Legislative Testimony: Expanding Broadband Capabilities

The Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter testified today in support of House Bill 1101 – Broadband Ready Communities, authored by Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford).

This legislation seeks to coordinate and streamline administrative procedures for the deployment of next generation broadband technologies.

The Indiana Chamber supports this effort. It should result in more competition and vital, more robust telecommunications services for Hoosier businesses and consumers.

Making the ‘Magic’ Happen in Vegas

cDear technology,
I love you. I love you not.

Technology often strikes me as more foe than friend, like when the Internet is down or an automated operator makes me jump through hoops as I try to pay a bill. Still, I can’t help but appreciate – and marvel at – the cutting-edge inventions that are changing life as we know it.

My jaw dropped more than once, for instance, while reading this Time story written during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a four-day technology extravaganza that wrapped up last week in Las Vegas.

Among the mind-boggling technology zooming our way: self-driving cars!

Audi pulled a stunt in which it got what it calls a “piloted car” (it shies away from “driverless”) from San Francisco to Vegas in time for the show. Mercedes CEO Dietrich Zetsche showed off a bullet-shaped autonomous concept car with a cabin that’s more like a living room than a car. Audi presented a smartwatch app that can signal your car to drive itself out of your garage and come pick you up.

And feast your eyes (or gums) on this gadget:

Some of the most fun stuff at CES is also the downright strangest. Oral-B’s Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush syncs up with a smartwatch app in an effort to help consumers brush better.

Sometimes, fact really is stranger than fiction.

Growing Strong at Noblesville’s SMC

10295185_649652505143607_8886419329462044533_oSMC Corporation of America is the U.S. subsidiary – based in Noblesville – of a Japanese-based company specializing in the manufacturing of pneumatic devices. Think actuators, valves, connectors, temperature control equipment and more.

Business is good. So good that the organization is looking to expand its sales force – in a serious way. During a recent conversation with the Indiana Chamber member, I was told the company is planning a dormitory on campus to educate and train those new salespersons over a six-month period.

SMC looks to expand on its 800 employees already in Indiana. In addition, the company is heavily involved in a promising internship program that places Noblesville High School students into the workplace to gain hands-on experience.

Congratulations on all the good work at SMC and continued success.

Dialing Change Coming Early in 2015

119905820We, and many others, have told you about the new area code coming to the southern third of our state. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, and its IN 812 industry group, prepared the following update (including effective dates and equipment upgrade procedures, if necessary) for Indiana Chamber members and the broader community.

To ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers, the new 930 area code will be added to the area served by 812. The new 930 area code will serve the same geographic area currently served by the existing 812 area code, which generally covers the southern third of the state of Indiana serving communities such as Bloomington, Columbus, Evansville, New Albany and Terre Haute. This is known as an area code overlay.

What is an area code overlay?
An overlay is the addition of another area code (930) to the same geographic region as an existing area code (812). An overlay does not require customers to change their existing area code.

How does this affect Chamber members?
As a result of the overlay, a new local dialing procedure requires callers to dial area code + telephone number. This means that all local calls in the 812 area code that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using area code + telephone number.

Chamber members that have services and equipment currently located in the 812 area code and programmed to dial only seven digits must be updated or reprogrammed to dial area code + telephone number for all calls in the 812/930 area code.

What will be the new dialing procedure?
To complete local calls, the new dialing procedure requires callers to dial area code + telephone number. This means that all calls in the 812 area code that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using area code + telephone number. The same dialing procedure will apply to telephone numbers assigned to the new 930 area code.

When will the change begin?
Beginning February 7, 2015, you must use the new dialing procedures, as described above for all calls. After this date, if you do not use the new dialing procedures, your calls will not be completed and a recording will instruct you to hang up and dial again.

Reprogramming of alarm equipment should take place between March 1, 2014 and February 7, 2015. This period allows either the old or new dialing procedure to be used to complete calls. All chamber members must make their programming changes during this period.

To enable you to verify that equipment can complete calls to the new 930 area code, a special test number, 930-930-1930, will be in service beginning July 7, 2014 and it will remain active through April 7, 2015.

Beginning March 7, 2015, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 930 area code.

What will remain the same?
• Your telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
• The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the overlay.
• What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.
• You can still dial just three digits to reach 911.
• If 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 are currently available in your community, you will still dial these codes with just three digits.

Who may you contact with questions?
Customers with questions about the dialing procedure change should be directed to their local service provider, or they can visit the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) web site.

Job ‘Casualties’ Mount Due to Device Tax

16446238In our most recent Indiana Chamber Policy Call with Congressman Todd Rokita, the subject of the medical device tax came up. No surprise. It’s been a topic in countless conversations ever since the terrible idea was first broached in 2010.

Rokita expressed confidence that repeal will make its way to the President’s desk in 2015. What happens then, of course, can’t be predicted.

A recent Site Selection article notes that concerns have only multiplied. It contains quotes and analysis from Cook Group chairman and long-time Indiana Chamber board member Steve Ferguson, who says five plants (each would have employed up to 300 people) have been “put on hold” because of the tax.

Check out the full article.

Harmonizing Music History with Worker Productivity

19188345Technology improvements are generally associated with getting the same amount of productivity with fewer workers. But something called the “quartet effect” – with links back to the lyrics of the Grateful Dead – instead emphasizes enhancing what people do with their time. Governing reports:

In the foreword to David Dodd’s The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, Robert Hunter, the band’s “lyricist in residence,” wrote that the song “Uncle John’s Band” represented “the first lyric I wrote with the aid of that newfangled gadget, the cassette tape recorder. I taped the band playing the arrangement and was able to score lyrics at leisure rather than scratch away hurriedly at rehearsals, waiting for particular sections to come around again.”

What Hunter was describing, of course, was an improvement in productivity resulting from the application of new technology. Productivity is usually measured in terms of the labor cost per unit of production, and in most cases improvement is achieved by using new technology to reduce head count. For instance, a steel mill that once employed 10,000 workers produces the same tonnage with only a thousand employees, bank tellers are replaced by ATMs and elevator operators become a thing of the past. But in Hunter’s application of new technology, no one’s position was eliminated. It’s an example of what has been called “the quartet effect” at work.

When you reduce the head count of a musical quartet, you have not improved its productivity. If what you wanted was the music of a quartet, you have destroyed the product. The technology Hunter employed is the kind that, rather than eliminating jobs, allows existing staff to make better use of their time and gives them the opportunity to create higher-quality products.

How is this relevant to government? For most local governments, public safety constitutes the largest single category of expenditures, typically accounting for about 60 percent of total costs. For states and for some local governments, education is the dominant cost category. But it’s important to remember that within these areas, personnel costs — the salaries and benefits of police officers, firefighters and school teachers — are the real cost drivers. Personnel costs typically represent 80 percent or more of the total cost of a police department, for example. Few would argue that taking cops off the streets or teachers out of classrooms improves productivity.

AAR, Vincennes Univ. Programs Help Students Get Aviation Careers Airborne

vu 4AAR, an aviation services and products company with 60 global locations — including Indianapolis — and Vincennes University have a partnership that is producing well-trained airline services technicians, mechanics and more.

These organizations held a “Tug and Tour” event at the Vincennes University Aviation Technology Center (ATC) at the Indianapolis International Airport Wednesday. We were able to attend, joined by educators, economic development officials, military veterans and others. The event featured a tour of an aircraft hangar, as well as lunch on a Boeing 737. As Samuel L. Jackson can attest, lunch on a plane is far superior to snakes on a plane (my apologies; I’ll show myself out).

The Programs

The ATC features advanced aviation labs, testing equipment and elaborate maintenance hangars — and class sizes are limited to 25 students.

It was enlightening to learn about the partnership and how well-prepared these students are as they jump from the classroom and hands-on training into well-paying careers. Additionally, AAR offers paid internships to many Vincennes students in the program. VU instructor Ed Briggeman explained the industry is thriving, and that students who complete VU’s Aviation Maintenance program have many opportunities through the school’s myriad partners and connections. Furthermore, the program prepares students for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification and entry-level employment. A certified mechanic can make $50,000 – $55,000 per year, and the program yielded 16 mechanics in July — and by August 15 of them were placed into positions.

Students can also pursue training in aviation flight, which paves the (run)way for careers as pilots and instructors. Unlike most training facilities that can charge $100 per hour, VU doesn’t charge its students to use its flight simulators. And VU’s Indianapolis program features a fleet of well-maintained aircraft (including Cessna 172 and 172RG, as well as multi engine training in a Piper Seminole).

In Indiana, we are blessed to have public and private colleges and universities that rival or exceed those in any other region of the country — and VU is a testament to that. For more on this program or to inquire about viewing the facility, contact Corinna Vonderwell at cvonderwell@vinu.edu.

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Square Wants to Perk Up Morning Commute

cThe mobile payment company Square has reportedly developed technology to help coffee drinkers grab their morning java without that pesky detail of having to wait in line to pay for it. Simply place and pay for the order on the phone, then pick up the next morning.

Thankfully, the Chamber provides coffee for staff in our break room so I’ve saved hundreds of dollars since becoming a coffee drinker a year or two ago, but otherwise this would seem like a convenient solution.

Entrepreneur reports:

The key to this ease in ordering is “arrival prediction.” The feature uses first-to-market tech to alert baristas when a customer who has ordered a drink on the app approaches the coffee shop, allowing them to immediately start preparing the order. Customers then simply pick up their order and are automatically charged as the leave the shop.

Users can also save their coffee preferences and customizations, speeding up transactions on the app. Square has paired up with fellow San Francisco startup Blue Bottle Coffee to debut the new features.

Launched in May, Square Order allows people to pre-order items for pickup at eateries that use the Square payments processing system. The service is only active in San Francisco and New York.

Breaking Bad? Google Chairman Warns That Governments Could Effectively ‘Break Internet’

WIn a recent event hosted by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Google Chairman Eric Schmidt offered an alarming prediction that governments, especially our own, could end up splintering the Internet into pieces. This, he argues, is because countries may prefer to operate their own Internet instead of allowing surveillance organizations, such as the National Security Agency, to collect data on their citizenry.

Wyden added that this would hurt American tech companies — and thus eliminate some American jobs.

Be sure to read the full National Journal article about these remarks, and watch the brief video featuring Schmidt’s comments.

Time to Talk Area Code Changes

FIt must be a sign of advancing age that I fondly recall the days of three area codes that covered the state of Indiana. Today, that number is six with a seventh set to go into effect next month and public field hearings underway now on 317 area code relief.

Indiana had three telephone area codes (219 for the north, 317 for Central Indiana and 812 in the south) from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s.

Today, the state has six area codes with a seventh to go into effect in October 2014.

Technology brought pagers, fax machines, wirelese phones and more. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says efforts to conserve existing number supplies and prolong the life spans of area codes have been successful, but the only way to provide new numbers in the long run has been to introduce new area codes.

The number of area codes throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean has more than doubled since 1995, with Indiana, 38 other states and eight of the 10 Canadian provinces adding new area codes.

The 317 area code was changed in 1996 with the addition of 765. Now, 317 is projected to run out of numbers in 2017. A hearing took place in Indianapolis last Friday. Four more are scheduled in Carmel (October 1), Franklin (October 14), Danville (October 29) and Greenfield (December 1).

An overlay method is being proposed. A similar procedure is being implemented in the current 812 area code with the new 930 coming into play yet this year.

Full details, including additional opportunities to submit comments.