24 April 2009

Rural Riddle: Do Jobs Follow Broadband Access?

(Washington Post. 23/4/2009) President Obama has touted broadband as a means toward transforming rural and low-income areas, setting aside $7.2 billion in the stimulus plan to help create jobs and close the "digital divide." He has been joined in his support by a chorus of countries, including Australia, which recently said it would spend $31 billion laying fiber and other networks to get ahead in an emerging high-tech global economy.

Despite the support for publicly funded broadband networks -- and the push by private companies to jump into the fray -- some have questioned whether bringing high-speed Internet has a direct effect on jobs and the economy.

Many high-tech companies have heralded a January report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a research organization, that stated that an investment of $10 billion in broadband networks across the country would create nearly 500,000 jobs, including the hard-hat jobs digging trenches and laying fiber lines. Other positions would come from businesses that rise from high-tech innovation and better productivity, the report said.

But some economists have questioned such predictions, saying that bringing high-speed Internet to rural areas is much more complicated.

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