Broadband, Local Economies and the Age of COVID: A Report

Craig Settles has released a new report (Broadband, Local Economies and the Age of COVID) based on a survey of 200 economic developers…

In this year’s survey, 200 recipients weighed in on the state of broadband, starting with an assessment of ISP competition as well as broadband alternative to the giant ISPs for communities. This report concludes with some insights and advice for how we can continue to leverage community broadband.

This year, economic development professionals participated from across the U.S. to provide insights and observations.

  • Has COVID-19 set back broadband advance as well as hopes of closing the digital divide?
  • Respondents have a markedly increased interest in telehealth as a local economic tool this year than they had 18 months ago.
  • Some survey participants have witnessed the influence broadband had on low-income and unemployed workers becoming entrepreneurs before and after COVID-19 struck.
  • Respondent weighed in on the impacts of COVID-19 on the determinants of economic development.
  • Federal and state broadband policies and funding rules work to the detriment of local communities.
  • Ultimately, what are the roles of broadband and digital technologies when COVID-19 is done with us?

Here are some of the observations, they made…

  • “There’s a reason ‘broadband is a super-determinant of public health,” says Dr. Bento Lobo, an economist who has researched extensively broadband’s, telehealth’s, and public health’s economic impact. “By having a 10 GB fiber network in his home office, Dr. Jim Busch and the other radiologists together at Diagnostic Radiology Consultants (DRC) save $18.2 million a year in time,” says Dr. Lobo. ”The typical radiologist saves a thousand hours a year.”
  • Pay attention to where cities and towns deploy limited-reach public networks because these locations drive broadband deployment throughout communities. While we see COVID-19 turning healthcare and education delivery on its head, these networks can be foundations on which the two industries establish new delivery points. Limited-reach networks can transform anchor institutions such as libraries and schools into new telehealth delivery points. Telehealth and education nonprofits can consider “adopting” public housing facilities and deliver network services to the underserved. Community centers and abandoned office buildings can have these networks create worker spaces, temporary hospitals and after-school study halls.
  • The promised economic impact of telehealth will not be fully achieved until communities address digital literacy among both doctors and patients. In my first telehealth visit my iPhone showed a “mic” icon, which is how the doc and I know we have an audio connection. But the connection didn’t work, neither of us had time, so we talked on the phone, defeating the purpose of the app.
This entry was posted in economic development, Research and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

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

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