WASHINGTON — A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) economic analysis has found that rural communities with greater broadband Internet access had greater economic growth than areas with less access.
The study, “Broadband Internet’s Value for Rural America” by economists at USDA’s Economic Research Service, compared counties that had broadband access relatively early (by 2000) with similarly situated counties that had little or no broadband access. Employment growth was higher and non-farm private earnings greater in counties with a longer history of broadband availability.
By 2007, the study found, most households (82 percent) with in-home Internet access had a broadband connection. However, there was a marked difference between urban and rural broadband use. Only 70 percent of rural households with in-home Internet access had a broadband connection in 2007, compared with 84 percent of urban households.
Most employment growth in the U.S. over the last several decades has been in the service sector, which is especially conducive for broadband applications. Broadband allows rural areas to compete for low-and high-end service jobs, from call centers to software development. The farm sector is increasingly comprised of farm businesses that buy inputs and make sales online, the study found.