How many problems can broadband Internet access solve?
U.S. television news commentator Tom Brokaw, a native of South Dakota, wrote a compelling essay in the New York Times several years ago, asking why his home state and North Dakota, with a population of 1.5 million, maintained some 17 institutes of higher education. He noted that it was “a carry-over from the early 20th century when travel was more difficult and farm families wanted their children close by during harvest season.”
He posed a very rational question: “Couldn’t the two states get a bigger bang for their higher education buck if they consolidated their smaller institutions into, say, the Dakota Territory College System, with satellite campuses but a common administration and shared standards?”
There is a country whose east and west coasts border on major oceans. Its major cities dot its coastline, while its internal areas, while populated, could accurately be described as “flyover” zones. It takes about six hours to fly coast-to-coast.
Its government is making the single largest infrastructure investment in the country’s history, investing $43 billion over eight years in order to connect 90+ percent of all its homes, schools and workplaces with broadband services over fiber-optic cable with speeds up to 100 megabits per second, 100 times faster than those currently used by many households and businesses.
Which forward-looking nation committed to this bold goal?
It began as a way to link academic and research institutions throughout the United States, so that they could more easily communicate and collaborate on projects. In the beginning, it was limited to a small number of entities, all of whom thrived on the cutting edge of networking technology.
If that sounds like the early days of the Internet, it is. But it’s also an equally apt description of National LambdaRail (NLR), a 12,000-mile, $70 million optical network established in 2003. It uses 10-gigabit (Gb) transponders (with 40Gb and 100Gb in the roadmap) that allows bandwidth on demand for its academic and research members, now numbering more than 280.
The name comes from the term lambda networking, which uses multiple optical wavelengths to provide independent communications channels along a strand of fiber optic cable.
When Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea for Web browsers, he really only wanted an easier way to access information on the Internet. He wasn’t planning on rewriting – and more important, simplifying — the rules by which information is exchanged and business is transacted.
Now apply that same concept to broadband Internet access.
A colleague of mine is going to be silent for 10 days over the holiday break*. 10 days. 240 hours. 14,400 minutes. It is a meditative thing. I respect her decision to do this…very cool and certainly an experience not many have had.
She can’t talk, so I asked her if she could read. Nope. Which means web surfing is out of the question. I, like many, HAVE TO BE CONNECTED AT ALL TIMES!!! The network has become so pervasive in our lives that not having instant, anywhere access to information is nearly inconceivable. Globally, broadband growth is still chugging away. Today, we released a report that shows that Peru broadband growth grew nearly 10% in the first half of this year. And, yesterday, Google released what they call the Zeitgeist. The sum of the searches for the year. What’s hot, what’s searched…and from where…and, of course, because this is 2010 and video is the medium for communications, they also released a very cool video with a catchy jam that is still in my head (who is this? anyone?!!).