As the coronavirus continues to hold us in its grip, our nation is required to social distance and children are expected to go back to school virtually, the Internet, more than ever, has become our bridge to the outside world. It is an economic lifeline to workers who are fortunate enough to do their jobs from home. It connects us to the news of the world. It helps sick patients hoping to chat with a doctor via a video appointment. It provides entertainment and critical education to our young people. But the harsh reality is that broadband isn’t available to everyone. According to the Federal Communications Commission, high-speed internet is unavailable to roughly 25 million Americans and more than 19 million of those Americans live in rural communities. Nearly one in five Americans only have access to the internet through smart phones. Although these numbers have improved in recent years, the gaps remain prevalent, despite the fact that internet service has become as critical as a phone or electricity in our homes.
This inability to build digital infrastructure has intensified the divide between urban and rural areas. This divide has become especially evident as 44 million students across the country have been affected by school closings due to the pandemic. Schools have asked families to switch their children to online learning, but, because of a lack of broadband accessibility, millions of children are being left behind. 18 percent of children in remote rural areas have no home broadband and according to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five students between kindergarten and 12th grade do not have computers. This aspect of the digital divide is referred to as the “homework gap” and is an academic encumbrance for young people who lack access to digital technologies at home. Black teens, as well as those from lower-income households, are especially likely to face these school-related problems as a result.
Who will fix these problems? How fast? When? We are so very fortunate to have one of the world’s foremost experts on the challenges, scope, costs and intricacies of making broadband available to everyone with us today. Our guest on this episode, David McCourt is a “telecom revolutionary” according to The Economist, and his company, Granahan McCourt, is the largest independently owned designer and builder of telecom Public Private Partnerships in Europe and one of the most prominent investors in telecommunications globally. David has recently forged the largest Public Private Partnership in Europe to provide full-fiber to every home, farm and business in Ireland.
Many companies, like many people, in our country are experiencing devastation and loses…. and are panicked about the long-term implications of the coronavirus. The virtually immediate economic recession caused by the Covid-19 shutdown and subsequent global pandemic mandates have caused devastation for businesses large and small. Our very way of American life has also been threatened and changed by this humanitarian crisis. Perhaps forever.
Based on assumptions being made about the pandemic causing “the demise of commuting to work,” “the end of retail shopping,” and “the collapse of globalization,” many executives are bracing for and assuming that business operations will never be the same. According to today’s guest, survival in business, during a crisis and otherwise, is achieved by building in both the short and long term. At the same time.
David Cote is Executive Chairman of Vertiv Holdings Co, a global data center products and services provider. Previously, as CEO of the industrial giant Honeywell, he grew the company's market capitalization from around $20 billion to nearly $120 billion, delivering returns of 800 percent and beating the S&P by nearly two and a half times. In his new book, WINNING NOW, WINNING LATER: How Companies Can Win in the Short Term While Investing in the Long Term, he provides a fascinating, been-there-done-that explanation of how he deployed a series of fundamental principles and practices to transform Honeywell at a time when it was flailing and failing. David believes that the idea that CEOs must choose between winning now and winning later is wrong: They must find a way to do both. Thinking short- and long-term has to work together since you need today’s profits to fund tomorrow’s successes. His insights and lessons learned are a perfect prescription for the challenges that businesses are facing today.