The National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA)reportAfter analyzing census and other data from more than 50,000 households, the NTIA concluded that almost 99 percent of the U.S. population now has access to broadband service. The report also documented our rapid embrace of the mobile Internet, projecting double-digit annual growth rates in wireless web surfing, email and social media.
Back in 2008, President Barack Obama put forward the vision of a nation in which every American has access to the broadband Internet. Now, for nearly the entire country, his 2008 goal is a reality.
The NTIA report's data offer several hopeful signs about Americans' broadband use, especially for demographic groups that have lagged in online adoption. Between 2011 and 2012, disparities in mobile phone adoption among whites, African-Americans and Latinos (ages 25+) largely disappeared. Usage among all three groups was between 87% and 88%. Among seniors, home broadband use surged, increasing nearly 50% between 2007 and 2012.
More generally, evidence throughout the survey shows a remarkably consistent message: Faster broadband access is driving more usage, spurring job growth and social benefits. NTIA cites studies showing that mobile apps sustain more than 750,000 jobs and that the typical consumer can save almost $9,000/year using smartphones in comparison to other devices. The number of Americans who can access 6 Mbps mobile broadband - which allows for streaming HD quality video - increased from 24% in 2010 to 90% in 2012.
The benefits of modernizing our broadband networks have never been more important than they are today. Our growing reliance on data-rich apps, particularly video, which is projected to be 84% of U.S. Internet traffic in four years, is impacting the most important aspects of our community. The growth in home broadband among seniors, for example, has huge implications for our healthcare system. As the NTIA report notes, videoconferencing with a health care professional is well-suited for home-bound seniors and is a far less expensive option than assisted living.
Distance learning is ideally suited for broadband. California has already moved forward with an ambitious online streaming program to make college education more affordable. Georgia Tech offers an online master's program in engineering at an 80% discount to its on-campus rate.
But expanding these online opportunities requires an underlying network infrastructure that can meet users' demands. This is the biggest Internet-related challenge we face in the coming years - the need to modernize and improve the vastly complex network systems necessary for faster, more accessible broadband.
Also important to note is that the success of President Obama's broadband policies are largely due to the bipartisan "light-touch" framework begun under President Clinton, and continued through what we have seen as the 'Internet revolution'.
It's important that we continue to implement the same policies that helped pave the way for our Internet-enabled world, and that will continue to promote innovation and infrastructure deployment. While some have pushed for the outdated Title II approach to regulate our nation's Internet, NTIA's report clearly demonstrates the FCC should continue its successful stance of modest regulation. Only then will we be able to achieve that vision of an America in which every person has the broadband access they need to thrive in today's modern world.
At a time when some U.S. companies are moving operations overseas, it's good to see many well-known companies still investing heavily here in the U.S. This investment not only keeps millions of American working, it also creates opportunities for new services to improve our lives.
The scope of these combined investments is remarkable. According to a recent USA Today article, the 25 companies making the largest capital investments in the U.S. spent more than $150 billion on plants, property, and equipment here in 2013. The article drew on data from a report issued this week by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).
These "investment heroes," as the PPI report calls them, are primarily in the telecom, energy and technology industries. AT&T was the clear winner, investing almost $21 billion last year. Verizon was second, spending about $15 billion.
The top 10 companies accounted for almost $100 billion of investment. The telecom field led all other industries with four companies investing nearly $47 billion inside the U.S.
While this "investment heroes" report has telling conclusions about corporate investment last year, what's even more striking are the long-term figures. Since 1996, according to an industry report this week, U.S. broadband providers have invested more than $1.3 trillion in network infrastructure. Total broadband investment grew to $75 billion in 2013, up almost 10 percent from 2012.
The key point about this investment involves far more than company balance sheets. It goes to the heart of America's ability to generate new services and opportunities. This is especially clear when it comes to telecom investment.
For years, I've written and blogged about how people benefit when mobile technology and healthcare services merge. The growth of mHealth offers the potential of huge improvements in both health care access and quality. For seniors in particular, new mHealth equipment offers an affordable way to continue living independently while still gaining real-time medical security.
Although this week's report did not break down investments into "wireless" and "wired" categories, there's little doubt that the industry spent billions last year to expand better, faster mobile services. That investment makes possible the dramatic improvements in medical care, especially in underprivileged and rural communities where mHealth is becoming increasingly valuable.
Of course, the benefits of expanding high-speed Internet service, especially mobile broadband, aren't confined to health care. Improved access to education and government services are two more clear-cut examples. Better wireless broadband also offers the potential of improved energy efficiency.
With economic insecurity still a concern for many, it is good to see that many companies still see the importance of investing in America. It's especially good news that such a large part of that investment is going into communication networks that will be the foundation of so many future opportunities.