A positive perspective on U.S. broadband development

A positive perspective on U.S. broadband development

Rural telecommunications utility poles

From ITIF, a rebuttal of claims that the U.S. has fallen behind in broadband deployment.

This 2013 research paper by the ITIF's Richard Bennett, Luke Stewart and Robert Atkinson analyzes recent trends and dynamics that affect the relative availability, utilization, quality and value of U.S. broadband networks compared to networks in other Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation nations.

Download The Whole Picture: Where America's Broadband Networks Really Stand (ITIF, Feb. 2013)

Much of the literature on this subject was developed five to 10 years before the deployment of DOCSIS 3.0, LTE, VDSL and the smartphone, during a period in which fiber deployment proceeded at a relatively slow rate in the U.S. due to the late 1990s’ fiber bubble overhang. Consequently, many analysts have accepted a version of conventional wisdom stating that the U.S. offers second-rate broadband at high prices. While this was a defensible position in the late 2000s, the most recent data shows that this is no longer the case, the authors assert. They suggest that if the U.S. is improving its position relative to OECD competitors on the important metrics, it follows that its policy framework is fundamentally sound.

This research examines data drawn from the most comprehensive and current sources: OECD surveys, FCC surveys and testing, the National Broadband Map, the Berkman Center analysis, ITU Surveys, Akamai, SamKnows, and Netindex performance data, and up-to-data industry analyst data on subscriber churn, fiber deployment and provider profitability. It employs regression analysis to estimate the correlations between broadband adoption, price and computer ownership, as well as survey data to identify barriers to adoption. The paper develops trend lines on the relative ranking of the U.S. and OECD nations with respect to the key metrics.

Some Findings

The downward trend in the adoption of high-performance broadband plans and in overall broadband performance that characterized American broadband service in the late 2000s began to reverse in 2010. In one measurement, the U. S. ranked 22nd overall in the average speed of shared IP connections in Q4 2009, but ranked eighth by the same measurement in Q3 2012.

The adoption of broadband by computer-owning American households exceeds the OECD mean, and the deployment of DOCSIS 3 and LTE is stronger in the U. S. than in other nations.

The prime benefit of facilities-based competition is the creation of market dynamics in which service providers are able to compete on the basis of performance and coverage, as well as price and customer service. It notes that the European Commission is developing a revised policy framework in order to create incentives for performance-based competition between providers.