Infrastructure, connectivity, and the two-tier American economy | Viewpoints
If we can’t figure out a way to provide rural communities with high-speed broadband, the (non)arrival of shared, autonomous vehicles will only exacerbate the growing digital divide – and the sense that small town and rural Americans are second-class citizens.
Dale Neef offers three tactics to increase broadband deployment in rural communities:
- Significantly increase federal funding for rural high-speed broadband, matched with a program to encourage regional co-ops and utilities to combine optical fiber deployment with provision of charging stations tied to the electrical grid
- Encourage regional enterprise corridors and extended economic zones by bolstering independent agencies such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Northern Border Regional Commission.
- Leverage federal funding and public-private partnerships (P3s), these agencies should work toward digitally connecting hospitals, schools and libraries in rural areas. These “anchor institutions,” acting as the foundation of a regional fiber network, are natural bedfellows with AV technologies.
One of the mantras in the AV community is that AVs should have no jurisdictional boundaries. Yet without significant funding for rural broadband infrastructure, that is exactly what will happen – our shared, autonomous vehicle economy will be stopping at the city limits.
Dale Neef is a strategic technology consultant and the author of "Digital Exhaust: What Everyone Should Know About Big Data, Digitization and Digitally Driven Innovation." He is on the American Planning Association’s smart city task force and is a member of the International City and County Management Association (ICMA).
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