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A Network Built for Mom

When engineers set out to build the largest machine in the world, did they design the network’s capacity based on traditional product specifications, or was it driven by their mothers’ guilt?  In episode 3 of “The Network Effect” Steve Shepard shares some insight.

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M-Agriculture Empowers Farmers in Developing Economies

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

A while back, I wrote about the potential for mobile banking to create new opportunity and economic growth in developing countries. Now, I’d like to look at how a related application, mobile agriculture (m-agriculture), is transforming rural villages.

M-agriculture is about bringing mobile information access to rural communities and small-hold farmers. While the concept is still in its infancy, early implementations suggest it can make a big difference.

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Corny Technology: Welcome to Innovative Iowa

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

A couple of weeks ago I was in the bustling metropolis of Stanton, Iowa (population: 714), one of the most charming towns I have ever had the pleasure to visit. It is the home town of Mrs. Olson, the iconic figure in Folger’s Coffee commercials — which is why their water towers look so unique (see the photo insert below).

I was working with an independent telephone company client, one of about 1,300 in the U.S. — 250 of which are in Iowa. These independents are typically smaller phone companies, often family-owned, and almost always technologically-advanced.

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How to Solve the Wireless Spectrum Puzzle

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

An interesting battle over unlicensed wireless communication spectrum has been brewing in the U.S. over the last few weeks, one that pits advocates of open public access against advocates of licensing and private control.

Here are the highlights of the ongoing debate. In September, the FCC approved a spectrum test that could ultimately promulgate access using the white space between television channels. This method, known as “super Wi-Fi,” is said to allow the signal to travel further and still accommodate structural barriers. The test ran in Lake Mary, Fla., and concluded early in November. However, the FCC has not yet released results.

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Pioneers of The Network

In 1858, the USS Niagara departed from the town of Heart’s Content on Newfoundland’s Trinity Bay, to meet up with HMS Agamemnon somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.   The plan was to connect a cable that would enable telegraph communication between the continents.

I was puzzled when I first heard this story, thinking that in the days before GPS and satellite phones, wouldn’t it have been easier to just use one ship and avoid a mid-sea rendezvous?   Steve Shepard explains the logic in episode 2.

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