Broadband and Economic Development: Surveys Show…

In September, I wrote about a sneak preview of study from Craig Settles on Moving the Needle Forward on Broadband and Economic Development, which looked at the gap between what politicians seem to be touting as an outcome of better broadband and the actual reasonably expected benefits of broadband. The full report is now available. (I’m hoping that we’ll hear more about the report and the connection between broadband and economic development next month at the broadband conference in Duluth (Nov 13-14): Building our Connected Future: Minnesota’s Better with Broadband. Craig is one of the keynote speakers.

One of the things I really liked about the preview is that it provided a realistic chart that economic developers could use to figure out what kind of broadband speeds are required to achieve the goals they are trying to meet in their communities. The full report continues on with that theme; I think it works as a nice tool for economic developers and policymakers.

The original survey went to 1000 people; 365 recipients completed the survey. Here’s a breakdown of those respondents:

30% and 29% of respondents serve cities and counties respectively. 21% serve regions within their states. There is a heavy representation of rural communities (36%) and 20% of respondents serve a combination of rural, urban and suburban communities. Respondents overall represent areas with wide ranges of populations.

And here are the highlights, based on Craig’s blog post about the report:

  • only 11% of economic developers believe broadband’s biggest economic benefit to individuals is helping them find jobs;
  • 18% of respondents have insufficient speeds to produce economic outcomes listed and have given up hope for a solution;
  • another 13% do not have enough speed to get the job done, but are actively trying to find or create a solution;
  • 43.5% of respondents’ jurisdictions exist under duopoly conditions, 15.5% are in communities that live with a broadband monopoly;
  • about 12% of respondent’ say their communities plan to start building broadband networks in the next 18 months, another 22% hope to build a network at some point in the future;
  • 64% of respondents reject convention broadband remedies for urban areas to say “faster speeds, cheaper services” will have the biggest impact on economic development (value of computing centers compromised by crappy infrastructure in poor communities);
  • fiber continues to outshine wireless in terms of expected impact on economic outcomes, with the biggest gap in expectations in the areas of attracting businesses to a community and making local companies more competitive; and
  • 41% – 48% of respondents believe broadband can increase the number of home-based businesses; and
  • significant percentages of respondents say broadband adoption doesn’t mean jack if there are not programs in place to support workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses who get broadband access.

The report includes a nice comparison of economic impacts based on wireless versus fiber connectivity. Fiber clearly comes out on top, but it’s nice to see the delta, especially given the cost difference in deploying the two options.

Accompanying the report are open ended responses to two questions:

  1. Do you expect an increase in communities (through co-ops, nonprofits, community foundations, etc.) literally taking broadband infrastructure buildouts into their own hands? If so, how will these organizations overcome funding challenges?
  2. This is your opportunity to cut loose and tell us what you really think. How can you and your professional peers help communities get broadband services that improve local economic development?
This entry was posted in FTTH, Policy, Research, Rural, Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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