The Recovery Act provided more than $7 billion to bring the technology to rural areas. And the Jobs Act, if enacted, would set up a program dedicated to providing the technology to 98 percent of the U.S., with an emphasis on setting up WiFi for public safety agencies.
As technologies such as 3G and 4G become more popular, their costs should ultimately come down, Hicks said.
Panelists suggested food stamp-style subsidies or tax incentives to help people afford the services, which can total hundreds of dollars every month for families.
A shift in how households spend money and what they buy is likely to happen as more families invest in the technology, Hicks said after the panel discussion.
That won’t necessarily affect big-ticket purchases, such as cars, he said, but families will continue to adjust smaller expenses.
Schools are a sign of how the Internet-induced consumption shift has happened.
Rather than investing in bound textbooks, more institutions are using computers to teach and provide reading material, he said. That, in turn, is leading to new demands on the work force. Instead of needing factory line workers to assemble those books, companies need the more demanding and more valuable skills of software engineers to develop the computer programs, he said.
“People with good, solid educations who can do those things are being compensated astonishingly different than people who can’t,” he said.
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.