By Oscar A. Lopez III, Policy Fellow | For a society that is treading deeper into the digital age, it’s impossible to imagine a world without the internet. Online telehealth services are giving underserved communities access to medical care. Organizations, like vote.org, provide resources for voter registration — making it easier for Americans to participate in our democracy. Consumers are increasingly going online to make everyday purchases. More than 3 billion email users collectively send or receive approximately 281 billion emails each day.
In the same ways that the electrification of the United States created economic growth for the country, broadband expansion has the potential to elevate our economy. Despite this importance; by low estimates over 21 Million Americans still lack a reliable broadband connection. Investing in broadband infrastructure will help ensure that citizens have equal access to the resources they need and, importantly, that our national economy is able to fulfill its potential.
Apart from serving as the bridge between your computer and your favorite television show, a high-speed internet connectivity is a catalyst for economic growth. For example, an analysis of the French economy showed that over the span of 15 years, the internet eliminated 500,000 jobs while also creating 1.2 million new ones. That is a net growth of about 700,000 jobs. It also signifies the innovation and national opportunity that nationwide broadband access could ignite.
Studies indicate that doubling broadband speeds can increase growth in our nation’s GDP. In addition, an increase in broadband access by an additional 10% in the United States could result in a GDP per capita increase of over $13,000. Given the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, this type of job and economic growth would be a much-need boost for our national economy.
Moreover, as corporate debt approaches $10 trillion, the U.S. travel industry is expected to lose 10 billion over the next four years. Meanwhile, government stimulus packages have brought the national debt to levels not seen since World War II and over 26 million jobs have been lost. By any measure, providing digital opportunities will heal our economy as it recovers.
Access to high-speed connectivity for all would not only foster positive growth in our economy, it would provide the requisite vehicle for digital learning, health, and civic engagement opportunities. Specifically, it would help provide equal access to online resources for all Americans — thus empowering aspiring entrepreneurs, spreading equal opportunity in education, and increasing productivity.
Investing in our nation’s digital infrastructure should be a national priority. And it will take a commitment from stakeholders at every level of government. We need a broadband expansion effort similar to the rural electrification efforts under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to usher in a new chapter of widespread connectivity, the bedrock of a healthy digital economy.