Critics of American Broadband: This Is Not Data You’re Looking For

By Michael Lambert

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently released an extensive report outlining the various broadband capabilities America enjoys relative to the rest of the online world.  Their findings ultimately conclude that the United States, though technically not first in all data sets, is headed in the right direction with regards to broadband.  Authors Richard Bennett, Luke A. Stewart and Robert D. Atkinson insist that although U.S. broadband is “neither a wasteland nor a utopia,” we are certainly on an upward trajectory.  Amid claims that America is losing the broadband race, this study provides evidence that America is actually first in terms of cable modem deployment with 96% coverage in addition to being ahead of the EU-15 nations in broadband adoption with a household subscription share of sixty-eight percent.

In the nearly eighty-page report, ITIF defends U.S. broadband as among the world’s best in four distinct categories defined as deployment, adoption, performance and price.  In general, they find that America has the third highest rate of wired inter-modal competition and is a world leader in 4G/LTE adoption.  Also, 82% of American households are equipped with cable technology capable of supporting broadband performance speeds of 100 Mbps or more.  Americans also enjoy some of the lowest entry-level pricing in the world and have purchased more fiber in 2011 than all of Europe combined.

Some critics insist that the current state of broadband affairs represents a grim monopolistic system determined to exploit Americans and keep us lagging behind our European cousins.  In spite of the curious preference for a government monopoly in place of a perceived private one, Ars Technica and a host of other organizations cited in the ITIF report proudly reject evidence that we are keeping pace with the EU-15 nations in broadband ability.

The arguments that Europe has faster, cheaper service and more connectivity overall seem to dissolve when confronted with the ITIF report’s findings.  First, the third in the OECD with broadband reaching 85% of the population.  Consider also that the a much less densely populated country when compared to the other OECD nations and that those who choose to not adopt may simply see little relevance for broadband in their lives.  A Pew Research study shows that 31% of Americans are disinterested in Internet adoption.  Second, the ITIF data shows that the U.S. has been in the top ten in broadband speed in three of the past five years.  It also reveals that the average peak speed of all broadband connections in the U.S. was 29.6 Mbps while the global average was only 15.9 Mbps.  In addition, the average peak speed in the U.S. increased over nine percent over 2012 whereas the global average declined by 1.4%.  American speeds are improving faster than those of the other ten fastest OECD nations.  In case numbers aren’t your thing, even the Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes proposes that the EU-15 look to private industry for broadband progress, which is a strong American notion.