Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Broadband Speed and the Consumer

How much speed are you buying in your current broadband package and are you getting what you pay for? The FCC recently released the results of a national survey that shows just how large the information gap is when it comes to broadband. According to this survey, fully 80 percent of Americans with broadband at home don't know what speed they're getting. The survey was done through a major firm and drew on a national sample of three thousand consumers. The survey found that fifty percent of fixed broadband customers were very satisfied with their service overall, and forty-one percent were somewhat satisfied. Only six percent were "not too" satisfied, and three percent were not satisfied at all.

In order to get the best service at the best value, consumers first need to understand what broadband speed they need for the applications they want to run. If you only do email and some light Web surfing, you really only need the minimum package offered. For the heavier user who might be streaming a movie on occasion or who has children in the house sharing a connection, a middle level of service might be more appropriate. And if you are a serious gamer or like to stream HD quality movie, can you get enough bandwidth?

If you think that you have the right level of service but it doesn’t seem to do everything you think it should, you might have a problem with your equipment. For example, your router might be slowing things up. If you have multiple computers on your home, test each one. Sometimes, the version of software or virus protection may be at fault. And, if you have a wireless router, be sure to secure it with a password so “hitchhikers” don’t use it for free and in the process, use your bandwidth. Also, it is important to keep your anti-virus program current. Viruses and other automated “malware” can be using your bandwidth as well as compromising your computer’s security.

In addition, broadband service providers need to advertise their speeds in clear terms, and consumers need to be assured that the speeds they actually receive match what's advertised. Broadband delivered via a cable modem or through fiber optics tend to maintain their advertised speeds throughout the system. Other systems tend to become slower as you move away from the central office or transmitting tower. If you have any questions about your service, contact your provider. They are there to help.

Great new services will be coming on the Internet. Don’t be left out. If you are not currently on the Internet and would like to be, contact a local provider for classes and services to help you learn more.
By Richard Sjoberg, President of Sjoberg's Inc.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blandin Foundation: Broadband, the Future of Rural Minnesota

Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement at the Blandin Foundation, discusses the benefits and advantages high-speed internet can provide rural communities.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Importance of Broadband for Northwest Minnesota

A century ago, communities that thrived were located along the railroad. Rail was a powerful economic driver, connecting small and often remote communities with the rest of the world. Whether transporting goods, services, or people, the presence of the railroad was one of the most important factors in determining the economic health of a community.

In our 21st century world, broadband is the modern-day equivalent of yesterday's rail system. Like the rail, it is a conduit by which goods and services reach their destination, but more than that, it carries information at cyberspeeds unimaginable a decade ago.

Telecom providers are now pushing 100 gigabit connectivity. These speeds sound incredible, especially to businesses and residents in Northwest Minnesota, where speeds may be as low as 0.4 Mbps.

Affordable high-speed internet access in Northwest Minnesota is no longer an option - it is a necessity. For the small manufacturer located in Red Lake Falls, for the tele-commuter working from her home on Maple Lake near Mentor, for the 72-year old retiree living in rural Ada, communicating with his health provider via a tele-health service, or for the home-based business owner, living in the woods north of Blackduck and conducting e-Commerce via the worldwide web - affordable high-speed broadband access makes it possible to live in Northwest Minnesota and enjoy the quality of life and economic opportunities available to urban counterparts.

Should rural populations have access to identical speeds as those in urban areas? That is a difficult question, and one which remains without an answer at the present time. One thing we do know: Northwest Minnesotans need and deserve higher speeds of broadband service than what is currently available. While some people have a slow connection, some have no connection at all, nor is one available to them. In fact, there are 1,553 households in Northwest Minnesota without any available broadband connection. Within that number are areas of greater distress, with one county reporting 31 percent of households with no available broadband connection. (Source: U.S. Census Track Data, April 30, 2010)

IMPACT 20/20 is a dedicated group of Northwest Minnesota leaders representing diverse interests and working together for the region's economic success. These leaders agree that high-speed broadband is one of the most important components of the rural economy, now and into the future.

IMPACT 20/20 Taskforce for Broadband has two goals:
1. All communities in the region of 500 residents or more will have business-grade broadband access of speeds greater than 20/10 (20 Mb download and 10 Mb upload) within five years.
2. All residents of the region will have access to broadband speeds of 10/5 (10 Mb download and 5 Mb upload) within that same time period.

It is imperative that national policies support development and deployment of broadband service in rural, sparsely populated and high-cost regions such as ours. Without these policies, we fear that Northwest Minnesota and other rural areas of our nation will be increasingly at an economic disadvantage.