Broadband connectivity is vital to the success of businesses across the country — from small, rural towns like Yuma, Colorado to a bustling metropolis like Denver. And while there is much more work to be done, the Centennial State is already a hotbed for startups and more established tech companies alike. As a whole, Colorado technology jobs increased by 18.6 percent in the last decade, and there are now more than 100,000 tech-related jobs in the state.
In the Denver area alone, tech jobs have increased 24.9 percent since 2005, totaling more than 60,000 tech-related jobs today. All of these jobs have been critical to economic growth in the state. But maintaining and expanding our nation’s tech leadership requires two key ingredients: ubiquitous high-speed Internet access (“broadband,” as it’s known) and a common-sense approach to government’s role in technology.
Here’s why broadband is important: from big cities to small towns, Internet access helps create jobs, promote entrepreneurship, and expand economic opportunity. It gives the owner of a brick-and-mortar shop the chance to reach new markets by advertising her merchandise on social media. It allows a farmer to utilize precision agriculture to increase crop yields and save water. It allows someone to solve an everyday problem with an innovative phone app. In short, it gives anyone with an idea the chance to succeed.
In order to ensure that this type of progress continues, we must have smart government policy. The U.S. government needs to take action to preserve America’s competitive edge in the online world. We can’t revert to outdated, politically-inspired policies. Instead, we must streamline and revamp the regulatory process by which new and innovative solutions are brought to market.
Laws and regulations must not hold back innovation and modernization. For example, the Universal Service Fund — a program used to help companies provide telecommunications networks in all parts of the country — has outdated requirements that prevent rural carriers from receiving subsidies for broadband service unless they also offer landline telephone service. At a time when many people are getting rid of their landlines, this rule makes little sense. This is just one example of a small change the government could make to spend taxpayer dollars more wisely and ensure technology companies and their employees thrive.
It is also vital for our continued economic success that we free up additional wireless spectrum for consumer use. Spectrum is the invisible infrastructure that allows consumers and their devices to communicate with each other and connect to the Internet. Over the last few years, the U.S. has fallen behind its goals for making more spectrum available. We risk falling even further behind, as experts predict that mobile data traffic will increase seven-fold by 2019. Continued technological development demands more wireless spectrum, and the federal government must make good on commitments to free up more spectrum for commercial use.
For Coloradans and all Americans, high-speed Internet access is key to competing and excelling in the modern, digital economy. There is much work that needs to be done if we as a nation want to maintain our status as home to the world’s best innovators and entrepreneurs. Critically, we must ensure broadband gets to all parts of our country — rural, suburban, and urban alike.
This weekend, the two of us will meet with technology users across Colorado, entrepreneurs, local broadcasters, rural telecommunications companies, and others. Technology and broadband issues aren’t political; they aren’t partisan. They’re about keeping up with the times — protecting the vitality of our main streets, educating our children with the best resources available, and keeping us at the forefront of the world’s technology revolution.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is a member of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Ajit Pai is a member of the Federal Communications Commission.