Broadband’s broader benefits

Are there broader benefits arising from broadband connectivity?

We know about the power of broadband investments in driving toward an innovation-based economy. A new report [full report pdf, 686 KB] from the Montreal Economic Institute examines decreases in energy consumption and emissions facilitated by broadband networks. It notes the potential for 5G networks to achieve further environmental sustainability. This is a benefit of 5G about which I recently wrote.

MEI’s report observes “A 10-percentage-point increase in mobile broadband penetration is associated with a 7% reduction of CO2 emissions per capita”. New 5G networks are more energy efficient than previous generations. An Accenture report [pdf, 3.8MB] notes “that for a general 5G cell site, energy used in data transmission will be 8-15% of what it currently is for a similar 4G cell site and milimeter wave technology can further reduce energy consumption to 1-2% of a 4G macro site.”

According to MEI,

The 5G network architecture will facilitate the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT)—the “fourth industrial revolution”—in which nearly everything will be connected to the internet. Thanks to billions of sensors, intelligent management, and real-time data analytics, sophisticated learning and optimized processes can have very real impacts on energy efficiency and consumption, and therefore on GHG emissions.

In my post late last week looking at the future of the future of work, I noted that at the end of last year nearly one in ten Canadian workers had a hybrid work arrangement. Ten percent of Canadians are working part-time from their offices, and part of the time from home or remotely. A further 16% were working exclusively from home. So, a quarter of Canadians rely on broadband connectivity to perform their jobs. MEI notes that broadband enabled remote work contributes to reductions in commuter traffic and office use, reducing energy consumption and emissions. The report cites a study estimating that a 10% reduction in traffic congestion would result in “the city of Montreal slashing 130,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to removing 29,000 cars off the road.”

Broadband decreases the demand for transportation, improves industrial processes, and changes the way public services are accessed and delivered.

With these environmental considerations, clearly there are broader benefits associated with accelerated broadband deployment. MEI says “Given these benefits of the digital economy, facilitated by broadband internet and wireless mobility, it would be advisable for governments to reexamine the burdensome regulatory framework and public policies that stifle investment and innovation in this area.”

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