Broadband infrastructure in the 21st century : an evaluation of local outcomes and conditions.

by Chad Stephen Foster

Institution: University of Louisville
Degree: PhD
Year: 2014
Record ID: 2025074
Full text PDF: http://ir.library.louisville.edu/etd/451


Since 2001, the Federal government has invested approximately $10 billion to expand broadband infrastructure throughout the nation, including various loan programs and grants authorized through Farm Bills and, more recently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Kruger, 2012). These investments dwarf capital investments made by the top telecommunications and cable companies estimated at $50 billion per year (Federal Communications Commission [FCC], 2010, p. 18). While the rage on all levels has been connecting residents, few studies have attempted to measure investments in broadband infrastructure to demonstrate positive outcomes or improvements, especially from a wide variety of economic and social indicators. This project was implemented to explore the importance of broadband infrastructure to communities in the post-industrial, digitization era or the period defined by Daniel Bell (1998) as the “third technological revolution” (pp. 96-115). Using an economic utilitarian approach, the investigator investigated the relationships between broadband infrastructure and commonly accepted economic indicators. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used for collecting and analyzing data relating to the broadband infrastructure, economic growth, and social characteristics of counties-the primary unit of measurement in this study. Specifically, the investigator analyzed relationships using ordinary least squares linear regression analysis at the aggregate level, and qualitative comparative analysis using a sample of counties. The results from this study suggest that some direct effects may exist between broadband and select economic growth indicators. However, broadband more likely provides an interaction effect on economic growth across all industry sectors through variables representing human capital (e.g., educational attainment, worker skills and training), household income and community earnings levels, and industry diversity. There is also a strong relationship between broadband infrastructure and urban influence, which is consistently significant at explaining growth indicators. However, the exact nature of the interaction between broadband and urban influence remains unknown. Based on both the quantitative and qualitative results, there is evidence that broadband infrastructure and being “wired” does come with benefits at the community level and support economic growth. This study provided empirical data to support these relationships at the local scale in the United States.