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Today our post is from Tom Harnish, who is a telework evangalist, writer, and researcher at the TeleworkResearchNetwork.com. He co-authored the popular press book,
Undress For Success–The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home (Wiley
2009).

Sad, but true, U.S. broadband penetration ranks 15th among the 30 top industrialized nations, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In terms of affordability, our broadband ranks 8th. And 10 countries advertise faster download speeds. In Japan, for example, 1,000 Mbps top speeds are available compared to just 50 Mbps in the U.S
broadbandgraph.jpg

The FCC, is determined to reverse this disparity. They’ve just announced
a plan to create a high-speed digital highway that could be as
significant for workshifters–for everyone, really–as the Federal-Aid
Highway Act of 1956 that created the nation’s highways. The average U.S.
broadband speed is currently less than 4 Mbps. Julius Genachowski,
FCC’s chief, wants to see 100Mbps speeds in 100 million American homes
by 2020.

It’s hoped that the new communication infrastructure will spur innovation in the same way electricity and transportation networks encouraged innovation in the past. But some argue these investments don’t make economic sense, and many are irked that Uncle Sam is about to invade an arena that belongs in the private sector.

In my opinion, the FCC’s efforts are justified by the potential benefits to the environment as well as the energy, healthcare, education, and transportation industries. Even small improvements in these areas could justify the government spending. In fact, broadband has already become the medium of choice for the news, music and video industries; and broader access to high speed distribution will only encourage growth in the media world.

The OECD concludes in a recent report, “On average, a cost savings of between 0.5% and 1.5% in each of the four sectors over ten years resulting directly from the new broadband network platform could justify the cost of building a national point-to-point, fiber-to-the-home network.

Hi-speed virtual highways, for example, can help energy providers and users understand supply and demand in real time and adjust consumption automatically based on price change broadcasts.

As our population ages, our health-care system is faced with pressure to improve quality, accessibility and outcomes in a cost-effective way. Broadband makes possible doctor-patient interaction at home, including health monitoring, remote consultation, and intervention.

Today there is no wide scale way to collect traffic data, analyze it, and pass the results along to commuters to help them alter their routes to save time and money. But more, broadband can dramatically reduce the traffic and maintenance demands on our transportation infrastructure.

Broadband is already changing education. Digital learning resources are now available so, for example, you can audit courses at Harvard and MIT, to name just two universities with growing catalogs of online material. Indeed, there are already several virtual secondary schools and colleges that exist only as administration, teachers, and students connected by the Internet.

If there’s an industry to watch that will have a huge impact on your future, it’s broadband. Not just change, but the rate of change–the acceleration–in progress will drive developments unimaginable today.

Bandwidth–in whatever form–is, and always has been fundamental to innovation. Congestion on the roadways already constrains our nation’s growth. Congestion on the information highway will strangle it. If we expect to continue as a global leader, world-class broadband needs to be a national priority.

What are your thoughts?