When people unfamiliar with the rubber industry study the sector and its impact, it usually ends with them being amazed at the reach and impact rubber has. And with the material and the products made from it being so vital in everyday life, it should be no surprise that opportunities appear in a wide variety of places.
One such area that may be worth focusing on is the renewed effort to boost the availability of high-speed internet to areas where the access either is limited or non-existent. While the market for producing jacketing for wire and cable is highly fragmented, those producing and supplying rubber and thermoplastic elastomer products for such projects could see a major boost to business.
The push to increase such internet access goes back more than a decade, with the National Broadband Plan that was introduced in March 2010, part of the recovery act that was enacted during the Great Recession. The initiative had mixed results over the ensuing years, but was brought back into the public eye when President Biden's infrastructure bill included a push to make high-speed broadband available nationwide, including to more than a third of the rural population who don't have such access.
Part of the debate centered on why such a provision would be included in an infrastructure package. After all, it's not roads or bridges, or other things thought of as being "traditional" infrastructure projects.
But as changes in technology have advanced exponentially, the internet became a critical component to everyday life. The problem is that as it becomes more important—for such things as eduction, everyday commerce activities such as paying bills, and for potentially life saving applications like emergency alerts—people who live in rural areas or those that are typically left behind socioeconomically are further isolated and have bigger hurdles to overcome.
During the pandemic, most schooling was done online, as was the difficult task of signing up for COVID-19 vaccines online. That left a good deal of the population who lacked internet connections or technology capabilities at a disadvantage that will continue to grow if broadband isn't prioritized as a basic necessity in the infrastructure plans.
If the initiative to expand broadband moves forward, there will be ample opportunities for rubber firms involved in wire and cable. Those likely to benefit the most are suppliers that get involved in the process early and can provide the innovation to solve any problems in the efforts and, as always, make them less costly.