I have to chuckle every time I remember Alexander Graham Bell’s story.
After inventing the telephone, Mr. Bell set out on a campaign to inform the nation of his wonderful new communication device. Upon visiting one of the many households on that campaign and as he extolled the virtues of telephony, he was asked by the landowner why anyone would want such a thing. To this he replied: “You could call your neighbor,” only to be rebuffed with the statement, “If I want to talk to my neighbor, I’ll ride over there and talk to him.” Well, fiber is everywhere, and has been for many, many years. As a matter of fact, every time you make a phone call (landline/VoIP or mobile) or connect to the Internet, your data travels over the telecommunications backbone at an incredible 100 Gbps! Every Netflix, Hulu, Roku and dozens of other streaming movie and television providers rely on the fiber optic backbone to deliver that content to your house and business.
Copper cable, the reason for that spinning circle on your computer screen.
Now, you might ask, “But I don’t have fiber in my house or at my business and I get Netflix?” This is true for almost everyone in the United States, but what the carriers and cable companies are not telling you is that fiber optic connectivity is in your city, every city, and that copper cable that you connect your TV to, or Internet cable modem with, is what is called “the last mile” or “local loop” in industry jargon. Put quite simply, it’s the node (the place where the fiber cable is located in your local area) and is the jump off point from the optical backbone to the copper last mile connection to you. And if you do use streaming services, it’s that copper that’s responsible for that spinning circle you see in the middle of your display screen as your program loads and every time there’s a buffering error! That familiar copper cable is a legacy technology dating back to the 1880’s, and is so outdated that in January, 2014, the FCC voted unanimously to approve the retirement of the copper-based networks. Customers are leaving traditional telephone systems in droves, in favor of voice over IP and mobile services. The FCC would like all carriers, telecom and ISPs to have either fiber or wireless networks in place by the end of 2015.