…the truth is that the US only has a broadband policy if you consider “doing nothing” to be a policy. When you’re convinced that any form of government regulation, policy-setting, or program only mucks up the market, this makes sense; if you look at other countries and find that nations without a plan “will fare worse than if they had smart broadband policies,” the continued refusal to do anything meaningful looks willfully ignorant.
A major new report on broadband policy from the nonpartisan Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) suggests that government action alone won’t produce a broadband panacea, but that leadership from the top and a carefully-targeted set of policies can do plenty of good. After doing detailed case studies of nine countries, the report concluded that “those that make broadband a priority, coordinate across agencies, put real resources behind the strategy, and promote both supply and demand” do better than those which do nothing.
Critics of the current US approach to spurring broadband deployment and adoption point out that the country has been falling on most broadband metrics throughout the decade. One of the most reliable, that issued by the OECD, shows the US falling from 4th place in 2001 to 15th place in 2007. While this ranking in particular has come under criticism from staunchly pro-market groups, the ITIF’s analysis shows that these numbers are the most accurate we have. According to an ITIF analysis of various OECD surveys, the US is in 15th place worldwide and it lags numerous other countries in price, speed, and availability–a trifecta of lost opportunities.
With an average broadband speed of 4.9Mbps, the US is being Chariots of Fire-d by South Korea (49.5Mbps), Japan (63.6Mbps), Finland (21.7Mbps), Sweden (16.8Mbps), and France (17.6Mbps), among others. Not only that, but the price paid per megabyte in the US ($2.83) is substantially higher than those countries, all of which come in at less than $0.50 per megabyte.
The United States is falling further and further behind in bandwidth speed and availability, yet is charging more Internet connectivity: