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Optical/IP

Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) confirmed Wednesday it has partnered with the ISP EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) to compete for a contract to build San Francisco's municipal WiFi network. (See Google, Earthlink Bid on WiFi.)

Google and EarthLink submitted one of seven responses to a request for proposal (RFP) from the city, a spokesman says.

Google and EarthLink submitted separate proposals to the city during the previous phase of the vendor selection process last fall. Google's plan to offer free, ad-supported WiFi remains in the Google/EarthLink proposal, but an option for consumers to buy a higher tier of broadband service from EarthLink for around $20 has been added in. (See Municipal Broadband Networks.)

“In this proposal, Google will provide a free WiFi service citywide and EarthLink will serve as the premium service provider,” Google’s Megan Quinn said in an email to Light Reading Wednesday. (See Google Backlash Builds.)

According to the Google/EarthLink proposal, the free access would deliver a throughput of "300 Kbps for users citywide." The paid service tier would deliver "best efforts 1Mbps downstream and upstream" and would be priced at "around $20.00 per month." A number of competing ISPs would offer access over the network, the proposal says.

The Google/EarthLink alliance could have far-reaching consequences for EarthLink if things go well in San Francisco. (See Google's Ad-Mad Network .) Some observers believe San Francisco is but the first of many major cities to which Google would like to roll out free, ad-supported WiFi. (See Google's Own Private Internet and Google Cubes.)

“By coming together to leverage the strengths of both companies, we will be able to offer services to different customers on the network that fit with their own individual needs and wants,” EarthLink VP of municipal networks Donald Berryman says in a statement. (See Wireless Mesh Test Gets Underway.)

Google's chances of winning in San Francisco might be helped by EarthLink's recent momentum in the municipal WiFi world. (See EarthLink Hooks Up Philly.) EarthLink has already won high-profile municipal WiFi contracts in the cities of Philadelphia and Anaheim, Calif., and is competing for several others.

Given the complexity of municipal wireless networks, it’s no surprise that partnerships are forming even before the contract has been awarded, says analyst Esme Vos of MuniWireless.com .

The hardware element of such networks include everything from base stations to switching equipment to backhaul gear. Software elements include such things as Internet access, various broadband services, and billing and other back-end functions. (See Poll: RBOCs Fuel 'Broadband Gap'.)

The Google/EarthLink proposal calls for Tropos Networks Inc. to provide wireless mesh network equipment. (See Gorillas in the Mesh.) Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is named in the proposal to provide the backhaul equipment that moves wireless traffic from the WiFi nodes to the access towers.

“When you look at EarthLink they partner with all kinds of people,” Vos says. “EarthLink’s an ISP, they’re not a systems integrator – so they would need somebody to go in and set up the nodes and somebody to put in the back-end software.”

San Francisco chief administrative officer Ron Vinson told Light Reading Wednesday that his office received a total of seven competing proposals. (See Coalition Calls for Community Broadband.)

Competing with the Google/EarthLink combo will be MetroFi Inc. , Communication Bridge Global, NextWLAN, Razortooth Communications, SF Metro Connect (a partnership of SeaKay, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)), and one other unnamed player whose response came in late. (See SF Gets 6 Muni WiFi Bids.)

Vinson says an RFP review panel is now coming together to evaluate the proposals. The panel hopes to arrive at a finalist by early April, Vinson says, at which time negotiations over financial terms would commence.

Google and EarthLink estimate that the San Francisco network could be built in six to 10 months, barring any unforeseen problems.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 4:05:01 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Which one of those wireless companies do you give access to the city's lightpoles and power too?

OP

BTW I have a router/radio on almost every other pole in my neighborhood just to get some coverage. Coverage is still poor in some neighborhood places. They may have to erect more poles. But this is a city project.
laserbrain2 12/5/2012 | 4:05:01 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi oh I forgot. This is san francisco. People would complain that the homeless are being descriminated against.
laserbrain2 12/5/2012 | 4:05:01 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Why on earth would a city grant a contract to only one wireless provider?

It's not like you have to dig up the streets in front of every home. So why not let 10 companies go do it?

Why not say, Our city is open to any company who wants to provide wireless access. Knock yourself out. We'll stay out of your way.

Giving one contract is a recipe for the great service of the cable or power or pots companies. stupid.
telco1158 12/5/2012 | 4:05:05 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi As far as business access, back in the mid 90s when a DS3 pipe to the Internet was a big deal, one of our tier 1 providers claimed to offer a full pipe of throughput all the time. In fact, the words "burst" ever appeared in the contract. I never recall a problem with sustained access up to the full port speed, which was about two hops away from their edge router. Pricing was rather simple in those days. The contract itself was about five pages total. We got what was marketed to us, and generally we paid what we expected.

Not so today. The marketing of Internet access, the contracted rate(s)/service level agreements, the sustained/bursted throughput, and the actual invoice all share a precarious relationship. My finance and contracting people get a tizzy any time I asked them for details. This was not always the case. But then again, access to a tier 1 was a ton more expensive in those days. I guess we got what we paid through the nose for.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:06 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

I am not saying that you should not get what you pay for, on the contrary, I feel that if you are not getting what you pay for you should take whatever action makes the most sense, legally. I am only stressing that we all need to understand exactly what it is that we have paid for with our network access. In this respect it is also good to be able to guage your usage so that you aren't leaving too much cash on the table every month.

With regards to chip's test suggestion, it is always a good thing to have independent third party confirmation/contradiction of the marketing hype. If the result is confirmation then the marketing is real, if it is contradiction, it is hype and should be exposed.

I have been involved in many network test scenarios. To be fair and relevant to your situation the testing has to be done in a way that closely mirrors your situation. In network testing there are very few apples-to-apples comparisons that make sense to the residential user. The traffic types/rates/times of day/etc., vary all over the map. You can come up with what you feel is an average but the standard dev. will be huge.

The best way that I have found to analyze network throughput is to look at how the individual elements are provisioned (policing policies, queue sizes, max throughput under lab conditions, etc.) and see if it makes sense with the specific traffic profile of interest. Basically model it, extrapolate it across best and worst case scanarios and see if the theoretical model meets the reality. If not figure out what is wrong and understand where you intuitively feel the answer should be.

Steve.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:08 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

I'm not sure how a false advertising suit would go against a carrier. I am reasonably sure that the carrier lawyers, who put together the standard subscriber agreements, have a grasp on the technical implications as well as the potential for those suits and do what they can to minimize the exposure.

They often obscure the issue by saying things like "you can achieve communications rates up to xMB/s". In my experience they often have a paragraph somewhere near the front of the agreement that defines the "service" and what it may or may not provide, guarantees (usually none for a DSL service), etc. From that point onwards in the document they can just say "the service" which applies back to that previous definition. As long as they can show that, if you are the only person in your neighbourhood who has not been affected by a power outage, you can theoretically reach those data rates, they are generally covered (legally). Of course the purpose of marketing is not to emphasize the legal stuff but to attract more customers to the "service" in as simple a manner as possible.

When I hear the words "up to" such and such I have become very cynical of ever reaching such & such. From your comments it sounds like you have perhaps been burned by this somehow...?

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:08 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
stephen,

No, I have not been burned. I am happy with my cable modem.

Your commentary is that it is perfectly acceptable for the restriction of offered load towards the Internet. I am not expecting an connection that offers me the 100% throughput under all conditions but I do believe the following is true:

- I should be able to use my connection 24/7. The entire idea of "always on" is always on.
- My data packets should not be penalized by my use during off peak times.
- My data packets should not be penalized by destination.
- My data packets should not be penalized by application.
- I should receive similar performance to all of those that I share the network with, who have the same service.

I don't expect 100% throughput. I do not expect my packets to be treated better than any other packet.

I agree with chip that a test of several Internet connections is an interesting test for Light Reading to do. This could give us some idea of the relative merit of the offering. I would also like the FCC or PUCs to ask companies to specify their oversubscription ratios. This is a reasonable way to get an idea of average throughput.

seven
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:10 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
chip,

Yes, I know it is silly. I also recognize sarcasm. Yes, I know the game that is being played. I am actually okay with the game to a certain point. I expect my connection to be oversubscribed. I agree that this ought to be a published and testable phenomenon, as it would give us some objective idea of whose service is actually better.

See, I actually think paying for QoS is okay. It is just I think there ought to be truth in advertising.

seven
chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 4:05:10 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Brookseven,
You seem intelligent. I know you are. Your statement:
"So, are you saying that I am being deliberately defrauded?"

is sort of silly. If you DARE to maintain your maximum bitrate that is in your contract, you will be shut down immediately.

What the providers of high speed internet connections understand you want to do is BURST ocassionaly to your 1.5megs/sec limit.

If you dared to sustain 1.5 megs/second you will be shut down.
Come on, you know how the game is played. Don't ask silly questions.

Hey LR, why don't you buy 6 high speed connections, all from the same provider and run high speed ping tests for as long as you're allowed to. Do it anonymously, elst you lose all future ad revenue from these guys.

Let us know how many hours before you get your service shut down.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:10 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
Stephen,

So, are you saying that I am being deliberately defrauded?

If the sales information does not match the reality of the service....get the point.

It doesn't matter if this is a bad deal for the carrier, they should offer a deal that is good for them. Today, that is not the offer I have.

If offer the maximum port rate = if I transmit as many bit per second as my connection will allow. I did not say that I successfully transmit all that data. But I should be able to download continuously at the maximum rate and upload at the maximum rate at a physical port level. Once congestion occurs, then I should receive the equivalent number of bits per second as anyone else with the same kind of connection.

Are you saying I should be penalized for using the connection that I am paying for?

seven
chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 4:05:10 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi tera writes:
I checked the Corpus Christi website and the coverage doesn't look so good. Plus there is this statement:
"Though free access is currently provided, the City plans to charge an affordable rate to cover ongoing implementation and support costs."
It doesn't really compare to what's being planned in SF and Philadelphia.

I have YET to find a spot in CC that doesn't have WiFi access. They are still building out the system so I bet you can find a rat hole that isn't covered.
Once WiMax comes, all spots are covered. Months now, just wait, my friend.
Yes, they may charge in the future, what Government doesn't reserve the right to eventually charge for Water, or Sewer, or Trash Pick up, but for now it's free.

Bottom line:
The price will be well below GOOG or RBOC's, and if they sell out to GOOG or RBOC's then watch the price plummet.
Here's a thought: what happens when WiMax prices plunge (by 2009) where I can put up a free WiMax antenna on my roof?

Lot's to think about. The Google model in SF can NOT be a long term model for success.
WiMax will crush it. Along with Muni's and Citizens taste of FREE WiFi.

It's a public pipe. It's going to be a part of Government services like Trash, Sewer in a couple of years. Yes, GOOG might provide the pipe, but I wouldn't buy stock in GOOG with all of this knowledge.
chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 4:05:10 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi http://www.cctexas.com/wifi

StephenCooke,
I'm not following your arugument.

If Corpus Christi is offering free WiFi to everyone who is within the City limits, your statement:

" What you pay for is not actually bandwidth. Read your contract with your supplier. "unlimited" is defined by various ISPs differently but tend to say that you are allowed xGBs"


As Corpus Christi and many, many other Tier 2 cities launch Free WiFi as a benefit to living there, I'm still confused by your statement.
(the Supremes will knock down rboc initiated laws that prohibit free-muni wifi eventually, you know that's true, so let's table that arguement)

Are you suggesting that Free Muni WiFi is too slow, or that the price of electricity is too high, or that more outlets should be added to City Park benches so you can spend more time on the corner of 5th and Park while you work/surf/download?

Restate your question, because when we all have Free WiFi in the Muni, I'm confused as to what you are complaining about.

http://www.cctexas.com/wifi

opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi I checked the Corpus Christi website and the coverage doesn't look so good. Plus there is this statement:

"Though free access is currently provided, the City plans to charge an affordable rate to cover ongoing implementation and support costs."

It doesn't really compare to what's being planned in SF and Philadelphia.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
That is BT and is a business service.

In the residential case, all that is listed is a port rate. So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times the network should accept my portion of the traffic. Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right? It should not matter that an hour ago, when there was no congestion that I still offered maximum bandwidth.

seven
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
That is BT and is a business service.

In the residential case, all that is listed is a port rate. So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times the network should accept my portion of the traffic. Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right? It should not matter that an hour ago, when there was no congestion that I still offered maximum bandwidth.

seven
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:11 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

"In the residential case, all that is listed is a port rate. So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times the network should accept my portion of the traffic. Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right? It should not matter that an hour ago, when there was no congestion that I still offered maximum bandwidth."

I know you know the difference between what is listed (ie: marketing) and what is in the T's & C's (ie: what you actually pay for). Put yourself in the carrier's seat and figure out how you would charge for (ie: generate revenue) and how you would gain customers for (ie: marketing) your DSL service. It is not as easy as you might think.

"So, if I find a way to offer the maximum port rate at all times" = oversubscription rate of 1:1 (ie: no oversubscription, no stat muxing).

"Now if there is congestion, I should get my fair share of the bandwidth right?" Fairness has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with what you actually pay for (ie: the T's & C's).

Steve.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:12 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

I don't imagine that anyone would limit your access in that situation; but I would expect that they would charge it against the maximum amounts listed in your contract. Some carriers also list penalties for exceeding the max traffic bounds. For example BT used to reduce the clock rate on the port once the limits were exceeded, at no extra charge, until the end of the month when it was reset. In many corporate contracts there is actually a monetary penalty where you pay $AAA for an extra qGB which is at a higer rate than your regular contract. If you do this more than once you may get a call from an account rep asking if you would like to increase your base contract.

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:12 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
Stephen,

If there is no congestion, why would anybody limit my access below the bit rate clocked at the port.

Beyond that, oversubscription ratios should (and are not I agree) be part of the agreement.

seven
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:13 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Oops, got x and y backwards. y (the down direction) is generally much bigger than x (the up direction).

Steve.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 4:05:13 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Seven,

What you pay for is not actually bandwidth. Read your contract with your supplier. "unlimited" is defined by various ISPs differently but tend to say that you are allowed xGBs (note that it is not GB/s) per month up and yGBs down. x is generally greater than y. Some carriers, and media types, calculate the oversubscription ratio as the max bandwidth 24/7/month divided by the number of subscribers on the line. This ends up being a big number of bits.

Each carrier is different but I am sure they apply a bell curve to the numbers vs. time of day to arrive at the numbers in your contract but it is NOT guaranteed bandwidth.

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:13 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
Stephen,

If there is no congestion, why would anybody limit my access below the bit rate clocked at the port.

Beyond that, oversubscription ratios should (and are not I agree) be part of the agreement.

seven
chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 4:05:14 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Here's the Corpus Christi website on WiFi:

http://www.cctexas.com/wifi/

Corpus isn't as big as SF, but does have almost 1M people, so I am baffled that Google offering WiFi with strings attached is so intriguing to LightReading.
Change what model Mark?
(don't mean to pick on you Mark, just don't get the fascination by LR to a Google business model in California, when Texas has already shown that their City Goverments are willing to give WiFi to citizens (and guests) with no strings attached)
:-)
chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 4:05:14 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Mark,
Yes, Corpus Christi offers FREE WiFi to anyone in or passing through the city.
So, again, what's the big deal about getting free WiFi in SF when you have to look at ads on your browser screen?
Sounds like SF is pretty right wing capitalistic and Corpus Christi is a tree huggers, free WiFi paradise! Maybe now all the kooks will move out of SF, down to Texas. :-)

http://www.caller.com/ccct/edi...

It mentions FREE in this article (no, this site isn't my politics, I actually found this on Google....like, maybe a reporter friend of mine named, oh, Mark S., could've done before he questioned my earlier post... :-)

http://theredstate.typepad.com...
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:14 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
Mark,

Why would this work when say Net Zero did not and eventually had to charge?

seven
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:14 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
spelurker,

I think there are two distinct issues, and one unadmitted to by Google.

If you buy a DSL service, say a 1.5M down/256K up, then there is no reason that you can not theoretically get a connection at that full rate to the Internet for any application. Given that the service is best effort, you may not get that rate. However, there should be no reason to clamp down on traffic if there is no network congestion.

If I buy a 3M down/1M up DSL service, the carrier ought to provide me approximately the same over subscription ratio as it does for all of its residential high speed internet customers. This would imply that the carrier might have to install more bandwidth to compensate for the customers ordering more bandwidth.

The Google offering is similar to this where there are two tiers of bit rates being "sold". One of these costs $0 and one of them costs $20. I have a cable modem and they offer two bit pipe rates at two different prices.

The question comes in when a service like Lightspeed gets deployed. As SBC will be using IP QoS to send video traffic at a higher priority than high speed internet, there is a inherent potential conflict. If the oversubscription ratio provided to customers for Lightspeed High Speed internet is the same or lower than that for standard DSL, then I think there is no argument. This oversubscription ratio is not apparent in the sale of the service to the customer, nor are there any guarantees around it.

There is a number of spurious messages here about having Public Internet QoS. There is no way to guarantee this so, I can not imagine how there would be compensation for it. The only way to make this work would be a direct connection (like peering) between say Google and AT&T. Then a business proposition could be set up for the exchange of money for amounts of traffic communicated with a QoS other than Best Effort.

The counter to this is that some people are using their service more than others. Meaning for some reason (P2P is typically the root cause), some users want to use the bit pipe they are paying for at a higher percentage than others. Because of this, carriers now want to penalize those applications and users that tend to utilize what they paid for. I feel that is wrong. I would summarize this as follows:

I paid for a connection to the Internet and I expect to be able to utilize that link 100% of the time. I will be attempting to transmit at the maximum rate 100% of the time.

Given current broadband costs and prices, the value of the connections is not high for the bit pipe provider unless the pipes are used sparingly.

On the other hand, trying to sell services that require a "good" Internet connection is not going to be a business that does well. I am not sure why for most people that Vonage is a better deal than a Cell Phone. Both offer low cost calls including potentially unlimited calling (which of course is a misnomer as well).

seven
Mark Sullivan 12/5/2012 | 4:05:15 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi Does Corpus Christi offer FREE WiFi access? The San Francisco project is getting the attention because its the trial run of a completely new business model for serving up broadband. The access is provided for free -- supported only by targeted advertising from Google. This is potentially game-changing if it works, and could easily be replicated in other cities.
optodoofus 12/5/2012 | 4:05:16 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi joeram,

You've mixed up two concepts here. Google is looking to charge more for higher bandwidth. The ILECs are looking to charge more for QOS, not for higher bandwidth. I don't think anyone is complaining about the ILECs selling tiers of DSL service, with the lowest level having the lowest cost and higher bandwidth levels paying more. However, if I sign up for a 1 meg service, I object to the ILEC trying to make application providers pay more for QOS treatment for bandwidth delivered over that 1 meg service.

See the difference?

optodoofus
spelurker 12/5/2012 | 4:05:16 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi > joeram,
>
> You've mixed up two concepts here. Google is looking to charge more
> for higher bandwidth. The ILECs are looking to charge more for QOS,
> not for higher bandwidth.

Actually, joeram *didn't* mix up 2 different concepts. Google wants to charge differently for 2 different tiers of data service. The RBOCs want to charge differently for 2 different tiers of service.

> However, if I sign up for a 1 meg service, I object to the ILEC trying to make
> application providers pay more for QOS treatment for bandwidth delivered
> over that 1 meg service.
>

Really? Didn't that horse leave the barn 80 years ago? Content delivery services (Radio) deliver a service to your home, and charge the application vendors (commercial sponsors) to make their service available. They charge more for higher-quality programming. Broadcast video has been doing the same for 50 years.

Most of the people who I've seen complaining about the QOS offer have primarily been paranoid that their QOS would be impaired and that the RBOCs would use that to force people to pay unfair prices, or to make it prohibitively expensive to offer services which compete with the RBOC's own offering. I don't think that's a particularly reasonable fear (it's not as if there is no scrutiny into RBOC business practices) but that's been the primary argument presented in the media.

> See the difference?
>

No. Google (and 8x8, etc) is just complaining when something could cost them money, period. Don't be fooled into thinking there is some noble cause they are championing -- it's a business decision, pure and simple.
I.e. "X" costs us money, and opens us up to future price instability, therefore we must oppose "X" in whatever forum is most likely to be fruitful.


chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 4:05:17 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi What's the big deal?
Corpus Christi already has complete city WiFi coverage. So does Addison Texas.
What's the big deal here?
Unless the story is "SF FORGETS to ask for a % of the monthly take!" or "GOOG is too slick for City Council, Pockets 100% of Deal!"

What's the big deal here? So SF puts up some WiFi antennas. Wow. Wee. Looking to catch up to that powerhouse of Industry, Corpus Christi, are we? Ok, you showed them good.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:05:17 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi
I think a question would be, why would anybody sign up for the $20 per month service. It would seem to be the equivalent of AT&T's DSL service or Comcast's cable modem service. The base services for both of those company's is less than $20.

seven
joeram 12/5/2012 | 4:05:17 AM
re: Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi First, I don't understand why Google has received so much top billing over the other companies that submitted proposals on this project. How did Google become the media's pet company?

But there is a very telling paragraph in this article - the Google/Earthlink team want to charge extra for higher bandwidth. Isn't this the same proposed concept for which the telcos are getting slammed, relative to their internet support?

I guess when Google has to spend capital on equipment, they are allowed to recover that investment. But if the telcos look to recover their investments, by charging Google, and the others that use that bandwidth, that is evil. I don't understand this.

The bottom line is this is a capital intensive industry, and it is not wrong, or evil, for companies to recover their investment. I would argue that people should be happy that there are companies taking the risk, rolling out the capital. These companies should be rewarded for taking that risk.
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