Can you imagine commuting over 1,000 miles to work? An article on the front page of the Sunday New York Times told the story of airline pilots working at hubs over 1,000 miles from their place of residence. One pilot moved out of the United States to Panama City, Panama, in order to leverage her income in a place with a very low cost of living.
Telecommuting can accomplish the same thing, without spending all day in an airport waiting for an open seat so you can go home. Pittsburgh is home to a relatively low cost of living, a major airport, and world class universities. What is lacking is the infrastructure to support a large telecommuting community.
What kind of infrastructure is needed? First, Pittsburgh should transform public education to provide students with the skills needed to work and socialize via telecommunications. Second, the region should invest heavily in broadband technologies in downtown areas. That is, draw the telecommuters downtown to free hot spots and fully equiped workspaces, along with associated services. Third connect key areas for the developing knowledge economy, namely downtown Pittsburgh, Oakland, and the airport. Rail with free WiFi would be the transport of choice.
I envision Pittsburgh as a center for telecommuting innovation, a colloborative cauldron for the Burgh Diaspora.