Richard Bennett on “The Reality of US Broadband Performance”

Our fair editor has a great piece in TechCrunch, debunking the arguments constantly peddled by Susan Crawford and others about inferior US broadband networks — the supposedly overpriced and shoddy service we get from rapacious providers.  If only we could be more like Europe and Asia, they sigh.  (More burdensome regulation, of course, is always the solution).

As Richard points out, while the U.S. once did lag in many broadband metrics, it is simply no longer true.  Policymakers and even some trade media are confounded in their analysis by examining the wrong metrics and looking to the wrong sources.  Richard explains it all with his usual patience and lucidity.

Broadband speeds in the U.S. are improving, he points out, because of newer technologies, and by users opting into higher-speed upgrades. We also continue to enjoy low prices for entry-level broadband plans, and we ae doing well in network-based competition, fiber-optic installation rate and adoption of next-generation LTE.  We beat Europe in broadband adoption, and are doing quite well in Internet-based services.

In fact, the vaunted Europeans are starting to lament about their standing against the U.S.!

So why the continued complaints?  As Richard says:

…these facts are glossed over by the critics of U.S. broadband policy in large part because they directly contradict their neo-populist narrative of rapacious, profit-hungry broadband monopolists gouging consumers. The long tradition of American populism distrusts private provision of “essential” services and refuses to believe that competition can ever be brought to bear on infrastructure markets. Crawford in particular relies too heavily on a strained analogy with electricity, a genuine natural monopoly that is as different from the competing information networks we have in the broadband space as any network can possibly be: Can you get electric service over the air?

As they say, read it all…


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