Broadband access can increase economic activities in both urban and rural settings. It can improve urban life and reduce carbon footprints, traffic and pollution by enabling decentralized, remote work capabilities. In rural areas, having affordable broadband access can improve educational and cultural opportunities and reduce the desire to move to cities. It also can provide new economic opportunities for residents to establish online-only home businesses.
Emerging technologies hold additional promise for improving citizens’ lives and municipal operations. A recent study by Parks Associates and AARP found that 117 million Americans will require caregiving assistance by 2020, and connected health technology in the home is expected help alleviate some of the caregiving burden as well as promote general wellness.5 Telehealth applications are emerging that can monitor a patient’s condition remotely via wireless devices, provide patients with information to assist in managing their health and enable patients and doctors to interact via a broadband video connection for diagnostics and treatment. Robust wireless networks will be essential to achieve reliable home health services for the population at large.
In addition, the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications offer new possibilities for improved municipal operations and more efficient resource allocation. Research firm Gartner predicts that 6.4 billion connected IoT devices will be in use in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015; and that this number will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.6 Smart-city applications such as wireless utility meters, wireless parking meters, remote control of street lighting, municipal fleet tracking and management, and the use of wireless sensors for adaptive traffic management are already in use in the United States and around the world. In 2015, the White House announced a $160 million program to invest in development of IoT technologies that will help municipalities address traffic congestion, fight crime, foster economic growth and improve delivery of city services.
Because mobile broadband infrastructure must be deployed locally, it also means local jobs. Even outside contractors will spend dollars on-site for hotels, meals and other services, widening the economic impact of infrastructure investment.
Skills gap and new job creation
The massive task of building out 5 G infrastructure will likely take place over the next eight to 10 years. This will require new technical and white-collar employees. WIA estimates that 5G will create 850,000 jobs.
A deeper dive review of the skills gap and the need for additional training resources is contained in this recently released piece from the WIA.