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Can Broadband Access Fuel Job Creation?

The message from leaders across rural America is clear — they want broadband access to the internet, and they’re hoping that by raising the awareness of their common cause they’ll see some near-term progress towards that goal (helping to fuel new job creation).

Howard’s prior editorial entitled “Can Broadband Reshape Rural Development” seemed to trigger some spirited commentary. But that’s not surprising, when you consider how well organized and vocal the rural stakeholder groups have been in the past.

In fact, yesterday a diverse group of 125 farmers, ranchers, teachers, small business owners — and others from rural communities and small towns — gathered in Washington, D.C. as part of a “Broadband WORKS for Rural America” advocacy day.

Participants delivered their collective message to U.S. policymakers.

They believe that “increased access to high-speed Internet is a critical component of job creation and economic development, and is necessary to ensuring a prosperous future for citizens living in remote or hard-to-reach communities.”

Lobbying Support for Broadband Access

The participants held a press conference, featuring Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC). They met with members of Congress, the offices of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack — calling for policies that promote further expansion of high-speed Internet to rural America.

Their position statement included a common belief among rural stakeholders: “that increased access to high-speed broadband would spur job growth, attract new businesses and allow for the expansion of existing operations.”

Congressman Shuler (D-NC) said, “Lack of access to high-speed broadband Internet puts rural communities across the country at a serious disadvantage. Broadband is the great economic and social equalizer of our time, and expanding high-speed internet access to rural America will give more communities the tools they need to create jobs, expand educational opportunities, and improve public safety and health care. Broadband will give small businesses in rural areas a pathway to participation in the global economy and provides the framework for long-term economic growth and stability for years to come.”

Sharing Examples of Their Success Stories

Apparently, residents from all across the country highlighted proof points. For instance, Jon Chadwell, Executive Director of the Newport Economic Development Commission in Newport, Arkansas, described a project intended to expand high-speed Internet access to an industrial park that was home to three businesses.

They were already losing customers, due to their lack of broadband availability. But once this area had access to the service, they prospered and the same companies then added a total of 325 local jobs in six years.

Connecting Broadband Availability to Employment

I’ve received several market study report summaries and some white papers that claim to make a business case for the connection between having ready access to broadband capabilities and new job growth.

Frankly, I need more time to thoughtfully digest all this insightful data and then recap the most notable points – particularly, where a service provider can play a key role.

Once again, I believe that broadband access is an ingredient of a total solution to the type of socioeconomic problems that are being addressed here – access to the service will likely deliver the greatest benefit when it’s part of a digital business ecosystem strategy.

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