OLD ORCHARD BEACH – As we debate how to kick-start a stalled economy, it might help to think in generational terms — rather than occasional — and to be guided by the lessons we’ve already learned from our own history.

Think back to Civil War America, to the Industrial Revolution and to the Great Depression when governmental approval and initiatives for really big ideas spurred private businesses into action. America’s historical leaps in prosperity came from investing in our infrastructure. Each was a highway of sorts.

Armies of Americans built railways, bridges, roads, airports, dams and electrical transmission grids that not only created immediate jobs, but literally paved the way for businesses to get products delivered to markets. In our modern era, those transportation highways have been joined by a mighty river of communications potential: the Internet.

While already strong, It’s real power to improve the daily lives, the safety and the economic power of America is hampered and needs to be released.

There is simply no debate that broadband communications have become vital to the American workplace. From the sidewalk vendor upgrading to accept credit cards, to designers working with the latest cloud programs, we are, in many ways, a connected society. Yet vast areas of our country and millions of our citizens are strung out on a wire — literally.

First responders and public safety personnel are hampered by an inability to communicate with each other. Urgently needed and available data is unable to be effectively transmitted both privately and within the public arena.

Entire segments of our society are critically hamstrung because they can’t access the most powerful information-sharing highway ever created.

Studies consistently indicate that rural America, in particular, has been left out of the broadband revolution. As staggering private investments in fiber optic and cable broadband have predictably woven their way throughout urban centers, rural America has been left behind in a proverbial dust bowl.

Here in Maine, we’ve put an economic stimulus grant of $25.4 million to work through the Three Ring Binder project, an initiative that is already attracting attention from potential businesses. We’ve recognized that an open-access, high-speed fiber optic network will do more than any sign on a highway to improve the way life can be and help get us to where we should be.

This project truly tells business leaders that Mainers are serious about attracting new companies and feeding the entrepreneurial spirit that has historically defined Maine’s culture. Equally important, it tells all Mainers that they matter, that their ability to participate in the unimpeded flow of information is vital to the well-being of our state.

For example, the FCC is currently reviewing a comprehensive proposal initiated by a Virginia company called LightSquared that would build out a new 4G wireless broadband infrastructure to 95 percent of the country by 2015.

It would be privately funded and is precisely the type of market innovation and infrastructure development that our private sector should be doing, as a partner with government, to rebuild our economy and lay a foundation for long-term economic growth.

Faced with the greatest economic calamity in over 60 years, our national governmental leaders should act with the same sense of urgency that confronts their constituents on a daily basis. When America built it’s transcontinental railways, its electrical power grids, its airports and its interstate highway system, it was job growth in the companies that used those facilities that radically improved our economic future.

Individual and business consumers alike will instantly benefit from the increased competition in the telecommunications industry and the yet-untapped business opportunities that will be fueled by a 21st-century telecommunications system.

Americans must return to the true pioneer spirit. Government is not at war with business. Any great sustainable national economy can only be accomplished by a consistently determined joint task-force of private enterprise married with solid governmental leadership, support and guidance.

We already know the power this river can release. It’s time to make it happen.