From Transportation to iPhones: Infrastructure Investments Pay Dividends for Decades

Last week Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs lost his very public battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. His innovative mind, exceptional technological vision and fearless business acumen will be missed. Many did not miss, however, the irony of his death occurring during the week of the expected announcement of the iPhone 5. When in classic Steve Jobs fashion, the company instead unveiled the iPhone 4s, the latest Apple iPhone. Technology and business experts anticipate that Apple will sell 27 million new iPhones between October and December. That is a lot of phones by anyone’s estimation.

With more new customers and expanding services it is important for U.S. broadband infrastructure to be able to meet growing customer demand by increasing broadband capacity and coverage.

As the first exclusive carrier of the Apple iPhone in 2007, AT&T was an early partner in the expansion of smart phones and wireless network usage. According to an analysis by Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the pending merger between AT&T and T-Mobile could see an additional $8 billion from AT&T over seven years to integrate the two networks, creating an estimated 55,000 to 96,000 new jobs. EPI reports the jobs would include (1) direct jobs with the carriers, (2) supplier jobs with companies providing such products and services as network equipment, handset devices and software applications, and (3) induced jobs across the economy from a general increase in economic activity. Even half the estimated jobs are needed in this stagnant economy.

Access to technology in every aspect of the economy and in every community is part of the answer. Those with ready access use it and maybe even take their connection to a world of opportunity for granted. Those without either access or discretionary income to afford access are cut off from resources that could improve their lives. History reminds us that traveling across country used to take several months to get from one place to another. That is until the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1800’s and reduced the travel time considerably. That was a public action made possible by private investment.

In just six years, U.S. infrastructure has fallen from first place in the World Economic Forum’s economic competitiveness ranking to number 15 and is one of the only leading nations without a national plan for public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects or a National Infrastructure Bank to finance large-scale projects and leverage private capital. Strategic business and government investment in every aspect of American infrastructure is a key component to a successful recovery anytime soon. Atlanta invested close to $5 billion in water and airport infrastructure between 2001 and 2010 which in turn created and sustained hundreds of jobs, expanded business opportunities for small and large companies and stimulated hundreds of millions in private investment across the region. The public investment will pay dividends for decades. There is every reason to believe private investment in technology infrastructure will do the same across the country.

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