Asheville is Sunny and 58 degrees
As an instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Community College Continuing Education, I see students mostly in the 50+ demographic who don’t have technology support readily available to them. During this week’s Apple iPhone class at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Ferguson Workforce Building; students shared stories and I answered several questions related to broadband.
iPhone is Cellular-Data Dependent
The smallest computer that most of us own is a smartphone. It depends on broadband to connect to cloud-based services; including location-sharing features such as weather forecasts and timing information. Our mobility with the smartphone requires data from cellular towers, as pictured.
These cell towers require infrastructure including electricity and fiber optic cables to connect to internet servers. Although cellular data provides internet connectivity, usually at slower speeds than a home or business wired terrestrial broadband connections; with the topography of Western North Carolina, can wireless services provide more digital inclusion?
WiFi Smartphone Connections
With mobility comes the awareness that a user’s cellular data plan is expensive and can have data caps. Additionally, ‘unlimited data plans’ usually have data-throttle thresholds where cellular connectivity speeds are lowered. Thus a mobile device user is attracted to ‘free WiFi.’ Speed testing a ‘free WiFi’ location will also give you a indicator of how fast data is exchanged at the location, thus making a pleasant or not-so pleasant experience.
Free WiFi Pros / Cons
Security and privacy become pro & con considerations where ‘free WiFi’ is located.
- Is the available network valid? Don’t trust just the name of the network. Ask an employee.
- Public networks may provide opportunities for data details to be captured. As a general rule DO NOT use ‘free WiFi’ for financial or other personally sensitive information. Consider using a Virtual Private Network or VPN.
- How reliable is the network? Is there trusted Information Technology staff maintaining the network?
- Advertisements may be presented to you in exchange for the free service.
- Generally lower broadband speeds can be expected.
Advocating Broadband for WNC
The Western Carolina Broadband leadership team is here to advocate for ‘future-proof’ broadband investments.
Please email the WNCBP team with questions or comments.