Fast Talking Techno-Pitch Man Tries to Sell Council Sack of Magic Cyber-Beans

Council member Mr. Dick Jones was caught drooling yesterday at the idea of using taxpayer funds to create a massive fiber optic nightmare to compete against local businesses and bring high-speed Internet connections to our supposedly media-starved school children. A presentation was made to the council by smooth-talking Paul Stover of the Technology Working Group to deploy a 37-mile fiber-optic loop buried shallowly underneath major Fullerton traffic arteries. Mr. Jones seized upon the idea of becoming his own telecom corporation, using taxpayer resources to launch Fullerton into the high-risk world of the telecommunications business. Despite his lack of experience in the telecom industry and without surrendering a moment to ponder the idea, Mr. Jones eagerly pronounced “I’m ready to sign up!”

In the corporate world, responsible executives must keep a tight reign on their computer geeks, who are easily coaxed by fast-talking technology salesmen into spending other people’s money to buy themselves fancy new toys. Mr. Jones and the rest of the council should always be wary when IT salesmen throw around meaningless buzzwords like “Futureproof” and “knowledge workers” in an attempt to justify fabulous new financial ventures deep into the territory of private enterprise.

Council member Shawn Nelson got started with some important questions, but the council needs to go much deeper. These are the questions you should be asking TWG and ISMS (the consulting company who conveniently recommended themselves to manage the proposed system). Vague, assumptive or misdirecting answers should not be accepted.

1. Should we make a long-term investment into a rapidly-depreciating commodity? The cost of bandwidth has been falling by orders of magnitude for the last 15 years and is expected to fall even faster as ISPs trip over each other to deliver high-definition video to every home in America over the next few years. Is that the low-margin business that the City of Fullerton should enter? Or perhaps we should position ourselves to benefit from the fruits of this new competitive marketplace by leaving ourselves open to the most efficient solution utilizing commercial economies of scale that a city can never achieve by itself.

2. Do our children really need gigabit Internet connections at school? Some of our teachers seem to be very interested in bringing more bandwidth into our schools to fill our children’s mind with the best videos that the Internet has to offer. For as far back as I can remember, projectors, VHS and DVDs were used by lazy schoolteachers as babysitters in the classroom when they don’t feel like actually teaching. Will Internet video be any different? Why are these teachers so quick to outsource themselves to a video professor?

3. Why does the network have to be physically owned by the city? ISMS disingenuously implies that their giant list of potential uses for this fiber network can only be achieved if Fullerton owns the physical medium. That is completely false – any and all of these technologies could be run over network access provided by the marketplace on an as-needed basis.

4. Will Fullerton really be able to re-sell portions of the network to businesses? Mr. Jones clearly became enamored with the idea, but the TWG spokesman downplayed it and suggested that it was merely a possibility. Almost all businesses have connectivity needs that go beyond the borders of a single city and would be wary in signing up for government-run service in a competitive marketplace.

5. What are the risks of microtrenching the new cable? Microtrenching is a newer cable distribution method which only buries the cable about a foot under the surface of our roads instead of digging large trenches. Are there any long-term reliability studies of this new technique? If we lay 37 miles of cable over the top of our existing utilities, what are the increased costs when we have to do maintenance to our gas lines, sewer lines, water mains and street surfaces?

Mr. Jones may be easily bedazzled by big words, flashing lights and his own jokes, but the rest of the council should be wise enough to ask the right questions before taxpayers are sold on this so-called Fiber Field of Dreams.

Big Brother Fullerton City Council

22 thoughts on “Fast Talking Techno-Pitch Man Tries to Sell Council Sack of Magic Cyber-Beans

  1. Great post and timely. I especially love the point about lazy teachers using video entertainment to avoid real teaching.

    But everybody has been indroctrinated into thinking that magic computers can save education. So we get to pay for hardware that enriches contractors.

  2. Travis, I’d like to know more about this “Technology Working Group.” There are city employees on this committee who may be promoting something not in the public interest.

    Also I wonder what it takes to get on this committee. Paul Stover’s day job is fundraiser so he’s a professional pitchman (even if his presentation was lousy). I’d like to why he’s qualified to talk about telecom issues at all – especially to a bunch of techno-igs.

    Lot’s of questions…at least Nelson’s got the sense to offer some sales resisitance.

  3. oh and BTW, are any of these committee members required to file form 700 (financial interest forms) with the State?

  4. Right On, Scooter!

    WiFi is no more a savior of education than TV was back in the ’50s.

    What the kids really need in the classroom is less electronic interaction (they get plenty at home) & more human interaction with an engaged and caring human adult. (i.e. teacher).

  5. elementary teachers love vast sources of internet knowledge because they lack it. take a close look at the background of your child’s teacher. I wouldnt be surprised if many of them got degrees in the big print majors like liberal arts, psychology, sociology or child development. education not technology needs to be upgraded

  6. I wonder how many teachers actually got degrees from accreditied colleges. But we digress.

    The issue here is why the City wants to get into this area at all. We know idiots like Dr. HeeHaw are in love with the idea of government revenue, but really, who is crying out for this?

    My main concern is that this committee is being used to promote a staff-driven agenda; or, even worse there is an economic interest that is behind it; or both.

  7. A big government concept, “we build it, they will come”. It’s a proven fact, let government tool with the “free” market and “free” people loose their jobs, creating more government jobs, that’s called socialism.

  8. I think having a fiber link around Fullerton linking City buildings and educational facilities is a GREAT idea.

    We built public roads for private cars, public water supply for private properties and other public/private ventures.

    The thought of LESS computers in school is NON SENSE! That’s like saying we should stay with stone tablets and cave walls over books. Wake up, the world is changing. EVERYTHING is connected or will be and those that don’t embrace the change will continue painting on cave walls and digging ditches.

    We need to lift our kids to a level BEYOND us not EQUAL with us.

    If kids don’t learn the real world and the way we communicate worldwide, we will be run over in this world economy.

    Also, the ‘stimulus’ bill is passed and the money will be spent with or without our opinions. We should take what we can get.

  9. Jack, allow me to address your points:

    1. We do not build public roads where they already exist. The private sector can provide more than enough bandwidth to meet city needs without the risk or up-front cost.

    2. This has little to do with computers in school – this is about massive amounts of unjustified, unused Internet bandwidth being available to our children at your expense. Do you want your children watching videos while they should be learning from a real live teacher? Internet video, like VHS and DVD, can be supplemental to education, but it is not fundamental.

    3. Stimulus funding for this type of project is a pipe dream, as we will find out at the next stage.

  10. Travis…

    I know it may be hard to believe, but at one time, public roads did not exist to handle vehicular traffic. They were BUILT by municipalities as a means of allowing private drivers to travel.

    If the private sector can provide enough bandwidth for the populace, then why can I only get 5MB/s down when other, fibered communities get 80-100MB? Why do I have to get in my car or have a car deliver a DVD to my house when I should be able to download it immediately. And this is only what is available now. There are many other benefits of high bandwidth connections as well and many more we haven’t even considered yet.

    And, YES, I think students should have everything at their fingertips including high bandwidth access. Extreme access, because they can benefit from access to everything available including video.

    Students SHOULD have access to video as it can be an effective teaching tool. To consider a real live teacher more beneficial without access to millions of online assets is short sighted. This isn’t TV where you have to turn on the TV at a set time, this on demand. Want to hear a professor discuss thermodynamic water supplies, you can. If you want to watch the dissection of a flower stamen, you can. See, not every teacher has that knowledge or presentation skills, but with the internet it’s there.

    Look down the line. WE, our society as we know it, is changing. We have IMMEDIATE access to information. Whether it’s sports stats or a map of the human nervous system, we can access that immediately. If you can remember back a SHORT 10 years when we had to go to the library and look up info in a few hours. Today, we can get it in seconds at our finger tips. Remember Yellow Pages? Obsolete. Remember 411? Obsolete. Remember busy signals? Obsolete. Remember Thomas Guide? Obsolete. Get the picture? Heck, I can see books becoming obsolete at sometime too.

    We need to PREPARE our kids for the future and the future is connected. They need to be connected. It’s just the way it is. They will build our future, we need to give them the tools to build their brains and ideas. It may be hard to wrap your head around this, but with the flood of information the new generation is already growing way more brain connections then we have. What we consider “busy” and “overwhelming”they will consider a fact of life. Feed the student’s and they will lead the world.

  11. Oh forgot one thing; I believe internet access is a fundamental as books. Either embrace it now or play catch up later.

  12. Extreme access? Really? We’re talking about grade school children, not high school seniors. They don’t discuss thermodynamic water supplies – they are learning to read and do basic math.

    I am not taking a Luddite position that kids should not have access to computers – my point is that younger children need to focus on the basic foundations of education so that they will be able to fully take advantage of technology as they mature and specialize.

    Even so, the TWG has convinced you that the only way to get high speed access is by laying our own fiber right next to the telecom fiber. This is false. Stick around as we uncover the details.

  13. Let me get this straight. Jack B. Nimble……well he isn’t, because he isn’t paying for his own high speed internet access. As a result he is under the impression that grade school children should have this wonderful COMMODITY….one which last I checked is NOT afforded in the U.S. Constitution.

    Right. This makes perfect sense. Let’s spend millions to equip a school with what can only be portrayed as mediocre technology, rather than making a smart decision and using the existing technology. I am trying to figure out why these grade students must be “wired IN” at all times.

    If the answer is to teach them, then eliminate the brick and mortar school houses all together. You see that my friend Jack B. Nimble is THE wave of the future for secondary education. Why pay teachers salaries when, well we can pay one expert to deliver a lecture for the masses? All we need is a few video screens and a few proctors in large rooms and BAM we can take care of all the Science Teachers EVER needed to teach science, math, reading, writing.

    Still want the “wave of the future” Jack? Because that is a LOT of influence on the populace isn’t it…..once person teaching those subjects has tremendous influence on perception, and free thought.

    (For that matter think of how much money the state can earn by selling off the land by which these institutions use… could really help pay off some debt.)

    But let’s stay NIMBLE and on point here. 🙂

    Why wouldn’t the district consider contracting out this service to a cell company in order to have wifi without the necessity of hard wiring in this old technology? That’s pretty, “forward thinking” isn’t it, almost… well NIMBLE. There would be no contract to throw pipes in the ground that will be useless in 10 years, once the rest of the industry moves to wireless technology.

    Norby, I am sure you will enjoy this post, as I do hold a valid teaching credential, a masters in edumacation and have just solved the state’s budget crisis in one post. Is there anything else you need advice on? Maybe I should run for office. 🙂

  14. I AM talking about grade school kids. I know that many people in our generation lean on their experience in education as a baseline. But we have to remember things were different when we were in grade school. Incidentally, I had a computer lab in 7th grade, abet a primitive one. If I had a computer on my desk with with high speed access THROUGHOUT school, I’m sure I would have grown into technology instead of working to keep up with it.

    The thought of internet access as a luxury is gone; it is a necessity. And it is a great necessity in education where we are grooming the next generation to compete on the world stage and that happens in real time and connected.

    I have not been convinced by the TWG of anything, this is my independent thoughts and beliefs. The TWG agrees with ME. Also, I was privy to where all the fiber and dark fiber is within Fullerton in 2004 and further know that is is difficult, if not impossible to find out who ‘owns’ it and how we can tap into it and utilize it. If you ‘uncover’ the details, I’d like to see what you come up with.

    During the presentation by the TWG, they mentioned connecting the City buildings first (Fire Stations) while looping in educational facilities. Imagine if we could use the fiber loop as a back haul for municipal wireless where fire captains can watch real time video of a incident or sewer maintenance could stream real time video to City Hall for review. This is bigger than providing me with high speed internet for my torrents.

    Check out the links below which a quick YouTube search revealed. One where a 9 year old is programming iPhone apps and another kids create games. In one of them, a 2.5 year old problem solves and practices interacting with a computer. You CAN learn, prove a point or even educate without a teacher in the room; Go figure… and thank your connection to the ‘net.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5Nw1nVNfVw

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byvnMNaR2jk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcS2CPrYUdY

  15. Mr Lame,

    I understand your position as it is the position of most people unfamiliar with technology. To even CONSIDER cell technology to replace fiber is LUDICROUS! And, this, in and of itself, tells me your lack of knowledge on the subject. So I will not flame you for it (you’ll need this link: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=flame).

    On a more elementary subject, the constitution DOES require us to “…encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.” I suggest “all sustainable means” to include internet access and computer education. So, Mr Lame, it IS in the constitution and we SHALL have internet in every school in our state!

    I don’t want to eliminate the use of brick and mortar schools because I believe students learn social skills when attending school. On this note, you will notice that there are many ‘online’ schools for higher education as adults don’t really go to school for the social aspects as children do. As a matter of fact, “online enrollments have been growing substantially faster
    than overall higher education enrollments. The expectation of academic leaders has been that these
    enrollments would continue their substantial growth for at least another year.

    • Almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term; a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
    • The 9.7 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.5 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
    • Nearly twenty percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2006.”

    So you were correct in your facetious posting that we could remove the schools. It is a viable option for adult education and is in process of happening, but for children, I think the social aspects and life lessons are too important to remove the schools all together.

    On your note about obsolescence of fiber in 10 years, I have news for you. With technology, everything becomes obsolete in 10 years. Heck, think of your cell phone 10 years ago or your email address 10 years ago (oh, you probably didn’t have one as you thought that was going to be an obsolescent fad the kids are doing).

    The TWG presentation I saw called for the pulling of 3 fiber bundles which would allow for expansion; SIGNIFICANT expansion. One fiber could deliver 1000MBs. To give you an idea, your cell phone uses

  16. (continued from previous post…)

    The TWG presentation I saw called for the pulling of 3 fiber bundles which would allow for expansion; SIGNIFICANT expansion. One fiber could deliver 1000MBs. To give you an idea, your cell phone uses

  17. (continued from previous post…)

    The TWG presentation I saw called for the pulling of 3 fiber bundles which would allow for expansion; SIGNIFICANT expansion. One fiber could deliver 1000MBs. To give you an idea, your cell phone uses less than 100k and your DSL is at 1-2MBs. There are many fibers in a bundle so do the math.

    I am also familiar with wireless technologies and really like the theory behind it, but every wireless system requires a back-haul; or point where it connects to the internet. You see, wireless can get pretty fast (and when I say wireless, I don’t mean cellular, 3G, CDMA; I mean wireless Ethernet) but it has to connect somewhere and that is usually where things bottle neck. With the fiber loop, that bottle neck will be circumvented and we will be able to support many users regardless of their location.

    What type of wireless are you suggesting will prevail? I am interested to hear your argument for fiber being eclipsed by wireless. Are you suggesting we just wait for 10 years so we won’t have obsolete equipment? What do we do in the interim? Educate our students to perform well in ten years ago?

  18. OMG, You think the connectivity and the internet leads to LESS independent thought? Wow. Really? When, at the click of a button, you can read about why the US should be all white or why God is the devil or why donuts are good for you. Heck, if that isn’t free thought, I don’t know what is!

    Remember, being connected is a double eged swoard. Yes, you can be shown things by your ‘proctor’ but you can also search for things on your own.

    I would argue that the current educational paradigm allows for MORE influence on the populace because you are given books to read and a person to talk to. You cannot go outside of that to disprove any theories. But with connectivity in every school, a pupil could, VIA FREE THOUGHT, research the issue on the internet, complete with pros, cons and even plain ol’ misinformation. Then think for himself the theories relativity and application.

    Are you REALLY SERIOUS that access to more information would lead to “influence on perception, and free thought.”? If you do, don’t run my school district or even my government. I do think you might have a place in religion, though.

  19. Fascinating.

    It really is amazing to me when people want to WANT something so badly they can convince themselves that it is a necessity. Then when someone comes along to point out the inane thought process behind wanting something….well we just extrapolate wherever we want to throw rocks when we disagree.

    So let’s see if we can stay Nimble in mind here.

    1. I used the “computer” to look up some definitions here.

    a. Encourage – to promote, advance, or foster
    b. Suitable – Proper; fitting; becoming; accordant; agreeable; competent; correspondent; compatible; consonant; congruous; consistent.
    c. Means – To intend to convey or indicate
    d. Promotion – furtherance or encouragement
    e. Intellectual – an extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings.

    Words have meaning. Most of them when put together with any thought communicate concepts and ideas. However much someone may WANT the Constitution to say something for their purpose, the point of the document was to prevent such a case. The point of this passage is to convey that the government was supposed to GET OUT OF THE WAY from those that are attempting to govern in areas they should not be allowed to. This was not to impute upon the populous the demand of educating the nation. No it was so that inventors, intellectuals and the like could remain so without government interference. Huh wow come to think of it who wrote the Constitution? Oh that’s right the intellectuals of the time, and those who would indeed help our nation begin a course where the gov’t stayed out of the way of progress… instead of legislating progress out of our freedoms. (Which is something we are experiencing today.)

    But I doubt this point will fall upon ears that are willing to hear, no most ears lately seem to be attached to hands extended outward with palm facing up in the hopes of receiving rather than giving something back to society.

    2. “On Demand Internet is Necessary” Really… if you are a teacher that needs “on demand internet” in order to convey decent teaching principals… then you need to find another profession. I can think of numerous excellent teachers that convey the concepts and points they are teaching without the need for the internet to assist.(by the way here is a dirty little secret for the non education world, take a look at Oakwood Academy one of the most prestigious schools in the U.S… they don’t use the internet NEARLY as much as say “Fullerton High School”..huh go figure.) Have a looksee at their college statistics compared to other schools with access.

    3. Students are using their access to information to cheat at much more alarming rates than before. Think about that… dwell on that. The writing quality is not increasing it is actually decreasing.

    4. The rise in ADD students can be directly linked to your child playing with an iphone at such an early age in order to have, “on demand” entertainment at all times……..ummmm last I checked anyone wanting to lead a Nimble life, doesn’t have to be entertained at all times. They can actually think for themselves every now and then.

    5. Yes I do think that connectivity leads to less independent thought. The examples that you provided prove my point. Just because I can look up information does not indeed make me have independent thought. It is the capacity to form that perception ON MY OWN. Which is the point of education. This may come as a shocker to you, but the education field has completely ditched the notion that we are to teach students how to think for themselves. Because of voters like YOU we now have “standards” to teach to. These standards amount to “information” the same information that I can find in my pocket via 3g from my phone. The same information that is available to every child in school who has one of these new fandangled devices. I was recently told by my district, “we don’t teach students how to think anymore, we teach to the standards.” Now that my friends SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME! Think about this. If all we do is teach our students how and where to find information, we are FAILING, we need to teach them the ability to THINK FOR THEMSELVES.

    6. I am not allowed to run your schools or your city, I don’t qualify under the “state guidelines” for who is considered “worthy” to run such institutions. If I did run your schools they would look very different, and be profitable as well.

    7. I noticed that you take a shot at religion,assume that I am racist, as well as you think you are in control of your own government. Hilarious! Understand that even though someone might be Nimble, they still live under the Constitution of the United States, which is a REPUBLIC……NOT a Democracy as many of your influential wifi loving teachers would have you believe. When it comes to the racist statement….well that’s exactly what I would expect from someone who doesn’t know how to think for themselves…..but hey you got to look it up on the internet and take a look at both sides right! LOL Good ole Wifi to help you out!

    In closing to take a shot at religion….well now that really is interesting, any other issues you want to disclose on a public forum? Let me know when you would like to have a cup of coffee and enjoy actual free thought. I would love the opportunity!

    Have a wonderful day.

  20. Hi Lame,

    Your perception is different than mine. I live in an online business world and I see the landscape though my experience. I have also been involved in my community since my teens. I do understand the need for LESS government and government competing with private companies. I do feel a fiber loop (which is the point of this discussion) could be adventitious to our City as a whole due to the reasons I previously described.

    You wrote “I can think of numerous excellent teachers that convey the concepts and points they are teaching without the need for the internet to assist”. I agree there are teachers of this caliber, but this doesn’t mean we should limit access to additional information. I am CERTAIN that when books became available in our society, there were the same arguments you have made; Too much influence from the author, teachers can still teach without, we don’t need it, it’s a luxury not a requirement.

    The use of the internet as a teaching tool is fantastic. It allows a teacher to communicate with their students in a manner they consume regularly. To illustrate; a 15 minute video of how to prepare a car for paint could be better communicated than a printed book with illustrations. You have to see the benefit, don’t you?

    Also, to your point of ADD. I neither agree or disagree, I only ask this; Do you want limit a child’s use of such communication devices because they might develop ADD? If so, HOW would you suggest they compete in the world markets if they don’t have the communication skills needed? Or would you treat communication devices like cigarettes, available after 18 years old?

    I want to be clear that I in NO WAY assume you are racist or religious. The examples I quoted where to illustrate the diverse options and “free” thought rifled throughout the ‘net.

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