How Broadband Enhances Local Economies

Thu, December 03, 2020

Rural America’s economic development is tied more and more to broadband connectivity. BroadbandUSA’s November webinar illustrated how communities, broadband providers, and other stakeholders can build partnerships to foster resilient economies through broadband infrastructure buildout and adoption in rural areas.

Lauren Mathena, Director of Economic Development at Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), highlighted the benefits realized through MBC’s community and business partnerships. They use an open-access partnership model that allows ISPs and other providers to build out cost-effective broadband service. MBC’s network has been critical in the last-mile broadband deployment for Halifax, VA residents. It has extended its network to all of the industrial parks in southern Virginia, and MBC credits these investments with attracting companies to the region, including Microsoft, which has invested $3 billion to date in its data center in Mecklenburg County.

Indraneel Kumar, Principal Regional Planner at Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development, presented a study of the economic contributions of small, rural communications providers across the United States. Providers studied serve nearly 35% of the country’s landmass, but less than 5% of the country’s telecom subscribers. In 2017, these providers contributed more than 77,000 jobs and more than $10 billion in economic activity across industries. The study also found a multiplier effect: that approximately two additional jobs were created in the regional economy for every job created by a provider.

Josh Seiderman, Vice President of Policy for NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, emphasized the impact their 850 small community-operated, facilities-based broadband providers have on communities. Members of NTCA’s Smart Rural Community Program have assisted students with virtual field trips and industrial arts classes and supported staff through online tutorials, lectures, and continuing education. Broadband has enabled NTCA members to aid agricultural production, expand telehealth services, and improve access to employment.

Speakers drove home the importance of broadband not only for rural communities themselves, but for economic development on a statewide and national level. Broadband infrastructure enables scalability for precision agriculture and other emerging technologies alongside benefits to public safety, and access to education and health services. These benefit rural and urban Americans alike.

To listen to an archive of the webinar, visit the BroadbandUSA website. BroadbandUSA hosts monthly webinars on broadband access and utilization and digital inclusion. Follow us on Twitter @NTIAgov to learn more and get updates on NTIA and BroadbandUSA’s work.