Dave Pieklik, Business News
With the information superhighway getting more congested, high-speed Internet through fiber optic cable can be the express lane to a community’s improved health and prosperity.
Though Internet use has steadily increased the last decade – 75 percent of US households subscribe, according to the US Census Bureau – gaps still exist. Access is limited or absent in rural areas such as Citrus County, with available service oftentimes unreliable or inadequate for certain needs.
The same 2014 American Community Survey reports while 79 percent of urban households have Internet access, 74 percent of rural households are connected.
That lack of access doesn’t just mean connecting with friends on Facebook or shopping for that must-have item; it means finding a job, sharing life-saving data quickly and academic success. When more people have that ability at their fingertips, poverty rates go down, jobs increase and more community services can be provided from the extra revenue generated.
When driving from point A to point B, the quicker and easier you get to your destination, the more productive and happier you are. The same goes for information gathering or sharing, with numerous options available. From dial up and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) to wireless broadband, there are many routes to take to get where you need.
However, from a reliability and functionality standpoint, fiber optic can become like a carpool lane, getting more people where they need to get quicker and more efficiently. The key is that no matter how many are using fiber-served Internet, it does not impact speed or dependability.
Other services, such as wireless, can slow down or even crash the more people that are on at the same time using the service. With fiber, service remains constant, and depending on what speeds someone needs to get work done, service can be adjusted to meet those needs.
So why does high-speed translate to a better community?
In the digital age, more and more things are going “virtual,” from classrooms, to conferences to even doctor visits. In the same sense that people need power and water to live, fiber optic has essentially become another utility, critical infrastructure for homes and businesses alike.
A 2010 report from the US Government Accountability Office says telemedicine can improve healthcare for rural residents by providing quick diagnoses, or access to providers located outside their community. Oftentimes, files that are shared between healthcare providers such as physicians and hospitals are large, requiring the added bandwidth – or capacity – fiber offers to successfully send or receive the data.
Students can access homework assignments, interact with teachers and apply for colleges quicker, leading to greater achievements. This then translates to greater career opportunities through access to job postings and employers. Along with these benefits, numerous studies show that civic participation and voter turnout both increase with more Internet access.
A recent study by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and the Chalmers University of Technology says doubling broadband speed doubles an economy by .3%, the equivalent of $126-billion. A 2009 study commissioned by the Internet Innovation Alliance states that such service produces $32-billion in net consumer benefits.
More reliable Internet also means local businesses can remain competitive with national chains and outside competitors. Innovation and entrepreneurship can be spurred, crucial in rural areas where start-ups and job creation are in the decline in many such places because of the lack of such services.
With the increasing demand in e-commerce, businesses can enjoy increased sales; meetings can be conducted through Internet-enabled services such as Skype, decreasing travel costs and reducing the carbon footprint through travel.
With a stronger residential and business community, that means more taxes and other revenue collected, which in turn means more public transit, recreational and professional opportunities for everyone to enjoy.