Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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24 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Broadband's Impact In Five Communities Early results show that high-speed broadband has positive impacts for communities in rural Minnesota. By Ann Treacy / Treacy Information Services and Bill Coleman / Community Technology Advisors is article is excerpted from a study commissioned by Blandin Foundation, which supports broadband and other rural development projects in Minnesota. e full study, which includes detailed calculations of community investments and benefits, can be read at www.mnbroadbandcasestudies.org. W e were asked to study the impacts of broadband in five counties that received funding from Blandin Foundation. All the counties became familiar with Blandin's Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) model, a holistic, broadband-based economic development strategy that embraces five community indicators of success: broadband, marketing and advocacy, knowledge workers, innovation and digital inclusion. Four communities used the model in planning sessions. e ultimate goal of the MIRC model is to have a strong balance in each strategic area, and most communities deployed activities addressing each indicator. Part of the process is recognizing at the onset where a community is strong, deciding where it needs to become strong and working to make that happen. We found that broadband is essential to a thriving community, but it is not a panacea, and it won't work in a vacuum. e featured communities have broadband, but they are successful because they also have strategies for using it. STUDY METHODS AND FINDINGS We used established formulas to calculate the economic impact of public investment in each community. ough the numbers are imprecise, we believe they are representative. In three counties, the annual collective economic benefit for residents surpassed the public/community investment in one year. In one county, the benefit surpassed investment in slightly more than a year, and in the last county, it will take six years, but benefits will still surpass investment. We gathered data for each county but found it difficult to track the impact of better broadband because although the impact may be immediate, the tools that measure impact are not. Often the most recent data available dates from 2015 or 2016, before most of the networks reached a critical mass. But one county has had broadband long enough to measure the impact, and that county has seen an increase in median income and population growth. We also spoke to representatives from each community to gather firsthand accounts of the value of broadband investments. People mentioned that schools were improving and families were moving to the area. Signs of thriving were evident. ough we included hard numbers whenever possible, we learned that value is in the eye of the user. For one, it means turning a $400,000 business into $4 million business. For

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