Our newsletter, to be delivered twice monthly, will explore pertinent issues related to smart technology, clean energy and sustainable agriculture. Our goal is to keep a finger on the pulse of industry trends and how they relate to Novus’s goals and success.
Broadband expansion drives social equity, economic opportunity
As part of the Biden administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, $65 billion is planned to expand high-speed internet access to unserved or underserved communities — many of them in rural locales and tribal lands. Additionally, subsidies will allow low-income households to pay for service as well as crucial devices like laptops and tablets.
The bill divides that $65 billion into two primary initiatives: $42 billion in grants to states in support of broadband infrastructure expansion and another $15 billion to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income households.
This legislation effectively frames broadband not as a luxury but into a necessity — much like water or electricity. At the household level, high-speed internet allows people to access vital services like education and virtual healthcare. That some 30 million Americans currently can’t connect could create some dire disparities.
Meanwhile, research shows that closing the digital divide can drive economic growth. A recent study by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group found that a lack of universal high-speed internet service is associated with a 3% dip in labor productivity, resulting in a 2% decrease in total economic output. High-speed internet connectivity would not only provide new efficiency to existing enterprises, but it might also make these areas more attractive to businesses seeking to relocate to or establish themselves in regions with lower costs of living.
Telecom titans like AT&T and Comcast are expected to see a tremendous infusion of cash from this legislation, though these companies have expressed concern about additional government oversight. For example, the bill would require companies receiving federal funds to be transparent about pricing so consumers can shop around and to offer low-cost packages.
But it’s worth pointing out that a number of smaller players could also enter the game. The Utah-based startup WeLink, which raised $185 million in January, uses 5G and wireless base stations to transmit signals. And NetEquity, headquartered in San Francisco, deploys fiber along electrical grids to provide signal. Starlink, an offshoot of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, uses a constellation of broadband internet satellites to beam signals back to Earth.
Additionally, the bill places priority on networks owned, operated by or affiliated with local governments, co-ops and nonprofits. Already, a handful of states including Virginia and Missouri have announced plans to use funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to increase broadband investments.
In Other News
The new math of employee Compensation?
Tech companies like Facebook, Google and VMWare recently have come under fire for potential plans to cut compensation for remote workers who move from hubs like San Francisco to smaller cities with lower costs of living. Some see this action as punitive, but others argue that factoring locale into calculations when determining pay can contribute to improved equity in an increasingly global workforce.
Water Conservation cannot be an afterthought...
Ever notice that so many unicorn-level companies were founded by immigrants? New research indicates that immigrants are more likely to start businesses than members of the native population because they tend to be more willing to take risks. A megadrought in the western U.S. has spurred historically low water levels at Arizona’s Lake Mead, creating a significant water shortage for almost 40 million people. Incidents like these reiterate a recent warning from the World Economic Forum that ESG frameworks must expand to include water access and sanitation into their metrics to ensure safety and well-being in the years to come.
...But we still appreciate these water-focused solutions
There are a handful of companies, including GoSun, that make off-grid machines that turn ambient air into fresh water. The units are still expensive — small machines intended for single-family homes cost about $30,000 — but could still be beneficial to drought-stricken areas that don’t have infrastructure like desalination or reclamation plants.
A greener side to fintech
Aspiration Partners, which promotes itself as fintech for environmentalists, recently announced plans to go public via SPAC. The $2.3 billion deal will position Aspiration as the first publicly traded ESG-focused fintech firm.
Things go boom
By aiming 192 enormous lasers at a hydrogen pellet, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory created a burst of more than 10 quadrillion watts of fusion power. This fusion reaction is the same chemical process occurring in our sun and other stars. The blast was over in a tiny fraction of a second, but the spark lends itself to increased optimism for the potential of fusion to one day create clean energy.