Patrick Brogan

Broadband and Tech Jobs Drive Economic Future

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently issued its 10-year employment outlook projections, which demonstrate the significant role broadband networks play in U.S. economic growth, job creation, and global competitiveness. The broadband network industries today employ approximately 850,000 Americans in high-wage jobs. While network industry employment is projected to decline in the next decade employees to just over 800,000 jobs, it is declining at a dramatically lower rate than it did from 2000-2012, when it lost 600,000 jobs. Thus, the new BLS projections indicate the telecom industry has streamlined itself in response to the competitive environment ushered in by new technological developments and pro-competitive government policies, and it will remain a significant economic force in the U.S. long into the future. Moreover, broadband networks are at the center of a dynamic, innovative information technology ecosystem that employs more than ten million highly-skilled workers in technology and non-technology industries. These workers are the face of the so called “IP (Internet Protocol) transition” (or transitions), creating and implementing the broadband and Internet technologies so essential to our nation’s prosperity and well-being in the global information economy.

Broadband network providers are in the telecommunications category, which includes wired telecom and cable operators, wireless telecom, satellite providers, and telecom resellers. Wired telecom, which includes both wireline telecom and cable providers, is the largest employer in the group with 580,000 jobs in 2012, or 67.5 percent of the telecom industry. Wired telecom will still have 508,000 jobs a decade from now, or 64 percent of the telecom industry, the survey projects. BLS does not separate wireline telecommunications and cable; but, historically, wireline telecommunications represented 70 percent to 75 percent of this group. Even though network provider jobs are declining, their contribution to Gross Domestic Product will continue to be significant. Economic output for the sector will grow 3.4 percent per year over the next decade, higher than the overall economy at 2.6 percent.

Yet, the broadband jobs story reaches far beyond the network provider industry, into the wider information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem and into the U.S. economy as a whole. Broadband providers employ individuals to build and operate networks. Technology industries generate products and services whose value depends on being networked. Technology and non-technology industries deploy and implement broadband-enabled technologies to enhance their productivity.

In the process, industries across the economy employ Americans in ICT-enabled jobs that are among the most highly-skilled, well-paid, and fast-growing in the U.S. For example, computer occupations include computer and information researchers, analysts, information security specialists, software programmers, web developers, system architects and designers, database and network administrators, and support specialists. Detailed BLS data show that this group, along with computer systems managers, is projected to add more than 700,000 net new jobs over the ten years from 2012 to 2022. Taking into account turnover in existing jobs, this group will create more than a million job openings in the next decade. Moreover, the group earns more than double the national median wage and has a greater demand for college graduates than the national average.

Computer occupations provide just a sampling of ICT jobs. Others include media and communications workers, advertising and marketing professionals, telemarketers, network and electronic engineers, telecom equipment and line installers and repairers, manufacturers, and electronics retail sales. Depending on the specifics of how one classifies ICT jobs, ICT occupations could grow by one to one and a half million net new jobs in the next decade. Taking into account turnover in existing jobs, several million job openings are possible over the next decade. The impact will be felt even outside traditional ICT industries or jobs. For example, medical records and health information technicians are projected to add 40,000 net new jobs, or 90,000 job openings after considering turnover in existing jobs.

These broadband and information technology workers are helping us to realize the transition to the networked future: flexible broadband IP networks; next generation data centers; cloud computing platforms; new and more powerful computing devices; big data analytics; machine-to-machine Internet connectivity; and leading edge enterprise applications, from retailing and customer service to enterprise resource planning and supply-chain integration. They are enabling new types of businesses and better ways of doing business.

By migrating to more efficient and powerful IP networks, we can help to enhance U.S. economic productivity and international competitiveness. As Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler stated in a recent speech, “We are living in the fourth great network revolution – the marriage of computing and connectivity…At the heart of these changes is this: the new information networks are the new economy…Our growth industries are today based on the exchange and use of digital information. As such, information networks aren’t ancillary; they are integral.”

policymakers should address issues associated with the IP transition(s) expeditiously so that industry can devote the maximum amount of resources to the networks of the future … and just maybe, in the next biannual BLS jobs outlook we can look to even faster growth projections for broadband and technology jobs.