"Lit San Leandro" Bringing Fiber-Optic to Tech Firms
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Joshua Johnson: Pat Kennedy, welcome.
Pat Kennedy: Hello?
JJ: Pat Kennedy, you’ve called Lit San Leandro an urban renewal project. I’m assuming that you’re referring to San Leandro’s history as a manufacturing hub back in the 60’s and 70’s. Describe how you view this as a form of urban renewal, laying fiber-optic lines.
PK: Well that’s correct. San Leandro has been a manufacturing town for many years. Maybe 50 years ago they built their own sewer plant just to attract heavy industry and light industry to San Leandro, and with the advent of the off-shoring and the other problems that manufacturing this had, it now has a need to basically renew that area. And it occurred to me, being in the software business, that one of the main pieces of infrastructure missing was in fact high quality fiber-optics. So as a sort of payback to San Leandro for giving me a home for my software company, I decided to pull a ring of fiber around San Leandro.
JJ: I want to ask you more about that in a second, but since you are in the software business, you’ve been in San Leandro as I understand it for more than three decades. What has kept you in the city despite the fact that it doesn’t have this kind of fiber-optic infrastructure? What’s kept you there?
PK: Well what’s kept me here mainly is that we’ve grown to be a pretty good sized company. I have over 800 people, of which about 300 here in San Leandro. And San Leandro has great public transport with two BART stations, and so your demographics of your employees look like a big wagon wheel. People live where they want to live but they come to work in San Leandro. Plus I like the area and I’m very stable. I just haven’t moved. We started in 1980. I got into the company at that time.
JJ: So let’s describe this project. It’s a fiber loop ten miles wrapping around the city. What exactly is that loop and what will it do when it’s finished?
PK: Well the loop itself is what we call dark fiber. It’s basically just pulling fiber-optics cables. These cables are a fairly good size. They have about 288 strands of fiber. The other thing I’m doing is I am connecting that fiber to the BART telecommunications fiber, which now gives me an access out to what are called the long haul carriers. It’s more of an infrastructure than any particular project, and how much you can do with it depends a lot on the active equipment. I happen to be using what’s called dense weight division multiplexing, which allows the most modern, if you will, use of the fibers to put a lot of data on them.
JJ: So just to be clear, though, this is not the kind of cable that, say, you would lay in the ground so I could get a better signal on my DVR. This is the kind of thing that big companies use to do major tech projects.
PK: It’s pretty much what’s called the middle mile. It’s a heavy duty fiber with many strands. And then each of those strands can support essentially, think of it as an infinite broadband. On a single fiber you can put perhaps 180, 150 frequencies and each one of those frequencies will run ten gigabit, compared to the normal T-1which is about 1.5 megabit, so it’s very high capacity fiber.
JJ: Hey, Pat, I want to ask you that last question one more time, we were having a little trouble with your cell phone signal. I want to ask you one more time if you could describe very briefly about what that fiber loop is. 10 miles wrapping around the city of Fan Leandro that would allow companies to do pretty audacious work. Is that right?
PK: That’s correct. First of all, it’s a loop which gives you a built in redundancy, and then second of all the fiber-optics itself because of its engineering has essentially infinite broadband. You can put many different frequencies, each one of which runs ten gigabits of data.
JJ: Doesn’t San Leandro have some built-in disadvantages, though, namely that it’s, and no offense, because I’ve been to San Leandro many times, I have a lot of friends who live there, but it’s San Leandro. I mean, the tech hub, Silicon Valley, is on the other side of the bay. So you’ll always have this kind of built in disadvantage in that you’re just not the Peninsula, you’re just not the South Bay.
PK: Well, actually, I look at that more as an advantage because we are filled with innovators, not only Silicon Valley and Stanford but also Berkeley and other areas. And when people come up with a great idea, what they’re missing is a place to make it. So if you come up with the next generation of battery or electric car or whatever, 3D printing, the point is the world still needs manufacturing that has space, sewer, water, power and things like that and San Leandro is, after all, a great manufacturing hub. So manufacturing for example high tech automotive add-ins in San Leandro would be a fraction of the cost of doing them in San Francisco or Palo Alto.
JJ: Now San Leandro has all of the attendant challenges that every city in the Bay Area has including financial challenges, issues with public safety, infrastructure, future development. What would you say to San Leandro residents in terms of the benefits for them, the benefits to tax payers who are concerned this is just going to come out of my pocket and I will never see how this makes my life any better?
PK: First of all it doesn’t come out of their pocket because I am paying for it, and second of all there’s just one word: jobs. We cannot give up manufacturing as a source of jobs. People talk about service economy but we can’t sit around and cut each other’s hair. We have to have a way to put people to work. And the way the city benefits is that I’m bringing jobs back to San Leandro.
JJ: Pat Kennedy, the CEO of OSI Soft and the managing member of “Lit San Leandro”. Pat thanks for talking to us.
PK: Thank you very much.