The Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI) at Fitchburg State University held a public research forum in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on Monday where researchers presented their findings in a study on broadband usage and availability.
The report was completed by REDI faculty researchers Jane Zhang and Beverly Hollingsworth and includes a survey of broadband access across 20 cities and towns in North Central Massachusetts.
REDI completed the research project with the help of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), which is currently working on a $40 million statewide project to improve broadband service to its cities and towns.
MBI has a stated goal of providing broadband access to 98 percent of statewide businesses and residents in Massachusetts. It seems they have a long road ahead, because the REDI study found that only 46 percent of businesses in the survey region were using high-speed broadband internet.
The survey team collected 380 responses via telephone surveys, with 90 percent of the respondents being private businesses. Seven percent were government organizations and agencies, and the remaining three percent were non-profits.
A full 11 percent said they do not use internet at all. Another 18 percent of the respondents said they used slower DSL connections, while 25 percent responded with “other.” Residential users were not included in the survey, and wireless was also not factored in.
What’s disheartening is that apart from the 46 percent who already use broadband for business purposes, the rest don’t seem to even want it. A full 41 percent said they had no interest in cable internet, while another eight percent said it “depends.” Only five percent said they would like to be able to use broadband.
Even so, the REDI report’s conclusion was optimistic – “The desire for high speed internet clearly points to the fact that demand for cable will likely rise as broadband users realize its effectiveness in business. As small and medium size businesses grow, the demand for broadband will potentially move in a direct relationship with business growth.”
“This REDI study shows that the availability of broadband to the targeted areas of North Central Massachusetts is significant to the region’s economic sectors, especially for potentially aiding employment, improving business growth, and advancing economic development,” said Joshua Spero, REDI director and a member of the university’s Economics, History and Political Science faculty.
Read the full REDI report – Download (pdf, 13.7 mb)