Phoenix Center Wants Officials To Think Differently About Broadband

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The Phoenix Center July 15 unveiled a Broadband Adoption Index, which it says provides a better basis of comparison of worldwide broadband adoption rates than broadband connections per capita.

The per capita metric is used by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and the ITU as statistics frequently invoked, particularly by the Hill and agency Democrats to buttress their arguments that the U.S. lags many other countries in adoption. The Phoenix Center, though, labelled that measure as "often misleading and incomplete." 

Saying that connections per capita is a "conceptually defective" measure, the center offered up the BAI, which it describes as "a value-based index of broadband adoption that accounts for both the benefits and costs of adoption and deployment and which also recognizes that these benefits and costs may differ, sometimes substantially, both within and across countries."

The center recognizes that its index requires governments to collect more data on broadband subscriptions, speeds and prices, that many do countries do not collect. Given the daunting challenge that poses, Phoenix says it hopes that, at a minimum, policymakers will at least consider some of the BAI's approaches when they decide what statistics to pay attention to.

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, who gave a speech at the center as the BIA was being unveiled, said it "could not have come at a better time."

He has long raised concerns about relying on a small pool or studies or rankings to gauge broadband adoption.

He pointed out that according to the OECD, the U.S. was 15th, but also pointed to numerous other studies and metrics, including connectivity among "innovation-drvien economies" and lowest available prices, by which measure the U.S. ranks first.

The bottom line, said McDowell, is that "rather than fixating on rankings as we prepare our National Broadband Plan, I hope that a crucial part of our analysis will include an assessment of what America
has done right...[Wwhatever we do should help attract more private investment capital, not deter it."

The Phoenix Center is a Washington-based, nonprofit free market think tank.

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