Recently, researchers have begun to devote special attention to the impact of broadband on the economic development of rural communities. Studies done by Brian Whitacre and Roberto Gallardo underscore the impact of broadband adoption on the overall economic development of rural regions.
According to these studies, presented as part of a BroadbandUSA program webinar, in rural counties with “high levels of broadband adoption (60+%)” median household income rose over twice as quickly as it did in counties that were otherwise similar but had lower levels of broadband adoption.
The same study showed that in those counties with high rates of broadband adoption, unemployment levels grew at only one third the rate that they rose in similar counties with lower adoption
In tandem with these findings, Whitacre and Gallardo also noted the negative consequences for economic development when broadband adoption rates are low. Here the studies show that almost twice as many jobs were lost in rural communities in which broadband adoption rates are low (<40%) than in similar communities with high adoption.
This data highlights the ways in which broadband adoptioncan have clear and positive impacts for rural communities. The time frame of the study (10 years) shows the rapid short term improvements to rural economic development that high rates of broadband adoption can bring.
During its 2017 session the New Mexico legislature will be considering several bills relevant to the expansion of broadband in the state. These efforts, all of which were sponsored by Michael Padilla, make changes to policies impacting broadband infrastructure investment and jurisdiction aimed at improving and expanding delivery of high speed internet in the state.
SB 24 amends the infrastructure Development Zone Act, which sets guidelines for local development of state infrastructure projects. The amendment extends the definition of telecommunications services, which previously specified only cable and fiber optic transmission, to include “any broadband technology infrastructure.” This opens the door for supporting other broadband technologies such as TV white space and fixed wireless.
SB 53 addresses the New Mexico telecommunications act, which provides jurisdiction over broadband infrastructure. This bill would “extend…regulatory flexibility previously provided only to incumbent telecommunications carriers” to “all consumers and telecommunications companies in the state,” leveling the regulatory field across providers and increasing competition. Competition between telecommunication providers is widely perceived as a positive driver towards both improvements in service options and lower costs for all services.
The final bill addressing broadband, SB 143, introduces the New Mexico Infrastructure Investment Act. This act would “allow the state and local governments to enter into long-term partnerships with private sector partners to facilitate public projects.” (quoted from SB 143). Engagement in public-private partnerships (often referred to as P3s) is a widely implemented and successful strategy for effectively developing and deploying broadband, especially in rural and other under-served regions in which projected take rates are often not high enough to inspire infrastructure build out by the telecommunications industries. The use of P3s was one of several “innovative ways to deliver connectivity to all New Mexicans” discussed by experts and stakeholders in the interim hearings of the Science, Technology, and Telecommunications Committee, as reported by the Silver City Sun News in its recent article on the SB 143. It is widely recognized that the economic opportunities, educational advantages, and healthcare services now provided by broadband make access to this critical infrastructure a necessity for all citizens.