Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Environment'

Wednesday, November 13

Healthy Innovation

By Brad

If there’s one major downside to our digital lives, it’s the enormous amount of power needed to keep massive data centers running. Thankfully, tech companies are increasingly focusing on ways to power those centers with clean energy. As Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOm reports, Facebook is the latest to make a major commitment:

On Wednesday Facebook will announce that when its fourth data center is built in Iowa, and starts serving traffic in 2015, it will be entirely run off the power of a nearby wind farm.

Local utility MidAmerican Energy will build, own and operate the 138 MW wind farm, which will be built in 2014 in Wellsburg, Iowa. The data center, which will be built close by in Altoona, Iowa, will use a similar energy efficient design as Facebook’s other data centers based on its Open Compute architecture in Oregon, North Carolina and Sweden.

All told, Facebook is aiming to have a quarter of all its energy consumption come from clean energy within the next two years. Good on them.

Thursday, April 26

The Need to Encourage More Telecommuting

By Brad

Among the many benefits of broadband is the positive environmental impact due to telecommuting. But as MediaPost’s Laurie Sullivan points out, not many are currently taking advantage of being able to work from home:

Telecommuting allows many people to work from home. In fact, 40% of the U.S. workforce could technically work from home. Even with technological advances making this possible, only 2.5% of U.S. workers telecommute. If the 40% of workers who could telecommute would do this two days a week, it would reduce yearly carbon emissions by 53 million metric tons.

It’s often been pointed out that bridging America’s digital divide will take not just broadband expansion but education. Seems like educating businesses and individuals about the economic and environmental benefits of working from home would be a positive step as well.

Thursday, April 19

Making Better Use of Spectrum Resources: An Earth Day Reflection

By Bruce Mehlman


This Sunday is Earth Day, and as the national conversation turns to the topics of sustainability and environmental awareness — for a day, at least — it’s worth highlighting the important role broadband can play in preserving our environment – specifically, the growing importance of Mobile to Mobile, or M2M, communication.

In a nutshell, M2M can be described as machines talking to machines over the air. Think of a power meter sending a reading back to the power company, rather than driving a truck all around town. Or irrigation monitoring to ensure water is being put to its best use.

These and scores of other efficiencies created by M2M technology are very real, and they benefit not just the planet but the economy as a whole. After all, greater productivity means less energy needed per dollar of output… more bucks per BTU. It also means a small environmental footprint.

Fittingly, the driving force behind M2M technology is one of our planet’s greatest natural resources: spectrum, or the airwaves that enable all our wireless communication. With a finite amount of spectrum suitable for wireless use, however, it needs to be managed in a smart and efficient way. And right now, we could do better.

Recent efforts by Congress and the FCC to free up more spectrum for wireless use are encouraging. The FCC’s incentive auctions, which will mean billions for broadcasters through the sale of their unused spectrum, will go a long way toward easing what the Commission’s Chairman and others warn of as a coming spectrum crunch.

But incentive auctions alone will not keep the wireless economy humming. Our nation’s providers are watching data consumption explode on their networks, and they rightly warn that unless major steps are taken to provide the airwaves they need — and will gladly pay handsomely for — they risk being able to keep up with unprecedented demand.

Addressing depletion of this resource will take not just short-term thinking, but an overhaul of the way our spectrum resources are currently managed. Given the speed of Washington, especially compared to the speed of technology, time is of the essence. A lack of spectrum going forward could mean higher prices and diminished service for consumers. It could also slow the economic and environmental progress being made through M2M technology.

We can’t afford to let that happen. So as we mark Earth Day, let’s keep in mind just how much we’ve come to rely on spectrum, and work toward putting it to its highest and best use.

Monday, November 28

Cyber Monday

By Brad

Today is “Cyber Monday,” the online equivalent of “Black Friday,” and business is expected to be brisk. But as Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, customers will have a hard time connecting to some websites today:

The Justice Department and other federal agencies shut down 150 websites on Monday accused of selling copyrighted materials and counterfeit products.

The crackdown was timed to coincide with “Cyber Monday,” the most profitable day of the year for online retailers.

Speaking of today’s online shopping madness, over at GigaOm, Katie Fehrenbacher looks at the positive effect online holiday shopping has on the environment:

A couple years ago we commissioned a study for our subscription services GigaOM Pro on the greenhouses gas emissions of online holiday shopping versus in-store holiday shopping, and the trends still ring true. The study found that in-store purchases represented an increase of more than 15 times the green house gases of online purchases. Overall, the impact of Black Friday in 2009 was about 50 times that of Cyber Monday in 2009.

Thursday, September 08

Greening Up Data Centers

By Brad

Data centers are notorious energy hogs, and few companies have more data centers as Google. Now for the first time, GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher reports, the search giant has released numbers behind their energy use:

Google says it consumed over 2 million MWh worth of electricity in 2010, or to put that in kilowatt-hours, 2 billion kWh. Researcher Jonathan Koomey uncovered a similar number last month, and reported that Google’s combined servers, storage, communications, and infrastructure had consumed 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010. For comparison sake, an average American household in 2009 consumed 10,896 kWh of electricity, and the entire U.S. consumed close to 4,000 billion kWh worth of electricity in 2007.

That’s an insane number of kilowatt hours, but to Google’s credit they’re working to hit the mark of 35% of electricity use via clean power by next year.

Monday, September 20

Getting Un-Physical

By Brad

After lugging boxes of CDs and DVDs into his new home, Geoff Daily of App Rising has decided he’s done with “physical” media:

[W]hat this epiphany has led to is a promise to myself that this will be the last time I move physical media. Whenever we leave this house, which may not be for a long time as we really like it here, I will not be taking any physical media with me.

To make this a reality, I’m going to be pushing even harder to transition my purchasing away from physical media and to create digital versions of my favorite content to free it from the constraints of physical world
. I know the urge to grab something off a shelf and buy it will be hard to resist and I’ll likely have to make some sacrifices in what I can watch and how I can watch it, but I think it’ll be worth it.

An often overlooked benefit of broadband adoption is its effect on clutter. While the day when everything is downloaded isn’t here yet, it will be soon. And that will have a positive effect on the environment and aching backs worldwide.

Tuesday, August 25

Highlights From Today’s FCC Broadband Workshop

By Brad

One of today’s FCC National Broadband Plan workshops, “Smart Grid, Broadband and Climate Change,” examined how broadband has the ability to greatly help the environment. As noted during the workshop, America will not meet its goal of a 13% to 22% reduction in carbon emissions unless broadband adoption is increased. In fact, connecting the estimated 10 million U.S. homes that don’t have broadband access — along with the 40 million people who currently have access but haven’t adopted broadband—could significantly cut carbon emissions.

On the transportation side, Sheryl Wilkerson, President of Willow LLC, spoke about the need for intelligent transportation, including providing useful data to and from vehicles, bringing intelligent applications to cleaner vehicles in order to spur demand, and bringing agencies like the FCC and the Department of Transportation together with telecommunications companies and vehicle manufacturers to deploy new vehicle technologies.

Regarding businesses, Matt Bauer, President of BetterWorld Telecom pointed out that if America were to make a major investment in telecommuting and meeting technology, we could reduce our carbon footprint by 50%. Right now, just 3% of U.S. workers telecommute the majority of their time. The good news is the technology for telecommuting and remote meeting is already available.

Outside of major metropolitan areas, opportunities are also available for using broadband to cut carbon emissions. But as Maura O’Neill, Senior Advisor for Energy and Climate, and Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics noted, people in rural areas don’t just need to have access to broadband, they also need to know about the many benefits of using it — such as using high-speed Internet to give farmers tools to calculate the carbon in their soil.

Smart grids also play a major role (both in rural areas and cities), as they can provide greater energy efficiency. For example: Skip Laitner, Economic Director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy talked about the semi-conductor broadband efficiency scenario, which could allow the U.S. to use as much as 27% less electricity by 2037 — even with the expected high increase in demand.

More reports from the broadband workshops as they roll on. And speaking of broadband and the environment, IIA Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman will be taking part in the 32nd World Energy Engineering Congress on Thursday, November 5 in Washington D.C. His session will be “Plug in to Power Down: Opportunities to Reduce the Carbon Footprint Through Telecommunications-Based Solutions. More information on the event can be found on the WEEC’s website.

Monday, August 17

Download Your Way to a Cleaner Planet

By Brad

Via earth2tech comes an interesting new study on how downloading music helps the environment:

[A] group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University, including longtime IT energy researcher Jonathan Koomey… have concluded that yep, in general buying digital music reduces the energy and CO2 emissions of delivering the music by between 40 and 80 percent compared with traditional CD distribution methods. That’s despite the additional energy used to download the music via the Internet, and thus the group concludes that “[O]nline delivery is clearly superior from an energy and CO2 perspective.”

Tuesday, June 23

Staying Put

By Brad

USA Today on the rise of videoconferencing:

Ben Weinberger, chief information officer of a law firm, typically travels about 25 times a year visiting colleagues around the country to make sure their information technology systems are working properly.
His employer, Lathrop & Gage, has 11 offices and 300 attorneys. But Weinberger estimates he will travel only once this year to each office, relying instead on videoconferencing from the main office in Kansas City.

The firm has six dedicated videoconference rooms there, with high-definition cameras, 47-inch or larger monitors, and software provided by California-based Polycom, a large videoconferencing equipment supplier.

“You don’t have a meal with your colleagues videoconferencing,” Weinberger says. “But I can save tens of thousands of dollars. If I go to the New York office only once, instead of going three times a year, I save the firm $3,000 (on airfare and hotels), and that’s just me.”

The article goes on to note that the videoconferencing market jumped by 24% last year, as businesses looked to cut expenses. One benefit of the practice not touched on in the article: videoconferencing isn’t just good for the bottom line, it’s also good for the environment.

Wednesday, April 15

Spam is More Than Internet Pollution

By Brad

A new study has tackled the carbon footprint of Spam. Via Slashdot:

A new study entitled ‘The Carbon Footprint of Spam’ published by ICF International and commissioned by McAfee claims that spam uses around 33 billion kilowatt hours of energy annually, which is approximately enough to power 2.4 million US homes (or roughly 3.1 million cars) for a year. They calculated that the average CO2 emission for a spam email is around 0.3 grams. Interestingly, the majority of energy usage (around 80%) comes from users viewing and deleting spam, and searching for legitimate emails within spam filters.

Monday, February 23

Broadband Fact of the Week


eCommerce generates 36% less conventional air pollutants than conventional shopping.

— Fuhr, Joseph P. Jr. “Broadband Services: Economic and Environmental Benefits.” American Consumer Institute. October 2007.

More facts about broadband and the environment.

Thursday, January 08

Seat Switcheroo

By Brad

Rep. Edward Markey [D-Mass] has left his post as head of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet in order to take over the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. His replacement will be Rep. Rick Boucher [D-VA].

Given President-elect Obama’s plans for building out the broadband infrastructure, Rep. Boucher is liable to be very, very busy in the coming months.

Thursday, November 01

Save The World, Work From Home

By Bruce Mehlman

We know that broadband can save your business, save your grade point average, or even save your life.  But can it also save the planet?

Research and analyses are increasingly pointing to the positive role broadband and other information technologies can play in making our economy less energy intensive, and thus more energy efficient.  Broadband connections enable trucking companies to run less trucks (polluting less) with bigger loads; they allow “lean” manufacturers to maintain just-in-time inventories and emit fewer greenhouse gases; they help green consumers employ “smart meters” that conserve energy and costs; and broadband connections let high tech energy suppliers put intelligence into their energy grids and serve more customers more efficiently.

And, of course, the biggest energy efficiency and environmental payoffs from broadband applications currently come from teleworking.  Millions of Americans are already leveraging broadband connections to work from home, retrain from home offices or conduct meetings from multiple locations, connecting virtually.  This saves time, money and energy, and it reduces the environmental impact of hours on the road or in the air.  With bandwidth increasing, telecommuting technologies improving, and applications for remote work expanding, we can expect significant environmental improvements from broadband going forward.

Consider that the U.S. white-collar workforce burns more than 583.3 million gallons of gasoline commuting to and from work each week.  If the entire U.S. white-collar workforce teleworked just two days a week, America would conserve 233.3 million gallons of fuel each week - representing an associated annual fuel conservation equivalent to more than 27 percent of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Telework Exchange, “A Barrel Saved is a Barrel Earned” Report, January 31, 2006).

American workers’ teleworking two days a week would also save:

* Money:  $221 billion in annual collective savings, back in employees’ pockets
* Time:  4.9 billion hours back in the lives of U.S. employees
* Pollution:  182 million tons of pollutants not dispersed into the environment each year

Similar results could be expected elsewhere around the world.  A 2006 study by the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association and the World Wildlife Fund concluded that if 20% of business travel in the EU were replaced by non-travel means such as audio conferencing or video conferencing, they might save about 25 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2010.  22 million more tons could be saved is just 10% of EU employees became telecommuters.

Expect more on this issue in the weeks and months ahead.

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