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Networks as a Platform to Address Productivity and Sustainability

There are two important challenges that face the United States and many, but not all, of the rest of the countries in the world. The first, the productivity imperative, stems from a demographic anomaly – the boomer generation.  There will be far fewer workers to support retirees or the economy than in previous generations. In fact, it is estimated that by 2050 workers will have to be 2.5 times as productive as their predecessors just to maintain the status quo.The network may be a part of the solution.  In the period between 1948 and 2001, the average annual productivity growth rate was 2.2%.  Technological change and “other factors” contributed more than half of that growth.The second challenge is sustainability.  Irrespective of the debate on global warming, it is clear that continuing to add more roads and increasing the demand on energy resources will imperil quality of life.  In the same way that water systems brought water into homes and eliminated the need for families to go to a common well, the network can deliver work to citizens where ever they choose to ply their trade.  Many workers will no longer go to work – work will come to them, as will medical care, education, entertainment, the arts, literature, etc.  A recent study, found that IT is a significant contributor to energy efficiency: for every kilowatt-hour of electricity used by IT, the U.S. economy increases its overall energy savings by a factor of 10.

Current State

The Network as a Platform is a robust, reliable, fast and highly integrated environment (utility) that exists in only a few model communities in the US (Westchester County; NY, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Lafayette, Louisiana; Northeast Ohio; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, etc).  In an effort to quantify the opportunity, Brookings economist, Charles Ferguson, argued in 2007 that perhaps as much as $1 trillion might be lost over the next decade due to present constraints on broadband development. These losses, moreover, are only the economic costs of the United States. They do not take into account the work that could have been done through telecommuting, the medical care or interactive long-distance education that might have been provided in remote areas, and unexploited entertainment possibilities.

Minimum Technology Requirements

Mbps vary by manufacturers and usage.

Business Aspects

Different business models were used in the cities listed above.  In the case of Westchester County, the public sector issued an RFP for broadband services for all the public sector entities across the county and permitted the award winner to sell services to the private sector as well.  In Northeast Ohio, the broadband network was the result of an effort by mostly private sector entities in Cleveland to leverage their buying power and operating costs by sharing services.  They have grown virally over the whole of Northeast Ohio and include public and private entities.  Fort Wayne, Indiana, successfully lobbied Verizon to make them an early deployment of FIOS.
Obstacles or Barriers to Further Deployment
Capital expense, construction costs, low adoption rates.
Source: The New York Times, April 4, 2004
US Bureau of Labor Statistics
“Information and Communication Technologies: The Power of Productivity, How ICT Sectors Are Transforming the Economy While Driving Gains in Energy Productivity,” American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, February 2008.