SMART Letter #30
December 9, 1999



          SMART Letter #30 - December 9, 1999            

             Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg            

       -- "nothing but net"           -- -- 1-888-isen-com  




> CANARIE Sings a Lovely Song: Advanced Nets in Canada

> Broadband Smorgasbord: 10 Mbit to the home for $25/mo.

> Smart Comments from SMART People: Anders Comstedt

> The Meaning of WTO

> Quotes of Note: Jay Fenello and Jesse Jackson on WTO

> Smart Comments from SMART People: 

>    'Wireless in California' on Rooftop & WAP shortcomings

>     Miljenko Horvat on

> SMART CONTEST!!! Guess the Richest Person in 2020

> Conferences on my Calendar, Copyright Notice, Administrivia 




by David S. Isenberg

The recent CANARIE Advanced Networks Workshop (Toronto, Nov. 

29-30, 1999), an annual event, drew participants from all 

over Canada plus networking experts from around the world, 

notably Sweden, the Netherlands, and Korea, with a smattering 

from a less developed southern country -- the United States. 

CANARIE stands for the Canadian Advanced Network for 

Research, Industry, and Education. CANARIE is similar to 

Internet2 in the US, but industry takes a more active role.  

And the Canadians have some apparently great companies like 

Newbridge, JDS Uniphase, PMC Sierra, Teleglobe (I *think* 

it's great; certainly it has huge connectivity on the great 

circle between Europe and Asia), and even Nortel.

Also, unlike any other nethead meeting I've ever been to, 

school networks, especially nets for the Kindergarten-12 

grades, were significantly represented.

The biggest impression I took away was this: It sure looks 

like Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) over glass (and even 10 Gigabit 

Ethernet, though still in the labs) is coming on like 

gangbusters.  GigE is following the classic Clayton 

Christensen disruptive trajectory, rapidly improving in 

capability, moving up-market from LAN to WAN to displace ATM 

and SONET, to become the network architecture of choice.  The 

move to GigE seems to be coming first in entirely new 

Internet-created companies, then it reaches newly networked 

market segments (especially public institutions), then it 

slowly penetrates older, already-networked sectors like 

telcos, banks, etc. 

Since there are many more LANs than WANs, GigE, due to its 

Ethernet LAN heritage, has huge economies of scale.  (Every 

flavor of Ethernet that has hit the marketplace has slid down 

a 30% per year price reduction curve.)  GigE's use in both 

LAN and WAN gives greater scale yet.  Plus by erasing the 

LAN/WAN boundary, GigE decreases the complexity of the 

network, making it even stupider, easier to manage and easier 

to innovate upon.  So it looks like the Stupid Network will 

be built of GigE over glass, and it looks like CANARIE's 

CA*Net3 will be its first pure nationwide instantiation.

Referring to the disappearance of the LAN/WAN distinction, 

Bjorn Roos, who is building a 190 node, GigE "from core to 

closet" optical Internet for Stockholm schools (using the 

Stokab municipal dark fiber infrastructure) quipped, "I am 

sad to say I had to change my title. I used to be a WAN 

manager but now I am a LAN manager again!"

But it looks like the big Canadian innovations are more 

regulatory than technical, notwithstanding the huge progress 

in Internet over GigE over glass. The CRTC (the Canadian 

FCC), in sharp contrast to the US FCC, has ruled that 

Canadian Cable TV operators are common carriers, and ordered 

them to open their head-ends to any ISP.  Then, when the 

cable guys didn't do it, last September the CRTC slapped them 

with an order to re-sell head-end access to all ISPs at a 25% 

discount!  That'll goose up Canadian Internet competition!

In contrast, in the US, some industry advocates, including 

FCC Chairman Bill Kennard, make dire predictions that open 

access to cable networks (especially AT&T's) would chill 

investment in broadband infrastructure.  Poor AT&T needs its 

$120 Billion investment protected.  (I want the US Government 

to protect my OpenFund investment, too -- it'd be in the 

public interest, dontcha think? -- but I can't seem to hire 

enough lobbyists to make my case.)

In Canada, open access is not discouraging investment in 

broadband nets, not at all! The Canadians seem to understand 

the centrality of a broadband communications infrastructure 

to their economy.  They are pushing towards fiber everywhere 

with a national will.  

Where there's a will, there's right of way.  Any Canadian 

public institution -- schools, hospitals, cities, 

universities, churches, etc. -- can hang their own cables on 

telephone poles.  Lots of them are doing it.  As a result, 

there is already much fiber in Canada's neighborhoods, close 

enough to where people live that fiber to the home will soon 

be common.

I should point out that there is significant neighborhood 

fiber activity in the United States, but it is more spotty 

and isolated.  It does not have the support of the telecom 

industry or the regulatory establishment, but it is going on!  

Spokane WA and Palo Alto CA are two good examples of the 47 

US communities with municipal fiber and a civic understanding 

of how broadband connectivity makes their economy vital.  Ken 

Poulton (Palo Alto Fiber Network) and Dennis Schweikhardt 

(Spokane Public School District 81) reported strong progress.

Telecom whistleblower Bruce Kushnick (who was not there, but 

is a good friend of mine) says, "AT&T is Mother Theresa 

compared to the RBOCs." Lon Berquist, of the University of 

Texas Telecommunications & Information Policy Institute, 

reported that there are 6 US states that prohibit or restrict 

municipal telecom.  These RBOC lap-dog states include 

Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Texas and Virginia.  

Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.  If a city wants to 

run a sewer system, it can.  If a city wants to manage its 

own streets, it can.  If a city wants to provide water, 

power, garbage collection, etc., there is nothing that 

prevents it from pursuing its own economic interests and 

defining the standards of municipal service that its citizens 

should expect.  

Please don't label me a Commie Symp for this opinion.  (I 

gave up when the wall went down.)  I'm all for private 

enterprise where it creates open markets and real 

competition.  Metromedia Fiber Networks is doing great work 

to bring abundant dark fiber to US cities, but until we have 

a dozen such companies, if small and mid-tier cities want 

their citizens to have beef, they will have to rope and tie 

their own calf.

As we move into the age of networks, countries with good 

infrastructures, like Canada and Sweden, upon which they can 

build a vibrant competitive networked marketplace, will 

prosper.  The future will appear in these places first.  

Conference keynoter Peter Lothberg described the goal of 

Sweden's national fiber initiative.  He said, "We never want 

to run into a scenario where we'll be bandwidth limited 


[This article first appeared on the 

discussion board.  Metamarkets is the home of OpenFund, the 

world's first on-line mutual fund.]




by David S. Isenberg

Bredbandsbolaget, literally "The Broadband Company," plans to 

deliver 10-megabit, always-on service to 100,000 Swedish 

homes by the end of 2000. Bredbandsbolaget, or B2, founded in 

1998, already has 14,000 proof-of-concept households online. 

It has just signed an agreement with Sweden's largest 

apartment co-op to bring 400,000 more homes (10% of Sweden's 

population) into its customer base. B2 service is priced at 

200 kronor ($25) a month -- half the price of cable-modem 


"Broadband adds gasoline to the Internet fire," says Jonas 

Birgersson, B2's 28-year-old visionary leader. He expects 

that the B2 infrastructure will support telephony, video 

telephony, and audio and video entertainment. Switched 

Ethernet brings 10 megabits to every home, enough bandwidth 

for TV-over-IP or video telephony, Birgersson says. With 

symmetrical input and output, he says, B2 service "is a 

democratization of the new technology. Each apartment will be 

able to broadcast its own [IP] TV or start an Internet 


"Ethernet is the world's most ubiquitous communications 

interface," says Bob Bailey, CEO of communications chipmaker 

PMC-Sierra.  In talking about B2 during September's Telecosm 

conference, Bailey describes B2 architecture as a metro ring 

that delivers gigabit Ethernet via fiber to each apartment 

building, where an Ethernet switch puts each customer's data 

on copper twisted pair. Ethernet, says Bailey, "is the 

cheapest LAN technology" and easily upgradable to 100-megabit 

or gigabit Ethernet.


"Delivering flat-rate connectivity to ordinary people will 

destroy the old models of telephony and video delivery," says 

Birgersson. Flat-rate, always-on service is especially 

disruptive in Europe, where per-minute charges on local calls 

inhibit dial-up Internet usage. B2's Internet telephone calls 

will not be metered. Furthermore, new models of charging [or 

not] for Internet video content areinevitable.

Before Birgersson started B2, he tried to persuade Sweden's 

PTT-heritage telco, Telia, to offer broadband service, but 

Lars Berg, its CEO, rejected the idea, exclaiming, "I won't 

take advice from 20-year-olds!"

"Now we have started a broadband war," says Birgersson. 

Indeed, in August, Telia announced the same service as B2, at 

the same price. A third competitor, startup Telecyber, is 

also offering 10-megabit, 200-kronor service. "I am glad to 

have competition," says Birgersson. "End users will win this 


B2 is not Birgersson's first business. At age 24, he founded 

Framfab (for framtidsfabriken, which means "future factory"), 

an Internet consultancy and Web design shop. Today Framfab 

has 18 offices in four countries and is publicly traded, with 

a market cap of over $400 million. Its customers include 

Volvo, Saab, Ikea, GE, and Electrolux.

Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future 

(, sits on Framfab's board. He says, "Jonas 

Birgersson is the Steve Jobs of Sweden."

Birgersson is widely recognized in Sweden, winning awards 

like "Web Guru of the Year" (1998) and "Outstanding Young 

Person of the Year" (1999). Despite fame and fortune, 

Birgersson still lives in the same Spartan room he took as a 

student. He attended college in Stockholm for three years but 

denies being a dropout, saying he still attends class, "now 

and then."

"We predicted that entrepreneurs like Birgersson would 

emerge," says Anders Comstedt, managing director of Stokab, 

the municipal company that built a dark fibers infrastructure 

for the entire city of Stockholm in less than two years. 

("Intelligence at the Edge," Oct. 1, 1998).


Stockholm has become the openly competitive communications 

marketplace that the city's leaders envisioned when they 

chartered Stokab. Today, over 30 service providers use 

Stokab's infrastructure, including mobile and wireline 

telcos, ISPs and cable companies -- plus upstart broadband 

service companies like Bredbandsbolaget and Telecyber -- as 

well as banks, insurance companies and other data-intensive 


The Stokab model is spreading. Comstedt reports that some 170 

of Sweden's 289 municipalities have some municipal fiber 

infrastructure. And in Stockholm, the original 96-fiber 

cables no longer have enough capacity; Stokab is now pulling 

cables with 192 and 384 fibers.

"Because the infrastructure is already in place, Sweden is 

becoming the world's greatest broadband services laboratory," 

says Birgersson. "If Americans don't respond in an aggressive 

way, Sweden could become the next Silicon Valley or 


[This article appeared in the November 1, 1999 issue of 

America's Network.  Copyright 1999 Advanstar Communications.]

Note: After the above article was written and 'in the can', I 

learned that B2 was in the process of acquiring Telecyber.

David I


Smart Comments from SMART People

Anders Comstedt, the Managing Director (i.e., CEO) of Stokab, 


   "Birgersson's image is not as bright and 

    untarnished as it was three months ago. 

    Talk is cheap; shipping is a different story. 

    He might only be remembered for lighting the 

    fuse for the next current step: getting broad-

    band out to individual users at a tenth of 

    the cost we charge small businesses today. (And

    a hundred times what we charged the Fortune 

    500s yesterday.) On the other hand he might 

    pull it off. 

   "However, I like the guy, and industry needs a 

    face like his for this step, if not to get 

    obvious messages across to the media. Who 

    needs a brand new breed of broadcast TV?  We 

    have a pretty disgusting debate over this where 

    the "broadcast-equipment-media-industrial-complex" 

    does too well in preserving old structures. When 

    a fellow with the impact of Birgersson attacks the 

    media, they shiver and their nakedness becomes 



THE MEANING OF WTO by David S. Isenberg

What kind of Global Government do we want?  Regardless of 

what we think about the WTO, and despite what we think about 

its protesters, one thing is clear; in the beginning of the 

age of globalization, a Global Government is struggling to be 

born.  Its first constituents are the multinational 

corporations because they are most acutely aware of global-

scale issues that affect them.  Other interests are now 

catching on, and they want to be represented within the new 

Global Government too.

Global Government is coming.  What will it look like? Who 

will run it?  Who will it represent?  What will it govern? 

And what will it leave to the individual countries, states, 

cities, businesses and individuals?

These questions will be decided, if not by us than by others 

who care about them more.  It is time to take these questions 

into open, conscious, public discussion.


QUOTES OF NOTE: Jay Fenello & Jesse Jackson


   "The riots in Seattle [during the World Trade 

    Organization meetings] are about the loss of 

    U.S. sovereignty to multinational corporations, 

    just like the Domain Name Wars [are] about the 

    loss of the Internet to the same multinational 


Jay Fenello, via email, December 1, 1999


   "The WTO attracts this protest because it reveals 

    the dirty little secret of the global economy -- 

    that all the talk about free trade is just a put-on.

    Free trade requires only removing trade barriers, 

    not thousands of pages of painfully negotiated 

    agreements.  This is about managed trade and the 

    use of state power to enforce the rules.  The 

    obvious question is what are the rules -- and 

    who decides?"

Jesse Jackson in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

December 2, 1999



'Wireless in California' writes:

   "One of the first questions I always ask when 

    faced with a new technology is 'what are the 

    limits to growth?'  An idea isn't necessarily 

    bad because it can't grow past a certain point;

    I just want to know where the technology will 

    hit the wall.

   "Rooftop is not a magic-bullet fix for the 

    problems of wireless.  The wired Internet 

    would have collapsed into a logjam of 

    packets long ago without DWDM (Dense Wave 

    Division Multiplexing).  No such magic 

    bullet is on the radio horizon unless the 

    FCC releases more frequencies. 


   "Also, Rooftop will never fly because of the 

    tendency to bottleneck near the ISP.  It 

    doesn't matter how many transmitters are 

    installed on the roof of the ISP, they all 

    share the same spectrum and they all step on 

    each other's toes.  If Rooftop actually 

    comes close to 15-20 rooftops per node, the 

    owner/user close to the ISP will be 

    clobbered by the store and forward pass 

    through traffic from distant users and find 

    themselves with little bandwidth. 


   "The 2.4GHz ISM band [that Rooftop uses] is 

    shared with vehicle theft alarms, interstitial 

    video distribution service, point to point ISM 

    wireless bridges, AVLS (automatic vehicle loc-

    ation systems), cordless telephones, wireless 

    networking, Bluetooth wireless, television 

    rabbits, and whatever else the FCC doesn't 

    want to deal with.  One leaky microwave oven 

    can total the 2.4GHz ISM band.  A spectrum 

    analyzer picture of the 2.4GHz ISM band is 

    truly ugly.  One doesn't build a super 

    highway through a garbage dump.


   "A wireless ISP, Wavepath, which uses MMDS 

    and sells service to retail ISPs only, has 

    revealed several problems. They're losing 

    customers because ISPs cannot handle last 

    mile support.  When the telco or cable last 

    mile dies, it's not an ISP problem. But when 

    the customer's last mile is wireless, the 

    ISP is now in the 'why doesn't my radio 

    work' business.


   "Meanwhile, the PDA crowd has decided to go 

    its own way.  Ignoring both the IETF and 

    common sense, they have rewritten almost 

    every Internet specification on the grounds 

    you can't control anything you don't own.  

    See: for the WAP 

    (wireless access protocol) garbage dump.


   "The WAP Forum's mission is ostensibly to 

    optimize the various Internet protocols for 

    wireless transmission and portable battery-

    powered devices.  However, closer inspection 

    will reveal that they are remaking wireless 

    into a proprietary jumble.  Microsoft just 

    joined WAP to ensure that the published 

    standard will be incomplete. WAP is nothing 

    more than an attempt to proprietarize open 

    standards.  The rules of data transmission 

    don't magically change because of wireless.


   "If Rooftop and WAP are any indication, then 

    the wireless network of the future will be 

    an anarchistic topology of proprietary 

    protocols, infested with middleware.  Does 

    the end (allegedly improved wireless 

    performance) justify the means (breaking 

    every standard in sight)?"

Miljenko Horvat, founder of the Global Newspaper Network 

( writes:


   "We are a perfect example of a disruptive technology.

    We serve a product for which I wanted to use a tag

    line 'good enough'. It is not great but if it is 

    good enough that is good enough.  Briefly, we print

    daily newspapers (delivered to us by publishers as 

    .pdf files) on a network of our own equipment located

    in hotels. We print on 11X17 paper so the 'broadsheet'

    newspapers have to be reduced. So it is definitely not

    as good as the real thing, but on your hike of Machu 

    Pichu you can get your Financial Times at breakfast.


   "It is almost funny to observe how the newspaper 

    distribution food chain doesn't quite know what to 

    think of us.  But they all smell disruption. Even the 

    publishers, who have most to gain, sometimes give us 

    the 'you had to go and rock the boat' vibe. 


   "In one sense, we are about newspapers going back to 

    what they  started with - content (as opposed to what

    they have become -- platforms for serving advertising)."


SMART CONTEST:  Guess The Richest Person In The World in 2020 

(and what they did to become so rich).

A while ago, somebody (Peter Schwartz?) told me that Stewart 

Brand, observing the early potential of the PC, speculated 

that the richest person in the world would soon be a computer 

programmer.  Stewart doesn't remember this too well either -- 

he writes, "Oh I would love to had said that, and maybe I 

even did, but I don't recall doing so."  Of all things in the 

Long Now, memory is the most volatile.

Anyhow, whether he said it or not, HERE'S THE CONTEST:  Guess 

who the richest person in the world will be in 2020.  Or more 

to the point, guess what that person will have done to become 

so rich.  Write it down and send it in.

Fine print:  All non-trivial entries will be winners, and 

winning entries will be published in the SMART Letter, after 

editing for succinctness and readability.  The Grand Prize 

Winner will be the person who realizes what can be done, and 

then GOES OUT AND DOES IT -- for this person, the contest 

entry will be for documentation purposes only.  Grand Prize 

may be shared with the judges.



March 12-15, 2000.  Singapore.  TELECOSM ASIA.  If you have 

any information on this, especially if you are Chuck Frank, 

email me at or call me at 1-888-isen-com. 

May 7-12, 2000.  Birmingham UK.  World Telecommunications 

Congress.  I am an invited speaker for the session entitled,

"What's your network IQ?"  Answer: Too high.  For info, see

May 23-26, 2000. Laguna Niguel CA.  VORTEX.  Metcalfe has 

invited me to speak this year!  Cool, but what I really want 

to do is run a session on "The Network We Really Want to 

Have, and Why We're Not Building It."  Nothing on the web 

yet.  Stay tuned.

June 7-10, 2000. Toronto ON. TED CITY.  My only role is as a 

paying member of the audience, but I think that Richard Saul 

Wurman does a job with his TED conferences -- every one I've 

been to has had deep, memorable impact.  (TED stands for 

Technology, Entertainment, Design.)  You can't shoehorn 

yourself into his regular February stand in Monterey CA, but 

there are still a few spaces for June. SMART People should 

get there if they can.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any 

part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, 

provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: 

Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com  


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