Dependable, fast Internet has become as important as having a phone to call the police. Not having good broadband means much more than missing out on online trends and streaming TV shows; it means not being able to compete in a global market, lack of access to things like healthcare and education, and a severe lack of economic development in a region.
Students in today’s classrooms depend more and more on the Internet. Moreover, a large portion of the workforce has switched over to freelance gigs and remote work from their homes. In a recent report, Mary Meeker found that 34% of the workforce in the United States now consider themselves independent contractors, short-term hires, or other kinds of freelancers. All of these jobs depend on good Internet connections and reliable speed.
By reliable, we mean at least 25Mbps, at least according to the FCC. Last January, the FCC increased its definition of broadband to this figure, which is fast enough to stream ultrahigh-definition video. We wonder if 25Mbps is really enough given that applications—not just over-the-top streaming—are driving usage up. Many of these apps have impacts on the economic conditions and quality of life for communities, so being able to use them is paramount.
Having more bandwidth can change everything, from telemedicine to cloud computing. Broadband helps not only attract companies, but retain them and the workforce. Some places—largely those outside of North America—are going to be left out of the broadband boom and their citizens and economies will suffer as a result. Where there is broadband, there is economic opportunity.