• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).


Connecting the Dots

Between the internet and economic development.

September 5, 2017

Economic development is one of the top issues for our country. Just because the markets are strong does not mean that the wealth trickles down to workers. There are two excellent articles in The New York Times that speak to these points. The first is from the seasoned journalist Steven Greenhouse about what labor needs going forward and the second from the columnist David Leonhardt about how tax laws have skewed wealth. I have been trying to make the case it rests fundamentally on internet deployment and goes up the stack to education, commerce, and e-health.  More important, how it can help the interior of the United States, not just the coasts or metro U.S. Readers have been helping me think through this perspective for ten years now. I could still use your help.
As of 2015, the United States is listed as 35th in the world for broadband deployment.  Granted, we have a diverse and expansive physical terrain to transverse but terrain alone is not what keeps us from a broader deployment. That challenge rests almost exclusively on policy — or the absence of it — the current administration’s fever for deregulation across the board of federal agencies, and, I believe, a failure to connect the dots between the internet and economic development.
Much of our country is agricultural.  People often ask me, what can the internet do for them?  A lot. Every cow that goes through the barn is tagged. Their milk output monitored. In order to remain competitive state-wide, as well as nationally and even globally (yes, milk is a global product), analytics about that output are necessary.  Same with crops from corn to soybean to grapes. Try doing that without available, affordable and robust internet. 
Internal tourism supported by the natural beauty, small business owners in restaurants, hotels and stores, and a fabulous wine industry in 49 of the 50 states is the area’s most emergent industry. In short, it is not possible for businesses that operate outside of the metropolitan areas to host, run, or accommodate guests until there is available, affordable and robust internet. You can’t draw people into the interior of our country from outside without it.
What about making the interior a destination for new businesses, either, or both, in manufacturing or in tech (since A.I. joins them)?  The land is plentiful, the rents low outside of the coasts and metro areas, the natural terrain gorgeous. So many excellent colleges and universities, and 50 agricultural schools as a part of the great land grant missions sport smart, ambitious students who would love to stay in more rural areas and make a life in this abundance.  Can’t, won’t happen without available, affordable and robust internet.
Applications in education, commerce, health care, government and culture move “up the stack” of the foundational internet.  Readers of this blog know that technology has been disruptive because it affects the market, law and social norms across the board, troubling incumbents but also creating opportunity for a new generation of entrepreneurs and people who benefit from that development.  What dots can you draw? Maybe we could come up with the ideas that, instead of facing off against each other, we can translate into something productive that would work for all of us. 


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