After Broadband: Results of a Study in Rural Alaska
Posted: 2 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 1, 2015
Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. but with the nation’s lowest population density, of only 1.2 persons per square mile. About 15 percent of the population are Alaska Natives, two-thirds of whom live in more than 200 remote villages. In 2012-13, a middle-mile project of optical fiber and terrestrial microwave extended broadband to 65 communities in Southwest Alaska.
This paper reports results of the second phase of a research project on the impact of broadband in rural Alaska. The first phase was a “before broadband” study of a sample of rural households in Southwest Alaska, the results of which were presented at TPRC. In the “after broadband” study conducted in 2014 after broadband had been installed, interviews were conducted with a sample of businesses in the rural economic sectors including fisheries, aviation, tourism, banking, and retail services, and with nonprofit organizations including Native organizations and local and regional governments. Representatives of schools and libraries that had recently received broadband were also interviewed.
The paper provides data on usage of rural broadband for activities including online banking, inventory management, back office support, marketing of rural products and services, and training of rural workers. It also identifies barriers to full utilization of broadband, and policy issues that need to be addressed to overcome these barriers.
This research has relevance beyond Alaska because it is unusual to be able to collect data on a population before and after broadband was introduced, and because the findings are relevant for other isolated and Native American areas in the U.S. and for indigenous and remote populations in developing regions.
Keywords: rural, broadband, evaluation, indigenous, Alaska
JEL Classification: L96
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation