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During the early days of our telecommunications infrastructure, copper wires were the only pathway necessary to connect consumer communications needs. Voices speaking on either end of a telephone line, coupled to a complex network of switches transmitting an analog signal, were at one time the greatest accomplishment of the 20th Century. Now, copper may be more valuable as the melted-down by-product of a by-gone era.
When I started at Lincoln Telephone Company in Lincoln, NE in 1990, the digital age was in full swing. During the 1980’s, our company had undergone the task of burying our major distribution network, many routes with up to 12 fibers, to take advantage of the efficiencies of digital switching. Frame Relay was gaining momentum as a data service. Burying fiber also protected our network from the inevitable Nebraska winter storms, which included ice, which is unforgiving on aerial infrastructure. Cellular phones were in their infancy, in the form of either a bag the size of a small suitcase, or a “brick” phone that looked like a refugee from World War II communications.
A DS1 (1.5 Mbps) circuit was considered a “big pipe”, only necessary for big business customers with lots of “access lines”. Eventually the DS1 was the standard bandwidth for connectivity of wireless towers for the operation of cellular phones. The DS1 was and still is transmitted via the existing copper infrastructure to enable voice and data transmission. Evolving technology and the data boom have caused communications needs to skyrocket exponentially over the past 20 years. And the boom is far from over.
As our communications infrastructure continues to expand to pacify consumers growing wants and needs, the nation’s primary mode of transmission has migrated more heavily to the fiber optic network. As development in hardware and software technologies have expanded network capacities, consumers and businesses have been enthralled in the need for speed. The speed of light. More data. Faster.
James is a husband to his wife of 25 years, father of 3 boys, and Nebraska native living in an underserved telecommunications service area in suburban Missouri.