America Pulls Ahead in High-Speed Broadband Connectivity

By Robert Yadon, Ph.D. and Barry Umansky, J.D.

Few will dispute the technology sector provides the economic backbone for consumers, businesses, education

 

Richard Bennett, in his  recent article “No Country for Slow Broadband,” published in the New York Times, dispels the myth that Europe leads the United States in broadband deployment and speed of service.   He contends that, according to several measures, America – not Europe – leads in high-speed broadband connectivity.

 

Bennett actively refutes the misconception that America’s broadband is slow, expensive, and only available to the wealthy. He also challenges the notion that Europe is better off as a result of its regulations requiring telephone companies to share their networks with competitive telecom providers.   Bennett contends  that “much of the recent growth has come thanks to our system of facilities-based competition — that is, each service provider is responsible not only for broadband service but for the underlying infrastructure, which encourages them to improve network quality to win customers.”  By contrast, most European carriers still share the local phone company’s infrastructure.

 

Bennett observes that, since the recession, U.S. carriers have made significant investments in infrastructure in response to competition in the marketplace.  That statement is borne out by a wealth of data.

 

For example, a recent White House report, titled “Four Years of Broadband,” reinforced his point about investment, noting that, “With the right incentives in place over the last four years, companies have invested over $250 billion in broadband infrastructure. The application economy has created 500,000 jobs.  America is again leading the world in these innovations. Six years ago, only 5% of the world’s phones ran an operating system that was Made in America – today, over 80%.”

 

The White House report further documents the fact contends that since 2009, average U.S. broadband speeds have doubled. European broadband speeds, however, have languished, according to Bennett.   In addition, the number of people in United States with access to mobile broadband has increased by 400% in the past four years.

 

Speeds are likely to continue to increase here at home, as broadband providers across the nation deploy advanced fiber-optic technology more quickly than Europe, and even as most of the global users of the fastest mobile broadband technology, 4G/LTE, live here.

 

Bennett also questions the general accuracy of international rankings, citing one study in particular that relied on stale 2009 data.

 

Despite his unwavering belief in America’s superiority over broadband delivery, Bennett notes that one major challenge continues to face the nation: low subscribership rates.

 

He maintains that the lack of outreach, education, and digital literacy are the real root causes of low subscribership in America.  Nevertheless, Bennett maintains, if policymakers address these issues, we could significantly expand broadband engagement among consumers and move toward ubiquitous broadband service throughout the nation.  Perhaps the President’s recent announcement proposing an initiative to expand high-speed Internet access in K-12 schools (Connect2Compete<http://www.connect2compete.org/>) or other similar efforts will also help make a difference.

 

We concur.  But, connectivity is only the first step.  On June 26th, the Internet Innovation Alliance will host a group of policy experts at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., to examine the factors that should drive tech policy in the United States.  With the technology sector growing faster than the rest of the U.S. economy, what can individual states, the federal government and telecommunications companies do to empower consumers and businesses in the information age?

 

If we continue to enhance subscribership to broadband, while encouraging further investment in U.S. next generation networks, promote STEM education, encourage innovation, and research and development, we stand to reap all the benefits that broadband can offer, and also maintain our global competitive advantage.