Bennett vs. Eeyore on Broadband in America

It’s odd, isn’t it, how some persist in seeing the absolute wosrt in America?  This is certainly true in broadband, where In the face of news that the U.S., in short order, has catapulted from 22nd to 8th in broadband speed in just a few years, critics still angrily call for more regulation (and often the wrong regulation).  Harold Feld is right out front, criticizing Richard for daring to notice the improvement:

A recent series of opinion pieces, jumping off from a fairly positive White House assessment of broadband progress, trumpeted the case for feeling good about Internet availability in America. For example, Richard Bennett of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation wrote in the New York Times that we’ve moved all the way from 22nd in international broadband rankings to eighth.

For those who are uninspired by the rallying cry “We’re No. 8,” nearly identical commentaries from honchos at Verizon and Comcast appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and again in the NYT to assure us that we lead the world in 4G LTE wireless deployment, and we beat Europe in 100-megabit wired networks.

Feld throws out some oddly disjointed facts, cobbled together in an effort to paint the most pessimistic case about US broadand.  Hopefully readers who were despondent after reading Feld’s Eeyore-esque piece noticed that the The LA Times has published a crisp response from Richard:

Harold Feld fails to deliver much analytic value. Instead of attacking my New York Times opinion piece as Pollyanna advocacy because he doesn’t approve of the facts, Feld should digest the impact that changing circumstances have on Internet policy.

Independent research finds that broadband is now available to more than 99% of U.S. homes, and the speed of U.S. broadband networks is improving rapidly: While they were 22nd worldwide in 2009, they’re now 8th and rising. These facts have important policy implications.

With coverage and speed well in hand, America’s policymakers are free to turn their attention to present-day issues. At the top of the list is transforming obsolete telephone subsidy programs into 21st century broadband and mobile stimulus engines that will encourage more widespread adoption of the Internet. Many Americans choose not to subscribe to broadband not because it costs too much but because they fail to see its relevance or lack the skills to use it.

As circumstances change in the rapidly moving technology sector, critics who harp on yesterday’s problems retard needed progress.

Noting progress doesn’t mean halting improvement.  But as circumstances change, our policy goals should adjust accordingly.  The regulatory regime already struggles to keep up in tech and telecom.   It doesn’t help when people continue to agitate for old solutions to yesterday’s problems.