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Transforming communities with optical broadband services

Written by  Philippe Morin
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Philippe MorinIssue:North America 2005
Article no.:7
Topic:Transforming communities with optical broadband services
Author:Philippe Morin
Title:Vice President and General Manager, Optical Networks Business
Organisation:Nortel Networks
PDF size:256KB

 

 

About author

Philippe Morin is Vice President and General Manager of the Optical Networks business for Nortel Networks. Mr Morin joined Nortel Networks as a test engineer and has since held numerous roles of increasing accountability in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, sales and product management in North America and Europe. Philippe Morin serves on several boards of directors including l'Institut International des Télécommunications (IIT) and l'Institut National d'Optique (INO) to encourage telecom investment in the province of Quebec. Mr Morin holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from Université Laval in Quebec City and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from McGill University in Montréal.

 

Article abstract

Access to the Internet plays a disproportionate role in economic success. Rural communities without high-speed communications face disadvantages. These want their economies to grow, want their citizens and businesses to have the opportunities and services of larger urban centres. Broadband access is a key to the growth and well being of these communities. Optical broadband, using the fibre assets that utility companies have in place to serve their internal needs, can often provide the service these communities so urgently need.

 

Full Article

The dawn of the 19th Century marked the onset of the industrial revolution that forever changed the construct of work and communities, transforming the majority of the United Kingdom from a collection of rural agriculture workers to urban manufacturers. As today’s Information Age comes into its own, a similar revolution is unfolding, with access to information and the ability to share ideas as the driving force behind our new society. Technology is an essential part of everyday life. New applications and services driving innovation are based on the ability to harness the power of communications. The Internet is the foundation on which this new society is being built, so access to the Internet will play a large role in determining economic success. On a global basis, rural communities face an inherent disadvantage in the networked economy because the infrastructure needed to support online participation is not readily available in less urbanized regions. These communities are often ‘stranded’ off the Internet superhighway with few, if any, service providers willing or able to build out their networks to service these areas. Rural communities are not the only areas where access to broadband services is in low supply. Many communities, in and outside of the downtown core, in large and small cities around the world, are not addressed by high-speed broadband access, resulting in a competitive disadvantage. Meeting communications needs While technology is fundamentally transforming everyday activities, technology should ideally empower individuals to enjoy access untethered to a desk or location. Communities of all sizes want their economies to grow at the same rates as larger urban centres. Businesses want the freedom to build companies in the neighbourhoods, cities and states that offer the highest quality of living, regardless of where they are located. Workers want the flexibility to access communications and information technology resources anytime and anywhere they choose. Citizens want advanced medical and government services no matter where they live. Parents and students want access to the best education available so that they can get ahead in the world. Communication technology is now at the very foundation of the world’s economy; innovative networks are important to power global commerce and connect rural and underdeveloped parts of the world. Clearly, communities that foster the development of broadband infrastructure will lead innovation and bring economic prosperity to their citizens. Without this connectivity, communities cannot bridge the digital divide, and eliminate the division between the haves and have-nots of the world. Recognizing the tremendous opportunity high-speed communications brings for economic development and prosperity, community-cantered organisations of all types are pioneering the deployment of broadband technology. Examples abound from government, utilities, education and healthcare that demonstrate the power innovative technology has to build the global economy and transform local communities. Optical broadband services provides the answer Optical broadband services leverage the fibre assets that organisations in a community might already possess and hence are an ideal way to provide high-speed services to the customers in these communities. Optical broadband services like optical Ethernet combine the simplicity, ubiquity and flexibility of Ethernet with the reach, scale and reliability of optical networking. With optical broadband, communities can access high-bandwidth data services including Internet access, email, video conferencing, telemedicine, distance learning, remote access and VoIP without a complex stack of products or protocols to manage and control–just Ethernet. Unlike established services, optical broadband provides the granularity and the scale to meet the bandwidth needs of home users and large enterprise customers alike. Communities have a range of choices when deploying optical broadband service. Those with access to fibre and internal expertise can deploy a private network. While those not interested or able to manage the network themselves can take advantage of the increasing options for optical broadband services through incumbent and competitive carriers. A mandate for community services No other organisations are more interested in ensuring the prosperity and viability of the community than local governments. It is not surprising that municipal governments are investing in broadband infrastructure to facilitate global commerce and enhance the human experience available to its citizens. Governments are looking for ways to create e-government applications that link government, businesses and citizens together. Gone are the days when the only way to get what you needed from the public sector was to stand in line during limited business hours. For federal, state and local governments, the Internet has provided a chance to reinvent the way they render services to their constituents. The City of Roanoke, Virginia, for example, is using optical broadband connectivity to provide enhanced services to its citizens, solve community problems, improve operational efficiency and above all enhance public safety. The city has even been able to accomplish this in times of fiscal constraints. Roanoke created a Web portal with a wide variety of online municipal services including registration for building, parade and other permits; payment of traffic and parking tickets; and timely information from its parks and recreation department such as team schedules and statistics. The information flow is not just one way; citizens can send online comments and provide feedback to city officials. Optical broadband connectivity has also enabled Roanoke to improve E-911 response and public safety operations–key homeland security concern. Critical information from emergency calls to their E-911 centre will be routed through the packet optical network to police, firemen and other emergency personnel. The network will also enable faster access to police records, outstanding warrants, city maps and other time-critical data. Half way around the world, Kyotango City, Japan is using packet optical transport technology to provide sophisticated information services for its tens of thousands of citizens. The network gives Kyotango City residents access to such e-government services as e-voting, e-booking of municipal facilities, employment support and remote medical consultations. It also helps the city government to rapidly deploy disaster prevention services–ensuring critical city services are always available. The city also has plans for metro-wide broadband connectivity that will enable home and business-based access to the Kyotango City community intranet. Powering economic development Municipal and regional utility companies play a vital role in the economies of their communities providing essential water, power and electric services. Utilities typically have rights of way and, often, extensive fibre assets that have been put in place to support system protection and internal utility communications. It is a logical extension to see utilities leverage their assets to meet the growing, and often underserved, communications needs of their customers. A case in point is the city of Los Angeles, one of the largest cities in the US and one of the strongest economies in the world, due in part to the services provided by its municipal utility–the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LA DWP). Nevertheless, even a city with this size and prosperity realized that not all citizens were sharing in the benefits of the Internet. The city is extending broadband connectivity, using optical networks, to all community members through wholesale and retail services. An illustration of this network’s vital role in the community is that of a local medical university which is using the DWP network to access Internet2–a collaboration of more than 100 universities for networked learning and research opportunities–at Gigabit speeds, for worldwide medical research and collaboration. The university also plans to use its optical connection to offer telemedicine services to medical clinics and to housing projects where access to medical care is limited. The university recently won a large research grant, in part, due to its high-speed Internet2 connection. "No child left behind" and every child connected School districts and higher education institutions all over the world are embracing technology for advanced learning and collaboration opportunities. For example, the School District of Philadelphia, after 30 years of growing student underachievement, recognized that new technologies could create opportunities for disadvantaged students. Over the past several years, no new tools were made available to support improved education. However, the school district realized that network-based services, innovative new teaching applications and partnerships with leading educational and research institutions across the country were capable of driving school reform and improved student achievement. The district is using a high-bandwidth broadband network, including participation in Internet2, to take advantage of the vast, diverse, educational resources available in the area. Streaming video and video conferencing now allow students to collaborate with leading universities and educational partners in the area. Students have real-time access to events, lectures and experiments with professionals such as astronauts, scientists, authors and artists. Teachers can also take advantage of advanced professional development opportunities provided by partner institutions. They can log on to the network from their classrooms and attend classes at universities throughout the state–without having to travel outside of their schools. This brings unprecedented development opportunities right to the teacher’s desktop. Broadband connectivity in the community extends the bounds of the traditional classroom. High-speed transport from the school district to student homes, juvenile centres and other institutions brings education to at-risk and special-need students, making educational opportunities available to all students regardless of location or circumstance. Delivering advanced medical services The key to healthcare is treating the patient quickly and efficiently with the highest quality care possible and then releasing him promptly. Administering care itself is not the challenge. The real challenge is gathering the information needed to decide the kind of care to provide and getting it to the clinician in a timely manner. Today’s high-speed networks and information technology are the key to getting healthcare providers the information they need when they need it. The Orlando Regional Health System (ORHS) is a great example of using technology to advance the quality of care. ORHS is a centralized clinical information system, deployed at eight facilities in the central Florida region, which manages and monitors the flow of patients, analyses drug interactions, tracks procedures to ensure high-quality care, and generates accurate and timely billing. ORHS takes advantage of the wealth of new healthcare applications that improve the quality of care by digitising patient information–including digital medical imaging and electronic patient records–and makes critical information more readily available and easier to use. Using optical broadband for high-speed, resilient, connectivity between its multiple sites, ORHS ensures that its clinical information system is always available, timely and accurate. This improves clinician efficiency, expedites services, and provides faster and more accurate billing, lower operating costs and, ultimately, better patient care. The best measure of ORHS’ success is patient satisfaction. A recent patient satisfaction survey generated the highest results the healthcare provider has ever experienced–a 90.5 per cent ‘would recommend’ status–well above the national average. Similarly, the North East Montefiore Medical Centre and Cambridge Health Alliance have deployed managed optical broadband services to support advanced digital imaging applications. Through the high-bandwidth managed service physicians can immediately access patient files and expert information from outside the local hospital. Patients no longer have to wait days, weeks or months for their paper files to travel through the mail to their physician. By accessing complete information and enabling collaboration to accelerate service delivery, physicians can more rapidly provide effective and accurate care in a shorter amount of time–reducing the overall cost of care and improving the quality of service delivered. The bottom line Ultimately, making high-bandwidth, communication technology-based services available and affordable fosters prosperity and economic development. Communities that prioritise making broadband services available help ensure their position in the global economy.

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