Can the City Council tell the future?
City Council is locking the City into a 60-year contract for a 30 year-old technology and this second article on Smart Cities explores why.
Today, Saratogian’s are being asked to financially back a government-sponsored decades-long monopoly with SiFi Networks to lay a fiber optic network throughout the City. Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan claims it is the way to make Saratoga Springs a “smart city.”
Others believe that using 30-year old fiber optic cable technology will create a fiscal noose around the necks of citizens (see our companion article), forcing them to pay more for less, and allowing technology to pass us by.
Some say Madigan’s plan is against the law, Moore’s Law, that is. Moore’s Law is the observation that the speed and capacity of integrated circuits doubles about every two years. We see this rule everyday as we replace our slow computers, our cell phones, our TV’s, and our manual light switches and door locks.
Who can say that an expensive monopoly-priced fiber optic network won’t be obsolete before the Saratoga citizens (who are quietly being led into the agreement by the Finance Commissioner) can finish paying it off?
We all have read about the new 5G cellular networks that are coming in the next few years. 5G will provide data connection speeds up to 400 Mbytes per second. That’s four times the Internet speed we have in our homes. And the next cellular speed advance, 10G, perhaps only 5-10 years away, brings with it another 10x speed improvement.
Developing countries are not even bothering to lay fiber optic backbones. It is considered too expensive. Instead they have committed to cellular as the basis for their information infrastructure. Why then is the city considering contracting for direct fiber optic connections to all city buildings, and wired connections to lampposts, traffic lights, and sewer hole covers – 4000 connections in all? Why are India, Namibia, and Botswana looking forward in their technology plans, while Saratoga Springs looks backward?
Why has our City signed a 30-year contract for a new fiber optic transmission backbone that parallels already existing fiber optic installations in Saratoga Springs? Can our Commissioners really predict our technology future for 6 decades? They better be able to because the contract is renewable on demand after the first 30 years for another 30. Really?
Before the City Council signs all of us up for a system that could very well become the next brick sized cell-phone, dial-up Internet, or VHS tape, the Council should take a hard look at the examples of history, not the unproven claims of SiFi Networks and Commissioner Madigan.