After the Stimulus: Broadband and Economic Development

One of the big debates that goes on constantly is the one that asks, what’s the real economic development value of broadband. Of special interest to me, of course, is community broadband – networks run in part or in total by local government and/or stakeholders from within the community.

Last year the U.S. broadband stimulus program finished awarding public, private and nonprofit organizations over $7 billion to build new broadband infrastructure, create public computing centers and implement broadband adoption programs. Concurrently, hundreds of millions have come from private and other public sources for broadband. Improving economic development is a driving force behind these investments.

However, what have we accomplished for our investments, particularly in underserved urban and rural communities? It is a little early in the process, though, and only a small portion of the stimulus checks have been issued. Perhaps the more important question is, what economic outcomes can we hope to achieve in the next two or three years?

My national survey of economic development professionals, conducted in partnership with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) produced results that provide a number of clues. Here’s a sampling of this year’s findings.

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