The city of Westfield, Massachusetts has seen job-related benefits of $88 million annually as a result of its municipally owned power company Westfield Gas & Electric (WG&E) having deployed gigabit fiber broadband in 2018, according to a new report from Futuriom and the Fiber Broadband Association sponsored by optical fiber manufacturer OFS.
Prior to the fiber deployment, the town had access to DSL and to satellite and cable broadband but according to the report, “prices were high, and speed and reliability were issues.” It’s worth noting that Comcast now offers speeds up to 1.2 Gbps in Westfield, but according to the report, the service is more costly than WG&E’s service, which is offered through WG&E’s Whip City Fiber subsidiary.
The report bases the $88 million job-related fiber benefit estimate on two key data points:
1 – Many people in the town work at home doing data entry, a job that requires high-speed internet access. The report cites LinkedIn data from April 2022 showing 4,654 data entry work-from-home job openings in Westfield – an unusually high number for a town with a population of 41,000, considering that much larger cities, including Boston and Hartford, had a similar number of data entry work-from-home job openings.
Work-from-home data entry jobs pay an average salary of $37,000 annually, and considering that 42% of people in Westfield subscribe to fiber broadband from Whip City Fiber, the job-related fiber benefit for those workers is estimated at $72.5 million.
2-The top occupation in Westfield, representing 30% of workers, is “educational services and health care and social assistance,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Citing a “well-known study” that found that 50% of jobs of that type can be done at home, the report estimated the associated economic benefit of the fiber network by multiplying the median annual income in Westfield of $74,456 by 50% and 42%, arriving at $16 million.
Added together, the two numbers come to $88.5 million.
More Fiber Broadband Economic Benefits
The report also notes other economic benefits of the fiber broadband network that are more difficult to quantify, such as the availability of fiber to all public schools in the district.
Home values in Westfield also have been increasing since the fiber deployment – increasing over 12% between 2021 and 2022. And while values might have risen with or without the network, the report quotes a local real estate agent who said fiber broadband has made homes easier to sell. The report also cites data showing that, on average, homes in Westfield have been selling for several thousand dollars above the asking price.
The fiber network also may have helped attract some of four “sizeable” startup companies that have been established in Westfield since 2015, although it’s worth noting that at least one of those startups predates the network.
Other interesting information from the report:
The Whip City Fiber network was financed using a $12 million loan from WG&E and a $15 million bond issued by the city.
In 2018, Whip City Fiber received $10 million through the Connect America Fund II program for projects to bring fiber to 20 neighboring communities, where Whip City Fiber acts as project manager.
The Westfield network can easily be upgraded to support speeds of 10 Gbps.
The Westfield report comes just one week after FBA released a separate report that estimated that fiber broadband could add $78 million in annual revenue for a community of 100,000.