Broadband Applications Continue to Evolve

Broadband applications continue to evolve as the technology matures and number of users increase. As of December 2017, more than 3.7 billion people around the world were using the internet (Internet Live Stats, 2017). According to the business data company Domo, more than 86,000 hours of video were watched in Netflix every minute of 2016 in addition to the approximately $222,200 in sales by Amazon (Data Never Sleeps 4.0, 2017). An important series of questions arise. What impact does broadband and its applications have? More importantly, do the benefits outweigh the costs of deploying and maintaining this technology?

In 2005, broadband research was rarely directed at the impact of the technology on social and personal issues (Firth & Mellor, 2005). Today, multiple books have been written attempting to describe the changing socioeconomic landscape and emerging trends being shaped by the growth of digital applications (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014; Mele, 2014; Rifkin, 2014; Friedman, 2016; Kelly, 2016; West, 2016; Schwab, 2017; Wadhwa, 2017) while recent research concluded a link exists between broadband and human development in U.S. counties (Devaraj, Sharma, Wornell, & Hicks, 2017).

More specifically, there has been a significant amount of scholarly research focusing on what broadband may portend for individuals, communities and regions. This article is intended to highlight some of the more salient research findings on a variety of topics including economic development, migration, civic engagement, education, telework, telehealth, smart cities / big data and agriculture.

The one area garnering considerable interest by state and local leaders is the link between broadband and economic growth. Studies conducted at the national level indicate a positive, causal relationship between broadband infrastructure and gross domestic product growth among twenty-two Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries (Koutroumpis, 2009). Other studies, focusing on the local economy, also found a positive relationship between broadband availability and economic growth (Kolko, 2012; Holt & Jamison, 2009), as well as higher housing prices (Molnar, Savage, & Sicker, 2015). On the other hand, other studies have concluded that no significant impact of having faster broadband deployment on household incomes, employment rates (Kolko, 2012), or changes in unemployment rates (Jayakar & Park, 2013).

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