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Intentional Social Migrants Flock to High Bandwidth

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The predominant trend since the Second Industrial Revolution has been for the young to move to cities, where there is more opportunity and infrastructure; primarily for employment but also for culture and social opportunity. The villages and small towns of the hinterland are left without a strong talent base and slip into a perilous decline on account of brain drain. If the Internet and its applications are able to attract a large suite of industries that require workers to have no particular place to do their job so long as they have high bandwidth, people could voluntarily move out to the country without fear of losing other opportunities. They could even create a sort of new wave of “intentional communities” where people of different backgrounds and skill sets move to certain towns.  Perhaps they migrate because of the weather, recreational opportunities, cultural heritage, or just because they like the name of the town – but always because that town has high bandwidth. These social migrants could formulate a new culture in each community, halting or even reversing the dominant trend of cultural hegemony. Small cities and rural villages which aggressively pursue bandwidth resources, possibly through municipal broadband initiatives, would completely transform their economic and cultural prospects.  Decayed failed industrial towns which gain a critical amount of bandwidth, and are lucky enough to be chosen by a particular social migrant community as their home, could see a boom like that which towns located along the Interstate experienced two generations ago.  Towns that are not on best natural harbor in the world or that lack a massive airport can leverage other benefits they have.  Some of them may have a large number of attractive prewar homes.  They may be picturesquely located along a difficult-to-reach mountain ridge or beach, or be situated next to a sleepy river.  Some small college towns already have the keys to economic and cultural success that could be amplified by a massive injection of bandwidth and smart promotion. “Nice town, but I couldn’t be a (name it) here.  There aren’t enough jobs.” Or, “I love these open spaces.  If only my company’s office could be out here!”  These sad words should deliver no more nightmares to local chambers of commerce.  The wireless worker is not a new phenomenon, but it still takes a certain industry or certain kind of worker to become a digital nomad.  Only huge cities, which are also Internet hubs, have enough bandwidth to be both reliable and affordable to enable telecommuting for the masses.  Not until a critical mass of companies can meet and work nearly 100% virtually will intentional social migration become a possibility.  The United States is notably behind other developed nations in both broadband speed and deployment.  The economic backcountry should take the lead in gaining broadband services and a whole new cultural phenomenon could become easily attainable for most Americans.  Furthermore, this idea of social migration enabled by high bandwidth would not just be limited to the US: any country with high bandwidth and an interested populace could see a new migratory wave – away from the cities. Intentional social migrants, fueled by a hunger for bandwidth, could revitalize the cultural and economic outlook of the developed world.
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Written by Preston

March 1st, 2010 at 6:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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2 Responses to 'Intentional Social Migrants Flock to High Bandwidth'

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  1. “Decayed failed industrial towns which gain a critical amount of bandwidth, and are lucky enough to be chosen by a particular social migrant community as their home, could see a boom like that which towns located along the Interstate experienced two generations ago.”

    I think luck has little to do with it. Pittsburgh is a great example of an industrial city that revitalized itself by attracting new types of business – especially in health care.

    Andrew

    2 Mar 10 at 13:15

  2. My point is not that it takes a social migrant community to revitalize a town. There are plenty of examples where cities have grown from other factors. I was only hypothesizing about the possibility of new communities arising from people who decide to create a new community for their interests because the barriers to moving are lowered due to high job mobility – enabled specifically by high bandwidth in formerly declining areas.

    I found two more interesting articles on the subject of broadband deployment: one is a Wired interview with FCC chairman Genachowski and the other from The Economist which further explores the Bristol, VA fiber network.

    Preston

    5 Mar 10 at 02:52

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