UNO Study Extols Benefits Of Broadband Access For Regional Economy

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Increased Internet technology would facilitate economic growth

Last Wednesday at the University of New Orleans, a press event was held to release a study titled “An Assessment of Business Opinion Regarding Expansion of Broadband Access in Louisiana.” The study was coordinated by UNO’s Division of Business and Economic Research and the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an organization promoting broadband access, particularly in areas which are rural and underserved.

The report, not yet available online or to the public, gathered information from hundreds of businesses across the state to assess both the usage and importance of broadband internet access in the economy. Businesses of all sizes were queried to determine how more prevalent broadband access might spur increased economic output and employment.

The results demonstrated the importance of broadband technology in the state business community.  89.9 percent of responding businesses indicated that their business had an online presence, while only 5.5 percent said that they did not have broadband internet. Respondents uniformly agreed that increased broadband access would increase productivity, better and free services for customers, and improve communication, ultimately serving both consumers and the greater economy.

The findings were grouped by major media market. Interestingly, the Baton Rouge area had the highest percentage of businesses without broadband access (8.6 percent) and the lowest anticipated economic growth in the next five years.  Likewise, Baton Rouge also has the lowest anticipated job growth in that same window. One can infer that these statistics are correlated.

New Orleans, meanwhile, is already realizing the benefits of broadband access. New Orleans and Lafayette responded with the highest expected economic growth. In 2006, New Orleans was ranked 49th in technology employment among major cities nation-wide. Last year, however, New Orleans saw the most growth in information technology in the country. With New Orleans becoming a burgeoning hub for start up businesses and entrepreneurs, increased high speed internet is a must.

Diane Smith, author of TheNewRural.com, emphasizes that rural Louisiana stands to benefit greatly from exposure to broadband. Increased wireless technology will facilitate increased growth in the massive agriculture sector of Louisiana’s economy, as well as allowing rural businesses to better communicate with prospective client bases.

Smith notes that 25% of Americans live in rural areas, which more often than not have not yet been saturated with consistent broadband access or wireless technology. Successful businesses must react quickly and responsively to the needs of consumers, and this can best be done using the most recent and efficient forms of communication.

Despite the notable growth of broadband access and wireless technology in Louisiana, there remains vast untapped potential for this market. Continued access will catalyze future growth and optimally employment in urban areas, but expanding to the sizeable rural populace and industry can further stimulate the economic engine to an enormous degree.

Jamison Beuerman is a contributing writer and policy analyst at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted via email at jbeuerman@pelicaninstitute.org or followed on twitter @jbeuerman.

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