Broadband for All

The just passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $65 billion for high-speed internet to make sure that every household can access reliable broadband service. This raises, or should have raised, the question of the most cost-effective way of providing it. Many rural areas enjoy high speed internet access from satellites. These can easily be expanded to cover the entire country and are significantly cheaper than running cables to remote areas. But the other approach is for families wanting such high-speed internet access to live in areas that provided, e.g., cities.

When I taught at the University of Virginia, I choose to live ten miles out of Charlottesville on Piney Mountain. I did have electricity but no water or sewage disposal for which I had to drill a water well and dig a septic tank and system. That was an understood part of the deal of living in a semi remote area and a factor in its cost. Should everyone who chooses to live in remote areas be entitled to electricity, water, sewage, broadband, or whatever other modern convenience comes along or should those wanting such convenances have to live where they are efficiently provided?

Author: wcoats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My most recent book is One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

2 thoughts on “Broadband for All”

  1. As your professor, Arnold Harberger, used to say, taxpayer willingness to pay for poverty alleviation should be based on taxpayers’ valuations of the externalities they receive from consumption by the poor of basic needs (food, housing, health care and education). These can be efficiently implemented via vouchers (e.g. Ed Olsen’s housing vouchers). Now imagine there is a separate consumption externality for broadband use. Your idea of relocation poses an extra challenge for the standard voucher theory, which assumes one price. Now you have prices of many basic needs dependent on location. It may be possible to set voucher prices with endogenous location, but this has not been worked out.

    1. I think that this is unnecessarily complicated. We each take many factors into account when choosing where to live given our expected incomes. Each option is a package.

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