Most of us try to focus on the things that we love. If you have been lucky in life, you have enjoyed work or a career that fits your passions.
I have been very blessed in that respect. After college I worked with my hands and lived close to nature. Spending sixteen years in Canada with ten years devoted to building a cattle operation in a snowbelt in New Brunswick gave me more than I could have asked to receive. We started with no cattle and ended up with over two hundred. I built barns, took care of cattle in minus forty weather, and handled things that hardly seem possible today. It was a dream come true.
I believed in Angus cattle, wintering my cattle outside, and putting up my hay in round bales. None of those things were the norm in New Brunswick. At the time the Department of Agriculture thought I was nuts. No one did round bales, cattle stayed in barns, and Herefords were better adapted for New Brunswick. We managed to survive in farming long enough to prove that we were not crazy. Our performance tested bulls and the breeding stock born from the cattle we brought from Western Canada made a big difference in the province's Angus cattle. Today the few farmers left in New Brunswick use round balers almost without exception. Few of them keep their cattle enclosed in barns and Angus are not looked down on as they were when we were farming there.
After we sold all our cattle in 1982, I developed a love for technology. I went to work at one of the first computer resellers in New Brunswick. The technology that we were selling at the time really changed people's lives and let them do things they could only imagine. It got even better when I went to work at Apple in 1984. I often got to see the gleam in people eyes as they figured out that we really were selling magic and not snake oil. A Macintosh and a LaserWriter could do things that had always been sent to professionals. Whole new worlds of computing were opened up. People's lives were changed.
Even as the rest of the computing world caught up with Apple's ease of use, in 2000 my team of sales professionals were selling the idea of cyber security through diversity of platforms. I felt passionate about what I was doing and that our country needed to do more about computer security. We had CIOs, many research scientists and department heads who agreed with us. I even got to sit in as technical backup on a Congressional hearing on home computer security. Things really aren't much more secure in the computer world, but Apple and I have both moved on to new things.
My passion for North Carolina's Crystal Coast helped convince me to write a travel guide for the area. It is a great place to live and visit. The articles and books that I have written about the area are something that I really enjoy doing. It is pretty hard to complain about something that lets you fish, boat, kayak, hike the beaches, and take pictures of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Sometimes I think those years of chasing my passions should be enough for me, but there are still some dragons to slay. I recently accepted the job of vice president of marketing for WideOpen Networks. I took the job because what the company is doing to help communities get fiber to their homes and businesses inspires me as much as anything I have ever done.
I believe that the infrastructure that matters most in this century is the way that we are connected to the Internet. Most of us have a pretty poor connection. There is a huge information super highway being built around the world and many people still connect with modems, the dirt roads of yesterday, or cable modems which are little more than crooked two lane roads.
While we should have a national program which brings fiber to everyone and lets private enterprise compete for our business, we have the worst model. Private companies are responsible for the infrastructure so they put in the absolute minimum and basically hold the customers hostage. Improvements will be a long time coming. There is no real competition except in most densely populated urban areas. Since they own the infrastructure, you have no real choice and even now they are trying to prevent reasonable access to what was supposed be put in as a service to our communities.
Think of it this way, what if all our roads had been built by private companies? Would we have a national system of Interstates where almost everyone has access to good roads? What if a private company could decide what businesses could drive on our Interstate highways? Would they let competitors use their highway or make them use the twisty two lane roads?
The next time you pay your cable bill, multiple it by the number of homes in your subdivision and see how much money is being made and compare it to places like Chattanooga, Tenessee which is delivering fiber to the home.
Think also about what is determining the services you get through your cable modem. Is it your needs or the cable company's desire to maximize profits? Are you getting the services and competitive prices you deserve and want or are you getting what your cable company wants you to have at prices they determine. Studies have shown that when communities have open networks where customers have a choice of services, prices come down. Remember long distance prices when there was no competition?
I am enjoying the conversations that I have with forward-looking community leaders who understand how their communities will be at a disadvantage if they do not get state of the art fiber connections to their homes and businesses so they can compete with others around the world. It will be interesting to watch their communities thrive while some whither as they let current Internet providers cherry pick the best places to make money and ignore the rest of us.
It is whole lot easier to convince people to look at something if there are real reasons why it makes sense and fiber to every home and business makes even more sense than an Interstate highway system did in the fifties or a LaserWriter in the office in the eighties.
I have been fortunate to be on the cusp of real change several times. I love being back there. I am also happy to not be in the position of convincing people that they need colored iPhones.