‘Shooting the Messenger’: Myth vs. Reality: U.S. Broadband Policy and International Broadband Rankings

Free Press found that the major critiques leveled at the OECD data simply fall apart upon closer examination. The coordinated attempt to “shoot the messenger” cannot hide critical failures in the U.S. broadband market. These failures are chiefly due to poor policy decisions that have fostered an anti-competitive marketplace. Our European and Asian counterparts are outperforming us because they have policies that foster vigorous competition in the broadband marketplace, offering consumers more choice, faster speeds and lower prices.The simple fact is that international rankings do matter. This is not just a point of pride. Each spot the United States slips represents billions in lost producer and consumer surplus, and potentially millions of real jobs lost to overseas workers. The international studies highlight the fact that the status quo in the U.S. broadband marketplace is unacceptable. U.S. policymakers must reject the “shoot the messenger” rhetoric and move toward an honest assessment of our problems.This paper exposes the myths put forward to excuse the shortcomings of the U.S. broadband market. The facts speak for themselves: More than 10 million U.S. households remain unserved, and nearly 50 million homes could subscribe but choose not to because the connection available is too expensive or too slow. The 50 million homes that do have broadband face, at best, a duopoly choice between the local phone or local cable company.
http://freepress.net/docs/shooting_the_messenger.pdfAlso see:
[news release] Free Press Dispels Myths about U.S. Broadband MarketNew report urges policymakers to focus on the real problems causing America to fall behind the rest of the world in Internet adoptionWASHINGTON — Today, Free Press released Shooting the Messenger, a new report that dispels the many myths manufactured by the telecommunications industry to excuse America’s poor broadband performance compared to the rest of the world.”Every major international ranking shows the United States falling behind other world leaders in deployment and adoption of affordable broadband services,” said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press and author of the study. “No amount of industry spin can excuse the problems caused by lack of broadband competition, or the irreparable harm to our economy if we fail to address the mounting crisis.”The latest data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks the U.S. 15th in the world in broad penetration per capita, down from fourth in 2001 and 12th just six months ago. But instead of addressing America’s digital decline, federal policymakers and industry representatives have attacked the OECD’s methodology.Free Press found that the critiques leveled at the OECD fall apart under scrutiny.
Shooting the Messenger separates fact from fiction, exposing the truth behind 10 myths used to excuse the shortcomings of the U.S. broadband market.Among the findings of the new report:

  • No matter how one measures broadband penetration — whether it’s per capita or per household — the United States still ranks 15th in among the 30 OECD nations.
  • There is absolutely no correlation between a country’s population density and its broadband penetration. The geographical size of the United States doesn’t explain the poor state of broadband adoption and availability.
  • Critics claim the OECD measures are flawed because they don’t count mobile wireless. But a cell phone is no substitute for a true broadband connection — and if these phones were counted, the United States would fare even worse in the world rankings.
  • While U.S. consumers have at best two choices for a wired broadband connection, in Europe consumers have many choices — sometimes dozens — among providers on just a single platform.
  • Many of the countries ahead of the United States in the world rankings still have higher levels of absolute broadband growth. And the U.S. broadband penetration growth rate during the second half of last year was the second lowest in the entire OECD.

Shooting the Messenger is available at http://freepress.net/docs/shooting_the_messenger.pdf“International rankings do matter,” Turner said. “This is not just a point of pride. Each spot the United States slips represents billions in lost producer and consumer surplus, and potentially millions of real jobs lost to overseas workers.”The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing today to “mark up” the “Broadband Data Improvement Act” (S. 1492), legislation designed to improve the quality of broadband data collected across the U.S. This bill represents a critical first step toward crafting a comprehensive national broadband policy that benefits consumers.”We have two major broadband problems that increasingly cannot be ignored — competition and availability,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “Policymakers who are serious about America’s economic and social well-being should reject the distraction of excuses and focus on policies that bring affordable, high-speed broadband access to all Americans.”http://freepress.net/press/release.php?id=255

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