts of the cable and phone systems. And fiber is how cell towers and other wireless systems are connected.
Someday electricity will be beamed into our houses too (Nikola Tesla even demonstrated it more than 100 years ago) but for now we still need wires for electricity and we need wires (or fiber) for the Internet. Please don’t make the same mistake again and hope that some newfangled solution will work. We’ve made that mistake too many times.
Finally, Mr. Carlson mentions there is only one bidder in the plan to bring wired Internet to Princeton. He is correct, there is only one proposal, but one that is backed by $4 million dollars of corporate money, relieving a significant taxpayer burden. Other proposals may indeed be forthcoming as the newly formed MLP works through the legal requirements regarding the bidding procedure.
Light up Princeton now.