Telecommuting: a transportation issue

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by Ann Treacy | August 24, 2009 • At the beginning of the summer, there was a push in House to recognize telecommuting as a full-fledged transportation mode.

Blandin on Broadband offers information on broadband use, access, and trends especially in rural Minnesota. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and their Broadband Initiative.

Here’s the scoop from a recent article in New Geography:

One strategy these lawmakers proposed for encouraging telework was to condition federal grants to states and localities for transportation infrastructure on their creation of bold incentives for telework. Why impose this condition? Telework limits the wear and tear on new roads and rails, as well as the demand for further construction. Thus, it protects the federal investment in such infrastructure and mitigates future costs.

The article goes on to suggest…

Congress should insist that they provide telework tax incentives for both employees and employers; eliminate tax, zoning and other laws that are hostile to telework; and offer both public and private sector employers technical help in developing and implementing robust telework programs. The government grantees should be required to create such programs for their own employees. They should also be required to designate certain high traffic and high pollution days as telework days — days when employees are specifically urged to take the web to work — and to conduct public awareness campaigns about the benefits of telework.

I think all of this is great. The article goes on to spell out the financial and other benefits of telework – but it doesn’t really spell out how to pay for the broadband to facilitate telework – except to mention the stimulus funding.

Now maybe telework will be the killer app that drives demand to every dark corner of the state – or maybe telework will only be a tool that’s available to businesses and residents in areas served by broadband. Or maybe the government will look at reallocating money saved from the transportation budget to broadband. I hope it will be the killer app or I hope cost saving can be spent on broadband infrastructure – but I’m a little afraid it will be another way in which we’re “disqualifying an entire population because if net access”.

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