I Went to the Beach and I Couldn't Take My Mind Off of School

  This past week, my family ditched our nearly-annual winter trip to Pennsylvania and traded snow for sunshine, spending several days in Florida. We did not go to a single amusement park. Instead, we took advantage of other attractions offered by the Sunshine State, including the Everglades, the ocean, and Kennedy Space Center.

I don’t mean to diminish Disney or the other studio-based venues. My rationale was that travel should include new experiences. What’s the point of going somewhere if the scenery is same strip of Starbucks, Target, Walgreen’s and Kohl’s?

The Risks of Rural Living

New Edge  While living in rural America has numerous benefits, including lower cost of living, affordable housing and abundant green space, a new study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that rural residents are at higher risk of death from five leading causes than their urban counterparts.

According to the study, entitled “Leading Causes of Death in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Areas—United States, 1999-2014,” the five leading causes of death in the U.S. between 1999 and 2014 were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. Together, these accounted for more than 1.6 million deaths (approximately 62% of all deaths) in 2014.

CDC found that annual age-adjusted death rates for these five causes were higher in nonmetropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas between 1999 and 2014. Age-adjusted death rates for unintentional injury were approximately 50% higher in nonmetropolitan areas. While the overall rate of deaths from stroke, heart disease and cancer decreased in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas over the period, the rate of decrease in deaths due to heart disease and cancer was slower in nonmetropolitan areas, and the rate of deaths due to stroke was about the same.

“This new study shows that there is a striking gap in health between rural and urban Americans,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “To close this gap, we are working to better understand and address the health threats that put rural Americans at increased risk of early death.”

Home Telecom: 'Telecom 2020: A Vision for the Future'

“Any Content, Every Device, All Networks”

Imagine that you wake up tomorrow and want to watch your favorite TV show. The program will not play. You don’t have the specified device that the content owner now requires this program to be played on. It is only available on a particular device per an exclusive agreement between the content owner and the device manufacturer. Not only is your device prohibiting your viewing, but you also have the “wrong” video provider. The TV program you want to watch is owned by a video provider you don’t wish to use, but the show you want to watch can now only be seen on the video system that owns the program. Bad things can happen if content, devices, and networks are all controlled by the same party.

Scenarios like the nightmare described above is what Home Telecom is constantly fighting to avoid. As an industry leader, we keep our finger on the heartbeat of events that would directly impact our customers. Rules and laws impacting how we communicate are constantly changing. In addition, it seems mega mergers are announced several times a year; the big just keep getting bigger. Home Telecom is constantly monitoring the communication environment, working with our lawmakers and regulators to make sure that any changes in communications laws and regulations are for the better, not the worse.

CES 2017-6: Wrap-Up and Impressions

 There probably comes a point for everyone when the history of childhood is no longer in the peripheral field of vision, but rather pulling away quickly in the rearview mirror. A visit to CES can engage that shift in that perspective.

Reinvention

I remember (and that phrase, itself, indicates such a shift) dropping Kodak 126 film at Cochran’s, the neighborhood drug store, and then waiting a week for the prints to come back. Over ensuing years, I advanced to 110 cartridges and then a series of 35mm cameras, and remained a devoted fan of film even after digital photography became mainstream. It was mostly a clerk at a Washington CVS who precipitated my recalcitrant shift to digital: when I brought a 35mm canister in for processing, he waved the bar-code reader over the DX coding on the side of the canister, mistaking it for a UPC code. When I explained that the film was being submitted for processing, his vacant stare convinced me that the world had moved on without me. Within a month, I was holding a digital SLR, and its film-eating companion was sitting on a shelf.

Perhaps no other innovation than digital photography, coupled with consumer-grade printers capable of producing prints, should have been the death knell for Polaroid. To be sure, Kodak suffered greatly, if not ironically, given their invention of the digital camera in 1975 and their first-to-market DC40 in 1995. But, Polaroid’s mark was instant photography, even if the image was what might now be considered a thumbnail 3” x 3.5” ratio.  And, although connecting a camera to a computer to print a picture may be more cumbersome than simply pulling a print out of the camera itself, digital photography still offered far more instant gratification than even 1-hour photo processing, if for no other reason than the ability to adjust the image before printing.

CES 2017-5: Next Year, I Will Wear Comfortable Shoes

​ ​​  CES spans several venues in Las Vegas. In my opinion, the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) remains the grand-daddy of the venues, since a major portion of the conference programming is collocated there with an enormous trifecta of three immense areas of expo space. To lend perspective, the LVCC provides golf carts to transport attendees from the South Hall to the Central Hall.

The LVCC is where most of the “fun” stuff resides – Sony, Samsung, Monster, and other entertainment firms occupy large swathes of real estate, and the atmosphere is somewhere between a circus and a carnival, tripped out in neon with the volume turned to 11.

The Sands Exhibition hall, about a ten-minute bus-ride away, is where some of the smaller home health care and fitness players camp out. It is also home to Eureka Park, which features vendors displaying wares that are often not yet to market. It is as crowded, but somewhat less frenetic than LVCC.

I split my time yesterday between those venues. And, if I had to sum my impressions, they are consistent with the ones that I formed last year. Except that this year, they are more intuitive.

CES 2017-4: Our Connected Life

  CES seems too big to be distilled into a single statement. This year, however, the small reporter pads that are distributed to media feature a single word on the cover: Whoa! And, it is that exclamation that pervades so much of what is seen here.

This morning, I shared a ride with a lighting manufacturer whose company is entering its 25th year of business. There is perhaps nothing more rudimentary than a light bulb, be it an incandescent, fluorescent or LED. But, everything is connected, and even this simple device is the subject of many CES displays.

Several trends for 2017 were presented at an opening session yesterday morning at which the scope of CES was described. CES has 1,000 more registered media then the Olympics; of its 3,800 exhibitors, 20 percent did not exist three years ago; it is no longer viewed as a “technology show,” but as “connected life show.” So, what are the trends?

CES 2017-3: With All of Our Complexity, We Desire Simplicity

  (Las Vegas) In a session devoted to millenials' use of technology, a panelist took a spot poll and asked members of the capacity audience to text the most important criterion they would seek in a smart home system. As the word cloud refreshed several times over the next minute, one word emerged and remained the largest: simple. A revolution that is expected to hit $3.5 billion in annual revenues and reach 29.2 million units (increases of 57 percent and 63 percent, respectively) is at its core intended, or desired, only to make things easier. And to make things easier easily.

CES 2017-2: The Smart Cane Revolution

(Las Vegas) Although PR materials for CES indicate a four-day conference, it is preceded by a day-and-a-half of media-only programming, as well as a full schedule of formal conference programming (I am not in Vegas for the full show; I think that only the most resilient of people could stand such a stretch of time in this city of sensory-overload; add the glitz and neon glare of CES to the mix, and the prospects become quite frightening).

Yesterday’s media day kicked off with a keynote that addressed global trends in tech, including various regions and their respective growth potential. That and other general sessions were followed by an evening expo of new products and “innovation award” winners. As I worked through the hall last night, I tried to view what I saw through the lens that I introduced in yesterday’s post, specifically, what is technologically meaningful. While kids would probably argue that the “smart hairbrush” should appeal to me, I saw some other devices that demonstrate how the incorporation of sensors and connectivity can offer elegant, if not brilliant, solutions to everyday challenges.

CES 2017-1: This Year, It's Personal

  (Las Vegas) I activated a new phone yesterday. I will test-drive it at CES this week. My theory is that away from home, away from the office, walking miles (literally, it is an enormous event spread across several venues) will provide a robust, if not brutal, testing ground for the new device. It is a more technologically advanced phone than I currently use. The question is whether those advancements are meaningful when measured against the way I use my device.

Last year's CES opened with a challenge to consider whether technology is introducing meaningful changes. The exponential increase in sensor-driven technology can drive advancements in medicine, while applications that send alerts when egg or milk cartons are near empty might elicit less enthusiastic responses.

From the End of the World to Your Town

New Edge  In 2010 I interviewed Wayne Pearson, former president of the Smethport, PA chamber of commerce, for an article I was writing for NTCA’s Rural Telecom magazine entitled “Can Broadband Save Rural America?” In response to a question about the potential benefits of broadband to rural areas, Pearson responded, “If you can do your job from anywhere, why not choose small-town America?"

Why not, indeed?

In the years since that interview, more and more freelancers have come to the conclusion that rural America is the best place for them to ply their trade. In a Fast Company article entitled “Why These Freelancers Ditched Cities for Rural America,” author Amy Loehr takes a closer look at this phenomenon.

Loehr cites statistics from a survey conducted by Upwork and the Freelancers Union which shows that 55 million Americans—35% of the U.S. workforce—have done some form of freelance work in the past year. Further, 73% of freelancers say that technology makes it easier for them to find work.

While 35% of freelancers live in cities and 47% in the suburbs, 18% reside in rural areas. But as freelancing is “considerably more popular among millennials and gen Zers than with older age groups,” that rural percentage will likely increase as younger workers decide to put down roots and choose where they want to spend their lives and raise their families.

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