First and foremost, it is important to note that astronomers think it is highly unlikely that the signal is caused by space aliens trying to communicate with us. Even the researchers involved in Breakthrough Listen do not make that claim.
In addition, it is simply much more likely that the radio signal is of terrestrial origin. We live in a world of radio signals, from AM and FM broadcasts of current music hits to cell phones and errant emissions from microwave ovens. And, with its frequency of 980.002 MHz, it’s very curious that the signal frequency happens to be so close to an integer. If this is a signal from alien life, this would suggest it counts time in seconds the way we do. Plus, the signal is a single frequency. Radio transmissions need to vary in strength or frequency to transmit information, and this one doesn’t, so if it is an alien trying to communicate, they’re clearly not trying to tell us much.
So, sadly, it’s likely that this potentially exciting signal has an ordinary cause. But that is quite beside the point. The important thing is that, whether it was generated by aliens or not, humanity detected the signal. We are gazing out into the cosmos, actively looking to see if we have cosmic neighbors. And that is good. It is something we should be doing.
One day, that scene acted out in “Contact” will be real. Some researcher will be surprised by a faint and scratchy signal from the sky — a signal that will change everything. But only if we’re listening. When ET does make that call, someone should be manning the phones.