Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Debating Schuyler's Siren Song Column

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Debating Schuyler's Siren Song Column

Article excerpt


Here are my comments on "Siren Song of Fiber" from 10/2003 (p. 26):

The title is appropriate, since just the word fiber in the technical context does arouse a certain visceral reaction and emotional fascination. It just sounds so "cool" how could anyone resist?

While much of what is said in the article it true and useful, when you get to the Section "Fiber Is Inevitable," Elvis leaves the building. I view this as a mixture of wishful thinking, tech fascination, and pure pie in the sky.

Claims of video on demand, super-fast Internet, local broadcast, radio, and dial tone over fiber have been made time and time again. "Get what you want, when you want it, and how you want it" has been prophesied and promised going way back in to the early 1980s. I was in the operating room to witness the birth of the Apple II, the TRS-80, the Atari PC, and later the IBM PC. In general, all the enthusiastic predictions have failed because of political, technical, and huge financial issues. While fiber has taken over from copper for long-haul and large-pipe needs, the last-mile problem will probably not be addressed in our lifetime. The cost alone is frightening.

With properly configured routers and WANs, distance conferencing works very nicely over copper ATM T-1 connections. The ND [North Dakota] K-12 system is fully equipped with current state-of-the-art H.323 distance learning technologies, along with a whole bunch of analog distance learning hardware, which after 12 years in use, works just dandy. Much to the chagrin of the digital pundits, it still outperforms most of the new digital stuff.

The state digital backbones are fiber, certainly, but nearly every inch of the last mile of K-12 connections are ATM T-1 copper. North Dakota is a rural state, the idea of fiber everywhere is pie in the sky because of the cost in relation to the extremely low subscriber-per-mile counts. Of course if you as a Washington resident want to subsidize fiber here in North Dakota via federal taxes and grants, cool!

If everything has an IP address and is hooked to a fiber network, just think of the trouble that a well-crafted worm or virus can cause. I have a colleague that works in [an] office building with IP phones. Several times they have had to shut down the phone system because of attacks coming via IP.

It doesn't matter where anything is physically? My service can come from anywhere? I already fight that battle almost daily. …

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