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The Confessions of a Destruction Engineer

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

I sat on a plane the other day with Walter Axe, 99 years old and a happily-retired former telephone company engineer, on the way to see his newest great-granddaughter. During the three-hour flight, Walter regaled me with stories of his life in the Bell System.

He joined the company in 1931, fresh out of the Army. He dug ditches, put up poles (often using teams of horses), ran wire, worked in the switch room, and ultimately ended up in Illinois, where he found himself in, as he describes it, “the best job in the world.” Intrigued, I asked what the job was.

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Private or Public Sector: Who Should Deploy Broadband?

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Google’s experiment in laying broadband fiber in Kansas City, Missouri revives the old question of who should deploy broadband technology: the public sector, the private sector, or an entity based on a public utility model?

Municipally deployed broadband (like its previous sibling, municipal Wi-Fi) continues to be somewhat problematic. A recent audit for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, the optimistically named UTOPIA in the Salt Lake City suburbs, shows that the consortium is still waiting for broadband to catch on in order to pay back its bonds.

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Exploring the Greenwich Digital Peninsula

How do you go about building the foundation for an emerging new digital business district in an established urban area, and thereby create an influx of over 100 growing technology or creative media companies? That’s a question that I pondered as I visited the Greenwich Digital Peninsula in London, earlier this year.

You may recall that I’ve previously described the significance of Digital Business Ecosystems; how they have proven to be instrumental in enabling tech business clusters to reach their full potential. But perhaps you’re wondering, in practice, what does that process really entail?

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Does Text Messaging Negatively Impact Student Academic Success?

Across the education landscape, student text messaging is a bone of contention among teachers. It’s not an issue in the lower grades because most K-5 schools successfully ban cell phones during school hours. Where it’s a problem is within grades 6-12, when teachers realize it’s a losing battle to separate students from their phones for eight hours.

The overarching discussion among educators is texting’s utility in providing authentic experiences to students, the type that transfer learning from the classroom to real life. Today, I’ll focus on a piece of that: Does text messaging contribute to shortening student attention span or destroying their nascent writing ability.

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Of Dogs and Toilets: The Law of Unintended Consequences

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

Wikipedia defines it as “A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended.” It turns out that the law of unintended consequences is alive and well, and has been for years in the world of telecommunications.

Consider the story of the woman who called the telephone company back in the 1940s to report a problem. The problem, it seemed, was that every time the phone rang, her dog shrieked and barked and did the canine equivalent of St. Vitus’ dance.

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