Atherton moves toward town-wide, high-speed optical fiber system

Backer claims it would be 'best in the world' system

Mike Farmwald says the optical fiber cable system he'd like to run to every home in Atherton would give the town "the very best in the world" Internet access.

On July 15, the Atherton City Council gave the go-ahead to drafting a development agreement with Mr. Farmwald and the Atherton Fiber company he has formed to install a state-of-the art optical fiber system in Atherton.

Mr. Farmwald said in a presentation to the council that his company would like to send at least one optical fiber cable to each home in Atherton, and to give residents the option of buying a bundle of four cables for their home.

Internet, telephone and television providers, as well as alarm companies, could then lease the lines to provide very high speed services to Atherton homes, he said.

Cost of the four-fiber bundles would be $7500 for above-ground and $9500 for underground, he said.

Mr. Farmwald said he would also like to see the Atherton Library work with an Internet provider to try to make free basic Internet services available to Atherton homes.

"This is not up to me, but this is something I'd like to work with the library to do," he said. "I've talked to Google and others about potentially working with the library."

Mr. Farmwald said because 80 percent of Atherton now has above-ground utilities, that 80 percent of the optical fiber cables would be installed above-ground. In the 20 percent of the town with underground utilities, the cables would go underground. Homeowners would be responsible for bringing the cable from the street to their home, which he said could cost $500 to $1,000 if a conduit for cable does not already exist on a property.

The state-of-the art optical fiber cables could initially provide service at a gigabit per second, he said, 100 times faster than what is generally available now. The system would have the capability to go even faster, he said, up to a terabit a second, or 1,000 times faster than currently. The cables would not be shared, but would run directly to two "central offices" in Atherton.

Residents would still pay their phone, Internet and television providers; but because all could provide services over the optical system they could charge less and residents could easily change providers.

"I think there's a lot of demand for it," Mr. Farmwald said. "I feel pretty comfortable in risking the money to do it." Mr. Farmwald, who is a venture capitalist who was a co-founder of Rambus, said he has his own reasons as well.

"The reason I'm doing this is because I want this to my home," he said.

"I think we have the potential, at least for a short time, of going from kind of a mediocre Internet access to actually being the very best in the world," he said. "People will obviously catch up very quickly."

"I'm planning to put 10 gigabits into my home, just so we can claim we have 10 gigabits in the city – not that I have any computers than go that fast," he said.

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Posted by Dave Thompson
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 17, 2015 at 6:22 pm

I think switching to an underground cable is a great idea. There is less chance of the wires being destroyed by animals and the weather. I think that having them underground helps keep the skies clear, and overall makes our town look better as a whole. [part removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 17, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


They will only switch to underground if people are willing to pay for it. Per the article 80% of services to homes are above ground.

4 people like this
Posted by John Thibault
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 21, 2015 at 9:05 pm

Just as we moved from dial-up to DSL to high-speed Internet and all kinds of new services came into being I am in favor of this change to fiber. There has been a national plan for gigabit cities. Many are outstripping us now. San Leandro, Santa Monica, Tennessee. No reason Atherton cannot be a model within Silicon Valley. Mike has done extraordinary work in this area. It will benefit the town, the library and the community. Full disclosure: I sit on the tech fiber subcommittee. Let's see the light.

Like this comment
Posted by Perpective
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 22, 2015 at 5:40 am

High Speed Raid (HSR) is justified by similar feel good notions: Rail economically transformed the nation; we need to rebuild that infrastructure. Europe has HSR and it works for them; we need it too. The congestion on the roads is too great; HSR will reduce traffic. Climate change is going to kill our descendents; we can be more environmentally friendly with rail. The airports have nowhere to expand; HSR will reduce demand on the airports.

The list goes on and on. Yet none of the justifications pencil out when compared to the HSR cost -- over $60 billion! The voters got suckered (well, 51% of them did) with these feel good notions and we sit here today looking at the light at the end of the tunnel ...

Fiber to the home, with its promise of tremendous bandwidth and speed, promises to shepard in another revolution in the way we produce in our economy. Telepresence and other technologies that would benefit remote workers, for example, would become more widely used. Those kinds of technologies that are not available with dial up and DSL could reduce congestion in our transportation infrastructure and reduce demand on air travel -- perhaps more than would a $60 billion HSR.

Then there's the justification of introducing another provider, reducing the economic impact of the Comcast / AT&T duopoly. These two companies provide mediocre speeds and service at high cost. A third provider would have them step up their game.

How much to implement fiber to the home? Who pays for it? How many homes could be implemented for $60 billion?

2 people like this
Posted by Steve Aber
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jan 6, 2016 at 8:14 am

Dear Mr. Farmwald,
Thank you for brining fiber to our town. I'm looking forward to the day I can 'cut my coaxial cable' and ditch my current TV/Phone/Internet cable company.

I experienced a similar technology revolution when I 'cut the phone land line' and ditched my 'baby bell' phone company and replaced it with an IP phone provider.

Amandla !!!

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