Doubling broadband brings 0.3% economic “boost”

As with the number of megapixels in one’s digital camera so too the number of megabits (per second) you get from a broadband internet connection seems to be the marker of quality and the bigger the better. Of course, those in the know, know that this is simply not true. With a camera it is often the quality of the glass, the lens, that matters more. Put a decent lens on the front of any digital SLR, even one with a mere 3 megapixel chip and you could do magazine-cover-quality portraits no problem. Whereas you won’t get anywhere near with a 15 megapixel point-and-click. Similarly, your internet service provider (ISP) may claim that you have download speeds of 100 megabits per second, but if that’s the peak and its old copper wires that join you to a busy exchange some distance away, then you will be lucky to get a fraction of that speed.

Broadband cables image via Shutterstock

Nevertheless, it is download speeds that politicians and economists have latched on to. First, of course they talk of broadband as being any peak speed above 1 Mbps, whereas the Swedes, the Swiss and the Koreans know full well that quality connections at 100 Mbps and above are well within reach of current technology. Even I have 60, which normally tests at somewhere between 30 and 50, but I have friends and family paying for 30 who rarely see 10 and one relative whose package claims 1, costs as much as mine but barely spikes above the old 56k speed of an ancient v90 analog modem, sadly.

There are claims that broadband penetration will boost a nation’s economy. Get everyone downloading faster and they’ll work better, consume more and will not simply watch porn at higher video definition…honest.

Ibrahim Kholilul Rohman and Erik Bohlin of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, have now done the arithmetic to put a figure on just how much economic benefit broadband might bring to a nation. The bottom line being that doubling broadband speed will apparently contribute 0.3% growth compared with the growth rate for the base year. Of course, doubling a low speed and growth of something small by 0.3% need not have any real economic or social impact on the citizens, but if your country is a rarity in the current recessional climate and has a strong GDP and your baseline broadband speeds are a minimum of around 10Mbps, then you may well stand to gain.

On the basis of their 0.3% hypothesis, the researchers recommend that the initiatives for next-generation telecom networks are even more crucial at a time when the labor market conditions are particularly weak as they can help preserve jobs and head off a potential burden on social safety nets.

If you’re a photographer, then regardless of whether you have great glass on your camera or a point-and-click, uploading and downloading your photos quickly and efficiently is always going to depend very much on how good is your broadband connection.

Research Blogging IconRohman I.K. & Bohlin E. (2012). Does broadband speed really matter as a driver of economic growth? Investigating OECD countries, International Journal of Management and Network Economics, 2 (4) 336. DOI:

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Photographer and musician.