by Elizabeth Mack

Abstract: High-speed broadband Internet connections have transformed the way we live, work, and play. They are also the basis for many innovations that are transforming the research landscape via big datasets generated by smart phone applications and online innovations in geographic information system analytical capabilities (CyberGIS). Unfortunately, the communication and analytical power provided by broadband Internet connections is heterogeneously available from a basic infrastructure standpoint and skills perspective. Contrary to popular belief, the diffusion of these technologies is spatially heterogeneous, the unevenness of which is replicated with each new generation of Internet technologies. This leaves entire swathes of the rural U.S. population, including those in the Appalachian region of the country unserved (no broadband service) or underserved by Internet speeds that are insufficient to meet basic communication, medical, and e-government needs.

Aside from a basic needs perspective, this heterogeneous rollout of broadband infrastructure is also linked to regional levels of business and entrepreneurial activity. This means communities with no broadband service or poor service suffer multiple effects of low citizen and low business participation in the digital economy. Given the multifaceted importance of broadband Internet to communications, this talk will provide a brief historical overview of the rollout of broadband service in the United States, and then discuss broadband service in the context of new businesses or entrepreneurial activity. The multi-dimensional relationship between broadband and entrepreneurship (the broadband-entrepreneurship nexus) will then be used as a framework for examining how and why entrepreneurs use Internet and social media applications in their start-up processes. Policy implications of this nexus will also be discussed.