Up-to-date telecom infrastructure needed

High-speed Internet has become a necessity for every community, according to Steven Collier.

“Would it be possible to have successful economic development in this region without paved roads?” Collier said. “Could you do successful economic development without electricity? That would be impossible, wouldn’t it? That is where we are today with broadband.”

Collier is vice president of Marketing and Business Development at Milsoft Utility Solutions and an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Smart Grid expert. He was the keynote speaker at a forum Thursday focusing on the need for Internet everywhere, and the challenge of providing fast connections in rural areas.

The event was sponsored by Iowa LinkedUp and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

Local companies must find ways to bring the Internet to areas at ever-increasing speeds, Collier said.

“The Internet is already gigabit Internet. How many of you offer gigabit service? That’s a bare minimum,” he said. “Without gigabit Internet service – not in your lifetime, not by the time you retire, but almost immediately – without gigabit Internet service, the local economy is becoming less and less viable.”

Gigabit Internet refers to a connection that runs at 1 gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second, considerably higher than the 5, 10, 50 or 100 megabits per second which are common today.

One factor in the coming speed increase is the “Internet of Things,” he said.

For most of its history, the Internet has been about connecting a person at one end to a person or machine at the other end, he said. Now, more and more smart devices are connecting on their own.

When Collier set up a new router at his house, he said 27 different devices automatically logged on and connected to the Internet.

“Three wireless DVRs, three Nintendo 3DS’s, four iPhones, three iPads, two wireless printers, five computers, my AT&T home security system, and I’ve left some things out. Now that’s just at my house,” he said.

As revenues from traditional sources decline, and the need for more speed demands infrastructure upgrades, telecom companies need to look outside the box, he said. One idea is to consider partnering with other providers, like electric utilities.

Companies need young people, he said, because they know the Internet better than anyone else and can solve problems that seem impossible.

“The way most of us adults think about the Internet is not very well-informed. The Internet has gotten away from us,” he said.

The theme of the new generation is Harry Potter, he said; they don’t have to understand how something works to make it work.

“It’s too late for me to go to Hogwarts,” Collier said. “In the age of the Internet of things, we are all Muggles. We need the magicians to help us out.”

Luke Palmer, the general affairs manager of CJ Bio America in Webster County, experienced an unplanned reminder of the power of wireless technology before his presentation to the gathering.

He said that upon arriving at college’s BioScience and Health Sciences Center where the gathering was held, he discovered that the thumbdrive bearing slides he needed for his talk wouldn’t work. So using a cellphone and a laptop computer, he contacted people in Seoul, South Korea, where the company’s headquarters is located, and was able to get the thumbdrive properly configured.

During his presentation, he said that among other things the company uses technology to monitor and control things at its local plant from other locations. As an example, he described a time when a co-worker used a smart phone to adjust the thermostat in his office.

“Technology is part of everything we do,” Palmer said.