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THE IMPACTS OF THE USDA BROADBAND LOAN AND GRANT PROGRAMS: MOVING TOWARD ESTIMATING A RATE OF RETURN

Ivan Kandilov and Mitch Renkow

Economic Inquiry, 2020, vol. 58, issue 3, 1129-1145

Abstract: In this article, we evaluate the rate of return to government efforts to promote broadband. Specifically, we estimate the impact of USDA's broadband loan and grant programs on the average payroll per worker using zip code level data from the Zip Code Business Patterns for the period from 1997 to 2007. Our results indicate that two of the smaller broadband programs (the Pilot loan program and the broadband grants program) likely had no effect on local payroll per workers. On the other hand, the largest program in terms of funding and coverage (the current broadband loan program) likely had a positive impact. Our estimate implies that a $1 per capita increase in a particular zip code's one‐time receipt of the current program broadband loan results in a $0.92 increase in payroll per worker annually. Our calculated point estimates of the benefit: cost ratios for this broadband program range from 1.98 to 2.99, depending on assumptions about the time frame over which benefits accrue. However, the confidence intervals are wide enough to include the possibility that the costs outweigh the benefits.(JEL L86, J30, O18)

Date: 2020
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https://doi.org/10.1111/ecin.12872

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Working Paper: Impacts of USDA Broadband Loan and Grant Programs: Moving Toward Estimating a Rate of Return (2018) Downloads
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