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Broadband Pays in Rural Areas

November 18, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Broadband Internet can help rural West Virginia compete with large cities in economic development, studies show.

Empirical studies have compared rural communities that have better broadband with those which have less, says Paul Miller, policy outreach director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. They show compelling results in places with more broadband, he says.

"Attracting employment, taxes and wage growth; they did better overall in economic development."

Miller says one study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a direct link to lower unemployment.

"For every 1 percent increase of broadband deployment, employment increases between 0.2 and 0.3 percent."

Broadband can help rural areas with things as diverse as education of non-traditional students and long-distance medicine, Miller says, adding that it has obvious advantages for starting a business.

"For example, now you can essentially, through the secretary of state's office, in about 10 minutes set up an LLC company and have your certificate printed out."

West Virginia ranks near the bottom for broadband availability. Miller says the state's geography makes getting broadband into rural areas here tough - and makes it hard for companies to make money doing it. But he says wireless technology and public/private partnerships can get past the barriers.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV