Broadband access in the EU: An assessment of future economic benefits

14 August 2014

Telecommunications Policy
View Journal Article / Working Paper

This paper evaluates the net economic benefits that would derive from the implementation of the broadband infrastructure deployment targets by 2020 as entailed by the Digital Agenda for Europe Initiative set forth by the European Commission. As a first step, we estimate the returns from broadband infrastructure for the period 2005–2011, differentiating the impact of broadband by levels of adoption and speed while accounting for reverse causality and extensive heterogeneity. In the second step, the cost of broadband roll-out is assessed under different assumptions of technical performance and contrasted with the forecasted benefits that derive from increased broadband coverage. We find that in the base case scenario the overall future benefits outweigh the investment costs for the European Union as a whole for the highest performance technologies. This holds also for the majority of member states individually. We further extrapolate the returns by country under different scenarios of implementation. In most cases the benefits are substantially well above the costs. Private sector is reluctant to invest, as investors in broadband infrastructure only can partially appropriate benefits. This would suggest a rationale for the public sector to subsidize build-out of high speed broadband infrastructure.