Fiber Near Futures


San Francisco Fiber Internet Map
last updated: 2013-09-01

A map of recently permitted infrastructure improvements in San Francisco that may point to enhanced networking capabilities, along with current service or pilot project areas. Click on the map above to move to google maps, and then click on the individual layers to see current permits for and for the ATT’s Uverse pilot.

Data Sources

1. SF DPW/Surface Mounted Facilities, Active Permit Map

2. SF DPW Surface Mounted Facilities Permits

3. Search for the following vendors


Using a combination of the above public data sources, and perhaps selective manual use of the FIOS/uverse/(input vendor here) web app, metro San Francisco is able to be data-mapped for service.

Vendor Notes

Some notes on ATT’s Infrastructure Improvement Plan.

All evidence points to the sunset district as the earliest-adopter neighborhood for ATT’s Uverse build-out. Specifically, the outer sunset from 45th to about 15th, centered on Kirkham should be active by now. Permits have been approved as per the map above for decent coverage of the sunset district. As of summer, 2013, permits are in-process for much of the inner mission, mission, bernal heights, and sunnyside.

Notice for permits for the new Uverse cabinets are placed on utility poles by proposed locations, with residents given ample time to comment.

The speed of the newer, post-buildout uverse service is unknown. The most useful data points would be a selection along Kirkham, as these seemed to be the first upgrades to be completed.

Speeds along Mission Street in the core business district of the Mission District, ie Mission Street between 16th and 24th street are currently max 12Mbps/line. For bonded, that is doubled to max 24Mbps.

After the infrastructure upgrade, speeds are rumored to double to 24Mpbs single, 48Mpbs bonded. This would be more in-line with Comcast business service speeds, the usual at-home internet service provider for local tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. ETA: end of 2013.

Political Notes

Of concern is that in the recent municipal elections, a credible plan to improve SF infrastructure was not mentioned once, in any race, by any candidate. This is not even an issue that candidates for the Board of Supervisors have to address! Instead, San Franciscans have to endure more fretting about public nudity and dogs off leash.

More concerning: the 5-year and 10-year infrastructure plans for the city do not even mention telecommunications, networking, wireless coverage, fiber, or use of the existing “dark” fiber network.

People, wake up. San Francisco’s status as an alpha-city in the internet economy is at-risk. San Francisco is not competitive with other high-tech locales for individual network infrastructure. The continuing lack of leadership by Mayor Ed Lee and all the current members of the Board of Supervisors may be relegating San Francisco to last-off-the-block in the US municipal fiber race. Sign the petition to make fiber broadband a priority for San Francisco!

The only action this year has been David Chiu‘s plan to allow for installation of fiber when the streets are ripped up for repair. Given his previous opposition to any gig fiber buildout, this is slightly encouraging. (However obvious.) Sadly, this is two years too late for the massive, city-wide sewer repair, and far too weak.

Chicago has a plan.

Post-Sandy New York has a plan. The massive infrastructure replacement required after “Superstorm” Sandy in 2012 mandates a fiber future.

Seattle has a plan, and an activist mayor.

Los Angeles? Sure.

Kansas City already has a plan, a working implementation, and many many many delighted residents. Right now, that mayor is sitting pretty.

The saga so far:

Fiber Last Century!

Fiber Internet Wins!!

San Francisco Supervisors vs. Fiber Internet

Fiber Last Century!

(This is a recent photo of items found while doing a once-in-a-century telecommunications infrastructure upgrade on a 100 year old SF building. Given the MPOE choices for this locale, the shaky aerials climbed, there is no doubt that the dark corners of the SF telecom system has parts that look like this or worse.)

Was: Fiber Now!

Then: Fiber Last Year!

Now: Partial Fiber Soon Maybe.

So what’s up with high speed internet in San Francisco? Wasn’t there some big hullabaloo about this last year?

In fact, there is some good news. San Francisco Beautiful’s (SFB) latest delay tactic for the all-city fiber internet rollout by ATT has been defeated. Sadly, this is not a chance to rejoice and carouse through the streets, singing so long, suckers. They will no doubt appeal, as haters always hate. And SFB has been hating for five long years and counting….

So what’s going on here?

Let’s break it down into three groups: San Francisco Beautiful, leading the opposition to a once-in-a-century telecommunications upgrade for San Francisco. The Supervisors of San Francisco. And San Francisco citizens who want broadband/home networking that is competitive with other top-tier, high-speed venues like Paris, Bucharest, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

News on the high-speed front: in the report above, is there a glimmer of hope for people who want gig internet in SF’s mission/media gulch/north/beach/haight/castro/noe/soma/etc neighborhoods? Is gonna put 200 boxes in? YES PLEASE ACCORDING TO THESE COMMENTS. Is Verizon looking to put FiOS in SF, for real? Pinch me. Again, the primary goal for SF should be to have multiple vendors providing high-speed internet services, and not limit it to one vendor. This kind of competition means lower prices and faster bandwidth. A secondary, hail-mary type goal should be to convince sonic or google to bring gig-ethernet service to the city, and stop messing around. Note, some expedited processing by the part of city government certainly helped Kansas City. Would the same help SF?

Of note: Seattle just allowed private licensing of the (public) dark fiber ring: SF has this same capability, but is not even considering these solutions. The lack of use of SF’s fiber network is even more distressing when one considers all the recent SFDPW water/sewage improvements, which ripped up streets all over the city: with effective leadership, a full fiber to the home solution could have been implemented simultaneously with the water conservation work. Wiff…. missed opportunity.

News on the supervisor front: Mad Rad Supervisor and proven Internet Champion Carmen Chu and the FUF are planning on planting a record number of trees in the Sunset district in a couple of weeks. Come on people, sign up for the “Outer Sunset” plant and help to make San Francisco REALLY Beautiful. Oh, look who helped pay for some of this beautification: ATT. LOL. Now, I will go cry over a glass of wine….

And bringing up the rear: San Francisco Beautiful. INTERNET DEATH EATER. Stick to the Mission Mural Restoration project and give up on attacking internet infrastructure already. What has to be done to get you to stop harassing San Francisco residents who want better internet? What has to be done to get you to live up to the “livability” part of your mission statement?

The saga so far:

Fiber Near Futures

Fiber Internet Wins!!

San Francisco Supervisors vs. Fiber Internet

Fiber Internet Wins!!!

At approximately 4:45PST, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to affirm the exemption determination for AT&T’s once-in-a-century telephone infrastructure upgrade project, aka “Project Lightspeed.” This means that AT&T can now start to implement their plan to upgrade the telecom infrastructure in the city, with the goal of delivering higher-speed 24Mbs DSL service within all San Francisco districts. AT&T also calls this as “Uverse” which can be any combination of television, telephone, and internet.

The final proposal seems to allow 495 cabinets to be installed throughout the city of San Francisco by AT&T. Multiple potential sites for each cabinet location are to be evaluated. When AT&T seeks an excavation permit from the DPW, besides doing the usual permit stuff, DPW will also notify that site’s supervisor. Then, that supervisor signs an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with AT&T regarding the site, or one of the alternative sightings are considered. Something like that: the specific details seem fuzzy. There seems to be a formal and sane DPW appeals process, and a  my-supervisor-is-crazy-curve-ball appeals process.

Voting against were the following sorry lot of supervisors, with their comments below.

District 1: Eric Mar

District 3: David Chiu

District 5: Ross Mirkarimi

District 6: Jane Kim

District 11: John Avalos

Note to the supervisors listed above: I will be voting against you in future elections, geography permitting, and consider your conduct in this matter anti-internet, anti-technology, anti-jobs: death eaters, all! Here are specific comments.

Mirkarimi: Against this for 2+ years. I don’t understand the process outlined in the MOU. Is this a back-door in the city planning process? Voting against, and in addition tried to defer decision for a fourth time to September 6th.

Mar: AT&T community engagement much improved. They scaled back from 726 to 495 locations, shows improvement. AT&T pays 5% tax on video profits to the city for the right to have boxes taking up city space providing the city/state a utility like telecom. Should that be increased for more boxes? Decreased for fewer boxes? Protect public space. Voting against.

Kim: Confused here. Starts with: “this is not about competition.” Then mentions that many constituents in SoMa want more companies providing internet connectivity and television. Unlike the present situation, with a Comcast monopoly.  Then she gets a couple of thank-yous in, and gets less confused. AT&T did great community outreach. Then she gets confused again: At what number is there a significant impact? Pedestrian safety! Pedestrians complain about the palm trees on 6th street. Voting against.

Chiu: AT&T phase one is 495 cabinets, and then have to confer for up to 231 additional cabinets in any phase two. He wonders about the six years the board of supervisors have been discussing this, and the way technology has changed. (Implying that the technology can be re-engineered by our now-smarter future selves?) Also brings up placement of the boxes on private property. Voting against.

Shouts out to Elsbernd for getting real about this and his unequivocal support from the beginning, and for Wiener for voting yes and the dialogue with AT&T, even if he did delay this vote three times and three months. All good in the end! Scott Wiener’s note explaining his vote is an excellent read, and clearly states the issues: recommended.

This marks the end of a nearly 2.5 year saga whereby AT&T tries to do a network upgrade and the SF Board of Supervisors resists. See San Francisco Board of Supervisors vs. Fiber Internet for some background.

Addendum. Not so fast, apparently. San Francisco Beautiful strikes again, and launches a new legal initiative, which will no doubt delay this project once again. The situation is a bit more nuanced, with ATT on the attack on another front: wireless antenna improvements, aka Project Snail-speed. This second front is also under attack by SF Beautiful and the likely battleground is the Board of Supes at some point, so stay tuned. In addition, ATT is making the tie between good wired infrastructure and better wireless infrastructure explicit with this microcell product. This kind of do-it-yourself-with-our-help-and-network is common in the southland to fix up cellular network holes and dead spots.

When will San Francisco have 100Mbit or gig fiber internet available to the majority of residents, with a choice of providers? Sebastopol, CA, anybody? Canarsie, NY, anybody? Kansas City? Hello?

We built this shit.

The saga so far:

Fiber Near Futures

Fiber Last Century

San Francisco Supervisors vs. Fiber Internet

San Francisco Board of Supervisors vs. Fiber Internet

“What is this, Mumbai?” Said by a visiting Canadian engineer while looking out my study window in the Mission.

Regarding the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting about the plan to install 726 utility boxes, as required to implement ATT’s plan to roll out high-speed internet citywide. Both video and minutes will be available at some point in the future.

My statement for the board, submitted to the clerk:

Statement for the board of supervisors, San Francisco concerning woeful internet infrastructure.

As a San Francisco resident, I am concerned about the present state of our communications infrastructure. In my professional career, I interact with many software engineers all over the world. When they visit San Francisco, one of the items that invariably comes up is our woeful internet infrastructure.

How can it be, visiting engineers will ask, can the city minutes from the heart of Silicon Valley, with Google, Twitter, all of media gulch, have both poor wireless capability for mobile devices and ancient DSL? In Europe, “regular” DSL, nothing fancy and available for ~$40 a month, is capable of 18Mbps downstream, and 2 Mbps up. This includes free VOIP, digital television, and more. But let’s just concentrate on bandwidth capability, regardless of cost.

A San Francisco resident is hard-pressed to find such bandwidth, at any price, in San Francisco proper. There are three obvious choices for wired, residential high-speed internet in SF:

1) Verizon FIOS. This is only available in SF’s Financial District, and in select parts of Mission Bay.

2) Comcast coax-fiber hybrid. For just internet alone, this would be around $120. Some companies are pooling employees and negotiating better rates, but this is not an option for the rest of the public.

3) ATT Uverse fiber. This is not available in SF due to past issues, see 2008 attempt. The highest-bandwidth Uverse in SF is Plain Old Copper DSL and stuck at 6Mbps maximum.

High speed internet access is vital for collaborative software development, and sadly San Francisco is not competitive with cities such as Austin, Chicago, and New York in the United States, and Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and London in Europe, or Seoul, Tokyo, and Bangalore in Asia.

Allowing ATT to proceed with its Uverse installation in SF would be a small step to help restore competitiveness. And a welcome sign. I would like to see the SF Board of Supervisors go much further, and allow all three network providers equal access to San Francisco property owners, with the end goal to make San Francisco a true world competitor in internet infrastructure, with all residents having access to highest-bandwidth internet from multiple providers.

Once that was properly filed, I sat in the lovely meeting room in City Hall and tried not to fidget during a four hour plus meeting. Free WiFi vs. rather austere bench seating. Mostly I just listened, but I jotted some notes down on my phone. These notes are only on the first four hours.

Speaker list: how do people get on this list. Some confusion about who is speaking for and against the boxes.

CEQA? Environmental regulation that may apply to this roll-out, if San Francisco Beautiful’s appeal is successful.

SF fiber coalition member says: bring pure fiber to home! Long term strategy for bandwidth lacking. USA is 30th in the world, San Francisco Bay Area even worse. Who cares about 24Mbps maximum when Tokyo has Hikari-Fiber and 100Mbps. Who cares about 24Mbps maximum when Google is putting 1Gbps in Kansas City, Kansas. Agreed! And is putting gig ethernet in Sebastopol, much closer to home. founder says this ATT plan is antiquated, need fiber to the home not neighborhood. Microtrenching. Classic SF tech slacker look. Right on!!

Some issues with side-walk right of way for existing Muni and Telecom boxes as well as traffic signaling equipment. Will Muni upgrades also force an environmental impact review? Even bike racks are a cause of blight? Wow. San Francisco Beautiful may have overstepped with that one… one can pick on the geeks all you want, but the bicyclists in this town…. they will cut you. Need for some kind of planning process for side-walks?

New DSL equipment is to be placed within 300 feet of existing SAI cabinets for ATT services. DPW makes undergrounding decisions on an ad hoc basis, each site is unique. Size requirement increases if underground due to OSHA regulations, 8 by 12 to 13 feet if undergrounding as opposed to 4 by 4 by 2. Planning and DPW assume worst case placement when they reviewed the proposal, in that they assume all boxes will be placed above ground and in the public right of way. This may end up not being the case.

ATT notes: actually .005% of side-walk space used by new fiber utility boxes…

A lot of comments about “undergrounding.” This is when the fiber utility box goes underground, and is not located at the street or side-walk level.

President Chiu had a crazy comment about how he used to work for a startup making servers and “servers get smaller every day,” which he extrapolated to mean that the ATT boxes should be re-engineered again. You know, smaller. Uh huh. Clearly has never seen the inside of a telco or network operations center.

DPW should review existing cabinets on a yearly basis and take into account the current state of technology. If new technology creates opportunity to reclaim public space then it should be pursued. If the cabinets are obsolete then the DPW guidelines enforce removal.

What do other jurisdictions do? Do they underground? In some circumstances, yes. What about SF?

DPW says, case by case. For instance, permits around pacbell park, around 3rd street will most certainly be underground. Muni has indicated that these sidewalks are already at capacity on game days so this is a place where undergrounding would be required.

Historical districts also merit special consideration. Keeping out of historical areas due to past opposition. Let the locals who wannabe Amish read newspapers that the pony express messengers couriered via saddlebag from the East Coast! My people.

Lisa Gibson. Planning Department. Hero. We are not aware of other companies who are going to try and do a citywide roll-out of telecom equipment requiring new utility boxes.

Jane Kim asks, “how many other utility structures currently exist in the city?”

DPW/Gibson: Do not know.

Kim: Cannot quantify? Estimate?

DPW: Thousands and thousands. One street light every 150 feet. Do the math…. Will get count and get back to you. Plus PG&E, water, other city utilities.

ATT upgrade biggest in one century. 75 million dollars. Union labor. Franchise fees to city treasuries. Simply the first step in a long permitting process, each neighborhood gets further review as the plan gets rolled out.

Undergrounding. Lot size comes into play. OSHA requirements for safe spaces.

ATT notes DPW surface mounting guidelines in SF are most detailed and restrictive in the nation.

CEQA lawyer. Same for traffic equipment. No previous CEQA review issues. Installs in 260 other California municipalities, all subject to CEQA, no EIR required for vast majority, only 4 or 5 required CEQA EIR, none of the reviews had actionable issues.

ATT indicated they were prepping for a block by block fight for approval. No doubt San Francisco Beautiful will give it to them.

All in all, I would be more impressed with San Francisco Beautiful if it would focus a bit more time on its stated rationale of “public art” and “ending blight” and less on being crazy high-speed internet obstructionists. Clearly, there is a need for a proactive solution for the utility box graffiti problem: maybe a better solution that would work for the whole city would be to have neighborhood arts organizations take over these new expanses and make something cool (subject to the environmental/temperature constraints needed for the utility box contents). Places like Southern Exposure and Mission Cultural Center in the Mission, Mollusk in the Sunset, Park Life in the Richmond, Luggage Store on Market, White Walls in the Tenderloin, etc.

Sigh. Maybe not Herb Caen’s “Board of Stupidvisors,” but certainly not a city that works.

Addendum One: SF Appeal‘s effort at reporting this. And SF Citizen‘s write up. Personal fave and rad internet video news experimental host Melissa Griffin agrees, in a necessary telecom conversation. Since fiber is a dream, indie net is concentrating on high-speed microwave links., rocking free WiFi in the Mission in 2010, also microwave links. Webpass, another option for SF residents (microwave links?). Some background info: San Francisco Government’s Fiber Study. Another proposal for a multi-vendor use plan for San Francisco’s fiber infrastructure from FTTH . PBS has a great short covering some background on this issue, see Need to Know: High Fiber. There is also a report from Harvard’s Berkman Center that attempts to provide a world-wide comparison of internet speeds, ranking the US in “broadband” and adding a “next-generation broadband” category to help clarify an often-overloaded term.

Addendum Two: the saga continues.

Fiber Internet Wins!!!

Fiber Last Century!

Fiber Near Futures