America's Internet Report Card Says Broadband Is Great
February 13, 2013

America’s Internet Report Card Says Broadband Is Great

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Americans continue to complain about the quality of roads and highways and according to the Report Card for America´s Infrastructure pertaining to the automotive superhighway rated D- in 2009, the most recent report on public opinion on that aspect of American infrastructure.

Opinion for the information superhighway however scored much higher according to a new report by a Washington D.C.-based think tank, which found the broadband policy is more than acceptable to most Americans.

The new report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), titled “The Whole Picture: Where America´s Broadband Networks Really Stand,” found despite the fact Americans are actually paying a bit more per megabit than their counterparts in Europe and Asia — especially in larger cities — the general opinion is things are good and actually getting better.

The report noted:

“Taking the whole picture into account, this report finds that the United States has made rapid progress in broadband deployment, performance, and price, as well as adoption when measured as computer-owning households who subscribe to broadband. Considering the high cost of operating and upgrading broadband networks in a largely suburban nation, the prices Americans pay for broadband services are reasonable and the performance of our networks is better than in all but a handful of nations that have densely populated urban areas and have used government subsidies to leap-frog several generations of technology ahead of where the market would go on its own in response to changing consumer demands.”

The 76-page ITIF report finds the U.S. now has the third-highest rate of wired intermodal competition in the OECD — the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. As a result, about 89 percent of US residents have a choice of five or more broadband providers, when including mobile and satellite, and 85 percent have a choice of two or more wireline broadband providers.

Moreover, the average network data rates for broadband in the United States — including residential and commercial — was about 29.6Mbps in the third quarter of 2012, with the country ranking eighth in the world.

About 80 percent of Americans have access to a cable broadband network that will eventually be capable of delivering 100Mbps.

As for cost, the ITIF report found the United States actually ranks in the middle of OECD for broadband for speeds under 20Mbps, but is the most expensive for broadband service above 20Mbps. Thus, the overall perception is American broadband is actually very good.

However, as noted by Computer World, this conclusion is in stark contrast to other assessments, notably those from digital rights groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge.

Susan Crawford, a former science advisor to President Barack Obama, told Bill Moyers of PBS US Internet access is slow, costly and unfair.

Crawford, who is author of 'Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age,' stated Americans are actually at the mercy of the biggest business monopoly since Standard Oil, the company founded by John D. Rockefeller, which was the largest oil refiner in the world and was only broken up by the Supreme Court in 1911.

While one major broadband provider hasn´t exactly created a Standard Oil-sized monopoly, Crawford has argued large broadband providers have instead divided up markets, eliminated competition and provided consumers with second-class access.

“The rich are getting gouged, the poor are very often left out, and this means that we´re creating, yet again, two Americas, and deepening inequality through this communications inequality,” Crawford told Moyers.

Crawford has suggested the solution would be to treat broadband more like a public utility than a private service.