With significant support in President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, broadband stands to be vital to our nation’s economic recovery and future prosperity.
To fully understand why, it’s important to understand not just what’s in store for our nation — but also what’s in store for us as individuals.
What does this new essential infrastructure and broadband access mean to you? In each scenario that follows, the technologies needed for transformation already exist, and new ultra high speed broadband network capacity would simply enable these applications to become commonplace.
If you are a doctor or nurse: Home visits will become part of your routine, only now they will be “virtual” visits. You’ll check on patients’ blood pressure via remote electronic devices, and assess patients’ conditions via cameras connected to television screens in their homes. You’ll even be able to participate in emergency medical procedures virtually as patients’ data are scanned and monitored over secure Internet connections.
If you are a teacher: Instead of asking students to take out their history books, you’ll ask them to open their laptops or Kindle, and click on the history tab — where course material will be online. (Go green? You’ll hardly remember what it’s like to collect papers.) Meetings with parents may be face to face, but not necessarily in the same room. You might “meet” via applications such as Skype, or again, via the digital access in cable boxes viewed through television screens. This type of communication is routine in South Korea and other digitally advanced nations.
If you are a student: Your classroom experience will extend to other places around the nation and the world. In biology class, you might interact — in real time — with technicians at a world-class hospital laboratory. Or in civics class, students from New York might meet virtually with counterparts in Oklahoma to discuss public policy issues, and how disparate parts of the country might be affected differently.
If you are a police officer: Your department’s interconnected camera system will let you view what’s happening neighborhoods, much the way security guards in hospitals and other places monitor several places at once via cameras and screens. (If you’re a thief or criminal, you won’t know who’s watching.)
If you are an entrepreneur: Say you’re an architect and want to start your own firm. You team up with college classmates — maybe one in Chicago and another in Atlanta _ and you hold virtual meetings through video conferencing every Monday morning. Your graphic artist and sales rep join in. Everyone works from a home office.
You get the idea.
These are just a few reasons our new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is saying “broadband is our generation’s infrastructure challenge,” similar in scope to electricity and highways of past generations.
As Wired magazine reported recently, the FCC’s ambitious proposal for the country’s IT infrastructure “goes beyond simply giving grants to get YouTube and Twitter to farmers.” Rather, broadband initiatives are about advancing national priorities such as education, anti-terrorism and health care. Such things matter greatly to individuals and the results will be life changing.
As Americans, we’re building this new infrastructure because in the future, equal opportunity will be defined as equal access to high-speed, ultra capacity broadband. If you’re without it, you miss out on extra security in your neighborhood, or immediate attention from a doctor if you’re in an accident, or that once in a lifetime real-time virtual learning opportunity.
Susan Crawford, a member of the president’s National Economic Council, sums up the importance of broadband to our future best: “Broadband is the new essential infrastructure. Access to broadband does not guarantee success, but lack of access to broadband will guarantee stagnation and decline.”