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Understanding International Broadband Comparisons

Understanding International Broadband Comparisons

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Published by Scott Wallsten
Discussions about broadband policy in the United States today inevitably begin by citing OECD estimates. Many analysts interpret the low ranking of the U.S. in broadband penetration relative to other OECD countries as meaning that U.S. broadband policy has been a failure.

Whatever the relationship between rankings and policy, the OECD estimates are inaccurate and therefore misleading. In fact, broadband is nearly universally available in the U.S. and the U.S. compares favorably to other rich countries in terms of broadband penetration, speeds, and in broader measures of information and communications technology.

High levels of availability, rapidly increasing penetration, increasing available speeds, and ambiguous consumer demand for faster speeds suggest that the market is working reasonably well in the U.S. The apparent lack of a general market failure suggests that any policies intended to affect broadband should be targeted narrowly to avoid directing scarce resources to areas that would not yield net benefits.
Discussions about broadband policy in the United States today inevitably begin by citing OECD estimates. Many analysts interpret the low ranking of the U.S. in broadband penetration relative to other OECD countries as meaning that U.S. broadband policy has been a failure.

Whatever the relationship between rankings and policy, the OECD estimates are inaccurate and therefore misleading. In fact, broadband is nearly universally available in the U.S. and the U.S. compares favorably to other rich countries in terms of broadband penetration, speeds, and in broader measures of information and communications technology.

High levels of availability, rapidly increasing penetration, increasing available speeds, and ambiguous consumer demand for faster speeds suggest that the market is working reasonably well in the U.S. The apparent lack of a general market failure suggests that any policies intended to affect broadband should be targeted narrowly to avoid directing scarce resources to areas that would not yield net benefits.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Scott Wallsten on Aug 14, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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Understanding International Broadband ComparisonsScott WallstenMay, 2008
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Understanding International Broadband Comparisons
Scott Wallsten
*
 May, 2008
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*
Vice president for research and senior fellow, Technology Policy Institute. I thank Dave Burstein, RobertCrandall, Robert Hahn, and Thomas Lenard for helpful comments, and Stephanie Hausladen for excellent researchassistance. I have sole responsibility for any mistakes, and the opinions expressed here are my own and notnecessarily those of any organizations with which I am affiliated.
 
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Table of Contents
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY................................................................................................................................................3
 
INTRODUCTION...............................................................................................................................................................5
 
BROADBAND PENETRATION......................................................................................................................................6
 
S
EPARATING
B
USINESS FROM
ESIDENTIAL
C
ONNECTIONS
...........................................................................................6
 
70 M
ILLION
U
 NCOUNTED
C
ONNECTIONS IN
W
ORKPLACES IN THE
U.S.........................................................................8
 
H
OUSEHOLD
B
ROADBAND
P
ENETRATION
: U.S. P
ROBABLY
ANKS
A
BOUT
9
TH
...........................................................9
 
C
ONSUMERS
H
AVE
D
IFFERENT
T
ASTES FOR 
I
 NTERNET
A
CCESS
.................................................................................12
 
E
STIMATING THE
ESIDENTIAL
-B
USINESS
M
IX IN THE
OECD C
OUNTS
....................................................................13
 
THE DECLINING U.S. PENETRATION RANK: A STATISTICAL ANOMALY............................................17
 
ANKINGS OF
C
OUNTRIES WITH
L
ARGER 
H
OUSEHOLDS
W
ILL
S
INK 
O
VER 
T
IME
......................................................17
 
C
HANGES IN
D
ATA
C
OLLECTION
M
ETHODS
A
FFECT
ANK 
........................................................................................19
 
H
OUSEHOLD
S
IZE AND
C
OUNTING
M
ETHODS
E
XPLAIN
 N
EARLY
A
LL OF THE
C
HANGE IN
ANK 
.............................21
 
BROADBAND SPEEDS..................................................................................................................................................23
 
A
CTUAL
S
PEEDS
A
ROUND THE
W
ORLD
: E
VIDENCE FROM
S
PEEDTEST
.
 NET
...............................................................24
 
A
DVERTISED
, O
BSERVED
,
AND
C
ONSUMER 
S
ATISFACTION WITH
S
PEEDS
.................................................................25
 
S
PEEDS IN THE
U
 NITED
S
TATES
.....................................................................................................................................29
 
Q
UESTIONABLE
D
EMAND FOR 
M
ORE
B
ANDWIDTH
: E
VEN
OREANS
C
HOOSE
S
LOWEST
P
LAN
................................31
 
DEFINING A “NATIONAL BROADBAND POLICY”............................................................................................32
 
U.S. A
T OR 
 N
EAR THE
T
OP OF
S
EVERAL
ICT I
 NDICATORS
.........................................................................................33
 
S
TUDY
E
XISTING
P
OLICIES TO
L
EARN
W
HICH
O
 NES
W
ORK AND ARE
C
OST
-E
FFECTIVE
...........................................37
 
F
OCUS
B
ROAD
P
OLICIES ON
L
OW
-I
 NCOME
P
EOPLE
, N
OT ON
URAL
A
REAS
.............................................................39
 
T
ARGET
URAL
S
UBSIDIES
C
AREFULLY
: W
EST
V
IRGINIA
S
 N
EW
L
EGISLATION
.......................................................41
 
M
AKE
M
ORE
S
PECTRUM
A
VAILABLE
...........................................................................................................................42
 
M
EASURE
B
USINESS
B
ROADBAND
................................................................................................................................43
 
CONCLUSIONS...............................................................................................................................................................44
 
APPENDIX 1: WIRELESS BROADBAND.................................................................................................................45
 
W
IRELESS
I
 NTERNET
A
CCESS
G
ROWING
Q
UICKLY
......................................................................................................45
 
H
OUSEHOLD
B
ROADBAND
EPORTED IN
E
UROSTAT
I
 NCLUDES
W
IRELESS
................................................................47
 
APPENDIX 2: EVALUATING CRITIQUES OF HOUSEHOLD DATA..............................................................49
 
D
IVIDING
OECD “T
OTAL
” B
Y
 N
UMBER OF
H
OUSEHOLDS IS NOT
V
ALID
..................................................................49
 
S
OME
S
URVEYS
I
 NCLUDE
W
IRELESS AND
B
USINESS
C
ONNECTIONS
, S
OME
D
ON
T
..................................................49
 
 N
EARLY
A
 NY
B
ROADBAND
C
OUNT
W
ILL
F
ACE THE
OECD’
S
ESIDENTIAL
-B
USINESS
P
ROBLEM
..........................50
 
REFERENCES.................................................................................................................................................................53
 

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