Real Time Communications Featured Article

How Telecommunications Technology Can Help Save the Environment

June 15, 2015

Can Internet technology help the environment? It might not seem so – except, perhaps, to rally people to the cause via social media – but today, Internet services can do so much more than allow people to stay in touch and watch cat videos.

Last month, at GENBAND’s Perspectives15 event, the Deputy General Counsel of the EPA, Ethan Shenkman, presented a keynote speech that traced the cooperative interaction between telecommunications, utilities and a cleaner environment. Another keynote presenter, Jonathan Chambers, chief of the FCC's office of strategic planning and policy, discussed the history of network investment by telecom companies through the 1990s, and how they relate to our national goals for both telecom and a cleaner environment today. Both speeches were highlighted in a recent blog post by GENBAND president and CEO, David Walsh.

“The government spends nearly $10 billion a year through various programs on getting broadband to underserved areas – not a huge amount of money, but important money considering the upside of enabling connectivity and opportunity which lead to education and economic productivity,” wrote Walsh. “At the same conference, we talked about a very creative way for not only the government, but service providers to bring vital IP services to all, funded with cost savings associated with – energy and carbon reduction.”

So how can telecom infrastructure help clean up the environment? Today, the “Internet of Things,” or the idea of billions of networked devices both private and public throughout the U.S., is helping utilities, government agencies, municipalities and private organizations be smarter about their energy use, water consumption and work processes.

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AT&T recently announced that it had completed a pilot project in conjunction with Echologics sensors and sound technology from Mueller Water Products. The sensors, working with AT&T's LTE wireless network, were able to detect water pressure, temperature and leaks in portions of the public water systems of Atlanta, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The data can be used to monitor and even predict the future for water systems. It also helps prevent water loss from damaged or poorly maintained infrastructure. A proper “Internet of Things” infrastructure can also help cities, utilities and private organizations avoid using power during peak times, shut down extraneous systems and machinery when they’re not in use and monitor for existing or imminent breakdowns.

We still have a long way to go. The problem, wrote Wash, is that service providers are not moving fast enough to replace aging infrastructure, despite the fact that they receive billions in subsidies from government to do so. He proposes to create an initiative working with elected and non-elected officials in the U.S. government. The goal of this initiative, he wrote, would be to “implement environmental programs affecting over 30,000 “central offices” and data centers in the U.S., which can, with a few solid moves, reduce their costs so dramatically that they have the capital to invest in broadband networks and communications applications that will make life better for hundreds of millions of people.”

While we’re improving our telecommunications infrastructure, it makes sense to do it in a way that’s cleaner, more efficient, more reliable and better equipped to network the country in a way that helps the environment. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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