It’s Time for a Modern Communications Infrastructure

The following blog by Kim Glas, BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director has been cross posted from the Huffington Post. The original post is available online here

It’s not just our transportation system that’s in desperate need of an upgrade. The fact is that from pipes carrying water and natural gas, to our energy grid, to our communications systems, we need action now to repair and modernize systems we rely on every day.

Old, broken down systems waste energy and water and other resources, make our communities less safe, and contribute to the pollution that’s driving climate change. But, fixing and modernizing them? That’s an opportunity to create family-sustaining jobs, make communities more secure and resilient, and give America a leg up in the ultra-competitive global economy.

Modern Communications Systems = More Efficient and Safe

Today, let’s focus on our nation’s communications systems.

For a lot of America, high-speed broadband Internet is something they just can’t get. Many rural areas of the country are stuck in technology that was great in the ’90s but pales in comparison to the offerings in large cities. And, even in those cities and suburbs, there are still a lot of folks to whom high-speed broadband isn’t affordable or nearly as fast as needed to support education, business and access to opportunity.

Bringing our communications systems up to date would also enable power companies to monitor, assess and avoid power outages and damages; help make emergency communications and disaster preparedness systems ready to protect us even in the most dire circumstances; and make other infrastructure — like water and natural gas distribution lines — more efficient by using sensors and systems to monitor them in real time and avoid leaks and failures.

A modern communications infrastructure is a resilient one. Every year, businesses and households are estimated to lose $80 to $150 billion annually from power outages alone. The smallest thing can cause the biggest consequences in our energy systems. For example, one of the largest blackouts in U.S. history in 2003 was caused by wires brushing up against tree limbs in Ohio, leaving 50 million people without power. A modern, communications-enabled smart electric grid can help avoid these crises, while at the same time enabling new forms of energy efficiency in homes and businesses and helping integrate clean and distributed energy into our electric system.

Communications Infrastructure: Enabling the Clean Energy Economy

052915 Full-BGA-Infographic

Click to download the graphic as a PDF.


From roads that buckle to water pipelines that burst to failing communications systems, America’s outdated and crumbling infrastructure is at the forefront of the challenges we must tackle with the utmost urgency. Our infrastructure serves as the backbone of today’s economic success and provides the path to future growth and innovation.

The BlueGreen Alliance, with its 15 national labor and environmental partners—including the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—launched Repair America, a grassroots campaign to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure to better meet the climate challenges of today and tomorrow, while building a more prosperous, clean economy. Modernizing and extending our broadband network is a critical piece of this effort.

For a lot of America, high-speed broadband Internet is something they just can’t get. A modern communications infrastructure would be a huge benefit to our economy—by creating and sustaining good jobs—and protect our environment—by wasting less energy and water and reducing the pollution that’s driving climate change.

The BlueGreen Alliance and its partners are at the forefront of the discussion of modernizing and repairing our infrastructure systems to create family-sustaining jobs, make our communities safer and healthier and reduce the pollution that’s driving climate change. And, we’re not here alone. Companies, unions, community organizations, leaders in Congress and State Legislatures around the country, and people like you pushing for a resilient and modern infrastructure are all vital to this effort.

Networking the Green Economy

The BlueGreen Alliance, along with our partners at Speed Matters, National Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, released a joint report, Networking the Green Economy: How Broadband & Related Technologies Can Build a Green Economic Future.

Broadband and information communication technologies have the potential of revolutionizing energy management and economic development. In order to reduce energy, new communication technologies can be an important tool to better monitor and more effectively use natural resources. Advanced communications, including a more robust wired and wireless web, will play an essential role in facilitating and integrating these technologies.

Broadband policies, particularly those that support the expansion and implementation of smart grid technologies have real potential to reduce rising electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. With coordinated research, support and action from consumers, environmental advocates, labor and federal and state policymakers, broadband and related communications technologies can pave the way for a greener and more robust economy.

Rebuilding Green: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Green Economy

The Recovery Act’s green investments committed through the end of 2010 create or save nearly 1 million jobs, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute and the BlueGreen Alliance.

This report shows the Recovery Act succeeded in responding to the nation’s economic crisis and that green investments create jobs while laying a foundation for the development of a 21st century economy in the United States.

Listen to the audio from the press call releasing the report below.

Broadband Plan Moves U.S. Further Down Path to a Clean Energy Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 16, 2010) The BlueGreen Alliance today commended the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Chairman Genachowski after the release of its National Broadband Plan. Required under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the plan sets forth a national roadmap for expanding broadband capacity and creating jobs building the clean energy economy.

“The National Broadband Plan released today is a bold step forward in the effort to establish the United States as a global leader in the clean energy economy,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “This plan’s integration of broadband into a smart grid, and its focus on improving the reliability and resiliency of the broadband network, is critical to creating and maintaining good jobs building the clean energy economy in every community across America.”

The plan includes recommendations that will “modernize the electric grid with broadband, making it more reliable and efficient” and “unleash energy innovation in homes and buildings by making energy data readily accessible to consumers.” Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution recently found that capital investment in broadband over the next few years could create more than 500,000 jobs.

“Expanding our nation’s broadband infrastructure, with an emphasis on modernizing the electric grid with broadband and making energy data readily accessible to consumers, is a key ingredient to increasing energy efficiency and reducing our economy’s environmental impact,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “Today’s National Broadband Plan sets us further down the path to creating a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.”

“The call to modernize the electric grid with broadband is a big step towards making transmission more efficient, and coupled with the implementation of smart grid technology, will cut energy costs in homes and businesses by making basic energy data available to all,” said Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America.

The Progressive States Network, Sierra Club, CWA and Blue Green Alliance recently released a report, Networking the Green Economy, which illustrates how smart buildings, smart grids, telehealth, teleconferencing, digital education – all of which are part of a highly-networked economy – will reduce carbon dioxide emissions, conserve energy resources, and promote and retain good, green jobs.

“The National Broadband Plan is an opportunity to build capacity in our states and communities to strengthen this critical infrastructure,” Nathan Newman, Executive Director of the Progressive States Network. “Our report illustrates the positive impact that broadband and smart grid expansion will have for both people and the environment.”

-30-

About the BlueGreen Alliance

The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. Launched by the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers in 2006, the BlueGreen Alliance includes the Communications Workers of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Service Employees International Union, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union, and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, uniting more than eight and a half million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.

About Progressive States Network

The Progressive States Network was founded in 2005 to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable, progressive state action. The Progressive States Net­work advances this agenda by providing coordinated research and strategic advocacy tools to forward-thinking state policymakers, legislative staff, and non-profit organizations. We function as a meeting space for progres­sive legislators, activists, and citizens, and serve as a hotbed of information exchange. We track legislation in all 50 states, helping to spark change across the country. We make it easier for people to learn more about how to get good ideas passed into law – and take power into their own hands.

About CWA

CWA is America’s largest communications and media union, representing more than 700,000 men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Higher speeds and accessibility are among the goals CWA has been pursuing through its “Speed Matters” program, a four-year campaign to advance the build out of true high-speed broadband and provide universal access to Americans. CWA members work in both the private and public sectors; including workers who are building the high speed broadband networks we need for a 21st century economy. CWA members are employed in telecommunications, media, airlines, public service and manufacturing.

About Sierra Club

The Sierra Club’s members and supporters are 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work to protect our communities and the planet. Founded by John Muir in California in 1892, the Sierra Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.

BlueGreen Alliance Releases Networking the Green Economy Report

New Report Highlights How Broadband and Other Technologies Can Reduce Carbon Emissions and Save Energy, as well as Create and Retain Clean Energy Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Federal Communications Commission prepares to unveil its National Broadband Plan, U.S. Representative Ed Markey, Chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and author of the requirement in the Recovery Act mandating the forthcoming National Broadband Plan, today joined labor, environmental and progressive leaders to release a new report highlighting how broadband and related technologies can build a green economic future for America.

Read the report.

“The broadband revolution is ‘Made in America,’ and continues to create millions of jobs while fundamentally transforming business, education and government,” said U.S. Rep Ed Markey. “Ensuring access to broadband while investing in new smart grid technology, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Waxman-Markey clean energy jobs bill will empower the consumer with money-saving energy-efficiency tools.”

The report, Networking the Green Economy: How Broadband and Related Technologies Can Build a Green Economic Future, was released today by the Progressive States Network, Communications Workers of America, Sierra Club and the BlueGreen Alliance, and illustrates how smart buildings, smart grids, telehealth, teleconferencing, digital education – all of which are part of a highly-networked economy – will reduce carbon dioxide emissions, conserve energy resources, and promote and retain good, green jobs.

The report notes that, according to The Climate Group, transforming the way people and businesses use technology can reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 13-22 percent by 2020, and potentially see gross energy and fuel savings of $140-$240 billion. This report, setting forth ideas, research and recommendations to achieve these goals, details three broad areas of energy savings from networked technology that can help achieve energy savings and environmental goals: smart grids to improve the transmission, management, and distribution of energy; smart technologies, like smart meters or other demand management tools that reduce energy use at home or office; and broadband-based services including telehealth, long-distance business communication, and e-commerce to reduce travel and associated fuel costs.

“The National Broadband Plan is an opportunity to build capacity in our states and communities to strengthen this critical infrastructure,” Nathan Newman, Executive Director of the Progressive States Network. “This report illustrates the positive impact that broadband and smart grid expansion will have for both people and the environment.”

“Expanding broadband and smart grid will create good jobs,” said Annie Hill, Executive Vice President of Communications Workers of America. “Investments in the green economy – which includes more efficient use of resources and power – are the job creators of the 21st century. Any national broadband plan must be focused on job creation.”

The report offers several policy recommendations, including increasing access and addressing affordability of broadband technologies, supporting and promoting implementation of smart grids and devices, installing smart meters and implementing real-time pricing in a manner that protects consumers and strengthens the economy through the creation of green jobs, and adopting telehealth practices to decrease environmental impacts.

“Realizing the full potential and benefits of investments in efficiency and renewables will require a significant upgrade in our communications infrastructure,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “And as a nation, we are facing critical choices. We must become global leaders in growing a clean energy economy that puts people back to work and restores America’s leadership, ingenuity and innovation.”

“Investing in new and emerging clean energy technologies will help to establish America as a global leader in the clean energy economy, while preserving our environment for future generations” David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “The jobs of the future should all be good, green jobs, and by taking action now on broadband and other technologies, we are putting ourselves in a position to create jobs and lead the world in the race for a clean energy economy.”

-30-

Networking the Green Economy

Broadband and information communication technologies have the potential of revolutionizing energy management and economic development. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for about a quarter of the world’s energy consumption. A poor communications infrastructure underlies much of our wasted energy use. In order to reduce energy, we must install new technologies that can monitor and more effectively use natural resources. Advanced communication will play an essential role in facilitating and integrating these technologies.

Policies that support broadband technology can reverse the projections showing that energy consumption is likely to rise and that greenhouse gas emissions will increase. The BlueGreen Alliance joined with the Communications Workers of America and their Speed Matters campaign, the Sierra Club and the Progressive States Network to release, Networking a Green Economy, which explores the environmental, energy and job-creating benefits of broadband and smart grid technologies.

High-Speed Internet and the Environment

Making affordable high speed Internet accessible to everyone creates many solutions to America’s growing energy problems. Broadband reduces our carbon footprint while promising substantial economic pay-offs. By including universally accessible, high speed Internet as an essential
part of our energy plan, the United States can build a green economy, greatly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and spur economic growth by creating new environmental jobs.

Together with CWA’s Speed Matters campaign, Sierra Club and Progressive States Network, the BlueGreen Alliance is working to make affordable high-speed Internet accessible to everyone. Read more about its economic and environmental benefits.