Both in rural and urban America, broadband fiber networks are influencing people`s lives, jobs and education by delivering video communications, medical care and business information from local and distant authorities. Lightwave communications technologies enable people living in the countryside, as well as city dwellers, to live resourcefully, whether they are close or far from colleges, hospitals and corporations.
According to staff reporter Bill Richards in a Wall Street Journal story, farm mergers, falling land prices and fewer services forced many people to leave small towns during the 1980s. Today, however, in many U.S. rural counties, populations that decreased during the 1980s are increasing in the 1990s.
For example, in Nebraska, reports Richards, nearly one-half the state`s 1.8 million residents live in small, scattered towns. During the 1980s, the population declined in 83 of Nebraska`s 93 counties. Since 1990, however, all but 20 counties have gained or maintained stable populations.
One major reason for this--approximately 6700 miles of fiber-optic cable have been installed across the state. As a result, broadband fiber networks are permitting small towns to participate in interstate and intrastate video conferencing, distance learning classes and telemedicine consultations.
In Massachusetts, two community-owned electric utilities are installing broadband fiber networks that are enabling them to provide voice, video and data services (see page 1). One utility, the Braintree Electric Light Department, has completed a 12-mile, 100-megabit-per-second fiber network that furnishes voice and data communications to the town`s municipal offices. The second utility, owned by the City of Newton, is installing a 155-Mbit/sec broadband fiber network that will connect the fire department, the police department, city hall and the school system.
The ultimate full-service broadband fiber network was activated recently by Time Warner Cable in Orlando, FL (see Lightwave, April 1995, page 1). It merges cable, telephone and computer technologies from a team of leading communications companies. The network is initially furnishing movies on demand, video games and home shopping.
This month`s special report on broadband fiber networks (page 31) deals with the major issues involved in planning, evolving and upgrading such networks.
In one article, Paul Zalloua, product planning manager at T3plus Networking Inc., declares that to ensure broadband networks earn business value, planners must evaluate available services, select those that meet the application, and choose the equipment that ensures operational flexibility and investment protection.
Andy Paff, president of the technology grou¥at Antec Corp., describes a three-phase approach to broadband networks that presents a cost-effective and practical migration plan.
And Rich Henkemeyer, market manager in access platform systems at ADC Telecommunications Inc., advises planners to work closely with service providers and equipment vendors to structure their broadband needs.
These practical applications and planning articles demonstrate how broadband fiber networks are empowering users with access to information and expertise. In all cases, broadband is the deliverer.