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High-Speed Networks Give Communities an Age-Friendly Advantage
Posted By Christopher Baker On September 4, 2013 @ 7:00 am In Thinking Policy | Comments Disabled
Affordable access to high-speed Internet networks provides communities with a powerful platform to help meet the challenges – and take advantage of the opportunities – associated with an aging population. This approach to community development deserves more attention from supporters of both age-friendly  communities and community broadband networks.
High-speed Internet connectivity enables a growing array of applications and services that create and enhance opportunities for health, participation and independence  for older Americans. A recent AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) report  examined key areas where high-speed connectivity can help support older adults, including personal fulfillment, health preservation, social connectedness, functional capability and caregiver support. Another PPI report  highlighted promising applications for aging in place, such as video-based virtual visits with clinicians and family caregivers and in-home monitoring for older adults with limitations in activities of daily living.
When affordable high-speed connectivity is widely available, a community has a critical resource to support residents of all ages. It also has an economic development tool to attract and retain businesses  and jobs , and vital infrastructure to improve health care  and education , and strengthen public safety . Moreover, real estate agents report that the availability  of high-speed connectivity in a community is important to potential home buyers; slow connections mean slower home sales . And after seeing the advantages of high-speed networks in nearby areas, more neighboring cities  and towns are requesting similar connectivity for their own community .
Regrettably, the communications infrastructure in much of the United States is inadequate to support the widespread use of an increasingly diverse set of promising applications, services and devices for aging in place. Millions of Americans live in areas where high-speed Internet access is unavailable  at any price. In other areas of the country, where high-capacity Internet access is available, it is typically costlier and slower  than in many other developed nations. Improving this situation will not be easy. Traditional cable and telephone companies – the dominant Internet service providers in the U.S. – face little competitive pressure  to increase their connection speeds, cut their prices or expand their networks into rural areas.
Rather than just waiting for these companies to act, a number of communities across the country have started their own  high-speed networks. The benefits go beyond providing residents with affordable high-speed connectivity. Many of these projects have created jobs  and public savings . Their success  and the expansion of this growing movement reflect the strong incentives communities have to improve their communications infrastructure.
Of course, major investments are a challenge  for any community, and high-speed networks are no different. These projects require millions of dollars and years of planning to complete. The major commercial Internet providers present another challenge. They oppose local government involvement and have convinced a number of states to adopt restrictions that prevent or discourage cities or towns from owning or operating high-speed networks.
In the end, each community must decide its own priorities and pursue its best interests. But one issue, in particular, deserves more of their attention: High-speed networks give communities an age-friendly advantage in serving an aging population.
Christopher Baker is a senior strategic policy adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute, where he works on policy issues related to the availability, affordability and accessibility of essential telecommunications, technology and energy services.
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URL to article: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/09/04/high-speed-networks-give-communities-an-age-friendly-advantage/
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 Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62526202@N04/5735748215/in/photolist-9JRd7B-9F5AxR-amSykH-8rdVrv-8DahRW-8D7bBP-c3V5Rw-9jETHP-eo7AkZ-cfboyY-dYESgd-92AdKk-92DoQA
 age-friendly: http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Age_friendly_cities_checklist.pdf
 independence: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/eldertech.jsp
 report: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-03-2013/benefits-of-high-speed-internet-access-for-older-adults-AARP-ppi-cons-prot.html
 report: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-06-2013/a-platform-for-aging-in-place-AARP-ppi-cons-prot.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG
 businesses: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-fiber-provides-faster-internet-and-cities-hope-business-growth/2013/01/25/08b466fc-6028-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html
 jobs: http://www.intelligentcommunity.org/index.php?src=news&refno=831&category=News
 health care: http://www.onecommunity.org/community-technology-programs/hospital-broadband-services/improving-health-care-in-northeast-ohio/
 education: http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2012/broadband_access_brings_new_opportunities_in_education-69605
 public safety: http://www2.alcatel-lucent.com/blogs/lifetalk/issue-3/chattanoogas-safe-city-orchestra/
 availability: http://www.thelandmark.com/news/2013-05-02/Princeton_News/Realtors_business_owners_push_for_broadband.html?print=1
 home sales: http://www.recorder.com/home/5142174-95/bringing-county-a-high-speed-network-has-been-slow-going
 neighboring cities: http://amestrib.com/sections/opinion/editorials/tribune-editorial-ames-should-become-%E2%80%98gigabit-community%E2%80%99.html
 own community: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2013/aug/12/editorial-downtown-knox-needs-high-speed-access/
 unavailable: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-321152A1.pdf
 costlier and slower: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/08/07/reviewed-high-speed-internet-column/2619497/
 competitive pressure: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/510176/when-will-the-rest-of-us-get-google-fiber/
 their own: http://www.muninetworks.org/communitymap
 jobs: http://muninetworks.org/sites/www.muninetworks.org/files/fact-sheet-econ-dev.pdf
 public savings: http://www.ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/fact-sheet-public-finance.pdf
 success: http://www.muninetworks.org/reports/how-chattanooga-bristol-and-lafayette-built-best-broadband-america
 challenge: http://www.govtech.com/wireless/Local-Governments-Strive-for-Broadband-Independence.html
 Manidis Roberts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manidisroberts/
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