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Estimating the Welfare Effects of Digital Infrastructure


  • Shane M. Greenstein
  • Pablo T. Spiller


While much economic policy presumes that more information infrastructure yields higher economic returns, little empirical work measures the magnitudes of these returns. We examine investment by local exchange telephone companies in fiber optic cable, ISDN lines and signal seven software, infrastructure which plays an essential role in bringing digital technology to local telephone networks. We estimate the elasticity of the derived demand for infrastructure investment faced by local exchange companies, controlling for factors such as local economic activity and the political disposition of state regulators. Our model postulates a regulated profit maximizing local exchange firm and a regulatory agency with predetermined political leanings in favor of consumer prices or firm profits. The model accounts for variation in state regulation and local economic conditions. In all our estimates we find that consumer demand is sensitive to investment in modern infrastructure, particularly as represented by fiber optic cable. Our estimates imply that infrastructure investment is responsible for a substantial fraction of the recent growth in consumer surplus and business revenue in local telecommunication services.

Suggested Citation

  • Shane M. Greenstein & Pablo T. Spiller, 1996. "Estimating the Welfare Effects of Digital Infrastructure," NBER Working Papers 5770, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5770
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pavel Pykhov & Tatiana Kashina, 2015. "Infrastructure Security of the Ural Regions: Assessment Technique and Diagnostic Results," Economy of region, Centre for Economic Security, Institute of Economics of Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, vol. 1(3), pages 66-77.
    2. Lars-Hendrik Roller & Leonard Waverman, 2001. "Telecommunications Infrastructure and Economic Development: A Simultaneous Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 909-923, September.
    3. Correa, Lisa, 2006. "The economic impact of telecommunications diffusion on UK productivity growth," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 385-404, November.
    4. Madden, Gary & Coble-Neal, Grant, 2002. "Internet Economics and Policy: An Australian Perspective," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 78(242), pages 343-357, September.
    5. Shane M. Greenstein & Mercedes M. Lizardo & Pablo T. Spiller, 1997. "The Evolution of Advanced Large Scale Information Infrastructure in the United States," NBER Working Papers 5929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Anselm Mattes & Philipp Meinen & Ferdinand Pavel, 2012. "Goods Follow Bytes: The Impact of ICT on EU Trade," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1182, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    7. Hazlett, Thomas W. & Muñoz, Roberto E., 2009. "Spectrum allocation in Latin America: An economic analysis," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 261-278, November.
    8. Gunnar Eliasson, 2011. "Advanced purchasing, spillovers and innovative discovery," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 121-139, February.
    9. Ward, Michael R. & Zheng, Shilin, 2014. "Mobile telecommunications infrastructure and economic growth: Evidence from China," 25th European Regional ITS Conference, Brussels 2014 101405, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    10. Karen Eggleston & Robert Jensen & Richard Zeckhauser, 2002. "Information and Communication Technologies, Markets and Economic Development," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0203, Department of Economics, Tufts University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General


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