I’ve been sitting on an article from the Daily Yonder for weeks now. Authors Kelsey Conley and Brian Whitacre wrote about the “downside of broadband” for rural entrepreneurialism. Condensing the article to near bullet points, here’s the description of the downside…
When it comes to broadband adoption, we found that high levels of broadband adoption in nonmetropolitan counties are associated with lower levels of creative-class employees both at a specific point in time (2011) and over time (2000-2011). Similar negative relationships were found between broadband adoption and entrepreneurs both for a specific time (2012) and changes over time (2000-2012) in nonmetropolitan counties.
Switching over to broadband availability, these same negative findings persisted – with one exception. The one positive relationship that exists in these nonmetropolitan counties is between the percentage of entrepreneurs and broadband availability in 2012.
And here is a hypothesis on why broadband adoption might hinder new businesses…
Why were these results found? One explanation could be that increases in rural broadband adoption led to discoveries of job opportunities in non-entrepreneurial sectors. For example, an entrepreneur in a rural area might use their new broadband connection to find a better employment opportunity (either locally or perhaps in a more urban area). Therefore, this increased broadband adoption led to a decrease in entrepreneurship in rural areas.
The numbers are clear and the reasoning makes sense to me. I’m just not so sure we can say that’s a downside. I think increased entrepreneurialism is a positive byproduct of a down economy but not a reason to try to sustain a down economy. That being said, it would be nice to find a way to use broadband to encourage entrepreneurialism even in an improved economy.
For example, in a recent survey in Chisago County, residents indicated that 31 percent would start a business with better broadband. Knowing that people may become more risk averse with better broadband maybe it makes sense to start supporting, encouraging an training entrepreneurs now – as broadband improvements are being planned.