Broadband Fear-Mongering… Again

Back in June, I reported on a bandwidth scare – a report suggesting that the US is lagging in broadband deployment. In the post, I argued that the numbers were a bit trumped-up and that the real culprits behind sagging broadband growth were local franchising and high regulatory barriers to entry.

But I guess the fear-mongerers never really go away. Today, a new report came out noting that the number of new broadband subscribers in the US has been dwindling. I don’t quite see why these numbers are so shocking. More people are still being added, but at a slower rate. Perhaps most of those who want broadband already have it (and there are a lot)…

The real opportunities on the horizon are for speed- and service-based competition amongst ISPs. Verizon and Comcast are both rolling out much faster services. Verizon has been agressively trying to introduce its zippy FiOS service to markets where franchising laws have created a monopoly. They may finally get some success in DC, but it may take a while before other locations get lit.

Luckily, there may be more competition coming. With WiMax coming online in a couple of months, mobile broadband could be a competitor to landlines. And, if the Dish-DirecTV merger becomes a reality, satellite could compete like it has done in the TV markets. (Not to mention that a satellite-based ISP should assuage the “Digital Divide” crowd’s worries, since satellite can easily deploy its services across the country.)

If broadband Chicken Littles are truly concerned about the US’s internet future, they should focus on solutions like allowing services such as next-gen mobile broadband and satellite ISPs to become a reality (both through deregulation and spectrum liberalization) and, most importantly, eliminating franchising.