30 August 2009

Study finds rural America benefits from broadband access

A new USDA study finds that rural communities with greater broadband Internet access have greater economic growth than areas with less access. The study, 'Broadband Internet's Value for Rural America' 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.

Rural America has shared in the growth of the Internet economy, the study found. Such benefits as online course offerings for students and continuing education programs have improved educational opportunities, especially in small isolated rural areas. Telemedicine and telehealth have been hailed as vital to health care provision in rural communities. 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.

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