Why Wireless Broadband?
The purpose of Big River's Broadband Project is to bring affordable broadband service to an underserved area located in southeast Missouri. Today, the seven counties in Big River's service territory suffer from a lack of access to affordable networks. Despite the fact that some of the targeted area has existing providers of Broadband (DSL, cable and wireless services), the limited accessibility, relatively high-price and sub-par condition of those services has caused the take rates of broadband to remain low.
Capacity, choice and speed are some of the obvious benefits of expanded wireless broadband. Each of the current providers of broadband service in the region are national players and are, in most cases, offering national prices. Thus, consumers in the targeted service area pay the same amount as consumers in other parts of the country despite the fact that the median U.S. household income is 28% higher than the median income levels in the seven-county area.
What may not be as obvious is the potential that comes about when technology opens the door to opportunity. While rural America has often struggled to gain access to the highest level of education, healthcare, retail and other services - the ability to connect people and ideas at the speed of light changes everything. The lack of broadband access has several implications to the overall health of the targeted communities. These include:
Economic Development – Attracting new businesses and growing existing ones is becoming increasingly difficult. Broadband can provide access to regional, national and worldwide markets, enhancing the opportunities for current businesses, while providing the infrastructure to attract entrepreneurs, knowledgeable workers, and technology-based companies that would have not otherwise considered a location in this area of the state nor region of the country.
Education – All points on the educational continuum, including primary, secondary, post-secondary, home-schooling and continuing education programs, stand to gain incredible opportunities. In Big River's work with local school district officials, those officials conducted informal surveys that show that only 32% of area students in K-12 have a broadband connection at home. Broadband connectivity offers the promise of remote class instruction, shared course offerings and networking among teachers/administrators and peers. Broadband can overcome geographical and financial barriers to provide access to a wide range of educational and cultural opportunities.
Healthcare – The administration of health care is less robust and more costly due to the limited access to affordable high-speed data connections to communicate diagnostic information, patient data and other health care information. Telemedicine and telehealth have the potential to revolutionize health care in rural America by allowing rural providers and patients the opportunity of access to specialists, retrieval of health records, improved emergency response, reduced transportation costs and the offering of alternatives for home health (including e-visits: connecting health professionals to their patients in real time). This will enable the highest quality of medical care to be delivered to currently unserved and underserved populations.
The availability of an expansive and affordable broadband network will also improve many other aspects of our lives, such as in the areas of agriculture, public safety, government, administration, real estate and land values, tourism and the overall quality of life.
Big River's project is intended to address these issues by:
Creating a broadband network that will reach 90% of the homes in the seven-county area. Accessibility to broadband will be increasing significantly.
Providing an affordable alternative for high-speed Internet. Big River offers an entry-level 5 Mbps service that we sell to households with students, seniors or low-income earners at a discounted price with bundled telephone service.
Lending support to the school districts in the region by providing less expensive access to high-speed Internet while counseling district staff on tools available on the Internet to enhance classroom instruction. Big River will also facilitate the collaboration between districts and has allocated staff to support these initiatives. Discussions have already begun with area school district officials.
Increasing the options for high-speed connections to existing hospitals and medical clinics while introducing high-speed connectivity to patients' homes. Broadband connectivity to the patient will enhance monitoring and diagnostics to improve health care and diminish the costs associated with unnecessary procedures. Big River has existing relationships with many of the hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices in the region.
Improving economic development opportunities through broadband offerings. Big River has worked with various chambers of commerce, community leaders, the state economic development agency for the region, Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development and other community organizations, such as Wired, which is focused on enhancing the IT infrastructure in the area. All of these groups are actively supporting Big River's Build-out for the impact it will have on the community's ability to attract businesses and create jobs.
Finding Work Online
Businesses are increasingly adding employees to their virtual workforce in areas where broadband Internet is plentiful. By working from home, the employee would then realize benefits such as an improved work/life balance and living in the their desired community.
Well, let’s focus on the broadband-enabled worker a bit more. Actually, let’s step that scenario up even further and ask: "What if you decided to go into business for yourself?" It’s certainly more than possible with a fast broadband network in place. Perhaps you have a creative mind and a passion on a particular subject to go with it. Being able to reach anyone in the world can empower you to set your own goals and be in charge of your own destiny. Many folks are self-employed with freelance work and make quite a good living at it as well.
If you decide freelancing is your game, there are plenty of online resources such as Freelance Switch, Krop, hour.ly and Sologig to find work. Beyond that, your greatest tool is networking. Between social networking, referrals and attending events, you should have more than enough work to stay busy. With the modern advent of blogging and social networking sites, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you can get noticed from all distances. Also, don’t forget to sell yourself. Creating a compelling About.me page is a great way to introduce yourself and to reveal the social networks you inhabit.
A broadband-connected world will open up all sorts of opportunities for you and you’ll be in the driver’s seat to your career. So hold on for an exciting ride!
The Remote Workforce
Remember the cartoon from the 1960’s called The Jetsons about the family from the future? If you recall, George Jetson would have his hair and teeth brushed by robotic arms, then he’d whoosh away in his flying car to his job at Spacely Space Sprockets. Well, we might not have the futuristic gizmos that George and family enjoyed, but we are apparently a step ahead when it comes to working from home. (They had to have wireless broadband internet, didn’t they?)
According to a recent survey conducted by Skype, which included responses from 1,000 professionals at about 500 businesses, 62% of surveyed business now allow remote work from home. That’s a pretty impressive number that only looks to increase as already successful productivity and collaboration tools continue to mature. Many websites currently exist that promote telecommuting with helpful resources, such as Undress for Success, or even how to hire talent working from home using sites like Elace. The benefits for companies include lower costs from not having to lease large office spaces, friendly to the environment, offers greater hiring pool, easier to scale and the employees tend to be happier because of improved work/life balance.
Of course, a broadband infrastructure is needed for telecommuting for work, and where better than in our community where you, your friends and family want the same opportunities big cities enjoy. Once our wireless network is in place, we look forward to helping companies and employees get their full potential from a modern, remote workplace that not even George Jetson had a chance to enjoy.