U.S. Broadband Not Soooo Bad..

Yesterday ITIF published a special report titled Explaining International Broadband Leadership. The report was aimed at digging into why the U.S. ranked a dismal 15th in broadband performance among OECD nations, as indicated in reports available here, and what variables might spur expanded broadband performance. In addition, discussion is provided on what models other nations are employing that appear to be successful and the U.S. might learn from.

I’ll spare you a recap of the executive summary, but here are some additional things I liked about the report:

  • The analysis considered statistical outliers for things like average price data, while the OCED results were susceptible to such outliers
  • I’m a fan of the pragmatic approach the authors take, for example “it’s time for the United States to move beyond free market fundamentalism on the right and digital populism on the left, and begin to craft pragmatic, realistic public policies that focus on the primary goal….”
  • The acknowledgment, consideration and dissection of economic, social, geographic and political factors and variances between nations that impact broadband performance
  • Highlighting the intuitively obvious things, such as how the fact that over 50 percent of South Koreans
    live in large, multi-tenant apartment buildings makes it significantly cheaper on a per-subscriber basis to roll out fast broadband there compared to the United States, where many people live in single-family suburban homes
  • Documenting that, as a share of total households, almost three times as many homes can subscribe to fiber-optic broadband in the United States than in the EU as a whole
  • And, the conclusion that the U.S. actually sucks less than the OECD report indicates in several categories, for example, how the OECD measures penetration on a per capita basis rather than a per household basis, and that when measured on a household basis, the U.S. rank improves somewhat, to 12th (from the OCED’s 15th place ranking)

Coincidentally, Kurtis Lindqvist, one of my IAB colleagues, gave a presentation closely related to this topic as it relates to Sweden, who favored quite well in both the ITIF and OECD reports, during the INEX meetings in Dublin earlier this week.

In summary, if you’ve got the time, it’s well worth the read. With any luck, it’ll contribute to a national broadband strategy that focuses on and accommodates both supply and demand, and factors the experiences of other nations in this area, to improve broadband performance.

One Response to “U.S. Broadband Not Soooo Bad..”

May 03, 2008 at 9:45 am, Diego said:


I am afraid to say that this report is completely wrong on about everything. The intuitively obvious thing is the US is far richer than Korea, so it should afford more broadband connections. Urbanicity (living in apartment buildings vs. living in suburban single-family homes) is important, but not so much. Price and income per capita explains the divergences much better; that means: 1) if US were just as rich as Korea, it would have Third World infrastructure (while Korea has world-class digital infrastructure); 2) price is dependent on national subsidies, unbundling and competition: policy factors, while in this report price is considered an “environmental” factor.

By the way, they say “unbundling” doesn’t work because it didn’t work in Spain. Everybody (well, at least every Spaniard) knows there was not enough competition in the Spanish market until very recently; in fact, the incumbent operator has been fined because there was not enough “unbundling”.

Just don’t read it.

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