A few weeks ago we reported that The Dalles offered Internet giant Google a location for a new facility in its neighborhood. The lesson? Strong telecommunications links are critical to any city or region that wants to attract new business. Just as every business needs electricity, a growing majority of businesses absolutely need high-speed Internet and other sophisticated telecom services.

Since then, new market research has revealed that at the height of last year's pre-Christmas rush, Internet purchases were up 49 percent from the year before. In Pendleton, Qwest now offers 1.5 gigabit service for home DSL. And the number of fiber optic networks is growing throughout the state.

You're thinking, "Maybe all this is exciting for a computer science whiz, but why should I care?"

How about having access to entire encyclopedias online for your child's school projects, and using computer-based training for anything from cooking to a college degree? How about retail sales, manufacturing specifications, or qualifying as a potential location for a new business?

The list goes on.

But what about the jargon, the murky terminology the gurus use when they get together to talk telecom?

Well, there's only so much the rest of us can (or need to) know. Here are three examples.

"Fiber" refers to fiber optic cable, the bundles of tiny glass threads that get wrapped in insulation just like copper telephone wires, then strung on poles or pulled through miles of underground conduit. Fiber optic cable can transmit thousands more signals than conventional copper wire.

A "Fiber Ring" is a system of fiber optic cables, normally miles in length, that guard against loss of service if any one section of the ring is damaged (as in digging through it with a backhoe). Signals in the ring are automatically re-routed around the point of failure.

"Last Mile" refers to the fiber optic or copper lines needed to connect the user's home or office to the main fiber optic lines or rings.

We can have all the fiber optic transmission lines in the country passing through town, but if we can't connect economically, we might as well be using two tin cans and a string.

Radio or "wireless" transmission of signals is one way to connect a whole group of local users to high-capacity fiber systems through a single point of access.

This information doesn't exactly qualify us to design the next fiber ring in Eastern Oregon, but at least when somebody asks us why fiber is important to economic development, we'll know they're not talking about breakfast cereal.

Learn more telecommunications terminology at www.glossarist.com. Simply type "telecommunications" in the search box.


Art Hill is vice president of customized training, apprenticeship, and the Small Business Development Center at Blue Mountain Community College. Call 276-6233 or toll-free 1-888-441-7232 or e-mail sbdc@bluecc.edu.

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