Friday, March 27, 2009

Does Broadband Boost ED?

A new study released by IEDC (International Economic Development Council) seeks to answer the question if broadband boosts economic development.

The study, "The Economic Development Impact of Municipal Broadband," by Craig Settles of, is not a study of the economic impact of municipal broadband systems, but rather a survey of economic development (e.d.) professionals' opinions of the contribution of broadband to effective economic development.

The survey begins with the observation that "elected officials have abandoned their free-muni-WiFi (broad)bandwagons, weaker but wiser." Nevertheless, Settles says this survey supports his 2005 survey of e.d. professionals that broadband investments improve economic development. The targeted population came from the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) membership.

Here are some highpoints from the 22% of respondents that report having muni broadband systems businesses can access. Most often respondents said, to the question of broadband's impact:
  • new businesses moved to the area: too difficult to measure
  • existing businesses stayed: too difficult to measure
  • local companies bettered: too difficult to measure
  • more tourists visiting: too difficult to measure
  • increase in large events: no impact
  • revitalized business areas: too soon to tell

Overall, the majority of e.d. professionals believe broadband is a major tool, especially if targeted, that should lead to significant economic benefits. Wireless networks are cast in a negative light (he cites the WiFi network failures in 2007). And, Settles asks the obvious question: if the existence of broadband is not an economic development catalyst, how do e.d. professionals use this tool boost e.d.?

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