WEST LAFAYETTE - A study from Purdue University's Center for Regional Development suggests Indiana could generate a $12 billion economic impact over 20 years with a meaningful investment in bringing broadband access to rural areas. The report, commissioned by Indiana Electric Cooperatives and Tipmont REMC, estimates every dollar invested in broadband returns nearly $4 to the economy.

Researchers looked at potential costs and benefits from installing broadband within the service territory of seven electric cooperatives, then extrapolated the data to the entire state.

"It's unusual to see returns that significant," said Purdue agricultural economics professor Wally Tyner in a news release. "The finding of a 4:1 return validates the opportunity that could be created by full broadband deployment in Indiana."

Tyner says boosting broadband in rural communities can spark growth in areas including education, economic and workforce development, consumer savings and farm income. He says the study focused on electric cooperatives representing nearly 93,000 Hoosiers living in near "internet darkness," lacking access to reliable, high-speed internet services.

The study details potential benefits including: reducing physician time required for treatment and diagnosis, improved health knowledge and self-care, improving student performance, give older students access to distance education options, boosting entrepreneurship and making it easier for farmers and consumers to communicate with buyers and suppliers.

Economics professor Larry DeBoer says a broadband investment would also have a positive impact on the state and federal governments' bottom lines. He estimates more than $3 billion of the $12 billion benefit would go to state and federal government through increased tax revenue and healthcare savings.

You can see the full study by clicking here.