Elected officials should better promote information technology when addressing rural economies …

Information driven firms don’t require the standard top-down hierarchical structure. It has no need for administrative staff. It barely has need for a managerial staff. Each wage earner must become more of a self-sufficient information node, with each node given more or less equal weight by a reduced by still centralized management.

The new information infrastructure will look more like a distributed energy platform versus the standard step down energy platform. This means greater reduction in labor, a forecast that has been bouncing around for half a decade.

For elected officials promising more job opportunities in the rural space, they will have to reconcile this coming reality and either weave it into their economic opportunity narrative or look for a fall guy or gal for the coming doom in the labor markets.  The adjustment will not be easy for their constituents.  The voter/citizen has been under considerable stress due to work from home requirements, stay-in-place requirements, and reductions in workforce as government induced fall off in demand for services took hold of and wrecked certain business models.  As part of his promise to create jobs in rural America, apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden has proposed a $20 billion rural broadband plan for deploying more advanced communications technology into rural America.  Mr Biden states that this funding will equal three times the amount of funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect Grant Program.  Under 7 CFR section 1739.1, the purpose of the program is:

“to provide financial assistance in the form of grants to eligible applicants that will provide, on a “community-oriented connectivity” basis, broadband service that fosters economic growth and delivers enhanced educational, health care, and public safety benefits. ”

Donald Trump’s broadband program doesn’t seem that definitive.  On his campaign website, the President notes as an accomplishment a 2018 program dedicating $50 billion to empower rural economies, 80% of those moneys going directly to state governors and the remaining amount going to selected states that apply for a rural performance grant.  Whether funds went to the governors or to select states applying for performance grants, the amounts promised by the President appear less than those promised by Mr Biden.  Currently, according to the Department of Agriculture’s website, the Community Connect Grant Program is closed.  Funding this program or another one like it would support the President’s rhetoric about increasing economic opportunities in rural areas.

The economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled talk about people leaving the cities for urban areas.  Axios, citing polling results, reported that one-third of Americans are considering moving to less densely populated areas including rural areas.  Urban residents are more likely to consider a move versus suburban or rural residents.  If this finding were to materialize then there might be an uptick in demand for broadband services in these areas.

Supporting more broadband is a political win for either of these candidates.  Consumers should bear in mind that broadband roll-outs call for coordination between federal, state, and local government agencies and the policy desires of a president are not enough. Elected officials will need to put their money where their mouths are and ensure the funding of programs such as the Community Connect Grant Program and other similar programs.

 

 

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