Desert Places: Cooperatives as Infrastructure Providers in Marginalized Areas
50 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 15, 2020
In this study, we examine the comparative advantage of cooperatives relative to for-profit firms in infrastructure provision. We argue that infrastructure projects generate positive local externalities for the communities in which they are located, and that cooperatives, being able to internalize these benefits, may be willing to provide higher quality infrastructure than for-profits, especially in marginalized communities where the costs of provision are high relative to revenues. We test and find support for this argument in US internet broadband provision from 2014 to 2017, showing that cooperatives are more likely to provide internet in communities where for-profits offer poor quality service, with these effects being stronger in rural communities, communities with persistent poverty, and communities with high social cohesion.
Keywords: cooperatives, public-private, comparative governance, digital inequality, infrastructure provision
JEL Classification: D22, P13, H4, L3, O18
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