Economic Development: The “Killer App” for Local Fiber Networks

We mentioned in yesterday’s blog why one of the “2014 Worst Policy Ideas” listed by Wonkblog included “Blocking Cities from Selling Their Own Internet.”  Check out this recent article co-authored by CLIC and Broadband Communities, for another piece of the “why?” “Economic Development: The Killer App for Local Fiber Networks.”  It provides an extensive analysis of what many communities have experienced first hand – the positive association between investments in fiber broadband networks and economic growth and development.

The article begins by surveying some of the most notable research performed on the relationship between broadband and economic development.  One study considered the effects of broadband expansion nationally and found that a “positive relationship” exists between broadband expansion and local economic growth.  Another study examined the effects of broadband adoption in rural areas and concluded that “high levels of broadband adoption in rural areas do causally (and positively) impact income growth.”

What is also useful is the way the piece  catalogs the economic impact of fiber networks in seventeen communities from across the country.  Each community utilized a different model to develop and deploy fiber networks—some built networks themselves, some built middle mile networks, some engaged in partnerships with the private sector, and still others worked with community organizations or incumbent providers.  Each community also experienced the success of the networks differently—some communities saw new industries take root, others saw businesses chose to relocate in their communities, others experienced thousands of new jobs, while others noted hundreds of thousands of dollars in government savings.  In each community, however, fiber networks were a critical driver of economic development.

As the article notes, there are not many areas in which community leaders, businesses, institutions, and residents consistently find common ground, but promoting economic development is one of them.  Fiber networks are not only an investment in a community’s technology infrastructure, but also an investment in a community’s economic future.