What’s Next?

John M. Eger, in an insightful blog last month, talked about CLIC’s role in elevating the debate about broadband to a debate about America’s future. What consumers and citizens across our country need to understand, he said, is that “local internet choice is really about reinventing our cities for the new, increasingly, global knowledge economy.”

John was kind enough to go into the details of what he meant in his keynote speech in Austin during CLIC’s one-day event. He cited some statistics evidencing a powerful wave of change based on the evolution of computers and the internet that has begun to transform our cities. He showed predictions of 50 billion devices connected to the “Internet of Everything” in the next five years, a fact consistent with claims that the “Smart City” market will be worth close to $2 trillion in that same time period. Global tech companies are responding to the growing need of our local communities to maximize the efficiency and responsiveness of our energy, transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure and governance systems. And yet, as computers expand into every element of our lives, Mr. Eger notes the disruptive prediction that 45% of America’s occupations will be automated within the next 20 years. (Note Shanghai factories fully automating in response to escalating labor demands.)

While John believes that the production of goods, services and agriculture will continue, he is convinced the new economy will rely most heavily on the production, use and transfer of information and knowledge, and more specifically, creativity and innovation. To be a magnet for economic development, a community will not only need world class fiber infrastructure to ensure that skyrocketing information use can be transmitted as much upstream as downstream, but those communities who will do the best in this new world will be those who create the strongest petri dish for creativity, innovation …and as if describing a new renaissance…human interaction and the arts.

With a sense of urgency, John quotes the message of Jim Baller, CLIC’s President, on the importance of local communities to be self reliant as this disruption takes place; on the need for local communities to have full authority to decide how they individually want to respond to this transition to the knowledge economy:

“Across the country there are members of legislatures that are for political reasons opposed to (local choice) and the ability of communities to participate significantly in the decisions that effect their economic well-being, their educational opportunities, their public safety, their access to health care, transportation, energy, environmental protection, and much more. We have to enable local governments to contribute to the well-being of our communities. We need an activist country…. This is such an important issue, and the stakes are so high for every one of us.”

You can find Professor Eger’s Austin powerpoint here.