measured Gets Done
U.S. BroADBAnD iS terrible” has become a familiar meme. An article in Scien- tific American last year fret- ted, “our creaky Internet
makes it harder for U.S. entrepreneurs
to compete in world markets.”
the growing importance of broadband
Internet connections to our work, civil
society, and entertainment, a poor
broadband infrastructure would indeed be cause for concern.
As it turns out, however, much of
this concern is misplaced. It arises
from a combination of the focusing
on the wrong metrics, a misguided
interpretation of consumer preferences, and a popular obsession with
rankings. These misperceptions
translate into misdirected, if well-intentioned, public policies that waste
Even worse, we do face real problems and issues with respect to broadband—a significant income-based digital divide, for example, and inefficient
use of spectrum—but our singular
focus on almost meaningless metrics
and rankings distracts from more important issues.
adoption and speed
The most commonly compared broad-
band metrics are adoption and speed.
Conventional wisdom holds that both
are too low in the U.S. While it is im-
possible to know what the right levels
are, more careful analysis suggests
that neither is a problem.
each wired connection and average
household sizes differ across countries. Countries with relatively large
households, like the U.S. and Japan,
are doomed to low per capita rankings. Consider that if every household
in every OECD country had a wired
broadband connection the U.S. would
rank 17th or 18th on a per capita basis
due to household size alone.
Moreover, broadband is available
in the U.S. almost everywhere. Accord-