Plotting the Communications Map
by Dave Buchanan
University of Wisconsin-Parkside professor Steve Hawk probably would admit he’s not much of a mapmaker. But when it came to charting the future telecommunication needs of Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties, Hawk played a major role in a recently completed two-year study.
Click the map image
above for a larger view.
Hawk, who specializes in management information systems at UW-Parkside, was part of a team that studied the region’s current communication network using a U.S. Department of Labor grant. The goal was to determine how the region’s telecommunication system stacks up against today’s standards and how it can improved to meet tomorrow’s business demands.
"For area businesses, one of their main interests was looking at e-commerce preparedness in the region." Hawk said.
Using a communication survey developed by the University of Ohio, the study group assessed the region’s electronic capabilities.
"There are three things we looked at: one is the backbone connectivity of the area’s network; the second piece was the quality of dial-in services—a combination of quality of the internet service providers (ISP) and the local telecommunications infrastructure, like the telephone lines. The third piece was to determine how businesses use the Internet and how they engage in e-commerce," said Hawk.
Working with business groups like the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce and organizations in Walworth County, the study made some interesting findings. For one, Racine businesses are more advanced in their use of the Internet than their counterparts in Kenosha or Walworth counties. Hawk also was surprised to find that many area businesses still rely on dial-up connectivity for their Internet service.
"I would think businesses would want to move to something faster than that," he said. Hawk went on to say that area business people understand how vital a strong telecommunications network is to their ability to compete.
"The business community is very much interested in working with the communication service providers—the ISPs as well as Ameritech and others—to roll out new services; improved services," Hawk said. "The business community wants to have input into what’s done next."
Completion of the study and the use of its findings doesn’t mean the region’s telecommunications issues are forever solved. With technology changing so quickly, the study will probably need to be revisited every few years. But for now and the near future, Hawk and his study group have given the area a good map with which to work.