Monday, August 18, 2014

Rural broadband availability still lacking; counties need to adopt technology and learn how to use it

Providing greater access to broadband in rural counties doesn't do much to further economic growth unless those areas choose to adopt the technology and are taught how to use it to better themselves, says a study published in Telecommunications Policy by researchers at Oklahoma State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Texas.

"Researchers found that broadband availability alone was far less important to growth than adoption," reports the National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center. "Counties with a high level of broadband adoption — those in which 60 percent or more of the households had a wired high-speed internet connection — experienced higher income growth and saw a smaller increase in unemployment rates than did counties that did not reach the 60 percent threshold. Similarly, counties with low adoption rates — those in which less than 40 percent of the households had broadband — saw lower growth in their numbers of businesses and total numbers of employees."

"Researchers used 2010 U.S. county-level data to compare all non-metro counties in terms of their broadband availability and adoption," the center writes. "They then compared these counties in terms of their economic growth between 2001 and 2010, using indicators like household income, employment growth, and number of firms. When they analyzed the two data sets together, they found a significant relationship between broadband adoption and economic growth."

Author Brian Whitacre, from OSU, said: “If you look at how we’ve been spending money, the vast majority goes to establishing infrastructure in rural areas. There’s not much being spent on showing people what can be done with broadband, or getting people to use it productively. We might want to spend more public funds on promoting adoption, as opposed to just giving people access by subsidizing the providers.” (Read more)

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