The GAO's study compared 14 communities with government-funded broadband projects to 14 communities that haven't received government funding and found that six of the 14 with government-funded projects had download speeds of more than 51Mbps, compared to just three of the 14 communities that didn't receive government funding. Twelve of the 14 government-funded communities had download speeds of 26Mbps or greater, compared to nine of the other communities.
The government-funded broadband services charged about $11 less per month for 4-to-6Mbps service than providers in the same communities that didn't receive government funding, and about $20 less per month than providers in communities without federally funded projects, the GAO said. The price differences were greater for higher speeds of broadband service.
The ARRA broadband programs weren't aimed specifically at small businesses, but they have benefitted, the GAO report said. Agency investigators interviewed 27 small-business representatives in communities with government-funded broadband projects, and 20 of them reported higher speeds, the report said.
Eighteen of the 27 small businesses reported more reliable broadband service since the government funded networks were deployed, with many government-funded projects using fiber optic infrastructure. "These small businesses said they experience less network downtime and no significant slowdowns in speed at points in the day when usage increased," the report said.
In northwest Minnesota, a broadband provider used funds from the Rural Utilities Service to replace copper with fiber optic lines and increase download speeds from about 1Mbps to 30Mbps, the GAO said.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is email@example.com.