Broadband Access: An Economic Development Tool for Cities

January 16, 2012
by Julia Pulidindi

As evidenced by a recent surge of public investment in technology, the nexus between broadband access and a community's economic wellbeing is becoming more defined.

Funding in 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reinforced the idea that broadband access leads to fundamental and sustainable economic growth. Broadband, which is commonly defined as high-speed Internet service, enhances educational and workforce training opportunities, and drives innovation - factors that encourage a robust and thriving economy and can help the nation compete in today's global economy.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2011, the United States is ranked 15th among 30 developed and developing nations in deploying broadband services. This is a significant decline from the 1990s, when the United States was a global leader in providing broadband access.

The argument supporting widespread broadband access can sometimes get blurred because connectivity doesn't always translate to adoption, or usage, of technology.

A huge chunk of the population that does not have access to broadband (26 million people who live primarily in rural areas), but about a third of all Americans, many of whom do have access, do not subscribe to it, according to a 2011 Federal Communications Commission report. High costs, low digital literacy rates, privacy concerns and a lack of understanding of what access can provide people with are contributing factors to this statistic.

Recognizing how important broadband is to communities, NLC's Information Technology and Communications (ITC) Policy and Advocacy Committee has been, and still is, focused on broadband deployment.

Last year, in response to the Administration's newly announced wireless initiative, 2011 ITC Chairman Andy Huckaba, councilmember, Lenexa, Kan., said, "Broadband is a powerful economic development tool. Expanding service will allow existing business to grow, new business to form and encourage innovation. Strengthening our nation's broadband network will give our communities the competitive advantage they need to succeed in today's global economy."

To delve further into that connection between broadband connectivity and economic development, NLC will be holding a webinar, entitled The National Broadband Map: An Economic Development Tool for Cities, on January 25, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. In 2011, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched the National Broadband Map (NBM), a tool local governments can use to assess broadband.

This interactive online map captures 20 million datasets to show what high-speed Internet services are available in communities across the country. NLC is excited to promote this tool to its members because of the impact it can have on increasing broadband access to their communities. 

Details: For more information and to register for the webinar, please visit NLC's Infrastructure page or contact Julia Pulidindi at pulidindi@nlc.org or (202) 626-3176.