As political battles over budgets and deficits continue to rage in D.C. and statehouses across the nation, the dominant rhetoric continues to be that the vast majority of the nation must bear the burden of “shared sacrifices” – fewer teachers, hospitals, and other social services – while the wealthy continue to enjoy substantial tax cuts. In other words, working families have to cope with a financial crisis created by Wall Street while those that got us here in the first place pay no price.
Now, the very corporations that we support through these tax cuts and subsidies such as access to roads, utility poles, and other local infrastructure, are marshaling their increasingly powerful resources in an attempt to cut one of the most critical efforts underway to strengthen communities and rebuild prosperity in state economies: the build-out of broadband networks.
There is something very wrong with this picture.
In general, austerity measures do not work. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan think-tank, has explained, spending cuts are a bad idea during an economic downturn because they reduce demand, threatening to make the downturn deeper. Slow economic growth, high unemployment, and decreasing revenues have also been cited as primary causes of states’ budget deficits. Over the years that corporations have enjoyed these vast benefits, our nation has lagged behind in the global market, including in the field of technology and broadband, where the United States is now in 16th place.
Instead of austerity measures, we need investments in infrastructure to revamp our local economies. Communities across the nation need critical resources like broadband to succeed in a 21st century economy. It is undeniable that infrastructure plays a critical role in the public’s access to needed services like hospitals and schools. Workers, small businesses, and students all increasingly depend on infrastructure like broadband in order to function in a modern economy.
Thankfully, local entities – including municipalities and private non-profits – have taken leadership in addressing these needs. Local governments and non-profits have stepped up to the plate to provide needed infrastructure to their communities. And they have done it on their own, meeting their populations’ needs, and even getting ahead of large corporate broadband providers.
Despite the leadership shown at the local level, some state governments are taking steps to eliminate this promising effort, as intense lobbying efforts by huge corporations seem, sadly, to be paying off.
The bottom line is this: Broadband is no longer a luxury, it is an investment we absolutely need to make in order to ensure prosperity in our communities and the competitiveness of our states as well as our nation in a global economy. Our economy cannot afford to let corporations reap more profits for themselves at the expense of the public good.