Monday, September 17, 2007

Inventing the Future in Korea (and Lafayette)

Korean broadband is regularly cited as some of the best in the world ranking number 4 in the percentage of connected users and first in the percent of users working from a fast fiber optic connection.

Lafayette is set on the path toward having an even higher percentage of its population on fast fiber than the Korean average. Some folks (well the incumbent providers Cox and AT&T) suggest in ways subtle and not so subtle that people just can't use all that bandwidth.

The Korean stats tell a different story. If you build it, the Koreans at least, will come. I suspect that Americans too would find their own field of dreams.

So what do all those Koreans do with all that bandwidth? Invent the future. An article in the Korean Times suggests the shape of that future:
The Samsung Economic Research Institute said that the so-called Web 2.0 movement is the main reason behind the surge of online traffic. For example, the number of blog users has increased 16 fold in the past two years, and the number of monthly blog postings by 10 fold, it said.

The most dramatic growth was seen in the circulation of short video clips, often referred to as UCC (user-created content) in Korea. Visitors to video sharing services at major portal sites more than quadrupled between March 2006 and March 2007.

The volume of information flow on the Internet will continue to expand at an ever-increasing speed, the report said.

"The amount of two-way data traffic has soared as the role of Netizens has changed from that of spectator to active participant...'' (emphasis mine)
Koreans are becoming producers of content and in the process are eating up bandwidth an ever-accelerating rate. Their patterns of use are changing and they are becoming the worlds first natives of a new communications regime. In that new regime they are becoming the writers and the video producers and easy uploading of their product has become one of the drivers pushing up bandwidth usage.

This bodes well for Lafayette. Our system will provide symmetrical bandwidth to all subscribers. The "intranet" feature—meaning we will be able to communicate with each other locally at the full speed of the local net, probably upwards of 100 megs—will facilitate just the shift that is taking place in Korea. It also bodes well for LUS—LUS' bandwidth potential will be unmatchable by the competition. It is in LUS' interest to push this transition and help push bandwidth consumption since a shift to higher consumption broadband habits would play to their advantage.

The most significant difference between Lafayette and Korea is the size of the local population. Korea's population was large enough to provide for local lift-off without much aid. They were in a position to exchange information between people spread out over a larger region. (Korea is about 75% of the size of Louisiana so Southern Louisiana to above Alex would be a rough equivalent.) Friends in adjacent Korean cities could participate in the net-based exchange. Most of my friends live in the city but some do not--they are in Boussard, Sunset, Baton Rouge or Lake Charles. It would be helpful if all of them could particpate as well.

So if Korea is any indicator LUS will make Lafayette an interesting place to be as far as "web 2.0" usage is concerned. But LUS should try and do two things to help this along:
1) Expand in the region. Take in, as rapidly as possible the surrounding parish and try to move beyond. Not just because this would benefit more of our citizens but because a larger network would drive more of the high levels of broadband usage that will give the advantage to the locally-owned network.

2) Support citizen production of local content and, especially, the local trading of local content. The Korean experience suggests that "
The most dramatic growth was seen in the circulation of short video clips, often referred to as UCC (user-created content.)" Support AOC. Support clubs & classes. Provide an online locale where nice, big video clips can be stored and used for in-system display—let people store the local parent-filmed football and soccer games there. In HD. (No more postage-stamp video). Make it cheap. Make it easy. Supply some online editing and storage to users....LUS should do what it can to make using big broadband the norm.
It's gonna be quite a ride.

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