Building a high-speed, high-capacity, affordable network will have numerous important positive effects for our region. Conversely, doing nothing will stifle future prospects for our communities.
High-speed internet access is necessary for much of our day-to-day lives. It impacts regional commerce, education, health and public safety, cultural enrichment, government operations, and aids in countless conveniences and efficiencies in our lives. It is as critical to the future of economic growth as access to a telephone line.
Consider commerce. Today, high-speed internet access is a requirement for many business. A fiber optic network creates a level playing field so that western Massachusetts can compete with the rest of the world. Western Massachusetts has the highest proportion of home-based businesses in the state and also relies heavily on tourism revenues – both tied to high-speed internet access. Many kinds of businesses – large and small – can reduce costs by relocating to our rural region, which increases local employment opportunities, tax revenues, and investment. Universal internet access combined with the quality of life that our region offers entices telecommuters and people of all ages to remain in, or relocate to, the area. This benefits our region by increasing the tax base and demand for services, and also contributes to the vitality and diversity of our communities.
Educational opportunities with fiber are immense. Compared to their urban counterparts with high-speed access, our students are receiving an inferior learning experience. Online learning opportunities for all citizens are tremendous. The internet is our modern encyclopedia and university. So-called Massive Open Online Courses are now widely available ushering in an era of democratization of education around the world. And yet in western Massachusetts many of our students can be found after hours sitting outside the local library to perform rudimentary internet-based research!
Internet access affects our lives in many ways. n rural areas, telemedicine provides remote patient care and monitoring, and access to specialists through video conferencing. Police and emergency personnel depend on internet-based communication networks during crisis situations to access critical information quickly and securely. An increasing array of government services are only available online – from tax forms to payroll reporting – but without access, it’s difficult or impossible to take advantage of them.