Federal Communications Commission

Connecting America’s Stories: Going Green with Telework

June 2nd, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

Our country is buzzing about energy.  Americans are taking a hard look at how we collect and use oil.  Hybrid technology is changing the auto industry.  Debates about foreign oil, nuclear power and wind farms are happening on local and national levels. We know we need to reduce our energy consumption. The big question is how.

When we asked you about broadband in your lives, energy was on your minds too.  And one simple, yet powerful answer to the big “how” question you shared is to have reliable, affordable broadband.

Adam in Newberry, South Carolina

As a microeconomic example of how broadband is 'green'--my wife would be able to work from home several days a week if higher-end access were available to us, thereby reducing the need for her 60 mile roundtrip commute every working day. While I agree that we must also diversify our energy sources and systems, what purpose will green energy systems serve if many of our citizens are forced to relocate to remain gainfully employed?

Americans live outside of urban areas for many reasons – family, economics, health, environment, community and just personal preference.  Yet many face a double edged sword for living off the beaten path: a long commute and lack of access to broadband internet.

Sherilyn in Gregory, Michigan

I live in southeast Michigan in an area where I cannot receive cable, DSL or broadband services. My current commute is 103 miles round trip daily to my job. I have the opportunity to work from home if I am able to obtain high speed internet service in my home. Having expanded service in my rural area would provide an opportunity for me to save energy by eliminating over 500 miles a week that I am commuting to my place of employment in addition to positive environmental impacts with less emissions. I work with others in the same situation and feel that the provision of high speed internet is a step in the right direction to lower our dependence on oil while technologically advancing our communities.

The National Broadband Plan makes several recommendations to expand access to rural America and promote telework.  The plan notes:

The average American spends more than 100 hours per year commuting; 3.5 million people spend more than 90 minutes commuting to work each way every workday. …

Every additional teleworker reduces annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 2.6-3.6 metric tons per year.67 Replacing 10% of business air travel with videoconferencing would reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 36.3 million tons annually.

The plan calls on Congress to eliminate tax barriers to telework (working across state lines can sometimes result in being taxed twice!), and encourages the federal government to make telework easier for its employees.

Just as importantly, its recommendations aim to make broadband available to every American who wants it.  The reasons people lack access are complicated, having to do with cost, business models, infrastructure and the patchwork of regulations and laws across counties and states.  It won’t be simple or easy, but the FCC is already taking steps to expand access to rural Americans.

John in Lincolnton, North Carolina

I live in a bedroom community of Charlotte and work for a major bank. I'm allowed to work from home, but because I have only access to wireless networks (and that only recently), I have to drive 40 miles one way frequently just to work. Think of the oil I could save and the contribution to clean air I could make if I only had options.

Like Adam, Sherilyn and John, many of you have shared your frustrations and hopes for your rural communities and the environment.  We know that conserving energy and preserving the environment are just two of many factors that make broadband an important element in your lives.  Please continue to share your stories, and stay tuned to this blog for more information on how the plan addresses issues affecting Americans.

One Response to “Connecting America’s Stories: Going Green with Telework”

  1. Mike - Detroit says:

    The National Broadband Plan will benefit from a suggestion I made to my employers whereby we are harvesting the Carbon Credits from our VPN systems and selling them to pay for VPN improvements and ride reduction programs. The estimated carbon value is enough to offset almost 80% of our recurring costs for the VPN services. All together, this and other Green IT programs will reduce and save my company even more. The National Broadband Plan can use Carbon Credits the exact same way - to IMPROVE the US Domestic Internet!

    I suggest that the US Government implement a National Telecommuting Policy where 100% of the workers inthe US who are able to Telecommute do so for three (3) days per week. The collective carbon offsets canbe traded within the framework of the EPA guidelines and EPA regions to permit more jobs to be retained in the US instead of being sent overseas. Furthermore, the reduced emissions equates 100% to reduced dependency on foreign oil and is much less costly to secure.

    You may find even more of my comments related to Energy and Emissions on the Technology Review Website.

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