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Modernizing communications is a sound investment

The explosive growth of today’s wireless ecosystem is fundamentally changing how we live and work.

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a unique event hosted by the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. I was honored to join national and local lawmakers, regulators, academics and industry leaders from the telecommunications, wireless and cable industries to discuss how modernizing telecommunication policy can promote economic growth and create jobs.   

As the session rightly noted, how we communicate today is vastly different from when the Minnesota communications laws were updated in 1995. The Internet was in its infancy and cell phones were considered a luxury item rather than handheld mini-computers that we can also make calls on.  

The explosive growth of today’s wireless ecosystem is fundamentally changing how we live and work. Minnesotans are increasingly trading in their basic landline telephones for wireless devices and high-speed broadband. Frankly, it’s not just about phone calls anymore. It’s about having Internet access on-the-go and the ability to obtain global information instantly in the palm of your hand.

Fueled by intense competition and sharply increasing consumer demand, data traffic is expected to grow 100 times faster than mobile voice traffic over the next 10 years; by 2014 more people may go online via mobile devices than personal computers; and for the first time ever, smartphones are outselling personal computers. Given the game-changing nature of mobile technology, it is no surprise the Obama administration has placed modernization at the forefront of its telecommunications agenda.

Local economies transformed
In a recent speech, President Barack Obama grabbed the reins of modernization by unveiling his Expanded Wireless Access Initiative, a blueprint for increasing high-speed wireless access to 98 percent of Americans. With this new initiative, the president stressed how high-speed wireless services are transforming local economies and helping the nation surpass our global competitors.  As the president explained, “We can’t expect tomorrow’s economy to take root using yesterday’s infrastructure.”

Keeping pace with wireless consumer demands is a nationwide challenge, and Minnesota stands poised to ride the modernization wave. States that have taken steps to modernize telecom policies are already experiencing significant increases in private investment and infrastructure development.

As our discussion at the Humphrey School so eloquently displayed, modernizing communications is a sound investment for propelling economic growth and connecting the disconnected. I applaud Minnesota and the Humphrey School for seeking 21st century communications solutions. A digitally connected Minnesota will help ensure the state is “open for business.”  

Brian Fontes is CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. He also serves on the Advisor Board of Mobile Future, a coalition of technology companies, consumers and nonprofit groups who support investment and innovation in the wireless sector.