Sucking mega-bits through a straw

In 2016, over 1,000 billion gigabytes of data were exchanged worldwide. That sounds like a lot.
At the same time, 35 million Americans didn't, and still don't, have access to 25 megabits per second broadband.
The upload speed at my house (and office) is 0.69 Mbps, and the download speed is 5.04 Mbps. That's not a lot.
We've all followed the efforts and roadblocks to getting high speed broadband to rural Colorado in recent years—to anywhere not off an I-25 or I-70 exit.
We're still waiting.
In March, Gov. Hickenlooper announced that Anthony Neal-Graves would head Colorado's Broadband Office. Graves was put in charge of driving the state's broadband strategy. In the announcement, the governor's office stated that seven in 10 people in rural Colorado have access to broadband, and the state wants to raise the rural level to 85 percent by the end of 2018 and achieve 100 percent for all of Colorado by 2020.
In many cases, we suspect, digging trenches and laying cable at this rate will mean one provider and little competition. And competition is what we need. We want companies fighting for our data.
On production day for our weekly miracle, opening a small .pdf off our server from a remote location is cause to declare a coffee break. By the time we double-click, we can go pour coffee, check on the weather, sift through a few emails and return to the computer with faint hope that the document has opened.
We don't rely on moving large files across the web except for one, maybe two days a week. Imagine a business that needs this daily.
There are no stats, nothing to quantify this, but surely growth in our area for businesses that rely on such things daily, that can operate anywhere in the world as long as there is high speed internet, have had to look elsewhere.
And if you're looking for eco-friendly businesses to move into your community, these are ideal to attract. Their production footprints are fairly benign.
Perhaps this is what makes SpaceX and Tesla-founder Elon Musk's promise of deploying a constellation of internet-providing satellites so promising in creating competition. Musk's plan is to begin launching satellites in 2019 until 4,425 satellites are circling above, beaming high speed internet to every crack and crevice on earth.
Roughly 1,460 satellites currently orbit our globe. These additional 4,425 would occupy 83 strata between 650 to 830 miles above earth.
A spokesperson for SpaceX, Patricia Cooper, said in May that "millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access." She is so right.
This week, as our county ranks swelled with visitors from near and far, our cell phones and desk phones (which are internet-based) were spotty at best.
I can imagine that visitors to our county go away amazed at the natural beauty but frustrated by the limited cell and internet service. When you add thousands of devices trying to move bits of data all at once, it's like trying to suck data the size of a bowling ball through a straw.
If Musk is successful, though, we'll all be sending and receiving Mbps in a few years like they're going out of style. His array of satellites will give Colorado providers and the state some much-needed competition.
And, perhaps we won't have to rip up all of our natural beauty laying cable in trenches to achieve the governor's goals.

As the July 4 parade turned the corner at 9th Avenue in Ouray, so did what may be considered the halfway point of the summer season. Still, several businesses in the area continue to search for employees to help them during this busy season.
Employees can be as hard to find as a parking spot in Ouray during the Fourth of July parade. Employees, too, find it difficult to park themselves here in the county, as affordable housing, it would seem, has always been difficult to attain in a mountain resort town.
Consider this excerpt from an editorial in the Plaindealer from 2004:
“Every three to five years here in Ouray County, folks can be certain that two subjects will come across the public table.
“One is the proposed consolidation of Ouray and Ridgway school districts.
“The second topic is affordable housing. With a meeting in Ridgway this week, it's back on our radar screen. And, with real estate prices spiraling in a Telluride direction, the return of the issue comes not a moment too soon.
“The politically correct like to call it attainable housing. Whatever semantics are used, the dilemma is simple. Can normal working people afford to own a home in Ouray County?
“It is that basic wage to home price ratio that makes life in a mountain (almost) resort town so difficult for the middle class wage earner desiring to live in this desirable place. The obstacle of a $200,000 "starter" home is just too steep for people on marginal fixed incomes.”
The only thing that has changed since that was written is the price tag on a "starter" home and the going wage for service industry employees. The former has undoubtedly outpaced the latter.

Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at 970-325-2838 or