Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 4 7 interns to help implement the recommendations. About 119 microgrants were awarded in all. e DCED selected 20 partners for the program, and the partners in turn reached out to 600 businesses and nonprofits and 300 libraries. "Essentially, they developed customized checklists and an interviewing process, assessed the clients' current utilization, and laid out ways to improve their utilization," Suleski explains. For some businesses, the major barrier was a lack of good options for internet access. Suleski tells the story of a guest lodge that tried to market itself as a conference center although it had access only to satellite broadband. After a guest watching YouTube videos maxed out the satellite data cap, bringing down the reservation system, the owners realized they needed a better solution before they could appeal to conference planners. e technical assistance program helped them identify a more suitable provider. In other cases, companies needed technical help to create websites, implement e-commerce or improve communication among their locations. Libraries needed help offering public access to the internet – and deciding how much access they should provide. MANUFACTURING IS COOL One of the technical assistance partners was MANTEC, an industrial resource center that supports small and mid-sized manufacturers in south central Pennsylvania and helps them progress toward advanced manufacturing technologies. Even after the NTIA grant period, MANTEC continues to perform digital assessments for companies and develop customized implementation plans regarding broadband. John Lloyd, president and CEO of MANTEC, says, "Technology is changing at a breakneck pace, and many manufacturers are not keeping up with it. We are creating awareness of that change and helping them take advantage of it." MANTEC's smart manufacturing lab demonstrates robotics and 3D printing to manufacturing companies and students, generating enthusiasm from both parties. To help develop the skilled industrial workforce of the future, the agency also participates in a program called "What's So Cool About Manufacturing?" in which teams of eighth-graders are sent to manufacturing plants with action camcorders to create videos. (e Harley-Davidson motorcycle plant in York, Pennsylvania, is a perennial favorite of the student visitors.) Last year, the video contest from the program garnered 58,000 votes on YouTube. Lloyd says the best way to help small manufacturers – whether their problems involve broadband, succession plans or enterprise resource planning – is to build a relationship with the CEO, assess the company's needs and identify its pain points. "We don't go in with the idea that they need this or that," he says. "We assess the current condition, get the vision of the CEO on where the company should be in three to five years, do a gap analysis, and lead the company through a series of projects to get it there." Most manufacturers already use some information technology, but frequently their systems are disjointed and obsolete. MANTEC's projects often involve migrating these systems onto cloud-based platforms in which all processes, from shop-floor control to resource planning, inventory, sales, marketing and accounting, are seamlessly integrated. Such systems are generally easier to manage and use than older, siloed systems. ey require much less investment in computer hardware and IT staff, and they often pay for themselves quickly in terms of inventory reductions, production efficiencies and increased sales. However, they require reliable broadband access. Another MANTEC case, described on its website, involved helping a company implement a cloud-based education portal to educate service technicians about problem resolution in the field. e system helped the company generate new and retained sales that amounted to more than 10 times the technology investment, and three new people were hired as a result. THE STUDENT CONNECTION e Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), which is part of Pennsylvania State University, was another partner on the NTIA grant program but no longer works on broadband issues; most of its current efforts involve helping manufacturers become more energy efficient and innovative. For the NTIA program, PennTAP targeted small businesses, A Pennsylvania resident's letter to a library that benefited from the Broadband Technical Assistance Program shows how important broadband is for getting people back into the workforce.

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