Hard News by Russell Brown


Another Network in a Different City

Bernard Hickey is still getting responses to his Stuff blog calling for the government to step in and buy Telecom's fixed-line network, which is, according to a story by Tom Pullar-Strecker, going to be put up for sale as the consequence of an informal agreement with the government.

I'm not so sure, about a couple of things: does "fixed line network" mean only the network this side of the exchanges, leaving the trunk trunk fibre between exchanges as the basis of a Telecom wholesale business?

It's not really about one company running fibre to everyone's house; not in the next decade or two, anyway. Communities are capable of building their own access networks, local bodies can build neutral ducting so that new entrants can run fibre wherethey think there's a business -- and then there are projects like consume.net, the wireless community mesh network led by Julian Priest in London.

For these networks, you need telcos only to connect at the edges: bandwidth through the network is a matter of shared transit. It sounds like some hippy fantasy -- people put wireless access point on their roofs, thus forming a high-speed mesh in which everyone carries everyone else's traffic -- but these things are real and, in places like Spain, already covering quite large geographical areas. The picopeering agreement that governs peering and interconnection is now at 1.0 stage.

I can see such a network working well here in Point Chevalier: a contained, increasingly gentrified suburb with a long copper run to the nearest exchange, an old and degrading fixed-line network and residents on the verge of rioting over the state of their DSL service (a community meeting on the matter earlier this year was very lively). Rather than rewiring the entire suburb, you establish an interconnection point at its edge and allow wholesale competition to deliver service to that point.

Who knows how to work this stuff? Julian does -- and he lives here. He was born in Britain to a New Zealand family and has come "home" to live in Wanganui, where he aims to establish the country's first mesh network. I met him at the New Zealand Open Source Awards last week, and he struck me as someone who really wants to do something good. We should grab his expertise with both hands.

I'd be interested in any comments on both the viability of a mesh network and network strategy at the government level.

My darling and I are going to see John Cale next month and I, for one, am excited. I haven't seen him play since my birthday in London in 1986, and that was basically a not so good version of the show he played at the Gluepot in Auckland in 1983.

As a rock journalist at the time, I got to spend some time with him -- in cars, in an extended radio interview and -- oh, so blokey -- at the urinal. He was a little difficult at times, and perhaps not entirely comfortable with what he had wrought -- when Doug Hood slapped on The Clean on the car stereo, he demanded it be taken off. I think he's a bit more chilled now.

I did have the satisfaction of providing him with a recording of 'Loop', an experimental track I had on a Velvet Underground bootleg that he thought had been forever lost. Cool.

But that Gluepot show, that was something. The clarity, the stentorian voice, the artistry. I made a recording with the basic mono tape recorder I used for interviews, and played it until the tape wore out. Even Murray Cammick was moved to observe it had soul, and Murray does not use that word lightly.

My tape's long gone, but there's a fan bootleg of the show. I couldn't find any more trace of it than a couple of dead torrents, but if anyone could put me onto it, I'd be well grateful.

The recent shows sound really promising: a young band, a freakish version of 'Heartbreak Hotel', medleys worked up on the afternoon of the gig -- and a version of 'Venus in Furs'. And his belting version of LCD Soundsystem's 'All My Friends' further suggests the old bugger's in form.

We went for the old-folks version and got reserved seats in the circle of the Bruce Mason Centre. I might yet have to clamber down to the floor. A lot of people got really excited about Dylan. I'm amped for this.

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