Electric-Telco Partnership Summit Shows Mutual Value in Collaboration

Last week’s Electric-Telco Partnership Summit, orchestrated by the National Rural Telecommunication Cooperative (NRTC), NTCA and others, presented a number of situations where carriers and electric utilities have found mutually beneficial ways to leverage one another’s strengths to expand and improve broadband services to customers. There appears to be an encouraging and growing awareness that rural carriers in particular have unique experience and skills when it comes to deploying, managing and maintaining broadband networks. There are many details to consider, but more carriers and utilities are showing that challenges can often be overcome if both parties decide to work together.

Last week’s summit served as a preview of sorts, as this concept will be covered in depth at the upcoming IP Possibilities Conference and Expo this April in a special track focused on collaboration. Technical and business tracks will also be offered, along with informative general sessions. The conversation on collaboration was initiated at the summit, as a dynamic group of more than 100 attendees, representing both carriers and utilities, heard success stories from around the nation. One of the items covered by presenters was that one of the first hurdles is often initiating a discussion with the right people. If a mutual understanding can be reached, collaborative action leading to results can be implemented. Read more

Peeling the Broadband Onion

Recent studies of the barriers to broadband adoption show that lack of demand—i.e., not feeling as if the Internet has anything of interest to offer the individual—is among the top barriers to adoption, alongside lack of resources, lack of knowledge/experience, and lack of availability. In reality, however, broadband is one of those services that reveals more the deeper you become immersed in it. New adopters often discover numerous life-improving applications that they had never even known about, much less considered, before getting online.

Case in point: a recent study by Parks Associates shows that 25% of U.S. broadband households find the concept of a home energy monitoring service appealing. According to the report, entitled “360 View: Energy Management, Smart Home, and Utility Programs,” 26% of respondents would be interested in an HVAC monitoring service, and 22% an appliance management service.

“The connected home industry is really taking off as customers are seeing the value of added convenience and meaningful energy savings,” said Stuart Lombard, CEO at ecobee, a company that sells Wi-Fi enabled thermostats for residential and commercial applications. “With smart thermostats we’re seeing customers engage with their home’s energy use on a regular basis through an app….customers now have the tools to make smarter choices around their energy consumption.”

A large number of broadband non-adopters likely have no idea how the Internet can help them in their daily lives. Making customers aware of the numerous real world benefits available to them through a broadband connection can be a vital step toward overcoming the stubborn lack of demand barrier and ultimately increasing broadband adoption rates.

Measuring the Impact of Technology on Online Workers—and Their Bosses

Despite the constant development of new apps and tools for use by online workers, a recent survey shows that their most important tool is an old workhorse: email.

According to Pew Research Internet Project’s recently-released “Technology’s Impact on Workers,” 61% of those workers surveyed identified email as “very important” to doing their job. The Internet was next, at 54%, followed by landline phone (35%), cell or smartphone (24%), and social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (4%).

Pew surveyed 1,066 adult Internet users in September 2014. Of that group, 535 adults employed full- or part-time served as the basis of this study.

While many employers worry that the Internet can be a distraction in the workplace, the survey results don’t bear that out. Only 7% of online working adults admitted their productivity has declined due to the Internet, email and cell phones, while 46% say they feel more productive.

The study showed bosses are changing the way they deal with the Internet, as well. Forty-six percent of survey respondents say that their employer blocks access to certain websites. The same percentage indicated that their employer has implemented rules about what employees can say or post online, double the percentage who did so when Pew first conducted its survey in 2006.

Crowdsourcing Apps

This weekend I came across this article on crowdsourcing apps. It has some great examples of such apps and also points to an early example of the crowdsourcing of data.

As the article notes, the Oxford English Dictionary is possibly the earliest known example of the crowdsourcing of data. In the mid-19th century, the authors issued a public call for volunteers to send in words and usage examples. The dictionary’s authors received about six million submissions from the public.

As for more modern examples of the crowdsourcing of data with technology, my favorite example in the article is an app called Rainforest Connection. Rainforest Connection is an organization that uses recycled cellphones to combat illegal rainforest logging. They do this by connecting phones to small solar power cells, mounting them in trees, and using the phones to listen to the sounds of the forest. When they hear the distinctive sounds of a chainsaw, forest rangers are alerted. This article discusses all of the negative implications of illegal logging, if you’re interested.

I also love this one: Stereopublic, “Crowdsourcing Quiet.” This app has users go to a specific spot in their city and record the noise (or lack of noise, as may be the case) and send it to Stereopublic. The crowdsourced data creates a map of how noisy various sections of your city are. I love living in a major urban area with lots to do and lots of shopping and dining in proximity to my house, but at night I need some quiet. I can imagine using this when my wife and I start looking for a new house.

These are just a few examples of the crowdsourcing data apps in the article, but they show how technology and the data it can deliver to us can make a real difference in our lives, and even in keeping our planet healthy.

Small Carriers and the IoT

Ericsson’s Loris Zaia gave his take on how the “Internet of Things” may affect small carriers in the coming years at the BroadbandVision show earlier this month. He noted that networks have to expand from connecting hundreds of millions of people as they do today, to connecting multiple billions of machines over the next several years as various devices perform more functions online. 

Cloud computing, Zaia stated, can help lower costs to make participation in this market achievable for smaller carriers. And in rural areas, where demand for spectrum may not be as intense as in more densely populated places, fixed wireless may help extend the reach of broadband over more geography.

“The business case with some of the smaller operators,” he said, “is quite frankly that it’s easier to for them to partner with some of the tier two players” to extend the reach of broadband in rural areas.” See the full interview with Zaia online

Average U.S. Broadband Speed Increases, Even as World Ranking Lags

According to a new study released by cloud services provider Akamai, the average broadband speed in the U.S. was 11.4 Mbps in the second quarter of 2014. This represents an increase of 8.9% from 1Q 2014, and a 39% increase from the same quarter a year ago.

However, despite the growth in average speed, the U.S. was unable to reclaim a spot in the world top 10. According to Akamai, the U.S. dropped out of the top 10 for the first time ever in the first quarter of 2014, and remained outside the top 10 in the second quarter.

The eastern U.S. led the way in average broadband speeds, with seven states in the top 10. At 16.2 Mbps, Delaware led all states. The other eastern states in the top 10 were Virginia, D.C., Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Three western states made the top 10: Washington, Utah and Oregon. All of the top 10 states had average speeds in excess of 12.8 Mbps.

Akamai further sought to classify customer readiness for ultra-high definition video, commonly known as 4K. In order to be considered 4K-ready, customers need an average connection speed of at least 15 Mbps. Nationwide, Akamai found that 19% of all consumers were 4K-ready. Again, Delaware was first, with 35% of customers at or above 15 Mbps, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, D.C., New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Rhode Island, Virginia and Oregon, all exceeding 23% of customers at or above 4K-ready speed.

Pardon Me…..Is This WiFi Decaf?

We Americans love our coffee, and we love our connectivity. And more than ever, we love both, combined.

Mobile network management company wefi examined the WiFi service provided in U.S. coffee shops. The winner in terms of fastest download speed was Dunkin’ Donuts, at 6.09 Mbps. They were followed by Starbucks (4.11 Mbps), Tully’s Coffee (3.14 Mbps) and Panera Bread (2.23 Mbps.)

Starbucks boasted the highest average effective throughput (.18 Mbps), followed by Tully’s (.15 Mbps) and Dunkin’ Donuts (.13 Mbps.) The highest total data consumption per device occurred at Tully’s, at 27.75 MB. Starbucks customers averaged 24.26 MB, and Dunkin’ Donuts 12.35 MB. (Mmmmm….donuts.)

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter drive the most coffee shop data consumption, but customers spend more time on GoogleChrome (just over 18 minutes per coffee shop visit) than Facebook (16.8 minutes) or YouTube (14.8 minutes.)

The National Coffee Association has recently estimated that 61% of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. According to a recent Broadcom study, however, thirty-nine percent would rather go without their coffee than give up WiFi.

“Coffee, and by extension, coffee shops are increasingly seen as an indispensable part of Americans’ morning ritual,” said wefi chairman and CEO Zur Feldman. “With many franchisees looking to provide additional services and grow their businesses, the availability of a fast, reliable WiFi offering has become an important consideration.”

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