News Archives - HCTC

Can You See Me Now?: Videoconferencing technologies empower remote work

Can you see me now? Videoconferencing technologies empower remote workIf you’ve found yourself logging on for more video meetings at work lately, you’re not alone. According to the 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Report by Lifesize, 48% of business professionals say their use of video-conferencing at work has increased compared to two years ago.

And that study was before a global pandemic drove even more companies to work remotely. Videoconferencing isn’t without limitations, but businesses and workers are finding it an essential tool for empowering remote work.

FLEXIBILITY

With videoconferencing, employees and contractors can work from home while still collaborating with their teams and attending important meetings. The flexibility enables individuals in rural communities to not only have more control over their work-life balance but also “telecommute” to urban companies when needed.

Companies also benefit from the ability to recruit talent from anywhere. Business owners have the freedom to set up shop in rural communities, for example, then employ or partner with experts from around the world.

CONNECTION

Video teleconferencing not only empowers remote productivity but also helps workers overcome some of its challenges. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work Study, 19% of remote workers cite loneliness as their biggest struggle when working remotely. Video calls can help.

Compared to telephone conferences, video calls make it easier to form connections. The experience more closely reflects face-to-face encounters. For example, participants can see facial expressions and body language to better identify how others are responding to their ideas as they collaborate on projects.

SAVINGS

When teams work over videoconferencing platforms, everyone involved saves time and money. Cutting a commute across town — or in some cases, the globe — benefits people’s schedules, companies’ bottom lines and even the environment.

Plus, the work itself can be more efficient online. In the Life size study, 89% of respondents agreed that videoconferencing reduces the time it takes to complete projects or tasks. People may be more likely to enter an online meeting with an agenda and honor the scheduled start and end times. Plus, they can avoid the interruptions common to in-office meetings.

OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES

Despite its many benefits, videoconferencing isn’t without challenges. Not all tech tools are secure, so companies must research available options carefully to protect their employees and data. Team leaders must make an effort to coordinate meetings ahead of time to ensure everyone is online and available. And if any employees lack access to fast, reliable internet, technical difficulties can bring meetings to a frustrating halt.

Despite their drawbacks, videoconferencing platforms are here to stay. In the Buffer survey, 99% of respondents agreed they’d like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. Thanks to the increasingly wide-spread use of videoconferencing technology, they just might.


Three options for effective videoconferencing

  1. For interactive meetings and webinars, try ClickMeeting. Presenters can share their screen, run live Q&A sessions to engage the audience and collect valuable attendee data using polls. With an automated follow-up feature, this platform makes it easy to keep the momentum going after a webinar ends.
  2. Microsoft Teams For a platform that scales with ease, check out Microsoft Teams. Users can schedule video meetings with a single person or run large webinars and meetings of up to 10,000 participants. A long list of features and functionalities makes it a top choice for many businesses.
  3. Google Meet For fans of the Google Suite, Google Meet is a convenient choice that smoothly integrates with other applications like Google Calendar and Gmail. Participants can easily join in from their web browser or dial in to listen from anywhere. This platform has big-business capabilities without the big-business price tag, making it a great option for growing companies.

Broadband Matters Now More Than Ever

NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association - Rural ConnectionsRural broadband providers are supporting two critical bills making their way through Congress. One would secure present efforts to keep you connected, while the other provides support for future broadband expansion.

The Keeping Critical Connections Act was introduced earlier this year by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. This bill would appropriate $2 billion to help smaller broadband companies who worked with struggling customers during the pandemic and who did not disconnect those who couldn’t pay.

As the health crisis and economic shutdown disrupted millions of lives, internet providers across the country took the Pledge to Keep Americans Connected by waiving late fees, opening community Wi-Fi hot spots, and not terminating service to customers because of their inability to pay their bills.

For all this good work, however, our members have seen uncollectibles rise. NTCA members have on average some $80,000 in accumulated nonpayments by customers since the pandemic hit. These are significant amounts, as these broadband providers are often small companies with fewer than 30 employees. Keeping Critical Connections will help them continue serving their communities.

In terms of long-term deployment, NTCA also supports the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2020, introduced by U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. This bill would set aside a portion of the proceeds from FCC spectrum auctions to fund rural broadband deployment.

These bills will help broadband providers like yours continue their work to ensure every American has access to the communications services necessary in today’s world.

OUT OF THIS WORLD

OBSERVATORY USES THE INTERNET TO SHARE THE WONDERS OF SPACE

Images of Elephant Trunk Globule are highly sought after by astronomers.Tucked away in the Texas Hill Country, an area known for the beauty of its landscapes, is a facility that has its sights set squarely on the heavens. Cosmic Obsession Kerrville, which amateur astronomer Bob Fitzhenry and his wife, Debbie, built, studies the night sky and shares its findings with astronomy buffs all around the world.

SEARCHING THE SKY

Cosmic Obsession is a family operation, with the couple’s daughter and son-in-law, Robin and Francis Walsh, also actively involved. It started as a single-telescope observatory in Tomball, part of the Houston metropolitan area. However, the amount of ambient light made that location less than ideal.

“After two years of using that observatory, we realized that it was just too close to the city to get the view of the night skies that we wanted to get,” says Francis Walsh, Cosmic Obsession Kerrville’s marketing officer. “So in 2016, Bob decided to go look for another spot.”

Consulting maps that chart light pollution, Fitzhenry found the dark night sky he was looking for in Kerrville. He and his wife bought property there, and in 2016, began building a home and the observatory. Cosmic Obsession Kerrville began operating in late 2019, when the Fitzhenrys relocated to Kerrville permanently.

SHARING THE SIGHTS

Although the observatory is not open to the public, its internet connection from HCTC enables Cosmic Obsession to share images from its multiple telescopes online with an audience of as many as 150,000 people. “We needed an internet connection that was quick and fast,” Walsh says. “Bob and Debbie researched where we could get internet service in Kerrville and found HCTC. They were able to provide highspeed internet.”

There are six sophisticated and high-powered telescopes pointed at the sky when the roof of the observatory is rolled back. Some of the instruments belong to Joe Sardina, the owner of nightskiesnetwork.com. Although Sardina is based in the Northeast, “he can control his telescopes remotely from New Jersey,” Walsh says. “To do that, you need highspeed internet. The equipment works best when the internet is strong, steady and reliable.”

Livestreams of the observatory’s telescopes are available on nightskiesnetwork. com, and the photos of celestial bodies captured by the telescopes regularly appear on Cosmic Obsession Kerrville’s Facebook page.

A HOBBY WITH A PURPOSE

The Seagull Nebula imaged by the Takahashi TOA-130 telescope.The observatory isn’t a business venture for the family — Walsh describes the endeavor as a “family-owned astronomy outreach collaborative.” It’s a hobby they’re excited to share with the world.
“It’s been great fun for the family,” he says. “I mentor a teacher and students in Cameroon. There’s a lot of outreach that goes on that’s really important, and it is a result of all the activity made possible by an internet connection.”

The family plans to keep pointing their telescopes skyward in hopes of discovering a new comet they can then name.

“At this point,” Walsh says, “the future is to see how many objects can we actually point our telescopes to, and do they affect us in some way, or are they just a beautiful sight?”

To learn more about Cosmic Obsession Kerrville, visit cosmicobsession.com or search for Cosmic Obsession Kerrville on Facebook.

DEVICE OF THE MONTH: Oculus Quest

Oculus QuestIf you’ve been looking to take a very real plunge into virtual reality, you can’t go wrong with the Oculus Quest. The key difference between the Quest and other headsets is that it doesn’t require you to be tethered to a powerful PC to run, although there’s an optional cable available for PC gamers. You can also share your VR experience with others who can follow what you see using a TV or smartphone. Its simple setup, wireless gameplay and comfortable hardware make the Quest the best all-around VR device. $399 MSRP 64 GB version,

Level Up

close up of ipad ith icons of tech floating above it.Match your need with your speed

The old saying “a watched pot never boils” speaks to how slowly time can seem to pass. A newer saying, “a watched file never downloads,” may mean you need to upgrade your internet speed. As more and more of us work from home, participate in videoconferencing, stream high-definition content and take up online gaming, a slow connection may become a bottleneck.

The Federal Communications Commission considers broadband internet to have a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps.

So, how do you determine what speed is right for you? It really depends on the services you use and how many household members take advantage of them. If all you do is general browsing or email, you can get away with lower speeds. Demand spikes, however, once you start launching high-demand applications such as HD video, multiplayer games, or frequent file downloads and uploads.

Even with their baseline of 25 Mbps download speeds for broadband, the FCC recommends faster speeds if you have two or more users or devices running those high-demand applications at the same time. For example, families need higher speeds if a parent in the living room watches Netflix while the kids play Fortnite or stream YouTube videos in their bedrooms. If you add more users or devices, the need for faster connections becomes greater, even if they aren’t running those high-demand services.

As our homes become smarter and we have more and more devices connected to the internet — smartphones, tablets, digital assistants, security systems, game consoles, etc. — higher speeds are necessary to get the most out of those devices.


Terms you Should Know : MBPS

Mbps means “megabits per second,” and it is how internet speed is usually measured, although it’s best thought of as how much data may be transferred. Latency refers to the time it takes for information to get from one point to another. Your internet speed is a mix of both. When you’re downloading a file, think of it broken down and packed into a fleet of delivery trucks. Even if the trucks are fast (low latency), more of them can get to you on a six-lane highway (high Mbps) than on a country road (low Mbps).

 

SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Below are the scholarship winners for 2020.

Center Point

Elizabeth Bustamante
Jasmine Lopez

Comfort

Olivia Engleman
Cadyn Feller
Kendall Finke
Mason Haffner
Trenton Gwaltney
Hannah Sneed
Abigail Walser

Doss

Kate Crenwelge

Hunt

Manie Joe Blewett
Daniel Curran
Eden Lambert

Ingram

David Chapman

Katemcy

Madelyn Heath

Leakey

Britten Shoemaker

Medina

Zachary Lyman


Dulce Maria Martinez SalazarCongratulations, Dulce!

Dulce Maria Martinez Salazar, a member of the Leakey High School Class of 2020, was selected to represent HCTC at the Foundation for Rural Service Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., in June. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the annual event was canceled. Because she had to miss an opportunity to visit the nation’s capital, HCTC is making a contribution of $1,500 toward her college education. Best wishes, Dulce!