Broadband and the Family Budget
As we all are too aware, family budgets are always tight. When faced with choices of communications, including Broadband and mobile data service through our cell phone service, many families end up making the choice to get all of their connectivity through their cell phone plan. Some areas of Lincoln County, like my home in Arriba, simply don't have sufficient cell phone coverage to even try to cover our family's data needs at home. Furthermore, I like the unlimited data usage through my local phone and internet provider, instead of constantly having to check if I'm running out of data in my plan. Other friends and associates I talk to regularly don't have a good local internet provider and are really forced to use their phone plan--especially those folks just west of Lincoln County. In all, important challenges facing Broadband coverage include:
- The affordability of good Broadband is a must, as tight family budgets tend to give priority to the cell phone plan of the household.
- The wider usage of internet by families, especially in regards to entertainment, really needs to access unlimited Broadband usage instead of paying even more for overrun data plans.
- The reliability and redundancy of Broadband is important to handle the heavier data needs, especially those of small business, busy families, and all institutional needs.
The ideal situation is to have plentiful, affordable Broadband for all our citizens so that everyone can enjoy unlimited usage, while reducing their mobile data needs and related expense.
Big Data: The Four V’s
We are going to take a look again at Big Data and the 4 "V"'s that are the foundation to Big Data. What are we talking about? Last Thursday I introduced the subject of Big Data, which is simply the volume of information collected across all sources--but largely the internet--that analyze human and consumer behavior, trace statistical information on all sectors of the economy, keep track of who is in the political lead in the President's race, and even track obscure items such as how many times a toilet flushes in an average American household. With Big Data, the items gathered, or reorganized and gathered in a different way, are literally endless. The 4 V's of Big Data are as follows:
- Volume--this is what makes the data we talk about BIG. It is estimated that by 2020, in 5 short years, the data analyzed will be 300 times what was analyzed in 2005.
- Variety--being able to track all kinds of data, ranging from healthcare and transportation to energy and workforce, the variety of data allows analytical models to design, and then redesign "what if" and "why" questions like never before.
- Velocity--this indicates how quickly and often the data can be collected. With systems like the modern automobile, there are nearly 100 sensors that are constantly sending out information to the onboard computer, and even linking through the GPS system to let auto manufacturers what to change on future models.
- Veracity--???This term is a little unfamiliar at first, but it is the indication of how accurate the data is. Nationwide it is estimated that bad data costs the economy over a Trillion dollars/year. Nothing is worse that inaccurate or mismanaged data. Also, data that is manipulated to try and have a desired outcome, but not entirely accurate or only filtered for 1/2 the story is equally problematic for the future. Politicians can often be bad about filtering data.
We will be looking at effects of Big Data on economic development. Big Data is driving business decisions and the more we understand about the process, the better the decisions can be made. Stay tuned!
Home and Business Security
Where home and small business security systems have been around for years, never have they been more affordable and more intuitive with today's broadband internet availability. Now camera feeds with small systems can be accessed from any point to the internet....even your mobile device. Additionally, alarms can come to you via text or email for everything from a break-in to a drastic temperature change, even to a large water flow in your home or business. Outside of those problem environments, you can also now remotely manage your thermostat, sprinkler system, appliances....you name it! These modern conveniences can make watching your home or business while you are away much more manageable and affordable than ever before. At the business level, security systems linked to the internet can also keep and compile periodic reports on security breaches, utility usage, and user access by employee. All of these measures go a long way to help that business run as efficiently as possible from a physical facility standpoint. How about cyber security? Now that is an entirely different topic for a future post!
Broadband and Emergency Services
It is straightforward to identify three distinct points of entry that good broadband can impact emergency services in a rural county like Lincoln County:
- Emergency communications to County citizens:
Where more and more information is making its way to Internet sources, and where some storm conditions can knock out satellite and radio reception temporarily, hard-wired broadband can be the critical link to keep rural folks aware of an emergency situation.
- Broadband connections at the emergency dispatch center:
The dispatch center can serve as the information hub, conducting high-speed transfer of audio, video, and medical information between the patient, the EMS responders, and the local hospital and trauma center. Good broadband covers all these communication components.
- Mobile broadband in the ambulance/firetruck/first responder units:
Where good radio and analog communication systems have served our responders well for years, the availability and needs identified at the dispatch center necessitates placing high-speed data gathering methods at the responder level. Relaying vitals, pictures, and even video from the "on the ground" level via smartphone and mobile broadband-linked medical devices can enhance the emergency decision-making and medical direction process. Wait....cell phone and broadband?? Absolutely. Cell phone towers that handle data tie into the fiber network and act as the extension of that fiber network.
There are a lot of conversations ongoing about the need to update many modalities in the emergency response systems, and the presence of available and abundant broadband is critical to make this work.
Travelers Needs in Local Businesses
I think back on our recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky and have another topic that impacted our experience there: broadband capacity. When 65,000+ FFA folks descend on a city the size of Louisville (population 250,000), there are big impacts to hotels, restaurants, and yes...the broadband internet there. One evening we went to pick up pizza for the group at the local pizzeria, credit card in hand, and was met with "sorry, only cash tonight...system's been down all evening its importance. Where Lincoln County won't host a mammoth convention like this one anytime soon, the importance of broadband capacity is no less important in our rural county for our economic future.ening". That involved another trip back to the hotel and delaying dinner another 45 minutes (cold pizza at 11:30 p.m., anyone??). We also were met with very slow internet service at our hotel, and the conference center data management on our phones was painstakingly slow (my Monday Facebook post took nearly 45 minutes to upload). Like many areas (Lincoln County included) Louisville had places like Churchill Downs we toured where internet was seamless and fast. It's the inconsistency of service that seems to be the hallmark of so many areas. The capacity issues in Louisville on all fronts have dictated that Indianapolis will be the sole location for future National FFA Conventions for the near future. All economic development models for growth MUST include the broadband capacity component. Customer satisfaction is increasingly dependent upon it, and conference selection for sites keep raisi
Small Business and Needed Bandwidth
Have you ever been in line at a local retail establishment, had your merchandise rung up, and provided your credit card, then sat and had that 'awkward' moment when the cashier grins at you and apologizes for the amount of time it's taking to verify the purchase? I can't count how many times that's happened to me...only thinking back a month or two! The truth is, according to smallbiztrends.com, small business and outlets for larger companies have not kept up with increasing bandwidth needs. Outside of credit card transactions, there is point of sale software, accounting software and use of cloud-based storage, and then all the backroom work of administration, video-conferencing, and movement of working files via the internet. Then, add on each employee and their mobile device and its use of data and you're out of bandwidth in no time! An old rule of thumb for small business was 5 Mbps to start with, and then 0.5 Mbps for each employee on the payroll. Modern needs now point to a minimum of 10 Mbps, and a 1.0 Mpbs for each employee. That MIGHT keep up. This reality is another need that we all deal with everyday and shows how all our local businesses in Lincoln County desperately need good broadband internet!
I would like to continue featuring broadband internet features, and applications to how it's changing home entertainment are truly remarkable. Have you ever heard of a 4K television? While I think watching a 1080p flat-panel television is quite impressive, the new 4K models are truly astounding, purporting to display resolution four times the detail of a 1080p screen! I was able to see one recently in action at Best Buy in the city. Wow. Do you know one of the best ways to source a 4K signal? Yup! Good broadband internet. According to experts, 15 to 20 Mbps of download internet speed is required to get full performance on a 4K set, and online services such as Netflix and Amazon have some features that are formatted for 4K. While digital cable and satellite providers are getting tooled up for 4K signals, it's the versatility and affordability of abundant broadband internet that will do the job best. As most residents in Lincoln County have bandwidth on their current DSL service at 2 to 10 Mbps, it will take the next step up in terms of service to reach the higher bandwidth. Finally, if we want to continue to attract rural professionals and their families, good broadband will go a long way to make their homes and businesses attractive and competitive with their city cousins.
VOIP and Video Conferencing
I would like to tackle another positive feature of good broadband internet: VOIP and Video Conferencing. What is VOIP? It stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and it is a way to use the internet to make a phone connection. Where Lincoln County has very good analog voice services with our providers, VOIP comes into play when small business is engaged with conversations overseas or families need to talk to their loved ones abroad. VOIP options allow for much lower tolls for international calls than landlines have in the past. Video Conferencing is a way to use audio (just like VOIP) and a camera either integrated into your computer, or attached, to see real-time live streaming of the person talking to you. Military families use video conferencing in a variety of ways, like Skype, to see their loved one overseas serving their country. Good broadband helps make both of these types of communication smooth and life-like. In fact, part of my SBDC consulting team in Greeley holds monthly video-conferencing staff meetings. That's the morning I try to remember to comb my hair (what little there is!!). These are just examples of another way good broadband helps keep rural areas connected to the rest of the world.
Our next topic for Broadband uses in a rural area: telemedicine. Telemedicine, just as the word denotes, is the practice of using high-speed internet to link, via video and audio and high-resolution imagery, those health services from a specialist or qualified medical professional to patients and facilities in rural areas. Lincoln Community Hospital has enjoyed good Broadband service for several years, but there are many rural health-care facilities that don't have consistent access to good Broadband across eastern Colorado. From two-way audio and video consultation by a qualified doctor to a local LPN/RN or PA and patient, to the transmittal of high-resolution MRI data or X-Ray images, Broadband is needed to make the process possible. We are actually talking about saving lives here!! For life-threatening conditions such as cardiac and stroke events, much of the timely diagnosis and treatment can literally mean life or death. Telemedicine, via good Broadband, can and does serve that critical link to keep long-distant rural areas linked to top medical expertise. I can't think of a more important reason for good Broadband.
The subject of broadband internet is just as its name implies: very BROAD! As we begin to look at how broadband impacts, or can impact, our lives, the number of subjects and ways is quite vast. Today, I would like to feature one of the most important uses of the internet....education. Education needs and uses of the internet is an entire study all its own, but today I would like to mention a recent dilemma mentioned by the FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a recent interview with education group Education Dive known as the "homework gap". The homework gap represents 1 out of 3 children with limited or no access to internet at home. With 7 out of 10 teachers assigning homework that requires some research via the internet, this creates a specific and real disadvantage for those families without broadband service. Keeping our children up with their peers is a big driver for broadband service to our communities as a utility...just like water, sewer, gas, and electricity. Where education has always been an early cause for fiber optic installation, it now is becoming a cause for today's broadband.
On our new topic of Broadband, there was a recent study conducted by the council of governments to determine the broadband needs of the area. It was a large survey-based study that you may have had an opportunity to participate in. Key items in that study included:
- Are you happy or satisfied with your current internet service?
- How is the quality/consistency of your internet service?
- How is the service response to your internet repair needs?
- Do you anticipate increasing your bandwidth (internet speed) in the next 6 months to a year?
The results of the study have just recently been released, and there is an interesting key observation: folks who live in rural areas are accepting of their current service. Where this is a good thing as rural people are great at adapting to what is offered, it does create the need to show what is possible, and available in many areas today. In other words, rural citizens can ask for more! Stay tuned as we explore key areas of good broadband and what that can mean for your household and/or business.
What Is Broadband?
I would like to introduce a new topic, which happens to be very important to Economic Development: Broadband. What is broadband? Simply put---broadband is high speed internet service provided over a variety of modalities: DSL, wireless, cable modem, and (the best one) fiber optic cable. Where most of Lincoln County has enjoyed DSL services and internet options for several years, there are still many under-served citizens. There are folks that are forced to pay for expensive satellite internet, or use their cellular service to get speed in their homes or businesses faster than dial-up. Also, there is a great deal of inconsistency in internet speed, especially in towns like Limon. These problem areas and the importance of broadband to our daily lives will be explored in future features here on our Facebook page. For now, remember that broadband internet service and its importance is rising to the level of all major utilities--right along with water, electricity, and gas. Do you disagree? If so, stay tuned while we explore the endless benefits that good broadband brings to our lives....and how in the very near future this service looks to become much better for the citizens of Lincoln County!