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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Achieving universal high-quality internet access would boost economic output by $160 billion a year, a new paper estimates.

Why it matters: The internet and remote working technology cushioned the economic blow during the pandemic, but millions of Americans still lack quality online connections. Closing that gap could enhance labor productivity in a future where more work will be done from home.

The big picture: In the paper, released Tuesday morning by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, researchers found that moving to universal high-quality internet access would increase earnings-weighted labor productivity by an estimated 1.1% in the coming years.

  • That's due in part to the fact that the researchers project that remote work will account for approximately one out of every five workdays in the post-pandemic era for the economy as a whole, with higher levels for more educated and highly compensated workers.

By the numbers: The researchers found that between May 2020 and April 2021, subpar internet access reduced earnings-weighted productivity by 3%.

  • During the trough of the pandemic-driven economic crash, in the second quarter of 2020, economic output fell by 11%.
  • "If we had an 8% drop instead of an 11% drop [with universal internet access], that would have been a big deal," says Steven Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a co-author of the paper.
  • "There are costs to not having that flexibility, and there are benefits to having it," he adds.

Of note: While Americans on the lower end of the earnings curve are more likely to have subpar internet access, the researchers found that the productivity gains from universal access would disproportionately flow to those earning between $50,000 and $200,000 a year.

  • That's largely because "at the bottom end of the distribution, folks often don't have good internet access, but they're largely doing jobs that can't be done from home anyway," says Davis.

The catch: The researchers haven't yet done a cost-benefit analysis for achieving universal internet access, though they plan to tackle one soon.

Go deeper

Aug 10, 2021 - Economy & Business

Office politics move into the home

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As the pandemic drags on — keeping millions of Americans teleworking, and countless students studying remotely — the tense dynamics once confined to the office have infiltrated people's houses and apartments.

Why it matters: Families are haggling over who gets prime workspace. Should it be the biggest breadwinner? In many homes, women are the ones who get stuck with less-than-ideal offices.

DOJ sues American Airlines, JetBlue to block "unprecedented" alliance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued American Airlines and JetBlue to block an "unprecedented series of agreements" that will consolidate the two airlines' operations in Boston and New York City.

Why it matters: The civil antitrust complaint alleges that the planned Northeast Alliance (NEA) "will cause hundreds of millions of dollars in harm to air passengers across the country through higher fares and reduced choice," the DOJ said in a release.

FBI: Body identified as Gabby Petito, death ruled a homicide

A memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito near City Hall in North Port, Fla. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

A body found in Teton County, Wyoming, on Sunday was confirmed to be the remains of missing 22-year-old blogger Gabby Petito, the FBI announced Tuesday.

Driving the news: The death was ruled a homicide by the Teton County coroner's office, the FBI said. The cause of death has not been determined.