How fast is your home broadband? Seventy to 80 Mbps if you’re one of the few with the very fastest fibre broadband services? Perhaps 10Mbps if you’ve got an average connection, maybe under 2Mbps if you live some miles from your nearest exchange. So how would you fancy a 500Mbps download scheme?
That is what I’ve seen on Harry Ball’s quite ancient computer – not in the heart of London but in a village in rural Lancashire. Arkholme is hardly a teeming metropolis but Harry is one of the first local residents to be hooked up to the B4RN community broadband network.
After deciding that they were never likely to get a fast broadband connection from one of the major suppliers, a group of local people across this sparsely populated area decided that sitting around moaning about it was not an option. Instead they began a DIY effort, digging channels across the fields and laying fibre optic cables.
They have exploited all sorts of local expertise – from the Lancaster University professor who is an expert in computer networks to the farmer’s wife who has just retired from a career in IT support. The cooperation of local landowners has been vital – free access to fields has made it much cheaper to roll out the network. BT and other companies which have to dig up the country roads to lay fibre networks reckon it can cost as much as £10,000 to hook up one rural home – the people at B4RN reckon they can bring that down to around £1,000.
And people like Harry and Susan Ball are now entering the superfast broadband era. The retired couple told me they knew little about computers and had got used to the fact that it was almost impossible on their slow connection to watch video or use Skype. Now Harry is able to watch the iPlayer streaming in HD, and Susan has become a B4RN volunteer, helping to dig trenches for the fibre.
But, after raising half a million pounds from locals who bought shares on the promise of a fast connection, the project now needs to move to the next stage. In the Arkholme village hall this afternoon, B4RN is holding an open day, inviting anyone to drop in and test the broadband connection on their phones or computers.
The hope is that many will sign up to the £30 per month service, but that some will also buy shares in B4RN. Another £1.5m is needed if the full 265KM network is to be rolled out. That sounds ambitious – but having spent 24 hours watching the volunteers digging trenches, blowing fibre and learning a process called fusion splicing I can see they are a very determined bunch.
As Barry Forde, the networking expert who is the chief executive of B4RN explained to me, fast broadband is not a luxury now, whether in the town or the country. “Farmers are being told they have to fill in forms online,” he says. “If you haven’t got broadband you are severely disadvantaged.”
And despite the £530m government money to bring fast broadband to rural Britain, many communities face a long wait to get connected. In the meantime, others may learn the lesson from B4RN – if you want it in a hurry, just get out and start digging.
The Healthcare Connect Fund advances the FCC’s pilot work on broadband and health services with a particular focus on leveraging high-speed connectivity to widen telemedicine networks and boost access to specialists for patients who don’t live near major hospital centers.
The FCC promises that the new fund “will allow thousands of new providers across the country to share in the benefits of connectivity and dramatically cut costs for both hospitals and the Universal Service Fund,” the agency’s omnibus telecom subsidy program.
The agency will begin accepting applications for the fund in late summer.
The Healthcare Connect Fund comes as the latest step in the FCC’s ongoing work in the area of healthcare technology. Just last month, around the same time that it approved the order authorizing the new fund, the FCC began the hiring search for the new position of director of healthcare initiatives.
The FCC says that the new healthcare director will coordinate the FCC’s varied efforts to harness technology to improve care and drive down costs, overseeing the availability of wireless medical devices and working with hospitals and other medical facilities to ensure that they have sufficient broadband connectivity.
The director will also spearhead the FCC’s outreach on healthcare issues with members of the medical and telecommunication industries, as well as the relevant government agencies involved with healthcare technology. Additionally, the individual will work with in-house FCC experts to address a host of technical issues like harnessing spectrum to enable remote testing through the use of wireless devices, and oversee the development of the new Healthcare Connect Fund.
An outgrowth of the FCC’s Rural Healthcare pilot program launched in 2006, the Healthcare Connect Fund aims to simplify the eligibility requirements to ensure that hospitals serving patients in rural areas can secure funding to upgrade their bandwidth to support modern telemedicine applications.
Additionally, by restructuring the terms of the program for healthcare consortia, the FCC projects that the new fund could lower the cost of robust broadband healthcare networks by as much as half. The fund will also channel as much as $50 million over a three-year period to support high-speed broadband service at skilled nursing facilities.
The FCC cites Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., as an example of how grant funding has broadened access to specialists. At that hospital, which has received Universal Service funding from the FCC, medical staffers “are using broadband to enable remote examination through a live IP video feed and a relatively inexpensive telemedicine cart.” That way, Barton can offer patients access to outside experts in areas such as cardiology, infectious disease and neurology, areas of practice in which the hospital has no in-house specialists.
The new fund seeks to expand those types of telemedicine offerings, as well as support for the exchange of electronic health records. The FCC says that it will cover 65 percent of the cost of a new broadband deployment or upgrade for successful grant applicants, leaving the remaining 35 percent to the healthcare provider.
The Healthcare Connect Fund will also encourage the development of state and regional consortia comprised of individual healthcare providers that can improve their bargaining position by banding together with other facilities. The FCC says that consortia must be primarily rural in their makeup in order to be eligible for funding.
Other providers eligible for the program include public or not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, community health centers and educational institutions such as medical schools and teaching hospitals.
Via: Network World
A report by Bloomberg, states that Dish Network Corp. is prepping a nationwide broadband-Internet service using a satellite from EchoStar Corp. EchoStar Corp. According to three people familiar with the situation.
Dish and EchoStar will be able to handle about 2 million new customers for their internet service, according to one person. The EchoStar 17 satellite will be used, it launched into orbit July 5, and can support download speeds of 15 megabits per second. Though introductory nationwide packages will probably offer rates of 5 megabits per second so the system can take on more capacity.
This all the result of technological advances for the U.S. satellite industry, which can now use higher-frequency bands to offer faster broadband to more people. Dish already offers satellite broadband through a partnership with Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat Inc., though that only covers certain parts of the U.S.
This satellite broadband- internet service will mainly be for those who live in rural areas and who may not have access to cable broadband. Dish expects to formally offer the service in late September or early October.