Opinion

Op-ed: Give broadband a boost to bring jobs to Millennials

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Opinion,Op-Eds

Julius Genachowski's decision to step down as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has the potential to spur an important conversation on the role of high-speed Internet in America.

But with a replacement yet to be named, the public dialogue over who should succeed him has focused largely on politics. It is imperative that politics not drive this discussion and overwhelm the important substantive issues that will inform the next chairman's term.

The next FCC chairman should pick up where Genachowski left off -- promoting economic growth by facilitating broadband technology. The new chairman should employ a "light touch" approach to broadband policy so that America's next generation of workers -- who depend on the Internet economy -- can succeed.

The need for broadband Internet across America has never been greater. While many people associate the Internet economy with major companies like Google or Facebook, the truth is that broadband enables entrepreneurship and innovation in industries across all sectors -- from writers, to attorneys, to consultants and more.

In fact, today's workplace is rapidly changing due to the entrance of the growing number of Millennials who virtually live on the Internet. And their demand for workplace flexibility is inciting innovation that is dependent on a robust broadband network.

Millennials expect a work environment where everything they need is available at their fingertips in an instant. Unlike their parents and grandparents who had to work in a traditional office at least 40 hours each week, today's generation can now work from home, the cafe, touchdown offices, business lounges -- or wherever they find themselves most productive at any given moment.

These shifts in workplace paradigms are only made possible by pervasive access to high-speed Internet.

But future gains in the Internet economy could be in jeopardy if the FCC stops encouraging private investment and innovation. Every day we are requiring more capacity for our business needs, and we need Internet companies to continue investing billions to ensure these demands are met.

Private companies have already stoked critical economic activity -- even at the height of the Great Recession. Between 2008 and 2011, broadband infrastructure saw private-sector investment to the tune of $250 billion.

The Internet economy now supports more than 3.8 million jobs. And the impact is nowhere more apparent than in the applications economy, which from 2007 to 2012 created more than 519,000 jobs across the U.S.

Much of this recent success can be attributed to the historically hands-off approach by government to the Internet. By letting the private sector take the lead, innovation and entrepreneurship have thrived.

Moving forward, our economy will be built from the minds -- and fingertips -- of knowledge-based workers combined with innovative developments from the broadband sector. The end result will allow workers to spend more time with their families, live happier lives and work better.

We can only get there if we embrace policies that meet the needs of the Millennial generation. The next FCC chairman must understand this forward-looking approach to the Internet economy and do everything in his or her power to bolster it.

Caleb Parker is co-founder and chief executive officer of TouchdownSpace, Inc., a Washington-based firm that provides conference space, private offices and meeting rooms for business.

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