Not only has the internet become a vital part of our lives, it’s also become an integral part of the economy. Think about how much investment and innovation is driven by companies in Silicon Valley, all of whom rely on the internet in some way, shape, or form. For those companies who reap billions of dollars in revenue every year, having access to high-speed internet is something they don’t really think about because they have the money to pay whatever fees companies like Verizon or Comcast are charging them. They also have the wherewithal to build their own infrastructure, which means they care less about the general state of internet connectivity.
For startups and other small businesses, creating your own broadband infrastructure really isn’t an option. Having no internet access is also not an option - so finding a location that has high speed wi-fi is of the essence. Unfortunately, because telecoms infrastructure is largely the domain of private companies who have the discretion to expand to wherever they wish (or wherever they feel the money is), there are lots of places where it’s incredibly difficult to get hooked up to high-speed internet. Even New York City, generally considered a hub of innovation and a fairly connected place, is littered with digital deserts, especially once you get out to the outer boroughs.
If you’re looking to become a City of Tomorrow, having haphazard internet access just isn’t going to cut it. Not only is it important from an entrepreneurial standpoint, it’s also important for the general health of your city. Much has been made about the rise of “Smart Cities”, where city officials use technology to ensure the city runs smoothly. But smart cities need to be connected to the internet; otherwise, there’s no way to get information from Point A to Point B, and all that investment in fancy gadgets and gizmos will be money flushed down the toilet.
In addition to stymieing investment, the patchwork nature of broadband implementation hurts residents by further disadvantaging lower income households, trapping them in a vicious cycle that limits their ability to find new opportunities or develop skills necessary for the workforce. For example, more and more people are taking advantage of flexible work schedules by working from home - but you can’t do that if you don’t have a reliable internet connection.
There’s no question that the internet - and affordable access to it - are necessary for the cities of tomorrow.