06/16/2015 03:55 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2016

It's Time for a Modern Communications Infrastructure

It's not just our transportation system that's in desperate need of an upgrade. The fact is that from pipes carrying water and natural gas, to our energy grid, to our communications systems, we need action now to repair and modernize systems we rely on every day.

Old, broken down systems waste energy and water and other resources, make our communities less safe, and contribute to the pollution that's driving climate change. But, fixing and modernizing them? That's an opportunity to create family-sustaining jobs, make communities more secure and resilient, and give America a leg up in the ultra-competitive global economy.

Modern Communications Systems = More Efficient and Safe

Today, let's focus on our nation's communications systems.

For a lot of America, high-speed broadband Internet is something they just can't get. Many rural areas of the country are stuck in technology that was great in the '90s but pales in comparison to the offerings in large cities. And, even in those cities and suburbs, there are still a lot of folks to whom high-speed broadband isn't affordable or nearly as fast as needed to support education, business and access to opportunity.

Bringing our communications systems up to date would also enable power companies to monitor, assess and avoid power outages and damages; help make emergency communications and disaster preparedness systems ready to protect us even in the most dire circumstances; and make other infrastructure -- like water and natural gas distribution lines -- more efficient by using sensors and systems to monitor them in real time and avoid leaks and failures.

A modern communications infrastructure is a resilient one. Every year, businesses and households are estimated to lose $80 to $150 billion annually from power outages alone. The smallest thing can cause the biggest consequences in our energy systems. For example, one of the largest blackouts in U.S. history in 2003 was caused by wires brushing up against tree limbs in Ohio, leaving 50 million people without power. A modern, communications-enabled smart electric grid can help avoid these crises, while at the same time enabling new forms of energy efficiency in homes and businesses and helping integrate clean and distributed energy into our electric system.

Those are all great things -- they will make our country more prosperous, more efficient, more resilient and reduce the emissions driving climate change. But, much of this won't happen if we fail to modernize and repair our communications systems to be ready for these advances. And those upgrades are an opportunity to create good, family-sustaining (and often union) jobs around the country, as well as support current jobs in the communications industry.

The bottom line is that a modern communications infrastructure would be a huge benefit to our economy -- by creating and sustaining good jobs -- and protect our environment -- by wasting less energy and water and reducing the pollution that's driving climate change.

Some Final Words

The BlueGreen Alliance and its partners are at the forefront of the discussion of modernizing and repairing our infrastructure systems to create family-sustaining jobs, make our communities safer and healthier and reduce the pollution that's driving climate change. And, we're not here alone. Companies, unions, community organizations, leaders in Congress and State Legislatures around the country, and people like you pushing for a resilient and modern infrastructure are all vital to this effort.

If you want to find out more about how we can do this, check out our Policy Brief on Communications Infrastructure here and share this great infographic on your social media platforms to help spur the discussion!