Getting to the Cloud Under the Tail of a T-Rex


My view from the student commons area at Western Wyoming Community College Jan 2013

My view from the student commons area at Western Wyoming Community College Jan 2013

Until recently I lived in a location serviced only by satellite based internet service which from my experience generally provides far less bandwidth than the advertised download speed and this was.    

When I have brought up this variation in services and cost between rural and urban areas over the years the response usually ranges from deep sympathy to “your crazy for living where you live”   

There are more than just  a couple of answers to that of course.  Let’s not focus on the people who live here for the wide open spaces, clean air, and lack of traffic.   For today I will only address a few telecom issues on which cloud deployment depends:   

  1. Telecom services are vital to the efficient production and transport of natural resources.  
  2. Access to some of our most precious rural cultural and historical resources (such as the T Rex shown above)  is hampered when we can’t get adequate communications services to those locations.  
  3. The widening gap in access to telecommunications services between rural and urban areas also contributes to the increasing economic disparities we see between the rich and the poor in our country.  

This reminder of our rural cloud challenges came during a meeting I attended in Rock Springs Wyoming the in late January.  More specifically I was at Western Wyoming Community College which is home to five life-sized dinosaur displays(thus the name of this post), They are the largest easily accessible collection of dinosaurs along I-80 from Chicago to San Francisco. In-order to bring Wyoming dinosaurs back to Wyoming, a fund raising project began in 1989 to collect and display specimens native to Wyoming.  I must say they have done a bang up job.  It is really cool to look at and it is free if you are passing through.  

Back to the economic need for good bandwidth for cloud services in areas such as Rock Springs.  Rock Springs, Sweetwater County Wyoming  is also home to some serious oil and natural gas production as is the rest of Wyoming.  They were also once known as a major coal mining area.  Today, one of its claim to fames is it is also home to the largest known deposit of  Trona in the world.


 Dragline back view  Dragline side view


Dragline size

Pictures of a dragline used to extract Trona

Trona (trisodium hydrogendicarbonate dihydrate); Na3(CO3)(HCO3)•2H2O is an evaporite mineral and It is mined as the primary source of sodium carbonate in the United States,

Sweetwater County, Wyoming provides up to 90% of the US output of trona and is a major contributor to the total world production of trona, which is mined and then processed into soda ash. Soda ash is a significant economic commodity and is the reason I listed above because of its applications in manufacturing glass, chemicals, paper, detergents , textiles, paper, food and conditioning water. It is an ingredient in both sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium phosphate (detergents). Soda ash has been used since ancient times. The Egyptians made glass containers from it, and the early Romans used it as an ingredient in medicines and bread.

Providing the best-trained workers for industries such as this often falls on the shoulders of local community colleges and universities and for all of the talk of the demise of higher education through MOOC’s, online programming etc.  I can’t really put the training and educational services many of the community colleges such as Western Wyoming Community College in the same category as the prestigious universities who are pushing out MOOCs . Many of the hands-on/ vocational health care programs such as nursing, welding, plumbing, extraction services etc.  simply do not translate well to a MOOC or online format.  The cloud is / will continue to have a continuing influence in provisioning of supporting content and services even for predominantly hands on focuses training program.

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