Importance of broadband are manifold and it touches every aspect of human life, mainly in the present society. In the present connected and informed society broadband is providing the basic infrastructure. Personal commination via email and instant messaging, banking transactions, entertainments like music, video streaming and business communications are facilitated by broadband. “E-learning, e-health, e-commerce, e-governance and teleworking” are some of the features which are affecting our daily life in a positive way (Firth and Mellor, 2005) and broadband is the technology that has made these features to reach the human life in a larger scale with greater accuracy and speed.
In the present era of smart workplace, high speed internet allows videoconferencing, faster communication and as a result it boost productivity in businesses (Rohman and Bohlin, n.d.). Using these technologies there will be less travel and the amount of time an employee spends on travelling can be reduce significantly. This also reduces the congestion and pollution level due to the less traffic. Similarly in healthcare sector some of the basic telemedicine’s require narrow bandwidth but when it comes to more complex specialities like tele-radiology, a higher bandwidth is necessary (Firth and Mellor, 2005). Many websites and organisations are providing useful information and health tips to individual at their desktop. In smart factories or in technology based industry, most of the equipment are connected to each other and the sharing of data in real time will enable decision making by the machines. Any error or breakdown in the communication will result in heavy loss or leads to accident. High speed and reliable broadband is an utmost prerequisite for the factories to work efficiently and to get better productivity.
According to (Firth and Mellor, (2005); Hasbi, M. (2017)) high speed broadband is more likely acting as a catalyst for the socio and economic development of nations across the globe. Hasbi, M. (2017) highlighted that digital economy backed up by broadband has positive impact on the growth and employment generation and its contribution to the economy is growing substantially. Technology based companies are evolving like mushrooms in every corner of the globe giving momentum to job creations and challenging the traditional companies with innovation and new skills. E-commerce is an example which enables small and remote manufacturers to sell their products in the global market. These small enterprises are also able to adopt the best practises or standards to meet the global customer requirements with the help of internet. Therefore governments are formulating policies to encourage private investment and to build broadband infrastructure to cover the entire population or geography to provide high speed and cheap internet services. For example, European commission has a target to provide the access of internet with speed more than 30 mbps to the entire population of European Union by 2020. Broadband with speed greater than 30 mbps is recognised by Digital agenda of European commission as high speed broadband. Hasbi, M. (2017))
Three critical points are always in the forefront when it comes to the relevance of broadband. The first one is the controversies associated with quantification of the broadband benefits, second point is the digital divide and the third point is the unwanted consequences.
Firth and Mellor (2005) were highlighted some of the drawbacks or controversies, which are hard to avoid with the evolution of broadband. It is required to trace out those controversies to have a positive environment around the subject at the macro and micro level. There are many debates and hype about the benefits arising from broadband but very few scientific studies are available to quantify the real benefits (Hasbi, M. 2017). There is a grey area to gauge the actual reduction in unemployment, flourishing of new enterprises or productivity in companies through the use broadband. She has also pointed out that there are no consensus among the researchers when it comes to the quantifying the benefits of broadband. Some authors have found no authentication for reduction in employment rate due to broadband penetration, whereas some others have found that the economic development in rural segments is improving due to the adoption of digital technology.
Access to the broadband will enable greater connectivity among the citizen and creates an environment where there will be more economical activities which in turns creates well informed and developed society. Venkatachalam and McDowell (2003) argues that rural areas have less exposure to high-speed broadband network because firms or government investments in building the required infrastructure is less compared to the urban area. Some of the basic reasons are low subscriber base and uncertainty about the return on investment. Telecom companies are normally prefer to build the infrastructure where these is more potential for business profit or where there is larger customer base. The customer segments can be individuals, educational institutions or industries depending on the technology. Ironically companies prefer to establish their units where there is better digital connectivity along with physical infrastructure (Hasbi, M. 2017). As a result the digital divide is still exist in many countries. Some section of the society are outside the umbrella of high speed connectivity or in some cases basic internet connection to get the elementary services in governance, health and education.
Technology gives us the required tools to overcome difficulties in daily activities and makes the work easier or faster. Activities that are enabled by broadband may bring several benefits in governance, health or businesses but at the same time it comes with a cost. This cost is not only monetary but also it takes many form. One of the outcome is the isolation from the society or less physical interaction with friends and family or co-workers. Excessive dependence on the technology makes human more socially disconnected and changing the social fabric. Similarly with the automation there is a risk of job loss and it affects the developing countries even more. Broadband has a greater role when it comes to the medical applications in tele medicine or remote consultation but Firth and Mellor (2005) argues that face to face consultation has given better result to poor patient compared to remote consultation. In case of emergency or natural calamities, it will be out of reach to deliver the desired consultation or medication in short notice.
Therefore when we discus or debate the importance of broadband in our daily life or in a society as a whole, it is important to note different perspectives and evaluate the result based on the scientific approach. Overall it has a positive effect on the society to improve the socio & economic conditions and acting as a catalyst for growth. However we need to consider the drawbacks and role of different actors to gauge the actual benefits.