Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Linking the Internet and the SuperNet Will Reshape Rural Alberta

The wonderful world of technology to evolving and revolving – all at the same time and changing the way we live and work and relax!

Marshall McLuhan said “We shape our tools and then they shape us.” The way the tool of the Internet is shaping us is absolutely fascinating and I’m thinking absolutely profound in technical terms but also in socio-cultural terms.

In social terms we have newspapers are struggling to find a sustainable business model in the face of growing internet competition as a news and information source. Television no longer has the dominant grasp of our eyeballs because we are using more on-line viewing of programs. We now have a box of technology that will provide free internet based television that will be challenge the viability of the subscriber based cable companies. The box has the support of the major program producers to boot.

iTunes with MP3 players like iPods has found a successful business model to make money from music and are now the largest vendors of music on the planet. The e-book is an emerging challenge to traditional book publishing and the new Kindle reader from Amazon may be the tech breakthrough needed to make this finally happen.

The social media explosion of Facebook, Twitter and other such sites, where people “meet” and make sense of their world, has happened. It represents a fundamental culture shift that has happened around the globe and virtually (sic) overnight. The move from text based e-mail applications to social media methods and beyond that include YouTube video being uploaded at the rate of about 10,000 a day shows how the internet has changed the cultural context of the web.

One of the next big economic enablers from the changing internet is going to be from the declining cost of videoconferencing equipment and the increasing ease of use. There is a technological breakthrough that dramatically reduces the bandwidth needs so it can now use telephone lines instead of cable or expensive fibre optics. This will be a ubiquitous and cost effective way to get anyone with an old-fashioned phone line into the front lines of internet capacity and connectivity.

Rural communities in Alberta are no longer isolated by time and distance and their sustained economic viability is now more about their imaginations than the traditional limitations. Remote First Nations are now into videoconferencing. Other communities are restructuring relationship internally and externally to lever the opportunities for enhanced internet links for SuperNet access. Others are getting grants andlooking at the feasibility of providing optical fibre connections direct to all homes and businesses in an entire community.

Still others are taking advantage of CRTC regulatory procedures to seek a requirement to enable use of existing land line telephone services. This access, if approved, will provide for competitive services for internet, VOIP and even high definition videoconferencing all over the province with no additional physical infrastructure requirements or other costs to taxpayers or users.

This copper wire connectivity will also enable Albertans to link at fibre quality to the SuperNet fibre optic network that is all over the province too. This old-fashioned copper wire connectivity will ironically make that $B investment in the SuperNet pays off through personal, community and business access for anyone in the province who wants to use it.

The internet is definitely a tool that we shaped and it is dramatically reshaping us - and there is every indication that it will continue to do so for some time to come. Fascinating times.