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U.S. Not falling behind world on broadband/Internet -- must read New York Times on new study

Kudos to John Markoff of the New York Times for a excellent, informative, and balanced article about the ongoing debate over where the U.S. really ranks in the world on Internet/broadband infrastructure.   

  • The article, "Study Gives High Marks to U.S. Internet," does a good job of letting both sides of this fierce and ongoing debate get in their best points.

First, the article shares the news of the seventh annual World Economic Forum report produced by a French Business School which shows that the U.S. ranks 4th up from 7th last year and which contrasts with the more narrow OECD study that focuses on broadband penetration and shows the U.S. ranking lower and falling.

Second, what I most appreciated was that the article candidly explored that there are two opposing world views at work trying to use statistics and studies to promote their world views.

  • One view was the government-centric view that sees Government not markets as the primary driver and reason for success in Internet and broadband.
    • The article included a comment from the OECD economist that has gained a big following in the US among those seeking more regulation or government investment in broadband like Chairman Markey and the Democratic FCC commissioners. The OECD economist adopts the Euro-view that competition is a result of Government regulations forcing network unbundling not from market forces. The article also includes a quote from a former FCC chief technologist who has "a gut feeling" that the U.S. is behind the world in deployment.
  • The article also shared the other view, which I clearly hold, and which is the market centric view, that market forces not government are the source of Internet/broadband progress.
    • By highlighting the Insead/World Economic Forum study, it will lead to a more balanced and comprehensive view of where the U.S. ranks in the world because in took into consideration more factors than just broadband penetration:
      • “What the U.S. has is a number of strengths along a number of dimensions,” said Soumitra Dutta, a professor of information systems at Insead and the director of the study. “It is not just a question of technology. Political and economic factors become extremely important.” 

Third, one of the most important aspects of this article is that it is the New York Times reporting it.

  • It is a news organization that Chairman Markey and the Democratic FCC commissioners respect and cannot credibly ignore.
  • The article also will make it harder for them to credibly continue their standard broadband mantra and political refrain that: "There's no longer any debate, the U.S. is falling behind the world in broadband."
  • At a minimum, they must acknowledge that there is in fact a real debate about the question of the U.S.' ranking in the world on issues of the Internet/broadband, as this article so eloquently and accurately portrays.
  • The best public policy always emerges from an open and free debate about the true facts and a recognition that there is indeed a debate among opposing points of view and that both sides need to be heard and fully considered.

Finally, let me add a relevant study that the New York Times did not mention -- the Economist Intelligence Unit study which reached conclusions similar to this World Economic Forum study in ranking the U.S. 2nd in the world in e-readiness.

  • There is indeed a healthy debate around the world on where countries rank on all things Internet/broadband.