Connect. We are all connected to a myriad of devices, events, timelines and people every day in this life. But what happens when our connection gets interrupted? Ever been running late while traveling from one airport to another only to get that sick feeling in your stomach that you are going to miss your connection? It causes stress, frustration or even anger at times because truth be told, connection is important to each of us!
By now it is no mystery that 2020 has brought on new experiences for us all, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health concerns brought on corporate lockdowns and small business shutdowns. This has led to lonely freeways, nearly silent skies, empty restaurants, heightened concerns for family and friends, new work-from-home protocols, increased consumption of caffeine for some and less for others, unanticipated separation anxieties for people or even our jobs as we once knew them. It’s also caused a few unlucky folks forgetting to turn off the webcam before they stood up from their computers only to reveal to their audience they were conducting a meeting in their festive pajama bottoms or cartoon underwear. Lastly, the lockdown had one other important effect—a drastically increased dependency on internet access in our homes.
This newfound dependency meant what once was a few hours spent on our computers at home in the evenings after we arrived home from school or job, quickly turned into 12 to 14 hours a day, or perhaps even more for the avid online gamers or sleep challenged insomniacs (like me). Wait, did you hear that? It was the sound of our network infrastructure groaning, like someone who suddenly felt an elephant start to sit on their chest.
With the whole country now confined at home, access to high speed broadband was no longer viewed as a “perk” but rather an absolute necessity. When that elephant of bandwidth demand sat down on our country’s collective chest, it quickly revealed gaps where internet access is not what it should be in many places and certainly incapable of supporting such a heavy load bearing down so quickly in many other places, even within our biggest metro cities. Never fear however, because a hero is on the way to help lift that elephant off and free us: that hero is fiber optics!
Fiber optic technologies and products have greatly advanced in the last decade, enabling network capabilities and speeds to support services in ways we could never have imagined 20 years ago. The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) was formed for the expressed purpose of being a champion to help evangelize the importance, requirements and benefits of fiber technology as an essential part of our lives and the many ways we connect across the entire globe.
That said, it was fitting that the name for their annual trade show aptly became “Fiber Connect.” It is a perfect match, as fiber is a key technology in the network communications world and Connect is a key humanity for the interpersonal communications world.
I have been in the telecom industry for a long time now and attended Fiber Connect many times over the years, however in these most recent years it has become very evident just how important this annual event really is.
I would venture to say few other technologies have so widely affected the world as fiber optics; its applications are far-reaching and deeply impactful for many different industries leading to an explosion of innovation. Reaching that level of impact requires a campaign of enormous proportions to convey the message that ultimately leads to widespread adoption.
Nobody has done a better job than FBA at tying together the threads that run through all things fiber and tirelessly promoting the intrinsic value therein; from their efforts on Capitol Hill to enabling start-up fiber service providers the tools to get off the ground effectively and everything in between.
That said, Fiber Connect is an essential destination each year for people to come together to hear how fiber both currently and potentially interacts with services and devices that are or could be beneficial to us all. From streaming services to our televisions, to self-driving cars, to smart home equipment, to telemedicine (which sharply increased in value during this COVID-19 pandemic), to all our personal devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.)—they all allow us to connect.
Attendees receive facts, opinions, statistics and data on everything from fiber technology advances, to network methodologies, to legislative issues that challenge deployments and much more from industry experts in their respective fields who make themselves accessible to offer their knowledge and experiences. The environment is always informative, yet more importantly, it provides opportunities for us to meet new people and explore new ways in which we can connect on the road toward tomorrows yet to come.
Since there is already an elephant in the room, let’s be candid and address that yes, I work for a manufacturing company that offers optical cables, cable hardware, fiber connectivity products, fusion splicers, test/ inspection equipment and a broad array of fiber network services. There, I fully confess that AFL, like many other similar manufacturing companies, has a vested interest in a trade show like Fiber Connect because it is our business.
However, beyond the business of fiber optics is a gem of much greater value; fiber is the freeway to our future and freedoms. Stop and really think for just a moment about the progress and technological advances we have made in the last decade that affect various aspects of our everyday life.
Now imagine with me what the world might experience in the next decade if we utilize fiber to its full potential! In their North American 2019 Advanced Broadband Report, RVA Market Research & Consulting revealed both that fiber availability is approaching 40% of U.S. Households and the technology reached that percentage approximately 15 years faster than coax, as well as 25 years faster than copper.
What it means is the U.S. is already adopting fiber faster and seeing its potential more readily than we did with its two predecessor technologies. The statistic also conveys that we still have a long way to go to reach 90% or better fiber availability here in this country. This is where Fiber Connect becomes so real and so very important. It is not merely a single annual event to pencil in if you can; it is an entry point to a movement that affects us all, it is a mindset that we can embrace to alter our technological trajectory, it is a roundtable to realize relationships.
The world has been unsettled and extremely challenging this calendar year, no doubts. Our agendas have been altered, our routines were all rearranged and our plans temporarily plundered by pandemic. Nevertheless, we should forge ahead in freedom and fortitude, leaving behind our fears and failures. Let us chart a new course in courage and conviction, rejecting chaos and complacency.
Fiber is fundamental. Connection is crucial. Fiber Connect is a worthwhile experience for anyone, so don’t miss the opportunity to participate. Let us choose to live in the truth that we can’t live without connect!