Replacing less efficient tools with more efficient tools has proven a boon to American manufacturers for more than a century. Yet when it comes to replacing slow telecommunications with faster data-transfer infrastructure, the U.S. still lags.
Japan recently launched the "Kizuna," an experimental communications satellite that enables urban and remote areas in the Asia-Pacific region to access super-high-speed internet service. The $342 million satellite, also known as Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite (WINDS), is not yet intended for commercial use, but if all goes well, it will enable data transmissions of "up to 1.2 gigabytes per second"
at a low cost across Japan and 19 other locales in Southeast Asia.
Currently, little is known regarding when it will exit testing and actually be put to good use.
When comparing United States broadband with Japan's, Americans don't get much infrastructure support. As of October 2006, the Japanese could already obtain broadband connections with 8.5 times the speed but at one-twelfth the cost," according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Greater broadband represents one more way that businesses can help their employees do more in less time. How much does this matter?
Well, U.S. Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Kevin Martin recognizes that broadband technology is a key driver of economic growth. The ability to share massive amounts of information at ever-greater speeds increases productivity, promotes commerce and drives innovation. For example, workers need telecommunication tools that permit fast large-file transfers.
For manufacturers who must constantly focus on improving older products and creating new ones, design teams can only work efficiently through collaboration and teamwork. Files with 3-D designs reach 10 to 20 megabytes, requiring long upload and download times.
"We have fallen to 16th among major industrialized nations in terms of broadband adoption even though we were the home of the computer and Internet," the CWA pointed out. The best American engineers can get is 15 megabits per second for downloads and 1.5 megabits per second for uploading. In contrast, Japanese engineers have access to Internet speeds up to 1.2 gigabits per second.
While the benefits of high-speed broadband are clear for collaborating design engineers, it can also speed supply chain management communication. Managers who occasionally must transfer huge amounts of data to inform their partners of specification changes, production rates, customer buying trends and more would benefit from faster transfers.
Moreover, broadband allows streaming audio-visual material and real-time two-way conversations between trainers and trainees, notes the CWA. This is proven technology for in-use applications, as the CWA/Nett Academy already provides online training and certification (such as the only online Cisco certification and training program in combination with hands-on activities
directed by trained proctors).
In 2004, President Bush pledged that all Americans should have affordable access to high-speed Internet service by 2007. A recent government report, entitled Networked Nation: Broadband in America
, provides an upbeat assessment of the administration's efforts to spur growth and competition in the high-speed Internet market. The report, prepared by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, concludes that "a reasonable assessment of the available data indicates" that the objective of affordable access to broadband for all has been realized "to a very great degree," as The Associated Press
Critics, however, say the report's conclusion is too rosy.
Part of the problem stems from defining broadband. "The FCC defined it as 200 kilobits per second," notes AP.
"The notion that a 200-kpbs connection is broadband is itself ludicrous," Derek Turner, research director for Free Press, a nonprofit public-interest group that studies media and technology issues, told AP. The CWA suggests that government set "high speed" at 2 mbps downstream and 1 mbps upstream.
Probably the greatest detriment to greater investments in more broadband is that Americans don't viscerally understand the math. When you multiply all the extra minutes required for upload and download times all the engineers, scientists, managers, trainers and shop-floor workers, the product gets significant.
To raise data-transfer speed, the CWA suggests a private-public partnership to promote deployment and demand in communities. The union also calls for stimulating investment through tax incentives, universal-service-fund reform, grants to emergency responders for high-speed broadband and leveraging public monies.
Super-speed Internet Satellite Blasts Off in Japan
CNN/Associated Press, Feb. 23, 3008
Japan Launches Kizuna Satellite, Hopes It Will Deliver High-Speed Internet
by Darren Murph
Engadget, Feb. 23, 2008
Speed Matters: Affordable High Speed Internet for All
Communication Workers of America, October 2006
Strategic Goals: Broadband
Federal Communications Commission
Networked Nation: Broadband in America
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (U.S. Commerce Dept.), January 2008
U.S. Close to Bush's Goal of Affordable Access to High-Speed Internet Service, Report Says
by John Dunbar
The Associated Press (via NCTimes.com), Jan. 30, 2008
High Speed Internet Access Overview
Web Exordium LLC
National Association of Manufacturers