It's practically official. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke warned
Congress in early April that the U.S. economy might shrink over the
first half of the year, signaling the start of a recession. He didn't
actually say the word "recession" - only that the nation's GDP will not
grow much, if at all, during the January-June 2008 period. In fact,
Bernanke said the economy could even contract slightly. On a more
positive note, the Fed chairman told Congress he expects more economic
growth in the second half of the year and into next.
Now that we've stated the obvious, can we talk about
something else? How about something that would provide an additional
jolt to the economy - the use of information and communications
technology - which just happens to be the focus of this issue.
A study from a national nonprofit, Connected Nation, recently measured
the national economic stimulus of broadband legislation currently under
Congressional consideration. The report's findings suggest the nation
would realize a $134 billion annual economic impact from a modest
increase in broadband adoption.
"Just as the Congress
needed to pass the recent economic stimulus package to accelerate the
economies of every state.the nation deserves passage of pending
legislation that would accelerate access to and use of broadband," says
Brian Mefford, CEO of Connected Nation. "It would provide a jolt to the
nation's economy," he adds.
In order to assess the
impact of national broadband legislation, which was in conference as
part of the Farm Bill as we went to press, Connected Nation measured
the impact of its first state-based program, ConnectKentucky.
Kentucky's aggressive broadband efforts have resulted in an 83 percent
rate of growth in broadband adoption (the national rate is only 57
percent) and consumer savings in time and miles driven and healthcare
costs, as well as a positive impact on job creation and retention in
From this information, Connected Nation
extrapolated the economic impact of modest growth (just 7 percent) in
broadband adoption for the country as a whole at $134 billion annually.
Some $92 billion would be gained through the annual creation or
retention of 2.4 million jobs. Additional annual savings would include
$662 million in healthcare costs, $6.4 billion in mileage, $18 million
in carbon credits associated with 3.2 billion fewer CO2 emissions, and
$35.2 billion from 3.8 billion more hours spent accessing broadband
from the home.
It's no wonder then that, in today's
Information Age, growing companies are placing increasing emphasis on
information and communications technology (ICT). In fact, site
selectors often rank sites according to their "last mile"
communications architecture. If a business can't connect to its
suppliers or customers from a particular location, that location can be
ruled out. Meanwhile, the nation's most "connected" locations are
reaping the benefits of new ICT technologies that are increasingly
saving companies time and money.
Therefore, if past
business growth and U.S. economic expansions have been spurred by
growth in technology - from new industrial processes to the use of
computers and the Internet - increased government investment in the
latest ICT technologies just might help to lift the nation out of its
downward economic spiral.