Rural telecom companies supported $10 billion in economic activity in 2017, according to a new report from the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS). The rural telecom economic impact report also found that rural telecom companies contributed over 77,000 jobs that year.

The FRS is a non-profit organization that provides education, information, products and programming to support rural telecom companies.

Rural Telecom Economic Impact Report
The FRS findings were based on information gathered from approximately two thirds of the members of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA members are rural telecom service providers. Collectively, NTCA members employ more than 77,000 people nationwide. Those people received more than $2.3 billion in compensation in 2017.

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Researchers also used the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Chmura economic model to assess rural telecom’s broader economic impact. The NAICS and Chmura information enabled FRS to determine the impact that telecom companies had on other industries on a state-by-state basis.

Broadband provided by rural telecom companies has a positive impact on 29 different industries, according to the report. Industries impacted include banking, health care and others.

For every job created by an NTCA member, almost two additional jobs were created in other industries, according to the researchers. This is “due to the interaction with other industries served by or supported from the spending by the telecom employees,” the researchers explained.

As rural stakeholders continue to push to make broadband available nationwide, reports such as this one may be useful in helping to persuade policymakers to support those efforts.

Related research that Telecompetitor has covered includes:

  • A 2016 report from the Hudson Institute that found that rural broadband supports $100 billion in e-commerce.
  • A 2019 report from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association estimated that the lack of broadband has a negative impact of $68.2 billion in areas served by member companies.
  • Some researchers have questioned the economic impact of broadband, however. According to a report last year from the American Action Forum, broadband availability does little to explain unemployment rates, median household incomes, or the rate of population change in rural areas.

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