A new USDA economic analysis has found that rural communities with greater broadband Internet access had greater economic growth than areas with less access. The study compared counties that had broadband access relatively early, by 2000, with similarly situated counties that had little or no broadband access. Employment growth was higher and non-farm private earnings greater in counties with a longer history of broadband availability.

By 2007, the study found, most households - 82 percent - with in-home Internet access had a broadband connection. However, there was a marked difference between urban and rural broadband use. Only 70 percent of rural households with in-home Internet access had a broadband connection in 2007, compared with 84 percent of urban households.

The study found that rural America has shared in the growth of the Internet economy. The farm sector is increasingly comprised of farm businesses that buy inputs and make sales online. Other benefits include: online course offerings, telemedicine and telehealth, and employment growth. Broadband allows rural areas to compete for low-and high-end service jobs, from call centers to software development.