Shining light on dark fiber, other broadband networks | 9/6/2018 | Staff
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Only a couple of months after they were installed in 2016, New York City decided to cut off internet access to a series of "smart city" kiosks it built to replace old telephone booths after homeless people monopolized them with such socially unpleasant activities as watching pornography and listening to loud music.

According to a new paper co-authored by Associate Professor of Film & Media Studies Germaine Halegoua, skirmishes like those over LInkNYC "configure how the internet and the city street are and are not public, who is and is not supposed to be using these utilities, and who gets to decide their use." They write that this sort of failure of imagination plagues planners of both the visible parts of the internet infrastructure, like the kiosks, as well as the unseen and publicly unmapped expanses of "dark fiber" backbone network that are buried throughout America.

Article - June - New - Media - Society

In an article published in June in the journal New Media & Society, Halegoua and her co-author, University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor Jessa Lingel, write that during the 1990s, when much of the current internet infrastructure was built, network operators overestimated the rate at which demand for connectivity would grow. Thus they laid many thousands of miles of glass fibers in underground conduits that have remained unused, or "unlit," all these years later. That capacity is buried, out of sight and out of the public mind.

In contrast, some recent so-called smart-city efforts to distribute internet access through kiosks, wireless and fiber networks strive for visibility and public access.

Authors - Study - Decisions - Networks - Title

The authors say their study "interrogates the social and material decisions about where networks are, who they are for and how they are accessed." Its title is "Lit up and left dark: Failures of imagination in urban broadband networks."

For the portion of the study involving the LinkNYC kiosks, Lingel...
(Excerpt) Read more at:
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