Broadband has consistently been described as a tool or asset to help communities improve local economic development. In the past few years, a lot of effort has gone into positioning broadband as our newest utility, vital as our mainstay electric, gas and water utilities. Every year I dig a little bit via a survey to learn how much the hype about broadband’s impact on local economies reflects the reality.
This year’s survey asks members of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the largest professional association of economic developers, key questions regarding broadband’s impact on local economies. These questions test some general assumptions made about outcomes that broadband produces, and also enables survey respondents to assess some of the value broadband brings to their communities.
Get the full report here. Some of this year’s findings include:
- 55% report their jurisdictions are stuck with monopoly or duopoly condition with no meaningful competition to drive prices down or quality up.
- 18% have fiber networks, 24% plan to build one and 20% might in the future.
- Overall, 35% of total respondents report good broadband availability, 17% report having bad or no availability (28% of rural respondents have bad availability.
- 26% say residences and businesses pay too much and get too little broadband value, 50% indicate current services may not be a good value in several years.
- A sizeable majority of respondents believe various types of support programs must be included with fast broadband in order to impact local economies.
- Broadband-driven healthcare delivery is the sleeping giant of economic development, and 43% of respondents see this as a major economic issue.
- Economic developers need to really push the envelope aggressively when it comes to evaluating ways to fund broadband.
- There are significant differences between the responses of respondents from rural jurisdictions compared to total respondents when assessing broadband policies such as net neutrality and increasing competition.
The survey questions were grouped into four main sections.
The first asks members to report on the current state of highspeed Internet access in their jurisdictions. The second section poses questions about how sufficient is broadband in their communities for improving existing businesses, attracting new companies, improving education and healthcare delivery.
The third section asks respondents to assess options for funding broadband networks, as well as models for communities to own and operate the business of broadband, even if a community doesn’t own the infrastructure. The fourth addresses key broadband policy issues such as facilitating competition and providing consumer protections.
The survey closed with an open-ended question to get some additional thoughts from respondents: What are two things economic development professionals such as yourself need to do to help the network impact specific outcomes?
The report is a synopsis of the data collected, plus a knowledge gathered during my consultations and interviews with various communities across the U.S. Economic developers or other community stakeholders can retain me to provide additional data from the survey, provide analysis services, or provide services to move your broadband project forward. E-mail craig @ cjspeaks.com for more details.
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