Too Much and Never Enough

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Too Much and Never Enough

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  June 03, 2014

My husband and I have spent the last few evenings sifting through our cabinets, closets, and garage to clean out broken, too tight, unused, and unwanted camping gear, clothing, sporting goods, and tchotchkes. It’s the community-wide garage sale in our neighborhood, so it’s a great opportunity to do some purging.

The last place we lived was a tiny bungalow in the Chicago suburbs. Our current place is more than twice the size of the last one. And, yet, every cabinet, every closet, every drawer, and every shelf and corner in the garage is full to the gills. I guess it’s true that the amount of stuff we amass is proportional to the space we have in which to put it.

It’s kind of like what’s happening with our networks lately. As soon as new bandwidth becomes available, we fill it up and are quickly looking for more.

The fact that about 60 percent of Americans use smartphones, which are bandwidth-loving devices, is one key factor contributing to this trend. According to Cisco’s (News - Alert) Visual Networking Index, worldwide mobile data traffic will increase nearly 11-fold in the next four years to reach an annual run rate of 190 exabytes by 2018.

That’s why the Federal Communications Commission continues to make available new spectrum. it’s why the cellular carriers and their suppliers, which just recently implemented 4G LTE (News - Alert), are already talking about 5G and are deploying DAS, small cell, and Wi-Fi technologies to augment existing networks.

But for all the advances we’ve seen in broadband, we still hear about how not everybody benefitting from our great growing networks, either because of their location, their financial situation, or a lack of education.

Some folks in rural areas still don’t have access to broadband, as you’re probably already aware, but there are even some businesses in tier 1 cities that lack the broadband resources they require, as discussed in this issue’s piece on DAS and in past issues of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (News - Alert) recently blogged that spectrum below 1 GHz – such as the spectrum that will be available via the Incentive Auction, which is expected to take place next year – has physical properties that increase the reach of mobile networks over long distances.

“The effect of such properties is that fewer base stations and other infrastructure are required to build out a mobile network. This makes low-band particularly important in rural areas. A legacy of earlier spectrum assignments, however, is that two national carriers control the vast majority of low-band spectrum. As a result, rural consumers are denied the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum.”

Wheeler and the FCC (News - Alert) are working to address that. Also on the rural front, the FCC continues to implement the Connect America Fund, which has invested more than $438 million to bring broadband to 1.6 million previously unserved Americans and invested $300 million to expand advanced mobile wireless service and nearly $50 million for better mobile voice and broadband on Tribal lands. And that’s just Phase 1 of the project.

Meanwhile, Google (News - Alert) is working to bring broadband and the Internet to more people via its FTTH builds in places like Kansas City, where an organization called Arts Tech has created a program to help with the education barrier relative to broadband. Aim of the group, which recently won a grant from the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, aims to bring together tech-savvy teens with senior citizens who want to learn about the Internet and how they can benefit from it.

“Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, students join us to learn about computer hardware, in-home networking, the Internet and computer software,” Dave Sullivan, executive director of Arts Tech wrote in an April 14 Google fiber blog. “ They’re also learning how to work with seniors, and how to develop their very own digital literacy curriculum (like planning classes on how to create email addresses, and how to use social networks to connect with friends) that they’ll be able to teach by the end of the program.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle