Access to the Internet at high speeds – for telecommuting, accessing data or using video conferencing technology – is something that most of us take for granted, but millions of Americans still don’t have.
According to a study conducted by Communications Workers of America (CWA), the United States still lags far behind other countries in terms of broadband speeds. Their Speed Matters study shows that speeds in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are faster (as high as 9.9 megabits per second [mgps] in Delaware), but speeds in the South and in rural areas were markedly slower (as low as 2.6 mgps in Ohio).
The Obama Administration is working to address that disparity, which leaves Americans in unserved and underserved communities at a distinct disadvantage. The first step is the $7.2 billion offered by the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), along with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) efforts to expand broadband access across the United States through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and Broadband Initiatives Program. They hope the efforts will increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits.
Another important step will be the National Broadband Plan, which is being created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It is set to be unveiled in February, and the FCC is looking for input from Americans now. They want to hear how we define broadband and what we expect to see in a plan. They have already asked for comment from Americans and will be holding an open meeting this week to ask for more input.
This is the time for all of us who use and appreciate high broadband speeds to take the time to share our ideas of how to bridge the digital divide in America. What services and access do you have in your personal and professional life that others could benefit from? How fast is fast enough when it comes to broadband access speeds?
Engaging the current generation of students who have been raised on technology can be a challenge to say the least. But some innovative schools are harnessing students’ advanced knowledge and love of tech tools to implement creative teaching methods with tools like SMART Boards to teach math and reading, Nintendo Wiis to promote fitness, and video conferencing to connect students to anyone and anyplace in the world for unlimited learning opportunities.
In a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Anthony Rubet, a student at Andrew Street High School in Munhall, PA, said, “Last year, we talked to NASA as they were getting ready to go to Mars.”
Another opportunity cited is the possibility that students can take classes that may not be offered at their own schools -- Mandarin for example -- through distance education over video conferencing with another school that teaches it.
“You can do anything you want,” said Luther Parrish, a student at Andrew Street. “Say someone wants to talk to an engineer; you can find one.”
Watch this video to see how students in Stamford, TX are learning and teaching others with video conferencing:
The theme of Army LandWarNet here in Ft. Lauderdale is: A Global Network Enterprise Enabling Full Spectrum Operations for the Joint Warfighter. That’s a mouthful; and, from what I’ve seen, that theme has played out to mean: giving the warfighter the infrastructure needed to ensure that he or she has the ability to communicate with the rest of the world from anywhere in the world.
That encompasses communications within the Army and with all of the branches of the military, Joint Forces and Coalition Forces, among others. Technology has changed the way warfare is conducted, and coalitions have changed the make-up of the forces involved. Army LandWarNet recognizes that expanded focus and this year’s show goes far beyond basic communications.
A great example is a product that fills a niche in the very unique requirements of the Army combatant.Fortified DataCom showcased a portable and easily deployable antenna system that allows a combatant to carry his or her communications “network” in a backpack. Once in the field, the soldier sets up the company’s backpack-sized antenna system, connects with satellite communications and has data and voice communications capability in less than 10 minutes.
Finding a way to keep the warfighter connected while in the battlefield will continue to be a challenge for the Army and other branches. Watching how initiatives are born and offerings are developed to meet those evolving communications needs is fascinating.
Bob Largent, director of customer relationships, TANDBERG public sector
Imagine if you couldn’t call a friend with a Verizon cell phone because you use AT&T. Seems ridiculous, right? Obviously that defeats the purpose of trying to be connected from anywhere with your cell phone because you wouldn’t be able to reach everyone you need to. Well this scenario is actually a reality in the realm of visual communications today.
While some vendors have embraced open standards that allow third party video conferencing and telepresence products to work together, or interoperate, others have not. It’s easy to see that as adoption rates grow for this technology, it’s not sustainable for businesses to purchase equipment that will only let them talk to themselves or those with the same kind of equipment.
“As companies evaluate and deploy a telepresence solution, they should pay particular attention to interoperability. For maximum value, the telepresence technology must integrate with other video conferencing systems, inside and outside their own organization, and regardless of the vendor providing the given solution.”
We agree that visual communication is about creating open communities and providing face-to-face access to anyone. Watch this video to see what we mean:
We’re at the 2009 LandWarNet Conference in Ft. Lauderdale this week. The conference is designed to bring government and industry together to share best business practices and how government can implement those practices.
The Army Management Staff College (AMSC) offers a great example of how that is already being done. The AMSC strives to prepare Army civilian and military leaders for greater leadership and management responsibilities in support of the soldier on the ground. With greater technological capability, there is a need for greater skill and more agility. The AMSC prepares both civilian and military leaders to successfully accomplish missions today, tomorrow and in the future.
In its Civilian Education System (CES), the Army is using distance learning to provide professional leadership development to more than 250,000 Army civilians and military personnel. The distributed learning curriculum includes supervisory, management and Action Officer development and is designed to help employees in the Federal Government continue to grow professionally. Attendees learn everything from basic management skills and change management to how to inspire vision and creativity to how to lead a complex organization in support of national security and defense strategies.
Through video conferencing, the course not only provide lifelong learning opportunities, but also offers inquiry-based learning techniques and collaboration in learning communities that can span thousands of miles.
If you are at LandWarNet, visit us at Booth #539. We’ll be posting from the show later this week – look for our update.