Broadband expansion to this point has mostly been driven by consumers: user fees for telephony and internet access underpins the business models of the firms providing access.
That will continue to be true — but augmented by two important new trends.
First, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a voracious consumer of bandwidth. Gartner estimates that 20 million items will be connected by 2020 (and growing quickly). Just the bandwidth needs for self-driving cars alone will be enormous. So no longer will just consumers be paying for access: 20 million items will as well.
Secondly, artificial intelligence (AI) derives its value from collecting and analyzing vast quantities of data. This value will depend on a broadband infrastructure as a key component.
So the “global nervous system” is going to expand massively in coming years in order to allow our HomePods to speak to our Teslas. And as a convenient side effect of this connectivity, the whole planet will be gaining access as well, much of it for the first time.