By Robert Bole. Rob is a Vice President with One Economy, a national nonprofit dedicated to using technology to fight poverty.
Wireless access is growing daily. Oregon consumers are choosing wireless options for phones and internet access when reliable service is available. There are now more cell phone lines than land lines. There are increasing numbers of households choosing to wireless and no wired telephone. According to Ipsos Institute, all of the growth in computer sales is in laptop and notebook computers with built in wireless internet access. Also, the percent of Americans who accessed the internet through some wireless means is rapidly increasing each year. People are choosing mobility. They are choosing mobility, the ability to take information and services with them and have it with them where they want it.
Oregonians already have among the widest access to free or affordable high speed wireless Internet access. Fred Zahari has built one of the largest wireless clouds in the country in Eastern Oregon. Intel and ClearWire are partnering to test WiMax equipment and silicon around their Hillsboro and Beaverton campsuses. There are wireless mesh networks and WiMax in Portland, Corvallis, The Dalles, Bend, Roseburg, Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland and more are in the works. Future deployments of newer technologies like WiMax and others will further increase the reach of unwired access. But how do we convert the reach of wireless internet into a benefit for communities?
Oregon has promoted access to broadband internet access through a variety of public policies. Everything from building high-speed SONET rings to pushing fiber connections to cities and promoting e-commerce development. To get the full benefits of wireless internet access, Oregon needs policies that will promote increased deployment of wireless, but what are they? What are the obstacles to more rapid deployment and deployment to new areas?
The trend toward choosing wireless is not likely to change. Few people outside of technology companies, however, have spent any time thinking about how to use this access to increase economic development or improve workforce development.
On May 1st Oregon is coming together on the campus of Oregon State University to discuss the impact of wireless Internet connectivity on communities and economy. The Unwire Oregon Conference is bringing 200 policymakers, economic development officials and technologists from around Oregon, but also from across the country, to discuss and point the direction for communities to prepare for the coming mobile revolution. Questions for the day include:
- How will mobility affect consumer behavior? What opportunities does this create for areas with large and small populations?
- How does this change business models and organizational structures? How do those changes change how areas develop existing business and help create new ones?
- How will these changes create new demands for workforce development? How will these changes create new ways to do workforce development?
- What is the appropriate and realistic role for public policy? Can it create incentives to bring unwired internet access to new locations without large outlays of taxpayer money? Is there a link to deregulation of telecommunications services?
Although we are talking about technology, this is not a technology conference. We are not interested in competing protocols or technologies. That will come, just not at Unwire Oregon. This is the chance to grab the attention of local leaders and inform them about the future and its impact on their communities.
Come to Corvallis on May 1st to participate, learn and discuss how unwiring will expand and grow our economy and communities. If you are interested , please visit Unwire Oregon's website.