The federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress is great news, something that will lead to many much-needed public improvements across the United States.
This means that a substantial number of roads and bridges will be improved. They will be brought back to a favorable state in a way that will keep them vital in the 21st century.
The bill also responds to the need for 21st century technology to become the norm across the country. Millions of dollars will be invested in expanding broadband technology. Rural areas will have better opportunities to obtain peak service.
It is one more chapter in a long history of bringing modern technology into the lives of rural residents. It all started at the start of the 20th century with the automobile.
The process continued with rural electrification and later rural telephone service. It’s hard to imagine a time when there was no electricity to power household appliances. The idea of not having a phone sounds like extreme isolation.
Another important step concerned water service in rural areas at the end of the 20th century. As a young journalist in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to chronicle the expansion of the Lincoln Pipestone rural water system in the communities between Porter and Green Valley.
I enjoyed following the process of rural water expansion. It was really good news. People in the expansion zone had heard very good things from neighboring areas where people had hung on to the system after it was established in 1979. They were happy to have a new alternative to maintaining a private well. .
Broadband promises to be another step forward. In the 21st century, the Internet is almost a basic basic need. Someone does not have a completely normal life without the Internet at home or a mobile device connected to the Internet.
It has reached the point where many people are unlikely to choose to live in a place that lacks cutting edge services.
Schools need it to provide children and adolescents with the best possible learning opportunities. The business world needs it to keep pace with the economy. Service providers are better able to meet the needs of their customers.
Sometimes it is said that government should not be enlarged, that the private sector should be totally responsible for economic development.
Infrastructure, including broadband technology, is an example of the need for the federal government to intervene in some cases. It should provide the starting point for modernization in places far from metropolitan areas.
Private development must always take into account the “economy of scale”. They should charge for the services based on the cost of installation and maintenance.
It is often not cost effective to build a highway, extend water pipes, or provide the Internet to a small number of people, unless they pay a substantial amount per household as a cost recovery for it. provider.
Federal incentives have often made the difference. It has often been accompanied by the creation of cooperatives managed by local and regional shareholders. People get reliable service as well as a voice in determining how the services will be organized.
Telecommunications have great potential to follow the cooperative model. There should be fair opportunities for cities to create municipality-owned entities and for stakeholders in a region to pool their resources for a member-run business.
It could even go beyond just connecting to homes and offices. There is potential to start office centers for teleworkers. They could work for any employer anywhere in the world by renting office space in their communities, spaces that could be accompanied by in-house technical support.
Polls show that many people would like to live in smaller communities that offer a more relaxed lifestyle than a bustling urban center,
The Internet age could give these people more options for where to live. It has been slow to develop over the past 25 years due to the tradition of working in an office, but it is starting to catch on with the public and employers.
The long-term potential of Internet connections is enormous. It is likely to accelerate the pace of technological and social change. What happened in 2021 with the federal infrastructure bill will likely go down in history as a valuable cornerstone.
– Jim Muchlinski is a longtime journalist and contributor to the Marshall Independent