ITIF Report: U.S. on Broadband Fast Track

Says Some Studies Cherry-Pick Data to Reach 'Foreordained' Conclusions
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According to a new broadband rankings analysis from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the U.S. has made "rapid progress" in broadband deployment, performance, price and adoption.

The report, clearly meant to counter various studies that rank the U.S. below a number of other countries in broadband metrics, is called "The Whole Picture: Where America's Broadband Networks Really Stand." Among the board members of ITIF are representatives of Apple, Microsoft and IBM.

Among the main points the report makes is that when the high cost of delivering and upgrading broadband in a "largely suburban" nation is taken into account, prices for broadband in America are reasonable and performance is better than a "handful of nations" with densely populated areas and large government subsidies.

"American broadband is neither a wasteland nor a utopia," according to the report's authors. "It's a complicated, capital-intensive marketplace fraught with risk where players enjoy periods of apparent success punctuated by moments of failure as they misallocate resources."

ITIF has little good to say about the competing international studies that are often cited to suggest the U.S. is behind the curve on broadband. "Despite the frequent claims that the United States lags in international broadband comparisons," according to thereport, "the studies cited to support this claim are out-of-date, poorly-focused, and/or analytically deficient."

The report has plenty of criticisms in its broad-brush analysis.

"Many international broadband reports cherry-pick the wealth of data on the subject in order to reach a foreordained conclusion. Many ignore the higher costs of building broadband networks in low population density nations such as the United States. Many conflate advertised and actual speeds, globally ranking the speeds that Internet service providers claim to offer though little accurate data exist outside the U.S. confirming whether customers receive these speeds in most nations. Many ignore differences between nations in computer ownership rates, neglecting the fact that people will not subscribe to broadband, no matter how cheap and good it is, unless they own a computer."

And it names names. It says the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a useful effort, but is based on limited data and used to establish winners and losers in what it suggests is an unhelpful and inaccurate international competition for bragging rights.

The conclusions the ITIF report offers up to make its point that the U.S. is a broadband leader, regardless of its rankings in "cherry-picked" categories, include:

"America enjoys robust intermodal competition between cable and DSL fiber-based facilities, with the third highest rate of wired intermodal competition in the OECD (behind Belgium and Netherlands.)

"America leads the world in the adoption of 4G/LTE mobile broad and, a technology that's a credible competitor at the lower end of the broadband speed spectrum and a gateway technology for bringing broadband non-adopters online.

"Entry-level pricing for American broadband is the second lowest in the OECD, behind Israel.

"In the last few years American firms bought more fiber optic cable than those of any nation other than China and more than all of Europe combined. 2011 was the first year in which America's fiber purchases exceeded those of 2000, and 2012 orders have remained strong.

"82 percent of American homes are passed by a cable technology capable of supporting broadband speeds of 100 Mbps or higher and a new technology known as Vectored DSL may soon bring a second 100 Mbps service into the market.

"American broadband prices are progressive: American users of low-speed, entry-level broadband services pay less than their peers in other countries, but those who use the fastest services pay more."