The Time to Invest in Digital Infrastructure Is Now

The bipartisan bill shows we’re willing to invest in our nation’s physical infrastructure, but we must do the same for our digital infrastructure

Jon Lin
The Time to Invest in Digital Infrastructure Is Now

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act bill currently being debated in the U.S. Congress will direct $550 billion in new federal spending to help update the nation’s aging roads, rail, mass transit, water pipes and more. If passed into law, the bill could be transformational for our nation’s physical infrastructure. However, we strongly believe that the federal government must make a similar commitment to investing in our nation’s digital infrastructure, which in many cases is just as old and neglected as the bridges and railroads targeted by this bill.

The $550 billion in total funding does include $65 billion for expanding broadband internet access and $65 billion for rebuilding the electric grid. We view these investments as a step in the right direction, but we also believe that the federal government must prioritize further digital infrastructure investments going forward.

The time for a digital-first strategy is now.

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A large portion of our nation’s internet traffic travels via cables buried alongside roads and railways, so the connection between digital infrastructure and physical infrastructure is not as abstract as some might think. Like the roads and railways they run alongside, these cables are often relics from another era. American businesses simply can’t keep up with the latest technologies using digital infrastructure that’s 30 to 40 years old.

New infrastructure investments must promote sustainability

The infrastructure bill is a logical extension of the current administration’s sustainability agenda—one in which technology will play a key role. One of the more obvious examples of this would be the investment set aside for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to give citizens greater access to vehicles that can help limit emissions. However, the infrastructure bill also includes more subtle opportunities to promote sustainability.

Previous generations of infrastructure weren’t always designed with sustainability in mind, and we can’t ensure a sustainable future while continuing to rely on physical and digital infrastructure from the past. Equinix has made sustainability a top priority in our own business, including a goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2030. We’re investing in sustainable digital infrastructure to help our customers meet their climate goals, and we encourage the federal government to do the same with its infrastructure investments.

 Broadband investments help ensure more equitable access to the internet

Of course, you can’t talk about a sustainable future without also talking about an inclusive future. Investing in digital infrastructure can help us start addressing interconnection equality. We were pleased to see funding for increased broadband access included in the infrastructure bill because we’ve made it one of our corporate goals to serve and connect all people and communities equally. Unfortunately, lack of broadband internet access can compound inequalities for traditionally marginalized communities.

For underserved areas such as rural communities and Native American territories, expanding broadband internet access could be a game changer. For instance, schools would be able to connect to new educational opportunities, giving students in these remote areas a much-needed boost to help them keep up with their counterparts in more well-connected areas. Further digital infrastructure investments in these areas could only do more to help level the playing field. We fully support this mission, and we believe it lines up well with our own diversity and inclusion efforts.

Digital infrastructure investment enables modern capabilities such as AI/ML

In many ways, federal agencies themselves are among the organizations with the most to gain from new digital infrastructure investments. Settling on a digital transformation strategy based on hybrid multicloud is a great start toward modernizing IT infrastructures, as it will allow agencies to maintain data-intensive processes on legacy on-premises environments, while also embracing public clouds for greater performance and cost-efficiency. This helps the agencies get the best of both worlds from their IT infrastructure, letting them select the ideal home for each specific workload.

However, in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented by hybrid multicloud, agencies need access to an ecosystem of government and industry partners, and they need to be able to connect to those partners quickly and easily. Without these interconnections, federal agencies will be unable to fully operationalize the promise of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Agencies understand that AI/ML can help them make more informed decisions faster, optimize processes and predict trends. However, due to data privacy concerns, many of them have struggled to create the trusted, efficient data and algorithm sharing needed to power AI-driven innovation. By implementing a flexible, secure data marketplace that offers several ways to share datasets using different security requirements, agencies can truly unlock the power of AI/ML. We believe that digital infrastructure investments will be instrumental in helping agencies get the connectivity they need to capitalize on AI and other advanced technologies.

Interconnection helps agencies leave floppy disks where they belong: in the past

In addition, modernizing IT can help federal agencies move data quickly and efficiently, without exposing it to cybersecurity threats. Moving data over the internet can be a risky proposition even for public sector businesses; for federal agencies, the very idea is a non-starter.

This has left agencies having to get creative to move their data without causing national security vulnerabilities. For instance, Equinix worked with one federal agency partner that was mailing physical floppy disks from overseas back to its headquarters in the U.S. To put that in perspective, the agency was being forced to rely on decades-old technology just to keep our nation’s sensitive data protected. Equinix was able to show them a better way.

We worked with the partner in question to help them interconnect via Equinix Fabric™. This enables the agency to move data wherever it needs to go, with no floppy disks required. Since the interconnection allows them to bypass the public internet, their data is still protected, just in a much more efficient, modernized way.

This is just one example of what’s possible when federal agencies work with an experienced digital infrastructure company—such as Equinix—that has an expansive regional, national and global reach. We believe that further federal investment in digital infrastructure will help us continue to unlock new IT modernization opportunities for our government agency partners around the world.

Equinix is the digital transformation partner federal agencies need

Equinix Government Solutions understands the unique challenges federal agencies face, and our technical expertise bridges legacy systems and the systems of the future, such as cloud and edge computing. We can help our federal partners undertake a mission-driven transformation, emulating the architecture patterns of native digital companies to keep pace in a rapidly changing world.

To learn more, schedule a Digital Edge Strategy Briefing to plan your hybrid digital infrastructure deployment.

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Jon Lin Executive Vice President and General Manager, Data Center Services
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