Infrastructure Should Include Electrical Grid, Broadband

An op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal by Samuel Palmisano, chairman and CEO of IBM, “Let’s Spend on Broadband and the Power Grid“:

We shouldn’t undertake projects simply for the sake of creating economic activity. Rather than just stimulate, we should transform.

Let’s seize this opportunity to create more and better jobs, cultivate valuable skills, and not simply repair but prepare our economy for the 21st century. The best news of all is that investing in innovation will cost less and yield faster results than investing in renovation.

One might quibble with the word “transform” — sounds like government overreach — but certainly investing in infrastructure that improves the long-term competiveness of the U.S. economy should be a sine qua non of stimulus legislation. And Palmisano identifies key places to make those investments:

Our power grids are the largest remaining artifact of the Industrial Age, and they’re due for a smart upgrade. Using broadband data streams, digital sensors and advanced analytics, demand can be understood in real time. Utilities can source and manage power more intelligently, helping to bring renewable sources onto the grid. And consumers could understand the variable cost of power and alter their behavior accordingly. A smarter utility network could also handle the growing demand for hybrid and electric cars. Today’s utility grid would struggle to manage this burden.

A $10 billion per year smart grid stimulus investment could yield almost a quarter of a million jobs digitizing the grid and in related industries, such as alternative energy and automotive. This investment will enable new forms of industrial innovation by creating exportable skills, resources and technology.

Similarly, investing in electronic health records will stimulate integration and efficiency across the entire health-care system. Indeed, it could actually become a true system — able to link diagnosis, drug discovery and health-care providers to insurers, employers, patients and communities.

All priorities identified by the National Association of Manufacturers, as well.

Here’s another, described in BusinessWeek, “Newark airport first hub to test satellite system“:

Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey will be the first major airport to test new technology aimed at reducing chronic flight delays.

The Ground Based Augmentation System uses global positioning data instead of radar to pinpoint aircraft positions. Officials hope it will reduce congestion at the airport by allowing planes to fly closer together without compromising safety.

The system, made by Honeywell, will cost the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey about $2.5 million.

 This, well, transformation has to happen nationwide. Let’s speed it up by making the investments now.

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