From: Bruce Sterling <>
Subject: Viridian Note 00211: Sewerspace
To: Viridian List <>

Key concepts
broadband cable, Internet access, sewers, sewer robots, CityNet Telecommunications

Attention Conservation Notice: Almost too easy.

A New "Viridian Individual Project" from Dave Phelan (^^****) "A Viridian Blog"

"Rather than continue to inundate your mailbox with exceedingly long clippings about climate change issues, I've decided to use Blogger ( to build a weblog of Viridian-interest articles.

"I don't know how often I'll get to update it, given the hours I've been working lately, but Blogger makes it easy to do. I've put a couple of items I found interesting up already. I'll put an archive of your Viridian Notes on the site as well, when I get a moment. Regards, Dave Ph"

Source: Paul Davidson, USA TODAY

"Cable-through-sewer strategy hints of sweet smell of success

"Robots set up fiber-optic routes through pipes

By Paul Davidson USA TODAY

"The high-stakes race among phone, cable and wireless giants to offer speedy Internet service has a new entrant that likes to play dirty.

"CityNet Telecommunications aims to revolutionize the rollout of broadband services in cities by dispatching tiny robots to lay fiber-optic cables in sewer pipes. (...)

"The Silver Spring, Md.-based start-up already has agreements to run the high-speed fiber cables to commercial and apartment buildings in Indianapolis, Albuquerque and Omaha.

"It is in talks with 33 other cities, including Washington, Providence and St. Paul, Minn. The first installation in Albuquerque is to start in January.

"'This could be huge,' says Jonathan Askin of the Association of Local Telecommunications Services.

"One of the biggest obstacles to the rollout of high- speed Internet and data services is that companies must tear up city streets to lay fiber-optic cables. That increases costs, sparks lengthy battles over rights-of-way and disrupts traffic.

"Other options, such as digital subscriber lines, which combine fiber with existing coaxial or copper lines, provide slower speeds than direct fiber lines. Wireless services sometimes encounter interference because buildings get in the way of signals. (((One has to wonders why it's taken industry so long to realize the Freudian connection between sewage and cyberspace. While you're at it, why not install some biosensors and perform a mass urinalysis? Imagine the biotech convergence apps!)))

"By using sewer lines, CityNet gains access to the basement of every building without the need to rip up streets. That could cut the time and cost of fiber installation in half, industry officials say. ((Better yet, we no longer have to use the term "fiber-optic rollout." We need a new, snappy, jargonaut term for "greased, slimy insertion.")))

"CityNet plans to install the fiber, then lease it to the phone and cable companies that will offer the high- speed service. (((Okay: why flinch from the obvious implication here? If TVs are supposed to "converge" with the web, why not toilets? Turn the toilet into a workstation! This may be the breakthrough that finally brings toilets into the realm of genuine ergonomic design!)))

"'The last-mile connection to the customer is a problem for us all over the world,' says Frank Madonna, senior vice president of Global Crossing, which offers data services to big companies and is considering leasing fiber from CityNet. 'This could make a big dent in it.' (((Or something.)))

"CityNet chief Robert Berger, 46, a sewer authority commissioner and former phone industry lawyer (((if there's a difference))) realized last year that sewer lines could moonlight as conduits for fiber. 'I asked myself, 'What is the ubiquitous infrastructure underneath every city that gets you into every building basement?' Berger says. Water pipes would not work because they are pressurized and could pose health risks, he says. (((Health risks? What about the obvious health benefits? I'd gladly pay for a fiber-optic sensor net that would tell me what I'm actually drinking. The "ubiquitous" aspect is a major plus for us "ubicomp" fans.)))

"Coincidentally, a Swiss company, Ka-Te Holding, was building robots to carry out a fiber-via-sewer strategy in Hamburg, Germany, and Vienna, where pilot projects have started. (((Those of you who have ever seen German toilets have got to know this one's a winner.)))

"Berger snared $100 million in venture funding and bought 53 robotic systems from Ka-Te at $750,000 each. (((Dang! It may be a while before those babies hit the knock-off hacker market, but once they do, we can look forward to whole new levels of intrusive hacktivism.)))

"How they work:

"* Workers lower a 6-inch-wide, 36-inch-long cylindrical robot down a manhole into the sewer pipe. (((I wouldn't call that robot "tiny," would you? It's like a battering-ram.))) A nearby technician remotely controls the robot.

"* Waddling on a small set of wheels, the robot installs steel rings around the inside of the pipe every few feet. It then drags three steel conduits == casing that houses the fiber and shields it from the sewage == through the pipe and attaches them to the rings.

"* Machines propel fiber through the conduits with air pressure." (((Sign me up! And no, this effort is not a joke, and not vaporware.)))

Source: .shtml Associated Press Web posted Wednesday, October 18, 2000

"Company installing fiber optic cables in Omaha through its sewer system

"OMAHA, Neb. (AP) == A robot that looks like a cylindrical vacuum cleaner will be making its way through downtown sewers, laying fiber optic cables to improve Internet, phone and cable television service.

"The 141-pound Sewer-Access Module, or Sam, can replace obsolete copper wiring and coaxial cable in older buildings without having to drill through the walls. (((Somehow, knowing that "Sam" is on duty down there in the sewers of Middle America is giving me a warm, easy, 21st century feeling.)))

"The sewers will serve double duty as a telecommunications network.

"'I love sewer pipes,' Bob Berger, president and chief executive officer of Maryland-based CityNet Telecommunications Inc., told the Omaha World-Herald. 'They give us a uniform pathway that lets us go anywhere without tearing up the streets.' (((Ya gotta love the guy. America needs visionaries like Mr. Berger to become multimillionaires. He should be bigger than Larry Ellison.)))

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