The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently released “Building to Win,” a blueprint for the next Congress and president on how to repair and revolutionize the infrastructure that makes the American Dream possible. There are many pieces of infrastructure mentioned in the report—traditional transportation infrastructure as well as energy, water and communications systems. Broadband is one segment of infrastructure that is often overlooked but cannot be forgotten as the next president and Congress look ahead to a renewed focus on infrastructure.
There is little or no argument about the benefits of widespread adoption of broadband. It creates economic opportunity and equality. In the manufacturing sector, it is helping to power the disruptive technology—the Internet of Things, the cloud, Big Data, 3D printing, drones, etc.—that is transforming traditional businesses.
NAM members told us in a recent survey that these new technologies are increasing shop floor efficiencies, enabling new revenue streams and allowing manufacturers to move into completely different product lines. And a common link throughout all these technologies? They all run on top of our nation’s telecommunications infrastructure.
Our products and processes have become increasingly dependent on the latest telecommunications tools and networks. Many manufacturers leverage commercially available networks, and many others manage their own networks for their facilities. No matter what type of network, they are all almost entirely funded with private investment.
Unfortunately, if private investment in this piece of the infrastructure lags, our manufacturing innovation leadership will be further challenged.
The Progressive Policy Institute recently published its “Investment Heroes” report in which it ranks corporations by levels of capital spending. PPI’s primary conclusion was that these private investments raise productivity and wages across the country. It also cited a “vitally important” policy challenge to maintain investment and that was to get regulation “out of the way.”
Those of us in the manufacturing sector agree: a regulatory environment that fosters investment rather than restricts it is needed, especially when it comes to broadband. When companies are faced with a complex, mandatory regulatory regime, it severely reduces investment in infrastructure. This lack of investment will significantly lower the multiplier effect technology has on our industry, the people we employ and the products we create.