What happens to businesses and communities when high speed internet comes to town?

Businesses accessing the internet is nothing new. In the 70s and 80s, banks and Wall Street began changing the way they shared information. Back then internet related tasks only required a simple modem and dial-up connection.

Today’s demands, however, require much faster, reliable systems and internet connections. Business owners and Information technology professionals have a lot to choose from. But what does that mean for their business, and how do they know which to choose?

Business high-speed internet can lead to greater advantages for companies that rely on cloud-based apps and data.

According to a study conducted by the Analysis Group, a city with high-speed internet, over a gigabit connection, has an overall healthier economy. The researchers took federal statistics comparing 14 metropolitan areas where more than half the population had access to high-speed internet to 41 neighboring cities without high-speed internet.

It was reported that cities with gigabit connections, like the one’s fiber optics, can support a 1.1% higher gross domestic product than other “slow internet” cities.

A 1.1% difference might not sound like a lot, but when compared with the United States overall GDP, which grows at 1-2% percent a year, you’ll see how this can significantly impact economic growth. It could means up to an extra $1.4 billion in the local economy.

On a global level, increasing internet speeds has the potential to transform whole economies. During the keynote speech at the 2011 Broadband World Forum, Johan Wibergh, Head of Business Unit Networks, Ericsson, explains that when more and more people begin to have access to high-speed internet and mobile broadband, people will have access to new ways of conducting business:

“Broadband has the power to spur economic growth by creating efficiency for society, businesses, and consumers. It opens up possibilities for more advanced online services, smarter utility services, telecommuting, and telepresence. In healthcare, for instance, we expect that mobile applications will be used by 500 million people.”

But when high-speed internet comes into an area, change doesn’t happen overnight. Patrik Regardh, head of strategic marketing for Ericsson, says the positive effects of these new technologies may be hard to see right away. As more and more businesses have access to faster internet though, whole verticals of the economy will transform.

“Sectors of society will increasingly base value creation and stakeholder interactions on digital infrastructure [as] this opens up possibilities for more advanced online services, smarter utility services, e-health, telecommuting, and telepresence,” says Regardh. “All [are] dependent on high-performing broadband networks.”

While these effects sound tantalizing, Regardh cautions us to lower our exceptions — for a bit. We shouldn’t expect to see our incomes rise once high-speed internet comes to our communities. “In 20 years,” explains Regardh, “we are likely to see and fully comprehend the importance of digital highways as we currently understand the importance of the interstate highway system.”

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