Broadband infrastructure is the essential for participating in today’s economy. Investments in broadband infrastructure strengthen our state and regional economies by improving skills, competitiveness, and service deliver:
- Education – Broadband brings dynamic resources into classrooms and homes while enabling seamless communication and partnering among teachers, students and parents. In Two Harbors, students use IXL to learn math. They have software that allows students to work on assignments and get immediate feedback on their progress. Broadband allows instructors from the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis to offer classes to students across the state. Location is no longer a barrier to accessing advanced education.
- Health Care – Broadband reduces operating costs and provides patients with a broader spectrum of enhanced services, including remote routine in-home consultations, diagnostics, administration, scheduling, and electronic patient records. Minnesota’s own Digi, is developing wearables for remote monitoring of patients and to reinforce healthy habits through social gaming. Telemedicine could potentially deliver more than $6 billion a year in health care savings to U.S. companies. https://www.towerswatson.com/en-US/Press/2014/08/current-telemedicine-technology-could-mean-big-savings
- Services for the Aging – Broadband allows baby-boomers and their elders to “age in place,” improving quality of life and reducing costs associated with institutionalization of senior citizens. Studies have found that seniors who master computer skills have fewer depressive symptoms than those who remain technologically unconnected, and that increased integration through social support services can protect against some mortality risks and lead to better mental health. Broadband has been used in Winona to offer remote workout classes to seniors. The real-time sessions are based in the local senior center; seniors join via video conference. It’s a great way to encourage physical activity and provide a social outlet to seniors with limited mobility. http://www.broadband.gov/docs/ws_adoption_unserved/ACLP_Impact_of_Broadband_on_Seniors.pdf
- Public Safety and Emergency Response – Broadband connects response teams with vital information that improves coordinated, timely reaction to accidents and disasters, offering citizens access to the information and tools they need to make decisions and seek support. Police in Benton County have been using iPads both to take and stream video to be shared and analyzed remotely (back at the lab for example) and have ready access to information – such as an app that helps first responders deal with an improvised explosive device or a hazardous materials (hazmat) situation. It quickly calculates an evacuation radius, factors in real-time weather data, determines needed road blocks and identifies schools and emergency centers near the area.
- Citizen and Social Services –Broadband extends service reach and quality via online services to save time and public money while improving overall efficiency through services like smart grid technology and platforms to communicate and collaborate. Dakota County has reduced their telecom bills from $700,000 to $15,000 by building their fiber network and having the state manage the system. They use it to provide a wide range of services from traffic management to VoIP phone systems.
- Economic and Workforce Development – Broadband improves regional competitiveness through efficient business practices that increase revenues, reduce costs and improve customer service. In 2014, broadband consultants SNG found that for every $1 invested in broadband infrastructure and adoption in Minnesota, $10 is returned in direct and spinoff impacts to the local economy.
- Rural and Regional Development – Broadband is needed to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs and businesses that create family-supporting wage jobs while making local economies more competitive, diverse, resilient, and resistant to economic shocks. There are several good examples of businesses moving or staying in Minnesota for good broadband. A medical school looking to open in Gaylord Minnesota; while proximity to the Twin Cities was one factor, so was the community’s efforts to deploy broadband through RS Fiber. Shutterfly relocated to Shakopee, bringing an estimated 329 jobs over five years. Weave Got Mail, a million dollar jewelry component manufacturer, was going to have to leave Ada because of limited broadband, but was able to stay when a local telephone company stepped up to provide service. Unfortunately we don’t always hear about the businesses that choose to leave because they can’t get good broadband where they currently are.
- Agriculture – Faced with a growing global population, agricultural producers are attempting to produce more food, fuel, and fiber more efficiently at reduced cost. To help meet this need, many farmers are turning to precision agriculture and technology-equipped machine solutions. Much of this technology is dependent on broadband access. Solutions like GPS guidance and section control technology help farmers reduce inputs and increase yield through improved positioning in the field. In order to unlock the next wave of productivity in agriculture, farmers will need improved high-speed data connectivity to coordinate a fleet of machines and improve their real-time decision making in field operations. With this connection, the producer can reduce input costs, increase yields, and further enable sustainable farming practices by applying data-based solutions to his operation.
- Real Estate/Home Values: A high-speed internet connect can increase an average home’s value by about $5,437 – roughly equivalent to a fireplace or just under half the value of a bathroom. Single-family homes in areas where gigabit fiber service is available have a median value that is 3.1% higher than comparable homes without fiber. Even where gigabit service isn’t available, home values get a lift of 1.8% when a local network operator has deployed fiber infrastructure capable of supporting speeds of at least 100 Mbps. (University of Colorado at Boulder and Carnegie Mellon University research report, June 2015) In addition, more buyers are choosing where they live based on access to broadband. According to the Wall Street Journal (June 30, 2015), “more and more buyers are turning their noses up at homes without fast Web access.”