Researchers: Broadband's No ‘Horse Race'

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The Federal Communications Commission needs to look at
broadband adoption and deployment in other countries as a way to inform, not
replace, reasoned judgment, and should avoid the horse-race mentality of having
to catch up or overtake other countries according to various braodband
rankings.

That advice was offered by Yochai Benkler of the Berkman
Center for Internet and Society, Harvard
Law School,
at an FCC broadband workshop on "International Lessons."

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The FCC has enlisted the center at chairman Julius
Genachowski's alma mater to review data on worldwide broadband deployment and
adoption to "help lay the foundation for enlightened, data-driven
decision-making" as the agency prepares a national broadband rollout plan,
due to Congress next February.

Congressional Democrats have often pointed to the U.S.'s
fall in such rankings as evidence of failed Bush adminisration policies, but
Benkler cautioned against turning the rankings into something that needs to be
overtaken or caught up with.

Such an outlook that masks the rankings' true value, which
is that "if something is accepted by this cluster of countries, it is at
least not a bad idea," he said.

For example, he cited the oft-invoked Organization for
Economic Co-Operation and Development's rank of the U.S.
as No. 15 in broadband penetration, or the International Telecommunications
Union study that had the U.S.
faling from No. 11 to No. 17. But he also cited studies of connectivity and
"readiness" that placed the U.S.
at the top of the list.

What the data need, he said, is careful analysis that
trims spurious claims and identifies a nation's strengths and weaknesses.

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