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Economic Catalyst: Telecom Right-of-Way Access

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

I have always loved trains. Never knew why, but I think I just discovered the reason. They’re part of the industry I work in – or at least played a founding role here in the United States. And, they gave us much of the terminology that infuses our telecom vocabulary: switches routers, hubs, trunks, lines, etc.

But one railroad in particular played a fundamental role in the development of the industry and, more importantly, in the development of a truly competitive U.S. telecommunications industry.

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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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The Network Effect

To celebrate our first anniversary of the CLE blog we produced a web documentary series on the impact of the telecom network, hosted by Dr. Steven Shepard.  We’ll share stories about the network’s pioneers, the impact it has today in growing the economy especially in developing regions, and possibilities it holds for the future.

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The Telecom Inventor Island Mystery

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

What a wonderful thing maps are. As a child I would pore over them, sometimes for hours, looking for the silliest names, the most intriguing locations, the most exciting geographies. I was particularly taken by maps of the Canadian Shield, a place so vast and forbidding that even today large swaths of it remain unexplored.

This is the home of the world’s largest remaining arboreal forest — it is huge. I also like the fact that on the maps of northern Canada, even today, roads meander northward from the reasonably populated cities near the US border, and then, inextricably, end. As a kid I longed to go there, to see what lay beyond the end of the road. I still do.

I still take aimless ambles through maps today when I have time. The nature of my work is such that I have had the pleasure of driving to the end of some of those roads, and in some cases, creating roads of my own. I have visited places with exotic names like Timboctou (we call it Timbuktu), Ouagadougou, and Zanzibar. The joy of map-gazing, however, still burns hot for me.

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Building Bridges Across Time and Distance

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

We’ve lived through a unique moment in human history. We’re likely the last generation that will remember a time before mobile phones or personal computers — before we could communicate with anyone, acquire virtually any piece of information, in seconds.

Having seen this sea change firsthand, we should have a sense of how profoundly new communication technologies can change society. But this isn’t the first time technology advances have reshaped human interactions. Take the completion of the first transatlantic undersea cable in 1858.

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