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By Paul Bendix

About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Hope and Speed in Menlo Park

Uploaded: Nov 2, 2014
There must be a civic goal that can pull Menlo Park together – particularly after the bruising fight over Proposition M. What could truly inspire our community, leverage our best talents and get everyone more or less on the same page?

Recently after an exasperating bout with Apple TV...a movie failing to download on a Saturday night, again...it occurred to me.... What if we decided to connect all of Menlo Park in a truly high-speed network?

Would this mean fiber optics right into everyone's home? I confess to being out of my depth here. But that's fine, because our "best talents" includes several thousand Menlo Park residents who can answer this and other questions about high-speed connectivity.

I'm not sure what has gone awry with Palo Alto's long discussed plans for a citywide fiber-optic network. Nor do I quite understand what Google is, and isn't doing, in bringing high-speed conductivity to a few cities. What I do know is that if the utility in Cedar Falls, Iowa, can connect fiber-optic cable to its homes, businesses and, yes, even farms, surely so can we.

My consumer's desire for high-speed connectivity pales against the needs of business, of education...and general citywide growth and development. Measure M has left me somewhat battle weary. But the fight to get local infrastructure into the 21st century seems well worth it. The likes of Comcast will scream and yell. But that's okay. We have people in this town who can scream and yell much more intelligently.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:22 am

Paul --
Much as I really would love to have super-fast internet connections everywhere in Menlo Park, I know that would do absolutely nothing to help us residents agree with each other. In fact, it might even make things worse, by allowing people who would not otherwise bother to communicate with each other to say things they might or should regret. Yes -- it would allow both quick compliments -- but it would also allow quick verbal stink bombs.

And in this fiberoptic network, would everyone be required to use their real names? That could lead to retaliation against people who post unpopular opinions or facts.

Measure M -- IMO -- is not at all what it should have been: a way to stop the super-rich from building more and more and more unnecessary office buildings here in Menlo Park -- from which those same super-rich make a huge amount of money. It is naive to think that these same super-rich people would ever allow any money-making plan of theirs to be stopped once and for all by a one-time vote by the people. Stopping this stampede to Manhattanize Menlo Park -- all for the short-term financial benefit of a few very wealthy people -- will not be easy, but it can be done.

Posted by Nate, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 10:28 am

I couldn't agree more. If I recall correctly, some residents in Stanford have fiber to the home through sonic.net, paying $70 mo. for 2 phone lines and gigabit speeds.

Having experienced the many benefits of corporate investment in network infrastructure, I'm disappointed that there isn't more spending on network infrastructure improvement by local, state and federal government. I'm also disappointed that there isn't more public angst regarding the lack of competition among network providers.

Regarding M, there has been too much mud slinging on both sides and it would be nice if this forum featured the ability for me/one to block (i.e. not see) comments from certain people. That said, it is my opinion that the proposed developments will generate more traffic/downside than the potential benefit.

Posted by maximusgolden, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Nov 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Municipal fiber at this point seems like the best way to break the cable/telco broadband duopoly, at least on a local basis. Presently, we get some of the world's worst broadband performance at some of the world's highest prices. A municipality is uniquely positioned to break the duopoly that brings us this awful network performance and customer service because the legal path is simpler than for a new operator to come in.

That said, I certainly would hope that the municipality would build a partnership with a third party to operate the network. Normally I would not be in favor of a municipality operating a broadband service, but I see few other options to our current dilemma.

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