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Investment in Broadband Infrastructure Drives Economic Growth, Competitiveness

December 05, 2012

While Washington remains in political gridlock and the national economy continues sluggish growth, one key trend for political and economic success is apparent: U.S. metro regions experiencing high economic growth have invested federal, state, and private funds in high-speed broadband access.

In a recent NY Times Op-Ed, Thomas Friedman illustrates the impact of local investment in high-speed infrastructure that has contributed to an economic resurgence in Chattanooga, TN. Since installing a city-wide fiber network and smart meters, major global companies including Amazon and Volkswagen have moved operations to the city. The result is that corporate relocations, along with community-based tech-startups, have created over 3,700 new jobs in the past 3 years.

Chattanooga's success is not an outlier. A recently released report from the Brookings Institution lists Pittsburgh, Knoxville (TN), and Dallas as the only U.S. metro areas that have experienced a full economic recovery. The report credits investments in infrastructure, including high-speed broadband access, as drivers of growth. While businesses consider many factors for site location, high-speed broadband access is a critical demand for high-growth companies and tech-based entrepreneurs. Cities like Pittsburgh and Dallas are thriving because they have strong local service sectors and during the recession invested in infrastructure that fosters high-growth business development, the report indicates.

Cities across the country are recognizing the trend and finding unique ways to address the challenge of infrastructure investment with limited resources. Kansas City has established a partnership with Google to connect the city with the company's ultra-high speed fiber technology. The project has garnered national attention and attracted tech entrepreneurs from across the country to the city's Startup Village.

High-speed broadband connectivity is a driver for economic growth, not just at the local and state level, but also for national economic competitiveness. U.S. broadband infrastructure currently is ranked 24th in the world in internet speed with a network that consists of a patchwork of slow connections. While states and cities can drive regional economic growth by investing in broadband infrastructure, national leadership is needed to drive national competitiveness.

Since 2009, the Obama administration has been pursuing a National Broadband Plan to support local and state investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure. This year, President Obama launched the public-private US-Ignite Partnership, which brings together a national network of companies, universities, and nonprofit organizations with federal resources to promote high-speed broadband deployment and innovation. The partnership is still in its first round of pilot projects, supporting community-driven projects in 25 metro areas across the country.

The actions taken by forward-thinking cities and federal pilot projects are encouraging first-steps. As the debate in Washington rages over the future role of government spending, our lawmakers should take into account that investment in broadband infrastructure is critical to rebuilding an American economy that can compete and thrive in the 21st century.

Read the report...

Missouri, Tennesseebroadband, metros, policy recommendations, white house