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A coalition of business and non-profit organizations is petitioning the next Administration to make universal broadband access a national priority. Just last week, the Washington, DC-based Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) stepped up an already aggressive campaign to expand awareness and help government leaders understand the need for universal broadband availability and adoption.

Broadband has been described as the currency of today’s commercial real estate market, as necessary as electricity or phone service was in the past. Industry experts say broadband is no longer an amenity but a necessity-and property owners who fail to provide it will lose tenants.

“Some buildings will become technologically obsolete and their value will plummet,” warns James Carlini, president of Carlini & Associates Inc. in East Dundee, IL and an expert witness for technology issues in both civil and federal courts. Carlini says real estate traditionalists, who underestimate the importance of broadband connectivity, are making potentially costly mistakes.

“To them I pose the question, ‘Would you sell a building or commercial space without air conditioning?’ Eventually someone might buy or lease, but you definitely will not be targeting the majority of the market, let alone the premium-paying candidates of the market,” he says.

But even those who understand the importance of broadband realize there are challenges ahead. The capacity of the Internet–its bandwidth–is limited. In the digital world, data is measured in bytes. A single digital character, a letter or number, is a single byte–and more bytes consume more bandwidth.

“A typewritten page is about 2,000 bytes, or two kilobytes, and a small, low-resolution image is about 100,000 bytes, or 100 kilobytes. There are about 5 million bytes, or five megabytes, in the complete works of Shakespeare, and a pickup truck full of books might amount to one billion bytes, or a gigabyte. One billion of those book-filled pickup trucks, or one billion gigabytes, is an Exabyte,” the IIA explains.

In 2007, it estimates Internet users created about 161 exabytes of digital information.”But by 2010, we might produce as much as 988 exabytes of data,” it notes. The result, to use a term coined by Bret Swanson of Seattle’s Discovery Institute, will be an exaflood: a torrent of data that will exceed available bandwidth and slow down service for everyone on the Internet.

In an attempt to prevent such a scenario, the four-year-old IIA launched two new initiatives. It formed a group of Broadband Ambassadors–leading Internet executives–and to advance support of improved broadband infrastructure and developed a National Broadband Strategy, a call for a coherent set of policies and goals to accelerate universal adoption of high speed Internet.

IIA co-chair Bruce Mehlman said the US is at a critical moment in history. “To compete and win in the 21st century, we must ensure the United States capitalizes on the extraordinary economic, technological and societal opportunities presented by broadband,” he said. “The benefits are undeniable and compelling.”

Numerous studies conclude there are economic benefits to expanded broadband access.

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