Broadband Matters: Yet More Evidence

When it comes to economic development, especially in rural areas, broadband matters. That’s a pretty banal statement, akin to saying something like Tom Brady is a good quarterback.  Yet, it’s true in so many ways.  We’ve often talked about broadband as means to link businesses to the global marketplace or to bring the “wonders” of the Internet etc. to homes in rural regions.  But, a new analysis in the Daily Yonder shows that broadband may be even more important that we thought–it may be the deciding factor in where people, especially millennials, decide to live, work, and play.  The study  examined recent (2010-2016) population trends in rural America and found some interesting patterns.  Rural counties with the highest population growth among millennials were also those with the lowest levels of digital divide, based on the Digital Divide Index created by researchers at Purdue.   Meanwhile, the rural places with poor digital divide scores saw an average population decline of 3.2 percent.  This population decline among millennials was even higher at 6.6. percent.  Rural counties with better broadband access saw average population growth of 7.5 percent, and 13.5% among millennials.  While it’s too early to claim this study as the last word, the research does suggest that if you build it, they might come.  But, if you don’t build it, they’ll probably leave.  Broadband will be the essential infrastructure behind any effort to spur growth and attract new residents to rural regions.