Infrastructure. It’s not just for roads and bridges anymore.
For years, when people talked about access and connection, it was about roads. We wanted our small towns to be able to reach our bigger towns, and our suburbs to be able to glide gracefully into our cities.
We wanted to know that people could get from this place to that one as quickly as possible. We wanted it smooth. We wanted it fast. We wanted it to be equitable. On-ramps weren’t just for wealthy neighborhoods. Access roads were equalizers. You didn’t pay extra to connect your driveway to the street.
But in a virtual landscape, the infrastructure has to be just as fast and just as egalitarian.
So how do we do that when the new road of choice is the information superhighway?
Gov. Tom Wolf is looking to invest $4.5 million into an infrastructure project called “Restore Pennsylvania.” It would try to connect as many of the million Pennsylvanians who don’t have reliable internet access as possible to the web over the next four years.
There was a time when the internet was a luxury. It was not as critical to daily life as electricity or water, and not something you counted on for work or school. You didn’t use it as much as television. You were more concerned about government filling potholes than involving itself in the world wide web.
But that was a time before everything we did was routed through our routers.
Today kids can’t do homework or apply for college without the internet. Parents can’t bank or look for jobs. They can’t register for unemployment or check medical records without an internet connection.
Broadband connections are that access road that gets you out of your neighborhood and takes you to bigger and bigger communities and more and better opportunities.
Infrastructure improvement is something almost everyone can agree on. We just have to remember that today it can be virtual, too.