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Upgrading Yuma: Businesses add technology
Technology never stands still. It constantly changes, improves and, in some cases, becomes obsolete.
How much does technology change? “How fast is fast?” quipped Ricky Rinehart, Southwest area manager of Time Warner Cable.
So in view of the never-ending upgrades, how does Yuma stack up as far as technology goes?
“Yuma, from a technology standpoint, is actually ahead of a lot of communities twice our size,” Rinehart said.
He pointed to a two-year-old study that indicated almost 97 percent of Arizonans have access to broadband connectivity.
“In Yuma County, we're right up there with that number. As a community, we have the luxury of technology.”
Rinehart noted that Time Warner changed its direction a few years back and “spent millions of dollars” updating infrastructure to serve all types of businesses, from mom-and-pops to large employers such Yuma Regional Medical Center, one of the state's largest employers.
“We're ramping up each year, adding more and more services.”
Among the technology that Time Warner offers businesses is broadband access, dedicated Internet access, Ethernet connectivity and digital voice service.
“We have enough fiber optics in our infrastructure locally to support any technology,” Rinehart said.
How much technology is up to the individual business, depending on how much they want to spend.
Randy Nelson, director of the AWC Small Business Development Center, noted that the growth of tablet computing (such as iPads) is making the Internet more widely available outside of hard-wired options.
“This is very important because there are a lot of places with limited access or options for connectivity. Future opportunities will come primarily from smart phone to tablet computers.”
In addition, Nelson noted, many people are no longer anchored to a desktop and are connected through their smart phones.
That's the case with Dave Nash, spokesman for the city of Yuma. “As Android phones, iPhones and others are growing, people increasingly have a higher degree of computing power in their hands or strapped to their belts than people in the 1970s had in an entire room.”
As for the city, Nash said Yuma is “strong in terms of things like our award-winning public safety radio (and now wireless data) transmission system. Other agencies from around the nation and world are learning from what we do in that area.”
Cherla Ramsey, market development manager for CenturyLink, which acquired Qwest on April 1, feels the same pride for her company's technology in Yuma.
“The CenturyLink services available in Yuma are comparable to any advanced telecommunications options available in metropolitan cities throughout Arizona,” Ramsey said.
CenturyLink offers everything from basic telephone business packages, business long distance and custom calling features to Qwest Metro Optical Ethernet, DS1, DS3s and many services in between.
In addition, the company offers high-speed broadband Internet services to the majority of the county, with speeds from 1.5Mbps up to 40Mbps.
Nelson agrees that entire community isn't doing too bad in the technology department, but he points out a challenge.
“We do have better access to the technology, but technology is rapidly changing.”
He believes the connectivity challenges in Yuma are going to be the availability and cost of a 4G system, which is not yet available.
“Once we get 4G we will be needing 5G and so forth, but we will probably always be behind Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff in the technology investments in our area,” Nelson said.
“As the Internet goes, we will always have work to do.”
One entity making full use of the latest cutting-edge technology is Arizona Western College, which serves Yuma and La Paz counties.
“We're doing extremely well with technology,” said Paul Neuman, AWC vice president of technology. “We are an example of what is possible with high-quality technology.”
The college has created a network where all learning centers and campuses in its two-county service area come together in Yuma. That network includes Voice Over Internet Protocol service, video conferencing to cut back on travel time and expenses, and interactive, distance learning using televisions at all locations.
In addition, the college has wireless capabilities in all new buildings, which soon will be extended to older buildings.
“We have a pretty good network here to provide high-quality Internet to all our students and staff,” Neuman said.
AWC also has its own microwave system that transmits a signal to Parker.
“La Paz County has even fewer choices. We probably delivery to La Paz more bandwidth than their local service providers do. But we don't sell it. We use it only for education,” Neuman said.
The college is constantly evaluating its technology. “You need to remember technology needs replacing every two to four years. And it's not inexpensive,” Neuman said. “We're always keeping on top of it.”
Verizon Wireless also strives to “keep on top of it.” In the past 10 years, the company has invested more than $1 billion in the Arizona network and more than $65 billion nationally.
“We are not the only wireless provider in the area, but we are the only wireless carrier with the nation's largest and most reliable 3G wireless network in Yuma,” said Verizon's Jenny Weaver.
In late 2009 Verizon integrated the former Alltel network with that of Verizon Wireless in Yuma and La Paz counties, giving customers clearer reception, fewer dropped calls and more coverage, including stronger in-building coverage, Weaver said.
“So today, we offer Yuma customers what is the largest and most reliable 3G wireless network. And we're on course to deliver our 4G LTE network (10 times faster than 3G) to our entire 3G wireless footprint, including Yuma, by the end of 2013.”
Specific to business, Verizon has “tremendous mobile office solutions” for customers — from small businesses to large enterprise customers.
“From smart phones to tablets to USB modems for mobile broadband access to netbooks, machine-to-machine applications, global services, push-to talk and more, we have the solutions today's businesses need to stay connected and to do so wirelessly,” Weaver said.
Verizon offers the “fastest” broadband service available to a mass market in the U.S. with its FiOS network, a telecom service offered over fiber-optic lines, but at this point, it's only available in some California and Texas markets, but not in Arizona.
“We have not announced any plans to expand FiOS service to the Yuma market and are focused on expanding FiOS in the markets we currently serve in 12 states and the District of Columbia,” said Cliff Lee, a Verizon public relations manager.