The cost of *not* investing in HS broadband
I hear a lot of talk of the costs of deploying HS broadband. I wonder why we don't hear more about the cost of *not* investing in it.
In the UK at least, there is a lot of talk of investing in infrastructure as a way to improve the economy. A high-speed rail link costing £32bn (E40bn) is being built. A third runway at Heathrow Airport is being proposed. And there may be more on the way. These schemes all have expensively commissioned studies by economists to predict their economic benefit. Business leaders are wheeled out to explain why they are a good thing.
But arguably the benefits of ubiquitous HS Broadband are even bigger. It doesn't take much imagination to see how vastly improved transfer of information could transform businesses and public services - and create new businesses no-one's even thought of.
Unfortunately, the radical nature of what HS Broadband allows makes it harder to advocate. We can predict what a fast railway will do for the economy because it's a lot like existing railways, just a bit better. But modelling how HS Broadband might change the economy is, as far as I know, beyond what most economists can do. (We at Nesta once made an estimate based on the example of Korea, but we wouldn't pretend it's anything but very tentative.)
So how do we make the economic case for investing in an asset that could radically transform the economy for the better?