A Smart Board for Our Generation

By Joshua Seidemann, Vice President of Policy, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

November 21, 2018

Last week I participated in a 5G conference in Washington, D.C. It was a bit more hipster than the programs I usually attend; some of panelists didn’t even wear a tie. The program was an exposé of where technology, politics, spectrum and other issues are at the moment, and where they might be expected to develop in the race to 5G. My panel addressed the rural deployment of 5G, which gave me an opening to talk about the fiber needs, the relative costs vs. fiber for rural deployments and the complementary nature of fibered and mobile services.

In a lightning round at the end, the moderator asked about a killer app for rural America, and the consensus on the panel seemed to be that the question was a trick question: there will be no killer app – rather, there will be killer apps.

We discuss general categories of economic development and education and healthcare, but the truth is that we simply do not know what will be invented in coming years and how these new inventions will rely on the technology. But the writing is on the wall—over the last 15 years, active cell sites in the United States (which require a wired connection) have more than tripled. In just eight years the number of smartphones globally has increased 600%. Brick and mortar retailing has experienced peaks and valleys, but e-commerce, except for a slight dip in 2010, is trending upward each year.

Not to mention coding and robots: while manufacturing employment is leveling off after a 10-year decline from 2000-2010, industrial robot shipments are expected to increase 485% from 2009-2019. And yet the biggest skills gap in the current work force is technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tech jobs increased 32% in the past six years.

In 1864, an inventor filed a patent for a “smart board,” which was a blackboard that included an enclosed case to protect maps from sunlight and dirty fingers. Connectivity will be key to ensure that rural students connect to this generation’s smart boards, and to ensure that they can be educated to graduate with the skills necessary to meet the next generation of American jobs.

# # #

Since about the turn of this century, I have either taped to my office door or posted to a blog Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1864. Since no words can add to it, here it is, offered with my best wishes for a good and healthful Thanksgiving:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State