Insight & Analysis

Opinion and analysis from executives in investment, digital infrastructure and government.

Pandemic reveals opportunities for 5G connectivity

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.22″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” custom_padding=”27px|||||”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.1″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” hover_enabled=”0″]

SOURCE: MIT Technology Review

June 30, 2020

Demand for the wireless technology’s speed and power has reached astronomic heights—while supply remains conspicuously low. The coronavirus health crisis may have changed that.

5G cellular technology, which has been promised to provide a connective fabric that will cover the globe in a seamless digital experience, is starting to take shape. But the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 that has forced hundreds of millions of people to work and socialize remotely has made it clear that the connective fabric is still missing a few stitches.

Once implemented, the long-anticipated 5G experience will be dazzling: smart factories, telemedicine, and augmented reality will be commonplace. Users will have ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity everywhere, whether moving or at rest. “When you have to re-create all of these experiences—from education to health care to transportation to work—you suddenly realize what you’re missing,” said John Roese, president and CTO of products and operations at Dell Technologies. He was speaking at EmTech Next, MIT Technology Review’s three-day virtual event examining technology, leadership, and change, in June. What’s missing, he indicated, is the IT infrastructure that makes it all possible. “5G has been in development for quite some time with a belief that certain capabilities would be necessary. But it wasn’t always clear to people what those capabilities were, and why we needed them. I think in the last 90 days, people have started to realize that there are deficiencies and that technologies like 5G can help solve them.”

Assuming that 5G more or less follows the same 10-year development-to-deployment cycle as the preceding iterations of cellular technology, we are early in the decade. Most services on the market today deliver only mobile broadband. It’s a great start, for sure, but only a whisper of what’s ahead. The true impact of three key 5G features—enhanced mobile broadband, lightning-fast, ultra-reliable communications, and machine-to-machine communication, which provides connections to large numbers of devices with minimal human involvement—is unlikely to be felt until vendors start to bake them into global deployments, a few years ahead at least.

That means while demand for 5G is surging, access to it lags. Yes, mobile phone users can now tap into scattered deployments of 5G in many US cities. And there are narrow deployments of 5G being used to solve specialized tasks, such as supply chain problems and geofencing, which can be used to keep autonomous vehicles corralled in specific geographic areas. But “we’re probably three years away” from worldwide adoption of 5G, said Roese.

The need for 5G has been amplified in recent months, during the pandemic. “Never has the importance of connectivity been more apparent than now,” Andrea Goldsmith, the recently appointed dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University, told EmTech Next attendees. “The fact that our networks actually were able to support us going online and everything we do, from our education to our workplace to our socialization. And yet, it’s also really revealed the digital divide and the fact that there’s many people that don’t have that kind of connectivity. And that puts them at a severe disadvantage.”

So, what will this 5G connective fabric look like when it’s all stitched up? A loose-fitting garment.

Because 5G technology can now be cloud orchestrated—that is, use software-defined principles to manage the interconnections and interactions among workloads on public and private cloud infrastructure—the behavior of the 5G network can be changed to accommodate specific applications for specific uses. Roese shared a dramatic example of this by describing a telehealth scenario in which suspected stroke victims could be diagnosed and receive initial treatment while en route to the hospital. This would be accomplished by using the continuous collection and streaming of patient data. “In order to do that, a whole bunch of conditions had to be true,” said Roese. “You had to push the code out to an edge, so it can operate in real time. You had to execute a network slice to guarantee the bandwidth and give this a priority service.” If such allocation were done manually, it might take three hours or more to reconfigure the network.

One thing that makes mobile triage possible is strength at the edge of the cellular network. That is also crucial for innovation—as well as for the average 5G user. “What that means is you’re walking around in a city and if you constantly get 100-to-200 megabits per second, the peak rates might be five-to-10 gigabits per second,” Durga Malladi, senior vice president of engineering at Qualcomm, told EmTech Next attendees. “But if you’re guaranteed 100-to-200 megabits per second, and on an average, maybe a gigabit per second, that transforms the way that you end up using your devices and enables new kinds of devices.”

There are other opportunities for seamless coverage emerging as 5G and Wi-Fi converge. This is particularly true since the 2019 introduction of Wi-Fi 6, the latest standard for the wireless networking technology. Consider this example given at EmTech Next by John Apostolopoulos, vice president and CTO in Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Business: A business executive starts a typical day at home checking email or news headlines on a mobile device, which connects to a Wi-Fi network. As she drives to work, the device switches to cellular 5G. At work, it goes back to Wi-Fi, and at lunch, 5G again. “So, what happens is that these devices, since they have both Wi-Fi and 5G, can determine which is the best network to use at any point in time. And they choose that based on optimizing application performance as well as minimizing cost,” Apostolopoulos said.

Other promises of 5G may take longer to fulfill. For the connective 5G fabric to be seamless, it will need to accommodate increasingly high-speed data, very low latency, and the hundreds of millions of low-energy devices that connect to the internet of things. That will happen, but it won’t be easy. “We need a much more heterogeneous network that can support applications that today’s—even the design of 5G network—isn’t able to do,” said Goldsmith. “I would argue that we haven’t got any of those nailed in the current generation of 5G.”

This article was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

A Bridge Over The Digital Divide – The Infrastructure Project For Education Access

Source: Forbes

Scott Pulsipher
Contributor; Education

Stay home and stay connected. Such has been the mantra of public health officials over the past several months. For most of us this has meant an even greater tethering to digital services that have enabled continuity of access to news, entertainment, work, and learning. But for the 21 million Americans who continue to lack meaningful access to the internet—including 14.5 million who have no access at all—Covid­­-19 has perpetuated a reality that predates the pandemic: an inability to participate in the increasingly digital reality of commerce, education, and work.

Despite living in the wealthiest nation in the world in the most prolific information age, nine million American children have completely lacked the means and opportunity to learn at home, further widening an already troubling gap between them and their digitally connected peers. Some rural school districts have resorted to using school buses as makeshift hot spots, locating them near residents or in parks to allow students to sit in cars and receive instruction through shared Wi-Fi.

Talent is universal. Access to the internet is not. Our current infrastructure stops tragically short of enabling all Americans to tap into their potential: digital pathways to opportunity which are now well-trodden by many are altogether impassable by others. In an era where broadband is prerequisite to accessing higher education and many of the fastest growing job fields, the digital divide is limiting the development of our workforce and amplifying inequality.

The economic and moral costs of this problem are being recognized by the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, led by Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, which has convened some of the biggest employers, educators, and technology providers in the world to support the development of a digital infrastructure. This coming together of national leaders to extend the reach of prosperity into the most rural and disconnected among us shares the same underpinnings of the call for a national highway system in the mid-1950s by President Eisenhower.

In his 1955 State of the Union Address, Eisenhower called the creation of a highway system “essential to meet the needs of our growing population, our expanding economy, and our national security.” This system was intended to enable all Americans to participate in our economy and provide opportunity to those in both urban and rural communities, and ultimately served as a great negator of economic disadvantage and equalizer of access to the American Dream.

The parallels between the need for a national highway system and universal access to the internet are obvious. But in the 21st century, digital infrastructure expands and democratizes opportunity with much greater reach and much lower cost than alternatives like building more college campuses and highways.

To achieve this goal, similar to the highway infrastructure, there must first be a national recognition of the problem and commitment to its solution, i.e., an understanding by the haves that access to opportunity by the have nots will benefit all. This recognition will enable a blending of federal and state investment policies that not only will generate a long-term return on those investments that will far exceed the dollars spent but create an environment for private enterprise to establish new commercial markets.

We agreed long ago as a people to care and feed the most underserved among us through entitlements such as food stamps and Medicaid. Increasingly, those benefits are contingent on participants working to climb out of poor economic circumstances. Yet we haven’t provided millions of marginalized Americans access to the digital world, making it unrealistic to expect those families to ever keep pace.

Federal and state governments should look to support our social safety net with investments in fiber optic, cellular, and satellite networks. The availability of high-quality, workforce-relevant credentials delivered online is expanding rapidly, and addressing the disparities in digital connectivity can drive tremendous and immediate economic and educational opportunity for disadvantaged individuals. Unlocking their potential would drive growth for the whole of American society.

As the Congress and governors consider infrastructure investment as a means to accelerate our recovery, they should start with a technology-first paradigm and develop ways to unlock and deliver benefits not yet imagined by removing the limitations of space and distance so as to achieve greater participation in our economy. With nearly 40 million unemployed, the need to connect with education, training, and jobs has never been more urgent. Just as the highways built 65 years ago had a transformative effect on American life and connected our people to more opportunity, reliable, high-speed internet for all will create pathways to opportunity for all.

Commentary: Governments should lead recovery with digital-first mindset

SOURCE: The State Journal Register

By Tyler Clark

Posted Jun 5, 2020 at 2:11 PM

COVID-19 virus is forcing American society’s acceleration into the digital future and revealing stark truths about the changes necessary for us to thrive as we explore new ways to work, learn, worship, shop and enjoy life.

Digital leaders are emerging during this transformation with a mixture of vision and pragmatism to serve customers in new ways and plot their course towards a successful, digital future. Businesses are reinventing, innovating and finding new ways to serve their customers.

Those focused on deciding their own future are thinking and acting like startups – nimble, agile, responsive and fast. Those waiting on a bailout, a complete re-opening, or a cure will likely fail.

As emerging digital leaders navigate this digital transformation, governors across America have taken the lead in shutting down their states, managing their state’s public health response and plotting out the steps for re-opening and recovery. Government is playing a key role in providing the institutional support – unemployment, healthcare, payroll and public health measures – needed to ease the re-opening transition for people and businesses.

As part of that re-opening and recovery, it is time for governments to do what the businesses they have closed are doing – act like a startup and lead with a digital-first focus.

Government leaders must think critically about reducing friction at all the points where citizens interact with the necessary functions of government bureaucracy. The mandatory distancing and outright isolation of the last few months made it clear that friction in those interactions can slow recovery and diminish the trust citizens have in government.

As they contemplate re-opening public offices, government leaders should examine how every business process in their organizations can be re-imagined to better serve residents, businesses and workers. Just as curbside grocery pickup , streaming fitness classes, online worship services and more are helping people meet their needs, the same can be applied to government services from fishing licenses to drivers licenses and permitting to vital records.

Unfortunately, government IT holds a great deal of technical debt that leaders must address in order to provide more equitable, efficient, and resilient services.

With trillions of dollars in federal aid flowing into the economy, governments should focus some of the resources they are receiving on updating and strengthening core digital assets. Building and maintaining good digital infrastructure, expanding connectivity into underserved communities, and implementing core cybersecurity practices are critical foundational pieces. Combining these foundational elements with smart and updated business processes will enable government to serve citizens where they are and help in the recovery.

There will be hiccups in moving to digital practices – systems with bugs, a crashed network, and other common IT ailments — but business leaders and citizens should demand an acceleration of these practices and resist criticizing government leaders who take bold steps into a digital transformation.

Calculated risk-takers should be rewarded for accelerating change that will benefit citizens and lower the cost of delivering government services in the long haul.

Government is asking a great deal of its citizens – shutting down businesses, schools, childcare centers, and most public services, while residents keep paying taxes to cover government worker salaries and services they are not always receiving. Citizens should demand to collect on what they are paying for and ask that government meet their needs with the innovation of the private sector.

As citizens turn to government during their time of need, government should be prepared with smart, accessible digital entry points that serve people swiftly, efficiently, and comprehensively. Just like the businesses that are innovating, surviving and serving, now is the time for government to demonstrate bold digital leadership to meet citizens’ needs as we move through recovery and into the future.

Tyler Clark helped create the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology and served as the agency’s first chief of staff from 2016-2019. He is director of public affairs and innovation at Serafin & Associates, Inc., a Chicago-based public affairs communications firm.

Cell tower

Big Three: Wireless Infrastructure Business Outlook

By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor

Source: InsideTowers.com

The outlook for the wireless infrastructure business remains positive even as we all adjust to a new normal. Carrier networks have held up well since the pandemic hit, remaining on the air with no major reported outages while operating below peak traffic capacity thresholds.

In 1Q20 earning calls, carrier guidance for full-year 2020 varied from stay-the-course to revisions to outright withdrawal. Outdoor tower work continues albeit at a constrained pace mainly due to limited access to some sites and tower crews adjusting for safe working conditions.

Planned projects are proceeding along with short-term capacity augmentations in high traffic areas using loaned spectrum from other service providers.

By contrast, many in-building wireless deployments such as distributed antenna system (DAS) projects are deferred or rescheduled, simply because there is no access to buildings where the work is being done. 

Still, carriers indicated that their respective 5G buildouts are progressing. The expectation is that capital expenditures (capex) will ramp through 2H20 and continue into 2021. Certainly, T-Mobile (NasdaqGS: TMUS), rejuvenated by the closing of its deal with Sprint, is charging ahead. The company is leveraging its deep spectrum holdings in low-, mid- and high-band frequencies to activate 5G in key target markets.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has millimeter wave (mmW) projects underway for 5G in both fixed wireless access and mobility applications in selected markets. AT&T (NYSE: T) is regrouping in the aftermath of its 5G Evolution marketing fiasco.

With current guidance, U.S. carrier 2020 capex is in the $27-30 billion range. (see, U.S. Tier 1 Wireless Carrier CapEx Reset)

The Big 3 tower companies (towercos), American Tower (NYSE: AMT), Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI) and SBA Communications (NasdaqGS: SBAC), are largely unphased even with COVID-19 adjustments. The main reason is that their site rental revenues are governed by master lease agreements (MLAs) that they each have in place with the four (now three) Tier 1 carriers that account for 75-80 percent of their tenant leases.

Annual rent escalators built into the MLAs are in the mid-to high-single digit percentage range. Carriers have sought ways to reduce those rents including relocating to new towers with lower lease charges.

For the most part, the MLAs give the towercos predictable future revenue streams. Combined site rental revenues among the Big 3 towercos are expected to reach nearly $12 billion in 2020, growing about 10 percent a year over the past three years.

On the spend side, the Big 3 towerco aggregate capex for 2020 is projected at roughly $3 billion. With more than 50 percent of the U.S. base of communications towers, the Big 3 are the big spenders.

Towerco capex is grouped in two categories: discretionary and non-discretionary. Discretionary capex, typically 70-80 percent of the total budget, applies to new tower builds, tower augments and upgrades, and ground lease purchases. Non-discretionary capex goes to site maintenance and corporate systems.

Two key points about towerco capex. One, the Big 3 towercos are not building many new towers in the U.S. Their portfolio additions mainly derive from acquiring existing towers from other, smaller operators. This deal-driven capex is aside from ongoing network infrastructure investments.

Two, nearly half of the aggregate 2020 Big 3 towerco capex originates from CCI’s investments in small cells and fiber optic networks.

Here, CCI is the outlier. The company is working closely with major carriers such as VZ to rapidly deploy tens of thousands of small cells both for 4G LTE network densification and 5G in urban areas.

So expect growing demand for lots of wireless equipment and the skilled labor needed to install it.

Graphic of laptop components, holograms of screens

COVID-19 Has Exposed the Need to Invest in Digital Infrastructure

SOURCE: NextGov

JUNE 4, 2020 12:01 PM ET

Even before the increased demand caused by COVID-19, much of our digital infrastructure was so poorly designed as to be hostile to users.

Despite years of modernization efforts, the COVID-19 crisis shows that governments at all levels have failed to adequately fund the social digital infrastructure we need to ensure our well-being.

The first bridges to collapse have been unemployment insurance systems across the country. The Small Business Administration is now similarly unprepared to process the loans many companies need to stay above water.

This crisis is likely to again expose many systems as inadequate to serve the needs of our country. 

Even before the increased demand caused by COVID-19, much of our digital infrastructure was so poorly designed as to be hostile to users. Needlessly complicated user interfaces, unnecessarily probing questions, limited processing hours, incompatibility with common devices and browsers, and frequently offline systems are all-too-common traits of government support systems.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Many of these problems have well-known solutions. As part of the original rescue team for HealthCare.gov, we saw first hand what it takes to turn a failing government system into one that can scale and adopt the flexibility and high-quality user experiences of consumer technology. 

The U.S. Digital Service, 18F, Code for America, and a handful of new digital services vendors have helped forward-thinking career civil servants make progress on these goals, but we need to be honest about how much has changed and how far we still must go to adequately resource critical digital services. 

The vast majority of money spent on technology projects goes to traditional procurements with meticulously planned lists of requirements that routinely fail to create the simple, reliable services the public expects. In spite of a desire to have government function more like consumer technology, outside of a few pockets of innovation, government technology today mostly functions like it did 20 years ago.

As agencies find their way through this current crisis and begin preparing for the next one, they must include substantial investments in our national digital service infrastructure. 

First, governments need to take advantage of the unique ability for digital infrastructure to scale in the way that call centers and physical infrastructure can’t. If there was a bridge design that could automatically add extra lanes for an evacuation, we’d use it to build every major bridge. Scalable, programmable commercial cloud infrastructure is the expanding bridge for government services. Nearly every government service and application should be on the cloud, and the vast majority of those can use commercial cloud providers rather than ones built specifically for government.

Second, governments need to abandon outmoded models for procuring systems. Right now, most government technology contracts are structured to place the risk of failure on a large system integrator who manages other vendors. Government must take the leading role in day-to-day work and define contracts in terms of outcomes for users rather than outputs from vendors. To do this effectively, they’ll need to hire civil servants with a deep understanding of consumer-level digital services and pay them enough to stay in government. 

Third, the government needs to adopt agile software development. It’s not worth arguing over the margins of competing methodologies when the status quo is so bad. Attempting to plan for every risk in a 10-year contract is a massive risk in itself. Circumstances will change. Your contract might assume people can safely leave their homes and the full economy is open for business. 

Instead of planning for every contingency, plan for flexibility. It’s the only way we’ll be able to start building the digital infrastructure we need to support our country through the worst of this crisis and prepare for the next one.

Greg Gershman is the CEO and co-founder of Ad Hoc. Before founding Ad Hoc, Greg was a software engineer, member of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows and part of the team sent by the White House to help stabilize HealthCare.gov.

Paul Smith is the CTO and co-founder of Ad Hoc. Paul also co-founded EveryBlock, one of the first hyper-local news websites and was part of the White House rescue team for HealthCare.gov.

Stephen Hadley, Former US National Security Advisor

How to use the next stimulus to counter China

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.4.1″ custom_margin=”8px|||||”][et_pb_row column_structure=”1_4,3_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.1″ custom_padding=”11px|||||”][et_pb_column type=”1_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.1″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.1″]

Stephen Hadley
Former US National Security Advisor

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”3_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.1″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.1″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” custom_margin=”-113px|||||”]

May 11, 2020 at 4:30 a.m. PDT

SOURCE: The Washington Post

Stephen J. Hadley was national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Anja Manuel, a former U.S. diplomat, is director of the Aspen Security Forum and the author of “This Brave New World: India, China, and the United States.”

“Build back better” was the mantra New Orleans adopted after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It should be our country’s motto as we work to recover from the economic and public health crises caused by covid-19.

The Trump administration and Congress are rightly, and swiftly, acting to protect the U.S. economy and save jobs. In the prospective fourth stimulus bill, this must be the priority. But for relatively little investment, we can do more.

Americans are increasingly concerned about China. With massive investments in critical technologies, China seeks to dominate the future both economically and militarily. To meet this challenge, the United States needs to get its house in order.

A smart, strategic stimulus package including a few key provisions — some costing relatively modest amounts or even nothing — would allow the United States to compete effectively with China and others, and position the country for future prosperity, security and job growth.

Elements could include:

An investment in state-of-the-art broadband and other digital infrastructure. U.S. roads and bridges have to be rebuilt. But the coronavirus outbreak exposed how vital it is for all Americans to be digitally connected — whether they live in cities, towns or rural areas. It is past time to make the investments and regulatory changes required to create a best-in-class national digital infrastructure, including by fully funding the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Price tag: The FCC estimates it would cost$80 billion to provide broadband nationwide. Some $20 billion has been raised by auctioning off previously unused digital spectrum. An additional $6 billion a year would get all Americans connected by the end of the decade.

A substantial boost in federal research and development (R&D) spending. The United States needs to accelerate development of new technologies, particularly in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, advanced microchips and cyber. These technologies stand to revolutionize how business is done, services are provided and our nation is defended. But the U.S. government spent just $66.5 billion on basic and applied research in 2017, with less than 10 percent going toward computing, artificial intelligence, physics and the like. Private-sector investments in R&D are mostly to commercialize existing technology rather than basic research. The nation needs to do more.

Price tag: Every $10 billion per year of increased government R&D spending, a recent study found, could yield roughly 400,000 new jobs in the near term (about $25,000 per job). New tech hubs could be placed in hard-hit areas, attracting additional private investment.

Smart R&D tax credits. The Chinese government massively subsidizes “hard” technology of strategic importance. In the United States, by contrast, companies get the same R&D tax credit whether creating a new mobile app — or a craft beer — or investing in critical technology of substantial national security or economic significance. The nation should target generous tax incentives only toward the most critical technologies.

Price tag: If stronger tax credits for critical technology are coupled with less generous subsidies for the rest, this would require little or no new funding.

Support advanced semiconductor manufacturing. Semiconductors are the crucial building block of the information economy. America leads in chip design, but our manufacturing companies are losing market share and risk falling behind global state-of-the-art capabilities. China is lagging but is investing more than $100 billion to catch up. State-of-the-art semiconductor fabs, or factories, costing $10 billion to $20 billion each are mostly found in Korea and Taiwan. U.S. government financial incentives should bring home to this country capacity to manufacture the most advanced chips — for defense, advanced AI and other applications — that would create much-needed supply chain security and fuel further technological advances.

Price tag: With public-private burden sharing, the likely total cost would be less than $10 billion.

Strategic education investments. Science and technology talent are the foundation of U.S. success, yet our country is falling behind in science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning. Responsibility for K-12 education mostly falls to the states. But a smart, strategic federal stimulus package could provide financial incentives for STEM education at the university level. One model: The grants and partial student loan forgiveness provided under the National Defense Education Act that followed the Soviet Sputnik success in 1958.

Price tag: $1 billion to $3 billion per year.

Recommendations such as these have been validated in countless studies by a variety of experts. Other good ideas, of moderate cost, might also help while not taking away from the priority properly given to addressing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. A smart, strategic stimulus package could support economic recovery while also laying the foundation for future prosperity, security and job growth. Together, they could set America up for success in a more competitive world.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

left side of image showing city, right side showing large plain with grain silos, illustrating urban rural divide.

Infrastructure investments have never been so good

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.4.1″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.4.1″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.1″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.1″]

SOURCE: THE HILL

BY BRADLEY A. BLAKEMAN AND CHRISTOS A. MAKRIDIS, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS — 

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has surged more than ever before in recorded history as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — even more than the 2008-2009 Great Recession. Recent economic estimates point towards substantial costs associated with the national shutdown and effective quarantine with a 34 percent decline in GDP between April and June of 2020, according to Goldman Sachs.

Moreover, one of the authors recently found that, while the average county will experience a 10 percent decline in their entire year’s worth GDP growth for a two-month shutdown, some may experience as much as an 18 percent decline. Lower income counties and those with a higher proportion of workers in non-tradables sectors are expected to experience more severe economic declines.

While the CARES Act might have been an important first-step for providing economic relief to small businesses, households, and certain sectors that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, our country may need to take another step that directly confronts the magnitude of the workforce challenge that we are already beginning to see take shape: unemployment insurance claims surged by over 10 million in March — and even more are probably under-employed in their current jobs.

We already know that our country’s infrastructure has been failing — for years. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our infrastructure a D+ in 2017, and roughly $4.6 trillion of investment is needed to solve the problem. Rather than spending stimulus funds on pork, which economists widely concede will have little economic benefits during times of high uncertainty, we should invest our precious national resources on projects that will have a long-run payoff that will enable the industries and jobs of the future. This is particularly important given our race to 5G and leadership in the digital economy.

An infrastructure deal needs to have at least two important features.

First, rural communities have long been underutilized. Increasing empirical evidence points towards growing polarization in the quantity and quality of jobs across geographies, with rural communities falling behind. And yet, the cost of living is large and growing disproportionately in larger metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco and New York, which also have deteriorating infrastructures.

Why not invest in infrastructure that brings greater connectivity between rural and urban communities? For example, professors Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti found that restrictive housing market regulation was holding back productivity by 36 percent and suggested that the development of accessible and rapid public transportation (e.g., high speed rail) linking closely connected markets would have substantial economic benefits. Moreover, because COVID-19 has shown that a significant amount of work can be taken digitally, individuals would not need to travel between locations every day.

One of the stark realities from the ongoing pandemic is that everyone is affected. Although we’re all going through the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat, as pastor Steven Furtick at Elevation Church eloquently put it, even non-retail and hospitality jobs are affected. For example, job posting for even professional, scientific, and technical services as of April 22 have declined by 19 percent, relative to last year, according to EMSI. That means there are going to be a lot of software engineers, consultants, lawyers, and other traditionally white-collar workers who have skills and time to offer following the pandemic.

A genuine infrastructure deal would help unify the parties, particularly as we begin to emerge out of a shared national crisis that we’ve all been in together. An infrastructure deal that focuses on digital investments, and not just the traditional brick-and-mortar roads, will not only create new and high-tech jobs that leverage the strengths of recently unemployed or underemployed workers, but also advance national security aims so that we set the standard for the emerging 5G infrastructure.

While the White House is working diligently to apply an all-of-government approach to COVID-19, Congress would be wise to build on the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), which flew through committee in July.

Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business.

Christos A. Makridis (Ph.D., Stanford University) serves as an Assistant Research Professor at Arizona State University, a Digital Fellow at the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, a Non-resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Cyber Security Initiative, a Non-resident fellow at the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion, and a Senior Adviser to Gallup.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]