TECH: An even faster Internet & its impact on churches

Baptist Press

7/31/2012 4:22:20 PM - Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Amidst all the technology changes happening in 2012 -- from Windows 8 to the new iPhone this fall -- the biggest one is happening more discreetly, without you even knowing it. It will change the way we interact with the Internet and, thus, the whole world. Your broadband connection is getting even faster. Ridiculously fast.

The Internet started out at 56 kilobytes per second. In other words, it took time just to push a small bit of data over the wire. The Internet was not built for movies, music or even eBooks. It was meant for simple, small things. But now? Now, in 2012, our Internet service providers are pushing forward our connections at an unprecedented rate.

In June, Verizon started rolling out its new top-tier service, FiOS Quantum. This connection brings 300 megabits per second download speeds to the common household. (By comparison, 300 megabits per second is 38,400 kilobytes.) In July, Comcast began offering the same level of service with their Xfinity Platinum Internet offering.

Do you remember when you first heard that people were storing full length movies on their hard drives? Do you remember how huge the file sizes for HD movies were, and how it seemed like it would take up crazy amounts of space to try and save one of them -- let alone the time it would take to download one? A 5GB HD movie, at these new speeds, can be downloaded in little more than two minutes.

And then, in July, as we tried to come to grips with what people might be able to do with 300 megabits per second, Google trumped everyone. Google announced they are becoming an internet and cable provider. Starting in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., Google will be providing 1 gigabit per second internet. That HD movie download time that seemed so impressive in the last paragraph? Try downloading it in 5 seconds. For only $70 a month.

In my career, I've worked with really large files. I used to be a video editor, and working with all the source files for a huge HD project, I may have been looking at 100 GB of data or so. Downloading that at what will soon be the new normal would have taken less than 2 minutes. This flow of data is inconceivable.

There may be no real practical application of this event that can be understood today. Yes, our videos will be faster, our connections will be stronger, and the lag time in video games will be non-existent. That's all the stuff that we know today -- this change will open up the dreams of tomorrow.

Just like churches 10 years ago would never have been able to dream of satellite churches that stream a pastor's sermon live -- like we can do today -- our imaginations have yet to catch up with what this may mean. Instead of one HD stream being sent out of your campus, could you have dozens? Hundreds? Is this pipe big enough to stream not video, but a hologram? What if, instead of just streaming the pastor across town, you were streaming the whole congregation? You could turn your head to the right, change a filter in your glasses, and be talking to someone a state away -- like they were right there.

And once this kind of free-flowing, rushing river of data heads across the world -- there could be no stopping a great and beautiful message of grace, hope and love. There is no telling what the world will look like just a few short months from now, as our Internet providers compete to up the ante on what data can do.

There will be no telling what new collaborations, new learnings, new dangers and new worlds will be facing in two years. At the 2016 Olympics, just four years after the most immersive digital experience that's ever been offered through the 2012 Olympics, how different our world will be -- all because of data.

Thank you, July 2012, for setting up our future.

Aaron Linne is executive producer of digital marketing for the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes a monthly technology column for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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