Monday, June 9, 2008

tt4t_041 Bandwidth availability and the digital divide…

It’s Monday, June 9th, 2008 and welcome to episode 41 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This has been a bit of a rough weekend for many of us here in the midwest. Over the weekend we had major flooding with many roads closed due to high water. In our area of east-central Illinois Interstate 70, US Route 40, Illinois Route 130, Illinois Route 121 and many of our low lying county roads were closed. For the most part the flooding has subsided and the major highways are now open but many county roads remain closed. The weather forecast does not look good as more rains are expected today and later in the week. Along with all of the rain came high winds and downed power lines so many were without power. We also lost cell phone service this weekend although my cell phone is now working.

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A link to a story in our local paper is provided in the show notes if you would like to read more about this series of storms.

Charleston Mattoon Journal Gazette – June 2008 Storms

Mother Nature is in control and this just goes to show you how fragile our infrastructure can be when faced with the wrath of Mother Nature. I live in the country and we have experienced these outages before and therefore we are prepared for these types of events when they happen. I must say though that not having phone service for a couple of days really makes you feel out of touch with the rest of the world. Being stuck at home made me also want to reconsider my choice of not having Internet access at home as it would have been nice to be able to get on the Internet this weekend to find out what was going on.

Internet access choices are limited in our area and high prices have kept me from signing-up for service. It would be very convenient to have Internet access at home and I am now investigating some new broadband choices but many carriers are beginning to put caps on the amount of broadband access you are allowed to consume. I previously had satellite Internet access at home but found the speeds too slow and the price too high to continue its use. New choices are now becoming available.

For example, in this area of Illinois Verizon is now offering a free broadband USB modem for approximately $40.00 per month. This service plan has a cap of 50MB of usage before they begin to charge you an overage charge of 49 cents per MB. Verizon is also offering a 5 GB plan for approximately $60.00 per month with an overage charge of 99 cents per MB. Both require a minimum 1 year service contract. 50 MB per month is really not that much data but I really do not want to spend $720 per year for a service that is capped at the higher 5GB per month fee either. Please note that these charges are in addition to our monthly cell phone bill that is approximately $100.00 per month.

Verizon Wireless Broadband

So if I do go with the 5GB plan I would be paying approximately $160 per month between cell phone and broadband access services. That is $1920.00 per year and that just seems like a lot of money for basic communication services for the 21st Century. Add to this the typical cable TV bill of $50 per month and this cost becomes approximately $210.00 per month or $2520.00 per year for cell phone, wireless broadband Internet access, and cable TV. Of course my idea of basic services is relative and it is my choice to select the services I want to access. Being connected has its costs. Now I wonder if I could give up my cable TV and trade it in for the broadband access? Choices, choices…

Net Neutrality
There is another battle going on right now that will impact all wireless Internet users in the coming months. Wireless access providers seem to want to limit data usage while content providers want to maximize content that is available to purchase and download. So we have competing interests of content providers wanting end users to download as much music and videos as the consumer can afford but the wireless carriers are concerned with the amount of bandwidth that this requires. Thus the carriers are looking at new business models to pay for this increased bandwidth use.

I have a link to a New York Times article from back in January of this year that I encourage you to read regarding a pilot project by Time Warner that is capping of bandwidth usage for the citizens of Beaumont, Texas. This comes under the heading of net neutrality. In my opinion if this Time Warner pilot project is successful it will be replicated by other wireless Internet Service Providers across the nation, in a way it already has. So if you want to download that high-definition movie that you legally purchased online it could cost you an additional $30 in bandwidth fees to download this large file on top of the original purchase price if you live in Beaumont Texas according to this NY Times article. That is scary!

Time Warner Beaumont Texas Bandwidth Cap

I would like to ask the listeners/readers if any of you have a wireless broadband service and what you like about it. How much bandwidth are you using? Are you satisfied with the service? How much bandwidth do you use each month? My reservations about bandwidth have to do with the fact that I do watch a lot of videos from YouTube and TeacherTube so I am concerned about the amount of material that I would be downloading at home. Add to this my use of Skype for audio and video conferencing and I am afraid I would even hit the higher 5GB limit for any given month. Please let me know what types of service and pricing are available in your area.

Unfortunately the digital divide still exists in rural Illinois as coverage choices are limited and prices remain relatively high, particularly in rural areas. We do have access and choices but for many this still remains cost prohibitive. What do you think? Am I being a cheapskate? Leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog or send and email to to share your thoughts with others.

I will be attending the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in San Antonio, Texas at the end of this month. If any listeners are planning to attend NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email at and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while in San Antonio. I would love to meet fellow listeners/readers face-to-face to compare notes so please let me know if you are interested.

NECC 2008 San Antonio Link:

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a flowcharting Web 2.0 service named Gliffy. Last week I reviewed a text to mind map tool and this week I ran across the Gliffy flowcharting tool. Gliffy reminds me a lot of the Microsoft Visio program as it has several palates of shapes to choose from such as flowcharts, network diagrams, org charts, floor plans, and many others.
A link to Gliffy is provided in the show notes.

Gliffy – Flowcharting service

It must be flowchart week this week as I just visited the freetech4teachers blog and found another flowcharting service from Rather than me recap it here please head on over to the FreeTech4Teachers blog for a brief review. I would like to thank the freetech4teachers blog for the mention about the TechTalk4Teachers podcast. I would also like to ask that you help spread the word about the TechTalk4Teachers podcast and mention it to fellow educators that may be interested in listening over the summer.

FreeTech4Teachers Blog

That wraps it up for episode 41 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

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