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Broadband Shorts for March 2021

Following are a few broadband topics that I found of interest but that are too short for individual blogs.

The End of Project Loon. The Google parent firm Alphabet has killed project Loon. This was the attempt to use a fleet of balloons to bring broadband to remote places. The project was started 9 years ago and spun off as a separate company two-and-a-half years ago.

It’s a little surprising because Loon had some successes. Loon had raised $219 million of equity from SoftBank in 2019. Loon was able to bring some broadband and cellular coverage to Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricanes. Loon was recently approved by the government of Kenya to bring broadband to remote areas. The company’s stated goal was to bring Internet access to a billion people.

There are likely a few contributing factors to the decision. One is the pending ascension of satellite broadband. Google also faced fierce pushback in places like India that didn’t want broadband fostered by a big US company. It was also likely coming clear that it’s hard to base a company on providing subsidized broadband – that means lining up a lot of governments to pay the subsidies.

Surprising Success of Telehealth. Parks Associates conducted a study that shows that 41% of all US households took part in a telehealth visit in 2020. Further, 29% of homes say they are likely to engage in telehealth in 2021. About half of all kids under 18 have a high degree of interest in permanently adopting telehealth.

The survey also showed overall high satisfaction with the technical performance of telehealth. This is somewhat surprising since the vast majority of medical professionals scrambled to institute telehealth last spring. A majority of medical practitioners also expressed satisfaction with telehealth – 65% of healthcare organizations rate the 2020 telehealth delivery as a success and 94% plan to continue offering telehealth services.

While this is only one survey when added to everything else being published about telehealth it looks like this is something that’s going to stick.

Popularity of Working from Home. Masergy, a supplier of managed SD-Wan software, undertook a survey that showed that about two-thirds of knowledge workers report being happier working from home. While employees were forced to work at home due to the pandemic, a lot of those working from home expressed a strong preference to never return to the office environment. Reasons given included increased productivity and the avoidance of the commute. Many of those working at home are comfortable with the idea of a hybrid schedule that puts them in the office occasionally, but mostly working from home.

From the employer’s perspective, the biggest challenge of 2020 has been security. But ISPs and software firms have developed solutions that seem to be working for most companies.

This has a lot of implications for both broadband and for corporations that employ knowledge workers. For ISPs, this means continued demand for upload bandwidth – something that I think cable companies were hoping would fade away with the end of the pandemic. This also puts pressure on employers, because workers that prefer working from home are going to migrate to corporations that embrace the idea – while ones that don’t might have trouble finding the best talent.

Really? There is a seller on eBay apparently successfully marketing 5G repellent cream. Without even mentioning the size of the jar, they are selling lotion for $36 under the brand name ‘5 Guard’.  I find this to be funny in that the 5G radiation that most scares some people is millimeter-wave spectrum. This spectrum can’t penetrate human skin more than perhaps a cell or two deep. I’m sure this isn’t the first G repellant – just the first one I ran across.

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