Broadband and Economic Development: A Municipal Case Study from Florida
George S. Ford, Applied Economic Studies
In this paper, we explore whether broadband investment by municipalities has an effect on economic growth. To do so, we employ an econometric model to compare economic growth in Lake County, Florida, with other similar Florida counties. In 2001, Lake County – a small county in central Florida – began generally offering private businesses and municipal institutions access to one of Florida’s most extensive, municipally-owned broadband networks, with fiber optic connections to hospitals, doctor offices, private businesses, and 44 schools.1 Our econometric model shows that Lake County has experienced approximately 100% greater growth in economic activity – a doubling – relative to comparable Florida counties since making its municipal broadband network generally available to businesses and municipal institutions in the county. Our findings are consistent with other analyses that postulate that broadband infrastructure can be a significant contributor to economic growth. Our results suggest that efforts to restrict municipal broadband investment could deny communities an important tool in promoting economic development.