In January 2009, a wintry mix of ice and snow hit Kentucky with such force and devastation that it crippled the state’s communications infrastructure for several weeks. Fallen limbs and freezing rain damaged power lines and resulted in the state’s largest power outage on record, with 609,000 homes and businesses losing power. In some areas power stayed down for as long as 10 days, compromising the state’s critical systems and impairing the ability of public health and medical response teams to respond with emergency services
According to Drew Chandler, Kentucky Department for Public Health, the storm was the catalyst that changed the way the department now communicates. The state set an overall communication goal to create multiple layers of redundancy in the future interest of public health and safety. The department determined satellite Internet service as the best vehicle to accomplish that goal and set out to find an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
After a lengthy search, the department chose Skycasters satellite Internet. Based in Akron, Ohio, the company provided a transportable satellite broadband Internet connection that meets the departments need to keep public health and medical responders connected to critical systems. To give them the flexibility they need, even in the most remote locations, the department went with a mobile VSAT solution. The very small aperture terminal, or VSAT, and support equipment provide an Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth for multiple people to gain access to email, WebEOC, and the Health Alert Network. The connection also gives the department access to a various media resources, on top of the ability to use the Internet as a phone line utilizing VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology.
Since acquiring satellite Internet service, the department is able to deploy teams and demonstrate the capability to be self-sufficient when it comes to communications. Despite the local infrastructure going down because of weather-related or manmade disasters, the Kentucky Department for Public Health stays connected to the Internet.
The department was especially pleased when last year, in March 2012, there was a tornado outbreak and they realized that their satellite Internet service could also restore communications. A sister agency of the department was damaged by the tornado and lost use of their facility. They relocated their operations to a temporary location, but with all of the infrastructure damage, they were cut off from communications. However, that agency was able to access the Skycasters connection and relied on it for nearly three weeks to provide the necessary community services to residents.
Agencies throughout the country, and throughout the world for that matter, have found satellite Internet to be the most reliable way to maintain communications because, unlike terrestrial-based systems that rely on the local infrastructure, a satellite Internet connection operates independently to provide reliable broadband service. Some agencies use it as a primary connection. However, like the Kentucky Department of Public Health, others use it as a backup connection, to ensure they can stay in communication despite the local infrastructure going down.
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Mike Kister, President of Skycasters.com, has been making his living with the internet since before there was a World Wide Web. He is a respected authority on using technology to solve complex business problems. You can follow him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/mikekister or follow his blog.