High-Speed Internet Boosts Rural Economies
When you access high-speed Internet, you’ll enjoy more than fast downloads of movies and photos.
With high-speed broadband Internet, people can find enhanced forms of health care, such as telehealth. Children can connect with classrooms and resources across the country or the world. Small businesses can connect with customers and their suppliers. You don’t have to experience frustrating lag times to send and receive large files.
In April, the Hudson Institute released a report, the Economic Impact of Rural Broadband. Organized by the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS), the report reveals how investments from rural broadband providers can impact rural and urban economies. According to the report, “Jobs supported by economic activity created by rural broadband companies are shared between rural and urban areas. Forty-six percent are in rural areas; 54 percent are in urban areas.”
Discover what widespread rural broadband services could mean to Pennsylvania communities and their economies.
Rural Broadband Contributions to Economies
“Rural broadband services are a necessary input in an economy where the ability to complete a transaction electronically has become indispensable,” says Hanns Kuttner, senior fellow at Hudson. “The economic impact would be greater if broadband was more widespread and as available in rural areas as it is in urban areas.”
Major findings in the report include the following:
- Rural broadband companies brought more than $24.1 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015. These contributions came through both their own companies and related impacts from their work.
- E-commerce businesses received more than $100 billion in support from rural broadband in 2015.
- The economic activity from these providers supported close to 70,000 jobs across the economic spread.
For Pennsylvania, the statistics are equally intriguing:
- Rural broadband companies in Pennsylvania contributed about $1.2 million in total impact to the economy, as measured by GDP.
- The contributions from Pennsylvania’s rural areas totaled about $326,000 compared to about $843,000 from urban areas.
Gettysburg Aims to Connect Adams County
Gettysburg, Adams County, stands as a rural community that has generated interest in high-speed Internet. Here, people foster the idea of connections through Internet infrastructure.
In 2011, Adams County Connected started efforts to improve high-speed Internet access throughout the county.
A primarily small, volunteer board, appointed by the Adams County Commissioners, took to the task. This board worked to build community acceptance of broadband Internet and make Internet access available in all areas of the county.
Today, through the Gigabit Revolution (GIG REV), the Adams County community has more reasons to support high-speed Internet.
“When you start thinking about gigabit, broadband, and all these technology things, the last thing you think about is farmers and Penn State Extension,” said Marty Qually, Adams County Commissioner at an April GIG REV community update meeting in Gettysburg.
“Our Extension Office, which is going to be celebrating its 100th year, is evolving that educational model. They’re looking at the community and saying, ‘Here’s what the community needs, not just the farming community.’ Between Penn State Extension, our chamber, Destination Gettysburg, and the [Adams County] Economic Development Corporation, we had so many organizations working on this, and we learned that no one organization is going to solve this problem.”
Supporting the Agricultural Community Through Internet Connections
People working in agriculture recognize the benefits of rural high-speed Internet. At Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Berks County, for example, computer-aided technology generates considerable rich data. This technology allows the Rodale research team to measure yields in real time.
Rodale has one of the longest running Farming Systems Trial (FST) arrangement in the U.S. Researchers here measure crop yields from organic farming methods. They then compare these yields to conventional farming methods, according to Diana Martin, Rodale’s director of communications.
Before computer-aided technology entered the scene, Rodale researchers tabulated data by hand. Now, as combines harvest crops, data gets instantly captured. Plus, GPS coordinates help researchers pinpoint exact crop plot locations, Martin adds.
“We’ve been running the FST for more than 35 years. In that time, our research has gotten savvy about technology,” says Rodale Institute Executive Director Jeff Moyer. “Increasing technology, like faster Internet speeds, would allow us to share our knowledge that organic farming systems can feed the world, and feed the world well, to an even wider community across the globe.”
What’s Next for Pennsylvania’s Rural Communities?
With high-speed Internet, Pennsylvania’s rural communities can prosper in the 21st century. Farmers and people who work in agriculture can directly benefit from high-speed Internet. But you also have to think about other businesses and people in these rural areas. With this access, people connect to friends and family in cities and towns outside the area. Businesses based in rural communities reach customers across the country and the world.
The future for Pennsylvania’s rural communities begins with high-speed Internet.