Oct 25 2012
By Megan Totka
Broadband has long been touted as a source of economic benefit to local communities. In fact, the federal government has for years been working to develop and execute a plan that would provide every American with access to broadband capability. The National Broadband Plan was developed with the input and assistance of those directly affected by the availability of broadband technology: the American public.
Construction of the plan was based on the assumption that universal broadband access would benefit all Americans. This assumption was based on research. In the last few years, several organizations and government agencies have conducted surveys and studies of the impact of broadband on small businesses and local economies. Though the exact relationship of broadband access to economic growth is more complex than it is often made out to be, the community-level benefits of affordable broadband access are undeniable and well documented. At the local level, broadband access:
- Allows small communities and small businesses to compete globally. With access to broadband technology, rural and other smaller communities become competitive players in the digital revolution. These communities are able to attract new companies, jobs, and investments that would not be available to them without a high-speed connection to the global marketplace. This same high-speed connection allows small businesses to attract non-local customers they would never have been able to reach otherwise through many different ways such as publishing business news. For a significantly smaller investment than would be required for traditional marketing, small businesses can use broadband technology to reach consumers around the world.
- Helps individual workers and job-seekers connect with resources. With affordable broadband access, local residents are able to overcome barriers to educational, training, and job opportunities. Geography and finances no longer stand in the way of individuals who are motivated to learn and grow through online education classes. Changes in local industries and economies no longer direct the lives of those communities’ members. With broadband access, people can retrain, search for jobs, and even work remotely.
- Is considered a basic utility by small business owners. According to a 2010 small business survey by the Small Business Administration, “respondents indicate[d] Internet service is an important tool for achieving strategic goals, improving competitiveness and efficiency, reaching customers, and interacting with vendors. Respondents indicate[d] that high-speed (broadband) Internet access is as essential to their business as other utilities such as water, sewer, or electricity.”
It is clear from the research that broadband can help local communities attract new industries and local businesses attract new customers. Still, the advantages of broadband are more than economic. ChamberofCommerce.com’s CEO David Bayer has spent time studying the research around broadband access and believes that, while “the availability of broadband service has been shown to have what is likely a causal relationship to economic development at the local level,” this is only part of the picture. According to Bayer, the advantages of broadband “are not simply economic. From education to healthcare to homeland security, broadband availability benefits individuals, businesses, and local communities in significant and measurable ways.”
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com which is the largest online business directory on the web. ChamberofCommerce.com also connects local businesses to their local Chamber of Commerce.
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