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Findings on the Economic Benefits of Broadband Expansion to Rural and Remote Areas.

Hupka, Yuri.

Internet access has become vital to a progressive society. Communities with broadband access experience a wide array of economic, educational, and social advantages. However, many rural and remote areas are without sufficient bandwidth to fully and effectively participate in the world economy.

The perceived gap between areas with and without sufficient bandwidth is known as the 'digital divide'. While the 'digital divide' was once a problem of access, internet proliferation in recent years has made it an issue of connection quality and speed. Congress as well as many private and public organizations have noted these problems and are initiating policies to counter them. However, development is slow due to perceived high costs and low benefits.

In reality, there are more benefits than many businesses expect. Research indicates that small communities and surrounding rural areas with high quality broadband access reap both short and long term economic benefits. Short term benefits are characterized by modest increases in business and job growth. Business growth is realized through practical applications such as e-commerce and cost reductions. For this reason, many businesses have already reached out to rural areas thus giving rise to the recent trend called 'rural sourcing'. Some long term benefits include growth in population, per capita income, and even GDP.

However, broadband access does not just help businesses in these outlying areas. Rural communities and its citizens also benefit. Educational and government institutions can use high speed internet for scholastic and vocational training thus building a competent and competitive workforce. Medical providers require high-speed connections to supply telehealth which can immensely improve health care in rural areas. Also, research indicates that adequately connected citizens are often more involved in their communities.

By prudently developing and creatively financing broadband, rural communities can keep pace with the global economy and prepare citizens for participation and competition in the modern world.

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Prepared in partnership with Region 5 Development Commissionby the Community Assistantship Program (CAP), which is administered by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
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