Broadband stimulus and poverty

About a quarter of the nation’s 400 poorest counties are in areas that will be reached through the broadband stimulus program. These are predominantly rural areas where 20% or more of the population has lived below the poverty level over a period of several decades. Brian Dabson, director of the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, argues that broadband is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for improving economic conditions for people in these persistent poverty areas.

“The provision of broadband won't in and of itself change much in terms of economic prospects,” Dabson said. “But without it there is very little chance you can improve.” For a long time, Dabson said, people talked about broadband “like it was some sort of luxury.” But now, he said, “we’re at a point where you can't operate a business, education or health system unless it’s properly connected to the Internet.” “Our mantra has been that communities have to figure out how to grow their own entrepreneurship,” he said. The danger with outside assistance programs, Dabson said, is “when you pour money into low-capacity areas where there is no capacity to use the money and recirculate it into the economy, it will flow out again.” The real question, he said, is “how can we take advantage of resources, use them, recycle them and build a long term base?” Ultimately, he said, “just supplying broadband on its own isn't going to turn these areas around; it won't suddenly make these areas magnets for new investment--but if you don't supply it, these areas will continue to be mired in poverty.”


Broadband stimulus and poverty