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U.S. broadband service is competitive with other nations, researcher says

Long-held notion that the U.S. has fallen behind many other nations is largely incorrect, think tank finds

By Grant Gross
February 12, 2013 01:20 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. has better broadband service than some critics give it credit for, with speeds, availability and prices that are competitive with many other developed nations, according to a new study from a tech-focused think tank.

While the U.S. still lags in some broadband indicators, particularly adoption, the country ranks in the top 10 among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in several other broadband measures, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

"The United States has made rapid progress in broadband deployment, performance, and price," the report said. "Taking the high cost of operating and upgrading broadband networks in a largely suburban nation, the prices Americans pay for broadband services are reasonable and the performance of our networks is better than in all but a handful of nations that have densely populated urban areas and have used government subsidies to leap-frog several generations of technology ahead of where the market would go on its own."

That conclusion comes in stark contrast to assessments from digital rights groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge and Susan Crawford, a former science advisor to President Barack Obama, who has argued that U.S. broadband service is slow and expensive compared to many other countries.

Large broadband providers have "divided up markets," eliminated competition and given U.S. residents "second-class access," Crawford told journalist Bill Moyers last week.

The ITIF report, released Tuesday, paints a different picture. The U.S. has the third-highest rate of wired intermodal competition in the OECD, behind Belgium and Netherlands, the report said.

About 89% of U.S. residents have a choice of five or more broadband providers, counting mobile and satellite, and 85% have a choice of two or more wireline broadband providers, the report said.

The average network rates of all broadband connections in the U.S., residential and commercial, was 29.6M bps in the third quarter of 2012, with the country ranking eighth in the world, the ITIF said. More than 80% of U.S. residents have access to a cable broadband network that will eventually be capable of delivering 100M bps, raising concerns among European authorities that they are falling behind the U.S., said Richard Bennett, a co-author of the ITIF report.

While the highest-speed broadband services in the U.S. are expensive, compared to other countries, the country has the second-lowest cost per capita in the OECD, behind Israel, for entry-level pricing, the report said.

In real-dollar costs, the U.S. ranked in the middle of OECD for broadband prices for speeds under 20M bps, and fourth most expensive for broadband service above 20M bps.

The U.S. is 15th among OECD nations in broadband adoption, the ITIF report said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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