Anyone who has experienced the inconvenience of having to use cash at a retail establishment because the store was unable to process credit cards knows that broadband is critical for retail establishments.
We also understand the importance of broadband for public safety and telemedicine. An informed police officer can keep us safer, and electronic health records can help us stay healthier - by keeping the focus on prevention, and increasing the size of the medical team, by adding remote healthcare team members from virtually anywhere. But what about other sectors of our society? In many instances, broadband carries the same importance as it does for the health and public safety sectors - and where it doesn't carry the same weight - it still is becoming increasingly more important.
Farming is a business
Take farming for example. Farms are often located in the most remote rural areas of the country. Farmers with Internet access have many advantages over their counterparts without access. Like many small businesses, farmers need to pay employees, pay taxes, and perform banking tasks. Doing all of these things online can often be the difference between a successful livelihood, and a struggling enterprise. Broadband has become such an important driver for so many businesses, and having high speed Internet access is even more important in rural areas. Access to healthcare and quality educational resources increases opportunities for rural residents. Connected farmers are as up-to-date regarding commodity pricing, veterinary services, and other online services as their urban counterparts - leveling the playing field and increasing success rates.
Broadband is a universal facilatator
Sometimes we lose sight of what broadband has meant for so many different industries. As people become more and more immersed in their profession or hobby, broadband becomes a critical facilitator of that pursuit. The use of broadband is often compared to the introduction of electricity in the United States. Broadband is even being defined by policy makers as a necessity, in the same category as electricity, heat, and phone service.
Technology transforms everyday life; Broadband transcends virtually all technology
Many people recall the days when you actually had to be physically in front of the television set to watch your favorite shows at precisely the time they were scheduled to be aired. Now there are devices which monitor our viewing habits, record shows we are interested in, and make them available to us on any television in the house, our computer, or even our phones - whenever we want.
This evolution - or some might say dependence on being part of a connected world changes our society, and affects many facets of the world we live in. Economic trends shift, some goods and services become obsolete and others rise in importance. Innovation flourishes as it tries to keep pace with consumer demand.
We see this transformation occurring in just about every issue affecting broadband. The restructuring of the Universal Service Fund (USF) is a response to the obsolescence of telephones, and the emergence of broadband (mobile, fixed, and wireless), as the new 'necessity' of the day. Lifeline government programs, long reserved for preserving heating, electrical, and telephone service for the disadvantaged are being eyed for broadband. Net neutrality recognizes the prominence of broadband service providers and the power they yield by controlling and regulating Internet traffic.
Many industries are emerging because of the Internet. This includes the obvious ones, such as Internet service providers and device manufacturers. Others are undergoing radical transformation because of broadband. I could just about guarantee that most people employed in America are performing their jobs significantly different than they would have done twenty five years ago - all because of the Internet. Journalists, politicians, doctors, and stockbrokers have transformed the work they do because of the Internet. On the other hand, so have grocery store clerks and automobile salespeople. Other than the nostalgia of a past without technology, most people would herald the introduction of the Internet. Others would lament the depersonalization of society and the diminishing amount of physical interaction between people.
Whatever side you are on, there is no doubt that this train has already left the station. Ticket prices are going down, and the train is picking up speed as it barrels down the track. Whether you choose to hop on board, or wait by the sidelines is still optional. However, as the Internet continues to transform entire sectors of our society, choosing to stay by the sidelines could cause the train to run you over entirely.