There's long been talk -- and a shared social commitment -- to 'going green' and reducing our carbon footprint. But as U.S. leaders talk about the clean energy future, there's also rising angst around how much progress we can make in today's economic climate. Against a backdrop of bad news, from the economy to the weather, we now have much-needed good news from the Carbon Disclosure Project on how broadband can advance two shades of green -- boosting our economy and our environment.
The London-based non-profit recently released Building a 21st Century Communications Economy, a report exploring the correlation between the economic and environmental benefits of broadband, including fast-growing mobile connectivity. The bottom line? "The most competitive economies of tomorrow will be those that see the resource constraints we face today as an opportunity, and revolutionize the way they operate to generate increased value using fewer resources."
The report outlines that investment and deployment of fixed and mobile broadband can be a powerful driver of just such a transformation to a "dematerialized economy." It goes on to make the case for a strong push in the U.S. for universal connectivity to accelerate not only a healthier future for our planet, but also for our economy.
The report focuses on the fact that the broadband-fueled information, communications and technology industries are growing at a much faster pace than the overall economy. Between 2004 and 2006, the U.S. economy grew at about 3.2% per year. Yet the tech sector was in double-digits, expanding more than 11%, the report shows. And, tech continues to lead growth today where we need it most -- job creation. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics June jobs numbers noted a nationwide unemployment rate of 9.2%, compared to just 3.3% in the tech sector.
So how exactly can greater broadband connectivity help create jobs and green the planet? Among the report's key findings:
• Information and communications technology (ICT) could help the U.S. reduce greenhouse gas emissions annually by up to 22%, while also saving businesses and consumers up to $240 billion in reduced energy consumption costs.
• Broadband-based applications, such as teleconferencing and eco-friendly e-commerce, are leading the progress as they change how we live, work and do business. According to the American Consumer Institute, approximately 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be prevented over a 10-year period thanks to these applications. That energy savings adds up to 66% of annual U.S. oil imports.
The Carbon Disclosure Project rightly declares that we are in the middle of a "network driven communications revolution." And, it contains broad possibilities both for our economy and for the sustainability of our planet. To make the most of this opportunity, the group makes a powerful case for building out strong networks -- and ensuring all Americans can connect to them.
Just as our leaders ask Americans to connect and do their part for our economy and the environment, so should policymakers step up to the plate. From current efforts in Washington to reorient the Universal Service program around broadband connectivity to the urgent race that's underway to unlock more spectrum to ensure the mobile Internet can continue to grow and fuel innovation, Washington doesn't have to look far for reminders that the tools are well within our grasp to connect to a low-carbon future.
Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served as an advisor to and spokesperson for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration.
Mobile Future is a 501(c)(4) coalition comprised of and supported by technology businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals dedicated to advocating for an environment in which innovations in wireless technology and services are enabled and encouraged. For a full list of members and sponsors and to learn more about the coalition, go to www.mobilefuture.org.