miércoles, 26 de septiembre de 2018

The public value of broadband deployments

The rationale behind the development of National Broadband Plans is its impact on well-being, social inclusiveness and economic growth. The current Plans in Europe were developed around 2011-2012 based on the conclusions of studies written around 2007-2009. The data taken into consideration for these studies belonged to the environment created around first broadband networks which speeds were below 30 Mbps. The most well-known piece of conclusion from these studies is that 10 per cent broadband penetration has an impact between 0.9 and 1.5 percentage points on GDP per capita.

More than five years after the begin of the above mentioned National Broadband Plans, there's a lack of evaluation of their results. The need for these assessment is double. On one hand, to proof that the return of the public investments. On the other hand, due to the evolution of connectivity technology used for broadband access in the last ten years, which demands an update of the data related to the benefits the infrastructure deployment. However, the lack of methodologies and standards for  the evaluation of results made this goal a challenge for public policy makers.

As usual, one the first serious trials for the evaluation of the economic impact and public value of a superfast broadband programme comes from a country used to evaluate the results of its public policies, the United Kingdom. The British Government published an exhaustive report on the impact on economy, well-being and enconomy of its public support to superfast broadband deployment between 2012 and 2016. The total cost of the programme has been around £ 800 millions. The evaluation has been done through the statistical comparison of geograhic areas where broadband deployment received support during the programme with white areas (without superfast broadband) of similar socio-economic conditions.

Without an study similar with the evaluation done in UK, the only result of a National Superfast Broadband Plan that could be shown by a government is the coverage. However, the extension of superfast broadband coverage is meaningless without the adoption. The report show that although the users could be suscribed previously to xDSL or other broadband technologies, the adoption rise quickly in the areas which received public support for superfast broadband deployment. Nearly 38 percent of the deployed infrastructure is used, helping to bridge the digital divide.

Regarding the economic benefits, the statiscal comparison between areas benefitting from subsidised coverage and white areas also show the positive impact of superfast broadband deployment. While subsidised areas saw employment rise by 0.8 percent and turnover grow by 1.2 percent, in the white areas of similar socio-economic conditions there are not a relevant variation in employment and turnover grow 0.4 percent. To sum up, the report calculate that the Superfast Broadband Plan has given UK businesses a £9 billion shot in the arm. 

The UK government study reports other benefits, as the influence of the existence of superfast broadband in firms relocation decisions or that the evidences suggest that upgrades to non-residential premises were the primary driver of reductions in unemployment. However, there is a need to go deeper in the analysys on social benefits. A recent study on the impact of the UK Superfast Broadband Plan published by the National Farmers' Union estimates that Children who are able to access the internet on a regular basis can expect a 25 per cent boost in their examination grades.

Although the study published by the UK government could be extended to more social and economic dimensions, it is an example of the work that must be done by other government  to asses and validate its superfast broadband strategies. 






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