The Whole Picture of American Broadband

I’m happy with the volume (if not necessarily the quality) of reaction to the report on the state of American broadband networks we just released this week at ITIF, The Whole Picture: Where America’s Broadband Networks Really Stand. The report was a real bear to write, as what we’d planned to be a quick 20 page analysis ballooned to 76 pages with 145 footnotes.

The report covers a lot of ground, so summarizing it in a 25 minute presentation proved challenging. Check my slide deck if you’d like, see a video of the panel discussion, and read the report if you want to know where the U. S. stands in relation to other nations on broadband coverage, subscription rates, speeds and prices. There’s a reasonably detailed but wrong-headed step-by-step reaction to the report on Ars Technica, which I rebut in a follow-up piece on the ITIF Innovation Files blog.

That’s lots of reading, but the information will be helpful if you need to know about this stuff. Here are the ten main findings:

  1. America enjoys robust intermodal competition between cable and DSL fiber-based facilities, with the third highest rate of wired intermodal competition in the OECD (behind Belgium and Netherlands).
  2. America leads the world in the adoption of 4G/LTE mobile broadband, a technology that’s a credible competitor at the lower end of the broadband speed spectrum and a gateway technology for bringing broadband non-adopters online.
  3. Entry-level pricing for American broadband is the second lowest in the OECD, behind Israel.
  4. The average network rate of all broadband connections in the United States was 29.6 Mbps in the third quarter of 2012; in the same period, we ranked seventh in the world and sixth in the OECD in the percentage of users with performance faster than 10 Mbps
  5. Of the nations that lead the United States in any of these four metrics (deployment, adoption, speed and price), no nation leads in more than two.
  6. In the last few years American firms bought more fiber optic cable than all of Europe combined. 2011 was the first year in which America’s fiber purchases exceeded those of 2000, and 2012 orders have remained strong.
  7. 82 percent of American homes are passed by a cable technology capable of supporting broadband speeds of 100 Mbps or higher and a new technology known as Vectored DSL may soon bring a second 100 Mbps service into the market.
  8. Broadband adoption in the United States is not as high as some leading nations, but our 68.2 percent adoption rate for all households exceeds the EU-15’s 66.9 percent. When looking at adoption rate for households with computers, the U.S. rate is close to the top (four percentage points from the leader) and three percentage points above the EU-15’s 85.9 percent for this population.
  9. American broadband service providers are no more profitable than those in the rest of the world.
  10. American broadband prices are progressive: American users of low-speed, entry-level broadband services pay less than their peers in other countries, but those who use the fastest services pay more.

I’m talking to reporters and analysts about the report now.

  • James T

    So much interesting counterintuitive information in this report. I suppose the firestorm in response is no surprise – so much sputtering and “look, shiny object!!” The media, even beat reporters who ought to know better, are far too quick to listen to the likes of Susan Crawford. The idea of grand corporate conspiracies and the U.S. lagging behind Western Europe are so suited to their worldview, they can’t filter.

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