Broadband access in rural America already has a large economic impact. A 2016 study by the Hudson Institute found that rural broadband supports nearly $100 billion in manufacturing activity. A wide variety of studies have found that investment in rural high-speed internet infrastructure could drive further economic development. A 2018 study by the NRECA estimated that deploying broadband to cooperative service territories would unlock $68 billion in value for unserved areas over 20 years, equivalent to nearly $2,000 per household. A 2016 Iowa State University study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that rural counties with broadband are 85% more likely to attract new business than counties without broadband. A 2012 study by Oklahoma State found that a 10% increase in broadband availability in rural Kentucky was correlated with a 3.4% increase in the annual growth of small rural manufacturing businesses. In a European context, a 2015 Italian study found that broadband could increase firm sales and profits by 40% and 25%, respectively.
Although most economic development flows to manufacturing, some will likely accrue to local hospitals, physicians and pharmacies that can utilize telemedicine and telehealth to expand their business. Benefits of rural broadband can also extend to broader communities peers due to increased tax revenues and other development benefits. A 2018 study by Purdue University found that Indiana would receive about $1 billion in net benefits if seven of its electric cooperatives invested in broadband infrastructure.
Additional studies observed that broadband can increase employment and household income. A 2016 study by the White House Council of Economic Advisors found that an unemployed individual with broadband access is 34% more likely to be employed 12 months after losing a job than an unemployed individual without broadband access. A 2016 study by the Federal Reserve found that broadband access can increase the labor force participation of women with children by 4.1%. Counties that increase broadband adoption rates have been observed to increase household income growth by 6%.