Part 1: Connecting to the Information Economy

This is Part 1 of 5 of our series on the benefits of broadband for communities! Stay tuned for the other parts.

In much the same way that the
railroad opened commerce between towns, and expanded the focus of the municipal
economy to the sale of products and services regionally and nationally, so too
does municipal broadband enable municipalities to begin thinking bigger. Remote
work is among the most immediate and obvious benefits. Towns connected to fast,
reliable broadband enable their citizens to take posts with firms headquartered
in distant cities, creating new job opportunities that lie outside the reach of
the local economic base.

The statistics only point toward remote
work becoming the norm, too: work-at-home employees, among the
non-self-employed population, have grown by 103% since 2005. While the total
U.S. employee workforce grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, remote work employees
grew by 5.6% – nearly three times as fast. A survey of business leaders at a
recent Global Leadership Summit in London found that 34% said more than half
their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020.

But connecting to the information
economy involves more than remote work. It also involves remotely acquiring the
skillsets necessary to participate in that economy. Colleges and universities
have steadily increased the amount of coursework that students can remotely
participate in, and beyond traditional higher education, massive open online
courses (MOOCs) offer many of the same benefits in a no-cost learning
environment. Again, however, much of that coursework is best performed in a
live, video-enabled setting that provides real-time interaction – and that is
best served on a reliable, fast digital backbone that can accommodate the
streaming content needs of tens of thousands of citizens simultaneously.