After living in the Austin Texas area since 1985, and watching the onset of so many technological changes and advancements as they unfold before my very eyes, I really had begun to believe that Austin Texas was truly what they have often called "The New Silicon Valley". Now, after many years hear, and after reviewing what other large cities offer, I am beginning to think that I might have been wrong! Maybe, just maybe Austin Texas is NOT the new Silicon Valley!
I moved here around 1985, back when Burnet Road was the edge of town, and 183N became a highway at that point. You really didn't see much driving beyond Burnet Road until you got up near what was then 183N and FM620. Now, FM620 is RR620. (FM - Farm-to-Market road / RR - Rural Route) The city was growing, and technology was coming online!
This was the season of dial-up access through services like TYMNET and TELENET, DELPHI and CompuServe. UNIX was just beginning to become popular, and in fact was now available for the PC, running under the name "XENIX". And it was here, in Austin Texas, where I had my first encounter at working with UNIX. I set up a multi-user system that I built for a law firm client, running the SCO-XENIX Development System, which means that it had "everything" they had to offer for that release! It had email, UUCP (this was before the Internet's popularity), dial-out, dial-in, tape backup, etc. and I was but a hungry mind with a vast resource now that I could learn in! It was wonderful!
As UNIX became more available for PC's, it grew in popularity, and about that time was the release of an OS that is now a household name, LINUX. I loved this because it "was" UNIX, only I didn't have to pay several thousand dollars to get a copy to work with! It was freely available, powerful, and changed with the needs of man much faster than UNIX. Little did I know that it would revolutionize the Internet!
Dial-up was the thing back then, and Austin was among the first cities to offer ISDN, a point-to-point networking protocol that afforded must faster, cleaner connections between computers! With 1 ISDN line to your home, you were provided with 2 regular telephone lines and a data line that could be directly connected to wherever you wanted it to connect. As the need for more bandwidth was needed, the telephone lines (mostly unused except when you placed a call) would become a part of the bandwidth available to you for your network connection, providing speeds up to half the speed of a T-1. Then DSL began to come onboard, and now the average home user could have 1-1.5MB upload and download speeds (just like a T-1) in your home, and for a reasonable price too! This was networking at it's finest!
As the Internet began to grow and develop, we began to have more need for "bandwidth" (speed) on the network, providing us with streaming music and video, and voice and video conferencing, and things we'd never dreamed possible. And with these needs the services to support them seemed to grow as well. And seeing all of this, I really thought that Austin would be a "hub" for the tech-related commerce of this new age! I though the job market here would always be booming, and we would have the very latest in technology and inventions coming from right here in Austin Texas!
I really thought that with the introduction of home-based ISDN here in Austin that we were on our way! And now, with the DSL speeds at T-1 levels, we surely must be moving on to bigger and better things! Little did I know that the 1-1.5MB upload speeds would be the best I would ever see here in Austin Texas. Little did I know that, after comparing services offered around the U.S. in other large cities like Austin, I would find that we had become "stagnant" and were no longer growing!
For me, it happened during Thanksgiving of this past year. I had been checking into sources for obtaining faster upload speeds and seemed to be getting nowhere. Oh we've got boatloads of download speeds, but all this means is that you can "receive" really fast, but you're "sending" really … really slow in comparison! It's almost like going back to dial-up, in comparison!
I was in a small town community outside of Houston and visiting with relatives. Their neighbor had stopped by to visit. He is a "techie" like me, and eats-drinks-sleeps this stuff! In fact, he works out of his home! I asked him about this, and after just a short visit I became red with envy! He is using the new "U-Verse" service that our local Internet provider, AT&T, offers, and he is paying much the same rate as we would be, but that is where the similarities end! You see, his U-Verse service offers him download speeds of up to 40MB, with upload speeds of almost 20MB!! And here in Austin? We're still bottlenecked at 1.5MB!!
I was livid! What could the problem be? Was AT&T afraid of people starting businesses out of their homes? Were they afraid of competition? At first it seemed this way, but later after working with them on contract I began to find that it's not that they don't' want to … it's that they CAN'T! AT&T cannot support upload speeds beyond 1.5MB to residential users. Oh, they've got some greatly polished why they don't offer it, and they almost ignore upload speeds altogether in the marketing of this U-Verse system, but the fast of the matter is … the infrastructure here will not support it!
So I had to ask myself, "Are we the New Silicon Valley?" In Houston, they provide much faster service that meets the demands of the people. Folks are starting businesses in their homes all the time! Why not here? Well, that's a good question … one that deserves an answer!
I truly thought that Austin Texas was the top-of-the-line for technology, and that I was in the right place for all of this .... but now I am thinking that maybe … just maybe, I was wrong!
And this is where I need the help … help in understanding why, if we ARE the next Silicon Valley, then why are we seemingly behind the times on our upload speeds to residential service? Other cities are installing/upgrading their neighborhoods to fiber optic cabling - right to the homes! Many of these cities are enjoying a new service put out by Verizon that offers lightening speeds, enormous bandwidth - both UP and down, and at a fraction of what we pay here.
So tell me Austin …
Are we behind the times?
Why are we still "stuck" at 1-1.5MB upload speeds?
And "are we" the next Silicon Valley?